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Posts tagged “actions

CHECKING OUT SOME PHOTOSHOP ACTIONS

Soft Glow Effect on image of a cafe

I have not done many blogs on actions – find I use only a few. But this weekend I decided to clean up my Action panel to see what is actually in it. I found a few little jewels in the batch that I had forgotten about so I thought I would share what they do and give you a few links. The free stock image I am using is called Beautiful Pink Rhododendrons in Front of the Restaurant in Lodz, Poland and is from Kaboompics. All these images do not have any other changes done to them other than those allowed in the action itself. In most cases, these are very uncomplicated actions but can give some excellent different looks to your photos.

The image above used a rather popular look that actually appears to have an Orton Effect or Radiance Glow to it. The actual action is called Enhance Glow with Red Channel and was from Scott Kelby’s (NAPP at that time but now KelbyOne). I am not sure it is still available, but there are several gurus using this same type of effect (Unmesh Dinda in his Special Blend Mode to Boost Radiance + FREE Action You Tube video, Blake Rudis describes creating a Radiance action in his Creative Live Adobe Photoshop CC Bootcamp – Actions section, and even Photoshop’s Image Effects has one – see next paragraph to find out how to load it.)

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Image of a street cafe using a cartoon type action

The action used on this image was called Fluorescent Chalk. It is one that comes with Photoshop CC. Just open the pop-out menu in the upper right corner and go down to Image Effects to load set – the action is located at the very bottom. There are lots of other really good actions with this set. (Check out the Aged Photo effect – it is pretty nice too.)

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Image of a outdoor cafe with a gradient effect
The action used on this image is from Blake Rudis, a great Photoshop Guru. He provides some really great free videos and actions on his site. This one is one of my favorites and I use it all the time. It is from a set of 2 actions called Advanced Color Toning – one sets the blend mode to Soft Light and the other Overlay. He supplies you with several 26 gradients which are unique because a gray color strip is one of the colors in the gradients. This creates some really different effects in your image. The image above used Blake Rudis gray gradient 23 set to Soft Light. Check out Blake’s site as he has a lot of very useful actions – one he recently distributed is called Super Saturation Finder which lets you figure out if your image is too saturated – very useful!

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Image of an outdoor cafe of a painterly line art look
The above action has more of a painterly look but still has the line art effect which I really like. It is a free one called GTA (for Grand Theft Auto) Effect from Chris Spooner at Spoon Graphics and contains 6 filter effects in the action that can be adjusted to get just the look you like. Chris is one of the great Photoshop guys that gives away lots of things besides actions – I always enjoy following his blogs to see what he is up to. (He released an Infrared Photo Effect action that I have been trying out and looks very interesting.)

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A special effect applied to an outdoor cafe image
I really love the result of this crazy action that is from another great action group called Sparkle Stock. They usually give you a few free actions and will sell a larger set if you are interested. This action was from their shortened free set called Inception and contained three effects: Mirrored, Drop (Right), which this image used, or Drop (Left). I just thought the result looked really fascinating and I have seen this look in a lot of creative photos people are doing. Sparkle Stock has several actions on their site that do some really nice things like double exposures and light leaks so do check them out.

There are a lot of other great action places and it is not that hard to create one if you use a certain effect over and over again. I may do a video on this as it can be a little confusing to figure out, but if you stick with fairly simple effects, it is not too difficult. Well, hope you get to check out a few of these actions and try them out. They can really save a lot of time. Have a good one! ….. Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO GET PAINTING EFFECTS FROM ACTIONS-Part 2

Image of Edinburgh, Scotland, from the castleI have been enjoying learning about several actions people have created that give some interesting twists to an image, and some are quite painterly. Last week I presented Part 1 on action based images, and this week Part 2 is a totally different kind of look also created with actions. I have to thank Diana Day for the blog comment (here is a link to a beautiful flower image she created with the following set) that directed me to this little gem.

