Anything Photoshop or Photography

Photoshop Brushes


Pixabay image of a model changed into a fairy

A few weeks ago Photoshop Guru Sam Peterson did another two weeks of challenges on the Adobe Creative Cloud website. I have done several of his challenges before, and it is always fun to try out new things following his new videos. Therefore, thought I would show what kind of things were presented in his short, but informative, videos last month. Sam always provides starter files to use for practicing and usually a timeline is added in the YouTube description showing what Photoshop skills were used.

The video covering the fairy image is called Caricatures for Beginners – Photoshop Illustration Challenge. The above fairy was created by first downloading this image from Pixabay (Jerzy Gorecki portraits are the best). In PS the model was selected and put on her own layer before taking the layer into Topaz Studio 2 or just Topaz Impression could have been used (Type 09 brush, Number of Strokes High, Brush Size 0.47, Paint Opacity 1.00, Stroke Color Variation 0.50) for the skin effect – a layer mask was used to paint it off her face a little. The Stroke Color Variation slider created the skin markings. Obviously Liquify layers were used for the eyes. Also a FaerieWings ii4 Falln Stock on Deviant Art brush was used. Fantasy Light Dirt 2-Large Glitter with spacing set to 126%, Opacity 52%, and Flow 62% was used for the fairy dust. The background was just painted using his brush (he tells you about it) and Fantasy Light Dirt 2-Flair 1 was used to create the fog look at the bottom. This was my favorite effect I did.


Image of a flower pot with a watercolor border

The above is a really nice effect and can be used on any image. What is really nice is that Sam teaches you how to make an action so it can be applied very quickly since several PS filters are used to get the effect. Some of Kyle T. Webster, the Adobe brush guru, watercolor brushes were used to finalize the effect. The photo is by Annie Spratt at Unsplash. The effect is pretty easy video to follow – it is called Watercolor Effect – Photoshop Illustration Challenge. I actually ran it on the baby image from last week and it turned out really nice.


B&W image of a lady playing a violin with text on the image

The typography look is another effect that was pretty easy to do – the video is called Text Portrait – Photoshop Typography Challenge. It basically creates a lot of different text layers that are rasterized and merged together to get the final effect. It is done several times and is a creative way to add text to an image. The image is from Pixabay (unable to find a link). A different font was used from the one that Sam preferred – this one is called Naive Deco Sans. The larger text was placed behind the player at 30% layer opacity while the smaller text was laid on top at 91% layer opacity. The background is called Texture Time Music Layer Mask by Evelyn Flint from 2013 (not sure how to find it now) and was set to black and white already.


This video seemed to be the hardest for me – getting an image I liked and then making it look like it was popping off the page was not easy. Still it was a lot of fun to do. The video is called Illustrated Composite Effect – Photoshop Compositing Challenge. It took a while longer to do as there were a lot of steps in the technique. The starter file set has this nice notebook that can be used as a platform for the effect, but I had to mask out the wiring so the wood background could be changed. The image of the model is from Dollar Gill at Unsplash.

Adobe Create Cloud provides several PS experts that create Masterclasses and challenges – there is always something that catches my eye each week. I did not do all of Sam’s challenges this time as there were a few I was not interested in doing. It is fun to try out different techniques when you have a few minutes and Sam’s videos are only about 25 minutes long. In the Related References, there are a few of my blogs that used some of his previous challenges. Let me know if these were fun for you……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:

Some Fancy Text

Digitally Painted or Retouched?

Who’s Looking at You?


Painted image of a baby by Traci Stewart.

Just a refresher blog on what to do if you want to do a quick little painting of a photo you have. This cute downloaded image is by Traci Stewart at Unsplash. It was actually a great one to practice on to try out some different painterly brushes. It takes a bit of planning and time to get a good result – not unlike painting a drawn image. What is a good way to start painting a favorite photo as many people really want painted images of their children, grandchildren or pets? Photoshop makes it pretty easy to get some great results without using their filters.

The obvious way to do this is just to use New Layers when changing colors or brushes and name the layers (with the object or brush name if changing to different ones for different areas) so you know what was done. I did a blog a while back on how to use the PS Mixer brushes with several links for more info – see A Little Digital Painting in Photoshop and New Photoshop Brushes! blog – contains give very painterly results. Another thing to check is the size of the image if it is not your photo. Go to Image -> Image Size and check out what the resolution is set to and how the large the image is. If it is set to 72 dpi, uncheck Resample and change the amount to something more reasonable like 240 or 300, especially if printing. Then recheck Resample and the size of the file should be much more manageable.

There are a few PS people that do teach digital painting on photos and I have written about them in the past. Below are my recommended resources for learning this technique.

  1. Check out some videos by Lisa Carney, the famous poster retoucher. She did a course in 2017 at Creative Live called Advanced Techniques with Brushes in Photoshop CC – a few things are slightly out-of-date or PS has added some new features not covered (like using the ~ key to erase instead of the Brush Mode called Clear – they do the same thing and the ~ key is so much faster). But overall she does an excellent job of showing how to use the different media types of PS brushes to paint in PS and what the various brush settings do. It is not as thorough as Kyle T. Webster’s Adobe Creative Cloud YouTube videos, but Lisa’s are a great place to start if you are interested in trying out different brush types for painting. Currently her class is on sale for $24 – Creative Live runs sales frequently and this class has 22 not too long videos which are downloadable when bought. The best part of this class is the accompanying 92-page PDF which I have found really helpful. Covers all the information she covers and more. The child image used her class information.
  2. There is a photographer/painter called Lori Jill that did some really nice painting classes at Udemy. Her course called Turn Photographs into Digital Paintings is an excellent course (although it is from 2014 I think), and is often on sale for a very inexpensive amount (right now it is about $12). I really enjoyed her teaching style and the class contains resources where she teaches you how to use them (an action, brushes, and several images). The Victorian House image below used Lori’s techniques. She also has a class on “Digital Pet Paintings using Photoshop” and “Digital Painting Pinup Portraits from a Photograph” which are also really fun to do. I might add that Udemy has several other digital painting classes you might want to check out. Unfortunately you cannot download the videos, but they will always be available to you when logged in.
  3. I would be remiss if I did not include the fabulous Adobe Guru Jack Davis and all he has done for the artistic flavor of PS alone. I have written several blogs on his Creative Live videos, which are now rather old but still relevant – an older Adobe Max YouTube video covers a lot of what is in the course. The last image below was from a previous blog. His Creative Live course is called Painting with Adobe Photoshop and is usually offered at a really reasonable amount. ($24 as of today) It contains 40 videos (all are downloadable and almost 16-hours of teaching) covering all the PS and LR (ACR) tools for painting. The biggest problem is that his action and presets can no longer be downloaded from his Facebook page. The presets were all the same as those in is Wow! books – nothing updated for this. I think the action is the same one Dr. Russell Brown of Adobe fame created with his Watercolor Panel for CS6. I hope that Creative Live will fix Jack’s link soon or include the info in his download. But even so, the videos are excellent and very entertaining.

Here are a few of the brushes used to get the child’s image effects. Some of these brushes were suggested by Lisa in her course 30-minute video called Impressionist Brush that show how this is done. The sky and tree background were painted on separate layers using Kyle’s Impressionist Brushes set – French Sharp Block brush. To download his brushes, go to the Brushes Panel’s top right pop-out menu and choose “Get More Brushes” – it takes you to the Creative Cloud login after which you can download hundreds of brushes. Just download to your computer, then go back to the same Panel menu and click Import to add them in or follow my next tip. A trick with .abr files (or most of PS files like Patterns, Swatches, Gradients, etc. which have unusual extensions) is that usually you can double-click them and they go into PS immediately. Watch out now that there is Fresco, it also uses these files and double-clicking them might open Fresco up if you just upgraded or used it. To stop it from doing this, in your Windows file folder right click on the .abr file and select Open With, then select Choose Another App and choose Adobe Photoshop 2022 and check Always use this app to open .abr files. Now it will always open PS when the brush file is double clicked.

For the grass Grut’s OI Stump Trough was used – it looks like grass and was perfect for this image. Grut Brushes are one of my favorite brush makers and he gives away a new brush every week so it is always fun to see what is coming up. Also Kyle’s Real Watercolor – Stamp Damp Paper was used in the background to get the slightly foggy effect and to make the background less noticeable. The baby’s skin was painted with Kyle’s Natural Edge Texture Stain and mixer was used to smooth it out a little (see David Belliveau free Mixer – it is the best). Both of the watercolor brushes were recommended by Lisa. The rabbit is from PixelSquid. The flowers were from Jessica Johnson at Creative Couture – she is the Pattern Stamp Brush guru. My favorite set from her is called the Romantic English Garden set and the flowers were created using her brush #35 and Pattern 25. You should check out her samples if you have never tried the Pattern Stamp Tool (it is housed with the Clone Stamp Tool). I painted the flower in and Viveza 2 was used to overall sharpen up the image. A Solid Color Adjustment Layer was added at the top using a turquoise color at 13% layer opacity to slightly soften the brightness of the image – it had seemed a bit overwhelming to me.

