Anything Photoshop or Photography



Image of colorful bikes at Flagler College Just enjoying a little Topaz Studio and trying to really understand the program. Bike image is from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. (See Image 1 below to see what Topaz Studio adjustments were used to get this effect.) Will be skipping a week of blogging. Several people are very confused and uncomfortable about upgrading. I understand the hesitation since the upgrade into the new Studio interface has not been easy to understand. From the software engineer’s perspective, it has probably been a nightmare since the various plug-ins do very different things and they have to be retooled to work together. Some of the Studio plug-ins have some good updates that really help the program. Others, maybe not so much. I can only say this, even if you update to Topaz Studio, you still have the Topaz Labs filters that are still available and can be used on a layer in PS. I still used them often, mainly for one reason – all my personal presets are still in the Labs plug-ins and Topaz Studio cannot reproduce many of them. With many of my presets I just have not had the time to update them.  Therefore, it is probably okay to upgrade to the free Studio interface since you will still have the Lab versions available. And not only that, if you are in Studio and want to access one of the other plug-ins, just go to the Menu and select Plug-ins – they are all there with their original interface. I find that having the Studio Clarity (the Precision Contrast adjustment) and Detail (the Precision Detail adjustment) available in one location is very handy – together they give some startling sharpness! And oddly enough, the actual Impression Adjustment has some decent beginning settings and the Painting Progress slider gives some very interesting results. If you download the free Topaz Studio (for download link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog), any Topaz plug-ins will be automatically added into the interface. It will look different and some experimentation will need to be done, but there are lots of new options since the different adjustments from the different original plug-ins can be stacked to get even better looks.

List of Topaz Labs plug-ins currently added into Topaz Studio

At this point, here is a list of the filters that are now included in the Studio interface and which filters create the basic filter. If you owned the Topaz Labs filters, all the Studio adjustments filters will show up without buying the Pro Pack extra adjustments. To find the incorporated filters, need to go to the preset pop-out and click on the square icon with three horizontal lines in it. Set the Sort By to Featured. The first preset will indicate the Studio Adjustment workflow for each filter (for example, select Clarity and choose top preset called Clarity Workflow – the two adjustments to create the basic filter will be shown).

Clarity – Studio Adjustments are Precision Contrast and HSL Color Tuning (look at the Topaz Labs version and it is broken down into these two main components). Topaz did bring over my created presets with this filter and they also appear in the My Effects Group.

Detail – Adjustments include Precision Detail, Channel Mixer, and Basic Adjustment. (The Topaz Labs version was broken down into Detail and Tone, the Channel Mixer which is the Cyan-Red, Magenta-Green, and Yellow-Blue sliders, and the Basic Adjustment which basically contains the other Tone and Color sections’ sliders). Several of these I reproduced.

Glow – Adjustments include Glow, HSL Color Tuning, Vignette, and Smudge. (The Topaz Labs version has sections called Primary and Secondary Glow with same sliders that pop out in some cases in Studio, Color which is the same as the HSL Color Tuning, and Finishing Touches which includes the Smudge slider). None of my presets were brought over from the Labs version.

Impression – Only contains the Impression Adjustment. My presets were brought over from Topaz Labs and also appear in My Effects group.

Simplify – Contains Abstraction, Edges, and Quad Tone adjustments. None of my presets came over from Topaz Labs.

Textures – Contains the Basic Adjustment, Edge Exposure, and Quad Tone adjustments. No presets were brought over from Topaz Labs. They have added in new textures from 2 Lil Owls Studio and Hazel Meredith.

Image of Mountains from Unsplash and Jon FlobrantThis image contains exactly the same settings as the image above except a 2 Lil Owls Studio Texture Adjustment was added at the bottom of the stack. (See image below for more information.) Image from Unsplash and Jon Flobrant.

Image of Palm Trees from Castillo de San Marcos fortThis image is of some palm trees taken on the top of the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida – the creative coloring was done in Topaz Studio. I find a lot of the tips for Studio by watching the videos Topaz Labs supplies. Even if you do not like what the presenter is creating, often you can get a couple good ideas for some presets that make for some good results. That is what happened on this one. First a preset that I made from some of the settings in Hazel Meredith’s video called Texture Effects and Topaz Studio that I named SJ Graphic Sketch 1 (it is available in the Community on line) – makes for a very nice black and white image. This was applied and a preset called Cartoon Grid from Topaz that gave the partial colored effect. (See Image 3 below for more information on this image.) I saved it down as a project file .tsp file, but it did not take. So at this point I am not sure this format is really safe to use. Luckily I had noted the settings.

I hope this has helped a few of you decide to try out Studio. It is a pretty nice program overall and it will get better as they add more Topaz Labs plug-ins and new features into it. But it will probably take a while to get it all finished I am sure. In the meantime, parts of it are really good. Have a very good week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image 1: This image was first opened in Lightroom and just the Basic Panel was used before opening up in Photoshop. The next step was to duplicate the image and open Topaz Studio. These are the settings that were used: Precision Contrast: used Highlight Dynamic Range in dropdown; Abstraction: Used JWolfson Painting Prep in drop-down (Joel explains how to create this in his Topaz Labs video he did this week – I will add link when it is posted), then changed Simplify Size to 0.24; Impression SJ Colored Pencil preset: changed Stroke Width to -78, Stroke Length to -0.85, and spill -1.00, then set Texture to Solid; and used HSL Color Tuning – changed Orange Sat -0.40, Yellow Sat 0.55, Aqua Sat 0.63, and Blue Sat 0.39 and Lightness 0.13, and Details 0.50; Created Subtle Colored Pencil preset which is posted in the Community presets if you would like to use it. Back in PS, used a Red Channel Luminosity Curves Adjustment Layer, Nick Viveza 2 to add a slight vignette in corners, and a Levels Adjustment Layer setting Output levels to 31/255 and regular settings 0/0.76/255 – gives the slight matte feel.

Image 2: The Unsplash image was opened in Topaz Studio stand alone program and used exactly the same steps above except the HSL Color Tuning sliders were used to adjust the colors in this image and a Texture from 2 Lil Owls was added at 28% layer opacity and Luminosity blend mode. It was opened in PS and the same steps as used above were done.

Image 3: Three images were taken into Aurora 2018 HDR from Lightroom to begin post-processing. This gave a really nice sharp image back in LR. It was then taken into PS and the background layer was duplicated. Brought image into STO from PS. First Version Applied Graphic Sketch L and set to Effect Opacity 0.53; Made a few slight changes to Basic Adjustment to Exposure -0.05, Clarity 0.52, Shadow -0.32, Highlight -0.50, Black Level -0.33 and White Level 0.68; Precision Contrast Opacity 0.88 and Multiply blend mode, Micro 0.18, Low 0.20, Medium 0.93, Lighting Shadow -0.31, Midtone 0.37, Highlight 0.47, Medium; Brightness Contrast Opacity 0.44, Brightness 0.29, Contrast 0.91, and Saturation -1.00; Tone Curve – left as set; Smudge Strength 0.11, Extent -0.34, and Sharpness 0.21; Bloom hooked to Smudge set to 0.70 opacity and Screen bm, Strength 0.40, Threshold 0.62, and Bloom size 0.25; Abstraction Color Space RGB, Simplify Size 0.41, Feature Boost 0.16, Detail Strength 0.20, Detail Boost 0, and Detail Radius 0.25 with Radiance set to Screen blend mode hooked to it, Radiance Type Dark, Strength 0.82, Width 0.29, Length 0.73, Curl 0, Suppress Weak 0.12, Sat 0.76, Coverage 1.00, Fade 0.11 and Sat 0; Duplicated this version and set same settings to Effect Opacity of 1.00. Created a preset called SJ Graphic Sketch I. Duplicated this version and applied the settings above. Then applied preset called Cartoon Gold with some changes: Brightness Contrast Adj: Contrast 1.54; Smudge Strength 0.10, Extent -0.38, and Sharpness 0.02; Abstraction Adj 0.58 layer opacity, Color Space RGB, Simplify Size 0.93 and Detail Radius 0.25; Dual Tone Opacity 0.29 and Saturation blend mode; Highlight Color 1.00, Highlight 0.16, Shadow Color 0.34, Shadow Hue 0.05, and Balance 0.45. Back in PS just my regular workflow: a Red Channel Curves Adjustment Layer, Nik Viveza 2 to adjust color on the trees, and a Black and White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity blend mode.



Image of a pink dahlia for Valentines DayJust my annual Valentine Blog with a few tips. I really like to create images for this holiday. The little tiny dahlia flower above is growing in my otherwise very dead-looking garden. Unfortunately in Florida we had a couple cold days below freezing at night and many of my beautiful plants and flowers were lost.

The image was taken into Photoshop where the Shake Reduction filter was applied since the shot was taken hand-held while on my hands and knees – definitely some shakiness there! Then the layer was duplicated and the flower was selected – used the Select and Mask dialog to refine the selection. Applied the mask so the background could be painted out. I had to use Tip 1 to find out which brush I had used to paint the background – it was a Fay Sirkis’s Precious Oil Diamond Blender brush (her brushes are pretty hard to find now but worth it for painting in PS – they are still available from KelbyOne along with several very good earlier PS painting videos if you are a member – just search for her name and download course assets) with a few Brush Setting Panel changes that made a nice smooth pinkish background. Her Portrait Face Sfumato Detail Blender was used to paint the flower petals. The Valentine Brushes created in Tip 2 were used to add the holiday feel. A Bevel and Emboss default  layer style was used on the valentine objects. A yellow-orange light leak was applied to the lower left corner (see Tip 3 for this). Finished off with my regular workflow. The text font is Birch Standard.

Happy Valentine greeting with textured imageThis image started out as a texture I was creating with the hearts from Julie Mead’s Valentine Gift 2 set (See Step 2 below for link). The cupid is also from this set. Used my SJ 3 Pastel-Van Gogh TI brush was used to add the green background color on the bottom layer. (Also Tip 2 below.) Different layers were used to add each valentine brush and the cupid brush to the image. To make the cupid green, the cupid layer style was opened up by double clicking on the layer words in the Layers Panel – a 2 px Stroke was used in a dark red color, a Gradient Overlay was selected using the Forest Walk green to white linear gradient from Random Gradients – Graphix 1, and an Outer Glow set to 65% opacity using a pink color. A small 17 pixel valentine brush by Digital Touch was used to paint little valentines all over a New Layer and a Pattern Overlay layer style was added using a pink valentine pattern set to Multiply. (Tip 2 shows you how to create this brush easily.) The font used was MC Sweetie Hearts. Last step was to add a New Layer and use a spotlight effect on the cupid – set to Overlay blend mode at 55% layer opacity. (See my How to Add a Spot of Light blog.) The last step used a Gradient Fill Adjustment Layer to create a vignette using a dark red color. (See my Yet Another Great Way to Create a Vignette blog.)

By My Valentine image More crazy Valentine Fun above – this time started with the free Big Heart brush – the rest of the valentine was built up around this main feature.  A darkish red and pink texture was used and could be made using Dave Belliveau’s Mixer brush from Tip 2 for a bottom background. On top of this a Heart Bokeh Stock element by sweethooligan (no current link could be found but appeared to be an old DeviantArt location) was applied and set to Screen blend mode at 57% layer opacity. The Be My Valentine text blurb was from by Ulia Choo. The music playing cupid was from Glass Prism Cupid Brushes at DeviantArt set to Multiply and then a dark Inner Gray Layer Style was added that shows the original square edge around the element. Upper left element is Heart Corner Large from Valentine Brush Set by Cheshire Angel that was set to Multiply blend mode to remove the white background. Some small valentines using the same Digital Touch brush as in image above was used – this is a handy valentine brush! Then three Light Leaks were used to add some variance to the color tones in the image.

Tip 1: Use the File Info Dialog to Find Brushes and Filters Settings Used

This is a tip I have mentioned before, but it is worth repeating. Have you ever forgotten what brush you used to create a certain effect and want to use it again? Or what settings were used on an Adjustment or filter that were not noted? This info can be found if you go to File -> Info (ALT+CTRL+SHIFT+I) to open the dialog. But to be able to recover this information, your Preferences (Edit -> Preferences -> History Log) in the History Log tab must have the Metadata radial turned on when the image is created. I just keep this turned on even though I do not use this function often, there are times it has been helpful to have.

Tip 2: Find or Create Brushes – then Get Comfortable Using Them

Mixers: When painting in Photoshop, it is really important to have a couple Mixer brushes ready to use – at least one good blending brush and one for adding color. It is important to have confidence these brushes and learn to change the settings on the fly to get good results – that is what I did using Fay Sirkis’s Precious Oil Diamond Blender brush. I have large and small sized ones and a couple that add color using the same basic dab. To find out what the dab of any brush looks like, just turn off the Spacing setting in the Tip Shape section of the Brush Panel. One of my favorite Mixer blender brushes for smooth background colors is free from David Belliveau with his How to Blend Colors in Photoshop: 4 Essential Technique blog download (included with regular soft and hard edged brushes and a Smudge brush).

Regular Painting Brushes: Check out my How to Create my Favorite Brush blog and make a nice regular brush (my SJ 3 Pastel Brush) – great for painting or just touching up an image when used at a small size. In the second image, my SJ 3 Pastel-Van Gogh TI brush was  used. It can be created by following my Painting Fun in Photoshop blog’s third paragraph – gives an explanation on how to make the base brush more painterly. My favorite paint brush site is Grut who gives away a brush of the week to try out – also his sampler has some really nice paint brushes. I use Grut brushes all the time.

Regular Stamp Type Brushes: Converting a PNG to a regular stamp brush: Both these images used some brushes created from nice free valentine hearts by Julie Mead at E-scape & Scrap. There are 9 wonderful valentine PNG files that instantly made me think of Photoshop Brushes. So that is exactly what I did – created several valentine brushes. See Tip 2 below.. All the PNG but the first heart were converted to brushes adding the PNG file to a New Document, then converting to Black and White – I used the Black and White Adjustment Layer to do this – and then creating a stamped layer on top. Now go to Edit -> Define Brush Preset and create the brush. I did not make many changes – mainly just size. I also created a couple of brushes that were created by stamping down the new brushes together on another layer and saving that as a brush. This can be seen in the second Valentine Greetings image. This image started out as a texture that was created by using New Layers for each color and just stamping down the Julie brushes for the effect.

Creating a stamp brush from a Photoshop Shape: The little Valentine Brush used in the last two images can be created by selecting the Custom Shape Tool in Photoshop and set to Shape in the Options Bar. On a New Document, go to the Options Bar Shape: drop-down menu, select the valentine and drag out holding the SHIFT key to hold the shape and press enter. Go to the Layers Panel and use the Marquee Tool to draw a selection around the shape – go to Edit -> Define Brush Preset and press Enter. A Valentine Brush has been created and added to the bottom of the Brushes Panel. Now any settings you would like to add can be done in the Brush Settings Panel.

Tip 3: Make Other Resources

Sometimes it is easier just to use resources you have collected, but sometimes this is not possible. That is when I try to reproduce what I like – it may turn out better than the original. This does take time so I do not make all my resources. Make your own texture when you can. In the last valentine, the red heart background could easily be created by using a black background and painting red hearts using the valentine brush (shape brush in Tip 2) and Brush Settings Panel’s Scatter and Color Dynamic settings. Tip 2 shows how to make the Valentine texture in the second image. The text block could easily have been reproduced using Text Layers and fonts in PS. Create some Light Leaks to add nice color variations to your images. (See my How to Create Light Leaks to Use Over Again blog.) I keep them in my PS Library so it can be tried out on images quickly.

Hope these tips were useful and has some fun making Valentines in Photoshop. It is my favorite Photoshop holiday – Happy Valentines Day! …..Digital Lady Syd


Image of Whitehall (Flagler Museum) in Palm Beach, FloridaThis week I performed just a little comparison of the my HDR programs. I get so confused about which one I want to use and what the differences are between them so I decided to take the same image and run it through each of them. What I found out is although the basic image is the same, depending upon the HDR program used, a totally different look will be achieved. So what my final conclusion is that you need to decide up front what effect you like, and then choose the program that gives this result. That is why running an image through each program is so informative – it shows the subtle differences that need to be known to make the an intelligent choice. So below is the image example and a little info I learned about each software as I experimented. The image was taken of a Hat Rack that is outside a store on St. George Street in the historic district of St. Augustine, Florida. Also, all three images had a little work done in Photoshop – the price tag amounts were removed, the same High Pass filter set to 2.0 Radius and Overlay blend mode was used on each (except the On1 image which was sharpened enough and it caused haloing), and a Red Channel Luminosity Adjustment Layer was applied although different RGB settings were used for each. The top image is a 3 image HDR of the ballroom at Whitehall (Flagler Museum), Henry M. Flagler’s Residence in Palm Beach, Florida. It was post-processed using Aurora 2018.

Aurora 2018

To begin with, I love this new HDR software. Why? Because it is so easy to use. Aurora (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) have canned presets (and some more can be downloaded for free from within the program) and the interface is pretty simple. That said, there are a few problems if you are a Windows user. It is hard to navigate around the image when zoomed in is my first pet-peeve. The biggest problem is when using the Dodge & Burn filter which I really like on the image. The program did a great job in removing ghosting but the colors seem to be a little off to me. Below is the result I got using this program. (Here are the settings used on it: AU 2018 – HDR Basic: Temp 9, Tint 16, Exposure -0.44, Contrast -2, HDR Enhance 79, Smart Tone -31, Highlights 24, Whites 36, and Blacks -20; Color Vibrance 44, HDR Structure: Amount 78; Image Radiance Amount 41 and Brightness -20; HSL Sat Red 47, Orange -11, Aqua -67, and Blue -58; Dodge & Burn – set brush to 12% Strength and painted with Darken around the edges and with Lighten on the lighter parts of the hats; Vignette: Amount -62, Size 32, Roundness -51, Feather 53.) Overall, this is a great program, especially for Apple people, but it needs to be updated to the Apple version for Windows people to really get the full punch of the program.

Image of a Hat Rack in St. Augustine using Aurora 2018 HDR software
NIK Efex Pro 2

I decided to include this one since everyone probably owns it since it is free. When this program first came out several years ago there was a lot of excitement generated by this HDR software. I found it still works really good. There are lots of presets to try out and that is exactly how this image was started. It looks very different from the above – the colors are much truer. Is that the look I wanted? Maybe. The disadvantage in this program is there is no Dodge and Burn filter which is what I think made the first image more interesting. (Here are the settings used on this image: NIK HDR Efex Pro 2: Selected Pale & Structure and changed Tone Compression to -18%, Method Strength 41%, HDR Drama far left and the Color Sat to -14%. Add control point to reduce the effect on the bright items in the door on right. Added Vignette Lens 3 vignette and changed amount to -5%.) This is not a fatal flaw since this can be done in Photoshop. I am a little disturbed by the slight amount of haloing that I could not figure out how to reduce in the plug-in so I ended up hand cloning out – still some present. I am not sure this plug-in is still available as a stand-alone, but I have never used it this way. Overall, it gives a nice result and I am sure the haloing issue could be avoided with the proper settings.

Image of Hat Rack in St. Augustine using NIK HDR Efex Pro 2

On1 Photo Raw 2018 HDR

On1 software (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) has come a long way in the last few years and their HDR filter within the software interface is pretty great. The HDR section is set up so that once the HDR images are selected in the Browse module, the Create HDR dialog opens showing two tabs, Tone & Color tab (with are the standard LR Basic sliders) and HDR Look  (which has the compression slider among others). Once the HDR image is saved and created, the program lets you use their Develop module or Effects module to further enhance the image which opens a lot of extra possibilities. (Here are the settings used in image below: Create HDR-Tone & Color – Exposure -0.2, Contrast -12, Highlights 0, Shadows -17, Whites 1, Blacks -14, Structure 17, Haze -9, Temp 4650, Tint 4, and Vibrance 37 and HDR Look: Compression 51, Details 21, Clarity 27, Vibrance 10, Glow 0, and Grunge 7. Effects module: HDR with the settings from HDR Look show up; Dynamic Contrast: Small 6, Medium 61, and Large 43, Highlights 17, and Shadows -4; and Color Enhancer: Red Sat 10; Orange Brightness 10; and Blue Sat -11; and Vignette: Big Softy preset and Brightness -51, Size 38, Feather 100, and Roundness -56.) I have done several HDR images with this program and really like it. I found on a water scene it had a little trouble with the ghosting of some sailboat masts. But other than that I have gotten some great results. In this image it seems that the whites are much better than th two above.
Image of Hat Rack in St. Augustine using On1 Photo Raw 2018 HDR software

Lightroom HDR

This is very easy to do in Lightroom – just select the images to create the HDR image, right click and choose Photo Merge -> HDR and in the HDR Merge Preview dialog, check the options you want and click Merge. It brings the new HDR image back into LR as a DNG file. I do not use DNG files usually, but have found not problems with it. Now you can do all the same adjustments that are made in LR normally. Major great and easy! The HDR image allows the Exposure slider to go from (+5) to (-5) to (+10) to (-10). I found the resulting HDR image almost sterile looking – no noise, color absolutely correct – almost a flat look. On the other hand it is very realistic. After doing the Basic changes in LR (Settings were: Basic panel-Tint +21, Exposure +0.71, Contrast -16, Highlights -100, Shadows -7, Whites +2, Blacks -48, Clarity +2, Vibrance +18, and Saturation +4; HSL Panel Luminance Orange -20 and Yellow -8; and with the Adjustment Brush set to Exposure 0.80, Clarity 77 and Sharpness 83, the hats were painted over.), the photo was taken into PS. A Color Balance Adjustment Layer was used to add a little more brown-gold look to the image. Since there was not texture at all in this image on the background, a Digital Grain texture I had created a while back was applied on top. It did seem to help a little.

Image of a Hat Rack in St. Augustine using Lightroom HDRSo which of these programs did I prefer? This is such a hard one to decide. I did not use Photomatix Pro as I own version 3.3 and apparently they are on version 6.0 – I did not mind using it a few years ago as it gave very good results. They all gave sharp and clean images. I believe that Lightroom’s HDR effect is extremely realistic and that is perfect when you need something with really sharp lines. It does a fantastic job with this. On1 has this great advantage of also being tack sharp which one of the things I like about this program even when not doing HDR – their Dynamic Contrast filter is just fabulous! Their HDR is also very good. Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 may be lagging just slightly behind, but this is extremely power HDR software and if you cannot afford to buy new program, just download this one. It is still just fine for most image. The new guy for me, Aurora 2018, is really good – it is the brainchild of Trey Radcliff, a major HDR guru, so this is why it is so good and easy to use. I thought it did a really good job on the Flagler Museum image which has a lot of exposure issues in it. Overall, the best way to figure this out is to try them all. I can see if I do not like the results of one software, try a different one – it will look different!

Hope you enjoyed this blog – have a great week…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Sunny Florida
Checking Out Aurora HDR 2018 for Windows
Trying Out On1 Photo Raw 2018’s New HDR Filter
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Nik HDR Efex Pro 2
HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR EFex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow!


Image of a Malaysian Tiger at the Jacksonville ZooMy blog last week was a really technical one so this week I am going to talk about how to make eyes pop in an image. I have been so confused by the various techniques I see. Therefore I decided to try out a bunch of them – in fact I tried out 17 different methods, and I am sure there are many more out there. Some were older techniques and some newer, some are for images with good looking eyes to start with and some have no details and need more work. But overall there are many, many choices. This blog directs you to just a few of these techniques I considered to be the best. Since I am not a portrait retoucher, these are just the ones I would use on my personal work. The tiger above used the Exposure Adjustment Layer described below with a Sharpen Tool layer.

The main image I used for trying all these different techniques is one by Morgan McDonald at Unsplash called Portrait of a Young Lady – I just love this image, but the eyes are totally dark without obvious details so I thought it would make a good image to use. I am really not sure what color her original eye color is so different colors were used in the examples. The other image is a portrait of a family member who has beautiful brown eyes. I am finding most people have brown eyes which seem to be harder to enhance. Also, I tend to put all the eye layers in a group so they can be turned off and on and reduced in strength easier. So here we go:

The Best Overall Eye Sharpening Techniques

  • Exposure Adjustment Layer technique. I have been using this technique by Calvin Hollywood (a famous German Photographer and Photoshop expert) for a long time. It is by far the easiest and gives the best results for just a regular image with eyes that are relatively bright and sharp. It takes just a couple minutes to do, but is not so good on darker eyes. Just select the eye irises – I like to use the Quick Mask to select eyes since it is such a small area – make sure the brush opacity is at 100% and just press Q, paint in the eyes with the overlay color, and press Q to show the dotted line selection. Then choose the Exposure Adjustment Layer and the eyes will appear as white in a black layer mask. Now adjust the Exposure slider (equal to the Highlights in the eye), Offset (equal to Midtones), and Gama Correction (Shadows) to get a nice look. See my blog called How to Do a Quick Eye Sharpening in Photoshop for more info on this. To sharpen the eyes even a little more, add a New Blank Layer on top; then select the Sharpen Tool set to 30% Strength and paint over the irises. Below this subtle effect can be seen mainly in the overall brightness of the eye and eye color.

Image of Exposure Adjustment Layer example

  • Shadow & Highlights technique. This one surprised me as being this good! The tip is from Lindsay Adler, a famous photographer and retoucher, from a no longer available Scott Kelby Nappathon You Tube. It is very simple to do: Select the eyes and place them on a new layer (CTRL+J) like in first technique. Need to convert layer to a Smart Object (right click on layer and select in menu) so it can be adjusted later if needed. Go to Image -> Adjustments -> Shadows & Highlights command and set only Highlights amount set to around 70 for brown eyes and only the Shadows to 59 for blue eyes. If more of a color enhancement is needed, clip (press the first icon at bottom of adjustment layer) a Hue/Saturation  Adjustment Layer to the eye layer so only the eyes are affected in the image. Set to Colorize and add more color into iris if needed. This is a great way to change the brown eyes to blue or vice versa. Can add a Curves Adjustment Layer to add more contrast or use Gaussian Blur if too sharp. For the blonde, only the Shadows and Highlights command was needed and it really made her eyes pop. For the darker eye image, a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was needed and clipped on top (ALT+click between layers to clip) but it does not look bad. There are other methods that will work better for on them.

Example of Shadows & Highlights results

  • Selective Color Adjustment Layer technique. Another surprise here and very easy to do – tip from KelbyOne‘s 100 Top Tips Magazine from a couple years ago. Select Eyes (I used the Quick Mask Tool as described above) and exclude the pupils. Load a Selective Color Adjustment Layer which puts the selection in the mask and everything else is blacked out. Change the blend mode to Linear Dodge (Add) and then adjust the intensity of the effect with a layer mask. In the Selective Color panel, set the Colors to Neutrals in the drop-down and just adjust the sliders. Very simple. I added a New Layer for the Sharpen Tool at 30% Strength and Sample All Layer checked to bring out the sharpness a little on both images. I found this technique does not work quite as well on the darker eyes, but still worked okay. For the blonde, the detail was just a little less striking than the Shadow & Highlights technique, but it was pretty close so I am not showing it. I would not hesitate to use this technique on an image.

The Best Techniques for Eyes with No Details

These are for the not bright and clean eye images. The second technique looked very good on the blonde image also, but helped the dark eye image much more, so I placed it here.

  • Zoom Noise Eyes Effects: Glyn Dewis, one my favorite Photoshop experts out of Britain, recently created a really good video called It’s All about the Eye – 3 Photoshop Techniques where he presented this technique and it  worked great on the dark eyed image. As you could see, the dark eyes have very little detail so it really needs to be created in the eyes. I thought this technique is totally ingenious. You can get all the steps in the video – he even tells you where in the video this technique starts – so if you are interested, check it out. It involves using the Radial Blur filter in PS. I found this technique had to be done twice, once for each eye, to look right. On the image below, the detail was so sharp that a Gaussian Blur filter set to 1 pixel was used to soften the lines a little. I was totally astonished at how natural this looks

Image of Eyes with detail added

    • Curves Adjustment Layers technique. Check out this older B&W Photography Class on Udemy by David Nightingale that is really good called The Art of Black and White Photography-Enhancing Your Subject’s Eyes – it can be found usually for $10 and has 6 hours of instruction. This may be the best Black and White Eye brightening technique that also works on color images. Basically the technique uses one Curves Adjustment Layer to over-lighten the image, then painting back the eyes in a black layer mask and using a low opacity brush to paint a little lightness around the eyes. Then select just the eyes and open a second Curves Adjustment Layer to add contrast back into the eyes (layer mask will be black and eyes will be white in mask). Can further add color back into the eyes by clipping a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to the top Curves Adjustment Layer and adjusting the sliders. An easier way is to add the color is to choose the Green Channel in the RGB drop-down menu and pull up and left on the curve – the eyes turn green! Change to the Blue Channel and hover over the eye in the image with the Target Adjustment Layer (TAT) on upper left side of Curves Panel – see where the dot shows up on curve and pull up from there.  To get the eyes Brown both the Red Channels and Blue Channels had to manipulated and it does not look as good. The eyes set to a green color using this method is extremely striking I think – I may have over-killed this effect a bit.

Curves Adjustment Layers example

More Sharpening Techniques

  • A different popular technique which is similar to the above involves adding two Curves Adjustment Layers and just changing the blend modes to Screen for the irises and Multiply for the pupils. Adjust the layer opacities afterwards. On some images this works just great.
  • On a New Layer try painting in white on top of the irises – then set the layer to Overlay blend mode – duplicate it if not bright enough and reduce the top layer opacity.
  • Another technique is applying the Dodge Tool on a duplicate layer of the image – just paint in the irises using 12% Strength and Midtones. Adjust the layer opacities as needed. This technique did not work at all on the darker eye image.
  • Several experts think the fairly recently improved Sharpen Tool set to a Strength of 30% and Sample All Layers now works really good for eye sharpening.
  • Try using the Unsharp Filter with the Amount around 100 and Threshold set to 3 and apply it several times – then use a black layer mask and paint back the sharpness to what is needed.

Just remember that you can do several things with these different techniques. Try applying two different methods if needed. Put a New Blank Layer on top of the eyes and use the Sharpen Tool to get an even better look sometimes. Try adding a different Adjustment Layer on top of a single layer group and see what it does. Use the Blend If sliders in the layer styles.

My bottom line – I will continue to use the Exposure Adjustment Layer as it really ranks right up there as the best around. Definitely will use David Nightingale’s technique on black and white images and sometimes on regular ones if the image needs a little lightening lift around the eyes. For dark eyes with little detail, definitely try the Zoom Noise Eyes Effect first. I know there are several techniques I have missed but this seems to be a pretty large batch. I hope this will help you next time you get stuck with the eyes in an image. Maybe one of the techniques will work when another does not.

Try putting some of these techniques to use on one of your images and see which one you like best. I was pretty surprised that the one I had been using all along was the best for me. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of an egret at the beachI have not always used the Color Lookup Adjustment Layer. Now I am using them a lot in my workflow to give images a little extra color boost or feeling that is often lacking in digitized images. The image above used one as a last step – it brought back the warm beach feel I wanted – I had gotten a little off-track while creating the image. (See Image 1 at end of blog for additional steps and credits.)

Up front, I want to say, do not worry about all the details that even I have presented below. If you do not want to make a Lookup Table (LUT) file, just enjoy the large selection of files Photoshop provides in the drop-down menus and enjoy – that is mainly what I do. But if you like a combination of adjustment layer settings, go ahead and create a LUT file so this effect can quickly be applied on another image. When you click on the Color Lookup Adjustment Layer, there are three different categories (3DLUT File, Abstract, and Device Link) each with drop-downs that contain many different LUT files. Most people use the 3DLUT file drop-downs, but all three categories can be used. I use them all. Check out the links towards the end of blog to find more info on this very complicated subject.

What is a Lookup Table file?

This gets a little techie here. Basically LUT files act like filters placed on a camera lens or an image. Adobe Evangelist Julianne Kost states they are a combination of adjustments that are gathered into a single Look Up Table which replaces all of the colors of your image with another set of colors. They are also used with Adobe Premier Pro and After Effects for video productions to get the moody feel as seen in movies. LUTS can save a lot of time if a file gives a nice effect on an image – by creating a LUT file, it can be applied quickly to another image. The down side is that LUT files are fairly rigid – the individual adjustment layers contained in the LUT when created cannot each be changed to suit a different image. Need to set up an action to do this.

Places to Download Other LUT Files

Many vendors are now selling these files, and they are fairly inexpensive. The ones listed below are still free. Note that these files can have various extensions on them: .cube, .look, .3DL, and .icc – all will work fine in PS as far as I can tell but there is some discussion regarding color space requirements associated with each.

Orange and Teal LUTS and Photoshop Actions by Denny Tang at Photoshop Tutorials (check the website as it has lots of other good info). The top image used his Berlin by SparkleStock.cube file at 30% layer opacity.

There is a nice LUT called Arapaho from Behind the Scenes which is an autumn look. There are a few more that look good in the Utility folder also.

