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WHAT’S NEW IN TOPAZ IMPRESSION 2?

Image of two Flamingoes at the West Palm Beach Zoo in Florida.
Totally psyched that Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Impression updated their plug-in to Version 2. Know you will see lots about this on the internet, but I am enjoying using it so much I wanted to share some of my initial responses to the program. I am surprised how much more they added to what I considered already a fabulous program! The image above used the a Watercolor II preset with some changes created in version 1 and still works great in the newer version. I call it SJ WC Like Effect-modified preset and can be downloaded in the Community Library. (For more info on post-processing on all images, check out the end of blog – this will give you a feel how many different filters and plug-ins can work together to get these effects.) If you own Topaz Impression version 1, this update is free!!! Best deal around – all of Topaz Labs’s plug-in updates are always free once you own it!

What’s New?

  • It is now much more similar to Topaz Texture Effects, which started out with this new interface that includes a Community where you can download presets when something different is needed. This has totally hooked me on Texture Effects, so the possibilities are endless as the Impression Community of presets are added.
  • According to Denise over at the Topaz Labs blog, there are now over 30 new loaded presets plus those that will be available in the Community library. And the layers can now be set to all the Blend Modes inside the plug-in.
  • New sliders and buttons have been added to the Stroke section – Number of strokes, Large Brush Volume to adjust large areas of color, and Rotation Variation to add randomness to the stroke effects; and in the Lighting section – new Highlight and Shadow sliders.
  • My favorite new feature is the Masking section where there are four different masks with different sliders to make your image totally unique. According to Topaz Labs:
    • The Spot Mask – Create a soft vignette effect, a subtle transition. It is somewhat like the Radial Filter in Lightroom or the Camera Raw filter.
    • The Color Mask – Uses color value differences to create a mask that is great for images clearly defined by color edges.
    • The Luminosity Mask – Uses luminosity values to determine edges for the mask and create it. It create detailed effects on light sources and glowing parts of image.
    • The Brush Mask – Can brush the effect in and out, and touch up edges around your subject. Use the Color Aware tool to create a clean mask along edges of your subject. This is a wonderful way to add detail to your Focal Point of your image.

It appears that only one Mask can be used for each Impression layer. I particularly like this Brush tab to remove the painterly effect and enhance the detail in your focal point. The large Mask window is very useful to see what is being affected in your image. Wonderful effects can be achieved in this section!

Image of Cityplace restaurant in West Palm BeachThis image of a restaurant located in the Cityplace shopping area of West Palm Beach used the Modern Urban Street Art III preset to get this very modern sketchy feel. (Changed the texture to Grass Patchy set to Texture Strength 0.89, Texture Size 1.00, and Texture Color of Red 255/Green 238/Blue 174).) In this case once the preset was applied, the layer was duplicated. The first layer was set to Color Dodge at 100% opacity and the second layer was set to Divide at 77% layer opacity. Layer masks were added and a few areas that did not look correct were lightly painted out with a soft black brush. This combination worked nicely on this image to give a real Florida look to the image. See Image 2 below for more post-processing info.

Image of a floral topiary of a birdAnother example of using this updated plug-in. This was a bird topiary of flowers at Cityplace in West Palm Beach – this was actually a fountain where suds had been introduced to the water. For some reason it felt right to add a slight painterly effect to give a wintry cool feeling. This image used one of Impression’s new presets, one which I really like, called Chalk Smudge. In the Masking section, painted out parts of bird so they showed up sharper – then tried to add back a little bit of effect by using the Erase tool (white droplet) to remove areas looking too sharp (set to lower Strength). Opacity slider for all settings was set to 0.74 and to Normal blend mode. See Image 3 for more info.

As you can see, this update contains a lot of new things – some I have not fully explored. All-in-all, very nice update! For my version 1 review, check out my Digital Lady Syd Speaks Out on Topaz Impression blog. Once again the Topaz Labs group has done a wonderful job on their plug-in! I am sure I will be playing with this plug-in for days to come as the original was one of my favorite – now it is even better! Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

POST PROCESSING INFO ON ABOVE IMAGES:

Image 1:  Duplicated the layer and entered the Topaz Impression 2 plug-in. Went to the Community tab and downloaded my SJ WC Like Effect-modified preset to apply this result. In a layer mask back in Photoshop, lightly painted back just the two foreground flamingos to bring back a little bit of detail to the birds. Next used a blender brush on a New Layer to  clean up a little bit of the messiness caused by the painterly preset from Impression 2. Used another New Layer to add a little line delineation on the trees. Created a stamped layer on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and took the layer into Topaz Black & White Effects. (Used my SJ Old Fountain preset.  Settings included: Conversion Basic Exposure: Contrast 0.02, Brightness 0, Boost Blacks 0.06, Boost Whites 0.00; Adaptive Exposure: 0.30, Regions 8, Protect Highlights -0.05, Protect Shadows 0.00, Detail 2.00, Detail Boost 1.00, and check Process Details Independently; Finishing Touches: Silver and Paper Tone: Tonal Strength 0.20, Balance 0, Silver Hue 32.00, Silver Tone Strength 0.50, Paper Hue 32.00, and Paper Tone Strength 0.15; Quad Tone: Color 1 Region 0.00 set to R0/G0/B0, Color 2 Region 142.5 set to R75/G78/B96, Color 3 Region 228.0 set to R222/G220/B172; and Color Region 4 255.0 set to R255/G255/B255; Border – Type Solid Black Size 0.46; Edge Exposure Left and Right Edge Size 0.20, Edge Exposure 0.17, and Edge Transition 0.20; and Top and Bottom Edge Size 0.20, Edge Exposure 0.40, and Edge Transition 0.20; Vignette: Strength -0.47, Size 0.85, Transition 0.61, and Curvature 0.54; and Transparency to 1.00; and in Local Adjustment used the Burn tool to darken the background, Color on the Bird, and Dodge on the trees to enhance where the lines of the trees were.) On a new stamped layer opened Topaz Texture Effects (Used SJ Crisp Morning Run Modified preset – Texture: changed to bright turquoise texture (halfway down on right column) with Opacity set to 0.29; Vignette – Strength 0.60 and Size 0.53 with Color centered on between bird and trees; in Mask painted back the bird and a little bit of light in trees and background behind bird – used Strength of 39 and Hardness of 20 using black.) In a layer mask and the Gradient Tool selected, a black to white gradient was created from top to bottom to darken the upper edges a little. Image 1 is the final result.

Image 2:  This image was difficult to clean up – first the Adaptive Wide Angle filter was used in PS to straighten the walls somewhat. Then the open areas that resulted were cleaned up with the the clone brush. Next the Topaz Impression 2’s Modern Urban Street Art III preset was applied and the plug-in was exited. The layer was duplicated and said before, the first layer was set to Color Dodge blend mode at 100% layer opacity and the second layer was set to Divide blend mode at 77% layer mode. A little clean up was done on another layer and finally on a stamped layer, Nik Viveza 2 (now free) was used to bring in the focal area a little – located where the foreground grouping of chairs on the sidewalk. On another stamped layer a Camera Raw filter Radial filter was used to lighten the left side of the image and darkening the right side a little. A little painting was done on a New Layer and the last step was to use a Curves Adjustment Layer to average out the tone.

Image 3: So what was done in this image to get a really surreal effect? First Topaz Detail 3 was used to sharpen up the flowers only (used black mask and painted back only flowers). One of my Corel Painter textures called SJ Beach Scene was used to add a brownish foreground and a light bluish sky. Another one of my textures called SJ Forest and Plains was placed on top to add the wave or outer space feel in the upper left corner especially – it was set to Luminosity blend mode at 79% layer opacity. The background was copied and placed on top – the top part of image was selected and placed in a layer mask so the people and cars in the area were removed. Then several layers were about used to clone out and clean up image areas. On another New Layer, a basic small snow brush was used to add the wintry feel to the sky. A stamped layer was created and Topaz Lens Effects was opened where the Graduated Neutral Filter was selected and set to the Graduated bottom half 2 stops preset. On another stamped layer, Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was used to – Flypapers Fly Book & Skull Preset was applied (this contained the Glamour Glow, Reflector Efex, Film Efex: Vintage, and Cross Processing filters). Another stamped layer was created and finally Topaz Impression 2 was opened where the Chalk Smudge Preset was used. In the Masking section, painted out parts of bird so they showed up sharper – then tried to add back a little bit of effect by using the Erase tool to remove areas looking too sharp (set Eraser brush to lower Strength). Opacity slider was set to 0.74 to Normal blend mode. The birds floral eye was worked on next. The Liquify Tool was used to increase the size of the eye and an Exposure Adjustment Layer was used to make it stand out a little. (See my How To Do a Quick Eye Sharpening in Photoshop blog.) A Red Channel Curves Adjustment Layer was added to blend image a little better. (See my How To Use a Red Channel To Create a Nice Blended Image Effect blog.) On a stamped layer Lucis Pro was used to further blend the sky in a little nicer. (Settings used are Enhance Red Channel 175/Green Channel 195/Blue Channel 149 and Assign Original  Image Color set to (0% Processed /100% Original.) (See my Digital Lady Syd Reviews Lucis Pro 6.0.9 (Now Affordable!) blog.) On a New Layer Grut’s FX Cloud Gumbo 01a brush was used to fill in the water to look like built up snow. (These brushes are terrific and very handy for image clean up!) A Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was added on top and set to a light beige – it was set to Color Blend Mode at 57%. It made the statue look a little better and the red flowers less saturated – painted out the sky so it was not affected. Last step was a Curves Adjustment Layer to reduce the overall tone just a little. This was a huge workflow, but you can see how the Impression plug-in works very nicely with many of the filters from both Topaz and other vendors.


