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Actions

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, buy 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


USING THE FUN TOON ARTIST PHOTOSHOP ACTION

Cartoon Effect of image of Old Ford
Just a quick blog this week – wanted to share this really free fun Photoshop action downloaded from Adobe Create. Nuwan Panditha (Black Null) made this wonderful action and the results are give a nice cartoon-like effect. The image above was processed as a regular photo before, but the cartoon look worked out well for this close up of the front of an old Ford.

First, here is the download link. The download folder contains the action, a PDF guide, and a .pat file of 20 patterns. I would suggest looking at the PDF guide giving relevant information on the different layer groups before running the action. I will also caution you that the files can get pretty big – the Jaguar image was over a gig after running the action.

There are a few things you need to do before running the action: 1) set the image to 8-bit and RGB modes; 2) make sure the document does not exceed 5000 px on a side and 3000 px is best; 3) make sure Open CL is active in PS preferences; 4) if image is cropped, be sure to “Delete Cropped Pixels” is checked in the Options Bar; and 5) load the patterns (info on how to do this is in the PDF). The other thing that must be done is to create a brush that has a Hardness set to 100 and Spacing 10% – use it to paint in white on the new layer where you want the action to place cartoon effect before actually running the action.

Nuwan says that close up images work very well with this action – image should be sharp and well lit. So do not use images that are all white or black and use Levels Adjustment to balance the brightness of the image before running image.

To run the action, two layers are required, the bottom image layer and a New Layer on top – this is where you use the brush noted above is used to paint with white over the part of image to be emphasized. The action can take 3 to 4 minutes to run.

Once the actin is run, a Toon Artist folder is created that contains all the subgroups which allow you to get the different effects. Just turn on and off the eyeballs to see what each section does to the image – and open them up to tweak each. Several have layer styles attached so check out those. In the Screenshot below the 2nd layer up shows just the white painted front part of the car that was detailed with the cartoon lines. The painted background effect was created by turning on in the BG FX folder the Original BG layer and adjusting the BG Color (Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer that shows a brownish icon color) located at the bottom of the Toon Artist folder (3rd layer up in screenshot). In the Screenshot it can be seen that the BG Pattern subfolder was not used in for this image.
Screenshot of Toon Artist Photoshop Action

Here is a Jaguar image taken at the Jacksonville Zoo that shows some of the other cartoon features that can be added to an image with this action. To keep the image size under a gig, I had to resize it making the long side 6 inches, and remove all the hidden layers that were not being used.

Cartoon image of a Jaguar from the Jacksonville Zoo
Bottom Line: It is a bit complicated to use, but once you try it a few times, it is really fun to create different effects. I enjoyed having something different to try out. Nuwan also did another action I wrote about a while back that you might download. The blog is called Trying Out the Free Watercolor Action from Adobe – Pretty Nice! Have a great week…..Digital Lady Syd


CHECKING OUT SOME PHOTOSHOP ACTIONS

Soft Glow Effect on image of a cafe

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

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

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Image of a street cafe using a cartoon type action

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

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

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

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

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


TRYING OUT THE FREE WATERCOLOR ACTION FROM ADOBE – PRETTY NICE!

Watercolor image of a Angolan Colobus monkey eating some greens
This week I decided to just have some fun. I imagine most of you got the Adobe Magazine E-mail that came this week and one or their links was to a really cool Watercolor Artist Action Set created by Nuwan Panditha (also known as Black Null) – it contains 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. These objects can be used in other images – still trying out some of the watercolor brushes. So even if you do not want to use the action, download the files to get the nice brushes and patterns. This blog contains a few examples of what I created since I am always looking for great watercolor actions. (See my Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs for links to other watercolor actions.)

The quick way I like to load brushes and patterns (instead of using the rather complicated way explained in the PDF) is to just open up Photoshop and then double-click on the brushes file (.abr) and they will load automatically. This is the same for the pattern (.pat) and action (.atn) files. Very simple. The Angolan Colobus Monkey above pretty much followed everything Nuwan tells you to do in the nice Guide although on the Adobe site there are two short videos that go over pretty much the same thing. If you do not want to watch the videos, I have created a synopsis of what was in his videos below these photos.
Image of some tables at a restaurant on Turtle Key in The Bahamas
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Watercolor Painted Coleus plants in front of Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida
Here is the quick low-down from Nuwan’s videos on how to do get this action to work nicely:

1. Image Information:

Make sure your image height and width parameters are between 2000 and 5000 px. Otherwise your image will be huge once the action is run completely. I tried this and got a 2.4 Gig image – my computer was not happy! Therefore, I changed my image size into one for the web before running the actions.

Make sure your image has a full range of tones with shadows, highlights and midtones before you start.

2. Setup Action:

After running the Setup Action, use the selected hard-edged brush called Watercolor Artist Basic Brush to paint in your “focus area.” Set the Opacity and Fill of all the brushes to 100%. I tried using the focus brush at a lower opacity to in bring less of certain areas, and it just did not look right. Can change the default orange color to a sampled color from the image and it will add more of that tone into the resulting watercolor image. A bright pink was used in the Coleus Plant image to give it more pink tones instead of orange.

Apparently other selection tools can be used such as the Lasso or Quick Selection Tools, and then fill the selection with the foreground color, but Duwan finds using the brush is the easiest way to define your focus point. Don’t make the whole image the focus area as different brushes and layers are used for areas outside the focus area than for the inside.

The focus area can be painted close to your subject or it can include areas outside the subject. In the Monkey image above, it was set outside a little which is why the foreground rock and greens have more definition than the background which was really busy in the original photo.

Nuwan says that a focus area with regular and simple shapes will generate fewer brush strokes than selected areas with complex lines. Also do not leave a bunch of holes in the focus area – it will not look good and they are hard to even out later.

This action converts the image into an 8-bit image.

3. Watercolor Artist Action:

When the Watercolor Artist action is run, it will take a while to process. He says that for a 3000 px image, it will take less than 3 minutes. It took me less than 3 minutes, but I am using smaller images.

The result will look a little scary if nothing else! There are 8 groups that cover all aspects of the resulting watercolor image. The PDF does a pretty good job explaining the different groups so I will only go over what I found really helpful.

  • First open up the Image Control group and highlight the Reveal Details layer. Choose a watercolor brush and paint in the mask with white. He used his Watercolor Artist-Medium brush just to help you get started at this point. The last 12 brushes were used in the action and do not necessarily work with this layer for painting. They can still work for special effects though.

Paint over in the highlighted layer mask some of the important parts of the image to bring back the details. If you have other watercolor brushes that you really like, there is no reason you cannot use them on this mask.

  • In the same Image Control group, select the Custom Watercolor layer. Paint in the layer mask with different brushes to add the custom effects around the subject. It can be duplicated several times to add different types of strokes. The opacity of the layers can be adjusted to give interesting results. Duwan used the Watercolor Artist-Dry brush for this. I used the same brush on my images and used extra Custom Watercolor layers.
  • Add Shadows, Add Midtones, Add Filling – try different blend modes for these layers and note that the opacity is controlled by adjusting the layer Fill slider and not the Opacity slider. By increasing the Fill on the Add Filling layer, it will fill in some of the empty areas of the watercolor effect – try some different blend modes like Multiply for a look. For Add Shadows and Add Midtones layers, try Darken, Multiply, and Color Burn blend modes.
  • Texture Overlay, Fine Sharpen, Sharpen – All use the Fill slider to adjust the opacity. The Sharpen layer is the one most affecting the final image.

The rest of the groups can be opened and layers opened and closed to get add or remove different effects – a lot of sketching and splatter strokes here and layer masks are provided to easily remove unwanted marks on your image. The opacities can be lowered individually or as a group. Different papers or textures can be substituted for the ones provided including any painted textures you might own. The Post FX group is one where many different adjustment layers are located – this can really help add the tones or colors needed to make the image really look great.

Syd’s Tip:  I found this is really necessary to get all the foci of the images to look correct. After making a lot of the adjustments in the various groups, either create a selection, as in the Monkey image where the face was duplicated with a Lasso Tool, or as in the other images where the whole background layer was duplicated – then place on top of the Watercolor Action group. Add a black layer mask and with a watercolor brush at a lower opacity like 20%, areas that needed a bit more structure can be painted back in. The actual layer opacity can also be adjusted if the result is too much. And if you are a bit of a digital painter, it is important to have a brush handy to clean up the edges and areas that need a little clean up. That is what was done on the pink Coleus Plants. As a final step for me a stamped layer of the image was opened in Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Studio using the Texture Adjustment’s Group set to Borders. There are several choices and the borders can be flipped, color changed, and blend mode and opacity changed. This was done on both the Monkey and Coleus images. I just painted a white watercolor border for the Bahamas image.

I hope you download and give this action a try. It does take a little time and I am still working on getting better results, but this action does have some great possibilities. Just using it as a starting point for painting digitally in watercolor would be good. Happy Painting!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Get Painting Effects from Actions-Part 1
Some Watercolor Fun!
Red Hibiscus Holiday Cheer!


