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WHAT ABOUT THOSE COLOR STRIPS IN THE HUE/SATURATION ADJUSTMENT LAYER?

Image of a purple Red Ruffed Lemur
This week I am just going to explain how this Red Ruffer Lemur turned into a purple Lemur – possibly trying on his Easter outfit? This technique that I learned makes this so easy but you need to follow the workflow below. I am finding that this is really a great way to add some creative effects into an image. It was presented in Unmesh Dinda’s totally excellent video called Master Hue/Saturation from Start to Finish in Photoshop. This 38-minute video is by far the best I have seen on the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer so if you have the time, watch it. You will learn some new things.

After viewing Unmesh’s video, I was able to turn this Lemur fur purple very easily – I was totally blown away by how natural the color replacement looked. What is happening is that by looking at the horizontal strips at the bottom of the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and moving the gray slider indicator in the middle of the two strips, the bottom strip color will show a very exact color replacement in your image. Don’t worry about this, it it pretty intuitive once you try it. Totally amazing and very easy to get the correct color change and coverage.

A lot of post processing was done on just the original Red Ruffer Lemur image and it seemed finished (see last image of blog for this result). To change the fur color, two Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers were used to adjust slightly different color tones on the fur (the reddish orange and the really over-exposed yellow white area on the right side of lemur.) My short video shows how to achieve a similar result using the free Lily Pads image from a set called 20 Free Photos From Seychelles. (I use these images all the time for practice.) In this case two color ranges were changed using just one Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer.

The final result of the Lily Pads image from the video is shown below. Two slightly different iterations were created just by setting the adjustment layer sliders and the gray slider between the horizontal strips at different positions.

Image of Lily Pads with creative coloring
This is the workflow:

  1. Add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and click on the little hand with the horizontal arrow in the upper left of the panel. Click on the color you want to change, in this case the red Lemur fur (or water in Lily Pads image). This will open up the Reds (or Blues in Lily Pads) in the field by the little hand. (For PS Elements users, if you do not have a hand, just select one of the colors that you want to change in the drop down, then sample with the left bottom eye-dropper tool – it will do the same thing. Otherwise all the other steps are the same.)
  2. Move the Saturation and the Hue sliders all the way right.
  3. Look at the horizontal color strips at the bottom of the panel – the area between show a gray slider with tabs on the ends and indicates the range of color PS has chosen. The top vertical strip and bottom strips look the same right now. You can make the color range narrower or larger by moving on the gray slider the little vertical straight line tabs closer together or further apart – look at your now crazy colored image to see what areas are being affected. (This is not unlike the way the Blend If tabs in the Layer Style Panel work.) Basically I just dragged the straight vertical lines out until the red fur was turned to a purplish color (or the water was covered with a color I liked). It will be adjusted more later.
  4. Drag the little pointed outside tabs outward to smooth the color transitions or closer to straight vertical lines for a narrower range. (Again like pressing the ALT key and splitting the tab in the Blend If dialog.)
  5. Now set the Hue and Saturation sliders back to 0 by double clicking on the words.
  6. Last step is to adjust the Hue slider to bring in the new color more cleanly. You will see those colors show up on the bottom horizontal strip and the top line will retain the original colors so you can compare the ranges easily. You can also adjust the Saturation and the Lightness sliders here. Note: when using Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer (or just Adjustment), the Lightness slider should not be used with the Master selected – looks really bad, but in the individual colors, it is fine to move the Lightness slider. Also go back and move the gray slider between the horizontal color bars to possibly get an even better color blend.

The two other examples of the Lily Pads image show that by using this technique, the different colors can be changed to get other looks. Note that all three versions used a Curves Adjustment Layer on top to add a little contrast back into the image.

