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Painted image of a Venetian canalSince a lot of people would like to get a painterly look on some of their images, but not go to the expense of getting Corel Painter or feel they do not have the painting skills needed to get a nice result, I have decided to show you what can be done with just a few Topaz plug-ins and Nik Viveza 2. I am going to go through the different steps and how the layers appeared to get the above result. You may not have all the plug-ins used, but often there are ways to get the same feel without using the plug-in by just taking a few extra steps.

The image above was cropped as a last step, so the workflow follows the original sized image.

1. First need to download the image from Free Images (used to be Stock.Xchng and image is linked). They have several different shots using this basic site so feel free to explore this great website. See original image on left below.

2. The original image was not in a color scheme that I liked so the first thing done was to change the settings in the Camera Raw filter to get some colors more suitable to my liking. On a duplicate layer that was converted to a Smart Object so it can be edited if something looks wrong, changes were made. (These settings were changed: Temperature +15, Exposure +0.40, Contrast +12, Highlights -19, Shadows +11, Whites +5 and Blacks -12; then adjust in this order Hue Reds +11, Oranges +41, Greens -33, Aquas -62, and Blues +20; Luminance Reds +6, Oranges -34, Yellows +51, Greens +2, Aquas  +1, and Blues -7; and Saturation Reds -29, Oranges +10, Yellows, +58, Aquas -26, and Blues +23.) Results are shown in right image below.

Image of first two steps in workflow above

3. Next step takes the right image into the Topaz (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReStyle plug-in where the Cool and Clear preset was applied first. (These settings were used: ReStyle Opacity 78%, Lum Third 0.34 and Fifth 0.45; Basic Opacity 81%, Color Temp 0.13, Tint -0.16, and Sat 0.33; Tone Black Level 0.27, Midtones 0.34, and White Live -0.03; and Detail Structure 0.64 and Sharpness 0.59. Wanted the water to have more blue tones and overall a little less beige look.) If you do not have the plug-in, try using the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer or Selective Color Adjustment Layer to get somewhat of a similar look. I consider ReStyle to be a very unique plug-in and it is one of my favorite Photoshop plug-ins. I kind of liked the blown-out feel in this layer as shown on the left below.

4. Now it was time to go into Topaz’s newest plug-in, Impression. Started with the Abstraction I preset. (These are the settings used: Stroke Brush Type 04; Brush Size 0.91, Paint Volume 0.42, Paint Opacity 0.87, Stroke Width 0.33, Stroke Length 0.89, Spill 0.23, Smudge 0.26, and Coverage 1.00; Color Overall Hue 0.15, Overall Saturation -0.20, and Overall Lightness 0.06; Red Saturation 0.47 and Red Lightness 0.14; Orange Saturation -60 and Orange Lightness -42; Yellow Sat -0.33 and Yellow Lightness 0.13; Green Saturation -0.20 and Green Lightness -0.32; and Blue Sat 0.36; Lighting Brightness -0.04 and Contrast 0.39 – X 0.33 and y 0.06; Texture Strength 0.78, Size .30, Canvas IV and Background Color #d38967, a light orange color.) I can honestly say this does not really look that great but it has the stroke effects that make this plug-in’s effects so great. By adjusting the Stroke Width and Length, you can get a fairly good approximation of having actually painted the effect into the image. I believe there are other art programs that could be used for this step like Alien Skin’s Snap Art or Dynamic Auto-Painter, but it has been my experience that they will result in a very different result, not particularly bad, just different.

Two images from steps 3 and 4 above

5. The sky color was painted in with a sampled color from the water and using just a basic brush – this was one of my basic Photoshop pastel brushes. You can always clone some of the strokes from the water into the sky to get a nice stroke replica effect. A Levels Adjustment Layer was used to add contrast back in the image – adding filters and textures often causes a contrast loss. (The settings were Black tab 7, Middle tab 0.89, and White tab 254.) Looking better now.

A texture layer from Painted Textures was added to image called Green Lake (set to Hard Light blend mode at 33% layer opacity). A Color Balance Adjustment Layer was added to try to reduce the strong color shift from the blue-green-yellow texture (settings were: Highlights Magenta/Green -13 and Yellow/Blue +16, Midtones Cyan/Red +13 and Yellow/Blue -3, and Shadows Magenta/Green -3 and Yellow/Blue +10). See left image below.

6. Thought I would try to get it this image to look like my previously painted Corel Painterversion of this image (see my Venetian Dreaming….). Therefore Topaz ReStyle was opened once again and this time the Cream and Plum preset was used (one of my favorite presets). (Settings were Cream and Plum preset to start –  ReStyle Color Style Sat Fifth -0.53; and Lum Primary 0.13, Secondary -0.19, Fourth -0.42, and Fifth -0.44; Texture Strength -1.00; Basic blend mode Color; Color Temperature 0.36, Tint -0.41, and Sat -0.06; Tone Black Level 0.16, Midtones -0.34 and White Level 0.42; and Detail Structure -1.00 and Sharpness 0.19.) As you can see on the right image below, a much more beige palette was introduced.
Images for steps 5 and 6 above.
7. Added a White Color Fill Layer set to Color Blend Mode at 64% layer opacity and filled the mask with black (CTRL+I in mask to invert). Painted back at 30% brush opacity some of the areas that needed some white color but looked beige – mainly on the boat, bridge, sky and in some of the water reflection. Then Nik’s Viveza 2 plug-in was used to help emphasize the focal point, the boat and bridge in the image. 7 control points were added – sharpening and color increased around the boat and bridge area, and the Structure slider was decreased on the painted areas to give more of an actual painterly look. It did help smooth the sky quite a bit. See image on bottom left.

