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Posts tagged “Adobe Pixel Bender

Photoshop’s CS6 (and Pixel Bender’s) Oil Paint Filter

Decided to have some fun this week. I really did not think I would ever write a long blog about using this filter since I have used a very similar version with Photoshop CS5 for several years using the Adobe Pixel Bender interface.Pixel Bender includes Oil Paint as one of their filter choices (along with the cool Droste Effect – see my blog Pixel Bender Droste Effect). Oil Paint has always been a lot of fun but you can definitely tell you are using it. Photoshop CS6 has included it in their new version so I decided to give it another whirl since a lot of people seem to be really psyched by it. The image above is of the Cafe Alcazar, a restaurant that is located in the old swimming pool area of the Hotel Alcazar before it became City Hall and the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida. I might add it is one of the best places to get a great lunch, which is all they serve and at a reasonable price!

While doing a CS6 tutorial, I was reminded that Oil Paint does a great job on detailed and HDR images – so this is what you are seeing. (Click on image to see more detail.) This was a bracketed three image hand-held shot that was first brought into Photoshop’s Merge to HDR using RC Concepcion’s El Capitan preset from his book The HDR Book, but any settings that work for your image are fine. After processing in HDR, the updated Lens Correction Filter was used to straighten the columns that were slightly bending in, and the image was straightened and cropped. A duplicate layer was created and converted to a Smart Object before applying the Oil Paint Filter so you can go back in and adjust your settings if you don’t like the results. The settings used were: Stylization 7.97, Cleanliness 4.8, Scale 0.84, Bristle Detail 6.9, Angular Direction 180, and Shine 1.5.

What the sliders do:

Stylization : the bumpy texture slider – low value gives stucco effect (more realistic) and high value gives large brush stroke effect (default  4 with a range of .1 to 10).

Cleanliness: sharpens the brush strokes – low value gives a gritty effect and high value gives super smooth effect (default 2.3 with a range of  0 to 10).

Scale: fine lines spread out as you make it larger and comes from upper left corner of image – how large do you want the effect to appear within the image? (default 0.8 with a range of .1 to 10)

Bristle Detail: depth of the brush strokes – low value creates smooth transitions and high value increases contrast (default 10 with a range of 0 to 10).

Angular Direction: affects angle of the brush strokes and light hitting brushstrokes (default 300 with a range of 0 to 360).

Shine: creates embossed look and keeps the curly strokes from being pushed up against the edge by creating lines around edges (major difference between this filter and one in Pixel Bender which cannot do this) – low value gives painterly look and gives similar look as Pixel Bender filter (default of 1.3 with a range of  0 to 10).

For Pixel Bender users, Colorization: creates contrast and is different for each image (default of 1.18 and a range of 0 to 2) and Brush Contrast: set to 0 creates little contrast (default 1 with a range of 0 to 1). The Pixel Bender filter also has sliders for Stylization (default of 2.893 with a range of .1 to 10), Cleanliness (default 6.32 with a range of 2 to 15) and Brush Scale (default 2 with a range of .1 to 10) like the CS6 version.


This bird is an African Crowned Crane that lives with two others at the Hilton Waikoloa Village Ocean Tower area. Since this filter is supposed to look good on pets and animals, I thought this image had the look for it. (The settings used were Stylization 2.08, Cleanliness 10, Scale 5.89, Bristle Detail 10, Angular Direction 302.4, and Shine 0.95.) It is taking a little time to learn what settings I like.  It seems you have to watch the Shine slider or you get a way overdone look – but don’t completely eliminate it or you loose all the really cool texture as shown on the walls in the background and body of the bird. The filter effect seemed a little overdone in some areas (like the eyes, head feathers, beak area, and edges of the palms) so a layer mask was added. Using a low opacity brush, parts of the effect were brushed away. The image was finished up by adding a Curves Adjustment Layer to warm up the colors a little and add some contrast, and Nik Viveza 2 to add a little more detail and color to the eye, beak and head feathers. Overall I believe it turned out rather nice and it does add some artistic quality that the original image was lacking.

To be honest, I do not see a lot of difference between the filters as created in Pixel Bender for CS4 and CS5 and for CS6, even though the sliders are somewhat different. Below is an example of an image of the Ka’anapali Beach Club in Maui, Hawaii using the Oil Paint Filter in CS6. Then click on this image and you will see the original image as created in Pixel Bender CS5.

These are the settings I used for the CS6 image above (Stylization 5.25, Cleanliness 10, Scale 1.29, Bristle Detail 1.85, Angular Direction 300.6, and Shine 0).  These are the settings I used for the Pixel Bender image (Stylization 10, Cleanliness 15, Coloration 1.1, Brush Scale 3.07, and Brush Contrast 0.42). Both filters used a 69% opacity for the Oil Paint Filter layer and a layer mask was used to remove the effect from certain parts of the image. Also a Nik Color Efex Pro Brilliance and Warmth filter was applied to both images as a last step.

The reason I listed all this information is that I think it is interesting to see how the two slider amounts compare. I found there were two significant differences: the use of the Colorization slider which has a big impact on how the color looks in the Pixel Bender image but is missing in the CS6 update and I think really adds to the image, and the Shine slider in CS6 which controls a lot of the crazy textures you get in the image – if you use too much, it gets really weird and some people don’t use this slider at all. By comparing the defaults of each filter, the CS6 settings seem to have been adjusted to fit what looks good on most images, or fine-tuned a little.


The above are small purple flowers in my front yard that I just had to try this filter on – I am surprised how nice it turned out. The settings for this image are as follows:  Stylization 7.87, Cleanliness 7.5, Scale 0.6, Bristle Detail 10, Angular Direction 0, and Shine 3.3. The last step was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to add some contrast and bring out a little bit of color in the flowers.

I am surprised the same sliders were not included in the update in CS6. Still not sure if I like it as well as the Pixel Bender version. Again, it is a filter effect that I am not inclined to use a lot but is fun to play with. Someone had suggested that just the texture effect might look good as a background for some images. Overall I think that with the right image, it can create a very nice look, although it definitely is marked as a Photoshop filter effect. Give it a try using either version – Adobe Pixel Bender’s or CS6’s – and add that fun artistic look to your images…..Digital Lady Syd

Different Images – Same Look Using HDR!

This week I am going to just show some of the results from taking images in Jackson, Mississippi. For starters, this is a classic place to get good pictures – HDR (high dynamic range) or not. It has lots of history and many beautiful churches and government buildings that make for great photography.

There is so much information on how to get an HDR look, and to be honest, I do not think it is all that hard once you get comfortable with one or more of the HDR programs. I have been taking HDR pictures for several years and I still love the effect, but there are many people who do not enjoy this type of artistic expression on an image.

Photomatix Pro 4.0

This first image is of an old abandoned church in downtown Jackson.

The effect above was created using Photomatix Pro 4.0. This is the program I used to learn how to do HDR post-processing, and I still go to this software first when processing HDR. It is reasonably priced with NAPP members getting a 25% discount, and  Mark S. Johnson Photography gives a 15% discount. I have had trouble with slight camera movement since I do not always shoot my HDR images on a tripod. The latest upgrade provides a very good correction due to camera jiggle, or tree branches, people or water movement.

The above image is an HDR Image of the beautiful Mississippi Capitol Building using Photomatix Pro 4.0.

Nik’s HDR Efex Pro

I tried using Nik’s HDR Efex Pro in the image below using the Vibrant Details and Colors preset and then adjusted with some control points. That’s it. If you are interested in HDR, take a look at this software – it has a very different interface from the Photomatix Pro program. Since I love all NIK products, it is hard not to like this program.

Because I got curious, I decided to put the Mississippi State Capitol Building into Nik HDR Efex Pro. Since this software has a bunch of presets to try out on the image before you apply the final settings, I decided to use the Vintage preset that definitely gives a nostalgic feel to the image. This effect would have been harder to achieve in Photomatix or CS5 – to get this result an action would have to be applied in Photoshop after the image was created in the HDR program.

Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Merge to HDR

The HDR effect below was created using Photoshop’s own Merge to HDR command. I used my “Use with Vivid Drawing preset” (download in next section) as a starting point and made adjustments to suit the image. Personally, I think CS5 does a pretty good job.

Adobe Photoshop CS5’s HDR Toning for Single Images

I was unable to get three good image shots off (the picture was taken from the car while at a stop light). Therefore, Photoshop CS5’s new Single HDR Adjustment was applied. First the picture was adjusted using my SJ-Vivid Drawing Look Develop preset in Lightroom (download here) or in Photoshop ACR (download here – wrong extension in the zip folder on file – change to .xmp to get it to work) which gives the start of an HDR effect, and then I opened CS5 to finish the look by going to Image -> Adjustment -> HDR Toning. To apply this effect in Photoshop, the image must be flattened so save your original first and create a new flattened version to apply the HDR Toning. To use the settings used here, download the “Use with Vivid Drawing Preset” I created for the HDR Toning Preset field. It needs to be placed in the following folder for Windows users: (User  Name)\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS5\Preset\HDR Toning.

Here is another image using the same Lightroom/ACR preset and the downloaded Use with Vivid Drawing Look preset for the HDR Toning dialog in Photoshop. These settings work very well on landscape images with bright colors. Since the sky was flat, it was replaced after running my favorite plug in Kill White that I have added to Adobe Pixel Bender.

There are many good references if you want to learn more about HDR post processing or just to learn the latest techniques. Trey Radcliff is the HDR guru. His “Stuck in Customs” blog (one I have followed for several years and is one of my favorite all-time blogs) is probably the best you will find on HDR, and he has a great HDR tutorial. RC Concepcion just released a new book called “The HDR Book: Unlocking the Pros’ Hottest Post-Processing Techniques” that appears to cover the programs I used above. Richard Harrington has a good video at TipSquirrel called “HDR with Photoshop and HDR Efex Pro” and they have many other HDR videos available – so check these out. This is just touching the “tip of the iceberg” on this subject.

Try some of your other filters (Topaz Adjust with the Spicify preset a popular look right now – see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) or add some textures on these images after you have applied the HDR effect. There are many, many possibilities to get some great looking pictures! Go shoot some HDR images and experiment with the post-processing!…..Digital Lady Syd