Here is an image created using Lori Jill’s course – this is one of my favorite painted photos. She has a similar style to Jack Davis’s techniques. I have painted many photos using her technique as the rather smooth effect is one I like.

Painted image of a Victorian house

The image below is one I did a while ago and shows some of Jack Davis’s techniques. His style is always very fun to use, but is a little less smooth than Lori’s technique.

Image of apartment houses in Belarus

I was surprised to find very little recent info out there of people who are teaching this. I will continue searching to find a few more current videos. Hope you check out a few of these painters who really do know how to use the PS brushes. Digital painting a photo is a great way to have some fun!…..Digital Lady Syd


Digital Painted or Retouched?

Let’s Have a Little Chat

Painted Flowers

Which Tool to Use – Smudge or Mixer Brush? – has some brush settings to make a nice Mixer and Smudge brush


Cartoon drawing of a pretty woman

If you are like me, you probably spend a lot of time just doodling in Photoshop. I like to try out new brushes and end up creating some pretty weird but fun cartoon characters. Then I end up tweaking it until it is something, well, as seen here in this blog. What I like best about doing this type of digital art is that it does not have to be perfect. I thought I would share with you some of my favorite brushes that work really good when cartooning or doodling. Also some nice brushes for adding color to the cartoon along with a couple little tricks to try out. This blog is a bit huge, but it is a lot of info to cover.

The cartoon lady above was the first one developed for this blog. Below are the basic steps I usually follow to create my cartoon images:

  • The first step is to draw a “Rough” drawing layer using a nice drawing brush. Usually a pencil or ink brush is selected to start – this image used Kyle Webster’s Tilty Pencil Brush from his Winter 2022 set (I changed mine from a Mixer to a Regular brush – see Appendix at end of blog on how to do this – it makes a great sketch brush, but both the Mixer and Regular brushes are great!) Begin by just doodling a few items to start your character, and black is my preferred sketch color. Usually I begin with the nose or eyes – then I throw an oval shape around the figure to create areas to build on. Then the body is drawn, if needed. Remember at this stage, it does not have to be proportioned perfect.
  • This step is optional if you are happy with the Rough drawing layer. Next create a “Refined” drawing layer by starting with a New Layer and setting the “Rough” drawing layer to a lower opacity. Then either use the same brush or a different one to draw over the original in a darker ink to fine-tune the lines. This totally depends on the look you want. For the above image, a New Layer was used to fine-tune the face separate from the body – the layers were merged together when the refining was done. Sometimes a rougher ink brush looks better at this stage for the character being put together.
  • Put a New Layer underneath the Rough Draft layer (turn it off now if there is a Refined drawing) and start painting in the different areas of your character. This image used a few of Kyle’s Real Watercolor Brushes – the Skirt used Wet Pull and her skin used Natural Edge Painter 2. The hair was called Sampled Brush 2 3 by Daarken in his Full Daarken Brushes Full Set (some really cool brushes in this large free set). It just created this great mass of hair! For the Blouse the Natural Edge Painter 2 was used again and Kyle’s Real Watercolor Spider Spread Blend smudge brush was used to spread out the paint and smooth the fabric effect. I love this smudge brush!
  • TIP 1: This next step is really important so the texture placed underneath your character does not show through, especially when using watercolor or if the layer opacity of one of the objects is less. To do this, duplicate your Refined drawing layer and paint solid white over just the character. Once done, move it down under all the color layers. If white shows through a little after moving, just erase what looks bad on the white layer. This will make your image look so much better!
  • Create shadow and lighten layers. TIP 2: For the lady above, a technique by Pratik Naik was used where a large round 100-pixel soft brush with Smoothing checked on. In the Options bar set the Flow to 9% and turn on the Airbrush. Created a white layer to lighten and a black layer to darken the image. This brush is my go-to do this and often a different color is used to get a different look. Very handy to use!
  • To finish up, just below the white layer a texture can be added. The one above was mine created in Corel Painter. A Color Look-up table was used to give a little more contrast. Could also add on top Curves, Levels, or Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers.

This is the basic process.

Cartoon of a guy

The Unhappy Man image above was created using a different free brush called Scratchy Scratchy by David Belliveau at Paintable from his Sketch Set (I have learned a lot from David and followed several of his classes – see my Where to Find a Good Photoshop Painter blog for an example and more info on him.) Another really nice brush – there are so many choices in PS for this kind of art. His lips were created using my SJ KTW Tilty brush (I have trouble with lips so to learn to do this, Etherington Brothers visual lip tutorials were very helpful – search on their Twitter Feed for How to Think When You Draw – Lips – Part A and Part B from May 21, 2021. It shows you how to draw spheres in the lips to get them balanced.)

The T-shirt pattern is from the Old Design Shop – Keating Bicycle Ad and the Free Transform-Warp tool was used to get it crooked (this layer was set to Multiply to remove the white – this messed up everything when a stamped layer was created on top at the end of the process. MAJOR TIP 3: If creating a stamped layer and a weird color shift or a layer style does not work correctly, go the layer(s) with the blend mode(s) that are different from the Normal layer blend mode and convert them into a Smart Object(s) – now everything will work once the original stamped layer is deleted and a new created on top. This took me forever to figure out but I find color shifts comes up a lot!

Grut’s NM Knowit was used for the light whiskers on the Refine drawing. A solid color brush was used on a layer underneath the Refine drawing layer and different colors added to the character. Sam Peterson’s Pencil Stumpy 6 was used to paint in the solid colors. Then Sam Peterson’s Airbrush for Shadows at 25% opacity to finish up. Both of these brushes can be downloaded for free by going to his in his Character Design in Photoshop YouTube video and in the chat relay sidebar there is a link – he does discuss how to use his brushes in this video. Sam always has some good PS techniques in his Creative Challenges. Next the white figure was painted on a layer underneath the colored parts of the person as explained in Step 4 of the process. Last step involved adding the texture background below the white layer. The background texture was one created from an elephant tutorial by Aaron Blaise (see my Got Some Free Time! Try Drawing blog for info on getting his fabulous tutorials) – he often starts his tutorials by creating really nice basic textures so check him out to learn about this and all sorts of drawing. This image is similar to the top image but used different brushes.

Cartoon character of a guy outside

This above Outdoorsman image followed the same basic steps, but once again used some different brushes. This time the Rough drawing layer was used with no Refine drawing layer. TIP 4: Where I differ from most drawers is that I do erase out lines and remake them on-the-fly or use the Lasso Tool to change the size or line up my lines. My Wacom pen is set to toggle between the ALT key for sampling and E for erasing – very handy. My new favorite drawing brush for cartoons is Kyle’s Clean Comic brush from his Magapack set – created a brush by changing these settings in the Options Bar: Size of 10 pixels, Flow 36% and Smoothing 12% – then the saving brush. It makes for a very clean line. The painting color brush is one I named SJ Smooth Painting and it uses the tip of Aaron Blaise’s Local Color Brush (from the Brush Tip section) with my settings. (His brush used a lot of settings, but I only used Transfer (Opacity Jitter 0% and Control Pen Pressure) and Smoothing. The Options Bar is set to Size 35 pixels, Opacity 100%, Pressure for Opacity on, Flow 83%, and Smoothing 10%.) It makes a really nice paint stroke for applying color. TIP 5: It is fun to try different brush tips from with other brushes to create new ones. Sometimes really great brushes are created as this one is for me.

The background was created by adding a layer underneath the white painted layer and just lightly drawing in some background features with the Clean Comic brush. I followed some tips from a recent video by Kyle T. Webster called Tips for Creating Space and Distance in Your Art – very informative. On a layer underneath the background sketch, Kyle’s Smitty brush from his Spring 2022 set was used for the landscape and the tree. The sketch was left just slightly showing by lowering the Sketch background layer to 64% opacity – wanted a bit of the cartoon look to still show to tie it into the character drawing. The slight floral effect was created by using a Pattern Stamp by Jessica Johnson using her English Garden Set (brush 30 and pattern 37) – my favorite set of hers! She is the Pattern Stamp expert! Used my Pratik Naik from above for the slight shadow effect.

