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HAPPY NEW YEAR WITH SOME TOPAZ TRICKS!

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.

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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


MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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


DIGITAL LADY SYD REVIEWS TOPAZ TEXTURE EFFECTS

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.


SOME OF THE BEST PHOTOSHOP “WORK-HORSE” PLUG-INS

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.

**NIK VIVEZA 2**

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
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**TOPAZ REMASK 5 **

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
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**TOPAZ DETAIL AND TOPAZ CLARITY**

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

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**TOPAZ DENOISE 5**

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


HOW TO USE A TOPAZ RESTYLE TRICK FOR IMPROVING YOUR IMAGE

Painted image of a Snowy EgretThought I would share a trick using one of my favorite plug-ins, Topaz ReStyle (see Topaz website link on sidebar at my Tidbits Blog), and how I used it on my bird painting of a Snowy Egret taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery quite a while ago. First used Topaz ReMask to separate the bird from his busy background, and then placed one of my Corel Painter backgrounds behind him. Many layers of painting were created using both Fay Sirkis and Melissa Gallo Photoshop brushes – both are Corel Painter Master Elites who also make wonderful Photoshop brushes. See Related Blogs at end regarding these steps.

Since I love Topaz ReStyle, and use it often, it was opened to change the colors in my bird image by applying the colors from a previous image I had painted. So how can this be done.

RESTYLE TIP: If you only want to tweak the colors, but not change the actual color scheme of your image, it is very easy to create a preset of just the colors already in your image which can then be adjusted. ReStyle creates Color Style sliders that represent the 5 major colors in your image so the Hue, Luminosity and Saturation can be adjusted individually. Also Basic sliders for adjusting the Temperature and Tint, Tones, and Details including one of my favorite effects, the Structure slider, will be available to use on your image.

  1. Press RESET button located on bottom right corner to remove any of the old settings that may appear from the last time the plug-in was opened. You will see that the Hue, Sat and Lum sliders all “zero” out and at this point only make very subtle changes to the image, especially if set to a different blend mode. The Basic sliders will show the changes to the image.
  2. Next click the (+) button (on the bottom left) and save a preset in a Collection – I created one called Colors from Images.
  3. Now all the ReStyle and Basic sliders will be available to adjust along with blend modes and mask brushes for each section.

On the bird image above, I used the the ReStyle preset created from the dancer image shown below. You can see my other image presets in my collection on the left including the one used with this image, and on the right are the actual major color sliders that are in the dancer’s image. (Click on screenshot to see larger view in Flickr.) All the sliders are set to “0” so they can be adjusted independently. This is a really great way to use this program. I am finding that if I like the color scheme in one of my images, it is nice to create a preset from it to use on future images. ReStyle has lots of wonderful “canned” presets, but sometimes I like my own color schemes as much. I do not believe ReStyle had a preset with the exact beautiful yellow and greens that were pulled from the dancer’s image.

Painted image of Native American dancerIf you have Topaz ReStyle, try creating a preset next time you are not sure your colors or tones are looking quite right so they can be subtly tweaked. And when bringing another image into the program, be sure to check out some of your own presets created from your favorite images. I have done this several times when I have been unable to get the colors right, and as you can see from my bird picture, many times the color combinations work great on your other images. Lots of cool ways to work with your images with ReStyle. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz ReStyle
Digital Lady Syd Reviews ReMask 5
Four Picture Triptych with Topaz ReStyle
How to Get a Painterly Effect for Wildlife and Birds


HOW TO USE THE PIXELSQUID ADD-ON IN PHOTOSHOP

Image of an old fence and houseThis week I spent some time playing with a Photoshop plug-in that is in beta testing called PixelSquid. It allows you to add various items to create realistic composite images. Each element has 225 pre-rendered images shot from various angles and with shadow layers that can be adjusted in different ways. It has a fairly large learning curve, but the website covers all aspects of the program and overall it is not that difficult to do. The elements are kept in a Pixel SquidPanel Panel or Extension in Photoshop. (It does take a few moments to fill the panel with your items when Photoshop is opened each time and sometimes you have to log-in to their site to see your items and get new ones – a bit cumbersome.) They will be offering elements for sale, but at the moment you are allowed to download up to 100 objects. The best description of what they are doing is demonstrated in this short 3-minute video that covers the basics called PixelSquid: Getting Started on Vimeo. For an excellent example of how this program works, check out a blog called A Little Compositing Inspiration by Pete Collins at KelbyOne which introduced me to this Add On (see his original post called Check Out Pixel Squid). If you try it as a beta program, you will be allowed to keep the elements you have chosen, and they will let you download them from the site for free any time you want to use them again. This is a really nice thing they are doing.

In the image above, the elements added were the rather cartoon looking dog and the bike. For me the main hurdle was to try and get a natural look so the elements blend into the original image. I could not get the items to go on the blank layer the program creates but had to use PSD and “Open As Another Document,” move in the layers I wanted to use, and then delete the blank layer in my image. I am assuming they are working on this aspect of the Beta program. They offer a Depth Layer to help with this, but for me, I just painted on the objects and used the Blur Tool to soften edges. Really a lot of fun. For other info on post-processing of this image, see my Image 1 Notes at end of blog (this was a really long workflow but it will give you idea of what was done). Also, be sure that you have your Adobe Creative Cloud running, or it takes a work around to add the Extension and elements into Photoshop. This plug-in extension only works in Photoshop CC2015, but there are PNG , JPG and PSD files that can be downloaded and used in the other versions. Just adjust the object view you want on their website and download it to your computer to place in Photoshop. The PNG files come in very nice with shadows already set. (It seems almost easier than using the Extension if you like the way the object will fit in your image.)

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Image of a park in Savannah, GeorgiaThis image is of a beautiful park in Savannah, Georgia, on a gorgeous Fall day. Several elements were added with PixelSquid – two trees, bushes, fountain, park benches and a little butterfly. This was really fun to create. Just remember it is rather tricky to do a composite that looks real-life, but there are numerous tutorials on the internet on how to do this. My goal was just to add some interesting lighting and correct shadows without doing a lot more. For more on post-processing, check out Image 2 at end of blog.

If there is a problem with this add on it is the issue discussed above that elements appear to need to be opened as PSD files in another document since I could not get the Low Res and High Res choices to open anything but a blank white layer. Then layers or the PSD group must be duplicated into your original document. (Highlight what you want to copy, be it layer or group or both, right click on the layer(s) and select Duplicate Layer (or Group)… In dialog, choose Document drop-down and select your image to place them in. Use the Move Tool to adjust location and Free Transform (CTRL+T) to adjust the size of the object(s).

I hope you will give it a try if you like to do this kind of thing in Photoshop. I can see a lot of uses for objects like this. It really is a lot of fun to try compositing, and since it is free right now, definitely worth looking into. Hope you all have a great Halloween and weekend!…..Digital Lady Syd

Notes for Images:

Image 1: This image needed a lot of manipulation to get to this point. First Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Clarity was used (used these settings:  Dynamics Micro Contrast 0.19, Low Contrast 0.64, Medium Contrast 0.44, and High Contrast 0.25; Tone Level 0.30, Midtones 0.03, and White Level 0.19; and Hue Yellow -0.56, Sat 0.20, and Lum Orange 0.09). Next the Bike was added. The dog was added in next and it was duplicated to make a shadow as I did not like the way PixelSquid’s shadow looked for my lighting. The dog on the bottom layer was selected (CTRL+click on layer) and the dog was filled with black – then it was Free Transformed (CTRL+T) to look like the dog shadow, and the layer opacity was set to 22%. Two Curves Adjustment Layer was created – one for darkening the image and one for lightening. A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created and Topaz Simplify was opened. (The Simplify settings are: Simplify – Colorspace RGB, Simplify Size 0.28, Details Strength 0.67, Details Boost 1.75, Details Size 0.20 and Remove Weak 0.10; Adjust Brightness -0.16, Contrast 1.00, Sat and Sat Boost 1.00, Dynamics 0.27, Structure 0.85 and Structure Boost 1.36; Edges – Edge Type Mono Line Fine, Edge Strength 2.35, Simplify Edge 0.29, Reduce Weak 10.00, Reduce Small 0.20, and Fatten Edge 0.66; and Vignette centered on dog, Vignette Strength -0.20, Vignette Size 0.30, Vignette Transition 0.65, and Vignette Curvature 0.83; and Overall Transparency 0.20.) These settings created a cartoon-like effect in the image. (See Serge Ramelli’s video on How to Turn a Photo into a Cartoon or Painting with Topaz Simplify for more on this. ) On another stamped object Nik Viveza 2 was used to pinpoint the dog and bike to blend them into the image correctly. On another stamped layer, Color Efex Pro 4 was opened and three filters were applied. (Settings used: Film Efex:Vintage using Film Type 14, Old Photo using Style 3 and set to Opacity 31%, and White Neutralizer.) The Blue Tool was used on the white parts of the bike tire to soften the brightness and set to 73% layer opacity. On another New Layer the dog was blurred with the Blur Tool set to 53% Strength. On another New Layer, Gruts Brushes-Natural Media Brush Lead Thumb was used to enhance some of the shadows in the image. (These are really great brushes with lots of variety.) On another New Layer some clouds were lightly painted in the sky. Then I added one of my textures on top that gave the image the warmer color – set to Hard Light at 93% layer opacity. The dog was painted on another New Layer using another one of Gruts Oil brushes. Since there was some real chromatic aberration around the tree leaves, on a stamped layer a Gaussian Blur was added to soft those edges by setting the Radius to 2.5. Then a black layer mask was added to this layer (CTRL+click on the Add Layer Mask to make black or CTRL+I inside white layer mask) and just the edges of the trees were painted back to blur the outline of the trees – this was caused by the Simplify filter settings. The last step was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a little needed contrast back into the image.

Image 2:  After initial tone adjustments in Lightroom, all nine objects and their shadows were brought into the image using the Duplicate technique in Image 1. On a stamped layer converted to a Smart Object (right click and select Smart Object), the Filter -> Render -> Lighting Effects was applied where an Infinite Light was applied in the direction of the light using a yellow light color; this really lightened up the image. On a stamped image, Topaz Lens Effects was opened and the Reflector filter was applied (Type Golden, Strength 0.11, Transition 0.32, Position 0.52, and Angle 122.9) to lighten more. On a stamped layer, Topaz Lens Effects was opened again and the Single Tone Filter, Warm Tone 2 preset, was applied to keep lightening up the image subtlety. The park benches and fountain edges were too sharp so a Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur was applied at Radius 2.5. A black layer mask was applied and just the areas to be softened were painted back with a low opacity soft brush. Next New Layers were added to create some leaves and grass to further soften edges under trees and around the base of the fountain. Two Selective Color Adjustments Layers emphasizing the Yellow and Red colors – wanted the right tree to show up more and the path through the image needed to be more colorful for the eye to follow. The layer masks were turned black and with a white brush, these areas were painted back in. Next two Curves Adjustment Layers were added – one for just brightening the water in the fountain (black mask and painted back water), and the second to darken the whole image for contrast. More New Layers were created and several brushes were used to paint in detail. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to give a bit of a vignette effect, but in the layer mask, areas showing the lighter edges of the trees and fountain were painted back. That was all that was done, but it takes a lot of adjustments to do compositing.


DIGITAL LADY SYD REVIEWS TOPAZ REMASK 5

Had not planned on writing on this topic this week, but since I own Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReMask, thought I would put it through its paces. Along the way, a couple other tips popped up! This image took me several hours to complete, but was worth it. The colors in these Scarlet Macaws are incredible and perfect for painting. I call this guy “King of the Alligator Farm” as he was so noticeable and seems to enjoy everybody checking him out.

