Anything Photoshop or Photography



Image of a Malaysian Tiger at the Jacksonville ZooMy blog last week was a really technical one so this week I am going to talk about how to make eyes pop in an image. I have been so confused by the various techniques I see. Therefore I decided to try out a bunch of them – in fact I tried out 17 different methods, and I am sure there are many more out there. Some were older techniques and some newer, some are for images with good looking eyes to start with and some have no details and need more work. But overall there are many, many choices. This blog directs you to just a few of these techniques I considered to be the best. Since I am not a portrait retoucher, these are just the ones I would use on my personal work. The tiger above used the Exposure Adjustment Layer described below with a Sharpen Tool layer.

The main image I used for trying all these different techniques is one by Morgan McDonald at Unsplash called Portrait of a Young Lady – I just love this image, but the eyes are totally dark without obvious details so I thought it would make a good image to use. I am really not sure what color her original eye color is so different colors were used in the examples. The other image is a portrait of a family member who has beautiful brown eyes. I am finding most people have brown eyes which seem to be harder to enhance. Also, I tend to put all the eye layers in a group so they can be turned off and on and reduced in strength easier. So here we go:

The Best Overall Eye Sharpening Techniques

  • Exposure Adjustment Layer technique. I have been using this technique by Calvin Hollywood (a famous German Photographer and Photoshop expert) for a long time. It is by far the easiest and gives the best results for just a regular image with eyes that are relatively bright and sharp. It takes just a couple minutes to do, but is not so good on darker eyes. Just select the eye irises – I like to use the Quick Mask to select eyes since it is such a small area – make sure the brush opacity is at 100% and just press Q, paint in the eyes with the overlay color, and press Q to show the dotted line selection. Then choose the Exposure Adjustment Layer and the eyes will appear as white in a black layer mask. Now adjust the Exposure slider (equal to the Highlights in the eye), Offset (equal to Midtones), and Gama Correction (Shadows) to get a nice look. See my blog called How to Do a Quick Eye Sharpening in Photoshop for more info on this. To sharpen the eyes even a little more, add a New Blank Layer on top; then select the Sharpen Tool set to 30% Strength and paint over the irises. Below this subtle effect can be seen mainly in the overall brightness of the eye and eye color.

Image of Exposure Adjustment Layer example

  • Shadow & Highlights technique. This one surprised me as being this good! The tip is from Lindsay Adler, a famous photographer and retoucher, from a no longer available Scott Kelby Nappathon You Tube. It is very simple to do: Select the eyes and place them on a new layer (CTRL+J) like in first technique. Need to convert layer to a Smart Object (right click on layer and select in menu) so it can be adjusted later if needed. Go to Image -> Adjustments -> Shadows & Highlights command and set only Highlights amount set to around 70 for brown eyes and only the Shadows to 59 for blue eyes. If more of a color enhancement is needed, clip (press the first icon at bottom of adjustment layer) a Hue/Saturation  Adjustment Layer to the eye layer so only the eyes are affected in the image. Set to Colorize and add more color into iris if needed. This is a great way to change the brown eyes to blue or vice versa. Can add a Curves Adjustment Layer to add more contrast or use Gaussian Blur if too sharp. For the blonde, only the Shadows and Highlights command was needed and it really made her eyes pop. For the darker eye image, a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was needed and clipped on top (ALT+click between layers to clip) but it does not look bad. There are other methods that will work better for on them.

Example of Shadows & Highlights results

  • Selective Color Adjustment Layer technique. Another surprise here and very easy to do – tip from KelbyOne‘s 100 Top Tips Magazine from a couple years ago. Select Eyes (I used the Quick Mask Tool as described above) and exclude the pupils. Load a Selective Color Adjustment Layer which puts the selection in the mask and everything else is blacked out. Change the blend mode to Linear Dodge (Add) and then adjust the intensity of the effect with a layer mask. In the Selective Color panel, set the Colors to Neutrals in the drop-down and just adjust the sliders. Very simple. I added a New Layer for the Sharpen Tool at 30% Strength and Sample All Layer checked to bring out the sharpness a little on both images. I found this technique does not work quite as well on the darker eyes, but still worked okay. For the blonde, the detail was just a little less striking than the Shadow & Highlights technique, but it was pretty close so I am not showing it. I would not hesitate to use this technique on an image.

The Best Techniques for Eyes with No Details

These are for the not bright and clean eye images. The second technique looked very good on the blonde image also, but helped the dark eye image much more, so I placed it here.