One of the best ways to get some nice LUTs is to watch videos and create the ones they are demonstrating. Try using the one created in my video for starters. Also Glyn Dewis has two great videos on this topic and creates two nice LUT files – check out The Power of Photoshop Colour Look Up Tables and How to Use and Create Photoshop Look Up Tables. PiXimperfect creates a very reddish effect in How to Create Look-Up Tables (LUTs) in Photoshop – just be sure to lower the opacity and change the blend mode to get good results. See Image 2 below for more post-processing info on this white mum image.Image of some White Mum Flowers

Creating a LUT File

To create a color effect for saving down as a new table, any combination of Adjustment Layers, Opacity and/or Fill effects, Blend Modes, and Blend If sliders (to apply effect in just the shadows or highlights) can be used. Try stacking several LUT adjustment  layers to get your effect or combine them with other types of Adjustment Layers. Note that LUT files cannot be exported in CS6, but ones created in CC software can be copied into the CS6 files as shown below. Here is a quick workflow of how to Export them down as a LUT file:

1. Open image and add as many different adjustment layers as needed.
2. All that is needed is a locked bottom layer (can be a solid color locked layer) and the adjustment layers to create the LUT file. Be sure the bottom layer is locked – it does not have to say Background, but it must be a locked layer. If there are clean up and filter layers before the adjustment layers were added, turn off all these layers and get rid of smart objects. To lock the bottom layer, go to Layers -> New -> Layer from Background.
3. Go to Filter -> Export -> Color Lookup Table. A dialog appears – can change Description and Copyright if you want, Quality either 64 and High or 32 and Medium (to make file smaller), and Formats – can choose one or all. I usually select CUBE for a couple extra options discussed below. Then OK.
4. Name and Save somewhere on your computer.

Now when you go into Photoshop’s Color Lookup Adjustment Layer, click on the Load 3D LUT (for all but the .icc extension files which will appear in the Abstract or Load Device Link categories), and click on the newly saved file (check at bottom to see what file format is being shown if the file is not listed – probably need to change the file format), the effect will be applied. Pretty easy. If the LUT was saved as a .cute extension, the adjustment layer will show a couple other options – Data Order and Table Order. Try clicking on each of the radial buttons – all give different looks. A BGR is a color space like RGB, it just changes the order of the significance of the colors in the color space. BGR has a dominant Blue channel while RGB has a dominant Red Channel. Just experiment with these buttons to get some really interesting results.

The video below demonstrates how to create a simple LUT file as described above. If the link does not show up in the RSS feed, please go to my blog.

Where to Save Downloaded or New LUT files so They Appear in the Drop-down Lists

There are two places the LUTs can be loaded into PS so they appear in the drop-down lists and do not have to be loaded each time:

  • If the files have these extensions: .cube, .look, or .3DL, then copy newly created files to: C Drive -> Program Files -> Adobe -> Adobe Photoshop CC 2018 (or CS6) -> Presets -> 3DLUTs – PS default files will already be loaded here.
  • If the files end in .icc, need to place them in this folder:  C Drive -> Windows -> System 32 -> spool -> drivers  -> color – there will be other files in this folder also.

To learn more technical information about Color Lookup Tables, check out a couple of John Paul Caponigro’s (one of the best Photoshop experts out there) articles, Photoshop’s Color Lookup Makes Complex Color Effects Easy and Photoshop’s Color Lookup Makes Complex Color Effects Easy. Here is Adobe’s manual link called Export color lookup tables for more information.

I hope everyone did not get overwhelmed by this topic – the bottom line is just try using them. I find that by adding just a low opacity Color Lookup Adjustment Layer to an image can really add that special feel to it and many favorites will be discovered. I really like the Foggy Night file but it really depends on the image being used. And it is an excellent way to get the ever-popular Instagram look. In the meantime, stay warm and have a good week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Information

Image 1:  I started out this image by creating the text on a layer – was trying out a new template created using a technique by Chris Spooner called How to Create a Watercolor Text Effect in Adobe Photoshop. Then added my favorite White Heron from Design Fairy. Added in a background of mine created in Corel Painter – no detail had been added to the water so Grut-FX IL Romato and CH Debs Kettle brushes were used for the white wave effect. Used several PS brushes in Brush Grass Set2 by Frostbo to create the foreground Sea Oats. Shadowhouse Creations Birds Brush Set 4 Birds 8 brush for the flying birds set to 82% layer opacity. A Soft Light layer was added to lighten the right side of the image where the sun was coming from. Then a Levels Adjustment Layer was added for contrast. On top a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using the Berlin by SparklesStock LUT file downloaded from Denny Tang (from link above) was added and set to 30% layer opacity.

Image 2: Did the basic adjustments in Lightroom. In Photoshop a little clean up on the flowers had to be done with the spot-healing brush. Then three Lookup Tables were added to the image: My SJ Darkly Bright cube LUT was applied first at 64% layer opacity1 – this is the file created in my You Tube video linked above; next the Photoshop LUT called Foggy Night was applied at 20% layer opacity; and the last one was Berlin from Denny Tang at his link above and set to 42% layer opacity. A Gradient Fill vignette was created using a teal color instead of a black color (see my Yet Another Great Way to Create a Vignette! blog). A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created and turned into a Smart Object. Nik Viveza was opened and the foreground flower was lightened up just a little. A Black and White Adjustment Layer was added and set to Luminosity blend mode at 55% layer opacity. Only wanted the effect on the middle unopened blooms, so add a black layer mask and painted back the blooms.


Image of an ivory Chinese Puzzle BallHi Everyone – just doing a quick post this week on an interesting camera trick I had never tried. I read about this in an article called 5 Awesome Benefits of Using a 50 mm Lens by Jason D. Little at Light Stalking – they have great articles on all types of Photography topics. What is done is to take the 50 mm lens off the camera and hold it up backwards so the image is shot through the front side of the lens.