HOW TO USE A RED CHANNEL TO CREATE A NICE BLENDED IMAGE EFFECT

Image of two peach rosesThis week I am presenting just a rather simple technique about how to make your objects blend gently into the image at the end of your workflow. I am not sure I have ever heard of anyone using a Luminosity Channel this way, but it works quite well. The roses above were taken at the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, Florida recently.

So here is a quick rundown of what was done to this image before the Channel Effect technique. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Impression plug-in was used to get the painterly effect. Normally I would hand paint this, but when playing around in the plug-in, the Watercolor I preset was used with adjustments to the color settings. Then some sketch lines were added using a free brush, Kyle’s Drawing Box-Animator Pencil New – it is the best sketch brush I have found for drawing in small lines to differentiate areas in a painting. Used white and light tan to emphasize some of the indistinguishable edges. On a stamped image (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) above Topaz Texture Effects Crisp Morning preset was applied (one of my favorite presets in this plug-in) with the Texture Opacity set way back to 0.17. On another stamped layer the newly free Nik Viveza 2 was used to emphasize the three focal points in the image: the main focal point which is the center of the large flower, the second is the bud and the third is a small area in the large lower left leaf. Next on another stamped layer a slight vignette effect was added using Topaz Lens Effects’s Add Selective Add Vignette filter using the Soft Pearl preset. Below is an example of the Original image as brought into Photoshop and the image before the Red Channel Curves Adjustment Layer was applied.

Tych Panel of Original and Before Curves Applied images

Now for the Luminosity Channel effect. I learned this trick from a wonderful presentation by Karen Alsop on Creative Live called Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World. There were lots of little tips throughout her presentation, but this one really came across as a real interesting way to get a nice finished look to an image.

  1. Go to the Channels Panel and highlight only the Red Channel. Click on the first icon at the bottom of the panel called Load Channel as a Selection. Now dancing ants are showing the Highlights as selected for only the Red Channel.
  2. Switch to the Layers Panel and click on the half black and half white circle (forth icon over at the bottom of the panel) and select the Curves Adjustment Layer or just open the Adjustments Panel and select the Curves Adjustment Layer (the graph looking icon). Voila, the selection goes into the Layer Mask of the Curves Adjustment Layer.
  3. Now just adjust the curve to make the image appear a little more softer in the highlights – I find that I am slightly pulling down in the middle of the graph to get a more pleasing effect to most images.

This definitely does give a much softer feel to the overall image as you should be able to see in the Tych Panel image on right above and the final top image. I did this as the last step in the workflow. You are not limited to just the Red Channel, try all the different channels – one might be better for different photos. What you are seeing with the mask is that the white areas in the mask will be affected by the curve, but the black areas will not be affected. This means your bright highlights will be slightly darkened and the darker colors and shadows will not be affected by the graph curve. On the above, just the whitest of the whites were affected the most, then less as the colors became darker in value. And remember this is a value effect – meaning lightness and darkness. A Red can be a light color or a dark color depending on the hue that is being used. Just because you have a very bright yellow does not mean it is darker – it is still a light value.

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Image of an Ocelot walking in the wildThis ocelot was pacing around in his cage at the West Palm Beach Zoo recently. They are nocturnal animals but all the little kids were making lots of noise at the zoo that seemed to be making him nervous I think. He finally found a dark cool tube and was sound asleep before too long. This workflow was very long – just say that it involved lots of filters and hand-painting in Photoshop, and creating a hand-painting a Corel Painter background. Also the beautiful clouds were created from Grut’s  wonderful FX Cloud Brushes – the best around! The last step was adding the Red Channel Curves Adjustment Layer and dragging down the curve just a little. It really made the Ocelot look like he was actually part of the added background.

