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INTRODUCING THE FREE TOPAZ STUDIO

Image of The Eye in LondonAs you all know, I am a huge Topaz Labs fan so I have been busily figuring out what can be done with the new Topaz Studio. To link to the download, go to my Tidbits Blog sidebar which goes directly to the free download and other info on the different adjustments. I will keep this link going since Studio has it owns Topaz site. I am not ready to do a full review so I will just go over what I have learned and pass on a few thoughts. It appears to be a wonderful upgrade to their original Topaz photoFXlab from several years ago (and which I have always thought was one of their best releases). Studio acts as a hub for all the programs from Topaz you already own. It can be accessed as both a stand-alone program or as a plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom. Studio is a basic RAW editor that contains several features similar to Lightroom or PS Camera Raw. JPG, TIFF, and PNG files may also be opened in the program. The heart of the editing lies in the various “adjustments” that are applied individually to create an overall original image effect. The London Eye image is an example of combining several of their adjustments to get the final image effect. (The Adjustments applied and saved in a preset are: Basic Adjustment, Precision Contrast, Radiance, Dehaze, Bloom and Posterize, then Reduce Noise and Vignette were applied on a separate layer.) There are also a myriad of presets on the left side that can be selected that contain several adjustments to apply in one click. This is very similar to the original photoFXlab. But now if a feature is not one you like, it can be deleted from the preset.

For starters, the program offers free adjustments to apply to your images. These 10 effects are:  Basic Adjustments (similar to photoFXlab Adjustments section), Blurs, Brightness/Contrast, Color Overlay, Dual Tone, Film Grain, Image Layer, Posterize, Tone Curves, and Vignette. Sounds a bit like Lightroom or Camera Raw doesn’t it? If you do not own Photoshop or Lightroom or know someone who does not, this is a great way to process RAW files and it is free download. The program adjustments work from the top down as opposed to bottom up like Photoshop layers. The adjustments actually look like layers, but you are unable to apply them as a group of layers as in PS, but you can create your own presets to use the same settings over again.
Image of Hillsboro Lighthouse in Pompano BeachThe Adjustment Pro Pack contains another 14 adjustments to apply more unique effects to the image. Each adjustment can be downloaded individually and  tried out for 30 days before buying. Definitely take advantage of this trial period to see how you like what Topaz is doing with this program. The Pro Pack has some really handy effects such as: Abstraction, Black and White, Bloom, Color Theme, Dehaze, Edge Exposure, Focal Blue, HSL Color Tuning, Precision Control, Radiance, Reduce Noise, Sharpen, Smudge, and Texture. I like the Precision Control Adjustment which is a contrast adder and is a lot like Clarity with the miracle Micro slider and also a pretty nifty Color slider. It is too bad it is not in the original set as it is a really nice effect. Reduce Noise takes some really good info from the Topaz DeNoise program that is so fabulous. And in Sharpen, the Lens Deblurring section is very similar to their Infocus plug-in and works wonderfully. Each of these adjustments can be duplicated and applied more than once. I believe Topaz tried to take some of the best from each of their plug-ins to make editing an image must faster. The image above is of the Hillsboro Lighthouse in Broward County, Florida, and used the Recital 001 preset in Topaz Studio. The image below was used in the stand-alone version of Studio – used Topaz ReStyle plugin’s Rusted Gray and Light Blue preset and then the Basic Adjustment. Quite a different feel to this image that was taken on a very overcast day.

Image of South Lake Worth Inlet in Southern FloridaOne of the best parts of the program is their Masking features. If you own Topaz Texture Effects 2 or Topaz Impression, the brushes and masking is very similar – but with a difference. Now the mask can have more than one way to localize the effect. Therefore the Gradient and Spot masks can both be used on the same mask or also add in the Brush or Luminance Mask – very nice! This way the adjustment can be localized to just one small area of the image. And they are using their Edge Aware technology that I have loved for years. I am missing the Burning/Dodging, Saturation/Desaturation/ and Smoothing/Detail brushes from the photoFXlab and a few of their other plug-ins like Black and White effects, but hopefully they will be added soon.

If you want to just jump right in and start using the program, check out a short video called Topaz Studio Welcome and Walkthrough by Heath Robinson of Topaz. He goes over the program interface very thoroughly. But to learn a little more about how to use the actual adjustments, check the video Intro to Topaz Studio by Greg Rastami – he gives some great ideas on how to actually use the adjustments on all types of images – very helpful! I know Topaz Labs will be coming out with many more videos as they are pros at getting their fans up to speed on their products. There are also short videos on each adjustment in case you need more info on how to use it.

As stated above, you can  still get into your regular Topaz plugins by going to the Menu Bar and selecting Plug-ins to further enhance the image. If you do apply a plug-in, it will duplicate the image in the Workspace at the bottom and now you have to finish adding effects onto the new one – there is not way to know what plug-in was applied by looking at the list in the left panel. I have had a few problems with this if I get too fancy and apply too many plug-ins. Just be aware of this. I know the Topaz group well enough to know that they are definitely working on this issue. The program is automatically updated when new versions are ready so no more downloading and executing new versions – that alone is a great new feature! Another drawback at the moment is that they do not have any tools for removing distractions like a Healing Brush Tool or Clone Stamp Tool – apparently this is going to be included in one of the next updates so watch for this. Below is a succulent plant that uses one of my presets called SJ Colorful Plant Effect that was uploaded to the community and can be found  from the preset search section of the program.

Image of a succulent plant leavesConsidering that this is a free program and it is hugely complicated, Topaz has really done a fantastic job! It is lots of fun to fiddle around with all the different adjustments and try out other presets – I can see that they will be fine-tuning this program as it continues to grow and will be a real contender in the RAW field down the road. Lots to check out and some incredible effects can be created! I will be using the plug-in more in the future and try to keep everyone updated on all the new software additions. In the meantime I would suggest you download it and enjoy! ….Digital Lady Syd

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DIGITAL LADY SYD REVIEWS LUCIS PRO 6.0.9 (NOW AFFORDABLE!)

Image of a painted Tri-Color Ginger PlantThis week is yet another Photoshop plug-in that I am really excited about using. If you have followed plug-ins for years, you know that Lucis has always had some of the best effects ever made. Lucis Pro 6.0.9 has been reduced in price to $30.00 now and that makes it very manageable. (Now priced at $6 until August 31 st when site closes – see my more recent blog How to Get a More Illustrative Look with Lucis Pro 6.0.9.)I had to get it! Now what to do with it? Marilyn Sholin, another wonderful Corel Painter Elite, has provided us with a very short video on how to use this filter – it is not that hard and gives a wonderful pop to your images. See Sholin Lucis Pro video for tips on using this filter and an additional discount code. The Tri-Colored Ginger plant taken in West Palm Beach used this filter at the end of the workflow as Marilyn suggests – either at the beginning or the end.

Below is the original (left image).  For middle image, the plant was selected using Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReMask. Topaz Impression’s Cezanne II preset was applied to just the selection, one of my Corel Painter textures was placed underneath, Nik Viveza 2 (now free) was used to emphasize the center focal point, and a Black and White Adjustment Layer was used to just adjust the tone of the image. Topaz ReStyle was used to add more of a pink color palette (see right image) and a Darken Detail layer was created to emphasize some of the lines in the plant. For final step to get image above,  Lucis 6.0.9 was applied and the colors really popped nicely.  (Settings used – Enhance Detail:  Red Channel 199/Green Channel 155/Blue Channel 203.  Mix with Original Image 39% Processed and 61% Original.) For more info on how to perform other steps, see Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs below.
Different stage of painting this image.

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Here is another example of the result that can be achieved with this very good plug-in. This image is of the Drawing Room in the 55-room mansion of Henry Flagler that is called the Flagler Museum or Whitehall. Wonderful place to visit!

Image of the Drawing Room at the Flagler Museum (Whitehall)In this case Lucis Pro was applied close to the beginning of the post-processing in Photoshop, right after removing a little noise and the ropes at entrance to the room. (See image below for original as brought in from Lightroom.) Then Lucis Pro was applied using these settings: Enhance Detail Channels – Red 51737/Green 44631/Blue 35165 – large numbers due to the fact the image was in 16-bit mode; Mix with Original Image – 43 % processed and 57% original. This really brought out the detail in all the small items in the room without making the image look crunchy. I found this pretty incredible! The effect can be as subtle as you want. The results look pretty subtle here, but at 100% magnification, the difference can be seen very clearly.

Original image of the Drawing Room at Whitehall

There is a nice PDF Manual that is downloaded with the plug-in which takes you through all the different sliders and what they mean. For me, to get the best results:

  1. Click the Split Channels box on.
  2. Uncheck the Display Composite box.
  3. Adjust the Enhance Detail sliders for each channel to get a good black and white result in each channel. The Smooth Detail sliders are kept at 1.
  4. Turn on the Display Composite Image checkbox. Sometimes the colors will look really bad at this point. If there is a color shift that you do not like, move the Assign Original Image Color slider to 0% Processed/100% Original.
  5. Go back and adjust the Enhance Detail sliders in each channel to make the colors and amount of details just right.
  6. If the results are a little over-cooked, adjust the Mix With Original Image slider which will pull back in some of the the original image.

There are several other sliders and fields in the interface that I did not use but the manual does a good job of explaining all their functions. Check out their User Interface page.  The above workflow is basically what Marilyn Sholin goes over in her video and seems easy to use.

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Image of a white gardeniaThis beautiful white gardenia was taken at the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, Florida, and was my first attempt at using this plug-in. I did not want too much color in the flower, only a touch. (Settings used: Enhance Detail:  Red Channel 129/Green Channel 125/Blue Channel 95.  Mix with Original Image 70% Processed and 30% Original.) It is not that important that you understand all the mechanics going on under-the-hood, just experiment with the sliders and the image will eventually look really good. This seems to be a handy plug-in to use, especially when that little bit of extra detail is needed. I have even used this plug-in after applying my favorite Topaz Detail 3 – they work fine together. Here is another technique used to get this Lucis effect shown in my The Sculpture Called Reaching Tidbits Blog.

I just noticed I am not sure there is an option to try out this plug-in first which is too bad. I have always loved the Lucis filters but was unable to afford them. I am so happy they have reduced their price on this one as it is so much fun to use and does a very good job with both detail and adding a little color into an image. Hope you are enjoying the Spring!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz ReMask 5
Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem!
Applying a Filter to Objects on a Layer
How To Use a Black & White Adjustment Layer to See Contrast In an Image
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz ReStyle
The Best Dodging and Burning Technique!

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DIGITAL LADY SYD REVIEWS TOPAZ TEXTURE EFFECTS

Image of the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse in AmericaI finally got a chance to review the newest plug-in from Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) called Texture Effects. The image of the oldest wooden schoolhouse in American was taken at St. Augustine, Florida. I really loved the way the plug-in added a soft pastel effect to the image. This was my second attempt at using this new plug-in and I really loved the effect. See Image 1 info at end of blog for post-processing and preset settings for this image. This preset was uploaded to the Community – to find it, just login to the Topaz site, click on the Browse icon on top right, and search for SJ in the empty field – it is called SJ Soft Pastel Effect.

As most of my blog followers know, I am a big fan of Topaz – they produce some of the most creative plug-ins that can be found in this highly competitive field. Once again Texture Effects is a great creative venture and since textures have been “all-the-rage” for the last several years, this fills a really nice niche for us Photoshop creatives! Topaz says there are 275 high resolution textures, borders and light leaks and seven collections (Earthy, Ethereal, Gritty Grunge, Lo-Fi, Pop Grunge, Soft Grunge and Vintage) with over 160 customizable effects.
Image of a Tricolored Ginger Plant
The image of the Tricolored Ginger Plant above shows a pretty standard result to expect with this plug-in right “out of the box.” The Distressed Contrast preset was applied and only an additional Border section was added to the preset. I really love the vintage illustrative effect that was created rather quickly. By adding sections like the Dust/Scratches, Light Leaks, and some of the Border options, a definite vintage flavor can be achieved. But it does not have to have a vintage feel. For more info on the above, check out Image 2 at end of blog.

Image of a Swinging Chair in St. Augustine, FloridaThis Cottage Garden shop image (no website link could be found) on King George Street in the old historic district of St. Augustine, Florida is a bit more realistic. The same preset was used as on the first image but with some tweaks. See Image 3 for post-processing details and changes to the preset.

What I Like About Topaz Texture Effects

  1. It is pretty cool to be able to download other people’s presets to see how they put their effects together, even though I do not like to access the Cloud info.
  2. Totally love the fact that an effect can be started from scratch and there are various effects that can be combined – you do not even have to use a texture!
  3. Love that textures that I already own can be added to my images. Also light leaks, dust/scratches, and borders can be added. More on this below.
  4. It is great that there is a mask for most sections provided so the individual effects can be localized. A section can added several times to a stack, so if you want two different Light Leaks, for example, two different Light Leak sections can be chosen with totally different settings.

What I Don’t Like About Topaz Texture Effects

  1. Don’t like logging into their Cloud each time to see all the other effects, and it seems I have to manually do this as it does not remember me even though the box is checked. . On the positive side, they have included a nice selection of their own presets to use so logging in is not always necessary. It can take a while to populate the presets once the Browse icon is clicked since the default is to load both the Community and Local presets – that’s a lot of presets!
  2. Wish more than one Spot could be added in the mask areas. I know, use the brush in the masks – just would be a nice to have. And wish a section could be dragged up and down without losing the layer mask previously created.
  3. Wish the black and white drops that change the paint color on the mask brush could be connected to a short cut key like X that Photoshop uses to switch between foreground and background color. It would make it much faster to paint in ore remove an effect in the mask.
  4. Sometimes the plug-in will crash on opening – just try it once or twice again and it will probably open correctly. I believe Topaz is  working on this issue. I have always been able to get it to open eventually.

If you want to just jump right in and start using the program, check out Topaz Labs blog called Topaz Texture Effects Quick Start Guide for some quick beginning tips.

Image of view from Edinburgh Castle in ScotlandThis image was taken from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland a while back – one of my favorite images to try things out on and Texture Effects worked great! Apparently I like the Diffusion section as I seem to add it in a lot. With the individual masks for each section or the overall image, a very localized effect can be applied. I have always loved Topaz’s diffusion effect which is available in several of their other plug-ins (Adjust, B&W Effects, and Lens Effects) and by painting out where I do not want the look, it comes out very unique. On the above, only the big puffy clouds and a little bit of the edges of the image has the diffusion applied. See Screenshot below to see how the mask looked and what the settings were to apply this. On the right is listed the sections that were applied to this image – several were reopened and tweaked some more to get the final result. (Click on image to open in Flickr for closer look.) To see original image, check out View from Edinburgh Castle on Flickr.

Screenshot of Topaz Lens Effects Diffusion sectionFor more post-processing info, check Image 4 below. What was cool with this image is that one of my purplish textures was used to give a cooler tone to the image. By adding the Dust/Scratches section, Light Leaks, and some of the Border options, a definite vintage flavor can be achieved. To see how Texture Effects looks on one of my funny bird images, check out my Tidbits Blog called Feeling Spiffy!

The sections that can be manipulated are: Basic Adjustment, Diffusion, Edge Blur, Edge Exposure, Film Grain, Posterize, Split Tone, Vignette, Borders, Color Overlay, Double Exposure, Dust/Scratches, Light Leak, and Texture. That means there are a lot of different effects that can be changed and very quickly. Many presets have a Basic Adjustment section at both the beginning and end of the stack – this is due to the fact that textures can reduce the contrast in an image and it needs to be added back in. Save as a preset the final result, and then save on line. If sharing a preset, be sure that there are none of your own textures or borders, etc., in the preset – it will cause problems when sharing if they are not available to everyone. Be aware that if a change is made to a preset, and then another preset is selected, upon return to the original preset, the settings go back to the default. The Texture Effects manual covers what all the sliders do and gives a great over-view of the plug-in.

To add additional effects to section (they can be added to Texture, Dust/Scratches, Light Leaks, and Borders sections), just click on the drop-down button at top right of the section. Try downloading my SJ Holiday Overlays which includes two .png snow files with transparency into the Dust/Scratches section by clicking on the upper right folder icon (it also takes .jpg files), name a new folder for your files, and add them (they can be deleted later here if they do no work out) – select in the Dust/Scratches drop-down to add a really nice snow effect to the image. When added as a texture they looked really bad so be sure to try different sections if one does not look right. Remember you can add the Dust/Scratches section again to add other types of effects. Some nice borders that can be downloaded and added to Texture Effects can be found at 50 free photo frames and borders. Some nice new free Light Leaks have been added by one of my favorite texture guys, Shadowhouse Creations – check out his whole site for great textures!

Bottom Line

Once again, Topaz has created a very addictive plug-in – I could play all day just adding different combinations of filters to my images. The idea may not be that original since we all have been adding textures to our images for a while. But they make it very easy to adjust opacities, blend modes, amount of detail, saturation and color strengths or variations both overall on the image or locally. Very powerful technology here. If you are at all into the creative aspect of Photoshop and love textures, this plug-in fits right in. To me, it very similar to my favorite ReStyle plug-in that I find indispensable! Personally I think I will use it a lot!

Hope you get a chance to download and try out Texture Effects. If you like other Topaz products, you will not be disappointed! See ya next week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Info:

Image 1: In Lightroom the Schoolhouse image used a new preset I received from Jared Platt (by subscribing to his newsletter) some nice Lightroom presets and this one is called Faded Warm Color. The doors and windows were sharpened with the Adjustment Brush. In Photoshop the Adaptive Wide Angle filter was used to straighten the building as there was a lot of distortion in the image. Since this filter was used, the Content-Aware Fill command had to be used to fill out the areas that were left transparent. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Topaz Texture Effects was opened and a new preset was created by clicking on the far right icon that says New. I just started experimenting with each of the sections, adding and deleting them, until I found an overall effect I liked. This preset was uploaded to the Community – to find it, login to the Topaz site, click on the Browse icon on top right, and search for SJ in the empty field by the eyeglass – the preset name is SJ Soft Pastel Effect. (Here are the actual preset settings: Basic Adjustment – Brightness -0.49, Shadow -0.15, Highlight 0.33, Clarity 0.27, Saturation 0.31, Temperature -0.29, Tint 0, and Opacity 0.93 – no mask; Diffusion – Strength 0.57, Softness 0.38, Blur 0.39, Mask set to Brush – black with brush Strength 37, Brush Size 21, and Hardness 20 – painted out the area around the door and windows and some on the flowers; Split Tone Highlight Saturation 0.12, Highlight Hue 0.48, Shadow Saturation 0.07, Shadow Hue 0.70, Balance 0.63, and Opacity 1.00 – no mask; Vignette – Strength 0.33, Size 0.70, Transition 0.42, Roundness 0.66, Color Black, effect centered, Opacity 0.93 and no mask; Borders – the second row up from bottom on left – masked out the lower foreground area which had turned an ugly greenish color; Texture – ninth row down first texture – Size 1.00, Opacity 0.63, Blending Mode Saturation, Detail 0.07, Saturation 0.08, Color Strength 0.14, Color 0, and masked out the top left corner and bottom left corner that looked too reddish with black brush set to Strength 100, Brush Size 63, and Hardness 20; and Light Leaks – 2nd row from bottom and left column; Size 1.05, Blending Mode Color Dodge, Saturation 0.68, Color Strength 0.46, Color 0.45 – this section really gave the lightness in the trees to show where sun is.) A Curves Adjustment Layer was applied with just a little contrast added to the darker areas. On a stamped layer Nik Viveza 2 was used to emphasize my focal point of the front door and windows of the school. A clean up layer at the end and that was all that was done. I really like the soft painterly feel in this image.

Image 2: This plant was first processed in Lightroom using Dave Delnea’s Backlight 002 Horiz preset (his presets are some of my very favorites, especially since he has created some very nice lighting effects in them) and some Basic section subtle changes. Once in Photoshop, Topaz Detail 3 was opened and a preset called Small Detail for Fur by Blake Rudis (see his Topaz ReMask 4 Tutorial video which contains the settings for this preset) was applied – check out Blake’s website as he has great tips on how to use Topaz products. On a stamped layer, Topaz Texture Effects was opened and the Distressed Contrast preset was applied. Only changed the bottom Basic Adjustment (Brightness 0.11, Shadow -0.19, Highlight -0.29, Clarity 0.88-the high settings added the illustrative look to the image, Sat -0.39, Temp -0.14, Tint -0.02, and Opacity 0.79) and added a Border – third row down on right and no changes to settings. In Photoshop a Levels Adjustment Layer was used to slightly flatten the blacks in the image to enhance that vintage feel by setting the Output Levels to 15 and 255. Last step involved adding Nik Viveza 2 to slightly brighten and sharpen the focal point in the lower right center.

Image 3: In Lightroom Blake Rudis’s Tonal Contrast HDR 2 2 preset (could not find a link for this) was used and some color changes were done with the HSL section. No sharpening or noise reduction was used. Then opened image in Photoshop and duplicated layer. Added Topaz Detail 3 to get a nice sharpening effect using my preset called SJ Darken and Soften Green Background (Settings: Selected in Detail section only the Shadow: Small Details -0.65, Small Details Boost -0.65, Medium Details -0.76, Medium Details Boost -0.71, Large Details -0.80, and Large Details Boost -0.71; Tone section Exposure -0.36, Contrast 0.61, Highlights 0.18, Shadows 0, Whites -0.17, Blacks 0.03, Cyan-Red 0, Magenta-Green -0.03, and Yellow-Blue 0.27; Color set to Cool 1 preset in pop-out or Temp 0.10, Tint 0.03, Sat 0.10, Boost 0.) On a duplicated layer, applied Topaz Texture Effects. Here are the changes to Image 1’s SJ Soft Pastel Effect preset settings used to create the effect in this image. (Changed Basic Adjustment: Brightness -0.10, Shadow 0.84, Highlight 0.37, Clarity 0.79, Saturation 0.86, Temperature -0.07, Tint 0.17, and Opacity 0.96; Diffusion: Strength 0.29, Softness 0.30, Blur 0.21, and Opacity 0.58 – no mask; Light Leak – Bottom left leak – Size 1.25, Opacity 0.83, Blending Mode Pin Light, Saturation, Color Strength and Color all 0, and a mask was painted using Brush Strength of 33, Brush Size 7 but varies, and Hardness 0; Added a turquoise Color Overlay and set blending mode to Lighter Color, Opacity 0.120, Spot Mask and centered on hammock so only outside the circle was affected, Transition 0.62, Color Aware Strength 0.57 and Density 0.02. Created SJ Darker Soft Pastel Effect. Created SJ Darker Soft Pastel Effect.) Back in Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer was opened where a slight S-curve was used to apply a little contrast overall to the image. On a stamped layer Nik Viveza was used with 3 control points centered on the swing, balloons on left side and basket on bottom left. Only little tweaks to adjust the focal point correctly. Some clean up layers were added to cover light splashed over into the background. That was it!

Image 4:  In Lightroom Blake Rudis’s HDR Look Medium 4 preset was applied. In Photoshop I went right into Topaz Texture Effects and used the Winter Fairytale preset to start the effects on this image. (The changes to this preset are as follows:  Basic Adjustment – Brightness 0, Shadow -0.31, Highlight 0.25, Clarity 0.01, Saturation -0.38, Temperature 0.14, Tint 0, and Opacity 1.00; used one of my downloaded soft purple textures set to Opacity 0.18, Blending Mode Overlay, Detail 0.35, Saturation 0.96, Color Strength 0.77, Color 0.47; deleted the Light Leaks section; Color Overlay – set to a solid blue, Blending Mode Color, and Opacity 0.04; Edge Exposure – need to set all 4 sides so left side Exposure 0.35, Size 0.50, Transition 0, Color Strength 0.82, Color 0.76, and Opacity 0.83; top side – 0.23/0.50/0/0.82/0.76/0.83; bottom side – 0.21/0.50/0/0.82/0.76/0.83; and right side – 0.21/0.72/0/0.82/0.76/0.83; Diffusion – Strength 0.70, Softness 0.43, Blur 0.01, and Opacity; and added Split Tone – Highlight Saturation 0.12, Highlight Hue 0.07, Shadow Saturation 0.10, Shadow Hue 0.60, Balance -0.45, and Opacity 0.70. Created preset called SJ View-mask out diffusion; and in Mask section, used black brush and painted in some green highlights in the foreground trees, some red smokestacks and brown buildings just to add some interest.) The last step was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer in Photoshop to add just a little contrast.


DIGITAL LADY SYD REVIEWS TOPAZ REMASK 5

Had not planned on writing on this topic this week, but since I own Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReMask, thought I would put it through its paces. Along the way, a couple other tips popped up! This image took me several hours to complete, but was worth it. The colors in these Scarlet Macaws are incredible and perfect for painting. I call this guy “King of the Alligator Farm” as he was so noticeable and seems to enjoy everybody checking him out.

Topaz recently updated their selection plug-in to ReMask 5 and the results are really great. Remember, if you own this plug-in, it is a free upgrade for you. The major improvement for me is the Background section as shown at end of blog. Otherwise I found the program to be just like Version 4 and it still works very well. (See my And the Best Complicated Selection Tool Is?) It took practically no time to separate this image with a distracting green colored background and place it on my Corel Painter texture. In fact, in most cases you do not have to fill in the areas. Check out this short basic tutorial for version 4, that works the same with version 5, on how to create a mask fast – ReMask 4 Masking Hair. After computing the mask, I usually adjust the Recovery slider (revives color of foreground in weaker transparent areas) and the Layer Mask strength (determines the brightness of the mask) to get better results in my masks. Check out the Manual for how all the slider work. Below is a screenshot of the ReMask 5 interface.

Screenshot of ReMask 5.0 with macaw selectedYou need to go to Menu -> Preferences and check Enable Use-Layer-Mask to get a layer mask on image layer back in Photoshop. The final image used three different effects in Topaz Lens Effects: Fisheye to increase the head size a little (this work really good on bird images), Toy Camera Awesomeness I preset tweaking the sliders to get the rich color tones, and as a final step in this image using the Fog 1 preset which gives the final slightly faded feel around the bottom of the image to drive the eye upward. The basic workflow was the same one used in my How To Get a Painterly Effect for Wildlife and Birds blog. The biggest problem with this image was to get the focal point well defined on the face since the colors are so vivid and compete with the face.

ReMask 5 really selected the bird and feather edges very easily and without too much touch up in the resulting layer mask. I usually flip between the Mask view and the Keep View. The brushes in the plug-in are very sensitive so that you can really select the extra little spots needed just by tapping with the brushes – no real painting. To switch between the brushes use keyboard shortcuts “q” for to add back image, “w” to remove areas, and “e” to recompute the area. Zoom in close and tap away with the different brushes. Pretty easy. This is the basic trick to getting a really clean mask.

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Image of a Cattle EgretThis Cattle Egret took lots of steps so I will not go over all of them. Just wanted to emphasize that the same Topaz ReMask 5 was used to select him. In this bird’s case, it took a little more clean up in Photoshop to get it exactly the way I liked it. The Oil Paint Filter in CS6 was applied to just the bird quickly, then I hand painted more on the bird. The Fog Filter in Topaz Lens Effects was used on the left side of the image to soften the body effect. Below is how the Cut View of the mask appeared for cattle egret image. One of my Corel Painter textures was added to the image a couple times for the final result.
Screenshot of Cut View in Topaz ReMask 5

BACKGROUND SECTION

Two things have been improved: Topaz has included a new Background icon at bottom of column where you can open any image to add into the shot as a background, and it is now a stand-alone program that interfaces smoothly with Lightroom. The best use for the Background section would probably be for adding a new sky in a landscape (see below) or as a background to a portrait. Have Background choices of Transparency (the default setting), Solid Color or Image where you can select an image or texture from your computer. Click the orange icon and you get options to Move, Scale (keeps aspect ratio so you cannot stretch the texture) or Rotate the background. Press the yellow icon to swap out the chosen background image. There are several basic sliders to adjust the background to blend in with the masked area. Below is a screenshot of this section where I replaced a sunset type sky with some painted clouds. The down side is that if you are using the plug-in within Photoshop, you will have to save the mask with the new background down in a JPEG, PNG or TIFF file format – it does not save as a layered PSD file. I found this very confusing as you have to reopen your image with the other formats in PS and mine all appeared to be flattened. For me it is easier to just create the mask in ReMask, then add the texture in Photoshop where there are more options for manipulating the blend between the two layers. Still it is a pretty handy thing to have for use with Lightroom. Here is the link on Flickr to the original image. Screenshot of Topaz ReMask 5's background section

BOTTOM LINE

I still love Topaz ReMask and version 5 is even better. Definitely my “go-to” program for creating complicated selections. It is worth the time to figure out how quickly the selections can be made, even if just used as a starting point. You can always go back to the layer mask in Photoshop and tweak it some more. I usually have to. Have a good week!…..Digital Lady Syd


DIGITAL LADY SYD REVIEWS TOPAZ GLOW

Image of a little Native American Girl with headressThis week Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) released their newest plug-in, Glow, and it is once again so fun and unique! I will say right from the start that if you like plug-ins and filter effects in Photoshop, Topaz has the best selection to chose from. They are raising the bar with their new innovative effects to be used in your images. Topaz Glow is so unusual and I did not think I would like it that much – what can I do with it? But after using it for awhile and combining it with some of their other plug-ins, it is becoming one of my favorites. It brings out detail, color and lighting to get some very nice results. So lets see what we have here.

On the image above, of a beautiful little Native American child, is a good example of the use of color and lighting effects to get a lovely result, especially in the headdress area. First used Topaz Clarity’s Skin Smooth and Brighten II preset (these settings were adjusted: Dynamics Micro Contrast -0.36, Low Contrast -0.41, Medium Contrast -0.09, and High Contrast 0.19; Tone Level – Black Level 0.05, Midtones 0.06, and White Level 0.28) for a more natural skin look that this plug-in does so well. Next Topaz Glow was applied using one of my favorite presets, Mysterious I (these settings were adjusted: Overall Saturation 0.22; Red Saturation -0.63 and Red Lightness 0.23; Orange Hue 0.24 and Orange Saturation 0.62; Yellow Saturation 0.46; Blue 0.66; and Purple Saturation 0.68. Set to Multiply Blend Mode at 100% strength). This preset makes the image very dark as it uses a Dark Glow Type. By setting the blend mode to Multiply, the beautiful color and sharpening in the feathers of the headdress is achieved. A layer mask was added and with a soft round black brush, the face was lightly painted back so the filter did not apply to the face.  Several clean up layers were used and a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied to create a black vignette effect by just dragging the top right dot straight down to the .25 line. The face was lightened just a little bit more using the Camera Raw Radial Filter. That was it. There was not really much manipulation to get this nice result. And what is really nice is that the effect is apparent just in the rather straight lines of the image, but it does not look like just a neon application or over-sharpening of the image. Since there was such a drastic change done on this image, the original is shown below for comparison.

I am finding that using images with lines in the objects work well with this program. Glow can really bring out the details that you did not realize were present. I seem to prefer the effect on flowers and grasses,

Image of trees that were painted and taken into Topaz GlowThis image was done just a little differently. It was first painted in Corel Painter using oil brushes where several sources of this same image were used to get a very colorful and illustrative final result. In Photoshop Topaz Glow was added and the Mysterious II preset selected with a few changes. (Changed Secondary Glow to Dark and set Fractal Strength to 0.20, Red Lightness to -1.00, and Sharpness 0.27. Strength 0.82 and Multiply blend mode.) By using the Secondary Glow, the effect could be emphasized even more to create this rather illustrative effect. On a stamped layer Topaz ReStyle’s Dark Goldenrod Sunset preset (Detail Structure 0.50 and Sharpness 1.00) was applied. I was really please how Painter worked with Glow.

What I Like About Topaz Glow

1. Love the totally unique effects this plug-in creates! Like I said, at first I was not sure how I would use it, but once I got the feel for what the different collections (6 collections and 50 presets) are doing, it became much easier to figure out and get the subtle looks I like.

2. I have an older computer and this plug-in zipped along really nicely when adjusting the large number of sliders (over 70) that were required to get the effects I liked.

3. The results actually work very nicely with several other plug-ins I like to use a lot, especially Topaz Impression and Topaz ReStyle. Below are examples of each of these being used with Glow.

4. Having a duplicate set of sliders to use as a Secondary Glow makes it very useful to fine-tune an effect. I am using this more as I get used to what the slider do.

What I Don’t Like About Topaz Glow

1. There is not an undo function. It makes it a little hard to compare the old setting to the new setting. The company is promising this will be in the update for the program – which by the way, is always free to people who have purchased the program. Maybe this should go under What I Like…… hum! Also you have to go back to the preset list, click on a different preset, and and then go back in to the original preset and start over if you do not like some of your changes.

2. Wish Glow had a mask so the effect could be removed from parts of the image and remain on other parts. Right now you have to apply the effect, then add a layer mask in Photoshop and paint out the effect with a black brush in the mask, to localize the result.

3. Wish we had a few more blend modes to chose from – currently just Normal, Multiply, Screen, Overlay, Soft Light and Hard Light are available.

Image of my miniature mums and Boston Fern on my porchThese are my miniature mums that bloomed on my porch a month ago – they are my very favorite mums! What worked in this image are the lines in the flowers and fern that Glow emphasized. To create this effect, first in Lightroom Seim’s (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) PowerWorkflow Magic Portrait preset and Dave Delnea’s Backlight 002 vertical preset.  (If you want some spectacular lighting effects in Lightroom, you need to check out Dave’s inexpensive presets. These may be the best ones I have ever downloaded.) I like the effect of Glow and Impression used together, which is what this image did. The basic steps are as follows: On a duplicate layer, Topaz Detail 3 was applied using my preset (Medium Details 0.38, Large Details 0.16, and Contrast 0.30). Some clean up was done on a New Layer. Created a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and Topaz Glow was opened – Wonderland preset was applied and set to Multiply blend mode at 66% opacity while still in the plug-in. Now you start to see the magical effect this plug-in can creates. Next Topaz Impression was applied on another stamped layer using the Monet II preset as is. A layer mask was added and some of the Glow detail in the flowers was painted back. One again a Radial filter was used to dial in the center right flowers which is the focal point of the image. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used to add contrast back into the image. Remember that when you apply lots of filters from these plug-in, you almost always need to add a Curves Adjustment Layer or Levels Adjustment Layer to bring back the contrast that gets lost.

Image of Disney Parking Lot Tram Another example of some of the effects you can get on an image. I created this preset and cannot figure out what preset I started using – even my settings are off a bit so I will try to reconstruct this and present another example. The nice webbing effect in the sky and the sleek colors in the front tram area are apparent. To me, this is the way it should look at Disney. The original of this is one is also shown below to give you a comparison. Also Smart Photo Editor using Burton’s frame and lowered effect so some color came through, and Violet Dream effect was used for the border.
Original Images before Topaz Glow appliedTopaz has included their really great color sliders which gives a lot of flexibility to making the image colors look correct. I almost always adjust these sliders in both Glow and Impression. Also I seem to prefer the Multiply blend mode, but discovered that by reducing the Brightness slider some of the other Overlay, Soft Light and Hard Light blend modes will work nicely. I also discovered that the Electrify slider can give some really crazy results so sometimes it needs to be reduced. Still exploring how all these sliders work together – lots of fun here!

There are a couple of things that can be done to make using this program a lot easier. First, check out the manual that does a pretty decent job of explaining all the sliders and what they do. (Go to Help -> User’s Manual) And what I consider is the best resource is to go to Topaz’s webinars website and watch their wonderful videos. UPDATE: Topaz has now posted a really good video called Introduction to Topaz Glow. I find it extremely helpful to know what the software designers were thinking when the program was designed and how others use the plug-in. For example, I learned that in the Neon Collection, if you do not like the non-natural colors in the preset, reduce the Edge Color slider by moving it left to get a more natural look. Or that the Heavy Metal presets look good on cars! Still working on that one. I believe Topaz does have some of the best instructional videos.

