Anything Photoshop or Photography



Drawn B&W image of a Malayan Tiger at the Palm Beach Zoo.

If you enjoy wildlife animals and want to try your hand at drawing them, Aaron Blaise has some of the best videos to fine-tune your skills. I can honestly say, it is taking me a long time to get a good workflow, but I am finding that most digital artists follow similar steps no matter what the subject matter or media they are using is.

The videos used for the Tiger images are in Aaron’s Digital Painting in Photoshop (20 videos and 12.5 hours of lessons) set that were created a while ago (December 2017). In you catch a one of his recent YouTube videos, he still follows the same basic workflow as presented, just uses a different brush. If you are interested in any of many videos he offers, click the link above to sign up for his newsletter – he has fabulous sales several times a year that include his great brushes and many videos (he offers them for $1 to $5 and gives an extra !0% off if you get the newsletter). Since I am on a pretty tight budget, this has been wonderful!

The Malayan Tiger above resides at the Palm Beach Zoo – I have some great images of their tigers so I tend to draw them. Aaron suggests using your own photo images for drawing and painting (especially if you plan on posting or selling your art) as the drawings are still considered under copyright laws of the image. This was just a black and white rendering to practice using your brush in a tutorial called Getting Started-Sketching in Photoshop. Here you learn to use your sketch brush and how to do rough sketch layer, refined sketch layer, highlight or white line layer, and background layer. It’s a great way to practice your drawing skills. These digital drawings are similar to drawing them on a piece of paper with a regular pencil. They have a very grainy line in most cases.

These images both used the Legacy Default 9 Pencil brush that comes with Photoshop – it is an Erodible Pencil and Aaron used it for these videos. I did try several other brushes but ended up using the Pencil 9. I did find the Erodible Pencils have problems a lot in PS2022 – the computer runs hard and sometimes the PS History Panel says a stroke is being laid down, but it is does not show up. It seems to happen often when toggling to the Eraser Tool or the Tilde key. (Also check to make sure your brush is not set to Clear mode in the Options Bar.) By clicking on another brush or tool, it usually comes back, but this is very annoying. My personal work-around was to reload PS2021 for just drawing as there are no brush issues with it. I am hoping Adobe gets this fixed soon.

Drawn image of a Sumatran Tiger at the Jacksonville Zoo

The above used the same workflow, but this time some color was added and a texture placed over him for a different look. This is a Sumatran Tiger from the Jacksonville Zoo. To get him colorized, a Color Lookup table preset color Edgy Amber was added at 72%, then Viveza was used to spot color the orange in (this filter is still the overall best for doing all kinds of things including adding local color to areas). Kim Klassen’s The Studio Collection texture beekeeper (not sure this available anymore) was applied on top using the Divide blend mode. I just posted another example of this technique on my Tidbits Blog called Living in the Abstract – it used some of Kyle Webster’s newly released Spring 2022 brushes.

TIGER TALK: Both these tiger subspecies are on the critical endangered species list. There is no clear difference between Malayan Tigers and Indochinese Tigers except for their geographical location (Malaysian Peninsula) and they are a little smaller, but it is a subspecies of its own. They can swim, can eat elephants, and are born blind. They live in tropical and subtropical forests, shrubland, and grassland, Compared to other subspecies, the Sumatran Tiger, which is only found in Sumatra, has a darker orange color in its fur and stripes that are closer together, and it is the smallest of the tiger subspecies. Their color pattern allows them to blend into their habitat. They prefer tropical forests with dense cover, freshwater swamp forests, and peat swamps. They eat larger ungulates, including tapir, wild boar and deer, as well as smaller animals, like monkeys, birds, and fish. Of the nine subspecies of Tigers, three of them are now extinct. So sad….

I have not finished doing all the tutorials – presently working on an Elk with many Color, Highlight and Shadow layers – lots of fun. One clever thing he did teach us is how to apply a texture to fit an object or subject. Below is my favorite free stock image called guitar man where the guitar material was changed from a solid yellow to a wood texture. To do this, clip the texture to the image, then use the Free Transform Warp tool to adjust to the guitar. If needed add a layer mask after adding the texture and brush away any that is not needed. In this case, the layer was set to Color Burn blend mode and 58% layer opacity. Pretty cool technique and pretty easy! The background used a brush I created from French Kiss Tableaux Mirage texture a long time ago – just stamped it down with different colors, blend modes, and opacities.

Image of guitar player.

Last week I posted a short Tidbits Blog called Waiting for Sunset that used one of the atmospheric effect techniques from this set. I have learned that to get good at drawing, you have to practice some every day or so. It is really easy to lose the stroke feel with the brushes. And Aaron has many other sets of videos including several “How To Draw” animal videos. See the first three links below showing some other images I drew from other sets of his videos. Also see my Learning to Draw a Wolf! blog which is a link to a free YouTube showing his basic workflow that is similar to what he is teaching here – I would suggest you check it out to see if you like his style of drawing and teaching.

Well that is it for now. Hope you try out some of Aaron’s drawing techniques – it is a lot of fun to see what results you get without using a camera! Have a great week…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

Got Some Free Time! Try Drawing!

A Leopard Thinking

Introducing the Beautiful Fox

Painting Acrylics Digitally – Can It Be Done?


Creative digital art image

Decided to start the New Year off doing something different. I had been working on this really intricate Taj Mahal Jigsaw Puzzle and got to wondering why did I enjoy doing this so much? Then I started looking at all the pretty colors and the intricate things the subjects were doing and realized this was a pretty impressive puzzle. Even the painting strokes were interesting, especially in the sky. It appears that many puzzles are made by very serious painters and much research is done to correctly finalize them. The image above did not actually use a separate puzzle effect as created below – it used the background of a phone image from one of my put-together puzzles for the effect. See Image One below for how this was done and what resources were used. This to me was what I wanted to create, but then I decided it would be interesting to learn how the actual puzzle effects for Photoshop were made. So below is what I learned.

The big question was how do you get the Puzzle Effect? These are the choices I found:

  1. Use an overlay that can be downloaded from the internet. I created a free basic Jigsaw Puzzle overlay for you to download on my DeviantArt site since I could not find a free link.
  2. Download the Free Puzzle Pieces action by Bojan Zivkovic from Adobe Exchange (can do a search on the internet for it and then just log into the Creative Cloud to download – a zipped file goes into your download folder along with a nice PDF on how to use it. It will create 2 – 192 puzzle pieces all placed on individual layers.
  3. Go to the Layer Styles panel and click the little upper right icon – in drop down select Select Legacy Styles & More -> All Legacy Default Styles -> Image -> Puzzle. When the style is applied, in the Bevel and Emboss Texture section, there is an Adobe Puzzle Pattern. More on this in Example of Step 3.

See examples for each Jigsaw Effect below.

Example of Step 1: This image was finalized before adding the effect. It was created by following Maddy Bellwoar’s video tutorial on Behance called Painting Beautiful Birds in Photoshop. Her videos are a wonderful way to learn to draw and paint. Now the Jigsaw Puzzle overlay could be added.

Drawn and painted image of a robin

Just use Free Transform (CTRL+T) to adjust the overlay if needed – it is set to a 2:3 aspect ratio (can rotate to 3:2 for Portrait view as shown above). Use layer masks, adjustment layers (try clipping it to the puzzle layer – right click and choose Create Clipping Mask), layer styles including Blend If sliders, blending modes and layer opacity can be adjusted. (The settings for the robin image above were as follows: The jigsaw overlay layer was set to Luminosity blend mode to start; double clicked on this layer to bring up its Layer Style and used the Stroke effect – set Fill Type to Color and sampled a light color from the image and selected a slightly lighter Color, Size 8, Position Inside, Blend Mode Normal, and Opacity 100%; and opened the Bevel & Emboss effect and set Style to Emboss for more of a puzzle effect, Technique to Chisel Soft, Direction Down, Size 16 and Soften 0, Highlight Mode Screen at 48% opacity and Shadow Mode Multiply at 55% opacity. The layer was set to 46% opacity.) Definitely play with the sliders in the Layer Style – the Bevel and Emboss settings can really make some cool looks on the piece edges.


Image of an electric guitar player from Pixabay with puzzle effect applied

Example of Step 2: This action is very easy to use and there is a great short video on how to do this called How to Create Puzzle Effect in Photoshop by ReVon. Basically the biggest thing you need to worry about is the Aspect Ratio of your image so the action runs correctly. Open Image -> Image Size to see how large your image really is – this one was 6″ X 4″ roughly or a 3:2 aspect ratio. Go to the Crop Tool and set an Aspect Ratio that works if needed. Load the Puzzle.atn (just double-click on the action in the Explorer and it puts it in the Action Panel in PS). Open the action to see lots of choices – just beware that each puzzle piece is going on a separate layer so if the image is large, watch the size of the file. This image (called Pixabay Electric Guitar) was set to 3:2 aspect ratio and 54 piece set. When running the action, the top left puzzle piece will be highlighted, and the Drop Shadow Effect (it was turned if off for the above) and Bevel & Emboss Effect (used Depth of 100, Size 3) will be checked and can be adjusted before applying it to all pieces. He has included another action called Change Layer Style to use if you do not like the effect results when finished. The Puzzle action creates a New Document so the original file is not affected. To remove a piece(s), select the Move Tool and hold CTRL + click over the piece to be removed or turn off the layer eyeball on left. This actually gives a pretty nice result and is fast. Read the accompanying PDF for more tips. The Jigsaw brushes from Image One were used on a layer above the puzzle pieces and a Photofocus Sepiatone LUT (not sure where to find it)I at 65% layer opacity.


Guitar Man from Pixabay with puzzle effect on it.

Example of Step 3: Here is another type of puzzle effect that used an old Adobe Pattern for the puzzle template that PS provided with PS2019. (Who knew?) (Used my favorite ISO Republic Guitar Man for a subject.) Download it as discussed in Step 3 above. To find it, double click your layer to open the Layer Style and on the top left, select Styles – go down to the bottom and Puzzle should be listed there. You can see that it has a Bevel & Emboss effect applied to it along with a Texture. The Texture is the key to this puzzle effect – go into the Texture and you will see a Pattern that looks like a puzzle preset. Here you can Scale the piece size for your image (slide right for larger size up to 1000% – this image used 695%). I found turning off the Invert button and changing the Depth to +297 gave a more realistic puzzle look. The pattern can also be dragged around in the image to line it up right. Need to check in the Blending Options area the “Layer Mask Hides Effects” so the next step can be done. Say Okay and add a Layer Mask to the image. Paint out in the mask the little tabs from the edges to look like edge pieces. Create a stamped layer (ALT+SHIFT+CTRL+E) and underneath fill a New Layer with a background color – then add a Layer Mask to the stamped layer and paint out puzzle pieces to remove the puzzle pieces as if the puzzle is not done. This process definitely takes a more effort.


Digital art image of some beautiful arrows and feathers

Used a different jigsaw pattern (that is no long available on the internet) on the above. After loading the Pattern into PS, the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer was scaled to the Puzzle using a Scale of 110% for the Arrows image – it fit pretty good, but this will depend on the size of your image and the size of the pieces wanted. Then the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer was duplicated and rasterized by right clicking on the pattern and the original adjustment turned off by clicking on the layer eyeball. Why did I do this? So the Free Transform command could be used to adjust the edges exactly right. A Layer Mask was added to the rasterized layer and the tabs on the edges were painted out. The overall puzzle layer was set to 32% layer opacity so as not to overtake the elements in the image. See Image Two below for more info on creating the design.

Bottom Line is to use whatever works for you. I think the Adobe Free Action has a lot of possibilities but I did not spend that much time using it. I hope you at least enjoyed finding out the different ways the puzzle effect can be applied and what different results occur. Stay warm…….Digital Lady Syd


Image One: Of course, the first image above was just for fun – got some new resources this past month and thought I would try out a few. But the actual background puzzle image is one worked awhile ago of bird stamps (Finchley Paper Arts from Milton Bradley) – a phone image of the finished piece was taken and was placed over a Rusty 3 Vintage Paper by Suna Kosem. To get the paper to show up, used Blend If This Layer settings (56/138 and 162/255). A layer mask was used to paint the pieces off the face. (The face is from an old free brush set on Deviant Art called Phrenology Photoshop brushes by hogret.) The individual Jigsaw Puzzle pieces were from jigsaw(set07)briarrose_icons and are also available from Deviant Art. The Puzzled font is one of my very favorites called Everleigh Serif Font by Gleb Guralnyk – along with the paper, these items were in a Christmas $5 bundle from Design Cuts. Twice a year they run a great deal on some of their best items. The font at the bottom is Rosabelia SLDT, one I have been using a while – just like the way it looks, and it was from Creative Market, another great resource spot (check out their Free Goodies of the Week – this is how I got this font).

Image Two: The rest of the Arrow image was just adding a few arrows and feathers from the same Design Cuts set – this one was called Boho Arrows Clip Art – then changing the colors and adding some layers styles. I really like the pretty arrows so I wanted to try some type of creative image with them. To get the individual loose puzzle pieces from the actual image, a couple of the jigsaw pieces were painted out in Quick Mask to select them. They were put on separate layers and spun a little. 2 Lil’ Owls Mosaic Set’s Delfine Grunge (not sure it is still available) was the background texture (one of my favorites sets from her). It was a lot of fun to do!


Animated snow GIF of an Old St. Nick image

Happy Holidays!

I had so much fun creating these animated snow GIFs the past few days. Thought I would share how it is achieved since I have been looking for easy tutorials on this forever. BTW, the image above is of a beautiful Holiday item one of my friends had in her living room. The subject was first separated from the background and then snow and lots of other steps added to the it to get the start of a snowy effect before adding the animated snow layers.

The GIF tutorial I followed is by one of my very favorite PS guys, Corey Barker. If you are member of Kelby One, check out the November/December 2019 edition of Photoshop User Magazine, Shaping and Styling a Custom Holiday Scene article, and at the bottom click on the Learn More button – a nice 7 minute video on how to do this is shown and it works perfectly! A more complicated video called Create Realistic Animated Snow in Photoshop that uses 3D by Corey is also very good – basic steps are the same at the end of the video so it does not have to be done with a 3D effect (had to try this in CS6 but any snowy layer should work). Corey used a Pattern Layer Style in a timeline to get his snowy effect and that is what you see above and below. For the top image, two layers with layer styles were used – one that used the ornament image snow layer and one using my blurry snow overlay turned into a pattern. By dragging the blurry snowy pattern a little sideways in the Pattern Layer Style, a soft windy feeling could be achieved. The speed seems to be a bit of issue with this method as I could not figure out how to slow the rate of falling snow down a little.


Animated snow GIF of a Christmas Ornament

The ornament is a shape that was also explained in the PSUser magazine and everything else was painted or used Christmas brush strokes. And for your info, the crazy Fisheye effect is a filter in Topaz Lens Effects, one of my favorites (and it sure is a lot cheaper than buying a fisheye lens). Need to put your image together the way you want it before adding the animation effect. The green tree background was created using a silver colored pattern fill and clipping a Select Color Adjustment Layer to it for color. The bulbs were copied from one of old tree pix. And the branch edges and some ivy painted across some of the more bare areas were painted on using JS Scully’s Christmas Accent Brushes at DeviantArt. Also in the center were some PNG snowflakes from a while back that were turned into large soft brushes (I love doing this!). This time just created one layer with snow that would only show up inside the ornament. This was my first attempt and it took a while to figure out how to set it all up.


Animated Snow Gif

This image is from Deeezy’s 33 landscape photos free set and used a little different process to create the snow animation. This time the Photoshop marvel Colin Smith created a nice video called How to Make Animated Snow in Photoshop – it contains three snow layers in a Smart Object that ultimately ends up on top of your image (or videos). I thought this was an easier way to do the gif, but I had a lot of problems with the slight jiggling when the 5 second loop starts over. I think a lot of experimentation has to be done to get smooth snowfall. But overall it turned out pretty nice. In PS the Landscape Mixer Neuron Filter was set to the first preset image to turn the summery image into a wintry scene. Also a few layers were painted to add a snow accumulation effect to the objects. This effect has a more natural snow look with the snow layer animation speeds set to different amounts. This way of animating the snow does allow from some falling snow rate adjustment so that give a very different feel to the images.


Animated Snow Gif

What is really great is that this animation layer can be placed on a different photo (this last image is from Unsplash by Atikh-Bana) to make it an animation also. I cheated and duplicated the animation smart object layer from the Deeezy image above to this image and then changed the opacity of the different snow layers by opening the copied snow layer’s smart object and resaving. Then Color Lookup and Levels Adjustment Layers were applied before converting the image to a gif animation. To do this correctly, go to Colin’s video link above and scroll down to follow his saving directions so the snow layer can be easily be added into another image easily.

This is very challenging to do, but once you start to understand the Photoshop Timeline Panel, it is pretty easy to figure out. It was fun to have a challenge and hopefully I will learn a few tricks to make this easier, especially with adjusting the snow speed and how the loop interacts. Everyone have a Great Holiday and I will see you next year!………Digital Lady Syd


Vintage image of the Colonial Hotel in Nassau.

I have been taking a break for a while – lots was going on with all the many Photoshop conferences and the new versions of Lightroom and Photoshop. Everyone seems to be using this one filter in PS – I can’t say that I blame them. It is turning out to be pretty cool! Since writing a blog called Wow! The New Improved Photoshop Neural Filter Colorize in August, the filter has gotten much more stable and works a lot smoother.

The above is an image of the old Colonial Hotel built in 1901 by Henry Flagler in Nassau, the Bahamas. The hotel burned down in 1922 and the British Colonial Hilton Hotel is now located on this area. The image is from (see original black and white). The area has some interesting history including scenes from the James Bond Movie Never Say Never Again! Thought I’d include this vintage 1918 postcard of the original hotel from Wikipedia. Wish I could have visited the original – it looks quite beautiful!

Postcard of the old Colonial Hotel in Nassau from 1913

For post processing on the top photo the relatively new PS Neural Filter Colorize was selected using just the preset called Retro-Faded. After applying the filter on a New Layer, a stamped (or composite) layer was created on top, and the Edit -> Sky Replacement command was used to add in a more interesting sky. On a new stamped layer, Color Efex Pro 4 was used to soften up the whole image to give an overall nice warm feeling (Ink, Darken/Lighten Center and Film Efex: Vintage filters were used). Last step was a Curves Adjustment Layer for some image contrast.


Image of a Fountain sculpture of Neptune

Below you can see the image of Neptune was larger and what settings were used. (See my 1-minute video called Hilton Waikoloa Village Palace Tower Fountain for other fountain images taken a while ago – I have no idea who created it!) It was cropped down to emphasize the expression on Neptune‘s face (this guy had a bunch of children). It took a lot of steps but the color definitely came from the Colorization Neural Filter. Below is the original image in the Colorize Panel. Just the sliders were used this time.

Settings for the Colorization Neural Filter in Neptune image

The main objects were selected, which took quite a while due to the complexity of the subjects and many items had to be covered, removed or added to get a more unified feel in the image – just basic PS clean up. One of my painted backgrounds was used to give a more painterly old feel. An oldie-but-a-goodie filter was brought out to give the image a warmer feel – Topaz Lens Effect’s Gold Reflection filter was applied at 79% layer opacity – then some of the effect was painted out with a layer mask so it was not overdone. Finished up with the Camera Raw to adjust the colors a little more. But overall this is the color palette that was applied from the Colorization filter.


Colorized image taken from B&W image.

The above image was another black and white image of Bannack, Montana in 1942. I wanted to show that this image was colorized in the neural filter twice. First converting a duplicate of the original the black and whiter Background layer with the Output to New Color Layer checkbox on (see first screenshot below), and then using four Focal Points, three adding yellow to the dirt road and one to cool down the first hillside area (see second screenshot below). Back in PS the only other things done to the image were a Levels Adjustment Layer and a little bit of Dodging and Burning on the dirt road to define the edges.

Screenshot of the Neural Filter using the Output to New Color Layer checkbox.
Image of the Colorize Filter in PS using Focal Points.

As stated above PS has added a couple extra tweaks to the new PS 2022 upgrade and the filter no longer is crashing as much (also my brushes are working correctly again!) I did have one big program blow-out (PS just disappeared!) while adjusting the Focal Points, but when tried again it worked.

Still figuring out the other filters. It seems there needs to be a little more work done to get them working as good as the Colorize Filter. I did learn that if your Neural Filters keep crashing your system or shuts the filter down, you can delete the filter file and let Photoshop restore them when you restart the program. This fixed some of my errors with these filters, but not all. Here is the Adobe troubleshooting link.

Hope you have tried out this filter – it seems like it does have some very nice uses for the PS creative. It is nice to see PS adding a few new items to try out……Digital Lady Syd


Image of a lioness drawing

This week I thought I would present a few handy tips and tricks that you may not know or had forgotten – some are from a few years ago. These are ones I found while experimenting on my latest images. Maybe they will be helpful for you while working on yours. The image above was drawn and painted from an photo I took at the Jacksonville Zoo a while back. I love her expression. So here we go…..