This is a pretty simple trick to use. If you have an object you are trying to blend into the image or just do not like the overall contrast in the image, try this. It seems to be improving a lot of my recent images! Have a good weekend!…..Digital Lady Syd

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HOW TO CREATE AN ILLUSTRATIVE TEXTURED IMAGE FROM A PHOTO

Image of a Palm TreeThis week I am going to just show a couple tricks about how to get this more illustrative look and how to use an overlay from a texture to get a nice effect. This is a beautiful Palm Tree that was growing in West Palm Beach at the hotel. It had a really green background and detail that was making it hard to separate the tree out. So this is how I got what I consider a rather nice effect.

So I am going over the basic workflow which was used on both this image and the foxes image below. Most of these steps I have covered in recent blogs on how to do them so I will direct you to them if you need to refer back.

    1. This image was adjusted using Adobe Camera Raw – just changed several Basic sliders. Lightroom was used in the second image changing only the DeHaze, Highlight and Shadow sliders and removing a little Noise.
    2. In Photoshop the bottom layer was duplicated by clicking CTRL+J (if opened as a Smart Object, which preserves your ACR settings as with the image above, need to  right click on the top layer and select Rasterize Layer to remove the Smart Object).
    3. This time Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Detail was used on the top image and Topaz Clarity on the bottom layer to just sharpen up the details. Any sharpening method works fine but start with a sharp image and remove the detail later if needed. (See my Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Detail 3 blog and my More Clarity on Topaz Clarity blog.)
    4. The Foxes can easily be removed from their distracting background, so at this point Topaz ReMask 5 was used, but any selection tool would have worked fine. (Try using the Quick Selection Tool, Magic Wand, or  Quick Mask with the Refine Edge Command.) This  would have been an impossible task with the Palm Tree image at this point. (See my And the Best Complicated Selection Tool Is? blog.)
    5. Next the free JixiPix Spectrel Art was used on both images. The Palm Tree used the Dark Edges preset and the background was painted out using the Erase Brush in the plug-in. For the Foxes, the Topaz ReMask layer is opened in Spectrel Art and Dark Lines preset was used. Those two presets seem to be my favorites. Both image were set to Screen blend mode on this layer in Photoshop. (See my How To Use the Free Spectrel Art Plug-In.)
    6. Now the newly free Nik Color Efex Pro 4 is used on both images. The Palm Tree used these 4 stacked filters: Film Efex: Vintage using Film Type 6, Glamour Glow, Lighten/Darken Center, and Color Set Monday Morning using Neutral. This gave the image a bit of nice glow in the image. The Fox image used the same first three filters (Film Efex: Vintage used Color Set 14) but the last one used Detail Extractor set to 20%. ( See my Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Nik Color Efex Pro 4!)
    7. Now clean up layers were used on both images. For the Palm Tree, a New Layer was created and just sampled the background area and painted around where the distractions were. Brush used was a free brush from Ditlev Fine Art Br Vol1-SB 6 13 – nice texture at a lower flow and just built up the effect so it looks somewhat painterly around the tree fronds. For the Foxes, used a chalk brush at very low opacity to reduce lines that were distracting and emphasized the head of the foxes which is the focal point.
    8. Now the overlays are used. For the Palm Trees, the French Kiss (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Artiste Bold Brush 2 texture was opened in another document. By going to Select Color and choosing Highlights and the check the Invert checkbox, a selection of only the color was created. Close the dialog and add a layer mask to the layer and the whites will be deleted from the image. I recommend using a texture with lots of grain and color to get an interesting overlay look. Now this layer can be saved as a PNG file to be used again. It was placed into the Palm Tree file and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the layer (ALT+click between layers) to get the light turquoise color on the overlay. The layer opacity was set to 74%. This is one of my favorite overlays – I like for my image to show through better and it does not require a blend mode which can change the colors or the light values in the image. A layer mask was used to lightly remove some of the texture off the Palm Trees. The Foxes used the exact same process – this time two different textures were used from 2 Little Owl’s Studios (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link): Stained Glass 14 with the Highlights removed in Select Color at 32% layer opacity; and Starry Night 5 which used only the darker areas and was set to 84% layer opacity. (See my How to Create an Overlay Out of a Texture blog.)
    9. Now an extra step occurred in the Foxes image, mainly some lightening and darkening Curves Adjustment layers to differentiate the right fox head from the back of the left fox. (See my How To Use Curves Adjustment Layers to Dodge and Burn an Image blog.)
    10. Next Topaz Lens Effects was applied to both images where the Reflector filter using a Gold preset – this directed the lighted the light from a certain direction to give both images a warmer feeling. Just fiddle with the sliders until it looks good. If you do not have the plug-in, use Camera Raw Filter’s Radial Filter and add a touch of yellow Temperature and a little Exposure and make a big circle half off the image to warm up a side a little bit. (See my Topaz Lens Effects for Some Image Fun! blog.)
    11. New Layers were created in both images and just a little speckle brush was used to paint in around the trees and foxes to give a more painterly effect. The layer opacity was set to 60% so as not to look too fake.
    12. For the Fox image, a final step of adding French Kiss’s Sponged Edge border overlay to further give a little painter effect to the border. A Gradient Adjustment Layer was clipped to it that contained a warm orange to a gold gradient. The Gradient Adjustment Layer opacity was set to 36% and the Border was set to 35% layer opacity. Very subtle.

Image of sleeping Fennoc FoxesThese little Fennec Foxes were taking a snooze at the West Palm Beach Zoo on a sunny day. I was trying to give the impression that they were having wonderful dreams. I know the workflow above is a little extensive, and there are several different ways you can improve upon the effect. Still, I personally like that part photo – part illustrative look you can achieve with the various filters. And most can be reproduced with Photoshop and free plug-ins. Of course I am still a big Topaz fan, but there are always other ways to get a similar look.

One of the things I hope you try is Step 8 above. If you have some favorite textures, try removing a color out of them or highlights or shadows – this can really give a unique feel to an image and I do prefer a good PNG file over a JPG texture many times. Hope everyone is enjoying the beginning of summer!…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO ADD AN ABSTRACT SHAPE FOR A FRAMING EFFECT

Siamang Ape at the West Palm Beach ZooThis week I thought I would cover a little trick that I learned from Photoshop guru Corey Barker in his Master FX Trick Shots video section called Abstract Shape Effect. Corey added several other elements to his tutorial, but the basic framing concept is pretty cool. The image above was taken of a Siamang Ape at the West Palm Beach Zoo and I am sure he runs this zoo! He was climbing up a huge tree in the middle of the zoo to announce in a rather commanding call the opening of the Zoo!

To do this technique you need to decide first how the main subject should be set up in the image, what texture(s) is to be used, and finally find a really nice brush or PNG file for framing your subject inside.

Workflow for Framing Effect

1.     Clean up image in Lightroom or ACR and Photoshop as needed.

2.     Choose a texture to place behind your image. In this case I selected a texture I had created a while ago. (For instructions on how this was done, see my How to Use Those Handy Blend-If Sliders! blog.) The very organic nature of the texture blended well with the image being blended into the texture.

3.     For the framing effect, a black layer mask is needed – to get a black mask: either hold down the ALT key when clicking the layer mask icon at the bottom of the Layer Panel, or just add a white layer mask and click inside it, then press CTRL+I to reverse the white to black.

4.     Below are a couple ways to get an interesting frame are:

With Brushes:

  • You can paint your subject back in with a white brush using a smaller brush with a rough edges. Try painting not just at 100% white or black – use a 25 or 30% brush opacity to get some nice rough edges. A basic Photoshop chalk brush can give some interesting edge results.
  • Try using a large brush that requires just one or two nice dab stroke. The watercolor brush strokes can make some good marks in your layer mask. If the stroke does not look like it is lining up correctly, change the size and the angle of the stroke by just dragging in the Brush Panel Brush Tip Shape circle with the arrows and set where you want. it may tape a bit of experimentation to get this set just right. Here are a couple sets of free brushes that have some nice dabs for framing effects:  Spoon Graphics Watercolour Set 1 with 7 brushes, and Big Brush Strokes for Frames by Doodle Lee Doo with 53 brushes. For the above image, French Kiss’s (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Dry Brush No 1-10 was used.

With vector objects or PNG files (this is a little harder to do but is nice if you have a certain object to place over the subject in mind):

Go to Adobe Bridge and find the file you wish to apply to the layer mask. Go to File -> Place -> Photoshop  – it does not matter where it is loaded in the PS file as it will be deleted. Adjust the object to fit approximately where you want it in your image. CTRL+click on this layer to select the object, highlight the subject layer and click on the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel. You may see something that looks rather messy – at this point, delete the original object file you just brought in as it can conflict with the mask you are working with. Take a small chalk or round brush and maybe add some Shape Dynamics Angle Jitter of 20% to add variation on edges and paint with white – your subject will show up. Use a lower brush opacity if you want a more blended edge look. If it is not in the correct place, you can CTRL+T on the mask to Free Transform it – can flip or stretch it. Just build up where you want the subject to be seen clearly.