  • Zoom Noise Eyes Effects: Glyn Dewis, one my favorite Photoshop experts out of Britain, recently created a really good video called It’s All about the Eye – 3 Photoshop Techniques where he presented this technique and it  worked great on the dark eyed image. As you could see, the dark eyes have very little detail so it really needs to be created in the eyes. I thought this technique is totally ingenious. You can get all the steps in the video – he even tells you where in the video this technique starts – so if you are interested, check it out. It involves using the Radial Blur filter in PS. I found this technique had to be done twice, once for each eye, to look right. On the image below, the detail was so sharp that a Gaussian Blur filter set to 1 pixel was used to soften the lines a little. I was totally astonished at how natural this looks

Image of Eyes with detail added

    • Curves Adjustment Layers technique. Check out this older B&W Photography Class on Udemy by David Nightingale that is really good called The Art of Black and White Photography-Enhancing Your Subject’s Eyes – it can be found usually for $10 and has 6 hours of instruction. This may be the best Black and White Eye brightening technique that also works on color images. Basically the technique uses one Curves Adjustment Layer to over-lighten the image, then painting back the eyes in a black layer mask and using a low opacity brush to paint a little lightness around the eyes. Then select just the eyes and open a second Curves Adjustment Layer to add contrast back into the eyes (layer mask will be black and eyes will be white in mask). Can further add color back into the eyes by clipping a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to the top Curves Adjustment Layer and adjusting the sliders. An easier way is to add the color is to choose the Green Channel in the RGB drop-down menu and pull up and left on the curve – the eyes turn green! Change to the Blue Channel and hover over the eye in the image with the Target Adjustment Layer (TAT) on upper left side of Curves Panel – see where the dot shows up on curve and pull up from there.  To get the eyes Brown both the Red Channels and Blue Channels had to manipulated and it does not look as good. The eyes set to a green color using this method is extremely striking I think – I may have over-killed this effect a bit.

Curves Adjustment Layers example

More Sharpening Techniques

  • A different popular technique which is similar to the above involves adding two Curves Adjustment Layers and just changing the blend modes to Screen for the irises and Multiply for the pupils. Adjust the layer opacities afterwards. On some images this works just great.
  • On a New Layer try painting in white on top of the irises – then set the layer to Overlay blend mode – duplicate it if not bright enough and reduce the top layer opacity.
  • Another technique is applying the Dodge Tool on a duplicate layer of the image – just paint in the irises using 12% Strength and Midtones. Adjust the layer opacities as needed. This technique did not work at all on the darker eye image.
  • Several experts think the fairly recently improved Sharpen Tool set to a Strength of 30% and Sample All Layers now works really good for eye sharpening.
  • Try using the Unsharp Filter with the Amount around 100 and Threshold set to 3 and apply it several times – then use a black layer mask and paint back the sharpness to what is needed.

Just remember that you can do several things with these different techniques. Try applying two different methods if needed. Put a New Blank Layer on top of the eyes and use the Sharpen Tool to get an even better look sometimes. Try adding a different Adjustment Layer on top of a single layer group and see what it does. Use the Blend If sliders in the layer styles.

My bottom line – I will continue to use the Exposure Adjustment Layer as it really ranks right up there as the best around. Definitely will use David Nightingale’s technique on black and white images and sometimes on regular ones if the image needs a little lightening lift around the eyes. For dark eyes with little detail, definitely try the Zoom Noise Eyes Effect first. I know there are several techniques I have missed but this seems to be a pretty large batch. I hope this will help you next time you get stuck with the eyes in an image. Maybe one of the techniques will work when another does not.

Try putting some of these techniques to use on one of your images and see which one you like best. I was pretty surprised that the one I had been using all along was the best for me. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd



Image of an egret at the beachI have not always used the Color Lookup Adjustment Layer. Now I am using them a lot in my workflow to give images a little extra color boost or feeling that is often lacking in digitized images. The image above used one as a last step – it brought back the warm beach feel I wanted – I had gotten a little off-track while creating the image. (See Image 1 at end of blog for additional steps and credits.)

Up front, I want to say, do not worry about all the details that even I have presented below. If you do not want to make a Lookup Table (LUT) file, just enjoy the large selection of files Photoshop provides in the drop-down menus and enjoy – that is mainly what I do. But if you like a combination of adjustment layer settings, go ahead and create a LUT file so this effect can quickly be applied on another image. When you click on the Color Lookup Adjustment Layer, there are three different categories (3DLUT File, Abstract, and Device Link) each with drop-downs that contain many different LUT files. Most people use the 3DLUT file drop-downs, but all three categories can be used. I use them all. Check out the links towards the end of blog to find more info on this very complicated subject.

What is a Lookup Table file?

This gets a little techie here. Basically LUT files act like filters placed on a camera lens or an image. Adobe Evangelist Julianne Kost states they are a combination of adjustments that are gathered into a single Look Up Table which replaces all of the colors of your image with another set of colors. They are also used with Adobe Premier Pro and After Effects for video productions to get the moody feel as seen in movies. LUTS can save a lot of time if a file gives a nice effect on an image – by creating a LUT file, it can be applied quickly to another image. The down side is that LUT files are fairly rigid – the individual adjustment layers contained in the LUT when created cannot each be changed to suit a different image. Need to set up an action to do this.

Places to Download Other LUT Files

Many vendors are now selling these files, and they are fairly inexpensive. The ones listed below are still free. Note that these files can have various extensions on them: .cube, .look, .3DL, and .icc – all will work fine in PS as far as I can tell but there is some discussion regarding color space requirements associated with each.

Orange and Teal LUTS and Photoshop Actions by Denny Tang at Photoshop Tutorials (check the website as it has lots of other good info). The top image used his Berlin by SparkleStock.cube file at 30% layer opacity.

There is a nice LUT called Arapaho from Behind the Scenes which is an autumn look. There are a few more that look good in the Utility folder also.

