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PLUGINS, CAMERA RAW CONVERTERS, NEW FILTERS – IT IS GETTING CRAZY OUT THERE!

Image of view from Edinburgh Castle, ScotlandI don’t know where everyone else is, but I am getting so totally confused about all the new software-plugin releases that have come out in recent days/weeks. I was hooked on plugins since I bought Nik Viveza at Christmas of 2009. I remember being nervous about paying so much for it, but loved it right from the beginning (and now it is free!!!). Over the years I have become totally immersed in what can be done with all the plugins available – and wish I could afford to get them all (sigh). So in this wordy blog I will try to sort this out.

As a quick example, let’s talk about Viveza 2 again. I downloaded the first beta version of Lightroom and never looked back. Lots of people said Nik Viveza was just a copy of what Lightroom (or Adobe Camera Raw)  could do for an image. Yes, it did similar things, but still was a lot different in my mind. Flash forward and I still use Viveza on nearly every post-processed photo even though we now have the somewhat similar Camera Raw Filter available in Photoshop. The point here is that yes, there is a lot of overlap between most of these programs, and yes, they do things just different enough that they all present some benefits to your post-processing workflow. It is really just personal taste in how you want to adjust your images.

So here we are now with not one, not two, but three really good updated software programs (not to mention several other newer ones on the scene) that can process Camera Raw images and do pretty much everything Lightroom/ACR does. They are now all stand-alone programs or plugins for Photoshop layers. For website links to all three programs, check out my Tidbits Blog sidebar. Using the same image of Edinburgh Castle, the top one used Luminar 2018 for Windows, and below used On1 Raw 2018 and Topaz Studio. I tried to use a fairly similar workflow doing the basic Raw editing first and then adding in filter effects. So here is my take on where we are now.

All three of the above programs are really good – I am not going to bash any of them as they all do things I totally love. Do they overlap in what they do? Somewhat, but each has a few things I wish they all could do. Of course that is what sets them apart and why it is so hard to decide which one(s) to get.

To figure out which one would fit your workflow, you need to answer a pretty simple question: What do you want to do with your image or several of your future images? Where is your interest going – do you want to go more into an artistic feel or are you just trying to get the most realistic images for your profession or travel experiences? Since I do not have a professional studio or take wedding or senior photos often, I am more inclined to really stretch what the plugins will do to give an artistic feel to an image. Now I do understand that having a few quick tricks up your sleeve for clients to give them a choice of a few really artistic images is nice to have so using special effect plugins is just fine for that.

  • Topaz Studio

First, the Topaz Studio is a free download and contains several adjustments to get your started. Your older Topaz Labs filters can be accessed in this interface so you will always have access to them. You can’t go wrong with Topaz Studio’s Impression or one of their other creative Labs programs like Topaz ReStyle or Topaz Texture Effects for the really artistic effects. Impression has given Topaz the one-up on the other programs for the artistic effects and I am sure you have read lots about it – it is one of my favorite plugins. And I have to mention this little slider that lets you stop the painting action wherever you want – great addition to the updated filter. Topaz has done a terrific job with their masking effects tools and the different masking tools work really smoothly. The biggest down side is that even though Topaz Studio platform is free, to get it to work well you need to buy their Pro Pack. Therefore it brings it in line with the other two programs as far as cost goes. The Impression filter (or Clarity, Detail, or Simplify) needs to be bought individually to add into the Studio interface. If you already own Topaz Impression (or the other filters) as a Topaz Labs filter, you are entitled to a free upgrade for Studio (forever is their policy – once a filter is bought it is upgraded for free). And please do update to the newer Topaz Studio Impression filter – it is much better than the older Impression 2. If you own many Topaz filters, they will all eventually be added into the Studio interface. I am not going to say the program does not have its problems, but I do know enough by working with them that their final product will be very good. They have a Basic Adjustment that is not as complete as the others, but with the addition of the Clarity and Detail plug-ins, and several color adjustments choices, it is fine. In the image below, just a little more work on the clouds and some color reduction would really help and can be easily fixed in the program.

Image of Edinburgh Castle, Scotland - using Topaz Studio

  • On1 Photo Raw 2018

Photo Raw is now a really good challenger to Lightroom and is definitely worth checking out if you do lots of photo shoots. I have always liked On1 but it was very computer processor intensive. Their Browse Module is now lightening fast – it makes LR look really slow. I was stunned at how fast it all happens and it appears to be picking up my keywords from LR – that was even more amazing! And my computer hardly even cared. Once an image is chosen, go into their Develop Module which sets you up with the needed filters and is very similar to LR. Besides Shadow and Highlight sliders, there is a Midtone slider which I really like. There are other similar sliders to LR and includes a Detail section and Lens Correction section. Then it is time to go into the Effects Module where they provide lots of presets and individual filter choices. A very popular filter is called Dynamic Contrast – very similar to Detail in Topaz. Also the Glow filter is to be very popular. When masking, they do have a lot of choices (including a new Chisel Brush and Blur Brush) but I found it a little harder to use than in Topaz or LR. The filter settings can be somewhat hidden which includes the  blending options, and Highlight, Midtone, and Shadow sliders so the filter is only applied to certain areas if wanted. My biggest problem with On1 is the high learning curve. I believe it is a fantastic program and technically is going to keep Adobe on their toes. But it does take time to watch the videos to understand where everything is in the interface and what all the different filters will do. I can honestly say that On1 is totally improved from previous versions and I plan on using it a lot more. In the image below, the cloud color is just not quite right to me but the foreground sharpness is incredible! The clouds can be fixed easily in the program.

