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Image of a wintry landscape with deerThis week turned out to be a little strange as my prepared blog needs some permission clarification before posting. Therefore, I decided to pay tribute to my kids and friends up north who were blanketed with over 20 inches of snow. I found this beautiful free stock image on pixabay (original image linked) and added my own touch to it. The deer that is photo bombing the image was supposed to go in the background, but he just so looked so natural in that spot, so that’s where he remains.

Here is a quick run down of how I achieved this sort of old-fashioned look. In Lightroom Trey’s Free Packs A Beautiful Release (from Jan 2015) preset was applied to the original downloaded image – an Adjustment Brush was used to paint the blue color out of the trees from the gradient in the preset.  In Photoshop Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Clarity was opened where a Basic Tone Preset by Blake Rudis (here are the settings: Micro Contrast 0.13, Low Contrast 0.28, Medium Contrast 0.16, and High Contrast 0.26) was selected. A black layer mask was added once out of the plug-in and just the center area of the image where the creek turns was painted back for more detail. A New Layer set to Overlay blend mode and a soft round black brush set to 12% opacity was used to burn in a little contrast in the tops of the short trees in the middle. (See my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog.) A Curves Adjustment Layer was put on top. A stamped layer was created on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and the Nik Viveza 2 plug-in was opened to adjust the color tone in the center and soften the outer trees. On another stamped layer Nik Color Efex Pro 4 filters were stacked: Midnight Neutral at 67% opacity, Reflector Efex Silver to add light from the left, and Vignette Blur using Shape 2 and Type 1. This is when I got the great idea to add a deer – this little beauty is an image from Tara Lesher that she graciously let people use.  The deer was removed from it’s background using Topaz ReMask 5 and placed in this image. Two Exposure Adjustments Layers were used to sharpen the eyes and the nose. (See my How To Do a Quick Eye Sharpening in Photoshop blog.) Two free snow overlays were added: one by Shadowhouse Creations called Snow Overlay 11 set to Screen blend mode at 74% layer opacity, and one by me called SJ-Snow2-Overlay-slightly blurred, which is a png file, set to 20% layer opacity. Last step was to add Kim Klassen’s Downtown Collection Edith texture (unfortunately I do not believe her textures are available anymore, but 2 Lil’ Owls (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website) has some very similar vintage effect textures) on top set to Overlay at 50% layer opacity. And that is my winter wonderland image.

Image of wintry landscape with a barnHere is another wonderful wintry landscape from pixabay. Just screamed HDR effect to me, although it really is more of an illustrative look. This image used another Trey Radcliff’s free Lightroom preset in the package linked above called Xmas Pants Asunder. That is about all that was done to the image in Lightroom. The background was duplicated (CTRL+J) and Photoshop’s Oil Paint Filter was applied. I usually do not use this filter as it looks so canned, but it does one thing really good – it makes snow look fabulous! Also always set as a Smart Object (Smart Filter) so you can go back in and adjust the settings if the effect gets “over-the-top.” (Here are the settings: Stylization 0.8, Cleanliness 8.3, Scale 0.99, Bristle Detail 9.5, Angular Direction -151, and Shine 1.5 – remember to adjust them if the resolution of you image is very high or low.) The trick is not to use too much Shine, but if you do need it stronger, just paint out the areas that have too much striping effect going on in the filter mask. In this image, some of the snow had a little strip-look going on and it was painted out with a black brush in the mask. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was opened up as a Smart Object and three filters were stacked: Tonal Contrast using Balanced Contrast Type, Darken/Lighten Center using Shape 2 and centering effect on the barn, and Vignette Filter using Shape 2 – sampled a whitish color from the image and set the Opacity slider to 81%. Nik Viveza 2 was used to draw focus to the main little building in the front. My SJ Snow1 Overlay from same link as above was added on top and set to 20% layer opacity.

These were just some very easy winter looks that can be added to give your winter shots a very unique feel. Do try out the Oil Paint Filter on snow – the settings I used worked pretty well on a couple of different images I did. Also check out pixabay if you need a new image to work with – they have a great assortment of free stock images. Stay warm until next time!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of the Memorial Gardens, Ormond Beach, FloridaFor a long time I have heard about the Orton Effect, but did not really know what it was. This week I thought I would do a short blog on what it is and how to apply it in Photoshop. Michael Orton created the effect in 1980, and it involved using two photos of the same place, one in focus and one out-of-focus. The result is a dreamy surreal look. It is mainly used on landscapes, but there was a time that it was popular to use with portrait shots.

Two different images can be stacked as layers in Photoshop after processing in Camera Raw or Lightroom, or just one image and adding a duplicated layer can be used, which is what was done with all these images. On method uses the Image -> Apply Image command to accomplish this effect. The image of Memorial Gardens in Ormond Beach, Florida, used this effect on two different duplicated layers to get the dream-like quality in the image. Once the Apply Image is done, the result is supposed to be set to Screen blend mode. I decided it looked better with one layer was set to Multiply blend mode at 44% layer opacity and the other Screen blend mode at 31% layer opacity, so experiment with the blend modes. A layer mask was used on the top layer to remove the effect in the middle of the image where the focal point is. Jimmy McIntyre, one of my favorite landscape photographers, made at his Shutter Evolve website a very short video called Quick Photoshop Secrets 7: How To Create A Dreamy Orton Effect which shows the steps to apply it manually. In one of his blogs (How to Create the Orton Effect), the Orton Effect action can be downloaded. It also contains these two great tips:  Try to be selective in how you apply the Orton Effect as it tends to soften important textures and fine details; and watch the color effect as the result will become strongly saturated, especially the greens. By adding a layer mask and using a black brush set to different opacities, paint away where the effect is too strong. Jimmy also has a free Easy Panel for CS5 and above that contains an Orton Effect button and does the same thing as the action.  He has a great weekly newsletter. For this image a Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added and the Reds, Yellows, and Neutrals were adjusted just a little. A Blue Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was placed on top and set to Luminosity blend mode at 25% layer opacity to tone down the yellows a little more. I really wanted a softer look in this image.

Image taken at the Viera WetlandsHere is another example of the Orton Effect using OnOne’s (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Effect 10 (was called Perfect Effects) plug-in used on an image taken at the Viera Wetlands. The Glow Filter called Orton Hears a Who preset with changes to the Warmth slider (92), Saturation (-4), Amount (88), and Halo (33). Also the Tone Enhancer Filter Midtones Lighter preset was applied on another layer (Tone 19, Contrast 48, Blacks -22, and Highlights -20, and then the Big Softy Vignette. (There is also an Orton Clean preset that was not tried.) On a New Layer above, my free SJ-Clouds 14 was added at 45% layer opacity into the sky. Obsidian Dawn’s Grouping 5 birds were also added to the scene (then highlight bird layer, go to Select -> Color Selection and select Shadows -> OK, add layer mask to add selection,  then right click to apply layer mask). Now a Gradient Fill layer was clipped (ALT+Click between the layers) to add some softer tone to the birds. I believe OnOne did a good job of creating a nice Orton Effect and it was much easier to do.

Image of a Palamedes Swallow Tail ButterflyThis time this beautiful Palamedes Swallow Tail Butterfly from my front yard was brought into Photoshop Elements 10, which actually has an Orton Effect filter effect. So this is how it was done since it is not obvious where it is in Elements: Go to Edit -> Guided -> Create Orton Effect. There are three sliders – my setting were: Increase Blur to under the “n,” Increase Noise set to under the “c,” and Apply Brightness under the “i”. Apply Orton Effect and then Done. Go back to Edit -> Full. A Layer Mask was added to the blurred layer and the butterfly and near flowers were gently painted out with a black round soft brush set to 15% brush opacity. The layer was then set to 85% layer opacity. Next a Levels Adjustment Layer was added to increase the contrast a little bit. A light pink Solid Color Fill layer was added on top and set to Color Blend Mode at 20% layer opacity to offset the overwhelming green color. That was it. A real dreamy effect that is pretty nice on something other than a landscape.

This is definitely a rather nice effect, although I am not sure I would want it on every image. It is actually hard to really understand what it does until you run the action or follow the “Apply Image” steps. I am more into the sharper look, but it still is nice for a change and fun to try. Hope you enjoyed this and try it on some of your images. Until next time, keep smiling!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of Hawaiian PlumeriaSo even if you do not have Corel Painter or artistic talent, you can get some pretty amazing results with some Photoshop plug-ins and layer masks. These beautiful plumeria were taken in Hawaii and are a good example of what can be done with just a little set up. I am giving you some of my preset settings that you can try to see if you can get good some results.

This image used Topaz (see website at my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Impression to do the basic paint effect in this image. This worked because I created a wild preset in Impression I call SJ WC like effect on bkgds with the Brush Stroke changed to 1.00, to get this abstract background look. (Settings: Stroke: Brush Type 04, Brush Size 0.91, Paint Volume 0.42, Paint Opacity 0.87, Stroke Rotation 0, Stroke Color Variation 0, Stroke Width 0.33, Stroke Length 0.89, Spill 0.23, Smudge 0.26, and Coverage 1.00; Color: Overall Hue 0.15, St -0.20, and Lightness 0.06; Red Sat 0.47 and Lightness 0.14; Orange Sat 0.60 and Lightness -0.42; Yellow Sat -0.33 and Lightness 0.13; Green Sat 0.20 and Lightness -0.32; and Blue Sat 0.36; Lighting: Brightness -0.04, Contrast 0.39, and Light Direction x0.33 and y0.06; and Texture: Strength 0.78, Size 0.30, Canvas IV, Background Type Solid, and Background #d38967 (soft melon color). ) I was really surprised what these rather strange settings did to the background and making it look as though it was actually painted by hand. By duplicating the layer underneath and moving it on top of the Impression layer, then adding a black layer mask to it, the actual objects or flowers in this case can be painted back. See the original image as brought in from Lightroom at end of Image 2 section below. Since Topaz ReStyle had been applied to the layer underneath, there was already a bit of a grainy artsy effect applied to the overall image before Impression was applied to it. By duplicating the ReStyle layer, the graininess is still visible in the flowers when painted back and they blend in nicely with background. I tried adding another dose of the same Impression preset to the layer and got a very different background look so give this a try also. See Image 1 below for full instructions on the image workflow.