MORE JACK DAVIS PAINTING!

Image of apartment buildings in Minsk, BelarusThis week I have been working on my Photoshop painting skills. This painted image is of a group of apartment homes on a highway just outside Minsk, Belarus. I love all the classic geometric shapes in this image to give it a very interesting feel. I have not painted recently so this image was used to go try out the techniques of one of my favorite Photoshop gurus, Jack Davis, and his wonderful free Davis-Mixer Painting Setup-Beta action (located in Jack’s Freebies section of FB). This action is a lot of fun to use and is somewhat similar to the Mixer Brush Cloning Paint Setup action that comes with Photoshop. His various techniques are presented in his wonder Creative Live videos called Painting with Adobe Photoshop, but watch his Adobe MAX: Expressive Painting in Photoshop for a quick overview (need to zoom through to get to this Mixer Brush action technique). Basically just followed his steps and finished up with a few adjustment layers to adjust color and contrast. And yes, the Grut FX Cloud Brushes were used in this image! That was it. It takes quite a while to paint an image of this size, but it is also very creative and relaxing to do. And do not get upset if it looks awful for quite a while – it all pulls together at the end. Sort of an amazing process!

Image of Farm in BelarusThis painted image was taken in Belarus at a Farm near a Local Art and Zoo facility in the countryside. This image also used the same action as above. Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) ReStyle was used to set the color palette just right. There are so many steps in this action do not many steps was done afterwards. Jack’s provided brushes were also used in both images although one from Melissa Gallo was used for to get the nice foliage effect. There are a few tips and tricks that Jack has in his Creative Live videos that really help with the overall effect. Once again, it took quite a while to get the final result.

For more examples of Jack’s technique, check out my Can You Get a Painting Look With a Photoshop Action? Jack Davis Can! blog. Also another example of the above action using a flower image can be see at my Tidbits Blog called Jack Davis Painting Action Really Works!  He has 12 different actions in the download to get different effects in his Action so check it out. And he supplies you with all the brushes needed to use these actions.

That’s it for this week. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd


SAME IMAGE-DIFFERENT LOOK

Image of a vintage blue corvette Decided to take this week off from serious blogging so just posting the same pix with some different filters applied. This image was taken a while back at a Turkey Run held in Daytona Beach at the International Speedway center field the day after Thanksgiving. I believe they have a new location on Beach Street. Since I am a big corvette fan, I had to take a lot of pix of them and this was one of them.

The above image results followed a little written Topaz Labs blog by Jodi L. Robbins called Auto Shine Tutorial with Topaz Glow 2. Very simple steps to follow and it creates a nice preset for the recently updated (and free if you already own) Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Glow 2 to use on with cars, boats and motorcycles. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) above, Topaz Lens Effects’ Diffusion filter was opened and sliders set to Softness 0.32, Diffusion 0.63, and Edge Transition 0.35. Back n Photoshop a layer mask was added and the car was completely painted out so the Glow effect was totally removed there and just a little in the foreground area. A Black and White Adjustment Layer was added on top and set to Luminosity blend mode to further enhance the focal point. That was all that was done. I really like the beautiful vivid color with the soft look of the whole image.
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Image of old blue corvette using On1 EffectsThis image used On1 Effects 10 (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link), and it looks really natural! Created these nice results by following a video, this time by Blake Rudis called ON1 Short Clip – The Preset Workflow Trick. I am finding that by downloading his preset and using it as a starting point, a really nice sharp image results. In the plug-in, the On1 Glow effect was masked off the car to keep it in sharp focus.That is all that was done to this image!

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Image of vintage corvette sketchThis image used a free Photoshop action called FX Paint and Sketch Action – using only the sketch action. The action layer was duplicated and the layer mask was applied and set to Multiply blend mode. The bottom background layer was duplicated and a Gaussian Blur with a Radius set to 112 was set just above it. That is all that was done – once again a very simple process! I was really surprised by the interesting tint effect that appeared in the image.

Definitely worth trying different filters and actions on an image to discover very different results. Some turn out to be really outstanding and it was never apparent it would look as it does. Will be taking a summer break next week and be back in a few. Have a great weekend!…..Digital Lady Syd


USING A NICE ACTION!

Image of a Yawning Malayan Tiger at the West Palm Beach ZooSince I am reorganizing my office this week and probably next week, I am just posting a short blog. I found a free action set from Gavin Phillips that is pretty nice and thought I would share it with you. This beautiful Malayan Tiger was actually yawning at the West Palm Beach Zoo – this was the coolest large cat I have ever seen! He spent a lot of time posing for my camera as I was the only one standing there! Very entertaining!

Used Gavin Phillips free Elegance Action (go to Free Downloads tab and select Free Actions in drop-down) – Gavin is an Action Master! This is a fairly long action that creates several adjustment layers to get the final effect. Mainly removed the Haze mists off the tiger by painting in its layer mask – otherwise not much adjustment in the action layers. Above the action group, a Selective Color Adjustment Layer was used to turn the background into a more cyan color. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Texture Effects’s Crisp Morning Run preset (one of my favorites) was added on a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and just the Texture, Light Leaks and Split Tone sections were used – then a Vignette was added. Nik Viveza 2 (now free) was used to emphasize the face and tongue area. The whiskers were cleaned up using Kyle’s free Animator Pencil. That was it! Love the color and texture in this image.

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Painted image in the Sumi-e style using Corel PainterThis image was painted in Corel Painter to begin with using Karen Bonaker Digital Art Academy‘s great tutorial called Sumi-E Secrets so it is not exactly an original. It was fun to try this technique and it was so much fun to paint! When you buy her tutorials, she gives you everything you need including videos, Brushes and Papers that may be required to get the effects, including the deer in this case. I liked the original image at this point, but since I am always trying out different ways to get a little different look, the last iteration of the file in Painter was saved as a PSD file and brought into Photoshop. Then a few special effects like snow and a little glitter was added for the wintry effect. Now Gavin’s Natural Light action was applied as is – it contained 6 layers that can be adjusted. It gave the image a little more of a dreamy soft sunset look.

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Purple flowers taken at Harry P. Lei Gardens in Orlando, FloridaThese purple flowers were taken at the Harry P. Leu Gardens at Orlando, Florida. This was a pretty simple workflow – once the image was brought into Photoshop, Gavin’s Elegance action was run again – I really like the results of this action. Several of the layers were adjusted in the action, but nothing major. Next Viveza 2 was used to add emphasis correctly on the flowers. I really like the effect created by this action.

There are four actions in the set – Elegance, Natural Light, Timeless and Vintage. I plan on trying the other two when I have time – Gavin has done a lot of great actions so check out his website if you like what you see. Hope everyone has a nice holiday weekend here in the US and hope everyone else is enjoying the weekend also! I will be painting!…..Digital Lady Syd

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DOUBLE EXPOSURE PHOTOSHOP ACTION

Image of giraffes wtih a map printed on their bodies
Here are my wonderful Jacksonville Zoo giraffes again, this time showing a rather different effect using a Photoshop Action. It was created by adding an old colorful African Map from 1584 onto their bodies with a wonderful, currently free, set of actions from Pretty Actions called Double Exposure Collection. (To download, need to Join their Facebook group and the link will become available – see the Double Exposure Photoshop Actions Tutorial video for tips on using the action.) I do not use a lot of actions in my workflow, but they can really be helpful and save a lot of time. This is the case with this action – it could all be done manually, but Pretty Actions has come up with some quick steps to speed up the process and give you lots of choices to finalize the effect.

The basic double exposure actions allow you to open your image, and then add a different one to use for blending into the image along with layer masks. Several Levels adjustment layers are  provided to add to the effect – Matte, Make It Cool, and Add Contrast were used in the above. All these layers can be adjusted by using the blend modes and layer opacities. In addition, I clipped a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (ALT+Click between the layers) to get the colors of the map just right. A spotlight was set on the small giraffe’s head to highlight it just a little more (see my How To Add a Spot of Light blog from last week). Also a darken layer was used to emphasize some of the edges around the giraffe’s bodies (see my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog).
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Image of some basket weave flowers with texture added on top
This image was taken of some basket-weave material shaped into flowers as a bouquet and is another example of what can be done with this action. The main flower seemed to be perfect to add a special effect using the same action as above. This time a texture was taken from EK Duncan’s My Fanciful Muse blog – Ackermann’s Repository (scroll down to last example-version 3). The texture layer was actually set to the Subtract blend mode and the Blend If sliders adjusted to get the correct effect. The texture layer was duplicated and still set to Subtract at 67% layer opacity, and then duplicated again and set to Multiply blend mode. Layer masks were used to adjust where the texture was applied. ON1 Effect 10 (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) was used to add color and detail to the texture in the flower – an Adjustment Brush set to Vibrance was painted over the inside of the flower, and the HDR Look filter set to the Glow preset was used to sharpen details. On a New Layer, the Spot Healing Tool was used to clean up the image as a final step. I thought this turned our rather unique!