Image of Edinburgh Castle, Scotland using ON1 Photo Raw 2018

  • Luminar 2018

And now to Luminar 2018 – new entry for me into the field since I am a Windows person and this was for Mac previously. The image at the top of the blog is the Luminar example – loved the cloud effect especially and the Golden Hour filter on the front of the buildings. There are other parts I love and parts I hate it! Okay – if they would have updated it to match their Mac counterpart for us Windows users, I would love it. After watching several  videos just to find out all the sliders are not there, it is a bit frustrating. I also find that the Masking Tools are harder to use than with the other programs. The Mac version has several grouped filters for different types of effects – for Raw images an Essentials group was created which contains Tone, Accent AI, Color Temp, and Polarizing Filters. In Windows there are Filters Catalog but the Essentials is not the same group. This is definitely confusing. (Thank you Serge Ramelli for the video showing this filter set up – see Luminar 2018 vs Lightroom Classic?) But I love their filters and they seem to give a slightly different feel to an image – the Sun Ray filter, the Golden House filter, an Accent AI filter – and many others. Of the 3 image results shown, I liked the results from Luminar the best. I am under the assumption Luminar will be catching up the Windows version soon so it will work just like the Mac users interface. When that occurs, I will blog on this so everyone knows.

  • Bottom Line

I do love all these programs – have used Topaz and On1 for years – in fact my second favorite plugin from years ago was On1’s Photo Frame 4.6 – the best framing plug-in ever and I was totally upset when they discontinued it. BTW they do still have some framing options, but it is not quite the same – will blog on this soon. All three of my images are not that different – just some personal preferences there. And this was basically just using the Raw processors – each program has decidedly different strengths which are not showcased in these examples. A recent post by Photoshop Guru Matt Kloskowski called Is There a Lightroom Replacement explains in more detail about the browser and Raw converter issues – a good read. And check out my Related Blogs below for some other examples of what these programs can do.

As you can see things are changing as we come into a faster and more efficient software era. We have to say good-bye to some of the ways we used to post-process and attempt to figure out what to do with all the “Raw Converters!” – and what do we need from a filter program. I think so much of what you choose has to be based on just trying out the software now and seeing what works. Like I said, I am pleased, I am frustrated, and I am amazed at some of the filters I am now seeing. All three of these plug-ins are seasoned software companies and know what they are doing. Apparently Nik has been bought from Google recently by DxO and will be coming out this Spring with some updates. So there will be a new-old kid in town to really spice things up. Will I use their Raw converters for my work? Probably not so much – still a LR person at this point. Will I use their Special Effects filters? Totally!!! Hope this helped a little if you are as confused as me. I will continue updating you on all the new things coming out with these plug-ins but in the meantime, just try them out. It is amazing what some of the new filters are doing and it may fit just what you need for creating a new type of post-processing effect. In the meantime, Happy Black Friday if you are in the US and good luck finding some great PS finds!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Macphun Luminar 2018 Sun Rays at a Glance
Now Available – Free Beta Version of Macphun’s Luminar for Windows
Introducing the Free Topaz Studio
Updated Impression Now in Topaz Studio
Updated Clarity Now in Topaz Studio
How to Add a Simple Glow Effect to Your Image
A Beautiful View
My Favorite Photo Frame Plug-In – OnOne PhotoFrames (hum!) – just a little nostalgia here

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HOW TO CREATE A GLITTER TEXTURE

Image of a Magic Holiday TreeThis week I discovered a very easy way to create those glitter textures that are everywhere and would be perfect for the upcoming holiday season. Thought I would share this easy process and a couple of images on how I used them. The image above uses the dark blue glitter texture from in my video to create a soft sparkling background effect. This technique was described in a 2012 video tutorial called Music Lights by Dom Quichotte at FX-ray – it has lots of other interesting tips also. See my short video that demonstrates just how to create the texture effect. If you do not see the link in the RSS feed, please open the blog and it will be available.