Bottom Line

If you love the special effects that so many of Topaz’s filters create, this is a definite “Yes” for you! It creates some very different results and works nicely with their other creative plug-ins. I have been having a lot of fun working on different types of images and will present more as the holidays get past. This is not just a neon filter, but lots of different effects that use the neon-type effect as a starting place. Topaz has once again created something totally different and for that I am grateful – no one else seems interested in doing this. It definitely adds something new in the “artistic” area to give more of a creative style to an image. Thank you Topaz!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Simply Glowing!


Digital Lady Syd Reviews Smart Photo Editor Photoshop Plug-In

Image of Harry Potter trophy and books from Orlando AirportIt has been a while since I did a review on a product that is totally new by a company I have never heard about but that is what I am doing! Anthropics Smart Photo Editor can be used as a Photoshop plug-in, although as a stand-alone program it is a fairly powerful photo editor in it’s own right. My interest is its use as a plug-in for all the special and crazy effects I love to use. This program definitely “fits the definition” with an incredible amount of variety! Even though I just bought the program, I thought I would pass along what I have learned, what I like, and what I do not like.

The top image was taken at the Orlando Airport at the Harry Potter Store using my Android. Here are the settings used for this image: Created a layer mask to mask the background. Then applied Soft colored texture 017 by andrewb2012 – applied it to just the background. Saturate and Glow was applied to just the trophy and books, and then applied Oil painting by Vivienne Li was applied to the whole image.  Applied Stacked photos landscape format 001 by andrewb2012. See the screen shots below for some of the steps used.
Image of painted treesThe tree  image was taken in Tennessee several years ago. It was first painted in Corel Painter and then in Photoshop the Smart Photo Editor was opened and just one preset called DJ Philip was used to give the final nice effect. (Here are the settings for the preset: Fade was about 2/3 of the way over, Merge 0.568, Filter 0.628, Radius 0, and Gradient 0.458.) The preset basically just darkened down the top part of image to direct the focus a little lower in the image – very subtle effect in this case. The results are added to your highlighted Photoshop layer by clicking File -> Save and Close.
Image of some Day LiliesJust another example of a very simple application of this plug-in – these day lilies were actually a very bright yellow but by taking this image into the Smart Photo Editor, an interesting effect could be achieved. The Bittbox-grungy watercolor01 border preset was applied. Back in Photoshop colors were tweaked a little more by using a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and then doing a little painting clean up.  Once again a very quick result that turned a rather ordinary flower image into something quite different. Below are two screen shots – the first showing the Effects Gallery and the second showing how a mask is created to selectively apply the effect.  Click on the image for a larger view in Flickr. Screen shot of the Effects Gallery for Smart Photo EditorScreen shot of masking in Smart Photo EditorJust have to remember that if an effect does not look right, you need to Cancel and then click the Effects Gallery icon again in the upper right to select a different effect. The right and left arrow keys will advance the grid right or left if you do not want to click the big arrows with your mouse. To see your original image, press F5 and to see what difference from the last effect press F6.

 What I Like About Smart Photo Editor:

1. The Effects Library with this wide variety of effects to apply to your image – there are Light, Color, Detail, Artist, Styles, Borders, Mood (weather effects), and Trendy effects that can be applied. It appears that the presets are obtained from the internet so when you open up the plug-in – thumbnails are created to show you want the different effects are. (See Gallery screen shot below.) A Search field aids with finding the effect you want. Also the best effects for your image appear first.

2. The ease with which the total effect can be applied – pretty much just a click or two for applying any preset. Also, there is a Favorites Recent Shortlists button that list the last 20 effects you used – very handy!

3. I really love the borders that can be applied. Ever since OnOne retired PhotoFrames, I have been at a loss to find really nice quick frame effects. This program fills that void.

4. That the program can be used as a photo editor for RAW files – you do not have to use it in Photoshop. It seems like an affordable way to process RAW files without owning the more expensive software to edit them. I checked this out on an image and it worked great with my Nikon camera NEF Raw file. There is an Image Treatment icon on the right side that has a whole bunch of basic image adjustment sliders like in ACR or Lightroom.

5. Can create your own presets for use over and over and can even upload them to the Smart Editor Community for others to use. Also, you can easily open up an existing preset to remove a border effect, for example, or add a different one in if you want to change it. This is really a cool concept!

What I Do Not Like About Smart Photo Editor:

1. Once an effect has been applied, as far as I can tell, you cannot try different effects on the original image to decide which you want. It stacks one effect on top of another one. I may be wrong on this, but so far I am having trouble doing this.

2. Sometimes it is hard to tell if the sliders are making changes when adjusted.

3. It is not easy to use the layer mask, but it actually does a pretty good job with a little practice – need to press SHIFT key to select other areas and ALT key will let you remove areas that got selected (turns it to the Erase From Selection button). I am not sure if the layer mask can be copied to another effect so you get the same mask unless you start out by selecting the Select Area button. Just not as easy as adding the layer mask in Photoshop and painting out what you want. Also I don’t believe there is an opacity slider for the brush so the effect is either in the image or not in the image.

4. Cannot be used as a Smart Object – not that big a deal but it would be nice to get back to your settings.

Bottom Line

This is a pretty good plug-in to get, especially if you need a quick effect for an image. The image can be adjusted using all kinds of regular photo effects for color, vibrance, detail, etc. It also allows Overlays and Underlays to be applied with blending modes and opacity slider. The price is reasonable, especially when bought just as a stand-alone program. I totally love the bordering effects so for me it was a no brainer – get the plug-in!

Image of fish from Epcot The Land rideThis image was taken while on The Land ride in Epcot, Disney World, Orlando, and the fish were just a rather plain white color. The Smart Photo Editor was opened and presets were applied. (The Texture my world preset by andrewb2012 was applied. Next applied Watercolor, texture & vignette 001 by andrewb2012 – Master Fade just past middle, Merge 0.631, 3 Way Combine 0.277, Exposure 0.535, and Saturation -0.151. Selected to add mask and painted off effect from middle fish.) Then in Photoshop just some Sharpen Tool to the eyes was applied. I thought this was a very interesting effect that took just a few minutes to create.