There are several videos on how to do this without an action, but Pretty Actions has done a good job of getting this effect started for you. If you are interested in getting a unique effect, I would suggest that you check out this action – it is easy to do and a lot of fun!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
A Pretty Fancy Carousel Horse!


TRYING OUT THE MIXART SKETCH ACTION

Image of a Ferris WheelJust a quick blog this week. Decided to show the results of a rather fun inexpensive action I bought recently. This ferris wheel image taken in Savannah, Georgia a while back and was one was my first attempts using the Mix Art Sketch (SS-MixArt) action. I have to admit it takes probably 10 minutes for my rather older computer to run the whole action, but afterwards there were lots of options that can be adjusted to get the sketch-like effect. Overall I love this action. It is compatible with CS3 and on. I added my own Corel Painter texture to the above image and used some of Kyle T. Webster’s wonderful Watercolor Brushes on separate layers on top to add some additional solid wash colors and splatters. Kyle may have the best Photoshop watercolor brushes around!

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Image of Growing Tomatoes on Epcot's The Land rideI am still learning how to modify the different layers and layer masks to get the results I like. There are 9 layer groups that can be used on your image (Background Set, Background Elements, Main Focus, Engraving, Brushed Strokes, Paint Splash, Textures, Contrast Adjustments, and Color Adjustments). If you decide you like the group effect on the image, you can go in and adjust the individual layer opacities and blend modes, or change the adjustment layer opacities to get a more exact effect. The tomato image used all but the Paint Splash group – instead two layers of Kyle T. Webster’s Real Watercolor Spatter Dense brush (my very favorite spatter brush) were added onto the image to give a more painterly effect. I also like the Texture Group’s half-tone pattern that can be added in the image.

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Image of some kids watching waves at Daytona BeachI call this image “Wave Watching” and it was taken on Daytona Beach, Florida. This same action was used. Just a lot of fiddling around with the different layer opacities and layer masks to get the effect I wanted. Some clean up was done on a separate layer. A Black and White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity blend mode was added to get the exact color needed. A few more spatters using Kyle’s Real Watercolor Spatter brush on a separate top layer gave a little more texture to the water.

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Image of people eating at a cafe in Edinburgh, ScotlandJust another example of what can be done with this action using the same steps. Image taken in Edinburgh, Scotland on a warm day.

If you want a the sketch look on an image, this might be a nice inexpensive choice for getting the effect. The action cost me $5.00 and it is one of the most extensive actions I have ever used. I think it is an effect that would look really nice on personal cards, especially if you have cute kids to add. See you next week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Akvis Sketch Plug-in for Photoshop
How To Get Painting Effects from Actions-Part 2


HOW TO GET PAINTING EFFECTS FROM ACTIONS-Part 2

Image of Edinburgh, Scotland, from the castleI have been enjoying learning about several actions people have created that give some interesting twists to an image, and some are quite painterly. Last week I presented Part 1 on action based images, and this week Part 2 is a totally different kind of look also created with actions. I have to thank Diana Day for the blog comment (here is a link to a beautiful flower image she created with the following set) that directed me to this little gem.

Ultimate Artist Action by Brandy Murry

The above image was taken from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland.The Ultimate Artist packet is an inexpensive set ($7.50 at this time) provided by Scrap Girls, one of the really nice website that scrapbook hobbyists use. Besides the three actions provided, this packet also included three brushes (although you can use any of your brushes),  six layer styles including one pattern for use in the styles and Pattern Adjustment Layers, two videos, and PDF instructions. I wanted to try a landscape so the Sepia Action was selected. The supplied Sketch brush was used to painted detail in the buildings but not the sky area. Following her suggestion in the videos, I copied the bottom original layer and moved it on top to add some color back into the image. This layer was set to Vivid Light at 59% opacity. On a New Layer some color was added into the image by painting with her Sketch brush. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added to get the colors exactly how I liked them, then set it to Darker Color blend mode at 77% layer opacity. Now the sky looked bad, so a cloud texture I had painted in Corel Painter were added for a more painterly feel. Any cloud brushes would also have worked. The sky color was changed back to a beige color as the blue just did not look right from the original. To do this a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the painted cloud layer and the city was painted back in the mask.  Added a painted edge border on a New Layer on top – used the provided Sketch brush again to do this. Finally on a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Brandy’s Texture 2 layer style was applied. The pattern did not completely cover the image and left a line down the right side, so the Pattern Overlay Scale was changed to 165% and the Blend Mode was set to Multiply at 24% (from the default Overlay at 100%) to get a very subtle overall textured feel. I really like the supplied pattern for this effect. This image took a long time for me to get to a point that I liked.

Image of yellow daisies that used Ultimate Artist action for effectThis image of my front yard yellow daisies that gives a very popular effect and is sold as an artistic effect in many stores. This image was cropped into a square and then the Color Action was run. The Watercolor Brush supplied was used to paint in the flowers on the action’s created black layer mask. When finished I decided to apply the layer mask so that I could add a texture behind the flowers that I painted in. The Outline Guide layer was turned off and Melissa Gallo’s beautiful Painted Texture April Pastel was brought in as layer under the flowers. French Kiss’s (see my Tidbits Blog for website link) Vintage French Recois overlay (the French writing) was placed over the flowers layer and set to a brownish color using a clipped Color Fill Adjustment Layer (CTRL+click between layers to clip). A layer mask was added to the lettering layer and it was lightly painted away from the flowers. Next I decided I wanted a more painted texture in the image so several New Layers were added using Creative Toons Watercolor brushes ( Creative Toons Watercolor Brushes – these were free from Photoshop Creative Magazine No. 113) on the different layers in different colors at different opacities. They were grouped to create just one layer look and set to 82% layer opacity. On a New Layer French Kiss Dot Grunge 04 was added and changed to a purplish color using same technique as the French Kiss overlay. Last step involved creating a watercolor border by painting around the edge of a layer with your favorite brush – the supplied brushes can do this easily. This was really a lot of fun to create and the package was very inexpensive.

Image of a vintage post cardJust having some more fun with this little action set. The flower followed basically the same actions and painting steps as above, just different Creative Toons Watercolor brushes. Next added the image to a beautiful free frame from Keep Designing.com called Antique Design Background and Rustic Frame and then Shadowhouse Creations free vintage Post Card Set 3-post card 3. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReStyle was used to really get the look I liked. The address is one of my overlays I created (see my How to Create Personal Overlays for Your Images blog) and the French stamp is from French Kiss Collections. This image really took a lot of fiddling around with to get it to all go together but it was lots of fun to do.

A Few Brush Hints

After spending a large amount of time with these actions, I felt really nice effects can be achieved with them. The bottom two image worked out very well when flowers are used. But the landscape image turned out to be a lot of work and a  lot of manipulation had to be done to achieve a look I liked – I believe I could do this same effect in some of my Photoshop plug-ins a lot easier and get a similar result. I discovered the watercolor brush to be especially nice, but you need to go into the Brush Panel and check the Spacing checkbox to see the stroke effect in the Preview box. I had trouble getting the nice watercolor effect she got in her videos so some of the brush parameters were adjusted. Remember that the Options Bar settings are sticky so check the opacity and flow settings – a wrong setting can give very different results. On her Watercolor Brush she has the Enable Airbrush-style Build Up turned on – this means that the paint builds up as you hold her Watercolor Brush in one place. (To turn on in a brush, check the Build Up section in the Brush Panel – it activates the Option Bar icon at the same time or just check the Options Bar icon.) Jack Davis uses this setting in his watercolor brushes but most do not use it. I got a little bit of edge difference so experiment with turning it on and off – and a mouse vs. a stylus can give very different results so play with these settings. And if your lines are not as scattered as hers, go in and change the scattering – check out the preview section and change the sliders to see what is happening. I got a really nice Scattering effect with this brush by setting the Scatter to 190% and the Count to 2. The Brush Panel can be very useful to help get the look you like. Also, if you find a brush you like, be sure to save it as a brush preset to use again – otherwise your settings are lost when you change brushes.

Overall I think Brandy has done a great job in creating thee actions – it definitely creates more of a sketch look and would look great on note cards or for personal gifts. I still need to work with the actions to get some better results. Definitely spend time watching the included videos as they do give some extra info on how to set up the brushes. There were several images I used that did not work out – the landscape image needed a lot of contrast, which she says to do, to get a good result. What I liked best were her brushes – very nice place to start so you can create some really useful ones of your own – and her layer styles. If you enjoy this painting effect, it would definitely be worth purchasing – there is a lot of “bang for the buck” with this set. See ya next week!…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO GET PAINTING EFFECTS FROM ACTIONS-Part 1

Illustrative image of the Circus McGurkus at Seuss Land, Universal Studios, FloridaSince we are all clamoring to learn how to paint and how to give our images an artistic flair, this blog is about some really cool free painterly actions that I recently learned about! I really did not have high expectations since these were not sites I was familiar with (like the wonderful Jack Davis and his actions! See my Can You Get a Painting Look With a Photoshop Action? Jack Davis Can! blog). But still, since they were about painting effects, I had to try them. Well, if nothing else  these actions can serve as a great starting point to getting a painted look up and going rather quickly. I decided to break this down into two parts since this is a pretty long topic to cover in one blog, so next week a different action will be presented.

Painting Effects by SparkleStock

The above is another one of my quirky images from Universal Studios Orlando (I think I am obsessed with this place!) of The Circus McGurkus in Seuss Landing and I just had to do something with it. So this is how I got the really cute illustrative effect with lots of paint in it without too much trouble.

1. First step is to download the Painting Effects by SparkleStock from Photoshop Tutorials – there are three free actions for download.
2. Need to change your image into 8-bit mode if it is in 16-bit as the actions use the Photoshop Filter Gallery and will not work with 16-bit mode images. Go to Edit -> Mode -> 8-bit.
3. Run the action.

After applying Seim’s Power 4 Workflow (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Magic-Harsh Sun Fixer preset to image in Lightroom, it was opened in Photoshop and the Modern Watercolor action was selected. The original action did not leave that great a result, but by changing the patterns in the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layers, totally different results can be easily obtained. The Outline layer was changed to Soft Light at 36% opacity. The Underlying Layer Blend If slider was changed to black tab 24/53, and Color Overlay was turned off. In the Pattern Fill 1 Adjustment Layer, I found a leafy pattern that had a lot of gray and white in it set to 110% Scale. In the Dark Paint Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer, I selected a very colorful pattern from 10 Free Seamless Colored Splatter Textures Pattern 7 set to 535% Scale that shows up in the white areas of the image . Both of these layers were left set to Overlay blend mode at 100% layer opacity. Then on several New Layers I painted on the image using various brushes, including those wonderful watercolor brushes from Creative Toons ( Creative Toons Watercolor Brushes – these were free from Photoshop Creative Magazine No. 113)). Clouds were painted in, the elephant’s body shadow lines were smoothed, and more color was added to the circus tent to give a more festive look. This was too much fun! A stamped layer was created on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and two identical outside Radial Filters in the Camera Raw filter were added to really light up the edges (used these settings: Exposure +2.25, Contrast -47, Highlights -50, Shadows -21, Clarity +100, Saturation +28, and Sharpness +43) – layer was set to 74% layer opacity. Created another Stamped layer and applied Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Detail 3 (these settings to adjust the color just a little sharpness to the image: Overall Small Details 0.3, Small Boost -0.05, Medium Details 0.35, Medium Boost 0, Large Details 0.25, Large Boost 0, Shadows -0.34, Cyan-Red, Magenta-Green 0.61, Yellow-Blue 0.45.  Set Overall Effect in the Mask section at 58%). Used French Kiss’s Sponged Edge overlay (from her Tableaux Texture Collection) and set it to a light pink. This action really allowed me to get a great painterly effect while it did the groundwork.

Image of a street in St. Andrews, ScotlandThis is an image I took a while ago of one of the most beautiful and charming cities I have ever visited (and of course the home of the most famous links golf course – Wow! See my The Old Course at St. Andrews image on Flickr.) The same Modern Watercolor action was used like above – I seem to get better results with this action than the other two. Detailed steps are listed as to how I got this look since it did take a lot of manipulation to get the effect. I have found the action is a great starting place, but it takes some help to get a really nice painterly feel to it. So bear with me as I list my steps (or skip over if you don’t need them).

1. Used the new CC Perspective Warp Command to set this town up a little straighter. There was some real tilting going on in the original image. (For instructions on this, check out Terry White’s What’s New in CC-1/14/14 Update)
2. Ran SparkleStock’s Modern Watercolor Action. Be sure you are in 8-bit mode before running.
3.  Changed bottom pattern to Sandpaper and Scale of 100% – Layer Blend Mode changed to soft light at 68%. Set This Layer blend If to 176 and 255.
4. Changed the second pattern to my SJ Purplish1 Impasto Texture Pattern at Scale of 238%. Set Blend Mode to Divide at 100% Layer Opacity. This texture I created in Painter and it really is a pretty subtle one – I converted it to a pattern by going to Edit -> Define Pattern – you can do this with any texture you have. This texture was basically just some smaller brush strokes in various tones of purple and white – I would suggest finding a couple of textures you own and just converting them to patterns and trying them out in the image. I probably tried out 10 textures before I found one I liked for this image. And try different Scale settings and blend modes. Each image will give very different results.
5. On Color Adjustment layer changed Saturation +67 and Lightness -11.
6. Changed Outline opacity to 47% and turned off the Cutout filter eyeball.
7. Added a Selective Color Adjustment Layer on top of action group (Absolute (Greens-Cyan -25, Magenta +1, Yellow -18 and Black 0; Blues-Cyan +13, Magenta -8, Yellow +20, and Black -11; Whites-Cyan +4, Magenta -9, Yellow -8, and Black +25; Neutrals-Cyan +7, Magenta 0, Yellow -14, and Black -1; and Blacks-Cyan -6, Magenta +1, Yellow -8, and Black -1) and set to 54% layer opacity. This made adjusted the color in the sky to ones I liked.
8. Added New Layer on top and used DC (David Cole’s Complete Digital Painting Techniques ) Watercolor Washer Brush (click here to download his wonderful brushes) on the foreground and to touch up little areas. Gives more painterly look.
9.  Created 2 New Layers to blend in the sky which I just didn’t love the way it looked – used Mixer brush by Fay Sirkis using  her CS6 Oily Rich Blender #1. (I love her brushes! If you are a KelbyOne member, they can be downloaded from her older webinars.) If not, download the Wet Media Brushes that come with Photoshop, change to the Mixer Brush Tool, and select the first brush, Round Point Thin Bristle set to a small size – under 20 px. Use these settings up in your Options Bar to get a nice blend brush – Turn on Load after every stroke, Turn off Clean after every stroke, set to Very Wet, Heavy Mix which sets the other settings, and check Sample All Layers. Try a different brush if this does not work – any brush can used as a Mixer Brush as long as it is listed in your Brush Preset Panel. It is really fun to paint with a Mixer Brush.
10. Create a Stamped Layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) which combines all layers into one on top.
11.  Opened Topaz ReStyle and applied the Bleached Raw Umber preset (Settings used ReStyle opacity 36%;; Hue Primary -0.19, Secondary 0.34, Third -0.23, Fourth -0.70, and Fifth 0.48; Sat Primary 0.55; and Lum Primary -0.58, Fourth 0.39, and Fifth -0.58; Texture 0.27; Basic Tone Black Level 0.47, Midtones 0.05, and White Level -0.28; and Detail Structure 0.42 and Sharpness -0.55. In Photoshop set opacity to 46%). Totally transformed the image into something that is just the look I wanted – ReStyle Rocks!

Okay – what have we got here? A pretty nice action set (and you cannot beat the price!) that gives you a great place to start – it reminds me of how an underpainting would look. Personally I find it works best on landscape type images – not having good luck with flowers and close-ups, but I will continue experimenting to see if I can figure it out. If you need a decent Mixer Brush to use on a New Layer above the actions, check out Step 9 – everyone can make this brush and it does a pretty nice job of blending some of the wild texturing. Also, create some patterns out of your textures for use in the different Pattern Adjustment Layers – see Step 4 – totally easy! Now you have some real variety and some very interesting results should happen. SparkleStock has created a very nice action for all of us to you. Next week I have another action that gives a totally different look, but still a great artistic look – so stay tuned! Until next week and Part 2, have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd


Can You Get a Painting Look With a Photoshop Action? Jack Davis Can!

This week I am just doing a post on Jack Davis’ Painting Actions Sampler Beta 2013. I really enjoyed a video called Adobe MAX: Expressive Painting in Photoshop that Jack Davis (Photoshop Hall of Famer and very creative artist besides being the Wow Book guy!) did for the Adobe Max 2013 recently. This is a very entertaining video and I recommend your listening to it to get some new ideas for giving your photos a painterly look. He directs you to his Jack Davis Wow Facebook page where you can download several items including the action used on these images after Liking his page (see Freebies). The last image covers the Mixer Brush techniques from the video. The Pattern Stamp Tool and Art History Brush Tool techniques are in the PDF files downloaded from the site. He provides all the brushes, patterns, textures, pdf’s, and actions to use the tools he teaches so this is definitely a resource you will want to get.