8. Now how did I get the image on the bottom right? Well, a Topaz plug-in I had not used in quite a while. I really liked the tones in the Corel Painter image done in my Tidbits Blog and the best way to get those tones into my image is to use Topaz photoFXlab’s InstaTone. By opening the plug-in and starting InstaTone, the Painter image’s folder was selected and the tones were added directly my Topaz layer. Totally loved the final look! What is so great about this plug-in is that the same brushes from several of their other plug-ins are available and can be used on masks within the plug-in. Therefore Detail, Smoothing, Dodging and de-Saturating could all be done on one mask. Basically the image can be sculpted to get a pretty artsy look without really painting at all. (Here are the settings used: On duplicate layer in photoFXlab, applied the original image from Corel Painter tones using InStaTone. In Adjustments Blending Mode to Color, Contrast to -100, Dynamics 27, Highlights 31, Shadows 11 and Blacks -18. On a From Stack layer on top, went to Brushes and set Smooth/Detail Strength to 0.49, Brush Size 0.09, Hardness 0.22, Flow 1.00 and Edge Aware 0.98 to add Detail to the boat and bridge, my focal point. Next changed Strength of brush -0.81 to smooth and painted over all the buildings which gave a very subtle softening to the edges of the windows and roof lines. Next selected the Burn/Dodge brush – wanted to dodge a little lightening into the distracting windows. Set Strength to 0.18 and Brush Size to 0.02 and with a very soft stroke, paint on the strong black lines and edges of windows to just slightly soften the distracting lines. If you mess, use the Undo Arrow up at the top of image. This gives a really painterly feel to the image. Set Saturation to -0.68 and painted out the overly bright little turquoise boat in front of the main boat by setting Strength to -0.68.) For more on this plug-in, see Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs below. Hope I did not lose everyone on this one! I have talked about using these brushes in other Topaz plug-ins so there is no reason they cannot be used for a similar result.

The last step involved just cropping in Photoshop to get the top image – still not sure if I like the cropped or uncropped version best or whether I like the more beige color tones. That what makes it interesting!

Images of final steps in workflow

I just wanted to show everyone that some really great results can be created just by stacking plug-ins and masking and adding Adjustment Layers in Photoshop to get some pretty fantastic results. This was a lot of fun to experiment this way – I am finding I do not have to paint in just one way. And knowing me, this is all going to get mixed up into the painting style I have been trying to develop this year. Wanted to give some basic guidance on the settings for these plug-ins since it can get confusing as how to actually use all the plug-in sliders. Until next week, keep trying some new combinations!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz ReStyle
Digital Lady Syd Speaks Out on Topaz Impression
Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz photoFXlab v1.1
InstaTone in photoFXlabs – Great Fun and Great Results!
How Topaz Black & White Effects Can Create Some Surprising Results! – Check out the Settings for Images 2 and 3 at bottom for info on its mask brushes


Image of a small girl in her Native American CostumeSince I had a pretty busy week with company, just thought I would post a couple images. This one is of a beautiful little girl who was dancing with the adults at the Native American Festival earlier this year. Totally enjoyed the event once again! For this image a selection was used to remove her from the background (used Photoshop’s Color Range and then cleaned up the resulting layer mask) and next ReFine Edge to fine-tune the feathers (set Radius to 7.2 and Shift slider to -3). Painted Textures Spring Rain texture was placed over the image and a layer mask was added to paint in the little girl. Photoshop’s Flat Fan Thick Stiff Wet Edge brush (located in Photoshop’s Wet Media Brushes group) was used to do this and to paint on several additional New Layers. A smaller sized Mixer brush was used to smooth the facial skin hard edges. The last step used Nik’s Viveza 2 with a control point placed on the little girl to make her pop out a bit from the background and 6 other control points to adjust the coloring to look just right.

I know that Corel Painter does a fabulous job on painting images, and I am working hard on learning it, but sometimes I like a more realistic painted feel by using Photoshop and its Regular and Mixer brushes on different layers as shown above.

Image of water lilies taken at Epcot, Disney World-OrlandoThis is an image taken from the Living With the Land ride at Epcot, Disney World Orlando. Just enjoyed playing with different filters to see if I could make it into something I liked. No painting here. In Lightroom used Seim’s (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) PW4 Magic Portrait preset and actually went into the Lens Correction Manual and changed the Distortion, Vertical Horizontal and Aspect sliders which resulted in some extra white space on the left side and bottom of the image. Next opened up the image in Photoshop CC 2014 with the new advanced Content-Aware Fill command which did a wonderful job of adding into this area of the image. I do not usually use this version since the regular CC still lets me use my flash panels. Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Detail 3 was opened and my SJ Text preset was added. (These are the settings: Overall Detail – Small Details0.08, Medium Details 0.20, and Large Details 0.08; Tone Exposure -0.60, Contrast 0.25, Highlights 0.10, Shadows 0.05, Whites 0.10, and Blacks 0.05; and Color Temperature 0.10, Tint 0.03, and Saturation 0.10.) On a stamped (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) layer, the Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 was opened and three filters were used: Midnight using a Neutral Color Set at 93% opacity, Darken/Lighten Center at 59% opacity, and Detail Extraction with Detail Extraction slider at 65% and control points set on each of the flowers only. I liked what I was seeing at this point but still decided to do some more changes. Several clean up layers were added and then Nik Viveza 2 was opened up to add some extra contrast to the flowers. Next my free Cat Painting Canvas was set to Overlay blend mode on a layer above. And just because I could, Topaz ReStyle was opened and the Dark Goldenrod preset was added with no changes. The tone in the image turned out to be just right. A text layer was added using a font called Ruthie and set to Bevel and Emboss and Outer Glow layer style. It was 27% layer opacity.

