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Photoshop Filter

CHECKING OUT SKYLUM’S LUMINAR 4


Image of a beach at Green Turtle Key in the Outer Banks in the Bahamas

Hi Everyone! Well tomorrow Skylum officially releases their latest and greatest software update called Luminar 4 (for website link, check out the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) and it is a great one. This program seems to have been originally developed to compete with OnOne Software’s and Adobe Lightroom’s cataloging ability, but that is not what I find is so great. The software has introduced some new fabulous filters. It now contains an incredible one-click sky replacement filter that is hands-down the best I have ever seen – and absolutely no halos! The filter is called AI Sky Replacement and literally takes 5 seconds for it to find the image sky, which adds light tones to match to the image, and looks pretty good. Just pop in a new sky that can be either one of 29 provided or one of your own. No masking or anything – just replaces it. The image above is an example using one of Luminar’s skies. And below is the new Portrait Enhancer.

The Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas image was originally taken into  Luminar 4 from Lightroom (just straightening was done first) where several filters were applied including the AI Sky Replacement, and then brought back into LR as a .tiff file. Just to note, I first tried to bring the image in using a Virtual Copy of my image, and it will not work. It was immediately opened in Photoshop where a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied to the top layer mask to slightly lighten up and adjust the sky just a little. This can probably be done in the Luminar filter, but I have not figured out how yet. That was it. Below is a screenshot of the original Raw image as it taken into Luminar 4.

Screenshot of Raw image at a beach on Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas
Here is a screenshot of the sliders in the AI Sky Replacement filter. Click on the image for a larger view in Flickr. The Relight Scene slider is really nice. Still working on figuring out what effect the other slider have on the overall image. Note the four icons on the side – that is where the different modules are accessed – it took me a minute to figure this out.

Screenshot of Luminar 4's AI Sky Replacement filters

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The image below by Joshua Rawson Harris from Unsplash is another example of a new filter called the Portrait Enhancer – it contains several sliders for using on faces. This is another pretty incredible filter. There is also a single slider filter called AI Skin Enhancer that I did not think did as well on this image.

Image of a swimmer by Joshua Rawson Harris on Unsplash

The image was originally opened in Photoshop and Luminar 4 then opened on a duplicate layer as a plugin – it worked fine. The only other thing done was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer back in Photoshop. Below is a screenshot of what the sliders in the filter look like – click on image to see a larger view in Flickr.

Screenshot of sliders for Luminar 4's Portrait Enhancer filter

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The Green Turtle Cay Resort and Marina image was opened in LR where just a few Basic changes were done before it was opened in Photoshop. From there Luminar 4 was opened as a plugin and unfortunately I lost all my settings as the Smart Object did not work right for me (I know Flex has Smart Object capability, but not sure on Luminar 4), but it was pretty much the same workflow as used with Flex. I was extremely surprised how great the detail and color came out. A little Viveza 2 was used on this image in PS at the end due to the fact the focal point was not quite as noticeable as I wanted.

Image of the Green Turtle Cay Resort and Marina in the Bahamas

The Essentials section includes the AI Accent and AI Sky Enhancer filters which are now placed together in a and called AI Enhance – still just one slider for each. There is a new slider called AI Structure which seems to be really great for adding detail to an image. There is a section called Landscape Enhancer which  now contains the Dehaze, Golden Hour, and Foliage Enhancer sliders. The Landscape module is where many of the other filters in Flex are found including their famous Sunrays filter along with AI Sky Replacement. In the Portrait section the new AI Skin Enhancer and the Portrait Enhancer filters are located along with the High Key and Orton Effect filters. The last module is called Pro and contains Dodge & Burn, Color Enhancer – lots of filters to do some basic enhancements to your images.

I am really surprised how good this program is. There are many links on how to use Luminar 4 all over the internet – I have not looked at any yet but I will be. I only wanted to introduce you to some of the new things in Luminar 4. These new filters and the speed it has for applying them is amazing. I would recommend you download a trial to see if you like it. I think that the new filters are wonderful. Good job Skylum!…..Digital Lady Syd


TOPAZ MASK AI

Image of a Summatran Tiger at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC
This week Topaz (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) unleashed their newest in their lineup of AI products by updating the old Topaz ReMask to Topaz Mask AI. I stand corrected – this is not a free update for past owners – not sure why since the product is very similar to the original – apparently they are giving past owners a discount. Update: There is a new update out, Version 1.0.2 – if your software does not indicate there is an update, go to the site and download the latest version.

