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HOW TO EASILY CREATE A PHOTOSHOP BRUSH FOR PAINTING

Image of some of the characters making up the Caro-Seuss-el at Universal Studios OrlandoI think most people are pretty much in a rut and do not even think about using anything other than a basic round brush in Photoshop. But Wow! There is so much more sitting in that Brush Panel that is not really that difficult to use and the results can do some amazing things to an image. This week I am going to give you some very basic settings for making a nice brush variation and how to use it as both a regular brush and a Mixer Brush without having to learn everything “under-the-sun” about them. So here we go.

I have decided I must see things differently since I seem drawn to shooting these sort of close-ups of funny things I see at theme parks. They do such a good job with color and expression that it is hard not to enjoy them. So once again a Universal Studios Orlando image close up of a couple of the characters to ride on from the Caro-Seuss-el in Seuss Landing.

Getting Started

I decided I wanted a painterly feel to this bright colored image. Most people will over-saturate an image in Camera Raw or Lightroom as the painting can make the image lose its contrast. In Photoshop first do any cropping, straightening and clean up of distractions and convert your image to 8-bit mode to help speed up the painting process (Image -> Mode -> 8-bit).

This step does not have to be done – you can just go on to Creating the Brush step and then start painting on a New Layer without an underpainting effect. For this image, on a duplicate layer (CTRL+J),  Topaz (see website link in sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4 plug-in was opened to create an underpainting before beginning to add my personal painting brush strokes. This is the same process as traditional painters do when they paint large blocks of color on their canvas before they begin painting the details. Especially for these bright contrasty images, it is a great way to start. Simplify does a great job of doing just that, simplifying your picture so you can take time working on your details. A preset I created back in version 3 was used (here are the settings used: Simplify section: Size 0.60, Feature Boost 0, Details Strength 0.80, Details Boost 1.28, Details Size 0.60, Remove Small 0.10, and Remove Weak 0.47; and Adjust section: Brightness 0.02, Contrast 0.82, Saturation, Saturation Boost 2.31, Dynamics 0, Structure and Structure Boost 1.00; no other settings used. ) This creates a rather bright flat image, but perfect for painting on the image. There are other ways to create an underpainting – the copy of the actual image could actually be blurred so only the basic shapes and colors are distinguishable and the detail removed. Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4 is another plug-in that creates a great underpainting effect. (See the first image in my More Plug-in and Painting Effects blog for an example using Snap Art 4.)

Creating the Brush

Next a New Layer was added on top and a watercolor Regular brush was created from the set I am always talking about – Creative Toons Watercolor Brushes – these were free from Photoshop Creative Magazine No. 113. (See next section for some other choices.) The brush used was Sample No. 15 but in the Brush Tip Shape in the Brush Panel, I set the size to 90, Roundness 100%, and the Spacing to 55%. Then added these brush sections by clicking on the words (not just check boxes or the settings don’t show up): Shape Dynamics was set to an Angle Jitter of 19% – no other settings on; Scattering with Scatter slider turned on and set to 30% and Count to 1 – no other settings on; Texture was turned on and the Gauze Pattern in Photoshop’s Artists Surfaces set was selected – Scale 100%, check Texture Each Tip, Mode Multiply, Depth 100% and Depth Jitter 40%; and of course Smoothing. (To locate pattern, click on side of pattern in Texture brush section, then click on the cog in upper right corner and select Artist Surfaces in list and Append – newly loaded patterns appear at bottom of already loaded patterns.) All the Control settings are turned off in all the sections. Be sure to save down as a Brush Preset so you do not lose your settings by clicking on the third icon over at the bottom of either the Brush Panel or the Brush Preset Panel. These were all settings I figured out since I really liked the shape of the original brush from Creative Toons, a brush that originally had a Size of 2500 px and Spacing of 25%. When painting, the 90-pixel size is as large as you want to use, especially when used as a Mixer brush. I believe any nicely shaped watercolor brush would work with these settings. Please try different settings and different types of brushes, not just watercolor, as you can get some very different but equally beautiful effects – I just happen to think this brush is very versatile and blends so beautifully. When using as a Regular brush, I usually set the brush opacity in the Options Bar to 30% and leave the Flow at 100%. If painting on a layer mask, may want the brush opacity set to 100%. For info on Flow, check out my blog called What Does the Flow Slider in the Options Bar Do?

Where to Find Some Nice Starter Watercolor Brushes

If you are unable to create this brush since the set is not free without the magazine, try downloading this large set of brushes from Env1ro watercolor brush and select Brush 3-697 pixels using exactly the same settings – when tested it creates the same effect as the brush used above since the shapes are very similar. It is also used in image below. Some other similar results were obtained using  SwimchickWatercolours – brush no 480 which gave a little softer result. Kahara has a nice 8-brush set and the third one made a beautiful brush with these settings and a different pattern, a concrete  pattern from Photoshop’s Texture Fill set (click on side of pattern in Texture brush section, then click on the cog in upper right corner and select Texture Fill in list – new patterns appear at bottom of loaded patterns). Changing up the patterns can give a brush new life. For a great list of free brush downloads, check out 45 Watercolor Brushes For Photoshop by Petshopbox Studio.

Turning it into a Mixer Brush

The real trick is to get your new Regular brush to work as a good Mixer Brush, and that is determined by what is up in the Options Bar – these settings are all sticky so when using your Mixer brushes, check them out if the brush is not working correctly.

So here are the options to make this really easy:

  • To blend the colors (creating a blender Mixer brush), in the Options Bar turn off the “Load the brush after each stroke” icon by clicking on it and always leave “Clean the brush after every stroke” clicked on, and selecting the Very Wet, Heavy Mix in the drop-down – have Sample All Layers checked. Now you have a pretty nice blending Mixer brush. If some color shows up, you left the “Load” icon turned on.
  • But what if you need to add some color to an area (creating a painting Mixer brush)? Turn On the Load the brush after each stroke icon (or no color will be painted) and flip the drop down to Dry, Light Load. Dab a few times to add your color and go back and turn off the Load icon and set to the Very Wet Heavy Mix to blend some more.

Really not that hard at all if you know where to look. And that is what I did on this image. Photoshop does try to make it easy. I blended areas where Simplify left a rough edges between color and added color to areas that were blown out as highlights or needed a more solid color added. Be sure to use dabs as well as longer strokes to get a nice painterly feel. If your brush gets much bigger than 90-pixels, the computer may slow down considerably so reduce the brush size – I usually paint at 20 pixels or less anyway. If still having problems, resize your image smaller – it will not matter if you are creating a painting – it can always be increased again after the image is finished. This was just too much fun to do! I love happy characters to work on!

