This week I spent a lot of time working on my Jacksonville Zoo images. It is really hard to get that perfect shot when you are without a tripod and the animals and you are moving a lot, not to mention the weather aspects that can affect the final picture. Therefore it is sort of a hit or miss prospect and it takes a little manipulation to get the perfect image.
The above is an image using the effect that Joel Sartore (a National Geographic photographer) uses and is his images are currently being displayed throughout the Jacksonville Zoo. He mission is to photograph every live animal on the earth using this beautiful technique. He uses lighting and sharpness very effectively. I thought I would try to get a similar effect with some of my images and this Bonobo Monkey is one of my results. (This technique is also displayed in my Sneaking a Quick Snack image on my Tidbits Blog.)
So how do you create this effect? First the basic color work was done in Lightroom and the image was cropped once in Photoshop. A Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer using the color black was added under a duplicate layer of the Background Layer. Joel uses white also as a background color, but I really like the black background effect.
Getting a Good Selection
A good selection is crucial – you do not want any discoloration from the original background where the animal was located. The Quick Selection Tool was used to select the monkey from his background. As you can see, the above had a lot of head hair and was easily discolored since his hairs were so thin. The Select and Mask panel was opened and the Refine Brush Edge Tool (2nd icon down on the left) was selected at the default 30-pixel size. An 8-pixel Edge Detection Radius was entered. With the Refine Brush Tool, the monkey was painted over his edges. Sometimes you do not get the best results with this tool, but it is a good start. At this point I usually look at the Black & White View and use the Brush Tool (3rd icon down) to clean up anything that looks bad. The Shift Edge was set to +37% to show up the hair on his head more. Exited using New Layer with Layer Mask (no decontamination used as it did not look good but always check to see). It totally depends on what is being selected as to whether all these sliders used on this image. The Eagle below used only the Refine Edge Brush. I personally find this panel to be very finicky as to how well it works. I would list a reference but so far I have not found any that are that great. I always do paint around the edges with the Refine Brush Edge Tool no matter what is being selected. Some experts say paint from the inside out over the edge – this works sometimes for me. The good news is that the layer mask can be painted in directly once out of the panel to further tweak the image. This is where a some special brushes can really help. This also may be a case to use Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Mask AI if you own the filter – it does give a better selection sometimes.
Finding a Good Fur or Feather Brush
Back in Photoshop, a good Fur Brush is necessary to use inside the layer mask since so many hairs might be missed in the Quick Selection Panel. They need to be added in at this point. There are several places where you can get fur brushes. My best set is free to use from Coyotemange called Wildlife Texture Brushes on DeviantArt – great for painting in missing areas on all kinds of animal fur. Aaron Blaise also has some great animal brushes for sale. The one used a lot on the monkey image (and is one of my favorite brushes) was created from watching a short free brush video (No. 21) by Karen Alsop included in her class called Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World on Creative Live. It has been very useful for all kinds of rough edges and I use it as a Clone Stamp Tool brush and Eraser also. By alternating between black and white on the edges, the hairs can be added back in with a very realistic look. Another very handy brush was created by watching Aaron Nace’s How to Cut Out Hair with the Brush Tool in Photoshop video. You can download the brush from there – I use this brush a lot in the layer masks for individual fur hairs – just need to adjust the stroke angle in the Options Bar or the Brush Panel.
Color and Lighting
Next the color of the subject needs to be considered. The monkey used a Levels Adjustment Layer. The Red in the drop-down menu was opened and the white tab moved left (which added Red into the Highlights) and the Midtone (center) tab was adjusted for contrast. In the Blue both the white tab was moved left a little and on the Output Levels, the first field was set to 14 to add blue into the shadows a little bit. To understand how this works, check out Aaron Nace’s How to Use Levels & Curves in Photoshop – Day 6 video – it is an excellent explanation! A Curves Adjustment Layer was used for contrast.
Now I could see the hair did not look right so another Curves Adjustment Layer was selected and the layer mask was filled with black (CTRL+I in the mask). By painting over the hairs with a white brush, the hairs could be exposed. Then the Curve was adjusted by using the little hand tool in the top of the Curves Panel and getting just the right tone on the hair. A Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer was added and the layer mask from the Curves Adjustment Layer was copied over so the color of the hair could also be adjusted. The eyes were brightened using the Exposure Adjustment Layer (see my The Eyes Have It – How to Make Them Pop in an Image blog). The last step was to use a Spotlight Effect on the subject to enhance the light already on the monkey. (See my How to Add a Spot of Light blog.)