So the Sumatran Tiger (from the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, DC) above was my first attempt using the program – I used it as a plugin in Photoshop, which is how I have always used it. It is also a stand alone program where the selections can be saved as a Transparent PNG file. My first impression is that it is not that different from ReMask 5 so if you have used it in the past, the plugin will be familiar to you. The AI capability does appear to create a better initial selection, but there usually is still some clean up brushing required using a small sized Green brush (for keeping an area), Red brush (for removing an area), and Blue brush (for recalculating the area to match). BTW, keyboard shortcuts for the Blue Brush is Q, Green is W and Red E – this makes it really quick to switch between the brushes, especially when doing clean up on the selection. The brush size can be increased or decreased using the bracket keys as in PS. It takes a little longer for the computing to occur since it is AI technology.

Below is the interface after the Auto (Detect Objects button) and Compute buttons were pressed and showing the 4 previews at once. This is my favorite way to clean up the image since corrections can be painted in any of the views if something does not look right. See how good the blue outline looks and it created a really overall smooth selection. I think it creates a better result than PS’s Quick Selection Tool with the Select Subject used.

Screenshot of Topaz Mask AI

SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF TOPAZ MASK AI ARE:

1. One of the best new features is the Auto Button which automatically creates a selection as shown above. What I will say is that I got much better results using the Auto button than by my brushing in my own blue outline around the tiger. So keep that in mind, use Auto first if possible. If it cannot find a subject, nothing happens.

2. Choose between AI or Contrast buttons. Topaz says use AI for complex masking issues such as trees, fur or lots of details. Use Contrast for skylines, horizon lines, cars, and macro flower petals (according to Topaz). I have not tried out the Contrast button yet, but the AI worked great on the tutorial they have embedded in the program to help you learn the software.

3. If you create your own outline, be sure to add a touch of red or green in areas you don’t want or do want. It helps the AI technology figure out what you want to keep. Not sure it helped me that much, but I am still new to the update so I may not be using it correctly.

4. What do all those Edge sliders do?

  • Edge Shift – shifts mask edge – I find this one major handy as it gets rid of some of the rough edges.
  • Edge Softness – add sharpening to sharp edges and softens edges as in a portrait.
  • Foreground Recovery – revives the color of foreground in weaker or more transparent areas – good for fur, whiskers, or wispy hair.
  • Defringe – to help reduce halos on edges.

5. Background Options: When I am doing edge corrections with a very small brush, I usually add a really bright solid color background color so the problem areas can be seen well. Have always done this and it helps a lot. The Blur options blurs the background for you – gives you a slider to do this. I have never used this option, but it might come in handy to see what is really being selected. Apparently an image can be placed into the selection and there are several options to adjust the selection’s exposure, contrast, etc. I have never used this before either.

One thing the Help Manual does not tell you is that once you have added the blue lines, use the Fill bucket to add green to the keep areas and red for areas to remove. That way you do not have to paint it out.

Also, it does not have, when used as a PS plug, the ability to “Enable Use Layer Mask” in the Preferences that was available with ReMask 5. Instead, need to add a layer mask to a duplicate layer before going into Mask AI – it will now load the selection into a PS layer mask upon applying. This is so helpful.

Well I hope you load it up and try it out. I trust that Topaz is still working with the program and are doing updates as the AI feature gets better – that seems to be the trend for their AI software. In the meantime, I will practice with the program and try and get a Video out there on some tips to make this process easy. And don’t forget that Topaz has a great Help program, so if you are having issues with Mask AI, let them know. Have a great week and Happy Halloween!……Digital Lady Syd


CAN A BLURRY IMAGE BECOME SHARP? MAYBE

Image of a bird feeder with a couple of birds
Just doing a really quick blog this week – have been working on an image that was taken this last summer that I really liked, but it just was not that sharp. Mainly my settings were off – they were working on the butterflies but not for the skiddish birds. If I walked in closer, the birds were totally freaking and would not come near the bird feeder, so this was a problem. Lesson learned – shoot manual when having problems! It may not be the best image, but I did get a nice remembrance of the birds and they are at least recognizable. So here is what I finally came up with to fix this.