NOTE: For painting with the Mixer brush – to sample colors that are under a brush stroke where you are painting, just press ALT+ click to add the(ose) colors to the “Load the brush after each stroke” icon which shows what is being painted by the brush. If you want to use a pure color from the Color Picker, you will need to use the Eyedropper Tool or double-click on the foreground swatch. I find this very time-consuming, so I do two things. First I have set up a keyboard shortcut for the letter “n” to open up the Color Picker. (Go to Edit -> Keyboard Shortcuts) Since I do not use the letter “n” for the 3D Camera Rotate Tool, I changed it in the Shortcuts For: Tools and scrolled to Foreground Color Picker, clicked Add Shortcut button, and typed in the letter “n” – it said it was in use and do I want to do this and I said yes. There you have it – very handy! Also my Wacom Stylus pen is set up so that the top of the long button opens up the Color Picker by selecting my “n” shortcut key, and the bottom is for Enter to accept the new color. This speeds up the painting process immensely! As a Regular brush – to sample an image color, just ALT+click on the color in image and the Eyedropper Tool pops up and selects it. The “n” shortcut key will bring up the Color Picker no matter what brush tool you are using.

Finishing up Your Painted Photo

I decided that the image needed a few lines showing, especially on the faces to draw the eye a little better. Again, this does not have to be done with a plug-in. One of the best ways to do this is to add a New Layer and select a Pencil Ink pen and add them in yourself – adjust the layer opacity so it is not over-whelming. For my painting the original bottom layer was duplicated and Simplify was opened again. This time the Black Line Only preset was chosen and just the Reduce Weak slider was set to 1.00 – all other settings were left. In Photoshop the layer was moved up to the top and set to Overlay blend mode. A black layer mask was added and just the eye areas and a few other details were painted back with the lines showing using a low opacity white brush. Many painted images have some lines in them and there are various actions around that add lines to your images, but by using just the Edges section in the Simplify plug-in is by far the fastest way to do this. The Reduce Weak slider controls a lot of the lines in the image but also check out the Edge Strength and Simplify Edge sliders for getting the illustrated look you want. This layer was set to Overlay blend mode so the white disappeared and a black layer mask was applied – painted in lightly with white brush where just the eyes and a few other areas had lines added for a little additional definition. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added for contrast. The Camera Raw Radial Filter was added to draw focus to the eyes , especially the center figure (Inside Radial Filter settings: Exposure 0, Contrast +5, Highlights +44, Shadows -4, Clarity +41, Sat 0, and Sharpness +33). And finally OnOne’s (see website link in sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Perfect Effects plug-in was used to add the pretty border – they have always had the best borders. This one was called Antique Rounder Border. This turned out to be quite a lot of effort, but when you are painting an image, it usually does take some extra effort – even with the underpainting already added.

Here is another example using the same settings on a new brush.

Image of Dwarf Firebush flowers with the ICW in the background This image is of some Dwarf Firebush tubular flowers growing in my front yard and the Halifax River (aka Intracoastal Waterway) at Ormond Beach, Florida, is the background. Not sure how I came up with this combination, but it turned out kind of nice and definitely different. The reason it fits in this blog is that the flowers were painted using the same settings as the Mixer Brush in the above image, but with a similar brush I created. Wanted to show you that applying these settings to any brush is totally easy and the results can be very nice. But first I had to select just the flowers from the background using Photoshop’s Color Range Command. I needed to put them on something, so I added a Pattern Adjustment Layer and found this image of the river that looked kind of nice behind it since the roof on the pier is so similar to the flower colors. The pattern was left at a Scale of 100%. I wanted to add a little grunge to the image so Kim Klassen’s Make Grunge Set Allard texture was added and set to Luminosity blend mode at 54% – any grunge texture would be fine but I like really like Kim’s textures as most of them are very subtle. Next Env1ro watercolor brush 697-3 was loaded with the same settings that were used on the Creative Toons brush. Unfortunately due to an electrical storm that knocked out electricity and totally busted my Photoshop preferences, workspace, brushes, and image, I lost the layers for this image – what a mess! But since I did have my History in Preferences set to Metadata and Edit Log Items Detailed, and all my steps were listed in the File -> File Info and the History tab. Pretty nice extra-back up to have, especially in this case! Another Simplify Black Line Preset was added on a duplicate background layer and placed on top, set to Overlay blend mode, and a black layer mask added to paint back the flower details. Topaz ReStyle was applied to a stamped (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top with my favorite Cream and Plum preset (here are my settings: ReStyle blend mode set to Color. In Basic blend mode set to Luminosity; Temperature was set to -0.75, Tint 0.20, and Saturation 0.13; Tone Black Level -0.37 and White Level 0.22; and Detail Structure -0.20 and Sharpness 0.64). This gave it a bit more of a soft look as opposed to a grungy effect. The last step was to use the new brush as a Mixer and blend the edges by painting around it. I am not sure this image has that much of a painterly look, but I still liked the results.

Hopefully this blog makes sense to you and you now have enough information to actually start painting on layers on top of your image. Also use the same brush to paint in a layer mask, to use with the Clone Stamp, and create borders. It really is not that hard. Experiment with the settings in the Options bar – try some of the other choices in the drop-down menu for the Mixer brush. Try different patterns in your brushes. It is all pretty easy – just keep saving your brushes as presets so you do not lose them. I would suggest going in to the Preset Manager (icon at bottom of the Brush Panel) and saving your new brushes down since I did lose all of the ones I had created when my electricity went off. And if you have Topaz Simplify, try out the line and flat painting presets. Hope you have a fun week experimenting – I know I will!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Simplify 4


HOW TOPAZ BLACK & WHITE EFFECTS CAN CREATE SOME SURPRISING RESULTS!

Image of top of Caro-Seuss-el at Seuss Landing in Universal Studios OrlandoFor some reason this week I kept playing around with Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Black & White Effects – have not really done this in a while and am enjoying some of the really different effects that can be achieved with this little gem of a plug-in. I am not a great black and white image fan, although I have been trying to learn the technique. There are so many things to learn just to get a great black and white image. But I use Black & White Effects more for getting that unique and sometimes artsy look.