Image of Water Lilies using Different Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer Settings

Here are the original images used before the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers were added:
Tych of Lily Pads and Red Ruffed Lemur

That’s it. This was so easy I could not believe it and the horizontal Color Strips are so handy. Well that’s my tip – short but sweet. If you want to try a slightly different technique, check out Colin Smith’s recent video called Instantly Change Color of Anything in Photoshop without Selections where he uses the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer’s mask to limit the location of the color change first. I like that I did not have to use the mask to adjust the colors with this technique, although you can. For example, I could have brought back the Lemur’s yellow eyes by painting them back in the Hue/Saturation Adjustments Layer’s mask. Hope you give this fun technique a try. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO RANDOMIZE SOME COLOR WITH THE GRADIENT MAP ADJUSTMENT LAYER


Image of the Trail at Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka, Florida

This week I am getting back to just having some plain ole’ Photoshop fun! Recently I ran across an easy and quick technique to turn an image that looks ho-hum into something great! There are times when an image does not look quite right no matter what is tried. That is when I usually open one of Topaz’s (see the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) creative filters to see if something connects with me – that is usually the fabulous Topaz ReStyle plugin. (See blog links at bottom of post for more info.) But if you do not own ReStyle, this a pretty nifty way to get a somewhat similar result using a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer. The last two examples do not have extreme color changes, but by adjusting the layer opacity, which seems to be critical in getting certain looks, or trying different blend modes, very interesting results can be obtained.

What does a Gradient Map do? Photoshop maps the shadows in an image to the foreground color and the highlights to the background color. It also allows you to add as many colors as you want by using the Gradient Editor while still maintaining some of the photo’s original tonality. For more on using a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer for black and white images, see my blog links at end of post.

Workflow on How to Randomize a Gradient Map

Recently Kelby One placed a link to a short video by Victor Feyes called How to Get Easy Color Grades in a Simple Way that used this technique. Here are the steps used for getting some pretty fantastic quick results:

  1. Open Gradient Map Adjustment Layer and set the Blend Mode to Color and the Layer Opacity to roughly 50%. Don’t worry about the actual colors in the  color swatch.
  2. Click on the gradient strip to open the Gradient Editor dialog.
  3. Set the Gradient Type to Noise.
  4. Set the Roughness somewhere under 15%, usually nearer to 10%.
  5. Set the Color Mode to HSB or LAB.
  6. Check Restrict Colors box.
  7. Click Randomize as many times as you need to get an effect that looks good.
  8. If the colors are too intense but look good, go out of the dialog and change the layer opacity – less than 50% is best.

That’s it! It is so simple I am not sure why I didn’t try this a long time ago. These settings above are general and there is no reason why the Color Mode cannot be left at RGB, the Roughness setting increased, or Add Transparency checkbox turned on. And all the Color Mode sliders can be adjusted to give a little different result on the image. (See the last image’s screenshot.) Watch the gradient while clicking the Randomize button to see how the different colors are affecting different parts of the image. Once the gradient is applied, in the Gradient Map properties, there is a Reverse button that can give an interesting effect. To save the gradient for reusing, in the Dialog Box click in field to name if you want and click the New button – it appears at the end of the shown gradients. (Note: if the Save… button is clicked, it opens a dialog to save all the presets in one file and not just the new one.)

The image at top was taken at Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka, Florida (with this rather steep trail that tried to kill me!) and was pretty much a basic shadowy shot. The images I took here have been hard to post-process due to the bright sun and blotchy effect on the bushes and flowers which were in bloom. Therefore this image seemed like a logical choice to try out this Gradient Map technique. Below is a Screenshot showing the original image with only LR settings applied and the Gradient Map and settings used to create the new color look in the top image. The Adjustment Layer was set to Color blend mode and 36% Layer Opacity. (Click on screenshot to see larger in Flicker.)
Screenshot of the Gradient Map settings for the Ravine Gardens Trail image