Cartoon of a man sitting in a chair

This image is a lot more basic than the others. Just a Rough layer was created using a new ink brush called Tick Fission by GrutBrushes – it is his free brush of the week this week but all his brushes are only $1 if you find one you want. This site is fabulous if you have not checked it out before. I am really enjoying this brush as it gives some nice variety of lines for drawing. Underneath, a brush created from a texture brush using French Kiss was used to add some texture to his pants. (See my How to Create a Texture Brust to Match a Texture blog to learn how to do this – it is nice to have a texture brush from one of your favorite textures to use in images.) Under that is the painted white figure. TIP 6: A Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer was used to add the background – the above uses Kyle’s Gesso Canvas Knife pattern from one of his brushes. I can’t find the brush where this pattern is from, but several of his brushes have similar effects – Kyle’s Megapack Inkbox Brush Pen Queen uses one called kyle nupastel 2017 that also looked nice in this image. To download the pattern (texture) from the brush, just click the + icon to the left of the pattern line – it will automatically go into your pattern file. Use a Selective Color Adjustment Layer using the Colors Black, Neutral, and White colors and the black slider to adjust pattern contrast – try both Relative and Absolute. This is a great way to get a really nice painterly texture. By using the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer, they can be swapped out really easily. Even if the pattern is too light or dark, just change the blend mode or layer opacity of the adjustment layer and it may look really good. To learn about the textures in brushes, check out Brush Hour with Kyle T. Webster: Let’s Create Some Pattern Brushes video for great info on this. The font used was Segoe Print and is free for personal use.

Thank you so much for hanging in there with me on this huge blog. It has been a while since I did one – this is something I have been wanting to write about for a while. Hope you found something useful in it, even if it just finding some new brushes to try out. Have a great one!…..Digital Lady Syd


TIP 7: As promised here are the instructions on how to convert brushes between Mixers and Regular type brushes and other types too. The bottom line for converting a regular brush into a mixer: Select the Mixer brush that has the settings you like, then press down the CTRL+ALT keys while clicking on the Regular brush you want to convert to a Mixer with the original Mixer settings. They will appear in the Options Bar. Below is how I actually created the SJ Tilty Pencil brush.

How to turn Kyle’s Tilty Pencil Variant Brush from his Winter 2022 set from a Mixer into a Regular Brush. Not exactly how I figured this out, but it works great for me as a Sketcher. It gives very delicate lines, like the ladies face above, but much darker lines for more emphasis. To convert the Tilty Pencil Variant into a Regular brush is just the opposite from turning the above info on changing a a Regular Brush into a Mixer. In this case either create a basic Regular Brush with the Option Bar set to Opacity 100%, Flow 100% and Smoothing 20% or find a brush that is set up the way you like. Select this brush and press down the CTRL +ALT keys, keeping them held down until you get to the Tilty Pencil Variant, and click on it – it now turns into a regular brush with all the Mixer’s Brush Settings but the Options Bar will use the regular brush settings. Immediately go down and save the brush by pressing the + icon and naming it. Otherwise once you use a different brush, it goes back to a Mixer. Now you can change the size and the settings to match what you want. For my brush (a small round brush tip), it is no longer an Erodible brush (since the regular brush tip used was not Erodible brush type – need to create an Erodible brush like the Mixer settings on the new one if you want it to be an erodible Regular brush) – but is set to Size 7 pixels and Spacing 10%; Shape Dynamics – Size Jitter 11%, Control Pen Tile, Minimum Diameter 36%, Tilt Scale 104%, Angle Jitter 39%, Control Pen Tilt, Roundness 0% and Control Off; Scattering Both Axes at 30%, Count 5, and Count Jitter 62%; Texture – Pattern is Kyles WC Seamless 1 (saved down from one of his Watercolor brushes – see TIP 6 above), Scale 100%, Brightness -122, Contrast 5, Check Texture Each Tip, Mode Height, Depth 22%, Minimum Depth 0, Depth Jitter 0% and Control Pen Tilt; Transfer – Opacity Jitter 0%, Control Pen Pressure, Minimum 26%, Flow Jitter 0%, and Control Off; and Smoothing checked. In the Options Bar, Opacity is 100%, Flow 31% and Smoothing 20%. There you have it! This same technique can be used on most brushes in PS except the Clone Stamp Tool. Try it out – it works really good.


The Lifeguard


Image of a drawn American Eagle for Memorial Day

I wanted to do something a little patriotic as my contribution to Memorial Day, a most important holiday in my country. The Bald Eagle has been the national bird of the US since 1789. Today, the Bald Eagle, which is indigenous to the US, is protected under the National Emblem Act of 1940. If you love Eagles like I do, check out these web cams of the various Eagle families. I drew this eagle before I decided to put him into a Memorial Day background. I have to admit that I spent a long time drawing this bird, a lot of steps to learn and attempt to master, but overall a lot of fun to create!

I will try to keep this short by listing my references used as the main ingredients on how the Eagle was created. First, a wonderful YouTube video by Aaron Blaise shows how to create the actual bird was used. It is called Birds of Prey Course Sneak Peak Out Now! from 2020. I only followed his first example of the Eagle head, where he takes you very thoroughly through the steps needed to get a pretty good result. Here is what my bird looked like after doing the above video. Still a lot of work was needed.

Basic drawn image of the eagle

Next a background was added using a few layers in Corel Painter, but I could have used oil or acrylic brushes in Photoshop to get a similar results. From this point on, a lot of improvising was done. Photoshop’s Kyle T Webster’s brush Pollock CD from Summer Set 2019 set (Kyle’s brushes are always free to PS subscribers) was used at lower opacities to add the speckles above the background and also lightly on the Eagle. Lots of different brushes were used to add more details into the feathers. Used a lot of Aaron’s brushes for the basics. One of my favorite brushes used was the glitter effect added on some of the darker areas of the feathers – Grut’s major cool OI Brief Shona brush was used but the texture in the Brush Settings Panel was changed to a gold glittery pattern – this gave a really nice glittery feel to the brush when adding in some of the shadow lines. And note, just because the pattern is gold does not mean you get the gold effect – must first select a gold color for painting (could use gray to get a silver which was also done in spots). It sort of felt right for a regal Eagle! Also used Grut’s brush ICitrose for roughing in some of the feathers. (Grut’s brushes are the best and if you visit his website, every Monday he posts a free brush to download which is how I got the ICitrose brush a couple weeks ago – this is always a lot of fun to try out a new brush each week!) Lots of strings of whites a grays were used to add in more feather details. When finished, a Gausian Blur was set to 1.6 Radius to keep these detail lines from being too sharp. Some dodging and burning was used. The font is one I really like called Zahra In Line Grunge – layer style effects of Bevel and Emboss, Pattern Overlay, Outer Glow, and Drop Shadow were applied to make the gold effect. The same gold pattern used in the glitter OI Brief Shona brush was selected, except the gold color now appears in the lettering. The gold pattern effect is from Gold Foils 7th Ave Design textures – the Gold-8 texture was converted into a pattern by going to Edit -> Define Pattern. Any gold glitter textures you have would work or you can even make them. (See my How to Create a Glitter Texture blog.) It is now added to your pattern list and be selected for a brush in the Texture brush settings or as a Pattern Overlay in Layer Style Effects.

I enjoyed doing this bird so much I actually purchased the How to Draw Birds of Prey Course from Aaron – it covers 15 different types of birds and lots of material – still just getting through the basics on birds. Hopefully I will have a few more drawings soon. In the meantime, hope everyone is having a great holiday in the US and a great weekend in other locations! Summer is almost here!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Reference Blogs:

A Little Aaron Blaise Digital Drawing Practice

Creative Photoshop Digital Art Tips

Got Some Free Time! Try Drawing!

A Leopard Thinking

Introducing the Beautiful Fox


Watercolor drawn image of a vintage woman reading

Happy Mothers Day to all and I hope everyone is having fun with their Moms or remembering the good times if they are not around. This vintage lady, in remembrance of my fabulous Mom, is one I drew based upon an image I particularly like called A Holiday at Mentone (a beach near Melbourne, Australia) by Charles Conder in 1888. I learned this is a great way to practice a little drawing and try out some new brushes.

The brushes used here are all from Kyle T. Webster sets that are free with your Photoshop subscription. To load them, open up the Brush Panel and go to the settings hamburger icon in the top right corner of the panel – in the drop-down select Get More Brushes. Just search through the list until you find the ones you want to download. Note that there are hundreds of brushes so I never load them all at once. Just save the sets to your hard drive and load the set as needed.

First step was to draw the vintage lady – tried several digital pencil brushes and finally settled on one of the Winter 2022 brushes called Tilty Pen Alt. Never really liked the brush but for some reason it worked out very nice for this type of sketching. On layers created underneath the now locked sketch layer set to a lower layer opacity (36%), several digital pastel and oil brushes were tried to add in the color – it did not look great. Having never tried the Watercolor painting effect before, it was my next choice. Therefore, the Real Watercolor brushes were opened up and mainly Kyle’s Real WC-Flat Thing to Thick (in Options Bar, changed the brush Mode to Normal and Angle to 93 degrees), Kyle’s Real Watercolor – Clean Edge Thick ‘n Thin 40, and Kyle’s Real Watercolor – Basic 50 were selected. I found I liked the watercolor brush Mode set to Normal instead of Multiply on many of the watercolor brushes I tried. Separate layers were used to paint the different parts of the image. Also Kyle’s Summer 2020 set called Impressionista was used on the skirt. Viveza 2 (from the free Nik filter set from years ago – still the best filter around for quick changes IMHO) was placed on her face and reading material to slightly lighten the tone. A Gradient Adjustment Layer was added underneath the lady and set to a diagonal. The Microsoft font Segoe Print was used and a Stroke Layer Style was applied to make it stand out.