If you are not a video person, or want a quick reference for steps on how to do this, here is the workflow for the glitter effect:

  1. Create a Document – the standard size for most textures is 8″ X 10″ at 300 resolution.
  2. Fill layer with a color to make your glitter texture. I used a dark blue color (R20/G30/B55) in the tree image above.
  3. Set the color swatch to the default colors Black and White by pressing D.
  4. Create a New Layer and fill with black – ALT+Backspace.
  5. Go to Filter -> Render -> Fibers and set Variance to 64 and Strength to 4.
  6. Change to Color Dodge blend mode.
  7. Go to Filter -> Other -> Minimum and set Radius to 2 pixels.
  8. Go to Filter -> Other -> Maximum and set Radius to 2 pixels. Now have a beautiful sparkling background.
  9. To add a little variation to the texture, add another New Layer and go to Filter -> Render -> Clouds and set to Overlay blend mode. If you do not like the cloud pattern created, press CTRL+F or just open the Filter menu item and select first option to generate a new pattern.
  10. Go to Filter -> Distort -> Spherize and set Amount to -100. Adjust opacity to taste.
  11. Save document as a JPG in your texture folder.
  12. To change the color of the glitter effect, just add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer on top – check Colorize box, and move the three sliders to get the new color. On the tree image, a Gradient Map was added on top of the blue texture to create the subtle multi-color background – in this case it was a brown to white to light blue to dark blue. (For more info on Image 1, go to bottom of blog.)

Image of white flowers on a green glitter textureThis image is the one shown in my video. The PNG file was created from the blue glitter texture also created in the video. Just followed the steps below. (For more info on the Hawaiian Flowers Image 2 above, go to bottom of blog.) To create a PNG of the just the sparkly points, continue with these steps:

  1. Open the Glitter jpg image and duplicate the layer.
  2. Go to Select -> Select Color Range and drag the eyedropper tool around in image until it looks like a nice starry look. Be sure Localized Color Clusters are checked and adjust both the Fuzziness slider (I set to 52) and the Range Slider (set to 100%). At this point it should be mainly black color with light points showing up as white in the filter window. Click OK.
  3. Add a layer mask to the duplicate texture layer and the light points appear as white in the mask but will probably have some color in them in the layer – add a white layer underneath to see what was selected.
  4. Right click inside the mask and select Apply Layer Mask.
  5. Turn off the other layers and go to Save -> Save As and select PNG file format.

Now you have a transparent texture with just the glitter highlights. To make the glitter color all white like snow, add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment and set the Lightness to +100. For black glitter set Lightness to -100, or change the color any way with the sliders. Duplicate the transparent texture and to to Edit -> Free Transform to spread the glitter out some – Perspective was used below. Then go to Filter -> Gaussian Blur and set a Radius to something like 3 to create a softening effect on that layer. By stacking the two PNG files, it can create a really nice snow effect. See below for how I used the PNG texture in the image of a Scottish Close in Edinburgh. (For more info on Image 3, check below.)

Image of Anchor Close in Edinburgh, Scotland I really like being able to create my own effects instead of having to worry about buying them or finding out they cannot be used for commercial projects. I hope to continue creating blogs that will help others create their own resource tools. Well that is it for this week. Have a good one!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image information:

Image 1:  For the Magic Tree image, first painted a tree trunk and branches freehand on New Layer above white background, then the glitter background was placed directly underneath it. The tree leaves were brushes created in Corel Painter’s using the Symmetrical Tool and different Painter brushes. The PS new Technology called Paint Symmetry is just not quite as good yet although one brush was created and used. I ended up with 16 new brushes used on the tree along with some little glitter brushes to give the magical look. Next the image was taken into Luminar 2018 where just two filters were applied: Soft Glow and the Golden Hour. They both really lightened up the tree and made the snowflake edges less sharp. Last step was back in PS where Nik Viveza 2 was used on the image to adjust the whole color tone.

Image 2: Not much here other than the blue texture was used and a Turquoise Solid Color Fill Layer was added clipped (ALT + Click between layers to clip) and set to Color blend mode for the greenish color. The white Hawaiian flowers were extracted and placed on top. Next the Sparkling Blue Glitter PNG was added on top of the flowers. To change just the color of the dots on just the flowers, select the flowers from the layer before by CTRL+clicking on the flowers, then select the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer – the layer mask will show just the flowers in it. The Hue was set to 33, Saturation 98, and Lightness -5 with Colorize checked. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added to adjust the contrast in the image. A darken layer and flower lines layer were used to clean up the flowers.

Image 3:  One iteration I created of this image is a very warm sunny day effect. I also liked the cool wintry effect. Lucis Pro (no longer available) was used to get the really sharp look. Nik Viveza 2 was used to darken down the image some. Lots of clean up layers. The snow was created using the steps above – duplicating the layer and blurring it – a Black and White Adjustment Layer was used to convert the color all to white.


MACPHUN LUMINAR 2018 SUN RAYS AT A GLANCE

Image of a hidden garden in Windsor CastleThis week I have been trying out an updated beta version of Luminar 2018 working (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog)  – had a few problems so I am sticking with mainly the Sun Rays filter as it worked beautifully and may be the best one in program. I believe this filter is one I would use which is a very good reason why I would buy this program. The final release is scheduled for November 16th and this plug-in has been updated for both Windows and Mac users to be a full-blown RAW editor besides adding interesting filter effects. I think everyone who has looked at the new program is totally intrigued with this new Sun Rays filter. Luminar says on “Sun Rays adds volumetric lighting to create beautiful beams of light in your image. This tool auto masks the light so it passes through trees, around mountains and even wraps around objects.” What I find intriguing is that it actually adds a soft lighting effect to rather plain images. The image above was enhanced using this wonderful filter. I tried to be a little subtle with its use as it seems like it could easily be overdone. To show you the interface, I took a screenshot of the settings used for the effect on the Windsor Castle hidden garden above.