  1. CHECK VALUES QUICKLY (PS): Sam Peterson from Adobe Creative Live, has this excellent way to turn your photo to black and white to see how the image values are looking. First need to set up the panel. In PS go to View -> Proof Setup -> Custom and in Customize Proof Condition Dialog, set Proof Conditions – Device to Simulate to Dot Gain 20%, Rendering Intent to Relative Colorimetric, and check Black Point Compensation. Now these settings will always remain. Simply press CTRL+Y and instantly you will see the whole image in B&W. Just press CTRL+Y again and it removes the effect. Also, the Color Picker still works when image is in B&W so you can see what color is causing a problem if you do not like the results. Really cool! I am using this all the time now for a quick view of what is happening with the tones in the image.
  2. SHADOW AND HIGHLIGHT LAYERS (PS): Another Sam Peterson trick – this guy does have some really interesting techniques! For images with really neutral lighting, he creates a New Layer and sets it to Multiply blend mode and selects a grayish-blue tone (try #8e969e). Clip this layer to object layer for keeping shadows confined to the object only. Otherwise can use on the whole image. Use any brush, soft Airbrush or hard edged, to paint in the shadows. (Can create a gobo lighting effect doing this with an interesting stamp brush – see my Photoshop Gobo Lightng Effect blog.) He does the same technique for Highlights using a Color Dodge blend mode and a darkish mid-gray color (try #42403d). These two layers work well together and give some beautiful results. By using these colors and adjusting the brush opacity and flow, a subtle result can be achieved.
  3. BRUSH SMOOTHING FOR TRACING (PS): This tip is from Paul Trani also from Adobe Creative Live. When tracing over an image and are having problems controlling the brush strokes, set the brush Smoothing up to 50 and the lines stroke much easier. It does slow the brush down a little, but it really helps to create nice smooth curves lines. I am finding this very helpful anytime I am using a very small sized thin line brush – used it to add some tree branches on a trunk recently.
  4. SELECT AND MASK REFINE EDGE BRUSH (PS): I have always struggled with getting good results in this panel. Well Sam Peterson once again gave me some insight for this tool. With the layer mask highlighted, go into the Select and Mask Panel and choose the Refine Edge brush icon, 2nd down on left side. In Tool Options Bar at top, open the drop-down next to the brush size field and set the brush Hardness to 0, Spacing to 25%, Angle to 0, Roundness to 100% and Size to Off. Also note that the Radius is set to 0, Smart Radius is not checked, and Object Aware selected. Once I did this, I found it was much easier to get good results on the edges, particularly when selecting hair or fur. He also cautions that dragging the brush too much inside selection will allow the edges to creep in. Drag on the very edges outside of object for best results. Use the ALT key and paint back any area that leaks in or use the Brush Tool (3rd icon on left) to clean up.
  5. CAPS LOCK TO FIND AND PAINT WITH BRUSH (PS): Kim Klassen of texture fame put me onto this one. When painting with a very tiny brush or very large brush where it is hard to see, just press the Caps Lock to get a small cross so you can see where the center of the brush is. It works with painting with a very tiny sized brush. I use this trick all the time when using cleaning up areas with small brushes like cleaning up halos, etc.
  6. SMUDGE BRUSH AND MIXER BRUSH LAG ISSUES (PS): These tips comes from Kyle T. Webster, the Adobe Brush Evangelist. If your Smudge or Mixer brush are acting very sluggish, you may need to turn off Sample All Layers due to several layers in image. Can also go into the Brush Settings Panel -> Brush Tip Shape section and – for Smudge Tool, uncheck Spacing and for Mixers set the Spacing to 5%. Try reducing the brush size also. It helps to close other documents open in PS and any open web browsers to speed things up too.
  7. DEHAZE SLIDER TIPS (LR): Two major Lightroom and Photoshop gurus offer these tips. Moose Peterson, of wildlife reknown, says that whenever he uses Dehaze, he always lowers the Blue Saturation in the HSL/Grayscale tab since the slider tends to crank up the blues. John Paul Caponigro, possibly my favorite PS guru, says that Neutral areas may turn magenta, and Shadow areas pick up strong blue or green casts. Can reduce Saturation after using, but what he likes to do it create a Virtual Copy. On one copy use no Dehaze and on another use it. Highlight both images in filmstrip, right click on an image, and select Edit In -> Open as Layers in PS. Put layer with no Dehaze on top and change to Color blend mode. Something to try IMO.
  8. ADJUSTING PRESENCE SLIDERS IN LANDSCAPE IMAGES (LR): This info comes from Randy Van Duinon, a very good architectural and landscape photographer, who uses an interesting LR workflow. He starts by first adjusting the Texture slider which works in the fine detail adding contrast in these areas; next the Clarity slider which adds contrast in the midtone areas (he keeps this amount around 35 and more on cloudy days); and finally Dehaze which adds contrast to the larger areas. Then he continues with the Basic settings. This has worked out well for me at times.
  9. USING PROFILES IN LIGHTROOM (LR): Daniel Gregory, a professional fine art photographer, came up with what I consider is a rather common sense tip. Since the image can change rather dramatically just by changing a profile, he believes that it should be applied first as he would be making different setting decisions depending upon which profile he uses. The Adobe profiles do not have an amount slider, but usually creative profiles that are downloaded have this slider. Consider the Amount slider the same as an Opacity slider on a layer in PS. I will add that many people do not add the profile until the end (Matt Kloskowsky for example) so this is definitely something to try.
  10. PARAMETRIC AND LINEAR CURVES (LR): This tip is from Tobi Shinobi, a bright young newcomer on the PS scene. In the Tone Curves section, first adjust the Linear Curve (2nd white round circle) and add your points. Press ALT to reset the curve and ALT+click over the curve to set a point to adjust. Right click to delete point. The go to Parametric Curve and adjust – they work independently of each other. Use this order to add some finesse to your images.

I hope there were some new ideas presented in these tips. Some really great PS and LR gurus have some great ideas! It was fun putting this together. See ya soon again…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of a painted young person

Hi everybody! I know it has been a while since I blogged, but I really have been busy with Photoshop! Major project going through all brushes! So many to choose from and big decisions on which to use. Of course this is a whole other blog on how to sort through this. The portrait image above, by Christopher Campbell at Unsplash, is one that worked nicely with the brushes for the painting effect required in this blog.

Starting Out

Adobe Creative Cloud has Photoshop Daily Creative Challenge videos that are released for Photoshop every few weeks. A couple months ago Sam Peterson, an illustrator and painter, ran two weeks of some really fabulous PS videos. One was called Brushes where he gives you a starter file and walks you through how to create a similar effect as shown above. The image used PS’s Camera Raw, Angled Strokes and Oil Paint filters to begin the painterly process as Sam demonstrates. He also showed how to create a background to match the image to be painted. This photo used a brush called Clay for the background that was in Kyle T. Webster’s India Set he sold for charity (unfortunately no longer available). It is basically a chunky block brush. For a very similar brush, check out the Brix Brush in Kyle’s Summer 2020 brush set or for the brushe, Disastro or Disastro Spatter in his Summer 2021 Brushes, which uses both the foreground and background colors (press harder or lighter to get variations and a cool texture effect). Lots of different brushes were tried before finding a background brush I liked – but then this is half the fun! For info on how to download and load Kyle’s free PS sets, see my Kyle T. Webster’s Photoshop Brushes blog – scroll down to the How To Find His Brushes and Loading the Brushes sections.

The Mixer Blender

Sam gave guidance on what brush settings to use, but it is up to you to find a brush on which to apply these settings. This process is using a Mixer brush to blend, not a Smudge brush which a lot of people call a blender brush. Mixer brushes are a more advanced version of the Smudge. It does not appear Kyle uses Mixer brushes very often for blending as there are only a few in his sets (there are several Mixers in his Megapack Real Oils section will work nicely). For something like digital painting, I would recommend using Mixer Blenders for this exact and complicated blending. The main thing to remember is that the Wet and Load amounts, which Sam sets at 15% to start, can be adjusted “on the fly” to get a more or less painterly effect from the brush. He did not change his Mix and Flow which were both at 50%. Still okay to change if it helps. Also, if a color is needed to be added in, like for a cheek or lips, there are several ways to do this. I find the easiest is to select a regular brush and splash a bit of color in for blending with the Mixer. In another blog I will discuss some of these Mixer points.

One of my favorite Mixer (blender) brushes, and one I used extensively on this image, is by David Belliveau (free download of 4 brushes at the link and also check out his amazing drawing tutorials – link to my blog on David’s technique is listed below). The settings Sam suggested worked fine with this brush (set to 195 pixels). When set to 15 pixels, used David’s settings to do the detail work on the image, like the eyes, lips, and some hair – mainly where the focal point is, after the original blending was done. The larger brush was used to soften down all the other edges other than the eyes and hair by the right eye which were left sharpened as discussed below. As a reminder, once the settings have been added into the Brush Settings panel for the Mixer, save it down as a new brush. Otherwise all the settings will be lost if you go to a different brush and want to come back to this Mixer.

Once a brush is chosen, it was time to paint with the Mixer – Sam seemed to only paint on one layer, but I found it much better to split it up for the different areas being painted. For the right image below, here is a list of some of the layers created – started with a basic once over on the face smoothing the edges like in Sam’s tutorial, then evening out the lighting effect on the next layer, added color to her cheeks, eyelash layer, pupils layer, iris layer, catchlight layer, fixed the shirt on another layer – just duplicated part of it and blended it together, some hair strands added on another, and lips painted. As you can see, it is a bit labor intensive, but the results are worth it. By putting everything on separate layers, corrections can be made really easily. Below on the left is the original image and on the right is the one that looks like a pretty decent retouch – so what makes it look more painterly?

Original and first attempt at painting portrait

Getting the Final Painterly Look

Mainly adding a texture is a key to getting the more painterly effect needed to sell the look. Sam has a texture in the PSD file he provides and several other brushing suggestions are given to get this look. Also using Color Lookup Adjustment Layers, and possibly Gradient Map Adjustment Layers, using different blend modes and opacities gives some nice painterly effects. And do not be afraid to stack several of the same kind of adjustments using different blend modes and opacities. Just remember that usually a Curves or Levels Adjustment Layer must be added on top to bring back some contrast. So this is what was done on this image to finish up the “look:”

  1. Liquify was applied to enlarge her eyes just little and give her mouth a bit of an upturn (this filter is so cool!).
  2. A stamped layer was created and a Sharpen action was run on the image – a black layer mask was applied and just her eyes, her hair strand on the right and a small section of her ear lob were sharpened.
  3. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer set to 80% opacity was run using On1-Heat Wave LUT – one that adds warmth into the image – any warm one you will probably get this effect. This really filled her face with a beautiful light effect.
  4. Another Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added and set to 12% layer opacity called Teal Orange Plus Contrast preset (not sure where I got this). It darkened down the blues in her shirt.
  5. Added a Levels Adjustment Layer to flatten down the blacks a little since paintings do not have true blacks in them usually.
  6. Added French Kiss Tableaux Mirage-2 Texture – used a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer clipped to the texture with Saturation set to -100 so only the strokes from her texture show up. The texture was set to Overlay blend mode at 46% layer opacity. (See link to my blog on how to do this below.) These layers were grouped and set to 62% Group opacity – then the Group’s layer style was opened and the Blend If Slider was set to This Layer Black tab split to 0/86 and Underlying Layer White tab split to 121/255 so the strokes showed up just like I wanted them.
  7. Next on a New Layer below the Group file, a brush was created from the texture and used to cover the whole image to give it more of a painterly look – the layer was set to a reddish brown brush color, Color Burn blend mode and 93% opacity. It adds some nice soft canvas looking lines in the image, especially on the face. (See link to my blog on how to do this below.)
  8. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the Group above and the Saturation was increased (+44) and Lightness lowered (-38) to darken down and add more color to the image.
  9. Last step was a final Levels Adjustment Layer – Black tab to 16 and Output Levels black set to 5.

Hopefully you can get an idea what really goes into these digital paintings. And I am still not sure it is really a “Painting” since the original image was used, but it definitely looks more painterly than just a good retouching effect. I still look at it and see places where it could be improved, but it is a learning process. Definitely it took me several hours just to figure out the Mixer blending to get the effects needed. Enjoyed being back and plan on doing this a lot more. ……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:

Where to Find a Good Photoshop Painter – David Belliveau tutorial information

How to Create a Texture Brush to Match a Texture

How to Add Texture to an Image without Adding Its Color (You Tube video link in blog)


Digital Art image of a cat at a store door.

Sorry I have not been blogging as much as I have in the past. I have been watching a lot of videos and trying to figure out how to use the Photoshop brushes to actually give a reasonable painterly brush stroke. There does not seem to be much on how to actually do this – only a few digital artists talk about it. I felt like the above image starts to emulate painterly strokes as it might look in Corel Painter, but not sure about if it emulates real media results. (In my Painting Acrylics Digitally – Can It Be Done? blog, I did get a pretty decent acrylic look.) The original above image is from Unsplash by Luca Bravo in Arles, France and was posted in my Beautiful Blue Door Tidbits Blog 3 years ago that used the Mixer brushes. For this blog I have been experimenting to try and get a consistent painterly stroke and finding settings that might work on other brush tips for a similar look. I have listed throughout this blog several free resources for brushes used in the above so check out the hyperlinks. I am also finding out this is a huge subject to cover so I am just addressing a small portion this week.