It was fun to just play in Photoshop for a change. It seems that there is so much to learn that it is easy to forget to create and have fun. Until next week, have a good one creating!……Digital Lady Syd


Image of Huey, Dewey or Louie Painting in Store Front at EpcotSince I recently went to Epcot and got a few images, I have been having fun trying out Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Impression on them. I am finding that when an image is maybe not in perfect condition, but you want to use it as a nice remembrance of your experiences, this plug-in does an amazing job of helping control the bad and bringing out the good. The level of realism you want added back into your image can be controlled by just applying a layer mask in Photoshop and erasing out any overdone areas. The artistic element can also be controlled to just the extent that you want by using either two different presets stacked on different layers in Photoshop, or just using one preset and adjusting the layer opacity or blend mode, or adding adjustment layers on top. This really has a similar feel as if you are adding texture to an image. I have to admit this is one of my very favorite images I have taken at Disney World. This was a window display and there was so much glare everywhere. In Lightroom Seim’s (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Super HDR X and RadiSpot presets were applied. A lot of clean up was done right in Lightroom using the Adjustment Brush – 5 areas were selected and adjusted. In Photoshop the background layer was duplicated three times and each of the new layers were taken into Topaz Impression. First my Charcoal I Slight Colors preset was applied (here are my preset settings that started with Topaz’s Charcoal I: Stroke: Brush Type 08, Brush Size 0.58, Paint Volume 0, Paint Opacity 0.38, Stroke Width -0.18, Stroke Length 0.23, Spill 0.24, Smudge 0, Coverage 1.00; Color: Red Overall Saturation -1.00, Red Saturation 0.50, Orange 0.31, Yellow Hue -0.03 and Saturation 0.54, Green Saturation -0.32, and Blue 0.64; Lighting Contrast 0.19, and Light Direction x0.51, y0.51; and Texture Strength 0.24, Size 0, Paper I texture, and white background color) and set to Multiply Mode in Impression; on next layer same preset without changing the mode to Multiply; and on the top layer the Da Vinci Sketch I preset was applied with no changes. By adding layer masks to both of the top two filter layers, the areas with color could be painted back just the way I wanted it to appear. I discovered  it does seem to make a difference whether you change the blend mode in the plug-in or on the layer in Photoshop – so try both ways if you do not like the way it looks. Then two clean up layers were created to paint over parts of the image. Another cleanup layer involved using the Sharpen Tool on the face to draw the eye to his face eye. The last step was adding 50 free photo art borders 18. (By going to Select -> Select Color and choosing Highlights, you can select the whites – then add a layer mask and apply it. Now by adding a Color Fill layer clipped to the border, you can change the color from white easily.) Image of the Glass Blower at Epcot in the Mexican Pavillion Well this image turned out really different – this is a guy that was doing a glass blowing demo at the Mexican Pavilion at Epcot-Disney World Orlando. This was a very dark image to begin with and after adding Seim’s PW4 Magic Ugly Shade Fixer preset and doing the Shake Reduction filter in Photoshop, it was opened up in Topaz Impression. Used my SJ Colored Pencil preset and got this kind of crazy color thing going, but I really like it. (Started with Colored Pencil II preset and ended up with these settings:  Stroke Brush Type 07, Brush Size 0.90, Paint Volume 0.77, Paint Opacity 0.20, Stroke Width -0.82, Stroke Length -0.25, Spill 0.26, Smudge 0.16, and Coverage 1.00; Color Overall Sat 0.37, and Red Hue 0.78, Red Sat 0.32 and Red Lightness 0.28; Lighting Brightness 0.21 and Contrast -0.40, Light Direction X: 1.00 and y: 1.00; and Texture Strength 0.33, Size 0, Paper I texture and white background.) (See my New Impression of Octopus and Seahorse Tidbits Blog for another example of this preset.) It has a poster feel to it. Then the clean up layers were added. One for fixing the blown out yellow flame – added just a touch of color to it. And the second to remove some white dots that appear around the image. There are still a few that are apparent, but they don’t stand out as major artifacts. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added on top and that was it. Image of Venice Display at Epcot World ShowcaseAnother image from Epcot of a store display on the World Showcase. I just liked the feel of the Venice exhibit so I thought it was worth a shot. In this case. the image had to be tilted manually using the Vertical Slider in the Lens Correction Panel in Lightroom. Also applied a very nice free preset from Nicolesy called Autumn Fresh and some Radial Filters on the overly bright spots in the image before going into Photoshop. On a duplicate layer, Topaz Detail 3 was opened and a preset I created a long time ago called Text was applied. (These are the settings: Overall Detail – Small Details0.08, Medium Details 0.20, and Large Details 0.08; Tone Exposure -0.60, Contrast 0.25, Highlights 0.10, Shadows 0.05, Whites 0.10, and Blacks 0.05; and Color Temperature 0.10, Tint 0.03, and Saturation 0.10.) I usually just try different presets in this plug-in until I get the sharpness I like. This layer was duplicated and Topaz Impression was applied using my Charcoal I Slight Colors preset (same as in first image) but changed some of the settings. (Here are the settings for this image: Stroke Brush Type 08, Brush Size 0.58, Paint Volume 0.64, Paint Opacity 0.23, Stroke Width -0.18, Stroke Length 0.23, Spill 0.24, Smudge 0, and Coverage 1.00; Color Overall Saturation -1.00, Red Sat 0.50, Orange Sat 0.31, Yellow Hue -0.03 and Sat 0.54, Green Sat -0.32, Blue Sat 0.64, Purple Sat 0.59, and Magenta Sat 0.94; Lighting Brightness 0, Contrast 0.43, Vignette 0, Light Direction X -0.14 and y -0.04; Texture Strength 0.47, Size 0, Loose Weave-3 and Background color an off-white (#ebecee); set to Strength 0.66.) On a duplicate layer used Nik Viveza 2 to pop up the colors back in the center of the image, but the Radial Filter in Photoshop’s Camera Raw Filter would work the same. Control Points were added to the globe light which was too bright and was drawing the eye off the image and the window in the lower left. Another point was placed in the middle to lighten up the center and direct eye towards the tower and boat on left side of exhibit. Did a clean up layer and darkened out the bottom edge and bottom right window light. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added as a last step to add just a little contrast back into the image. I feel that I am starting to figure out what effects I really like in this plug-in. It has been fun doing this since my time has been limited recently. It has been a long time since a new plug-in has been released with some different effects. Will catch ya again in a few…..Digital Lady Syd Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs: Digital Lady Syd Speaks Out on Topaz Impression More Painting with Topaz Impression Painting a Painter


Image of Mickey Mouse on a sign when entering Epcot at Disney World OrlandoSince I am having a pretty busy month, thought I would just pop in with another short post on this interesting new plug-in – definitely a fun one to try out on different images. The above was the sign that greets you upon entering Epcot during their Food and Wine Festival at Disney World Orlando. It felt like it should have a more painterly look to it, so I pulled Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Impression out to try to get the effect. Since the image really did not really lend itself to something I wanted to paint, Impression just might give me the feel I wanted quickly.

This was a pretty simple workflow. In Lightroom Seim’s (see sidebar atmy Tidbits Blog for website link) Power Workflow 4 Super HDR and Tint Golden Sepia were used. In Photoshop the Shade Reduction filter was then applied. This image did not need to be so sharp (in which case I always use Topaz Detail 3) since the painted feel does not require it. Duplicated the layer (CTRL+J) and just selected the background from sign foreground and created a layer mask. Then duplicated this layer and inverted the layer mask be CTRL+I in it – now the foreground was selected. On the bottom masked layer, Topaz Impression was opened and the SJ Colored Pencil preset was selected (see preset settings in my New Impression of Octopus and Seahorse) – then changed the Red Hue to -0.54, Red Saturation 0.31, and Yellow Hue 0.13. Back in Photoshop the foreground layer was selected and taken into Impression – this time Chiaroscuro II preset was chosen but the Lighting Brightness, Contrast, and Vignette were all set to 0. Back in Photoshop again, the layer with the background showing was duplicated and placed on top so that a Gaussian Blur set to 6.1 could be applied to make the trees just slightly out-of-focus. On some New Layers clean up was done – mainly getting some color into Mickey’s face so he was the focal point and to smooth the paint where some splotchiness appeared from the Chiaroscuro preset. Mickey still did not stand out quite the way I wanted him to, so a Curves Adjustment Layer was added with no settings – just filled the mask black and changed the blend mode to Multiply. Then with a white brush set to 30% brush opacity, Mickey was painted back to make him stand out. I liked the way two different presets in Impressions produced this interesting result. And got to love Mickey!
Charcoal Rendition of Ormond-By-the Sea Beach in FloridaThis charcoal of a hotel on the beach in Ormond-By-the-Sea near Ormond Beach, Florida, was created using Topaz Impression’s Charcoal I preset – it is the first one that comes up in their Favorites preset grouping and it sort of just popped out at me. I would never have made it a charcoal if I had not seen it applied in the thumbnail. This is what I like about this plug-in – it gives you some new ideas on what can be done with your images. I did not make any changes to the preset. I did add a New Layer on top and with a brush created in Photoshop, some of the shadows were in the foreground beach area were emphasized. This brush was created from one of Melissa Gallo’s Pencil Sketch Brushes provided with her Painting in Photoshop Workshop – just did some tweaks and sampled some color in the image to add a pencil-stroke type feel. (This is a really good set of videos by Melissa.)

