Anything Photoshop or Photography



Image of Snowy Egret during mating seasonJust popping in with a couple images of one of my favorite subjects, birds! Been busy taking a few on-line painting and photography classes and trying to get a little time to try out some new things. Both these images (which are not painted) were improved by following some of the techniques of one of the best wildlife photographers, Moose Peterson. He is just one of the many people who have created some really great classes on KelbyOne. Moose also has a great blog (if you check out his latest blog, he is talking about something I am super-excited about – an update to the Nik plug-ins! – Yeah!!!) and website with lots of good information to improve your photography. Anyway, his classes are just really good and easy to follow and not all that complicated.

Lightroom and ACR Sharpening’s Masking Slider Tip

The snowy egret above was taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm rookery. They are one of my very favorite birds to photograph because of their beautiful feathers they spread during the mating season. One thing I did learn from Moose (in The Secrets to Creating Super Sharp Images class) is how to properly use the Masking slider in the Detail Sharpening section in Lightroom (and ACR). Look at your subject and only sharpen for your subject, and as little of everything else. By holding down the ALT key and moving the Masking slider, many different thicknesses of white lines will appear in the black mask. The white thick lines will indicate the “plane of focus” and should be around the subject and any other areas in the same plane. (This is also a great way to find out if you actually did get what you wanted as the main focus of your image.) The smaller lines are not as important. Now the Amount can be increased to sharpen the image correctly.

Most of the post-processing was done in Lightroom using the Adjustment Brush and Radial Filter to sharpen the bird up and darken the background down. In Photoshop a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added using the Foggy Night preset (my personal favorite) set to 9% opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added next and in Master, the Saturation was increased to +38. The layer mask was filled with black and only parts of the birds body was lightly painted back. Two Curves Adjustment Layers were added and set to Luminosity blend mode for Dodging and Burning (see my How to use Curves Adjustment Layers to Dodge and Burn an Image blog). Then just a couple layers set to Overlay blend mode  were added to even out a few of the lights and darks in the foreground and background areas. Ended up with just the standard frame around the image (see my How to Create a Quick Layer Style Border or Frame blog.)
Image of three Snowy Egret chicksFor this image of baby Snowy Egrets one of the new LR (and ACR) Black and White profiles called B&W Blue Filter was applied, and 4 graduated filters set to Exposure -1.00 were placed around the birds to darken down the edges. Just a few Basic sliders were adjusted a little, mainly Highlights Shadows, Whites and Vibrance. A Dodge and Burn 50% gray layer was used to sharpen up the little guys a bit. Used a Level Adjustment Layer to bring back the background into focus just a little.

Film Grain Effect

I wanted to give the B&W image a little softer feel so a Grain Layer was added. This is a tip from an older KelbyOne class by Katrin Eismann (another brilliant Photoshop guru) called Color to Black and White Artistry but the basic concepts are still current. Using this method gives a really natural subtle result to the image and adds the effect in the areas you want it, mainly the Blue and Green channels, and leaves the Red Channel alone where usually the subject resides. The film grain is added in a very natural way so that the Blue Channel gets the greatest amount of noise, Green channel less, and Red Channel the lowest amount. The steps are as follows:

  • Go to the Channel Panel. Note that all Channels have the Add Noise Filter set to Gaussian and Monochromatic.

Highlight Red Channel and go to Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise and set Amount to 4%

Highlight Green Channel and go to Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise and set Amount to 6%

Highlight Blue Channel and go to Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise and set Amount to 8%

  • Next Highlight each channel and go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and set Radius Amount to 0.3%
  • In the Layer Panel, change the blend mode to Luminosity so any color noise is reduced. Can also adjust the layer opacity if the effect is too much.