Creating the Sketch (black outline)

In the above the black lines were drawn in to create the layout of the original image. Used the PS Megapack Inkbox and Kyle’s Clean as a Whistle brush – lots of Click + SHIFT’s to draw straight lines (and it still is not perfect). When drawing a horizontal or vertical line, just keep holding down the SHIFT key while dragging to see how it is looking. This was handy for this image. If needing a more diagonal line, it will not work. When doing regular sketching, I usually use Grut – I Qwillo brush ($1 for all his individual brushes). Nicolai has an enormous number of fabulous brushes on this site (his Cloud set is the best around) . Every Monday there is a free brush of the week to download and is a great way to try out different media brushes. In this case a little richer stronger line was needed. So I would suggest trying different brushes until you get the line effect you need.

Painting Brushes

I have been trying to stick mostly to Kyle’s brushes here that can downloaded easily to try tout if you are using the later versions of Photoshop. For more info on how to download his PS brushes, see my Kyle T. Webster’s Photoshop Brushes blog. BTW Kyle has just released his Adobe PS Spring 2021 Brush set, so give them a try. The Edvard Munch brush set first appeared in 2017 in a 4-part video series called Get Started with Digital Painting Photoshop – they are not part of the PS2021 brushes, but are a free download here at the Adobe Creative Cloud. He found the Munch Filbert Dry Mixer gives a sort of an impasto look. To get the painterly strokes on each side of the door, I liked Kyle’s Munch Medium Flat brush but I did make some setting adjustments. I am using the brushes below to get some nice painterly strokes. I did switch a bit between them to get the right stroke effect on the walls.

The first brush was named SJ KTW Munch-Medium Flat-painting (150 px) and does not have much color variation but does use both the foreground and background colors with Pen Pressure (this means press light and background color appears and hard for foreground color when using a tablet.) Only the settings listed were changed: Texture section – was changed to one I imported from Painter, but the Rough pattern texture (Invert checked) seems pretty close (it can be found in the Photoshop default Erodible Textures set) and setting Brightness to -22, Contrast 57, Depth 19%, Minimum Depth 82%, Depth Jitter 27%, and Control to Pen Pressure; in Color Dynamics section checked the Apply Per Tip and set the Control to Pen Pressure; and in Transfer section set Opacity Jitter to 38%, Minimum to 55%, Flow Jitter 13% and Minimum 74%.

The second brush was named SJ KTW Munch-Med Flat-Painting Var1-try sim colors (175 px) to remind me how to use the brush. These settings were changed: Texture – changed it to same Rough pattern (Invert checked), Brightness to -13, Contrast to 33, Depth to 14%, Min Depth to 21%, Depth Jitter to 69%, and Control Pen Pressure; Color Dynamics changes were to check Apply Per Tip, Control set to Pen Pressure, and Saturation Jitter to 4%, Brightness 4%, and Purity to -20%; and Transfer set to Minimum Opacity Jitter 84%, Flow Jitter 43%, and Min 28%. Also the Dual Brush section was opened and the same brush,130 (size) Kyle munch flat medium1, was selected – should already show a Size of 130 px, Spacing 17%, Scatter with Both Axes checked, Scatter to 202% and Count 1; and finally Wet Edges section checked.

Try changing the Brush Tip Shape Spacing to adjust how much texture is showing up. Below are examples of how the strokes look all using the same foreground and background colors. If you have a different Texture pattern you want to try, go ahead but do adjust the sliders. Just be sure to save any brush variants you like when finished. See if you can get some nice stroke effects for solid areas especially. I would suggest trying a different brush tip (check out the list provided in the Brush Tip Shape section and just select one you like) using similar settings (or the settings from any brush you like). This is a great way to create your own paint stroke effect. I will talk more on this in a later blog.

Finishing Up

The bottom sidewalk and door pane effect was created using Kyle’s India Brushes Clay brush that I purchased recently for only $1 for his humanitarian cause of Covid 19 in India. (Available until May 10th.) All these brushes are great but I especially like the effect of this one. Kyle also has a free Builder Brush available at his website seems to do a similar result.

The other brushes used in this image were from Jessica Johnson and her fabulous Pattern Stamp brushes – I always seem to be using them! What I love most about Jessica is that she gives out samples of her different types of brushes which is always very helpful. This time it was the pattern at the top that was a give-away called 3 Modern Renaissance which included a brush and a pattern. Check out her You Tube video Free Photoshop Brush & Metallic Color Palette: Inspired by Dior Couture – Modern Renaissance to get her freebies (see 4-13-Free Renaissance Brush zip file) – and be sure to sign up for her E-mail to get notified when she has new brushes and patterns to release. In this case the Modern Renaissance was used as a regular brush and painted on in a darker gray color. Also used her Moody Floral Bold pattern stamp brush with her English Garden pattern (TM12) was used for the colorful flowers on the window sill and by the cat. When you go to her freebies for the Modern Renaissance brush, click on the 3-15-Free Brush Mon zip folder which contains the Moody Floral Brush and an accompanying pattern. I just love the flower stroke with this brush.

One of Chris Spooner’s free Subtle Grain Textures (6) was applied to give the wall a bit of a cement feel and tie it in as a building. It was masked off the cat and windows. He has lots of nice free resources at his site. The name plate with instructions are in my blog called How to Create Personal Overlays for Your Images – one of my most popular blogs.

Contour Trick

The large black cat is part of a set called Egyptian Hieroglyphs by Skybox Creative that cost $12. If you check every Monday several items are available at Free Goods of the Week which is how I got this vector cat. To give him the cool contour (like my gray cat Sophie), a Bevel & Emboss layer style was added using an Inner Bevel, Smooth, Depth 230%, Direction Up, Size 68 and Soften 0. Then in the Gloss Contour, the Gaussian contour was selected – then Highlight Mode Screen, White, at 29% Opacity and Shadow Mode Multiply, Black, at 32% Opacity. The Contour was checked and the Contour was set to one by Jenni and I have no idea where I got it. Just play around a little with – it give some really cool 3D effects. The other cat is from a set called Cat Family by teddybearcholla (found in a very old Photoshop Creative magazine). A Bevel and Emboss layer style was also used on this cat, with a Depth of 532%, Up, Size 7 px and Soften 0 – Highlight Opacity set to Screen and 77% opacity and Shadow Mode set to Multiply and 33% opacity. A Watercolor pattern texture was added and set to a Depth of +26%. The layer styles really gave both cat items a fresh look.

Digital Art image of a cat at a store door.

Above is a variation of the same image with just a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer with a Cerulean preset at 25% layer opacity and a Gradient Map set to Overlay at 34% layer opacity that used purple and pink randomized color added. Quite a different look. Eventually I hope to get an E-book or PDF together that can be used as a basic guide to show some of the little tricks the sliders do. For example, did you know that if you put the Shape Dynamics Size Jitter Control (even with no Jitter set) to Pen Pressure, the actual Brush stroke appears smaller. Check the Brush Preview in the Brush Settings panel to see the range between the thick and thin stroke now. There is a lot more to this, but that is just an example showing how the stroke will be different with just one setting change. And the people who do paint digitally use all kinds of different settings to get their brushes to work. In the meantime, I will try to pop in more often! Have some fun trying out some new brushes……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

ReBlog – How to Use Photoshop’s Brush Texture Section for Painting Clean-up

Looking at the Smudge Tool – Again

How Photoshop’s Color Dynamics Brush Settings Work

What about the Pattern Stamp Tool? Not So Bad!

Happy Valentines Day

Image of a Valentines Day card effect

This week I did a quick little Valentines Day card. Most of this card has the standard valentine elements I have used before. But I did create the element in the middle from a video I recently watched on Design Cuts called How to Create a 4-Way Mandala in Photoshop by Leslie Nicole from French Kiss Textures (her textures are some of the best you will find). It was so much fun trying out the Mandala designs that I had to show a couple. The design above also used some really nice valentine elements from Karen Bonaker, the Corel Painter Master. At her site, she gave these away as Painter brushes, but I switched them over to Photoshop ones by following one of my old blogs called How to Bring a Corel Painter Brush into Photoshop – worked like a charm! I painted the background using almost all the brushes she offered – lot of fun here.

Back to the Mandala – I had never seen Leslie’s technique for creating these so it really intrigued me. Below is an example of one created following the basic steps she uses. The video gives a great explanation of how it is done. Leslie mainly uses flower stems or designs to create them. Below my white lily image that is posted here was used as the starting element for the design.

Mandala of a White Lily

Some painted texture was added behind and Kyle’s Spatter brushes were used also. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Simplify was used on the flower in the center to get it to match the image.

This technique is really not as hard as it seems and it gives a beautiful and original result. I plan on trying several more as they are quit fun to do! (Check out this one I just finished a little late: Valentines Mandala) Enjoy the Day!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of flowers taken at the Garlic Restaurant in New Smyrna Beach, Florida

The last few weeks have been pretty busy for us Photoshop groupies what with all kinds of webinars and tutorials being released by both our favorite software companies and photographers. I thought I would just go over a few techniques..

Side Note here: With Black Friday coming up, here are my favorite filters: Viveza – still cannot be beat as an overall filter; Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website links for all plugins) AI Sharpen – use it on every photo and can’t live without it; and a tie between Luminar 4 – just has some cool things in it – not sure yet on their new AI, but I happy with this version for now; and Topaz Studio 3 – this program has so many filters that are so useful like Impression, ReMix, Color Theme, Glow and Edges (and DeNoise Clear). If I just had these filters, I would probably be totally happy. Now I will say Topaz DeNoise AI is excellent when the need arises but I do not use it on every image, and Topaz Gigapixel I use all the time as a stand-alone mainly. And yes Color Efex Pro is always great – I just do not use it much.

The above image of the inside at the Garlic Restaurant in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, is a good example of what can be done with the Pattern Stamp Tool. It can create some pretty impressive results and is major useful for creating textures. Used Jessica Johnson‘s new techniques (video and some freebies) at this link – she has lots of newsletter freebies so sign up at her site. I recently bought her Instapressionist brushes and am having a lot of fun experimenting with them. I am finding I can blend this tool with my regular painting to get some very unique effects. I also use the brush to fill in places in my image that needs some soft detail in the backgrounds.

Pixabay image of a violin

The above violin image from Pixabay was used to apply Frequency Separation (FS) to the rather wrinkled backdrop behind the instrument – the link will show you the image as downloaded. I wanted to try this technique out on something other than portraits since I am not really a retoucher or portrait photographer. So in October Adobe Max 2020 had an on-line virtual Photoshop Creativity Conference. Their link takes you to gobs of sessions, many on PS only. (I believe I heard these videos will be available to access for a year.) Earth Oliver, a commercial retoucher, did three classes all on Frequency Separation 2.0: Part 1 – Photoshop FS2.0 Retouching, Part 2 – Taking Images to the Next Level, and Part 3 – Problem Solving Techniques. And he also supplies you with an action to use. He speaks pretty slowly, but he makes it really easy to understand FS. He also uses the Mixer Brush in some of his steps which I found really useful. FS videos were also presented by Lisa Carney at the Photoshop Virtual Summit 2 (created by Photoshop Guy Dave Cross) which brought together 20 PS experts for roughly 40 hours of videos, but these summits are always fun to watch and full of great tips in them – the videos had to be purchased at time of viewing. Lisa Carney did a Basic FS Class for Beginners and one using FS on all types of files, including smoothing out wrinkles in clothes or backgrounds. She also has a Creative Live video called Retouching Clothing and Fabric, which is really good. Using the info from two retouchers, the above image was adjusted. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to create the interesting color of the violin (just dragged in the image with the toggle finger). Design Cuts Blooming Corner by Maria Letta Corner1 brush was used as detail behind the violin after selecting the violin. Last step was adding a Curves Adjustment Layer selecting the preset Basic Matte Effect. I can finally say I understand FS and will now use it a lot more.