Topaz recently updated their selection plug-in to ReMask 5 and the results are really great. Remember, if you own this plug-in, it is a free upgrade for you. The major improvement for me is the Background section as shown at end of blog. Otherwise I found the program to be just like Version 4 and it still works very well. (See my And the Best Complicated Selection Tool Is?) It took practically no time to separate this image with a distracting green colored background and place it on my Corel Painter texture. In fact, in most cases you do not have to fill in the areas. Check out this short basic tutorial for version 4, that works the same with version 5, on how to create a mask fast – ReMask 4 Masking Hair. After computing the mask, I usually adjust the Recovery slider (revives color of foreground in weaker transparent areas) and the Layer Mask strength (determines the brightness of the mask) to get better results in my masks. Check out the Manual for how all the slider work. Below is a screenshot of the ReMask 5 interface.

Screenshot of ReMask 5.0 with macaw selectedYou need to go to Menu -> Preferences and check Enable Use-Layer-Mask to get a layer mask on image layer back in Photoshop. The final image used three different effects in Topaz Lens Effects: Fisheye to increase the head size a little (this work really good on bird images), Toy Camera Awesomeness I preset tweaking the sliders to get the rich color tones, and as a final step in this image using the Fog 1 preset which gives the final slightly faded feel around the bottom of the image to drive the eye upward. The basic workflow was the same one used in my How To Get a Painterly Effect for Wildlife and Birds blog. The biggest problem with this image was to get the focal point well defined on the face since the colors are so vivid and compete with the face.

ReMask 5 really selected the bird and feather edges very easily and without too much touch up in the resulting layer mask. I usually flip between the Mask view and the Keep View. The brushes in the plug-in are very sensitive so that you can really select the extra little spots needed just by tapping with the brushes – no real painting. To switch between the brushes use keyboard shortcuts “q” for to add back image, “w” to remove areas, and “e” to recompute the area. Zoom in close and tap away with the different brushes. Pretty easy. This is the basic trick to getting a really clean mask.

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Image of a Cattle EgretThis Cattle Egret took lots of steps so I will not go over all of them. Just wanted to emphasize that the same Topaz ReMask 5 was used to select him. In this bird’s case, it took a little more clean up in Photoshop to get it exactly the way I liked it. The Oil Paint Filter in CS6 was applied to just the bird quickly, then I hand painted more on the bird. The Fog Filter in Topaz Lens Effects was used on the left side of the image to soften the body effect. Below is how the Cut View of the mask appeared for cattle egret image. One of my Corel Painter textures was added to the image a couple times for the final result.
Screenshot of Cut View in Topaz ReMask 5

BACKGROUND SECTION

Two things have been improved: Topaz has included a new Background icon at bottom of column where you can open any image to add into the shot as a background, and it is now a stand-alone program that interfaces smoothly with Lightroom. The best use for the Background section would probably be for adding a new sky in a landscape (see below) or as a background to a portrait. Have Background choices of Transparency (the default setting), Solid Color or Image where you can select an image or texture from your computer. Click the orange icon and you get options to Move, Scale (keeps aspect ratio so you cannot stretch the texture) or Rotate the background. Press the yellow icon to swap out the chosen background image. There are several basic sliders to adjust the background to blend in with the masked area. Below is a screenshot of this section where I replaced a sunset type sky with some painted clouds. The down side is that if you are using the plug-in within Photoshop, you will have to save the mask with the new background down in a JPEG, PNG or TIFF file format – it does not save as a layered PSD file. I found this very confusing as you have to reopen your image with the other formats in PS and mine all appeared to be flattened. For me it is easier to just create the mask in ReMask, then add the texture in Photoshop where there are more options for manipulating the blend between the two layers. Still it is a pretty handy thing to have for use with Lightroom. Here is the link on Flickr to the original image. Screenshot of Topaz ReMask 5's background section

BOTTOM LINE

I still love Topaz ReMask and version 5 is even better. Definitely my “go-to” program for creating complicated selections. It is worth the time to figure out how quickly the selections can be made, even if just used as a starting point. You can always go back to the layer mask in Photoshop and tweak it some more. I usually have to. Have a good week!…..Digital Lady Syd


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