How do you know which brushes to try? One of the best ways is to watch Kyle T. Websters’s YouTube videos on Adobe Creative Cloud – he does a Brush Hour every other week where he talks about how to use his brushes and how to change the settings to work for you. This is how I found out about the Tilty Pen Alt – once he showed how to use it, I followed along and tried it out. Some of his brushes do not work for me. Recently I did a blog on how to find ones you like. (See my Finding a Photoshop Brush in a Big Set blog.)

One major issue I had was with Photoshop 2022 was when it hung up several times while painting – not sure why but it just stopped making marks – showed it was painting in the History Panel, but they were not appearing. Also the Eraser and Smudge Brushes did not work. Had to save, close and reopen the program and then the painting brushes worked again. Therefore, I have decided to continuing using PS2021 for drawing and painting – never have problem with it. At least the exact brushes I want to use can be set up just for this. My last blog also addressed similar problems and that is why PS2021 was added back on my computer – you can still have PS2022 on your computer at the same time. (See Download Old Versions of Creative Cloud Applications – Bypassing the Creative Cloud App by Helen Bradley.)

Hope everyone has a great day and does a little Photoshop just for fun!…..Digital Lady Syd


Drawn B&W image of a Malayan Tiger at the Palm Beach Zoo.

If you enjoy wildlife animals and want to try your hand at drawing them, Aaron Blaise has some of the best videos to fine-tune your skills. I can honestly say, it is taking me a long time to get a good workflow, but I am finding that most digital artists follow similar steps no matter what the subject matter or media they are using is.

The videos used for the Tiger images are in Aaron’s Digital Painting in Photoshop (20 videos and 12.5 hours of lessons) set that were created a while ago (December 2017). In you catch a one of his recent YouTube videos, he still follows the same basic workflow as presented, just uses a different brush. If you are interested in any of many videos he offers, click the link above to sign up for his newsletter – he has fabulous sales several times a year that include his great brushes and many videos (he offers them for $1 to $5 and gives an extra !0% off if you get the newsletter). Since I am on a pretty tight budget, this has been wonderful!

The Malayan Tiger above resides at the Palm Beach Zoo – I have some great images of their tigers so I tend to draw them. Aaron suggests using your own photo images for drawing and painting (especially if you plan on posting or selling your art) as the drawings are still considered under copyright laws of the image. This was just a black and white rendering to practice using your brush in a tutorial called Getting Started-Sketching in Photoshop. Here you learn to use your sketch brush and how to do rough sketch layer, refined sketch layer, highlight or white line layer, and background layer. It’s a great way to practice your drawing skills. These digital drawings are similar to drawing them on a piece of paper with a regular pencil. They have a very grainy line in most cases.

These images both used the Legacy Default 9 Pencil brush that comes with Photoshop – it is an Erodible Pencil and Aaron used it for these videos. I did try several other brushes but ended up using the Pencil 9. I did find the Erodible Pencils have problems a lot in PS2022 – the computer runs hard and sometimes the PS History Panel says a stroke is being laid down, but it is does not show up. It seems to happen often when toggling to the Eraser Tool or the Tilde key. (Also check to make sure your brush is not set to Clear mode in the Options Bar.) By clicking on another brush or tool, it usually comes back, but this is very annoying. My personal work-around was to reload PS2021 for just drawing as there are no brush issues with it. I am hoping Adobe gets this fixed soon.

Drawn image of a Sumatran Tiger at the Jacksonville Zoo

The above used the same workflow, but this time some color was added and a texture placed over him for a different look. This is a Sumatran Tiger from the Jacksonville Zoo. To get him colorized, a Color Lookup table preset color Edgy Amber was added at 72%, then Viveza was used to spot color the orange in (this filter is still the overall best for doing all kinds of things including adding local color to areas). Kim Klassen’s The Studio Collection texture beekeeper (not sure this available anymore) was applied on top using the Divide blend mode. I just posted another example of this technique on my Tidbits Blog called Living in the Abstract – it used some of Kyle Webster’s newly released Spring 2022 brushes.

TIGER TALK: Both these tiger subspecies are on the critical endangered species list. There is no clear difference between Malayan Tigers and Indochinese Tigers except for their geographical location (Malaysian Peninsula) and they are a little smaller, but it is a subspecies of its own. They can swim, can eat elephants, and are born blind. They live in tropical and subtropical forests, shrubland, and grassland, Compared to other subspecies, the Sumatran Tiger, which is only found in Sumatra, has a darker orange color in its fur and stripes that are closer together, and it is the smallest of the tiger subspecies. Their color pattern allows them to blend into their habitat. They prefer tropical forests with dense cover, freshwater swamp forests, and peat swamps. They eat larger ungulates, including tapir, wild boar and deer, as well as smaller animals, like monkeys, birds, and fish. Of the nine subspecies of Tigers, three of them are now extinct. So sad….

I have not finished doing all the tutorials – presently working on an Elk with many Color, Highlight and Shadow layers – lots of fun. One clever thing he did teach us is how to apply a texture to fit an object or subject. Below is my favorite free stock image called guitar man where the guitar material was changed from a solid yellow to a wood texture. To do this, clip the texture to the image, then use the Free Transform Warp tool to adjust to the guitar. If needed add a layer mask after adding the texture and brush away any that is not needed. In this case, the layer was set to Color Burn blend mode and 58% layer opacity. Pretty cool technique and pretty easy! The background used a brush I created from French Kiss Tableaux Mirage texture a long time ago – just stamped it down with different colors, blend modes, and opacities.

Image of guitar player.

Last week I posted a short Tidbits Blog called Waiting for Sunset that used one of the atmospheric effect techniques from this set. I have learned that to get good at drawing, you have to practice some every day or so. It is really easy to lose the stroke feel with the brushes. And Aaron has many other sets of videos including several “How To Draw” animal videos. See the first three links below showing some other images I drew from other sets of his videos. Also see my Learning to Draw a Wolf! blog which is a link to a free YouTube showing his basic workflow that is similar to what he is teaching here – I would suggest you check it out to see if you like his style of drawing and teaching.

Well that is it for now. Hope you try out some of Aaron’s drawing techniques – it is a lot of fun to see what results you get without using a camera! Have a great week…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

Got Some Free Time! Try Drawing!

A Leopard Thinking

Introducing the Beautiful Fox

Painting Acrylics Digitally – Can It Be Done?


Digital art scene

I have been working on getting my digital painting skills back up to speed and learning some new tips. Thought I would pass along a couple things I learned while creating these images this week – maybe some will help your workflow.

TIP 1: HAVE A BASIC IDEA OF WHAT TO CREATE. This image above may look simple, but it took forever to get this effect. Part of the problem is that I did not have a good “roadmap” of where the final composition should go so lots of bad choices were made before it was finished (in this case 7 iterations were made). One issue was finding a font that fit the the feel of the image (this one is from Design Cuts Nordica Collection where a slight Outer Glow layer style was added to it for contrast – the bear, which was later painted and redone to be a Polar Bear is included). So Tip One, if possible, is try to get a basic idea or make a sketch of where you want the image to go – it will save lots of time! That said, half the fun can be just experimenting which is what was done here. The eye is from a set called Mystic Sun Moon Logo Templates Kit by Olya Creative – it just looked so different!

TIP 2: MAKE LOTS OF LAYERS. The above contains 56 layers. Many digital painters will paint different elements and objects on different layers so they can be manipulated to get the correct opacity or effect needed to enhance the image. Then they merge them together. I am not that brave – usually I group the layers and close them up when finished, but never merge. Definitely start with many layers before merging.

Digital Art image of winter trees

TIP 3: WATCH FOR COLOR SHIFTS WITH STAMPED LAYERS. This is a problem that has driven me nuts for years. Once the layers are all finished, I find a final composite layer comprised of all layers merged into one is needed so a stroke layer style (set to Size 2-pixel, Position Inside, Opacity 100% and using a medium dark gray color) can be added for uploading to social media – it gives a nice hard edge differentiation for different formats. Often a color shift occurs when the merged or stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) is created. The Snow Tree image above had this problem – not sure why (it appears to happen when using some layer styles on one of the layers in the stack). To remove the color shift, set the stamped or merged layer to the Color blend mode and it will go back pretty much to the original look. Made the Snow Tree image just for fun to learn how to use Kyle’s Winter 2022 set of brushes – he has a good video called Illustration Masterclass New Photoshop Brushes for 2022 where he goes through every brush in the Winter 2022 set and Describes what it does. He also has one called Brush Hour with Kyle T Webster: The Winter 2022 Brush Set where he actually draws a scene using them. Used one of his tree brushes in the top photo left panel. The Font is called Thankful Sans.

Digital art image of a snow scene using Vesner's brushes

TIP 4: TRY OUT NEW BRUSHES AND SAVE THE ONES YOU LIKE. This sounds like a very logical thing to do, but it is very easy to download new brushes and forget all about them. The Winter Wonderland image used just a set I have had for a while and never checked it out. It has lots of fun brushes – all are in a free set of 174 brushes called Lazy Brush Set by Vesner on DeviantArt. It is an older set from 2013, but the brushes work great with CS5 and above. The image used several and three were added to my Creative Brush group (and there are a lot of other brushes in there) for use when doing this type of art work. Check out my blog called Finding a Photoshop Brush in a Big Set for tips on how to find brushes you do not use that often but want to remember. If you do a screen copy or right click and Save As on the download page image of the brushes, it creates a jpg of the different brush strokes similar to the example sheets made in my referenced blog. In this image only the birds from Shadowhouse Creations free Birds Brush Set 4 were not Vesner brushes. To get the birds on the left-hand side to appear in the distance, a layer mask was added to the bird layer and the Gradient Tool set to Linear Gradient was used to diminish their appearance by dragging diagonally top left to bottom right.

TIP 5: HOW TO STOP LAG IN YOUR BRUSHES. It has come to my attention that some brushes just have more adjustments and PS has trouble making them zip along the image as fast as most artists would like.

  1. First of all, yes it is great to have the ability to add just a little more smoothing to your brushes other than the default 10% PS gives you. This is very helpful if sketching or outlining an object, but it can really slow down the painting process. Turn it off up in the Options Bar if the brush is really slowing down.
  2. Adjust the Spacing of your brush. For example if the brush size is 100 pixels and the Spacing is set to 100%, a new stamp occurs with each stroke separated by 1 pixel. The PS Default is 5% – lots of overlap of strokes which can cause painting to slow way down when lots of other settings are turned on in the brush so just bump up the Spacing a little to make it paint faster.
  3. Turn off the Extras like rulers or overlays that may be visible. It can affect painting, transforming and dragging layers onto the canvas. Go to View -> Show -> None to turn off. I never knew this but it was in an Optimize Photoshop Performance article by Adobe (other good info in it also).
  4. Minimize or turn off the Preview thumbnails in the Layers Panel. Each time you change a file, PS updates all the thumbnails visible in the Layer Panel (and also Channels Panel). This affects painting, moving, or nudging layers. And the more thumbnails visible, the greater the effect. I will check to see if making stamped layers and hiding the merged layers below will make it faster to paint, but it makes sense it would. To minimize or disable previews, go to the hamburger icon in the upper right of the Layers Panel and selection Panel Options – select either small size or None. If switching to the small size thumbnail, it can be handy to switch from Thumbnail Contents Entire Document default to Layer Bounds to be able to see what is in the layer easier.
  5. Close the Library Panel if it is not being used much by going to the hamburger icon and selecting close. This will make your computer and brushes run faster. Not sure how much this helps as I have not tried it, but it seems like it might.

TIP 6: COPYING SETTINGS FROM ONE BRUSH TO ANOTHER. In the Brush Settings Panel, click the little locks on the right side of the sections in the brush panel to copy those setting to a different brush. Be sure to turn them off in the brush with the new settings or they will get applied to the next brush used. This can be a little tricky but it is an easy way to copy setting over. Very helpful if creating a new brush and wanting to use similar settings from one of your favorite brushes.

TIP 7: WORK WITH JUST A FEW BRUSHES AND REALLY LEARN HOW TO USE THEM. Similar to Tip 4, it is easy to get distracted by a new brush and think it is really so much better than your stand-by brushes just to find out that it really is not as good as it seemed. I am still using a pastel brush created back in 2017 to do a lot of the basic painting – it is a brush that I am very comfortable using and have learned how it works with different settings added. The Polar Bear in the top image was painted using it. (See my How to Create My Favorite Brush Blog.)

I hope these tips will help you a little with your digital painting and art. I am slowly learning more about this from the many wonderful digital artists that use Photoshop for their jobs. It is amazing what the brushes can do! Hope everyone is getting through winter just fine and are Waiting for Spring!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

How to Do a Little Subconscious Digital Art Journaling

Working on Digital Painting in Photoshop


Drawn and painted image of a Red Legged Honey Creeper Bird

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drawing of a vampire in Photoshop

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

Examples of Kyles Fall 2021 Brushes

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

Image of Maddy's Free Brush and Variations

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

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

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

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


Image of a lioness drawing

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

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

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


Image of a painted young person

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

Starting Out

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

The Mixer Blender

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

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

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

Original and first attempt at painting portrait

Getting the Final Painterly Look

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

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

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

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:

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

How to Create a Texture Brush to Match a Texture

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


Digital Art image of a cat at a store door.

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

Creating the Sketch (black outline)

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

Painting Brushes

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

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

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

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

Finishing Up

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

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

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

Contour Trick

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

Digital Art image of a cat at a store door.

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

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

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

Looking at the Smudge Tool – Again

How Photoshop’s Color Dynamics Brush Settings Work

What about the Pattern Stamp Tool? Not So Bad!

Kyle T. Webster’s Photoshop Brushes

Digitally painted image of a Kingfisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image of a painted American Goldfinch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Painting Acrylics Digitally – Can It Be Done?

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

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

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

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

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

What about the Pattern Stamp Tool? Not So Bad!

Trying Out Some New Things

The Rag-a-Muffins


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

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

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

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

Pixabay image of a violin

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

Image of a man with NYC in the background

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

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

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


Image of three painted birds on a branch

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

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

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

Some Important Brush Panel Notes:

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

Brush Panel Texture Section Basics

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

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

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

How to Paint with This Brush

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

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

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

Why Not Use the Smudge Brush or the Mixer Brush?

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

My Pastel Brush Settings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smoothing:  Always leave toggled on

Options Bar Settings

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshot of signature block from video

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

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

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


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

Basic Smudge Tool Characteristics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of my observations:

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

Blending Technique

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

How to Make a Smudge Tool Brush

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

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

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

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

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

Adding Soft Fur Edges for Animal Subjects Technique

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

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

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

How to Download and Save the Smudge Tool Brushes from Adobe

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

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

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


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).


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

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

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

Image of a digital painting of a man playing the guitar

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


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


Image of a Lily

The image above is an example of what I like to do with a spatter (or splatter) brush in Photoshop. It can really pull an image together when it is lacking some interest. Thought I would show you a couple ways to get this nice effect and where to find the brushes to do it. I got this idea from watching an “oldie-but-goodie” video by Mark J. Johnson, one of my favorite Photoshop people from years ago – I have not been able to find any of his more recent material. The video is called Photoshop Workbench 418: Paint Splatter Border Effect from 2014. He is using a brush from Lisa Carney, another one of my favorites – he does not give you the brush, which has more of a splatter look to it, but you can see what it looks like and the settings he used. These are the settings I used on some of my brushes from various resources.. 
Image of a Sand Cat at the Smithsonian Washington DC Zoo

So lets start with this tiny adorable Sand (Desert) Cat image taken at the Smithsonian Washington DC Zoo. It was not a great shot as it was he was inside a building with poor light and was moving a lot, but his face was well focused. By adding some interest to the background, the overall moving effect could be blended in with a spatter brush. So after doing some initial clean up, it was time to add some spatter marks.

Finding the Brushes

This image used the Splashy brush in Kyle Webster’s Spatter Brush set. To find the spatter brushes, open the Brush Panel (I usually just press F5 and it opens up along with the Brush Settings Panel) – just click on the little “hamburger” icon in the top right corner of the panel. In the pop-out menu, there is a choice called “Get More Brushes” – that is where Kyle has all his brushes for you to download. Once the website is opened, you will see a New Release Summer 2020 Brushes at the top – the Lily image uses the Spladoosh Variant brush from this set. Scroll down and find a group called Spatter brushes – download them – to add them to PS, can just double click on the spatter.abr file – they will load in as a group at the bottom of your brush panel. (Even if PS is closed, it will open up PS and add them in.) Scroll down the group list until you see the Splashy brush.

Adding a Spatter Layer

For the cat image, a New Layer was added and the Splashy was selected. Just dabbed around until an effect was created. In this case, no texture was added first. No changes were made to the Splashy brush but it should be noted that it is set to “Multiply” blend mode in the Options bar which appears to give the brush a much softer lighter stroke effect in this case. If it is switched to Normal, marks have more emphasis on the dark and light aspects of the brush tip itself. Also for this image the actual spatter brush layer was set to Linear Burn at 72% Layer Fill. A Color Lookup Table using a Cerulean Blue preset from PhotoFocus was used to get the overall image color effect.

