Anything Photoshop or Photography



Image of the Video Arcade Sign at the Magic KingdomThis week I watched an interesting short video by Chris Spooner of Spoon Graphics called Airbrushed Film Poster Effect so I decided to give it a try. The images in this blog are all the result of using of his steps or variations of them. This first image from Disney World follows most of his steps closely. I wanted to start by trying the actual steps to really understand how this effect is achieved. Also, I found it easier to understand what he is saying by turning on the closed captions for this video. Chris says this effect works best with darker low key photos with lots of details.

The basic steps are listed below, but I found some better ways to create some of these effect using Photoshop plug-ins from vendors as opposed to all the PS filters in this workflow. First off, the image needs to be in 8-bit Mode if using the PS filters so go to Image -> Mode -> 8 Bits/Channels. Chris starts with using the High Pass Filter set to a fairly low Radius and the top image used the filter with a Radius of 2 pixels. Chris used the Oil Paint Filter for the painterly effect on his image, but this just is not one of my favorites so the layer was taken into Topaz Impression 2 where Abstract Settings-Blake Rudis preset was applied. That is my only deviation from the workflow.

This next step is one that could be useful for other workflows. A RGB Luminosity Channel was selected by going to the Channels Panel and CTRL+clicking on the thumbnail to select the Highlights in the image. Once selected, changed to the Layers Panel. Copy and Paste (Edit -> Copy and Edit -> Paste) creates a new layer showing just the highlights on the layer. It is set to Vivid Light and the opacity is lowered. Then go to Select -> Reselect and create a New Layer. Fill selection with white using CTRL+Backspace if colors set to default black and white or Edit -> Select and set Contents to White. This layer was set to Soft Light blend mode. These steps really give an interesting look to the image and could be good for other types of effects.

This video used the Poster Edges in the Artistic Effects filter and set them to Edge Thickness 0/Edge Intensity 0 and Posterization 6 which adds dark lines into image. To get similar results for light lines, on a duplicate layer the color was desaturated (SHIFT+CTRL+U) and the Glowing Edges filter (Edge Width 1, Edge Brightness 2, and Smoothness 1) in the Stylize section was applied. It was set to Screen blend mode and the opacity was adjusted. The last few steps involved adding Noise by filling a layer with 50% Gray and than applying the Add Noise at 20% to give some grain to the image. Chris then added a tan paper texture on top and set it to Soft Light blend mode. For the above image, 2 Little Owl’s Color Bokeh Grunge Set No. 6 (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) was used to get the grungy effect.

The process is a bit tricky as there are a lot of things going on, but once attempted, you can see how to make the image look more like that airbrushed effect in posters.

*****Image of Native American demonstrating Horn PlayingThe above is of Jim Sawgrass, the Master of Ceremonies at the Ormond Beach Native American Festivals, who gives excellent talks on the traditions and lives of Native Americans throughout the country. It was my second attempt to get this poster effect and several workflow steps were changed to get this result. For starters this man was selected from the original image using PS Select and Refine Command – this works pretty well on rather detailed objects. Lucis Pro 6.0.9 (no longer available but I keep looking for it) to sharpen the image since this filter gives a nice poster feel, but Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Detail or Clarity could have been used. No painterly effect was used on this image. Same steps as above were then followed except the RGB Luminosity layer was set to Pin Light blend mode at 71% layer opacity instead of Vivid Light. No layer was desaturated (accidentally) but it turned out fine. Same PS filter settings. Jai Johnson’s Daily Textures Unpredictable (No. 6) was placed underneath the man and on top 2 Little Owl’s Color Bokeh Grunge Set texture with a layer mask added to paint back the player. Just some clean up was done after this. I went back and added Nik Color Efex Pro on this image after finishing the horses as the results really enforced the poster feel. Therefore, Bleach Bypass, Darken/Lighten Center, and Film Efex Nostalgic Film Type 7 filters were applied – used different opacities to get the effect.


Image of two toy horses from the Native American FestivalA similar workflow as above was used on this toy horse image also taken at the Native American Festival. This image looks even more like a Poster. After selecting the horses, to get the airbrushed effect Topaz Impression 2 was opened and the Painterly II preset was used. This preset seems to give a great slightly painterly feel that a poster requires. The white highlights layer was set to Color Dodge blend mode instead of Soft Light and was set to 74% layer opacity. The Poster Edges filter was applied with the Edge Intensity changed to 2. The Glowing Edges filter settings were changed to Edge Width 2, Edge Brightness 4, and Smoothness 3. These sliders can all be adjusted to get a needed effect. The grainy look needed to be applied so this time Nik Color Efex Pro 2 was opened and Film Efex: Vintage filter was applied and then the Bleach Bypass filter as it looked really good. The Nik filters really seemed to enhance the poster effect so try different ones to pop the colors especially. Another one of Jai Johnson’s Daily Textures Unpredictable 16 was placed underneath the horses.