I actually put these steps into a simple action that works great. Well that’s it for this week. Be popping in again soon!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of a Street in Edinburgh, Scotland, at nightThought I would pop in with this short little blog. Had some fun this week working on a daytime to nighttime image of a street in Edinburgh, Scotland. I had really never found a technique that looked completely realistic. Colin Smith at Photoshop Cafe has a video called How to Turn Day into Night in Photoshop in 3 Easy Steps that really gave a nice finished night effect. He goes beyond just changing the brightness of the image and gives some tips on how to make the lighting look very realistic.  It was a lot of fun to create the sky – used four different items : original sky from Texture Mate 9 (missing a link for  this) at 100% layer opacity, then the next three are all from Design Cuts – Space Watercolor Backgrounds Artistmef 3 at 19% opacity, Polarity Space Backgrounds by Skybox Creative using Deep Blue Universe (these look really good in any sky images to add just a hint of clouds in the sky at low opacity) at 11% layer opacity, and Feingold Shop Vintage Moon 4. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added in the group and set to the Moonlight preset at 79% layer opacity. Then followed Colin’s technique to light the windows and make it all look natural. It is not really that hard, and he explains it very clearly. Below is the original image brought in from Lightroom.

Original Edinburgh Street image
Well, hope everyone is enjoying the beginning of the hot summer season. I love the warm weather!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of a quiet cove at Spanish Cay in the BahamasThis week I am just going to share a few simple border techniques I have used for years. Many people do not realize how easy it is to create these to finish off an image. Both Topaz and On1 (for websites, see sidebars at my Tidbits Blog) have some great frame filters for doing this, but sometimes you just want to finish off an image with a quick border. Photoshop’s layer styles dialog box is a great place to do this. Both plain color, pattern, and some with a bevel effect can easily be created. The image above was taken at Spanish Cay in the Bahamas. For post processing info, see Image 1 at end of blog.

Basically the process involves opening up some of the Effects in the Layer Style dialog box and just changing the settings to get something you like. I find that the Inner Glow and Inner Shadow work best for my borders, but often the Stroke effect is used also. (Settings for above are: Inner Shadow: Blend Mode Normal, Tan color swatch, Opacity 100, Angle 135 and no Use Global Light, Distance 0, Choke 67, Size 54, regular Contour map, no Anti-aliased, Noise 0; and Inner Glow: Normal, Opacity 100%, Noise 0, Swatch purple, Technique Softer, Source Edge, Choke 99%, Size 57 pixels, Contour Map 5th one to right, Range 100 and Jitter 0). The following slider information is mostly from The Photoshop Wow! book referenced below.

Settings for Both Inner Glow and Inner Settings

Size determines the amount of blur applied to the border. The greater the size, the more the Glow or Shadow is blurred so at a higher setting, it is more diffuse – thinner and spreads out more.

Increasing Choke makes the effect more concentrated – it controls the transition made from dense to transparent as set by the Size (in the Outer effects, the spread slider does the same thing). Set the Choke high, and it gives very sharp edges and set it lower to get a soft blended look.

Contour settings remap the intermediate tones that are created by the blur used to make a Shadow or Glow. Using the default 45 degree straight contour causes the blur to thin out more as it goes from outside to inside. By changing the Contour in the drop-down, different types of effects can be obtained. These can be fun so definitely try them out!

Inner Glow Settings

The only sliders I look at here are the Opacity, Color Swatch, Choke, Size and sometimes the Contour, changing to a drop-down choice. Try changing to the 2nd Contour map and you will see a thin line created inside the edge of your image for a nice single line effect.

A Glow effect is usually light and radiates evenly in all directions. Therefore a Glow has a Gradient choice in the dialog box. I have not used this but it appears that a change in blend mode would be needed to look good.

I set the Technique to Softer – I do not see much difference in my thin borders when it is set to Precise but there is a difference if the frame is larger.

There are no Distance or Angle settings for Glow effects.

Set the Source to Edge (which I always use for a border) to radiate Glow from the edge getting thinner as it moves further away. Set the Source to Center for some artistic looks that radiate color from the center outward, getting thinner as it moves away.

