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PUZZLED

Creative digital art image

Decided to start the New Year off doing something different. I had been working on this really intricate Taj Mahal Jigsaw Puzzle and got to wondering why did I enjoy doing this so much? Then I started looking at all the pretty colors and the intricate things the subjects were doing and realized this was a pretty impressive puzzle. Even the painting strokes were interesting, especially in the sky. It appears that many puzzles are made by very serious painters and much research is done to correctly finalize them. The image above did not actually use a separate puzzle effect as created below – it used the background of a phone image from one of my put-together puzzles for the effect. See Image One below for how this was done and what resources were used. This to me was what I wanted to create, but then I decided it would be interesting to learn how the actual puzzle effects for Photoshop were made. So below is what I learned.

The big question was how do you get the Puzzle Effect? These are the choices I found:

  1. Use an overlay that can be downloaded from the internet. I created a free basic Jigsaw Puzzle overlay for you to download on my DeviantArt site since I could not find a free link.
  2. Download the Free Puzzle Pieces action by Bojan Zivkovic from Adobe Exchange (can do a search on the internet for it and then just log into the Creative Cloud to download – a zipped file goes into your download folder along with a nice PDF on how to use it. It will create 2 – 192 puzzle pieces all placed on individual layers.
  3. Go to the Layer Styles panel and click the little upper right icon – in drop down select Select Legacy Styles & More -> All Legacy Default Styles -> Image -> Puzzle. When the style is applied, in the Bevel and Emboss Texture section, there is an Adobe Puzzle Pattern. More on this in Example of Step 3.

See examples for each Jigsaw Effect below.

Example of Step 1: This image was finalized before adding the effect. It was created by following Maddy Bellwoar’s video tutorial on Behance called Painting Beautiful Birds in Photoshop. Her videos are a wonderful way to learn to draw and paint. Now the Jigsaw Puzzle overlay could be added.

Drawn and painted image of a robin

Just use Free Transform (CTRL+T) to adjust the overlay if needed – it is set to a 2:3 aspect ratio (can rotate to 3:2 for Portrait view as shown above). Use layer masks, adjustment layers (try clipping it to the puzzle layer – right click and choose Create Clipping Mask), layer styles including Blend If sliders, blending modes and layer opacity can be adjusted. (The settings for the robin image above were as follows: The jigsaw overlay layer was set to Luminosity blend mode to start; double clicked on this layer to bring up its Layer Style and used the Stroke effect – set Fill Type to Color and sampled a light color from the image and selected a slightly lighter Color, Size 8, Position Inside, Blend Mode Normal, and Opacity 100%; and opened the Bevel & Emboss effect and set Style to Emboss for more of a puzzle effect, Technique to Chisel Soft, Direction Down, Size 16 and Soften 0, Highlight Mode Screen at 48% opacity and Shadow Mode Multiply at 55% opacity. The layer was set to 46% opacity.) Definitely play with the sliders in the Layer Style – the Bevel and Emboss settings can really make some cool looks on the piece edges.

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Image of an electric guitar player from Pixabay with puzzle effect applied

Example of Step 2: This action is very easy to use and there is a great short video on how to do this called How to Create Puzzle Effect in Photoshop by ReVon. Basically the biggest thing you need to worry about is the Aspect Ratio of your image so the action runs correctly. Open Image -> Image Size to see how large your image really is – this one was 6″ X 4″ roughly or a 3:2 aspect ratio. Go to the Crop Tool and set an Aspect Ratio that works if needed. Load the Puzzle.atn (just double-click on the action in the Explorer and it puts it in the Action Panel in PS). Open the action to see lots of choices – just beware that each puzzle piece is going on a separate layer so if the image is large, watch the size of the file. This image (called Pixabay Electric Guitar) was set to 3:2 aspect ratio and 54 piece set. When running the action, the top left puzzle piece will be highlighted, and the Drop Shadow Effect (it was turned if off for the above) and Bevel & Emboss Effect (used Depth of 100, Size 3) will be checked and can be adjusted before applying it to all pieces. He has included another action called Change Layer Style to use if you do not like the effect results when finished. The Puzzle action creates a New Document so the original file is not affected. To remove a piece(s), select the Move Tool and hold CTRL + click over the piece to be removed or turn off the layer eyeball on left. This actually gives a pretty nice result and is fast. Read the accompanying PDF for more tips. The Jigsaw brushes from Image One were used on a layer above the puzzle pieces and a Photofocus Sepiatone LUT (not sure where to find it)I at 65% layer opacity.

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Guitar Man from Pixabay with puzzle effect on it.

Example of Step 3: Here is another type of puzzle effect that used an old Adobe Pattern for the puzzle template that PS provided with PS2019. (Who knew?) (Used my favorite ISO Republic Guitar Man for a subject.) Download it as discussed in Step 3 above. To find it, double click your layer to open the Layer Style and on the top left, select Styles – go down to the bottom and Puzzle should be listed there. You can see that it has a Bevel & Emboss effect applied to it along with a Texture. The Texture is the key to this puzzle effect – go into the Texture and you will see a Pattern that looks like a puzzle preset. Here you can Scale the piece size for your image (slide right for larger size up to 1000% – this image used 695%). I found turning off the Invert button and changing the Depth to +297 gave a more realistic puzzle look. The pattern can also be dragged around in the image to line it up right. Need to check in the Blending Options area the “Layer Mask Hides Effects” so the next step can be done. Say Okay and add a Layer Mask to the image. Paint out in the mask the little tabs from the edges to look like edge pieces. Create a stamped layer (ALT+SHIFT+CTRL+E) and underneath fill a New Layer with a background color – then add a Layer Mask to the stamped layer and paint out puzzle pieces to remove the puzzle pieces as if the puzzle is not done. This process definitely takes a more effort.

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Digital art image of some beautiful arrows and feathers

Used a different jigsaw pattern (that is no long available on the internet) on the above. After loading the Pattern into PS, the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer was scaled to the Puzzle using a Scale of 110% for the Arrows image – it fit pretty good, but this will depend on the size of your image and the size of the pieces wanted. Then the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer was duplicated and rasterized by right clicking on the pattern and the original adjustment turned off by clicking on the layer eyeball. Why did I do this? So the Free Transform command could be used to adjust the edges exactly right. A Layer Mask was added to the rasterized layer and the tabs on the edges were painted out. The overall puzzle layer was set to 32% layer opacity so as not to overtake the elements in the image. See Image Two below for more info on creating the design.

Bottom Line is to use whatever works for you. I think the Adobe Free Action has a lot of possibilities but I did not spend that much time using it. I hope you at least enjoyed finding out the different ways the puzzle effect can be applied and what different results occur. Stay warm…….Digital Lady Syd

IMAGE RESOURCES AND POST PROCESSING INFO

Image One: Of course, the first image above was just for fun – got some new resources this past month and thought I would try out a few. But the actual background puzzle image is one worked awhile ago of bird stamps (Finchley Paper Arts from Milton Bradley) – a phone image of the finished piece was taken and was placed over a Rusty 3 Vintage Paper by Suna Kosem. To get the paper to show up, used Blend If This Layer settings (56/138 and 162/255). A layer mask was used to paint the pieces off the face. (The face is from an old free brush set on Deviant Art called Phrenology Photoshop brushes by hogret.) The individual Jigsaw Puzzle pieces were from jigsaw(set07)briarrose_icons and are also available from Deviant Art. The Puzzled font is one of my very favorites called Everleigh Serif Font by Gleb Guralnyk – along with the paper, these items were in a Christmas $5 bundle from Design Cuts. Twice a year they run a great deal on some of their best items. The font at the bottom is Rosabelia SLDT, one I have been using a while – just like the way it looks, and it was from Creative Market, another great resource spot (check out their Free Goodies of the Week – this is how I got this font).

Image Two: The rest of the Arrow image was just adding a few arrows and feathers from the same Design Cuts set – this one was called Boho Arrows Clip Art – then changing the colors and adding some layers styles. I really like the pretty arrows so I wanted to try some type of creative image with them. To get the individual loose puzzle pieces from the actual image, a couple of the jigsaw pieces were painted out in Quick Mask to select them. They were put on separate layers and spun a little. 2 Lil’ Owls Mosaic Set’s Delfine Grunge (not sure it is still available) was the background texture (one of my favorites sets from her). It was a lot of fun to do!


LET IT SNOW!

Animated snow GIF of an Old St. Nick image

Happy Holidays!

I had so much fun creating these animated snow GIFs the past few days. Thought I would share how it is achieved since I have been looking for easy tutorials on this forever. BTW, the image above is of a beautiful Holiday item one of my friends had in her living room. The subject was first separated from the background and then snow and lots of other steps added to the it to get the start of a snowy effect before adding the animated snow layers.

The GIF tutorial I followed is by one of my very favorite PS guys, Corey Barker. If you are member of Kelby One, check out the November/December 2019 edition of Photoshop User Magazine, Shaping and Styling a Custom Holiday Scene article, and at the bottom click on the Learn More button – a nice 7 minute video on how to do this is shown and it works perfectly! A more complicated video called Create Realistic Animated Snow in Photoshop that uses 3D by Corey is also very good – basic steps are the same at the end of the video so it does not have to be done with a 3D effect (had to try this in CS6 but any snowy layer should work). Corey used a Pattern Layer Style in a timeline to get his snowy effect and that is what you see above and below. For the top image, two layers with layer styles were used – one that used the ornament image snow layer and one using my blurry snow overlay turned into a pattern. By dragging the blurry snowy pattern a little sideways in the Pattern Layer Style, a soft windy feeling could be achieved. The speed seems to be a bit of issue with this method as I could not figure out how to slow the rate of falling snow down a little.

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Animated snow GIF of a Christmas Ornament

The ornament is a shape that was also explained in the PSUser magazine and everything else was painted or used Christmas brush strokes. And for your info, the crazy Fisheye effect is a filter in Topaz Lens Effects, one of my favorites (and it sure is a lot cheaper than buying a fisheye lens). Need to put your image together the way you want it before adding the animation effect. The green tree background was created using a silver colored pattern fill and clipping a Select Color Adjustment Layer to it for color. The bulbs were copied from one of old tree pix. And the branch edges and some ivy painted across some of the more bare areas were painted on using JS Scully’s Christmas Accent Brushes at DeviantArt. Also in the center were some PNG snowflakes from a while back that were turned into large soft brushes (I love doing this!). This time just created one layer with snow that would only show up inside the ornament. This was my first attempt and it took a while to figure out how to set it all up.

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Animated Snow Gif

This image is from Deeezy’s 33 landscape photos free set and used a little different process to create the snow animation. This time the Photoshop marvel Colin Smith created a nice video called How to Make Animated Snow in Photoshop – it contains three snow layers in a Smart Object that ultimately ends up on top of your image (or videos). I thought this was an easier way to do the gif, but I had a lot of problems with the slight jiggling when the 5 second loop starts over. I think a lot of experimentation has to be done to get smooth snowfall. But overall it turned out pretty nice. In PS the Landscape Mixer Neuron Filter was set to the first preset image to turn the summery image into a wintry scene. Also a few layers were painted to add a snow accumulation effect to the objects. This effect has a more natural snow look with the snow layer animation speeds set to different amounts. This way of animating the snow does allow from some falling snow rate adjustment so that give a very different feel to the images.

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Animated Snow Gif

What is really great is that this animation layer can be placed on a different photo (this last image is from Unsplash by Atikh-Bana) to make it an animation also. I cheated and duplicated the animation smart object layer from the Deeezy image above to this image and then changed the opacity of the different snow layers by opening the copied snow layer’s smart object and resaving. Then Color Lookup and Levels Adjustment Layers were applied before converting the image to a gif animation. To do this correctly, go to Colin’s video link above and scroll down to follow his saving directions so the snow layer can be easily be added into another image easily.

This is very challenging to do, but once you start to understand the Photoshop Timeline Panel, it is pretty easy to figure out. It was fun to have a challenge and hopefully I will learn a few tricks to make this easier, especially with adjusting the snow speed and how the loop interacts. Everyone have a Great Holiday and I will see you next year!………Digital Lady Syd


MORE COLORIZE FUN

Vintage image of the Colonial Hotel in Nassau.

I have been taking a break for a while – lots was going on with all the many Photoshop conferences and the new versions of Lightroom and Photoshop. Everyone seems to be using this one filter in PS – I can’t say that I blame them. It is turning out to be pretty cool! Since writing a blog called Wow! The New Improved Photoshop Neural Filter Colorize in August, the filter has gotten much more stable and works a lot smoother.

The above is an image of the old Colonial Hotel built in 1901 by Henry Flagler in Nassau, the Bahamas. The hotel burned down in 1922 and the British Colonial Hilton Hotel is now located on this area. The image is from Shorpys.com (see original black and white). The area has some interesting history including scenes from the James Bond Movie Never Say Never Again! Thought I’d include this vintage 1918 postcard of the original hotel from Wikipedia. Wish I could have visited the original – it looks quite beautiful!

Postcard of the old Colonial Hotel in Nassau from 1913

For post processing on the top photo the relatively new PS Neural Filter Colorize was selected using just the preset called Retro-Faded. After applying the filter on a New Layer, a stamped (or composite) layer was created on top, and the Edit -> Sky Replacement command was used to add in a more interesting sky. On a new stamped layer, Color Efex Pro 4 was used to soften up the whole image to give an overall nice warm feeling (Ink, Darken/Lighten Center and Film Efex: Vintage filters were used). Last step was a Curves Adjustment Layer for some image contrast.

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Image of a Fountain sculpture of Neptune

Below you can see the image of Neptune was larger and what settings were used. (See my 1-minute video called Hilton Waikoloa Village Palace Tower Fountain for other fountain images taken a while ago – I have no idea who created it!) It was cropped down to emphasize the expression on Neptune‘s face (this guy had a bunch of children). It took a lot of steps but the color definitely came from the Colorization Neural Filter. Below is the original image in the Colorize Panel. Just the sliders were used this time.

Settings for the Colorization Neural Filter in Neptune image

The main objects were selected, which took quite a while due to the complexity of the subjects and many items had to be covered, removed or added to get a more unified feel in the image – just basic PS clean up. One of my painted backgrounds was used to give a more painterly old feel. An oldie-but-a-goodie filter was brought out to give the image a warmer feel – Topaz Lens Effect’s Gold Reflection filter was applied at 79% layer opacity – then some of the effect was painted out with a layer mask so it was not overdone. Finished up with the Camera Raw to adjust the colors a little more. But overall this is the color palette that was applied from the Colorization filter.

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Colorized image taken from Shorpys.com B&W image.

The above image was another Shorpy.com black and white image of Bannack, Montana in 1942. I wanted to show that this image was colorized in the neural filter twice. First converting a duplicate of the original the black and whiter Background layer with the Output to New Color Layer checkbox on (see first screenshot below), and then using four Focal Points, three adding yellow to the dirt road and one to cool down the first hillside area (see second screenshot below). Back in PS the only other things done to the image were a Levels Adjustment Layer and a little bit of Dodging and Burning on the dirt road to define the edges.

Screenshot of the Neural Filter using the Output to New Color Layer checkbox.
Image of the Colorize Filter in PS using Focal Points.

As stated above PS has added a couple extra tweaks to the new PS 2022 upgrade and the filter no longer is crashing as much (also my brushes are working correctly again!) I did have one big program blow-out (PS just disappeared!) while adjusting the Focal Points, but when tried again it worked.

Still figuring out the other filters. It seems there needs to be a little more work done to get them working as good as the Colorize Filter. I did learn that if your Neural Filters keep crashing your system or shuts the filter down, you can delete the filter file and let Photoshop restore them when you restart the program. This fixed some of my errors with these filters, but not all. Here is the Adobe troubleshooting link.

Hope you have tried out this filter – it seems like it does have some very nice uses for the PS creative. It is nice to see PS adding a few new items to try out……Digital Lady Syd


FINDING A PHOTOSHOP BRUSH IN A BIG SET

Drawn and painted image of a Red Legged Honey Creeper Bird

So how do you keep all your great Photoshop brushes organized and how do you remember what they look like for a given effect? This blog shows what I have been doing to combat this huge Photoshop brush debacle! I have two tips on how to do this.

For the past several months, Kyle T. Webster (Adobe Brush Evangelist) has been creating videos on how to use some of the different brushes in his PS sets. It got me to thinking about how to see these brushes and their strokes quickly to decide if I wanted to apply any to an image. Since Kyle has over 2000 brushes to download, with 400 in his Megapack alone, it can get very confusing. (Note: To download these brushes, open PS and go to the Brush Panel’s upper right corner drop-down menu and choose Get More Brushes. If you are on the PS subscription service, you will be able to choose any of his sets.) And if you are like me, I am always on the lookout for other great brushes such as the fabulous GrutBrushes (he gives a free one away every Monday so check him out – you won’t be disappointed with them), Aaron Blaise brushes (the wonderful Disney drawer with lots of nice brushes and wildlife tutorials – watch for his great sales), and Maddy Bellwoar (Adobe Create artist that has some beautiful painterly brushes and great weekly painting videos), to name just a few. Just these few artists’ brushes create a huge amount to organize!

For a quick bit of info on the image above (which was really just a practice image BTW and not finished), it was drawn by following a video by Maddy on Behance called Painting Beautiful Birds in Photoshop. Below most of her videos is a link to download a free set of 44 brushes and many were used on the blue bird she painted. Below is my stroke page for these brushes. (See my American Goldfinch Tidbits Blog for more info on Maddy and her brushes.)

First Tip: Create a Brush Group with Duplicates of Brushes Used in Image

The first tip is what I now do anytime a new image is painted. It is very important that the layers are labeled with the different brushes being used so you know where they were applied in your painting – then you can see how to create a similar effect in another painting.

  • When painting, click the “Create a New Group” in the Brushes Panel – click on Folder icon at bottom and name it. See in screenshot below.
  • A duplicate of any brush being used is created as I paint. To duplicate a brush, highlight the brush to copy and press the middle box with a (+) icon next to the Group icon. Sometimes the duplicated brush will show a different name (the Soft Airbrush below shows a name of Soft Round 200 730) so it is renamed back to the original and sometimes the initials of the brush artist, like MW is added if needed. (You can save any brush you want this way – just rename and decide if you want the Tool Type, Size and Color saved with the brush in the New Brush dialog box.)
  • Then highlight and drag the duplicate brush to the new group. Below is an example of all the Bird brushes used so far for the top image.
  • When finished, be sure to save the Group of brushes by highlighting all the brushes in the Group – then in upper right drop-down menu, choose Export Selected Brushes and Name the file on your computer (I usually use the image name and place in a special folder called Project Set Brushes). It will save down as a PS brush .abr file. If you add more brushes later, the file can always be saved over with the added brushes. To open file in PS, go to the drop-down again and select Import Brushes – go to the file and double click and it will be shown at the bottom of your brush list. Very handy to have!
Image of brushes used in bird image.

Second Tip: Make Brush Stroke PSD Files for Reference in Bridge

Kyle recently created a really interesting video called Brush Hour: the Fall 2021 Brush Set on his Fall 2021 set of 26 brushes where he drew a Halloween-looking guy like below. For this image it was really good practice to try and emulate what he did just to learn how to use the brushes. (I also learned how to stack drawing layer effects in this video.) No Brush Panel Group was created since most of the brushes used were in the his Fall 2021 set.

Drawing of a vampire in Photoshop

To keep brushes straight in all of Kyle’s free sets from Photoshop, or any others I have downloaded, a Photoshop PSD document was created for each stroke, and anything else can be placed in it. Two files are usually made with big sets of brushes – often my own little sketches using the brushes are added. Below is an example of my Fall 2021 Brushes Set showing each brush – the ones liked are marked with a dot. (For the vampire pix, the Double Edged Hatch, Boxit, Circlez, Ripopolo, Pigmentia Edge, and Ratchet brushes were used just to create the background. Then Pigmentia and Rachet were mainly used to create the character but also a little Concept Pencil and Vincent for Vincent Van Gogh were also used – you can see I liked several of these brushes.)

Examples of Kyles Fall 2021 Brushes

Below is the sheet created of Maddy’s Free Brush strokes. (Click on the image to see better in Flickr.) The third brush in the top row is one I created (from a Maddy video) based on the second brush – it has been saved with the brushes in this set file. The Canvas Size (go to Edit -> Canvas Size) was extended to accommodate all the brush strokes in this set (it would be hard to print the files out this way as it needs two files for printing).

Image of Maddy's Free Brush and Variations

The PSD file is saved and placed into a folder to access in Adobe Bridge (mine is called Paintbrush Example Files). This way the files can be reviewed very quickly to see where the needed brush is located or to find a good one to use. Below shows my folder of some of the PSD files in Bridge.

If there is an interesting technique being used, select the Note Tool (toggled with the Eyedropper Tool and several others) to include this info with your image for extra reference – this can show brush change info, like adding a Color Dynamics section to it or changing the spacing of the brush. Or if a change is made to a brush, it can be saved with a name showing what was done to it as shown in the SJ Soft Shading and Blending-no opa transfer brush in Maddy’s Blue Bird Group above.

It takes a while to do this, but it has saved so much time now that they are available. Getting the backlog of Kyle’s and Grut’s brushes set up took a lot of time. And having the brushes in a folder when painting is also very handy, especially if I am trying to get a similar look to a painting or drawing from a previous image. And it is a great way to learn how to use the brushes with your stroke style! Wish I had been doing this all along!

I hope this is helpful to some of you who are like me and collect who knows how many brushes. Hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful weather like we are having here in the States. Fall is such a great time of year!…..Digital Lady Syd


WOW! THE NEW IMPROVED PHOTOSHOP NEURAL FILTER COLORIZE

Unsplash image by Nairit Prachanda of the Himalayan Free Church.

As many of you know I love to colorize images, especially old ones from my own family collection of photos or those from Shorpy’s – the best around for old pix. Now you can actually colorize images that aren’t old black and white shots and get some pretty remarkable results with this updated filter panel. The best information I could find on the Colorize filter is a short YouTube by Photoshop guru Colin Smith called New Neutral Colorize in Photoshop Can do Much More. One thing I found interesting is that the Colorize Filter and the Select Subject command are both using the same AI Sensei Technology PS uses.

The image above is an image by Nairit Prachanda of a Himalayan Free Church from Unsplash. The original image is very dark as seen in the link. By using the Beta Colorize filter, this image can be made to really pop! This filter can be revisited by making the image a Smart Object before beginning the change. Below is a JPG screenshot of what the Colorize interface looked like when opened (go to Filters -> Neural Filters and select Colorize at bottom – need to move toggle to the right to load the panel) and manipulated. In this image an orange triangle told me that the filter had quit working and appeared towards the end of its use – remember, it is a Beta version so it may not work smoothly all the time. The sliders that are checked were adjusted just slightly – a little bit goes a long way. If you do not want the program to do the original adjustments, check Retain original image colors and adjust the sliders manually. To get the warm color on the right, just click in the image and the color picker opens up – choose a color for that area. It will change everything that color so this may have be adjusted back in PS with a layer mask.

Screenshot of Neural Filter Colorize interface

Also note that Colorize has Profiles presets that can be used to give a certain feel – this one used the Retro Green to bring out the oranges especially. (Profiles presets include: Retro in all cases and the following words: high contrast, blue brown, light yellow, purple yellow, bright, red, green, faded, denim, dark, and brown). In this case, it was overall a little too much, so the Profile intensity was checked and the slider set to 70. Note that the Profile and the Profile slider amount settings were not retained in the Smart Object although all the other settings were.

Back in PS, used both a Shadow and a Highlight layer (see my A Few Photoshop and Lightroom Tips and Tricks blog-Tip #2 from Sam Peterson), which showed some of the background a little more clearly. Then the Camera Raw filter’s Calibration Panel was opened and the Red, Green and Blue Primary sliders were adjusted.

A second Neural Filter was applied to add a little more green to the top of the structure and make the orange look more painterly. The colors were reset by pressing the arrow and line icon in the upper right, then the Retro Green Profile was selected again and the Profile intensity was set to 50 – that was all that was done this time. A black layer mask was created and just those two areas were painted back.

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Colorized image of an old motel from 1939.

The image above is from my favorite vintage site, Shorpy.com – to see the original Black and White version click here. When doing these colorizations, once the image is loaded into Photoshop, be sure to make sure the size is not crazy – like 80 inches X 60 inches at 72 res. What I always do is go to Image -> Image Size and uncheck the Resolution box and change it to 300 ppi, then check the box again and then go up to the size – it should now have adjusted down to something like 8 inches X 5 inches but it can not be changed to a reasonable size. Otherwise you could have problems down the way with the huge size of the image.

This image was taken into the Colorize Filter and not much was done to it – only a little Red and Magenta were added before bringing it back into PS for further processing. (See panel below.) It was definitely too green so a few things were done to get the image above.

Back in PS, a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using the Cerulean preset was added to darken it. Next Sam Peterson’s Shadows and Highlight layers were added to emphasize the shadows and lighten up the foreground shrubs. A Red Channel Luminosity Curve Adjustment Layer was added on top. On a stamped layer (CRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) set to a Smart Object, Color Efex Pro 4 was opened where lots of filters were applied (Tonal Contrast, Brilliance/Warmth, Vignette-Lens, Contrast Color Range, Remove Color Cast, White Neutralizer, Sunlight, and Image Borders) – all of these were set to taste. Finished off with a Levels Adjustment Layer changing the black Output Level amount to 14 to get a little more of a vintage feel in it.

Jean Beraud's Avenue Parisienne from 1880's lightened up with PS Neutral Filter Colorize.

The above 1880 Avenue Parisienne painting (click link to see original) by Jean Beraud was selected for trying out the Neural Filter Colorize because it was rather dark but was a very interesting image. It is also one of my favorite paintings. Below is the panel and basically the only thing done with the Colorize filter was to check the Retain original image colors box and set the Saturation to +50. After that the Camera Raw Filter was used to just slightly adjust the skin tones as the faces were really over colorized but it looked good in other parts of the painting. (Color Mixer – Saturation Reds +8, Orange +21, and Yellows -15 and Luminance Oranges +65 and Yellows -6) This step also lightened some of the buildings in the background which show the Parisian architecture of the time. Since the skin was still too bright, a Vibrance Adjustment Layer set to Vibrance +44 and Saturation -19 was add and the layer mask filled with black (CTRL+I) – then just the skin areas were painted back in. This helped a lot. Last step added a Black and White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity to slightly change the tones a little. I really like both iterations and it was fun to try out the filter with a really good painting.

Screenshot of Neural Filter Colorize settings

As you can see, this Colorize filter has a lot of possibilities and I am sure Adobe is working on it as we speak. It is fun just to see what it will do and the creative possibilities are endless. I want to try just bringing a selected area into it to see what it would do in a composite. Hope everyone is having a great summer and gets a chance to play around with this filter and your images…..Digital Lady Syd


A FEW PHOTOSHOP AND LIGHTROOM TIPS AND TRICKS

Image of a lioness drawing

This week I thought I would present a few handy tips and tricks that you may not know or had forgotten – some are from a few years ago. These are ones I found while experimenting on my latest images. Maybe they will be helpful for you while working on yours. The image above was drawn and painted from an photo I took at the Jacksonville Zoo a while back. I love her expression. So here we go…..