Image of a man with NYC in the background

This image uses two free images: etty fidele in Bologna Italy (Unsplash) and New York City from Deeezy (Image 12). Chris Spooner, a British PS person, recently gave away this really cool Gold Action. In the above case it was run separately on each photo and then combined with a nebula image (from Unsplash) added that was also turned to gold using a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Just sort of one of those fun things to try and every now and then and whenever something gold is needed. This really works!

Same image as above, but this time I put one of my own Corel Painter textures behind the violin and added some sand on the instrument (this was actually a snow brush from Serge Ramelli with a brown color). The colors were changed by using the old Match Color command which Ben Wilmore explained clearly in his Summit video. On Creative Live Ben has this info in his Photoshop Mastery Retouching and Collage videos – they are older but still very good. I have never used this command so I was surprised how good it turned out. As a Source image, one of the textures I had created with a beige color was selected. Then the Luminosity, Color Intensity and Fade sliders were adjusted to get the overall colors wanted. It was pretty easy and turned out nice. To get the beach feel, the PS Lighting Effects filter in the Render grouping was used with a Point light set to a yellowish color and Intensity of 19, a white Exposure of 26 and Ambience of 29 to get this soft beach feel.

Hope my US friends have a great Thanksgiving – probably a bit low key – I know mine is going to be. But have fun anyway. Hope you get in on some great sales – the plugin companies all have good deals going on. Later…..Digital Lady Syd


Drawing of an Elephant
This week I decided I to try another drawing video and see what results I could get this time. One of my favorite wildlife artists (and Disney cartoonist extraordinaire!) Aaron Blaise had a sale on an older set of videos (he was using Photoshop CS6) called Wildlife Painting Bundle for Photoshop. The above Elephant was drawn and painted following the steps in his 1-1/2 hour long Elephant Painting Tutorial video. He takes you step-by-step on how to create the image in great detail. It took me much longer than 1-1/2 hours to do this – had to walk away a few times and start certain sections over to get it correct. The main challenge was to get used to the Erodible Brush he showed you how to create. Once you have mastered the brush, it was amazing what it could do! One hint here, I had to actually add some Softness to the brush (41%) to keep my lines from getting too sharp when making wider strokes – and the brush size was set to 7 or 8 pixels to get sharp sketchy lines. The only downside was the Elephant video’s resolution was lower than the other three and this made it a little harder to see some of his settings.

Aaron’s Elephant image was darker and used warmer tones rather like a Safari. My image used Topaz (see sidebar of my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReStyle to get more gray tones. The file became very large – almost a gigabyte and that seemed a bit excessive for a drawing. Therefore two different files were saved – a drawing file after finishing up the video, and a duplicate stamped layer from the drawing file to add my other changes. Aaron also teaches you how to create an interesting textured background and how to add special effects to it to enhance the overall drawing when finished. This bundle contained videos for a Leopard (which I am doing right now), a Lion and a Panther.

Drawn Image of a wolf
My wolf drawing above was created a few years ago following Aaron’s YouTube video called How to Paint Fur – Photoshop – Wolf Portrait. It contains very similar steps, but since the wolf has hair instead of skin, it used different brushes. For more details on how this was done, check out my Learning to Draw a Wolf! blog. Aaron’s video for the wolf is also great for learning to draw. He has lots of other YouTube videos, several where he is using natural media as opposed to digital, but all of them are very informative. He is an excellent teacher.

There are several other digital artists that are sharing their Photoshop techniques. I am a big fan of David Belliveau of Paintable for learning to paint people. (See my Where to Find a Good Photoshop Painter blog.) A couple times a year he offers free week long lessons that are terrific, and he has some really great PS brushes for free download. And EDX (University of Newcastle in Australia) offers a free Drawing Course called Drawing Nature, Science and Culture: Natural History Illustration 101 – this is a course I keep meaning to start taking and have not had time to do it. This may be a great time to try! And just for some crazy fun, try doodling! (See my blog How to Enjoy the Doodle!)


Below is a little drawing and painting done several years ago. Just another example of something that can be drawn easily. It followed my blog called Some Flower Power that describes the basic steps used.

Image of some drawn flowers

Some Photoshop News

Also thought I would just add a couple notes for everyone. Photoshop just posted an upgrade (fixes tablet issues which I was having big-time! Thank you Adobe!), Skylum Luminar 4 update that now allows adding components into your sky and has greatly improved the skin panels (Thank you Skylum!), and Topaz AI Sharpen which now allows selective sharpening using a mask (Thank you Topaz Labs!). See sidebar of my Tidbits Blog for Skylum and Topaz website links. Should be some fun stuff to investigate this coming week. Hope everyone is at home and feeling well! Have a great time with drawing in Photoshop. There are so many things to learn by drawing that can help your photography skills too!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of abstract buildings painted in Corel Painter
I found some good info in my old notes on the settings for Color Dynamics in the Brush Settings Panel. With so many sliders it is easy to be confused on how to use these settings when you want to just add another color to your brush for painting. In the image above, which was created in Corel Painter, a scatter brush was used on a separate layer in Photoshop using Kyle’s scatter brush below using blue colors. The Color Dynamics section is not available for all PS brushes, but is for the Regular Brushes, Pattern Stamp Brushes and Art History Brushes.

Back in 2014, Melissa Gallo, a Corel Master and great painter, created Painting with Photoshop Workshop with 26 videos. It contained all kinds of brushes, patterns, actions, etc., that covered everything needed to learn to paint in PS. It is still available on her site and worth getting if you are really interested in learning to paint with PS. One of the her videos has a very uncomplicated way of looking at the Color Dynamic sliders. The other major reference for this is from David Belliveau, who mainly draws portraits in Photoshop (he offers a free class a couple times a year which are excellent so look for this) and has some wonderful free PS brushes (scroll down the page to find them). He covered this topic in Brushmakers Blueprint, a video from 2016 which appears to be only available on his member site.

Below is a screen shot of the Color Dynamics Section as shown in PS. Be sure to click on the actual words “Color Dynamics” to open up the settings. If just the left side check mark is clicked, it does not open up.

Image of the Color Dynamics section in PS Brush Settings Panel
Kyle’s Spatter Br-Pressure Control brush is in his Scatter Brushes group, one of the free sets that can be downloaded if you use PS. (To find these brushes, go to upper pop-out menu in the Brushes Panel and select Get More Brushes – the Scatter brushes can be downloaded from this page.) Note that this is an Airbrush as shown by the icon checked in the Options Bar – the longer you press on the brush, the more dense it gets. The original brush does not have Color Dynamics checked so all the brush strokes will appear in just one color. To get the colorful effect shown in my top image, the screenshot settings were used.  After adding the settings, the brush was resaved (by clicking the “plus sign in a box” icon at the bottom of both the Brush Panel and Brush Setting Panel). In the New Brush dialog, rename the brush (I added my initials to it so I knew it has the new settings) and check “Capture Brush Size in Preset” and “Include Tool Settings.” Below are listed all the color settings and what they do. The word “Jitter” means change in the digital world according to Melissa.

Foreground/Background Jitter: When kept at 0, the colors will mix just fine but will have mostly Foreground color variations. If you move the slider right, more of the Background colors are picked up until the stroke shows more of the Background color variations. (This is when the Hue is set to 0 – move this slider and get a lot more color variations.) This setting is not so important if the Control field is set (see next paragraph). I tend to adjust this slider and not change the Control field when adding color to most of my brushes.

Control: In the above brush settings, Control is set to off as I liked the effect I was getting as is. By switching in the drop-down to Fade with Foreground/Background Jitter set to 0, it takes 25 steps (if that is the number chosen in this field) to go from the foreground color to the background color. If set to Pen Pressure, it lets you paint using foreground to background colors depending on how hard you press (when using a tablet & pen). Many people just use this and not change much else in the panel.

Apply Per Tip: Located at the top of the Brush Setting Panel, when turned on, the colors are all mixed according to the panel slider settings. With the Pen Pressure set in the Control field, press hard to get the foreground color and light to get background colors. If you turn this off, each time you make a stroke, the same color will appear. So all the scatter color might be pink with one stroke and red with another. Different way of laying down the color in the stroke. I find this a little hard to control.

Hue Jitter: This decides how many colors you get between the foreground and background colors. Want more, move slider right; want fewer, move slider left. Note that as you increase the slider, more colors will be added into the stroke with Apply Per Tip on. Set to 100%, all colors will be shown. The Hue Jitter above is set to 25% which means 25% will go from the foreground color to variations of the foreground color, and 25% will go from the background color to variations of the background color. Increase that amount to get more color variations.

Melissa says the next three settings work in tandem, meaning they work together.

Saturation Jitter: How much of a change do you want between Saturation and no saturation? Set to 50% means that 50% of 100% of the colors are saturated and will show some gray randomly placed. When Saturation is set to to 96%, 4% of the colors are saturated and 96% of the colors will be randomly grayed out. When Saturation is set to 0%, no colors are grayed out and are all equally saturated. The scatter brush is set to 40% so 40% of 100% means that 60% have some gray showing up. This seems a little complicated to me. Basically this means when set to 0%, PS is using the original saturation of the foreground and background colors for all color variations created, and when set to 100%, PS is adding in a lot of desaturation to the color variations.

Brightness Jitter: Set to 100% means the colors are very dark – the jitter goes from high to low randomly. The brush above shows a 54% change in brightness – pretty middle of the road between overly dark (100%) and overly bright (0%).

Purity: How pure the color is. I wondered what this meant and David says the slider is acting like Hue and Saturation. When set to -100%, it becomes a black and white stroke and when set to +100%, it is totally saturated. The brush above was set to -12 which causes it to be slightly darker overall. To get a black and white brush, set everything to 0 but Foreground/Background Jitter should have some setting to be able to see the variations, and set Purity to -100.

Here are some ways to set up these sliders:

  • With some Hue added, set Brightness Jitter to 80% and Purity to 55% to get very bright strokes.
  • Decrease Brightness Jitter to 15% and get a much lighter look.
  • Adjust Purity to -45% to get more of a pastel look.
  • For a nice pastel look set Brightness Jitter to 23% and Purity to -47%. To put some color in gray and others in pastel, set the Saturation to 100% (changes how many colors are completely grayed out and how many are in full color).

I figure you will not remember all these settings (I know I won’t), but maybe you can use this blog when you need a reference on the settings (that’s why I wrote it). Bottom line is to experiment with your brush and the different settings to get that perfect effect. Hopefully it will help you get the brush results you need. Hope everyone is having a great winter – so far not too bad!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Where to Find a Good Photoshop Painter


Happy New Year greeting from a Christmas Ornament of a Cardinal
Happy New Year! Instead of doing the traditional “My Best Photos for the Year” blog, I decided to list what I think are “My Best Photoshop Technique Blogs for 2019.” It is easy to overlook what is really useful when blogging all year and trying out all kinds of fun and crazy things. (I seem to be trying out a lot of PS actions recently?) So hopefully you will enjoy going back over the tutorials I found most useful and use this blog as a quick link when you need the steps. (And yes, that is one reason I write these blogs – there are so many great things that can be done in Photoshop and I can’t remember them all!)

I am finding I use these tricks a lot when there is an area where the contrast or color just does not fit right with the rest of the image. By blending the edges softly, the adjustment can be gradually blended in.

I also use the strips a lot to get my colors set exactly right. I had never used them much, but once I figured out how to do it, it is really handy.

This is the main vignette technique I now use. I like how it can be targeted exactly to where I want it and the shape can be adjusted easily to fit.

The Pattern Stamp Tool really helped me create some great backgrounds especially. When an image has too much going on, using a matching pattern (which I usually make with this tool) can help get rid of the confusing background.

Use it all the time!

I would never have thought of doing this without Serge Ramelli’s tutorials. It completely changes the way an interior of a room looks.

This is another technique that I use when doing a more painterly looking image. This is actually from a blog I did several years ago and still use it all the time. Looks great with Topaz Impression.

Still use these tips when I go to any place that has animals behind fences.

This has been very handy to use with animal images.

This technique has saved some of my favorite images!

Obviously there are many more tips and tricks scattered throughout my blog this year. And I do like to cover what is new with all the Photoshop plugins – I could have done this same blog on just filters. It has been a great year and I appreciate everyone for following me and watching my occasional YouTubes. Hope the next year brings you great joy and lots of good Photography!…..Digital Lady Syd


Calendar image of painted fur trees
This week I decided to do yet another blog on how to create nice calendars in both Photoshop and Lightroom. It just makes logical sense to me that a calendar showing your family or some of the beautiful places you’ve been is a perfect gift (or I find mine often show up on my refrigerator each month). Since the season is winding up, it can be a quick extra addition to your holiday gifts. The tree above was created using one of Corel Painter Master Karen Bonaker’s Painter holiday brushes (if you own Painter, you must check out The Digital Art Academy website – loads of info there). This calendar used only Lightroom’s templates – see Matt Kloskowski’s video with all the steps needed for Lightroom calendars and the templates. It is a pretty basic calendar look, but I kind of like it.


Image of a Lion in a 2020 Calendar

My digitally painted lion image from the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC (scroll down to the Webcams to see the lion above in the Lion Cam) was started in Lightroom, but I did not like the calendar, so the image was opened in Photoshop and a different one was placed over the one used in Lightroom. The template for the year (and individual months also) was downloaded from Microsoft and opened as a Word document. Just highlighted the calendar by clicking the little square with a plus icon in upper top left corner, right click and select copy.  In open image in PS, just CTRL+V to paste as a layer. Used a little Free Transform magic to adjust the template. The black text did not look good so a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT + click between the layers) to the calendar layer to get more golden tones in the lettering. To remove the white background in calendar, also clipped a Warming Filter (85) Photo Filter Adjustment Layer set to Density 30% to remove it. So this image used both Lightroom and Photoshop.


Calender image of a white rose
This calendar was created completely in Photoshop using the same 11 inch by 8 1/2 inch size at 300 resolution, just like the Lightroom template size (Lightroom will let you make them any size you want – if find this size is very convenient). This time one of my painted textures was added behind the image and the calendar itself was darkened by using the Layer Style’s (to bring up, double click on the layer text area) Blend If-This Layer and setting the black tab to 182/220 – then the layer was set to Subtract blend mode at 80% layer opacity. To bring out the days in the calendar, a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to it and set to Colorize – Hue 82, Saturation n 37 and Saturation 7. A Stroke layer style was also added to the flower image.

I could create calendars all day long – they are pretty easy to do and can be made so very unique. Do check out my similar blogs listed below for more instruction or ideas (note some of the older links have expired, but there are still some good ideas in the blogs). Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season!  ….. Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Create a 2018 Calendar
How to Create 2017 Calendars in Both Lightroom and Photoshop
Free Calendar Template
Create Calendar Photoshop Templates


Image of an alligator at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm in Florida

Me and this rather king-size alligator at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm are taking a bit of a break this week. Still chewing on all the new goodies in the latest Adobe Photoshop 2020 release (no longer CC). I was pleasantly surprised with some of the new items. If you are interested in learning about everything new, I found the best source to be Unmesh Dinda’s video called Top 20 New Features & Updates Explained! Photoshop 2020 – he gives excellent examples too.

The one I have been trying out the most is the new Object Selection Tool. If you cannot find it, like me, it had to be added to the Toolbar by RIGHT clicking (if you just click on the Ellipsis, no dialog box opens and the Tool or Ellipsis disappear) on the very tiny arrow on the lower right corner of the Ellipsis (the three dots) which is located just under the Zoom Tool and above the Color Swatch icons. (This is a fairly new feature to Photoshop.) I had trouble even finding the dots on my Toolbar and keeping the Tool open due to “not” right clicking. Once opened, you will get an Edit Toolbar choice (only one actually) which opens up this big Customize Toolbar dialog. Highlight the new Object Selection Tool and for it to show up as an icon by itself, drag it into a clear area between the other sections, otherwise it goes in with the Quick Selection Tool when dragged over. Quick recap and how my Toolbar is set up is shown in the Screenshot below.

Screenshot of Customize Toolbar dialog box for Photoshop

As you can see, I like to keep the Quick Selection Tool, Magic Wand Tool, Rectangular Marquee Tool and Patch Tool set up individually since I use them a lot. With the new Object Selection Tool, the same thing was done as I anticipate this is one I will use a lot. Had not planned on getting into this, but I had to look up my Toolbar notes to see how to do this. Thought it might help a few of you out. Maybe you also have some other favorite Tools you want to have open in the Toolbar. Same process.

I have been impressed with the new Object Selection Tool. It is used basically like the Select Subject option that we have had with the Quick Selection Tool, but now you can just drag around what you want selected (it turns into a Lasso Tool or Rectangular Marquee Tool – select mode in Options Bar), which may be just a little area of your layer, and it creates a selection for you. If you don’t like it, just hold down the ALT key to remove areas or SHIFT key to add to the selection. Below is an ant that I used and you can see it selected all the little tiny places in with with a few extra Lasso lines.

I also like the new options in the Warp Tool – this will be really helpful for compositing especially. And of course the Content Aware Fill command has been updated so you can choose what area it should use to create the fill. It is pretty cool.

There are a couple things I do not like about the new update. One is that when you click the Home (house) key on the far left of the Options Bar to select an image recently opened, the panels all show up on top of the list so you cannot see them all. That is not good. Also they moved the Preset Manager and all it contains as far as I can tell are Tools and Contours, they took the Brushes out. I know they think the Brush Panel (and new Pattern, Style, and Gradient panels) are good enough to replace this, but I still find the little swatches hard to sort in the tiny panels. For those still available, it is now located in Edit -> Presets -> Presets Manager – not convenient at all. It would be nice if there were an option to add the Preset Manager back.

I plan on learning some more about these new Tools and pass along any new tips and tricks as soon as I get them. In the meantime, enjoy the new update. It does have a lot a new features to figure out. Have a great week……Digital Lady Syd

Alligator Image info: Just in case you were wondering, here are a few things done to this photo. Used the Quick Selection Tool – Select Subject, which they say has been greatly improved, and it seems to be. Digital Textures Captured Light Sea texture4 was used as the background. The Flood Filter from Flaming Pear was used to create the reflection. Used Mixers and Gradient Tool to fine tune the texture as it was too busy for my taste in this image. Some rim lighting was done on the top edge of the Alligator following a tutorial by Unmesh Dinda in KelbyOne’s Photoshop User Magazine from Nov/Dec 2018 called Make Your Subjects Pop by Adding a Beautiful Rim Light Effect – if you are a member, it is a really nice tutorial. PhotoFocus’s Africa Color Lookup preset (I believe it was in a Luminar set) was applied at 88% opacity – one of my favorite LUTs. Evened out the final effect with Viveza 2. It was a bit of challenge to get the water to show up at a certain height and still see his leg – I wanted to create a very shallow water look.


Image of a Spanish Cay runway marker in the Bahamas
During Photoshop Week 2019 on Creative Live, I watched a segment by Randy Van Duinen called Lightroom and Photoshop for Architectural Photographers. I did not think there would be much relevant to me, but it is loaded down with some new ways of looking at photographing and post processing. It is an inexpensive class and frequently on sale – definitely worth the buy. One of Randy’s tips is about de-emphasizing those distracting areas and putting them into shadows (or as in the above, making the foreground lighter). After working with his technique, I figured out a way to get the same results using the Properties Panel on a Layer Mask, so check out the Alternate Workflow for these steps. Not sure which is the easiest to do.


  1.  Select an areas with the Lasso Tool (or whatever selection tool you wish to use).
  2. Set the Quick Mask options (by double clicking on the 2nd from the bottom icon on the Tool Bar) to show the Masked Area as you want the selected area or area to be changed not covered by the overlay and the Opacity to 100% . Then enter Quick Mask mode.
  3. Go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to a large amount to make a nice smooth transition between selection and other areas. Should be able to see the transition clearly. Click Enter to close filter.
  4. Press Q or press the icon again to exit Quick Mask.
  5. With selection active, open a Curves Adjustment Layer. Can now light or darken the layer mask or change the color of the layer. Remember that the Red, Green and Blue Color Channels can also be used to adjust the results.

Screenshot of the RAW file for Spanish Cay in the Bahamas
The above shows what the original image looked like as it brought in from Lightroom (just used Basic Panel corrections, cropping/straightening, and Lens Correction Panel). Duplicated the Background layer (always do this) and applied Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Sharpen AI (use this a lot now) set to Focus and Remove Blur 0.65 and Suppress Noise 0.20 – note that a layer mask was added as it definitely was too much sharpening for the soft clouds. I had decided that I wanted the small bush on the left to be brighter and the foreground to look more sandy than it did in the image. On another duplicated layer, the Lasso Tool was used to first select the bush. The the Quick Selection mode was used to select the areas that I DID NOT was to change. See the Screenshots below to see how the edges blend once opened in Quick Selection mode and the Gaussian Blur filter chosen and set to a Radius 52.4 pixels. By changing the radius size, the blending can be set they way you want. If you want to see some of the background, set the Opacity for Quick Mode lower than 100%. The Lasso Tool is really not that exact so if more accuracy is needed, just use the Paint Brush Tool to adjust the mask.
Screenshot of Gaussian Blur on bush
The image below shows how the blending looks with a larger area selected and a larger Radius size is used. Definitely have a much smoother transition. This time the Radius was set to 182.0 pixels, but Randy uses much larger sizes on his images. It definitely depends on the size of what you are blending and how large an image you have.
Screenshot of the foreground in Gaussian Blur for Spanish Cay image
Once the filter is applied, just click Q or the Quick Selection icon to exit and a selection will be available to apply to any type of Adjustment Layer, but with this workflow it usually involves the Curves Adjustment Layer. Of course a Levels Adjustment Layer could be used or some of the color Adjustment Layers could be used like Hue/Saturation. For the above two different Curves Adjustment Layers were used, one for each area selected. The last step was to add a Levels Adjustment Layer vignette (see my How to Create a Subtle Vignette blog).

Thought I would show you a couple images that also used this same technique. In the leaves image, by darkening the background, it actually created a very 3D effect. This time the large leaves in the foreground were selected with the Lasso Tool since I wanted to darken the background. Inside the Quick Selection Mode a Gaussian Blur Radius of 424.3 pixels was used to create a more subtle transition. Then back in Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer was used to darken the area somewhat. The vignette was from Topaz Lens Effects’ preset Soft Olive Green and keeping the opacity low at 32.83.

Image of some pink and green Coleus Plants at the Magic Kingdom
My last example uses the Watercolor1 Mockup by Digital Florist. Just popped my Day Lily image with a butterfly and put on the drawing pad. The original mockup was very light, so by selecting the sketch pad, the background was darkened using this technique (Gaussian Blur Radius set to 355.2). This now draws the focus to the image and not all the painting supplies. (The crazy background was created using  Corel Particle Shop filter’s Expression and Spring Silk Ribbon brushes.)

Image of a Mockup showing my Day Lilies and a butterfly


There is another way to do this same technique without using the Quick Mask Mode and I will list the steps below. I like both ways of doing this, so give each one a try.

  1.  Add a black layer mask to your image.
  2. With a larger soft brush, switch to white and paint over the area you want changed. For the top image it would be the left bush or foreground area. Note, you have do this twice for the different areas if you want to use different setting in the Adjustment Layer for each.
  3. Add a Curves Adjustment Layer above the image and clip it to the layer (press the first icon at the bottom of the Curves Adjustment Layer Panel or CTRL+click between the Image and Adjustment Layer layers in Layers Panel. Otherwise the selection changes will apply to the whole image. Do your adjustments. Levels Adjustment Layer can be used here – sometimes it gives a little better result.
  4. Click on the Layer Mask of the image layer to bring up the Properties Panel – set the Feather to get the soft transition you want. To see it as if you were in the Quick Mask Mode, click the (\) key to see the overlay or ALT+click to see just the black and white mask. Also fine tune your Layer Mask with a brush at this point in case areas were missed.

Alternate Workflow Screenshot

Not sure which way is easier, but it gives similar results. I do believe the Gaussian Blur is a little easier to see the effect, but with the overlay in the Alternate Method, it is still pretty easy to see.

This technique can be used for just a subtle change which is what I like, especially in landscape images. Have a good one until next time!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:

How to Use a Selection to Draw Focus in an Image
Using Curves Adjustment Layers to Get Rid of Shadows and Highlights


Composite image take at Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas
Running behind with blogging this week – this image took a lot longer to complete than I planned. Compositing is a lot of fun to do, but it takes a while to put it all together and get a realistic feel to the image. I love doing this type of image but between coming up with a good idea and finding the components, it takes some time. I had been thinking about what kind of story I could present with this background image which I really liked. I decided I liked the idea of the little girl and the Leopard catching each others eye and sort of a hidden mysterious spot. The image has 5 added components all with different issues that needed to be addressed to get a good final look. The background above was taken at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas (while I was attending a PS World). The Seal Statue and Parrot are from PixelSquid, a great resource for objects but you do have a fee to use them. The little girl and fish were from my own images. The Leopard was from Pixabay. The final image has many many layers – had to use lots of groups to keep it all straight. An older blog from a few years ago is being re-blogged since the info discussed is still very relevant. These really are a lot of fun to do so without further ado, here is the original.
Composited image of a picnic with a yellow corvetteThis week I decided to do some compositing just because its fun to do. There are a lot of reasons to do this besides being fun, like it teaches you to really be aware of your light source and shadows to get a realistic looking the image. Also it gives you a chance to use some of the Photoshop tools and techniques that are not used that often. And finally, by choosing each object a good story can be created in the image.

I have always loved this image of a yellow corvette taken quite a while ago and just had not found a good place to use it. So this is where the compositing process began for me on this image. Since I started with the object first, a suitable background needed to be found to start my story. The image used was of some beautiful trees in Madison, Mississippi. If you are into compositing, it is important to take a few photos to use as background images – places where anything could be added to make an interesting image. The yellow in the car and the greenish yellow image seemed to be a good fit. The colors of the objects is important in composite images to help blend the objects together in a natural way.

After adding all the objects, the light and time of day of the background image needed to be considered to once again, blend in the objects naturally. Everything added to the image must fit with the scene. The blanket, cooler and picnic table were all downloaded from PixelSquid, but I could have used my own images of these objects. The following is a basic workflow on how this image was put together and a couple tricks I have learned along the way.

Preparing Objects for Placement

So this is where the PS tools and techniques come in handy. The car was sitting in a field with a bunch of other cars around it and a fence behind it. Just a little color adjustment was done in Lightroom before opening up the car in PS. It was removed from its background using PS CC2017 and the Select and Mask panel – the Quick Selection Tool was first used to select the car, and then the edges were refined using the Refine brush. Also the windshield was removed in this panel. Any selection tool or filter that removes backgrounds could have been used, I am just finding the new Select and Mask panel pretty nice to use. I also noted that the light was not shining on the car in the t direction – another problem to address later.

Background Image Prep

Now the Tree image was opened up in PS after just some minor adjustments in LR. Several items were removed in the image using the Spot Healing Brush. Next the corvette was placed in the image and positioned – used Free Transform (CTRL+T) to fit it in correctly. I decided the image needed to be expanded on the lower level to make the image look balanced so the car layer was deleted. In CC2017 the Crop Tool was used and Content-Aware was checked to fill in the Options Bar. Note that the Content-Aware option only works with the Crop Tool on a single layer. Therefore, either the image must be merged down at this point or crop the image first before adding your objects. I found I still had to do a little clean up after the additional pixels were added.

Adding Objects into Image

The car was again placed in the image – you can either use the Move Tool and drag to the composite image tab, go down to the image, and release; or use the old fashion way which is to select (CTRL+A) and copy (CTRL+C) in the object image, then paste (CTRL+V) in composite image. I use both. The car was Free Transformed (CTRL+T), and a layer mask was added to the car to remove the incorrect shadows in front of the car. Next the picnic table, cooler and blanket were added from PixelSquid (see my How To Use the PixelSquid Add-on in Photoshop blog – it is no longer in beta testing but is a pay to use program.) The shadows for these objects could be manipulated with the downloaded objects.

To get the objects to look like they really belonged together, some of the foreground areas had to slightly overlap parts of the blanket, tires, and table legs. So layer masks were used to add this effect in on each object. A very small brush was used to get this effect – try using different brushes in the mask to get a more natural result. The area seen through the windshield of the car had to be slightly blurred , so the Blur Tool, which I almost never use, was selected and just painted in a bit of softening to the windshield. It worked great!

Adding Some Special Effects

A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was placed on top and Topaz (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Impression 2 was opened. The Degas I preset was applied at around 40% – that was all that was changed in this preset. The layer was duplicated and Topaz Glow’s Oh Hey preset was applied at 30% – this filter does a great job of applying an overall lightening to an image. On another duplicated layer, Topaz Texture Effects 2 was opened and a downloaded Community preset called Fall Foliage Fall Trees was applied with a little manipulation to the Vignette and Basic Adjustment sections. Each image will use slightly different settings in these sections. The Light Leak had to be flipped horizontally to keep the lighting consistent in the image.

Final Tweaks

To really soften the edges of the objects, individual New Layers were added to paint in some correction color. For example, on the blanket, a little dark paint was added to give it more of a rumpled feeling on the grass – just used a soft round brush and set the layer opacity to 13%. A little lighter color was added to the right side of the cooler using a dab of light yellow and set to 60% layer opacity. To add a little lighter coloration to the front right area of the car, a little light color was added to just highlight it, and the layer opacity was set to 20%. Even the background was tweaked slightly to blend the image and give that vintage feel. This trick was learned from a wonderful class by Karen Alsop on Creative Live called Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World. Check out Karen’s website for some great compositing images! Some darker shadow effect was needed under the car, so this same technique was used there also – the shadow will be darker right under the car and blended out softly the further away it gets. The layer opacity was then adjusted down a little. This can also be used for the atmospherics in the image – where the further away you look towards the horizon line, especially in landscapes, the more muted the colors become.

The overall image appeared to be too yellow to me so a blue (R156/G161/B220) Color Fill Adjustment Layer was set to Color blend mode and 13% layer opacity to offset this. Blue is opposite Yellow on the Color Wheel so this will serve to curb the yellow color somewhat.

Finally, a little more definition was needed in a couple areas of the image. The area around the headlights was burned. The trees were slightly darkened behind the brighter areas of the light trees to separate the branches a little. To do this, a New Layer was opened, set to Overlay blend mode, and with a soft black brush set to 12% layer opacity, just painted over these areas. (See my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog.) The layer was set to 57% layer opacity.

Now the image is complete! I was pleased that it tells a story, has the vintage feel I was after, and the components all fit together well (using tools and techniques I do not always use) – to me that is what a composite should do when done correctly! It does take a little effort to create a good composite, but it is well worth time if it turns out the way you want it. I know there are lots of ways to create composites, this is a pretty complicated one, but they are fun to do! Hope everyone in the US has a great Thanksgiving Holiday!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of a Female White Faced Saki at the Smithsonian National Zoo in DC

The above image is my guinea pig (okay, this is not a guinea pig, it is a female white-faced saki monkey from South America) which had a lot of problems in the image.  There was a plastic enclosure in the Mammals Exhibit at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, and the fact that she was moving around a lot – many people were also watching her so it was a bit of a crazy exhibit when I took this image.

This week I decided to write about something that always confuses me – when do I want to use the Patch Tool (or Healing Brush/Spot Healing Brush for that matter) versus the favorite Clone Stamp Tool? I know most people think the Healing Brush Tool is mainly used for retouching, but it can be used on any type of photo since it actually acts very similar to the Clone Stamp Tool. The Patch Tool is the Healing Brush on steroids, and the Spot Healing Brush uses Content/Aware technology, but is still similar to the Patch Tool set to Content-Aware. Therefore I decided to use the Patch Tool as the main example since all three tools are very similar.

There are two ways to use the Patch Tool by either setting in the Options Bar the Patch drop down to Normal or Content-Aware. This makes a huge difference in how this tool works.

Normal Patch:

When set to Normal Patch, a stamped or composite layer must be placed on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E or also called “the Claw”) since the changes cannot be made on a New Layer above. How do you know this? In the Options Bar there is no Sample All Layers drop-down or check box. These settings are recommended by several PS pros for the Options Bar: Patch Normal, Source highlighted, and Diffusion set to 5.

  • The default settings are set up with the Source highlighted which means the Lasso Tool selection is placed over the bad area, then drag it to the good texture area and PS will try to match this selection with the color and lighting just outside the bad area you selected. So basically, just select a bad area by dragging a selection around it and drag to an area you want it to look like. Voila! This Tool can be used to clean up very large areas – much faster than the Healing Tool.
  • Change to Destination if you want to select the good area and move it over the bad spot.
  • Transparent Box: Use if you want to copy the texture but not its content. This can be cool if you want to copy an area that is a little more sharp (like you can do with the Clone Stamp) – use the Edit -> Fade to blend in the texture properly. Adobe says it works best for solid or gradient backgrounds with clearly distinct textures such as a bird in a blue sky. I tend to turn this on and off when working with some detail areas.
  • Diffusion drop-down menu: Adobe says “The Healing Brush, Spot Healing Brush and Patch Tool in Photoshop have a Diffusion slider which controls how quickly the pasted region adapts to the surrounding image.” Set Diffusion to 1 and it smears less – use low slider amounts on images with grain or fine details; and to 7 smears the most – use higher values on smooth images.
  • Repair an area using a Pattern: Select the Patch Tool and drag in the image to select the area to be repaired – select a pattern from the Pattern drop-down list and click Use Pattern. This is useful if some texture needs to be added to some skin (use a gray grainy texture) or in over-exposed areas that would benefit with some type of texture added.