Instead of using a plain round brush, I used my SJ Pastel 3-painting texture adder brush set to a 30% or less brush opacity on the layer mask to add some softer edges when painting back the flowers. This is important to get a the painterly look. This same brush was used on several New Layers to clean up more edges, add some defining lines in the flowers, and blend in some additional color. (See my How To Use Photoshop’s Brush Texture Section for Painting Clean-Up blog for settings to create this brush.) Just sample colors, both the darker colors and lighter colors next to it, to soften edges. Any brush you like will do, but try to find something with some rough edges for this technique. I know I have mentioned it before, but has different media type brushes for Photoshop, and on each Monday a free brush can be downloaded-click on Resources tab. This is a great way to try out different kinds of brushes and see which ones work best for painting on New Layers and which work well with layer masks, or both.

Painted image of Flagler BeachThis image is of beautiful Flagler Beach, Florida, where another example of the same type of painted background effect was created. The original image was very blown out as I thought this was what I wanted the image to feel like at that point in post-processing. This time my SJ Painterly Impressionistic preset was used for the background, which produces a much smoother background effect. (Settings: Stroke: Brush Type 09, Brush Size 0.75, Paint Volume 0, Paint Opacity 0.50, Stroke Rotation, Stroke Color Variation, Stroke Width, and Stroke Length all set to 0; Spill 0.63, Smudge 0.10, and Coverage 1.00; no Color changes; Lighting – no changes; and Texture Strength 0.25, Size 0, Canvas II, Background Type white solid, and Background White.) A stamped layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) without including the Topaz Impression layer, and moved on top. Impression was opened again and my SJ Painterly Imp Mod was applied (Settings: SJ Painterly Imp mod – Stroke: Type 09, Point Volume 0, Paint Opacity 0.75, Stroke Rotation 0, Stoke Color Variation 0, Stroke Width -0.25, Stroke Length -0.17, Spill 0.63, Smudge 0.09, and Coverage 1.00; Color Overall Saturation -0.23, Orange Sat -0.27, Yellow Sat 0.28, and Aqua Sat 0.51; Lighting Brightness 0.08 and Contrast 0.14; and Texture Strength 0.25, Size 0, Canvas II, Background Type white solid, and Background White.) Any plug-in or Photoshop filter could be applied at this stage to get different effects on the main objects. A black layer mask was added and just the wanted objects were painted back. The color scheme did not suit me so Topaz ReStyle was used on a stamped layer to change up the colors. Pretty easy to get this painterly effect. See Image 2 for more post-processing details.

Original images after Lightroom processing

Image of the Flamingo Boats at Sea World OrlandoThis time the image was taken at Sea World Orlando of the Flamingo Peddle Boats using Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4, which has a rather different approach to adding painterly effects to a layer. This program lets you set control points and make parts of the image very “photorealistic” if you want. In this case no control points were used but just the Impasto Detail preset. I really like the texture this plug-in adds to an image. This time the original background layer was duplicated and a black layer mask added. Only the fountains’ water was painted back from the original image. Topaz ReStyle was added above using a stamped layer on top with the Saturation Station preset, which created the pinkish tones. See Image 3 below for more details.

I hope you will try out either one or both plug-ins, Topaz Impression and Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4, to see what results you can get. The whole basic concept is to change up a duplicate layer and apply something a little outrageous but making a nice background look. Then duplicate the original background layer, place it on top –  then apply a different filter to it, use the same filter with different settings, or just use the original layer. Add a black layer mask (CTRL+I in the mask to change white to black) and with a white low opacity brush paint back what you want to show through. Use different types of brushes to paint back these effects in the masks. These two painterly plug-ins are not the only ones that will give nice effects – try Topaz Adjust or Topaz Simplify, or maybe Nik Analog Pro 2 for example. And don’t forget to try Topaz ReStyle if you want to change up the color scheme. This all can give a really nice painterly effect without having to paint every stroke in the image.

Enjoy your painting!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image 1:  First do the basic tone and color changes in Lightroom or Camera Raw. In Photoshop, I used Topaz Detail to sharpen up the image as I wanted the details to still show up nicely in the flowers and the colors were also adjusted in this plug-in. Topaz ReStyle was applied on a stamped layers (CTRL+ALT+SHIFTS+E) above. This time I used a preset that had lots of blue tones as I wanted the colors to be more bluish as opposed to the yellow and green colors in the original and it softened the background colors. A Basic Mask in the plug-in was used to paint back just the flowers to keep the details. Next Topaz Impression was opened on a duplicate layer and my SJ WC like Effect on bkgds presets was used to get this crazy painterly background. Settings are shown above. The ReStyle layer was duplicated and placed on top with a black layer mask (Add layer mask and  (CTRL+I) in the mask to turn black).  Clean up on several layers and Nik Viveza was used to slightly darken the background edges and lighten the flowers a little. The last step was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to increase contrast.

Image 2: First Topaz Clarity was applied to the image – used one of my presets to get the image the sharpness I wanted (SJ Big Clouds preset with changes: Dynamics Micro Contrast 0.98, Low Contrast -0.14, Medium Contrast 0.22, and High Cntrast -0.37; Tone Level -0.23, Midtones 0.19, and White Level -0.19; Hue Green -0.30; Sat Red 0.03, Orange -0.78, Yellow 0.28, Green 0.19, Blue -0.25, and Overall 0.03; and Lum Red 0.39, Orange 0.11, Yellow -0.47, Green 0.23, Aqua 0.55, Blue -0.09, Purple 0.14, Magenta -0.20, and Overall -0.20. ) I like to use Clarity on landscape images. Topaz DeNoise 5 was used set to Overall 0.13 and Highlights 0.72. Since I am never sure how my final image will look, I usually try to get my image as sharp as I can. On a stamped layer above, Topaz Impression preset (SJ Painterly Impressionistic) was added as discussed above. Then another stamped layer and the second Topaz Impression preset (SJ Painterly Imp Mod) was applied with the black layer mask. Just painted back what I wanted with my SJ Past 3-painting texture adder brush. Curves, Selective Color and Color Balance Adjustment Layers were added. Then on a stamped layer Topaz ReStyle was opened and a preset taken from an image processed previously was used or I would give you the settings. Nik Viveza 2 was used to add a little structure to the focal point. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added to tone down the dark areas.

Image 3: There was not as much to do with this image as Snap Art added a lot of the effect I actually wanted in the image. Next ReStyle was added using the Saturation Station preset. Two separate layers were added where Kyle’s Spatter Brushes – Spatter Bot B (75% layer opacity) and Aaron Nace’s Glitter Brush (12% layer opacity – info for making this brush can be found at end of my Some Christmas Cheer and Resources blog) for a little more miscellaneous water being thrown around. Nik Viveza 2 was used to give a little bit of a darkened vignette feel around the edges of the image. The last step was a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer with Master set to Saturation -76 to try and soften the big dark blue splotches in the trees. The layer mask was filled with black and just the splotches were painted back with a white brush where the blue was.


Image of Edinburgh Castle in ScotlandLooks like I am back up and running with my new computer and Windows 10. Hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday and a very Happy New Year. Since I have not had a lot of time to come up with new tips, I am presenting a couple images that I used to see how my programs were working on the new set up.

The image above is one taken at Scotland’s Edinburgh Castle a while ago. What I really liked is how the colors “popped” with Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Glow. I keep forgetting how nice an effect this filter will give. Need to take a few minutes and try making a few of your own presets. Most of my presets look terrible at Normal blend mode, so do not let that stop you – the blend mode must almost always be changed. I tend to start with Soft Light, which is what this image used. (My SJ Mysterious II desat was applied – here are the settings: Primary Glow:  Glow Type Dark, Glow Strength 0.30, Effect Sharpness 0.63, Electrify 0.14, Simplify Details 0.17, Edge Color 0.28, Detail Strength -0.06, Detail Size 0.20, Brightness -0.56, Contrast 0.44, Saturation 0.00, Line Rotation 0.00, and Glow Spread 0.00; Secondary Glow:  Glow Type Light, Glow Strength 0.00, Effect Sharpness 0.22, Electrify 0.03, Simplify Details 0.00, Brightness 0.45, and Contrast 0.64; Color: Overall Saturation -0.54, Red Saturation 0.18, Orange Hue 0.68, Saturation -0.47, and Lightness 0.41, and Yellow Saturation 0.79; Finished Touches – all set to 0.00.) Instead of changing the blend mode in the Glow filter, the preset is applied when it looks crazy and it is adjusted back in Photoshop. It will create exactly the same effect no matter where the blend mode is added, so use PS as there are a lot more blend mode choices (Glow only has Normal and 5 other blend modes). This image used Soft Light at 79% layer opacity. The sky looked really bad with the Glow effect on it, so the layer was duplicated and taken into Topaz ReMask 5 where just the sky was removed very quickly. For me ReMask is still the best place to get a good selection. The filter created a layer mask that allowed the original sky to be used. The last step used Nik Viveza 2 to drive the focus of the image toward the Scott Monument in the center background. I would suggest trying out Glow on architectural type images – it gives a very nice effect to the lines of buildings.

View from Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

This image was a happy accident as I was reinstalling the various Topaz Filters. I was using just one of my favorite basic images to make sure they were running correctly, and the above was the result of combining Topaz Adjust and Topaz Black and White Effects! There was very little work done on this image. (To see original image, check out View from Edinburgh Castle on Flickr.) Just duplicated the background layer (CTRL+J) and opened Topaz Adjust. A preset created from a Topaz video on “Rick Sammon’s Top Topaz Tricks, Tips, and Techniques” that used the Spicify preset to create a soft artsy effect was applied. (Settings used: Adaptive Exposure section: Adaptive Exposure 0.50, Regions 25, Contrast -0.56, Brightness -0.13, Protect Highlights 0.03, and Protect Shadows 0.03; Details section: Strength 0.87, Detail Boost 1.15, Threshold 0.12, Radius 25.00, and Sharpen 1.01; Color section: Adaptive Saturation 0.33, Color Regions 10, Saturation 1.00, Saturation Boost 1.00, and Hue 0.00; and Noise section: Suppression 3.24, Amount 0.51, and check Use Topaz DeNoise.) In PS the layer remained set to Normal at 100% layer opacity. This layer was duplicated and Topaz Black & White Effects was opened and my SJ Poolside preset was applied. Now this looked not too good, but when flipped to a Multiply blend mode at 77% layer opacity, these beautiful warm colors popped out! (Here are the settings for SJ Poolside preset: Conversion:  Basic Exposure – Contrast -0.01, Brightness 0.04, Boost Blacks 0.24, and Boost Whties -0.03; Adaptive Exposure – Adaptive Exposure 0.28, Regions 26, Detail 1.10, Detail Boost 0.98, and check Process Details Independently; and Color Sensitivity Yellow 0.19 and Blue -0.06; Color Filter – Hue 32.90 and Strength 0.60; Creative Effects: Diffusion Softness 0.39, Diffusion 0.57, and Diffusion Transition 0.55; and Finishing Touches: Quad Tone Color 1 Region 15.08 and color R1/G1/B12; Color 2 Region 143.9 and color R63/G78/B85; Color 3 Region 227.5 color R216/G211/B129; and Color 4 Region 255.0 and color R255/G254/B237; Vignette -0.42, Vignette Size 0.88, Vignette Transition 0.80, and Vignette Curvature 0.83; and Transparency Overall 0.65.) A layer mask was added and with a brush set to 30% layer opacity, a little bit of the sides of the buildings were painted over to brighten up just a bit as in the layer below – this is a way to guide the eye through the image.

Well, hopefully you got a few Topaz tricks since I have not had much time to see what new is out there. If you have a few different Topaz filters, try applying them and then using different blend modes on the layers and adding layer masks to drive the eye through the image. I am going to try and find some different filter combinations to get that unique feel to an image. Also listening to those Topaz Labs videos on their website can give you some great ideas for presets. Hopefully I am able to get some final tweaks on my computer and be back and running as before!  And once again – Happy New Year Everyone!…..Digital Lady Syd


Holiday Image with a Laughing KookaburraThis week I am just doing a short blog and taking a few weeks off – been blogging for 5 years without missing a week, and am updating to a better computer. As great as it is to get a new computer, it is hard not to anticipate some issues! This beautiful bird is a Laughing Kookaburra whose image was taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. Basically this image used my regular workflow for painted birds. Used Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) ReMask 5 to separate him out from his background and then applying the resulting layer mask. In Photoshop my own Corel Painter texture was placed below. In this case the texture was duplicated and set to Vivid Light blend mode. (The halftone effect was painted on a separate layer in PS when creating the texture.) In the Layer Style dialog (double click on the layer), the Blend If This Layer’s Black tab was split (ALT+drag apart) and set to 0/94, and the Underlying Layer White Tab was split and set to 84/129. The bird was painted above blending the edges of the texture into his feathers. An Exposure Adjustment Layer was used to enhance the eye before painting it. The nice Christmas greeting is a freebie from a scrapbook site using G&T Designs Card Topper 02. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E), Nik’s Color Effects Pro 4 plug-in was opened and 4 filters were added – Cross Processing, Levels & Curves, Graduated Neutral Density, and Classical Soft Focus. My free SJ Snow 2 Overlay was placed on top and set to 45% layer opacity. Nik Viveza 2 was used to adjust the focal point. And obviously some clean up was done.

Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! …..Digital Lady Syd


Image of the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse in AmericaI finally got a chance to review the newest plug-in from Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) called Texture Effects. The image of the oldest wooden schoolhouse in American was taken at St. Augustine, Florida. I really loved the way the plug-in added a soft pastel effect to the image. This was my second attempt at using this new plug-in and I really loved the effect. See Image 1 info at end of blog for post-processing and preset settings for this image. This preset was uploaded to the Community – to find it, just login to the Topaz site, click on the Browse icon on top right, and search for SJ in the empty field – it is called SJ Soft Pastel Effect.

As most of my blog followers know, I am a big fan of Topaz – they produce some of the most creative plug-ins that can be found in this highly competitive field. Once again Texture Effects is a great creative venture and since textures have been “all-the-rage” for the last several years, this fills a really nice niche for us Photoshop creatives! Topaz says there are 275 high resolution textures, borders and light leaks and seven collections (Earthy, Ethereal, Gritty Grunge, Lo-Fi, Pop Grunge, Soft Grunge and Vintage) with over 160 customizable effects.
Image of a Tricolored Ginger Plant
The image of the Tricolored Ginger Plant above shows a pretty standard result to expect with this plug-in right “out of the box.” The Distressed Contrast preset was applied and only an additional Border section was added to the preset. I really love the vintage illustrative effect that was created rather quickly. By adding sections like the Dust/Scratches, Light Leaks, and some of the Border options, a definite vintage flavor can be achieved. But it does not have to have a vintage feel. For more info on the above, check out Image 2 at end of blog.

Image of a Swinging Chair in St. Augustine, FloridaThis Cottage Garden shop image (no website link could be found) on King George Street in the old historic district of St. Augustine, Florida is a bit more realistic. The same preset was used as on the first image but with some tweaks. See Image 3 for post-processing details and changes to the preset.