  1. CHECK VALUES QUICKLY (PS): Sam Peterson from Adobe Creative Live, has this excellent way to turn your photo to black and white to see how the image values are looking. First need to set up the panel. In PS go to View -> Proof Setup -> Custom and in Customize Proof Condition Dialog, set Proof Conditions – Device to Simulate to Dot Gain 20%, Rendering Intent to Relative Colorimetric, and check Black Point Compensation. Now these settings will always remain. Simply press CTRL+Y and instantly you will see the whole image in B&W. Just press CTRL+Y again and it removes the effect. Also, the Color Picker still works when image is in B&W so you can see what color is causing a problem if you do not like the results. Really cool! I am using this all the time now for a quick view of what is happening with the tones in the image.
  2. SHADOW AND HIGHLIGHT LAYERS (PS): Another Sam Peterson trick – this guy does have some really interesting techniques! For images with really neutral lighting, he creates a New Layer and sets it to Multiply blend mode and selects a grayish-blue tone (try #8e969e). Clip this layer to object layer for keeping shadows confined to the object only. Otherwise can use on the whole image. Use any brush, soft Airbrush or hard edged, to paint in the shadows. (Can create a gobo lighting effect doing this with an interesting stamp brush – see my Photoshop Gobo Lightng Effect blog.) He does the same technique for Highlights using a Color Dodge blend mode and a darkish mid-gray color (try #42403d). These two layers work well together and give some beautiful results. By using these colors and adjusting the brush opacity and flow, a subtle result can be achieved.
  3. BRUSH SMOOTHING FOR TRACING (PS): This tip is from Paul Trani also from Adobe Creative Live. When tracing over an image and are having problems controlling the brush strokes, set the brush Smoothing up to 50 and the lines stroke much easier. It does slow the brush down a little, but it really helps to create nice smooth curves lines. I am finding this very helpful anytime I am using a very small sized thin line brush – used it to add some tree branches on a trunk recently.
  4. SELECT AND MASK REFINE EDGE BRUSH (PS): I have always struggled with getting good results in this panel. Well Sam Peterson once again gave me some insight for this tool. With the layer mask highlighted, go into the Select and Mask Panel and choose the Refine Edge brush icon, 2nd down on left side. In Tool Options Bar at top, open the drop-down next to the brush size field and set the brush Hardness to 0, Spacing to 25%, Angle to 0, Roundness to 100% and Size to Off. Also note that the Radius is set to 0, Smart Radius is not checked, and Object Aware selected. Once I did this, I found it was much easier to get good results on the edges, particularly when selecting hair or fur. He also cautions that dragging the brush too much inside selection will allow the edges to creep in. Drag on the very edges outside of object for best results. Use the ALT key and paint back any area that leaks in or use the Brush Tool (3rd icon on left) to clean up.
  5. CAPS LOCK TO FIND AND PAINT WITH BRUSH (PS): Kim Klassen of texture fame put me onto this one. When painting with a very tiny brush or very large brush where it is hard to see, just press the Caps Lock to get a small cross so you can see where the center of the brush is. It works with painting with a very tiny sized brush. I use this trick all the time when using cleaning up areas with small brushes like cleaning up halos, etc.
  6. SMUDGE BRUSH AND MIXER BRUSH LAG ISSUES (PS): These tips comes from Kyle T. Webster, the Adobe Brush Evangelist. If your Smudge or Mixer brush are acting very sluggish, you may need to turn off Sample All Layers due to several layers in image. Can also go into the Brush Settings Panel -> Brush Tip Shape section and – for Smudge Tool, uncheck Spacing and for Mixers set the Spacing to 5%. Try reducing the brush size also. It helps to close other documents open in PS and any open web browsers to speed things up too.
  7. DEHAZE SLIDER TIPS (LR): Two major Lightroom and Photoshop gurus offer these tips. Moose Peterson, of wildlife reknown, says that whenever he uses Dehaze, he always lowers the Blue Saturation in the HSL/Grayscale tab since the slider tends to crank up the blues. John Paul Caponigro, possibly my favorite PS guru, says that Neutral areas may turn magenta, and Shadow areas pick up strong blue or green casts. Can reduce Saturation after using, but what he likes to do it create a Virtual Copy. On one copy use no Dehaze and on another use it. Highlight both images in filmstrip, right click on an image, and select Edit In -> Open as Layers in PS. Put layer with no Dehaze on top and change to Color blend mode. Something to try IMO.
  8. ADJUSTING PRESENCE SLIDERS IN LANDSCAPE IMAGES (LR): This info comes from Randy Van Duinon, a very good architectural and landscape photographer, who uses an interesting LR workflow. He starts by first adjusting the Texture slider which works in the fine detail adding contrast in these areas; next the Clarity slider which adds contrast in the midtone areas (he keeps this amount around 35 and more on cloudy days); and finally Dehaze which adds contrast to the larger areas. Then he continues with the Basic settings. This has worked out well for me at times.
  9. USING PROFILES IN LIGHTROOM (LR): Daniel Gregory, a professional fine art photographer, came up with what I consider is a rather common sense tip. Since the image can change rather dramatically just by changing a profile, he believes that it should be applied first as he would be making different setting decisions depending upon which profile he uses. The Adobe profiles do not have an amount slider, but usually creative profiles that are downloaded have this slider. Consider the Amount slider the same as an Opacity slider on a layer in PS. I will add that many people do not add the profile until the end (Matt Kloskowsky for example) so this is definitely something to try.
  10. PARAMETRIC AND LINEAR CURVES (LR): This tip is from Tobi Shinobi, a bright young newcomer on the PS scene. In the Tone Curves section, first adjust the Linear Curve (2nd white round circle) and add your points. Press ALT to reset the curve and ALT+click over the curve to set a point to adjust. Right click to delete point. The go to Parametric Curve and adjust – they work independently of each other. Use this order to add some finesse to your images.

I hope there were some new ideas presented in these tips. Some really great PS and LR gurus have some great ideas! It was fun putting this together. See ya soon again…..Digital Lady Syd


DIGITALLY PAINTED OR RETOUCHED?

Image of a painted young person

Hi everybody! I know it has been a while since I blogged, but I really have been busy with Photoshop! Major project going through all brushes! So many to choose from and big decisions on which to use. Of course this is a whole other blog on how to sort through this. The portrait image above, by Christopher Campbell at Unsplash, is one that worked nicely with the brushes for the painting effect required in this blog.

Starting Out

Adobe Creative Cloud has Photoshop Daily Creative Challenge videos that are released for Photoshop every few weeks. A couple months ago Sam Peterson, an illustrator and painter, ran two weeks of some really fabulous PS videos. One was called Brushes where he gives you a starter file and walks you through how to create a similar effect as shown above. The image used PS’s Camera Raw, Angled Strokes and Oil Paint filters to begin the painterly process as Sam demonstrates. He also showed how to create a background to match the image to be painted. This photo used a brush called Clay for the background that was in Kyle T. Webster’s India Set he sold for charity (unfortunately no longer available). It is basically a chunky block brush. For a very similar brush, check out the Brix Brush in Kyle’s Summer 2020 brush set or for the brushe, Disastro or Disastro Spatter in his Summer 2021 Brushes, which uses both the foreground and background colors (press harder or lighter to get variations and a cool texture effect). Lots of different brushes were tried before finding a background brush I liked – but then this is half the fun! For info on how to download and load Kyle’s free PS sets, see my Kyle T. Webster’s Photoshop Brushes blog – scroll down to the How To Find His Brushes and Loading the Brushes sections.

The Mixer Blender

Sam gave guidance on what brush settings to use, but it is up to you to find a brush on which to apply these settings. This process is using a Mixer brush to blend, not a Smudge brush which a lot of people call a blender brush. Mixer brushes are a more advanced version of the Smudge. It does not appear Kyle uses Mixer brushes very often for blending as there are only a few in his sets (there are several Mixers in his Megapack Real Oils section will work nicely). For something like digital painting, I would recommend using Mixer Blenders for this exact and complicated blending. The main thing to remember is that the Wet and Load amounts, which Sam sets at 15% to start, can be adjusted “on the fly” to get a more or less painterly effect from the brush. He did not change his Mix and Flow which were both at 50%. Still okay to change if it helps. Also, if a color is needed to be added in, like for a cheek or lips, there are several ways to do this. I find the easiest is to select a regular brush and splash a bit of color in for blending with the Mixer. In another blog I will discuss some of these Mixer points.

One of my favorite Mixer (blender) brushes, and one I used extensively on this image, is by David Belliveau (free download of 4 brushes at the link and also check out his amazing drawing tutorials – link to my blog on David’s technique is listed below). The settings Sam suggested worked fine with this brush (set to 195 pixels). When set to 15 pixels, used David’s settings to do the detail work on the image, like the eyes, lips, and some hair – mainly where the focal point is, after the original blending was done. The larger brush was used to soften down all the other edges other than the eyes and hair by the right eye which were left sharpened as discussed below. As a reminder, once the settings have been added into the Brush Settings panel for the Mixer, save it down as a new brush. Otherwise all the settings will be lost if you go to a different brush and want to come back to this Mixer.

Once a brush is chosen, it was time to paint with the Mixer – Sam seemed to only paint on one layer, but I found it much better to split it up for the different areas being painted. For the right image below, here is a list of some of the layers created – started with a basic once over on the face smoothing the edges like in Sam’s tutorial, then evening out the lighting effect on the next layer, added color to her cheeks, eyelash layer, pupils layer, iris layer, catchlight layer, fixed the shirt on another layer – just duplicated part of it and blended it together, some hair strands added on another, and lips painted. As you can see, it is a bit labor intensive, but the results are worth it. By putting everything on separate layers, corrections can be made really easily. Below on the left is the original image and on the right is the one that looks like a pretty decent retouch – so what makes it look more painterly?

Original and first attempt at painting portrait

Getting the Final Painterly Look

Mainly adding a texture is a key to getting the more painterly effect needed to sell the look. Sam has a texture in the PSD file he provides and several other brushing suggestions are given to get this look. Also using Color Lookup Adjustment Layers, and possibly Gradient Map Adjustment Layers, using different blend modes and opacities gives some nice painterly effects. And do not be afraid to stack several of the same kind of adjustments using different blend modes and opacities. Just remember that usually a Curves or Levels Adjustment Layer must be added on top to bring back some contrast. So this is what was done on this image to finish up the “look:”

  1. Liquify was applied to enlarge her eyes just little and give her mouth a bit of an upturn (this filter is so cool!).
  2. A stamped layer was created and a Sharpen action was run on the image – a black layer mask was applied and just her eyes, her hair strand on the right and a small section of her ear lob were sharpened.
  3. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer set to 80% opacity was run using On1-Heat Wave LUT – one that adds warmth into the image – any warm one you will probably get this effect. This really filled her face with a beautiful light effect.
  4. Another Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added and set to 12% layer opacity called Teal Orange Plus Contrast preset (not sure where I got this). It darkened down the blues in her shirt.
  5. Added a Levels Adjustment Layer to flatten down the blacks a little since paintings do not have true blacks in them usually.
  6. Added French Kiss Tableaux Mirage-2 Texture – used a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer clipped to the texture with Saturation set to -100 so only the strokes from her texture show up. The texture was set to Overlay blend mode at 46% layer opacity. (See link to my blog on how to do this below.) These layers were grouped and set to 62% Group opacity – then the Group’s layer style was opened and the Blend If Slider was set to This Layer Black tab split to 0/86 and Underlying Layer White tab split to 121/255 so the strokes showed up just like I wanted them.
  7. Next on a New Layer below the Group file, a brush was created from the texture and used to cover the whole image to give it more of a painterly look – the layer was set to a reddish brown brush color, Color Burn blend mode and 93% opacity. It adds some nice soft canvas looking lines in the image, especially on the face. (See link to my blog on how to do this below.)
  8. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the Group above and the Saturation was increased (+44) and Lightness lowered (-38) to darken down and add more color to the image.
  9. Last step was a final Levels Adjustment Layer – Black tab to 16 and Output Levels black set to 5.

Hopefully you can get an idea what really goes into these digital paintings. And I am still not sure it is really a “Painting” since the original image was used, but it definitely looks more painterly than just a good retouching effect. I still look at it and see places where it could be improved, but it is a learning process. Definitely it took me several hours just to figure out the Mixer blending to get the effects needed. Enjoyed being back and plan on doing this a lot more. ……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:

Where to Find a Good Photoshop Painter – David Belliveau tutorial information

How to Create a Texture Brush to Match a Texture

How to Add Texture to an Image without Adding Its Color (You Tube video link in blog)


WORKING ON DIGITAL PAINTING IN PHOTOSHOP

Digital Art image of a cat at a store door.

Sorry I have not been blogging as much as I have in the past. I have been watching a lot of videos and trying to figure out how to use the Photoshop brushes to actually give a reasonable painterly brush stroke. There does not seem to be much on how to actually do this – only a few digital artists talk about it. I felt like the above image starts to emulate painterly strokes as it might look in Corel Painter, but not sure about if it emulates real media results. (In my Painting Acrylics Digitally – Can It Be Done? blog, I did get a pretty decent acrylic look.) The original above image is from Unsplash by Luca Bravo in Arles, France and was posted in my Beautiful Blue Door Tidbits Blog 3 years ago that used the Mixer brushes. For this blog I have been experimenting to try and get a consistent painterly stroke and finding settings that might work on other brush tips for a similar look. I have listed throughout this blog several free resources for brushes used in the above so check out the hyperlinks. I am also finding out this is a huge subject to cover so I am just addressing a small portion this week.

Creating the Sketch (black outline)

In the above the black lines were drawn in to create the layout of the original image. Used the PS Megapack Inkbox and Kyle’s Clean as a Whistle brush – lots of Click + SHIFT’s to draw straight lines (and it still is not perfect). When drawing a horizontal or vertical line, just keep holding down the SHIFT key while dragging to see how it is looking. This was handy for this image. If needing a more diagonal line, it will not work. When doing regular sketching, I usually use Grut – I Qwillo brush ($1 for all his individual brushes). Nicolai has an enormous number of fabulous brushes on this site (his Cloud set is the best around) . Every Monday there is a free brush of the week to download and is a great way to try out different media brushes. In this case a little richer stronger line was needed. So I would suggest trying different brushes until you get the line effect you need.

Painting Brushes

I have been trying to stick mostly to Kyle’s brushes here that can downloaded easily to try tout if you are using the later versions of Photoshop. For more info on how to download his PS brushes, see my Kyle T. Webster’s Photoshop Brushes blog. BTW Kyle has just released his Adobe PS Spring 2021 Brush set, so give them a try. The Edvard Munch brush set first appeared in 2017 in a 4-part video series called Get Started with Digital Painting Photoshop – they are not part of the PS2021 brushes, but are a free download here at the Adobe Creative Cloud. He found the Munch Filbert Dry Mixer gives a sort of an impasto look. To get the painterly strokes on each side of the door, I liked Kyle’s Munch Medium Flat brush but I did make some setting adjustments. I am using the brushes below to get some nice painterly strokes. I did switch a bit between them to get the right stroke effect on the walls.

The first brush was named SJ KTW Munch-Medium Flat-painting (150 px) and does not have much color variation but does use both the foreground and background colors with Pen Pressure (this means press light and background color appears and hard for foreground color when using a tablet.) Only the settings listed were changed: Texture section – was changed to one I imported from Painter, but the Rough pattern texture (Invert checked) seems pretty close (it can be found in the Photoshop default Erodible Textures set) and setting Brightness to -22, Contrast 57, Depth 19%, Minimum Depth 82%, Depth Jitter 27%, and Control to Pen Pressure; in Color Dynamics section checked the Apply Per Tip and set the Control to Pen Pressure; and in Transfer section set Opacity Jitter to 38%, Minimum to 55%, Flow Jitter 13% and Minimum 74%.

The second brush was named SJ KTW Munch-Med Flat-Painting Var1-try sim colors (175 px) to remind me how to use the brush. These settings were changed: Texture – changed it to same Rough pattern (Invert checked), Brightness to -13, Contrast to 33, Depth to 14%, Min Depth to 21%, Depth Jitter to 69%, and Control Pen Pressure; Color Dynamics changes were to check Apply Per Tip, Control set to Pen Pressure, and Saturation Jitter to 4%, Brightness 4%, and Purity to -20%; and Transfer set to Minimum Opacity Jitter 84%, Flow Jitter 43%, and Min 28%. Also the Dual Brush section was opened and the same brush,130 (size) Kyle munch flat medium1, was selected – should already show a Size of 130 px, Spacing 17%, Scatter with Both Axes checked, Scatter to 202% and Count 1; and finally Wet Edges section checked.

Try changing the Brush Tip Shape Spacing to adjust how much texture is showing up. Below are examples of how the strokes look all using the same foreground and background colors. If you have a different Texture pattern you want to try, go ahead but do adjust the sliders. Just be sure to save any brush variants you like when finished. See if you can get some nice stroke effects for solid areas especially. I would suggest trying a different brush tip (check out the list provided in the Brush Tip Shape section and just select one you like) using similar settings (or the settings from any brush you like). This is a great way to create your own paint stroke effect. I will talk more on this in a later blog.

Finishing Up

The bottom sidewalk and door pane effect was created using Kyle’s India Brushes Clay brush that I purchased recently for only $1 for his humanitarian cause of Covid 19 in India. (Available until May 10th.) All these brushes are great but I especially like the effect of this one. Kyle also has a free Builder Brush available at his website seems to do a similar result.