What the Gradient Map Dialog Box and Sliders Do

The Photoshop Wow Book (from years ago but still one of the best PS books around) is the only good source I could find on how the Gradient Map Dialog Box actually works so the following info is from this book. By checking the Add Transparency box, random transparency is provided – by checking this box “….will probably introduce more variability than you want to cope with” so instead use a layer mask after the Noise gradient is applied. The Noise Gradient ranges are set by moving the sliders on the Color Model bars which will determine the Outside limits of the colors that can appear in your gradient but the gradient will often include a much narrower range of colors. The Wow Book also provides the following definitions: Roughness: a higher amount makes more and sharper color bands and a lower amount has fewer bands and smoother transitions. Restrict Colors is checked so that the gradient will not include any colors too saturated to be printed with CMYK inks. To create a gradient of just gray colors, set the Color Model to HSB and set the Saturation all the way to the left – now only the Brightness tabs will have any effect on the image. I could not get a very good result doing this. The pretty Azalea below was also taken at Ravine Gardens in Palatka, Florida and is another example of this workflow.
Beautiful White Azalea image taken at the Ravine Gardens in Palatka, Florida
Below are the settings used in the photo above – click on image to see larger in Flickr. The blend mode was still set to Color and the Layer Opacity was set to 55% – any higher opacity and the image becomes very yellow.
Screenshot of Gradient Map dialog for azalea image
A  different gradient was tried below. A screenshot shows more of a blue toned gradient applied. Used Color blend mode and 42% Layer Opacity. The image is not finished, but it does give a very different pretty result.
Screenshot of Blue-Purple Gradient Map for Azalea
This last image of Old St. Andrews in Scotland is an example of combining the two types of Gradient Maps – the first was a Noise Gradient Map (see screenshot for how image looked before applying the Gradient Map Adjustment Layer – click on it to see settings more clearly in Flickr). On top a regular Solid Gradient Type instead of Noise was selected and Blake Rudis’s action and his gray gradient 19 set to Soft Light blend mode at 41% Layer Opacity was added. Blake has a really good video called Advanced Color Toning Made Easy and he gives away the action and 20 gradients so check it out. It’s a very handy action and I use it all the time! This combination seems to bring some very good results in the images. It is not a huge change but definitely an improvement.
Image of a View of Old St. Andrews in Scotland
Screenshot of Gradient Map settings for St. Andrews image
Hope you will try this technique. It gives some really nice unusual looks and can really pull the colors of an image together for some needed pizzazz! I am having a lot of fun with it. Have a great week – Spring is almost here!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz ReStyle – from a while ago, but it is still relevant
Four Picture Triptych with Topaz ReStyle
How to Use a Topaz ReStyle Trick for Improving Your Image
How to Do a Black & White Gradient Map Conversion


USING A LEVELS ADJUSTMENT LAYER FOR A VIGNETTE

Image of a Gecko at the Jacksonville Zoo
As promised last week, here is the second new (to me) vignette technique that I am using all the time now. It works really well when you have a single subject like this Henkel’s Leaf Tailed Gecko image taken at the Jacksonville Zoo. This technique was demonstrated by Unmesh Dinda’s (the new PS guru who has so many tricks up his sleeve that I can’t keep up with his posts) excellent video called How to Match Subject and Background – Part 1. You can really drive the vignette towards your subject very easily.

First I am going to list the steps for this workflow – once you do it a couple times, it becomes very easy to do:

1. Select a Levels Adjustment Layer and set the Output Levels to 0 and roughly 90 – 100 – really darkens down the image.
2. Create a large, hard edged round brush – mine is set to Size 1900 pixels, Hardness 100%, and Opacity and Flow at 100%. If you plan on using this vignette often, it would be a good idea to save the brush settings as a Brush Preset.
3. Set the color swatch to black and click one time on your subject in the Levels layer mask with the new brush.
4. Select the Transform command (CTRL+T) and pull out the white circle to fit the subject more closely. It can be rotated and distorted to fit the area to keep clear of the vignette.
5. Next click in the Properties tab (the black round hole in a white square icon) for the Levels Adjustment Layer and set the Feather to 350-500 pixels – very large and soft. Can Free Transform again if it does not look correct.
6. Adjust the layer opacity if effect too dark.

You can see the way the vignette is centered on the little flat hand on the glass and his head. I wanted to emphasize the interesting background pattern that comes from the right corner also. This type of vignette was exactly what was needed – 500 pixel feather was used on this image and set to 59% layer opacity.

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Image of a Ring-tailed Lemur at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm
This ring-tailed Lemur whose image was taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm (he definitely looks like he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar!) also uses this same technique. Very little was done to this image other than using Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website info) Studio’s wonderful AI Clear to sharpen him up a little, and a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer to even out the colors a little (see a nice video by Blake Rudis called Color Toning in Photoshop with Gradient Maps and Soft Light Blend Mode where you can download 26 gradients to use with this technique – I used his Gray Gradient 23 for this image which gave it this lovely warm tone). Last step was the Vignette Effect set to a 386 pixel Feather in the Properties Panel. The vignette color was changed to a brownish tone sampled from the image. To do this, a Solid Color Adjustment Layer was clipped (CTRL+ALT between the layers or can go to Layer -> Create Clipping Mask with the Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer highlighted) to the Levels Adjustment Layer. It is fun to try different colors to see if one really makes the image pop. The Levels Adjustment Layer was then set to 84% layer opacity. I think it was a nice addition for this particular image’s vignette.

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Image of a Great Egret getting ready to take off at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm
This beautiful Great Egret was in the mist of taking off (the Rookery is getting very busy at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm) when I caught this snapshot – it was not processed using LR/ACR – but just Topaz Studio’s AI Clear and Topaz Adjust was used to get the pretty details in the wings. There was a little blue haloing in the sky area so it was changed using one of my blog techniques called A New Look at Chromatic Aberration where a Gaussian Filter is applied to remove it. The vignette was added as a last step with the Feather set to 200 pixels.

My three previous vignette blogs were from PS guru Matt Kloskowski using his very good technique (How to Create a Subtle Vignette blog), Blake Rudis’ using a very creative technique (Yet Another Great Way to Create a Vignette! blog), and using a Lightroom/ACR technique called Another Great Vignette Method by Jesus Ramirez. Hopefully out of these four very different types of vignettes, you will never have a problem with finding the correct vignette for each of your images. Have a great week – Spring is almost here!……Digital Lady Syd


PUPPET WARP REPLAY

Image of a Cityscape of NYCJust doing a little update on the Puppet Warp tool this week using the tool on text (and the original image). So here is a short blog on how to do this.

A free font called Geno Shadow Grunge for the both lines of text was used.

  1. First type in your text, then convert the layer into a Smart Object.
  2. Double click on the Smart Object icon in thumbnail to open as a PSB document.
  3. Before starting to change the font, the size of the layer needs to be increased so go to Image -> Canvas Size and check relative and use 0.5 inches in both the Width and Height fields. This gives more room to stretch the font around.
  4. Now go to Edit -> Puppet Warp – a dialog opens that says the text layer must be rasterized – so say OK.
  5. Add Puppet Warp points to each letter to stretch the text – lots of fun here.
  6. When done with Puppet Warp, click the check in the Options Bar.
  7. Make any other changes like color or adding adjustment layers and when finished, press CTRL+S (File ->Save) to save the PSB file and then close the file. The text layer will now be updated in the Photoshop file. Pretty cool!

The buildings were also Puppet Warped on a duplicate of the original image from the 20 New York Photos from Deeezy photos. To get the poster looking colors, a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer was added on top .The different letters were colored by adding a Blank Layer and clipping it to the Smart Object Layer, then sampling colors from the image. Some scribble brush strokes were added underneath the letters on blank layers (brushes included in the free Adobe Creative Magazine Photoshop action called Turn Photoshop into Illustrations). Below is what the actual Puppet Warp pins looked like when I finished the text in the Smart Object. Had to erase out some extraneous lines that occurred when the warp was added.

Image of Puppet Warp Pins screenshotHope you give Puppet Warp a try – it can give some really interesting looks that are a lot different from just using the regular Warp effect. Here is a link to an earlier blog I created called How to Use the Puppet Warp Tool Creatively). Enjoy and have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd


AND THE AWARD GOES TO…..

Image header for blogSince it is that time of year when everyone is evaluating their images from the past year, I have decided that instead of doing my top pix, I am going to create some special award categories for my photography. I am finding this is really tough to look at your images and think about them objectively.

Best Humorous Image of the Year

Image of a Tri-Colored Heron using a Scribble EffectMany choices for this category but they all either were bird images or Christmas images. Still love the effect the Scribble Action created on this guy so he won the Category – for original blog see my Updates, Updates, Updates! What to Do???? blog.

Best Creative Use of a Plugin

Digital Art Image of a Horse and Rider with Fiery BackgroundThis year in my opinion, the best new Plug-In was Topaz Studio’s AI ReMix – something totally different to use to bring a whole different look to your images. This image is my favorite example of the ReMix look so it was chosen as my favorite for this category. For the matching blog on this image, check out my Dodging the Fire blog.

Best Digital Painting of the Year

Digitally Painted image of DandelionsDid not do as much painting this year – this is on my resolution list for next year to do more painting. I did like how these unusual dandelions turned out. Here is blog which contains a little more info: Blowing in the Wind.

Best Animal Picture of the Year

Painted image of a foxI had several animal images and it was hard to figure out which I liked best, but this painted fox was one of my favorites. He appeared in my Introducing the Beautiful Fox blog that contains a little more info.