So what did I do to get this totally different look from this plug-in since this image was taken in the middle of the day in bright sunlight? This is another image from Universal Studios Orlando of the top of the Caro-Seuss-el in Seuss Landing. In Lightroom used Seim Power 4 Workflow (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Gentle Afternoon preset before opening image in Photoshop. Topaz Detail 3 was applied on the whole image to sharpen it up a bit. Nik Viveza 2 was used to add more emphasis to the little blue elephant and the really cool shadow from the pterodactyl-like bird. Then the image was taken into Topaz Black & White effects and one of my presets I created a long time ago was used. For the preset settings, see Image 1 info below. The Sharpen Tool was used on the elephant on a New Layer and some paint touch up was done to smooth everything together. A cloud layer was used (used my free Cloud Brushes No. 11) to add a little sky interest – the sky was cloudless. To get a really cool darker look, Kim Klassen’s free Simpleset Simple 2 black texture set to Screen blend mode at 56% was added and a dark blue Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT + click between layers) to the texture to make it dark blue instead of the black background color.  Image of a sign at Universal City Walk in Orlando, FloridaI have to be honest and say I love to photograph and post-process images of signs, especially unusual and brightly colored ones. Universal Studios Orlando has so many from which to choose. This one is from Universal City Walk that is outside the two large theme parks and has some great restaurants and entertainment offered nightly. In Lightroom used Seim’s Power 4 Workflow Ultra Color preset. In Photoshop a Color Balance and Curves Adjustment Layers were added to sharpen up the image a little. On a stamped layer on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Content Aware Fill was used to get rid of some extraneous objects in the sky. Next Topaz  ReStyle was used – The Bright and Shiny preset was selected and few minor changes were done to the Basic Color sliders and Detail and Structure sliders. Some clouds were lightly added to background using Creative Toons Watercolor Brush 41 (these were free from Photoshop Creative Magazine No. 113) and then a layer mask was added to remove the cloud paint from the signs. A Gaussian Blur set to Radius 3.8 was used on a duplicate layer above to soften the background. The layer mask was copied (ALT+drag to new layer) from the layer below. On another stamped layer, Topaz Black and White Effects was used – started with my House Fronts preset and then did minor adjustments. (For settings, see Image 2 info below.) What made this effect look so good was the use of the Local Adjustments brushes – the Detail Brush was used to sharpen the letter in the signs, Color Brush was used to paint back in the original photo color of the arrows to brighten parts of them, Dodge the Brush was used to soften some of the background details, and the Darken Brush separated the edges of the signs that ran into the busy roller coaster background. The brush settings were all the same and were Size 54, Opacity 0.56, Harness 0, and Edge Aware 0.50. This really perked up the image and gives it less of a “canned plug-in” look. Topaz may do brushes the best of any plug-in as they are very different and easy to apply! The last step added a Camera Raw filter Radial filter to just the inside to brighten it up only a bit. I was so surprised how this image turned out – I keep forgetting how good Black & White Effects really is!
Image of a blue cactus plant in a basketThis beautiful cactus was growing on the porch of a friend of mine and I had to take it’s picture – it looks like a variety of Mother of Pearl Plant, (aka Ghost Plant, Graptopetalum Paraguayense Plant). The color above is actually pretty close to the original – very lovely plant. Anyway, just another quick example of a different look in Black & White Effects. What really worked on this image was adjusting the Quad Tones to new colors – used a dark reddish brown, turquoise, citrus green and light yellow for the different regions. The Adaptive Exposure Protect Shadows brought back the detail in the pot so it did not look too flat. (For settings, see Image 3 info below.) Last step in Photoshop was adding an overlay for a slight vignette effect from a texture by 2 Lil’ Owls Artisan Collection 2/1 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) –  then added a Color Fill Adjustment Layer clipped to the layer (ALT+Click between layers) to change the color to a dark green color. (See my How to Create an Overlay Out of a Texture blog for info on how to do this.)

I would recommend you try using the different brushes in Black & White Effects and see if you can get some creative results. It has a lot of good adjustments – can use low or high opacity brushes and flow, can set the hardness to hard or soft, and has a pretty good Edge Aware capability when needed. This was an area I had not even bothered using much, but I can see some real benefit in learning how to use these tools in the plug-in for that unique look. And the Quad Tone section is really a great addition to give some very interesting tones to the image. I am really trying to pass on some of the little tricks I am learning when I use this plug-in and maybe the settings listed at the end will give a good starting place to create a very different look. Hope all are having a great weekend!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Topaz Black & White Effects and Alien Skin Snap Art Together!
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Black & White Effects 2.1
Sunny Preset for Topaz Black and White Effects
Topaz Black and White Effects Quad Tones Are Great!

Image 1 Topaz B&W Effects Settings: The Vignette setting is one of the areas that made this special effect so dark. The teardrops on the upper right area control Paper Tonal Settings. Here are the settings for all sections: Conversion Basic Exposure 0.02, Brightness 0.02, Boost Blacks 0.71 and Boost Whites 0; Adaptive Exposure 0.62, Regions 34, Protect Highlight and Shadows 0.01, Detail 2.47, Detail Boost 1.04, and PDI checked; Finishing Touches Silver and Paper Tone Tonal Strength 0.19, Balance 0, Silver Hue 42.58, Silver Tone Strength 0.46, Paper Hue 46.48, and Paper Tone Strength 0.48; Quad Tone Color 1 Region 1 (color black), Color 2 Region 67.18 (color R3/G36/B22), Color 3 Region 146.6 (color R214/G223/B238) and Color 4 Region 255.0 (color white); Vignette Strength -0.25, Size 0.01, Transition 0.17, and Curvature 0.50); and Transparency 0.92.

Image 2 Topaz B&W Effects Settings: This is my SJ House Fronts preset adjusted from last week’s image to fit this image. The settings are:  Basic Exposure – Contrast -0.50, Brightness -0.01, Boost Blacks 0.20, and Boost Whites 0.59; Adaptive Exposure 0.86, Regions 18, Protect Highlights 0.02, Protect Shadows 0.10, Detail 1.49, and Detail Boost 1.13 – PDI checked; Color Sensitivity: Red 0.73, Yellow -0.14, Green 0.61, Cyan 0, Blue -0.33, and Magenta 0.02; Color Filter Hue 325.1 and Strength 0.68; Simplify Size 0.08 and Feature Boost 1; and Vignettes – center on image, Strength 1, Size 0.78, Transition 0.59, and Curvature 0.78. In Local Adjustments painted in detail back into the signs using brush size 54, Opacity 0.56, Hardness o and Edge Aware 0.50; painted in color back into parts of arrows and signs to give a more painterly effect using same brush, used Dodge to remove man in lower left edge; and used Burn to sharpen edges of signs from roller coaster edges.

Image 3 Topaz B&W Effects Settings:  I created a SJ Cactus preset with these settings that also contain the new Quad Tone colors:  Conversion – Basic Exposure Contrast 0.08, Brightness -0.11, Boost Blacks -0.27, and Boost Whites 0.21; Adaptive Exposure 0.18, Regions 26, Protect Highlights -0.04, Protect Shadows 0.15, Detail 2.02, and Detail Boost 0.79; Color Sensitivity Red 0, Yellow 0.51, Green -0.33, Cyan 0.50, Blue 0.68, and Magenta 0; and Color Filter Hue 106.0 and Strength 0.67; Creative Effects Softness 0.37, Diffusion 0.74, and Diffusion Transition 0.50; Finishing Touches Silver and Paper Tone – used first tear drop called Selenium above; Quad Tone Color 1 Region (R49/G5/B5) at 0.00, Color 2 Region (R51/G76/B83) at 92.08, Color 3 Region (R106/G127/75) at 128.9, and Color 4 Region (R240/G240/B178) at 255.0; and Transparency Overall set to 1.00. In Local Adjustments used the Detail brush to paint over the foreground flower Brush Size 110, Opacity 0.60, Hardness 0.01, and Edge Aware 0.50; next used the Color brush to paint in more of the blue color in the foreground flower and its stem – set Opacity to 0.20; the Overall Strength for the brushes was set to 0.57.