Ultimate Artist Action by Brandy Murry

The above image was taken from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland.The Ultimate Artist packet is an inexpensive set ($7.50 at this time) provided by Scrap Girls, one of the really nice website that scrapbook hobbyists use. Besides the three actions provided, this packet also included three brushes (although you can use any of your brushes),  six layer styles including one pattern for use in the styles and Pattern Adjustment Layers, two videos, and PDF instructions. I wanted to try a landscape so the Sepia Action was selected. The supplied Sketch brush was used to painted detail in the buildings but not the sky area. Following her suggestion in the videos, I copied the bottom original layer and moved it on top to add some color back into the image. This layer was set to Vivid Light at 59% opacity. On a New Layer some color was added into the image by painting with her Sketch brush. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added to get the colors exactly how I liked them, then set it to Darker Color blend mode at 77% layer opacity. Now the sky looked bad, so a cloud texture I had painted in Corel Painter were added for a more painterly feel. Any cloud brushes would also have worked. The sky color was changed back to a beige color as the blue just did not look right from the original. To do this a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the painted cloud layer and the city was painted back in the mask.  Added a painted edge border on a New Layer on top – used the provided Sketch brush again to do this. Finally on a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Brandy’s Texture 2 layer style was applied. The pattern did not completely cover the image and left a line down the right side, so the Pattern Overlay Scale was changed to 165% and the Blend Mode was set to Multiply at 24% (from the default Overlay at 100%) to get a very subtle overall textured feel. I really like the supplied pattern for this effect. This image took a long time for me to get to a point that I liked.

Image of yellow daisies that used Ultimate Artist action for effectThis image of my front yard yellow daisies that gives a very popular effect and is sold as an artistic effect in many stores. This image was cropped into a square and then the Color Action was run. The Watercolor Brush supplied was used to paint in the flowers on the action’s created black layer mask. When finished I decided to apply the layer mask so that I could add a texture behind the flowers that I painted in. The Outline Guide layer was turned off and Melissa Gallo’s beautiful Painted Texture April Pastel was brought in as layer under the flowers. French Kiss’s (see my Tidbits Blog for website link) Vintage French Recois overlay (the French writing) was placed over the flowers layer and set to a brownish color using a clipped Color Fill Adjustment Layer (CTRL+click between layers to clip). A layer mask was added to the lettering layer and it was lightly painted away from the flowers. Next I decided I wanted a more painted texture in the image so several New Layers were added using Creative Toons Watercolor brushes ( Creative Toons Watercolor Brushes – these were free from Photoshop Creative Magazine No. 113) on the different layers in different colors at different opacities. They were grouped to create just one layer look and set to 82% layer opacity. On a New Layer French Kiss Dot Grunge 04 was added and changed to a purplish color using same technique as the French Kiss overlay. Last step involved creating a watercolor border by painting around the edge of a layer with your favorite brush – the supplied brushes can do this easily. This was really a lot of fun to create and the package was very inexpensive.

Image of a vintage post cardJust having some more fun with this little action set. The flower followed basically the same actions and painting steps as above, just different Creative Toons Watercolor brushes. Next added the image to a beautiful free frame from Keep Designing.com called Antique Design Background and Rustic Frame and then Shadowhouse Creations free vintage Post Card Set 3-post card 3. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReStyle was used to really get the look I liked. The address is one of my overlays I created (see my How to Create Personal Overlays for Your Images blog) and the French stamp is from French Kiss Collections. This image really took a lot of fiddling around with to get it to all go together but it was lots of fun to do.

