Anything Photoshop or Photography

The Soft, Dreamy Look

Have you ever just wanted to try a different look on your images? I wanted to try this type of look for a while, so this week I began experimenting. The technique seems to be very popular right now and involves adding a very soft fill layer to get the effect. Most of the time it works best on floral, nature or still life images. It can be effective with some landscape images, especially with the help of textures which I did not address in this blog.

I found that LPDragonfly at Deviant Art has described the steps very well in some wonderful tutorials. Her Background tutorial and the Soft Bright Colors tutorial were used (see linked .jpg tutorial images that can be downloaded). Frames from OnOne Software (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) were used on all the images.

To summarize her two tutorials and adding a bit of my own ideas, here is the basic workflow (see my action link further down in blog):

  1. For shooting flowers, her basic premise is to put the flowers in the shade and allow the background to be in the sun, preferably with a floral background. I did not do this for my images, but will try to do this on future flower shots. Also use the widest aperture your lens will allow and focus on just one flower or group of flowers.
  2. First clean up image such as removing any objects and getting rid of noise.
  3. Add a Color Fill Adjustment layer set to Soft Light blend mode and adjust the opacity. Try different colors – will give very different looks
  4. Create a Curves Adjustment Layer adjusting the Blue Channel (Try Input 0, Output 64; Input 255, Output 201 – and adjust the curve to taste). May want to use a different channel depending upon the image you are using.
  5. Add a Selective Color Adjustment Layer (be careful not to adjust the black sliders – this increases the contrast) and/or a Color Balance Adjustment Layer. May not need all of these adjustment layers.
  6. Create a composite on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E), set layer to Screen,  add a Gaussian Blur with a Radius set to +10 pixels, and adjust  layer opacity.
  7. Add a final Levels Adjustment layer and move the middle tab to get the best look.
  8. Try using the mixer brushes in Photoshop and paint on some of the flowers or objects on a separate New Layer to get a more painterly look. (See my blog “Adobe CS5’s Mixer Brushes.”)
  9. Now would be a nice time to add a texture for further emphasis.
  10. Try using a cream colored vignette (used NIK Efex Pro 3.0 Vignette preset but this can be created easily in Photoshop using a color instead of white for the vignette) as shown on the orange and yellow flowers below to get a different feel to the softness.

This same basic technique was used on all the images.

The same soft feel can be obtained by using some of Florabella’s Actions which are much more extensive and she has many more varieties than the simple one I created. They are fairly reasonably priced, so if you like the look, you may want to check out this website and buy one. She has a nice article on how she creates her look at this link, where she states she is doing basically what LPDragonfly outlined in her tutorial.

Obviously the easiest way to do this is to create an action with these different Adjustment Layers set up in it. OK – I did it for you and it can be downloaded here. You do not have to be on a Background Layer to get this to work and most of the Adjustment Layers do not have any settings in them – the Action stops so that you can adjust them as you go along. I tested it on several images – it contains the workflow from above.


I am sure with a bit more exploring, this effect can be achieved using some of the great Photoshop plug-ins such as AutoFX Software‘s Dream Suite or Mystical Suite. Hopefully I will be able to look into this at a later date.

That about wraps up my efforts for achieving the soft, dreamy look. I do believe adding some textures at low percentages and different blend modes, and using layer masks to mask out where the texture should not be in an image, would really add to the look. I hope you will get a chance to try out this look – it can be quite lovely!…..Digital Lady Syd

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4 responses

  1. Pingback: Adding a Texture for Flair! « Syd Johnson's Blog

  2. I love your photography ! Thank you for using my resources (im photoshop-stock)

    08/05/2011 at 12:59 pm

  3. Pingback: » Using a Color Fill Adjustment Layer as a Spotlight Digital Lady Syd's Tidbits Blog

  4. Pingback: Creating That Vintage Texture Feel « Digital Lady Syd's Fun Photoshop Blog

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