One of the best ways to get some nice LUTs is to watch videos and create the ones they are demonstrating. Try using the one created in my video for starters. Also Glyn Dewis has two great videos on this topic and creates two nice LUT files – check out The Power of Photoshop Colour Look Up Tables and How to Use and Create Photoshop Look Up Tables. PiXimperfect creates a very reddish effect in How to Create Look-Up Tables (LUTs) in Photoshop – just be sure to lower the opacity and change the blend mode to get good results. See Image 2 below for more post-processing info on this white mum image.Image of some White Mum Flowers

Creating a LUT File

To create a color effect for saving down as a new table, any combination of Adjustment Layers, Opacity and/or Fill effects, Blend Modes, and Blend If sliders (to apply effect in just the shadows or highlights) can be used. Try stacking several LUT adjustment  layers to get your effect or combine them with other types of Adjustment Layers. Note that LUT files cannot be exported in CS6, but ones created in CC software can be copied into the CS6 files as shown below. Here is a quick workflow of how to Export them down as a LUT file:

1. Open image and add as many different adjustment layers as needed.
2. All that is needed is a locked bottom layer (can be a solid color locked layer) and the adjustment layers to create the LUT file. Be sure the bottom layer is locked – it does not have to say Background, but it must be a locked layer. If there are clean up and filter layers before the adjustment layers were added, turn off all these layers and get rid of smart objects. To lock the bottom layer, go to Layers -> New -> Layer from Background.
3. Go to Filter -> Export -> Color Lookup Table. A dialog appears – can change Description and Copyright if you want, Quality either 64 and High or 32 and Medium (to make file smaller), and Formats – can choose one or all. I usually select CUBE for a couple extra options discussed below. Then OK.
4. Name and Save somewhere on your computer.

Now when you go into Photoshop’s Color Lookup Adjustment Layer, click on the Load 3D LUT (for all but the .icc extension files which will appear in the Abstract or Load Device Link categories), and click on the newly saved file (check at bottom to see what file format is being shown if the file is not listed – probably need to change the file format), the effect will be applied. Pretty easy. If the LUT was saved as a .cute extension, the adjustment layer will show a couple other options – Data Order and Table Order. Try clicking on each of the radial buttons – all give different looks. A BGR is a color space like RGB, it just changes the order of the significance of the colors in the color space. BGR has a dominant Blue channel while RGB has a dominant Red Channel. Just experiment with these buttons to get some really interesting results.

The video below demonstrates how to create a simple LUT file as described above. If the link does not show up in the RSS feed, please go to my blog.

Where to Save Downloaded or New LUT files so They Appear in the Drop-down Lists

There are two places the LUTs can be loaded into PS so they appear in the drop-down lists and do not have to be loaded each time:

  • If the files have these extensions: .cube, .look, or .3DL, then copy newly created files to: C Drive -> Program Files -> Adobe -> Adobe Photoshop CC 2018 (or CS6) -> Presets -> 3DLUTs – PS default files will already be loaded here.
  • If the files end in .icc, need to place them in this folder:  C Drive -> Windows -> System 32 -> spool -> drivers  -> color – there will be other files in this folder also.

To learn more technical information about Color Lookup Tables, check out a couple of John Paul Caponigro’s (one of the best Photoshop experts out there) articles, Photoshop’s Color Lookup Makes Complex Color Effects Easy and Photoshop’s Color Lookup Makes Complex Color Effects Easy. Here is Adobe’s manual link called Export color lookup tables for more information.

I hope everyone did not get overwhelmed by this topic – the bottom line is just try using them. I find that by adding just a low opacity Color Lookup Adjustment Layer to an image can really add that special feel to it and many favorites will be discovered. I really like the Foggy Night file but it really depends on the image being used. And it is an excellent way to get the ever-popular Instagram look. In the meantime, stay warm and have a good week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Information

Image 1:  I started out this image by creating the text on a layer – was trying out a new template created using a technique by Chris Spooner called How to Create a Watercolor Text Effect in Adobe Photoshop. Then added my favorite White Heron from Design Fairy. Added in a background of mine created in Corel Painter – no detail had been added to the water so Grut-FX IL Romato and CH Debs Kettle brushes were used for the white wave effect. Used several PS brushes in Brush Grass Set2 by Frostbo to create the foreground Sea Oats. Shadowhouse Creations Birds Brush Set 4 Birds 8 brush for the flying birds set to 82% layer opacity. A Soft Light layer was added to lighten the right side of the image where the sun was coming from. Then a Levels Adjustment Layer was added for contrast. On top a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using the Berlin by SparklesStock LUT file downloaded from Denny Tang (from link above) was added and set to 30% layer opacity.

Image 2: Did the basic adjustments in Lightroom. In Photoshop a little clean up on the flowers had to be done with the spot-healing brush. Then three Lookup Tables were added to the image: My SJ Darkly Bright cube LUT was applied first at 64% layer opacity1 – this is the file created in my You Tube video linked above; next the Photoshop LUT called Foggy Night was applied at 20% layer opacity; and the last one was Berlin from Denny Tang at his link above and set to 42% layer opacity. A Gradient Fill vignette was created using a teal color instead of a black color (see my Yet Another Great Way to Create a Vignette! blog). A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created and turned into a Smart Object. Nik Viveza was opened and the foreground flower was lightened up just a little. A Black and White Adjustment Layer was added and set to Luminosity blend mode at 55% layer opacity. Only wanted the effect on the middle unopened blooms, so add a black layer mask and painted back the blooms.


