Anything Photoshop or Photography

Photoshop Filter


Digital Art image of a person playing guitarDecided to do just a quick blog and video on Topaz Remix since it a rather unusual filter by Topaz (for website, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog). I reviewed the filter back in March (see my What is Topaz AI ReMix!!! blog), but this week they came out with an update (if you already own it, be sure to open up Topaz Studio and update the filters). It now has 102 styles (not layer styles as I called them in the video but just styles) and are sorted into 5 different categories: Abstract, High Impact, Pastel, Sketch, and Pastel. Below I did a short video just showing exactly what the adjustment interface looks like and what some of the style effects do. I am finding this plugin lots of fun to use. If not applied at too large an amount, some very creative but natural looking results will occur. The original image used is free from ISO Republic called Guitar Man.

Here is a list of what was shown in the video if you are interested. (First showed A Neon Rise and set the Opacity to 0.53 set to Low Style Strength. Next shows Ashen Waves, then Burnt Off and shifted the blend mode, Ink Blot at 0.74 opacity, White Water at 0.27 opacity, and finally applied Velvet Abstract.) To finish off the image above, just a Curves Adjustment Layer was added and that was all.


Image of a guitar playerSame image using different settings in Topaz Studio. AI Clear was added, then Black and White Adjustment set to Darken blend mode. Next AI ReMix using Bleach Beach style was selected and set to 0.41 opacity and Color Blend Mode. Last step used Texture Adjustment at 0.46 opacity where one of my Bokeh textures was added into the filter – a layer mask was used to remove off the guitar player. Very different result – much more of a photographic effect.

These styles also look terrific on any of your textures. There are so many possibilities. This is definitely the same kind of filter as Topaz Impression, which as I said, may be one of the very best plugins ever created. My other go-to creative Topaz filter is Topaz ReStyle – use it all the time! This is just one of the reasons I find Topaz to be such a fabulous company as they do work very hard to give the Photoshop creatives some great choices, and AI ReMix fits right in. And I do not want to forget Texture and Simplify, but I do not use them quite as much. Well I hope you will at least download the trial and see what you think of this adjustment. I think it will surprise you how much you will use it – it did me!…..Digital Lady Syd




Sleeping Quarters at Castille de San Marcos in St. Augustine, FloridaLoving this new version of Aurora HDR (for website link, check sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) – it really does add an extra HDR boost to an image without taking it over the top like some of the older HDR software can do. I feel like the image above (taken at the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida) represents what this software does best – sharpens up the image for spectacular detail and color – and much of it occurs just on opening up the image in the program. Skylum states “Skylum’s Quantum HDR Engine harnesses the power of AI for a more streamlined editing experience than ever before. It reduces burned-out colors, loss of contrast, noise and unnatural lighting caused by halos and unstable deghosting.” As far as I can tell, this appears to be true. Aurora HDR 2019 seems to be very different from the Aurora HDR 2018 – the images appear to be brighter and more color visible in the new version. And very little post-processing was done to get the above result. This program can be used as a Photoshop or Lightroom plugin or as a stand-alone program. See below the original RAW file before LR and Aurora HDR 2019 changes were done.

Original Raw File for above image
In Lightroom some Basic Panel and HSL Panel Luminance and Saturation changes were done. Then in Photoshop, duplicated the Background layer and opened Aurora HDR 2019 as a PS plugin. I am not one to use presets (now called Aurora HDR Looks) a lot, but Aurora HDR 2019 comes with a new Collection (previously called Categories) named Randy Van Duinen Looks and the Night Tungsten Mix Look was selected – totally opened up a rather dark image. Check out all the looks in his Collection – they seem to be really nice. (I also noticed that most of the original presets from 2018 have been replaced with newer versions – I believe this is due to a realignment of several of the panels, especially the HDR Basic Panel.)