Content-Aware Patch:

Since there is a Sample All Layers on the Options Bar, a New Layer can be used to do the changes. This being said, some of the PS pros say do the changes on a duplicate layer as better results are achieved. It synthesizes nearby content for seamless blending with the surrounding content.

  • Structure: Set to 1, the patch adheres very loosely to the existing image patterns while a 7 adheres very strongly to the existing image patterns.
  • Color is for applying the color-blending to the patch. A Color value of 10 applies the most color blending.
  • Select an area to replace on the image.

A Couple Tricks to Do:

  • If you do a patch and it is too sharp or bright, before doing anything else, go to Edit -> Fade and lower the opacity to match. it did this all over the fur on this image to match the effect correctly. I actually have set up my F4 key in my Keyboard Shortcuts to use for the Fade key. Very handy to use with any brush and tool effects.
  • If the patch did not turn out good, go back in the History Panel to before the Patch Selection was made.
  • Can make a selection with any selecting tools prior to choosing the Patch Tool – the selection will remain to use for patching the selected area.
  • To use the Normal Patch non-destructively, I learned this nifty trick from a short video by Jwalt Photography called Patch Tool Edit on New Layer – basically what he is doing is duplicating the layer twice, choosing the Patch Tool to select the problem area, dragging to area with better texture, right clicking outside the selection and choosing inverse, and finally pressing delete. Now the corrected area is on its own New Layer and is non-destructive.

Screenshot of a White-Faced Saki monkey
Here is the original image for this monkey, after Lightroom! Not too impressive. I loved the eye contact with the monkey so I did not want to get rid of the image. The plastic barrier in front of her had all kinds of marks and distortions. The Patch Tool was used in the Normal mode to add more texture to the right side of the monkey where the plastic was problem and to remove the white out-of-focus branch that ran through her. The image was initially sharpened by using the Luminar Flex filters like Structure, Detail Enhancer and Microstructure. Then the Patch Tool was used on a stamped layer on top. This took several iterations – it is not always an easy process but by not using too large a section, the areas that were not clear could be made more sharp. Sometimes the Transparent box was checked and sometimes not, depending on the area. Totally a trial and error, but it did look better than just using a Clone Stamp since the Patch Tool matches the tones much better. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer helped darken the background and a vignette was used to emphasize the face. And yes, a little painting was done to fill in places. The large white blob on the upper left was removed using the Content Aware Patch set to Structure 3 and Color 0 and it was pretty fast to match to the tree trunk already there. Definitely experiment with both types of patching – one may look better than the other and remember the settings in the Options Bar will make a difference on the selection.

How Do You Know which One is Best to Use?

Bottom line: Anytime there are edges present in the area to be changed, use the Clone Stamp Tool. You can always clone out the areas where the edges are, then switch to the Patch Tool (or Healing Brush or Spot-Healing Brush) to finish up the rest of the clean up. Just be sure the Clone Stamp Tool is used to remove or move the sharp edges. This is way too simple of an answer since I just cannot come up with an image that does not require a little final tweak with the Spot Healing Brush or Clone Stamp Tool even though the Clone Stamp or Patch Tool did the heavy lifting. I guess that is why PS has given us so many choices! Just do not forget that the Patch Tool can give some really good results – it can quit a life-saver!

Hope you try out the Patch tool – it is really easy to overlook, but can be so useful. Try using it when cleaning up a difficult image. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Creating a Healing Brush Background Texture


Mock up image of a Hawaiian sunset
This week’s blog is about how to display your art work in a mockup and where they can be downloaded. There are many places where mockups are offered for free (all but 1 are free in my blog). If you are interested in marketing your images, it is a great way to see if they would look good as different types of products. This has turned out to be a lot of fun since I started going back through some of my older work to place in these these files. This older sunset image was taken on the Big Island at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. The folder for this mockup contained the .psd file with all the layers needed and was called Work Presentation Mockups For Free. Not sure this is a a very useful mockup, but it is pretty cool to see how your image would look to a larger gathering. I might actually use it as a start for a slideshow presentation of my images to a club or community group .

How to Add Your Photo into a Mockup File

  1.  All mockups contain Smart Object layers which need to be opened by double-clicking on the little icon on the lower right corner of the layer.
  2. Once clicked, a new type of file opens up with a .psb ending.
  3. Highlight the layer where the image should be placed. Often there is a layer named “Place Artwork Here” or the company’s logo – highlight this layer to add image above it.
  4. Bring in your image – can go to your Explorer and just drag the file into the PS .psb file. (I like to drag my images in from Adobe Bridge) Usually the image will need to be adjusted to fit the opening correctly. Free Transform handles will be shown that used to fill out the opening. Can right click in the image to get other transform options to adjust the image even more.
  5. Click enter or the check box in the Options Bar to set the transform settings. The placeholder layer can now be deleted.
  6. The Smart Object file (or .psb file) must now be saved so it shows up in the original .psd file – CTRL+S to save and close out of the file. If you try to “x” out of file, PS will ask if you want to save – select Yes and to close .psb file. These Smart Object files can always be re-opened to switch out your image or add adjustment layers.

Pretty simple. Many of these mockup files come with lots of extra groups or adjustment layers in the original .psd file that can to be used to add interesting effects to the overall mockup. Others have adjustment layers in the actual Smart Object that can be used to get an interesting effect to just your image. The above mockup contained a guy in the image that I did not like so he was removed by using the Clone Stamp Tool in the original .psd file on a New Layer.


Mock up Image of three of my Floral Images
This free mockup is totally different from the one above. It is a good way to see how your images (come of my digital painting creations) would look on the wall. This folder contains three different configurations where images can be inserted and each file has 3 individual Smart Objects to add the photos to the different frame positions. The wall and pillow colors can also be changed easily with a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer in the .psd file. The file is called Poster Set Mockups by SparkleStock Lite


Mockup image of a book
Thought this book mockup looked good – if I had written a book it would make a nice notification. The download folder called simplebookcoverfreemockup contains a .psd file where the photo (a Laughing Kookaburra) is added in the Smart Object layer.  This is also where the text layers and the line art bird from Winterland Collection by Bilberry Create Gray png 11 was added – just saved the .psb file (CTRL+S) to update the Smart Object in the original file. The background color can be changed in the main .psd file. This mockup is also available for free.


Image of a mockup with a gramophone on a sign
I really like this street scene image – it took me a while to find an image I thought looked good in the signage area. The graphophone taken at the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida, (one of my favorite St. Augustine places to visit) has a sort of vintage feel which is what the mockup seems to have. That is because the mockup contains a Film group which contains a dust group and a leaks group with several different choices. There is also a regular Leak group and a Glass group. You can even change out the background image with your own! This is a super-nice mockup with so much flexibility – could play all day with these settings. The file is free and named Outdoor Light Ad Mockup.


Image of a painting in a mockup frame
This is a pretty basic frame mockup but I liked the nice green leaf in the mason jar. The image was one I painted in Corel Painter (thank you Skip Allen) some time ago and it looks nice with this kind of setting. This is a very simple mockup – just a Smart Object and background layer with the design items on it. It is called Frame Mockup and is by Gabriela Dantur and unfortunately is not free but is inexpensive to buy at the link.


The following two mockups are pretty basic but really show off possible products nicely. The first one is a very simple mug on a soft blanket and has a very different appeal than just showing a plain ole coffee mug. I had created this snoozing Sumatran Tiger image to actually put on a mug and I think the mockup is perfect for this type of product.

Image of a coffee mug with a tiger face on it
This mug mockup is free and called Sublimations Mug Mockup Coffee Cup by Leo Flo Mockups. It is another really one with just a background layer of the blanket and mug, and the image is loaded into a Smart Object single layer. Of course you can add some adjustment layers here to make your image look the way you want.


The image below of the duck from last week showed up very nicely as a pillow. Another really simple mockup called Free Brand Square Pillow Mockup from freemockupzone which contains several more layers with a Smart Object single layer. I thought it did a good job of making my image look just like a pillow would really look. The floor was darkened to match the pillow tones in the Smart Object (.psb) in this image.

Image of a duck on a mockup pillow

Hope you got some ideas for showing off or selling some of your objects. I have not looked at this too closely, but I think many of my items would be suitable as mugs or pillows or framed. Also it was fun to see how my photos would look on a large screen presentation. That’s it for this week……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Mockupped Sailboats
Red Hibiscus Holiday Cheer!


Painted image of a Ring Tailed Lemur from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm
Sometimes I like to just take a break from all the techniques I am learning and do something because I feel like doing it. So this week’s blog is not really emphasizing anything, but doing what this blog is all about – “Just Having Fun!” So without further ado, here are some images I have created in the last few weeks just because it was FUN!

Not to bore everyone too much, but I will give you a few insights as to how I got a particular look for these images. This fabulous Ring Tailed Lemur above is one of my favorite recent compositions. The basis for creating this effect was a video by Jesus Ramirez called Pencil Sketch Effect from a Photo in Photoshop. His technique does not work on every image, but sometimes it gives an interesting result and it worked on this image. It gave a great beginning overall sketch of my subject that was different from others I have tried. I actually created an action to do these steps. The ugly background area had to be removed next. On more layers Photoshop’s Fan Flat Blender mixer brush (located in PS’s Converted Legacy Tool Presets -> Default Tool Presets) was selected to paint in the hair and several variations were made in the Brush Settings Panel (like changing the Brush Angle and Size, adding Shape Dynamics, and adjusting Texture settings). It was fun to do this and I like the results the new brushes created – am now using them a lot including on the bottom image.

Dreamy Landscape
This image’s final effect turned out to be a surprise. It all started when I read a tutorial by Scott Valentine in the Kelby One Photoshop User Magazine from March 2018 called Hard Mix Tricks. There was a section about creating a Pop Art look. A Curves Adjustment Layer (which is just a placeholder to set the blend mode – any adjustment layer could have been used) was set to Hard Mix blend mode on top of the original image (see Pixabay’s Chiemsee-517997_1920) – the image now was broken down into its basic colors. Between the Curves Adjustment Layer and the original image a Black and White Adjustment Layer was set to Luminosity blend mode. The color sliders were adjusted so more colors were added back in. Now I did my own thing by adding several New Layers on top. Used David Belliveau’s super Mixer Blender Brush to smooth the mountains and water in the image. By pulling this brush up, the grass in front was created. For the details several smaller regular and mixer brushes were used. The bird is from Obsidian Dawn. To get the color palette, a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added using the Futuristic Bleak preset. Again this was just some fun that came about by playing with brushes. I think this image would look good in several different color palettes. And other brushes will definitely give some different results – I think I will be trying out this technique on other images.

Image of a Sunda Teal (Duck) taken at the Jacksonville Zoo, Florida
This sweet duck was overall a pretty nice image and had a teal blue water background. The sketch technique was used here just like on the Lemur image. The duck was selected and placed on a layer above, the feathers were painted back in using the Mixer brushes created in the top image. The texture I made in Corel Painter and was placed behind the duck. Three different fonts were used in this image: Sunda used Blossom, Teal used Breakable, and Anas gibberifrons used Dancing Script. I like all three of these free fonts. Topaz’s (see website at my Tidbits Blog sidebar) ReStyle filter was used with a preset from one of my images to unify the color.

Painting in Photoshop is not so popular, but it is very satisfying if you have a bit of a creative vein in your vision. I hope you enjoyed my images – will probably be returning back to tips and tricks but I thought I would share these. Have a good week and Happy Mother’s Day to all you Moms out there!…..Digital Lady Syd


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


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


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.


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.


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


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


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 – 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.


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