Image of some Vinca Flowers with water droplets on themHope everyone is having a wonderful New Years. I have been taking a lot of time learning about black and white images recently. This original technique was created by the fabulous Russell Brown years ago. Russell used to have a video on his website and luckily I had taken a few notes. After playing around with adjustment layers and settings, I found out it can create very nice B&W and color effects too. A benefit to using this technique for a B&W conversion is the highlights will not be blown out. The pink Vinca flower image above used this technique – check out the video to see some other variations to the image. I found this technique works really well with floral images.

The workflow is very simple:
1. First do any clean up and adjustments to the original color image to get a clean start for your conversion to black and white.
2. Add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer on top, change the blend mode to Color, and name the layer Filter (like a filter put in front of a camera lens to balance the gray shades that appear on the film).
3. Add another Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer on top and change the Saturation Slider to -100 and name it Film (to represent black and white film).
4. In the Filter Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer, adjust the Master sliders and all the individual color sliders until you get a pleasing black and white effect – this converts the colors to tones. Or use the Target Adjustment Tool (hand icon in upper left of panel) and click+drag in image to change the Saturation of the item under the icon and CTRL+drag to adjust the Hue. Try SHIFT+clicking on different areas in your image so changes can be applied to a broader range in the image – check out the bottom strip to see the color range tabs move (these tabs can be dragged manually also).

Check out my short video to see how this image can be changed with a few simple adjustments to get very different results. (If the link is not available in the RSS feed, go the actual blog to activate video.)

Orchids at the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, FloridaThis image was taken at the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, Florida. The above workflow was used on this image. No tint was added, but a heavy grain effect was added which is often used on black and white images. You do not want black and white images to have too slick a look which shooting digitally often creates.
Image of The London Eye
Another nice result of using this technique is that very pleasing color effects can be achieved. The image above of the London Eye used the same technique above except that the Film Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was set to 50% layer opacity and instead of a Filter Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer, a Selective Color Adjustment Layer was used (as shown in the video). In  Colors: Red, just the Black slider was moved right to darken the reds a little. Then the Whites, Midtones and Blacks Colors were adjusted to get the really nice highlights in the trees, the blues in the sky, and the nice soft reflection in the water. To darken down the whole scene a little, my favorite Color Lookup Adjustment Layer preset called Foggy Night was added at 20% layer opacity. Nik Viveza 2 was used to get the soft sunset effect. I was really surprised how nice this came out using the same basic technique. If the Film Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer is set to 100%, the image goes back to a black and white image, and the Selective Color Adjustment Layer will just adjust the tones in the image. Try using the Color Lookup Adjustment Layer on top with the black and white to get a nice overall tint to the image.

Hope you enjoyed the blog – I was surprised how easy this is to do. I created a very basic Action by just adding the two Hue/Sat Adjustment Layers with the workflow changes. Have a good week!…..Digital Lady Syd


2018 January Calendar showing Great Guana Cay in the BahamasHappy New Year Everyone! Since it is the beginning of 2018, I am linking everyone to my favorite Calendars so you can begin making some nice monthly calendars for the coming year. Last year I did a tutorial on how to do this, so I am going to link you back to this blog if you need some quick instruction at. See my How to Create 2017 Calendars in Both Lightroom and Photoshop blog.

Here is the updated link to Calendar that has several calendar formats that can be downloaded as Word documents. The image above from Grabbers Restaurant on Great Guana Cay in Abaco, Bahamas, was created using Photoshop and the Word documents. See Screenshot below – just need to click and highlight rows needed, then CTRL+C to copy, then on a New Layer in Photoshop, CTRL+V to paste into your calendar document. This way all the months do not get copied in at once.

Screenshot of Word Document Monthly Calendar
So many extra things can be done with this workflow.  Colors were easily added to the word calendar template (since it is still in a table format, just click on the calendar number to select and use the Paint Bucket Tool to change the color from the default gray). If the image and table do not line up correctly, just go to the Move Tool (V) and in the Options Bar, click on the Align Horizontal Center icon. If you need to, just select the two layers with the image and calendar and press the arrow keys right or left or up and down to line up. I had to use several Free Transforms to get the sizes the same. The Sun Ray Filter from Luminar 2018 (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) was used to give a slight ray effect in upper left corner. A Gradient Fill Adjustment Layer or Pattern Adjustment Layer can be added under the calendar and image layers to get some nice background effects. Or add another image in a softer monochrome color. Below on my favorite horse image, a heart was added to Valentines Day using a Pretty Preset Valentin Overlay. The possibilities are endless! Image of a Horse on a 2018 February Month CalendarHere is an updated link to Ed Weaver at Red Photographic site who distributes the calendar templates every year for Lightroom. Matt Kloskowski has a nice video at this site on how to do this technique along with some tips in my blog from last year. A link called 89 Free Calendar Templates for 2018 gives several more options using some different styles of calendars.