Trey Ratcliff is a major proponent of Aurora, actually helping to design the program with Skylum, and he says 70% of his RAW processing in Aurora is done with just a single image – he finds no difference when three bracketed images are used or just a single RAW image. I personally find this amazing! I am now just mainly using it with the best HDR bracketed shot I have and am getting really good results also. He states that both the Windows and Mac versions are exactly the same. I did find an instance when this was not true – in the new Adjustable Gradient Panel (based upon the older Top and Bottom Toning Panel) does not have the ability to set a point and be dragged out to blend the look on your image. Instead Windows still has the Blend, Horizontal Shift, and Rotation sliders – it is sort of hard to tell where the Top and Bottom effects start and stop. The really good news is that Aurora 2019 has moved the Highlights and Shadows sliders out of the top HDR Basic Panel into this Panel. Now the highlights can be protected in the clouds or shadows lightened in the foreground areas much easily. This is a big improvement to me. The new HDR Smart Structure slider in the HDR Enhance Panel analyzes the scene and applies structure in areas where the details are not in the sky, for example, so that it is now applied locally instead of globally.

To finish up the post processing, a layer mask was added to the Aurora layer and in the Properties Panel, the Density was set to 47%. In the mask a few of the details were painted back individually to sharpen them up (the newspapers, hanging clothes on the bed and cups.) Nik Viveza 2 was used to add a little vignette to the image, but this could have been done with Aurora. That was it. This rather dark image was totally sharpened and brightened up with Aurora HDR 2019! I particularly like the texture effect on the walls. Trey does say that interior architecture images, which are difficult to adjust due to the bright outside and dark insides, are much improved with this version of Aurora HDR.


Image of a tree in Oahu, HawaiiHere is an example of a different kind of image from Waimea Valley in Oahu, Hawaii – the original was all in green tones which was also nice, but I wanted to give it more of an engraved feel. In this case the image was turned to black and white using one of PS’s new Profiles called B&W Red Filter. Then a few adjustments in the Basic Panel were done before going into PS and duplicating the Background layer for opening in Aurora as a plugin. I wanted to show the difference using the exact same settings in Aurora HDR 2018 and 2019 – it is quite a noticeable change. Settings used in Aurora were as follows: Bottom Layer: HDR Basic: Contrast 27 and Smart Tone -24; and AL1: Dodge & Burn using Lighten at Size 28 and Strength 24% -painted over the foreground limbs to get some depth and detail onto the tree branches. Set to 54% opacity.

Aurora 2018 vs Aurora 2019 image comparisonIt seems to apply more contrast to give a more crisp HDR image in the update. Then additional settings can be applied. Sometimes just opening the image in Aurora HDR 2019 is all you need to do. The Aurora HDR 2019 image was taken back into PS where a layer mask was added to the Aurora layer. In the Properties Panel, the Density was set to 53% and just the foreground bright branches were painted back to restore the Aurora effect a little more. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added for more contrast. Topaz Len Effect’s Diffusion filter was applied to just soften the outside areas a little leaving the focal point very sharp. (This step could have been done in Aurora with the Image Radiance panel.) The blue tone was created setting a PS Color Lookup Adjustment Layer set to Foggy Night at 50% layer opacity. (This all could have been done in Aurora 2019 – they now have 11 LUT’s that can be applied, and the PS LUT’s can be accessed and applied to your image inside Aurora).


Image of sailboats at Camachee Cove MarinaThis image was mainly post-processed in the Aurora HDR 2019 stand alone edition, but had to be opened in Photoshop as there is no way to remove lens spots as far as I can tell. Used the Adjustable Gradient Panel to give the balanced feel to the top and bottom. I really love how clean the image looks with no noise at all. It would probably look pretty good in Aurora HDR 2018 even – the program has always been very good. In PS a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added using my SJ Darkly Bright, which was created in my video a while back and it really added a color pop to the image. (See my How To Use and Create Lookup Table (LUT) Files blog.) Last step was a slight vignette effect using Nik Viveza 2.