There is a little trick here that I figured out to help add that poster look. On a New Layer on top, my SJ Pastel 3 brush was used to just lightly paint over some of the edges around the horses. It made some of the hard edges sort of fade into the image and by using a color that matched the background a little, it added to the overall painterly effect. This was done to a lesser extent to the Native American horn blower. For info on making this brush, see my How to Use Photoshop’s Brush Texture Section for Painting Clean-up blog.

If you like the airbrushed poster effect, this is a pretty good workflow and lots of options to make it look more like your own creation. Remember the results depend a lot on what the resolution and brightness of the image is at the beginning. I appreciate Chris Spooner sharing this type of workflow which is so flexible and gives everyone a chance to create the effect. Until next week…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
The Road to Hana


Digital painting of the Swamp or Wetlands in Florida Just was not ready with a new technique but have been enjoying painting, so thought I would go over a couple little tricks I’ve  learned that might help save you some time while digital painting. It can get pretty sophisticated once you figure out where the image is going. The above Photoshop painting is called Spring in the Swamp and contains 61 layers. Even if this is not exactly your type of painting or expression, maybe there are a few tips here that will speed up your image production.

My painting started with just a basic sketch of a stream before just adding some floral brush strokes. Over the last few months I have spent hours figuring out exactly what brushes work with my painting style and creating new ones as tool presets when needed. This results in lots of brushes that can be very cumbersome to have piled up in the Brush and Tool Panels in PS.

TIP No. 1: Create several groups of brushes and save them as Tool Presets so they can be opened up anytime you want to paint those effects.

For my paintings I currently use 6 major sections: At the top of my Tool Presets Panel (top left icon in Options Bar shows current tool selected) are the signature brushes and brushes used on an almost daily basis for all kinds of touch up on both photos and my paintings. The Tool Preset Picker (click the arrow beside the Tool Presets Icon to open) and click the little square icon with the corner folded up to create a New Tool Preset – name it Drawing Brushes section. Any regular brush can be used for this since it is not being used as a brush. It will be listed at the bottom of the Tool Preset list. I find that capital letters stand out really good. Now drag it into the spot needed above the described brushes for quick use.

Regular Brushes Tool Preset in my Photoshop

The sections must be set up in the Preset Manager which can opened in a couple ways. To go directly to the Tool Preset Manager, open the Tool Preset Picker in the Options Bar and click on the top icon – a little cog wheel – in the drop-down, select Preset Manager. You will see not just the Regular Brush Tool Preset, but all kinds of brush tool presets – Mixers, Smudge, Burn, Dodge, Smudge, Erasers, etc. – the Regular Brushes have the paintbrush as an icon. Alternatively, go to the Brush Panel or Brush Picker Panel and click on the 2nd icon over at the bottom of each called Open Preset Manager. Once opened, the Preset Type is set to Brushes, not the Tool Presets, so open click on the little field to open a drop-down, and select Tools – it is now at the same place as described above. Now the brushes can be moved around by just dragging them. Also SHIFT+Highlight or CTRL+Highlight to move several brushes. Create sections by moving the header above each group to be used – i.e., Drawing Tools and then adding underneath the brushes as shown in the screenshot. Now select the Header and all the accompanying brushes and click Save Set. Once saved, the whole section can be deleted out of the Preset Manager and reloaded anytime this set of brushes is needed again. Very handy and a safe way not to loose these so important brushes if you paint. (For more info on this, check out my Why Use the Tool Preset Panel? Photoshop Painters Listen Up! blog.) The 6 major sections that work for me are: my basic brushes at top, Drawing Tools, Landscape Brushes, Snow Tools, Fur Tools, and Spatter Brushes. Brushes I am trying out are at the bottom. At this point only the Regular brushes are kept in sections. If I switch to my Mixer Brushes in the Tool Presets, there are several more brushes but not as many so I have not divided them into sections, but rather just keep them grouped together for quick use.

TIP No. 2: Name the Tool Preset Brushes so you know what they are.

