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A LITTLE DIGITAL PAINTING IN PHOTOSHOP AND NEW PHOTOSHOP BRUSHES!

Image of a Lion at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC

This week was spent mainly sharpening up my “digital painting” skills. This Lion image taken at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, just seemed to be the right type for this process as his background was up against a rather rocky fence. That is one thing to look for when choosing a subject to paint – what the background is and does it help or hurt the subject. This is not unlike adding a texture to an image to remove an ugly background. But in this case, the lion had such a wonderful furry head, he was perfect for doing a little digital work.

If you are new to digital painting and Mixer brushes, which are a main part of painting in PS, check out a couple videos by PS guru Jesus Ramirez. The first is less than two minutes long showing how to make a very basic brush (which worked pretty well for me) and is called Oil Painting Effect From Your Photos – Photoshop Mixer Brush Technique. The second is longer Photoshop Daily Creative Challenge – Mixer Brush from Adobe Creative Cloud (skip to the 9 minute mark for the tutorial). These two videos show how to get a really quick digital painting by just learning to use a Mixer Brush and make a few changes in the settings. And the results are much better than just using the Oil Paint Filter in PS.

I have been experimenting with painting on a layer(s) above using regular and mixer brushes, then going back to the original image layer and duplicating it. Next going into Topaz Impression via Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Studio or Topaz Labs, and applying the Impression filter. (For this image, used default settings and changed: Stroke to 07, Stroke Width -0.24, and Texture set to Background Type Original – had to do a little smoothing in PS to remove stroke edges.) Back in PS the top layer(s) are still your original digital painting strokes with the Impression layer underneath – this gives a nice undercoating to continue painting over. The Mixer Brushes will now begin picking up some color from the Impression layer. Create more layers using different brushes to get a really nice painted image that will show off your own style.

The lion image took several hours to complete, lots of layers, and 7 iterations before the best look was achieved. It has been my experience that digital painting takes quite a while to get a good look, especially if there are a lot of details in the image. You may want to keep it in but be sure to soften it down.

2019 Summer Brushes

Also as a side note, I just downloaded Kyle T. Webster’s 2019 Summer Brushes – to download, open pop out menu in the upper right corner of the Brushes Panel and select Get More Brushes. (if you are not logged into the Cloud, you will need to log in at this point.) Kyle’s website opened up where the new brushes shown at the top of the page. Kyle says “Find your perfect summer color with brushes that take advantage of Photoshop’s unique color mixing effects. Also included in this set: A tribute brush to the great Ben Shahn, an updated China Marker, and great new pattern brushes.” There are 23 new brushes, 3 of them Mixers. I am looking forward to giving them a test run!

Hope you get a chance to check out those two videos and try out some digital painting. It is a lot of fun!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Where to Find a Good Photoshop Painter
Can You Get a Painting Look With a Photoshop Action? Jack Davis Can!

LET’S NOT FORGET TOPAZ RESTYLE – ONE OF THE BEST FILTERS YOU CAN GET!

Image of a white Bird of Paradise bloom
Made it through the first hurricane scare of the season. Therefore decided to blog about something I really love – Topaz Labs (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) hidden jewel of filters – ReStyle! I use this program so much. There are times when an image looks pretty good but something is missing. Sometimes the colors don’t feel quite right together. This is when ReStyle is at it’s best. The above image was an example of this. When it was opened in Photoshop and after doing all the magic I could do, it still just did not look quite right. After applying ReStyle, it looks much better to me. So how do you get this result?

The filmstrip shows thumbnails of the original image from LR along with four different presets applied. Additional changes to the sliders in the presets would need to be made to get the best results, but ReStyle makes it easy to get a good basic idea of what other color combinations would do to the image.

Filmstrip image of various ReStyle preset results

The really fun part is adjusting the five major color sliders using the Hue, Sat and Lum sections, just like in LR’s HSL Panel after selecting a preset. The opacity and blend mode can also be changed for just this ReStyle section – in other words the original colors can be brought back into the image a little, and blend modes can be applied to just the ReStyle section. Very subtle results can be achieved when this is done and can really change how the image looks. And even better, the same type of adjustments can be done for the Basic Section also. I am not one who generally likes to apply presets to my images, but this filter is a preset driven program with several hundred presets to make a choice from. This should one of the first Topaz filters people would get, especially for the creative PS user – and it is so easy to use.