Overall this updated version seems to be a real winner! It does run a little faster and has a lot of nice improvements, especially for us Windows users. If you already own the program and use it a lot, it should be one you will want to update. If you like the HDR look but have never used Aurora HDR to see what it will do, you definitely need to download the 14-day trial and see what you think. I have always liked the program as it seems to always sharpen up my images just a little, especially when I have not used a tripod, and it reduce noise wonderfully. For me these are both really big deals. Hope this has give you something to try out to see if you like it – I do not think it will disappoint you! …… Digital Lady Syd


Image of sailboats at Camachee Cove, St. Augustine, FloridaRecently I came across a very interesting technique for making a layer mask based on how saturated your image is versus a luminosity mask based on how bright your image is. A filter called Multi-plugin, a free download from Adobe, is applied to a “duplicate of your image.” First created for Photoshop CS5, it still works in CC and can be downloaded here: Windows version ; for the Mac Version and Photoshop CS6 (for both 32-bit and 64 bit), go to this page to download using buttons for “Electric Image and HSBHSL (Optional MultiPlugin).”

The filter pretends to convert the RGB mode of a duplicated image to an HSB or HSL mode (a choice is given and slightly different results can occur) to create masks for Hue (red channel), Saturation (green channel) and Brightness/Lightness (blue channel). To create the Saturation mask the green channel is duplicated in the “duplicate image.” Then go back to the original image and the “duplicate image” Green channel is applied from the Select ->Load Selection menu item. Okay – this is not as hard as it sounds. I will list the steps below on how to do this.

I learned about this nifty little plugin from John Paul Caponigro (possibly the best Photoshop guru out there) blog called Selecting the Unselectable with Photoshop’s Saturation Masking. He goes into great detail on how to add in the plug-in and steps for using it. The plugin is to be used on images where semi-neutrals are not saturated enough and the other colors are not over-saturated. This plugin gives different results from what Vibrance does to an image. When you load the plugin, it appears in the Filters -> Other as HSB/HSL in the menu. The image above is of Camachee Cove in St. Augustine in Florida and had a rather gray look to it. For this image only the medium ranges of Saturation were targeted which I feel gives a much richer feel especially to the water. John’s blog walks you through this workflow along with targeting specific hues. I have used this technique on several images and really like the results. Below is a video of an image taken recently at Haw Creek in Florida.

Steps for applying the HSB/HSL Filter

  1. Duplicate the original file in Photoshop (Image -> Duplicate).
  2. On Duplicate image go to Filter -> Other -> HSB/HSL filter and click OK – some really weird colors will appear.
  3. Go to the Channels Panel and highlight the Green Channel. Right click and select Duplicate the Channel. It will be named Green copy at the bottom of the panel. Note that the more saturated the color is in the original image, the lighter the values will be in the green channel.
  4. Highlight your Original image and and go to Select -> Load selection – in Document drop-down, choose the “image copy” and Channel set to Green copy. Say Okay and a bunch of little blinkies appear which show where the most saturated areas are in the image.
  5. With the selection active, add a mask to your layer or add an Adjustment Layer. I find the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer makes the most sense to me for adjusting the saturation. Most changes will be to the Saturation slider but there try out the others.

Image of a Magnolia Tree PodThe image above of a magnolia tree pod used a regular High Saturation Curves Adjustment Layer where mainly the Blue channel and the RGB channel were adjusted. Then the Curves Adjustment Layer was duplicated and the mask inverted so just the low saturated areas were selected in the mask – the Red Channel was adjusted and the layer was set to 71%. Mainly the color channel curves were adjusted to get the look needed. This actually gave the leaves a more satin look.

I guess what I like about this filter is that it gives a very clean effect to the image – no halos are created, just nice bright colors. I have also experimented with the Hue (Red Channel) and Lightness/Brightness (Blue Channel) selections to see what happens. It does produce some different results, so give that a try also. Hope everyone will check out this filter, it is really spectacular and not that hard to use. Have a wonderful fall – have to love the colors this time of year!…..Digital Lady Syd


Inside the Land Pavilion at Epcot CenterJust doing a quick blog this week – this image from The Land Pavilion at Epcot Center, Disney World-Orlando, just caught my eye this week. This may be my favorite place to see when I visit Epcot – never get tired of all their exhibits. Depending on the time of day, different versions can be seen.