The other brushes used in this image were from Jessica Johnson and her fabulous Pattern Stamp brushes – I always seem to be using them! What I love most about Jessica is that she gives out samples of her different types of brushes which is always very helpful. This time it was the pattern at the top that was a give-away called 3 Modern Renaissance which included a brush and a pattern. Check out her You Tube video Free Photoshop Brush & Metallic Color Palette: Inspired by Dior Couture – Modern Renaissance to get her freebies (see 4-13-Free Renaissance Brush zip file) – and be sure to sign up for her E-mail to get notified when she has new brushes and patterns to release. In this case the Modern Renaissance was used as a regular brush and painted on in a darker gray color. Also used her Moody Floral Bold pattern stamp brush with her English Garden pattern (TM12) was used for the colorful flowers on the window sill and by the cat. When you go to her freebies for the Modern Renaissance brush, click on the 3-15-Free Brush Mon zip folder which contains the Moody Floral Brush and an accompanying pattern. I just love the flower stroke with this brush.

One of Chris Spooner’s free Subtle Grain Textures (6) was applied to give the wall a bit of a cement feel and tie it in as a building. It was masked off the cat and windows. He has lots of nice free resources at his site. The name plate with instructions are in my blog called How to Create Personal Overlays for Your Images – one of my most popular blogs.

Contour Trick

The large black cat is part of a set called Egyptian Hieroglyphs by Skybox Creative that cost $12. If you check every Monday several items are available at Free Goods of the Week which is how I got this vector cat. To give him the cool contour (like my gray cat Sophie), a Bevel & Emboss layer style was added using an Inner Bevel, Smooth, Depth 230%, Direction Up, Size 68 and Soften 0. Then in the Gloss Contour, the Gaussian contour was selected – then Highlight Mode Screen, White, at 29% Opacity and Shadow Mode Multiply, Black, at 32% Opacity. The Contour was checked and the Contour was set to one by Jenni and I have no idea where I got it. Just play around a little with – it give some really cool 3D effects. The other cat is from a set called Cat Family by teddybearcholla (found in a very old Photoshop Creative magazine). A Bevel and Emboss layer style was also used on this cat, with a Depth of 532%, Up, Size 7 px and Soften 0 – Highlight Opacity set to Screen and 77% opacity and Shadow Mode set to Multiply and 33% opacity. A Watercolor pattern texture was added and set to a Depth of +26%. The layer styles really gave both cat items a fresh look.

Digital Art image of a cat at a store door.

Above is a variation of the same image with just a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer with a Cerulean preset at 25% layer opacity and a Gradient Map set to Overlay at 34% layer opacity that used purple and pink randomized color added. Quite a different look. Eventually I hope to get an E-book or PDF together that can be used as a basic guide to show some of the little tricks the sliders do. For example, did you know that if you put the Shape Dynamics Size Jitter Control (even with no Jitter set) to Pen Pressure, the actual Brush stroke appears smaller. Check the Brush Preview in the Brush Settings panel to see the range between the thick and thin stroke now. There is a lot more to this, but that is just an example showing how the stroke will be different with just one setting change. And the people who do paint digitally use all kinds of different settings to get their brushes to work. In the meantime, I will try to pop in more often! Have some fun trying out some new brushes……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

ReBlog – How to Use Photoshop’s Brush Texture Section for Painting Clean-up

Looking at the Smudge Tool – Again

How Photoshop’s Color Dynamics Brush Settings Work

What about the Pattern Stamp Tool? Not So Bad!


TWO FREE PAINTERLY PHOTOSHOP ACTIONS TO TRY OUT

Watercolor image of a tower in Edinburgh, Scotland.

This week as I was working on finding some interesting ways to use Photoshop to paint, two people came out with free actions that can really give your images painterly looks. Thought I would do a quick share as I continue on my other quest of finding good brushes for drawing and painting with Photoshop. The above image is from Edinburgh, Scotland – below is a sepia tone effect.

Sepia tone image of a building in Edinburgh, Scotland

Watercolor Artist – Photoshop Action Set

Recently Adobe Create Magazine sent out links to a free action by Nuwan Panditha (also known as Black Null) – it contained an action set (Setup and Watercolor Artist actions), 20 watercolor brushes (all kinds of regular and splatter brushes), 5 patterns to use with your watercolor (or any) images, and a 7-page PDF Guide on how to load and use all the included items. This version is an update from the one I wrote about in my Trying Out the Free Watercolor Action from Adobe – Pretty Nice! a couple years ago. The information and steps in my older blog still apply to this newer version. Use the nice PDF guide supplied which has good advice on how to make the action work smoothly.

There were a few issues with the action that need to be addressed. Make sure you stay within the image size parameters or your document will be huge. My file still came out to over 1.8 gigabytes – that is too much for my computer to give really good response time for detail work so I ended up having to delete layers that I did not use – the finished file was almost 1 gig. Also, it took several minutes to run – like up to 5 minutes. The author says he ran the action with a 5,000 pixels for Width and Height, but he recommends using 3,000 to 3,500 pixels. Make sure your image has some detail in it and is not all black or white. The Brush and Art History Brush parameters are listed in his very helpful PDF file. My files were set to 2493 width by 3256 Height and 300 ppi resolution.

Several layers were added after running the action to add in more of the watercolor feel. The furnished Watercolor Artist Wet and Wash brushes were used to supplement the color in the top image – these brushes are all pretty nice watercolor brushes. A Color Lookup Table was selected, a border effect was painted in, and a few flowers were added in with a Pattern Stamp Brush from Jessica Johnson using a pattern created from part of the flowers already in the image. (I can’t believe how often I use these flower brushes for filler areas.) You can do anything you want to your image after the original strokes are laid down. A pretty easy way to practice your painting!

Color Vector Photoshop Action

Pixabay image of a guitar player

This is another action that creates a really huge file so be ready for that. The image is from ISO Republic and is one of my favorites to try new techniques on. It was created by Justin Haider and can be downloaded for free from Deeezy. It is very similar to the above action in the way it is set up and has a Word file to explain how to load all the components. However there are a couple differences between the actions.

  1. The website says this about the size: Check the resolution of your photo. If its a low-resolution photo (1000 px), take the shortest length of your photo and increase it to around 2000 px or more. He recommends using photos that are 72 ppi resolution and at least 2500 px width. The image above was 300 ppi resolution, 3300 px wide X 2200 px high and it was almost 1 gig after removing a few layers that were not needed.
  2. Photo must be in 8-bit and the bottom layer must be a “Background Layer” – cannot use the Layer -> New -> Background from Layer. I got around this on one of my images by saving a copy as a JPG and which then had a natural Background Layer.
  3. THIS STEP IS IMPORTANT AND EASY TO OVERLOOK: Before running the action, create a New Layer and select the Brush Tool – I used the first one, Illustration-br-0, to paint over the subject with a black color on the layer. If you want a really sharp selection and not a real loose look, need to make a really good selection of your subject and fill with color on New Layer. In the above, it was painted in somewhat close to the subject – I did have to run the action twice to get the look I wanted.

There are 9 Brushes (these are also rather interesting and I think I will try them in some other images for painting), 8 Patterns, the Action and a Background texture which was used above, although any texture could be used. I deleted a lot of unused layers in this image also. The colors I got were created from the different adjustment layers provided in the various sections of the action. I did put a Lookup Table on top set to a Cerulean Blue at 65% layer opacity. The texture provided was flipped a couple ways to get this effect. Overall very easy and fun to do.

Hope everyone is easing into Spring. These actions were not hard to do, just a little labor intensive on your computer while they are running. Hope you enjoy trying them…..Digital Lady Syd


Trying Some Creative Art

Digital Art image of a tree

This week does not include a lot of actual painting, but it does contain a lot of free textures and brushes. I am not sure it matters as long as the creation is one of your own. Once again I followed a Julieanne Kost video called Photoshop Compositing Tools and Techniques from Adobe MAX 2020. It was an excellent fairly short video and a good refresher on how to make “fine art” digitally. Previously I did a Creating Composite Images Using the Julieanne Kost Workflow blog which gave details on her basic workflow. I am still learning her techniques and trying to keep my images as simplistic and to the point as she does. Her art does make me think about what I am trying to do with mine.

Julieanne says the “majority of her photos contain a primary subject, a secondary subject, and are set in a background or landscape that she creates.” All her items are there for a reason and she does not like to add in extraneous items that could be distracting. This is the goal I was trying to achieve with the above image.

I thought it might be helpful to include where my resources are from for this image and some of the basic techniques that were used. I hope this is something most people will find useful to do get a similar effect and quite easily.

  1. The tree was created first – just used the Filter -> Render -> Tree. No. 4 Maple Tree was selected (Light direction 36, Leaves Amount 1, Leaf Size 0, Branches Height 153, and Branches Thickness 58) which created a tree with no leaves. Lots of trees can be chosen here and the settings can be changed to get different effects easily. Really fun to do!
  2. Next a free texture was added from Shadowhouse Creations called Daguerreotype-8 to get the really odd foreground pattern. I have talked about his fabulous textures for years and he still has them all available for free. In a layer mask, the Gradient Tool was used to remove the texture from the sky area and leave it in the foreground only. A Black and White Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture and set to Linear Dodge blend mode.
  3. Next a sky was needed so back to Shadowhouse Creations to get one called GF-5 – a beautiful painterly texture. A duplicate of the sky was flipped horizontally with the Free Transform tool to get the the look needed. A layer mask on the top one was used to blend the two versions together.
  4. I felt like a hill would make a nice element behind the tree so one was painted in using a great free set of Chalky Brushes by Ioana Sopov and containing Chalk Noisy-2 texture brush, which gave the painted soft edge – it was set to 89% layer opacity. It still needed more texture so one called GF-3, which is an old post card in the same group of textures as the sky, was added to the image and clipped (ALT + click between the two layers to link the top layer to the bottom one) to the plain painted hill and set to Multiply blend mode. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added to blend the hills into the scene, mainly desaturating and lightening it in the Master settings.
  5. Then to cover up the harsh horizon line, a brush from Jose Rodriguez called PTC Hair Brush set to 200 pixels and a darkish brown color (can download brush for free at his How to Blur Backgrounds in Photoshop video which was very good) was used to create the fence, and I thought it was an important element to further separate the tree and give it more of a sense of loneliness. Note this is a small Hairbrush but it worked great for this image so keep this in mind when using brushes – they are not always what they seem!
  6. The tree looked too harsh so it was duplicated and taken into Topaz (see sidebar of Tidbits Blog for website link) Studio 2 where Impression was opened with just the Oil Pastel preset applied. (The older version of Topaz Impression would also have worked.) Now it looked a lot more painterly. The original tree layer was turned off permanently now. For the Painterly tree, a Black and White Adjustment Layer was clipped to it and set to 68% layer opacity to almost turn the tree black and white. This is something else to remember, single layers with just one element can often be brought into PS filters to give interesting element effects.
  7. On two New Layers, the first airbrush found in the Converted Legacy Tool Presets Airbrush folder (loaded just like the Legacy brushes – see my Kyle T. Webster’s Photoshop Brushes blog on how to load brushes) – it was set to a regular brush (it is a Mixer in the Tool Presets so select any regular brush first, then on the Airbrush mixer press CTRL+ALT+ click to switch it to a regular brush – and now adjust the brush settings to 3 pixels Size with Build Up and Smoothing checked) was used to draw along the tree roots – first used a dark brown, then with the same brush a lighter color was drawn next to them to make the roots stand out. If you have not used these older Tool Preset brushes, check them out – there are some good ones in there.
  8. Added textures – used the Adobe Paper Texture Pro, which is still working in PS for me, but it is no longer available from Adobe. Not sure what has happened, but textures can be added manually quite easily. The first one was called Necropolis that was set to Difference at 55% opacity – this gives a bluish tone to the whole image. Then Villa Adriana set to Color Dodge – opacity 32% and Fill 30% – a black layer mask was added and just the root area and a little bit of the trunk was painted back to get the rather glowy edges for the roots. They are both from Flypaper Textures – I believe I got the textures a long time ago with the PS extension so if you have it or had it previously, you may have already have a nice set of textures.
  9. Next a Photo Filter Adjustment Layer was added using a dark gold color (#8e7329) at 50% opacity.
  10. Added a Curves Adjustment Layer – just a straight diagonal line to upper right with a starting point at lower left set to Input 0 and Output 40 – gave a little bit of a matte look to the most dark pixels in the image.
  11. Next added a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer to give more of a dark blue as opposed to a dark black to the image – this technique was discussed in Julieanne’s video. A stop was added on the bottom of the gradient at Location 20 and a color swatch set to #292d33, a very dark blue. She continued adjusting the Saturation and Brightness amounts in the HSB settings of the swatch, but I did not need this. I liked this color that was being added. Only wanted it applied to the top area of the image, so in the layer mask a black to white gradient was created with the Gradient Tool to blend it in at the horizon.
  12. Added a New Layer and selected a brush I call “SJ Soft Br (MK) to blend orig. bkgds back into mask for animal pix” created from a Matt Kloskowski webinar. Basically the settings use a 30-pixel soft round brush with the Options Bar set to Opacity 41% and Flow to 26%. Matt uses this brush in a different way than how it was used in this image to soften the edges of the tree trunk so it blended into the background more, and soften some of the sharp color and edges of the smaller branches high up in the tree. A sampled color from the sky was used for this.
  13. A Color Balance Adjustment Layer was added and just a subtle change was made to add some lightness into the Highlights (Yellow-Blue set to -3) and darkness to the Shadows (Yellow-Blue +4).
  14. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was used to adjust the color in the overall image. The one used was called On1-Heat Wave LUTs-7 but there are so many to choose from that several were looked at before settling on this one – set to Normal at 19% layer opacity. I like to look at these last because LUTs tend to pull colors together really well.
  15. A Spotlight Effect was made with a New Layer set to Overlay blend mode at 87% opacity – using a white soft round brush to lighten up the middle of the sky where where the branches are. See my How to Add a Spot of Light blog for more on this.
  16. Last step was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer which was applied to only the top of the image by using the Gradient Tool in the layer mask at 90% layer opacity.

As you can see, it was a pretty large endeavor to get this image. Even though the steps look straight-forward, it definitely was not. Several adjustment layers were added and removed and changes in opacity were made to them as an after-thought. I guess one of my main points is that if you look around there are lots of free resources that can be added into your composites. I wanted to share some of these with you since it is expensive to always be buying products that you may only use once or twice. Some brushes included are all pretty simple to make and several free ones are very nice and totally different from what Kyle Webster offers with PS. And as a second point, if you are like me, I am always trying to find something new and different to do in PS and to add some new dimension to an image. I think Julieanne has lots of good ideas and it did start me thinking. Have a good one!…..Digital Lady Syd


Happy Valentines Day

Image of a Valentines Day card effect

This week I did a quick little Valentines Day card. Most of this card has the standard valentine elements I have used before. But I did create the element in the middle from a video I recently watched on Design Cuts called How to Create a 4-Way Mandala in Photoshop by Leslie Nicole from French Kiss Textures (her textures are some of the best you will find). It was so much fun trying out the Mandala designs that I had to show a couple. The design above also used some really nice valentine elements from Karen Bonaker, the Corel Painter Master. At her site, she gave these away as Painter brushes, but I switched them over to Photoshop ones by following one of my old blogs called How to Bring a Corel Painter Brush into Photoshop – worked like a charm! I painted the background using almost all the brushes she offered – lot of fun here.