When I modify a brush that is from someone else, the tool or brush is renamed using my initials at the beginning and then using the original brush title – usually these brushes all have a unique dab types that I could not have created without the original creators help. Creating several of these brushes have been explained several other blogs so I will not go into that. For example the Drawing Tools are from various people and represent very different types of brushes for creating an actual drawing effect. In the screen shot above are many examples of the way my brushes are named.

TIP No. 3: Keeping all Tool Presets open.

If you do not have Check Current Tool Only checked, all the Tool Presets loaded will be shown. I do not do this as there are so many brushes in my Tool Presets, but many people save lots of time by opening leaving open the Tool Preset Panel (Windows -> Tool Presets) – then you can actually switch between tool types very quickly, like a particular Regular Brush and a Mixer or Eraser.

TIP No. 4: Use the Brush Picker to get back to the last 7 brushes used! Can be a major time-saver.

Once Photoshop removed the ability to create your own panels to access your favorite brushes quickly (original CC and CS6), it became a real problem to paint in PS. I was constantly going back to CS6. The Brush Picker now has this great little gem that can be indispensable for painting. The last 7 brushes used are displayed at the top – just note each time you change a size it will be listed at the top again under that size. What is so great is that if the size or something else is modified in the Brush Panel, by clicking on the brush icons at the top, these settings are retained as long as the icon is showing. If you clicked back on the brush in the Brush Panel, the settings would be lost. If you click on the settings in the Tool Preset, the brush will also reset. But if you press on the brush icon in the Brush Picker, the correct Brush Panel settings are retained. This can be helpful if you are switching back and forth a lot. The thing that you must be careful about is that the settings for the Options Bar do not change as the brushes are switched – this is just for Brush Panel modifications. So watch the brush modes, opacities and flows to get correct results. Not always useful, but can be a real time saver. Oh yes, same goes for the Libraries Panel – if a brush is placed in there it will act the same as the brushes in the Brush Panel. The Options Bar settings will not be retained. The Libraries Panel is another place to put your favorite brushes though.

TIP No. 5: Use the Mode Clear to erase on a layer when painting.

My friend Nicholai over at Grut Brushes is where I learned this tip (check out his website for some really great brushes and his free brush of the week). This can be handy to erase away an area using the same dabs of what you were painting. So for example, if you are painting clouds, set the brush to Clear to get a nice cut away when parts of the clouds need to be removed. Very handy!

TIP No. 6: Use the Blur Tool to quickly soften parts of a flower or tree or bird that is too sharp.

The Blur Tool was used in several places on the above – just create a New Layer and keep the setting at no more than 50% to get some nice controlled blurred strokes. This tool was not that good in previous versions (in CS6 it does not work that well), but it works great now.

Guess this is enough for this week. Hope you find the tips handy and time-saving! Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd


This week posting another oldie but goodie from my Tidbits Blog and a newer image with some of my favorite newer filters. I loved the way the above image turned out – never expected it to be this pretty considering it was an image I snapped while standing on the street in front of our hotel. It is Nelson Monument (in center) and Acropolis (aka National Monument of Scotland on left corner) on Calton Hill – I did not get to visit this site but wish I had. This was not difficult to process once I got going. After cleaning up a rather boring image, Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Simplify was opened and a preset I call the John Barclay BuzSim Setting preset was used.  I listened to one of John’s excellent videos on Topaz Labs and created this preset which has a very subtle result. (The settings are: Simplify: Colorspace RGB, Simplify Size 0.19, Details Boost 1.00, and Details Size 0.20; Adjust: Brightness 0.01, Contrast 1.08, Saturation 1.03, Saturation Boost 1.15, Structure 1.00, and Structure Boost 1.00; and Edges: Edge Type – Color Edge Normal, Edge Strength 0.00, Simplify Edge 0.30, Reduce Weak 10.00, Reduce Small 0.20 and Flatten Edge 0.00.) Next I added 2 lil Owls (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Workshop 6 – Texture 1 which has the beautiful turquoise and light yellow sky color – the layer was set to Overlay Blend Mode. The beautiful text was supplied by my favorite Shadowhouse Creations – his Text Brush 5. I actually clipped a bright green Color Fill Adjustment Layer to the text (to clip just ALT+click between the two layers and the color fill adjustment layer will only affect the layer below) – then the text layer was set to 55% opacity. Another 2 Lil’ Owls Texture – texture 4 was used as an overlay frame. A light yellow Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture file. A Curves Adjustment Layer where the red, green and blue channels were adjusted to get this slight vintage feel. The last thing done was to add a Color Fill Adjustment Layer to the whole image using a soft cream color (#c6c3bd) and the Nelson Monument was painted out in the layer mask so the eye is drawn to that area of the image.

Image of Waterfall at Ormond Memorial GardensThis image from the Ormond Memorial Art Museum and Gardens in Ormond Beach, Florida, used the same Topaz Simplify preset by John Barclay and just used Topaz Texture Effects 2’s Facing Fast preset. This time the effect was removed from the foreground flowers and Nik Viveza 2 was used to add a little vignette effect to the image. Texture Effects does a really great job of giving vintage effects and it is always fun to try out the different presets and combinations by adding new sections to get some great results.

Had a lot of fun as usual – never get tired of this!…..Digital Lady Syd


Heart image for ValentinesThis week I have been feeling “under-the-weather” so I am going to present a valentine link for the image above and the workflow for the card below from a few years ago. To get the info on how the top valentine was created, check out my original blog at Free Valentine Templates and a Valentine with Heart.

To create the above, these steps and resources were used:
1. Started on a New Document with Spatter Heart Frame from PS Brushes. A Layer Style was added – Outer Glow set to a soft yellow and Linear Dodge (Add) at 75% and a Spread of 21; and a Gradient Overlay adjusting Graphix1 Muted 8 for a gold tone.
2. Next a background was added underneath using Colored Vintage Paper by Ciara Panacchia Texture 08 (Deep Red).
3. Another texture was added above this one – Vintage Valentine Paper by Aramisdream using Texture 09. It was set to 59% and a layer mask was used to brush out the center and to create a vignette effect around the edges.
4. A layer was placed on top that used Obsidian Dawn’s Glitter set-hearts-glitter brush in a soft beige at 43% opacity.
5. Glass Prism’s cupid brush was placed in the center on it’s own layer.
6. The red valentines were placed on their own layer – Hearts by King Billy Sample Brush 20 was used (there are some other nice valentine brushes in this set). A Layer Style was added using a red Color Overlay and a small 1 pixel Stroke.
7. Two Text Layers were created using the font Precious, a perfect Valentine font. A Layer Style was added using: Inner Shadow set to Distance of 21 and Size of 21; Outer Glow set to Linear Dodge (Add) at 45% opacity and Size of 24 pixels with a light yellow color; and Bevel and Emboss set to Inner Bevel, Smooth, Depth 103, Size 10 and the rest default settings.

That is how I made some Valentines. It was a lot of fun to try out the different effects with the brushes – the layer styles really made a difference. When you have a minute, try a layer style on some of your brush strokes – you may get some surprising results!…..Digital Lady Syd


Painting of a Giraffe's HomeI ran across this little brush technique in Advanced Photoshop Magazine No. 81’s DVD (several years old) in a PDF called Photoshop Uncovered: Forgotten Features. This particular tip was by designer/illustrator Radim Malinic of Brand Nu. I am not sure I have completely mastered his technique yet, but it was fun trying to figure out how he uses it to create some really great art.

Exactly what does setting a brush to a Linear Dodge (Add) mode in the Options Bar do? According to Radim, “As the color dodges, the overall shade goes lighter with every brush stroke.” Usually he tries to stick to just one color for his image, so this was my goal in my blog images. His basic technique involves creating a colored image, then desaturating the image, adjusting contrast with a Levels Adjustment, and adding in background textures and shapes.

On a New Layer with any brush selected, the Options Bar was set to Linear Dodge (Add) mode, Opacity 30% and Flow no more than 30%. Choose a darker shade of any color wanted to dominate your image. As you dab, colors will become brighter each time a stroke is overlapped – be careful not to overdo this effect as it is easy to get carried away. A New Layer is needed to get the effect as a white background layer will not show any strokes. If the last dab is too strong, go to Edit -> Fade Brush Tool to reduce the effect and change the blend mode for a better look if needed. The bright linear dodge strokes can be seen in the plants and giraffe in the bottom image below.

Tych Panel of images used to create painting

The Tych Panel shows how I created this image. I was attempting to try and just use a nice color of green to do all the painting in this image. The upper left image is what was initially created using several layers and various colors! This involved adding the background textures and creating a group of layers that contained my plant brushes. A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created on top. Next a Black and White Adjustment Layer was used to get a nice tone – this was merged down (highlight both layers and press CTRL+E) so now my main image is black and white. It was set to 94% layer opacity – that is why there is some slight color showing in the image. Therefore, a white filled New Layer was placed underneath so the colors below did not show through.

Now the fun began. Just started painting using the Linear Dodge (Add) mode in the Options Bar at 30% Opacity and 30% Flow. A light green was painted over the image. A giraffe silhouette brush was added and a layer mask was used to put some of the plants in front of his legs. On a New Layer painted in with the green colors on the giraffe – see the variation of the colors as the brush is dabbed over the same areas. A Levels Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+click between layers) to some layers to soften the effect so it blends in better with the plants. 12 more layers were created to paint in the different object using different brushes. I found that by varying the brush Opacity but not the Flow over 30%, the various shades of the color could be easily obtained. Also the layer opacity or Edit Fade command can be used if the effect is just too strong. To finish up, Nik Viveza 2 was applied to adjust the focal point and add a slight vignette effect for drawing the eye. I decided the green was overwhelming the image as seen in the bottom part of the Tych Panel. Therefore a bright dark blue Solid Color Adjustment Layer was added. It was set to Color blend mode at 35% layer opacity. This seemed to balance out the over green to a level I liked as shown in the top image.

Painting of a Magical Bird in a Magical ForestThe above is another example of using this same technique. It was first painted in color and then turned to black and white before creating a New Layer and using Linear Dodge (Add) brush mode to paint with a cyan blue color in the image again. This technique does take a bit of practice to get a good result, but I do see a possible use for this type of brush in doing a regular painting. It is nice to just emphasize a certain area in an object using this method – in fact several digital painters use this method for dodging their images. It  has been fun to try and paint with a monochromatic color scheme. Definitely have to think about what the values are in your image. Hope you get a chance to experiment with this brush mode and come up with some interesting results!…..Digital Lady Syd



Image of Native American PotteryBasically this blog is showing that filters or plug-ins do not have to be applied on a layer with the second one applied on top of the first one on the same layer, but rather they can be applied to the same original duplicated layer and by using layer masks the desired effects from can be inserted. This image above followed a workflow that followed my Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 and Topaz Clarity Together? Tidbits Blog from a few years ago. It had been a while since HDR Efex Pro2 (part of the free download from Google-Nik) was used so it seemed like a good time to try it out again. The original image from the Tidbits Blog is shown below. This image was taken yesterday at the 28th Native American Festival in Ormond Beach, Florida. The displays and costumes really give a nice variety for those who love photography (and the vendors and show organizers are some of the nicest people!). The focus area of the two teapots show more of the HDR plug-in effect and the rest of the image has more of the Topaz Clarity filter effect. Any plug-ins can be used this way, these are just what I was using for this image.

HDR Efex Pro 2

The image was first opened in Lightroom where it was brightened up just a bit. Then in Photoshop, the background was duplicated, converted to a Smart Object (right click on layer and select Convert to Smart Object), and HDR Efex Pro2 was opened from the Filters menu. Note: you do not have to be shooting HDR photos to use this plug-in – it works fine with just one image. (For info on how to use if shooting with more than one image, see my How To use Google (Nik) HDR Efex Pro 2 Blog.) This is another one of those huge plug-ins with lots of sliders and presets to play around with on your images so the Smart Object allows  you to go back and adjust it if it look wrong (double click on the thumbnail in the Layer Panel). In this case the Outdoor 2 preset was applied. One of the best things in this plug-in is the Levels & Curves section where besides RGB and the individual channels, there is a the Luminosity Curve that can be adjusted – this was done for this image. The curve was pulled downward to get a nice overall effect. Then the Tonality section Structure slider was set to 31% and the Color Temperature was set to -20% and Saturation 19%. That was all that was done to this preset.

Topaz Clarity

Now for the Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Clarity part. This is one of my favorite Topaz plug-ins partly because of the versatility in it. The HDR Efex layer was turned off and the background duplicated again and set just above the background layer. Since the HDR Efex layer had way too much contrast for the softer vintage effect I wanted, a preset that I created for painting was applied in Clarity. It totally softens the whole image but the colors looked really good. (Here are the settings if you are interested: Clarity Dynamics Micro Contrast -0.86, Low Contrast -0.86, Medium Contrast 0.63, and High Contrast 0.94; Tone Level Black Level -0.19, Midtones -0.36, and White Level 0.19; HSL Filter Hue – no changes; Sat Orange 0.06, Yellow 0.63, Green 0.13, Blue 0.25 0.25, and Overall -0.45; and Lum Orange 0.36, Yellow -0.34, Green -0.42, Blue 0.61, Purple 0.11, Magenta 0.75, and Overall -0.27 – all other colors were 0.00. Adjust these settings around if they do not quite fit the effect you want.)

The HDR Efex layer was turned on and a black layer mask was added (press ALT key while clicking the layer mask icon at bottom of Layers Panel). Just the areas where more contrast was needed was painted back into the image – mainly around the teapots where the focal point is. A round brush set to 50% opacity was used so edges were not too sharp.

Photoshop Brushes for Clean up

Some of the background in the curtains did not look so nice, so the brushes were brought out to paint in some colors and blend some colors on a New Layer. It is so handy to have a good Regular Brush and Mixer for clean up. A pastel with rough edges was used to paint over some greenish shadow colors that did not fit the image. The brush can be downloaded from SDW Haven Pastel Brushes Part 1 – it is the last brush or 11th brush in this free set. (These are the settings used for the brush: Brush Tip Shape: I like it as a small size so it is set to 8 pixels but enlarge it often, Angle 137 degrees, Roundness 100% and Spacing 35%; Shape Dynamics: Angle Jitter 42%; Texture  – Rough located in PS Erodible Textures (load by clicking texture patter, then on the cog wheel and Load Erodible Textures, and set to Scale 87%, Brightness -45, Contrast 0, check Texture Each Tip, Mode Multiply, Depth 50%, Depth Jitter 1%, and Control Off; and check Smoothing.) This brush also clean up funny colored edges nicely – just ALT+click in the image on the color to sample, and lightly paint in. I usually paint at 67% opacity with this brush.

Then an overall soft Mixer blender was used to mix up the edges. The brush I use is by David Belliveau from Paintable – here is a link to his free brushes and his How to Blend Colors in Photoshop: 4 Essential Technique blog. David does a great job explaining how to use brushes in Photoshop. On the clean up layers, I just kept going back and forth between the Regular and the Mixer brush adding color and blending until the color and edges look smooth. The Mixer also does a great job of softening lines that appear too sharp in the background. I use these two brushes all the time to both clean up images and paint in Photoshop.

Finishing Up the Image

Last steps involved adding on a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Topaz Texture Effects 2 with adjustments to the Crisp Morning Run preset. A Spot Mask was used over the center pots so they were not affected as much by the plug-in. Duplicated the layer and applied Nik Viveza 2 to further sharpen the two middle teapots and add a little more saturation to that area. Duplicated the layer again and Topaz Lens Effects was opened and a Silver Reflector filter coming from the left was applied – just to add a softer effect and emphasize where the light was. Using these three plug-ins one after the other is an example of applying them onto each other and no masking was involved. Therefore the effects of  Texture Effects is in the image where Nik Viveza 2 was applied which is in the results of applying the Lens Effects filter. If you wanted to get down to the original Background effect, many masks were have to be created. Subtle but significant difference.

Image of the Belarusian Countryside
Overall HDR Efex Pro and Clarity are not a bad combination for getting some nice effects in Photoshop. Both images used the filters discussed above.  Each filter was added on its own duplicated Background layer and then the parts of the image to be concealed were masked in or out on each layer. For the top image it just did not look as good when one filter was applied over the other one. This is really important to remember if you are liking the effect in two different filters – they do not have to both be applied over each other – just mask in or out what you like on separate layers. And do try out the brushes – they work really well together. Hope everyone is coping with the winter and staying warm. Until next time…..Digital Lady Syd


Digitally painted image of the Last Snow before Spring
This is a pretty basic post on how to use a Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer to add some subtle detail to image objects. This may be something you are already doing, but if not, give my short workflow below a try. A Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer was used on the flying birds in the digital painting above. The birds are a free download from Cheryl Tarrant – for download link and more image details, see Image 1 info at end of blog. Bird objects work well with Pattern Fills, but any painted strokes, text or objects placed on a layer by themselves will work. Below is the quick workflow and the rest of the blog goes into more detail regarding Patterns.

Workflow for Adding a Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer

  1. Open up a Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer above image by going to the bottom of Layers Panel and clicking on the Black & White circle icon (fourth one over) and select Pattern (third one down). By default the last pattern in your Pattern Picker list will be selected.
  2. Clip the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer to the one below by ALT+clicking between the two layers. (See below for more options.)
  3. Double click on the pattern to open the Pattern Fill Dialog and choose your pattern. (To add more patterns, click on cog wheel in the upper right corner – PS has packaged several sets that can be clicked on or add your own. See below.)
  4. Adjust the Scale slider and drag on pattern in image to get the location and size of pattern for the effect required.
  5. Set the blend mode and opacities for both the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer and the object layer below.

Difference Between Textures and Patterns and Where Patterns Are Used

A little background material here so you understand what a pattern is much less how to use it in a Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer. In PS, a pattern is a fairly small file, often times repeated without edges (lots of tutorials out there on this), that can be added to an image in various ways. A texture is a much larger file usually using the .JPG file format. Textures are added in as a layer that goes over the whole image – can alter them with a layer mask and/or different blend modes and layer opacities. Since Patterns are much smaller in size, they are added to an image with PS tools, commands, layer styles or a Pattern Fill adjustment layer. Several tools have an option to add a Pattern like the Regular Brush Tool (and Stamp Tool, Smudge Tool, Dodge Tool, Burn Tool, and Sponge Tool) in the Brushes Panel Texture Section, the Spot Healing Tool, Pattern Stamp Tool, and the Paint Bucket Tool (who knew?). (Note: In the Brush Panel, the Texture section is really adding a Pattern from the Pattern Picker to add texture to the stroke.) Also the Rectangular Tool and all the tools grouped with it can use a Pattern when set to Shape – look in the Stroke drop down. The Edit -> Fill dialog with the contents set to Pattern gets some very cool pattern effects with the Script drop-down box. Layer styles using patterns are the Bevel & Emboss Texture subsection, Stroke Fill Type, and Pattern Overlay sections. Oddly enough, the PS filters do not appear to use .PAT pattern files (they use regular texture .PSD files instead). Just wanted everyone to know patterns are located in many places, and sometimes quite hidden places (and I might have missed a few), just in case a need arises and a different technique could be used.

Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer Dialog

My favorite method for using a Pattern is with the Fill Adjustment Layer. It does not have a lot of adjustment sliders (only the Scale can be adjusted but since it is its own layer, the blend mode and layer opacity can be adjusted. There is also a layer mask so the effect can be locally masked in or out. Very easy way to adjust the results. And perhaps best of all, it can be clipped (see next paragraph) to an object layer so only what is on the layer is affected by the pattern effect. That is how the birds above look like a natural brownish color instead of the original black silhouette object. Below is a screenshot of the Pattern Fill dialog that was used on the birds above.Screenshot of a Pattern Fill Adjustment LayerIt can be seen that first Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (the indented layer) to the birds layer. There are several ways to clip a layer, but my preferred way is to hold down the ALT key and click between the two layers to link them together. Can right click on adjustment layer and select Create Clipping Mask; or go to the Menu and choose Layer -> Create Clipping Mask; or just press CTRL+ALT+G on the highlighted layer – all work equally well.

From the latest Photoshop Manual (can download as .PDF file) search for Pattern: “Click the pattern, and choose a pattern from the pop-up panel. Click Scale, and enter a value or drag the slider. Click Snap To Origin (button) to make the origin of the pattern the same as the origin of the document (pattern opens up set to upper left corner). Select Link With Layer if you want the pattern to move along with the layer as the layer moves (moves with object layer as it is moved in the Layers Panel). When Link With Layer is selected, you can drag in the image to position the pattern while the Pattern Fill dialog box is open.” I usually just select the pattern and set the scale here. The really important thing to know is that by dragging in the image, the pattern can be moved to make it look correct on your objects if the Link with Layer box is checked. The Create a New Preset seem useless since all the patterns are already loaded.

Any color of patterns can be used (although all patterns are added turned to black and whites for the Brush Tools Texture section since brushes only use black to white tones). Using the colorful patterns can give really nice results on objects like birds or rocks or text. The one used above was included in a free Obsidian Dawn’s Grungy Dirty Patterns set which I use all the time.  Some other patterns I use a lot are 10 Splatters Patterns by Idealhut and  Vintage Floral Patterns by flashtuchka. I tend to like patterns that show bright colors and contrast. Also watercolor patterns are very useful. Try some of the loaded PS patterns, but I do not use them much. To add the patterns into your list, open up the Pattern Picker and select the little pop-out wheel where it says Load. Now just go to where the patterns were saved and open them up. They will appear at the end of your pattern list. Click on Preset Manager to add, remove or change the order (just drag to move) of the patterns loaded. With the Pattern Picker open, the different patterns can be clicked on and a live preview on the image will be seen. For the above the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer Scale slider was set to 155%, then back on the actual layer, it was set to Normal blend mode at 67% layer opacity. The birds underneath were set to Normal blend mode at 45% layer opacity. The combination gave a really nice subtle bird effect.

Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer or Pattern Overlay Layer Style

There are a couple major reasons I like the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer. The Pattern Overlay Layer Style can do pretty much everything the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer does. But it is easy to run into problems with the other Layer Style sections that are applied on top of this section. It can block out the whole section being added. One advantage of the Layer Style is that the blend mode and opacity can be set for the actual dialog, then the adjustment layer’ blend mode and opacity can also be set. I find the Pattern Overlay section works well with text layer especially since strokes and glows can be added in easily. Note that you can use both a clipped Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer and a Layer Style on the bird layer to get extra effects. There is so much that can be done! Just remember that if you want to add a layer mask to the bird layer with a Layer Style on, be sure to check in the Blending Options section “Layer Mask Hides Effects.” Otherwise the masking will look bad.

Painted image of fauna for birdsI created this image to show how both Pattern Fill Layers and Pattern Overlay Layer Styles can be combined to get a really nice effect. Several of the plant layers used Pattern Overlay Layer Styles and many have Pattern Fill Adjustments Layers clipped to them. For example, the text layer applied both a Pattern Overlay and Drop Shadow Layer Style sections and a Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer clipped to the text layer. For more info on this painting, check out Image 2 below.

How to Create a Pattern from Your Own Textures

This is probably the easiest part of this blog. I had several great textures I created and bought that would make good patterns. To convert them from a .PSD file or .JPG file to a .PAT file, go to Edit -> Define Pattern. Then name the pattern and it is placed at the bottom of your pattern list to use the next time the Pattern Picker is opened. If you are using PS CS5 or older, there is a Pattern Maker filter in the Other category that can be used to make patterns – not sure why Adobe removed it.

I hope you try this technique on your images. Adding a pattern to just a few strokes on a layer can add some real interest in an image – it does not have to be an object. I am finding I am using patterns more and more to get that extra level of creativity and blending that seems to be lacking in a lot of the original images I am seeing. Know this was a little long, but I hope this helps a little about how to do this!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Info:

Image 1: This started out as a spring image but finished up as the Last Snow before Spring. That is what I love about Photoshop, sometimes major surprises result! Most of this image was painted in Corel Painter, but many details were completed in Photoshop. This seems to be the only way I can paint. In Painter, mainly used John Lowther’s Landscape Collection brushes along with various Karen Bonaker and Melissa Gallo brushes – all three of these people are incredible digital painters! In Photoshop, 37 layers were created so lots of different brushes went into this image. Several of Grut’s FX Cloud brushes were used along with Seishido Biz Favytunic’s brushes (can’t seem to locate them now-older brushes) and Frostbo’s Grass Set2 brushes. Also used several of Melissa Gallo’s Photoshop brushes from her video class (incredible class BTW). The snow was added using a brush created by following Corey Barker’s Corey’s Universal Particle Brush video which teaches how to make a terrific snow brush. (See my How to Paint in a Snow Storm blog.) The snow appears a lot more natural to me now. Also the birds are from Cheryl Tarrant’s Distressed+Seasonal+Flock+Birds+Brushes set – Brush 05 – some of the nicest bird brushes around. The texture used was by Kim Klassen called Cool Grunge (not sure this texture is still available) and was set to Multiply at 29% layer opacity. My basic PS workflow was followed after creating all the detail layers. Used Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) ReStyle’s White Swan Feathers preset. Nik Viveza 2 to draw in focus, and some Curves Adjustment Layers to restore contrast.

Image 2: The Birds of a Feather image was first painted in Paintstorm Studio with each type of brush painted on individual layers –  the image was eventually saved as a .PSD file for more adjusting in PS. In this case 13 different Paintstorm layers were created using several of my own brushes, some Double Brushes, Pens, and Multi Brushes and opened in PS. The bottom layer was one of my watercolor textures and two Pattern Fill Adjustment Layers were clipped to it – the first a light beige watercolor pattern set to 417% Scale and Normal blend mode at 91% layer opacity, and the second a Bobby Chiu Colored Paint Texture which was created from his video Building My Favorite Photoshop Custom Brush – it was set to 1000% Scale and Vivid Light blend mode at 25% layer opacity. The birds are on their own layer from Lisa Glanz called Flying Geese (could not find the download link) with a brown watercolor Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer attached. The text layer was added with a Pattern Overlay Layer Style using a bright watercolor pattern set to 265% scale and 39% opacity and a simple drop shadow. Then a Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped to this layer using a small yellow/orange/green small print pattern set to 417% scale and a layer opacity of 78%. The last step in this image used a Kyle T. Webster layer style called Fresh Fun set to 0 Fill and painted over the plants and birds to give a little extra texture effect.

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