MORE PLUG-IN AND PAINTING EFFECTS

Image of a candy shop at Harry Potter Land in Universal Studios OrlandoThis week I thought I would just do a quick additional blog to go along with the one last week on Topaz Black & White Effects and Alien Skin Snap Art Together! Alien Skin Snap Art 4. Loved this little candy shop at Harry Potter Land in Universal Studios-Orlando. I am not sure I have seen so much candy in one place in a long time! What I want to emphasize is that you can combine different painting techniques, including free hand painting, to achieve a look that is unique. This image has used the same workflow as last week, but also had additional painting throughout to remove distractions and to add additional tones and colors.

In Lightroom started with Seim’s (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) free Color Fantasies 2 Sampler HDR Classic preset. In Photoshop, followed the basic workflow from my Fun Photoshop Blog linked above, then applied Snap Art’s default oil preset. On a duplicate layer above, Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Black & White Effects plug-in was opened and the Harry Potter Sky preset was applied without the vignette settings (for settings see the last image info in my Fun Photoshop Blog linked above). Topaz Simplify 4 was opened on another layer and the Color Sketch 3 preset was applied – then a black layer mask and just a few areas painted back where I needed a little line effect. Try using different Simplify sketches and adjust the Edge Section sliders to get a nice sketch look. Then in Photoshop the opacity and blend mode can also be changed to get more choices. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added for contrast. A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) layer was created and the Camera Raw filter was opened and two radial filters were used to direct focus to the cones in the center of the image. A New Layer was placed on top and a Photoshop Oil Mixer brush was used to smooth some of the areas around the candy and remove some of the distractions in the ceiling. (These were the Mixer Brush settings used in the Options Bar to get this effect: Both Load and Clean were turned on, Wet 0%, Load 50%, No Mix, Flow 19%, and check Sample All Layers.) Sample colors in image by clicking on the ALT button to get a matching area shown under the dropper, or bring up the Color Picker and sample just one color. Another New Layer used my Chalk Brush as a clone stamp brush. Both these layers were necessary to give the image a true painterly effect, and not just a canned feel. Finally another New Layer was used with the Sharpen Tool to localize sharpening. Pretty much what was done in my last blog.

Image of some pretty pink rosesCreated this effect by combining Alien Skin Snap Art 4’s Impasto Vignette preset and Topaz Simplify 4’s Oil Paint preset, in that order. I had never tried this combination, but I liked the results! Simplify’s layer was set to Screen at 38% opacity and the main focal point flowers were painted out in layer masks on both plug-in layers to direct focus better. 2 Lil Owls Stained 12 texture (see sidebar for my Tidbits Blog for website link) (these are some of her prettiest textures I think) was added on top and just the flowers I wanted showing were painted by in a layer mask using my Chalk brush. Added back some contrast with a Curves Layer, and the free font is Ornatique Regular. On a New Layer set to Overlay, the edges in the flower were painted in with a black brush set to 12% layer opacity to just give a trace where edges needed to be sharpened in the flower. (See The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog.) That was it – Snap Art, Simplify, and painting edges on an Overlay Layer.

Guess what I am learning in my painting adventure this year is that you do not have to go only one way with your painting effects – and if you do not get the results you want using one technique, try another. And use your brushes – they do not have to be in the same media even – to give that unique look. Creating or finding a couple brushes that you can use to get your own style is great to to have – that is what I am trying to do with my simple Chalk brush. The plug-ins can be a great aid to filling up a canvas quickly, but that additional layer on top with your own paint strokes can give the image your personal stamp. I am learning to do this and feel I am slowing getting a good workflow and painting technique in place. It does take a lot of practice to get the feel down but I believe it will be worth it in the end!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
What I Am Learning About Digital Painting
6 Tips for Painting in Photoshop
Painting Effects – Which Ones to Use?


TOPAZ BLACK & WHITE EFFECTS AND ALIEN SKIN SNAP ART TOGETHER!

Image of a three wheeled riding bike at Universal Studios OrlandoThis week I wanted to show some of the results be combining a couple of very popular third party Photoshop plug-ins to get a very painterly or artistic effect with just a little experimenting. This above image was taken at Universal Studios-Orlando – they have some wonderful looking bikes around the park. I particularly like the effect of Topaz (for website see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Black & White Effects and Alien Skin’s Snap Art together, although this first image did not use both. The above image started with one of the free Seim’s Color Fantasies 2 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) using Classic Holga preset in Lightroom. In Photoshop Topaz Detail 3 was used to really sharpen up the lines of the bike by adding a black layer mask and just painting the bike back in in white. (Used a very subtle sharpening preset I use all the time on my images with these settings are just: Detail Overall Medium Details 0.38 and Large Details 0.16 and Tone Contrast 0.30 and Shadows -0.01.) On a duplicated layer Nik Viveza 2 was used to even out the tone and color with several control points. Next on another duplicated layer Topaz Black and White Effects was applied. (Here are my settings: Basic Exposure Contrast -0.33, Brightness -0.01, Boost Blacks and Boost Whites 0.25; Adaptive Exposure 0.86, Regions 18, Protect Highlights 0.02, Protect Shadows 0.10, Detail 2.50, and Detail Boost 1.11, and check PDI box; Color Sensitivity Red 0.15, Yellow -0.14, Green 0.47, Cyan 0, Blue 0.31, and Magenta 0; Color Filter Hue 325.1 and Strength 0.27; Creative Effects Simplify Size 0.12 and Feature Boost 1; Silver and Paper Tone Tonal Strength 0.40, Balance 0.30, Silver Hue 0, SilverTone Strength 0.50, Paper Hue 4.00, and Paper Tone Strength 0.25; Vignette – need to adjust center, Strength 1.00, Size 0.71, Transition 0.44, and Curvature 0.55; and Transparency Overall 1.00.) This is a great plug-in that most people use for black and white image, but I like the Transparency turned on at 100% which adds back roughly 50% of the color in the image. By using the individual Detail, Darkening and Color brushes on the image,  a very painterly effect can be obtained. Try experimenting with the brushes in the Topaz products – can get some great effect with them! Back on another duplicated layer of the Nik Viveza 2 layer, Topaz Simplify’s Pencil Hard II preset was applied, moved to the top of the stack, and set to Overlay blend mode at 26% opacity. This gives it a more illustrative feel which I was aiming to get. On a New Layer on top, the vignette and some of the colors were evened out out by sampling in the image using my Chalk Brush (Adobe Chalk Brush 60 with a Shape Dynamics set to 19% in Brush Panel). The last step involved adding a Curves Adjustment Layer to add back contrast to the image. Sometimes all the different manipulations tend to make the image lose its contrast.
Image of a Lost Continent Eatery at Universal Studios OrlandoThis image of a small water fountain at an eatery in The Lost Continent at Universal Studios in Orlando just caught my eye – loved the tiles. Very similar settings in Topaz Black & White Effects were used. On a New Layer above the plug-in layer, the chalk brush was used to even out the vignette, instead of using the plug-ins brushes. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4 was applied using the Detailed Watercolor preset. On a New Layer, the Clone Stamp Brush was set to my Chalk Brush as used above, and at 60% brush opacity, it was cloned to add a few brush strokes into the areas so it looks like a really painted effect. On a New Layer on top, some small paint spatters were added back lightly into the image to give it just a little bit of a realistic feel and set to 70% layer opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was place on top.
Image of the rooftops at Harry Potter Land at Universal Studios OrlandoOne final image is of the Rooftops at Harry Potter Land at Universal Studios Orlando. Had so much fun taking images there! This image used Topaz Detail 3 with my detail preset from above, then I added a cloud since the sky was a rather flat blue using my Cloud 1 from my free set of Cloud Brushes. Next Snap Art 4 was opened and this time the Impasto Vignette was applied. On a stamped layer Topaz Black & White Effects was applied using a preset I called Harry Potter Sky (Here are the settings if you want them: Conversion Basic Exposure: Contrast -0.04, Brightness 0.09. Boost Blacks 0.29, and Boost Whites -0.24; Adaptive Exposure 26, Regions 26, Protect Highlights and Protect Shadows 0, Detail 1.07, and Detail Boost 0.70; Color Filter Hue 63.87 and Strength 1.00; Quad Tone Color 1 Region 15.08 – R1 G1 B12; Color 2 Region 143.9 – color R63 G78 B85; Color 3 Region R216 G211 B129; and Color 4 Region R255 G254 B237; Vignette – Vignette Strength -0.11, Vignette Size 0.68, Vignette Transition 0.93, and Vignette Curvature 0.75; and Transparency Overall 0.85.) Really gives the more spooky look that I wanted for this image. Next a Curves Adjustment Layer for additional contrast. The last step used the Photoshop’s Camera Raw filter using the same Radial Filter effect to add the largest tower. Lots of fun to do!