This week I did a quick video to show how this same image was used in ReStyle using different settings. This shows how the interface works. Note that the image is not finished up in the video, more work needs to be done on the image, but the overall ReStyle effect is rather nice. For the top image, a Lucis Pro filter was used to sharpen up the edges a little and a gray texture set to Subtract blend mode at 70% layer opacity was added before going into ReStyle. To finish up the image after ReStyle, a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied to bring back some contrast and a slight vignette was used.

I do not know if Topaz is planning to incorporate ReStyle into its Topaz Studio 2 line-up of filters. It is absolutely one of the most unique filters you will find – just about on par with Impression. I will say that Topaz Studio 2 does include a pretty nifty Color Theme filter where five different colors that can be changed in your image, and it has nine presets in a drop-down menu to choose from. It also has the ability to customize the colors, but it is not nearly as easy to do. I will try to do a follow-up on this Topaz Studio 2 filter in the near future. And check out my related blogs below – the first ones explains how to get ReStyle to use just the colors in your image and then lets you apply all their slider settings. This is also a very easy way to do some slight adjustments to colors in your image.

Hope everyone is having a good month – busy with school starting and weather changing! Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

How to Use a Topaz ReStyle Trick for Improving Your Image
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz ReStyle

WISHING THE BAHAMAS ALL THE BEST

Image of sunset at Spanish Cay in the Bahamas

Taking some time off due to the Dorian Hurricane that is coming up the coast near me. The Bahamas are right in the hurricane’s path. It is one of my favorite places – the Outer Banks especially where all the smaller cays are. The above is an older image of a sunset at the Spanish Cay marina, a little island with hardly any inhabitants but a really nice marina. This is also one of the places where you check in with your passport to continue your visit in the area.

The HDR effect was created using 5 images in Lightroom. Lightroom has made it so easy to do this – just select the images to use and right click to select Photo Merge -> HDR. Just click Merge to apply and a DNG file is created to finish up your post work. For this image one of Blake Rudis’s profiles called Warmifier was applied first in the Basic Panel. Then just the normal adjustments were done. An Adjustment Brush with settings of Texture 85 and Clarity 41 was used to paint over the treeline. A Graduated Filter was placed at the top with settings of Exposure -0.34, Shadows -10, Clarity -30, and Saturation 6. A Radial filter was placed over the clouds where they were slightly warmed up and Clarity removed to soften. In Details Panel, the Luminance had to be slightly increased as there was noise from the darker images. Since I wanted to Sharpen it without bringing back more noise, the Masking Slider was set up to 94 so only the major lines of the image were sharpened. Then the image was taken into Photoshop. On a duplicate layer, Luminar Flex was used to further enhance the image. Filters used were AI Sky Enhancer, Accent AI Filter 2.0, Golden Hour, Top & Bottom Lighting, and HSL adjusting only some of the foreground water color a little. The Filter Amount was then set to only 36%. Last step was to add a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using Crisp Warm Look at 8% opacity.

Here is hoping the Bahamas, the Florida coast and on up get through this storm. See ya on the other side!…..Digital Lady Syd

PS: Check out my Flickr Bahamas Album for more pix from the Outer Banks.

WHEN TO USE THE PATCH HEALING TOOL


Image of a Female White Faced Saki at the Smithsonian National Zoo in DC

The above image is my guinea pig (okay, this is not a guinea pig, it is a female white-faced saki monkey from South America) which had a lot of problems in the image.  There was a plastic enclosure in the Mammals Exhibit at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, and the fact that she was moving around a lot – many people were also watching her so it was a bit of a crazy exhibit when I took this image.

This week I decided to write about something that always confuses me – when do I want to use the Patch Tool (or Healing Brush/Spot Healing Brush for that matter) versus the favorite Clone Stamp Tool? I know most people think the Healing Brush Tool is mainly used for retouching, but it can be used on any type of photo since it actually acts very similar to the Clone Stamp Tool. The Patch Tool is the Healing Brush on steroids, and the Spot Healing Brush uses Content/Aware technology, but is still similar to the Patch Tool set to Content-Aware. Therefore I decided to use the Patch Tool as the main example since all three tools are very similar.

There are two ways to use the Patch Tool by either setting in the Options Bar the Patch drop down to Normal or Content-Aware. This makes a huge difference in how this tool works.

Normal Patch:

When set to Normal Patch, a stamped or composite layer must be placed on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E or also called “the Claw”) since the changes cannot be made on a New Layer above. How do you know this? In the Options Bar there is no Sample All Layers drop-down or check box. These settings are recommended by several PS pros for the Options Bar: Patch Normal, Source highlighted, and Diffusion set to 5.

