Digital Lady Syd Reviews Alien Skin Snap Art 3
Got to say I love this plug-in! I had never used it before but I saw a few of Dave Higgins images where he had used this plug-in and I decided to check it out. Alien Skin Snap Art has been around for awhile – this is version 3 – but it never seemed to do anything more than I could accomplish in other plug-ins or in Photoshop itself. Now it has really increased its appeal and is definitely a great plug-in for us “creative-types” to keep in our Photoshop arsenal.
The image above was taken in the little town of Mir outside the beautiful Mir Castle in Belarus. (See one of my Mir Castle images on Flickr.) The Oil Paint Abstract – Soft preset was used as a starting point and then various sliders were adjusted to get the final result. (To see how the whole image was processed, see Image 1 information at bottom of blog.) You can very quickly go through the Factory Settings presets to get a feel as to which artistic media you want to apply to the image. The Favorites section is a good place to start as all the different artistic media is represented here. It is definitely worth the time to watch the short videos on Alien Skin’s website to learn how to use most of the sliders. Also Dave Higgins has two great short videos on how he uses the plug-in – one called Snap Art Review and the other is Snap Art Tutorial on Using Layers – I would recommend that you take a look at these as it gives you a feel how the program is set up and actually works.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT SNAP ART 3!
1. Many choices for using different types of media – and you can save your own presets with the layer masks maintained in a special layers section. Very handy – and you can reset the layer masks by clicking CTRL+R if you do not want them applied to a different image.
2. What sets this program apart from the others is one slider I particularly like – the Photorealism slider that can be used on the whole image or in the Effects section for the layer masks. You can make just one part of your image more detailed and really direct the focus into that part of the image while the rest is left with a more painterly appearance. Also the Brush Size can be adjusted to add more emphasis. My other favorite slider is the Temperature (warm/Cool) slider in the Color Tab – along with the Saturation slider, they can really pop an image.
3. This program works seamlessly with Photoshop and is very fast loading. It uses the same shortcuts as Photoshop has set up so you do not have to learn a bunch of new key strokes. This applies to brush size, zooming, Hand Tool, Preferences, etc.
WHAT I DO NOT LIKE ABOUT SNAP ART 3!
1. Some of the presets are not real practical – really need to play in the program and set your own presets once you figure out what all the sliders do. I am still trying to figure out the Pencil and Sketch settings.
2. I find it hard to correlate the sliders in the Background tab to the ones in the Layers tab since they both cannot be open at the same time and the Layer tab Effects do not come up with matching numbers. It would be nice to have both areas open so you can adjust between the two sections. Update: Ben Wilmore just set me straight on CreativeLive in his Extending Photoshop using Plug-Ins video where he says that in the Layers tab the center tick mark is where the slider is set in the Background tab. By double-clicking on the slider white tab, it puts it on the tick mark. Move the tab right or left from that point to add more or less of the effect for each sliders. Still a bit cumbersome, but better than nothing at all.
3. Wish they had a reset button or keystroke command for the Effects section and the Mask Tool brush in the Layers Tab. The Effects section is reset by choosing No Change in the drop-down preset and the Mask Tool has to be manually set. You have to be careful that you are not using the old settings from the last item you did although it appears F5 or CTRL+R Reset (which resets the Background tab settings) does change these sections to their Factory Default settings. The actual layer masks can be reset or removed by pressing R.
A couple nice to know things are: Need to turn off the Duplicate Layer option in Preferences if using in a Smart Object – otherwise it adds the filter twice. This program interfaces great with Lightroom also, but you will not have a layer with your settings saved as you can with a Smart Object in Photoshop. Press the Spacebar to see your original image.
This image was taken at a dacha in Belarus – the flowers are so beautiful there in the summer. This time the Pastel Sketch Factory preset setting was first applied. A layer mask was not even added – basically just stuck with the values given. In the Colors tab, the Brightness was set to 12, Contrast -11, Saturation 17 and Temperature 26. I am finding that the Saturation and Temperature sliders can work wonders on the images so check them out before applying the plug-in. See Image 2 info at bottom of blog for more info on post-processing.
Another example of the beautiful treatment the plug-in can give an image. This was a really busy looking image, but by adding the Impasto – Landscape – Small Brush preset and then changing a few settings, the colors and tones look fabulous in comparison. Below is how one of the layer masks looks for this image (click on it to see a larger view in my Flickr account). By varying the Amount of the Layer Brush (in this case it is 27), you can paint a lighter strength in parts of the image. The fence was just lightly selected while the sunflower and background bench were selected with a larger amount of 58. See Image 3 below for more settings info.
As you can see this plug-in has a lot of great options and gives some really nice results. It is interesting that you never add a brush stroke to it other than strokes for a basic layer mask.
Here is another example of how layers were used to direct focus to the center flowers. This image used the Factory Setting Watercolor preset and there were three layer masks with varying amounts of the brush effects. See Image 4 info at end of blog for settings used.