There are so many things you can do with this type of framing. Make part of your image come out onto the frame like the trees do in the above. The image below used both of the free sets of brushes and a free texture called Happy Easter which matched the colors in the butterfly nicely. This time the subject Butterfly Topiary at the Cityplace in West Palm Beach, Florida, was cut out using Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReMask5. It was placed on top of the background and another texture I painted in Painter. On the Painter layer, the free brushes were used in the layer mask to get the unusual effect. On the Butterfly layer an Inner Glow layer style was added – the Contour was changed to get the little line to go around the butterfly. Just a lot of playing with different Layer Styles and brushes to get a result I liked. The Butterfly image looks a lot different, but used the same workflow.

Image of a Butterfly Topiary from Cityplace in West Palm BeachWell hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday – Enjoy!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How To use a Photo Frame Mask
Just a Frame Flower


DIGITAL LADY SYD REVIEWS LUCIS PRO 6.0.9 (NOW AFFORDABLE!)

Image of a painted Tri-Color Ginger PlantThis week is yet another Photoshop plug-in that I am really excited about using. If you have followed plug-ins for years, you know that Lucis has always had some of the best effects ever made. Lucis Pro 6.0.9 has been reduced in price to $30.00 now and that makes it very manageable. (Now priced at $6 until August 31 st when site closes – see my more recent blog How to Get a More Illustrative Look with Lucis Pro 6.0.9.)I had to get it! Now what to do with it? Marilyn Sholin, another wonderful Corel Painter Elite, has provided us with a very short video on how to use this filter – it is not that hard and gives a wonderful pop to your images. See Sholin Lucis Pro video for tips on using this filter and an additional discount code. The Tri-Colored Ginger plant taken in West Palm Beach used this filter at the end of the workflow as Marilyn suggests – either at the beginning or the end.

Below is the original (left image).  For middle image, the plant was selected using Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReMask. Topaz Impression’s Cezanne II preset was applied to just the selection, one of my Corel Painter textures was placed underneath, Nik Viveza 2 (now free) was used to emphasize the center focal point, and a Black and White Adjustment Layer was used to just adjust the tone of the image. Topaz ReStyle was used to add more of a pink color palette (see right image) and a Darken Detail layer was created to emphasize some of the lines in the plant. For final step to get image above,  Lucis 6.0.9 was applied and the colors really popped nicely.  (Settings used – Enhance Detail:  Red Channel 199/Green Channel 155/Blue Channel 203.  Mix with Original Image 39% Processed and 61% Original.) For more info on how to perform other steps, see Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs below.
Different stage of painting this image.

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Here is another example of the result that can be achieved with this very good plug-in. This image is of the Drawing Room in the 55-room mansion of Henry Flagler that is called the Flagler Museum or Whitehall. Wonderful place to visit!

Image of the Drawing Room at the Flagler Museum (Whitehall)In this case Lucis Pro was applied close to the beginning of the post-processing in Photoshop, right after removing a little noise and the ropes at entrance to the room. (See image below for original as brought in from Lightroom.) Then Lucis Pro was applied using these settings: Enhance Detail Channels – Red 51737/Green 44631/Blue 35165 – large numbers due to the fact the image was in 16-bit mode; Mix with Original Image – 43 % processed and 57% original. This really brought out the detail in all the small items in the room without making the image look crunchy. I found this pretty incredible! The effect can be as subtle as you want. The results look pretty subtle here, but at 100% magnification, the difference can be seen very clearly.

Original image of the Drawing Room at Whitehall

There is a nice PDF Manual that is downloaded with the plug-in which takes you through all the different sliders and what they mean. For me, to get the best results:

  1. Click the Split Channels box on.
  2. Uncheck the Display Composite box.
  3. Adjust the Enhance Detail sliders for each channel to get a good black and white result in each channel. The Smooth Detail sliders are kept at 1.
  4. Turn on the Display Composite Image checkbox. Sometimes the colors will look really bad at this point. If there is a color shift that you do not like, move the Assign Original Image Color slider to 0% Processed/100% Original.
  5. Go back and adjust the Enhance Detail sliders in each channel to make the colors and amount of details just right.
  6. If the results are a little over-cooked, adjust the Mix With Original Image slider which will pull back in some of the the original image.

There are several other sliders and fields in the interface that I did not use but the manual does a good job of explaining all their functions. Check out their User Interface page.  The above workflow is basically what Marilyn Sholin goes over in her video and seems easy to use.