This technique does not replace a good macro lens by any means, but it is kind of fun to try. And if you do not own a Macro Lens, give it a go. I did not have an adapter or reversing ring to attach the lens to the camera (these apparently are very inexpensive to buy) –  and I did not use a tripod with a remote trigger. I imagine some really good results can be created by doing this. Because of this, it gave my images a very soft abstract feel – it actually reminded me of my Lens Baby effects. And for me it was a good starting point for doing some more artistic effects.

It took me a while to actually get some camera settings that worked and lots of lights were turned on in my home. An ISO setting of 800 seemed to work best for me. None of the automatic settings worked since no lens was actually attached to it. Therefore the focus had to be adjusted manually by moving in closer or further away with the camera itself. As you can see, it becomes a very close up macro effect. The post-processing took lots of time to get a good effect – started with my Another Simple Black and White Technique blog from last week and then added a couple textures along with several adjustment layers.

The next two images are both from a Blowing a Kiss Sculpture and is part of the Vitruvian Sculptor Collection based on Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man drawing. I enjoyed creating both of these images. The smile image, as with all three image, required a lot of Spot Healing to remove the dark dust marks from the lens. Also, they all were rather noisy so some adjustments were done in Lightroom’s Detail Noise Reduction Panel.
Image of the smile from the Blowing Kiss SculptorTo get the interesting colors, the oldie-but-goodie Nik Color Efex Pro 4 with several filters (Reflector Efex, Film Efex Nostalgic, Darken/Lighten Center, Detail Extractor, Photo Stylizer, Vignette Lens, and Classical Soft Focus) was used. Then a Levels Adjustment Layer and a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using the filmstock_50 preset at 52% layer opacity were applied. Pretty simple post-processing.
Image of beautiful bubbles on a hand from Blowing a Kiss SculptureThe above image took a little more effort but I really liked the way the bubbles looked in the final iteration. Two groups of bubbles with several layers each were added – smaller sized ones for the background and larger ones for the actual fingertips. All the bubbles in this image were created using a Lisa Carney Bubble brush she shows you how to create in her Filters and Smart Object class on Creative Live (all her classes are fabulous). Brush 11 in the free Photoshop Bubble Brushes would have worked just as well and was used as the foreground bubble. To create a group of bubbles, need to adjust the size, spacing and scattering in the Brush Settings Panel and just paint them in on a New Layer. A light border was added, a pink and blue texture overlay, and a Light Beam Brush by Jonas de Ro was added in the upper left. Then just my final workflow using a Black and White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity blend mode and Nik Viveza 2 layer were added.

I am not sure I would use this technique unless I needed a macro shot and this is all I had available. It can be done but it does take a lot of experimentation. Hope you all have a great week….Digital Lady Syd


Image of some Vinca Flowers with water droplets on themHope everyone is having a wonderful New Years. I have been taking a lot of time learning about black and white images recently. This original technique was created by the fabulous Russell Brown years ago. Russell used to have a video on his website and luckily I had taken a few notes. After playing around with adjustment layers and settings, I found out it can create very nice B&W and color effects too. A benefit to using this technique for a B&W conversion is the highlights will not be blown out. The pink Vinca flower image above used this technique – check out the video to see some other variations to the image. I found this technique works really well with floral images.

The workflow is very simple:
1. First do any clean up and adjustments to the original color image to get a clean start for your conversion to black and white.
2. Add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer on top, change the blend mode to Color, and name the layer Filter (like a filter put in front of a camera lens to balance the gray shades that appear on the film).
3. Add another Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer on top and change the Saturation Slider to -100 and name it Film (to represent black and white film).
4. In the Filter Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer, adjust the Master sliders and all the individual color sliders until you get a pleasing black and white effect – this converts the colors to tones. Or use the Target Adjustment Tool (hand icon in upper left of panel) and click+drag in image to change the Saturation of the item under the icon and CTRL+drag to adjust the Hue. Try SHIFT+clicking on different areas in your image so changes can be applied to a broader range in the image – check out the bottom strip to see the color range tabs move (these tabs can be dragged manually also).

Check out my short video to see how this image can be changed with a few simple adjustments to get very different results. (If the link is not available in the RSS feed, go the actual blog to activate video.)

Orchids at the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, FloridaThis image was taken at the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, Florida. The above workflow was used on this image. No tint was added, but a heavy grain effect was added which is often used on black and white images. You do not want black and white images to have too slick a look which shooting digitally often creates.
Image of The London Eye
Another nice result of using this technique is that very pleasing color effects can be achieved. The image above of the London Eye used the same technique above except that the Film Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was set to 50% layer opacity and instead of a Filter Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer, a Selective Color Adjustment Layer was used (as shown in the video). In  Colors: Red, just the Black slider was moved right to darken the reds a little. Then the Whites, Midtones and Blacks Colors were adjusted to get the really nice highlights in the trees, the blues in the sky, and the nice soft reflection in the water. To darken down the whole scene a little, my favorite Color Lookup Adjustment Layer preset called Foggy Night was added at 20% layer opacity. Nik Viveza 2 was used to get the soft sunset effect. I was really surprised how nice this came out using the same basic technique. If the Film Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer is set to 100%, the image goes back to a black and white image, and the Selective Color Adjustment Layer will just adjust the tones in the image. Try using the Color Lookup Adjustment Layer on top with the black and white to get a nice overall tint to the image.

Hope you enjoyed the blog – I was surprised how easy this is to do. I created a very basic Action by just adding the two Hue/Sat Adjustment Layers with the workflow changes. Have a good week!…..Digital Lady Syd

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