I hope you can tell that with just a little experimenting you can get a very painterly feel on an image. And try a different brush, instead of just a round soft brush, to use when cloning – this can really add a painterly feel to the image and the clone effect is not nearly so evident. It is so much fun to try out different presets and sliders and different plug-in combinations to get something very different. Hope you try mixing up your plug-ins and see if you can get some very artistic looks too!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
A Nice Illustrative Look
Get Great Results with Alien Skin Snap Art 3 and Topaz ReStyle Together!!
Can You Get a Painting Look With a Photoshop Action? Jack Davis Can!


WHAT ABOUT THIS FOCAL POINT ISSUE?

Painted image of a cafe in Edinburgh, ScotlandThis week I am going to discuss an issue that has always been a problem for me, and that is – how to find the focal point of my image, and then how to emphasize it once you know where it is. Darren Rowse, in a short blog called Using Focal Points in Photography, sums it up when he says “The reason a focal point is important is that when you look at an image your eye will generally need a ‘resting place’ or something of interest to really hold it. Without it you’ll find people will simply glance at your shots and then move on to the next one.” In other words, if you want people to look at your image seriously and not just consider it a snapshot, you better have a good, and if possible, interesting, focal point.

The image above was a good example of a focal point issue I had. This is an image of an outdoor cafe in Edinburgh, Scotland, with just a lot going on in it – loved everything about the scene and was not sure where to place the emphasis. (Click here to see my initial posting of photo on Flickr – notice that your eye goes everywhere when viewed – no obvious focal point in the image.) In the above painted rendition, I decided to draw the eye to the white jacket the woman had which was not so obvious in the first posting image. In this case by whitening just a little bit of clothing, it was enough to create a nice focal point. Also, the Camera Raw Filter’s Radial Filter helped provide the desired results with the subtle vignettes it provided. (See Image 1 Info at end of blog for settings used, including the Radial Filter.)

How to find your Focal Point

Deciding where the focal point of your image should be is the first thing to do before any post-processing is done to an image. You have to know where you want people to look to get a good result! Melissa Gallo is the major champion of focal points – she is both a traditional and digital artist and I believe she is the first person to really help me understand what a focal point is. She teaches a video class called Painting with Photoshop Workshop where she explains this concept very thoroughly. (I highly recommend your getting Melissa’s class if you are at all interested in creating digital art – and she provides lots of  her beautiful textures for this class.) I learned these two tips are very useful for finding the focal point.  First decide what was so important that it made you take the picture? – that should be your focal point.  I tend to take a lot of images where I have not put a lot of thought into why I took it. I now understand that I am just taking memory snapshots, not something with major intention behind them. That is not necessarily a bad thing, and I do get some shots for creating nice photos or art, but overall the results are not good. Melissa’s second bit of advice was to “Squint at your images. If the focal point doesn’t stand out while squinting then something is wrong.” That is the area in the image to work on – you want to drive the viewer’s eye to the focal point. In the above image it was the people that attracted me – although beautiful buildings are in the background and there is the interesting signage, the people are the main story for me. And by painting more of a white color in the ladies shirt, it made the focal point a little more apparent. By squinting, the white does stand out to your eye.

A few good references on this subject are listed here. A most helpful one covers this topic in a lot more detail than my blog and is from Digital Camera World called Using Focal Points in Photography: How to Get Perfect Composition Every Time – check it out for some really good info. Another quick resource blog is The Importance of a Focal Point in Photography by by Wayne Turner. Also this short blog shows how Leonardo da Vinci developed his focal points using color, contrast and structure – see n-sane.net’s blog called Focal Point.
Image of guy serving Butter Beer at Harry Potter Land, Universal Studios-Orlando

Some easy ways to emphasize the Focal Point

There are lots of ways to draw focus, but I really like the Radial Filter in the Camera Raw Filter. Frequently I use this as my last step to add a nice subtle vignette to emphasize the focal point in my image. The Camera Raw filter’s Radial Filter is one of the biggest improvements that came with Photoshop CC.  This can also be done in CS6 by going back and forth between Lightroom and Photoshop, or by using Russell Brown’s script (see my Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script blog) that let’s you open Camera Raw on an individual layer in earlier versions – and CS6 does have the Radial Filter available. The Radial Filter appears to be able to replace a lot of the other ways used to de-emphasize or emphasize a photo, and does it really quickly. All the Basic sliders are available and several radial filters can be placed all over your image so it is fairly easy to draw the eye to the focus point exactly the way you want.