What I Like About Topaz Texture Effects

  1. It is pretty cool to be able to download other people’s presets to see how they put their effects together, even though I do not like to access the Cloud info.
  2. Totally love the fact that an effect can be started from scratch and there are various effects that can be combined – you do not even have to use a texture!
  3. Love that textures that I already own can be added to my images. Also light leaks, dust/scratches, and borders can be added. More on this below.
  4. It is great that there is a mask for most sections provided so the individual effects can be localized. A section can added several times to a stack, so if you want two different Light Leaks, for example, two different Light Leak sections can be chosen with totally different settings.

What I Don’t Like About Topaz Texture Effects

  1. Don’t like logging into their Cloud each time to see all the other effects, and it seems I have to manually do this as it does not remember me even though the box is checked. . On the positive side, they have included a nice selection of their own presets to use so logging in is not always necessary. It can take a while to populate the presets once the Browse icon is clicked since the default is to load both the Community and Local presets – that’s a lot of presets!
  2. Wish more than one Spot could be added in the mask areas. I know, use the brush in the masks – just would be a nice to have. And wish a section could be dragged up and down without losing the layer mask previously created.
  3. Wish the black and white drops that change the paint color on the mask brush could be connected to a short cut key like X that Photoshop uses to switch between foreground and background color. It would make it much faster to paint in ore remove an effect in the mask.
  4. Sometimes the plug-in will crash on opening – just try it once or twice again and it will probably open correctly. I believe Topaz is  working on this issue. I have always been able to get it to open eventually.

If you want to just jump right in and start using the program, check out Topaz Labs blog called Topaz Texture Effects Quick Start Guide for some quick beginning tips.

Image of view from Edinburgh Castle in ScotlandThis image was taken from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland a while back – one of my favorite images to try things out on and Texture Effects worked great! Apparently I like the Diffusion section as I seem to add it in a lot. With the individual masks for each section or the overall image, a very localized effect can be applied. I have always loved Topaz’s diffusion effect which is available in several of their other plug-ins (Adjust, B&W Effects, and Lens Effects) and by painting out where I do not want the look, it comes out very unique. On the above, only the big puffy clouds and a little bit of the edges of the image has the diffusion applied. See Screenshot below to see how the mask looked and what the settings were to apply this. On the right is listed the sections that were applied to this image – several were reopened and tweaked some more to get the final result. (Click on image to open in Flickr for closer look.) To see original image, check out View from Edinburgh Castle on Flickr.

Screenshot of Topaz Lens Effects Diffusion sectionFor more post-processing info, check Image 4 below. What was cool with this image is that one of my purplish textures was used to give a cooler tone to the image. By adding the Dust/Scratches section, Light Leaks, and some of the Border options, a definite vintage flavor can be achieved. To see how Texture Effects looks on one of my funny bird images, check out my Tidbits Blog called Feeling Spiffy!

The sections that can be manipulated are: Basic Adjustment, Diffusion, Edge Blur, Edge Exposure, Film Grain, Posterize, Split Tone, Vignette, Borders, Color Overlay, Double Exposure, Dust/Scratches, Light Leak, and Texture. That means there are a lot of different effects that can be changed and very quickly. Many presets have a Basic Adjustment section at both the beginning and end of the stack – this is due to the fact that textures can reduce the contrast in an image and it needs to be added back in. Save as a preset the final result, and then save on line. If sharing a preset, be sure that there are none of your own textures or borders, etc., in the preset – it will cause problems when sharing if they are not available to everyone. Be aware that if a change is made to a preset, and then another preset is selected, upon return to the original preset, the settings go back to the default. The Texture Effects manual covers what all the sliders do and gives a great over-view of the plug-in.

To add additional effects to section (they can be added to Texture, Dust/Scratches, Light Leaks, and Borders sections), just click on the drop-down button at top right of the section. Try downloading my SJ Holiday Overlays which includes two .png snow files with transparency into the Dust/Scratches section by clicking on the upper right folder icon (it also takes .jpg files), name a new folder for your files, and add them (they can be deleted later here if they do no work out) – select in the Dust/Scratches drop-down to add a really nice snow effect to the image. When added as a texture they looked really bad so be sure to try different sections if one does not look right. Remember you can add the Dust/Scratches section again to add other types of effects. Some nice borders that can be downloaded and added to Texture Effects can be found at 50 free photo frames and borders. Some nice new free Light Leaks have been added by one of my favorite texture guys, Shadowhouse Creations – check out his whole site for great textures!

Bottom Line

Once again, Topaz has created a very addictive plug-in – I could play all day just adding different combinations of filters to my images. The idea may not be that original since we all have been adding textures to our images for a while. But they make it very easy to adjust opacities, blend modes, amount of detail, saturation and color strengths or variations both overall on the image or locally. Very powerful technology here. If you are at all into the creative aspect of Photoshop and love textures, this plug-in fits right in. To me, it very similar to my favorite ReStyle plug-in that I find indispensable! Personally I think I will use it a lot!