FYI: For use with the Contour drop-down, Range determines which part of the gradient is used for the Glow and Jitter mixes up the pixels in the gradient for less defined transitions.

Inner Shadow Settings

A Shadow effect is dark and can be offset while here Shadows only have a color swatch.

There is an Angle field showing where the light source is. If the Distance is set to 0, this does not matter what the setting is. If there is a Distance amount, then adjust it and try clicking use Global Light to set with the other effects – but make sure you like how it looks.

When using Contour map, Noise helps prevent any banding, but may help when printing. I do not use this setting for frames.

Stroke Settings

A basic large Size set to Position Inside and Fill Type Color gives a nice solid color effect. I have done this several times. This can be combined with the other two effects above for some more different looks.

For a different look set a fairly large Size and set to Inside. Then go to Fill Type and choose Gradient. The same Gradient Styles are in the drop-down and also one that only appears in this dialog – the Shape Burst gradient (it can create a neon effect, an inline-outline effect for text or a multi-color glow outer edge effect). Who knew? I demonstrate this effect in my video.

Also the Stroke effect is really good for adding a pattern effect as a border. If you have a texture you would like to use as a border, first open the texture in Photoshop and go to Edit -> Define Pattern – just name it and it appears at the bottom of your pattern list. Set a fairly large Size (like 200 px) and set to Inside. Go into the Fill Type and change to Pattern. Open drop-down and at bottom is the new pattern from the texture. This can create some really looks. Combine this with the other two effects above for more looks.

Below is a quick video just showing how to do this – it seems to be easier to look at it than read about it. If you do not see the video link in your RSS feed, please open up blog and click through.

Image of a Scottish Church with a viewIn the image above, a very nice basic layer style was applied to get this frame. For post-processing info, see Image 2 below. This image used the same basic Effects in the Layer Styles Panel: First added an Inner Glow (set to Normal blend mode and black color, Technique Softer, Source Edge, Choke 100%, Size pixels); next the Inner Shadow (set to Normal, a peach orange color, Angle 135, Distance 0, Choke 44%, and Size 54 pixels); and finally a Stroke (Size 2 pixels, Position Inside, Blend Mode Normal, Opacity 100%, Fill Type Color, and Color Black). Pretty simple settings and easy to adjust – change the sizes and colors in the Inner Glow and Inner Shadow effects for a different look.

Image of a herd of African Antelopes
The African Antelope image uses one of the Star Burst gradients in the Stroke Effect. This border was created using a Stroke Layer Style and setting the Size t0 49 pixels, Position Inside, Blend Mode Normal, Opacity 100%, Fill Type Gradient using Gold Sepia (in Photoshop Toning Gradient set), Style Sharp Burst with Align with Layer checked, Angle 89, Scale 100%. If you like the result of the style, click New Style and name it. It will appear at the bottom of the canned Layer Styles when you click on the section labeled Styles at the top of the Effects list. I actually changed the color from a blue to a green for the inside color by going into the gradient and changing the 2nd from the right tab to a sampled green color. For info on how this image was post-processed, see Image 3 below.

I have some canned layer styles for download free at my DeviantArt site – then just change the colors of the Inner Shadow by clicking on the color swatch and sampling a color in the image. These work great as a starting point. Last week I added a layer style to my image using the same style as in the top image except instead of a tan color, it was a brownish gray color (see my How to Create Profiles in ACR from LR Presets and Some LUT Files blog).

The best reference for layer styles is from one of my favorite Photoshop Gurus, Jack Davis, and Linnea Dayton who created a little gem of a book called Adobe Photoshop 7 One-Click Wow! book. This book covered everything I needed to know about layer styles. Also Linnea Dayton and Cristen Gillespie co-wrote the older but still fabulous The Photoshop Wow! books which go into great detail on everything to do with layer styles.