I used Viveza 2 to do final image adjustments but Photoshop’s Camera Raw Filter works just as well – mainly was adding a little focused structure to parts of his face for focus. Also a text layer was added.
This Bald Eagle is located at the Jacksonville Zoo with his blind buddy eagle. I felt bad for him as he was extremely alert and really wanted to take off but he seemed content to watch all the visitors as we passed by and said Hi. His final image is not as dramatic as the monkey image since the lighting was essentially non-existent in this image. Since he was not moving much, it was pretty easy to get a really sharp image. It was also easy to select the Eagle just using the Refine Edge Brush in the Select & Mask Panel as he did not have all the little feathers or hairs that many birds and animals have sticking out. Basically did a little spotlight lighting on his face and neck areas. Used Luminar Flex (could have used Luminar 4) to add the sharpness to the image (used Accent AI Filter 2, Structure, Details Enhancer, Golden Hour to adjust color in the beak, and Microstructure filters). Popped his eye with an Exposure Adjustment Layer. That was it. This was a very easy image to use for this type of effect.
It really is not that hard to get the look – just have to be careful of the mask being used. An edge discoloration could really overall ruin the result. Love this look that Joel did with his wonderful pictures. Hope you give a try. Have a great one and will be back soon!…..Digital Lady Syd
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How to Add a Darker Background Image for a Different Effect
I keep finding cool brushes and started wondering how to make them. Lots of times they are not of the quality or the look I want. In this post I want to go over what can be done with your own images to create really nice paintbrushes and how to save them so you can find them easily. This all began last week when I was catching up on my Photoshop User TV videos – Corey Barker, one of the Photoshop Guys, came up with this really simple way to make a Lens Flare Brush in Episode 259. It was a short tutorial – the blooming oleander tree image below is how it turned out. The text tutorial was by Dave Cross in Photoshop User TV video Episode 258.
The most important thing to know about Photoshop brushes is that they are all created in black and white – anything that is white in the image will not show up in your final brush (it is transparent), all that is black shows up clearly, and anything in gray tones shows up partially.
Creating a Brush Document: Before starting to make a brush, first create a New Document in Photoshop – the all important size issue needs to be addressed here. BittBox, in a great little article called “How to Make a Photoshop Brush” stated that it is best to make your brushes as large as you can and reduce the size later when using the brush. Since CS2, you can make the size as large as 2500 pixels each direction. Therefore, in the New Document dialog, set up the width and height to 2500 pixels at a resolution of 300 (this creates a high resolution brush), Color Mode Grayscale, 8 bit mode, and White background. Save and name this document (Brush) so you can use it again anytime you want to create a new brush. Grayscale is used for a color mode since defining a brush automatically creates it as a grayscale brush.
Here’s how to create a good brush.
- In Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw, open an image that has an object you want to make into a brush. For my example, I will use a cloud from one of my images. Crop to create a rough selection around your object, it does not have to be a square. In my case it will be one of the clouds used in the image below.
- There are many ways to adjust the contrast to create a good brush. I found that by first putting my image into black and white in Lightroom and then adjusting the sliders mainly in the Basic Panel, a lot of definition in the object could be obtained. For the clouds below, the following sliders were used: Blacks at 95, Contrast at +100, and Clarity set to +47. Experiment with all the sliders to get a major contrasty look – you want a really extreme black and white with lots of detail in the object. It does not have to be perfect at this point. (Alternate method: If you want to experiment, do not convert you object to Black and White in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw, but do this in Photoshop using any method you would like – Black and White Adjustment Layer, Image or or Image -> Adjustments -> Desaturate (as used in Corey’s tutorial above) or maybe a plug in like Nik Silver Efex Pro, for example. Just be sure that you either merge any adjustment layers down into just one black and white layer, or do a composite layer (turn off all the layers but the ones you want to composite and highlight the top layer – then CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E to create).
- Open your object in Photoshop to begin the final adjustments.
- Look at your image to see if it needs to be inverted so the details you want to appear in the brush are showing up in black. For my clouds, the image needed to be inverted so the clouds looked black and the background was white – otherwise the clouds would not show up in the brush, only the dark background since only black and gray tones create the brush. To invert the image, just CTRL+I or Image -> Adjustments -> Invert. A Curves or Levels Adjustment Layer may need to be applied if the contrast and detail is somewhat lost with the inversion. Be sure to merge adjustment layer(s) down so there is only one black and white layer, or do a composite layer (turn off all the layers but the ones to be combined, then create composite by highlighting the top layer and CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E). (For my Mountain set, this step did not need to be done – see below to download.)
- Next clean up any extraneous edges you do not want in the brush. I used a soft edged brush and painted white at a fairly low opacity to reduce hard edges around my clouds to get rid of the the distinct sharp lines around the outside of the document. This can be tricky, but if the final brush turns out a little off, just come back to this document and try again. Save your document now so all your work does not accidentally disappear if further adjustments need to be made.
- If a brush document is not already created, make one now (as described in “Creating a Brush Document” section above). Drag your black and white object layer into into your new brush document. Use the Free Transform (CTRL+T) to adjust to fit the document if it is comes in too large. With the Crop Tool cut any extraneous areas not needed in the brush.
- Now in the Brush Document, go to Image -> Define Brush Preset. If the Define Brush Preset is ever grayed out, the brush is larger than the 2500 pixel maximum Photoshop allows. This is why you move it to a new document. I had this happen with Corey’s Photoshop User tutorial referenced above. It has you create the brush in the original document (which I do not recommend doing because of this issue) – it took a while to figure this out.
- It is important to save your new brushes in a set so click on the Open Preset Manager icon (2nd icon from the left) at the bottom of the Brush Presets Panel. In the Preset Type field, be sure Brushes is showing. Now select your new brushes in the table by ALT+clicking on each one to highlight, and click the Save Set button. In Explorer, make sure you are in your Brushes folder in Photoshop to make it easy to keep track of where they are on your computer. (On a PC, it is located at User Name -> AppData -> Roaming -> Adobe -> Adobe Photoshop CS5 ->Presets -> Brushes.) Name the .abr file, in my case SJ-Clouds.abr. I use my initials first so I can find them quickly in the fly out list when I want to choose them later. The brushes can now be loaded anytime by going to the Brushes Preset Panel and clicking on the fly out menu (the little arrow to the left of the Done button) and clicking on the brush set name. If brushes are present that you do not want in your set, you can Alt+Click them to delete the brushes and resave the set. This trick also works in the Brush Presets Panel – just highlight the brush name and ALT+click to delete. I found I had way too many brushes – some I use all the time and some I do not. I created a Favorite Cloud set, for example, by adding all my cloud sets into the Brush Presets Panel, appending each so I had a full list of the cloud brushes. Next eliminate the brushes you do not use much (CTRL+click) and go to the Preset Manager to save as “My Favorite Clouds” set. (Be sure to CTRL+A to select all the brushes so they all appear in the set). Keep the original cloud brush sets in a folder called Extra Brushes so they can still be used by clicking Load Brushes in the Brush Preset Panel’s fly out and navigate to the folder if you need them. This has reduced the size of my brush list considerably.
For the image below, the sky was just a flat clear blue. To get the pretty cloud effect, I used three of the brushes I created using three different images. Two new layers were added and just one dab of each brush was used over the sky area. Then I erased out what I did not want to use and set the layers to Screen blend mode at different opacities to get this effect. I think it is a realistic look. The clouds can be set where you want them for effect. If you would like to see an example of some nice cloud brushes, here is a link to some very beautiful clouds that I also use often called by Clouds by Rubina119 (see my “Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Mixer Brush” blog’s last image). Click link to download my 12 cloud brushes called SJ-Cloud Brush Set.
Text can also used to make a brush and used as a repeated pattern in an image. Using the steps above, but creating a much smaller sized brush, the image below uses text layers repeating the word “daisies.” Each layer used a different size and color to create the receding type effect.
I feel the hard-working people who create so many of the wonderful resources should be given credit for their work. The brushes I did not create but used on this photo include: the bright purple daisy is a beautiful brush from Texturemate and can be downloaded here and one of their grunge brushes was used on a layer to add texture. This site has a lot of very nice resources for your images; and a texture from Caleb Kimbrough‘s set called Color Grunge Texture, texture no. 295, and BittBox‘s Ice and Snow Textures – Ice Texture bluer (I could not find these two textures still available on the internet). BittBox has several other beautiful textures available on their Flickr account. Also, the font is my favorite Fantaisie Artistique that can be downloaded for free from daFont.com.
One of the really cool free programs I came across is called abrMate that allows you to view all the brushes inside a set before adding them to your Photoshop brushes. I use this little program all the time since I like to download interesting brushes. Here is the link under the abrMate download section. If the program comes up with a Brush Reading Issue dialog that says “Issue Reading brush file, file may be protected.”, it is because the brush was saved as a 16 bit file – when the brush is selected in Photoshop’s Brush Presets Panel, it can be used but it shows a 16 in the top right of the brush icon. The size of the thumbnail can be adjusted and the name of the brush can be displayed by clicking on the top menu Settings. Below is an example of what the program looks like when open.
These beautiful free brushes are from Mel’s Easter Eggs set. The reason I am showing these is that this is another great example of how you can create nice brushes by making different parts to fit together. The decoration for the eggs fit exactly over the basic egg brush so different brushes can be stacked to create a very colorful design. See my blog on “The Incredible Editable Easter Egg” from a few weeks ago.
If you are interested, the following all totally free brushes were used in this image: Two of the clouds from my cloud set you can download above, a mountain image brush set contains this mountain in Nevada from a trip last year, the flying bird brush and grasses and plants are great sets from Obsidian Dawn (this site has some beautiful brushes and other resources), 20 people brushes by digitally present, trees from Larrydnjr, waterfall brushes from Midnightstouch and Redheadstock water brushes. To finish off the image, in Nik Color Efex Pro a Custom Bi-Color preset was created using a blue tone on top and brown tone on the bottom to give a late in the day feel, and an OnOne PhotoFrame was added. I was surprised how realistic this image came out! There are some really nice brushes out there.
Well that should wrap it up for this blog this time. It was fun to learn so much about the basic object brush and I feel I can now make better brushes when I need them. I hope you learned some new tips too! See ya next time!….Digital Lady Syd
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That Flaming Fire Brush!
Brushing up on Circles!
Method One: (the old fashioned way – do it yourself)
I just did a really fun tutorial from Gavin Hoey at TipSquirrel. This site has lots of short fun tutorials. This is one from a few months ago and is called “Old Postage Stamp Effect in Photoshop.” Here is an example of following the tutorial pretty closely.
The original image was cropped and Matt Kloskowski’s Lightroom preset Matt’s Vintage Style was applied along with a few adjustments to get the correct colors. I wanted a vintage look since the postmark has a 1968 date on it. I also found out that stamps cost only 6 cents then. The image was brought into Photoshop to begin the stamp look. Gavin has graciously given us the brown envelop background and the two postmarks as a download to help complete the tutorial. Ok, here goes the quick tutorial version – check out Gavin’s short video for a visual understanding.
1. Open up your image.
2. Set Color Picker to default Blank and White.
3. Go to Image – Canvas Size and increase the canvas by 10%
4. Unlock background layer by double clicking on the layer.
5. Select Eraser Tool and in Options set brush Mode to Pencil, Size 100 pixels and in the Brush Panel, set Spacing to 150%. Click on top left corner once, then hold SHIFT+click on upper right corner, SHIFT+click on bottom right corner, SHIFT+click on top left corner to complete the outside of the image with perforated edges.
6. Add text layer to indicate the cost of the stamp.
7. Go to Layers – Merge Visible to preserve transparency for edges.
8. Open up background, in this case the brown texture Gavin provided.
9. Drag stamp layer into this image and close the stamp image. Free Transform (CTRL+T to center and adjust on paper texture.
10. Go to File – Place and choose post-mark-lines-GAVIN-HOEY. Free Transform (CTRL+T to size and place along top of stamp. Change Layer Blend Mode to Multiply and reduce opacity.
11. Go to File – Place and choose post-mark-GAVIN-HOEY. Free Transform (CTRL+T) to size, rotate slightly and place in upper left of image. Change Layer Blend Mode to Multiply and reduce opacity.
12. Highlight stamp layer and open Layer Style at bottom of Layers Palette. Select Bevel and Emboss and change Depth to 144 in my case, Size to 32 and Soften to 7. Change Shadow Mode Color to H37/S79/B35 for a nice soft brown.
That’s it. I used OnOne’s PhotoTools Professional Edition 2.6 software and added an Antique Color set to Soften at 41% opacity. I used OnOne’s PhotoFrame 4.6 Professional Edition to Dave Cross’s Frame 17. I love both of these products and use them all the time.
Method Two: (the easy way)
I just created another stamp image using pshero’s Photoshop tutorial and file with a stamp template that can be downloaded by scrolling to the bottom of their tutorial. This is a really simple way to get a quick stamp effect if you do not want to go through all the steps. They also include some wonderful brush postmarks from Kiyay71677 on the Deviant Art site to add on top of your stamp. If you want postmarks indicating that are very nice but contain UPS and FedEx stamps, check the Redheadstock Brushes also at Deviant Art. I created the above stamp image using a tutorial from 123RF’s website called Cloudy Text Effect. They should have included the vintage look in the title as it is a great effect and the Cloud Text Brush was easy to create. To make it easy for you to try, I created a Photoshop Action called SJ-Vintage Effect Action to use. You can adjust the Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer and Layer Style to taste. Run this action on your original image background layer. I also created the Cloud Text & Smoke Brush to download and add to top layer of action. It can create nice good looking white heavy smoke or clouds.
Finally I created this Valentine Stamp using the same template from the tutorial above. The center hearts are My Valentine Shapes from Brusheezy. The really cute cupid brushes can be downloaded for free. I put each stroke on its own layer and then copied the layer a couple of time to get the pure white look I was after. The little hearts are just one really nice scatter brush from digitalTouch on Deviant Art. I used my old standby font from Cosmi that I used in previous valentine blogs. So here is my final stamp.
Well that about does it for this blog. Hope you get a chance to try Gavin’s tutorial or at least download the template, brushes and action in Method Two. (Check out pshero’s website for other great tutorials while there.) It is fun to give your images a different look sometimes…..Digital Lady Syd
As promised, I am presenting a few more ideas on how to make really nice Christmas Cards. I found a box of Heavyweight Textured Half-Fold Cards from Avery (No. 3378) that are perfect for a bit of vintage look and print out very nicely. Amazon carries it here. I make cards all year using this stock of paper and my own pictures. People respond very nicely to the look. Just a couple of card tips that I learned from Lesa Snider: She starts with a 5 x7 inch document at a resolution of 250 ppi to begin her images – this works nicely with the above cards. Also be sure to keep your text and any other important parts of the image at least 1/4″ away from the documents edge so you will not accidentally cut them out when printing. Check out her link for three nice short tutorials on holiday greeting cards.
This year I decided to use the following image as the tree for my cards. I got the idea from a tutorial at Adobe Tutorials, one of the 80 tutorials gathered by Photoshop Roadmap. There were so many ideas to choose from in this group – I could have made many different looks and had a great time creating them all! Photoshop Roadmap always has a really great variety of tutorials they upload all the time so bookmark this one if you can.
For the next image I just wanted to try out some of the great free vector images and holiday brushes that I downloaded. Once again the people from Photoshop Roadmap took the time to pull 30 Delightful Christmas Photoshop Brushes, Patterns and Vectors together for our use. I did not even get through a portion of it but I believe if you have a certain look you want, you should be able to find it here. On the image below, I used the Christmas Vectors Package from Obsidian Dawn for the tree – you can download both brushes and images. Obsidian Dawn is another great resource, especially for any Photoshop presets. In this case I used the image for the base tree and then I used the brushes for the deer, bird and star at the top. Also, for this image I used a gradient from the Wow 7 Gradients set from Jack Davis. They were on the CD of a little gem of a book called “Adobe Photoshop 7 One-Click Wow!‘ that I have used over and over (in 2014 I am still using these layer styles – check out a free download from Jack’s Facebook Page and click on More-Jack’s Freebees – his Mini Sampler has some in it). They may still be available in the How to Wow books currently being sold. I put a final touch on this image using Matt Kloskowski’s Vintage preset in Lightroom. This preset is for Lightroom 3 but it can be easily updated to work with Lightroom 5. In late 2014 Matt left KelbyOne (NAPP) so I am not sure his blog will be up for long. I also used an OnOne (see website link in sidebar of my Tidbits Blog) PhotoFrame for the vintage look border. Unfortunately the do not support PhotoFrame (which was one of my very favorite plug-ins) but have incorporated their frames and borders into OnOne Perfect Effects.
I just found a good article on 8 Tips for Printing Inkjet Greeting Cards from Red River Paper that may help with your cards. Well I believe this should be enough resources to make some really pretty Christmas Cards. I hope everyone has a great time with them – I know I did!…..Digital Lady Syd