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Topaz Studio

HOW TO ADD A LITTLE EXTRA DETAIL

Image of two Moon Jellyfish
This post was going to be a review about one of my favorite filters, the now updated Topaz Sharpen AI filter that contains a brush for creating a mask to locally sharpen certain areas of the image. There appears to be a few bugs yet so I am not ready to review it. Instead I went back into my archive to find some new things to work on during this stay-at-home time. Therefore this week is going to be just a short blog on getting a little detail into an image, in this case some Jellyfish images. Hum!

The Moon Jellyfish image above seems to be both creepy and beautiful at the same time. (Their body is white in color, round, and very transparent so when the sun or the moon is shining on them, they look just like a lit-up moon.) What was really interesting to me was how to get all the nooks and crannies of this image to look as transparent as the jellyfish really looked. The Camera Raw Filter was opened  and a free Profile in a Sparklestock set called Lemon – Pumpkin 02 profile at 106% was selected (they have many  great presets and all have free samples). Then the basic sliders were adjusted so that the background was a little darker and the light lines showed up a better. Some Texture and Clarity were also added. Since I did not have my Topaz Sharpen AI working, I decided to use my back-up which never lets me down – Luminar 4 (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link). It has also been recently updated for Landscapes or Portraits. Sometimes the AI Enhance Tool is used, but in this case it was lightening up the background too much. The AI Structure Tool (Amount 73 and Boost 43) and painted in a mask where on the areas needing sharpening was used first. Then applied the Details Enhancer Tool (Small Details 49, Medium Details 25, and Large Details 37). These are usually the only two filters needed to get some great detail from Luminar. Now here is a great trick when working with objects with thin lines – go into Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Studio 2 and apply the Edges Filter. This filter can do wonders to give a little more edge to objects. In this case these filters and settings were used: AI Clear: Remove Noise Auto, Enhance Sharpness High, Exposure 0.02 and Clarity 0.40 (I still love this filter in Studio and just by adding a little Clarity here helped quite a bit in this case); and Edges: Edge Type – Monochrome Line, Edge Tone – Light, Edge Strength – 0.67, Simplify Edge – 0.04, Suppress Weak Edges – 0.35, Suppress Small Edge 0.84, Edge Thickness 0.12, and Edge Resolution – 0.84 – painted off any long white lines which looked over the top. That was basically all that was done on this image, but the sharpening process turned out really good.

So for this image the following items were used to add the detail: (1) Camera Raw Filter and the Texture and Clarity sliders in particular; (2) Luminar 4 using their AI Structure and Details Enhancer Tools; and (3) Topaz Studio 2’s AI Clear (especially the Clarity slider) and Edges Filters.

*****

Image of a traditional jellyfish with a watercolor effect

This image is of a more traditional looking Jellyfish, the kind I have seen in the ocean before. This time a more painterly effect was applied and most of this was done in Topaz Studio 2 where the more artistic filters can be found. This time an older version of Topaz Sharpen AI (Model: Stylize at Sharpness 0.90 and Suppress Noise 0.20) was used to do my initial sharpening – and it did a great job. Luminar 4 was applied on a stamped layer and the Dramatic set Mystic Look preset was applied which gave it an overall painterly feel. Then on another stamped layer Topaz Studio 2 was opened and AI Clear applied – Remove Noise: Auto, Enhance Sharpness: High, and Clarity 0.78. Next the wonderful Edges filter set to 100 Opacity, Multiply blend mode, Edge Type Monchrome Edge, but this time Edge Tone: Dark instead of Light as above.  All the other sliders refine the original Edge Strength (0.78) setting:  Simplify Edge 0.40, Suppress Weak Edges 0, Suppress Small Edges: 0.00, Edge Thickness 0.40, and Edge Resolution 1.00. In layer mask with brush set to Transparency 0.50, Radius 0.03, Softness 0.50 and Edge Aware On, painted effect off in a mask where the lines were just too dark – this still left an enhanced line but was not as obvious. The Impression filter was set to Type 13, Background Color Original in Texture section, and in inverted layer mask, just painted over the top of the Jellyfish with brush at 0.78 Transparency. Back in PS, the background was created by using 3 different colors on 3 different layers using the Shadowhouse Creations texture brush set to a large size (it was the 2nd example created in my recent How to Create a Texture Brush to Match a Texture blog). Then put layers in a group and set it to 82% layer opacity. On a New Layer on top, the top part of the Jellyfish was smoothed with a Mixer brush. Then on another New Layer, a small brush was used to add in some of the tentacle lines that were missing. Text was Hardwired Script Update and it was a lot of fun to use – the creator added in many variations for the letters. Still more clean up, but these were pretty much the steps. Once again Studio’s Edges filter was a great help.

For this image, these detailed items were used: (1) Topaz Sharpen AI; (2) Topaz Studio 2’s AI Clear and Edges filters; and (3) actually drew in any small lines that needed emphasis using a tiny small brush.

*****

Image of Moon Jellyfish in a sepia tone
More Moon Jellyfish – this time in a sepia tone. Did initial sharpening in Lightroom using the Detail Panel before applying the old Nik Silver Efex Pro filter to the image. Just the default preset was used to start and then changes were made using Toning Preset 9 to give a slightly bluish look. Back in PS the image was inverted (CTRL+I on the image). A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added using a Color Negative Device Link preset (not sure if this is from PS or not) set to Hue – it added the nice sepia effect. The Moon is from Rule by Art (in Design Cuts Planet-Space-Explosion-Background and Ancient Texture set) and it was also adjusted to match the Jellyfish using the same Silver Efex Pro and Color Lookup Adjustment Layer settings. Another Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added and set to the Foggy Night preset at 63% layer opacity and Overlay blend mode. Used the same Hardwired Script Update font. Last step was a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a little contrast back.

In this case, the only sharpening needed was in Camera Raw. It is interesting to see that each image had such different requirements.

Hope everyone is taking it easy and trying out some new techniques. That is what I was trying to do with my images – try a few different things and see what I like. It is actually nice to be able to slow down and think about this – just hope it is not for too long. Stay safe!…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO CREATE A TEXTURE BRUSH TO MATCH A TEXTURE

Image of a Blue Morpho Butterfly
Creating a brush to match a texture might not need to be used on every image, but there are times is can be really handy to have, especially if the texture has a very obvious texture. In the Blue Morpho Butterfly image above, it created a very nice painterly effect to place on top of the subject. Thought I would write a very short blog on how to do this as it took me a few minutes to figure it out. Maybe I can save you a bit of time when you need one.

The beautiful texture I was using is one by Melissa Gallo called Bowl of Roses Canvas and it comes with her older Painting with Photoshop Workshop (this is still an excellent class if you are serious about learning to paint in PS and she provides lots of extras). The butterfly looked really strange lying on top of the texture I liked so by creating the brush with a similar texture, the edges and new color could be added to the butterfly to blend it in nicely.

So this is how the brush was created:

1. While still in my document with the texture added, the Circular Marque Tool was used to make a small selection on a part of the texture that looked particularly nice.

2. Press CTRL+J to place it on its own layer above the texture.

3. Turn off all the other layers so only the circular texture can be seen.

4. Select the Gradient Tool set to Black/White in the swatches and drag out from middle to lightly fade the edges of the brush.

5. Go to Edit -> Define Brush. My brush was named SJ Round Texture Bowl of Roses.

6. As the brush looks right now, it is not very good. Need to open the Brush Settings Panel so that a few variables can be added. In the brush above, only two sections were changed. In the Brush Tip Shape section, the Spacing was set to 70% so you can see the texture. Then the Textures section was adjusted as shown on the left below. Pretty Actions Antique is the pattern used – this will blend with the texture in the brush. Try different patterns that will give different results. A variation of the brush which enhanced the spatter that was in the pattern more is shown in the brush settings on the right side. Same brush but slightly different settings tipping the texturing in the brush more towards the pattern and less the original texture. Note that the pattern’s Invert box is checked for this brush.

7. Once you are happy with your settings, be sure to resave the brush by clicking on the plus icon at the bottom of the Brush Settings and the Brushes Panels.

Screenshot for Texture Brush used in blog
Screenshot of the variable brush for blog

That is all there is to it. Of course the different sections can be added to the brush to a really special look you want, but it is a really easy and fun way to create these brushes. The strokes were applied on their own layer above the butterfly so that the opacity and blend mode could be adjusted. In this case, the blend mode was left set to Normal and at 100% opacity.

*****

Two birds at the Jacksonville Zoo
These two birds (not sure what kind they are but appear to be a type of duck) were not fighting, but seemed to be buddies (or mating possibly). Anyway I thought the connected beaks was sort of interesting as far as birds go. The image was also post processed the same as the butterfly image above. First selected the birds from their background, found a texture to put behind them (in this case it was a free Shadowhouse Creations Nov 2014-7 texture) and then a brush was created from the texture using the above steps. Changes were made to the brush settings with the spacing to 139% (to avoid patterning), Angle Jitter 50% (to avoid pattern repetition), and Orchid Pattern (4) from Jessica Johnson set to Scale 249% (again to avoid patterning – this was a freebie from one of her newsletters), Brightness -1, Contrast 7, Mode Multiply, Depth 84 and Depth Jitter 16. In the Options Bar the Smoothing was set 12% – this seems to make the brush move smoother. Two brushes were made – one at 234 pixels and one at 900 pixels, which was used with a rust color on the background to add in some color over the texture. Then on a New Layer above the birds, the smaller brush was used at a 30% opacity to paint a soft beige over some of the edges of the birds. One of Jessica Johnson’s Pattern Stamps (see my blog link on this below) was used to paint in the blue-green clumps of grass between the birds (using her The Masters 52 pattern). Two Color Lookup Adjustments Layers were added (Foggy Night preset at 64% and a free Sparklestock Bleak Spire 02 preset at 28%) – Color Lookup Adjustments can really pull the color of an image together.

I had written on this subject 6 years ago but it is still a fun technique to use and it really helps keep the texture flowing on the edges of a subject. It is also a nice way to add other colors and texture to a background for a more unique effect. Hope you give it a try – it is so much fun to make brushes! And hope everyone stays healthy this Spring. It is is a great time to enjoy Photoshop and learn a few new things – I know that is my plan!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

How to Paint with a Texture Brush from Your Image
What About the Pattern Stamp Tool? Not So Bad!


WHAT FILTERS I USE AND WHAT IS NEW FOR ME

Image of tiny white and red flowers
This week I am just going to give you a few of my favorite plugins that I think are worth checking out if you are interested in purchasing a few on Black Friday/Cyber Monday. I am a huge filter (plugin) fan and these are all ones I own and use a lot or I would not waste your time. The image above is the final after adding several of the filters below.

Topaz Sharpen AI

Hands down in my mind is Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Sharpen AI – it seems to be just getting better and better each rendition they release. Probably 80% of my images are improved by this filter, even if I do not realize the image needs it. The image below used the Topaz AI Sharpen set to my favorite settings of Processing Mode Stabilize, Remove Blur 0.80 (this is the sharpening slider) and Suppress Noise 0.30. For some reason these settings work on most of my images. I will try the other Processing Modes (Sharpen and Focus) if there is no noticeably improvement with these settings. And by applying and adding a black layer mask to the image back in Photoshop, just areas needing the sharpening can be painted back quickly. See my Topaz Sharpen AI – Good or Bad? and Yes, Free Upgrade for Infocus Owners blog for a quick review. Below is a split screenshot of how the image looked before using LR and after with this filter – it is especially noticeable in the little branches that are hanging down. Subtle but definitely better.

Screenshot using Topaz Sharpen AI

Luminar 4 or Luminar Flex – looks like Skylum has pulled Flex

Last week I did a quick review of Luminar 4 (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) and I have discussed Flex previously. Flex at one time was a free program for Luminar 3 owners and the was sold as a separate program. Until recently it was available on their site, but at this time I am having problems finding it. I hope that they have not quit updating or selling this product as it is very handy for people who do not need the cataloging function of the program but love the filters. I will try to find out more and update any new information. There is a difference – mainly in the filters. If you want the latest and greatest of the AI filters, Luminar 4 has them – the new AI Sky Replacement, AI Structure, and AI Skin Enhancer along with the new Portrait Enhancer are in it. Luminar Flex has the Accent AI Filter 2.0 and AI Sky Enhancer and a total of 51 filters that can be applied to your images. Luminar 4 has the cataloging capability but only 32 total filters (some are grouped together under a new name and were counted individually). This has upset some people. Also I have found in both programs that using the Structure filter with the Details filter gives an excellent Sharpening effect. Flex has been around for a while and the reason people loved it is that it had a Smart Object capability which Luminar 3 did not. Luminar 4 does have the Smart Object functionality, but if you are a Windows person, the recent update to Photoshop 2020 makes it uneditable – this is also true for Flex. The Tech team is working on it and the issue should be resolved soon. I think both programs do an excellent job at a fairly reasonable price. Once again, give them both a try. I find Luminar products seem to have really good color in them and some excellent photo filters. See my Checking out Skylum’s Luminar 4 blog and Luminar Flex – Exactly What Is This? blog for interface screenshots. I do use Flex all the time on my images – just got Luminar 4 so still deciding which is better.

Screenshot of the effect Luminar 4 had on flower image

DXO Nik Collection 2

They have now updated the original Nik Suite and added some new filters and a new interface. I am still using the original as it seems to be working fine for me with the new Photoshop 2020 update. My all time “Favorite” plugin that I use on 98% of my images is Viveza (the last step on the image above used this filter to emphasize some focal points). Many people feel that Lightroom does the same thing, but not for me. It was the second plugin I bought (behind the original Topaz Adjust) many years ago and I still love it (as well as Topaz Adjust – they have a Topaz Adjust AI program that I am still trying out). Back to DXO’s Nik Collection 2 – they claim to have added 40 new filters (8 to just the Color Efex Program). I can’t say enough good things about Nik – they supported my blog for years before Google bought them. I strongly suggest you try out their products.

Image after applying Nik Photo Efex Pro Midnight Filter

TOPAZ STUDIO 2

Topaz considers this their “creative filter collection” and that is probably a fair assessment. Since it contains Topaz Impression and Topaz AI Remix leading the way to get some really unique results, it is probably the most versatile of all the suites available. It also contains Glow, Edges, Precision Contrast and Precision Detail, and Color Theme (a hidden jewel for changing colors in your image) filters besides all the useful Looks (presets). It is now available for just a flat fee – if you own some of the filters, there is a discount available to you but you need to contact them before you buy to find out what it will cost. That said, there is no cataloging and more limited Camera Raw ability going on here – just lots of filters to give unique effects and fabulous color results. Topaz has worked very hard to improve their original Topaz Studio 1 to make it easier and faster to use. I love parts of it, but I miss parts of it too. The biggest issue is that the older Topaz plugins are no longer linked within the interface (they can still be used from the Filter -> Topaz Labs back in Photoshop) – but it will link the newer AI filters. I use this program a lot – definitely worth getting. Check out my What About This Topaz Studio 2 Update? Not Bad! blog for more info on it.

OTHERS I LIKE BUT DO NOT USE ALL THE TIME

TOPAZ DeNoise AI

I am a huge Topaz fan so I must say that I do love their plugins, but some I do not use all the time. The Topaz DeNoise AI is a fabulous plugin – and it does contain everyone’s favorite AI Clear that can be selected when opened. I find I do not need to do this often since DeNoise AI seems to overlap with the Sharpen AI somewhat and AI Clear is in Topaz Studio 2. Usually I use Studio to add the DeNoise as this little filter is so handy to access (and you can use a brush to paint it off in parts of the image in Studio.) For more info, check out my Topaz DeNoise AI – And Yes, Free Upgrade When Your Own DeNoise6 or AI Clear blog.

Corel’s Painter Particalshop

This Photoshop plugin is a really great way to add some fun to your images. There are many new brushes that can be added to the plugin (at a cost) to get some interesting effects, so check it out if you want to see what is available. For example, Particleshop has a Perfect Pets set, Sketch, Sunny Rays, Rust and Patina, Trees & Foliage – all kinds of brushes to get. I do not this plugin a lot, but there are times it adds just the perfect touch. Most have several settings to change the look of the brushes. This plugin is working fine with Photoshop 2020. Check out my Intro to Corel Particleshop Brushes for Photoshop blog.

Flaming Pears Flood Filter

The Flood Filter has been around for years without changing much, but it is still one of the best effects for water I have ever seen. Lots of sliders and a very smooth effect with great reflections can be obtained as well as very rough waters and lot of waves. Great for getting some interesting effects. I have an older version and it works just fine with Photoshop 2020. And check my older blog called The Flood Look.

Old version of Flood Filter used on flowers

Topaz Gigapixel

Still the best for enlarging your image – I love this program and use it all the time. It is constantly being upgraded and does a fabulous job! Now you can add some sharpening to bring in more detail when enlarging and denoise if there is a problem with this. One of Topaz’s best! And yes, I have done a blog on it too – see The Best New Software Around – Topaz A.I. Gigapixel! blog.

These are just some of the great plugins out there. I have found that I get confused when I use them all so I am trying to choose what are my very favorites and stick to learning how to use them better. That being said, sometimes getting a new set of filters really helps on the creative end of things. I hope this blog gives you some ideas for a few nice add-ins to Photoshop. Have a great shopping week and Happy Thanksgiving to those celebrating! I am taking next week off, so see you in a couple!…..Digital Lady Syd


A LITTLE DIGITAL PAINTING IN PHOTOSHOP AND NEW PHOTOSHOP BRUSHES!

Image of a Lion at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC

This week was spent mainly sharpening up my “digital painting” skills. This Lion image taken at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, just seemed to be the right type for this process as his background was up against a rather rocky fence. That is one thing to look for when choosing a subject to paint – what the background is and does it help or hurt the subject. This is not unlike adding a texture to an image to remove an ugly background. But in this case, the lion had such a wonderful furry head, he was perfect for doing a little digital work.

If you are new to digital painting and Mixer brushes, which are a main part of painting in PS, check out a couple videos by PS guru Jesus Ramirez. The first is less than two minutes long showing how to make a very basic brush (which worked pretty well for me) and is called Oil Painting Effect From Your Photos – Photoshop Mixer Brush Technique. The second is longer Photoshop Daily Creative Challenge – Mixer Brush from Adobe Creative Cloud (skip to the 9 minute mark for the tutorial). These two videos show how to get a really quick digital painting by just learning to use a Mixer Brush and make a few changes in the settings. And the results are much better than just using the Oil Paint Filter in PS.

I have been experimenting with painting on a layer(s) above using regular and mixer brushes, then going back to the original image layer and duplicating it. Next going into Topaz Impression via Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Studio or Topaz Labs, and applying the Impression filter. (For this image, used default settings and changed: Stroke to 07, Stroke Width -0.24, and Texture set to Background Type Original – had to do a little smoothing in PS to remove stroke edges.) Back in PS the top layer(s) are still your original digital painting strokes with the Impression layer underneath – this gives a nice undercoating to continue painting over. The Mixer Brushes will now begin picking up some color from the Impression layer. Create more layers using different brushes to get a really nice painted image that will show off your own style.

The lion image took several hours to complete, lots of layers, and 7 iterations before the best look was achieved. It has been my experience that digital painting takes quite a while to get a good look, especially if there are a lot of details in the image. You may want to keep it in but be sure to soften it down.

2019 Summer Brushes

Also as a side note, I just downloaded Kyle T. Webster’s 2019 Summer Brushes – to download, open pop out menu in the upper right corner of the Brushes Panel and select Get More Brushes. (if you are not logged into the Cloud, you will need to log in at this point.) Kyle’s website opened up where the new brushes shown at the top of the page. Kyle says “Find your perfect summer color with brushes that take advantage of Photoshop’s unique color mixing effects. Also included in this set: A tribute brush to the great Ben Shahn, an updated China Marker, and great new pattern brushes.” There are 23 new brushes, 3 of them Mixers. I am looking forward to giving them a test run!

Hope you get a chance to check out those two videos and try out some digital painting. It is a lot of fun!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Where to Find a Good Photoshop Painter
Can You Get a Painting Look With a Photoshop Action? Jack Davis Can!


TOPAZ STUDIO 2 IMPRESSION AND PHOTOSHOP BRUSHES


Image of a Water Lily blossom at the National Zoo in Washington, DC

This week I have been playing around with the update Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Studio 2. (Last week I did a review of the of it – check out my What About This Topaz Studio 2 Update? Not Bad! blog and video.) I imagine that everyone has noticed several small updates came out this week, each adding a couple more features to the interface. There now is a Navigation Tool on the bottom right toolbar – it is so handy for moving around the image when zoomed way in. A Crop/Rotate/Straighten tool has also been added – probably will not use this a lot but sometimes when an image is crooked, it is nice to have. Your own textures can now be added into the Texture filter as in Topaz Studio 1. I am really looking forward to being able to add another layer as an image (like the Image Layer filter in the original) – I miss not having this feature. But all in all Topaz has been working hard to get this updated software running smoothly.

A Little about Brushes

The Water Lily image, taken at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC, is an example of using the wonderful Impression filter that comes with Topaz Studio 2. For me it works great as either a nice painterly background for regular portraits or animal images or as a painting starting point as used in the Lily look. For this image Impression’s default settings were applied except the Type 06 Brush Stroke was used. Back in PS, on separate layers, Blender Mixer Brushes and my SJ Pastel 3 regular painting brush were used to add color and smooth out the strokes. (To create this brush, check out my How to Use Photoshop’s Brush Texture Section for Painting Clean-up blog – in the middle are the settings.) Even though they have been around for a while, Fay Sirkis mixers are some of the best – only place I can find to download them is from her Kelby One painting courses and they are worth it.

Obviously Kyle Webster provides a huge amount of choices for painting.  The PS Legacy brushes are also still available and have a lot of good mixer brushes. The Fan Flat Blender Mixer brush, located by clicking the Brushes Panel pop-out in top right and select Converted Legacy Tool Presets (when dialog appears asking to “Restore the Converted…”, say OK to add set to the brush list) is a great brush and several variations can easily be made in the Brush Settings Panel (like changing the Brush Angle and Size, adding Shape Dynamics, and adjusting Texture settings).

I also love GrutBrushes – his cloud brushes are just the best available and his InkyLeaks splatter set is really good also (check out his free sampler of brushes and his free brush of the week each Monday).


Image of the Toucans greeting visitors at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm

My previously presented Toucan image is an example of using an Impression filter, in this case it was the Edward Hopper Look (previously preset) – used a Topaz brush to mask out the eyes and beaks of the birds, but the result of not applying the whole painterly effect to the image can be seen. This to me is one major reason why I have to have Topaz Studio 2 as no other plugin company has anything like Impression in their filters. Back in Photoshop a regular soft small soft round brush was used on a New Layer to really emphasize the eyes more. Most of the time a painting clean up layer needs to be done to fine-tune where a few strokes are off a little.

Turning Any Blender Mixer Brush into a Painting Mixer Brush (or One that Adds Color)

To create some of your own Mixer Brush variations, I have listed a few steps to help you out.

Settings for a Blender Mixer: To blend the colors , in the Options Bar:

  • Turn off the “Load the brush after each stroke” icon by clicking on it
  • Always leave “Clean the brush after every stroke” clicked on
  • Select the Very Wet, Heavy Mix in the drop-down
  • Check Sample All Layers

Now you have a pretty nice blending Mixer brush. If some color shows up, you left the “Load” icon turned on.

Settings for a Painting Mixer:

  • Turn On the “Load the brush after each stroke” icon (or no color will be painted as the icon will be clear)
  • Change the drop down to Dry, Light Load
  • ALT+click in your image to sample a color if using one from your image. Note that there is a drop-down by the “Current Brush Load” icon which gives you a choice to “Load Solid Colors Only” instead of a bit of what was under your brush when you clicked

Dab a few times to add your color and then turn off the “Current Brush Load” icon and set back to the Very Wet Heavy Mix to blend some more. This is really handy to know when you are blending away and find that you are missing a color to mix into the background. Since just blending the color back in, it does not have to look that good when you dab. This being said, lots of times I just use a regular brush to add the color in if using the same stroke effect is not that important. Either way works great depending on where the blending is occurring in the image.

That’s it for this week – just thought I would share a little how I paint using Topaz Studio 2 Impression. I like to work this way as Impression gives a nice effect in the background and as much or as little of this effect can be left in the image by using Photoshop brushes. It gives me the creative aspect I want but cuts down on the actual background painting time. Hope this was a helpful blog for those of you wanting to try out painting. Impression is definitely the way to go. And remember, it comes with Topaz Studio 2! Have a great week…..Digital Lady Syd


WHAT ABOUT THIS TOPAZ STUDIO 2 UPDATE? NOT BAD!

Image of a moth on a Zinnia flower
Well I missed last week due to some traveling and it was a busy one for Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link). Since I have always been a huge Topaz fan, I knew this would be a good update, and to be honest, when I first heard about it I had my doubts. But having worked with the program on a few images, it is really good and a much needed update. I have been spending my time just getting up to speed on what they have changed in the interface. They now have a much better way of adding filters – no more Apply step – just filters stacking as Effect Layers, a lot like the other plug-ins have begun doing. This is probably the biggest change. So lets get started and dive deeper into what is going on with this software update. (For what was used in the image above, check Image 1 Info at end of blog.)

First off: who qualifies for a free update? From Topaz website “If you own Studio adjustments with total list price > $99.00, you’ll receive Studio 2 for free.”  “If you own Studio adjustments with total list price <$99.99, you’ll receive store credit for the adjustments you do own.” I received an e-mail indicating I qualified for an update, but if you are not sure, go to Topaz Help Center -> Studio -> Topaz Studio 2 which opens the Topaz Studio 2 Frequently Asked Questions – go down to question 4 where a link will tell you if you are eligible. Otherwise there is now just a one time payment and Topaz Studio 2 will contain all the filters that were available in the original Topaz Studio, which as I see it, is a good deal anyway you do it.

What I Like about Topaz Studio 2:

  • They now have official Effect Layers in the program and no longer is an Apply button needed before you add other filters! Best news and brings Studio 2 up to date with all the other big guys out there.
  • AI Clear is still in the program! Definitely one of my top 5 plugins ever! (And that is saying something for me!) In my opinion, used with Precision Detail (which is also included in the program), they create the most incredible detail.
  • Other filters that are provided: Impression (another fabulous totally unique program by Topaz – no one else has anything like it), AI ReMix (another totally unique filter), Precision Contrast, Texture, Glow, Motion Blurs (one of my favorites – get some really unique effects with it), and Color Theme (which allows you to change 5 major colors in the image) along with all the standard filters one would expect with this program. Shortly Topaz will be connecting up all your original plug-ins into the interface.
  • The masking tools are much smoother and better than ever. I have always felt that Topaz has the best masking tools of any program (runs much smoother than Lightroom’s brush), and they are promising more improvements in this area shortly.
  • Much cleaner interface. The filters are broken down into three sections: Essential, Creative, and Stylistic. Within each section, the filters are now listed alphabetically which I find very handy. Just click the Favorites heart icon to have a list with just your favorite filters showing. Can now see the recent filters applied also. All the Looks (previously presets) are no longer listed by specific plug-in but alphabetically in one group or specific styles like abstract for example.

What I Don’t Like about Topaz Studio 2:

  • I was originally upset that my presets were not present. If you go under Help -> Migrate custom TS1 Presets, they are immediately brought into TS2. Originally you could only do this once, but as of yesterday, it is okay to do it again if you created a recent preset in TS1 and want to bring it into TS2.
  • Can only save the layers as a .ts2 file if you want to go back and tweak the filter settings. If used in Photoshop as a plugin, the settings will not be retained so you better save your changes as a new Look (preset) if you want to use it again. The Save Look icon is in the top right of the interface.
  • Would love to see a Color Lookup Table filter.

These changes are coming soon: plug-in support – in other words, all the Topaz plug-ins you previously bought that are listed as the Plug-ins in the top Menu Studio 1 will soon be available within the new TS2 interface. To find out what was recently updated in the interface, go to the Topaz Help Center -> Studio -> Topaz Studio 2 -> Topaz Studio 2 Changelog (open see all articles to find it). As of yesterday they added a Histogram which is located in the lower right corner of the interface, filter presets (the ones that are in the drop-down menus in the individual filters) available – noticed my personal presets did not show up, just the Topaz ones. They say these are their priority items: Plug-in support, Custom Filter Presets, Image Navigator, Texture Names (now none are shown – update – now named), and Texture Management. Then Masking updates will be coming out. I am pretty excited for the masking update as this is such a great part of most Topaz plugins.
Elephant image from the Washington National Zoo in Washington, DC
Below is a short video on how I used Topaz Studio 2 to create this effect and show you how to create a mask. Both the Elephant and the Guitar Man images are in the video. See Image 2 below for the actual settings for the Studio filters in the Elephant image. See Image 3 at end for Guitar Man info.

As you can see this is definitely a more modern plug-in interface and using the plug-in is much more user friendly than Studio 1. I was initially worried that this was not going to be a good update, but it has definitely exceeded my expectations. If you do not qualify for the update, which I am sure many of you do since Topaz has been around a while, give this new software a spin. It has a 30-day trial and currently they are running a $20 off sale until August 9th. Here’s a great tip for you: if you miss this offer, watch one of Topaz’s live webinars as the presenters always give a good discount for a week or so just for watching.

Image of a man playing the guitar

Bottom Line:

If you are a Topaz fan, this is a no-brainer. The update is definitely a good one and once our older plug-ins are attached, it will be a great one. If you are new to Topaz, you will be in for a big treat. Since I consider myself a creative, this software comes with Impression and AI ReMix along with Textures, AI Clear and many other sliders that make regular filters something quite spectacular. Lots of fun with this program so check it out.

Hope everyone is having a great summer. I am excited Topaz has updated Studio and I know they are working on some more wonderful programs to help create some amazing pictures. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Info:

Image 1 Info:  First did a little tone adjustment in Lightroom before opening this image in Photoshop. The background layer was duplicated and this layer was opened in Topaz Studio 2. These filters were applied in Studio: TSO2 – AI Clear: default settings; Precision Detail: Overall Small Detail 0.35, Overall Medium Detail 0.32, and Overall Large Detail -0.74 and Boost -0.08; Midtones 0.18, Shadows -0.13, Highlights -0.52, Black Point 0.24 and White Point 0.07; and Color Overlay: Color #dfd698 and used Color mask – selected just the flower and the butterfly and it evened out the background color. Applied and back in Photoshop a New Layer was created to paint over a few areas that needed smoothing out. Darken and Lighten Curves Adjustment Layers were used. Two textures were added using the free extension called Adobe Paper Texture Pro (Alice was added set to Overlay blend mode at 91% layer opacity and Aquarius set to Darken blend mode at 68% layer opacity – the moth and flower were painted out in a layer mask to remove texture from them. A Levels Adjustment Layer was used. Next a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using On1 Landscape5 preset at 83%, and the last step was a spotlight effect on the moth. The text is a font called Ramland. Notice I do not just use Topaz. I like to use several different types of plug-ins to get a look I like. But Studio does have a lot of great filters to get a good start look.

Image 2: The Elephant image used another preset I created called SJ Wildlife Look. It contains all the filters in the video but I will list the settings used in the blog image here. Topaz Studio 2 – AI Clear: default settings; Basic Adjustment: Exposure 0.14; Blur: Blur Type Gaussian, Amount 0.31 and Preserve Edge 0.22 – not a Gradient Mask was selected, flipped and Applied, like in the video, to remove effect from foreground and lower elephant – then the Brush was used to mask the effect off the rest of the elephant; HSL Color Toning: Opacity 0.66, Orange Saturation 0.45, Yellow Hue -0.06, Sat 0.45 and Lightness 0.18, and Green Hue -0.45, Sat -0.58 and Lightness 0.01, and Details 0.22 – this image was a little more green than the video image which had more yellow tones to it; Texture: 3rd column/6th row, Brightness -0.07, Contrast -0.21, Detail -0.37, and Sat -0.06: Vignette: Strength 0.99, Size 0.56, Transition 0.99 Roundness 0.13, and brown color (#261f1c); and Curves: Used a very slight S curve. Back in Photoshop the Liquify Tool was used to slightly increase the Elephant’s eye so you could see it. The eye was selected using the Quick Mask Tool and then the Exposure Adjustment Layer was used to bring out the contrast of the eye just a bit. On a New Layer the Blur Tool at 100% Strength was used to slightly blur the tree stump behind the Elephant’s trunk. That was it.

Image 3: Guitar Man image used a Look (preset) that I created from the filters I put together. Here are the basic settings if you would like to try them out. Impression: Stroke Type05, Number of Strokes Low, Brush Size 0.57, Paint Volume 0.02, Paint Opacity 0.56, Stroke Width -0.08, Stroke Length 0.18; Basic Adjustment Filter (note these will be different depending on your image): Exposure 0.45, Clarity 0.81, Shadow -0.56, Highlight 0.23 and Saturation 0.73; Color Theme: all new colors listed left to right. #474545 (Lightness 0.28), #57776f (Lightness 0.47), #3f2cc7 (Lightness 0.78), #6b9af7 (Lightness 0.97), and #d7d7f7 (Lightness 0.97); Brightness Contrast set to Opacity 0.71 and Color Burn blend mode, Brightness -0.47, Contrast 1.39, and Saturation 1.37; and AI ReMix: Opacity 0.18, Color Marker preset, Style Strength Low, Contrast 0.69 and Saturation 0.64. Note that several of these filters used masks to remove the effect from his hands or the actual guitar. Unfortunately Studio does not retain the masks for you, and you would not want it in a Look anyway since each image is different. But definitely do some masking to get a pleasing effect with this combination of filters. When I did this effect in the video, I just pulled back the amount to something below 50% and added another AI ReMix filter using A Neon Rise style on top with a lowered opacity (22%) – no other changes. Last step in Photoshop was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer. I created in Topaz a preset called SJ Abstract Look using all the filters but the top AI ReMix Filter.


HOW TO GET THAT ABSTRACT FEEL EASILY

Abstract image of a sand sculpture look
Since it is the hot days of summer, I have just been having some fun creating a few rather abstract images using Photoshop and thought I would share some of my results. One thing I have found is that the Motion Blur filter, whether using Photoshop’s or Topaz’s, is wonderful to add with other filters to get some great abstract looks. For the image above I had watched a good video by Denise Ippolito, a really great wildlife and flower photographer, called The Art of Flower Photography. At the end of her video (at the 50:43 mark) and in her blog of 7/1/19, she shows you how to create some beautiful color abstracts in camera while taking floral and landscape images. That gave me the idea that maybe I could do the same thing using Photoshop.

This Sand Sculpture looking image used a Motion Blur and Liquify Tool along with several stamp brushes. For all the details, check out my Image 1 description at end of blog.

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Abstract image of the silhouette of a woman walking
This image was created using an image taken from behind of a person walking on the Queen’s Walk in London. She was selected and a new background created to obtain this rather abstract feel in the image. For post info, check out Image 2 details at end of blog.

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Abstract digital painting of some flowers
The above image represents a different way to create an abstract – this time a Mixer Blender Brush was used – one provided by Photoshop called the Fan Flat Mixer (located in PS’s Converted Legacy Tool Presets -> Default Tool Presets). The original image was from OnOne’s Springtime Nature Textures packet of small flowers just lying on the ground. The blender was used to stretch out and blend the stalks together, creating a very soft abstract effect easily. See Image 3 for more details.

Well that’s it for this week – I love doing creative things with images. It can turn a rather useless image into something rather spectacular. Have a good week – I will be skipping next week but will return with some new tips and tricks! ……. Digital Lady Syd

Image Details:

Image 1:  The top image is one I created from an image taken at Stirling Castle in Scotland of the surrounding countryside. In Lightroom the colors were kept to a fairly low contrast color palette using just the blue, aqua and gray tones. In Photoshop I changed the color palette to purples and pinks using the Camera Raw Filter which made the image look awful. On a duplicate layer Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) the Motion Blurs filter was applied – just dragged the arrow all the way left to create a straight horizontal line. Then used their HSL filter to get a good set of colors. (A very similar effect can be achieved in PS by going to the Filter -> Blur -> Motion Blur and using an Angle of 0 and a Distance of 2000 pixels.) The turquoise color was added in at this point. To get the wave effect, Liquify was used – just pushed the lines up and down. A clean up layer to even out some of the lines using the Clone Stamp brush was used. Next on a layer on top a bird brush by Wavenwater Brushes n Tools was added and the layer set to 73% opacity. On another layer a Neverhurtno Sealife Scallops brush was added. Next layer was from immrgy in a set of brushes called Anemone-Sheels-Corel/Mussel. Next a layer with just some speckles from Wavenwater’s set was also used. Finally a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added using the Abstract Cobalt-Carmine preset. On a New Layer on top a mixer was used to just smooth the edges between the sky and the waves. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added and the Adobe Paper Texture Pro was used to add the Apple Blush texture set to Overlay blend mode at 70% opacity. This was a lot of fun to create and really was not that hard.

Image 2:  This image took a while to create and several different options were tried before the correct feel to the image popped up. Mainly it was post processed in two major steps. First the woman was extracted and placed on her own layer. She was duplicated with a black layer mask where just her purse and shoes were painted back. Then the first layer of the lady was selected (CTRL+click on the thumbnail) and she was filled with black (set colors to black and white and ALT+Backspace). Now just the purse and shoes show up. The second major section was used the Motion Blur Tool on the image and stretching it. Then a second Abstract Texture by Inspiration Hut called Design Background 1 (their sight is not coming up correctly so I could not get a link, but will add it once it is straightened out) was placed on top and set to 78% layer opacity. On a new layer some black vertical brush strokes were added to the side. Last step was to add a vignette – this one used the one described in my recent Using a Levels Adjustment Layer for a Vignette blog. Silhouettes always create interesting subjects.

Image 3: As stated above, the original image was taken from an OnOne give away set in April called Springtime Nature Textures which contained little white and blue blossoms. The layer was duplicated and the Fan Flat Mixer brush (located in PS’s Converted Legacy Tool Presets -> Default Tool Presets) was used to smooth it all together with just long brush strokes – it looked really blurry at this point. Then several other brushes on individual layers were added to get more detail back into the image: Serge Ramelli watercolor brushes (see his How to Create a Watercolor Painting Effect with Photoshop video to download brushes), a whole bunch of Grut’s Brushes to create some new details (these are best brushes around – check him out), and one of my favorite brushes every by Melissa Gallo called a Vine Brush (only available with her PS painting class). French Kiss Artiste Fauve Rainbow texture (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) was added on top with a Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer clipped to it and the Saturation set to -100 to remove all the color and leave just the texture. That was it. Lots of fun.


HOW TO ADD A DARKER BACKGROUND IMAGE FOR A DIFFERENT EFFECT

Two image of a lioness at the Jacksonville
This week I thought I would just show a creative way to present your subjects if you get tired of just using a single image. The above image is of a beautiful Lioness at the Jacksonville Zoo. This was supposed to be a sepia tone but after a lot of iterations, the cool tones looked the best to me. By using two images, it displayed her different expressions. These kind of composites can be really beautiful and are fun to do, especially if you have a couple images that compliment each other.

Here are the steps to get the above look: This image was originally post processed in Lightroom as a color image and settings were pasted between the images so they looked similar in tone. Then in a New Document in Photoshop a black background layer was created and the images were added. For the top face, Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) ReMask was used to select the lion as a nice result could not be achieved with Photoshop’s Select and Mask command. For the foreground Lion, the Pen Tool was used to select her. I tried using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 to convert this image to black and white, but it just did not work – the image looked degraded. Instead I used Topaz Studio’s Black and White filter – it has an Orange slider which really worked with a lion image (also Topaz has had the best color sliders since they started), Precision Detail, a Color Overlay using a charcoal blue color (#2e4e62), and Precision Contrast. Still needed something else, so Luminar (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Flex’s Image Radiance filter was added for the soft effect – it just popped this image. In the filter mask, the faces were painted back to retain the detail. A spotlight effect and rim lighting on the right side of both faces was added in Photoshop. Some Mixer Brush magic was used on the upper image to blend her neck into the background, and a Gradient Tool was used on a new layer to slightly darken the top face. This image took some manipulation to get the look I liked – luckily I like to play around with all the different filters! But I think the results can be quite outstanding.

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Image of white day lilies with some green leaves in the background
For a slightly different look, these Day Lilies taken at the Harry P. Leu Gardens were put on a black background just like above, but this time a leaf image was added to the upper right edge to add a very subtle feel. (See my Beautiful Leaves Tidbits Blog for the original leaf image.) To get the flowers to light up so much, the Lighting Effects filter in Photoshop was used. A little spotlight effect also helped and some leaves were drawn in to fill them out a little. Next Viveza 2 was used to blend the two images together seamlessly. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used at the end to get the final look.

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Here is an older image taken several years ago in Arizona with yet a different way of using this kind of effect. In this case a box was added on top of the image where another image could be inserted. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was used to give the background image a really darker feel.

Image of Tonto National Forest and Superstition Mountain in Arizona

The above is actually a really simple technique. It used to be more popular and was used a lot in wedding photography. It is still a nice way to achieve a different effect.

Well hope you give this one a try – it is a lot of fun and if you have several good shots of something you like, it might look really nice. Will chat at ya soon!…..Digital Lady Syd


TOPAZ DENOISE AI – AND YES, FREE UPGRADE WHEN YOU OWN DENOISE6 OR AI CLEAR

Image of a home on The Big Island in Hawaii
This week Topaz (for website see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) came out with their new DeNoise AI filter which is supposed to replace the older DeNoise 6 filter and the Topaz Studio AI Clear Adjustment. I am glad we still have access to all of them – and yes, if you own either DeNoise or AI Clear Adjustment, you get the the DeNoise AI filter and stand-alone products for free. What could be better!

So what is DeNoise AI? Once again I have to take info from the website as there is not much info out there on the filter. It seems to me that a pretty noisy image works best when using this filter – for me that means a higher ISO setting or overall darker images. The interface (see screenshot below) is basically the same sliders as AI Clear Adjustment (without the Exposure and Clarity sliders) so it is easy to figure out how the filter works. Definitely need to fiddle with the Noise and Sharpness sliders but I could not see much change with the Restore Detail slider at this time. Also be sure to set the Automatically Update Preview button to Off. It seems this filter produces a much higher DeNoise effect than either AI Clear (which has Remove Noise buttons called Auto, Low, Med and High as choices) and Sharpen AI (which has a Suppress Noise slider). The older DeNoise 6 plugin does not use AI technology so it may not be so useful now.

The only negative I see is DeNoise AI has only a small preview area which limits viewing of the whole effect on the image. It takes a while to get the preview and has to be reapplied each time you move the view area. Once the Apply button is pressed, it takes an even longer time, depending on the size of the image, to set the change on the layer in PS. This will probably be improved with future updates. On difficult images like the one above, it does do a fabulous job and my house image can now be used. Therefore I am finding AI Clear is still working great when I just need a little quick noise clean up but when I see real noise issues, DeNoise AI is excellent. On Topaz’s website, there are several images you can download and try with this software.

On this image when a sky was added (see steps in next paragraph for this), I had to also run the sky layer through the DeNoise AI filter so it would match the image – did not expect to have to do this but it worked! Sometimes textures and sky images are pretty low res and have a lot of noise in them. (Set the sky to Noise Level 0.70 and left Sharpness and Restore Detail at 0.) The house image had these camera settings (ISO 1600, 35 mm using a 18-200 mm zoom lens, F/9.5 at 1/500 sec. taken from a moving car) and was in bad shape. In LR only did a Crop, Enable Lens Profile and Remove Chromatic Aberration. See the screenshot of what the interface looked like after applying the DeNoise filter to the LR image. Click on the image to see a larger view of the interface in Flickr. The noise was particularly apparent in the glass in the windows. Notice all the other reflections from the car window that had to be removed with a Clone Stamp Tool too.
Image of Topaz DeNoise AI filter
And a little trick for adding a sky: if the original sky is basically all white with lots of tree branches and leaves around it – just add the cloud image on top and then double click on the layer to open the layer style for the sky; set the Blend If to Blue and in Underlying Layer move the black tab right to bring back the leaves and branches (split the tab by ALT clicking on it to pull apart and get a more natural transition between sky and trees). Really quick and easy to do. I might also add that Skylum’s Luminar 3 (for website see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) upgraded this week and totally improved their Accent AI Filter – I used it on this image and was very pleased with the result. Their AI Sky Enhancer was also used on the image. This is also a free update for Luminar 3.0 owners.

I plan on writing about this filter again after I have had more time to test it out. If you own either of the other noise products, be sure to upgrade. Definitely worth doing and it really is a nice addition. I am sure there are many ways to use it on your images. Have a very nice week!…..Digital Lady Syd


TRYING OUT THE FREE WATERCOLOR ACTION FROM ADOBE – PRETTY NICE!

Watercolor image of a Angolan Colobus monkey eating some greens
This week I decided to just have some fun. I imagine most of you got the Adobe Magazine E-mail that came this week and one or their links was to a really cool Watercolor Artist Action Set created by Nuwan Panditha (also known as Black Null) – it contains an action set (Setup and Watercolor Artist actions), 20 watercolor brushes (all kinds of regular and splatter brushes), 5 patterns to use with your watercolor (or any) images, and a 7-page PDF Guide on how to load and use all the included items. These objects can be used in other images – still trying out some of the watercolor brushes. So even if you do not want to use the action, download the files to get the nice brushes and patterns. This blog contains a few examples of what I created since I am always looking for great watercolor actions. (See my Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs for links to other watercolor actions.)

The quick way I like to load brushes and patterns (instead of using the rather complicated way explained in the PDF) is to just open up Photoshop and then double-click on the brushes file (.abr) and they will load automatically. This is the same for the pattern (.pat) and action (.atn) files. Very simple. The Angolan Colobus Monkey above pretty much followed everything Nuwan tells you to do in the nice Guide although on the Adobe site there are two short videos that go over pretty much the same thing. If you do not want to watch the videos, I have created a synopsis of what was in his videos below these photos.
Image of some tables at a restaurant on Turtle Key in The Bahamas
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Watercolor Painted Coleus plants in front of Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida
Here is the quick low-down from Nuwan’s videos on how to do get this action to work nicely:

1. Image Information:

Make sure your image height and width parameters are between 2000 and 5000 px. Otherwise your image will be huge once the action is run completely. I tried this and got a 2.4 Gig image – my computer was not happy! Therefore, I changed my image size into one for the web before running the actions.

Make sure your image has a full range of tones with shadows, highlights and midtones before you start.

2. Setup Action:

After running the Setup Action, use the selected hard-edged brush called Watercolor Artist Basic Brush to paint in your “focus area.” Set the Opacity and Fill of all the brushes to 100%. I tried using the focus brush at a lower opacity to in bring less of certain areas, and it just did not look right. Can change the default orange color to a sampled color from the image and it will add more of that tone into the resulting watercolor image. A bright pink was used in the Coleus Plant image to give it more pink tones instead of orange.

Apparently other selection tools can be used such as the Lasso or Quick Selection Tools, and then fill the selection with the foreground color, but Duwan finds using the brush is the easiest way to define your focus point. Don’t make the whole image the focus area as different brushes and layers are used for areas outside the focus area than for the inside.

The focus area can be painted close to your subject or it can include areas outside the subject. In the Monkey image above, it was set outside a little which is why the foreground rock and greens have more definition than the background which was really busy in the original photo.

Nuwan says that a focus area with regular and simple shapes will generate fewer brush strokes than selected areas with complex lines. Also do not leave a bunch of holes in the focus area – it will not look good and they are hard to even out later.

This action converts the image into an 8-bit image.

3. Watercolor Artist Action:

When the Watercolor Artist action is run, it will take a while to process. He says that for a 3000 px image, it will take less than 3 minutes. It took me less than 3 minutes, but I am using smaller images.

The result will look a little scary if nothing else! There are 8 groups that cover all aspects of the resulting watercolor image. The PDF does a pretty good job explaining the different groups so I will only go over what I found really helpful.

  • First open up the Image Control group and highlight the Reveal Details layer. Choose a watercolor brush and paint in the mask with white. He used his Watercolor Artist-Medium brush just to help you get started at this point. The last 12 brushes were used in the action and do not necessarily work with this layer for painting. They can still work for special effects though.

Paint over in the highlighted layer mask some of the important parts of the image to bring back the details. If you have other watercolor brushes that you really like, there is no reason you cannot use them on this mask.

  • In the same Image Control group, select the Custom Watercolor layer. Paint in the layer mask with different brushes to add the custom effects around the subject. It can be duplicated several times to add different types of strokes. The opacity of the layers can be adjusted to give interesting results. Duwan used the Watercolor Artist-Dry brush for this. I used the same brush on my images and used extra Custom Watercolor layers.
  • Add Shadows, Add Midtones, Add Filling – try different blend modes for these layers and note that the opacity is controlled by adjusting the layer Fill slider and not the Opacity slider. By increasing the Fill on the Add Filling layer, it will fill in some of the empty areas of the watercolor effect – try some different blend modes like Multiply for a look. For Add Shadows and Add Midtones layers, try Darken, Multiply, and Color Burn blend modes.
  • Texture Overlay, Fine Sharpen, Sharpen – All use the Fill slider to adjust the opacity. The Sharpen layer is the one most affecting the final image.

The rest of the groups can be opened and layers opened and closed to get add or remove different effects – a lot of sketching and splatter strokes here and layer masks are provided to easily remove unwanted marks on your image. The opacities can be lowered individually or as a group. Different papers or textures can be substituted for the ones provided including any painted textures you might own. The Post FX group is one where many different adjustment layers are located – this can really help add the tones or colors needed to make the image really look great.

Syd’s Tip:  I found this is really necessary to get all the foci of the images to look correct. After making a lot of the adjustments in the various groups, either create a selection, as in the Monkey image where the face was duplicated with a Lasso Tool, or as in the other images where the whole background layer was duplicated – then place on top of the Watercolor Action group. Add a black layer mask and with a watercolor brush at a lower opacity like 20%, areas that needed a bit more structure can be painted back in. The actual layer opacity can also be adjusted if the result is too much. And if you are a bit of a digital painter, it is important to have a brush handy to clean up the edges and areas that need a little clean up. That is what was done on the pink Coleus Plants. As a final step for me a stamped layer of the image was opened in Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Studio using the Texture Adjustment’s Group set to Borders. There are several choices and the borders can be flipped, color changed, and blend mode and opacity changed. This was done on both the Monkey and Coleus images. I just painted a white watercolor border for the Bahamas image.

I hope you download and give this action a try. It does take a little time and I am still working on getting better results, but this action does have some great possibilities. Just using it as a starting point for painting digitally in watercolor would be good. Happy Painting!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Get Painting Effects from Actions-Part 1
Some Watercolor Fun!
Red Hibiscus Holiday Cheer!


HOW TO RANDOMIZE SOME COLOR WITH THE GRADIENT MAP ADJUSTMENT LAYER


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

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

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

Workflow on How to Randomize a Gradient Map

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

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

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

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

What the Gradient Map Dialog Box and Sliders Do

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

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


TOPAZ SHARPEN AI – GOOD OR BAD? AND YES, FREE UPGRADE FOR TOPAZ INFOCUS OWNERS

Image of a Tigress at the Jacksonville Zoo
Recently Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) released yet another new AI (Artificial Intelligence) filter called Sharpen AI – this comes as a real surprise since just a a while back JPEG to Raw AI was released. What is interesting about this new release is that it was actually based upon the older Topaz Infocus filter. And if you already own Infocus, you get the new Sharpen AI automatically. I love Topaz for this – they do honor their company commitment that if a filter is upgraded and you own it, you get the upgrade free! See section below for info on how to do this as there appears to be a lot of confusion with this. Let’s start by showing what Sharpen AI’s interface looks like and does. I have added several sections so if you are not interested in all the details, you can skip through some of them. Above is the lovely Siberian Tigress named Dorcas at the Jacksonville Zoo – what a lovely creature she is!

Sharpen AI Interface

Sharpen AI And AI Clear both improves an image’s sharpness and reduces its noise. There is a difference with how they each deal with noise reduction. In AI Clear the noise is adjusted by clicking on Auto or the Low, Med and High buttons. So one of these settings must be chosen. Click on the image below to see the settings more clearly in Flickr.

Interface of the AI Clear adjustment in Topaz Studio
In Sharpen AI, there is an actual Suppress Noise slider and it can be applied at any amount and with any of the three modes that can be selected. Therefore there is a lot more versatility. Click on the image below to see a larger view of the interface for the Sharpen AI plugin in Flickr and the settings used on the Tigress. The left side is the original image with no sharpening at all and the right side has Sharpen AI applied. If you look closely, the eyes are definitely sharper in the Sharpen filter and some of the hairs around the face are subtly sharper. (The image above was enhanced with Sharpen AI. In Topaz Studio’s Precision Detail was applied to whole image and Impression applied to just the background, and in PS Lighten and Darken Curve Adjustments Layers to add contrast.)

Image of Tigress using the Topaz Sharpen AI plugin
There are three modes that can be tried on the image before applying it. I like this since one may not work as well as another. I am finding that the mode I thought I should use is not always the best one.

Sharpen Mode – this setting is supposed to only sharpen the things you want and brings out the detail in your image – Topaz says it “only sharpens the good stuff” and I guess this is where the AI comes in. It figures out what needs to be sharp in your image.

Stabilize Mode – it is supposed to be best when used with moving objects or low light situations. It “stabilizes” the motion blur that results.

Focus Mode – Topaz says it “rescues a blur within ten pixels” so that a slightly out-of-focus shot becomes much sharper. If part of an image is in focus, like the eyes, but the nose is not, this mode will fix that and bring the nose in focus also.

The Remove Blur slider is the main slider to adjust any of the three modes. They advise against setting it to 1.00 but I use 0.70 quite a bit. It can make the image look too crunchy but that may be okay if you are just using this filter for just the eyes. (See next section for more on this.) As noted above the Suppress Noise slider will reduce the noise in the image and is set to 0.50 as a default. I am also finding that this can be reduced to give some better results if you do not need the noise adjusted. Add Grain slider is only needed if the Mode over corrects your image resulting in an unnatural surface smoothness or loss of too much detail – some texture can be added back this way. It is probably not something that needs to be used often.

How to Use the Sharpen Filter

I usually use this filter from Photoshop since I like to tweak the results once applied. It also is much easier when using the masking as I am describing in this section. I am also finding that the Focus mode fits my problem areas in photography – many people also like the Stabilize mode. One of the best uses for Sharpen AI is to apply it so the eyes so look really sharp, then go back into PS and add a black layer mask to everything but the eyes. Paint them back with white at any brush opacity to make it look good. I have not tried this on a person pix yet but saw this demonstrated with great success.
Image of a Guereza Colobus Monkey at the Jacksonville ZooThe Guereza Colobus Monkey above used the Focus mode with Remove Blur at 0.70, Suppress Noise at 0.30 and Add Grain at 0 (therefore more sharpening and less noise reduction smoothing) on a layer in PS. In PS a black layer mask was added and just the monkey and foreground was painted back for sharpening. Click on screenshot to see large in Flickr.
Screenshot of Monkey image showing original and Sharpen AI filter applied
Other work was done in Photoshop like using a Lighten Curve to lighten him up a little and the palm shadow was added to take the distracting background away (see 15 Shadow Mockup Overlays by andshesbrave). I am often sharpening the whole image and then masking out completely the other parts of the image in the PS with a 100% white brush or using a lower amount set to reduce part of the effect in the mask. Also Blend If sliders could be handy here.

Below is an example of a landscape hand-held from of all things a bus! Sharpen AI really pulled out all the rigging lines that I have never been able to get clear – this filter saved my image – it may not be the best I have ever taken, but it sure is one of my favorites from Scotland. The filter made the image usable and that is probably the key to what makes a filter a good one. All your images are not going to be that great but some definitely have more meaning and need to be saved of those precious memories.
Image of a sailboat in the Highlands of ScotlandAbove, this whole Scottish image was sharpened, probably a bit too much – used settings of Processing Mode Focus, Remove Blur 0.70, Suppress Noise 0.80 and Add Grain 0. Then back in PS a black mask was added again and just the sailboat and its lines were painted back which made them very sharp. Using the Focus mode sharpened these lines up beautifully – never have been able to do this with any other product. AI Clear could not help this image. Then I took the image into Topaz Studio where Precision Detail was applied just to the boat. Several other clean up and color toning steps were done but the sharpening on the boat makes this image.

I am finding it is best not to use both AI Clear and Sharpen AI on the same image. It will usually over sharpen the image and add artifacting. You can add other forms of sharpening like using the PS High Pass to sharpen or the Sharpen Tool on special areas with either filter. Just be sure to localize your sharpening when doing this. The Monkey above also had a High Pass added at the end of my workflow but it was only added selectively where the foreground elements needed just a bit more sharpness. In other words, this filter does not do it all, but it is a great place to start, especially if an image needs a little extra help.

What is the Difference between AI Clear and Sharpen AI?

The big question is “Why do I need this filter?” To be honest, I rarely used Infocus so I was as perplexed at this as everyone else. And now that AI Clear is such a fabulous product, is it needed? Let’s address AI Clear first. Since Topaz fixed AI Clear back in October of last year, I use it on almost every image I post-process. I think a lot of people feel that way – I have yet to find another filter that does what this one does in just a couple clicks. It is fast and easy to apply from either Lightroom, Photoshop, or Topaz Studio. It almost always improves an image’s sharpness and reduces its noise.

It seems to me that Topaz Sharpen AI should be used for images that have what I consider bigger issues. Topaz claims it is a great asset for shots taken when hand-holding the camera. “The machine learning training process allows it to understand the difference between detail vs. noise. This means that it can selectively apply sharpening to just the image features it perceives as detail.” On landscapes it brings back detail in all parts of an image while removing noise. Sharpen AI is both a stand-alone (which will only accept Tiff, Jpeg and Png files but plans to add Raw file capability are in the works) and a plug-in that can be accessed by Lightroom, PS and Topaz Studio. NOTE: A big tip is to be sure the Automatically Update Preview is set to No or else you and your computer will be going crazy as it keeps updating the filter! The Stabilize and Focus modes in Sharpen AI are not contained in AI Clear – they originated from the original Infocus techniques. It is not fast at processing and can be down-right slow when saving the final settings to the image – this depends on the size of the file you are using. The Tigress image took 2 minutes to save on my computer which has a pretty fast processor. I did run the Shake Reduction filter in Photoshop (remember when we thought this was the greatest filter ever????) for comparison and it is not even close to either Sharpen AI or AI Clear – we have come a long way with this technology.

Topaz describes the subtle differences between the two programs by saying: “AI Clear’s main detection is noise whereas Sharpen AI’s main detection is to recognize blur.  This makes Clear optimal for noisy images and Sharpen more effective for a bit more blurry images.” I believe this is true with my experience using both programs. Sharpen AI does not have batch capability – it is too computer intensive at this point while AI Clear does have the capability.

If you already own Topaz Infocus, Here is how to Upgrade to Topaz Sharpen AI:

Not sure if you own Topaz Infocus? Check out your Topaz Labs Account for purchased products – should be able to tell if you had this plugin originally.

1. Download a trial version of the program and load it on. It should say you have a 30-Day Trial at the top of the program.

2. Now click on the Help Menu and select Update Ownership which should be the second item in the drop-down list. Just click on it and it will remove the Trial information.

If having problems with the above (and hopefully you do not have to do the following steps), here is the info direct from the website forum:

Log into your Topaz Account. Click on Coupon either on the left side of your account page or under Account > coupon then click on the coupon tag. Next go to the Stand alone > Sharpen AI menu at the top of the page and select Sharpen AI. Once on the page, scroll to the bottom and find Buy Now. Once you have the cart it should show the price minus the coupon. Then check out normally to purchase. Finally, download or if you are using a trial go to the Help menu > Update ownership (in the program) and it will change from trial to normal version.

Bottom Line

I am starting to like the Sharpen AI better the more I use it but no way am I getting rid of my AI Clear! Sharpen AI is very slow and I can get fairly similar results with AI Clear and a little Precision Detail or Precision Contrast in Topaz Studio – that is when using an image that is in pretty good shape. If your image does not have that really tack sharp image result (and many of mine do not as seen in the sailboat image), Sharpen AI may really be the answer for you. I believe that as time goes on, Topaz will be updating this plug-in, like they did with AI Clear, and it will be a much faster and better product. In the  meantime, I am going to continue using it to see when it is best for my own images. I know this is not a definite answer, but I trust Topaz and believe they will improve this filter to where it will be a no-brainer to use it (like AI Clear is for me right now). I do believe Topaz is going in the right direction with all the AI plug-ins and are working very hard at staying on top of this new technology. Kudos to them for that! I will continue to keep you updated on all their new products – I love the Topaz products. They fit into my workflow very well.

Hope you download the trial to try Sharpen AI out at least and if you own Infocus, definitely download it and check it out. Have a good week! …..Digital Lady Syd


USING A LEVELS ADJUSTMENT LAYER FOR A VIGNETTE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


WHAT IS GOING ON WITH ALL THE “AI” IN PHOTOGRAPHY SOFTWARE?

Image of an Imperial Bromeliad Plant
This blog is a little “long-winded” but it is something I have been trying to figure out and thought I would share. For the last several weeks I have been getting totally confused by all the new Artificial Intelligence (AI) software/plugins/filters and what qualifies them as AI software. This past week Adobe’s Lightroom/ACR modules gave us a new taste of their AI capability with the Enhance Detail command. I decided to do a quick recap on a few of the AI programs. The final image above used Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Studio’s AI Clear and AI ReMix. I have used the new AI masking capability in On1’s very recent update and gotten good basic masking results. Also Skylum has two filters, Accent AI Filter and AI Sky Enhancer Filter which are very nice effects on images – check out article on what Skylum’s AI team is doing. Adobe Photoshop has previously used AI to upscale images in the Image Size dialog and in the Quick Select Tool’s Select Subject option and now calls their AI Adobe Sensei. Since these other filters are a little different than these I am showing, I will try to do another blog on their AI Technology. There is so much info on AI that I could create a humongous blog!

WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

I found a blog from a C-Net article with this nifty definition -“Enter artificial intelligence — specifically the neural network technology loosely based on human brains’ ability to learn from real-world data, not rigid programming instructions.” In the article Adobe senior research scientist Vlad Morariu said “Using tens of thousands of examples of known, manipulated images, we successfully trained a deep learning neural network to recognize image manipulation.” This may be what started the whole AI software evolution for photographers.

As a good example of how AI is being used effectively in photography software, Topaz Labs ReMix adjustment says on their website that they collected hundreds of classic and contemporary artistic samples; then spent hundreds of hours developing a custom neural network to identify specific artistic styles and replicating the textures, colors, edges and shapes of those styles; and finally the results were put into an adjustment for Topaz Studio. This seems to be the basic process for a lot of the AI software being developed.

LIGHTROOM/PHOTOSHOP’S ACR’S ENHANCE DETAIL VS TOPAZ AI CLEAR

Here is a screen shot of the flower shown above zoomed in to 100% to show a comparison of Lightroom/ACR’s Enhance Detail applied (for LR Develop Module right click and select and in ACR right click on the left strip and select) vs. Topaz Studio’s AI Clear, which was applied with LR as the host program. For a larger view in Flickr, click on image.

Screen Capture of DNG and Tiff file from Topaz StudioThe results to me looks like the DNG file has more texture in it but very similar sharpening – that would make sense since AI Clear has both Noise Reduction which will reduce the texture effect and Sharpening capabilities. All the settings were the same including the Details Panel sharpening and noise before applying the Enhance Detail or AI Clear. (I know, Topaz says do not do this but I do it all the time and it works just fine.) This may be a draw as far as which looks best in this case – the new LR/ACR Enhance Detail works pretty good as well as the AI Clear. But Lightroom/ACR creates a much larger DNG file while Topaz creates a Tiff. I find AI Clear probably the best product out there for subtle sharpening that is needed, especially when hand-holding your camera while shooting. Also Detail Enhance is not available in the Camera Raw filter as far as I can tell, only available when doing your original post-processing. Therefore, if you may want to get back to apply it, definitely open as a Smart Object from ACR or Edit ->Open as a Smart Object in Photoshop from LR. For the Enhance Detail command Julieanne Kost, a PS evangelist, says “I would suggest applying it on an image-by-image basis starting with images that have visible artifacts and which require the highest level of quality (images that will be printed in large format, for example).” Topaz Labs says for AI Clear use it on all kinds of images including High ISO with lots of grain, Nighttime with noisy skies, Action images with some blur, and Telephoto lens shots. My choice at this point is Topaz AI Clear – often my images are just a bit soft and this works wonders – and I can access it as a filter using Topaz Studio in PS on a layer – very easy and quick.

TOPAZ JPEG TO RAW AND TOPAZ GIGAPIXEL

Image of an Old Wooden Windmill in BelarusImage above is the final result after running this file through the various Topaz AI programs – it was from a very old IPhone and had a lot problems already. I do not believe there is an easy way to compare these two standalone packages from Topaz – they each do something that the other does not do, but there appears to be some overlap to me, like in sharpening or noise reduction. JPEG to RAW was specifically developed to take old phone (or current in some cases) and old digital camera jpg images and put them into a RAW format for better post-processing. (See my What Is Topaz’s New JPEG to RAW AI? blog.) I have always loved Topaz AI Gigapixel because it will take a really small image and enlarge it to something that looks pretty nice and detailed. (See my The Best New Software Around-Topaz A.I. Gigapixel! blog for more on it.) Below is a screen capture of how this image actually looked as the original windmill image, then after running running it through JPEG to RAW, then AI Clear adjustment in Topaz Studio, and finally AI Gigapixel (which is at half the zoom since it was doubled in size). This gives a pretty good idea of what is happening here and what basic order to use the software in. For a larger view in Flickr, click on image. The final image was finished up with some Topaz ReStyle effects (not an AI plugin but still one of my favorite Topaz plugins).
Screen Shot of all 3 Topaz AI products
Personally I believe that Topaz is setting the standard for implementing AI use in software and it has some of the big giants scrambling. It is amazing to me to see Photoshop trying to emulate some of Topaz’s software and that can be nothing but good for us Photoshop users. The AI technology seems to be breaking open right now and I can hardly wait to see what is coming next! Okay – I am done!!! Hope everyone has a great one!……Digital Lady Syd

Other Related Digital Lady Blogs:
What is Topaz AI ReMix????
Topaz ReMix – Update and Better Than Ever!
Updates, Updates, Updates! What To Do????
Some Topaz Studio Tips


HOW TO GET RID OF THOSE DARN FENCES IN ZOO SHOTS

Image of a Verreaux Eagle Owl at the Jacksonville Zoo
There’s the easy way and there’s the hard way to do this. And since I love taking images at zoos, I usually fall somewhere in between when post-processing those images with the ugly fence patterns in the foreground. So this blog hopefully will help with some of these issues.

I was so excited to get this beautiful Verreaux’s Eagle Owl image while at the Jacksonville Zoo with my Photo Club – BTW the Zoo is in the process of updating and it is looking fabulous! This guy was located in a very shady area hidden behind heavy black fencing (see images below) and definitely was very hard to see. This guy was so close, like 3 feet and he looked to be at least 2 1/2 feet tall, and yet I could not see his beautiful eyes or beak. It was a major surprise to see he had such colorful eyes and beak once downloaded on my computer! I love birds but the fencing here was so frustrating! (For more on the post-processing, see Image 1 at end of blog – check out how the Charcoal Filter was used for the background of this image.) The closer you can get to the fencing, the easier it was to remove the lines.

Tip 1: Use that Wide Aperture Setting to Remove the Foreground and Background Distractions

But I had done my homework this time and set up my camera to try and eliminate the fence lines. This short 2 minute video called Zoo Tip: Make the Cage Disappear by Tim Migot totally made the difference. The con to this technique is that you have to do this while at the Zoo.
For the above image, the camera was set to its widest aperture with auto focus on and zoomed in. By burst shooting, several shots were obtained that were pretty nice. The above was shot using a 18 to 200 mm zoom lens at 170mm, f/5.6, ISO 200, and -1 1/2 EV. Below is an example of how it looked when it did not work. The image on left does not really show the fencing but it is not sharp at all and one on the right is what the fencing looked like. The image used was in a second set of burst shots that gave much better results. It seems you just have to keep trying until the fence disappears.

Screen Capture of owl shots

Tip 2: To Fix Faint Fence Lines That May Show Up – Use a Darken Curves Adjustment Layer

Image of a Bonobo Monkey at the Jacksonville Zoo
This very striking Bonobo Monkey was sitting in a fairly high up crevice in the Kapok Tree, a new feature at the Jacksonville Zoo. This is a wonderful way for the whole family to view these fun-to-watch monkeys up close. The camera was set up with a telephoto 70-300 mm zoom lens and 300 mm was used to get the close up image. The aperture was set to F/8.0, I could have gone a little wider but this setting seemed to be working. The ISO was set to 400, which allows the shutter speed to increase for this difficult image. In this case the fence was fairly close to me, but the monkey was not. Unfortunately my Exposure Compensation was off a bit at -2 1/2 but it worked out fine – it just made the shot a little darker. In the screen capture below a fence shot is shown and then the used RAW file that did require some light clean up. (Click on images to see larger in Flickr.) See my Image 2 Post Processing Info on the other steps used and how the lighting effect was created.

Screen Capture of the Fencing and RAW file for Bonobo Monkey
If you look closely at the RAW file above (especially through the forehead and ear area), there are definite faint white lines still in the image. The fix? A Darken Curves Adjustment Layer set up so that the curve will overall darken down the image – mine is set up as an action with just one point set to Input 164 and Output 102. Then the layer mask was inverted to black by CTRL+I on the mask. Now with a soft 20-30% opacity round brush, painted over those light lines – set the size to roughly match the width of the lines. If it is too dark, go back into the Curves Adjustment itself and move the point up or down to match. I have used this trick over and over when light is not quite even on an image. And running the image through a sharpener like Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Studio’s AI Clear and for that matter Precision Detail which can help remove an overall soft effect that can result with the fence interference. In the Monkey image the light fence effect was left on the right background as I felt it added a nice soft texture effect to the image. This could have been removed using a Lighten Curves Adjustment Layer. To create a Lighten Curves Adjustment Layer, just set the point to Input 98 and Output 170 and fill the mask with black – paint back area to lighten – then adjust the point to match the surroundings.

Tip 3: Spot Healing/Patch Tools or Paint Out the Fence by Hand

The shooting technique does not work all the time. With the two images above the animal was pretty stationery and the fence fairly close, but when an animal is moving, it is hard to get a good focus on the subject. Doing everything that can be done to speed up the shutter speed, like setting the ISO higher, or turning off the Auto focus setting can help, but sometimes nothing works. If you really want the image, you need to take several shots of the moving animal so pieces can be patched into one if needed. Now you have to resort to removing the fence by hand and hoping you can clone over parts in different images you may have taken. This was done on the Amur Leopard image below. My main tools to start the process are using the Spot Healing Tool set to Content Aware and Sample All Layers, and the Patch Tool – mine is usually set to Patch Content-Aware, Structure 7, Color 5 and Sample All Layers checked. Adjust the Patch Tool settings if those do not work with your picture. After doing this, most of my time is spent using a small brush to sample and dab paint over areas that look rough – this is quite tedious and several different brushes is sometimes necessary. I do most of my spot removing, cloning and painting on individual layers and create a stamped layer (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) on top to finish up.

This may be obvious, but a major key point here is that, if you decided to use a texture to remove a very cluttered background especially, just remove the fence on the subject only. Then create a selection of your subject and place him on top of a different texture. Usually I place a white layer under the subject, then a texture and finally the subject so that blend modes and layer opacity changes can be used. That is what was done on this image.

Image of a Leopard at the Jacksonville Zoo
A lot of spot removing and painting to get rid of the fence and a separate image was flipped and copied over to get the jaw area to look correct. (In screen capture below the original RAW files with the main one used on the left and the copied jaw on the right.) It took several hours to get the image to this point, and I am not sure it is done. He was very agitated in his pen and was pacing and roaring all over the place – very hard to get a sharp image and his mouth really was open and big. Probably 20 pictures were taken (18-200 mm lens at 200 mm, F/5.6, ISO 640, and EV -1 1/2). This was really a difficult shot to get to look realistic while capturing the mood of the big cat. The background texture is one I painted in Corel Painter that had some complementary colors to the leopard. Just about everything was used on this image – Topaz Studio’s Precision Detail and Dehaze, Nik Viveza 2 to bring out the eyes, a Black and White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity blend mode, Lighten and Darken Curves Adjustment Layers, spotlight effect layers, Color Lookup Adjustment Layer, the Sharpen Tool and Selective Color Adjustment Layer, just to name some of them. His eyes were amazing in several of the images.

Screen Capture of leopard images
Another way to handle the fencing is to remove or paint over the subject and leave the fencing in place – it can possibly look like a fence behind the subject. The image below used this technique. The Monkey image has a similar but less obvious effect on the right side of the image.

Image of a Malaysian Tiger at the West Palm Beach Zoo in Florida
For more info on how the Tiger image was post-processed, check out a short Tidbits Blog I did a while back called The Break Out. It took a lot of time and effort to get this image – to paint out the fencing, one of my a painting brushes, which is based upon a hair brush and set to 35% brush opacity and 65% Flow, was used to sample and paint over the black lines – but it can be done. Topaz Impression was used to gave the Tiger a painterly look instead of hand-painting the whole image back in.

If you like to take images at the Zoo, I hope this blog gave you a couple tricks to try. These same tricks will work if shooting one of your kids baseball games through fencing. I had a great time exploring the Jacksonville Zoo again – the animals seemed ready for our Photo Club – and you will be seeing more of my images in the next few months. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Post Processing Info

Image 1: In Lightroom Serge Ramelli’s Safari Animal Vignette Cold Strong preset was used as starter (see my Showing Some of Serge Ramelli’s Effects blog to download them) and then tweaked the Basic, Detail, and HSL panels. In PS Topaz Studio’s AI Clear came to the rescue – used Remove Noise Auto and Sharpen High, Recover Details 0.10, and Exposure 0.21 – then set it to an opacity of 0.71 before applying. Next the Precision Detail Adjustment was added to just the Shadow areas. Last step used the HSL Adjustment to firm up the color in the eyebrows and beak – used a black mask and painted back those areas. I could not believe how good his eyes looked, just needed a little sharpening to pop them with an Exposure Adjustment Layer (see my The Eyes Have – How to Make Them Pop in an Image blog). This is pretty much my standard Topaz workflow for animals. In Photoshop Dodging and Burning was achieved with Lighten and Darken Curves Adjustment Layers. A little white spotlight effect on just his face using a layer set to Soft Light and white brush with low opacity, and that was it. To get that pretty background color, the Charcoal Filter was used on a stamped layer in Photoshop (had to convert the image to 8 bit before using) and set the Thickness to 4, Detail to 5, and Light/Dark Balance to 47 with foreground color a brownish color (2a2319) and background color greenish (1c2715) – this filter uses the Foreground and Background colors in the swatch. The layer was set to Exclusion blend mode at 78% opacity. Used regular soft round brush in mask painting over the Owl head and used the Sharpen Tool on eyes in mask.

Image 2: In Lightroom no preset was used – just adjusted the Basic Panel and the HSL Panel. This time the image was brought into PS as a Smart Object so the LR settings could be tweaked easily if needed in Adobe Camera Raw. Since this image had more problems than the owl above, I felt this might be needed. In PS The first thing done was to add a Darken Curves Adjustment Layer to paint out the light white fence lines where the fencing was not completely removed. A little clean up was done before a stamped layer was created for Topaz Studio. In Studio the AI Clear Adjustment set to its default settings and then Precision Detail Adjustment was used with Shadow Small Detail 0.22, Shadow Medium Detail 0.43, and Large Shadow Boost – painted in a mask of just the monkey so detail only goes on him – kept Edge Aware on and inverted the mask so the background is black and not affected by the detail. Back in Photoshop a Gradient Map was applied using a gray to brown to light blue preset from Blake Rudis (see his nice gradient presets in download from Advanced Color Toning Made Easy video – excellent video). A vignette was created. Then I decided that I needed a little more light on the image so a large Spotlight Effect was created on the Monkey – just washed it over the Monkey from the opening. A few other steps were done, but this describes the major steps.


WHAT IS TOPAZ’S NEW JPEG TO RAW AI?

Image of some pink daisiesI am with most of you – say what?????? I knew Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog for website link) was working on some new software for JPG’s but this one is a real surprise. I have been working with the stand alone program for a couple of weeks, but it has taken a while for its wonderful capabilities to sink into my head. So this is what is going on…..it is somewhat similar to AI Gigapixel which I totally love and AI Clear which I can’t live without. (See my The Best New Software Around – Topaz A.I. Gigapixel! blog.) JPEG to Raw AI (J2r) uses similar machine learning technology to recover lost detail in jpg files and convert them to a dng or tiff extension. This will open up the Raw Converter in Photoshop or gives better slider capabilities in Lightroom.

There is not a lot of info released on this software yet so their website seems to be the best resource to find out more info and where a trial version can be downloaded. Below is a rundown of what Topaz is saying about their product.

Why Use this Program?

  • Topaz states “There’s also enhanced dynamic ranges as shown by deeper shadows and enhanced highlights.” This is important and to me and is the best way to see results from applying the software. The program basically helps clean up jpg issues from smart phones, especially from some of the earlier versions, and older digital camera shots that just created jpg images.
  • J2r uses the ProPhoto RGB Color Space that Lightroom uses. Most jpg files contain the sRGB color space which has very limited color choices. With the ProPhoto color space there will be better saturation and vibrance without any visible artifacting in your image.
  • When an image is run through the program, it goes from 8-bit mode to 16-bit mode. This removes banding and converts the image from 72 dpi to 300 dpi, which usually results in a more normal sized file. I personally really like this. I hate opening up Image Size in PS to find out my image is at 72 bit resolution and 72 inches tall! Also, changing the resolution and downsizing in PS can be tricky.
  • Artifacts in some jpgs can ruin an image and can be accentuated by post-processing, especially when sharpening. Topaz says “This program will remove these artifacts while preserving natural image features.”

The image above is one of my recent phone shots taken at a local Lowe’s Garden Shop using an older Android phone. Below is a before close-up of the  original out-of-phone jpg on the left and the converted to a dng file on the right. It is a very subtle adjustment, but look carefully at the lower green leaves to see more detail in the shadow areas of the dng file and a little more definition in the bright areas of the lower right petals. Even the yellow centers seem a bit more defined. In PS Topaz Studio’s AI Clear Adjustment was applied (I use it on just about every image). The final post-processing for the image above used a clean up layer, a little fine line dodging and burning (see my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog using John Paul Caponigro’s technique), a Curves Adjustment Layer, and a painted in vignette.Comparison of JPG vs DNG

I have had a bit of a problem figuring out why some of my images improve when run through the program and some not so much. One of the engineers explained in their presentation:  “While it will remove noise/blur and recover some detail, you’ll see most of the benefits when you try to edit the photo. Viewing a well-exposed high-quality JPEG before and after running it through J2r may not show a huge difference, but your editing capacity for that same image will generally go up.” After working with the program quite a bit, I believe this is very true. Since I use PS more creatively, I may not notice color shifts or tone changes as readily as many photographers who are looking to improve many of their less desirable images. Below is another example of what this software will do – this time a Casio QV-2900UX, a 2.1 Megapixel camera with a 8X zoom creating only jpg images, was selected. I was pretty impressed with the results – the image on the right is the original jpg file, the middle is the image after running through AI Gigapixel, it is still a jpg file, and on the left is the dng file. It definitely has a lot more detail – I thought it was a little crunchy for my taste but then realized it was little flowers showing up. Who knew they were there? On the sky to mountain line, there was some fringing going on after AI Gigapixel was applied.
Comparison image of the three programsFor the final image below, the fringing was removed by just painting on a new layer over with a small sized Clone Stamp. There was no fringing anywhere else on the image. A gradient map was added with blue and cream tones set to Soft Light blend mode at 71% opacity, a spotlight effect on a few of bright areas of the telescope domes, and Topaz Studio’s AI Clear at default settings. Overall the image turned out really nice and so much better than when I first post processed it back in 2004. We’ve come a long way!Image of telescopes at Kitt Peak, Arizona

What is the Difference between AI Gigapixel, AI Clear and JPEG to RAW AI?

Here is a quote from Celeste during the software release of their new product and pretty much sums up what Topaz is doing here. “While each of these products uses Artificial Intelligence to improve the quality of your photos, there are a few distinct differences. Gigapixel uses AI to enlarge your photos while preserving detail for printing. AI Clear uses AI to reduce noise and sharpen. JPEG to RAW uses AI for a variety of different purposes – it does reduce noise and sharpen, yes, but it also helps to restore details lost in a compressed JPEG, enhances shadows and highlights that are lost in a JPEG file, prevents banding, and reduces blockiness. There are distinct disadvantages to a JPEG file, and the AI for JPEG to RAW was specifically trained to restore the things that were lost when the JPEG was compressed. While they all have their advantages, JPEG to RAW is going to be the best for improving your compressed JPEG file!”

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Below is a screen capture image using Snip It that is from the Old Faithful web cam in Yellowstone National Park on January 31st in the early morning- I had never seen bison in the cam camera before and it looked spectacular! There appears to another geyser erupting in the background and Old Faithful was spewing pretty steadily so there was a lot of mist in the air. The screen shot was run through JPEG to RAW first to create a dng file (_edit is added to the end of the file name so you know this program was used). A Tiff file should have been selected, but I was not sure what I was doing. Then I ran it through AI Gigapixel set to 4 times creating a Tiff – Gigapixel puts the _output suffix on the file name.

Bison grazing at Yellowstone National ParkI will tell you what else I did but it is not pertinent to the new program so skip this paragraph if not interested. Next PS was used to open the image and ACR opened up where some changes were made. No sharpening was done at this point. Then it was opened as a Smart Object in PS and cropped. Lucis Pro was used to sharpen the bison – black mask and just the bison painted back. I imagine I could have added the sharpening in ACR. A Color Look Up table was applied – one I created to just create a sketch effect. Now the real magic came with using Topaz Studio – AI Clear (set to defaults and Exposure -0.08, and Clarity 0.48). Next the Edges Adjustment was used – this can really sharpen up an image and worked great on the bison (Edge Tone Dark, Edge Strength 0.15, Suppress Weak Edges 0.21, Suppress Small Edge 0.02, Edge Thickness 0.16, and Edge Resolution 1.00).  Precision Detail Adjustment was added (Overall Small Detail 0.30, Overall Medium Detail 0.43, and Overall Large Detail 0.36-used a Gradient Mask set in middle of the image so sky was not affected, just the middle ground and foreground); and Impression Adjustment used the default settings (set Number of Strokes to High, Stroke Color Variation set to 0.25 and Spill 0.32). To recreate a better mist effect, on a separate layer a fog brush was used to fill in where the screen shot lacked mist and several Grut Cloud brushes (the best around by far) were used to enhance this soft effect.

Okay, here is the original so you can see what a difference this made – all three programs – J2r, AI Gigapixel, and Topaz Studio – helped create the above.Original image of Yellowstone

Bottom Line

This is definitely a program that you should try out. Be prepared to have a bit of a wait if processing a large jpg through the program. It is not as fast as Gigapixel. I do believe that I am seeing some changes, even though they may be subtle, and I know that Topaz will be adding capabilities to the programming so it will be even better in the future. (Don’t forget, if you buy it, all updates are free forever!) They are definitely the cutting edge leaders in AI technology for photography and they have not let us down yet. So I will be trying out more images with the program and plan to write more as I learn. In the meantime, try out the 30-day trial on some of your images and see what you think. And let the Topaz team know if there are having problems, they are always very interested in knowing about them. In the meantime hope everyone is thawing out after this horrible cold spell that came through the US. Have a good week!…..Digital Lady Syd


SHOWING SOME OF SERGE RAMELLI’S EFFECTS

Image of an African Elephant at the Jacksonville ZooThis week I watched a few videos by the Lightroom guru Serge Ramelli. Thought I would show a few things I have learned from his techniques in the last few weeks. I have found that if you follow a few of his videos, you get the main idea of how he gets the results that are definitely a signature effect for his style. I like it, but not sure it fits all my photos. This blog will show a few things I have learned from him.

He went on a safari recently and created some interesting Lightroom/Adobe Camera Raw presets so I decided to try them out. The above African Elephant image was taken at the Jacksonville Zoo and seemed like a perfect subject for my first attempt.

To download the free presets, need to go to one of his U-Tube videos where he has a link to them – How to Edit Amazing Landscape Photos with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop or How to Remove Fence Lines: Simple Camera Trick. You must sign up for his site to get them. I do not feel these are Serge’s best videos, but I appreciate the fact that he has given us some interesting presets to try out. There are 10 presets with the download, and the one used above is called Warm Dramatic Light – it seems to be his favorite. Two Radial Filters were used to brighten up the elephant face a little light reflection on the foreground rock. Two Graduated Filters were used one on the bottom and one on right side. For the rest of the workflow, the image was brought into Photoshop (the latest PS update this week fixed the problem with opening PS from Lightroom to edit an image). I believe if one thing has changed my recent workflow from the holidays, it is Topaz (for website link, see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Studio’s AI Clear. I am now using it on every image as my first step in PS. In this image the Clarity slider was also set to 44. A Dehaze Adjustment was also added and set to 41. Back in PS an Exposure Adjustment Layer was used on the eye and a 50% Gray layer was used to Dodge and Burn on the elephant.

Another trick I learned this week was from Jesus Ramirez, definitely a PS guru, in his Color Matching in Photoshop Fast and Easy – 90 Second Tip #05 (Phew!). This is the coolest tip which uses the Curves Adjustment Layer – check out his video as it is really short and to the point. (I may do a blog on this as it really is a good technique to have in your arsenal of PS effects.) The last steps were just a little clean up in the image. Between the nice Safari preset of Serge and the Curves Adjustment Layer of Jesus, the image has a natural African safari feel to it.

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B&W image of Laupahoehoe Harbor on the Big Island in HawaiiThis image was created by following several videos in a class at Kelby One by Serge called Lightroom Classic Techniques for Creating Black and White Images. I felt like Serge did an excellent job on discussing this process and gave some really nice presets with the course. I have not taken any of his individual classes he sells, but for the $9 sale price, it is probably a good buy if you want to learn his black and white technique. This image used a B&W preset created in the class but he does have some that are in his free Welcome Kit (28 presets and lots of other goodies) offered at his site. One thing I did learn is when to use a black & white treatment. He says “Boring colors mean go black and white.” In Photoshop Topaz Studio’s AI Clear was applied. The image was cropped and a few spots cleaned up. A slight vignette was created using Matt Kloskowski’s technique – see my How to Create a Subtle Vignette blog. That was it – not even a Curves Adjustment Layer was needed for contrast.

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Image of a carved wooden post in the countryside of BelarusThis image was taken on a country road in Belarus and of course it did not have any snow. This image used Serge’s preset called Zoo Hollywood (in a free set of 6 that can be downloaded with his video called How to Turn Your Zoo Photos into Fine Art with Lightroom). In PS, Topaz Studio was opened and AI Clear applied, then Topaz Impression using the Type 03 brush. Next the Edge Adjustment was added to give some interesting edges to the cornfield. Back in PS Serge’s Snow brushes were applied – these are probably the best atmospheric snow brushes I have used – 10 of them in the set. Check out his video called How To Create Snow in Photoshop CC to download them. His video shows a few tricks to make them look good. I just had fun applying them. Nik Viveza 2 was used to even out the colors and that was about it.

Hope you get a chance to try out Serge’s presets and brushes – they are really nice. He takes a bit of a different approach to his images for processing and the presets show this. Enjoy your week!…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO TURN A NIGHTTIME DISASTER PHOTO INTO A KEEPER

Image of San Francisco, California, at nightHope everyone is having a great start to the New Year! It seems like there are some wonderful new Photoshop techniques being presented almost daily. What I am going to show this week is one that totally blew me away since my camera does have a lot of noise when I shoot over ISO 1000 especially. It is an older model Nikon that I can’t seem to part with and I have a ton of nighttime images that just do not look great due to the older sensor. So if you are like me, or have some images you shot before before getting a better camera, this technique may really help to salvage a few of your favorite images from the past.

It all started when I read an article by Serge Ramelli, the Adobe Lightroom guru, in Kelby One’s November Lightroom Magazine called Nighttime Photography Workflow. Yes, Kelby One (the old NAPP site) still puts out their Photoshop and Lightroom magazines just like when they used to be on the newsstand years ago. If you are a member, they are published digitally almost monthly. Below is the RAW image for the above image of San Francisco at night. I really liked the bridge lit up and the tall building on the right with the lights on, but the car and blinding lights and colors were awful! The only thing good about it was fairly sharp. What I learned from Serge’s article is that there are a few tricks to getting those night photos to pop and that you do not have to stick to the original color scheme – I really liked the cool night tones that ended up in my final image. Therefore you will see most of my images are now turned towards the cooler bluish-pink tones which I think looks much better than the ugly yellow-orange original colors. I might add that Serge has lots of very good Lightroom programs and some great tips on photographing.

Just to help everyone out, the preset has been added to my DeviantArt site so you can download it with the settings described below – zipped file is called SJ Nighttime Settings.

Original RAW photo of top image in blog
This is what was done with to the above image to get the final top image look – these are my settings so feel free to change if you like different ones. The preset (linked above for download) uses my settings shown below:

1. First I set the Profile in Lightroom (could use ACR for these same steps) to Vintage 07 with the Amount slider set to 78%. Always check through these profiles provided by Adobe (or any you may have acquired recently). This profile seems work with most of my night images.

2. Crop and straighten image. In the above the parked car roof had to be removed.

3. In the Basics Panel try making some of these adjustments – use any order you think works best on the image:

– Open the shadows up but not so much since it is a night image – in my case +63 was used. If image a lot darker than the above, use a smaller amount.

– Boost up the whites – this makes the lights in the image really pop if they do not already stand out as mine did above so it was set to 0.

– Blacks – set to reveal more of the sky but try not to add more noise. Mine was set to -7 which really did help.

– Highlights – I set mine back to -100, but in a dark image, this may too much.

– Temperature – I set mine towards blue or -80

– Clarity – really makes it pop – a +35 was used on this image.

– Vibrance – used a +24 here.

– Saturation – used more of this +33.

– Tint – +22 to give it a little of a magenta feel.

– Exposure and Contrast – these were adjusted as a last step. Only the Exposure was decreased to -98 for this image and preset.

4. Here is the tip that gives the image the depth it needs – add a Radial Filter over the midground subject – in this case the bridge area. Invert should be checked so only the inside of the filter is changed. Now slightly boost the Exposure to something like +1.47, which was used here along with Temp of 35, Tint of 35, Clarity of 41 and Whites 22 (since it really popped the lights of the bridge). Again, re-adjust these for the image being used. For this image, the Range Mask set to Luminance was used and the Range set to 95/100 so only the really light areas inside the circle were affected – that is why the lights look so vivid. If you cannot see what is happening, check Show Luminance Mask and watch as you move the sliders. Note: if you make a preset for these settings, be sure to turn off the Luminance Range Mask settings which is not needed for all image, and it will not looks right when you try to adjust the other sliders in the Radial Filter. For the preset the Radial Filter circle was left on the image with the above settings.

5. Last step involves using the Details panel and adjusting the Noise Reduction – in this case Luminance was 28 which is quite a bit and Contrast to 23. Then the Sharpening was set to 85. This is definitely a setting that you need to set yourself depending on your camera model and how much of a noise problem there is.

6. I made a preset (download shown above) with my settings so that I could reuse them on another image (with Luminance Range Mask off). Also, now that I was at a point where the image could be opened in Photoshop, it was opened sent over as a Smart Object (right click and select Edit In -> Open as Smart Object in Photoshop). This will open up ACR only if using RAW files. If needed, you can go back and adjust your settings in PS without going back to LR.

The following steps will vary depending on what will work with your image. For the one above, this is the workflow but the image below used totally different steps to remove noise and finish up the image.

7. In Photoshop the next thing done was try to sharpen and remove noise a little more by going into creating a duplicate layer and going into Topaz (for website see sidebar on my Tidbits Blog) Studio.  Their AI Clear adjustment was selected and these settings were applied:  Auto Noise Reduction and High Sharpening. The Precision Contrast Adjustment was added in Studio also and these settings were used: Micro, Low and Medium Contrast set to 0.30 and High set to -0.30. The last Adjustment selected was Dehaze set to a Strength of 0.52. Apparently their Dehaze filter is much superior to the one in Lightroom or ACR. I also find it is pretty good so I apply it using this filter.

8. Finished up with a Tone Curve to darken down the image to add contrast.

A couple things that can be also done to enhance these images. If another Radial Circle needs to be added to fix an image, go ahead and try it. To duplicate the one already in the preset, just right click it and select duplicate – then drag to the new location. If new settings need to be used, just click the New button. Also, add a Gradiant Filter or two if the foreground or background needs to be darkened some. And for the really hard to adjust area, just brush the settings in. Lightroom and Camera Raw are so flexible.

Below is another example of an image that was really bright yellow and did not look good at all.

Image of the Firehouse on Main Street at Disney WorldThis image followed pretty much the same steps as above – used the preset I created for the first image and just adjusted for this one. The Radial Filter had to be adjusted and the Luminance Range Mask set for this image. But this time in Photoshop, did a couple different things. Used Imagenomics Noiseware‘s default to remove more noise – it worked wonders! I always try different ways as sometimes one will not work but another will. This is not a new filter, but it is one of the best out there. The Fireworks was from Design Textures but it is pretty easy to create your own (see one of my older blogs called Faking Fireworks!). at A little clean up was done and the last step was to open up Topaz ReStyle and applied the City Lights II preset. A few sliders were adjusted in the plugin to tweek the colors. That is all that was done and the image now has a very Disney look. Below is the original image and another example of how Topaz ReStyle can change an image’s look, even a night one. This time the Royal Blue and Apricots preset was applied to give a much more Disney feel to it, but not what I would do to most of my nighttime images.

Original of the Disney Main Street image Alternate image of the Firehouse on Main Street USA-Magic Kingdom
Technique may or may not work on every image, and the image needs to be really sharp to get good results. I have a few images where the noise just could not be removed, but most work pretty well with this preset and a few tricks in Photoshop.

Hope everyone will give this a try – it really surprised me how good some of my image could be. Hope everyone has a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd


A SHORT CHAT ABOUT PHOTOSHOP CC2019

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

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

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

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

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


TRYING OUT THE UPDATE TO PHOTOSHOP PLUGINS

Image of Blooming Plumbago PlantThis week just sharing a few images using some of the new programs that are out there. It seems you just have to try them all out and push the sliders to the limits to see what you get. I have been really pleased with all the ones used in these images. Note that all the shown plugin/software websites are linked in the sidebar of my Tidbits Blog.

On1 Photo Raw 2019

The above macro shot is of some Plumbago blooms growing in my backyard. Very little was done to this image in On1 Photo Raw 2019, but what it did was significant. I really like how sharp and clear this image is. The Effects tab was opened and the image was warmed up a little using the Color Adjustment Filter’s Yellow button, then the Default Sunshine filter, and the Dynamic Contrast (my favorite On1 filter) that just sharpened up the image beautifully. Last thing done was to open up the Local Adjustments tab and add some Detail Structure set to 40 and paint on the petals in a mask. This was all done while using this program as a plug-in to Lightroom. The image was finalized in PS so that I could put a signature block on it and a layer style stroke around the outside for posting. I am really starting to love the update they have made to this program.
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Luminar 2018

Image of backwater in St. Augustine, FloridaThis image was first worked on in Lightroom – used one of Serge Ramelli’s presets from his Welcome Kit called Bad Weather 4 – it gave a good place to start adjusting the image. His preset uses a lot of Gradient Filters and Radial Filters that need to be adjusted and moved for each image so that was done here to get the beautiful lighting effect. In PS, the new Content Aware-Fill command was used to clean up the background which had several buildings sprinkled around. The secret sauce in this image was using Skylum’s Luminar 2018. To get the really sharp effect, Skylum’s free download category called Joel Grimes Preset Pack was selected – I love this set of presets. (Here’s the link to download them directly – they are called Pro Photographer and Artist Presets – then go to File -> Add Custom Presets Pack and select them to add in). The Detailed Warmth preset was selected and set to 39% opacity. A New Layer was added above and the AI Filter Boost was set to 40, and the new AI Sky Enhancer Boost set to 33. The Image Radiance filter was set to an Amount of 38 and an overall filter Amount of 89. Back in PS, a Curves Adjustment Layer and Flypaper Bird Brushes Crows 3 were added at 43% layer opacity. So the birds look natural, I always clip (ALT+click between the layers) a Pattern Adjustment Layer to them – in this case a dark brown pattern set to 100% scale. On a New Layer set to Overlay blend mode was added on top – with a soft low opacity black brush, the foreground was painted in lightly to darken it slightly. That was it. Luminar does such a beautiful job on landscapes. Definitely their strong point!
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Aurora HDR 2019

Image of a land in the Highlands in ScotlandI have loved this program from the moment I tried it out. I like the fact that it does not create that sort of exaggerated HDR effect that was so popular a while back. And I love that just one photo works fine in the software. This image was taken somewhere in the highlands of Scotland – I was wishing I was on the sailboat when I took this image. Not a lot was done in Aurora – just applied a preset that really caught my attention in the Dramatic Collection called Sleepy Drama. In PS a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added and my favorite preset called Foggy Night was added and the opacity was set to 60%. On a New Layer the Sharpen Tool was used on the Sailboat. The biggest problem with this image was the sky. On another New Layer one of my very favorite brush sets, Grut’s FX Cloud Brushes, was opened and the Cloud Lumens Hi was selected using a touch of gray color to it to add into the clouds – the layer was then set to 76% opacity. These brushes are just excellent for these kind of quick touch ups! Last step was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer the add a little more contrast into the image. The original image was in tones of blues and green and looked very dreary. It is amazing what this plugin did for this image.

I am slowly figuring out which software works for which type of image I am going to using. If the image does not look good with my first choice, it is great to have several other choices to try out. I totally love the AI Clear in Topaz Studio, which I did not show in this blog, but use on almost all my images now. It does a remarkable job of just doing a very subtle sharpening. But then I find that On1’s Dynamic Contrast is awfully close and I use it quite a bit too. Both seem to do a slightly better job of sharpening than Lightroom.  And sometimes I do both, even though I am not supposed to – I find it works okay. I hope this gave you a little more to think about when using these plugins and making a decision as to which you want. I really enjoy all of them so this is hard for me to choose the best one. Have a good week…..Digital Lady Syd


SOME TOPAZ STUDIO TIPS

Image of statues at Westminster Abbey, London, EnglandThis week I decided to share a few tips and tricks I have learned about the Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) software since they have had a bunch of absolutely fabulous Webinars in the past few weeks. I have learned so much about so many of the filters and thought I would pass along some of the new things I learned. Believe me, this just scratches the surface of what is shown in the the webinars, so do check them out. The statues above (I do not know who they represent) are from the front of Westminster Abbey and Topaz Studio’s AI ReMix was used to get the interesting color effects. (See end of blog for more Image 1 details if you are interested.)

  • Many of the Topaz experts are going into Studio, running IA Clear, then go into Topaz Adjust plugin from inside the interface – Joel Wolfson calls it the magic exposure balancer. This is a really fantastic effect. Reset the filter by clicking the button on the bottom right. The Adaptive Exposure slider adjusts exposure without losing the shadows and highlights. Set the Adaptive Exposure slider to the right with the Regions, which breaks down the image into sections to apply the correct amount of Adaptive Exposure to it, set to 0. Once the Adaptive Exposure looks pretty good, move the Regions slider to the right to get the perfect look. Keep the two settings fairly close to each other. If the Regions is set to 1, it just applies the effect the same to the whole image. To get the best results, keep the numbers pretty close together. Some people like to use the Color Section which works very similarly. The Adaptive Saturation and Color Regions work together the same way. Also, the same Adaptive Exposure and Regions sliders are also in Black & White Effects also.

TOPAZ STUDIO

It always amazes me what I don’t know about certain programs even though I think I understand them very well. I watched several Webinars from Topaz this week and found out a few little gems I will share. These are things that are really simple but major important! Note that Topaz Studio will not open PSD files from Lightroom or ACR, but will take native camera Raw files, TIFF, PNG and JPG. Below are a few things that had always confused me until recently.

  • When you Apply adjustments to an image, it is the same as creating a flattened composite layer in Photoshop which contains all the previous effects and masks. A new iteration shows up in the row at the bottom of the interface with the blue line around the one just created.
  • What to do when you want to keep both iterations of an image, like one in color and one in black and white. Need to save one that will be stacked with the Lightroom images, but the second one must be Saved As (or it will overwrite the one you just did) – Studio will ask where you want to have it saved. Therefore, both iterations will be retained. If used as a plugin from PS, I am not sure how to do this.
  • If you want to retain all the masks and layers in an image, save the image as a .tsp extension – this is a Topaz unique file extension and can be reopened in the Topaz products. It is helpful if you forgot how you did something for a special effect. I use it a lot – just keep it in the file along with the other image files.
  • Did you know that if you click the little plus (+) sign at the bottom of an adjustment to add additional adjustments, it is actually acting like a clipping mask in Photoshop and filters added only affect the one it is attached to. I always wondered about this.

Image of seven turtles talking on a pondJust AI Clear was used on this image above but not much else. For more post-processing info, check Image 2 below.

AI Clear Adjustment

  • It is important that after the settings are selected, the Adjustment needs to be applied or else it will continue to try and reapply the settings every time you make more changes to the image. This had been driving me crazy – love the adjustment but could not get it to stop running. Well, to me that is a huge tip! (Thank you John Barclay!)
  • Important to remember that if using AI Clear, be sure not sharpen first in Lightroom or ACR – it can mess up the results.
  • The Recover Detail slider keeps noise reduced but is working to bring back some of the detail that is lost in the image from the noise reduction. The higher you set this slider, the more blending that occurs. Set to 1.00 is like setting your opacity to 30%. I find that sometimes this works and sometimes not. Same with the Exposure and Clarity sliders – not always helpful.

Image of a digitally painted jaquarThis image is an example of a more abstract effect you can get with the AI ReMix Adjustment. For actual post-processing info, check out Image 3 at end of the blog.

AI ReMix Adjustment

  • Remember changing the blend modes and opacity can do wonderful things to your image. And try adding the filter using a different Style to get different results.
  • Note it is much quicker to set the Style Strength to Low to decide which one you want to use, then switch to the higher resolutions Med or High amounts.

I feel like I have been writing a lot about the Topaz products – it seems they do have the best creative effects and I use them a lot. I will attempt to show you results of some other plug-ins next time. Have a good shopping week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Post-Processing Steps:

Image 1: First in Lightroom the image was cropped and the Transform panel was opened where the Guided lines were added to straighten the image up and make it look more like it at your eye level. This is a really cool tool to use for this. In Basic panel just some changed to Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks. Then from LR, took the image into Topaz Studio where the AI Clear Adjustment was immediately selected and set to Auto Noise and High Sharpen – It was immediately Applied as a new “layer” in the bottom tray (now has a blue line around it). Made sure AI Clear was not still open – if it is close it so it does not keep running. Now selected AI ReMix (set to 0.49 opacity and Color Burn blend mode) and the first Style called A Neon Style at Low Style Strength; Brightness 0.53, Contrast 1.22, Sat 0.77, Hue 0, Smooth Edge 0.17, Sharpness 0.83, Suppress Artifacts 0.49 – Layer mask created using the brush and just selecting the figures. Then HSL Color Tuning Adjustment: Color – Red Sat -0.54 and Lightness -0.25; Orange Sat 0.12 and Lightness 0.28; Green Sat -1.00 and Lightness 0.38; and Aqua Hue -0.86 and Lightness 0.36. Then it was sent back to Lightroom as a stacked Tiff. Next took the image into Photoshop with the Lightroom Changes selected. This is where I tweaked it and made the image very dark with spotlight lighting. Duplicated the layer twice – set one to Multiply blend mode at 59% and top one to Hard Mix at 66% opacity and 9% Fill. This gave the really dark but sharp image. On a couple New Layers painted some color on the faces to lighten them up a bit but kept the layer opacity very low, around 20-30%. Then added a Spotlight Layer using a low flow white brush to direct the eye to the faces. That was basically all that was done – a lot of adjusting the layers in PS had to be done to get the correct color effect, but it was AI ReMix that gave the beautiful colors in the image.

Image 2: Most of the work occurred in Lightroom. Cropping and Basic panel changes occurred. The color of the image was not touched. The background layer was duplicated and Topaz Studio was opened. The AI Clear Adjustment was opened set to Auto for Noise Reduction and High for Sharpening. Back in Photoshop a little spotlight effect was put on the turtle shells and set to Overlay blend mode at 71% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added and that was it.

Image 3: This funny Jaguar was busy checking out his house I think. I do not believe much was done with this image. Mainly followed the steps in Greg Rostami’s A.I. Magic with ReMix and Clear Webinar – just used similar settings from his dog image and created a preset to use the settings over – check out my SJ AI ReMix painterly Effect in the public list. After Studio was applied, went back to Photoshop. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added and the blue color and the color around her body was darkened (used a dark Curves Adjustment layer with a black layer mask – just painted in where it should be darkened). A little spotlight effect on the white area of the neck and Matt K’s vignette was created to finish up. That was it. I left the colors really strong and I think they are gorgeous


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


TOPAZ REMIX – UPDATE AND BETTER THAN EVER!

Digital Art image of a person playing guitarDecided to do just a quick blog and video on Topaz Remix since it a rather unusual filter by Topaz (for website, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog). I reviewed the filter back in March (see my What is Topaz AI ReMix!!! blog), but this week they came out with an update (if you already own it, be sure to open up Topaz Studio and update the filters). It now has 102 styles (not layer styles as I called them in the video but just styles) and are sorted into 5 different categories: Abstract, High Impact, Pastel, Sketch, and Pastel. Below I did a short video just showing exactly what the adjustment interface looks like and what some of the style effects do. I am finding this plugin lots of fun to use. If not applied at too large an amount, some very creative but natural looking results will occur. The original image used is free from ISO Republic called Guitar Man.

Here is a list of what was shown in the video if you are interested. (First showed A Neon Rise and set the Opacity to 0.53 set to Low Style Strength. Next shows Ashen Waves, then Burnt Off and shifted the blend mode, Ink Blot at 0.74 opacity, White Water at 0.27 opacity, and finally applied Velvet Abstract.) To finish off the image above, just a Curves Adjustment Layer was added and that was all.

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Image of a guitar playerSame image using different settings in Topaz Studio. AI Clear was added, then Black and White Adjustment set to Darken blend mode. Next AI ReMix using Bleach Beach style was selected and set to 0.41 opacity and Color Blend Mode. Last step used Texture Adjustment at 0.46 opacity where one of my Bokeh textures was added into the filter – a layer mask was used to remove off the guitar player. Very different result – much more of a photographic effect.

These styles also look terrific on any of your textures. There are so many possibilities. This is definitely the same kind of filter as Topaz Impression, which as I said, may be one of the very best plugins ever created. My other go-to creative Topaz filter is Topaz ReStyle – use it all the time! This is just one of the reasons I find Topaz to be such a fabulous company as they do work very hard to give the Photoshop creatives some great choices, and AI ReMix fits right in. And I do not want to forget Texture and Simplify, but I do not use them quite as much. Well I hope you will at least download the trial and see what you think of this adjustment. I think it will surprise you how much you will use it – it did me!…..Digital Lady Syd

 

 


WHAT’S NEW IN THE PHOTOSHOP PLUGIN WORLD

Image of Edinburgh, Scotland, cityscape

This has been a major busy week for us Photoshop people so I thought I would pop in with what’s new. The above image was post-processed with the new Aurora HDR update using 5 layers including one that totally softened down the clouds. This program is turning out to be a favorite of mine, especially when wanting a really nice sharp look.

Adobe Camera Raw/Lightroom Updates

Apparently the biggest news is that Adobe added the ability to sync your presets and profiles with Lightroom Mobile on your phone and tablet. In LR Classic the Preset Rollover feature can now be turned off and the Profiles feature can be stopped by just holding down the ALT key while selecting and no previews will be seen. To me the best feature is that any preset folder can be turned off by right clicking the plus sign on the Preset column and select “Manage Presets.” Then uncheck the ones you do not want to see and click save. This seems major handy to me. It can also be done to the Profiles by right clicking on any profile group – then uncheck ones not needed and save. There are a couple other features for stacking images and adding label colors for folders. Check out Scott Kelby’s Lightroom Classic 7.4 Update blog on Lightroom Killer Tips for more information.

Skylum’s Aurora HDR 1.2.0 Update

I really love both the Luminar and Aurora HDR programs that Skylum owns, but lets face it, we Windows people still are not quite caught up with the Mac versions. (For website links, check out the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog.) Aurora now supports batch processing – it seems all the plug-ins are rushing to get this added to their programs. Other updates includes a new White Balance/Eyedropper Tool, layers can be renamed, and quick previews are enhanced. Aurora seems not near as finicky – the brushes work smoother in both the layer masking area and the Darken & Brighten filter. That was one area that needed improvement. For more update info, check out this page called Aurora Is Better Than Ever.

On1 Photo Raw 2018.5

On1, not to be outdone by Lightroom, did a huge release this week and it appears to be really good! This program is starting to grow on me. When I first got the new On1 plug-in several years ago, it ran my computer hard and I did not like that. Now this is not a  problem and it is lightening fast when adding files into its Browse module. One of the areas that I am totally loving is they have added lots of new LUTs (lookup tables) that can now be hovered over to see the effect. You can now right click and choose Create Version which is the same as a Virtual Copy in LR – love that! There are so many things that it is best to just check out the website to find them – I am still digging through it all. (For website link, check out the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog.) I will blog on its new features soon after I have had a chance to try them all out.

Image of some pink azaleasThese beautiful pink azaleas were growing in my yard a while back. What a perfect color of pink! Most of the post-processing was done in the new stand alone version of On1 Photo Raw 2018.5, but a little more was done in PS. The Effects module’s LUTs filter was applied with the Color Pop category and Honkey Tonk LUT. Just loved the result. Also used my favorite Dynamic Contrast and Sharpening filters at their default settings.

Topaz Studio AI Clear

I love Topaz and this is their newest filter released this week. (For website link, check out the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog.) It detects and removes noise in an image while sharpening the details at the same time. They say the filter “uses the insight of a custom neural network trained on millions of images to detect and reduces noise as well as enhances details in your images automatically.” When I tried it out, it did a pretty good job on my images. But it seems to overlap with their really good Noise Reduction and Detail/Clarity filters – I need to work with it more to understand how to use it properly. In the Disney Tomorrowland  image below, one of my new favorite filters, AI ReMix, was applied and then Topaz Adjust was added on top. Topaz recently added several new presets to the filter which gives a lot more choices for making images more interesting. There are so many ways to use Studio that is it a bit mind-boggling.

Image of Tomorrowland Sign at The Magic Kingdom

Google (Nik) Collection

Last, but not least, DxO recently bought the Nik Collection from Google. They have now updated the collection to run with all the operating systems. I do not believe any new filters have been added to the group, but now it is functioning properly for everyone. If you have had problems with the original aging plug-ins, I would definitely recommend updating to this new version. To get the upgrade, here is a link.  I am so glad these filters are being updated and will continue to be used. It contains my favorite plug-in that I use on almost every image – Viveza 2 so I could not be happier!

Well that’s it – just thought I would catch you up since it seems like a lot is going on in the plug-in world. I am so glad the plug-in folks are busy adding to their collections and improving their programs to keep up with the times. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd