Anything Photoshop or Photography



Image of a beach at Green Turtle Key in the Outer Banks in the Bahamas

Hi Everyone! Well tomorrow Skylum officially releases their latest and greatest software update called Luminar 4 (for website link, check out the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) and it is a great one. This program seems to have been originally developed to compete with OnOne Software’s and Adobe Lightroom’s cataloging ability, but that is not what I find is so great. The software has introduced some new fabulous filters. It now contains an incredible one-click sky replacement filter that is hands-down the best I have ever seen – and absolutely no halos! The filter is called AI Sky Replacement and literally takes 5 seconds for it to find the image sky, which adds light tones to match to the image, and looks pretty good. Just pop in a new sky that can be either one of 29 provided or one of your own. No masking or anything – just replaces it. The image above is an example using one of Luminar’s skies. And below is the new Portrait Enhancer.

The Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas image was originally taken into  Luminar 4 from Lightroom (just straightening was done first) where several filters were applied including the AI Sky Replacement, and then brought back into LR as a .tiff file. Just to note, I first tried to bring the image in using a Virtual Copy of my image, and it will not work. It was immediately opened in Photoshop where a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied to the top layer mask to slightly lighten up and adjust the sky just a little. This can probably be done in the Luminar filter, but I have not figured out how yet. That was it. Below is a screenshot of the original Raw image as it taken into Luminar 4.

Screenshot of Raw image at a beach on Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas
Here is a screenshot of the sliders in the AI Sky Replacement filter. Click on the image for a larger view in Flickr. The Relight Scene slider is really nice. Still working on figuring out what effect the other slider have on the overall image. Note the four icons on the side – that is where the different modules are accessed – it took me a minute to figure this out.

Screenshot of Luminar 4's AI Sky Replacement filters


The image below by Joshua Rawson Harris from Unsplash is another example of a new filter called the Portrait Enhancer – it contains several sliders for using on faces. This is another pretty incredible filter. There is also a single slider filter called AI Skin Enhancer that I did not think did as well on this image.

Image of a swimmer by Joshua Rawson Harris on Unsplash

The image was originally opened in Photoshop and Luminar 4 then opened on a duplicate layer as a plugin – it worked fine. The only other thing done was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer back in Photoshop. Below is a screenshot of what the sliders in the filter look like – click on image to see a larger view in Flickr.

Screenshot of sliders for Luminar 4's Portrait Enhancer filter

The Green Turtle Cay Resort and Marina image was opened in LR where just a few Basic changes were done before it was opened in Photoshop. From there Luminar 4 was opened as a plugin and unfortunately I lost all my settings as the Smart Object did not work right for me (I know Flex has Smart Object capability, but not sure on Luminar 4), but it was pretty much the same workflow as used with Flex. I was extremely surprised how great the detail and color came out. A little Viveza 2 was used on this image in PS at the end due to the fact the focal point was not quite as noticeable as I wanted.

Image of the Green Turtle Cay Resort and Marina in the Bahamas

The Essentials section includes the AI Accent and AI Sky Enhancer filters which are now placed together in a and called AI Enhance – still just one slider for each. There is a new slider called AI Structure which seems to be really great for adding detail to an image. There is a section called Landscape Enhancer which  now contains the Dehaze, Golden Hour, and Foliage Enhancer sliders. The Landscape module is where many of the other filters in Flex are found including their famous Sunrays filter along with AI Sky Replacement. In the Portrait section the new AI Skin Enhancer and the Portrait Enhancer filters are located along with the High Key and Orton Effect filters. The last module is called Pro and contains Dodge & Burn, Color Enhancer – lots of filters to do some basic enhancements to your images.

I am really surprised how good this program is. There are many links on how to use Luminar 4 all over the internet – I have not looked at any yet but I will be. I only wanted to introduce you to some of the new things in Luminar 4. These new filters and the speed it has for applying them is amazing. I would recommend you download a trial to see if you like it. I think that the new filters are wonderful. Good job Skylum!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of an alligator at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm in Florida

Me and this rather king-size alligator at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm are taking a bit of a break this week. Still chewing on all the new goodies in the latest Adobe Photoshop 2020 release (no longer CC). I was pleasantly surprised with some of the new items. If you are interested in learning about everything new, I found the best source to be Unmesh Dinda’s video called Top 20 New Features & Updates Explained! Photoshop 2020 – he gives excellent examples too.

The one I have been trying out the most is the new Object Selection Tool. If you cannot find it, like me, it had to be added to the Toolbar by RIGHT clicking (if you just click on the Ellipsis, no dialog box opens and the Tool or Ellipsis disappear) on the very tiny arrow on the lower right corner of the Ellipsis (the three dots) which is located just under the Zoom Tool and above the Color Swatch icons. (This is a fairly new feature to Photoshop.) I had trouble even finding the dots on my Toolbar and keeping the Tool open due to “not” right clicking. Once opened, you will get an Edit Toolbar choice (only one actually) which opens up this big Customize Toolbar dialog. Highlight the new Object Selection Tool and for it to show up as an icon by itself, drag it into a clear area between the other sections, otherwise it goes in with the Quick Selection Tool when dragged over. Quick recap and how my Toolbar is set up is shown in the Screenshot below.

Screenshot of Customize Toolbar dialog box for Photoshop

As you can see, I like to keep the Quick Selection Tool, Magic Wand Tool, Rectangular Marquee Tool and Patch Tool set up individually since I use them a lot. With the new Object Selection Tool, the same thing was done as I anticipate this is one I will use a lot. Had not planned on getting into this, but I had to look up my Toolbar notes to see how to do this. Thought it might help a few of you out. Maybe you also have some other favorite Tools you want to have open in the Toolbar. Same process.

I have been impressed with the new Object Selection Tool. It is used basically like the Select Subject option that we have had with the Quick Selection Tool, but now you can just drag around what you want selected (it turns into a Lasso Tool or Rectangular Marquee Tool – select mode in Options Bar), which may be just a little area of your layer, and it creates a selection for you. If you don’t like it, just hold down the ALT key to remove areas or SHIFT key to add to the selection. Below is an ant that I used and you can see it selected all the little tiny places in with with a few extra Lasso lines.

I also like the new options in the Warp Tool – this will be really helpful for compositing especially. And of course the Content Aware Fill command has been updated so you can choose what area it should use to create the fill. It is pretty cool.

There are a couple things I do not like about the new update. One is that when you click the Home (house) key on the far left of the Options Bar to select an image recently opened, the panels all show up on top of the list so you cannot see them all. That is not good. Also they moved the Preset Manager and all it contains as far as I can tell are Tools and Contours, they took the Brushes out. I know they think the Brush Panel (and new Pattern, Style, and Gradient panels) are good enough to replace this, but I still find the little swatches hard to sort in the tiny panels. For those still available, it is now located in Edit -> Presets -> Presets Manager – not convenient at all. It would be nice if there were an option to add the Preset Manager back.

I plan on learning some more about these new Tools and pass along any new tips and tricks as soon as I get them. In the meantime, enjoy the new update. It does have a lot a new features to figure out. Have a great week……Digital Lady Syd

Alligator Image info: Just in case you were wondering, here are a few things done to this photo. Used the Quick Selection Tool – Select Subject, which they say has been greatly improved, and it seems to be. Digital Textures Captured Light Sea texture4 was used as the background. The Flood Filter from Flaming Pear was used to create the reflection. Used Mixers and Gradient Tool to fine tune the texture as it was too busy for my taste in this image. Some rim lighting was done on the top edge of the Alligator following a tutorial by Unmesh Dinda in KelbyOne’s Photoshop User Magazine from Nov/Dec 2018 called Make Your Subjects Pop by Adding a Beautiful Rim Light Effect – if you are a member, it is a really nice tutorial. PhotoFocus’s Africa Color Lookup preset (I believe it was in a Luminar set) was applied at 88% opacity – one of my favorite LUTs. Evened out the final effect with Viveza 2. It was a bit of challenge to get the water to show up at a certain height and still see his leg – I wanted to create a very shallow water look.


Image of a Spanish Cay runway marker in the Bahamas
During Photoshop Week 2019 on Creative Live, I watched a segment by Randy Van Duinen called Lightroom and Photoshop for Architectural Photographers. I did not think there would be much relevant to me, but it is loaded down with some new ways of looking at photographing and post processing. It is an inexpensive class and frequently on sale – definitely worth the buy. One of Randy’s tips is about de-emphasizing those distracting areas and putting them into shadows (or as in the above, making the foreground lighter). After working with his technique, I figured out a way to get the same results using the Properties Panel on a Layer Mask, so check out the Alternate Workflow for these steps. Not sure which is the easiest to do.


  1.  Select an areas with the Lasso Tool (or whatever selection tool you wish to use).
  2. Set the Quick Mask options (by double clicking on the 2nd from the bottom icon on the Tool Bar) to show the Masked Area as you want the selected area or area to be changed not covered by the overlay and the Opacity to 100% . Then enter Quick Mask mode.
  3. Go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to a large amount to make a nice smooth transition between selection and other areas. Should be able to see the transition clearly. Click Enter to close filter.
  4. Press Q or press the icon again to exit Quick Mask.
  5. With selection active, open a Curves Adjustment Layer. Can now light or darken the layer mask or change the color of the layer. Remember that the Red, Green and Blue Color Channels can also be used to adjust the results.

Screenshot of the RAW file for Spanish Cay in the Bahamas
The above shows what the original image looked like as it brought in from Lightroom (just used Basic Panel corrections, cropping/straightening, and Lens Correction Panel). Duplicated the Background layer (always do this) and applied Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Sharpen AI (use this a lot now) set to Focus and Remove Blur 0.65 and Suppress Noise 0.20 – note that a layer mask was added as it definitely was too much sharpening for the soft clouds. I had decided that I wanted the small bush on the left to be brighter and the foreground to look more sandy than it did in the image. On another duplicated layer, the Lasso Tool was used to first select the bush. The the Quick Selection mode was used to select the areas that I DID NOT was to change. See the Screenshots below to see how the edges blend once opened in Quick Selection mode and the Gaussian Blur filter chosen and set to a Radius 52.4 pixels. By changing the radius size, the blending can be set they way you want. If you want to see some of the background, set the Opacity for Quick Mode lower than 100%. The Lasso Tool is really not that exact so if more accuracy is needed, just use the Paint Brush Tool to adjust the mask.
Screenshot of Gaussian Blur on bush
The image below shows how the blending looks with a larger area selected and a larger Radius size is used. Definitely have a much smoother transition. This time the Radius was set to 182.0 pixels, but Randy uses much larger sizes on his images. It definitely depends on the size of what you are blending and how large an image you have.
Screenshot of the foreground in Gaussian Blur for Spanish Cay image
Once the filter is applied, just click Q or the Quick Selection icon to exit and a selection will be available to apply to any type of Adjustment Layer, but with this workflow it usually involves the Curves Adjustment Layer. Of course a Levels Adjustment Layer could be used or some of the color Adjustment Layers could be used like Hue/Saturation. For the above two different Curves Adjustment Layers were used, one for each area selected. The last step was to add a Levels Adjustment Layer vignette (see my How to Create a Subtle Vignette blog).

Thought I would show you a couple images that also used this same technique. In the leaves image, by darkening the background, it actually created a very 3D effect. This time the large leaves in the foreground were selected with the Lasso Tool since I wanted to darken the background. Inside the Quick Selection Mode a Gaussian Blur Radius of 424.3 pixels was used to create a more subtle transition. Then back in Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer was used to darken the area somewhat. The vignette was from Topaz Lens Effects’ preset Soft Olive Green and keeping the opacity low at 32.83.

Image of some pink and green Coleus Plants at the Magic Kingdom
My last example uses the Watercolor1 Mockup by Digital Florist. Just popped my Day Lily image with a butterfly and put on the drawing pad. The original mockup was very light, so by selecting the sketch pad, the background was darkened using this technique (Gaussian Blur Radius set to 355.2). This now draws the focus to the image and not all the painting supplies. (The crazy background was created using  Corel Particle Shop filter’s Expression and Spring Silk Ribbon brushes.)

Image of a Mockup showing my Day Lilies and a butterfly


There is another way to do this same technique without using the Quick Mask Mode and I will list the steps below. I like both ways of doing this, so give each one a try.

  1.  Add a black layer mask to your image.
  2. With a larger soft brush, switch to white and paint over the area you want changed. For the top image it would be the left bush or foreground area. Note, you have do this twice for the different areas if you want to use different setting in the Adjustment Layer for each.
  3. Add a Curves Adjustment Layer above the image and clip it to the layer (press the first icon at the bottom of the Curves Adjustment Layer Panel or CTRL+click between the Image and Adjustment Layer layers in Layers Panel. Otherwise the selection changes will apply to the whole image. Do your adjustments. Levels Adjustment Layer can be used here – sometimes it gives a little better result.
  4. Click on the Layer Mask of the image layer to bring up the Properties Panel – set the Feather to get the soft transition you want. To see it as if you were in the Quick Mask Mode, click the (\) key to see the overlay or ALT+click to see just the black and white mask. Also fine tune your Layer Mask with a brush at this point in case areas were missed.

Alternate Workflow Screenshot

Not sure which way is easier, but it gives similar results. I do believe the Gaussian Blur is a little easier to see the effect, but with the overlay in the Alternate Method, it is still pretty easy to see.

This technique can be used for just a subtle change which is what I like, especially in landscape images. Have a good one until next time!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:

How to Use a Selection to Draw Focus in an Image
Using Curves Adjustment Layers to Get Rid of Shadows and Highlights


Image of a Summatran Tiger at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC
This week Topaz (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) unleashed their newest in their lineup of AI products by updating the old Topaz ReMask to Topaz Mask AI. I stand corrected – this is not a free update for past owners – not sure why since the product is very similar to the original – apparently they are giving past owners a discount. Update: There is a new update out, Version 1.0.2 – if your software does not indicate there is an update, go to the site and download the latest version.

So the Sumatran Tiger (from the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, DC) above was my first attempt using the program – I used it as a plugin in Photoshop, which is how I have always used it. It is also a stand alone program where the selections can be saved as a Transparent PNG file. My first impression is that it is not that different from ReMask 5 so if you have used it in the past, the plugin will be familiar to you. The AI capability does appear to create a better initial selection, but there usually is still some clean up brushing required using a small sized Green brush (for keeping an area), Red brush (for removing an area), and Blue brush (for recalculating the area to match). BTW, keyboard shortcuts for the Blue Brush is Q, Green is W and Red E – this makes it really quick to switch between the brushes, especially when doing clean up on the selection. The brush size can be increased or decreased using the bracket keys as in PS. It takes a little longer for the computing to occur since it is AI technology.

Below is the interface after the Auto (Detect Objects button) and Compute buttons were pressed and showing the 4 previews at once. This is my favorite way to clean up the image since corrections can be painted in any of the views if something does not look right. See how good the blue outline looks and it created a really overall smooth selection. I think it creates a better result than PS’s Quick Selection Tool with the Select Subject used.

Screenshot of Topaz Mask AI


1. One of the best new features is the Auto Button which automatically creates a selection as shown above. What I will say is that I got much better results using the Auto button than by my brushing in my own blue outline around the tiger. So keep that in mind, use Auto first if possible. If it cannot find a subject, nothing happens.

2. Choose between AI or Contrast buttons. Topaz says use AI for complex masking issues such as trees, fur or lots of details. Use Contrast for skylines, horizon lines, cars, and macro flower petals (according to Topaz). I have not tried out the Contrast button yet, but the AI worked great on the tutorial they have embedded in the program to help you learn the software.

3. If you create your own outline, be sure to add a touch of red or green in areas you don’t want or do want. It helps the AI technology figure out what you want to keep. Not sure it helped me that much, but I am still new to the update so I may not be using it correctly.

4. What do all those Edge sliders do?

  • Edge Shift – shifts mask edge – I find this one major handy as it gets rid of some of the rough edges.
  • Edge Softness – add sharpening to sharp edges and softens edges as in a portrait.
  • Foreground Recovery – revives the color of foreground in weaker or more transparent areas – good for fur, whiskers, or wispy hair.
  • Defringe – to help reduce halos on edges.

5. Background Options: When I am doing edge corrections with a very small brush, I usually add a really bright solid color background color so the problem areas can be seen well. Have always done this and it helps a lot. The Blur options blurs the background for you – gives you a slider to do this. I have never used this option, but it might come in handy to see what is really being selected. Apparently an image can be placed into the selection and there are several options to adjust the selection’s exposure, contrast, etc. I have never used this before either.

One thing the Help Manual does not tell you is that once you have added the blue lines, use the Fill bucket to add green to the keep areas and red for areas to remove. That way you do not have to paint it out.

Also, it does not have, when used as a PS plug, the ability to “Enable Use Layer Mask” in the Preferences that was available with ReMask 5. Instead, need to add a layer mask to a duplicate layer before going into Mask AI – it will now load the selection into a PS layer mask upon applying. This is so helpful.

Well I hope you load it up and try it out. I trust that Topaz is still working with the program and are doing updates as the AI feature gets better – that seems to be the trend for their AI software. In the meantime, I will practice with the program and try and get a Video out there on some tips to make this process easy. And don’t forget that Topaz has a great Help program, so if you are having issues with Mask AI, let them know. Have a great week and Happy Halloween!……Digital Lady Syd


Image of a painted male lion
This week I tried out the Pattern Stamp Tool, one I do not remember using. Since I have been getting back into painting some of my images using both Photoshop regular/mixer brushes and Corel Painter, I did not think I would like the results since it is a “painting” tool that has been with the program for a very long time. Well, if used correctly, it does a surprisingly good job. The Lion image above is one I downloaded a long time ago from Unsplash and is by Jakob Puff. This looks a lot harder than it was and I was totally surprised how nice the lion turned out, especially considering how fast it was done.

So what brought this on? This week Adobe Create came out with a link called Free Photoshop Brushes: Impressionist Set by Creators Couture. Needless to say I had to check this out. Jessica Johnson did a short video and gives you five Pattern Stamp brushes to try out this technique. What is so interesting is that you are not carefully painting each section with your brushes, you are basically just dragging around to lay down the strokes. The image itself has been turned into a Pattern which the brushes use as guidelines to follow. They look like strokes because each brush has a different make up. Jessica’s brushes are really nice and they were the only ones used in the lion image. I was going to do a video, but I think Jessica’s is pretty good and short – if you want to try this out, follow her video.

Her technique follows a pretty standard painting workflow with an Underpainting layer, Base layer, Detail layer, and then some additional layers to finish up the image. Each type of layer has a brush associated with it to create the effect. A duplicate copy of the image was placed on top and turned off while painting. A solid brown layer was used to build the painted effect up on – basically follow her simple steps to get a pretty decent result. For the above, once done with the Pattern Stamp layers and brushes, a New Layer was added to paint in the white whiskers a little. A black layer mask was placed on the duplicate copy on top and the areas that needed a little more emphasis and detail were painted back lightly – mainly the eyes, nose and whisker areas and it was set to 43% layer opacity. (See Lion Image info for final steps.)

Major Things to Know:

  1. If actually using the pattern to paint over the image, be sure that Aligned is checked in the Options Bar. Impressionistic is always checked to get this effect.
  2. If you want more detail with any brush, just make it a little smaller or want less detail, make the brush a little larger.
  3. Can also adjust the effect by changing either the brush Opacity or the Flow.
  4. Can change the Layer Opacity to reduce effect.
  5. Change the blend mode of the image and often a very different look, and sometimes better, will occur.

What I did learn is that it is not that hard to create your own Pattern Stamp brushes. There are a couple tricks you do need to know though.

Steps to Creating a Pattern Stamp Brush:

  1.  First find a brush that you think might look good for painting – there are a lot that will not work well so it takes a little experimentation here. In the PS CC later versions, in the Brushes Panel select a brush and then click the Save as a Preset icon at bottom and do not check Include Tool Settings.
  2. Now select the Pattern Stamp Tool (which is stacked with the Clone Stamp Tool) and then select the new preset. The brush will now work as a Pattern Stamp Tool.
  3. Make changes in the Brush Settings Panel.
  4. Save down as a new brush with the Include Tool Settings checked.

These steps also work on any brushes you want to change over to a different type, like changing a regular brush to an Eraser, Clone Stamp or even a Mixer. Pretty handy.

I did a lot of research before writing this blog to see if anyone else has a better way of using this Tool or better brushes – I could not find a lot. The great PS Guru Jack Davis had demonstrated this technique in his wonderful Creative Live Class called Painting with Photoshop where he used very different brushes (from 2002 but they still work) and an action, which are provided, but my first results were not good. What I liked about his brushes are that they represent Chalk, Dry Brush, Oil and Watercolor mediums. Need to consider this when creating your own.

How I created a couple of my own brushes was to look at the ones Jessica provided and try out similar settings. It was really trial and error and it totally depends on the look wanted as to which brush to adjust. For more on my brushes I created see below in Lion Palm Tree info. This process can be a little time consuming and Jessica’s brushes work really well IMO. If you only use this process occasionally, her brushes will probably be a good set to use. She also has several for sale on her site if you decide you really like to do this.


Image of a pink water lily at the National Zoo in Washington, DC
This Lily image was created a little differently. Instead of creating a copy of the Water Lily image to use as a pattern and painting on directly, separate layers were used with different brushes to add different painting stroke and color effects on the image. In this case a green Watercolor Pattern was used for most of the leaves in the background and it was painted in using one brush I created. Then on a New Layer on the dark areas in the image a green Glitter Pattern was placed in the Options Bar, and a different brush was used- it created sort of splotchy strokes. On a New Layer the same brush using a Blue Glitter Pattern was added on some of the leaves for interest. Last pattern stamp layer which gave a pretty cool look to the lily was to set the layer to Hard Light Blend Mode and using a pattern called Strokes Gold and Kyle’s Scrape brush converted to a Pattern Stamp brush – the actual flower was painted over. For the rest of the steps and resources, see Lily info below.
Image of two Palm Trees on the Big Island in Hawaii
These two painted Palm Trees from the Big Island in Hawaii turned out to be a good example for using the Pattern Stamp Tool. This time I used both a Pattern of the image itself for painting, and created a pattern using a small portion of a Renoir painting that had lots of pretty greens and blues in it. That meant that I switched between both patterns when creating this effect (turning the Align checkbox on and off). Just used a Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer with a bright blue for the bottom. Then followed Jessica’s workflow using her brushes for the Underpainting, Base, Detail, Artistic, and Textures layers. Used one of my brushes and created patterns to apply the color behind the horizon and in the foreground. The foreground layer was set to Color Dodge blend mode at 57% layer opacity to get the yellows to pop. In my Two Palm Trees notes below, I have given you all the settings I used to create one of my brushes that was used for the foggy effect behind the trees. That was about it on this one other than the stand finishing as in the other two images.

I found this technique pretty easy to do and would encourage you to try a simple image using Jessica’s brushes and see what you think. She also gives you some patterns if you sign up for her newsletters which are very nice. She has a few videos on her website which show how to create the patterns like I did on the Renoir pattern for the Palm Trees image – this is really very simple stuff. If you like the painterly look, give it a try – you can always use layer masks to remove the effect from faces or objects and give a really interesting overall effect for your images. Well have fun painting! ….. Digital Lady Syd


Lion Image: I just finished up with my normal image workflow: a white Spotlight Effect on face set to 85% layer opacity, a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer (using Foggy Night preset) at 52% layer opacity, Exposure Adjustment Layer to pop the eyes, a Black and White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity blend mode to adjust the tones, and a Red Channel Curves Adjustment Layer at 58% layer opacity for contrast.

Lily Image: The Green Watercolor pattern was from a set by Ult Designers Watercolors. I tried a lot of Grut brushes (the best around – check out his freebies section for a free brush every week and his sampler for some more good brushes) as he uses a lot of different types of tips , textures, and edges in them. I finally got a pretty good brush using his Grut – OI Chimp Gimble and another with FX IL Choppy Slop brushes in his excellent Inky Leaks Set. Also used PS’s Kyle Webster’s Scrape brush. To get the free patterns, go to Chris Spooner Glitter Patterns. The Brush Strokes (Gold) Pattern is free. To finish up this image, usually I group the Pattern Stamp layers. Then once again just my normal finishing up process. First on a New Layer I did a little flower clean up – one area was too bright and distracted from the focus of the image so it had to be painted using a darker color. Next a free Matt Kloskowski’s Sun Rays Top Left was added, flipped and rotated to have the correct lighting effect, set to Overlay blend mode at 59% layer opacity. I did not like the white light but wanted a warmer color, so clipped a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to the image and set the Hue to -180, Sat 98, and Lightness -27 for more yellow tones in the ray. This added a cool look to the image. Two New Layers were added and set to Overlay blend mode – one for a spotlight effect on the flower, and one to add more orange and yellow tones to just parts of the flower for some contrast. What really popped this image was a Gavin Philips custom pattern with a bright sun ray in the upper left from his Lightmaster Action.  The ray was moved in the pattern by holding the CTRL and dragging in the image. It was set to Overlay blend mode at 39% layer opacity. On a New Layer was set to Overlay, some black paint was added to darken down the upper right leaf – became too bright from the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer. Next a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added using my Sketch Effect cube presets and set to 71% layer opacity. Next a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to just adjust the color a little. A Black and White Adjustment Layer was used to adjust the tones in the image and set to Luminosity blend mode. And Finally a Red Channel Curves Adjustment Layer where both the contrast and the colors were tweaked just a tiny bit.

Two Palm Trees Image: Just a couple things about this image. I created a Pattern Stamp brush using my SJ 3 Pastel brush as a basis. Since I have released my settings for my go-to brush a long time ago, I will give you the settings I used to create the Pattern Stamp brush. First need to follow the instructions in my How to Create My Favorite Brush blog to create my basic SJ 3 Pastel Brush. Then in the Texture section, change Texture to Extra Heavy Canvas, Invert checked, Scale 83%, Brightness -90, Contrast 76, Checked Texture Each Tip, Mode Linear Height, Depth 23% and Depth Jitter 76%. Then add a Dual Brush set to Rocky (a soft round grainy ball), Size 223 px, Spacing 29%, Scatter – check Both Axes and 123%, and Count 5. Now go ahead and Save Brush, then Save again with a Tool checked, select the Pattern Stamp Tool and then save again with Tool checked. The trick to creating a brush is to look at the Texture and the Dual brush sections. These both have a lot to do with how the brush will paint a pattern. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using Scott Kelby Warm Reds preset was added at 90% layer opacity. Last steps here were to use two spotlight layers for lightening up and darkening down areas in the trees. Black and White Adjustment Layer and Green Curve Adjustment Layer were used to finish off the image.


Image of a bird feeder with a couple of birds
Just doing a really quick blog this week – have been working on an image that was taken this last summer that I really liked, but it just was not that sharp. Mainly my settings were off – they were working on the butterflies but not for the skiddish birds. If I walked in closer, the birds were totally freaking and would not come near the bird feeder, so this was a problem. Lesson learned – shoot manual when having problems! It may not be the best image, but I did get a nice remembrance of the birds and they are at least recognizable. So here is what I finally came up with to fix this.

Obviously I was shooting a lot of images and that was a big part of why this worked. I have learned that a little burst shooting and several attempts are especially good when I am not sure that I am getting the image I want. The two images were not shot at the same time – actually several deer images were taken in between. The juvenile Blue Jay image was shot first and the Cardinal second. You will probably never find a Blue Jay and a Cardinal at this feeder at the same time. That is why the bird images were taken at different times, but I decided to leave the Blue Jay alone as I thought he looked cute. Below are the actual RAW files taken. You can see these both are in pretty bad shape. One reason I wanted to use this Cardinal shot is that I liked the way his head was turned.

Original Raw photos of bird feeder and birds

In Lightroom these simple settings were applied: first opened the Detail Panel to adjust some Sharpness and add Noise reduction (because it is always there with this camera), then in Lens Correction the check boxes for Remove Chromatic Aberration and Enable Profile Corrections were turned on. The image was next cropped into a Square. In the Basic Panel the Auto button was clicked and Texture and Clarity sliders were adjusted. That was it. The image was taken into Photoshop where it could be seen this just was not good. Topaz (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Sharpen AI was added and set to Stabilize, Remove Blur 1.00, and Remove Noise 0.20. It helped, but it could not totally fix this pix. In Lightroom an image that used the same bird feeder that was sharper had to be found – the one with the juvenile Blue Jay was selected. The changes made to the RAW file for the Cardinal were copied over to the Blue Jay image and it was also brought into PS. Below you can see what they both looked like at this point.

Bird feeder images after Lightroom adjustments made to them

Now the Blue Jay image had to have Topaz AI Sharpen applied in PS before stacking on top of the Cardinal layer. Several layers of cloning and painting with both regular and mixer brushes was required to add back the needed detail and blend the colors together. Once brought into the Cardinal image, the Blue Jay layer had to be Free Transformed to fit and a black layer mask added – just painted back parts needed. The info was all there on the originals, just slightly blurry. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added on top using Sparkle Stock’s Bleak-Shoji 01 LUT and set to 58% layer opacity – this tended to tone down the very green background color. Viveza 2 was used to highlight the birds and add a little detail with the Structure slider. The setting were placed on the Blue Jay in this case where the Structure slider was set to 65%, Brightness 42%, Contrast 49%, Saturation 22% and Warmth 25% – really made the bird pop – I use this program all the time to even out an image. I used 6 different points in this image to help direct the eye to the birds. I really feel it is much better than Lightroom’s filters and a lot easier to use. I do still love LR so don’t get me wrong, but this program to me is still the best Photoshop plugin ever made. (See screenshot below of how this plugin was used.)