Hope you have some fun making calendars for the coming year. This is always one of my favorite activities to do each month. Have a very Happy New Year!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of a Sumatran Tiger at the Jacksonville ZooThis week just showing a techniques learned from watching Lisa Carney’s classes at Creative Live (she has some of the best classes at Creative Alive). She is a movie retoucher and always has some interesting techniques to pass on. In the past I have often used a Red Channel Luminosity Curves Adjustment Layer in my images to really add that final pop to them (see my How to Use a Red Channel to Create a Nice Blended Image Effect blog), but this technique adds an adjusted luminosity selection to the whole layer instead of just a layer mask (which can still be done with this technique). This technique does not work on every image, but give it a try when having a problem getting a unique look. The Sumatran Tiger image above was taken at the Jacksonville Zoo. I have noticed that this technique can be used quite effectively to get rid of a busy background, as in the case above where a chain link fence was around the tiger. No selection of the tiger needed to be done, just some layer masking to pull him out of the background a little.

For this image just some Lightroom basic adjustments were used before coming into Photoshop. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Studio Details was used (this can be done with Topaz Labs Detail also) and mainly the Highlight small detail slider was used to super sharpen the whiskers – then in PS, a black layer mask was created and only the whiskers were painted back. Since I wanted a lighter effect on the image, so this is when I decided to try out Lisa’s luminosity trick that she calls a Channel Pull. This is a pretty nifty effect and she has used it in several of her classes. The Blue Channel was chosen since I wanted to lighten the face and the following steps were performed.

  1.  First decide what to do to the tones of the image – do you what to add highlights as in portraits especially or on the tiger above, or do you want it to have more contrast as shown in the alligator image below? Take a look by clicking on each individual channel in the Channels Panel and see which one has the look you like. Remember white will show through and black will be hidden and grays will be at different levels, just like in a Layer’s layer mask. The Blue Channel will usually hold the highlights and the Red Channel usually has more contrast. The Blue Channel was used above and Red Channel on the alligators.
  2. Right click and choose Duplicate Channel on channel being used.
  3. Do a Levels Adjustment (CTRL+L – cannot use Adjustment Layers in Channels Panel) to create the brighter Highlights or darker Shadows and click Enter. Any of the Image -> Adjustments -> and any that are not grayed out, can be used in Channels.
  4. CTRL+click on the channel which selects the Luminosity of the adjusted channel.
  5. In the Layer Panel make sure your color swatch is set to the default black and white colors, then add a New Layer and fill with white (CTRL+DEL) or black (ALT+DEL) or actually any color to be creative! Sometimes the result is too strong so with the selection still loaded, add a layer mask – it will add the selection into the mask and reduce the overall channel effect.

The Blue Channel layer was set to Screen blend mode and was duplicated at 61% layer opacity to further lighten the image. To finish off this image, some eye sharpening was done with Curves Adjustment layers and a Selective Color Adjustment Layer. A Composite Layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was taken into Topaz Lens Effects and a Motion Blur was applied – in PS a layer mask was added and the tiger was painted back. A border layer style was added.


Image of three Alligators figuresThese guys are some figurines photographed on my kitchen table. The original image was with my 50 mm lens at F/2.4. In Lightroom the raw file was adjusted using just the Basic Panel and that was about it. Then I used Lucis Pro 6.0.9 (this filter is still not available anywhere as far as I can tell) to get a little more sharpening to the image – I would have probably used Topaz Studio Detail to do this if I did not have this plug-in. It is always easy to over-sharpen and then add a black layer mask and paint back where you want the crispness to be which is what was done. A composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was added on top.

Went into the Channels Panel and the Red Channel had the most contrast which is what I was looking for – the Red Channel was duplicated and a Levels Adjustment was applied. The new channel was selected (CTRL+click on the channel) and the Levels Panel was opened up where a New Layer was added with the selection active. The layer was filled with white which made their faces and background much lighter and a very vintage feel was created.

Then the background was blended out with just a smooth blender brush (there are several in PS now) and the last step involved using a PS provided brush called Kyle’s Spatter Brushes-Beautiful Mess added around the alligators in a pink sand color. A mask was added to paint the spatter off the subjects. A brush was created using a bush element and adding some Color Dynamics to just to add a little more color. Last step was to add an Isabelle Lafrance Diaphanous Overlay Cobwebby (this are the best light overlays I have found) set to 35% opacity to soften image and a Levels Adjustment Layer to bring back a little overall contrast.


Image of figures carved into Jenner's Department Store in Edinburgh, ScotlandThis  above image is of some carved figures located high up on Jenners Department Store in Edinburgh, Scotland, and across the street from my room window. To begin the editing process, used Lightroom to make the original RAW adjustments and tried out the newly updated Auto button in the Basic Panel which did a decent job for a starting point. Just did a little sharpening and noise reduction here and adjusted the Temp and Tint sliders. In Photoshop cropped and cleaned up the image a little with the spot healing brush. Then took a Composite image (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) into Skylum’s Aurora where the Waterway preset was applied. I tweaked the Image Radiance and added a Vignette mainly before returning to PS. Next the Channel Pull was created using the Blue Channel to lighten up the figures, and the selection was also added into the layer mask as the highlights were just too bright and this lowered the effect just a little. A light cream Solid Color Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+Click between the layers) to the Luminosity layer and the layer mask was also copied into the Adjustment Layer mask by ALT+dragging the original mask over the Adjustment Layer’s mask and replacing it. An Ash Texture I bought a long time ago was added and set to Linear Burn and 56% layer opacity to give the old antique feel the image.