Obviously I was shooting a lot of images and that was a big part of why this worked. I have learned that a little burst shooting and several attempts are especially good when I am not sure that I am getting the image I want. The two images were not shot at the same time – actually several deer images were taken in between. The juvenile Blue Jay image was shot first and the Cardinal second. You will probably never find a Blue Jay and a Cardinal at this feeder at the same time. That is why the bird images were taken at different times, but I decided to leave the Blue Jay alone as I thought he looked cute. Below are the actual RAW files taken. You can see these both are in pretty bad shape. One reason I wanted to use this Cardinal shot is that I liked the way his head was turned.

Original Raw photos of bird feeder and birds

In Lightroom these simple settings were applied: first opened the Detail Panel to adjust some Sharpness and add Noise reduction (because it is always there with this camera), then in Lens Correction the check boxes for Remove Chromatic Aberration and Enable Profile Corrections were turned on. The image was next cropped into a Square. In the Basic Panel the Auto button was clicked and Texture and Clarity sliders were adjusted. That was it. The image was taken into Photoshop where it could be seen this just was not good. Topaz (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Sharpen AI was added and set to Stabilize, Remove Blur 1.00, and Remove Noise 0.20. It helped, but it could not totally fix this pix. In Lightroom an image that used the same bird feeder that was sharper had to be found – the one with the juvenile Blue Jay was selected. The changes made to the RAW file for the Cardinal were copied over to the Blue Jay image and it was also brought into PS. Below you can see what they both looked like at this point.

Bird feeder images after Lightroom adjustments made to them

Now the Blue Jay image had to have Topaz AI Sharpen applied in PS before stacking on top of the Cardinal layer. Several layers of cloning and painting with both regular and mixer brushes was required to add back the needed detail and blend the colors together. Once brought into the Cardinal image, the Blue Jay layer had to be Free Transformed to fit and a black layer mask added – just painted back parts needed. The info was all there on the originals, just slightly blurry. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added on top using Sparkle Stock’s Bleak-Shoji 01 LUT and set to 58% layer opacity – this tended to tone down the very green background color. Viveza 2 was used to highlight the birds and add a little detail with the Structure slider. The setting were placed on the Blue Jay in this case where the Structure slider was set to 65%, Brightness 42%, Contrast 49%, Saturation 22% and Warmth 25% – really made the bird pop – I use this program all the time to even out an image. I used 6 different points in this image to help direct the eye to the birds. I really feel it is much better than Lightroom’s filters and a lot easier to use. I do still love LR so don’t get me wrong, but this program to me is still the best Photoshop plugin ever made. (See screenshot below of how this plugin was used.)

Screenshot Viveza 2
On a stamped layer, Topaz Lens Effect’s Vignette filter set to Burnt Sienna was used – the effect was painted off the birds and feeder in a layer mask. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to add some contrast back. Then on a New Layer the Sharpen Tool was set to a Strength of 100% to just the Cardinal and some of the seeds in the bird feeder – it was set to 45% layer opacity to keep it natural. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added next to adjust the red color in the Cardinal – this really added some depth and detail to the birds body which was not seen in the original image (Reds set to Cyan +82, Magenta +6, Yellow +2, and Black +13). Next a Black and White Adjustment Layer was added on top and the colors were adjusted as a black and white before setting the layer to Luminosity blend mode – great way to make sure you have your tonal values correct. (See my How to Use a Black & White Adjustment Layer to See Contrast in an Image blog.) Last step involved adding a Red Channel Luminosity Mask to a Curves Adjustment Layer – the Red Channel lighted up the birds the best. (See my How to Use a Red Channel to Create a Nice Blended Image Effect blog.) I hope I am getting across the fact that the sharpening is just slowly built up using different tools for different parts of the image.

Image of a painted deer
Who is this that just walked into my blog? Oh yes, one of the deer that was wandering around the yard near the bird feeder. My goodness! (Image was digitally painted mainly in Corel Painter 2019 and then finished up in Photoshop – my normal paint process.)

Anyway, thought I would show you how to fix something that may not seem fixable. It can be done, just takes a little experimentation and imagination to make it work. It actually is a lot like compositing images. Hope this was a bit of help to some of you – a favorite image might be saveable with a little manipulation. …..Digital Lady Syd


CREATING SOME MINIMALIST LANDSCAPE IMAGES

Infrared effect image taken at Green Turtle Cay in The Bahamas
This week I happened upon a really excellent video by Mark Denney called How to Embrace Minimalism for Improved Landscape Photos so I thought I would see if I had a few images that would qualify. It was fun to try a different technique using some of my older shots. Apparently a lot of minimized images are black and white due to color issues. So here are my first attempts at minimizing my images.

Mark says the major areas to be concerned about when doing a minimal landscape are Obvious Subject, Expansive Composition (negative space), Minimizing Color, Light and Shadows, and Keep It Simple. He has lots of great examples in his short video to show how to do this. I believe the image above of Green Turtle Cay, one of my favorite places that is in the Bahamas, fits most of these criteria. (Here is a great short video of how Green Turtle Cay and the little town of New Plymouth looked after Cat 5 Hurricane Dorian came through – amazingly good considering!) The image is very dark, but does have great highlights. There is not much in the image to see, but the little shoreline and small pier in the distance serves as fairly Obvious Subjects. The color palette is very limited and there is quite a bit of negative space in the foreground. What I like is that it creates an image that is very different from my normal way of looking at landscapes. (See Image 1 descriptions below for more details and links on how this image was finished.)

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Small island in the Bahamas
The above image is another one from the Bahamas – a little lonely island near Green Turtle Cay. This area is a great place to get minimalist type images as it is very flat with these gorgeous skies. This image has an obvious subject, lots of negative space, minimal color palette, and some great highlights and shadows. I think it meets the criteria. In this case it does not need a black and white treatment as it does not have a lot of colors that distracts from the subject. (For more info, check out Image 2 below in descriptions.)

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Image of a lone tree on Spanish Cay on the Bahamas
Another example of a simple minimalist landscape. The original image was created from 5 raw files in Lightroom using the Photo Merge command which creates a DNG file. It was then opened in Photoshop. (For more post details, check out Image 3 description below.) The subject definitely is a strong one in this image. Quite a bit of negative space, minimal color and with highlights and shadows. Very desolate looking but I like the image – the beach was very bare looking.

Hope you enjoyed the blog and will try out creating a minimalist landscape. I am going to photograph some local places using this effect and getting some more practice – I think it is really an interesting technique. Hope you have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Descriptions:

Image 1:  The original image of Turtle Cay in the Bahamas was a very colorful one with lots of blues and turquoise colors. I decided to turn it into an infrared effect by using a really old preset (still works great) in Lightroom called GA B&W Infrared 01. Then several adjustments were made in both the Basic and B&W Panel to get the correct balance for the effect wanted. The image was taken into Photoshop and a Spotlight Effect layer was added to mainly the beach edges. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added using the Nathan Black Atmosphere preset from the wonderful PS guru Glyn Dewis and set to 32% layer opacity. (I am having trouble tracking down this LUT but it may be in his Creativity Tool Kit downloadable from his website.) The Blur Gallery’s Field Blur was set to 33 px and added on a stamped layer to soften down the whole image – then a layer mask was added and the Gradient Tool was used so only the foreground received the softening effect from the blur. On two new layers above, a fog brush was used ,one with white color and one with black, to further soften the foreground and were set to very low opacities. Another new layer was added on top and the Blur Tool set to 100% Strength and used to paint over the objects on the right to further soften their effect. To get the soft blue tones, another Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was used and set to the PS Horror Blue preset at 20% opacity. That was the last step.

Image 2: Basically nothing was done in Lightroom except some cropping. The image was taken into Photoshop to do the rest of the post work. This image turned out to be mainly a Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) image. The original layer was duplicated and the top layer was opened into Topaz Studio 2. Topaz Adjust AI filter was then opened and set to Standard at 1.00; Brightness Exposure -0.06, Contrast -0.31, Shadow -0.41 and White -0.09; and Split Tone Highlight Sat 0.49, Highlight Hue 0.15, Shadow Sat 0.37, Shadow Hue 0.65, and Balance 0.33. Next the Impression filter was set to the Default and a mask was created and set to Transparency 0.71. Painted a little paint off the palm trees, then clicked on the Adjust icon – on the Density slider, set the mask to 0.27 so just a bit of the effect was apparent. Went back to the Brush and set it to 0.33 Transparency and painted back a little more definition to the palm trees. Lots of little tweaks here. The Dehaze Filter was set to Strength 0.72, and yet another Impression Filter, this time using Stroke Type 07 with the Texture set to Original – and in the layer mask painted back the island and in Adjust set Contrast to 1.44 and Density 0.36. Set Filter Opacity to 0.65. I am giving you all the settings so you can how much tweaking can be done to get just the look you want with all these filters – kudos to Topaz for this! Next on a stamped layer Topaz ReStyle was added – used the Snow Flight preset with several changes. (ReStyle: 32% opacity, Sat Primary 0.38, Secondary -0.58, Third -0.61 and Fifth 0.34; and Lum Primary -0.14, Secondary -0.56, Third -0.11 and Fifth -0.23; and Basic Color Temperature -0.23, Tint 0.19, and Sat -0.22; Tone Black Level -0.08, Midtones -0.03, and White Level -0.22 and Detail Structure -0.28 and Sharpness -0.05.) After viewing another excellent video called Advanced Color Toning in Photoshop by Blake Rudis, a Gradient Map called Blake Rudis gray gradient 19 set to Soft Light at 62% layer opacity was selected. (Do download his free gradients if you use the Gradient Filter at all!) Next added a group of adjustment layers created from a video (Trick the Photo Filter to Add Drama & Color in Photoshop) by Unmesh Dinda and changed several of the settings to fit this image – then setting the group to 89% layer opacity. On a couple new layers some painting was done to smooth out the colors a little. Added a Color Balance Adjustment Layer to remove just a little bit of Magenta in the sky in the Shadows and Highlights. Next Topaz Lens Effects was opened and the Fog Filter was used with these settings: Fog Adjustments Amount 0.43, Region Size 0.38, Transition 0.21, Angle 180.0, and Diffusion 0.55. That was it.

Image 3: This image was created from 5 raw files in Lightroom. They were combined into an HDR using the Photo Merge -> HDR command which created an HDR .dng image. This was brought into Photoshop and on a duplicate layer, Luminar Flex was opened. This is where the image was converted into a black and white image using the B&W Conversion filter. Also a small amount of Dehaze, Image Radiance, Top & Bottom Lighting, and Whites/Blacks filter were used. A Red Channel Curves Adjustment Layer was opened and an S-curve created. The Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was set to Edgy Amber and 66% layer opacity. A Levels Adjustment Layer vignette was created. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used to lighten up the right top area – black mask added with just the area needed painted back. Most of these techniques are in other blogs of mine.


LET’S NOT FORGET TOPAZ RESTYLE – ONE OF THE BEST FILTERS YOU CAN GET!

Image of a white Bird of Paradise bloom
Made it through the first hurricane scare of the season. Therefore decided to blog about something I really love – Topaz Labs (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) hidden jewel of filters – ReStyle! I use this program so much. There are times when an image looks pretty good but something is missing. Sometimes the colors don’t feel quite right together. This is when ReStyle is at it’s best. The above image was an example of this. When it was opened in Photoshop and after doing all the magic I could do, it still just did not look quite right. After applying ReStyle, it looks much better to me. So how do you get this result?

The filmstrip shows thumbnails of the original image from LR along with four different presets applied. Additional changes to the sliders in the presets would need to be made to get the best results, but ReStyle makes it easy to get a good basic idea of what other color combinations would do to the image.

Filmstrip image of various ReStyle preset results

The really fun part is adjusting the five major color sliders using the Hue, Sat and Lum sections, just like in LR’s HSL Panel after selecting a preset. The opacity and blend mode can also be changed for just this ReStyle section – in other words the original colors can be brought back into the image a little, and blend modes can be applied to just the ReStyle section. Very subtle results can be achieved when this is done and can really change how the image looks. And even better, the same type of adjustments can be done for the Basic Section also. I am not one who generally likes to apply presets to my images, but this filter is a preset driven program with several hundred presets to make a choice from. This should one of the first Topaz filters people would get, especially for the creative PS user – and it is so easy to use.

This week I did a quick video to show how this same image was used in ReStyle using different settings. This shows how the interface works. Note that the image is not finished up in the video, more work needs to be done on the image, but the overall ReStyle effect is rather nice. For the top image, a Lucis Pro filter was used to sharpen up the edges a little and a gray texture set to Subtract blend mode at 70% layer opacity was added before going into ReStyle. To finish up the image after ReStyle, a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied to bring back some contrast and a slight vignette was used.

I do not know if Topaz is planning to incorporate ReStyle into its Topaz Studio 2 line-up of filters. It is absolutely one of the most unique filters you will find – just about on par with Impression. I will say that Topaz Studio 2 does include a pretty nifty Color Theme filter where five different colors that can be changed in your image, and it has nine presets in a drop-down menu to choose from. It also has the ability to customize the colors, but it is not nearly as easy to do. I will try to do a follow-up on this Topaz Studio 2 filter in the near future. And check out my related blogs below – the first ones explains how to get ReStyle to use just the colors in your image and then lets you apply all their slider settings. This is also a very easy way to do some slight adjustments to colors in your image.

Hope everyone is having a good month – busy with school starting and weather changing! Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

How to Use a Topaz ReStyle Trick for Improving Your Image
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz ReStyle


WISHING THE BAHAMAS ALL THE BEST

Image of sunset at Spanish Cay in the Bahamas

Taking some time off due to the Dorian Hurricane that is coming up the coast near me. The Bahamas are right in the hurricane’s path. It is one of my favorite places – the Outer Banks especially where all the smaller cays are. The above is an older image of a sunset at the Spanish Cay marina, a little island with hardly any inhabitants but a really nice marina. This is also one of the places where you check in with your passport to continue your visit in the area.

The HDR effect was created using 5 images in Lightroom. Lightroom has made it so easy to do this – just select the images to use and right click to select Photo Merge -> HDR. Just click Merge to apply and a DNG file is created to finish up your post work. For this image one of Blake Rudis’s profiles called Warmifier was applied first in the Basic Panel. Then just the normal adjustments were done. An Adjustment Brush with settings of Texture 85 and Clarity 41 was used to paint over the treeline. A Graduated Filter was placed at the top with settings of Exposure -0.34, Shadows -10, Clarity -30, and Saturation 6. A Radial filter was placed over the clouds where they were slightly warmed up and Clarity removed to soften. In Details Panel, the Luminance had to be slightly increased as there was noise from the darker images. Since I wanted to Sharpen it without bringing back more noise, the Masking Slider was set up to 94 so only the major lines of the image were sharpened. Then the image was taken into Photoshop. On a duplicate layer, Luminar Flex was used to further enhance the image. Filters used were AI Sky Enhancer, Accent AI Filter 2.0, Golden Hour, Top & Bottom Lighting, and HSL adjusting only some of the foreground water color a little. The Filter Amount was then set to only 36%. Last step was to add a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using Crisp Warm Look at 8% opacity.

Here is hoping the Bahamas, the Florida coast and on up get through this storm. See ya on the other side!…..Digital Lady Syd

PS: Check out my Flickr Bahamas Album for more pix from the Outer Banks.


TOPAZ STUDIO 2 IMPRESSION AND PHOTOSHOP BRUSHES


Image of a Water Lily blossom at the National Zoo in Washington, DC

This week I have been playing around with the update Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Studio 2. (Last week I did a review of the of it – check out my What About This Topaz Studio 2 Update? Not Bad! blog and video.) I imagine that everyone has noticed several small updates came out this week, each adding a couple more features to the interface. There now is a Navigation Tool on the bottom right toolbar – it is so handy for moving around the image when zoomed way in. A Crop/Rotate/Straighten tool has also been added – probably will not use this a lot but sometimes when an image is crooked, it is nice to have. Your own textures can now be added into the Texture filter as in Topaz Studio 1. I am really looking forward to being able to add another layer as an image (like the Image Layer filter in the original) – I miss not having this feature. But all in all Topaz has been working hard to get this updated software running smoothly.