Above is the Clansman Restaurant in Loch Ness, Scotland. I love the understated way this image looks even with this filter. Not so obvious you are using the Oil Paint Filter. In Lightroom 5 the Lens Profile, Chromatic Aberration and Upright Perspective checkboxes were ticked. Next David duChemin’s Lightroom preset Mid Tone Lift + Vignette + Clarity was applied before bringing image into CS6. This gave the whole image a little bit of a vintage feel. The first thing you need to do is to convert you image to an 8 bit file if is not already one by going to Image -> Mode -> 8 Bits/Channel – otherwise some of the filters in the action will not work. You also must right click on the image and select Convert to Smart Object as all the filters line up underneath your original image. (In Lightroom you can select Open as Smart Object in Photoshop to save this step.) I noted that you can actually duplicate the image and use the top layer for all the action work. This can be handy if you want to mask out some effect and pick up the image below. After that, the Davis Painting Actions Sampler-Beta 2013 needs to be loaded into the Actions Panel and Wow Smart Object Painting 1 selected. Run this action – five filters will line up in your Smart Object: Median, Oil Paint, Emboss, and two Filter Gallery (Rough Pastel and Texturizer). If you do not like any of the results, you can go back into any of the filters and adjust them until you get the effect you like. It is very quick and gets you a very good start going towards a nice painterly effect. I have already covered the Oil Paint Filter in Photoshop CS6 (and for CS5) in a previous post (see my Photoshop’s CS6 (and Pixel Bender’s) Oil Paint Filter blog), check it out for how the different sliders work for this filter. The close up below tries to show the nice painterly effect that is created. For more info on how this image was processed, see Image 1 notes at end of blog.
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This old building in Oahu, Hawaii, used the action twice on the image – it was first run as the action is set up with the Oil Paint Filter settings left alone. The second time it was run, the sliders were changed to these settings: to Stylization 1.39, cleanliness 4, Scale 10, Bristle Detail, Angular Lighting 0, and Shine 0.35. Then a black layer mask was added and the areas where more detail was required were gently painted back in with a low opacity white brush into the mask. Definitely has more of the traditional Oil Paint Filter look to it. See Image 2 at end of blog for more info.
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These pink pentas were painted from a picture I took in my front yard. Basically this is a mega action called Davis-Mixer Paint SetUp-BETA that was run and the steps were followed. This is an absolutely genius action (if you listen to the video you get the background on it). You end up with 8 layers to paint on using the Mixer Brushes he supplies. The action includes layers called Rough Underpainting, Refine Painting Details, Final Highlights, Final Shadows, and Final Blending beside several reference and back up layers. See the notes for Image 3 at end of blog for more tips on how to use this action.
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The images above do not do justice to how the image really looks at 100%. The texture is very subtle on them. I am not near as good as Jack Davis is with his painting actions, but I am going to try to play with it some more as I see several possibilities to create some very nice paintings. I also believe incorporating the Mixer Brush technique from the video improves the final outcome. Definitely check out his video and also watch for him on CreativeLIVE where he gives free tutorials on all aspects of Photoshop, Lightroom and Graphic Design. I have followed him for years and still refer to a little book called Adobe Photoshop 7 One Click Wow – this is where I learned how to create and use layer styles. Hope you enjoy trying this little action – it really is a lot of fun to use!…..Digital Lady Syd

NOTES FOR IMAGES

Image 1: After the action was applied to the image, some clean up was done where a couple things looked funny. Next 2 Lil’ Owls (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Color Bokeh Grunge Set – 5 was applied and set to Linear Burn blend mode at 94% opacity. In the layer style the This Layer white tab was split (ALT+click on the tab) and set to 194/214 – this took some of the white out of the center of the image. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added for contrast with the Midtones set to 0.71 and the Output Levels set to 41 and 255. A New Layer set to Overlay was used to darken the centers of the flowers and a few other places. (See my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog.) The last step used my free SJ B&W Border Frame with the black color changed to one sampled in the image.

Image 2: Adjusted the Basic sliders and in HSL section several Luminance sliders. Also a Post Cropping white vignette frame was created setting the Style to Color Priority, Amount to +100, Midpoint 11, Roundness -100, and Feather 3, before opening image in Photoshop CS6. The image was converted to 8 bits/channel. A couple clouds were added on a separate layer using my free SJ Clouds 1 brush. This layer was set to 72% opacity. A composite layer was created now (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and then duplicated so that I could run the action twice. The first composite layer was turned into a Smart Object and the action was run. Then the second layer was turned into a Smart Object and it was run. Then the Oil Paint filter was double-clicked to open up the interface, and the settings under the image were applied. A black layer mask was added to this layer and just the parts where I wanted more detail were carefully painted back with a low opacity white brush. The last step involved just adding a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a little contrast back into the image.

Image 3: This image actually froze up my computer while doing it – not sure if it has to do with the very RAM intensive Mixer Brushes, but be prepared for a bit of a slow down. The way the action was set up is so that you do not Sample All Layers which make the Mixer Brushes a lot faster. Only the Blender layer requires All Layers. A few tips I wrote down to help you do this type of image are:

1. The Eraser Tool was set to 50% opacity and 123 pixels. I found when something got messed up on one of the layers, it was easier to just erase it away and then paint over it the correct way. If you own a Wacom tablet, you can set up your pen so it will erase when you turn it upside down. I do this all the time.

2. At the beginning especially, keep your Reference for Tracing-Outlines on all the time and Turn the Reference for Tracing-Photos on and off as needed.

3. Use your Highlights layer to shape the edges of you image. The Shadows layer seemed too heavy-handed, but the Highlights really helped. By keeping your Eraser Brush at 50%, you can reduce the intensity real easy by flipping your pen.

4. I changed the patterns in both Pattern Fill Adjustment Layers in the action. I turned off the bottom Pattern Fill 1 Adjustment Layer and added French Kiss Studio 3 White Wash texture and used a Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer and Curves Adjustment Layer both clipped to the texture to remove color.

5. I found I had to go back to the Rough Underpainting layer to fill in areas that got covered up wrong several times. I really spent a lot of time working back and forth between all the layers to get the effect I wanted.

6. The last thing I did was to add a black layer mask to the Reference for Tracing-Photo and painted back in with a soft low opacity white brush any areas that had the wrong color or rough edges still.

7. Found a Curves Adjustment Layer was needed to add just a little contrast back into the whole image.

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5! – uses a similar method to create a painterly look


Shadowhouse Creations Actions

I do not use actions very often, partly because the good creative ones are very expensive. But Jerry Jones at Shadowhouse Creations came up with three sets of actions that I am finding really nice and plan on using. The image above used the Fond Memories Action in Action Set 3. First the image was cropped and basic sliders were adjusted in Lightroom. (See below for all the original images as brought in from Lightroom 4.1.) Then once in Photoshop, Topaz (see website link in sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Detail’s Overall Medium Detail II preset was applied and some basic flower clean up was done. When using Jerry’s actions, I like to first create a duplicate copy of the image (Image -> Duplicate) just before running the action. The duplicate image is then flattened (click pop-out window in upper right corner of Layers Panel and select Flatten). It also goes a lot faster if you set the image is set to 8-bit mode first (go to Image -> Edit -> 8-bit) – this is OK if you are not planning to create a huge final print. Next my free SJ Impasto Smeary Flat texture (created while messing around in Corel Painter with an Impasto brush – who knew I would use it) was applied and set it to Hard Light at 20% opacity. Next French Kiss  Artiste Collections‘s Savoire Faire Overlay was added and using a layer mask, the French lettering was removed from the flower. The last step applied Shadowhouse Creations Grunge Gift Stock 10 texture set to Color Burn blend mode at 81% opacity.
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Loved this shot of a very patriotic corvette from the 39th Annual Daytona Turkey Run (I love corvettes!). Anyway, the image did not need much work as the car was so pretty as is, but I did manage to run Shadowhouse Creations Classy HDR Effect from his Action Set 2. I actually used the History Brush to paint back the original image windshield as the action caught too much glare in the glass. If you have not used the History Brush, it is a pretty nifty tool for these kind of issues. Just select the History Brush in the toolbox, set the brush opacity to 100% in this case, go up to the original image (or history state that includes the part you want painted back in) in the History Panel and click to the left of the histsory state’s thumbnail to set the History Brush icon. Now add a New Layer and paint back the parts you want restored. In this case a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added and clipped it to the New Layer (ALT+click between the layers to link it} so just the changes occur to the New Layer. Then the Saturation was set to -54 to match the image better.
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This image of Purple Fountain Grass uses the beautiful Classy Sepia Action from Action Set 1. I really liked the tone this action creates. This image first required a lot of clean up due to the various background distractions, and Topaz Detail 3 was applied to just the focal parts of the grass. I saved this image and then started with a flattened image to apply the action. Next Shadowhouse Creations Scratchbox 3 texture was applied at Normal blend mode and 43% opacity – a layer mask was added to paint out the center but left the edges softened by the texture. A PNG grunge border was added which I created (see my How to Make Frames or Borders blog). A beige Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped to the frame.
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I really loved this action – the Dreamy Paint Action from Action Set 3. First I duplicated the flower in the first image and warped it so it sits behind the other flower. Then I ran the action, did some background clean up, and added a texture made with a spatter brush and turned into a PNG file so the background color still comes through behind the texture (set to 35% opacity). A Curves Adjustment layer was clipped to the layer to bring out some of the tones a little more. The last step involved adding an Edge Frame and changing the color with a clipped Color Fill Adjustment Layer. (See my Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 9: Get the Shot! Tidbits blog for more info on this.) Last step involved just sharpening the flower centers a little using Topaz Detail 3 Overall Medium II preset on flower centers only.
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Pretty basic image here with little change in Lightroom before bringing into Photoshop. This time I ran the Hot Cocoa Action from Action Set 3. Since the middle ground got a little dark, I used the History Brush again on the original and painted back the grassy area behind the church and set the layer to 35% opacity. Next on a stamped or composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Topaz Detail 3 was applied using Overall Medium Detail II preset – a black layer mask was added and just the brick texture and the church spires were sharpened. My Thin Double Edged Frame layer style was applied using brown and beige for colors. I liked the warm color of the church in this image – really brightened up a rather bluish original.
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Above are the original images as brought in from Lightroom 4.1 (the view in portrait mode is shortened) so you can compare with my final results. I have been a big fan of the ShadowHouse Creations website – Jerry graciously gives away many wonderful textures which I have used repeatedly. He is asking for donations of $5 for Action Set 1 and $7 each for Action Sets 2 and 3. If you compare this to what most people are charging, this is incredibly reasonable for the scope of the actions you are getting. For more Before and After images, check out the individual set links. A few of the actions that use filters tend to run a little slow, probably due the high CS6 RAM use. That is why I have been changing to 8-bit mode before running them. On many of the actions you can go into the History Palette and change a setting or stop at a certain step if you are not happy with a result. So far I have not needed to do this. Well I hope you will check out Jerry’s great website and think about donating to use his actions. Thanks Jerry for the wonderful actions!…..Digital Lady Syd