I am by no means an expert using Luminosity masks that seem to be all the rage right now, but I am finding this technique is very creative and am still working with the whole workflow. It sounds a lot harder than it is and if you are looking for a little different effect in an image, give it a try. There seems to be a lot that can be done with this technique and I hope to show more results as I learn how to use it better. Hope everyone is having a wonderful time getting ready for the holidays! Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of the Parrot of Paradise from Cuba
This week I have been playing around with some very old images from historical volumes that are readily available on line. I was surprised how many interesting items can be found in these old volumes and they are copyright free due to the old dates. I found that using these illustrations and text can create some very nice vintage effects. Thought I would share a couple tricks on how to get this info out of a downloaded PDF book file opened with the Acrobat Reader software and into your Photoshop files. Please do not copy from books that are currently copyrighted or remove photos from their files. This process should only be used on really old volumes where no copyright infringement is being violated. Read the copyright information on the book’s download site before using it in your own work.

The Parrot of Paradise from Cuba (could not figure out which bird this really is) was taken from an old volume printed in 1754 called The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and Bahama Islands – the downloadable PDF (on right side in web link) contains just the Bird portion of the volume. I have to thank one of my favorite bloggers, Sarah Vernon and her First Night Design Blog, for sharing this particular info with her readers (and check out her blog to see some beautiful vintage type items for sale). Now what is particularly cool about this book is that the text is in both Old English as shown in the image or French. And the text about both birds were copied from the book. For you ephemeral fans, this is a bonanza!

Capturing Text

So how do you capture the text? There are two ways to do this depending on what you want to do with the text. Do you want the text to appear as is does in the PDF file, or do you want to just copy the text letter-by-letter and select a different font for your image. Both of these images used the second method.

Method 1 – Copying Text as It Appears in the PDF file

  1. Find a page in the PDF document with text that would look good in your composition. Many times there are lead fancy letters that would be nice to have in a vintage piece.
  2. In Acrobat Reader, click on the little upward Arrow icon (Selection tool for text and images) in the Options Bar at top. Click inside Page and a little cross-hair icon appears – just line up the text wanted, then click and drag out a box around it. A blue overlay will appear over the selected text. Right click inside overlay and and choose Copy Image (even though it is not really an image).
  3. Open Photoshop and go to File -> New Document -> Clipboard and Create.
  4. Go to Edit -> Place and a new layer will appear on top of the Background layer with the text showing up as a light brown color and a black background. Therefore, the layer needs to be inverted (CTRL+I) so it appears as a light blue on a white background.
  5. Add a Curves Adjustment Layer on top and pull the bottom black tab on the left all the way across to the right side by the white tab. The text appears as a very readable black and white text.
  6. Create a stamped layer on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top.
  7. Go to Select -> Color Range and set the layer to Highlights in the drop-down (Fuzziness 0 and Range 216) and check the Invert Button so White lettering will be selected and the black is removed. Click OK – an active selection of the the letters will be shown.
  8. Add a New Layer and with the Foreground color set to black (if that is the color you want), press ALT+Backspace – the lettering is now on its own layer.
  9. If you want to keep this text for use again, highlight the text layer, and go to Layers -> Duplicate, and in the Document field drop-down, instead of using the current file name, select New. Now a new document with just that layer of text is selected. Save the text as a PNG file if you want the transparency to stay with the layer or as a JPG if want a layer with the white background color to be added (if white was the Background Contents color when original file was created).

Method 2 – Copy the Text Letter-by-Letter to Use with a Different Font

  1. Find a page in the PDF document with text that would look good in your composition.
  2. With the Selection Tool chosen (upward arrow), drag out a selection – by clicking inside the PDF just before the text to be copied and highlight by dragging your cursor to end of the text.
  3. Go to Edit -> Copy. (CTRL+C)
  4. Open Photoshop and create a New Document – any size will do like 8 1/2 inches X 11 inches at 300 ppi.
  5. Select the Horizontal Text Tool and drag out a box in the document to add the text copied from the Acrobat Reader volume. Click the checkmark (or double click inside layer) to set the text, even if letter size and font is incorrect. Press CTRL+V to paste or go to Edit -> Paste. Note that the text will not copy into Photoshop without a text box being drawn out first.
  6. Triple click inside text box to select all the individual letters. Open the Properties Panel, click ALT+H to hide the black highlighting, and open the drop-down menu that contains all the different fonts – use your mouse scroll wheel to run through them to find one you like.
  7. Now adjust size and text evenly so it fits in the text box created in Step 5.
  8. To be able to save this text as a PNG file or JPG file, go to Step 9 above. Note that when a text layer is duplicated, it will be rasterized in the new file and is not longer editable.