A Few Brush Hints

After spending a large amount of time with these actions, I felt really nice effects can be achieved with them. The bottom two image worked out very well when flowers are used. But the landscape image turned out to be a lot of work and a  lot of manipulation had to be done to achieve a look I liked – I believe I could do this same effect in some of my Photoshop plug-ins a lot easier and get a similar result. I discovered the watercolor brush to be especially nice, but you need to go into the Brush Panel and check the Spacing checkbox to see the stroke effect in the Preview box. I had trouble getting the nice watercolor effect she got in her videos so some of the brush parameters were adjusted. Remember that the Options Bar settings are sticky so check the opacity and flow settings – a wrong setting can give very different results. On her Watercolor Brush she has the Enable Airbrush-style Build Up turned on – this means that the paint builds up as you hold her Watercolor Brush in one place. (To turn on in a brush, check the Build Up section in the Brush Panel – it activates the Option Bar icon at the same time or just check the Options Bar icon.) Jack Davis uses this setting in his watercolor brushes but most do not use it. I got a little bit of edge difference so experiment with turning it on and off – and a mouse vs. a stylus can give very different results so play with these settings. And if your lines are not as scattered as hers, go in and change the scattering – check out the preview section and change the sliders to see what is happening. I got a really nice Scattering effect with this brush by setting the Scatter to 190% and the Count to 2. The Brush Panel can be very useful to help get the look you like. Also, if you find a brush you like, be sure to save it as a brush preset to use again – otherwise your settings are lost when you change brushes.

Overall I think Brandy has done a great job in creating thee actions – it definitely creates more of a sketch look and would look great on note cards or for personal gifts. I still need to work with the actions to get some better results. Definitely spend time watching the included videos as they do give some extra info on how to set up the brushes. There were several images I used that did not work out – the landscape image needed a lot of contrast, which she says to do, to get a good result. What I liked best were her brushes – very nice place to start so you can create some really useful ones of your own – and her layer styles. If you enjoy this painting effect, it would definitely be worth purchasing – there is a lot of “bang for the buck” with this set. See ya next week!…..Digital Lady Syd


Can You Get a Painting Look With a Photoshop Action? Jack Davis Can!

This week I am just doing a post on Jack Davis’ Painting Actions Sampler Beta 2013. I really enjoyed a video called Adobe MAX: Expressive Painting in Photoshop that Jack Davis (Photoshop Hall of Famer and very creative artist besides being the Wow Book guy!) did for the Adobe Max 2013 recently. This is a very entertaining video and I recommend your listening to it to get some new ideas for giving your photos a painterly look. He directs you to his Jack Davis Wow Facebook page where you can download several items including the action used on these images after Liking his page (see Freebies). The last image covers the Mixer Brush techniques from the video. The Pattern Stamp Tool and Art History Brush Tool techniques are in the PDF files downloaded from the site. He provides all the brushes, patterns, textures, pdf’s, and actions to use the tools he teaches so this is definitely a resource you will want to get.

Above is the Clansman Restaurant in Loch Ness, Scotland. I love the understated way this image looks even with this filter. Not so obvious you are using the Oil Paint Filter. In Lightroom 5 the Lens Profile, Chromatic Aberration and Upright Perspective checkboxes were ticked. Next David duChemin’s Lightroom preset Mid Tone Lift + Vignette + Clarity was applied before bringing image into CS6. This gave the whole image a little bit of a vintage feel. The first thing you need to do is to convert you image to an 8 bit file if is not already one by going to Image -> Mode -> 8 Bits/Channel – otherwise some of the filters in the action will not work. You also must right click on the image and select Convert to Smart Object as all the filters line up underneath your original image. (In Lightroom you can select Open as Smart Object in Photoshop to save this step.) I noted that you can actually duplicate the image and use the top layer for all the action work. This can be handy if you want to mask out some effect and pick up the image below. After that, the Davis Painting Actions Sampler-Beta 2013 needs to be loaded into the Actions Panel and Wow Smart Object Painting 1 selected. Run this action – five filters will line up in your Smart Object: Median, Oil Paint, Emboss, and two Filter Gallery (Rough Pastel and Texturizer). If you do not like any of the results, you can go back into any of the filters and adjust them until you get the effect you like. It is very quick and gets you a very good start going towards a nice painterly effect. I have already covered the Oil Paint Filter in Photoshop CS6 (and for CS5) in a previous post (see my Photoshop’s CS6 (and Pixel Bender’s) Oil Paint Filter blog), check it out for how the different sliders work for this filter. The close up below tries to show the nice painterly effect that is created. For more info on how this image was processed, see Image 1 notes at end of blog.
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This old building in Oahu, Hawaii, used the action twice on the image – it was first run as the action is set up with the Oil Paint Filter settings left alone. The second time it was run, the sliders were changed to these settings: to Stylization 1.39, cleanliness 4, Scale 10, Bristle Detail, Angular Lighting 0, and Shine 0.35. Then a black layer mask was added and the areas where more detail was required were gently painted back in with a low opacity white brush into the mask. Definitely has more of the traditional Oil Paint Filter look to it. See Image 2 at end of blog for more info.
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These pink pentas were painted from a picture I took in my front yard. Basically this is a mega action called Davis-Mixer Paint SetUp-BETA that was run and the steps were followed. This is an absolutely genius action (if you listen to the video you get the background on it). You end up with 8 layers to paint on using the Mixer Brushes he supplies. The action includes layers called Rough Underpainting, Refine Painting Details, Final Highlights, Final Shadows, and Final Blending beside several reference and back up layers. See the notes for Image 3 at end of blog for more tips on how to use this action.
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The images above do not do justice to how the image really looks at 100%. The texture is very subtle on them. I am not near as good as Jack Davis is with his painting actions, but I am going to try to play with it some more as I see several possibilities to create some very nice paintings. I also believe incorporating the Mixer Brush technique from the video improves the final outcome. Definitely check out his video and also watch for him on CreativeLIVE where he gives free tutorials on all aspects of Photoshop, Lightroom and Graphic Design. I have followed him for years and still refer to a little book called Adobe Photoshop 7 One Click Wow – this is where I learned how to create and use layer styles. Hope you enjoy trying this little action – it really is a lot of fun to use!…..Digital Lady Syd