Getting that High-Fashion Desaturated Look

The technique involved in the three images of Aliona followed a blog entry called “Pure White Portrait Retouch” which was quite easy to follow and created a beautiful result – of course it helps to have a beautiful model too! This is a look that you will see in almost any fashion magazine. Basically the workflow involves creating several adjustment layers – a Photo Filter, Hue/Saturation and one or two Curves, depending on your image. I do not do people photography very often, but it is nice to try every now and then. This is a very simple but effective technique to use on portrait images.

I created SJ-Light Desat Portrait action that can be downloaded – it will take you through the workflow pretty quick. You will have to make your own brushes but they are nothing special – just low opacity and a 10% hardness in most cases. The action tells you what brush you need to use where for each step. Hit Stop and do the the step and then click the Play button on the Action Panel to continue the action.

This is a sculpture by an unknown artist at the Lightner Museum in the old historic Alcazar Hotel in St. Augustine, Florida. I applied this action to the image but set the Saturation to -59 in the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Otherwise the default settings were used to get this look. I was surprised how nice it turned out.

The St. Augustine Greeting Center has just a bare hint of color except in the palm tree fronds. The action was run on this image and then in the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer, the Master Saturation was set to -47, Greens Saturation set to +50, Blues Saturation set to -100 and Cyan Saturation -100. That was it – a very clean desaturated look with a selected color only showing.

Definitely try this look. I was surprised by the versatility of the action – not just for portraits! I will keep this one in my arsenal of Photoshop tricks! Enjoy the Action!…..Digital Lady Syd


Inexpensive Gifts for the Photoshop Lover on Your List


I decided to do something different for this week’s post since I love Photoshop and am constantly on the hunt for the best and cheapest items to make it more fun. The following items are some real treasures I have found in the last year that might help you find that perfect little gift for the person who loves to dabble in Photoshop. (For books and prices listed, see Amazon.com.)

DIGITAL LADY SYD’S BEST INEXPENSIVE PHOTOSHOP FINDS FOR 2011

1. TOPAZ ADJUST 5 ($50)

Since I am such a plug-in lover, simply the best value for the price you will find in the plug-in industry is Topaz Adjust 5 (see my Tidbits Blog for a link to the site). I have written several reviews on this plug-in that was recently upgraded and made even better. Plus, once you buy a plug-in from Topaz, you will always receive the updated versions for free – no other plug-in company does that. Check out my blogs for examples of what this wonderful plug-in can do. (See Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz Adjust 5, Why I Love Topaz Adjust, and Topaz Adjust 5 Is Here! First Look.) The image in the above middle filmstrip was enhanced using Topaz Adjust 5 in Photoshop, but it also works with Elements.

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2. DAVID DUCHEMIN BOOK VISION & VOICE-REFINING YOUR VISION IN ADOBE PHOTOSHOP LIGHTROOM ($25)

Any of David duChemin’s books or E-books (priced at $5.00) are excellent.  “Vision & Voice – Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom”(see Digital Lady Syd’s Favs – Photoshop Books No. 6) has Lightroom tips that can be used with Adobe Camera Raw also. A very enjoyable read for any Photoshop person. The image on the right uses a preset created after reading the book.

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3. GAVTRAIN’S BLAST FROM THE PAST ACTION SET ($8.50)

The Blast from the Past Action Set is by Gavin Hoey, a British Photoshop guru. Listed as a great value, these actions are lots of fun to use, but can only be used with Photoshop CS and on and not Elements. I bought them a while ago and use them quite a bit. Great stocking stuffer for the Photoshop Nut. (See my blog “Same Image-Different Look! 6th image down for an example of the Lomo Effect from the set.) The filmstrip is also one of the actions from this set.

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4. JIM ZIMMERMAN’S CREATIVE TECHNIQUES WITH NIK SOFTWARE E-BOOK ($9.50)

Creative Techniques with NIK Software downloads as a 79 page .pdf file on the NIK plug-ins, if you have them. Although the book refers to Color Efex Pro 3, it is still very relevant for the new Color Efex Pro 4.  It also covers NIK’s Silver Efex Pro 2, Viveza 2 and HDR EFex Pro. Very good information packed into this file.

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5. JOHN DERRY MIXER BRUSHES ($20)
Mixer Brush Set contains six very helpful video tutorials on how to use them. These brushes are Photoshop CS5 specific. From my Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Mixer Brushes blog, “These brushes are by far the easiest way to get comfortable with the Mixer Brushes and I would highly recommend them if you really like the Mixer Brush effects. In his bundle he includes some textures for the brushes to help get a real painterly look on the image. Also, an action to set up for painting on an image is included and I am still trying this out. What may be the best part of this set is a restore brush that can bring part of the unpainted image back into the painted areas and is totally unique as far as my research indicates.” Needless to say, these are great brushes with great instruction! Great for the artistic Photoshop person.

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6. COREY BARKER’S PHOTOSHOP DOWN & DIRTY TRICKS FOR DESIGNERS BOOK ($29)

I do not have this book but I am planning on asking for it for Christmas. Corey is one of the best Photoshop creatives I have ever seen and the book will not disappoint. (For an example of one of his tutorials, see my blog “That Flaming Fire Brush!“)

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7. DOVER CLIP ART BOOKS ($10 to $25)

I have used these books for several years and always find lots of fun ways to add them into an image. They have many vintage era, butterfly and flower clip art that is equal to none. Makes for a great addition to any Photoshop fans arsenol. The image on the left uses a sketch from Dover’s Floral Embroidery Designs book.

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8. PHOTOSHOP IMPRESSIONISM VIDEO TUTORIAL SERIES DOWNLOAD ($25)

This is a little gem I just discovered. If you like to do artistic looks to your images, this is the information you need. Mark S Johnson has been doing some of the best Photoshop video tutorials for several years – I have learned so much from his expertise and this downloaded information is just an extension of all his knowledge. This would be a great gift for the Photoshop fan!

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9. PRESET VIEWER BREEZE PROGRAM ($20)

I would be lost without this Preset Viewer Program. When you need that special brush to load into Photoshop and cannot remember which set is it in, this program will open them up to view within seconds to help you find what you need. Definitely a real time-saver. It also reads patterns, fonts, jpgs, shapes, styles, and swatches. A great addition for speeding up your Photoshop workflow.

I hope that this list will give you a few ideas on getting that special Photoshop person a nice little surprise for Christmas. So much that has to do with Photoshop is expensive and unfortunately that keeps people from being able to explore all the many new techniques out there. These items should help give everyone some new ideas for the coming year. Happy Holidays and Enjoy…..Digital Lady Syd


Adding a Texture for Flair!



This week I am going to discuss textures since I suggested using them in last week’s blog on “The Soft, Dreamy Look,” which created a free action to apply to your images. Textures are a very popular effect and can give a totally nice and different look to an image if applied correctly.

Basic Technique

The basic technique involves just adding a texture image (a jpg can be added to a raw, psd or tiff file at this stage) on top of your image. Do this by dragging the texture into your photo as a Smart Object from Photoshop Bridge or just open the texture file and copy and paste the layer onto the photo. At this point I usually rasterize the layer by right-clicking on the Smart Object in the Layers Palette and select Rasterize from the menu. A Smart Object is not necessary unless you are applying a filter to the texture and may want to adjust the settings at a later date. Most texture effects are achieved by changing the layer blend modes and varying layer opacities, then using layer masks to delete out areas where the texture is too obvious. The uniqueness can come from stacking several textures using different blend modes and opacities.  There are many resources available on textures and how to use them effectively. The linked article, called “Tips for Texturing Photographs,” has several great tips – some that I want to share.

  • How do you match your image subject to a texture?  Look for subjects with a soft quality like flowers, misty images, or of simple composition.
  • Figure out what you are trying to do with your picture – fill open spaces, get a painterly look, vintage feel, or grunge look?
  • If the texture does not work, try a different one. Usually match the texture strength with the subject – soft textures for flowers, stronger textures for structures.

If using textures over photos of people, please check out this short video, “Guide to Using Textures with Photos in Photoshop  (must be a member to access now),” to adjust the tone on the people and their skin. It uses the Average Filter in Photoshop instead of layer masks.

Textures can be bought or downloaded for free

There are many beautiful textures that can be bought. Florabella Collections has two very nice sets of textures. I like the Ash Textures that I purchased several years ago, but I just figured out he is no longer selling them. This is a shame since they are really nice textures. Flypaper Textures (blog linked above to Tips for Texturing Photographs) also has some very nice textures for sale. This site also has a lot of good information on textures so take a look.  Caleb Kimbrough has released several hundred textures, some of excellent quality and most are free, at his website Lost and Taken. He has also written a really nice blog entry called “How to Create Subtle Grunge Textures” that shows how to make your own interesting textures by combining several different ones.

The top image uses a very popular effect.  It is made simply by adding a worn-looking board texture at Hard Light blend mode over a flower photo (Curves Adjustment Layer on photo gives the blown out look). This particular texture is one from BittBox, another great free texture site – this particular texture can be downloaded from the Bittbox Flickr site here – just select the size you want, right click on image, and choose Save Image As to save on your hard drive.

This image was created using a brownish Ash texture layer set to Hard Light at 75% opacity and one of Caleb Kimbrough Summer textures, which I really like, set to Overlay at 73%.


The daisy image started with my “SJ-Soft Dreamy Look Action” that I created in last weeks blog. The image can be cleaned up on a layer before applying the action since it does not require a labeled Background Layer to run. An Ash Texture was added using the Hard Light blend mode at 75% opacity, and an OnOne PhotoTools (now OnOne Perfect Effects 3.0 – website link at my Tidbits Blog sidebar) layer using the HDR Enhancer effect and HiKey Color – Cool Fade preset as a second effect layer (I am getting some nice results with its stacking capabilities). The OnOne PhotoTools effect was basically a darkening of the edges and brightening in the middle, a heavy vignetting feel. Finally an OnOne PhotoFrame was added.

Textures can be found in plug-ins

As shown in the daisies above using the OnOne PhotoTools 2.6, this plug-in has many texture options as does its sister application, OnOne’s PhotoFrame, which surprisingly has many textures that can be applied with various blend modes, just like in Photoshop’s Layers Panel.  Even plug-ins like Plugin Galaxy 2.0 have some interesting effects, such as Rain-Short Streaks, Snowflake effects, and  Color Effects section, which can add some interesting textures. You just need to play around with whatever filters or plug-ins you have and start trying different settings with them.

Once again my action was applied to the Scottish home picture which starts you off with a really nice soft look (create a composite layer or CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E  layer on top of the action layers to apply the plug-in). An OnOne PhotoTools 2.6 Overlay Effect with the Antique Paper preset at Normal blend mode and 100% opacity was added. A similar look could probably be achieved by adding a final Color Fill Adjustment Layer using a golden tone or a Photo Filter Adjustment Layer using a warm color at a fairly high density, and a layer mask to reduce the color in the house area. That is all that was done to get this nice look.

This image does contain a brownish Ash texture, but any darkish brown texture would look good, set to Vivid Light at 38% but the painterly effect of the sky was achieved in Topaz Lens Effects – with the Graduated Color Blue1 preset applied. Then the layer was copied and set to 62% opacity to make the sky bolder.

Textures can be created within Photoshop itself

I want to show that a texture does not have to be some fancy texture that you have to buy or download – it can just be a really nice paintbrush effect on a layer that you create. Then just experiment with the blend modes, layer opacities, and layer masks to get the exact feel you want.

The above image of Scotland has a rather vintage feel to it. This was accomplished by running my SJ-Soft Dreamy Look Action and then creating a New Layer above and using Grungetract Brushes Sample #16 by alex16 at deviantArt at 2500 pixels with a light tan color. The brushed layer’s blend mode was set to Screen, the layer opacity to 66%, and a layer mask was added using a 50% opacity brush to mask out the texture in certain areas.

In the floral photo, a coral colored Mixer Brush layer was created above the other texture layer using a 300 pixel brush, and was set to Soft Light blend mode.  (See my blog “Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Mixer Brushes” for more information on the Mixer Brushes.) It can be quite addictive once you start playing around with the Mixer brushes and create some beautiful textures. I found that the by varying the size and the color of the same Mixer Brush, and actually painting with them by moving slightly, you can get really nice effects. I have included my favorite texture Mixer Brush that can be downloaded here (there area two brushes – same brush at different sizes) and added to your Tool Presets. (Put the file in the User Name -> AppData -> Roaming -> Adobe -> Adobe Photoshop CS5 -> Tools file. Restart Photoshop to add brushes to your Tool Presets – go to the top upper left corner icon under the Menu line and click on down arrow, click on right pointed arrow in upper corner to open fly out menu, and select Load SJ Mixer Brushes Presets. I usually Append the tools and they will appear at the bottom of the list. NOTE: You must have the Mixer Brush selected in the vertical Toolbar to get the Mixer Brush variations to appear in the Tool Preset drop-down.)

This is a very simple example of applying texture that can be done just using Photoshop. First two New Layers were created and the Mixer Brushes I created above were used, the small brush in beige on the bottom layer and the larger one with the same color on the top layer to create an interesting texture. A layer mask was added to the top layer to bring out the center part of the flower. Now here is the neat part, a New Layer was created and a gradient applied with the Gradient Tool . This image used Graphix1 Gradient Muted4 which is a white to yellow beige color, but try out different gradients to see what effect you like. In the Options Bar select the Radial Gradient icon and drag with your cursor from the center of the flower outward to create the gradient. Set the layer blend mode to Soft Light and add a Bevel and Emboss Layer Style (2nd icon from left at bottom of Layer Panel) and double click the Texture option.  This image used the Fractures Pattern Overlay, which is located in the Texture Fill set of patterns that come with Photoshop CS5, and set the Scale to 555% and the Depth to +34. Create a layer mask to darken the center again so the pattern is not as apparent over the center of the flower. That’s it – a texture applied that gives a really different look. Try other patterns – you can find lots of them on the internet.

And don’t forget the nice filters that come with Photoshop to create pleasing textures.  I really like the Texturizer Filter using the Canvas texture set to Relief 3 to add a painting touch to an image.

Conclusion

I have tried to show that adding texture to an image can be done in many different ways and the different techniques can be combined to get some unique looks. Once again, it is just another way the versatility of Photoshop makes it so much fun to use. It is so satisfying to create your own textures that can actually go towards creating your own artistic style. Have fun creating!…..Digital Lady Syd


The Soft, Dreamy Look

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

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

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

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

This same basic technique was used on all the images.

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

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


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

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


Playing in Photoshop!

This week I am taking a break from my usual blog topics. Instead I am just going to post a few of the images I created while trying out some of my own blog techniques. I hope you get some new ideas from viewing them.


I added a couple of textures to this image to get the soft vintage look – one an Ash Texture (these textures are no longer available but see my more recent blog “Adding a Texture for Flair!” for other texture sites) and one from OnOne Software’s PhotoFrames. This beautiful egret was taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery in May, a really good place to visit in Spring if you like to take pictures of birds.

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Created this image by using Caleb Kimbrough’s beautiful Summer8 texture (he has a vast assortment of really nice textures and most are free – please check them out), the Tranquility Brushes by wyckedBrush, and my SJ-Cloud Brushes.
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I loved this building in Jackson, Mississippi. It was perfect for an HDR effect (used Image ->Adjustments -> HDR Toning in Photoshop CS5 on a single image) A wonderful action called “Vintage Effect – Ps Actions – by photoshop-stock” was applied afterwards to give this nice vintage feel. (This site has a number of nice actions and textures – great resource!)
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I wish I had a fisheye lens, but since I do not, I used Topaz Lens Effects selecting the Fisheye Lens effect with the Extreme Fisheye preset on this Palm Tree in Palm Beach Gardens in Florida. See my blog on “Topaz Lens Effects Plug-in” for more information on this fun plug-in.
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More fun with text – used gradient, cloud layers using cloud brushes (can download my SJ-Cloud Brushes set here) and my blog on “How to Add Images to Text” to do this.
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The image above was taken in Phoenix, Arizona at the Desert Botanical Gardens. I used mixer brushes (see my blog “Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Mixer Brushes” and followed a tutorial on Sandstorms in the book called “Digital Painting Techniques!,” which is loaded with tutorials from various designers making all kinds of special effects.
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Here is a composite of images I pulled from a video I took of the fireworks at Flagler Beach for the 4th of July celebration (video below). See my blog, “Faking Fireworks” for tips on how to create this look.
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I hope you liked some of my “Playing in Photoshop” creations – it is just so much fun to make these images. Take some time out and just explore something new – may give you a whole new perspective on what you can achieve! Enjoy…..Digital Lady Syd


Same Image – Different Look!

I started playing around with the small image below that was taken of the ruins at St. Andrews Cathedral in Scotland. I loved the composition and feel of the image before I ever did any adjustments to it. This image shows what it typically looks like in Scotland.

The original appears pretty flat but overall it has a lot of interest and the details are very sharp in this shot.

  • First I tried processing the image in Lightroom and applied my Vivid Drawing Look preset, a preset from a previous blog (Great Free Plug-in for Lightroom – The Fader!) and is available for download here. Then only an adjustment to the Luminance slider to get rid of a little noise and the Detail slider to add detail back to the overall image was done. (This can also be done after loading image into Photoshop by using Russell Brown’s script – see my blog called Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script.) I also created this preset for people that use Camera Raw from Photoshop and it may be downloaded here (I just realized it has the wrong extension on the file in the Zip folder – change it to .xmp to get it to work). Just download and load into ACR using the pop-out panel in Presets tab.

I modified his technique to make it faster and I will give you a quick recap of how to do this here:

  1. Open image and duplicate the background layer.
  2. Turn off top layer (click on layer eyeball in Layers Palette to remove) and highlight the original Background layer.
  3. Create a black and white image using any method you feel gives a really contrasty high key (washed out or over-highlighted) look. He used Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 which is a great program but very expensive. I think the Black and White Adjustment Layer does a fine job and if you own Lightroom, there are many really nice Black and White presets for that program that can be downloaded for free.
  4. Make a composite of these two layers by highlighting the Adjustment Layer and going to CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E (keeps image intact so you can adjust later if need be by deleting this layer).
  5. Turn on the top layer (click where eyeball should be and it turn ons) and change blend mode to Soft Light.
  6. This may be all it needs for corrections. If not, create another composite image as in Step 4, duplicate it and set the blend mode to Screen. Add Layer Mask and paint in area to brighten up image.
  • Now this next image really changed up the feeling – it surprised me how good it looks in a monochrome. Nik Silver Efex Pro2 was used but any black and white conversion method that gives a really contrasty appearance can be used. Then a Hue/Sat Adjustment level was added and Colorize was checked. I found a really spooky inky blue color (Hue set to 242) and dropped the Saturation to 25 and this is what you get!

  • Below a totally different look was created in Lightroom and used a preset called whoiswolf_cross_retro – there are several nice free presets in this group that can be downloaded here. Only this preset and then the Luminance and Color sliders in the Noise Reduction panel were used.

  • For this next iteration, Gavin Hoey’s Blast From the Past actions set called Lomo effect Style 1 was applied to create this soft look. This is a very inexpensive set of actions that are great for creating some new effects.

  • In this image below, first the Imaging Factory’s Graduated Fog Filter was applied using a dark blue color for the foggy feel (could just use the Fogs and Mists brush set by BB Brushes to create you own effect – see my Foggy Weather! blog for more on this) ; then a Curves Adjustment Layer to get a vivid blue on top and bright green color on the ground; next a Gradient Map adjustment layer with a tan color (c4b190) to a light blue color (c2d0d8) for the gradient (try different gradients – get some really interesting results doing this) and set layer Blend Mode to Color Dodge at 82%;  a Levels Adjustment Layer to wash out the results to get more of a foggy look; added a New Layer and painted on Wycked – birds-sm brush from the Tranquility brush set (this is a fabulous set to own); and finished off with a PhotoFrame from OnOne Software (simply the best!). This image is presented to show what a very different look you can get with just a little experimentation.


  • The next picture was created using an action I created in my blog “Create Postage Stamps with Your Images” blog under Method Two called Vintage Effect from Cloudy Text Effect (here is the download link). I am presenting it here, even though it has a similar feel to other effects like the Lomo action above, because the action is free and it gives a very nice look on many types of landscape images.

    • My last image is for my son, Metal Chris at DC Heavy Metal (a great music blog with some fabulous musician photography for DC folks), who likes it when I do something different with my photos. The Mirror Filter (Kaleidoscope vertical) was applied from the Plugin Galaxy 2.0 (see my blog Instant Mirror and Quick Mirror for Photoshop for more on this great plug-in), along with the Imaging Factory’s Graduated Fog filter and a Gradient Map adjustment layer. Gives a whole new perspective to the picture.

That should about wrap up the blog for this time. I think I could just keep doing effects – this image lends itself well to that. As I have said before, if you can get a good picture in your camera, you have lots of post-processing options – the image makes the processing easy.

Hope this inspired a few people to try different effects with the same image – it is a lot of fun to see how different the image ends up!…..Digital Lady Syd


Create Postage Stamps with Your Images

Method One:  (the old fashioned way – do it yourself)

I just did a really fun tutorial from Gavin Hoey at TipSquirrel.  This site has lots of short fun tutorials.  This is one from a few months ago and is called “Old Postage Stamp Effect in Photoshop.” Here is an example of following the tutorial pretty closely.

The original image was cropped and Matt Kloskowski’s Lightroom preset Matt’s Vintage Style was applied along with a few adjustments to get the correct colors. I wanted a vintage look since the postmark has a 1968 date on it. I also found out that stamps cost only 6 cents then. The image was brought into Photoshop to begin the stamp look. Gavin has graciously given us the brown envelop background and the two postmarks as a download to help complete the tutorial.   Ok, here goes the quick tutorial version – check out Gavin’s short video for a visual understanding.

1.  Open up your image.

2.  Set Color Picker to default Blank and White.

3.  Go to Image – Canvas Size and increase the canvas by 10%

4.  Unlock background layer by double clicking on the layer.

5.  Select Eraser Tool and in Options set brush Mode to Pencil, Size 100 pixels and in the Brush Panel, set Spacing to 150%.   Click on top left corner once, then hold SHIFT+click on upper right corner, SHIFT+click on bottom right corner, SHIFT+click on top left corner to complete the outside of the image with perforated edges.

6.  Add text layer to indicate the cost of the stamp.

7.  Go to Layers – Merge Visible to preserve transparency for edges.

8.  Open up background, in this case the brown texture Gavin provided.

9.  Drag stamp layer into this image and close the stamp image.  Free Transform (CTRL+T to center and adjust on paper texture.

10.  Go to File – Place and choose post-mark-lines-GAVIN-HOEY.  Free Transform (CTRL+T to size and place along top of stamp.  Change Layer Blend Mode to Multiply and reduce opacity.

11.  Go to File – Place and choose post-mark-GAVIN-HOEY.  Free Transform (CTRL+T) to size, rotate slightly and place in upper left of image.   Change Layer Blend Mode to Multiply and reduce opacity.

12.  Highlight stamp layer and open Layer Style at bottom of Layers Palette.  Select Bevel and Emboss and change Depth to 144 in my case, Size to 32 and Soften to 7.  Change Shadow Mode Color to H37/S79/B35 for a nice soft brown.

That’s it.  I used OnOne’s PhotoTools Professional Edition 2.6 software and added an Antique Color set to Soften at 41% opacity.  I used OnOne’s PhotoFrame 4.6 Professional Edition to Dave Cross’s Frame 17.   I love both of these products and use them all the time.

Method Two:  (the easy way)

I just created another stamp image using pshero’s Photoshop tutorial and file with a stamp template that can be downloaded by scrolling to the bottom of their tutorial. This is a really simple way to get a quick stamp effect if you do not want to go through all the steps. They also include some wonderful brush postmarks from Kiyay71677 on the Deviant Art site to add on top of your stamp.  If you want postmarks indicating that are very nice but contain UPS and FedEx stamps, check the Redheadstock Brushes also at Deviant Art. I created the above stamp image using a tutorial from 123RF’s website called Cloudy Text Effect.  They should have included the vintage look in the title as it is a great effect and the Cloud Text Brush was easy to create.   To make it easy for you to try, I created a Photoshop Action called SJ-Vintage Effect Action to use.  You can adjust the Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer and Layer Style to taste.  Run this action on your original image background layer.  I also created the Cloud Text & Smoke Brush to download and add to top layer of action.  It can create nice good looking white heavy smoke or clouds.

Finally I created this Valentine Stamp using the same template from the tutorial above.  The center hearts are My Valentine Shapes from Brusheezy.  The really cute cupid brushes can be downloaded for free.  I put each stroke on its own layer and then copied the layer a couple of time to get the pure white look I was after.   The little hearts are just one really nice scatter brush from digitalTouch on Deviant Art. I used my old standby font from Cosmi that I used in previous valentine blogs.  So here is my final stamp.

Well that about does it for this blog.  Hope you get a chance to try Gavin’s tutorial or at least download the template, brushes and action in Method Two.  (Check out pshero’s website for other great tutorials while there.) It is fun to give your images a different look sometimes…..Digital Lady Syd