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Image of a white gardeniaThis beautiful white gardenia was taken at the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, Florida, and was my first attempt at using this plug-in. I did not want too much color in the flower, only a touch. (Settings used: Enhance Detail:  Red Channel 129/Green Channel 125/Blue Channel 95.  Mix with Original Image 70% Processed and 30% Original.) It is not that important that you understand all the mechanics going on under-the-hood, just experiment with the sliders and the image will eventually look really good. This seems to be a handy plug-in to use, especially when that little bit of extra detail is needed. I have even used this plug-in after applying my favorite Topaz Detail 3 – they work fine together. Here is another technique used to get this Lucis effect shown in my The Sculpture Called Reaching Tidbits Blog.

I just noticed I am not sure there is an option to try out this plug-in first which is too bad. I have always loved the Lucis filters but was unable to afford them. I am so happy they have reduced their price on this one as it is so much fun to use and does a very good job with both detail and adding a little color into an image. Hope you are enjoying the Spring!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz ReMask 5
Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem!
Applying a Filter to Objects on a Layer
How To Use a Black & White Adjustment Layer to See Contrast In an Image
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz ReStyle
The Best Dodging and Burning Technique!

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HOW TO USE THE FREE SPECTREL ART PLUG-IN

Image of Sandals taken at City Place in West Palm Beach, Florida
Had a blog glitch but finally got this one up. I have to thank Corel Master Elite Karen Bonaker for this wonderful find – a really fun free plug-in called Spectrel Art from JixiPix.  My initial impression was this can’t be that good if it is free. I was pleasantly surprised. What is really cool about this plug-in is that it uses a brush where you can either localize the effect by brushing it in or erasing it.

This is very similar in effect to Topaz Glow which is one of my favorite special effects plug-ins. Both plug-ins usually need a blend mode change. Once in Photoshop, the above Spectrel Art layer was set to Luminosity Blend Mode at 44% layer opacity. In the Topaz Glow image below, the layer was set to Soft Light blend mode at 50% layer opacity. The effect can be way too strong if left at 100% layer opacity – add layer masks if you want to further localize the effect in Spectrel Art. Topaz Glow does not have a brush to localize the effect in the plug-in so a layer mask must be used in Photoshop to do this. Below it can be seen how similar the results were with Topaz Glow using the same vignette and spotlight effects.

Image of shoes using Topaz Glow

This is not to say this plug-in will replace Topaz Glow – Glow has a lot more sliders and presets for a lot more choices (see my Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Glow blog) , but for a free plug-in, Spectrel Arts does a pretty nice job. For comparison, below is the original show image after doing basic changes in Adobe Camera Raw.

Original Show image

To finish up this image, a white spotlight layer was placed on all the flowers (see my How to Add a Soft Spotlight Light blog) on the shoes and a soft vignette was placed around the outside of the image.

Spectrel Art has 27 presets that seem to be a really nice assortment of settings. There are also several sliders that can adjust the effect. In the top image and the screenshot below, the preset 18 Dark Lines was selected and the Detail Style changed to Soft.

Screenshot of Spectrel Art interfaceAccording to JixiPix’s website:

  • The Detail slider increases the amount of intersecting lines and Colorize Detail adds color to the lines. The Detail Style buttons deal with the amount of glow color and light applied to the image.
  • Taper Length creates an abstract style to the longer intersecting lines. Use Light Taper Style for white highlights and outlines effect – can use Lighten slider to illuminate the whole scene and Brighten to illuminate the outlines; and use Dark for stark contrast of black intersecting lines – can use Blacken to strengthen the overall dark areas and Blacken to increase the dark outlines.
  • Edge Sharpen defines and emphasizes the lines.
  • Color Boost enhances overall color.
  • Contrast darkens shaded areas and brightens the light ones.
  • Smoothing softens the curves in the lines.

That about sums up all the controls – very easy to use. Below the image of a white orchid butterfly taken at the West Palm Beach Zoo is another example using this plug-in. (Here are the settings used: Detail 64-just press the dot on the slider to get the amount, Colorize Detail 81, Detail Style Soft, Taper Length 50, Taper Style Light with Lighten set to 50 and Brighten 40, Edge Sharpen 98, Color Boost 21, Contrast 60, and Smoothing 68.) The layer was set to Color Burn at 51% layer opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was placed on top and Greens was set to Hue -31/Sat -70/Lightness -61 to reduce the really bright green in the background. On a New Layer a Mixer Brush was used to smooth over the sharp edges of the colors. Topaz Lens Effects was opened and a dark olive green vignette was used. That was it. The Spectrel Art plug-in made the butterfly really pop!