The Tilde (~) Keyboard Shortcut

New with the November 2019 update of PS 2020, the tilde key (~) key acts as an eraser – so when you paint with a brush, pressing the Tilde key will erase using the exact same brush with the same settings, not the brush selected in the Eraser Tool. This can be quite useful for blending when the brush is set to a lower flow or opacity – it will remove just a reduced amount of the stroke. You can use this in a layer mask to create soft blended edges.

Also, press the Tilde key (~) and the right arrow (->) key to rotate the brush tip clockwise. Use the left arrow key (<-) to rotate counterclockwise. Add the SHIFT key and it will change the Angle in 15 degree amounts. I really love this key – it has made it a lot easier to paint in PS.
Image of a group of Flamingos called Flamboyance

Using Spatter Brushes in a Layer Mask on a Texture Layer

In the Flamingo image, Spatter Brush 139 in a free set called Abstract Paint Brushes by Darrian Lynx was used – the settings in the Brush Panel were: Shape Dynamics Size Jitter 31%, Control Pen Pressure, and Angle Jitter 100%; Transfer Opacity Jitter 29%, Control Pen Pressure and Minimum 48%; and increase size to 1158 pixels. On one of my painted textures a layer mask was added and the above brush was used to paint out the center with black for a border effect. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E), Luminar 4 (for website link, see sidebar of my Tidbits Blog)was opened and several “looks” were applied to soften up the edges of the painted spatter border to give a sort of dreamy feel to the image.

The top image of the Lily used a brush from Kyle’s new Summer 2020 Brushes set called Sladoosh Variant. This brush is set to Normal blend mode at 30% opacity for this image and no changes were made to the brush settings. The Tilde keyboard shortcut was used a lot to get the effect around the blossoms that I wanted.

Brush marks can be combined on different layers and set to different opacities to make new spatter brushes. Also several different layers set to different layer opacities or blend modes using different brushes can be stacked above the image to create some great effects. And don’t forget to try different textures with different blend modes to get some interesting results. It is really a lot of fun to do this. Have a great week and start looking at those spatter brushes!…..Digital Lady Syd


Drawing of an Elephant
This week I decided I to try another drawing video and see what results I could get this time. One of my favorite wildlife artists (and Disney cartoonist extraordinaire!) Aaron Blaise had a sale on an older set of videos (he was using Photoshop CS6) called Wildlife Painting Bundle for Photoshop. The above Elephant was drawn and painted following the steps in his 1-1/2 hour long Elephant Painting Tutorial video. He takes you step-by-step on how to create the image in great detail. It took me much longer than 1-1/2 hours to do this – had to walk away a few times and start certain sections over to get it correct. The main challenge was to get used to the Erodible Brush he showed you how to create. Once you have mastered the brush, it was amazing what it could do! One hint here, I had to actually add some Softness to the brush (41%) to keep my lines from getting too sharp when making wider strokes – and the brush size was set to 7 or 8 pixels to get sharp sketchy lines. The only downside was the Elephant video’s resolution was lower than the other three and this made it a little harder to see some of his settings.

Aaron’s Elephant image was darker and used warmer tones rather like a Safari. My image used Topaz (see sidebar of my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReStyle to get more gray tones. The file became very large – almost a gigabyte and that seemed a bit excessive for a drawing. Therefore two different files were saved – a drawing file after finishing up the video, and a duplicate stamped layer from the drawing file to add my other changes. Aaron also teaches you how to create an interesting textured background and how to add special effects to it to enhance the overall drawing when finished. This bundle contained videos for a Leopard (which I am doing right now), a Lion and a Panther.

Drawn Image of a wolf
My wolf drawing above was created a few years ago following Aaron’s YouTube video called How to Paint Fur – Photoshop – Wolf Portrait. It contains very similar steps, but since the wolf has hair instead of skin, it used different brushes. For more details on how this was done, check out my Learning to Draw a Wolf! blog. Aaron’s video for the wolf is also great for learning to draw. He has lots of other YouTube videos, several where he is using natural media as opposed to digital, but all of them are very informative. He is an excellent teacher.

There are several other digital artists that are sharing their Photoshop techniques. I am a big fan of David Belliveau of Paintable for learning to paint people. (See my Where to Find a Good Photoshop Painter blog.) A couple times a year he offers free week long lessons that are terrific, and he has some really great PS brushes for free download. And EDX (University of Newcastle in Australia) offers a free Drawing Course called Drawing Nature, Science and Culture: Natural History Illustration 101 – this is a course I keep meaning to start taking and have not had time to do it. This may be a great time to try! And just for some crazy fun, try doodling! (See my blog How to Enjoy the Doodle!)


Below is a little drawing and painting done several years ago. Just another example of something that can be drawn easily. It followed my blog called Some Flower Power that describes the basic steps used.

Image of some drawn flowers

Some Photoshop News

Also thought I would just add a couple notes for everyone. Photoshop just posted an upgrade (fixes tablet issues which I was having big-time! Thank you Adobe!), Skylum Luminar 4 update that now allows adding components into your sky and has greatly improved the skin panels (Thank you Skylum!), and Topaz AI Sharpen which now allows selective sharpening using a mask (Thank you Topaz Labs!). See sidebar of my Tidbits Blog for Skylum and Topaz website links. Should be some fun stuff to investigate this coming week. Hope everyone is at home and feeling well! Have a great time with drawing in Photoshop. There are so many things to learn by drawing that can help your photography skills too!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of a Bulldozer in the Bahamas
Thought I would do a quick post on this since it seems to be a bit confusing as to what a Clean Up Layer is for and why have one. If you do not use Photoshop that much, it is probably something you do not think about – but when I go into Photoshop to finish up my post-processing work, it is very important.

Often it is necessary to do a “clean up” layer before applying filters or adjustment layers as it can save a lot of time at the end when you are trying to finalize an image. What I mean by that is that if a spot shows up at the end, it is often necessary to do that final clean up and, if you are like me, it just adds to the size of your image. That does not mean you can’t clean up an image later in your workflow (I have done it a lot! but not because I wanted to!) – it can also create problems if you are trying to blend out or clone areas, then decide to change a blend mode from an earlier layer in the stack – there now is this ugly layer that does not match up and you have to do the clean up layer again. It can get a bit frustrating.

Usually I create several Clean Up layers and I try to label them a little bit to remind me what I did on that layer. If you are using different tools, like the Paint Brush and the Clone Stamp for example, it is really handy to put each tool’s corrections on their own layers. This is useful since you may not like an Clean Up layer effect produced as you post processed the image and you can just delete that layer. Also, if the results create too strong an effect, like too much additional color from a paintbrush, just reduce that layer’s opacity. Another handy thing to remember is that a layer mask can be added to the Clean Up layer – can paint over areas using a low opacity brush to reduce the effect in just certain areas – and the Properties Panel can always be used to adjust the Density of the layer mask changes.


Often one is needed immediately after bringing the image into Photoshop since neither Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw have layer capabilities which makes clean up difficult. By starting with a blank New Layer on top of the background layer, it is easy to use the Spot Removal Tool for any little corrections to your image. Also the Clone Stamp Tool can be used to “clean up” areas that need a few tweaks. And of course regular brushes can be used to clean up a line or edge.

Another time to use a Clean Up layer is if you need to blend using a Mixer Brush or Paint Brush – it can be handy to have this on a separate layer to blend in the strokes perfectly. This is a great time to try out different brush strokes to see if they work better than the brush you are using. Try never to paint directly on the image as it is a destructive process doing that – the separate layers above can be deleted easily if the result is just not right.


For the image above, the ability to go back and forth between using a regular Paint Brush and the Stamp Tool Brush to “clean up” an image was used. This may sound pretty obvious, but I am not sure many people try this.

Image of Original Image and of Clean Up Paint Layer
As you can see on the left image there was a great big palm frond hanging down in front of this Bahamian Bulldozer. It was parked on the trail up to Nippers Beach Bar and Grill on the Great Guana Cay (if you don’t go to Nippers, you have not been to the Outerbanks!) The palm frond is basically why this image was not post processed before. By sampling the colors near each frond area, the messy area was cleaned up. To restore the texture of certain areas that just could not be painted, the Stamp Brush Tool was set to a small size, sometimes as small as 3 pixels, and Hardness set to 75% and Spacing to 25% in Brush Tip Shape section in Brush Panel. Then the texture could be added to areas where the paint brush would not work. (This means the palm fronds areas hanging down were replaced with the green bush “texture” in the background by using the Clone Stamp Tool.) The Regular Paint Brush used was my Chalk Brush 60 that contains a setting of 19% Angle Jitter in the Shape Dynamics section. Set to a small size it gives you a lot of stroke control but also some variation in the stroke to indicate a little variation. See right side for what the Chalk Brush Clean Up layer looked like – shows the frond area painted over by sampling the color and painting with the brush.