The above image is of a man serving the best tasting Butterbeer from a street cart at Harry Potter Land at Universal Studios-Orlando.  His interesting face was my main focal point. Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Detail 3 was used to add just a little sharpening, although the Sharpen Tool on a New Layer or Camera Raw Filter’s Sharpening Panel could have been used – Detail is just so quick and does a great job with this so I tend to use it most for sharpening (my settings are in the Image 2 info at end of blog). Next two Radial Filters from the Camera Raw Filter – one for just his upper body where I want to draw attention and want the vest detail to show up, and another one for the rest of the image. Since the red on the truck was so overpowering, by using the outside radial filter the color could be slightly desaturated so the man shows up better. Also the detail in his shirt could be emphasized some with the inside radial filter. (See all settings for Image 2 at end of blog.) A Gaussian Blur Filter was added to a stamped version on top and the Radius set to 4.8. Then a black layer mask was added and areas around his face were blurred slightly, like the woman’s face and parts of the background. This is also an easy way to draw the eye to the focal point.

A couple quick tips on using the Radial Filter are listed here. Be sure to make your layer a Smart Object before opening up the Camera Raw Filter so that you can go back and adjust the Radial Filter settings if needed (Right click on the layer and select Convert to Smart Object.) A Smart Object and a Smart Filter are the same thing so either one will work. To duplicate a radial filter in Lightroom or Camera Raw, just hold the ALT+CTRL buttons and then drag the first dot so a second dot appears – next be sure to change the radial button setting to Outside or Inside if needed. By using this technique, you can cover the whole image to localize the effect you want. Don’t forget that you can place several radial filters in an image. The filter can be duplicated to apply the same effect twice to the same area. Sometimes you may just want to add or subtract color in a certain area and then go back and set another one to do something else, like sharpen or add clarity. This is a really versatile tool.
Image taken of a store display at Universal Studios Orlando
This image was taken in a store at Universal Studios Orlando. I loved all the beautiful shapes and colors in this image, but it a really good example of trying to pick the correct focal point. I tried to make the three pots on the lower left the focal point – still not sure I succeeded, but I believe they do stand out more than the rest of the image. I tried to follow the color, contrast and structure principle to emphasize the focal point. To me there is a question of exactly how far do you go to emphasize a focal point when there is so much to see in the image? When I “squint,” my eye does rest on the orange colored pot, so I believe I succeeded in emphasizing the correct area for my focal point. (See Image 3 for info post-processing.)

I hope I was able to help anyone else who has problems figuring out where the focal point is in an image and then what to do to emphasized it. It is not an easy topic. The above related blog links should help if you need more info on this. I will continue working hard on emphasizing my focal points in my photography and Photoshop. Have a good week!……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Storytelling with Your Images

Post Processing Info

Image 1 : In Lightroom some basic changes and Dave DuChemin’s Classic India Split Tone preset was applied. Some major clean with removing cars and people that you can see in the original linked above on a New Layer. Three stamped layers were used, one after the application of another filter, for each plug-in.  The image was actually painted in using three of my favorite plug-ins: Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Detail 3 with my abstract setting (Detail Overall – Small Details, Medium Details and Large Details sliders all at -1.00; Color Temperature -0.27, Tint 0.34, Saturation -0.65, and Saturation Boost 0.21.) which gave the image a soft pinkish smooth look that was kind of interesting by itself; Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4 using Oil Paint Thick Paint preset with three Detail Masks to add detail back to the people and plants a little bit, Adding some Saturation and Contrast to the Colors tab, and using the Canvas default texture; and Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReStyle’s Cypress and Tan preset with no changes and applied at 66% layer opacity. The last step involved creating two Radial Filters in the Camera Raw Filter – Outside used Exposure -0.40, Contrast -41, Shadows +42, Clarity -44, and Saturation +6; and Inside, which was placed very close around the people sitting at the table, had Exposure +1.00, Contrast +71, Highlights +20, Shadows +74, Clarity +19, and Saturation +48. The Feather for both settings was set at 89%. Back in Photoshop the Camera Raw layer was set to 73% layer opacity.

Image 2: In Lightroom added Seim Power Workflow (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link to free sampler with this preset) Super HDR X preset that was applied at 79% using The Fader add-on. Opened in Photoshop and Topaz Detail 3 using a very subtle preset I use all the time on my images (my settings are just: Detail Overall Medium Details 0.38 and Large Details 0.16 and Tone Contrast 0.30 and Shadows -0.01) were applied on a duplicate layer. The image was turned into a Smart Object and the Camera Filter was opened. Two Radial Filters were used – one to emphasize the server, and one for the rest of the image. Outside used Exposure -0.60, Contrast +45, Highlights -12, Shadows +21, Clarity -73, Saturation -31, and Sharpness -72; and Inside, which was placed very close around the mans upper body and really brought out the detail in the vest, had Exposure +2.10, Contrast +47, Highlights +51, Shadows +93, Clarity 0, and Saturation +5. The Feather for both settings was set at 89%. Back in Photoshop the Camera Raw layer was set to 73% layer opacity. The last step involved created a stamped layer on top and adding a Gaussian Blur with a Radius set to 4.8 – a black mask was applied and just the lady and detail around the man’s face was painted back blurred using a 30% opacity white brush on the mask. I felt like this area was just too sharp and took away from the man’s face or the focal point.

Image 3: In Lightroom Seim’s Color Fantasies 2 HDR Classic preset was applied (another free sampler to download). In Photoshop the background layer was duplicated and set to Screen blend mode to lighten image as it was very dark. OnOne (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Perfect Effects 8 plug-in was applied next. Stacked these layers in the plug-in: Split Tone, Detail Adjustment Brush painting in the three bottles on center left, Glow Adjustment Brush painting in just the three bottles on center left, Sunshine Glow, Big Softy Vignette set to Subtle with Size set to 7, Center placed on the three bottle in center left. Trying to make the bottles the focal point. Back in Photoshop another Camera Raw smart object was opened and two radial filters as before were created – emphasized the three pots in lower left. The Sharpen Tool was further used to help draw the eye. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was used to add more color into just the three pots. On a stamped layer on top a Gaussian Blur set to 3.8 was applied. In a Layer Mask, just the pots were painted back leaving the rest of the image slightly soft. This is another way to draw the eye to the focal point. That was about all I could do. Vignetting, Color,Sharpening, and some selective Blurring.


WHAT I AM LEARNING ABOUT DIGITAL PAINTING

Painted image of neighboring dachas in BelarusThis week’s blog is sponsored by the word “Confused” – I can’t seem to make up my mind how I want to paint digitally! I do one version, then try it differently, and realize I like both version, but they are very different. And I am finding out that I can’t seem to settle on one program or plug-in – sometimes I have to use everything but the “kitchen sink” to get the results I like! Therefore, this week I am just going to share a few things I have painted recently, do a little image comparison, and explain what I learned from each image. Maybe you might get a few ideas that will help your creative process, and let me know of any other suggestions.