Back to the Mandala – I had never seen Leslie’s technique for creating these so it really intrigued me. Below is an example of one created following the basic steps she uses. The video gives a great explanation of how it is done. Leslie mainly uses flower stems or designs to create them. Below my white lily image that is posted here was used as the starting element for the design.

Mandala of a White Lily

Some painted texture was added behind and Kyle’s Spatter brushes were used also. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Simplify was used on the flower in the center to get it to match the image.

This technique is really not as hard as it seems and it gives a beautiful and original result. I plan on trying several more as they are quit fun to do! (Check out this one I just finished a little late: Valentines Mandala) Enjoy the Day!…..Digital Lady Syd


Kyle T. Webster’s Photoshop Brushes

Digitally painted image of a Kingfisher

I am continuing with another painting blog just because that is what I am doing right now. I am still getting caught up on my digital art skills which was one of my New Year’s resolutions. The beautiful Common Kingfisher image above was downloaded from Unsplash and was taken by Boris Smokrovic (there are many iterations of the bird on this site).

Since Photoshop’s brush engine has not really changed much since CS6 – and the Mixer showed up in CS5, there have been lots and lots of brushes available thru the years. The Regular brushes and the Mixer brushes are the ones most people think of using for digital painting in PS. But there are many Smudge brushes and Pattern Stamp brushes also available for painting, so don’t discount their usefulness.

The brushes used on the above Kingfisher image were from Fay Sirkis, a Corel Painter Master, who created some great PS Mixer brushes years ago (some of them can still be downloaded from KelbyOne) – not much was available back then but these hers are still great! Lots of brushes now come with PS so it is easy to get started trying a little painting of your favorite images. A huge amount of brushes were created by Kyle T. Webster are provided for free when you subscribe to Adobe’s program.

I spent a long time trying to find a few I thought would be useful to get everyone started with painting. Kyle has a lot of Regular brushes and Smudge brushes. The Goldfinch image below (by Stephen Walker at Unsplash) used : Kyle’s Drawing Box – Hatch Soft Mixer brush, Kyle’s Drawing Box – Shady Graphite Damp brush, Kyle’s Paintbox – Big Rough 880 Smudge brush, Kyle’s Inkbox – Spatter 1 brush, and at the bottom behind the bird in Kyle’s Spatter brushes – Wet Splat brush. Kyle’s Paintbox Seurat brush (pointillism-type brush) and Kyles Paintbox Cezanne2 brush both are contained in a different download called the Impressionist set and not the Megapack Paintbox folder. These brushes will give you a good idea of what is available for painting.

HOW TO FIND HIS BRUSHES: As you can see by the names of the brushes, they fall into different groups of brushes. To find the Drawing Box brushes, the Megapack must be downloaded and loaded into PS. To do this, just go to the Brushes Panel, open the Pop-out menu in the upper right corner and select Get More Brushes. All of Kyle’s brush groups will be listed – just scroll down to the one you want and download it.

LOADING THE BRUSHES: The way I load .abr or .tpl files is to open PS and then go to folder on my computer where the brushes were download and double click on the .abr or tpl files – they will load immediately as folders at the bottom of your brush list. With Kyle’s brushes, you can just select to add them right into PS instead of saving the brushes down. This is a very quick way to do this.

FINDING THE BRUSH YOU WANT: The Megapack is huge, so once loaded into PS, go to the Search field located at the top under the Size slider in the Brushes Panel and type in part of the brush name – all loaded will be listed. They added the search mechanism with the latest version of PS and it is a life-saver if you have lots of brushes loaded (which I do!). Try searching to find the above Hatch Soft brush or Shady Graphite brush. The Paintbox brushes are also listed in one of the Mega Pack folders, so search for those brushes and they will show up. There is another nice painterly set to download and it is called the Impressionist Brushes if you want to load the Seurat and Cezanne2 brushes – several other famous painter’s brushes are located here also.

Image of a painted American Goldfinch

In just the Megapack folder there are these different subfolders: Erasers (6 brushes); Drawing Box which contains these types of brushes – Charcoal, Markers, Crayons, Pencil, Colored Pencil, Sketch, Lots of Mixers both blenders and those that add color including Pastels/Oil Pastels/Pastel Smudge, and Smudge (74 brushes); Inkbox (157 brushes!); FX Box which contains Grains, Noise and Canvas brushes (27 brushes); Paintbox which contains 8 Smudge, 2 Acrylic, Bristle Brushes, Gesso brushes, 10 Gouache brushes, 8 Watercolor and several other kinds (53 brushes); Real Oils which contains the 6 Sargent brushes (44 brushes); Classic Group which contains all kinds of useful brushes (19 brushes); Bonus which just contains Chunky Charcoal brush; and Tech Pens which contains 5 brushes. I felt like this may help if you are looking for a particular type of brush. The Impressionist set contains 24 brushes and blenders.

The other brush sets that can downloaded are: Keith Haring-Inspired Brushes, Watercolor, Dry Media, Gouache, Spatter, Runny Inkers, Manga Brushes, Crosshatchers, Rake Brushes, Impressionist, Letterers, Halftones, Copier, Concept, Art Markers, Charcoal, Summer 2018 Brushes, Winter 2019 Brushes, Summer 2019 Brushes, Spring 2020 Brushes, Summer 2020 Brushes, and Winter 2020 Brushes. If you go up on Kyle’s brushes, there is a small description of what each set contains to help you decide if they will be useful. I did not look at all of these, just the Impressionist set which contained the Seurat and Cezanne2 brushes. The ones dated by year contain several different types of brushes so it definitely worth the time to try them out – your favorite brush may just be included! Kyle did say that he is planning on releasing a Spring 2021 group of brushes in May which will contain a brush with leaf shapes, so that should be fun to get.

Image of a painted Roseate Spoonbill from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm.

The above image was taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm but was painted using some extra free Kyle Munch brushes. To create this effect, duplicate the image. The bird was then isolated from the top layer by using the Quick Selection Tool and Select Subject – add a layer mask and clean up any areas that need to be added or removed. Since it is being painted, it does not have to be perfect. A white Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was added underneath the selected image. Now for the fun part – used brushes from Kyle that are not in the program files – they are called Munch brushes and were created to imitate Edvard Munch‘s brush style (his most famous painting is The Scream). I would recommend watching the first 7-minute video at the brush download site to learn how to use them properly – 7 brushes are included. This image only used the Munch – Filbert brush, set to a very small size for the details. A texture was added underneath the bird and over the Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer. As a final touch, a Romantic English Garden Pattern Stamp Brushes and Patterns from Jessica Johnson was used to scatter a little color on the bottom. This was totally fun to do and not hard at all. These steps are basically how all three images were painted.

I thought I was ready to post this blog a few weeks ago, and then I started finding a number of Adobe Creative Cloud videos by Kyle to help understand how to use the PS brush engine and all the various types of brushes he created. If interested, check out these videos: Photoshop Masterclass: Brushes, Photoshop Brush Top Tips and Tricks with Kyle T. Webster, Brush Hour with Kyle T. Webster: Episode 1-Spatter Time (apparently he will be doing different types of brushes this year) – he produces videos at least weekly. Kyle basically says you don’t have to know how to create brushes, just experiment with the ones he has provided. He does spend a lot of time explaining what each of the Brush Settings Panel sections do so a brush can be changed “on the fly” to get a good result. He is a designer and illustrator and knows what kind of brushes are needed for all types of painting media.

I plan on expanding my brush info and some painting tips with you soon – you can never have too many brushes! Hope everyone is doing well and getting a chance to try some new things in PS. Until next time…..Digital Lady Syd


Painting Acrylics Digitally – Can It Be Done?

Happy New Year everyone! One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to get back to what I really like and learn some new things. Therefore, I did my first project – digitally painted this rose following the acrylic painter David Jansen’s video called Painting a Beginning Rose with Acrylics. I wanted to see if I could actually follow his painting directions to create a similar result. I have never painted so this was a real challenge for me.

The basic flower was done in Corel Painter 2020 on several layers – created my own Acrylic brushes using their Opaque Acrylic Brush and adjusted some of the settings. (In Painter you can go in and change the Resat and Bleed settings easily to change the strokes and create blender brushes to somewhat get David’s stroke effect.) If you want to try this in Photoshop, I would suggest you download a set of free acrylic brushes by Jess Robley – select the first brush and try reducing opacity and adjust stroke angle to create some good acrylic strokes. (I tried size 30, 21% opacity and 86 degrees for angle.) I believe converting it to a Mixer Brush would be great for blending. NOTE: Here is a cool tip for converting a regular brush to a Mixer: select a Mixer Brush whose settings you like, then hold ALT + CTRL and click on the regular brush to convert to a Mixer – Voila! It is now a Mixer! This is a fairly new shortcut to PS. Just click off and then back on the brush to bring it back to a regular brush.

Now that the flower is basically there, the image was saved as a PSD file in Painter and brought into PS to finish up. The bottom flower cluster was created using what I consider a very cool Pattern Stamp Tool technique by Jessica Johnson (see video and some freebies at this link and my blogs listed at end). This image used a Pattern and Brush from her inexpensive Romantic English Garden Set. These are really nice brushes and patterns and is a great way to add in a little color or detail into all kinds of images, not just painted ones – good for filling in those little holes that show up in odd places. I actually had a hard time deciding which brush and pattern to use for this image! The flower was darkened down the right side with an Overlay burn layer with black paint and 9% Flow on a soft brush. Last step was to add the text – it is called modernline by Ef Studio and I really like it.

So the bottom line is that if you were familiar with painting in acrylics, the transition to digital painting with an acrylic look would probably be very easy for you. For me, I am not sure I got the true essence of acrylic paint but as a first attempt, it was really fun to try. I definitely want to try this flower again using just the PS brushes – I believe it would be just as good. I am glad I got a start doing something different and working on a new set of skills. I hope everyone is trying out some new things since we are still pretty much working at home. In the meantime, enjoy the New Year!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

What about the Pattern Stamp Tool? Not So Bad!

Trying Out Some New Things

The Rag-a-Muffins


HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO EVERYONE

Image of a Christmas Holiday scene

Just wishing everyone a wonderful holiday – it has been a rough year and we all deserve a little time to relax and look forward to 2021. Planning to be back blogging more regularly next year – needed a little down time just to put everything into perspective and see what direction my photography and art is going. I am planning on watching a few videos this next week and trying out some new things.

This image just contains fun things I have accumulated over the past several years. Basically just used some Corel Painter clipart they gave away last year. The Santa and reindeer in the sky is from a brush I created a few years ago and just painted in some color. The background was a purple and blue one created a while back and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added to give it the color. Used an Ivan Rosenberg snowflakes overlay for the authentic-looking snow (in his Christmas Overlays Creator set offered by Design Cuts a few years ago). A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer and a Curves Adjustment Layer finished it up. Lots of fun – I love doing holiday pix!

Hope everyone will start 2021 much more refreshed with new ideas and ready to dig into new projects. That’s what I am planning on doing …. and in the meantime have a great time this week!…..Digital Lady Syd


TRYING OUT SOME NEW THINGS

Image of flowers taken at the Garlic Restaurant in New Smyrna Beach, Florida

The last few weeks have been pretty busy for us Photoshop groupies what with all kinds of webinars and tutorials being released by both our favorite software companies and photographers. I thought I would just go over a few techniques..

Side Note here: With Black Friday coming up, here are my favorite filters: Viveza – still cannot be beat as an overall filter; Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website links for all plugins) AI Sharpen – use it on every photo and can’t live without it; and a tie between Luminar 4 – just has some cool things in it – not sure yet on their new AI, but I happy with this version for now; and Topaz Studio 3 – this program has so many filters that are so useful like Impression, ReMix, Color Theme, Glow and Edges (and DeNoise Clear). If I just had these filters, I would probably be totally happy. Now I will say Topaz DeNoise AI is excellent when the need arises but I do not use it on every image, and Topaz Gigapixel I use all the time as a stand-alone mainly. And yes Color Efex Pro is always great – I just do not use it much.

The above image of the inside at the Garlic Restaurant in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, is a good example of what can be done with the Pattern Stamp Tool. It can create some pretty impressive results and is major useful for creating textures. Used Jessica Johnson‘s new techniques (video and some freebies) at this link – she has lots of newsletter freebies so sign up at her site. I recently bought her Instapressionist brushes and am having a lot of fun experimenting with them. I am finding I can blend this tool with my regular painting to get some very unique effects. I also use the brush to fill in places in my image that needs some soft detail in the backgrounds.

Pixabay image of a violin

The above violin image from Pixabay was used to apply Frequency Separation (FS) to the rather wrinkled backdrop behind the instrument – the link will show you the image as downloaded. I wanted to try this technique out on something other than portraits since I am not really a retoucher or portrait photographer. So in October Adobe Max 2020 had an on-line virtual Photoshop Creativity Conference. Their link takes you to gobs of sessions, many on PS only. (I believe I heard these videos will be available to access for a year.) Earth Oliver, a commercial retoucher, did three classes all on Frequency Separation 2.0: Part 1 – Photoshop FS2.0 Retouching, Part 2 – Taking Images to the Next Level, and Part 3 – Problem Solving Techniques. And he also supplies you with an action to use. He speaks pretty slowly, but he makes it really easy to understand FS. He also uses the Mixer Brush in some of his steps which I found really useful. FS videos were also presented by Lisa Carney at the Photoshop Virtual Summit 2 (created by Photoshop Guy Dave Cross) which brought together 20 PS experts for roughly 40 hours of videos, but these summits are always fun to watch and full of great tips in them – the videos had to be purchased at time of viewing. Lisa Carney did a Basic FS Class for Beginners and one using FS on all types of files, including smoothing out wrinkles in clothes or backgrounds. She also has a Creative Live video called Retouching Clothing and Fabric, which is really good. Using the info from two retouchers, the above image was adjusted. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to create the interesting color of the violin (just dragged in the image with the toggle finger). Design Cuts Blooming Corner by Maria Letta Corner1 brush was used as detail behind the violin after selecting the violin. Last step was adding a Curves Adjustment Layer selecting the preset Basic Matte Effect. I can finally say I understand FS and will now use it a lot more.

Image of a man with NYC in the background

This image uses two free images: etty fidele in Bologna Italy (Unsplash) and New York City from Deeezy (Image 12). Chris Spooner, a British PS person, recently gave away this really cool Gold Action. In the above case it was run separately on each photo and then combined with a nebula image (from Unsplash) added that was also turned to gold using a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Just sort of one of those fun things to try and every now and then and whenever something gold is needed. This really works!