In Lightroom Dave Delnea’s Backlight_Horizontal_Right preset (these appear to be unavailable at this time) was applied. It gave the original lighting effect from the window that was needed to create this image. The Camera Profile was called Crisp Warm Soft (from the LUT file in Photoshop – Matt Kloskowski gave it away). Basic section changes were done and the Graduated Filters were adjusted to fit the image correctly from the preset. Then went into Photoshop to finish up.

The background layer was duplicated and taken into Luminar 2018 (for website link, see my Tidbit Blog sidebar). My favorite Joel Grimes Indian Summer preset was applied on the bottom layer. (To download his free presets from Luminar, open the stand-alone version, click on More Presets button which opens up Microsoft Edge in Windows, choose Presets and scroll down to his Pro Photographer and Artist Presets-Joel Grimes. There are several free and inexpensive categories here. To load them in the program, go to File -> Load Custom Presets Pack – they will then show up as one of the Categories that can be selected. Joel gives us 6 presets and they are all great!) Then the Sunray Filter was added to Layer 0 – just played with the light until something looked good. Back in Photoshop, Shadowhouse Creations Dust Particle brushes were loaded and some light and dark dust was sprinkled around in the Luminar sunrays to get a reflected light effect. The last steps involved my normal workflow: added a spotlight effect on the air balloons facing the light, used a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a little over-all contrast, and lastly, on a stamped layer applied Nik Viveza 2 to sharpen the air balloons and direct the focus to them.


Image of the beautiful air balloons at the Land Pavillion at Epcot, Disney World OrlandoThis image is a view taken from the other side of the room on a different day and time. You can see the air-balloons much better. Used another preset by Dave Delnea called Highlight Warming Look 3 and a few Basic slider adjustments in Lightroom. Then in Photoshop the Background layer was duplicated and Topaz (for website link, see my Tidbit Blog sidebar) ReStyle was opened. The Tangerine Gauze preset was used and set to Multiply blend mode at 50% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added for some contrast. Then Nik Viveza 2 was opened on a stamped layer to adjust the focal point just a little. That was it – I loved the detail that can be seen in this version.

Below is an older image previously posted to Flickr before I was blogging that is still different. It appears a Lucis Pro effect was added, an Ash bright green Texture 8 (which is not available anymore – it was my first set of textures I ever bought) set to Overlay blend mode, and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Pretty basic but it has a nice feel to it.

Image of air balloons from Epcot several years agoAnd here is a link to a blog where Topaz Impression was used on the image called Hot Air Balloons the Disney Way. Wish I could go to Disney and Epcot all the time – it is a perfect place to get gorgeous pictures. It is always fun to see the beautiful hanging air balloons throughout the years – I hope they do not change them. And The Land Pavilion has several exhibits that are always fun to photograph. Have a good week!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of a painted bird on a branchSometimes when you get so busy blogging about cool things you can do in Photoshop, you forget about just having fun with what you already know how to do. I have not blogged a lot recently as I am trying to catch up on my creative side and just have some fun. This week I am showing a few things I have been doing to just enjoy myself.

The above is an image trying to emulate a piece of art called Bird on a Flowering Branch by Watanabe Seitei, a famous Japanese painter, created in 1887. My image does not look a whole lot like his, but it gave me a good place to begin a composition. I don’t see anything wrong with trying to emulate a piece of really good art as long as it is not a direct copy. I think it is a great way to learn so that is what I did. A Kim Klassen Cloth & Paper texture called huges was placed on the bottom to give a nice layer effect to build on. The paint spatter underneath the piece is in a free set called Oh La La Llama by principesca. Then the branches were painted in and the painted bird is from one of my bird images. The flowers are from another free set called All Ginko Textured Watercolor Graphics by Paperly Studio – these are beautiful floral elements. All the layers had to be juggled around a little and opacities adjusted. On a stamped layer, Topaz (for website link, see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) ReStyle was used to further blend in the correct colors and soften them a little. That was about it. I need to take some more pix of little birds to create some more of this type of image – it was very relaxing and fun to do.