  • The default settings are set up with the Source highlighted which means the Lasso Tool selection is placed over the bad area, then drag it to the good texture area and PS will try to match this selection with the color and lighting just outside the bad area you selected. So basically, just select a bad area by dragging a selection around it and drag to an area you want it to look like. Voila! This Tool can be used to clean up very large areas – much faster than the Healing Tool.
  • Change to Destination if you want to select the good area and move it over the bad spot.
  • Transparent Box: Use if you want to copy the texture but not its content. This can be cool if you want to copy an area that is a little more sharp (like you can do with the Clone Stamp) – use the Edit -> Fade to blend in the texture properly. Adobe says it works best for solid or gradient backgrounds with clearly distinct textures such as a bird in a blue sky. I tend to turn this on and off when working with some detail areas.
  • Diffusion drop-down menu: Adobe says “The Healing Brush, Spot Healing Brush and Patch Tool in Photoshop have a Diffusion slider which controls how quickly the pasted region adapts to the surrounding image.” Set Diffusion to 1 and it smears less – use low slider amounts on images with grain or fine details; and to 7 smears the most – use higher values on smooth images.
  • Repair an area using a Pattern: Select the Patch Tool and drag in the image to select the area to be repaired – select a pattern from the Pattern drop-down list and click Use Pattern. This is useful if some texture needs to be added to some skin (use a gray grainy texture) or in over-exposed areas that would benefit with some type of texture added.

Content-Aware Patch:

Since there is a Sample All Layers on the Options Bar, a New Layer can be used to do the changes. This being said, some of the PS pros say do the changes on a duplicate layer as better results are achieved. It synthesizes nearby content for seamless blending with the surrounding content.

  • Structure: Set to 1, the patch adheres very loosely to the existing image patterns while a 7 adheres very strongly to the existing image patterns.
  • Color is for applying the color-blending to the patch. A Color value of 10 applies the most color blending.
  • Select an area to replace on the image.

A Couple Tricks to Do:

  • If you do a patch and it is too sharp or bright, before doing anything else, go to Edit -> Fade and lower the opacity to match. it did this all over the fur on this image to match the effect correctly. I actually have set up my F4 key in my Keyboard Shortcuts to use for the Fade key. Very handy to use with any brush and tool effects.
  • If the patch did not turn out good, go back in the History Panel to before the Patch Selection was made.
  • Can make a selection with any selecting tools prior to choosing the Patch Tool – the selection will remain to use for patching the selected area.
  • To use the Normal Patch non-destructively, I learned this nifty trick from a short video by Jwalt Photography called Patch Tool Edit on New Layer – basically what he is doing is duplicating the layer twice, choosing the Patch Tool to select the problem area, dragging to area with better texture, right clicking outside the selection and choosing inverse, and finally pressing delete. Now the corrected area is on its own New Layer and is non-destructive.

Screenshot of a White-Faced Saki monkey
Here is the original image for this monkey, after Lightroom! Not too impressive. I loved the eye contact with the monkey so I did not want to get rid of the image. The plastic barrier in front of her had all kinds of marks and distortions. The Patch Tool was used in the Normal mode to add more texture to the right side of the monkey where the plastic was problem and to remove the white out-of-focus branch that ran through her. The image was initially sharpened by using the Luminar Flex filters like Structure, Detail Enhancer and Microstructure. Then the Patch Tool was used on a stamped layer on top. This took several iterations – it is not always an easy process but by not using too large a section, the areas that were not clear could be made more sharp. Sometimes the Transparent box was checked and sometimes not, depending on the area. Totally a trial and error, but it did look better than just using a Clone Stamp since the Patch Tool matches the tones much better. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer helped darken the background and a vignette was used to emphasize the face. And yes, a little painting was done to fill in places. The large white blob on the upper left was removed using the Content Aware Patch set to Structure 3 and Color 0 and it was pretty fast to match to the tree trunk already there. Definitely experiment with both types of patching – one may look better than the other and remember the settings in the Options Bar will make a difference on the selection.

How Do You Know which One is Best to Use?

Bottom line: Anytime there are edges present in the area to be changed, use the Clone Stamp Tool. You can always clone out the areas where the edges are, then switch to the Patch Tool (or Healing Brush or Spot-Healing Brush) to finish up the rest of the clean up. Just be sure the Clone Stamp Tool is used to remove or move the sharp edges. This is way too simple of an answer since I just cannot come up with an image that does not require a little final tweak with the Spot Healing Brush or Clone Stamp Tool even though the Clone Stamp or Patch Tool did the heavy lifting. I guess that is why PS has given us so many choices! Just do not forget that the Patch Tool can give some really good results – it can quit a life-saver!

Hope you try out the Patch tool – it is really easy to overlook, but can be so useful. Try using it when cleaning up a difficult image. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Creating a Healing Brush Background Texture

RECYCLE-HOW TO GET A PAINTERLY EFFECT FOR WILDLIFE AND BIRDS

Painted image of a Tamarin Monkey at the Smithsonian National Zoo
I can’t believe I did this post 4 years ago, but I did. Time flies when you are having fun! Thought I would rerun it as I have been doing a little painting this week and I am pretty much doing the same things. This little Tamarin Monkey at the Smithsonian National Zoo is an example of more painting and just having fun. The background texture is by Shadowhouse Creations called Rich Tone Texture 2. Several painting layers were created using several of my basic brushes, like my SJ Pastel Paint 3 brush and the Fan Flat Blender Mixer from PS, but pretty much anything goes when painting. Just find a couple brushes you like and start changing sizes and spacing, etc. – eventually you will find a couple you like. A Color Look Adjustment Layer helped give the moody background feel and a little dodging and burning was done. But that was about it. Very relaxing and fun to do. And remember when you are painting, if something does not look quite right, just keep adding layers. Lots of times it starts to take a nice form, sort of like real painting! In the meantime, have a great week – must get ready for Fall photographing! ….. And on with the blog…..Digital Lady Syd

Image of an egret on a painted textureFor a few weeks I have been experimenting with some of the wonderful painterly techniques of Jai Johnson, a wildlife enthusiast who creates absolutely beautiful images. I am finally getting some results that are appealing to my personal taste as I love photographing wildlife in the natural habitat. I thought I would pass on what works for me. On her website she has several really nice videos. She uses Topaz (see website link in sidebar of my Tidbits Blog) photoFXlab as a stand-alone, but it is pretty easy to follow along and do the same steps in most versions of Photoshop. Lately I have been doing my painting in CS6 to increase the stroking speed especially with the Mixer Brushes, although all the CC versions will work fine.

Love the beautiful egrets that can be found in the rookery at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm in the Spring. This bird just seemed happy to me and was a lot of fun to paint. The background is one created in Painter for him. I believe you could create some nice watercolor backgrounds in Photoshop that would give a similar result. I needed a yellow warm light in the background to match the sunlight on his body. Used Jai’s basic workflow that puts him on top and then in a black mask, the original background is removed. She also uses Topaz Lens Effects Graduated Neutral Density filter – in this case used to lighten the bird up. The texture was duplicated two more times and placed on top – one used Multiply blend mode at 16% layer opacity and the other Color Dodge blend mode at 15% layer opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer was opened and the Colorize button was checked with the Hue set to 48 and Saturation 25 – filled the mask with black (CTRL+I in mask) and painted back just lightly areas I wanted the warmer color to appear. Nik Viveza 2 was used to add emphasis to the head area. The Eyes and Beak were sharpened using two Exposure Adjustment Layers. (See my How To Do a Quick Eye Sharpening in Photoshop blog,) Then a stamped layers (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created on top and opened in Topaz ReStyle using the Peppermint Gray preset (one of my favorites) to get a little different color balance. Back in PS the layer was set to 45% layer opacity and the bottom foreground was painted out in a layer mask to keep it slightly darker so the bird looks grounded. Last steps involved used New Layers to clean up distracting colors or areas.

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Image of Wood Stork on painted background
I totally love Wood Storks, the gentle looking birds that are everywhere down here in Florida. This one happened to be standing in the top of a tree at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery, but they are everywhere in my neighborhood. There were actually two other birds next to him doing some crazy things so I removed them. They seem to tolerate people very well also.

In this image he was placed on a new texture created just for him in Painter. I tried to use complementary colors to the bird. If you like this type of texture, check out Jai Johnson‘s inexpensive (and some really nice free ones) and beautiful textures that give similar effects. The usual steps were taken of putting the bird layer on top of the texture, adding a black layer mask, and painting just the bird back with a white brush in the mask so the texture shows through from below. One of Jai’s great tips is to try to match up the texture with the original background colors of your subject. Used the Properties Panel Density slider to reduce the mask opacity to be able to see where the subject is for the initial painting in the layer mask, then put the slider back up to 100% when blocked in a little. Duplicated the texture and placed it on top of the bird layer, set it to Soft Light Blend Mode at 62% layer opacity. Did some clean up layers to even out some of the edges.