The text can be transformed, layer styles applied, different colors or patterns added, duplicated and flipped, anything that is needed. In the image above, a color was sampled from the bird for the text and placed over the bird. Then a layer mask was applied and the lettering removed from the bird. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Studio was used on the bird layer where the Radiance filter was applied to give it more line strength in the bird itself and the Color Theme filter was opened. A soft blue color was added as the last color that filled in the background with the pretty gray-blue vintage look.
Image of a Red Curlew bird from a vintage bookThe bird image (which was taken directly from the book in this case) layer above is of a Red Curlew bird (once again not sure what type of bird it is now called) and was actually taken into Topaz Impression and the Cartoon Your Critter preset was applied. A few different textures were used for the background and a box was used to add in the text about the bird in French from the book. What an interesting looking bird!

Capturing Image

I cannot leave you hanging – the best way to copy the image from a PDF document is as follows.

  1. With page open to image to copy out of the PDF in Acrobat Reader, select the icon next to the View Size field so book is viewed in single-mode view.
  2. Go to Edit -> Copy File to Clipboard (do not use Snapshot or CTRL+C). A slider showing Copying to Clipboard will appear at bottom of page when it is processing this info.
  3. Open Photoshop and go to File -> New Document -> Clipboard and Create, or if a file is already open go to Edit -> Paste Special -> Paste in Place. If placing in a document, the image may need to adjusted to fit using the Free Transform command (CTRL+T). See below for more on this.

Check the size and resolution of the bird image if brought in on the clipboard – there can be a lot of pixelation on the image if changed to 300 ppi. For example, the parrot image was set to 150 ppi, which is the lowest amount to use on a for a 8 1/2 by 11 inch image to be printed. (First go the Image -> Image Size and uncheck Resample; set resolution to 150 in this case or 300 if you can; check Resample box; change the height and width to size needed; and when upsizing as in this case, adjust the Noise slider if needed. If just using the image on the Internet or computer, just leave the resolution at 72 ppi – no problems. For images placed in PS, there will probably be some pixelation which is what happened with the Red Curlew bird – that is one reason why Topaz Impression was used on the layer. The pixelation also gave an interesting ink look so it is not always a bad thing. Now the layer can be altered however you want. The bird images for this volume actually has a link to just the pictures that can be downloaded as a JPG directly to your hard drive – still not a very large image. The Parrot image was copied this way, but the Red Curlew was taken from my downloaded copy of the PDF file. This time the French text from the book was selected for the bird text. The text is not affect as much as the images where pixelation is concerned. Text layers are actually vector layers so they upsize very nicely. May need to watch once the layer is rasterized and no longer editable since that converts the layer into pixels.

Well I hope you will have some fun taking the Old English and French text and using it in all kinds of images. It is a lot of fun to use text that is directly related to the image being used, even if you cannot read the actual language. I have a couple more nice book references that I will link either in this blog or my Tidbits blog, so stay tuned. This vintage effect is very popular right now. Have a great weekend and 4th of July here in the US!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of Dive Boat and riders heading to ocean at Boynton Beach, FloridaI started to add this info into my How to Create My Favorite Brush post which used a Pattern in the Brush Panel and played a big role in the brush creation. There was so much to discuss about this topic, I decided to turn it into two blogs. Glad I did as I have recently learned a few new tricks on using Patterns that are discussed below.

Patterns..and How Crazy This Gets

When downloading Photoshop patterns from the Internet, the files must have a PAT extension (not JPG which most texture file extension use) to load them into your Pattern list. With Photoshop open, just double-click on the downloaded .PAT file and they load right into PS. Where are these patterns used? In the Pattern Fill Adjustment and Adjustment Layer where the Dialog obviously contains a Pattern drop-down menu. Click the little cog in upper right of the Pattern drop-down to add in other Patterns (another way to add them in – see below for more on this). The Content Aware Fill (Edit -> Fill) has a choice for Contents Pattern. Also are used in Layer Styles – Pattern Overlay section, Bevel and Emboss Texture section, and Stroke section (Fill Type) all contain the use of Patterns. When creating a brush using the Texture section of the Brush Panel, you are really adding a Pattern that carries a .PAT file extension, not a JPG. The following Brush Tools allow the use of a Texture section which uses Patterns: the Mixer Brush Tool, Pencil Tool, Eraser Tool, History Brush Tool, Art History Brush Tool, Clone Stamp Tool, Dodge Tool, Burn Tool, and  Sponge Tool . The Pattern Stamp Tool uses Patterns in both the brush settings and Options Bar. Several Tools have Patterns as a choice in the Options Bar: Bucket Tool (check out the Foreground drop-down. You can actually pour a Pattern onto a layer – who knew?), the Healing Brush (this is strange too!), all the Shape Tools set to Shape and clicking on Fill swatch and then clicking on the Pattern swatch, there is the pattern list. I may have missed a couple uses, but overall, I was amazed that Patterns are in all these places in Photoshop. And unfortunately, sometimes the Patterns are in Texture areas and sometimes not labeled at all – it can be a little confusing!