Image of a Wooden Windmill in BelarusThis windmill was painted using Topaz Impression and following a very short interesting You Tube video by Blake Rudis called Topaz Impression Mixed Media. I am not sure I like this particular combination of media on this image, but I wanted to try out his example. It is a similar workflow to the one in my first image, but Blake did a nice job of presenting his specific workflow. If you want specifics of what each slider does, Blake did an introductory video called Topaz Impression Review & Tutorial and I found it very helpful. Also Michael Hardisty did a really nice overview in his Topaz Impression – Release the Artist blog on the program and some different examples of other effects presets.

I really like the plug-in the more I am using it. As Blake says, it is different from the other programs out there. If you like the artistic feel, it is definitely worth a trial download. I think it does the nicest charcoal emulation that I have seen. Try downloading the trial and see what you think. Hope you have as much fun experimenting as I have been!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Speaks Out on Topaz Impression
New Impression of Octopus and Seahorse
Painting a Painter


Image of flowers using Topaz Impression pluginThis is not a formal review of Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Impression due to some  constraints on my time right now, but I did want to give a quick shout out to them for creating for us Photoshop Lovers a new plug-in to fan our “flair for the artistic.” This is Topaz’s first attempt at making a painterly program – it is in a tough competition at this point since painting seems to be all the rage. I have had the opportunity to play around with this little gem for a few weeks and can say that once again, Topaz has a way of creating those little extras which makes you say – oh yeah, that’s really a nice feature!

Two things I really like about this program:

  • There is usually not really a lot that needs to be done to make the resulting image much better after applying one of the various presets they have created. I have played around with all the different sliders and settings, and find that adjusting the Stroke brush types is my personal favorite. All the Stroke sliders are really good so it is hard to choose a favorite from them.
  • My second really favorite item is that you can change the Hue, Saturation and Lightness of all the individual colors – this makes a huge difference depending on what colors you want to emphasize in the image. There are little red diagonal lines over the areas affected when hovering over each color with your mouse which is very helpful. (Something else I have never seen before.) Topaz has always been a leader in the way color is managed in their plug-ins. ReStyle set the bar very high for other software creators in this regard and Impression is continuing on with this tradition.

The image above was my first attempt at using Impression and I was totally surprised at how nice it turned out with very little manipulation. This image used one of their early Painting presets so the settings names do not match what was released but I know one of the new Painting presets is very close. I did set the image to Screen blend mode at 82% opacity – it gave a really nice finished look. I also used the Type 06 brush. Switch these brushes up and try different ones with the presets – you get some totally different results! The only other thing done after applying Impression was to use Topaz Detail 3 to sharpen up the focal points (the lower flower and secondary one is the pink and yellow one in the center). A black layer mask was applied (hold down ALT while pressing the layer mask icon in the Layers Panel) and just the centers were lightly painted back in. That was it!

Image of Clouds from my Front Porch with Topaz Impressions applied This little cloud image above was taken with my Android from my front porch here in Florida – got to love our skies! Used the Impression Pointillism II preset and made the follow changes to the preset: Stroke Brush Type 05, Brush Size 0.61, Paint Volume (Thickness) 0.27, Paint Opacity 1.00 (this really made the Impasto pop), Stroke Width -0.04, Stroke Length 0.11, Spill 0.14, and Smudge 0.05;  and in Color the Blue Saturation and Lightness were adjusted to give the sky a little more interest. These settings are a little rough since they were developing some of the settings for the program at the time this image was created. But the important thing is that by changing the brush types and those sliders in the Stroke section, some really interesting looks can be achieved. In the above I was leaning toward the bluish tones for the sky so that is what was adjusted. I even love the little stroke effects in the bushes in the foreground. Back in Photoshop there was not much extra work done except to add a selective color adjustment layer (Colors Whites – Yellow -7%, Neutrals Black +5, and Blacks Magenta +4, Yellow +9, and Black -7) – sort of  like adjusting blacks, midtones and whites in Levels. Last step was adding a Curves Adjustment Layer and a little more contrast into the light colors (pulled down just a little on corner at 3 – 1 in grid). I really like the results – especially just a little of the red tones peaking through the greenery. I had not even noticed that in the original image.

Image of some yellow daisies painted with Topaz Impressions plug-inThese daisies were taken on the Living With the Land ride at Epcot in Disney World, Orlando, Florida. I just love yellow daisies! I wanted to create an image reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Tournesols (Sunflowers) image although a Van Gogh preset was not used, but instead the Impasto I preset. In Lightroom Seim’s (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Supertone EQ X preset and Hill and Lucas preset were applied. In Photoshop a little clean up was done to the edges and Topaz Impression plug-in was opened. These settings were changed in the preset: Stroke section: Brush Type 05 – for some reason I like this brush for the heavy painted look, Brush Size 0.61 – the larger the number the more painterly it looks, Paint Volume 0.76 – how see through is the effect, Stroke Width -0.34 – at +1 more of a scribble and -1 more realistic – I wanted a slightly realistic look here, Stroke Length 0.19, Spill 0.27 – set to 1 it will spill over the edge, Smudge 0.18 – I am using the very sparingly as it has a bit of the Oil Paint Filter look to it and I do not love that effect all the time, and Coverage 1.00 – do not care for the edging look at this time – if you reduce to less than +1 a Transition slider will appear; Color section Overall Saturation 0.17 and Lightness 0.06, Red Hue 0.29 and Saturation 0.10, Orange Saturation 01.0, Yellow Hue -0.10 and Saturation 0.11, and Green Hue 0.19; Lighting section Brightness 0, Contrast 0.92, and Vignette 0 – Light direction x-0.32 y0.60; and Texture section was left alone. After using the plug-in, I did a little clean up on a New Layer in areas that were a bit overdone, and added a Levels Adjustment Layer to bring back just a little contrast. The last step was on a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) where Nik Viveza 2 was used to just saturate that middle flower a bit to draw the eye to it. This could just as easily be done using Camera Raw’s Radial Filter. It was a really fun working on this image.