I hope you get a chance to try this out – it can really give an image a very finished look. Until next time, have a good one…..Digital Lady Syd

Post Processing Information:

Image 1: This image was taken on a relatively deserted island in the Bahamas called Spanish Cay. There were many little hidden coves and beaches. The birds were added using a low res free stock photo and selecting just the birds with Color Range. Opened up Topaz Studio and followed steps in a Topaz video called Creating Imagery Driven by Imagination with Topaz Studio Creating Imagery Driven by Imagination with Topaz Studio. (Actual settings: Impression Adj: used the settings from Shannon Rose and saved a custom preset called SJ Acryllic Painting by Shannon Rose preset (see Lovely-pg. 18); Add mask to mask just the body of one bird and the heads of the others; AI ReMix Adj: used the Pasture (Row 3/Col 2) and set it to Opacity 0.37 and Color blend mode – applied layer mask to area in water with little island that was already muddy looking – also mask out odd color in the birds, esp the wings; HSL Color Tuning: Overall Hue 0.19 and Lightness 0.19, Orange Sat 0.37, Yellow Sat 0.37, Green Hue -0.32 and Sat -0.36, and Blue Sat -0.57, Details 0.26, Suppress Artifacts 0.08 and Color Sensitivity 0.28 – used same mask as in AI ReMix adj and Opacity 0.72; Color Theme: set to Normal blend mode, used same mask inverted to just affect the muddy water and turned it slightly bluish – changed the 3rd icon to #498727 (Lightness 0.53), 4th icon to #8ba9c7 (Lightness 0.83) and 5th icon to #e8e8e8 (Lightness 0.91); and added Second Color Theme Adj: Changed first icon to #422c16 at Lightness 0.26.) A Dodge and Burn 50% gray layer was added. Also a Color Dodge lighting layer was applied (see Digital Painting Blending Modes: 3 Easy Ways to Color Artwork by David Belliveau). Last step was a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and applied the above listed Layer Style settings.

Image 2: This image of a Scottish Church had a most beautiful view. On1 Photo Raw 2018’s Effects using Dynamic Contrast and Sharpen filters was used first on the image. A Color Lookup Table using the Candlelight preset was added and set to 76% layer opacity. The Warming Filter (85) was added and set to 51% Density and set to Multiply blend mode and 77% layer opacity. Then some clean up and spotlight effect on the buildings. There was a lot of window reflection in this image, so it took a lot of clean up. A Color Dodge layer was used to light up the sky a bit. A Lighten-Darken 50% gray layer was used to add some contrast. Last step adding the layer style to a stamped layer on top with settings listed above.

Image 3: This image is from a packet I recently bought from Deal Jumbo in a set called Amazing Wild Animals 2 from images taken at South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. This is a group of Red Hartebeest African Antelope. On1 Photo Raw 2018’s Effects using Dynamic Contrast and Sharpen filters was used first on the image. Next, one of my new favorite filters called Topaz AI ReMix was applied (Settings:  AI ReMix Adj: Opacity 0.78, Luminosity blend mode, Style Strength High, Row 2/Col 2 swatch, Brightness 0, Contrast 1.00, Sat 0.75, Hue 0, and in mask painted out the animals lightly and more so in some of the white flower foreground; HSL Color Tuning Adj: Opacity 0.58, Orange Hue 0.10, Sat 0.02, and Lightness 0.73; Dehaze Adj: Opacity 0.62, Strength 0.54; Impression Adj: Opacity 0.71, default settings painted out the animals using an 0.58 Mask Transparency). Nik Viveza 2 was used to direct the focus of the image. A Black & White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity blend mode and a Red Channel Luminosity Curves Adjustment Layer were added. The last step involved create a stamped layer on top and adding the Layer Style as described above.


Image of beautiful gold colored fonts Just popping in to do a quick blog on having fun with text. Recently I blogged about using a word(s) created from interesting fonts to make brushes or PNG files for graphic projects. Sometimes it is fun to just create using all the beautiful digital fonts available. (See my Enjoying Some Spring Butterflies blog.) This week I ran across a couple quick and easy ways to add a really nice bling look to your fonts.