Screenshot Viveza 2
On a stamped layer, Topaz Lens Effect’s Vignette filter set to Burnt Sienna was used – the effect was painted off the birds and feeder in a layer mask. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to add some contrast back. Then on a New Layer the Sharpen Tool was set to a Strength of 100% to just the Cardinal and some of the seeds in the bird feeder – it was set to 45% layer opacity to keep it natural. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added next to adjust the red color in the Cardinal – this really added some depth and detail to the birds body which was not seen in the original image (Reds set to Cyan +82, Magenta +6, Yellow +2, and Black +13). Next a Black and White Adjustment Layer was added on top and the colors were adjusted as a black and white before setting the layer to Luminosity blend mode – great way to make sure you have your tonal values correct. (See my How to Use a Black & White Adjustment Layer to See Contrast in an Image blog.) Last step involved adding a Red Channel Luminosity Mask to a Curves Adjustment Layer – the Red Channel lighted up the birds the best. (See my How to Use a Red Channel to Create a Nice Blended Image Effect blog.) I hope I am getting across the fact that the sharpening is just slowly built up using different tools for different parts of the image.

Image of a painted deer
Who is this that just walked into my blog? Oh yes, one of the deer that was wandering around the yard near the bird feeder. My goodness! (Image was digitally painted mainly in Corel Painter 2019 and then finished up in Photoshop – my normal paint process.)

Anyway, thought I would show you how to fix something that may not seem fixable. It can be done, just takes a little experimentation and imagination to make it work. It actually is a lot like compositing images. Hope this was a bit of help to some of you – a favorite image might be saveable with a little manipulation. …..Digital Lady Syd


Soft Glow Effect on image of a cafe

I have not done many blogs on actions – find I use only a few. But this weekend I decided to clean up my Action panel to see what is actually in it. I found a few little jewels in the batch that I had forgotten about so I thought I would share what they do and give you a few links. The free stock image I am using is called Beautiful Pink Rhododendrons in Front of the Restaurant in Lodz, Poland and is from Kaboompics. All these images do not have any other changes done to them other than those allowed in the action itself. In most cases, these are very uncomplicated actions but can give some excellent different looks to your photos.

The image above used a rather popular look that actually appears to have an Orton Effect or Radiance Glow to it. The actual action is called Enhance Glow with Red Channel and was from Scott Kelby’s (NAPP at that time but now KelbyOne). I am not sure it is still available, but there are several gurus using this same type of effect (Unmesh Dinda in his Special Blend Mode to Boost Radiance + FREE Action You Tube video, Blake Rudis describes creating a Radiance action in his Creative Live Adobe Photoshop CC Bootcamp – Actions section, and even Photoshop’s Image Effects has one – see next paragraph to find out how to load it.)


Image of a street cafe using a cartoon type action

The action used on this image was called Fluorescent Chalk. It is one that comes with Photoshop CC. Just open the pop-out menu in the upper right corner and go down to Image Effects to load set – the action is located at the very bottom. There are lots of other really good actions with this set. (Check out the Aged Photo effect – it is pretty nice too.)


Image of a outdoor cafe with a gradient effect
The action used on this image is from Blake Rudis, a great Photoshop Guru. He provides some really great free videos and actions on his site. This one is one of my favorites and I use it all the time. It is from a set of 2 actions called Advanced Color Toning – one sets the blend mode to Soft Light and the other Overlay. He supplies you with several 26 gradients which are unique because a gray color strip is one of the colors in the gradients. This creates some really different effects in your image. The image above used Blake Rudis gray gradient 23 set to Soft Light. Check out Blake’s site as he has a lot of very useful actions – one he recently distributed is called Super Saturation Finder which lets you figure out if your image is too saturated – very useful!


Image of an outdoor cafe of a painterly line art look
The above action has more of a painterly look but still has the line art effect which I really like. It is a free one called GTA (for Grand Theft Auto) Effect from Chris Spooner at Spoon Graphics and contains 6 filter effects in the action that can be adjusted to get just the look you like. Chris is one of the great Photoshop guys that gives away lots of things besides actions – I always enjoy following his blogs to see what he is up to. (He released an Infrared Photo Effect action that I have been trying out and looks very interesting.)


A special effect applied to an outdoor cafe image
I really love the result of this crazy action that is from another great action group called Sparkle Stock. They usually give you a few free actions and will sell a larger set if you are interested. This action was from their shortened free set called Inception and contained three effects: Mirrored, Drop (Right), which this image used, or Drop (Left). I just thought the result looked really fascinating and I have seen this look in a lot of creative photos people are doing. Sparkle Stock has several actions on their site that do some really nice things like double exposures and light leaks so do check them out.

There are a lot of other great action places and it is not that hard to create one if you use a certain effect over and over again. I may do a video on this as it can be a little confusing to figure out, but if you stick with fairly simple effects, it is not too difficult. Well, hope you get to check out a few of these actions and try them out. They can really save a lot of time. Have a good one! ….. Digital Lady Syd

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