Hope you get a chance to download and try out Texture Effects. If you like other Topaz products, you will not be disappointed! See ya next week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Info:

Image 1: In Lightroom the Schoolhouse image used a new preset I received from Jared Platt (by subscribing to his newsletter) some nice Lightroom presets and this one is called Faded Warm Color. The doors and windows were sharpened with the Adjustment Brush. In Photoshop the Adaptive Wide Angle filter was used to straighten the building as there was a lot of distortion in the image. Since this filter was used, the Content-Aware Fill command had to be used to fill out the areas that were left transparent. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Topaz Texture Effects was opened and a new preset was created by clicking on the far right icon that says New. I just started experimenting with each of the sections, adding and deleting them, until I found an overall effect I liked. This preset was uploaded to the Community – to find it, login to the Topaz site, click on the Browse icon on top right, and search for SJ in the empty field by the eyeglass – the preset name is SJ Soft Pastel Effect. (Here are the actual preset settings: Basic Adjustment – Brightness -0.49, Shadow -0.15, Highlight 0.33, Clarity 0.27, Saturation 0.31, Temperature -0.29, Tint 0, and Opacity 0.93 – no mask; Diffusion – Strength 0.57, Softness 0.38, Blur 0.39, Mask set to Brush – black with brush Strength 37, Brush Size 21, and Hardness 20 – painted out the area around the door and windows and some on the flowers; Split Tone Highlight Saturation 0.12, Highlight Hue 0.48, Shadow Saturation 0.07, Shadow Hue 0.70, Balance 0.63, and Opacity 1.00 – no mask; Vignette – Strength 0.33, Size 0.70, Transition 0.42, Roundness 0.66, Color Black, effect centered, Opacity 0.93 and no mask; Borders – the second row up from bottom on left – masked out the lower foreground area which had turned an ugly greenish color; Texture – ninth row down first texture – Size 1.00, Opacity 0.63, Blending Mode Saturation, Detail 0.07, Saturation 0.08, Color Strength 0.14, Color 0, and masked out the top left corner and bottom left corner that looked too reddish with black brush set to Strength 100, Brush Size 63, and Hardness 20; and Light Leaks – 2nd row from bottom and left column; Size 1.05, Blending Mode Color Dodge, Saturation 0.68, Color Strength 0.46, Color 0.45 – this section really gave the lightness in the trees to show where sun is.) A Curves Adjustment Layer was applied with just a little contrast added to the darker areas. On a stamped layer Nik Viveza 2 was used to emphasize my focal point of the front door and windows of the school. A clean up layer at the end and that was all that was done. I really like the soft painterly feel in this image.

Image 2: This plant was first processed in Lightroom using Dave Delnea’s Backlight 002 Horiz preset (his presets are some of my very favorites, especially since he has created some very nice lighting effects in them) and some Basic section subtle changes. Once in Photoshop, Topaz Detail 3 was opened and a preset called Small Detail for Fur by Blake Rudis (see his Topaz ReMask 4 Tutorial video which contains the settings for this preset) was applied – check out Blake’s website as he has great tips on how to use Topaz products. On a stamped layer, Topaz Texture Effects was opened and the Distressed Contrast preset was applied. Only changed the bottom Basic Adjustment (Brightness 0.11, Shadow -0.19, Highlight -0.29, Clarity 0.88-the high settings added the illustrative look to the image, Sat -0.39, Temp -0.14, Tint -0.02, and Opacity 0.79) and added a Border – third row down on right and no changes to settings. In Photoshop a Levels Adjustment Layer was used to slightly flatten the blacks in the image to enhance that vintage feel by setting the Output Levels to 15 and 255. Last step involved adding Nik Viveza 2 to slightly brighten and sharpen the focal point in the lower right center.

Image 3: In Lightroom Blake Rudis’s Tonal Contrast HDR 2 2 preset (could not find a link for this) was used and some color changes were done with the HSL section. No sharpening or noise reduction was used. Then opened image in Photoshop and duplicated layer. Added Topaz Detail 3 to get a nice sharpening effect using my preset called SJ Darken and Soften Green Background (Settings: Selected in Detail section only the Shadow: Small Details -0.65, Small Details Boost -0.65, Medium Details -0.76, Medium Details Boost -0.71, Large Details -0.80, and Large Details Boost -0.71; Tone section Exposure -0.36, Contrast 0.61, Highlights 0.18, Shadows 0, Whites -0.17, Blacks 0.03, Cyan-Red 0, Magenta-Green -0.03, and Yellow-Blue 0.27; Color set to Cool 1 preset in pop-out or Temp 0.10, Tint 0.03, Sat 0.10, Boost 0.) On a duplicated layer, applied Topaz Texture Effects. Here are the changes to Image 1’s SJ Soft Pastel Effect preset settings used to create the effect in this image. (Changed Basic Adjustment: Brightness -0.10, Shadow 0.84, Highlight 0.37, Clarity 0.79, Saturation 0.86, Temperature -0.07, Tint 0.17, and Opacity 0.96; Diffusion: Strength 0.29, Softness 0.30, Blur 0.21, and Opacity 0.58 – no mask; Light Leak – Bottom left leak – Size 1.25, Opacity 0.83, Blending Mode Pin Light, Saturation, Color Strength and Color all 0, and a mask was painted using Brush Strength of 33, Brush Size 7 but varies, and Hardness 0; Added a turquoise Color Overlay and set blending mode to Lighter Color, Opacity 0.120, Spot Mask and centered on hammock so only outside the circle was affected, Transition 0.62, Color Aware Strength 0.57 and Density 0.02. Created SJ Darker Soft Pastel Effect. Created SJ Darker Soft Pastel Effect.) Back in Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer was opened where a slight S-curve was used to apply a little contrast overall to the image. On a stamped layer Nik Viveza was used with 3 control points centered on the swing, balloons on left side and basket on bottom left. Only little tweaks to adjust the focal point correctly. Some clean up layers were added to cover light splashed over into the background. That was it!