I am finding Topaz Lens Effect’s Toy Camera filter is working well with my bird images. A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created on top to apply this filter. Looked at the different presets and choose one, in this case the Yellow Green Low Contrast preset. The Vignette was set 0 and all the sliders in the Toy Camera Aberrations section far left to 0 since I really do not want the Toy Camera effect. The next Toy Camera sections should be adjusted for the individual image. (For the above the Region Size was set to 0.17, Transition 0.42 and Angle 55.25 – especially watch the Angle as it affects how the colors lay out on the image. Next adjusted the Region A Color Cast and Region B Color Cast to fit this image – mainly adding a little bit of Reds, Yellows and Blues to get the colors I liked.) I like how you can really adjust the colors around to get some nice blended effects. Finally adjusted the standard Image Adjustment sliders to add saturation and contrast. These presets, with some tweaking, can really give an image a beautiful soft and blended result.

The Eyes were again sharpened using the Exposure Adjustment Layer, and then another for just the beak. These two areas have to be sharp since the eye will look first at them with birds, but be careful not to over-sharpen so they do not blend into the image – reduce the opacity of the adjustment layer a little if this happens. Next I wanted to add just a little contrast around his head so a Curves Adjustment Layer was used to add some burning by pulling down on the curve to get the correct tone behind his head, filling the mask with black (CTRL+I), and painting back where I want the effect. (See my How to Use Curves Adjustment Layer to Dodge and Burn an Image blog). The last step added Nik Viveza 2 to really make the focal point, the head area, pop out. Since the background is competing with his white feathers, the feathers needed some punch and a little softening in this area.

***
Image of a beautiful tigerThis beautiful photo was from FreeImages – wish I could take credit for taking this image. The photo was used to follow the steps in Jai’s last video called Working With Bold Colors and Abstract Textures. This image had a really bright colored texture like Jai was using as a background. In her video she suggested trying out Topaz ReStyle, and that is where this color effect was applied. Also Topaz Adjust’s Boost preset was used instead of the Bold preset she prefers on the tiger layer. Topaz Simplify’s BuzzSim preset was used on just the subject layer. On a stamped layer Topaz Lens Effects Graduated Neutral Density filter was applied, and then ReStyle’s Dusty Desert preset which gives the almost colorless result. To finish an Exposure Adjustment Layer for the eyes and then Nik Viveza 2 to even out the background just a little were applied. Wish I had taken this image. Sigh!

Well hope you get a chance to check out Jai Johnson’s techniques on your wildlife images. Like I said, all her techniques can be used in Photoshop without too many changes – just experiment with the brush opacity and Flow settings is about all I see that is a little different. And I really like the Topaz Lens Effects Toy Camera effects – something I had not even looked at before! Hope you are all having a great summer – I am!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Topaz Lens Effects For Some Image Fun
How To See If You Captured the Focal Point
A Little Birdie Told Me So!
Jumping Whales
Horses Checking Me Out

TOPAZ STUDIO 2 IMPRESSION AND PHOTOSHOP BRUSHES


Image of a Water Lily blossom at the National Zoo in Washington, DC

This week I have been playing around with the update Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Studio 2. (Last week I did a review of the of it – check out my What About This Topaz Studio 2 Update? Not Bad! blog and video.) I imagine that everyone has noticed several small updates came out this week, each adding a couple more features to the interface. There now is a Navigation Tool on the bottom right toolbar – it is so handy for moving around the image when zoomed way in. A Crop/Rotate/Straighten tool has also been added – probably will not use this a lot but sometimes when an image is crooked, it is nice to have. Your own textures can now be added into the Texture filter as in Topaz Studio 1. I am really looking forward to being able to add another layer as an image (like the Image Layer filter in the original) – I miss not having this feature. But all in all Topaz has been working hard to get this updated software running smoothly.

A Little about Brushes

The Water Lily image, taken at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC, is an example of using the wonderful Impression filter that comes with Topaz Studio 2. For me it works great as either a nice painterly background for regular portraits or animal images or as a painting starting point as used in the Lily look. For this image Impression’s default settings were applied except the Type 06 Brush Stroke was used. Back in PS, on separate layers, Blender Mixer Brushes and my SJ Pastel 3 regular painting brush were used to add color and smooth out the strokes. (To create this brush, check out my How to Use Photoshop’s Brush Texture Section for Painting Clean-up blog – in the middle are the settings.) Even though they have been around for a while, Fay Sirkis mixers are some of the best – only place I can find to download them is from her Kelby One painting courses and they are worth it.

Obviously Kyle Webster provides a huge amount of choices for painting.  The PS Legacy brushes are also still available and have a lot of good mixer brushes. The Fan Flat Blender Mixer brush, located by clicking the Brushes Panel pop-out in top right and select Converted Legacy Tool Presets (when dialog appears asking to “Restore the Converted…”, say OK to add set to the brush list) is a great brush and several variations can easily be made in the Brush Settings Panel (like changing the Brush Angle and Size, adding Shape Dynamics, and adjusting Texture settings).

I also love GrutBrushes – his cloud brushes are just the best available and his InkyLeaks splatter set is really good also (check out his free sampler of brushes and his free brush of the week each Monday).


Image of the Toucans greeting visitors at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm

My previously presented Toucan image is an example of using an Impression filter, in this case it was the Edward Hopper Look (previously preset) – used a Topaz brush to mask out the eyes and beaks of the birds, but the result of not applying the whole painterly effect to the image can be seen. This to me is one major reason why I have to have Topaz Studio 2 as no other plugin company has anything like Impression in their filters. Back in Photoshop a regular soft small soft round brush was used on a New Layer to really emphasize the eyes more. Most of the time a painting clean up layer needs to be done to fine-tune where a few strokes are off a little.

Turning Any Blender Mixer Brush into a Painting Mixer Brush (or One that Adds Color)

To create some of your own Mixer Brush variations, I have listed a few steps to help you out.

Settings for a Blender Mixer: To blend the colors , in the Options Bar:

  • Turn off the “Load the brush after each stroke” icon by clicking on it
  • Always leave “Clean the brush after every stroke” clicked on
  • Select the Very Wet, Heavy Mix in the drop-down
  • Check Sample All Layers

Now you have a pretty nice blending Mixer brush. If some color shows up, you left the “Load” icon turned on.

Settings for a Painting Mixer:

  • Turn On the “Load the brush after each stroke” icon (or no color will be painted as the icon will be clear)
  • Change the drop down to Dry, Light Load
  • ALT+click in your image to sample a color if using one from your image. Note that there is a drop-down by the “Current Brush Load” icon which gives you a choice to “Load Solid Colors Only” instead of a bit of what was under your brush when you clicked

Dab a few times to add your color and then turn off the “Current Brush Load” icon and set back to the Very Wet Heavy Mix to blend some more. This is really handy to know when you are blending away and find that you are missing a color to mix into the background. Since just blending the color back in, it does not have to look that good when you dab. This being said, lots of times I just use a regular brush to add the color in if using the same stroke effect is not that important. Either way works great depending on where the blending is occurring in the image.

That’s it for this week – just thought I would share a little how I paint using Topaz Studio 2 Impression. I like to work this way as Impression gives a nice effect in the background and as much or as little of this effect can be left in the image by using Photoshop brushes. It gives me the creative aspect I want but cuts down on the actual background painting time. Hope this was a helpful blog for those of you wanting to try out painting. Impression is definitely the way to go. And remember, it comes with Topaz Studio 2! Have a great week…..Digital Lady Syd

WHAT ABOUT THIS TOPAZ STUDIO 2 UPDATE? NOT BAD!

Image of a moth on a Zinnia flower
Well I missed last week due to some traveling and it was a busy one for Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link). Since I have always been a huge Topaz fan, I knew this would be a good update, and to be honest, when I first heard about it I had my doubts. But having worked with the program on a few images, it is really good and a much needed update. I have been spending my time just getting up to speed on what they have changed in the interface. They now have a much better way of adding filters – no more Apply step – just filters stacking as Effect Layers, a lot like the other plug-ins have begun doing. This is probably the biggest change. So lets get started and dive deeper into what is going on with this software update. (For what was used in the image above, check Image 1 Info at end of blog.)

First off: who qualifies for a free update? From Topaz website “If you own Studio adjustments with total list price > $99.00, you’ll receive Studio 2 for free.”  “If you own Studio adjustments with total list price <$99.99, you’ll receive store credit for the adjustments you do own.” I received an e-mail indicating I qualified for an update, but if you are not sure, go to Topaz Help Center -> Studio -> Topaz Studio 2 which opens the Topaz Studio 2 Frequently Asked Questions – go down to question 4 where a link will tell you if you are eligible. Otherwise there is now just a one time payment and Topaz Studio 2 will contain all the filters that were available in the original Topaz Studio, which as I see it, is a good deal anyway you do it.

What I Like about Topaz Studio 2:

  • They now have official Effect Layers in the program and no longer is an Apply button needed before you add other filters! Best news and brings Studio 2 up to date with all the other big guys out there.
  • AI Clear is still in the program! Definitely one of my top 5 plugins ever! (And that is saying something for me!) In my opinion, used with Precision Detail (which is also included in the program), they create the most incredible detail.
  • Other filters that are provided: Impression (another fabulous totally unique program by Topaz – no one else has anything like it), AI ReMix (another totally unique filter), Precision Contrast, Texture, Glow, Motion Blurs (one of my favorites – get some really unique effects with it), and Color Theme (which allows you to change 5 major colors in the image) along with all the standard filters one would expect with this program. Shortly Topaz will be connecting up all your original plug-ins into the interface.
  • The masking tools are much smoother and better than ever. I have always felt that Topaz has the best masking tools of any program (runs much smoother than Lightroom’s brush), and they are promising more improvements in this area shortly.
  • Much cleaner interface. The filters are broken down into three sections: Essential, Creative, and Stylistic. Within each section, the filters are now listed alphabetically which I find very handy. Just click the Favorites heart icon to have a list with just your favorite filters showing. Can now see the recent filters applied also. All the Looks (previously presets) are no longer listed by specific plug-in but alphabetically in one group or specific styles like abstract for example.

What I Don’t Like about Topaz Studio 2:

  • I was originally upset that my presets were not present. If you go under Help -> Migrate custom TS1 Presets, they are immediately brought into TS2. Originally you could only do this once, but as of yesterday, it is okay to do it again if you created a recent preset in TS1 and want to bring it into TS2.
  • Can only save the layers as a .ts2 file if you want to go back and tweak the filter settings. If used in Photoshop as a plugin, the settings will not be retained so you better save your changes as a new Look (preset) if you want to use it again. The Save Look icon is in the top right of the interface.
  • Would love to see a Color Lookup Table filter.

These changes are coming soon: plug-in support – in other words, all the Topaz plug-ins you previously bought that are listed as the Plug-ins in the top Menu Studio 1 will soon be available within the new TS2 interface. To find out what was recently updated in the interface, go to the Topaz Help Center -> Studio -> Topaz Studio 2 -> Topaz Studio 2 Changelog (open see all articles to find it). As of yesterday they added a Histogram which is located in the lower right corner of the interface, filter presets (the ones that are in the drop-down menus in the individual filters) available – noticed my personal presets did not show up, just the Topaz ones. They say these are their priority items: Plug-in support, Custom Filter Presets, Image Navigator, Texture Names (now none are shown – update – now named), and Texture Management. Then Masking updates will be coming out. I am pretty excited for the masking update as this is such a great part of most Topaz plugins.
Elephant image from the Washington National Zoo in Washington, DC
Below is a short video on how I used Topaz Studio 2 to create this effect and show you how to create a mask. Both the Elephant and the Guitar Man images are in the video. See Image 2 below for the actual settings for the Studio filters in the Elephant image. See Image 3 at end for Guitar Man info.

As you can see this is definitely a more modern plug-in interface and using the plug-in is much more user friendly than Studio 1. I was initially worried that this was not going to be a good update, but it has definitely exceeded my expectations. If you do not qualify for the update, which I am sure many of you do since Topaz has been around a while, give this new software a spin. It has a 30-day trial and currently they are running a $20 off sale until August 9th. Here’s a great tip for you: if you miss this offer, watch one of Topaz’s live webinars as the presenters always give a good discount for a week or so just for watching.

Image of a man playing the guitar

Bottom Line:

If you are a Topaz fan, this is a no-brainer. The update is definitely a good one and once our older plug-ins are attached, it will be a great one. If you are new to Topaz, you will be in for a big treat. Since I consider myself a creative, this software comes with Impression and AI ReMix along with Textures, AI Clear and many other sliders that make regular filters something quite spectacular. Lots of fun with this program so check it out.

Hope everyone is having a great summer. I am excited Topaz has updated Studio and I know they are working on some more wonderful programs to help create some amazing pictures. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Info:

Image 1 Info:  First did a little tone adjustment in Lightroom before opening this image in Photoshop. The background layer was duplicated and this layer was opened in Topaz Studio 2. These filters were applied in Studio: TSO2 – AI Clear: default settings; Precision Detail: Overall Small Detail 0.35, Overall Medium Detail 0.32, and Overall Large Detail -0.74 and Boost -0.08; Midtones 0.18, Shadows -0.13, Highlights -0.52, Black Point 0.24 and White Point 0.07; and Color Overlay: Color #dfd698 and used Color mask – selected just the flower and the butterfly and it evened out the background color. Applied and back in Photoshop a New Layer was created to paint over a few areas that needed smoothing out. Darken and Lighten Curves Adjustment Layers were used. Two textures were added using the free extension called Adobe Paper Texture Pro (Alice was added set to Overlay blend mode at 91% layer opacity and Aquarius set to Darken blend mode at 68% layer opacity – the moth and flower were painted out in a layer mask to remove texture from them. A Levels Adjustment Layer was used. Next a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using On1 Landscape5 preset at 83%, and the last step was a spotlight effect on the moth. The text is a font called Ramland. Notice I do not just use Topaz. I like to use several different types of plug-ins to get a look I like. But Studio does have a lot of great filters to get a good start look.

Image 2: The Elephant image used another preset I created called SJ Wildlife Look. It contains all the filters in the video but I will list the settings used in the blog image here. Topaz Studio 2 – AI Clear: default settings; Basic Adjustment: Exposure 0.14; Blur: Blur Type Gaussian, Amount 0.31 and Preserve Edge 0.22 – not a Gradient Mask was selected, flipped and Applied, like in the video, to remove effect from foreground and lower elephant – then the Brush was used to mask the effect off the rest of the elephant; HSL Color Toning: Opacity 0.66, Orange Saturation 0.45, Yellow Hue -0.06, Sat 0.45 and Lightness 0.18, and Green Hue -0.45, Sat -0.58 and Lightness 0.01, and Details 0.22 – this image was a little more green than the video image which had more yellow tones to it; Texture: 3rd column/6th row, Brightness -0.07, Contrast -0.21, Detail -0.37, and Sat -0.06: Vignette: Strength 0.99, Size 0.56, Transition 0.99 Roundness 0.13, and brown color (#261f1c); and Curves: Used a very slight S curve. Back in Photoshop the Liquify Tool was used to slightly increase the Elephant’s eye so you could see it. The eye was selected using the Quick Mask Tool and then the Exposure Adjustment Layer was used to bring out the contrast of the eye just a bit. On a New Layer the Blur Tool at 100% Strength was used to slightly blur the tree stump behind the Elephant’s trunk. That was it.

Image 3: Guitar Man image used a Look (preset) that I created from the filters I put together. Here are the basic settings if you would like to try them out. Impression: Stroke Type05, Number of Strokes Low, Brush Size 0.57, Paint Volume 0.02, Paint Opacity 0.56, Stroke Width -0.08, Stroke Length 0.18; Basic Adjustment Filter (note these will be different depending on your image): Exposure 0.45, Clarity 0.81, Shadow -0.56, Highlight 0.23 and Saturation 0.73; Color Theme: all new colors listed left to right. #474545 (Lightness 0.28), #57776f (Lightness 0.47), #3f2cc7 (Lightness 0.78), #6b9af7 (Lightness 0.97), and #d7d7f7 (Lightness 0.97); Brightness Contrast set to Opacity 0.71 and Color Burn blend mode, Brightness -0.47, Contrast 1.39, and Saturation 1.37; and AI ReMix: Opacity 0.18, Color Marker preset, Style Strength Low, Contrast 0.69 and Saturation 0.64. Note that several of these filters used masks to remove the effect from his hands or the actual guitar. Unfortunately Studio does not retain the masks for you, and you would not want it in a Look anyway since each image is different. But definitely do some masking to get a pleasing effect with this combination of filters. When I did this effect in the video, I just pulled back the amount to something below 50% and added another AI ReMix filter using A Neon Rise style on top with a lowered opacity (22%) – no other changes. Last step in Photoshop was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer. I created in Topaz a preset called SJ Abstract Look using all the filters but the top AI ReMix Filter.

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