A Little about Brushes

The Water Lily image, taken at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC, is an example of using the wonderful Impression filter that comes with Topaz Studio 2. For me it works great as either a nice painterly background for regular portraits or animal images or as a painting starting point as used in the Lily look. For this image Impression’s default settings were applied except the Type 06 Brush Stroke was used. Back in PS, on separate layers, Blender Mixer Brushes and my SJ Pastel 3 regular painting brush were used to add color and smooth out the strokes. (To create this brush, check out my How to Use Photoshop’s Brush Texture Section for Painting Clean-up blog – in the middle are the settings.) Even though they have been around for a while, Fay Sirkis mixers are some of the best – only place I can find to download them is from her Kelby One painting courses and they are worth it.

Obviously Kyle Webster provides a huge amount of choices for painting.  The PS Legacy brushes are also still available and have a lot of good mixer brushes. The Fan Flat Blender Mixer brush, located by clicking the Brushes Panel pop-out in top right and select Converted Legacy Tool Presets (when dialog appears asking to “Restore the Converted…”, say OK to add set to the brush list) is a great brush and several variations can easily be made in the Brush Settings Panel (like changing the Brush Angle and Size, adding Shape Dynamics, and adjusting Texture settings).

I also love GrutBrushes – his cloud brushes are just the best available and his InkyLeaks splatter set is really good also (check out his free sampler of brushes and his free brush of the week each Monday).


Image of the Toucans greeting visitors at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm

My previously presented Toucan image is an example of using an Impression filter, in this case it was the Edward Hopper Look (previously preset) – used a Topaz brush to mask out the eyes and beaks of the birds, but the result of not applying the whole painterly effect to the image can be seen. This to me is one major reason why I have to have Topaz Studio 2 as no other plugin company has anything like Impression in their filters. Back in Photoshop a regular soft small soft round brush was used on a New Layer to really emphasize the eyes more. Most of the time a painting clean up layer needs to be done to fine-tune where a few strokes are off a little.

Turning Any Blender Mixer Brush into a Painting Mixer Brush (or One that Adds Color)

To create some of your own Mixer Brush variations, I have listed a few steps to help you out.

Settings for a Blender Mixer: To blend the colors , in the Options Bar:

  • Turn off the “Load the brush after each stroke” icon by clicking on it
  • Always leave “Clean the brush after every stroke” clicked on
  • Select the Very Wet, Heavy Mix in the drop-down
  • Check Sample All Layers

Now you have a pretty nice blending Mixer brush. If some color shows up, you left the “Load” icon turned on.

Settings for a Painting Mixer:

  • Turn On the “Load the brush after each stroke” icon (or no color will be painted as the icon will be clear)
  • Change the drop down to Dry, Light Load
  • ALT+click in your image to sample a color if using one from your image. Note that there is a drop-down by the “Current Brush Load” icon which gives you a choice to “Load Solid Colors Only” instead of a bit of what was under your brush when you clicked

Dab a few times to add your color and then turn off the “Current Brush Load” icon and set back to the Very Wet Heavy Mix to blend some more. This is really handy to know when you are blending away and find that you are missing a color to mix into the background. Since just blending the color back in, it does not have to look that good when you dab. This being said, lots of times I just use a regular brush to add the color in if using the same stroke effect is not that important. Either way works great depending on where the blending is occurring in the image.

That’s it for this week – just thought I would share a little how I paint using Topaz Studio 2 Impression. I like to work this way as Impression gives a nice effect in the background and as much or as little of this effect can be left in the image by using Photoshop brushes. It gives me the creative aspect I want but cuts down on the actual background painting time. Hope this was a helpful blog for those of you wanting to try out painting. Impression is definitely the way to go. And remember, it comes with Topaz Studio 2! Have a great week…..Digital Lady Syd