Best Drawing Image of the Year

Drawn image of a Young LadyThis was my first attempt at drawing a face and I totally enjoyed doing it. I learned the technique from David Belliveau at Paintable.com – for more info on this fun workflow, check out my short blog at Where to Find a Good Photoshop Painter.

Best Landscape of the Year

Image of hotels in OahuSort of a strange landscapes where special effects were applied, but it looks pretty cool I think. For more info on this image, check out my blog at Oahu Landscape.

Best Macro of the Year

Image of painted Pink CarnationsThis year I did not shoot as many macros as I usually do, but this one turned out very nice. It was painted using Corel Painter. A short blog called Pink Carnation was created showing more info.

Best Black and White Image

Image of a girl playing an ErhuThis image had been post processed in color previously, so it really surprised me how nice it looked as a black and white image. For more info, check out my Girl Playing Erhu blog.

Best Floral Image

Image of some colorful Queen Emma bloomsOne of my favorite flower images this year just because I loved the way the color came out. For more info on how this was done, check out my Colorful Queen Emma Lily blog.

Best in Creative Category

Image of my Fantasy MapThis may not have been the most striking image, but I like that a lot of my favorite people are on this map and sort of represents me and my taste as an artist and Photoshop nut. It was a lot of fun to do and definitely was creative. For more on how to create a fantasy map of your own, check the original blog called My Personal Fantasy Map.

Best Image Created using a New Technique

Image of Parliament in LondonThis image represents a pretty cool technique used to get rid of camera shake (not the PS filter) and create a really sharp image from Deke McClelland. For links to the video on this, check out my Parliament blog.

Best Use of Texture

Image of a Rainbow LorikeetThis image I was particularly proud of since I created several textures to use in it. For more info on this, check out my Adding Textures to Wildlife Photos blog.

Best Use of Color

Image at The Land, Epcot, Disney WorldThis image is one of my favorites since it is so bright and cheery with a very strong color palette. For more info on how this image was post processed, check out my blog called Three Views of Air Balloons at Epcot’s The Land Pavilion.

Most Dramatic Image

Image of a Church in BelarusThis beautiful Church in Belarus has a nice dramatic night effect applied to it. Check out my First Snow of the Season blog for more info.

GRAND AWARD WINNER FOR 2018

Drawn image of a wolfI decided this was my Grand Award Winner because it represents the various things I have been working on in many of my  images. Mainly, I have been trying to learn to draw (and Aaron Blaise is the master that taught me how to do this), textures, and lighting effects. Check out my Learning to Draw a Wolf! blog for more info. Hopefully during the next few years I will be able to draw more animals and apply more of what I have learned to date.

Hope you enjoyed my photos and my theme for this blog. It is very hard to decide what is your best work, but it does make you really think about what you have done and where you are going with your art. Happy New Year to everyone!…..Digital Lady Syd


A SHORT CHAT ABOUT PHOTOSHOP CC2019

Image of a Santa Claus Christmas Ornament
A little late on this post – but then writing about Photoshop is never late to me. As usual whenever Photoshop updates to a newer version, I have mixed feelings. It seems to take me a while to get organized and this was the case with Photoshop CC2019. I have watched several recent posts by some of my favorite Photoshop gurus, Julieanne Kost, Colin Smith, and Scott Kelby, and here are a few things I discovered about this new update:

  • First I got totally confused with the old Edit -> Fill command (for me it used to mean Content Aware Fill) and the new Edit -> Content-Aware Fill command. After playing around with it, it does seem to have much better results than the old “Fill” command and it is much easier to see what is changing right in the new panel. One thing I learned is that if you do not use the Lasso Tool but instead the Magic Wand or Quick Selection Tool, there can be discernible lines where the selection edge was. To fix this, just go into the Select -> Modify -> Expand Selection and set it to 2 pixels before going into the new command. Lines disappear or edges are much smoother.
  • On the Toolbar the tools can be pulled apart and added in by clicking on the three dots near bottom of the Toolbar (under the Zoom Tool) and then dragging the tools apart. I set both the Rectangle Marque Tool and Elliptical Marquee Tool up on my toolbar. Also put the Patch Tool under the Spot Healing Brush (which still contains all the other tools). I added the new Frame Tool onto the Toolbar but not sure it is that useful.
  • There is now a Windows -> New Guide Layout panel (versus the old New Guide panel) where the number of columns (or rows) and a Gutter amount between them can be set up. This is handy to blend two different images together using the Gradient Tool in a mask and placing the gradient between the two line in the gutter area to create a nice smooth transition.
  • Here is something you may have not noticed – when adding an object/texture/image whatever into the main document and a Group is highlighted showing layers, the object layer will go into the group and not above the group. Just close the group before adding the new material to add above.
  • Did you know that if a part of a filter name like Gaus for Gaussian Blur is added in the search field (on the Options Bar on the right side), it will bring up the dialog box without going through all the steps to get there?
  • To me this is a biggie! Regarding those darn layer styles that sometimes just do not look right when applied. Here is one thing that is going on. If applying a style to a group, PS treats all the layers in the group as if they are flattened before applying the layer style to the group as a whole. Same thing with blend modes. So if you start to get some really strange results when applying a lot of different layers styles in image, check out the group and layers underneath to see if this issue is happening. Hope to blog on this later as I want to experiment with this.
  • I personally, and apparently many other people, have been having problems taking an image from Lightroom Classic into Photoshop when PS is not already open – most of the program is grayed out. The work-around is to first open PS before bringing the LR image into the program. Very annoying but it does work.
  • If you are like me and use the File -> Info panel, the Photoshop History field is stuck and you cannot scroll within it. This information is set in the Preferences -> History Log – I always keep mine set to Save Log Items to: Metadata and Edit Log Items: Detailed. It come in handy when you forget what you did not an image. The good news is that the information is contained in Adobe Bridge under the Metadata tab, Edit History section and it works.

I am sure there are lots of other new ways to do things with this update. I just have not had time to find them all. I hope this helped you out a little with some of the things going on.

So how did I get Santa to twist like this? Well once again it is a filter in Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website) Studio called the Motion Blurs Adjustment – set to Type Swirl, placed marker on nose, and Angle to 0.06 (just a little is enough). Then added the Smudge Adjustment set to Strength of 0.13, Extent 0.49 and Sharpness 0.61 and painted it in a mask just on the Santa and letters to get an illustrative feel to the ornament. Then went back into PS.

Hope everyone is having a great holiday – Enjoy!…..Digital Lady Syd


UPDATES, UPDATES, UPDATES! WHAT TO DO????

Image of a Tri-colored Heron using the Scribble Artist PS ActionIt has been a busy week since all the major software and plugin companies have recently updated and there is a bunch of new information to learn. I have been spending several hours sorting through all this. Unfortunately Black Friday and Cyber Monday is right around the corner so I have not had a complete chance to figure out all the new things. I will give you a quick view of what I like about each which may help you to sort out what to do. I will try to post a couple short videos after I complete some images to share what looks good from below. Note: All the links for the first five programs below can be found at my Tidbits Blog sidebar. So here I go – these are not in any special order, I love all the ones I am presenting and use them each differently:

Topaz Studio: Topaz Studio I totally love. Studio is fine – it seems very stable and I have had no problems using it so I do not believe anyone should have a fear about upgrading to this software. I usually use Topaz Studio and Labs as a PS plugin. I often just pop into Topaz ReStyle using just Topaz Labs. But I do love how quick I can get into Impression with Studio, and now with their newest adjustment, AI Clear (works wonders on slightly soft images), the Studio interface is much more appealing for me. I really love AI ReMix – the more I am learning, the better I like it. (See my What is Topaz AI ReMix???? and Topaz ReMix – Update and Better Than Ever! blogs.) If you are a creative, need to check out the Topaz Webinars. They contain a lot a information on how to use their filters and I find them major helpful.

Topaz AI Gigapixel: My favorite is the new software by Topaz called AI Gigapixel. I was totally blown away by it and you should check it out if you like to change the sizes, both up and down, of your images while still keeping the image quality. A real winner here. (See my The Best New Software Around – Topaz A.I. Gigapixel! blog.)

Skylum Aurora HDR 2019: Nothing better for HDR – period! I don’t always do HDR a lot, but this software is very special – most of the HDR effects can be loaded using just one image – no need to take 5 or more images. And for me, it really sharpens up a soft image, which is important to me. Also, the interface is now pretty much the same whether using Windows or Apple, so that is really good for us Windows users! Trey Ratcliff is the major contributor to this software and I believe it is one reason it is so good – his work is fabulous! His favorite filter is Image Radiance and he uses it on most of his images – it is a nice effect. I did a recent blog on this software which goes into all the great things it does (see my What About Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019?).

Skylum Luminar Update: I guess there is no better software that has come on the scene recently – I personally believe that is because they created software for Windows users now. A recent update came out with a rather fabulous filter that makes the whole program a game-changer for landscapes – it is called their AI Sky Enhancer filter. It is just one little Amount slider but it does incredible things to a sky. Skylum says it adds details using 100,000 images to define the sky, uses segmentation to do this, and removes noise and halos. Used in conjunction with their earlier Accent AI Filter, that may be all an image needs to pop it. I am loving these two filters. Of course I still love the Sunrays filter – no one else has anything even close to this. And the Golden Hour filter gives a beautiful look on some images. It also has that same wonderful Image Radiance filter – it does magic to a landscape image. (See my MacPhun (now Skylum) Luminar 2018 Sun Rays at a Glance blog and video.)

On1 Photo Raw 2019: There is so much to say on this one. A huge update IMHO. Much bigger than the Photoshop update. I am so happy to see how good this software is becoming. One major advantage is that you own the software. Each update is bringing it much closer in line with PS but it still has a ways to go. It loads your images so much faster than Lightroom that it is amazing. I really like that. As a PS plugin (and stand alone program), it can switch between the four modules just by clicking on Develop, Effects, Portraits (brought back and and seems better than ever – I have to check this one out), and Local tabs very quickly – all it is lacking is the Layers capability as a plugin. And they now support Layers! In the stand-alone version, the files can be saved as, get this, layered PSD files saving their masks and layers for use in PS – kind of like a smart object in PS. So you can do your initial changes in On1 Photo Raw and then finish up in PS. I think this is really impressive. I also like their new Color Enhancer panel – it is like the PS Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer on steroids with a Color Range section added to really tweak a color. They also added a new Film Grain filter and a Curves filter (very similar to PS). On1 is another company that has wonderful videos and tutorials on their website for getting up-to-speed. Biggest issue for me is that it has a fairly large learning curve, but once you figure it out, it is very good. Oh yes, you can also use your other plugins already owned with Photo Raw.

Lucis Pro 6: This software has been re-introduced to the public but with no changes that I can see. Still is it a really nice effect and fairly inexpensive. Check out my blog and short video at Lucis Pro is Back!!!!! for more information.

DXO, Google, Nik Collection: As far as I can tell, this 7 program software has not been updated from the early version, only updated to work with newer operating systems. I am not having any problems with mine, so I am not messing with the upgrade. I use Viveza 2 on almost every image – still in my mind, it is the best plugin ever made. It does compete with the Camera Raw filter, but I find it easier to use and creates better results. (See my Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem! blog.) And of course Color Efex Pro is still a wonderful program. In fact all their programs are first rate and still work fine, maybe better, than most new plugins. If you have it, continue using it. Otherwise it can be bought at the DXO Website.

Photoshop CC2019: Figure you actually do the monthly update thing or you do not. It took me forever to set up the program as I had it – always does when PS does a major update, but it seems to be major solid now. Did have one crash when I ran the large action used on the above but that it is. I love the new Edit -> Content-Aware Fill, but found the name major confusing since Edit -> Fill has always been content-aware fill to me. Also love being able to use Math in the fields like *2 to double the size of an image. I think what you like is based upon how you use PS. Anyway, it is still the industry standard so it is hard not to keep it updated. I will add I do keep CS6 on my computer and often use it for painting and to use the now defunct, but very useful, Variations adjustment.

So now, to save a bit of money this week, my image is of a tri-colored heron above created using a free Adobe Action from Adobe Create Magazine. This was really fun to make but I did have to watch all the short videos to understand how it all works. Your image has to be set up correctly to get the action to run properly. The action takes several minutes to complete, but when done, there are lots of layers that can be adjusted to give some great looks. The cute font is called Flamingo Shaddow. It was a lot of fun to do while taking a quick break from all this software/plugin craziness.

Hope everyone checks out the trials on all these programs and good luck with the sales!…..Digital Lady Syd