This image also had several other “Clean Up” layers – one for the Patch Tool used after cropping to fill the top expanded area, and Spot Healing Brush and Clone Stamp Brush to clean up the texture applied to this image. The texture is from French Kiss Artiste Collection – Cote d’Azure texture. It was chosen since it had a sort of sandy bottom and blue sky at the top. A New Layer (same as a Clean Up layer) using the Clone Stamp was applied over the texture to just smooth the edges up to the object and still match the texture. My last “clean up” layer was used on the tire lettering. Totally indispensable!

When adding a layer mask do not forget to highlight the mask and press the \ key to see what you are painting out of the image – it really helps to fine-tune the layer mask this way.

I hope this cleared up a little bit of the confusion about what a “Clean Up” layer is used for, but you can use it in any way. What I discussed is how I use them and almost every image I post-process in Photoshop uses at least one. Have a great week…..Digital Lady Syd


An image of a composite containing the ocean and a small island
I would imagine everyone who has Photoshop has run across the name Julieanne Kost – she is an Adobe Evangelist and attends most major events that showcase Photoshop. She really loves to use texture and recently created a short video on her blog called Happy Birthday Photoshop! to let you see how she puts here fine art composites together. I found this short video really interesting and thought I would give her style a try and share it with you. The above image was my first attempt.

I have always felt that composites are really fun to do, but it does require a bit of creativity to pull together several different elements into a meaningful result. The above image I named “Hope on the Horizon” as I wanted to depict a rather lonely feeling but with the moving clouds and birds, there is always activity and hope.


Here is how I perceived her workflow – my own steps for the image above is in italics.

    1. First select an image that would work as a nice background for the image. This usually means there is a really nice ocean scene, or flat foreground grassy area and it may or may not have a horizon line. Just need something of interest to build your composite on.
      In the above, an image taken while sailing showing the clouds out over the ocean was used as a basis for the image.
    2. She will add a texture on top of the background layer sometimes. It is often necessary to desaturate the texture so it does not change the tone in the image so SHIFT+CTRL+U is used to desaturate it.
      On the image above, a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using the Candlelight preset was added instead to reduce the color but not change the texture of the water at this time.
    3. Add in some elements – these can be brought in from anywhere. It can be helpful to select the items out of the image before copying them into your composite, but you do not have to – just add a layer mask to clean up what is being added.
      In the image above two images from PixelSquid (one of my favorite element places, but it is a membership site) using a sand and dunes element and a palm tree element. The dune contained the nice grass and weeds. The wood structure behind the tree was taken from another one of my images and just added in – used a layer mask to remove its background. Selective Color Adjustment Layers were used to adjust the color of the elements. Also added a New Layer and painted some small white and black flowers (scatter brush dots) in the weeds. And you may want to paint over the edges with a low opacity Regular brush or Smudge or Mixer brush to blend in elements.
    4. Used a fog brush to soften the horizon on a New Layer if you do not want it to be too noticable. Julieanne appears to soften the horizon a lot in her image.
      The brush used above was a cloud brush called Adonish CLOD3 from a free set by DanLuVisiArt on DeviantArt and does a great job with this – need to set the size of course.
    5. Next texture(s) need to be added – any number and try out different blend modes and and adjust layer opacity for each. Some may need to be desaturated and some may not – that is what makes it fun.
      Above two textures were applied: one from Melissa Gallo’s canvas collection called Dark Naples Yellow Canvas set to Overlay blend mode at 74% layer opacity and contains the strong yellow and green components, and one from the Adobe Texture Pro Panel called Villa Adriana – it was desaturated and set to Hard Light at 45% layer opacity.
    6. More elements can be added on top too.
      See the birds flying – they are also from PixelSquid but bird elements can be found all over the internet.
    7. Now the final steps need to be done. Usually a Curves or Levels Adjustment Layer need to be added to retain the  contrast lost by adding all the textures. Also any other masking or tweaking needs to be done to get your image just right.
      In the image above, Viveza was opened on a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and set to a Smart Object so it could be readjusted. The Camera Raw filter could have been used to do the same. The sliders were set to brighten up the whole image a little and add a little structure which was lost by adding all the texture. The last step involved adding a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer on top and reducing the saturation (-25) just a little as it was supposed to be a little darker than the happy yellow it currently was.


    Image of a Sumatran Tiger
    This Sumatran Tiger from the Jacksonville Zoo is really not as mean as he looks (although I am not sure of this) – I wanted him to look like he was walking straight at you. Since there was a fence behind him, an element was created using some horizontal lines with a brush and adding some texture to the layer. So, yes, the original image and background of the tiger are the same, but many things were done that are similar to Julieanne’s type of image. A brush was created to paint in a warm orange texture around the lion but under the horizontal line layer. For instructions on how to do this, check out Envato’s tutorial called How to Create Photoshop Brushes from an Old Newspaper by Ivan Gromov. It was a lot of fun to do and the created brushes make nice texture layers. Two other texture layers were applied – Melissa Gallo’s Green Lake set to Overlay blend mode at 60% layer opacity and Trees in May set to 75% layer opacity. A High Pass layer was used to sharpen just his face (used a black layer mask and painted in just the face area). On top one of my own white textures was set at 75% Layer Opacity to give him a less sharp and bright overall appearance. A Levels Adjustment Layer was used to add back some contrast and that was about it.

    Julieanne has a class on compositing at for a fee. Her technique is pretty consistent if you watch her short video and she does create some really nice textured images. I hope you will give it a try since it is pretty fun to do and it is not a real hard workflow to master. Have a good week…..Digital Lady Syd

    How to Make a Basic Composite Image
    ReBlog – Get Inspired using Your Favorite Textures
    A Few Compositing Tips and Tricks! – Recycled
    A Flamingo’s Private Park


Bonobo Monkey at the Jacksonville Zoo
This week I spent a lot of time working on my Jacksonville Zoo images. It is really hard to get that perfect shot when you are without a tripod and the animals and you are moving a lot, not to mention the weather aspects that can affect the final picture. Therefore it is sort of a hit or miss prospect and it takes a little manipulation to get the perfect image.

The above is an image using the effect that Joel Sartore (a National Geographic photographer) uses and is his images are currently being displayed throughout the Jacksonville Zoo. He mission is to photograph every live animal on the earth using this beautiful technique. He uses lighting and sharpness very effectively. I thought I would try to get a similar effect with some of my images and this Bonobo Monkey is one of my results. (This technique is also displayed in my Sneaking a Quick Snack image on my Tidbits Blog.)

So how do you create this effect? First the basic color work was done in Lightroom and the image was cropped once in Photoshop. A Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer using the color black was added under a duplicate layer of the Background Layer. Joel uses white also as a background color, but I really like the black background effect.

Getting a Good Selection

A good selection is crucial – you do not want any discoloration from the original background where the animal was located. The Quick Selection Tool was used to select the monkey from his background. As you can see, the above had a lot of head hair and was easily discolored since his hairs were so thin. The Select and Mask panel was opened and the Refine Brush Edge Tool (2nd icon down on the left) was selected at the default 30-pixel size. An 8-pixel Edge Detection Radius was entered. With the Refine Brush Tool, the monkey was painted over his edges. Sometimes you do not get the best results with this tool, but it is a good start. At this point I usually look at the Black & White View and use the Brush Tool (3rd icon down) to clean up anything that looks bad. The Shift Edge was set to +37% to show up the hair on his head more. Exited using New Layer with Layer Mask (no decontamination used as it did not look good but always check to see). It totally depends on what is being selected as to whether all these sliders used on this image. The Eagle below used only the Refine Edge Brush. I personally find this panel to be very finicky as to how well it works. I would list a reference but so far I have not found any that are that great. I always do paint around the edges with the Refine Brush Edge Tool no matter what is being selected. Some experts say paint from the inside out over the edge – this works sometimes for me. The good news is that the layer mask can be painted in directly once out of the panel to further tweak the image. This is where a some special brushes can really help. This also may be a case to use Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Mask AI if you own the filter – it does give a better selection sometimes.

Finding a Good Fur or Feather Brush

Back in Photoshop, a good Fur Brush is necessary to use inside the layer mask since so many hairs might be missed in the Quick Selection Panel. They need to be added in at this point. There are several places where you can get fur brushes. My best set is free to use from Coyotemange called Wildlife Texture Brushes on DeviantArt – great for painting in missing areas on all kinds of animal fur. Aaron Blaise also has some great animal brushes for sale. The one used a lot on the monkey image (and is one of my favorite brushes) was created from watching a short free brush video (No. 21) by Karen Alsop included in her class called Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World on Creative Live. It has been very useful for all kinds of rough edges and I use it as a Clone Stamp Tool brush and Eraser also. By alternating between black and white on the edges, the hairs can be added back in with a very realistic look. Another very handy brush was created by watching Aaron Nace’s How to Cut Out Hair with the Brush Tool in Photoshop video. You can download the brush from there – I use this brush a lot in the layer masks for individual fur hairs – just need to adjust the stroke angle in the Options Bar or the Brush Panel.