What I have done is to go to the Users Manual which downloads with the plug-in (go to Help menu and it is there), and look at what they say each of the sliders do. I made a sheet with what Topaz says they do, and then what settings I like to use for them until I get used to what they do. Like I said, they have done a nice job of creating presets, so they do give you some nice starting places for adjusting your images. The Topaz team said they are continuing to work on adding to this plug-in, so it is great to know they are listening to their clients. That is one reason I love working with Topaz, their customer service is excellent. Impression is totally fun and very addictive – I could do this all day! If you have a chance, download it and see what you think. I will be writing a more thorough blog on this in the near future once I learned some tricks to get great effects. Still learning so better get back to it!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
New Impression of Octopus and Seahorse


Image of flowers in a pot in The BahamasFirst of all, I am taking a little break from blogging as I have some wonderful overseas guests arriving for a month, but I will try to pop in with a few shorter blogs. This week’s topic is not that ground-breaking, but sometimes there is a need to perk up a basic photo. You do not have to add a really fancy texture, sometimes just a well placed brush stroke or two will give your image that added interest and personalization it needs. Painterly looking brush strokes have been added behind the main subjects to get a more unique look than just adding a basic texture or two. So here are a couple examples on how to do this. All you need is to either create some interesting marks and save them as a Photoshop brush (on a small sized document in 8-bit mode, make or combine brush strokes using black for the brush color, then go to Edit -> Define Brush Preset and it will appear at the bottom of your Brush Preset Panel), or download brushes from the Internet (to Load, go to the pop-out at the top of the Brush Preset Panel, select Load Brushes and find where you downloaded them, and click Open – they will appear at the bottom of your Brush Preset Panel) – some of my favorite downloaded brushes are linked in the text. One of my goals with this blog has been to help readers find resources to create interesting images.

This pot of flowers was shot on Green Turtle Cay in The Bahamas. It is a very simple object, but by adding some interesting brush strokes in Photoshop, it becomes a much more interesting image. My workflow for doing this is as follows.

1. My first step was to paint the flowers in Painter – no reason this could not have been done on a New Layer in Photoshop with a regular brush or Mixer brush – just sort of colored in the flowers and stems, and on another layer above the pot. For you Painter people, the flowers and stems were painted following the video Painter Cloning tools with professional photographer and digital painter Melissa Gallo and using the Coarse Sargent Jitter brush as a cloner brush to just paint in the flowers and stems. The original image was used as the source and an inverted version as a second source to paint in the darker leaves. The pot was painted using Melissa’s settings for the Luscious Oil Paint brush. The file was saved as a PSD file and opened in Photoshop.

2. This next step is important if you used Painter to paint the subject(s). In Photoshop first duplicate the flower layer. Using the Color Range command. Just remember when selecting in this dialog that the white area is the selection – if you select the background because it is easier to select, just check the Invert box before saying okay. While still showing a selection on the image, add a layer mask to the flower layer -the mask will pick up the selection showing just the flowers. There are other ways to create a selection and they work fine, just be sure to add the selection to a layer mask. You could click just CTRL+J to add them to a separate layer which is fine also. I like layer masks so I can check to make sure everything is included in the selection before the background is eliminated. It is also easier to clean up bad edges in a layer mask. Then right click on the mask and select Apply Layer Mask – now flowers are isolated.

For Photoshop folks, your subjects should have been painted on a New Layer(s) above the image, so you do not have to worry about selecting your objects.

3. You do need to add a New Layer over your original image and fill it with white to isolate what you selected. (Select white as your foreground color and ALT+BACKSPACE to fill.)

4. For both Painter and Photoshop subject, New Layers are added in which different strokes in different colors and opacities can be created. Three New Layers were added underneath each with a different stroke in different colors: The brown bottom color was a pastel brush I had, the blue paint was a Creative Toons watercolor brush (these were free from Photoshop Creative Magazine No. 113), and the yellow circle behind the flowers was created in my Texture Brush Video on You Tube and set to 46% layer opacity – yellow is a very strong color so it has to be tamed a bit. The Pot layer was selected and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to it to get just the right color. Each of these layers can be moved around using the Move Tool (can highlight layer in Layers Panel and press the CTRL key to turn cursor into the Move Tool). I am finding large watercolor brush strokes are very nice for this technique.

The following steps are all just cosmetic – you can do anything you want at this point. For the above image, underneath all the brush layers one of my free textures created a while back called Digital Lady Syd’s Smudge Texture was added as a layer and set to 23% layer opacity, which is why there are some very light soft colors in the border. On the next layer flowers that were selected – a layer mask was used to clean up some of the halos in places around the branches from the rather rough selection. Next a little Sketch Brush was selected and the pot was lightly sketched around and the dirt in the pot was given a little more definition. On a layer above it, a round soft brush was used to smooth edges of the pot. Next 2 Lil’ Owls Studio’s (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog for website link) Vintage Frame 2-frame 15 was selected – the creases in the texture were painted out as it was distracting and it was set to Linear Burn at 97% layer opacity. In the layer style, the Blend If This Layer was white tab was split (ALT+drag to split) and set to 158/218, and the Underlying Layer black tab was split and set to 73/126 and white tab split and set to 239/255. The last step was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a little more contrast. It really gave the image much more interest by varying the size, color and opacity of the layers. The image now has a lot more interest and the background strokes look very natural.
Image of Native American DollsNever been really excited by the doll images I took from the Native American Festival this year, but still had fun post-processing them. This was one of those images you were just not sure what you would end up with! In Lightroom added Seim’s (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog for website link) PW4’s Super Hero X – WhiBal preset. In Photoshop did a Perspective Warp first thing since the doll shot was not taken straight on – I was able to segment it into two pieces and straighten it up fairly nicely. Next on a New Layer did a Clone Stamp clean up for the ugly image edges I got from the Perspective Warp. Created a Stamped layer on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and ran a Photoshop Shake Reduction filter.

Instead of painting this image, I wanted to just separate the dolls from their background which was really distracting. The white background was selected again using Color Range and adding a layer mask containing the selection. The Mask was applied and a lot of areas were added to it to get this image clean. (Color Range had selected not just the background but some of their clothes and parts of their faces, so in the mask these areas were painted back to white so they would show up on the layer.) The following step is basically the same thing as adding the various New Layers and adding strokes, if you create the texture yourself. My Pastel Watercolor texture was placed behind them and stretched out by Free Transforming the texture layer CTRL+T to make it fit right. For a free jpg download of this texture click here. Making a similar texture is very similar to what was done in Step 4 above when adding brush strokes layers above. In this case a New Document was created – I used 12 X 9 inches at 240 ppi. Next free brushes from bittbox called BB Watercolor II Brushes need to be downloaded – these are really pretty watercolor brushes I have used for years. On a New Layer Sampled Brush 19 was painted in a pink tone on the right and with 48% layer opacity; next on another New Layer Sampled Brush 14 was applied in orange with a layer opacity of 100%; next New Layer used Sampled Brush 1 on top of last brush stroke and set to 74% layer opacity; another New Layer with Sampled Brush stroke 3 in a different pinkish tone was added at 66% layer opacity; another layer using Sampled Brush 8 in yellow at 77% layer opacity; and finally a bright pink stroke on another New Layer set to 71% layer opacity – all at Normal blend mode. You can now move the whole document into the one your are working on, or individual layers with the unique strokes. The strokes can be moved around on each layer to adjust them just right or use a Free Transform to stretch out the stroke or warp it. Totally functional! And fun to do. I have used this texture a lot for my backgrounds and these brushes are really nice. By saving your texture as a jpg, it can be used like other textures that people make.

The rest of the post-processing is the following. For some reason I have been using the Nik Analog Efex Pro 2 filter (see my Digital Lady Syd’s Favorite Preset for Nik’s Analog Efex Pro with a few adjustments in the Detail slider including several control points on the individual dolls and the Luminosity curve). On a New Layer the Sharpen Tool was used to sharpen a few of the facial features. In Nik’s Viveza control points were added to drawing the eye toward the doll in the white coat in the middle. The Camera Raw Filter was further used to direct colors correctly in the image and a Radial Filter was used on the center doll. Then localized adjustment layers were added to pin-point areas I wanted corrected in the image. By filling adjustment layer’s mask with black (CTRL+I in mask) and painting back with a 30% opacity brush, areas that needed a color shift could be added. (A Color Balance, Hue/Saturation, and two Curves Adjustment Layers were added.) A New Layer was added on top and with a soft round brush set to 12% layer opacity, a couple of the dolls faces were painted over as they were too bright – the layer was set to 47% opacity. That was it – I really loved the doll with the bright orange-red dress on the far left and the feathers on the bird on the right!

I hope this has given you some ideas on how to create some interesting background easily – sometimes the easiest things are often overlooked. I think this is a pretty fun way to make new textures and to perk up some ugly backgrounds. Hope you have some fun experimenting! See you a few!……Digital Lady Syd


Image of a beach on Greater Guana Cay in The BahamasJust having some fun and showing a couple files I worked with this week. This image was taken on the beach in front of Nippers Beach Bar and Grill on the Greater Guana Cay in The Bahamas. They claim to be located on the beach right off the third largest coral reef in the world. Totally fun place to go and I thought this was a rather fetching way to end the summer season before moving on to fall!

So what did I do to get this look? It did not start out this way at all – it was just a nice beach picture which I liked just because the water was so pretty and the people were doing something interesting. I did not follow my basic plug-in workflow like I did in the image below. In Lightroom Seim’s (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) PW4 Magic-Ugly Shade Fixer and Sampler Tone Chocolate presets were applied. Then in Photoshop the Shake Reduction filter was used – I am finding it works really well with any of my hand-held shots – subtle but nice difference! On a New Layer the Patch Tool was used to remove a few people in the right side of the image. The image looked pretty nice and what I thought I would originally post, but then I added Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) ReStyle using my favorite preset, Cream and Plum. (Settings changed: Hue Primary -0.31; Sat no changes; and Lum Primary 0.08, Secondary 0.42, and Fourth -0.47; Texture Strength 0.44; Color Tone Black Level -0.81, Midtones 0.05, and White Level 0.20; and Detail Structure 0.34 and Sharpness 0.80.) This brought back a lot of the detail in the sand and water, but also gave the whole image a bit of a pink feel –  therefore in an added black layer mask (when you click the layer mask icon, hold down the CTRL key also to get a black mask), the people were painted in to remove the effect back in Photoshop. This layer was set to 89% opacity to reduce the overall effect a little.

Then a Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was added using a cream color (#eee3b9) set to Color Blend Mode at 34% layer opacity. The layer mask was turned to black (CTRL+I inside mask thumbnail) and the people were painted back. This color gave them more of a natural tan look. The photographer’s pants were bright red and drawing the eye away from the girls, so another Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was added to turn the pants to a brown color (#221007). Did the same thing – filled the layer mask to black and just painted back the pants. It was also set to Color Blend Mode at 100% layer opacity. This is a cool way to change colors to an object in the photo – and by dragging in the Color Picker, you can see the change in live preview so you get just the right tone. I would recommend changing the layer to Color Blend Mode first before choosing a color so you can see the effect different colors are having. On a Stamped Layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Nik’s Viveza 2 was opened. Ten control points were added, mainly to the people and water at top edge to get nice effects. Did you know that if a control point overlaps into a different object and the results look bad, you can set another controlpoint  on that part – don’t have to make any slider changes – and it goes back to the original color(s)? By adjusting the size, you can remove any bad effects. I just love this plug-in!

On another Stamped layer, Nik’s Analog Efex Pro 2 was opened. I just love making my own presets so that is what I did in this plug-in. Only 4 sections were used: Basic Adjustments, Light Leaks, Lens Vignette, and Levels % Curves. (I named this preset Blown Out Beach and here are the settings if you are interested: Basic Adjustments – Detail Extraction 45%, Brightness -4%, Contrast 13%, and Saturation 0%; Light Leaks – Strength 23%, Soft type with the first top left corner leak used and set on the mid lower right between the girls; Lens Vignette – Amount 52%, slider under the ct in Rectangle, and Size 53%; and Levels & Curves – the grid is 16 blocks x 16 blocks so I will try to get the right location for the dots – RGB – (3,1) (9,10) (16,16), Luminosity (2,0) (11,8) (16,14.5), Red (0,0) (7,8 ) (16,16), Green (0,0) (3.5, 3) (16,16), and Blue (0,0) (5.5, 5.5) (13.5, 12.5) (16,16), and Opacity set to 70%.)

The last step involved adding Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Detail 3 (also one of my very favorite plug-ins) using another preset I created that caused this rather soft blur effect (settings for my preset I call Soft Leaves are: Detail – Small Details -0.51, Small Details Boost -0.40, Medium Detail -0.39, Medium Details Boost -0.30, Large Details -0.51, and Large Details Boost -0.42; and Tone Exposure -0.40, Cyan-Red 0.58, Magenta-Green -0.29, and Yellow-Blue 0.31.) The Tone Exposure sliders really added the nice color to the water. The last step was a “clean up” layer where the skin was smoothed by sampling color and painting with a soft round brush.

Image of Sandhill Cranes on our local golf courseI loved these wonderful Sandhill Cranes that were wandering around our golf course this week. I have never seen this type of bird here, so I had to rush and get their picture! What gorgeous birds! Every bit as majestic as the beautiful Herons that are all over the place! Since fall is arriving, I felt a fall feel should be added to the image. Following my basic workflow from my my Digital Lady Syd’s Plug-in Workflow blog, these effects were added: in Lightroom Seim’s Super Hero X Natural and Tint Bronzed Sepia presets were applied; in Photoshop the Shake Reduction was applied using Auto settings; Topaz Detail 3 was applied using my favorite preset (Detail Overall Medium Details 0.38 and Large Details 0.16 and Tone Contrast 0.30 and Shadows -0.01 ); next Nik’s Analog Efex Pro 2 created in first image was used (for this image these settings are different: set to Basic Adjustments with Detail Extraction to 70%, Brightness -23%, Contrast -9% and Saturation 28%; Light Leak Strength 36% and set in middle; and Lens Vignette – Amount 68%, Full right to Rectangle, Size 56% and set just above the birds); a New Layer was added for some burning on edges of the birds (see my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog); another New Layer was added and by using a soft low opacity brush, haloing was removed around the birds since this was taken on an Android phone; another New Layer was added where the vignette border was filled in using the Kahara brush created in my How to Easily Create a Photoshop Brush for Painting Blog; a Curves Adjustment Layer was added for a little contrast to the image; and finished up with Nik’s Viveza 2 setting control points on the two left birds to sharpen and highlight a little, and on the background trees to give the soft fall color look – one of my favorite ways to end post-processing an image.

I really enjoy working with the plug-ins because they can give your image a unique effect if used properly. Nik’s Analog Efex Pro 2 and Viveza 2 work very well together. I do still love a good photograph but I am constantly trying to find something that is totally different, and the plug-ins often give me lots of options for this. It does take time to understand what each does, but once you find an effect you like, saving a preset speeds up the process for the  next time you use the the plug-in. Short but sweet blog for this week. Have a good one!…..Digital Lady Syd


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