Same image as above, but this time I put one of my own Corel Painter textures behind the violin and added some sand on the instrument (this was actually a snow brush from Serge Ramelli with a brown color). The colors were changed by using the old Match Color command which Ben Wilmore explained clearly in his Summit video. On Creative Live Ben has this info in his Photoshop Mastery Retouching and Collage videos – they are older but still very good. I have never used this command so I was surprised how good it turned out. As a Source image, one of the textures I had created with a beige color was selected. Then the Luminosity, Color Intensity and Fade sliders were adjusted to get the overall colors wanted. It was pretty easy and turned out nice. To get the beach feel, the PS Lighting Effects filter in the Render grouping was used with a Point light set to a yellowish color and Intensity of 19, a white Exposure of 26 and Ambience of 29 to get this soft beach feel.

Hope my US friends have a great Thanksgiving – probably a bit low key – I know mine is going to be. But have fun anyway. Hope you get in on some great sales – the plugin companies all have good deals going on. Later…..Digital Lady Syd


HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Image of a Halloween Scene

Happy Halloween! Hard to believe it is here already! It is always fun to create a Halloween image. This year a lot of the the imagery came from a nifty little program that JixiPix Software gave away a few months ago. (I have gotten several free software programs from them by just being on their mailing list so sign up if you are interested.) It is called Hallows Eve and was really simple to use. JixiPix has several smaller plugin and stand-alone programs that look really nice also. Below is what the interface of Hallows Eve looked like as I was putting this image together.

A few other elements were added – the Zombie and the Moon from PixelSquid, a great program for adding elements (check it out to see the large amount of objects they have – great for compositing in images) and the objects can be accessed from a panel inside of Photoshop. Viveza 2 was used to balance out the image. The cobweb was a brush from Obsidian Dawn and the font is called Strings.

Hope everyone is having a great holiday. In the meantime enjoy playing around with all the new features in Photoshop 2021 – lots of fun trying them out. Will get back soon with info on some of my favorite plugins and PS features. Enjoy!…..Digital Lady Syd


REBLOG – HOW TO USE PHOTOSHOP’S BRUSH TEXTURE SECTION FOR PAINTING CLEAN-UP

Image of three painted birds on a branch

Since I have not been taking a lot of images recently, I decided to practice some painting in Photoshop. The image above is one I experimented with using what I hope looks like a bit of a Fall background scene. These birds were mainly painted using PS Mixers – mostly the blenders at different sizes and shapes. Check out some of the Converted Legacy Tool Presets – Default Tool Presets (open the top left pop out and select) to get some really nice brushes to start some painting. (Check out the Blunt – Round Blender and Fan – Flat Blender – I have used both mixer blenders to paint images – try adjusting the Size and some of the Options Bar settings for different results.) If you change some brush settings and like the results, be sure to save the preset to keep those settings. There is definitely a bit of trial-and-error and so much depends on the image. I was not too sure how these birds would turn out, but I think they are fine. It is very relaxing to paint also. Well, hope you are enjoying cruising into the wonderful Fall weather. I hope to get going on those Halloween pix soon!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image of painted purple hydrangeaI have been painting in Corel Painter more but finding I just have to use Photoshop to finish up most of my work. This can be frustrating because as we all know, Painter excels with their hundreds of brushes and usually the strokes and dabs look much better when created in Painter. Therein lies my dilemma. How do I clean up some mis-strokes when I am in PS so that you can’t tell the clean up was done.

I have been working on a brush all week and a lot of the best results came from the PS Brush Panel’s Texture section settings. If you understand this section, you can create some really nice brushes for smoothing out hard edges or blending texture into a big splotches of paint.

Some Important Brush Panel Notes:

  • The Brush Panel in Photoshop is often called the Brush Engine as it is in Painter.
  • Also when creating a new brush, be sure to actually click on each brush section name to open it up. By clicking on the check box, the existing settings from the last brush used will be applied to it. This can wreak havoc on a brush!
  • Texture and Pattern can mean the same thing, depending on what you are doing in Photoshop (and Painter). A texture is really a texture that you are adding in as a layer to an image and usually have .jpg or .png file extensions. A texture can be a pattern when using the Paint Panel’s Texture Section, the swatches as shown below are actually patterns and will have a .pat extension. To convert a texture to a pattern, open the Texture in PS, and to a Pattern, go to Edit -> Define Pattern – a Rectangular Marquee Selection can be made of just part of the texture to use as a pattern also. It will now appear at the end of your Patterns list.

Brush Panel Texture Section Basics

Below is what the Texture section looks like when the brush created was used to clean up the above hydrangea image. See My Pastel Brush Settings section below for all the original brush settings – it is a favorite of mine to just paint with, without these Texture settings. The new settings are also listed again if you would like to create the brush.
Screenshot of Brush Panel Texture SectionAs you can see in the image, the Painter strokes created a lot of differing and textured swirls within this image. When the image was opened in Photoshop for final processing, I looked at the strokes more closely. Several looked too sharp – too much bristle or sketch-looking lines – and did not blend well with the other parts of the image.

The brush created was for adding texture into painted areas to either soften edges or add some interest. This is done in PS by adding one of the same patterns already listed in the drop-down (click on down arrow to left of pattern swatch to open up).  This is the same pattern list used with the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer, Layer Style Pattern Overlay Section, Bevel & Emboss Texture Section, and Stroke Section. Here are a few of my Obsidian Dawn patterns shown in my drop-down list below.
Screenshot of pattern drop-down Menue in Texture SectionA colored pattern can work in the brush if it has lots of contrast, which is determined not by the color saturation but the light and dark tones. The black and white patterns seem to be the best choices. The texture used in this brush was called 12 and the link is in brush settings section below. The pattern had a nice contrast to it and created an interesting texture in the stroke. The pattern may not be visible in the stroke preview at all until the following section sliders are adjusted.

The Scale can be adjusted to get a bigger or smaller pattern size. If you make it too small, a repeat pattern line in larger brush strokes may be seen, so watch out for this. When the pattern is added and no change is visible, try adjusting the Brightness slider first and watch the Preview for a change. The Contrast can help but it is not usually as noticeable. The Mode can make a big difference. Try all the different modes as they sometimes give drastically different results. The Preview will show these differences. The Depth, Minimum Depth (must set a Control to use this slider), and Depth Jitter (randomness) sliders can also add some major texture contrast, especially on the edge of the stroke. Overall adding texture to a brush requires a lot of tweaking, but when you get a good result, it is so rewarding and helpful to have.

How to Paint with This Brush

Now that you have a brush you like, here are a couple little tips for using it. Since you are using a texture (pattern) in your brush, it can make your computer use a lot of ram to keep up with your stroking since most of the time the Texture Each Tip box is on. This means it is applying the texture to each stroke laid down. Try increasing the spacing just a bit – usually this will not make a very noticeable change and speeds up the stroking. Since I have an older computer, CS6 runs much smoother when painting with a textured brush. It can also help to change your image to 8-bit mode if having problems.

Next point, if you want to just smooth some of the strokes with this brush, sample the color you are painting on (ALT+click on spot). If you want to add a little texture to the stroke, just sample a similar color nearby or go a lighter or darker using the color swatch. This is how I mainly added the soft color in some of the larger areas of this image. This brush can be used without the Texture Section checked to make a much more smooth stroke for color clean up or sharp edges.

Sometimes a funny color results if you are painting on a layer that is underneath an adjustment layer. That’s because you are technically sampling All Layers even though it is not shown in the Options Bar. Either need to turn off the adjustment layers above and sample the colors before the adjustments layers were added, or create a stamped version (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top and then add the New Layer for painting on. Now the sampled colors will be as you adjusted them. The stamped layer can then be deleted but the colors will stay correct.

Why Not Use the Smudge Brush or the Mixer Brush?

The Smudge brush does some wonderful things, but there is no access to the Texture Section in the Brush Panel for Smudge brushes (only Basic Tip Shape and Shape Dynamics can be adjusted with a Smudge Brush and no color can be laid down, only get blending). The Mixer brushes work very well but I find it takes a lot of experimenting to get the exact stroke needed. Since what I needed was a quick little clean up brush, this seemed a bit like over-kill unless it is needed for some fine art.

My Pastel Brush Settings

I really like the shape of this brush – as a starter it is very textured and makes a nice subtle rough edge with the dab. The new brush used in my image and in this blog was called SJ Pastel 3-painting texture adder2 (I do not remember why I named it Pastel 3 since it used their Pastel 11???). Both the new brush and my original brush (called SJ Pastel 3 Use) used this wonderful dab (tip shape of brush – similar to a captured dab type in Painter) can be found in SDW Pastel Brushes set as Pastel 11 brush. I listed my settings. I also created brushes using their Pastel 5 brush – try this one out for a good experiment – slightly different dab shape. I am not exactly sure this qualifies as a true pastel brush since the Erodible Tips are often used for pastel effects.

Brush Tip Shape:
Size: It opens up at a huge 2130 px brush! Here are the settings for the other sections so you can create the same brush or use this one to try and create some better results. The original SJ Pastel 3 brush was set to 35 pixels in size. For this painting brush, the size is set to 8 pixels. I like to use a small size for clean up and this can be adjusted easily.
Angle – 137 degrees – change by moving the little circle with the arrow around
Roundness – 100% – change by moving the little dots on circle inward
Spacing – 35%

Shape Dynamics:
Size Jitter – 17% but Control on Fade
Minimum Diameter 23%
Angle Jitter – 42% and Control Off
All other settings at 0.

Texture:  For SJ Pastel 3 Use (original brush)
Pattern in drop-down:  Rough, located in PS Erodible Textures
Scale – 87%
Brightness – (-45)
Contrast – 0
Check Texture Each Tip
Mode – Multiply
Depth – 50%
Depth Jitter – 1%

Texture:  For SJ Pastel 3-painting texture adder2 (new painting brush)

Used was Pattern 21 from Obsidian Dawn’s SS-grungy-dirty-patterns set. Check out her website – one of my favorites for brushes and everything Photoshop and some good tutorials are also available.
Scale – 87%
Brightness – 101
Contrast – 60
Check Texture Each Tip
Mode – Height
Depth – 36%
Depth Jitter – 55%

Smoothing:  Always leave toggled on

Options Bar Settings

For beginning setting, the brush Options Bar shows a Mode of Normal, Opacity 67% and Flow 100% for both brushes. Need to be careful. If your brush does not act correctly, take a peek up at these settings to make sure they are set correctly.

I usually save these brushes as both Brush Tool Presets and Brush Presets. Also go into the Preset Manager and save them on your hard drive so if you lose them accidentally, they can be restored easily.

Pink Wildflowers image These pretty little wildflowers were growing on my deck a while back. They were painted in PS using the original My Pastel Brush, and then clean up using the new SJ Pastel 3 brush from above. The background was painted in Painter and added over the image. There was a lot of clean up in this image, but overall it came out pretty much how I wanted it to look.

I hope you get a chance to try out the brush and experiment making your own. It can really help to clean up those over-looked Painter mistakes without having to go back and forth into the different programs. Also it works great when painting in PS as in the wildflower image, with and without the Texture Section turned on, to clean up the layers below.


COMMENTS ON HOW GREAT LUMINAR 4’S AI SKY REPLACEMENT IS

Image of Tree in Maui, Hawaii
Just popping in (apparently I can’t stay away from blogging very long) to show you an image I did using Luminar 4’s AI Sky Replacement (for website go to my Tidbits Blog sidebar). There has been so much controversy at the moment over what is too much Artificial Intelligence (AI) to apply to an image and what is acceptable. I do believe a lot of AI is being developed for apps to place on phones or tablets, but serious Photographers and Photoshop Users really don’t need or want a lot of it. It takes away some of the creative decisions we like to make. That being said, there are a few major exceptions to this rule of not using AI. I am totally in love with Topaz (for website go to my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Sharpen AI and Topaz Denoise AI (and don’t for get Topaz Gigapixel) – use them a lot, and I am totally crazy about Luminar 4’s AI Sky Replacement Tool (what I see as a filter). The image above is a great example – no matter what you do in PS, it cannot be done this quickly and easily as it is in Luminar. If you do sky replacements often, you have got to try out this software and all the sliders that are available to get a great result.

Below are a couple of Screenshots of the settings used on this image – and with Luminar as a Smart Object plugin in Photoshop, if you do not like the settings, they can be readjusted easily, including adjusting the individual tool layer masks. For information on what each of the Sky Replacement Tool sliders do, check out this Luminar 4’s Manual page on AI Sky Replacement Tool – they are all defined there. Click on each image below to see the Flicker image showing the settings used on this image. There are 29 skies provided by Luminar or you can provide your own sky JPGs. This one is from Karen Hutton’s Heavenly Clouds set called Delicate Staircase (Kelby One supplied these as a bonus a while back). Very easy to substitute in any sky!
Screenshot of Sky Replacement Settings in Luminar 4
I found that by tweaking the Landscape Enhancer Tool, the sky could be made to look even better!
Screenshot of Luminar 4's Landscape Enhancer settings

What I like best, is that there is no deterioration in the image after applying it – it looks totally natural!
Screenshot of Close Up of tree leaves
Below is the original image so you can see what a difference the sky made, and literally in just minutes.
Image of the original tree in Hawaii
Anyway, thought I would share what I think of this great AI Tool from Luminar. I know they are coming out with a whole new program of AI effects before long, so I cannot comment on what else they are doing. I just know that Luminar 4 has a real winner with the AI Sky Replacement Tool. I have not used the AI Augmented Sky Tool so I do not know how good it is. Will try to evaluate it soon. Hope this was some help for those of you who do want a decent sky replacement program – not sure this can be beat. Will blog again soon…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Checking Out Skylum’s Luminar 4
Tree on Fire


HOW TO USE PHOTOSHOP’S MEDIAN FILTER

Image of Great Orange Tip Butterfly
Not sure why, but last week I started playing around with the Median Filter and found out it is a pretty nifty Photoshop Filter. It is found by going to Filter -> Noise -> Medium. It works great with other filter or plugin effects and seems to be one of those overlooked older filters that Photoshop packs with its software. Using this filter basically creates an image made of softer shapes with less detail.

The funny little Great Orange Tip Butterfly photo taken at the Rainforest Exhibit at the University of Florida’s Museum used this filter. I did use Topaz Gigapixel (as the image was cropped really tight – see my How to Use Gigapixel AI as a Plug In to Photoshop blog) and Topaz Denoise AI since the crop really showed up any noise in the image. (Topaz website can be found in the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog.) Then I tried out the Medium filter – it actually provided a really interesting beginning background for this image. When set to Multiply blend mode, it gave a really rich feel to the background and made lots of the lines fade into the background. (The other filters used in this image were Corel Painter’s Particle Shop using the Heat Trail filter which gave the pretty string effect and Photoshop’s Spherize filter which really rounded up my butterfly – I will blog on this one soon as it is actually a lot of fun to use also.)

How does this filter work? Heads Up – technical info here – skip if you do not care

The filter is controlled by adjusting the size of the Radius slider which goes from 0 to 600. The following info is from Adobe Photoshop Special Effects Focus Guide from 2003. Amazing this filter is still around and useful. If you set a Radius of 25, the Median filter will select the image using groups of 25 pixels. It blends these pixels together according to the closeness of their color and brightness – any pixels that are too different from the average color in a group of pixels will be discarded.

Adobe says the Median Filter “reduces noise in an image by blending the brightness of pixels within a selection. The filter searches the radius of a pixel selection for pixels of similar brightness, discarding pixels that differ too much from adjacent pixels, and replaces the center pixel with the median brightness value of the searched pixels. This filter is useful for eliminating or reducing the effect of motion on an image.” Yawn!

When would you use this filter?

The filter can be used as an alternative to the Gaussian Blur filter to blur parts of an image to change the depth of field. The result can be more natural-looking similar to a real photograph effect.

At a very low level (like 1 or 2), it has a smoothing effect which can help reduce moire patterns and noise in an image. With scanned images, try setting it to a minimum amount to fill in small white scanning speckles. See my Scanning with a Black Box Blog for more on this.

The filter averages out colors that are too different from those found in the set Radius value. Here is an example of a Radius set very low at 19 and it gives a nice soft depth of field with just the guitar strings sharpened by removing the effect with a layer mask using a brush set to black. This image is one of my favorite images for practicing new techniques from ISO Republic called Guitar Man.

Image of Guitar Play with Median Filter applied

At higher levels, it produces soft, abstract images that still contain fairly distinct edges in contrast areas. This could be used for some very interesting effects.

The Median filters seems to work really well to just soften up any distracting things in the background but does a better job than the Gaussian Blur filter. I will try using this more and decide if it really is better. I tried to soften a waterfall with this filter and use a layer mask so only the water was affected. PS says it works well with motion blur, but I actually found the Motion Blur filter works better for this. (See my Smoothing Those Waterfalls Blog on how to do this.) It would probably be an easy experiment so give it a try. I plan on being a little more sporadic with my blogging for awhile but I will continue blogging. Just not on a very regular schedule. In the meantime, continue working in Photoshop and trying out all the cool things it has…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO USE TOPAZ SHARPEN AI

Image of a Peacock at the Jacksonville Zoo
I have always liked Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Sharpen AI. Since I hand-hold my camera when taking pictures, many of my images are just a little soft and is why it has become one of my favorite plugins. Since Topaz came out with the AI version, it seems to have gotten better and better. You can now get a very subtle sharpening effect without having to use a Photoshop mask.

Tips

  • In Lightroom or ACR, do not sharpen your image using the Detail Panel, let Sharpen AI do this. Also, be sure to use DeNoise first as the noise will be sharpened along with everything else if taken Sharpen AI first. This is when Topaz AI Clear is often used – where just a little noise reduction is needed. It is located in either Topaz DeNoise AI (which has a Color Noise Reduction slider) or Topaz Studio 2 (which has Exposure and Clarity sliders and I like this personally).
  • Duplicate your Background Layer in Photoshop before using the filter just in case you want to reduce the overall sharpening opacity later. Topaz Sharpen AI can also be applied while in Lightroom by right clicking on the image to select the program and choosing Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments.
  • Turn off the Auto-update preview button as your computer will be running all the time if you don’t. And it does take a few seconds every time the Update button is selected, so the plugin take a while to process, especially when applying at the end.
  • How do you know if you need to update the plugin – this one should be intuitive, but sometimes I get lost on what it is doing. If the Update button is grayed out, it has updated. This is true also when masking. Just make sure it is updated when applying or it will not update when it goes back to PS.
  • Use the Navigator to move around your image which is is set to by default to 100% zoom instead of zooming all the way out to view the whole image. It takes a lot longer to update a preview when zoomed out and can crash the program. Topaz should be correcting this issue soon, but at least at 100% View it works just fine.
  • When the image is viewed at 100%, it is really viewing at 200% in PS, LR, OnOne, Luminar or most other software. So you are really zoomed in with Sharpen AI and seeing a lot of detail.
  • The Auto buttons are pretty good as a “starting place” to use on your images. Now there are two Auto buttons, one for selecting the correct mode and one for the settings.

Mode and Setting Selections

If the mode selected by Sharpen does not look that great, try the others. The Sharpen mode that Topaz selected is just for overall image sharpening. Stabilize mode is good for blurred images caused by motion blur from the camera or the subject. Focus is for images where the focus is in the “wrong plane” according to Joel Wolfson. This is especially useful when the eyes are not sharp but overall the image is good. On some of my furry friend pictures, Focus can cause some really weird sharpening so watch out for this. Stabilize mode usually works best for my image since movement is why my images are soft. When you click on a different mode, the Auto turns off.

Try adjusting the Settings sliders yourself as I have found that the ones Topaz selects are usually just a beginning point. Each time you change a setting or preview area, need to click the Update button if it is not grayed out. If you oversharpen, it will begin to look a little crunchy so watch out for this – sort of defeats the purpose of what you are trying to do. To reset the sliders to their default, just double click on the word “Sharpness” or “Noise Suppression.”

Image of initial settings for Topaz Sharpen AI on peacock image
The Screenshot above is set to 43% View for this blog so you can see what is happening, but I would not recommend going below the 100% View. For this image, Topaz had recommended the Sharpen mode, but it did not look good to me so I changed it to Stabilize but did try using the Settings on Auto. It is hard to tell, but the fence and the face are definitely sharper. Since I did not want the fence sharper, the mask below was created. The final settings are shown in the screenshot below.

Masking

I found creating a mask can be a little tricky for me. After watching the Topaz videos at their site (which I recommend you do), following these steps is how to do this correctly.

  • First set view to Single Panel (this works easiest for me) and press Update again.
  • Then click the Masking button at the top of the interface.
  • Select your brush by setting the Size (which can also be adjusted using brackets keys like in PS or using the slider), Softness, and Opacity.
  • Paint over areas where the sharpening needs to be applied. If close edges need to be followed, turn on the Edge-aware check box – turn it off when filling in the inside areas for selection as the computer runs a lot when on.
  • It is critical that you use the Navigator to scroll around the image (otherwise the program may crash like mine does) while adding in the mask. For the peacock image there was a little bird image in the bottom left corner that was clicked – it selected part of my bird at least. Use the X key to quickly switch between adding masking and removing it. You can see the mask in the little box on the bottom left – note there is a drop-down box with Options like Fill, Invert, Clear, and Delete.
  • Once the overlay shows it is all selected, click the Update button if not grayed out.
  • Now click Apply Mask.
  • Do not do make any other changes in AI Sharpen interface unless you want to Sharpen the whole image again and create another mask.
  • Click Apply to go back into PS.

A couple links on using Sharpen AI from Topaz are Sharpen Your Skills with Sharpen AI by Joel Wolfsen and How to Fix Blurry Images with Topaz Sharpen AI by Greg Rostami. The interface in the videos is a little behind what is in the version shown below, but the info will help if you are a little lost as I was when using this program. Below is a Screenshot of image showing the Sharpen AI settings and the Mask section open. This is what the mask looked like right after clicking the bird icon.

Screenshot of Peacock in Topaz Sharpen AI
Topaz is working hard on getting this plugin to work faster and better and it is being updated often. The program is definitely much better and I find I am using it on most of my images. Using the Sharpen mode will give just a nice subtle sharpening effect when there is not a real problem with the image. I believe that Topaz is still the front-runner in the race for the AI technology in the plugin world. It will be interesting to see where this is all going. Will be taking a week off to catch up on some post-processing work – see ya soon!….. Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO USE GIGAPIXEL AI AS A PLUG IN TO PHOTOSHOP

Image of a weather vane on a building at Windsor Castle in England

Recently Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) made their Gigapixel AI software available as a Lightroom and Photoshop plugin. I thought I would show you what I did after upgrading to this newest version. I was pretty astonished how great it can be. This Windsor Castle weather vane is an example of one of the images I tried using it on. Besides getting more detail in the close up area, Gigapixel is also great for printing out smaller images. Below is the original that was cropped in tight.

Original building image with weather vane
This image was taken using Aperture Mode, an 18-200 mm lens set to 200 mm, ISO 200, 1/320 sec Shutter Speed at F/9.0. That is as close as I could get to the weather vane using this lens. A couple things had to be done in Lightroom before opening it into Gigapixel AI. Obviously, first it had to be cropped; then in the Lens Correction Panel, checked Remove Chromatic Aberration and Enable Profile Correction. By zooming in so far into an image, you will probably see some chromatic aberration. To go into Gigapixel, just right click on the image and select it in the list – it will ask what file format you want the image to be brought back into Lightroom. In this case, I used a tiff file with a -Edit added to the file name which was then taken into Photoshop after it came back into Lightroom. Below is a Screenshot of what Gigapixel looked like for the above.

Screenshot of Gigapixel with weather vane image
You can see that I let Gigapixel AI Auto detect the Suppress Noise and Remove Blur in the image – it seemed to help since nothing like this had been applied in Lightroom. This does not have to be done and probably would not be checked in most cases. The image was doubled in size by selecting 2X. It is still a small image so I could have used 4X. The final post work in PS involved mainly adding Luminar 4 (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) to the image and adding a sky from a set by Karen Hutton called Heavenly Clouds-the Sunsets. Then the various sliders could be adjusted to fit the sky to my image. This is really a fabulous feature of Luminar.

*******

Image of a Gorilla at the Jacksonville Zoo

To do this same thing from Photoshop, you will not find the Topaz Gigapixel AI in the Topaz Lab folder under Filters since changing the size is something that cannot be done as a filter. Therefore, to find the plugin, go to File -> Automate -> Topaz Gigapixel AI and a similar screen will open as shown in the screenshot above. Make your corrections and click save – it will come back into Photoshop as a named “gigapixel layer” and the image will be larger than what it was. This is such a great upgrade – I think I will be using it a lot!

Original image of the gorilla
Above is the original image – it was taken through a plastic window using Aperture Mode, an 18-200 mm lens set to 200 mm, ISO 200, 1/60 sec Shutter Speed at F/5.6. It is really not that great an image, but by cropping in close and taking the result into Photoshop, it gives a pretty nice close up of his face. I actually did do some changes in Lightroom before opening the Raw file in Photoshop and cropping. The final work in Photoshop was once again using Luminar to enhance the detail in his face mainly.

If you have not tried Topaz Gigapixel AI, give it a try, especially if you do not have a really major large zoom lens. It has been suggested that you can freeze-frame a video image and use Gigapixel AI to enlarge just the portion wanted. I have not tried this yet, but will. Hope to report back more tips and tricks to using this software after I have tried out a few more pictures. Have a great week…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
The Best New Software Around – Topaz A.I. Gigapixel!
Posing for a Portrait


HOW TO ADD A SIGNATURE TO YOUR PHOTOS

Image from Garlic Restaurant in New Smyrna Beach, Florida
This week I made a video on how to add a signature and/or signature block to your digital images. There are lots of questions as to whether you should do this, and if so, do you add it all the time, and does it matter at all? I am not going to address this issue. Where do you put your signature? For a quick answer, some use the bottom left, bottom center or bottom left. Occasionally they are placed near the subject in the image. Again, I have not looked at this to really know what the current trend is for placement. But actually getting your signature into Photoshop is really not that hard – the video goes through all the steps listed below.

Here are the steps to follow that are in the video:

1. On a white sheet of paper sign your name in black with several different types of writing tools like a Magic Marker, Ball Point Pen, Artist Pen, etc. Also try different ways you might like your signature to appear on your images.

2. Either take a Digital Photo of this paper or Scan it in as a JPG. If using a Scanner, be sure to check the file once opened in Photoshop to make sure the resolution is at 300 (and not at 1600 or whatever it was scanned at) and that pixels (not inches) are set to under 2500 pixels. Do this by going to Image -> Image Size.

3. Look at the signatures on the page in Photoshop and choose one you like. Select the Marquee Tool and create a selection around that particular signature.

4. Copy signature selection by going to Edit -> Copy or CTRL+C.

5. Create a New Document by clicking on the House in the upper left hand corner and selecting Create New Document – will get the same dialog as if you pressed CTRL+N. Select the Clipboard and check that your resolution reads no more than 300 dpi.

6. Go to Edit -> Paste or CTRL+V to place the signature on a layer in the New Document.

7. To straighten the signature, go to View -> Rulers or CTRL + R and pull out a Horizontal Guide. Use Free Transform or CTRL + T to straighten – may not need to do this step. To remove the Guide, press CTRL + H to hide it (or can drag it up off the page) and CTRL + R to remove the Rulers.

8. Go to Image -> Image Adjustments -> Levels or CTRL + L to make the signature lines either darker or lighter – mainly move the middle tab to do this.

9. Go to Brush -> Define Brush Preset and name it – it shows up at the bottom of the Brushes Panel.

Now have a signature brush! Next create the Signature Block!

10. In the Photoshop file from which the brush was created, select the Text Tool and add in more information like SJ Photography for example. Use any font you want – Photoshop provides some great ones.

11. Add another Text Tool layer and this time add a Copyright symbol – to do this, press the ALT key and in the numeric number pad on your keyboard, press 0169 – when you release the ALT key, the symbol appears in the text. Add your name and the year.

12. Create another new brush – Edit -> Define Brush Preset and name something different. Now it can also be used on any of your images.

13. Save the PSD file so the copyright info can be updated for next year. Then just create a new brush.

14. To make into a Transparent Signature Block, turn off the background layer in the Photoshop File and do a Save -> Save as and select PNG format. Once saved, it can then be added into your Photoshop Library for quick use – the brushes can also be added!

Screenshot of PS Signature Block
The top image has a Signature Block and does not use my signature but uses fonts I liked. The Signature layer was duplicated three times to darken the font lines. The font used is one I really like and is called Crimson Foam Free at 37 pt. The font for Syd Johnson Photography is Birch Std at 7 pt, and the copyright font is DomCasualBT at 5 pt. The Screenshot shows the layers in the Photoshop file. A soft orange color was added to the signature layer by adding a Solid Fill Adjustment Layer (Layer -> New Fill Layer -> Solid Color) and clipping it to the signature layer (right click and select Create Clipping Mask or Layer -> Create Clipping Mask) – then just sampled a color from the image to find a color I liked. Some people use only black or white for their signature color, but I prefer adding something that will blend in nicely with the image.

Screenshot of signature block from video

The Screenshot above shows the PS layers for how a Signature Block was created using my actual signature from the video. The fonts used were: for Digital Lady Syd Photograph Brightside at 16 pt, and the copyright layer Abraham Lincoln font at 5 pt. Remember to check if these free fonts can be used for commercial work if you are going to sell your images or use them in products – you may need to buy a commercial license if you really like one. Most free fonts are okay to use for personal use. Also, some of the fonts do not have a copyright symbol so a different font must be chosen for the symbol – it can still be placed in the same layer that is using a different font for the rest of the text.