Alien Skin’s Snap Art plug-in has some great versatility and I believe it will work well combined with other plug-ins or the Photoshop brushes including the Mixers Brushes to get some great results. I plan on experimenting with it in this way in the future. Bottom Line: if you like the painterly look, it is a nice choice since it has so many choices. I found this plug-in to be totally fun to use and I believe I will be using it a lot in my future creative Photoshop endeavors. In the meantime check out the trial and see if you like it as well as I do!…..Digital Lady Syd
Image 1: After just he general RAW processing in Lightroom, the Content-Aware Move Tool (it lives with the Spot Healing Brush) was used to move the dog into the image more. He was almost out of the image in the original. General clean up was done and a composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was placed on top and turned into a Smart Object (right click on the image and select Convert to Smart Object). First Photoshop CC’s new Shake Reduction Filter was was run on the image using just three sample areas – one on the horse and driver, one on the trees, and one on the dog. It created a very subtle change. Next a Shadow/Highlights Adjustment was added to make the color more vibrant and sharp. (Shadows 19%, Tonal Width 39%, Radius 30 px; Highlight Amount 17%, Tonal Width 50%, Radius 30 px; and Adjustments – Color Correction +100 and Midtone Contrast +31) Now the image was ready for Snap Art 3. I created another composite layer on top and converted it to a Smart Object also before going into Snap Art. Once Snap Art is opened, the Background tab is active. The Factory Setting Oil Paint using the Abstract – Soft preset was first applied. Now you can play around with the five sliders – Overall Brush Size (this image used 63), Photorealism (59), Paint Thickness (52), Paint Stroke Length (69), Stroke Color Variation (70), Brush Style – Soft Brush in drop-down, and Random Seed 3258. This is a huge amount to adjust just to the overall image and you still have three other tabs to adjust – what a wonderful amount of options! The Color Tab was selected next where the Brightness (0), Contrast (-18), Saturation (30) and Temperature (Cool/Warm) (15) was set. In the Layer Tab is where the layer masks are applied – up to three layer masks can be added. To create a mask, the Mask Tool located in the bottom section – first icon next to Add/Erase – must be clicked. Click on the right side black arrow and three sliders appear so the brush can be set up painting the mask on the image. This image used Size (10), Feather (50) and Amount (21). Now just paint over any areas you do not want the effect appearing. To create the strength of the mask, adjust the Effect sliders – there is another drop-down here if you want to use them – there is a None choice if you do not want any effect on those areas! This image used just one layer mask painted over the horse, man and dog – wanted a little more detail in those areas. In the Effect drop-down, Detail was chosen (Brush Size (54), Photorealism (79), Paint Thickness (41), Paint Stroke Length (68), Stroke Color Variation (-47), and Brush Style – Default Brush)). To see the actual layer, press the right-hand black arrow across from Mask Layer 1. This is where you can add another layer. The last tab is Canvas and there are so many options that I am not sure how they all work – just click on all the little right-hand black arrows. This image was set to the Default Canvas Preset and Lighting Preset. The Vignette used different settings to get the lighter edges (Amount (74), Size (56), Softness (53), and Distortion (41)). The vignette settings can also be saved as a vignette preset by clicking on the icon next to the black arrow. The last step was adding a Curves Adjustment Layer back in Photoshop to add just a little more contrast. Loved the saturated color look!
Image 2: Very little processing in Lightroom – just the basic Lens Effect and Chromatic Aberration check boxes and a crop. Once in Photoshop, the Shake Reduction filter was applied – I am finding this tends to help any hand-held images you take. Shadows and Highlights did not help this image so it was opened as a Smart Object in Snap Art. The Pastel Sketch preset was used as a starting place. Most of the settings were left at the default except for the Color tab settings given under image. Back in Photoshop a layer mask was applied to the image and just the center of the red flower was lightly painted over to draw as a focus point. My free SJ-Painter Oil Frame was applied and transformed to give a nice painterly border. That was it!
Image 3: Once again very little processing in Lightroom. I did try to make the image very vibrant by adjusting some of the colors in the HSL panel. Once in Photoshop, the background layer was duplicated and a Smart Object created before opening up Snap Art. I first tried this as a Pencil Sketch but it just did not look good. Then I tried the Impasto section and the Landscape-Small Brush setting really looked nice. In the Layers tab three different mask were created – one for the foreground bench and stone steps, one for the flowers on the side and behind the bench, and one for the dacha itself and bench in front. The most detail was placed in the foreground bench, a little less for the flowers. Different amounts of masking was used on the dacha with the fence getting very little. See Dave Higgins videos on how to do this as reference above. Nothing else was done to this image – it looked great as it was in Photoshop!
Image 4: This image was first made very vivid in Lightroom by adjusting the Vibrancy and HSL sliders. Once in Photoshop Snap Art was opened as a Smart Object. In the Background tab the image was set to Watercolor from the Favorites Factory Settings. Then all the sliders were adjusted: Overall Brush Size 24, Photorealism 15, Paint Coverage 85, Paint Stroke Length 100, Stroke Color Variation 47, Brush Style – Dry Brush, and Random Seed 9809. In the Color tab only the Temperature (cool/warm) slider was changed to 26. In the Layers tab, the Mask Tool was set to a Feather of 50 and an Amount of 100 – this will apply the Effect section above changes at 100% strength to the main focus area, the center purple flowers. For the two purple flowers slightly behind and to the left of the main flowers, the Mask Tool Amount was changed to 17 and they are not as affected by the effects. Layer One Effects settings were: Brush Size 10, Photorealism 73, Paint Coverage 65, Paint Stroke Length 93, Stroke Color Variation 10 and Brush Style Default Brush. For a second layer mask the front little purple flowers were selected using a Mask Tool Amount of 100. Layer Two Effects settings were: Brush Size 76, Photorealism 52, Paint Coverage -36, Paint Stroke Length 93, Stroke Color Variation 66 and Brush Style Default Brush. The last layer mask covered the flowers growing up the brick wall using a Mask Tool Amount of 100. Layer Three Effects settings were: Brush Size 76, Photorealism -17, Paint Coverage -36, Paint Stroke Length 93, Stroke Color Variation 10 and Brush Style Wash. In the Canvas tab the Lighting was set to the Diffuse (warmer) preset. Now it was taken back into Photoshop where a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied to add just a little more contrast into the image.