Image of a White Peacock ButterflyHope you will try out this plug-in – it is a lot of fun and you can’t beat the price! I hope to have time to really see what it will do. JixiPix seems to have a lot of other plug-ins that I might try out as they look interesting. Anyway, have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

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HOW TO USE GOOGLE (NIK) HDR EFEX PRO 2

Image of Memorial Gardens in Ormond Beach, FloridaThis week I thought I would just show a quick image that used Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, one of the 7 plug-ins in the now free Google (Nik) Collection. I do not do much HDR shooting anymore, but here is an image taken a few years ago that used 5 bracketed shots. If you like to shoot HDR, I would definitely check out this software – it is different from both Lightroom’s and Photomatix Pro’s HDR results. I had done a previous review years ago (see my Digital Lady Syd Reviews Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 blog) and still love the plug-in as much as before. So here were the quick steps that got this effect:

  1. From Lightroom, all the images were selected and opened in Photoshop as individual files.
  2. Next the plug-in was opened in Photoshop by going to File -> Automate -> Merge to HDR Efex Pro2 – press the “Add open file” and then the Merge Dialog button. You can click the check box for Create Smart Object so you can go back in and adjust effect. (Can apply plug-in from LR by going to File -> Export with Preset -> Merge to HDR Efex Pro2.)
  3. Check Alignment if images not shot on a tripod. Same with Ghost Reduction – move slider at bottom to show image that shows image with movement that looks best as in clouds or trees. Always check Remove Chromatic Aberration.
  4. Now just presss Create HDR – a tiff file is created.
  5. The Default preset is automatically applied to the image. Now the fun is going through all the presets and see which one(s) look best on the image. Experiment with the sliders on the right. Tone Compression is the amount of HDR effect seen – set all the way left there is no HDR effect. Method Strength slider goes from very weak to very crunchy looking. All the other sliders can create some nice effects. If you find a combination you, just create a preset by pressing the (+) sign in the Custom section on the left. The above image used the Deep 2 preset to start.
  6. Note this image is now set to 32-Bits/Channel – this is a huge file and lots of PS effects and actions will not run on it. I change it to 16 or 8 bit mode so I can do things as in the next step. Go to File -> Mode -> 8-Bits/Channel. This causes the file to be merged down and the Smart Object is rasterized. (If you duplicate the Smart Object and rasterize the layer, turn the eye off the bottom Smart Object layer, and now change the mode, select Don’t Merge Layers, the Smart Object info can be retained in the layer that is turned off – sort of a hassle, but it can be done.)
  7. Here is a tip from one of my favorite Photoshop people, Scott Kelby, which he offered in his videos on this plug-in. Apply the HDR effect and then take the resulting effect into Nik Color Efex Pro 4 (another wonderful plug-in and is included in the download bundle) and select the Glamour Glow filter set to the default preset. He says it is the magic that really pulls the realistic HDR effect together and does not look over-the-top. That is what was done above.

To finish up the image, the waterfall was blurred so it looks a little more like a long exposure. (See my Smoothing Out Those Waterfalls blog on how to do this.) In this case, two Motion Blur layers were created since the water flows in a couple different directions. Also the slight blue chromatic aberration edging in the small sky in the upper left was removed by using the technique in my A New Look at Chromatic Aberration blog – worked beautifully. That is all that was done.

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Here is an image that used the Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 plug-in that was done a while back. Just another good example of how this looks. I really like the effect in the skies. This image used Grannys Attic preset.

Hilton Time Share on the Big Island Hawaii********

The London of Parliament image taken several years ago used both the free Nik HDR Pro Efex 2 and free Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 (see my Make an Ordinary Image Interesting Tidbits Blog for info on how to do this.)

Image of the Parliament Building in London, England********

Here is another example using the previous version, Nik HDR Efex Pro – I really liked how this image turned out – it the used Grannys Attic preset, but it had some different parameters in the first edition, which was also very nice.

Image of a craggy tree in HawaiiHope you will download this Google (Nik) collection of plug-ins – you will not be disappointed. As far as the HDR Efex Pro 2 goes, as Scott Kelby says, try it as it has a little different look from other HDR software and you might really like it. This is true of all their plug-ins – give them a try. I have always loved the Nik plug-ins – they run very smoothly even on older computers. When used with a Smart Object, the settings are preserved, even the control points that are used to localize the effects, so you can go back and adjust later. Sad to see this is probably the end of this plug-in but at least everyone now has a chance to use it. Have a great week experimenting!…..Digital Lady Syd