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HOW TO ADD A LITTLE EXTRA DETAIL

Image of two Moon Jellyfish
This post was going to be a review about one of my favorite filters, the now updated Topaz Sharpen AI filter that contains a brush for creating a mask to locally sharpen certain areas of the image. There appears to be a few bugs yet so I am not ready to review it. Instead I went back into my archive to find some new things to work on during this stay-at-home time. Therefore this week is going to be just a short blog on getting a little detail into an image, in this case some Jellyfish images. Hum!

The Moon Jellyfish image above seems to be both creepy and beautiful at the same time. (Their body is white in color, round, and very transparent so when the sun or the moon is shining on them, they look just like a lit-up moon.) What was really interesting to me was how to get all the nooks and crannies of this image to look as transparent as the jellyfish really looked. The Camera Raw Filter was opened  and a free Profile in a Sparklestock set called Lemon – Pumpkin 02 profile at 106% was selected (they have many  great presets and all have free samples). Then the basic sliders were adjusted so that the background was a little darker and the light lines showed up a better. Some Texture and Clarity were also added. Since I did not have my Topaz Sharpen AI working, I decided to use my back-up which never lets me down – Luminar 4 (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link). It has also been recently updated for Landscapes or Portraits. Sometimes the AI Enhance Tool is used, but in this case it was lightening up the background too much. The AI Structure Tool (Amount 73 and Boost 43) and painted in a mask where on the areas needing sharpening was used first. Then applied the Details Enhancer Tool (Small Details 49, Medium Details 25, and Large Details 37). These are usually the only two filters needed to get some great detail from Luminar. Now here is a great trick when working with objects with thin lines – go into Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Studio 2 and apply the Edges Filter. This filter can do wonders to give a little more edge to objects. In this case these filters and settings were used: AI Clear: Remove Noise Auto, Enhance Sharpness High, Exposure 0.02 and Clarity 0.40 (I still love this filter in Studio and just by adding a little Clarity here helped quite a bit in this case); and Edges: Edge Type – Monochrome Line, Edge Tone – Light, Edge Strength – 0.67, Simplify Edge – 0.04, Suppress Weak Edges – 0.35, Suppress Small Edge 0.84, Edge Thickness 0.12, and Edge Resolution – 0.84 – painted off any long white lines which looked over the top. That was basically all that was done on this image, but the sharpening process turned out really good.

So for this image the following items were used to add the detail: (1) Camera Raw Filter and the Texture and Clarity sliders in particular; (2) Luminar 4 using their AI Structure and Details Enhancer Tools; and (3) Topaz Studio 2’s AI Clear (especially the Clarity slider) and Edges Filters.

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Image of a traditional jellyfish with a watercolor effect

This image is of a more traditional looking Jellyfish, the kind I have seen in the ocean before. This time a more painterly effect was applied and most of this was done in Topaz Studio 2 where the more artistic filters can be found. This time an older version of Topaz Sharpen AI (Model: Stylize at Sharpness 0.90 and Suppress Noise 0.20) was used to do my initial sharpening – and it did a great job. Luminar 4 was applied on a stamped layer and the Dramatic set Mystic Look preset was applied which gave it an overall painterly feel. Then on another stamped layer Topaz Studio 2 was opened and AI Clear applied – Remove Noise: Auto, Enhance Sharpness: High, and Clarity 0.78. Next the wonderful Edges filter set to 100 Opacity, Multiply blend mode, Edge Type Monchrome Edge, but this time Edge Tone: Dark instead of Light as above.  All the other sliders refine the original Edge Strength (0.78) setting:  Simplify Edge 0.40, Suppress Weak Edges 0, Suppress Small Edges: 0.00, Edge Thickness 0.40, and Edge Resolution 1.00. In layer mask with brush set to Transparency 0.50, Radius 0.03, Softness 0.50 and Edge Aware On, painted effect off in a mask where the lines were just too dark – this still left an enhanced line but was not as obvious. The Impression filter was set to Type 13, Background Color Original in Texture section, and in inverted layer mask, just painted over the top of the Jellyfish with brush at 0.78 Transparency. Back in PS, the background was created by using 3 different colors on 3 different layers using the Shadowhouse Creations texture brush set to a large size (it was the 2nd example created in my recent How to Create a Texture Brush to Match a Texture blog). Then put layers in a group and set it to 82% layer opacity. On a New Layer on top, the top part of the Jellyfish was smoothed with a Mixer brush. Then on another New Layer, a small brush was used to add in some of the tentacle lines that were missing. Text was Hardwired Script Update and it was a lot of fun to use – the creator added in many variations for the letters. Still more clean up, but these were pretty much the steps. Once again Studio’s Edges filter was a great help.

For this image, these detailed items were used: (1) Topaz Sharpen AI; (2) Topaz Studio 2’s AI Clear and Edges filters; and (3) actually drew in any small lines that needed emphasis using a tiny small brush.

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Image of Moon Jellyfish in a sepia tone
More Moon Jellyfish – this time in a sepia tone. Did initial sharpening in Lightroom using the Detail Panel before applying the old Nik Silver Efex Pro filter to the image. Just the default preset was used to start and then changes were made using Toning Preset 9 to give a slightly bluish look. Back in PS the image was inverted (CTRL+I on the image). A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added using a Color Negative Device Link preset (not sure if this is from PS or not) set to Hue – it added the nice sepia effect. The Moon is from Rule by Art (in Design Cuts Planet-Space-Explosion-Background and Ancient Texture set) and it was also adjusted to match the Jellyfish using the same Silver Efex Pro and Color Lookup Adjustment Layer settings. Another Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added and set to the Foggy Night preset at 63% layer opacity and Overlay blend mode. Used the same Hardwired Script Update font. Last step was a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a little contrast back.

In this case, the only sharpening needed was in Camera Raw. It is interesting to see that each image had such different requirements.

Hope everyone is taking it easy and trying out some new techniques. That is what I was trying to do with my images – try a few different things and see what I like. It is actually nice to be able to slow down and think about this – just hope it is not for too long. Stay safe!…..Digital Lady Syd

GOT SOME FREE TIME! TRY DRAWING!

Drawing of an Elephant
This week I decided I to try another drawing video and see what results I could get this time. One of my favorite wildlife artists (and Disney cartoonist extraordinaire!) Aaron Blaise had a sale on an older set of videos (he was using Photoshop CS6) called Wildlife Painting Bundle for Photoshop. The above Elephant was drawn and painted following the steps in his 1-1/2 hour long Elephant Painting Tutorial video. He takes you step-by-step on how to create the image in great detail. It took me much longer than 1-1/2 hours to do this – had to walk away a few times and start certain sections over to get it correct. The main challenge was to get used to the Erodible Brush he showed you how to create. Once you have mastered the brush, it was amazing what it could do! One hint here, I had to actually add some Softness to the brush (41%) to keep my lines from getting too sharp when making wider strokes – and the brush size was set to 7 or 8 pixels to get sharp sketchy lines. The only downside was the Elephant video’s resolution was lower than the other three and this made it a little harder to see some of his settings.

Aaron’s Elephant image was darker and used warmer tones rather like a Safari. My image used Topaz (see sidebar of my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReStyle to get more gray tones. The file became very large – almost a gigabyte and that seemed a bit excessive for a drawing. Therefore two different files were saved – a drawing file after finishing up the video, and a duplicate stamped layer from the drawing file to add my other changes. Aaron also teaches you how to create an interesting textured background and how to add special effects to it to enhance the overall drawing when finished. This bundle contained videos for a Leopard (which I am doing right now), a Lion and a Panther.

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Drawn Image of a wolf
My wolf drawing above was created a few years ago following Aaron’s YouTube video called How to Paint Fur – Photoshop – Wolf Portrait. It contains very similar steps, but since the wolf has hair instead of skin, it used different brushes. For more details on how this was done, check out my Learning to Draw a Wolf! blog. Aaron’s video for the wolf is also great for learning to draw. He has lots of other YouTube videos, several where he is using natural media as opposed to digital, but all of them are very informative. He is an excellent teacher.

There are several other digital artists that are sharing their Photoshop techniques. I am a big fan of David Belliveau of Paintable for learning to paint people. (See my Where to Find a Good Photoshop Painter blog.) A couple times a year he offers free week long lessons that are terrific, and he has some really great PS brushes for free download. And EDX (University of Newcastle in Australia) offers a free Drawing Course called Drawing Nature, Science and Culture: Natural History Illustration 101 – this is a course I keep meaning to start taking and have not had time to do it. This may be a great time to try! And just for some crazy fun, try doodling! (See my blog How to Enjoy the Doodle!)

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Below is a little drawing and painting done several years ago. Just another example of something that can be drawn easily. It followed my blog called Some Flower Power that describes the basic steps used.

Image of some drawn flowers

Some Photoshop News

Also thought I would just add a couple notes for everyone. Photoshop just posted an upgrade (fixes tablet issues which I was having big-time! Thank you Adobe!), Skylum Luminar 4 update that now allows adding components into your sky and has greatly improved the skin panels (Thank you Skylum!), and Topaz AI Sharpen which now allows selective sharpening using a mask (Thank you Topaz Labs!). See sidebar of my Tidbits Blog for Skylum and Topaz website links. Should be some fun stuff to investigate this coming week. Hope everyone is at home and feeling well! Have a great time with drawing in Photoshop. There are so many things to learn by drawing that can help your photography skills too!…..Digital Lady Syd

HOW TO CREATE A TEXTURE BRUSH TO MATCH A TEXTURE

Image of a Blue Morpho Butterfly
Creating a brush to match a texture might not need to be used on every image, but there are times is can be really handy to have, especially if the texture has a very obvious texture. In the Blue Morpho Butterfly image above, it created a very nice painterly effect to place on top of the subject. Thought I would write a very short blog on how to do this as it took me a few minutes to figure it out. Maybe I can save you a bit of time when you need one.

The beautiful texture I was using is one by Melissa Gallo called Bowl of Roses Canvas and it comes with her older Painting with Photoshop Workshop (this is still an excellent class if you are serious about learning to paint in PS and she provides lots of extras). The butterfly looked really strange lying on top of the texture I liked so by creating the brush with a similar texture, the edges and new color could be added to the butterfly to blend it in nicely.

So this is how the brush was created:

1. While still in my document with the texture added, the Circular Marque Tool was used to make a small selection on a part of the texture that looked particularly nice.

2. Press CTRL+J to place it on its own layer above the texture.

3. Turn off all the other layers so only the circular texture can be seen.

4. Select the Gradient Tool set to Black/White in the swatches and drag out from middle to lightly fade the edges of the brush.

5. Go to Edit -> Define Brush. My brush was named SJ Round Texture Bowl of Roses.

6. As the brush looks right now, it is not very good. Need to open the Brush Settings Panel so that a few variables can be added. In the brush above, only two sections were changed. In the Brush Tip Shape section, the Spacing was set to 70% so you can see the texture. Then the Textures section was adjusted as shown on the left below. Pretty Actions Antique is the pattern used – this will blend with the texture in the brush. Try different patterns that will give different results. A variation of the brush which enhanced the spatter that was in the pattern more is shown in the brush settings on the right side. Same brush but slightly different settings tipping the texturing in the brush more towards the pattern and less the original texture. Note that the pattern’s Invert box is checked for this brush.

7. Once you are happy with your settings, be sure to resave the brush by clicking on the plus icon at the bottom of the Brush Settings and the Brushes Panels.

Screenshot for Texture Brush used in blog
Screenshot of the variable brush for blog

That is all there is to it. Of course the different sections can be added to the brush to a really special look you want, but it is a really easy and fun way to create these brushes. The strokes were applied on their own layer above the butterfly so that the opacity and blend mode could be adjusted. In this case, the blend mode was left set to Normal and at 100% opacity.