Painter and Photoshop

I like the above photo of neighboring dachas on a dirt road near Minsk in Belarus. This image was basically painted in Corel Painter. The brushes used were created from a short Corel video called Reason #2 – Cloning Feature by Melissa Gallo.  The basic colors and shapes were cloned in roughly following her basic steps. The image was then brought into Photoshop where Melissa Gallo’s Painted Texture Embossed Fabric Warm Paper was set to Color blend mode. Just the dachas and greenery along the trail were painted back. This gave a beautiful yellow orange feel to the sky and looked pretty nice already! On a New Layer on top a Cool Grunge Mixer brush (碎块) in Blur’s Good Brush 5.1 Pro set (a wonderful huge free download of all kinds of Photoshop brushes including several really nice Mixer brushes!) was used in a beige-white color to add some texture mainly to the sky. Also used this brush, 透明水色 – 2(正片叠底), to add more grunge on another layer. On a New Layer on top of this, Fay Sirkis’s (a Corel Painter Master) Fays #2 tap n blend brush (one of my favorite mixer brushes – if you are a Kelby One member, her fabulous painting brushes are all downloadable for free from her webinars posted on the site) was used  to clean up some of the painted edges from Painter. What really popped this image was a Selective Color Adjustment Layer that was added next and just the Reds Colors were changed to give a more pinkish tint to the overall image. A little frame I had created in Painter previously was added to finish off the image.

What I learned from this image: It seems that at my stage of learning, I am still heavily relying on Photoshop. My results when Painter is used has a much more abstract feel to them. I think it is okay to use both programs to get that final result if you are comfortable going back and forth between the programs. Also, you have got to create some brushes that you can use easily. Otherwise it can be overwhelming. Melissa’s Painter brushes were a great place for me to start, then adjust them to get the right stroke effect. I will add that Fay Sirkis is another artist with fabulous brushes and I use them a lot.

Photoshop, Alien Skin Snap Art 4, and Topaz ReStyle

Image of the dirt road a some dachas in BelarusI tried to create a different painterly effect with the same image as the first one. I did a lot of experimenting with the image to get this more “photorealistic” look to the image. I like the results, but it took a long time to get it the way I liked. First in Lightroom Seim Power Workflow 4 (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog Sampler Super HDR X preset (free download that contains some really nice presets) was used to brighten up the image first. In Photoshop some clean up was done to remove the electrical lines and a box, and flowers were copied and added to the bottom front. The Warp Tool was used to get a nice effect. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) everything I could think of was added. Two Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer, two layer textures, Alien Skin Snap Art 4, Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReStyle, Nik Viveza 2, two Curves Adjustment Layers, a Selective Color Adjustment Layer, and a Blender Mixer Brush layer. Whew! At least I got to experiment a lot to decide which tools and plug-ins work best with my painterly style. Lots of fun!

What I learned from this image: You do not have to do a lot of painting to get a really nice painterly look in an image. The plug-ins worked nicely instead of a lot of hand painting – just one layer used the Mixer Brush to clean up a few things. But beware, if you really want an overall artistic feel to an image, it will probably require some initial work in Painter.

Photoshop

Painted image of the entrance to Dr. Seuss LandThis was fun to paint! The colors and lines were so bold and beautiful in this sign indicating the entrance to Universal Studios Orlando. And it was relatively easy to do! Basically in Lightroom added Seim Power Workflow (free sampler link with this preset) Magic Ugly Shade Fixer preset and Dave Delnea’s LR Develop Presets Backlight Vertical Right preset (love both these presets). Then in Photoshop Melissa Gallo’s Painted Textures May Garden was added on top of image with a layer mask. Using my Chalk Brush (Adobe Chalk Brush 60 with a Shape Dynamics set to 19%) set to black at 30% opacity brush, the major parts of the image were painted back – actually quite a bit was painted back. The rest involved using the Chalk Brush as a regular brush, Mixer Brush, Eraser Brush and Clone Stamp Brush to get it looking like I wanted it to look. Just be sure to save the altered regular brush to your Brush Presets so you can select it for the other types of brushes. When finished, the Camera Raw filter was opened up and a Radial Filter was used to direct the view and lighten up the focal point, the red door.

What I learned from this image: One favorite brush can do a lot in an image, especially in Photoshop. Find one you like and practice using it. I am liking my Chalk Brush more and more as I become better at painting.

Painter, Photoshop and Topaz ReStyle

Painted image of Dr. Seuss Land sign at Universal Studios OrlandoWhat I really love about Painter is that the colors seem to be so much more vivid which gives your images a bit more of a painterly appeal. I am still trying to get comfortable with a more abstract feel to my Painter images. This image follows the top blog image’s workflow very closely and used the same Painter brushes. The results in Painter are never what I really like so the painted file goes into Photoshop. The detail is added back in just a little and the Mixer Brush is used to clean up my Painter messes. This time Topaz ReStyle was used to get a little better color palette using the Peach Prairie preset. That was about all that was done. This time I did not paint all the way to the edge in Painter so I have a naturally occurring frame.

What I learned from this image: Painter does have better color and brushes – hands down! It has a large learning curve, but once again, find a couple brushes that work for you and stick to those until you get the hang of what you are doing. That is what I am trying to concentrate on. It is so tempting to try and learn everything about every type of media and brush, but you really need to find one that suits you to start using. I find I am leaning towards the oils and pastels, and will learn watercolor when I am more accustomed to Painter.

Photoshop and Alien Skin Snap Art 4

Image of silk flowers post-processed with Alien Skin Snap Art 4Since this image of some silk flowers had a lot of soft background color in it (actually emphasized nicely in Lightroom first by using Seim’s Power 4 Workflow Sunday Cross preset and Dave Delnea’s LR Develop Backlight Vertical Right preset), the Snap Art 4 plug-in was used to add paint in the area quickly. The Oil Paint Abstract preset was modified by setting Photorealism slider set back to 21 so it does not look too much like a photo and the Colors Saturation set to 46 to add more color to the image. On New Layers above the plug-in layer, an Oil Pastel Mixer brush was used to paint over the flowers and to add some some more random colorful strokes to the image. More details were painted back into the image using the original image as a guide. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used to add some contrast back into the image and John Derry’s Varnish Satin Light layer style was added to the top layer to give a more painterly finish.

What I learned from this image: You do not have to have everything perfect – it sometimes looks better to have the color but not the lines to give a strong feeling to an image. It was a little scary putting bright blues and purples on the flowers, but it gives a more artsy feel to the image than what the plug-in did – and it lets you put your own twist on the picture. Now the viewer can use their imagination to see what was really going on with the image. Needless to say, I am still working on this concept.