Color and Lighting

Next the color of the subject needs to be considered. The monkey used a Levels Adjustment Layer. The Red in the drop-down menu was opened and the white tab moved left (which added Red into the Highlights) and the Midtone (center) tab was adjusted for contrast. In the Blue both the white tab was moved left a little and on the Output Levels, the first field was set to 14 to add blue into the shadows a little bit. To understand how this works, check out Aaron Nace’s How to Use Levels & Curves in Photoshop – Day 6 video – it is an excellent explanation! A Curves Adjustment Layer was used for contrast.

Now I could see the hair did not look right so another Curves Adjustment Layer was selected and the layer mask was filled with black (CTRL+I in the mask). By painting over the hairs with a white brush, the hairs could be exposed. Then the Curve was adjusted by using the little hand tool in the top of the Curves Panel and getting just the right tone on the hair. A Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer was added and the layer mask from the Curves Adjustment Layer was copied over so the color of the hair could also be adjusted. The eyes were brightened using the Exposure Adjustment Layer (see my The Eyes Have It – How to Make Them Pop in an Image blog). The last step was to use a Spotlight Effect on the subject to enhance the light already on the monkey. (See my How to Add a Spot of Light blog.)

I used Viveza 2 to do final image adjustments but Photoshop’s Camera Raw Filter works just as well – mainly was adding a little focused structure to parts of his face for focus. Also a text layer was added.


Image of one of the Eagles at the Jacksonville Zoo
This Bald Eagle is located at the Jacksonville Zoo with his blind buddy eagle. I felt bad for him as he was extremely alert and really wanted to take off but he seemed content to watch all the visitors as we passed by and said Hi. His final image is not as dramatic as the monkey image since the lighting was essentially non-existent in this image. Since he was not moving much, it was pretty easy to get a really sharp image. It was also easy to select the Eagle just using the Refine Edge Brush in the Select & Mask Panel as he did not have all the little feathers or hairs that many birds and animals have sticking out. Basically did a little spotlight lighting on his face and neck areas. Used Luminar Flex (could have used Luminar 4) to add the sharpness to the image (used Accent AI Filter 2, Structure, Details Enhancer, Golden Hour to adjust color in the beak, and Microstructure filters). Popped his eye with an Exposure Adjustment Layer. That was it. This was a very easy image to use for this type of effect.

It really is not that hard to get the look – just have to be careful of the mask being used. An edge discoloration could really overall ruin the result. Love this look that Joel did with his wonderful pictures. Hope you give a try. Have a great one and will be back soon!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Add a Darker Background Image for a Different Effect


Comic Image of me watching TV

This week I am doing a reblog from a few years ago – thought you would enjoy it since it is on one of my favorite subjects and lots of fun to use with images. In the meantime I am taking a week off from blogging to get some new pic and ideas (and taking a little down time – HaHa)! Have a great week!

Digital painted image of a farm sceneLots of times I have found or created a texture I really like that I would like to use in an image but not sure where. So this is a blog on how to create images for that texture, and possibly get your creative mind going. Not particularly a new concept, but a little different approach for using texture. It also gives you a chance to brush up on your compositing skills and try out some nature brushes. The image above is an example of my using a texture that I created in Corel Painter and used in this image originally.

There are not a lot of steps to this process. Just open the texture above a white Background layer in case the texture needs to be set to a different blend mode or opacity amount. Next add elements and/or text, and finally do the finishing steps as if post-processing an image.

That is exactly what was done above – here is the workflow for this image to demonstrate the steps. The texture was added and left as it is. Next Photoshop’s tree filter was used to create this pretty foreground tree. If you have not experimented with this filter, give it a try. (For more on this see my How to Create a Photoshop Artistic Tree.) It is so much fun! These are my tree settings – most of the settings were changed to get the tree effect shown above. (Base Tree Type: 19: Fraxinus Griffithi which is an Evergreen Ash, Light Direction 85, Leaves Amount 22, Leaves Size 130, Branches Height 94, Branches Thickness 77, Uncheck Default Leaves and select 8: Leaves 8, Uncheck Randomize Shapes Arrangement 21.3.) A layer mask can always be added if you do not quite like the way the branches look – in this case some of the leaves were too dark so a 30% brush was painted over them in the mask to lighten them up. The Liquify Tool can also be used to get the branches sitting just right. A Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the tree to make it more golden in color to match the texture. The texture looked like a golden wheat field to me so a little red barn from PixelSquid was added – a mask was added so the bottom of the barn could be removed and hide it from view. The layer was set to 55% layer opacity so it is looks a little less sharp and more distance. I love the brushes by DeviantArt’s ninelvlsup and her Dandelion Whisps brush was used in the foreground. Some of the edges were removed with a layer mask. The birds are from a Flypaper Bird Set that I use all the time. To soften the effect of the birds, a Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+click between the layers to clip) to the birds and a yellow and red pattern was used. The bird layer was set to Multiply blend mode at 77% layer opacity. The last element is the single bird from the same brush set called Big Crow Fly Birds brush – it was duplicated and the top layer was set to Multiply blend mode at 65% layer opacity to emphasize the bird a little more. The elements are now in place. A stamped layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) ReStyle was opened. There a different color palette was applied – one that was less bright and yellow and created a cooler color tone – the preset was created from another image. (See my Flagler Beach Pier image for color palette used.) This layer was set to Color blend mode. The final steps are what I generally do when finishing up a regular photo image. Not all my steps were used here but a lot of them. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added to add some contrast back. On another stamped layer Nik Viveza 2 was used to shift the focus back over to the bird from the barn. On a New Layer a little spatter brush was used to give the grass a little life – I wanted it to look like little bugs flying around. A soft orange Light Leak was added to the top left for a bit of color in the sky. A Red Channel Luminosity Curves Adjustment Layer was added to pull the whole image together. The last step was to add a layer style to the edge for a soft brown border – just an Inner Shadow set to Normal blend mode, brown color, Distance 0, Choke 53, and Size 29; and Inner Glow set to Saturation blend mode, Opacity 100%, white color, Softer Technique, Edge, Choke 0, and Size 250 pixels. Know this got a little long, but it is a pretty good example of how to pull a composite effect together once the texture is chosen.


Below are two examples of using basically the same elements in the same place but used with different textures that give a totally different look. Digital Art image of fur trees and a deerThis image used a really colorful background texture that I created using a whole bunch of the brushes in Grut’s Inky Leaks Splatter Brushes, which are fabulous brushes. Here is a link to how this texture was used before. It gives a subtle effect especially in the sky in the above. Here is a quick run-through of the steps using a very similar workflow. The tree was created using the PS Tree filter again (the Pine Tree 2 was used) and duplicating and flipping it to make a second one. The deer element is from Tara Lesher (could not get weblink to work). Frostbo Grass Set 2 brushes were used. The flower under the large tree is actually from a recent Checking Out the Buds Tidbits Blog. I try to save out anything that could be used again for other images. The flying ducks are also from the Flypaper Bird set above. A light leak was added on right side. A Van Gogh preset was applied in Topaz Impression 2 – a layer mask was used to paint back the deer, birds and tree trunks. Three more textures were used get even more of a painterly look: one of mine which had yellow and a slight bluish vignette around it and set to Darken blend mode at 57% layer opacity (used Topaz Texture Effects in PS to create it), 2 Lil’ Owls (for website link, see sidebar on my Tidbits Blog). The Grey Collection 3 was set to Overlay blend mode, and her Ancient 1 set texture 2 was set to Linear Light at 28% layer opacity. Nik Viveza 2 was applied to adjust focus. Last step added a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using a Candlelight preset – it was set to Linear Burn at 10% layer opacity. Pretty much the same as above but very different result.

In the image below I wanted to show how a different texture gives a very different result. It contains the same basic elements except that the grass was created using Aaron Blaise‘s Foliage brush set and Directional Fur and Hair brush set. I was really surprised what nice flowers and grass can be created with these brushes. The texture is another one I painted in Corel Painter. The font is called Winter Holidays. I am not sure I have ever used this texture before but I like it. The reason this image looks so different is that the PS Lighting Effects filter was used to set the lighting on the right side. Otherwise the image was post-processed as the first one.

Digital image of fur trees and a deerThis is something to try when you do not feel so inspired. There always seems to be some texture that will get you interested in creating. Until later…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blog:
How to Make a Basic Composite Image
Creating Winter Wonderland Effect!
How to Create an Image From Nothing!