PSD File

The image above was created using a very sophisticated Photoshop file that contains lots of Smart Objects to create most of this final result. The file is called Free 3D Gold Text Effects by Alifuwork. The file comes with a font Smart Object layer and three groups – Effects, 3D Gold which contains all the layer styles with smart objects (all the same smart object so when the top Text Here layer smart object is updated, all the others update with it), and Backgrounds which contains all the lighting effects and background color. So by double clicking on the Text Here layer to open the main Smart Object, the fonts can be changed to different ones easily – just click CTRL+S to save the resulting PSB document and it all update in the PSD file. This was really a great way to add the gold lettering effect without having to do a lot of work.

Layer Styles (Patterns)

To get the other nice gold effect on the above image, a really wonderful pack called Gold Foils 7th Avenue Design Textures was used – it contains 20 different gold jpg files to choose from – I only loaded my 6 favorite which included the gold 9 as patterns. Just open the JPG file and go to Edit -> Define Pattern. The pattern will appear at the bottom of your list to use with PS’s various adjustment layers, brushes, layer styles, or tools that use patterns. Major cool! So add in your favorite texture effects for sure. In the image above, Pattern 9 gold was used several times. The bird image below used the gold glitter texture created from my How to Create a Glitter Texture video and blog, where the texture was saved as a pattern, just like with the gold images from the Foil Pack. To change the color to a gold, the glitter texture was opened, a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer added setting the Hue to something like 57 and Saturation to 100. Next a Levels Adjustment Layer was added to accentuate some of the lights and darks. Finally go to Edit -> Define Pattern. Now a personal gold glitter pattern can be used in your projects. If you want a silver one, use the Black and White Adjustment Layer instead of the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Very easy.

Photo details for above image are as follows: The fonts used above are: Rich were Buffalo Inline 2 Grunge, Lucious was Points and Lines, “and” was Castile Inline Grunge, and Expensive was Alex Brush. I added a new group in my file called Background Elements that was placed just above the Background group. There was a layer with just a glitter look behind the text and was created using Grut’s Charcoal Shin Ding brush (free brush for this week) set with two layer styles – a Pattern Overlay using the Gold 9 pattern set to Scale of 85% and a Stroke using a Size of 18, Inside, and Fill Type Pattern using Pattern 9 again – the whole layer was set to 80%. The object on the upper left from 2 Lil’ Owls Studio (see the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) All New Textures/vintage frames 2/frame 25 using the same layer styles and pattern, but the Pattern Overlay was set to 59% opacity and the Stroke was set to Size 7, Blend Mode Screen. The leaf on the upper right was from Ginko Textured Watercolor Graphics by Paperly Studio/elements 13 with same layer styles. The Pattern Overlay was set to 60% opacity and the Stroke set to Size 7 and Opacity 93%. In the Backgrounds group the Color Fill was changed to a green color. For the last step, a stamped layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top and yet another Stroke layer style was added using Size 7, Inside, Screen blend mode, Fill Type Pattern using the same pattern 09.

Graphic image of a white heron and some textThis image used my gold glitter pattern in the Pattern Overlay layer style set to Size 18 and Scale 47. The White Heron was from Graphics Fairy, the background texture was from French Kiss Artiste Bold Brush2 (see the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link), filter used was Topaz Studio (see the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) AI ReMix SJ Graphic Design Effect preset, and the font was Mr. Grieves.

Hope you enjoyed the gold extravaganza!…..Digital Lady Syd


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

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

The Best Overall Eye Sharpening Techniques

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

Image of Exposure Adjustment Layer example

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

Example of Shadows & Highlights results

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

The Best Techniques for Eyes with No Details

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

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

Image of Eyes with detail added

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

Curves Adjustment Layers example

More Sharpening Techniques

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

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

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

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


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

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

What is a Lookup Table file?

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

Places to Download Other LUT Files

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

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

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

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

Creating a LUT File

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Information

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

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


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

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

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

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

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