NOTES FOR IMAGES

Image 1: After the action was applied to the image, some clean up was done where a couple things looked funny. Next 2 Lil’ Owls (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Color Bokeh Grunge Set – 5 was applied and set to Linear Burn blend mode at 94% opacity. In the layer style the This Layer white tab was split (ALT+click on the tab) and set to 194/214 – this took some of the white out of the center of the image. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added for contrast with the Midtones set to 0.71 and the Output Levels set to 41 and 255. A New Layer set to Overlay was used to darken the centers of the flowers and a few other places. (See my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog.) The last step used my free SJ B&W Border Frame with the black color changed to one sampled in the image.

Image 2: Adjusted the Basic sliders and in HSL section several Luminance sliders. Also a Post Cropping white vignette frame was created setting the Style to Color Priority, Amount to +100, Midpoint 11, Roundness -100, and Feather 3, before opening image in Photoshop CS6. The image was converted to 8 bits/channel. A couple clouds were added on a separate layer using my free SJ Clouds 1 brush. This layer was set to 72% opacity. A composite layer was created now (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and then duplicated so that I could run the action twice. The first composite layer was turned into a Smart Object and the action was run. Then the second layer was turned into a Smart Object and it was run. Then the Oil Paint filter was double-clicked to open up the interface, and the settings under the image were applied. A black layer mask was added to this layer and just the parts where I wanted more detail were carefully painted back with a low opacity white brush. The last step involved just adding a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a little contrast back into the image.

Image 3: This image actually froze up my computer while doing it – not sure if it has to do with the very RAM intensive Mixer Brushes, but be prepared for a bit of a slow down. The way the action was set up is so that you do not Sample All Layers which make the Mixer Brushes a lot faster. Only the Blender layer requires All Layers. A few tips I wrote down to help you do this type of image are:

1. The Eraser Tool was set to 50% opacity and 123 pixels. I found when something got messed up on one of the layers, it was easier to just erase it away and then paint over it the correct way. If you own a Wacom tablet, you can set up your pen so it will erase when you turn it upside down. I do this all the time.

2. At the beginning especially, keep your Reference for Tracing-Outlines on all the time and Turn the Reference for Tracing-Photos on and off as needed.

3. Use your Highlights layer to shape the edges of you image. The Shadows layer seemed too heavy-handed, but the Highlights really helped. By keeping your Eraser Brush at 50%, you can reduce the intensity real easy by flipping your pen.

4. I changed the patterns in both Pattern Fill Adjustment Layers in the action. I turned off the bottom Pattern Fill 1 Adjustment Layer and added French Kiss Studio 3 White Wash texture and used a Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer and Curves Adjustment Layer both clipped to the texture to remove color.

5. I found I had to go back to the Rough Underpainting layer to fill in areas that got covered up wrong several times. I really spent a lot of time working back and forth between all the layers to get the effect I wanted.

6. The last thing I did was to add a black layer mask to the Reference for Tracing-Photo and painted back in with a soft low opacity white brush any areas that had the wrong color or rough edges still.

7. Found a Curves Adjustment Layer was needed to add just a little contrast back into the whole image.

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5! – uses a similar method to create a painterly look


Shadowhouse Creations Actions

I do not use actions very often, partly because the good creative ones are very expensive. But Jerry Jones at Shadowhouse Creations came up with three sets of actions that I am finding really nice and plan on using. The image above used the Fond Memories Action in Action Set 3. First the image was cropped and basic sliders were adjusted in Lightroom. (See below for all the original images as brought in from Lightroom 4.1.) Then once in Photoshop, Topaz (see website link in sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Detail’s Overall Medium Detail II preset was applied and some basic flower clean up was done. When using Jerry’s actions, I like to first create a duplicate copy of the image (Image -> Duplicate) just before running the action. The duplicate image is then flattened (click pop-out window in upper right corner of Layers Panel and select Flatten). It also goes a lot faster if you set the image is set to 8-bit mode first (go to Image -> Edit -> 8-bit) – this is OK if you are not planning to create a huge final print. Next my free SJ Impasto Smeary Flat texture (created while messing around in Corel Painter with an Impasto brush – who knew I would use it) was applied and set it to Hard Light at 20% opacity. Next French Kiss  Artiste Collections‘s Savoire Faire Overlay was added and using a layer mask, the French lettering was removed from the flower. The last step applied Shadowhouse Creations Grunge Gift Stock 10 texture set to Color Burn blend mode at 81% opacity.
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Loved this shot of a very patriotic corvette from the 39th Annual Daytona Turkey Run (I love corvettes!). Anyway, the image did not need much work as the car was so pretty as is, but I did manage to run Shadowhouse Creations Classy HDR Effect from his Action Set 2. I actually used the History Brush to paint back the original image windshield as the action caught too much glare in the glass. If you have not used the History Brush, it is a pretty nifty tool for these kind of issues. Just select the History Brush in the toolbox, set the brush opacity to 100% in this case, go up to the original image (or history state that includes the part you want painted back in) in the History Panel and click to the left of the histsory state’s thumbnail to set the History Brush icon. Now add a New Layer and paint back the parts you want restored. In this case a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added and clipped it to the New Layer (ALT+click between the layers to link it} so just the changes occur to the New Layer. Then the Saturation was set to -54 to match the image better.
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This image of Purple Fountain Grass uses the beautiful Classy Sepia Action from Action Set 1. I really liked the tone this action creates. This image first required a lot of clean up due to the various background distractions, and Topaz Detail 3 was applied to just the focal parts of the grass. I saved this image and then started with a flattened image to apply the action. Next Shadowhouse Creations Scratchbox 3 texture was applied at Normal blend mode and 43% opacity – a layer mask was added to paint out the center but left the edges softened by the texture. A PNG grunge border was added which I created (see my How to Make Frames or Borders blog). A beige Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped to the frame.
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I really loved this action – the Dreamy Paint Action from Action Set 3. First I duplicated the flower in the first image and warped it so it sits behind the other flower. Then I ran the action, did some background clean up, and added a texture made with a spatter brush and turned into a PNG file so the background color still comes through behind the texture (set to 35% opacity). A Curves Adjustment layer was clipped to the layer to bring out some of the tones a little more. The last step involved adding an Edge Frame and changing the color with a clipped Color Fill Adjustment Layer. (See my Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 9: Get the Shot! Tidbits blog for more info on this.) Last step involved just sharpening the flower centers a little using Topaz Detail 3 Overall Medium II preset on flower centers only.
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Pretty basic image here with little change in Lightroom before bringing into Photoshop. This time I ran the Hot Cocoa Action from Action Set 3. Since the middle ground got a little dark, I used the History Brush again on the original and painted back the grassy area behind the church and set the layer to 35% opacity. Next on a stamped or composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Topaz Detail 3 was applied using Overall Medium Detail II preset – a black layer mask was added and just the brick texture and the church spires were sharpened. My Thin Double Edged Frame layer style was applied using brown and beige for colors. I liked the warm color of the church in this image – really brightened up a rather bluish original.
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Above are the original images as brought in from Lightroom 4.1 (the view in portrait mode is shortened) so you can compare with my final results. I have been a big fan of the ShadowHouse Creations website – Jerry graciously gives away many wonderful textures which I have used repeatedly. He is asking for donations of $5 for Action Set 1 and $7 each for Action Sets 2 and 3. If you compare this to what most people are charging, this is incredibly reasonable for the scope of the actions you are getting. For more Before and After images, check out the individual set links. A few of the actions that use filters tend to run a little slow, probably due the high CS6 RAM use. That is why I have been changing to 8-bit mode before running them. On many of the actions you can go into the History Palette and change a setting or stop at a certain step if you are not happy with a result. So far I have not needed to do this. Well I hope you will check out Jerry’s great website and think about donating to use his actions. Thanks Jerry for the wonderful actions!…..Digital Lady Syd


Inexpensive Gifts for the Photoshop Lover on Your List


I decided to do something different for this week’s post since I love Photoshop and am constantly on the hunt for the best and cheapest items to make it more fun. The following items are some real treasures I have found in the last year that might help you find that perfect little gift for the person who loves to dabble in Photoshop. (For books and prices listed, see Amazon.com.)

DIGITAL LADY SYD’S BEST INEXPENSIVE PHOTOSHOP FINDS FOR 2011

1. TOPAZ ADJUST 5 ($50)

Since I am such a plug-in lover, simply the best value for the price you will find in the plug-in industry is Topaz Adjust 5 (see my Tidbits Blog for a link to the site). I have written several reviews on this plug-in that was recently upgraded and made even better. Plus, once you buy a plug-in from Topaz, you will always receive the updated versions for free – no other plug-in company does that. Check out my blogs for examples of what this wonderful plug-in can do. (See Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz Adjust 5, Why I Love Topaz Adjust, and Topaz Adjust 5 Is Here! First Look.) The image in the above middle filmstrip was enhanced using Topaz Adjust 5 in Photoshop, but it also works with Elements.

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2. DAVID DUCHEMIN BOOK VISION & VOICE-REFINING YOUR VISION IN ADOBE PHOTOSHOP LIGHTROOM ($25)

Any of David duChemin’s books or E-books (priced at $5.00) are excellent.  “Vision & Voice – Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom”(see Digital Lady Syd’s Favs – Photoshop Books No. 6) has Lightroom tips that can be used with Adobe Camera Raw also. A very enjoyable read for any Photoshop person. The image on the right uses a preset created after reading the book.

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3. GAVTRAIN’S BLAST FROM THE PAST ACTION SET ($8.50)

The Blast from the Past Action Set is by Gavin Hoey, a British Photoshop guru. Listed as a great value, these actions are lots of fun to use, but can only be used with Photoshop CS and on and not Elements. I bought them a while ago and use them quite a bit. Great stocking stuffer for the Photoshop Nut. (See my blog “Same Image-Different Look! 6th image down for an example of the Lomo Effect from the set.) The filmstrip is also one of the actions from this set.

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4. JIM ZIMMERMAN’S CREATIVE TECHNIQUES WITH NIK SOFTWARE E-BOOK ($9.50)

Creative Techniques with NIK Software downloads as a 79 page .pdf file on the NIK plug-ins, if you have them. Although the book refers to Color Efex Pro 3, it is still very relevant for the new Color Efex Pro 4.  It also covers NIK’s Silver Efex Pro 2, Viveza 2 and HDR EFex Pro. Very good information packed into this file.

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5. JOHN DERRY MIXER BRUSHES ($20)
Mixer Brush Set contains six very helpful video tutorials on how to use them. These brushes are Photoshop CS5 specific. From my Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Mixer Brushes blog, “These brushes are by far the easiest way to get comfortable with the Mixer Brushes and I would highly recommend them if you really like the Mixer Brush effects. In his bundle he includes some textures for the brushes to help get a real painterly look on the image. Also, an action to set up for painting on an image is included and I am still trying this out. What may be the best part of this set is a restore brush that can bring part of the unpainted image back into the painted areas and is totally unique as far as my research indicates.” Needless to say, these are great brushes with great instruction! Great for the artistic Photoshop person.

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6. COREY BARKER’S PHOTOSHOP DOWN & DIRTY TRICKS FOR DESIGNERS BOOK ($29)

I do not have this book but I am planning on asking for it for Christmas. Corey is one of the best Photoshop creatives I have ever seen and the book will not disappoint. (For an example of one of his tutorials, see my blog “That Flaming Fire Brush!“)

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7. DOVER CLIP ART BOOKS ($10 to $25)

I have used these books for several years and always find lots of fun ways to add them into an image. They have many vintage era, butterfly and flower clip art that is equal to none. Makes for a great addition to any Photoshop fans arsenol. The image on the left uses a sketch from Dover’s Floral Embroidery Designs book.

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8. PHOTOSHOP IMPRESSIONISM VIDEO TUTORIAL SERIES DOWNLOAD ($25)

This is a little gem I just discovered. If you like to do artistic looks to your images, this is the information you need. Mark S Johnson has been doing some of the best Photoshop video tutorials for several years – I have learned so much from his expertise and this downloaded information is just an extension of all his knowledge. This would be a great gift for the Photoshop fan!

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9. PRESET VIEWER BREEZE PROGRAM ($20)

I would be lost without this Preset Viewer Program. When you need that special brush to load into Photoshop and cannot remember which set is it in, this program will open them up to view within seconds to help you find what you need. Definitely a real time-saver. It also reads patterns, fonts, jpgs, shapes, styles, and swatches. A great addition for speeding up your Photoshop workflow.

I hope that this list will give you a few ideas on getting that special Photoshop person a nice little surprise for Christmas. So much that has to do with Photoshop is expensive and unfortunately that keeps people from being able to explore all the many new techniques out there. These items should help give everyone some new ideas for the coming year. Happy Holidays and Enjoy…..Digital Lady Syd


The Soft, Dreamy Look

Have you ever just wanted to try a different look on your images? I wanted to try this type of look for a while, so this week I began experimenting. The technique seems to be very popular right now and involves adding a very soft fill layer to get the effect. Most of the time it works best on floral, nature or still life images. It can be effective with some landscape images, especially with the help of textures which I did not address in this blog.

I found that LPDragonfly at Deviant Art has described the steps very well in some wonderful tutorials. Her Background tutorial and the Soft Bright Colors tutorial were used (see linked .jpg tutorial images that can be downloaded). Frames from OnOne Software (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) were used on all the images.

To summarize her two tutorials and adding a bit of my own ideas, here is the basic workflow (see my action link further down in blog):

  1. For shooting flowers, her basic premise is to put the flowers in the shade and allow the background to be in the sun, preferably with a floral background. I did not do this for my images, but will try to do this on future flower shots. Also use the widest aperture your lens will allow and focus on just one flower or group of flowers.
  2. First clean up image such as removing any objects and getting rid of noise.
  3. Add a Color Fill Adjustment layer set to Soft Light blend mode and adjust the opacity. Try different colors – will give very different looks
  4. Create a Curves Adjustment Layer adjusting the Blue Channel (Try Input 0, Output 64; Input 255, Output 201 – and adjust the curve to taste). May want to use a different channel depending upon the image you are using.
  5. Add a Selective Color Adjustment Layer (be careful not to adjust the black sliders – this increases the contrast) and/or a Color Balance Adjustment Layer. May not need all of these adjustment layers.
  6. Create a composite on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E), set layer to Screen,  add a Gaussian Blur with a Radius set to +10 pixels, and adjust  layer opacity.
  7. Add a final Levels Adjustment layer and move the middle tab to get the best look.
  8. Try using the mixer brushes in Photoshop and paint on some of the flowers or objects on a separate New Layer to get a more painterly look. (See my blog “Adobe CS5’s Mixer Brushes.”)
  9. Now would be a nice time to add a texture for further emphasis.
  10. Try using a cream colored vignette (used NIK Efex Pro 3.0 Vignette preset but this can be created easily in Photoshop using a color instead of white for the vignette) as shown on the orange and yellow flowers below to get a different feel to the softness.

This same basic technique was used on all the images.

The same soft feel can be obtained by using some of Florabella’s Actions which are much more extensive and she has many more varieties than the simple one I created. They are fairly reasonably priced, so if you like the look, you may want to check out this website and buy one. She has a nice article on how she creates her look at this link, where she states she is doing basically what LPDragonfly outlined in her tutorial.

Obviously the easiest way to do this is to create an action with these different Adjustment Layers set up in it. OK – I did it for you and it can be downloaded here. You do not have to be on a Background Layer to get this to work and most of the Adjustment Layers do not have any settings in them – the Action stops so that you can adjust them as you go along. I tested it on several images – it contains the workflow from above.


I am sure with a bit more exploring, this effect can be achieved using some of the great Photoshop plug-ins such as AutoFX Software‘s Dream Suite or Mystical Suite. Hopefully I will be able to look into this at a later date.

That about wraps up my efforts for achieving the soft, dreamy look. I do believe adding some textures at low percentages and different blend modes, and using layer masks to mask out where the texture should not be in an image, would really add to the look. I hope you will get a chance to try out this look – it can be quite lovely!…..Digital Lady Syd


Playing in Photoshop!

This week I am taking a break from my usual blog topics. Instead I am just going to post a few of the images I created while trying out some of my own blog techniques. I hope you get some new ideas from viewing them.


I added a couple of textures to this image to get the soft vintage look – one an Ash Texture (these textures are no longer available but see my more recent blog “Adding a Texture for Flair!” for other texture sites) and one from OnOne Software’s PhotoFrames. This beautiful egret was taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery in May, a really good place to visit in Spring if you like to take pictures of birds.

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Created this image by using Caleb Kimbrough’s beautiful Summer8 texture (he has a vast assortment of really nice textures and most are free – please check them out), the Tranquility Brushes by wyckedBrush, and my SJ-Cloud Brushes.
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I loved this building in Jackson, Mississippi. It was perfect for an HDR effect (used Image ->Adjustments -> HDR Toning in Photoshop CS5 on a single image) A wonderful action called “Vintage Effect – Ps Actions – by photoshop-stock” was applied afterwards to give this nice vintage feel. (This site has a number of nice actions and textures – great resource!)
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I wish I had a fisheye lens, but since I do not, I used Topaz Lens Effects selecting the Fisheye Lens effect with the Extreme Fisheye preset on this Palm Tree in Palm Beach Gardens in Florida. See my blog on “Topaz Lens Effects Plug-in” for more information on this fun plug-in.
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More fun with text – used gradient, cloud layers using cloud brushes (can download my SJ-Cloud Brushes set here) and my blog on “How to Add Images to Text” to do this.
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The image above was taken in Phoenix, Arizona at the Desert Botanical Gardens. I used mixer brushes (see my blog “Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Mixer Brushes” and followed a tutorial on Sandstorms in the book called “Digital Painting Techniques!,” which is loaded with tutorials from various designers making all kinds of special effects.
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Here is a composite of images I pulled from a video I took of the fireworks at Flagler Beach for the 4th of July celebration (video below). See my blog, “Faking Fireworks” for tips on how to create this look.
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I hope you liked some of my “Playing in Photoshop” creations – it is just so much fun to make these images. Take some time out and just explore something new – may give you a whole new perspective on what you can achieve! Enjoy…..Digital Lady Syd