I would suggest you download the trial and check it out. If you download it, they have a very nice website with several tutorials and a community forum. I would suggest you watch this 2:46 minute video for a brief introduction to the program and one I found most useful before starting. It is called The Fisherman Enhancement (2nd video down) and goes through most of the main features quickly. Anthropics had a very good price offer going recently and I am sure they will be offering it again with the holidays nearby. I was pleasantly surprised how versatile this program is and will be presenting more of its effects in the weeks coming up.

Hope you get a chance to experiment with this interesting plug-in. It might be something that you will really like!….Digital Lady Syd


DIGITAL LADY SYD SPEAKS OUT ON TOPAZ IMPRESSION

Image of flowers using Topaz Impression pluginThis is not a formal review of Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Impression due to some  constraints on my time right now, but I did want to give a quick shout out to them for creating for us Photoshop Lovers a new plug-in to fan our “flair for the artistic.” This is Topaz’s first attempt at making a painterly program – it is in a tough competition at this point since painting seems to be all the rage. I have had the opportunity to play around with this little gem for a few weeks and can say that once again, Topaz has a way of creating those little extras which makes you say – oh yeah, that’s really a nice feature!

Two things I really like about this program:

  • There is usually not really a lot that needs to be done to make the resulting image much better after applying one of the various presets they have created. I have played around with all the different sliders and settings, and find that adjusting the Stroke brush types is my personal favorite. All the Stroke sliders are really good so it is hard to choose a favorite from them.
  • My second really favorite item is that you can change the Hue, Saturation and Lightness of all the individual colors – this makes a huge difference depending on what colors you want to emphasize in the image. There are little red diagonal lines over the areas affected when hovering over each color with your mouse which is very helpful. (Something else I have never seen before.) Topaz has always been a leader in the way color is managed in their plug-ins. ReStyle set the bar very high for other software creators in this regard and Impression is continuing on with this tradition.

The image above was my first attempt at using Impression and I was totally surprised at how nice it turned out with very little manipulation. This image used one of their early Painting presets so the settings names do not match what was released but I know one of the new Painting presets is very close. I did set the image to Screen blend mode at 82% opacity – it gave a really nice finished look. I also used the Type 06 brush. Switch these brushes up and try different ones with the presets – you get some totally different results! The only other thing done after applying Impression was to use Topaz Detail 3 to sharpen up the focal points (the lower flower and secondary one is the pink and yellow one in the center). A black layer mask was applied (hold down ALT while pressing the layer mask icon in the Layers Panel) and just the centers were lightly painted back in. That was it!

Image of Clouds from my Front Porch with Topaz Impressions applied This little cloud image above was taken with my Android from my front porch here in Florida – got to love our skies! Used the Impression Pointillism II preset and made the follow changes to the preset: Stroke Brush Type 05, Brush Size 0.61, Paint Volume (Thickness) 0.27, Paint Opacity 1.00 (this really made the Impasto pop), Stroke Width -0.04, Stroke Length 0.11, Spill 0.14, and Smudge 0.05;  and in Color the Blue Saturation and Lightness were adjusted to give the sky a little more interest. These settings are a little rough since they were developing some of the settings for the program at the time this image was created. But the important thing is that by changing the brush types and those sliders in the Stroke section, some really interesting looks can be achieved. In the above I was leaning toward the bluish tones for the sky so that is what was adjusted. I even love the little stroke effects in the bushes in the foreground. Back in Photoshop there was not much extra work done except to add a selective color adjustment layer (Colors Whites – Yellow -7%, Neutrals Black +5, and Blacks Magenta +4, Yellow +9, and Black -7) – sort of  like adjusting blacks, midtones and whites in Levels. Last step was adding a Curves Adjustment Layer and a little more contrast into the light colors (pulled down just a little on corner at 3 – 1 in grid). I really like the results – especially just a little of the red tones peaking through the greenery. I had not even noticed that in the original image.

Image of some yellow daisies painted with Topaz Impressions plug-inThese daisies were taken on the Living With the Land ride at Epcot in Disney World, Orlando, Florida. I just love yellow daisies! I wanted to create an image reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Tournesols (Sunflowers) image although a Van Gogh preset was not used, but instead the Impasto I preset. In Lightroom Seim’s (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Supertone EQ X preset and Hill and Lucas preset were applied. In Photoshop a little clean up was done to the edges and Topaz Impression plug-in was opened. These settings were changed in the preset: Stroke section: Brush Type 05 – for some reason I like this brush for the heavy painted look, Brush Size 0.61 – the larger the number the more painterly it looks, Paint Volume 0.76 – how see through is the effect, Stroke Width -0.34 – at +1 more of a scribble and -1 more realistic – I wanted a slightly realistic look here, Stroke Length 0.19, Spill 0.27 – set to 1 it will spill over the edge, Smudge 0.18 – I am using the very sparingly as it has a bit of the Oil Paint Filter look to it and I do not love that effect all the time, and Coverage 1.00 – do not care for the edging look at this time – if you reduce to less than +1 a Transition slider will appear; Color section Overall Saturation 0.17 and Lightness 0.06, Red Hue 0.29 and Saturation 0.10, Orange Saturation 01.0, Yellow Hue -0.10 and Saturation 0.11, and Green Hue 0.19; Lighting section Brightness 0, Contrast 0.92, and Vignette 0 – Light direction x-0.32 y0.60; and Texture section was left alone. After using the plug-in, I did a little clean up on a New Layer in areas that were a bit overdone, and added a Levels Adjustment Layer to bring back just a little contrast. The last step was on a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) where Nik Viveza 2 was used to just saturate that middle flower a bit to draw the eye to it. This could just as easily be done using Camera Raw’s Radial Filter. It was a really fun working on this image.

What I have done is to go to the Users Manual which downloads with the plug-in (go to Help menu and it is there), and look at what they say each of the sliders do. I made a sheet with what Topaz says they do, and then what settings I like to use for them until I get used to what they do. Like I said, they have done a nice job of creating presets, so they do give you some nice starting places for adjusting your images. The Topaz team said they are continuing to work on adding to this plug-in, so it is great to know they are listening to their clients. That is one reason I love working with Topaz, their customer service is excellent. Impression is totally fun and very addictive – I could do this all day! If you have a chance, download it and see what you think. I will be writing a more thorough blog on this in the near future once I learned some tricks to get great effects. Still learning so better get back to it!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
New Impression of Octopus and Seahorse