A little post processing info here. The top image is of an Italian Restaurant called Garlic in New Smyrna Beach, Florida – they have excellent Lasagna BTW! There were some real backlight issues with this image so those areas were selected and a texture was added and a Black layer mask was applied – now the texture only showed up where the light had been. Several Selective Color Adjustments Layers were used to get the colors just right. Viveza was used to direct the eye and sharpen just certain areas in the image. A Color Lookup Table using PS’s Fuji Eterna 250D Kodak 2395 was applied at 34% layer opacity.

It is really fun to try out different fonts in a Signature Block. I particularly like the script look, but some of the new writing-type fonts like Crimson Foam Free give a really nice new look to the block. If anyone has any questions on how to do this, give me a comment or E-mail, and I will be glad to help you out. Enjoy the rest of the summer!…..Digital Lady Syd


LOOKING AT THE SMUDGE TOOL – AGAIN

Image of an Amur Leopard at the Jacksonville Zoo
There is something about the Smudge Tool that creates a love-hate relationship for me. Sometimes I use it all the time and sometimes I wonder why would I use it with the fabulous Mixer Tools available. This week it was used on the two images to bring out the fur details. So what is going on with the selected Smudge Tool – it helps to look at the settings to know how to use it correctly. It has been very “eye opening” to me!

Basic Smudge Tool Characteristics

A lot of PS writers feel that the Smudge Tool only smears the paint around creating an awful effect or gives an unnatural flatness when used. I guess that is why I have never used it a lot – but I am finding with the right brush tip, it is very useful. My favorite Leopard from the Jacksonville Zoo had just the right amount of hair to see what I could do to get some furry edges on his body. I will go into the brushes used on him below. First, here is what I have learned about the Smudge Tool itself.

Thanks once again to the old gold standard PS book called The Photoshop Wow Book for CS3 and CS4 by Linnea Dayton and Cristen Gillespie (this is still one of the best references every written on PS) for the tips below.

  • If Finger Painting is turned on in the Options Bar – the smear will start by using the Foreground Color when first stroked
  • If Finger Painting is turned off – each stroke starts by sampling the color under the cursor
  • If the brush tip is big enough to pick up more than one color, the Smudge Tool applies streaks from each color
  • The higher the Strength setting in the Options Bar, the farther the Smudge Tool will smear each new color it encounters
  • At 100% Strength – it applies only the first color(s) it samples (and makes longer strokes)
  • At a lower Strength the first color fades out and new ones under the cursor are picked up and smeared as the cursor goes over them
  • Keep your strokes short to sample color frequently (which happens automatically if the Strength is low)

Tips from John Paul Caponigro (one of the best PS gurus ever) from his older Adobe Photoshop Masterclass book with a bit more info on the Smudge Tool:

  • Pull the brush through a line and both sides of it will be distorted
  • Place brush in center of a line and pull the brush out – will distort one side of a line more than the other
  • Wiggle brush down the line and it becomes wavy
  • Twirl brush stroke in circles and get a Twirl Filter effect
  • Long strokes create more distortion than short strokes
  • Stroking an area multiple times creates more distortion than a single stroke.

That is probably the best I can do on this info without exploring some of the great digital painters that only do Smudge Tool  painting.

Some of my observations:

  • If you do not see any change in your image after making a stroke, make sure Sample All Layers is on. Many free Smudge Tools brushes do not have this box checked including the Adobe Smudge Tool brushes provided by Kyle Webster.
  • Lots of the brushes have the Strength at less than 100% – I see that Aaron Blaise (the great Disney drawer) likes to use 79% for his Smudge brushes. So adjust this amount to see what really works with the image you are painting.
  • Currently some professionals will use the Mixer brushes to add in color when painting, but use the Smudge Brush to do the blending instead of the Mixer Blender brushes. Might want to try this when working on your images. See last section for how I did this.

Blending Technique

For the Leopard image the Smudge Brush was chosen first and then a a soft Round brush (set to 4 pixels, 25% Spacing and Scattering at 181%, set in Options Bar the Strength to 15%) was selected in the Brush Panel – changed the settings in the Brush Settings Panel.  Paint over the sharp edges of a line with very short strokes and a very soft edge will be created showing the blended colors. Painting on a New Layer with the Sample All Layers on will create nice blended edges into a background. May need to increase the Strength a little if it is not showing up well due to a higher resolution image. You will notice it can also give a nice painterly effect. By looking at the tips above, “at a lower Strength the first color fades out and new ones are picked and smeared” applies and keeping the strokes small adds this detail.

How to Make a Smudge Tool Brush

For the White Crowned Hornbill Bird image taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm below, Kyle’s Real Oil Sargent2 Smudge Tool was used to paint over the bodies and at a small size to do their eyes but larger size for the larger feather areas. At 10 pixels I was able to get a pretty nice fine line for the beaks. Definitely have to experiment with this to get the strokes needed. I tried to find this Smudge Brush in all of Kyle’s brushes for PS but could not find it (it was from an older set by Kyle). But I was able to recreate the brush and thought you might like to try this.

  1. In the Megapak, go to the Real Oils folder and highlight the Sargent Fat 2017 regular brush (see next section on how to download these brushes). Create a New Brush by clicking on the plus sign at the bottom of the Brushes (or Brush Settings) Panel for New Brush dialog – but do not check Include Tool Settings – Say OK.
  2. Now select the Smudge Tool in the Toolbar and highlight the new brush.
  3. In the Brush Panel Settings, add these settings: Brush Tip Shape: Size 50 pixels, Angle 0 degrees, and Spacing 10%; Shape Dynamics: Size Jitter Control: Pen Pressure and Angle Jitter 100%; Scattering: Check Both Axes, Scattering 219%, Count Jitter 100% and Control Pen Pressure; and check Smoothing.
  4. On the Options Bar, set the Strength to 58% and Sample All Layer checked.
  5. Now go back and press the Plus icon at the bottom of the Brushes Settings Panel and check Include Tool Settings and name it. Say OK and you now have a Smudge Tool from a Regular Brush.

This brush looks and acts very similar to Kyles Real Oil Sargent2 Smudge Tool used in the bird picture. You can follow these same steps to create a Smudge Tool using any regular brushes and Mixers. It is a lot of fun to find some new tip shapes for these.

I always Export the new brushes for ones I am using at regular intervals so that I can reuse them later if I accidentally delete one. Highlight your brushes and go to the flyout on top right of the Brush Settings Panel and select Export Selected Brushes – name the set and save.

Image of two hornbill birds at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm

Adding Soft Fur Edges for Animal Subjects Technique

On the Leopard image, a Smudge Tool from Aaron Blaise was used to create some very subtle fur edges. Normally I would not mention the brush, but right now he has all his brush sets on sale for a $1.00 and that includes his Foliage Brush set that contains 58 brushes and are really fun in their own right. He likes to use one of his foliage brushes converted to a Smudge Tool for his animal drawings so that is what I used. Since his brushes are designated to be used with any tool, just select the Smudge Tool and then find Sampled Brush 48 3 in the Brush Panel. In the Brush Settings Panel, these are the settings I used to get some really nice smudge hairs: Brush Tip Shape: Size 90 pixels (but for the leopard used 45 pixels), Angle 90 degrees, and Spacing 48%; Shape Dynamics: Size Jitter 37% with Control: Pen Pressure, Angle 3% and Control: Direction, and check Flip X Jitter; Scattering: Scatter – Check Both Axes and set to 89%; Count 1, and Count Jitter 72%; and Smoothing on. In the Options Bar set the Strength to 98%, Angle 90 degrees (same as in Brush Tip Shape brush section), and check Sample All Layers. (Aaron originally had the Size set to 60 px, the Strength to 45% – it did not work well for me with these settings but you can try them and see if they are better for you.)

The bird image used the above brush and a slightly different type of brush to create the fur strokes. Just need to create a brush using several tiny black dots (approximately 15 or so) in a rough circle (similar to what is used to add hair to people). Once you create this simple brush by going to Edit -> Define Brush Preset, select the Smudge Tool and then select the new brush at the bottom of the Brush Panel. Just set a pixel size of 70 and a Spacing of 10% and it creates a great Fur Brush – I used a Strength of 79% and checked Sample All Layers. Very simple but great little Smudge Tool.

This same brush can be used to create very small soft hair edges as shown on their heads and chest areas. Also, a regular soft round brush was selected and the feather color was sampled to add in some detail onto the big bird’s chest – used the Aaron Blaise brush to make it look like feathers and reduced the layer opacity to 51% so it all blended in nicely. White was added to the top hairs and the same brush was used to blend it back in. It gave a very realistic effect to the feathers. By experimenting, these brushes can paint really nice strokes.

How to Download and Save the Smudge Tool Brushes from Adobe

  • Kyle Webster has lots of brushes available in his Megapack (to load them, the Brushes Panel must be open by clicking in the Options Bar the 4th icon, which shows a folder with a brush on it (or by just pressing F5), and clicking the upper right flyout icon – select Find More Brushes. Must be signed into your Adobe account to download them. To load them, double click on the .abr file name and the folder will appear at the bottom of the brush folders. Here is a Megapack PDF link that shows all the brushes in the set – look on page 7 for the Smudge Tool brushes which are located in several of the different sections.
  • I like to keep my Smudge Tools saved as Tool Presets so I can find them quickly. I do not save my regular brushes as Tool Presets anymore, but I for my Erasers and Smudge Tools since only a few are used. To save as a Tool Preset, just open the Smudge brush from the Brushes Panel and press the Options Bar 2nd icon drop down (which is a tiny arrow) – select the plus icon on right that says Create a New Preset from this Brush. Next time you select the Smudge Tool, press the Tool Preset icon and it will be in the list of those loaded.

For more info, check out How to Use the Smudge Tool blog from a while back which also included my Tidbits blog called Which Tool to Use – the Smudge Tool or the Mixer Brush Tool? What I had discovered was “It seemed it was easier to blend colors with the Mixer Brush and then smooth edges and shape color using the Smudge Tool.”

Guess this blog got a little wordy, but there is a lot going on with these Smudge Tool brushes and it easy to use and create them. Hope everyone understands them a little more – I know I do. Not sure I will paint with just the Smudge Tool brushes since I really like the Mixers, but I am finding them a lot more useful than I thought I would. Have a great week!….. Digital Lady Syd


CREATING AN ART HISTORY ACTION IN PHOTOSHOP


Image of a painted Egyptian Mask

Yesterday I found this really cool action that can be used in Photoshop using the Art History brush on any image. I have always been a bit fascinated by this type of painting as it is really simple to do, has been in Photoshop for ages, and is very flexible in the way you can create with it. (See my How to Use the Art History Brush-It Really Is Pretty Nice! blog for more info.) This time Marko Kozokar, on of my favorite digital painting creatives, came up with yet another great action (Check out his Envato list for lots of other actions).

CREATING THE ACTION

The three images shown both used the Palette Knife action that I created by following the steps in his How to Create a Palette Knife Photoshop Action on Envato. Unfortunately Envato has changed it’s policy and you cannot buy an individual action, so you must join the site for a fee. Therefore, it is necessary to follow the instructions to make the action if you want one. This action took me quite a while to figure out, but if you have done them before, it follows the same basic steps. So here are my tips if you decide to do this:

  • First need to make sure image is in 8-bit mode, RGB Color (go to Image -> Mode to see this), and less than 4000 px on the largest size (go to Image -> Image Size to see if it needs to be resized.) It is important to know if you resized the image.
  • Note that when you start recording an action, you can always turn it off to do another step that should not be recorded, before continuing with the action. This happens a lot when making this action. Marko created a few brushes and I went ahead and made them first before continuing with the action so they would be ready to use. With these brushes, make sure you save them as a set (Palette Knife-Art History Brushes) to use again. I named the brushes Palette Knife-Art History Brush1, Palette Knife-Art History Brush2 and Palette Knife-Art History2-small for the second painting layer, and Palette Knife-Art History3 for the last painting layer. You will see these steps appear as you continue creating the action. When a new brush is introduced, I add a Stop in my action and note which brush to use at this point so I won’t forget next time I run the action.
  • If you downsized or changed the mode of the image, need to stop recording before painting and make a Snapshot in the History Panel. If you do not put your Art History brush icon by the snapshot, but leave it by the top image, it will not paint because you changed the mode or size of the image. Just remember to this before painting if you are having an issue painting.
  • When creating the action and a Background copy needs to be moved up in the layer list, be sure to use CTRL+] – dragging will not be picked up right in the action.

Once you finish the painting part of the action, adding in the other adjustment layers and filters is pretty easy. Also remember there are a few other things you can do with the brushes. The image below used a default Legacy PS Artist Brush called AH Oil Medium Wet Flow brush instead of the Art History2 brushes. Besides the size and opacity, try changing the Mode in the Options Bar when applying paint. Also you do not have to paint out the whole image, try just painting out parts of it as in getting rid of an ugly background. For some of the best tips on using the Art History Brush, check Julieanne Kost (the Adobe Photoshop Evangelical) and her Art History Brush in Photoshop video – it is older, but since the tool has not changed in forever, it is still accurate.


Image of a digital painting of a man playing the guitar

This is a really great action once you get it running properly. If you have problems, don’t hesitate to drop me a comment. As I said, it did take me a while to get it working smoothly so maybe I can help.

GETTING THAT FINAL TEXTURED LOOK

There is a “Secret Sauce” that he added to his images to give them a really nice painterly texture effect that is not in the action. If you look at the leopard image at the bottom of his link, you will see a really nice finished painterly effect. How do you get this effect? It is one of my favorite techniques that I have actually written about several times, but it is so useful, I will go through it again. (For a video on this, check out my How to Add Texture to an Image without Adding Its Color blog.

  1. Load any texture you like that has some really great painted look that will match the recently painted image. – I like those from French Kisses Artiste Collection (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) which show strong stroke lines but there are many texture creators that do this. Even making you won is definitely an option.
  2. Add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer on top – clip by clicking on the first icon at the bottom of the Adjustment Layer. Set the Saturation Slider to -100 to desaturate the texture so the color in the texture does not show up on the image.
  3. The texture blend mode was then set to Hard Light blend mode and a layer opacity around 30% as a starting point. I find these settings work well with this technique but try different blend modes to see which looks best on your image.
  4. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added to brighten the image as the texture tends to darken the midtones.

 Image of an Amur Leopard at the Jacksonville Zoo
This Leopard at the Jacksonville Zoo is one where I had to downsize and use a different snapshot to paint the image. This image shows the texture better as it was a little different type – French Kiss’s Atlelier Canvas texture using the Hard Mix blend mode and 27% layer opacity. (The Guitar image used her Artiste Dove Wings texture at Vivid Light blend mode at 35% layer opacity and the Egyptian Mask used the Tableaux Sea Nymph 2 texture at Hard Light blend mode at 22% layer opacity.) Not sure I would use this image but used it to create the action. Still I learned a lot from just experimenting with it.

Hope everyone is still learning some new things (and old in my blog’s case). It was a lot of fun to create this action. ….. Digital Lady Syd