Loading and Creating a Pattern

If you want to convert one of your favorite textures or images into a Pattern, open the texture (which can be a JPG or PSD file) and go to Edit -> Define as a Pattern, name it and the pattern now appears at the bottom of your Pattern list. To see all your Patterns and to add more, go to Edit -> Presets -> Preset Manager and open Preset Type drop-down and select Patterns. The Patterns can be dragged around in the Preset Manager to put them in a better order. Click Load to add new ones or click the the little cog at top and see all the Photoshop canned presets available. (In case you wondered, the sets are: Artist Surfaces, Artists Brushes Canvas, Color Paper, Erodible Textures, Grayscale Paper, Legacy Patterns, Nature Patterns, Patterns 2, Patterns, Rock Patterns, Texture Fill 2, Texture Fill, Watercolour Patterns and Web Patterns – I had no idea all these were here!) Go to next section to see how to create a new pattern. It is useful to have colored and grayscale Patterns loaded. Even though the brush panel only uses the Patterns as grayscale color, the other Tools and commands will use the color. It is fun to try out watercolor blobs and brightly colored textures that you liked. And remember if you download Patterns, by double-clicking on the .PAT file will add them to the bottom of your Pattern List.

Creating a Noise Pattern for Your Library Panel

For some reason, it had not occurred to me that an Adjustment Layer could be saved and reused in the Library Panel. I do not use this panel much, but after watching Lisa Carney’s Color Techniques for Retouching classes on Creative Live this week, I am reconsidering. This noise tip came from her class on Portrait Retouching and involves creating a Pattern Adjustment Layer to add the final grain effect at the end of your workflow. She feels that adding a slight noise will pull an image together, especially when compositing. The image above of the Dive Boat going out to sea used this Noise Adjustment Layer – it looks really good with the vintage feel. (This results in a very similar look as the first tip in my 10 Not So Well Known Photoshop Tips blog where the Lens Blur Filter was used.)

Here is the workflow for this useful Adjustment Layer:

  1. Create a New Layer by clicking SHIFT + CTRL +N. In the Dialog name the layer Noise at this point, set it to Overlay blend mode, and check the Fill with overlay-neutral color (50% Gray). Note the blend mode must be set to Overlay before check box shows up.
  2. Go to Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise and set to 3, 5 or 8. Turn on Gaussian radio button and uncheck Monochromatic (do not want black and white grain on faces and skin especially).
  3. Go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and set to a Radius of .3 or .5 to lightly smooth.
  4. Desaturate the layer by going to Image -> Adjustments -> Hue/Saturation and set Saturation to -50.
  5. Go to Edit -> Define Pattern and name the pattern Add Noise 5-Gaus .3 Desat -50 so you know the settings used to create this Noise layer.
  6. In the Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel, select the Pattern Adjustment Layer – go to the bottom of the Patterns list and click on the new Pattern created in Step 5. The Scale can be adjusted if needed. Now would be a good time to rename the layer the same as the Pattern name if saving to the Library Panel in next step.
  7. Open Library Panel and drag the Pattern Adjustment Layer into panel. Anytime you want to add some noise at the end of your workflow, just right click on the Noise Pattern icon and select “Place Layers” – it appears in your image as a Pattern Adjustment Layer. Note: if you just select it, it will appear to be a rasterized version of the adjustment layer – this may be okay if that is what you want.
  8. Set the adjustment layer to Overlay blend mode and tweak the layer opacity if it needs it.

Image of New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas

Using a Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer to Add Texture to an Object

This image of New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas used a little trick I use all the time to give the little birds on the sand some texture. Birds are from a 7 bird brushes for You set by justadistrict12 girl on DeviantArt (could not find a link). They were added using black color at 100% Brush Opacity and Flow. Then a Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer was added on top. It was then clipped to the bird layer (ALT+click between the layers) so that the Pattern is only applied to the birds and not the whole image. The Pattern used was a brown colored texture with beige lines going through it from a set redheadstock at DeviantArt called Lace Photoshop Patterns. It gives some detail to the birds making them look like they have a little definition where the wing would go. See Screenshot below. When dialog is open, the Scale can be changed and the Pattern moved by dragging it around in the image. This way the Pattern can be adjusted to give a nice effect. Now in this image, it may not look necessary to do this, but it makes the difference between making an image look finished or not. This is really nice on images where flying birds are added. Solid color birds will look like they are pasted into the image.

Screenshot of Pattern Adjustment Layer dialog
What is really nice about using the Pattern Adjustment Layer is that different noise patterns can be made using different settings in the Noise Filter, Gaussian Blur Filter, and the Saturation slider in the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Each one can be saved in the Library Panel so different effects can be tried out quickly to decide which one looks best. Just be sure they are named so the difference between them is obvious. The one used above I named SJ Add Noise 5-Gaus .3-Desat -50 (same as pattern name) to remind me what is applied. And favorite Patterns can also saved as adjustment layers in the Library for using just on bird brushes or anything that needs this type of effect applied.

Hope you enjoyed the Pattern post – it can get a little confusing! Try out the Noise Adjustment Layer – I think I will be using mine a lot….Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs
How To How To Use a Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer
I Didn’t Know That! Use A Pattern Fill Layer to Add a Painted Texture
A Little Layer Style Fun
Christmas Card from Digital Lady Syd!
How to Use Photoshop’s Brush Texture Section for Painting Clean-Up