Image 4:  In Lightroom Blake Rudis’s HDR Look Medium 4 preset was applied. In Photoshop I went right into Topaz Texture Effects and used the Winter Fairytale preset to start the effects on this image. (The changes to this preset are as follows:  Basic Adjustment – Brightness 0, Shadow -0.31, Highlight 0.25, Clarity 0.01, Saturation -0.38, Temperature 0.14, Tint 0, and Opacity 1.00; used one of my downloaded soft purple textures set to Opacity 0.18, Blending Mode Overlay, Detail 0.35, Saturation 0.96, Color Strength 0.77, Color 0.47; deleted the Light Leaks section; Color Overlay – set to a solid blue, Blending Mode Color, and Opacity 0.04; Edge Exposure – need to set all 4 sides so left side Exposure 0.35, Size 0.50, Transition 0, Color Strength 0.82, Color 0.76, and Opacity 0.83; top side – 0.23/0.50/0/0.82/0.76/0.83; bottom side – 0.21/0.50/0/0.82/0.76/0.83; and right side – 0.21/0.72/0/0.82/0.76/0.83; Diffusion – Strength 0.70, Softness 0.43, Blur 0.01, and Opacity; and added Split Tone – Highlight Saturation 0.12, Highlight Hue 0.07, Shadow Saturation 0.10, Shadow Hue 0.60, Balance -0.45, and Opacity 0.70. Created preset called SJ View-mask out diffusion; and in Mask section, used black brush and painted in some green highlights in the foreground trees, some red smokestacks and brown buildings just to add some interest.) The last step was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer in Photoshop to add just a little contrast.


Image of beautiful porch in Savannah, GeorgiaThis week I thought I would just give you a quick run-down of a few of my favorite plug-ins for Photoshop where at least a couple are used on almost every one of my images. These filters in most cases are not for major creative endeavors, although I have used them that way before (check out Detail 3 for some great abstract effects), but the ones needed to make your image perfect. I have listed several Topaz (for website link, see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) products as they seem to do exactly what I like, but many other companies have some similar filters and would be fine if those are the plug-ins you own. The above photo used both Nik Viveza 2 and Topaz DeNoise along with the Photoshop Camera Raw filter.


This “oldie but goodie” product is one I use on almost all my images, whether on the actual images or digital paintings. Viveza is just totally mind-boggling when it come to fine-tuning the tone or color in your image. I use it as the last step for when the focus is not actually on the focal point as intended, or if a corner is just a little too bright compared to the rest of the image, or if a color just does not work in a part of the image. Works great as a Smart Object which is great since it may take a couple times to get the adjustment just right. It uses control points for small localized adjustments. The Nik products were bought by Google and can be downloaded to try out. I do not see any other plug-in that overlaps what this program does, except possibly the Photoshop Camera Raw filter – it can do some similar effects using the Adjustment Brush, but definitely not as easy. For my review on Viveza, check out my blog, Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem!
Image of View on Big Island, Hawaii


Since I do a lot of animal and nature images, removing the objects from the original backgrounds is often necessary. ReMask is now so improved that it is totally worth the price if you do selections a lot. It really is better than Photoshop’s Refine Edge is most cases or any of the other plug-ins I own. I have written several blogs on this plug-in and that is why! Absolutely fabulous! See my blogs at  Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz ReMask 5 and And the Best Complicated Selection Tool is?
Image of a Snowy Egret


I still find the Detail plug-in is the best sharpening tool and use it on almost every image. Have used it for years. I also love Clarity (which uses contrast to control detail) – some images do better using Clarity, but for most of my images, Detail works best for me. Below is a good example of how good the Detail plug-in is and my review link at Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Detail 3. Image of a Native American Dancer
Here is one of my favorite Clarity images and my review link at Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Clarity.
Image of a farm in Belarus



Image of the Wharf in San FranciscoMost of my images are not taken at night, but since I still use an older Nikon D300 (I can’t seem to give it up!) which does not work great in dark areas, this plug-in works incredibly! It will always work for me when this situation occurs. (Also works great on aquarium pix!) This image was taken using ISO 1250, which with my camera sensor is really grainy, but this filter totally clean it up. Usually just an Overall Strength slider tweak and sometimes extra work in the Shadows, and it comes out nice and crisp. Check out my Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz DeNoise 5 blog for more information.

Well, there you have my basic filter run-down of the ones I use most often in my workflow. With some of the newer cameras, you many not need all of these. I know I am just very comfortable using those listed. There are some new filters out there that I have not had time to review – looking forward to putting Topaz Textures and OnOne Suite 10 (for website links, see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) through their paces soon. Looking forward to trying out some new plug-ins! Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd