Anything Photoshop or Photography



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.)


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.)


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!


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.)


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


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
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!


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


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.

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!


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


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.

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.

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







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).

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!


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!


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.


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.


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