Image about creating a Ham Salad SandwichCreated this image using several items from one of my favorite places to get reference objects – PixelSquid. They had the meat grinder, the basil, the scale, the sandwich, the plate, everything but the wonderful recipe by Kelly at Wildfleur’s Cottage Kitchen. It appeared to be pretty close to the one my mom made since I do not have her recipe. Every now and then the meat grinder would appear on the counter and low and behold, there was a ham salad sandwich! To learn how to add PixelSquid objects, check out my How to Use the PixelSquid Add-on in Photoshop blog. Several textures were then applied to really soften the image and get a vintage feel. These are all ones I made and just removed the color from them. Pretty simple. The font is called Mr. Grieves.


Image of a vintage waffle iron and kitchen cannistersThe Hogan House and Museum has recently been designated as an historical home in Bunnell, Florida (Flagler County). It has some really nice period pieces including the old waffle iron on the counter. First Luminar 2018 (for website link, see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) was applied using Joel Grime’s Dramatic Detail preset (his presets are all pretty good so if you own the program, try to download them). The same textures applied at different opacities as the ham sandwich image were also used on this one. A couple Gradient Map Adjustment Layers and a Curves Adjustment Layer were used for the final result.

I guess I have been in a vintage mood recently. It is nice to take a break and just work with your images to give them a look you like – not just what you see. I could almost imagine being back in time. Well hope everyone is not too hot – this summer has been a really warm one! Stay cool and create something fun!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of Great Guana Cay in the Outer Banks in the BahamasI was so excited when I found out that Dr. Gary Gaugler of Microtechnics has bought the rights to Lucis Pro – Yeah! Definitely one of the best Photoshop plugins ever made. It is so good and is once again available at a reasonable price. If you already have Lucis Pro 6.0.9, the latest version before the plugin went defunct, the new version 6.1.1 appears to be exactly the same and their website is also very similar. (The Stand Alone editions were apparently updated, but I only use the plugin as a filter in Photoshop. Check out the Support tab if you have trouble loading the Windows version to PS CC2018.) This blog won’t go into a lot of explanation on how the plugin works as I have written about Lucis Pro in past blogs. If you go to the Support tab on the Lucis Pro website, there are PDF manuals that can be downloaded and info which discuss very specific details on how the plugin works. See my recently updated Digital Lady Syd Reviews Lucis Pro 6.0.9 (Now Affordable) and my How to Get a Great Illustrative Effect with Lucis Pro 6.0.9 blogs for more info and examples from me. Below is a short video showing the interface and a little bit about how the sliders change the look of the image. The image above is the finished image started in the video below. I decided not to use the painterly effect and just go with the regular sharper image look, then used my regular workflow to finish it up. (If the link is not available in the RSS feed, go to the actual blog to activate video.)




All that was done to the image below (which was set to 8-bit mode but it can be used at 16-bit with different settings) was to apply Lucis Pro – checked the Split Channels box with Red set to Enhance Detail 101/Smooth Detail 1, Green 125/1 and Blue 103/1 and the Assign Original Image Color 75% Processed/25% Original. Then just added a little white spotlight effect on the centerpiece and a dark vignette.
A colorful exhibit at St. Augustine Alligator Farm in Florida*******

View from Edinburgh Castle in ScotlandThis image is a view of Edinburgh from the Castle. Lucis Pro was run twice to get this final effect. On the bottom duplicated background layer, the plugin was opened and the Split Channels box was checked and set to Red Channel Enhance Detail 191/Smooth Detail 1; Green 173/1; and Blue 107/1 with Assign Original Image Color to 40% Processed/60% Original. The Background layer was duplicated again and placed on top of the first Lucis Pro layer. This time these settings were used in Lucis Pro: Enhance Detail slider set to 233/Smooth Detail 99 – this gave the image a much more painterly look which I wanted for the trees. A black layer mask was added and just the places where I wanted the more sharp lines were painted back, such as the tower and the white house. A Curves Adjustment Layer for contrast and one for exposure were added and a slight dark vignette was used to finish the image. Pretty simple!

The Lucis Pro effect is one of my favorite plugins. It is very easy to use and it can create such clean, sharp lines in an image, especially if the image is a little soft – and the colors can be quite spectacular. I think it is definitely worth the money – I use it in my workflow quite a bit, especially with images that are a bit graphic. It seems to give a lot of definition to these subjects. As I noted before, I do not believe there is a “try before you buy option” at this point so there is some risk. For me I have always liked the look of this plugin since the early 2000’s so I got it in 2016. Anyway, it is something to think about if you like the results.

Have a great weekend!…..Digital Lady Syd


Laupahoehoe Harbor on Maui, HawaiiThis week I am presenting an oldie but a goodie that was done quite a while ago. Decided to try it out again with some new images and I still like this technique. It is just slightly different from the normal Dodge and Burn techniques and very simple to do. The above image was taken on Maui, Hawaii at the very breezy Laupahoehoe Harbor.

I learned this at a Photoshop World several years ago and am not sure who even presented it. It was just in my notes so I thought I would give it a try and got some really nice results! The workflow is pretty simple:

  1. Duplicate the image twice after doing the basic color and tone corrections to the image.
  2. Add black layer masks to each layer by holding ALT key while clicking on the Add Layer Mask icon (rectangle with circle in center) at the bottom of the Layers Panel or by pressing CTRL+I in a white layer mask.
  3. Now on the top duplicate layer, change the blend mode to Linear Burn and name it Darken.
  4. On the layer underneath, change the blend mode to Linear Dodge (Add) and name it Lighten.
  5. Using a soft round brush set the Options Bar Opacity to 9% and Flow 55%.
  6. On the Lighten layer mask paint in white over areas to brighten. Do same for Darken layer mask on areas to darken. Since the Opacity and Flow are set fairly low, it will be a build up effect to get just the amount needed.

It is a very easy way to add a little color and/or focus to different parts of your image. If the effect is too strong, just lower the layer opacity. Also, the Linear Dodge (Add) blend mode could be used as a spotlight effect to fill darker areas with some soft light. For the above, the Lighten effect used the Linear Dodge (Add) blend mode at 75% layer opacity and the Color Burn blend mode did a great job on darkening with a layer opacity set to 48% – the Linear Burn was too much for the shadows in this image.

Just to let you know what is happening with these blend modes, here are the blend mode explanations according to Lesa Snider in her Photoshop CS6 – the Missing Manual book (an excellent book BTW):

Linear Dodge (Add) – “Lightens your images by increasing its brightness. It is a combo of Screen and Color Dodge modes, so it lightens images more than any other blend mode. But since it tends to turn all light colors white, it can make an image look unnatural.”

Linear Burn – “In this mode (which is actually a combination of Multiply and Color Burn), Photoshop darkens your image by decreasing its brightness. Linear Burn produces the darkest colors of any Darken blend mode, though with a bit more contrast than the others. It has a tendency to turn dark pixels solid black, which makes it ideal for grungy, textured collages…”

From this it is apparent that Linear Dodge (Add) can make an image look unnatural so take care when using it. And Linear Burn can give a grungy effect so watch the results of this. Therefore if your image does not look quite right, try changing the layer blend modes to Screen or Color Dodge for the Lighten layer, and Multiply, Darken or Color Burn (as I did above) blend modes on the Darken layer. Experimenting with blend modes can give some great effects! Image taken on the Big Island in HawaiiThis image is from the Big Island in Hawaii after a short rainfall. Just painted areas to lighten and areas to darken using both the Linear Dodge and Linear Burn blend modes. Used Nik Viveza 2 to even out the colors.

Hope you get a chance to try this little technique – pretty easy to do and can give some great results. See ya later!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Create a Subtle Dodge and Burn Effect
How To Use Curves Adjustment Layers to Dodge and Burn an Image
The Best Dodging and Burning Technique!