Screenshot of Sun Rays filter in Luminar 2018The screenshot shows how the image looked as it was brought back into Photoshop. You can see how natural and sunny it looked by setting the sun effect right at the corner of the castle near the dangling tree branch. I had to do some more work in PS as the green was a little overwhelming but it could easily have been done in Luminar. I will cover more of this once the program has been released. With this image a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using Edgy Amber preset was applied, set to Soft Light blend mode and 41% layer opacity – note Luminar’s new LUT filter will let you use lookup tables created in PS or any you have bought. A red channel luminance Curves Adjustment Layer was added to add just a little contrast in the highlights, and a orange hue was used for a Gradient Fill Adjustment Layer vignette set to 39%. Below is what the RAW file looked like before just Basic Panel changes were done before going into PS.

RAW image of Windsor Castle hidden garden

*****

Image of sun rising in the ForestThis is an image taken in my neighborhood right after Hurricane Irma and actually shows a little flooding on the floor of the little forest. I think you will see a lot of this “God Rays” effect in the coming months. Here are the sliders in this filter which and my setting in Parentheses for this image:

Sun Rays – X(21)/Y(20) – this allows you to set the rays wherever you want in the image

All the sliders go from 0 to 100. These sliders apply to the Rays:

Ray Amount (36) – this appears to me to be more like an layer opacity slider and is in a lot of their other filter
Look (69) – this goes from 1 to 100 and seems like a brightness slider-can bring in the “look”
Number (50) – number of beams – goes from 0 to 100
Length (53) – goes from 0 to 100
Warmth (57) – warms up the image but watch all the yellow tones as they brighten up also

These sliders apply to the Sun:

Sun Radius (30) – Size of the actual Sun dot
Glow Radius (71) – Looks like how bright the glow is as it radiates out from the sun dot
Glow Amount (73) – I do not see much difference between this slider and the Glow Radius – both have an effect
Warmth (70) – Determines how yellow your sun is and once again watch out for any yellow in the leaves for example that can get too bright

These sliders affect the whole image:

Penetration (67) – Major cool slider as it determines overall how strong this effect will look in your image
Randomize (40) – This is kind of nice to have – makes is so all the beams are not exactly the same

This image also used the Golden Hour filter (Amount 23 and Saturation 47), which is a fairly new filter. Below is a short video on how to use this filter. This beautiful forest image is from Simon Matzinger at Unsplash. If this video does not show a connection in the RSS feed, please open the actual blog where the connection is live.

To reiterate what was in the video, it can be seen how vivid the orange gets due to the high yellows in the Warmth sliders (61 for Rays and 37 for Sun). The Radius was set to a small 3 in upper right where focal point would be on a grid. I really think the Penetration slider does the best in keeping the whole color cast of the image together – it was set to a very high 79. By moving the Randomize slider, the rays can be set in different positions easily. There is a bit of brown patchiness that needs to be addressed in this image that can corrected by possibly adding a mask to the filter and painting some of it away.

Normally I would not blog about a preview release, but since everyone could download the beta, I figured I would go ahead and talk about it. The Sun Rays filter may not always look completely natural, but it can make the image much more interesting and evoke some emotion from a viewer.  I think it will take some practice to use it properly, but I believe that Luminar and the Sun Rays filter in particular have some good things going for it. Once it is released, I will do a full review of the software. I know the Mac people already have a good understanding of this software, but for us Windows users, this is new territory! For more on some of the other filters, check out my earlier blog called Now Available – Free Beta Version of MacPhun’s Luminar for Windows blog. Will catch ya later!…..Digital Lady Syd


COLORIZING NASA PHOTOS USING TOPAZ STUDIO (AND CHECK OUT UPDATED DETAIL)

Image of Saturn's Rings from Cassini Mission
This beautiful image was originally a black and white taken on one of the last days of the NASA Cassini-Huygens Mission using its Wide Angle Lens. The Moon Tethys is in the upper left background. My original thought was to just try painting different colors into the rings to get an unnatural but pretty color effect. To my surprise, Topaz Studio using both Clarity and the new Detail adjustments were a quick answer to get the beautiful result.