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Two birds at the Jacksonville Zoo
These two birds (not sure what kind they are but appear to be a type of duck) were not fighting, but seemed to be buddies (or mating possibly). Anyway I thought the connected beaks was sort of interesting as far as birds go. The image was also post processed the same as the butterfly image above. First selected the birds from their background, found a texture to put behind them (in this case it was a free Shadowhouse Creations Nov 2014-7 texture) and then a brush was created from the texture using the above steps. Changes were made to the brush settings with the spacing to 139% (to avoid patterning), Angle Jitter 50% (to avoid pattern repetition), and Orchid Pattern (4) from Jessica Johnson set to Scale 249% (again to avoid patterning – this was a freebie from one of her newsletters), Brightness -1, Contrast 7, Mode Multiply, Depth 84 and Depth Jitter 16. In the Options Bar the Smoothing was set 12% – this seems to make the brush move smoother. Two brushes were made – one at 234 pixels and one at 900 pixels, which was used with a rust color on the background to add in some color over the texture. Then on a New Layer above the birds, the smaller brush was used at a 30% opacity to paint a soft beige over some of the edges of the birds. One of Jessica Johnson’s Pattern Stamps (see my blog link on this below) was used to paint in the blue-green clumps of grass between the birds (using her The Masters 52 pattern). Two Color Lookup Adjustments Layers were added (Foggy Night preset at 64% and a free Sparklestock Bleak Spire 02 preset at 28%) – Color Lookup Adjustments can really pull the color of an image together.

I had written on this subject 6 years ago but it is still a fun technique to use and it really helps keep the texture flowing on the edges of a subject. It is also a nice way to add other colors and texture to a background for a more unique effect. Hope you give it a try – it is so much fun to make brushes! And hope everyone stays healthy this Spring. It is is a great time to enjoy Photoshop and learn a few new things – I know that is my plan!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

How to Paint with a Texture Brush from Your Image
What About the Pattern Stamp Tool? Not So Bad!

USING A COLOR FILL ADJUSTMENT LAYER AS A SUBTLE SPOTLIGHT EFFECT

Image of Philippine Ground Orchids from the Big Island in Hawaii
This week I am combining a couple older blog tips written a while back but are still very useful. This technique I frequently use in my everyday post-processing and it is especially useful for directing a viewer’s eye subtlety.

I am using this orchid image as an example of how you can use a Color Fill Adjustment Layer as a subtle spotlight to direct the eye in the image but with a color vignette feel. I processed this image using the free Adobe Texture Pro Panel (it was called Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel – check out my blog Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel – A Real Winner!). Flypaper’s Apple Blush Texture (included with the panel) was set to Hard Light Blend Mode at 71% Opacity and gave the image a very greenish look but with that great canvas texture.  The Muscatel Texture (also included) was added next and set to Overlay Blend Mode at 29% Opacity to slightly darken the image and add some orange tones. Since I felt like the green was still a little overwhelming, a Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was added – a royal blue color was selected and set to 54% Opacity. In the Adjustment Layer’s white Layer Mask, a very soft large brush was set to 15% opacity and with black set as the color, the blue color was gently painted off some of the orchids to give the subtle spotlight effect, from the light green image tones underneath, that will direct the eye. Try setting the Adjustment Layer to different blend modes – I tried Saturation set to a low opacity and it looked great on this image also. This is a cool little trick if you need to draw the eye into a certain part of an image and works very well with flower images. I also like adding my own colors into an image.

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This next example came from one of my longer posts called How to Use a Solid Color Adjustment Layer which contains steps on actually applying some beautiful color to an image. One of the sections is called “Use Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer to Add Some Localized Ambient Light to an Image” and does basically the same thing as the flower example.
Image of Porch in Savannah, Georgia, with Ambient Light from Solid Color Fill Adjustment LayerHere is a great example how using a Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer direct your eye in an image. This image of a porch in Savannah, Georgia, was taken in bright sunlight but it did not have that real translucent golden-hour feel to it. To get the warm fall look, a Selective Color Adjustment Layer was applied changing the Reds, Yellows, Greens, Neutrals and Blacks. In Viveza 2 the flowers were sharpened and saturation by adding control points. Next the Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was added using the bright golden color #e7e148 and a black mask – just the leaves, flowers and gold fence tips were painted and set to Soft Light at 57% layer opacity. The layer mask was filled with black and only the leaves and flowers were painted back, thus directing the lighting effect to those areas. The final steps added a Levels Adjustment Layer for contrast and another Selective Color Adjustment Layer for a little more Yellow tone. The Solid Color Adjustment Layer added a very subtle effect to draw the eye towards the hanging flowers.

I hope this blog gave you something new to try by adding a spotlight or ambient effect to your images. I think I will use the Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layers more – the steps from my older blog (linked above) are still quite useful for adding great color into an image. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

WHAT IS A “CLEAN UP” LAYER IN PHOTOSHOP?

Image of a Bulldozer in the Bahamas
Thought I would do a quick post on this since it seems to be a bit confusing as to what a Clean Up Layer is for and why have one. If you do not use Photoshop that much, it is probably something you do not think about – but when I go into Photoshop to finish up my post-processing work, it is very important.

Often it is necessary to do a “clean up” layer before applying filters or adjustment layers as it can save a lot of time at the end when you are trying to finalize an image. What I mean by that is that if a spot shows up at the end, it is often necessary to do that final clean up and, if you are like me, it just adds to the size of your image. That does not mean you can’t clean up an image later in your workflow (I have done it a lot! but not because I wanted to!) – it can also create problems if you are trying to blend out or clone areas, then decide to change a blend mode from an earlier layer in the stack – there now is this ugly layer that does not match up and you have to do the clean up layer again. It can get a bit frustrating.

Usually I create several Clean Up layers and I try to label them a little bit to remind me what I did on that layer. If you are using different tools, like the Paint Brush and the Clone Stamp for example, it is really handy to put each tool’s corrections on their own layers. This is useful since you may not like an Clean Up layer effect produced as you post processed the image and you can just delete that layer. Also, if the results create too strong an effect, like too much additional color from a paintbrush, just reduce that layer’s opacity. Another handy thing to remember is that a layer mask can be added to the Clean Up layer – can paint over areas using a low opacity brush to reduce the effect in just certain areas – and the Properties Panel can always be used to adjust the Density of the layer mask changes.

WHEN DO YOU ADD A CLEAN UP LAYER?

Often one is needed immediately after bringing the image into Photoshop since neither Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw have layer capabilities which makes clean up difficult. By starting with a blank New Layer on top of the background layer, it is easy to use the Spot Removal Tool for any little corrections to your image. Also the Clone Stamp Tool can be used to “clean up” areas that need a few tweaks. And of course regular brushes can be used to clean up a line or edge.

Another time to use a Clean Up layer is if you need to blend using a Mixer Brush or Paint Brush – it can be handy to have this on a separate layer to blend in the strokes perfectly. This is a great time to try out different brush strokes to see if they work better than the brush you are using. Try never to paint directly on the image as it is a destructive process doing that – the separate layers above can be deleted easily if the result is just not right.

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For the image above, the ability to go back and forth between using a regular Paint Brush and the Stamp Tool Brush to “clean up” an image was used. This may sound pretty obvious, but I am not sure many people try this.

Image of Original Image and of Clean Up Paint Layer
As you can see on the left image there was a great big palm frond hanging down in front of this Bahamian Bulldozer. It was parked on the trail up to Nippers Beach Bar and Grill on the Great Guana Cay (if you don’t go to Nippers, you have not been to the Outerbanks!) The palm frond is basically why this image was not post processed before. By sampling the colors near each frond area, the messy area was cleaned up. To restore the texture of certain areas that just could not be painted, the Stamp Brush Tool was set to a small size, sometimes as small as 3 pixels, and Hardness set to 75% and Spacing to 25% in Brush Tip Shape section in Brush Panel. Then the texture could be added to areas where the paint brush would not work. (This means the palm fronds areas hanging down were replaced with the green bush “texture” in the background by using the Clone Stamp Tool.) The Regular Paint Brush used was my Chalk Brush 60 that contains a setting of 19% Angle Jitter in the Shape Dynamics section. Set to a small size it gives you a lot of stroke control but also some variation in the stroke to indicate a little variation. See right side for what the Chalk Brush Clean Up layer looked like – shows the frond area painted over by sampling the color and painting with the brush.

This image also had several other “Clean Up” layers – one for the Patch Tool used after cropping to fill the top expanded area, and Spot Healing Brush and Clone Stamp Brush to clean up the texture applied to this image. The texture is from French Kiss Artiste Collection – Cote d’Azure texture. It was chosen since it had a sort of sandy bottom and blue sky at the top. A New Layer (same as a Clean Up layer) using the Clone Stamp was applied over the texture to just smooth the edges up to the object and still match the texture. My last “clean up” layer was used on the tire lettering. Totally indispensable!

When adding a layer mask do not forget to highlight the mask and press the \ key to see what you are painting out of the image – it really helps to fine-tune the layer mask this way.

I hope this cleared up a little bit of the confusion about what a “Clean Up” layer is used for, but you can use it in any way. What I discussed is how I use them and almost every image I post-process in Photoshop uses at least one. Have a great week…..Digital Lady Syd

CREATING COMPOSITE IMAGES USING THE JULIEANNE KOST WORKFLOW

An image of a composite containing the ocean and a small island
I would imagine everyone who has Photoshop has run across the name Julieanne Kost – she is an Adobe Evangelist and attends most major events that showcase Photoshop. She really loves to use texture and recently created a short video on her blog called Happy Birthday Photoshop! to let you see how she puts here fine art composites together. I found this short video really interesting and thought I would give her style a try and share it with you. The above image was my first attempt.

I have always felt that composites are really fun to do, but it does require a bit of creativity to pull together several different elements into a meaningful result. The above image I named “Hope on the Horizon” as I wanted to depict a rather lonely feeling but with the moving clouds and birds, there is always activity and hope.

WORKFLOW:

Here is how I perceived her workflow – my own steps for the image above is in italics.

    1. First select an image that would work as a nice background for the image. This usually means there is a really nice ocean scene, or flat foreground grassy area and it may or may not have a horizon line. Just need something of interest to build your composite on.
      In the above, an image taken while sailing showing the clouds out over the ocean was used as a basis for the image.
    2. She will add a texture on top of the background layer sometimes. It is often necessary to desaturate the texture so it does not change the tone in the image so SHIFT+CTRL+U is used to desaturate it.
      On the image above, a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using the Candlelight preset was added instead to reduce the color but not change the texture of the water at this time.
    3. Add in some elements – these can be brought in from anywhere. It can be helpful to select the items out of the image before copying them into your composite, but you do not have to – just add a layer mask to clean up what is being added.
      In the image above two images from PixelSquid (one of my favorite element places, but it is a membership site) using a sand and dunes element and a palm tree element. The dune contained the nice grass and weeds. The wood structure behind the tree was taken from another one of my images and just added in – used a layer mask to remove its background. Selective Color Adjustment Layers were used to adjust the color of the elements. Also added a New Layer and painted some small white and black flowers (scatter brush dots) in the weeds. And you may want to paint over the edges with a low opacity Regular brush or Smudge or Mixer brush to blend in elements.
    4. Used a fog brush to soften the horizon on a New Layer if you do not want it to be too noticable. Julieanne appears to soften the horizon a lot in her image.
      The brush used above was a cloud brush called Adonish CLOD3 from a free set by DanLuVisiArt on DeviantArt and does a great job with this – need to set the size of course.
    5. Next texture(s) need to be added – any number and try out different blend modes and and adjust layer opacity for each. Some may need to be desaturated and some may not – that is what makes it fun.
      Above two textures were applied: one from Melissa Gallo’s canvas collection called Dark Naples Yellow Canvas set to Overlay blend mode at 74% layer opacity and contains the strong yellow and green components, and one from the Adobe Texture Pro Panel called Villa Adriana – it was desaturated and set to Hard Light at 45% layer opacity.
    6. More elements can be added on top too.
      See the birds flying – they are also from PixelSquid but bird elements can be found all over the internet.
    7. Now the final steps need to be done. Usually a Curves or Levels Adjustment Layer need to be added to retain the  contrast lost by adding all the textures. Also any other masking or tweaking needs to be done to get your image just right.
      In the image above, Viveza was opened on a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and set to a Smart Object so it could be readjusted. The Camera Raw filter could have been used to do the same. The sliders were set to brighten up the whole image a little and add a little structure which was lost by adding all the texture. The last step involved adding a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer on top and reducing the saturation (-25) just a little as it was supposed to be a little darker than the happy yellow it currently was.

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    Image of a Sumatran Tiger
    This Sumatran Tiger from the Jacksonville Zoo is really not as mean as he looks (although I am not sure of this) – I wanted him to look like he was walking straight at you. Since there was a fence behind him, an element was created using some horizontal lines with a brush and adding some texture to the layer. So, yes, the original image and background of the tiger are the same, but many things were done that are similar to Julieanne’s type of image. A brush was created to paint in a warm orange texture around the lion but under the horizontal line layer. For instructions on how to do this, check out Envato’s tutorial called How to Create Photoshop Brushes from an Old Newspaper by Ivan Gromov. It was a lot of fun to do and the created brushes make nice texture layers. Two other texture layers were applied – Melissa Gallo’s Green Lake set to Overlay blend mode at 60% layer opacity and Trees in May set to 75% layer opacity. A High Pass layer was used to sharpen just his face (used a black layer mask and painted in just the face area). On top one of my own white textures was set at 75% Layer Opacity to give him a less sharp and bright overall appearance. A Levels Adjustment Layer was used to add back some contrast and that was about it.

    Julieanne has a class on compositing at Lynda.com for a fee. Her technique is pretty consistent if you watch her short video and she does create some really nice textured images. I hope you will give it a try since it is pretty fun to do and it is not a real hard workflow to master. Have a good week…..Digital Lady Syd

    DIGITAL LADY SYD RELATED BLOGS:
    How to Make a Basic Composite Image
    ReBlog – Get Inspired using Your Favorite Textures
    A Few Compositing Tips and Tricks! – Recycled
    A Flamingo’s Private Park

GETTING THE JOEL SARTORE LOOK ON YOUR ZOO IMAGES

Bonobo Monkey at the Jacksonville Zoo
This week I spent a lot of time working on my Jacksonville Zoo images. It is really hard to get that perfect shot when you are without a tripod and the animals and you are moving a lot, not to mention the weather aspects that can affect the final picture. Therefore it is sort of a hit or miss prospect and it takes a little manipulation to get the perfect image.

The above is an image using the effect that Joel Sartore (a National Geographic photographer) uses and is his images are currently being displayed throughout the Jacksonville Zoo. He mission is to photograph every live animal on the earth using this beautiful technique. He uses lighting and sharpness very effectively. I thought I would try to get a similar effect with some of my images and this Bonobo Monkey is one of my results. (This technique is also displayed in my Sneaking a Quick Snack image on my Tidbits Blog.)

So how do you create this effect? First the basic color work was done in Lightroom and the image was cropped once in Photoshop. A Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer using the color black was added under a duplicate layer of the Background Layer. Joel uses white also as a background color, but I really like the black background effect.

Getting a Good Selection

A good selection is crucial – you do not want any discoloration from the original background where the animal was located. The Quick Selection Tool was used to select the monkey from his background. As you can see, the above had a lot of head hair and was easily discolored since his hairs were so thin. The Select and Mask panel was opened and the Refine Brush Edge Tool (2nd icon down on the left) was selected at the default 30-pixel size. An 8-pixel Edge Detection Radius was entered. With the Refine Brush Tool, the monkey was painted over his edges. Sometimes you do not get the best results with this tool, but it is a good start. At this point I usually look at the Black & White View and use the Brush Tool (3rd icon down) to clean up anything that looks bad. The Shift Edge was set to +37% to show up the hair on his head more. Exited using New Layer with Layer Mask (no decontamination used as it did not look good but always check to see). It totally depends on what is being selected as to whether all these sliders used on this image. The Eagle below used only the Refine Edge Brush. I personally find this panel to be very finicky as to how well it works. I would list a reference but so far I have not found any that are that great. I always do paint around the edges with the Refine Brush Edge Tool no matter what is being selected. Some experts say paint from the inside out over the edge – this works sometimes for me. The good news is that the layer mask can be painted in directly once out of the panel to further tweak the image. This is where a some special brushes can really help. This also may be a case to use Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Mask AI if you own the filter – it does give a better selection sometimes.

Finding a Good Fur or Feather Brush

Back in Photoshop, a good Fur Brush is necessary to use inside the layer mask since so many hairs might be missed in the Quick Selection Panel. They need to be added in at this point. There are several places where you can get fur brushes. My best set is free to use from Coyotemange called Wildlife Texture Brushes on DeviantArt – great for painting in missing areas on all kinds of animal fur. Aaron Blaise also has some great animal brushes for sale. The one used a lot on the monkey image (and is one of my favorite brushes) was created from watching a short free brush video (No. 21) by Karen Alsop included in her class called Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World on Creative Live. It has been very useful for all kinds of rough edges and I use it as a Clone Stamp Tool brush and Eraser also. By alternating between black and white on the edges, the hairs can be added back in with a very realistic look. Another very handy brush was created by watching Aaron Nace’s How to Cut Out Hair with the Brush Tool in Photoshop video. You can download the brush from there – I use this brush a lot in the layer masks for individual fur hairs – just need to adjust the stroke angle in the Options Bar or the Brush Panel.

Color and Lighting

Next the color of the subject needs to be considered. The monkey used a Levels Adjustment Layer. The Red in the drop-down menu was opened and the white tab moved left (which added Red into the Highlights) and the Midtone (center) tab was adjusted for contrast. In the Blue both the white tab was moved left a little and on the Output Levels, the first field was set to 14 to add blue into the shadows a little bit. To understand how this works, check out Aaron Nace’s How to Use Levels & Curves in Photoshop – Day 6 video – it is an excellent explanation! A Curves Adjustment Layer was used for contrast.

Now I could see the hair did not look right so another Curves Adjustment Layer was selected and the layer mask was filled with black (CTRL+I in the mask). By painting over the hairs with a white brush, the hairs could be exposed. Then the Curve was adjusted by using the little hand tool in the top of the Curves Panel and getting just the right tone on the hair. A Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer was added and the layer mask from the Curves Adjustment Layer was copied over so the color of the hair could also be adjusted. The eyes were brightened using the Exposure Adjustment Layer (see my The Eyes Have It – How to Make Them Pop in an Image blog). The last step was to use a Spotlight Effect on the subject to enhance the light already on the monkey. (See my How to Add a Spot of Light blog.)

I used Viveza 2 to do final image adjustments but Photoshop’s Camera Raw Filter works just as well – mainly was adding a little focused structure to parts of his face for focus. Also a text layer was added.

*****

Image of one of the Eagles at the Jacksonville Zoo
This Bald Eagle is located at the Jacksonville Zoo with his blind buddy eagle. I felt bad for him as he was extremely alert and really wanted to take off but he seemed content to watch all the visitors as we passed by and said Hi. His final image is not as dramatic as the monkey image since the lighting was essentially non-existent in this image. Since he was not moving much, it was pretty easy to get a really sharp image. It was also easy to select the Eagle just using the Refine Edge Brush in the Select & Mask Panel as he did not have all the little feathers or hairs that many birds and animals have sticking out. Basically did a little spotlight lighting on his face and neck areas. Used Luminar Flex (could have used Luminar 4) to add the sharpness to the image (used Accent AI Filter 2, Structure, Details Enhancer, Golden Hour to adjust color in the beak, and Microstructure filters). Popped his eye with an Exposure Adjustment Layer. That was it. This was a very easy image to use for this type of effect.

It really is not that hard to get the look – just have to be careful of the mask being used. An edge discoloration could really overall ruin the result. Love this look that Joel did with his wonderful pictures. Hope you give a try. Have a great one and will be back soon!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Add a Darker Background Image for a Different Effect

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