Painter and Topaz ReStyle

Image of silk flowers post-processed in Corel Painter This final image started the same as the one above, but this time the image was painted completely in Corel Painter. First the source image was changed and set Adjust Color to Hue Shift -2, Sat 84, and Value 62. Melissa Gallo’s same brushes from Reason #2 Cloning Feature video were used – her Medium Bristle Rough brush, Coarse Sergeant Brush Jitter and Luscious Oil, used mainly as clone brushes. There is nothing wrong with using cloning brushes in you digital art, especially if you are actually doing the brushstrokes – you really are just sampling color and positioning objects from the photo. The Painter image was brought back into Photoshop where a little clean up was done on a separate layer with the Chalk brush. A Levels Adjustment Layer was used to adjust contrast. Then Topaz ReStyle’s Snow Cover preset was applied which added a little structure to just the flowers in the Basic layer mask for the plug-in. The image had a much softer lighter feel to it now. I am always amazed how different the images can turn out!

What I learned from this image: It is okay to clone – just do your own strokes. And add some of your own color into the image. It does not have to look just like the original photo – in fact it is probably more interesting if it does not. Many famous artists added different elements than what they were actually seeing while painting.

That said, I do believe that both programs will probably be in my workflow for digital painting since in Photoshop I do know what to do if I really mess things up! I still have problems getting brushes to paint on separate layers in Painter, which to me seems so necessary with my Photoshop background. There are ways around it, but you do have to spend a lot of time researching this. I plan on discussing this topic later in another blog. I hope you enjoyed some of the experiences I am having with my painting venture this year. Hope you are having as much fun learning about it as I am!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Some Pros and Cons of Corel Painter (And Why I Still Love Photoshop)
New Years Resolution – Painter and Photoshop Together!


HOW ABOUT THAT UPDATE TO NIK ANALOG EFEX PRO 2?

Image of a horse in St. Augustine, Florida using Nik Analog Efex Pro2NIK has updated Analog Efex Pro to the 2 version and kept it free for all Nik collection owners. I am loving the results already. This easy to use plug-in is now even better!

The New Stuff: Nik has added several 6 new cameras called Tool Combinations – B&W, Color Cast, Motion, Subtle Bokeh, Double Exposure, and Multilens – each with presets. The biggest improvement is the addition of control points. The control point sliders for the Basic Adjustments section includes all 4 sliders for easy localized adjustments. Light Leaks, Dirt & Scratches and Photo Plate all have Control Points with a strength slider so the effect can be removed from certain object or areas. Motion Blur has an interesting item called Add Blur Point that allows you to set the angle of the blur and the strength by dragging the blue dot around or using sliders, and several points can be added. Double Exposure is another interesting filter – can either just click in your image and you get a square that superimposes your image on the original. By dragging out the corners of the square, the scale can be change and hovering near a side of the square, the rotation can be changed on the superimposed image.  You can also add your own image to superimpose – some really creative possibilities with this one. One of my favorite new features is the Multilens which allows you to divide your image into various different configurations (see last image)! The Lens Distortion Tool has a new Defocus slider which can be used to shift the image out of focus. The Bokeh Tool now contains both the elliptical style and a new linear style which acts like a Tilt Shift filter. There is now an “I’m Feeling Lucky” preset at the end of each Tool Combination – when clicked it completely randomizes all the preset filter settings from the selected Tool Combination. This is different from the Vary button at bottom of the right panel which makes just subtle changes to only the settings of the individual filter that is open (hold SHIFT while clicking to get greater variation). More choices are in the Dust and Lint styles. In the Film Type section all the styles have names which is helpful and two new groups, B&W Neutral with 15 styles and B&W Toned with 12 styles, have been added. Frames now has a very handy Scale slider and added 10 new styles to the Lightbox frame choice. I think that about covers it – a pretty big update!

The horse image was taken in St. Augustine, Florida on a recent beautiful day! First applied Topaz (see Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Detail 3’s Soft Dreamy preset on the background before taking the image into the updated Nik Analog Efex Pro2 – both are favorite plug-ins I use all the time. I wanted to show what a nice effect you can get without actually making the image look too vintage. Three control points were set for the Basic Adjustments section which included the Detail Extractor slider. Individual control points can be set throughout the image, just like in the Nik Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro plug-ins – and when the layer is converted to a Smart Object before entering the plug-in, the control points are saved and can be adjusted later. Got to love this plug-in! Four control point in Light Leaks were added – only the texture strength can be adjusted and you cannot add a different light leak to the image, but it is still better to have the localized option. For this image a Lens Vignette, Film Type, and Levels & Curves were also selected. A New Layer was placed on top and the Sharpen Tool was used to just sharpen up the horse face and details. Last step involved adding my free Thin Double-Edges layer style – sampling colors from the image for the border.

Image of a roller coaster at Universal Studios-Orlando with Nik Analog Efex Pro 2 appliedThis roller coaster image was actually very much in-focus but I really liked the effect I got from using the Analog Efex Pro 2 update. This wonderful roller coaster at Universal Studios-Orlando is called Dragon Challenge Roller Coaster (for You Tube Video click here). The photo used Basic Adjustments, Bokeh to add some background blur, Motion Blur and two control points were added for more blur on the left track, and Direction Blur applied on the roller coaster, Light Leak set to 54% Strength, a slight light Lens Vignette, and Film Type using the Nikko2 preset – slider set towards Faded.

Image of view from Castillo de San Marcos in St. AugustineThis image is a view of the Montanzas River (technically part of the Intracoastal Waterway or ICW) from Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine, Florida. The settings used were: the Basic Adjustments with a control point on the trees to sharpen and brighten them even more; Lens Distortion set all the way left to Pincushion; Bokeh with the new Tilt Shift style set vertically over the Palm Trees and using a Blur Strength of 22% for the rest of the image; Dirt & Scratches Organic style with Strength at 26% just to get some vintage look, and a control point on the trees so they are still the main area of focus; Lens Vignette to darken edges slightly; Film Type using the new B&W toned Mijet2 preset style; Frames with Scale at 76%; and Levels and Curves where a Luminosity curve was created. I do not believe there is any other plug-in that can give this type of vintage feel to a photo so easily and quickly.

Image of a beach in Hawaii using Nik Analog Efex Pro 2 multilens effectThis last image shows what the Multilens filter can do – I really liked the results. This is a Puako Bay beach on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island in Hawaii that has been split and enlarged in sections with different focal points. Very different result and it was easy to do with this plug-in. The filters used were Basic Adjustments, Light Leaks, Film Type, Multilens, Frames, and Levels & Curves. It really looks like a vintage postcard to me. Note that if the Multilens images look in the wrong order, just click in the section and drag the little square around to set it correctly. Drag corners to scale and click near edge of square to rotate – pretty simple to and and lots of fun!

I loved Nik Analog Efex Pro when it first came out and I totally love Nik Analog Efex Pro 2! If you like a touch of the vintage feel, and it is really popular right now, this plug-in will probably give you any look you like. It is definitely in my top 5 plug-ins. If you have the Nik collection already, it is a free upgrade – just download the trial and it will automatically be added to your software for you. Okay, now I must get back to working on some more vintage images!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Nik Analog Efex Pro
Topaz ReStyle with Corel Painter & Nik Analog Efex Pro


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