Here is the workflow followed to get the above results:

  1. First downloaded the image from the NASA Cassini-Huygens Mission site – scroll halfway down to find image pia21342-1041 where both tiff and jpeg files can be downloaded. The image above used the tiff file, but the jpeg file worked out pretty good even though it had such a small resolution. (The bottom image of Mimas was two jpeg files that were 59 and 67 KB.)
  2. Open in Photoshop and go to Image -> Mode -> Grayscale and change image to RGB.
  3. Go to the Image -> Image Size – set resolution to 300 by unchecking the Resample box, enter 300, and recheck (the jpeg file is at 72 ppi but the tiff file is 300). Can now go in and change size in inches and set to Preserve Details (enlargement) in drop-down menu if needed. Can also Reduce Noise if noticeable at this point.
  4. Duplicate image and open Topaz Studio – apply my SJ Saturn Rings. The preset has been uploaded to the Topaz Community. The colors were set in the Color Theme Adjustment so the colors in the rings can be changed to any colors wanted by just clicking on each square in the New Color Theme settings swatches and selecting new colors.
  5. Added a Green Luminosity Curves Adjustment Layer to increase the contrast just in the green channel. (Same technique as using a Red Luminosity Curves Adjustment Layer – see my How to Use a Red Channel to Crete a Nice Blended Image Effect blog.)
  6. Since Detail was just added to Studio, a composite image (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created above and went back to Topaz Studio -> Detail. Since I am having trouble with my presets and am working with the Tech Team, the settings are just listed here (Detail in TSO – Overall-Overall Small Detail 0.34, Small Detail Boost 0.67, Medium Detail 0.51, Medium Detail Boost 0.31, Large Detail 0.53, and Large Detail Boost 0.31, Lighting Midtones 0.29 and Highlights 0.63. In layer mask painted out the rings and left the background dark to keep noise under control – used brush set to Mask Transparency 0.80. Channel Mixer Adjustment – Adjusted Lightness Channel-Red 1.73, Green -0.23, and Blue 0.34, then painted out background so only just the rings received the effect). Back in PS the layer was set back to 80%.

That is all that was done to this image. It was a lot of fun and I love the results, even though the rings are not quite those colors. The point is that it took only a few minutes to do this image – no hand painting – it just picked up the colors. The Color Theme Adjustment did most of the color work and then Detail’s new Color Mixer Adjustment tweaked it a bit.

NASA image of Saturn's Moon MimasThis updated Detail is much like the updated Clarity as it is also divided into two adjustments: Precision Detail and Color Mixer. Since it just came out, I do not have much experience working with all the sliders – the Channel Mixer Adjustment appears quite different from the original Topaz Detail 3 interface. But I am enjoying having the sliders available for quick use when needed. Here is a quick reminder of what some of the sliders do in the new Precision Detail Adjustment:

Small Details – Affects visibility of fine details in image

Small Boost – Weakens or strengthens the smaller details

Medium Details and Medium Boost – Affects visibility of the medium details with Boost weakening or strengthening the effect

Large Details and Large Boost – Adjusts visibility of the large details with Boost weakening or strengthening the effect

Sharpen – a new slider added – it does seem to add in more detail.

There is a new section called Lighting which contains sliders for Midtones, Shadows, Highlights, Black Point and White Point – same sliders from Detail 3 except the Midtones slider has been added and the Exposure and Contrast sliders are now removed.

The Channel Mixer Adjustment was also added to complete the update of the old Detail 3. It contains a totally new interface from the original Tone section that contained Cyan-Red, Magenta-Green, and Yellow-Blue sliders – these correspond to the Red, Green and Blue channels in this adjustment. There is also a Gray swatch which represents the Lightness of the image. I need to find out more on these sliders, but each have Red, Green, Blue, and Constant sliders. In the Adjustment Preset drop-down, there are several presets (Cloudy Evening, Faux Infrared Landscape, Red Contrast, and Red Green Switch) that can be tried out to see what happens with these sliders. A Maintain Brightness and Monochrome toggle switches were also added. Lot to explore here.

The image above is a composite of an upper and lower level NASA images taken in March 2017 from the same site. Topaz ReStyle was used to introduce the color palette. Topaz Studio’s Precision Detail Adjustment, Color Theme Adjustment, and Impression Adjustment were all used to get this almost poster like effect. For the Precision Detail Adjustment, a layer mask was opened and Luma was selected so just the moon was selected and the background was black – Luminosity slider 0.11 and Range 0.01. In PS Saturn was added in on separate layers with some brushes I had created a long time ago. On a final stamped layer on top, Nik Viveza 2 was used to soften the rough edges between the sharp shadow lines of the moon.

A couple of things I noticed – it appears that they are removing the older versions of the plug-ins in the Plug-ins drop-down and just adding them into the Studio Adjustment lists. Am checking on this as I would like to have the old ones still available. Also, there appears to be the original category preset choices on the left side that correspond to the plug-in being used by clicking on the drop-down menu under the Search field.

Try downloading some of the wonderful imagery from NASA and see if you can create a magical feel. Just remember all the beautiful Hubble images were originally black and white images and the colorization used is similar to what was created in this blog. Hope you have a wonderful weekend…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

Updated Impression Now in Topaz Studio
Updated Clarity Now in Topaz Studio
Introducing the Free Topaz Studio
Flowers Enjoying a Planetary Twilight Sky


UPDATED IMPRESSION NOW IN TOPAZ STUDIO

Image of a little pink Vinca flowerHere is a quick blog on another big update to Topaz Studio. This time the program now includes an Adjustment Panel for Impression. The interface is very similar to what is in the older Topaz Labs Impression2. It actually is easier to understand compared to the Clarity update (see my Updated Clarity Now in Topaz Studio blog for more on this) which included two adjustment panels working together. And the same great Topaz policy stands so if you already own Impression, it will be updated for free. As I said in the Clarity blog, before going any further, please be aware that Topaz is not going to update the actual Topaz Labs version if you own it. Instead it will be updated in Studio (to download go to my Tidbits Blog sidebar and for more info check out my see my Introducing the Free Topaz Studio blog) before adding the Impression update. If you have Studio already running, just go to the website to find the Impression update by clicking this link.

The new Impression update will now be linked as Impression in Topaz Studio (Filters -> Topaz Studio -> Impression) instead of in the regular Topaz Labs individual plug-ins in Photoshop. By selecting Impression, an interface very similar to Topaz Studio will appear but only the Impression presets will be shown on the left side. By using the Studio interface, each adjustment (including the Impression Adjustment) can be masked, different blend modes applied, and opacity adjusted. So there really is a major benefit to using the upgraded version in Impression for Studio. Below are the major changes that have been implemented to the plug-in:

  • The addition of a Painting Progress Timeline slider which “…allows you to move forward and backwards through the development of the Impression effect added to your image.” Using it will give some very different effects from what the full application of the paint strokes creates.
  • Increased the resolution of any image larger than 2k.
  • Increased detail in every brush stroke. Must compare with the Topaz Labs version to actually see this difference.

Just like with Clarity for Topaz Studio, Impression can be opened from the the blue Adjustments button, the Adjustments menu in the top bar, or from the Specialty section in the pop-out on the left side of the interface  – down at the bottom Impression will be listed along with the new updated Clarity if you own it also. I know some people are enjoying have the presets all in one place, but I am still having problems with organizing My Effects presets so I can tell which ones go with which adjustment. By clicking on the three bars at the bottom of the preset and selecting Edit, the name can be changed so I am now adding a TI to all my Impression presets and TC for my Clarity presets.

For those who have forgotten what all the Impression Stroke sliders do, or if you are new to the plug-in, here is a quick reminder:

Brush Size – Very small size protects the detail in image; large size blends detail so less noticeable and more painterly.

Paint Volume – Individual strokes show highlights and shadows; increase size for an Impasto look.

Paint Opacity – Transparency of the strokes (more background comes through).

Stroke Rotation – This slider adds variation to each stroke and when combined with Stroke Color Variation some very interesting texture results can occur.

Stroke Color Variation – This introduces different shades of color in image – the color changes drastically when set really high.

Stroke Width – Set to 1.00 the stroke is scribbly and -1.00 very realistic.

Stroke Length – The large the amount, the longer the stroke.

Spill – Use to make edges of edges more painterly – set to 1.00 and the paint spills over edges as an outline.

Smudge – Burs and smooth edges of strokes – set to 1.00 and it looks like PS Oil Paint Filter.

Coverage – How far the medium is spread across the surface – when set low the background shows through.

Coverage Transition – Only appears if Coverage is used – set to a lower amount and it becomes a white vignette.

Painting Progress – The new slider that can be reduced to take the actual stroke layout to an earlier stage. Really fun slider to use.

Remember that to add a Vignette to an image, in the Lighting section move the Vignette slider and more slider appear to further add alter the effect. Since Topaz Studio does not support Photoshop Smart Objects, there is now a .tsp file format that will save the settings used in the layer so you can go back and see what was done to the layer – just go to File -> Save and in the drop-down name and save as a .tsp. This will save the layer even when opened as a plug-in in Photoshop – just click OK as before to apply the layer.

The image above is a pink Vinca flower where Impression for Topaz Studio was used on two different layers. Each time the default settings were used and the mask was opened and different areas were painted out. It can be added into the same image as many times as you want with different preset effects or settings – or the same! Then individual adjustment masks can be opened and the actual effect can be localized to a certain part of the image just like individual layer masks work work in Photoshop. This image used the Painting Progress slider set to 0.71 for the first use of the adjustment. After the Impression Adjustments, a Texture Adjustment not in the Impression panel was added where one of my textures was used to give the more Impasto effect – just painted out the flower and foreground leaves to soften this effect. Last step was to add a Dual Tone Adjustment to really bring out the highlights on the flower.
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Image of a Zebra Longwing Butterfly in a Bottle Brush PlantIn this image of the Zebra Longwing Butterfly, Topaz Studio’s Impression Adjustment was applied twice on two different PS layers. One used my charcoal presets with the Paint Progress set to 0.43, and the second started with the default settings where a little more color was added using the Impression Adjustment.

I am really enjoying the flexibility the plug-ins now have. It is much easier to apply the different plug-ins in one place and use the effects together. Topaz is still hard at work adding more of their plug-ins into the interface, so be on the look out for another one to be added soon. In the meantime, try adding in Impression into Topaz Studio and try it out if you do not already own it. I think it is one of their best plug-ins!…..Digital Lady Syd


UPDATED CLARITY NOW IN TOPAZ STUDIO

Image of a Tri-colored Heron at the St. Augustine Alligator FarmThis week Topaz released an update to their very popular Clarity plug-in and it is a really nice upgrade. It is now much improved over an already excellent filter that is one of the best Photoshop plug-ins around. The Heron above was not processed very  much in Lightroom, all in Clarity Topaz Studio and a little in Nik Viveza to adjust the light on the birds head and wing tip. Before going any further, please be aware that Topaz is not going to update the actual Topaz Labs version if you own it. Instead it will be updated in Studio (to download go to my Tidbits Blog sidebar and for more info check out my see my Introducing the Free Topaz Studio blog) before adding the Clarity update. If you have Studio already running, just go to the website to find the Clarity update by clicking this link. Topaz does a great job of walking you through this new process on the Topaz Studio website. So what is so different?

It is all in the Clarity Interface. In Photoshop, the new Clarity update will now be linked as Clarity in Topaz Studio (Filters -> Topaz Studio -> Clarity) instead of in the regular Topaz Labs individual plug-ins. By selecting Clarity, an interface very similar to Topaz Studio will appear that contains two adjustments, Precision Control and HSL Color Tuning. See image below for an example of the bird as it looked in Clarity for Studio (click to see large view Flickr). Screenshot of Precision Contrast section in Clarity for Topaz Studio

Precision Contrast Adjustment

As you can see the Clarity Dynamics section from the Topaz Labs Clarity plug-in is now called the Precision Control Adjustment. The Contrast section contains the original Micro, Low, Medium and High Contrast sliders but the website says they are now much improved – I believe they are after using the update on the bird image. Some of the feathers on the bird are crazy sharp! The Lighting section sliders are better at detecting the Shadows, Midtones and Highlights – these appear to be derived from the original Toning Section Black Level, Midtones, and White Levels sliders. Also there are Equalization buttons (low, medium, or high) which are supposed to emulate the Region technology in Topaz Adjust. I have not fully explored this. The Preset drop-down has several choices for setting up these sliders (Balance, Brighter, Brightness, Color Detail, Color Boost, Details, HDR, Little Things, Reduce Shadows, Saturation Boost, and Sharp). This image shows settings for the Color Detail preset. There are also presets on the left side which I did not use for this image. All your original Clarity presets are migrated over. Unfortunately at this time there are no subcategories so one long list of presets occurs – I cannot seem to figure out a logical order to them and my personal presets are all over the place. The good news is that there is a field for searching for your presets if you can remember what you named them. Hopefully Topaz will address this situation in a future update.

HSL Color Tuning Adjustment

The second part of the original Clarity was called Hue/Sat/Lum and now is called HSL Color Tuning. Not a lot different other than each color has individual sliders where the color is shown in the image, and a Gray Color is available. Also some presets are in a drop-down (Extreme Hue I and II, Increase Cool, Increase Warm, Red Cool, Red Warm, Subtle Hue I and II). Three new sliders have been added: Details (to help recover detail lost from increasing the brightness of the different color or whole image), Suppress Artifacts (to remove rough and unnatural edges and helps reduce artifacts to reduce detail), and Color Sensitivity (set higher to add saturation in the whites and grays in surrounding image). Not sure I understand how these setting work exactly yet, but the website does a good job of telling what they do.

By using the Studio interface, each adjustment can be masked, different blend modes applied, and opacity adjusted. So there really is  a major benefit to using the upgraded version in Clarity for Studio. In the screenshot below, you can see the Precision Control mask created for this image. I did not want the background to appear crisp, so by clicking on the plus sign on the upper right of the adjustment, a layer mask is opened. I inverted it and used the Brush tool to just paint back the bird. The brush tool has really been improved – it does not crash my system if too many strokes are made too quickly.
Screenshot of Layer Mask in Precision Contrast Adjustment in Clarity for StudioTwo HSL Color Tuning Adjustments were used: One to change the green color in the upper right corner (a layer mask was used to localize the color change), and one to emphasize the Red, Green and Blue colors, and adjust the Details, Suppress Artifacts and Color Sensitivity sliders. See screen shot below.
HSL Color Tuning Adjustments in updated Clarity in Topaz StudioIf you bought the Pro Adjustments pack from Topaz Studio, the Clarity updated sliders will also be in the Precision Contrast and HSL Color Tuning adjustments in Topaz Studio. If using the stand alone version of Topaz Studio, I do not see at this time a specific link to the Clarity for Studio update in the menu for those who previously owned Topaz Labs Clarity. I believe the two Adjustments will just be added to the regular Topaz Studio interface. Note that you can still reach the original Topaz Labs Clarity plug-in (and all your other plug-ins) in both the stand-alone version and the Photoshop Filter version by going to the Plug-ins in the top options menu of either Clarity for Studio or the Topaz Studio interfaces. Image of Holyrood Castle carvingsThe image above is from Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Clarity in Studio did a great job on the detail of the stone carvings. A Dodge and Burn 50% gray layer was added to finish up, but Clarity did most of the detail work in this image. It also does a great job on landscapes so give that a try too. Below is a house located in the Scottish Highland and is probably a little over the top with processing, but I like the almost illustrative artsy effect. Instead of using the HSL Color Tuning Adjustment, the Dehaze Adjustment from the Pro pack was used to make the tree colors sharper – a preset was made in the Community called SJ Clarity PC with Dehaze that you can download to try out the settings. Then I also added one of my favorite Topaz plug-ins, Detail 3, and set the Med Detail to 0.38, Large Detail to 0.15 and Tone Contrast to 0.30 set to 59% layer opacity. That was about it. The combination of Clarity and Detail is one I actually use quite a bit when I want this type of look.
Image of a Scottish Highland mansionIt appears that Topaz will now be using the Topaz Studio as the location for all upgrades to their plug-ins that are currently linked in Photoshop as Filter -> Topaz Labs -> Topaz (plug-in name).  I know Topaz is one of the best software groups around and they will answer any questions you have if there is a problem with the upgrade. It took me a while to figure out how to add the upgrade. And I did have to update my video card after loading it as all the sliders disappeared. Topaz suggested on their website to try this if there are problems and gave you a step-by-step guide to follow. I hope you will all enjoy this update. I am finding it to have wonderful results. Hope you get a chance to give it a whirl this week!…..Digital Lady Syd


MORE SUMMER FUN

Image of a Gondola at the Alcazar Hotel in St. AugustineThis week just continuing with my playing in Photoshop – great time to enjoy it when it is so hot outside. Not sure how I came up with the Gondola at the Alcazar Hotel (Lightner Museum) in St. Augustine, Florida, but it happened. What actually happened is that I really liked the wrought-iron lights in the image – taken in noon sunlight on the hottest day – so that is how this all started.

Content-Aware Crop Tool – The image needed to be expanded to the right to make it look balanced in my eyes so the Crop Tool was selected. By stretching the outline outside the boundaries of the image and checking Content Aware, PS attempts to fill out the blank area. This turned out to look a lot like the building set to a smaller size and reversed, so that is what is shown here. Some clean up had to be done, but it is definitely something to explore if a creative element is needed for filling in your image size. And remember that if you do not like the results, just rerun the Crop Tool and a different result should happen.

The result made me think about adding Flaming Pear’s Flood filter, which is one of my favorite plug-ins of all time. And regarding the fact that these old filters will not work in your current PS – my version of this filter has been around forever and works just fine, although the link is to a newer version now available. So do not get rid of your Nik filters just yet – they may last a long time. Back to the Flood filter – I have yet to run into a filter that gives this perfect water look yet – in this case it was set to for smooth water with quite a bit of reflection. A beautiful texture by French Kiss (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) called Atelier Anemone was placed on top and set to Multiply blend mode at 47% layer opacity. A gondola seemed to be needed to create the story for the image so I just found an old gondola image and sketched out the boat and a person. Then painted in the drawing created from the image using a brush called Scraggly Brush (Charcoal Large Smear) by Kristen Palana from a fun short class at Udemy called Quick and Easy Digital Painting. The gondola and man were not supposed to look too realistic but more painterly. The little stars were from Media Militia Particle 018 brush. On a New Layer filled with 50% gray and set to overlay, black and white brushes were painted on the layer to dodge and burn the image. Next Kim Klassen’s Pumpkin Grunge texture (you can actually still download a low res version if you click the “HERE” in the text) was applied, set to Hard Light blend mode at 18% layer opacity. This is a really nice texture to add – for some reason the bright red-orange gives an interesting result. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Nik Viveza 2 was used to adjust the lighting just right in the image. A border was added and color adjusted using a Curves Adjustment Layer. Lots of other adjustments layers were added to adjust several of the layers throughout the image. Just clip (ALT+clip between the layers) them to the different layers if you want only one layer adjusted.

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Image of a butterfly on a flowerThis image is of a Monarch Butterfly that was extracted from my front yard image and placed in this fantasy garden.  GrutBrushes has a wonderful background paper called Dee Print that was placed as the background for this image. Then two beautiful brushes by ninelvlsup at DeviantArt called windflower and dandelion whisps were used for the background elements. The Warp Filter (CTLR+T, then Warp in Options Bar) and layer masks were used to get the effects needed on these elements. Aaron Blaise’s Canvas Texture Brush 46 32 was used to get the flower center texture. One of Sebastian Michael’s edges was used for the frame. 2 Lil Owl’s Workshop Texture 1 which has the star pattern in it was placed on top and only inside the frame, then set to Linear Burn blend mode at 66% layer opacity. On a stamped layer Nik Viveza 2 was used to even out the distribution of color and tones. Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) ReStyle set to the Zinneas preset was applied and set to 35% layer opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to get this final color palette. Lots of adjustments layers again throughout the image to get the final effect. Lots of fun here!

Not sure there is a lot new here other than the Crop Tool which turned out to give an interest effect. I actually tried it on another image and got another interesting result so give it a try. And do not forget Topaz ReStyle if you own it, it can really give an image a whole different feel – another of my favorite plug-ins! Hope everyone is having a great end of summer – I know I am, although a little cooler weather would be nice……Digital Lady Syd