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Posts tagged “Color Efex Pro

REBOOT – HOW TO USE LINEAR DODGE (ADD) & LINEAR BURN BLEND MODES ON IMAGE


Image of some African Lilies

Decided to present a Reboot of this blog from July 2016 since I find it a really handy Dodge and Burn technique and it is easy to do – definitely worth a try for some types of images. I used it on the African Lily image above, along with Luminar 4 (once again used the Glow filter which I find gives a nice soft effect) – for website link check out my Tidbits Blog sidebar. A really simple action can be created to do this technique – I made one and set the color swatch to the default so the white comes up each time for the masks. Also created a brush to use with it. Pretty simple. So here it is again.

Painted image of a Laughing Kookaburra at the West Palm Beach Zoo
This technique is another simple way to dodge and burn an image using blend modes. I figure you cannot have too many different techniques for this – some pictures just do better with one over another. (Check out Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs links at end for some other techniques.) The bird above is a Laughing Kookuburra taken at the West Palm Beach Zoo. He has some very beautiful colors in his feathers.

This technique I learned at a Photoshop World several years ago and am not sure who even presented it. It was just in my notes so I thought I would give it a try and got some really nice results! For the bird the Linear Dodge (Add) blend mode really softened his head and the Linear Burn blend mode did a great job on darkening the feathers on his body.

The workflow is pretty simple:

  1. Duplicate the image twice after doing the basic color and tone corrections to the image.
  2. Add black layer masks to each layer by holding ALT key while clicking on the Add Layer Mask icon (rectangle with circle in center) at the bottom of the Layers Panel or by pressing CTRL+I in a white layer mask.
  3. Now on the top duplicate layer, change the blend mode to Linear Burn and name it Darken.
  4. On the layer underneath, change the blend mode to Linear Dodge (Add) and name it Lighten.
  5. Using a soft round brush set the Options Bar Opacity to 9% and Flow 55%.
  6. On the Lighten layer mask paint in white over areas to brighten. Do same for Darken layer mask on areas to darken. Since the Opacity and Flow are set fairly low, it will be a build up effect to get just the amount needed.

It is a very easy way to add a little color and/or focus to different parts of your image. If the effect is too strong, just lower the layer opacity. Also, the Linear Dodge (Add) blend mode could be used as a spotlight effect to fill darker areas with some soft light.

Just to let you know what is happening with this blend mode, here are the blend mode explanations according to Lesa Snider of in her Photoshop CS6 – the Missing Manual book (an excellent book BTW):

Linear Dodge (Add) – “Lightens your images by increasing its brightness. It is a combo of Screen and Color Dodge modes, so it lightens images more than any other blend mode. But since it tends to turn all light colors white, it can make an image look unnatural.”

Linear Burn – “In this mode (which is actually a combination of Multiply and Color Burn), Photoshop darkens your image by decreasing its brightness. Linear Burn produces the darkest colors of any Darken blend mode, though with a bit more contrast than the others. It has a tendency to turn dark pixels solid black, which makes it ideal for grungy, textured collages…”

From this it is apparent that Linear Dodge (Add) can make an image look unnatural so take care when using it. And Linear Burn can give a grungy effect so watch the results of this. Therefore if your image does not look quite right, try changing the layer blend modes to Screen or Color Dodge for the Lighten layer, and Multiply or Darken blend modes on the Darken layer. Experimenting with blend modes can give some great effects! Image of a Dragonhunter bug on flowerThis image is of a Dragonhunter bug (they like to eat Dragonflies) that was taken at the West Palm Beach Zoo and used this technique to bring out the wing patterns. Just painted areas to lighten and areas to darken. Used Nik Color Efex Pro 4 to add a slight vignette and the Sunlight filter to soften some of the bokeh effect that is a little too bright.

Hope you get a chance to try this little technique – pretty easy to do and can give some great results. See ya later!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Create a Subtle Dodge and Burn Effect
How to Do a Basic Dodge and Burn with a Twist
How To Use Curves Adjustment Layers to Dodge and Burn an Image
The Best Dodging and Burning Technique!
What Does the Difference Blend Mode Do?
How to Use Linear Dodge (Add) & Linear Burn Blend Modes on Image – similar blog but with different images


Native American Beauty

This week I decided to just display a few of the beautiful images I got from the 24th Annual Native American Festival in Ormond Beach, Florida this past January. If you get a chance to go to a Native American event, it is a great place to photograph unusual items and the colors are wonderful! This headdress was one of the most beautiful things I saw.  Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Detail 3’s Overall Strong II preset was applied first. Topaz Simplify’s BuzSim preset was applied to a duplicate layer. With a soft black brush on an added layer mask, the edges of the feathers were painted back in showing the layer below. A composite layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top and Topaz Adjust 5’s French Countryside preset was selected. The layer mask for the Simplify layer was copied by highlighting it – press ALT and drag it up to the Adjust layer. Next Kim Klassen‘s texture 1612 (beautiful texture that was free by signing up for her newsletter) was left to Normal blend mode at 89%, but a layer mask was applied to the texture and the center painted out to clear out the middle. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used to lighten the image up just a little. A New Layer was added to burn in and define some of the feather edges where they overlap in the image. (See my Fun Photoshop Blog The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! for more information on how to do this.) The last step involved adding my free SJ Painter Oil Frame to the image with a Bevel and Emboss Layer style (check Texture and set Scale 100% and Depth +79} – used my SJ Smudge Texture set to grayscale for a pattern, but any gray and white pattern would be fine). The frame was set to 72% opacity.
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These Rawhide Rattles are something I do not ever remember seeing before. One of the vendor’s had this assortment for sale. The image was first processed in Nik Color Efex Pro 4 using three filters stacked: Detail Extractor, Midnight set to Neutral Color Set and Opacity of 67%, and Monday Morning using Sepia Color Set at 80% opacity – kind of an unusual group. 2 Lil’ Owls Workbook Bonus Texture 16 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) was applied using Soft Light at 100% opacity. In the white layer mask, some of the detail was brought back on the left rattle. Basically that was all that was done to get this very antique look.
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This image of a Mexican Aztec dancer was a little difficult to process due the fact that there were a lot of distractions in the background, and his face was not real clear and needed a lot of clean up. The feathers in his headdress were so beautiful that I really wanted to process the image. Therefore, first the headdress was carefully extracted the Quick Selection Tool and Quick Mask Mode, and Shadowhouse Creations Rage Texture was placed behind him and set to Normal at 100% opacity. Topaz  Adjust 5’s Painting Venice preset and Topaz Detail 3’s Overall Detail Medium II preset were applied. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was used to adjust the Reds and Yellows in the image. A frame was added and set to a tan color.
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This was a wide assortment of Native American toys that were on a bright red tablecloth. I decided it would look better as a sketch with toned down colors. In Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer was used to make the image overexposed. Topaz Simplify 4 was added and a preset was created using a painting preset as a starting point and Quad Tones of Black/Deep Red/Gold/Light Yellow tones were applied at a Tone Strength of .57. An Overall Transparency of .31 was applied. I ran Simplify 4 again on a duplicate background layer and this time applied a light black and white preset. Back in Photoshop it was stacked it on top of the first Simplify layer and set to Soft Light.  A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was placed on top where Reds Saturation was set to -41 to desaturate the color slightly. Kim Klassen’s Mary texture was applied using Normal Blend Mode and just painting out the center of the texture in a layer mask. As a last step, a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied using the Auto button to even out the colors and contrast. I think it gives a really nice sketch look and is appropriate for the various types of objects that were being displayed.
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These are feather headbands that were also being sold by a vendor. This is a funny story as I would never have used these settings if not for some spam I received from a comment that referenced how he added texture to his images. Here is the result I got from following some of the process. First Topaz Adjust 5’s Spicify preset was applied at 83% opacity. Next apply Topaz Simplify 4’s Watercolor II preset. Changed image to an 8-bit mode and went to Filter -> Stylize ->Diffuse Filter and selected anisotropic. Exit filter and rotate document -90 degrees counter clockwise using Free Transform (CTRL+T). Apply same filter again. Exit and rotate image clockwise +90. Apply the filter for a third time. Now go to Filters -> Texture -> Texturizer and set texture to Canvas, Scaling 200%, Relief 7, and Lighting Top. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Level was applied increasing the saturation to +30 and a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied to increase contrast. Kind of a strange technique but I really liked the results.

I hope you enjoyed these images – nice to do something a little different. Have a nice week!…..Digital Lady Syd


Creating a Realistic Rainbow in Photoshop

Since I am doing a post on rainbows, I thought I would first pass on a little  trivia about them. Did you know that there are usually seven colors in a rainbow, but most people do not see the indigo layer between the lighter blue and purple arcs? The stronger the sunlight and rain, the more intense the rainbow. This is actually a pretty complicated weather effect. The image of my miniature mums was just plain fun to do and is not exactly a very realistic rainbow representation. I started by adding French Kiss Artiste Promenade texture and painting out the mums in a layer mask. Next a rainbow was created following Deke McClelland‘s Creating a Synthetic Rainbow Effect from his Photoshop Masking and Compositing Fundamentals DVDs. (He is coming out with his new Photoshop book shortly that should be great!). The Gradient Tool was selected to create a rainbow. Below are the basic steps for creating a rainbow effect:

1. Add a New Layer. An optional step is to restrain the actual size of the rainbow – select the Rectangular Marquee Tool and in the Options Bar set t0 Style -> Fixed Size and enter Width  the settings I used above were 1000 and Height 337 pixels while Deke used 1840 width by 187 height.

2. If using a selection, keep it  active and set up a gradient using settings as shown in the screenshot or download my gradient below. The Rainbow gradient provided by Photoshop has some issues – mainly rainbows do not contain any orange colors, the reds are too squished, and a cyan color is included which is not in a rainbow. Deke suggested these basic gradient settings to make a more realistic rainbow gradient.

The lower color tab locations could be adjusted to get more or less of a specific color in the rainbow. Save your new Gradient as a preset so it can be used again or click to download my SJ Rainbow Gradient and resulting rainbow PNG files that contain these settings.

3.Using the Gradient Tool with the Options Bar set with the new rainbow gradient and Linear, drag out to create a horizontal line rainbow. If using an active selection from Step 1, drag exactly between the top Rectangular Marquee line and bottom while holding the SHIFT key to get a straight across effect. Be sure you drag top to bottom or your rainbow will be backwards. (I know because I did this.) Deselect (CTRL+D) the selection.

4. Now go to Edit -> Transform -> Warp and in the Options Bar select Warp Arc and Bend 90% to get a large semi-circle rainbow. To switch back to the other Free Transform settings, just click the Warp icon in Options Bar. To make size of rainbow smaller to fit in your image, set bend and click on the little chain icon (Maintain Aspect Ratio icon) in the Options Bar between W: and H: and change 100% to 70% (or whatever size works on your image). If scaling manually, be sure to hold the SHIFT button while dragging on the corners or the perspective of the rainbow will change. To get a more stylized rainbow look or one that fits around an object, the corners  can actually be pulled to adjust the transform lines to make the rainbow line up any way you want by right clicking in the rainbow and selecting Distort or Skew. Then click on the check mark to set the total transformation.

5. Add a layer mask and with a soft low opacity black brush, adjust the rainbow into your image.

6. Set rainbow layer blend mode to Linear Light and change the Fill value to 15%

7. To reduce the edges of the colors in your rainbow, go to Filters -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and set a Radius to 8 (or whatever setting you think looks good).

You now have a beautiful rainbow in your image! I actually added a sketch on top of my flower and a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer using the rainbow gradient again and set the layer to 31% opacity to get the rainbow effect on the petals.
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Here is another image that uses the same rainbow created for the first image. The PNG rainbow blurred from my rainbow download was brought into the image. The image was first processed in Lightroom starting with David duChemin’s Iceland Split Greens preset (from his newest book The Print and the Process: Taking Compelling Photographs from Vision to Expression) and using an Adjustment Brush to add sharpening and clarity to the houses. In Photoshop Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was opened and the Detail Extractor and Graduated Neutral Density filters were added to enhance the clouds and give them a brighter look on the right side of the image. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to darken down the area behind the houses to give more of a stormy effect, which is needed to get a realistic looking rainbow. Next the rainbow was placed in the image and Free Transform (CTRL+T) to get the right size and location. The rainbow layer was set to 51% opacity and a layer mask was added – the upper right corner of the rainbow was gently painted out. My SJ Painter Oil Frame was applied and a Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+click between the layers so change only effect the layer below) to the frame – the color was changed to a matching light color in the image. To get the painted edges, a layer mask was added and using a 12% soft brush, the edges were painted out lightly to get more of a painted canvas look. French Kiss Artiste Breeze texture was added on top. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to it and the Saturation set to -100. The texture layer was set to Vivid Light blend mode at 22% opacity. This is an image I probably would not have processed if a texture had not been applied to it and the rainbow really opened up the sky. Now I really like it – it looks like the English countryside that I saw while traveling to Bath.
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Just having fun here. Was not sure where this was going and this is what I ended up with. This is actually made up of three groups – Rainbow, Shamrock Pot and Flower Pot. French Kiss Artiste Flower Garden texture was used as a backdrop. It took a lot of manipulation to get the main components set up correctly. The Rainbow was warped to fit into the pots. The flowers were created from an image of a pin I had taken and turned into a brush. All the clip-art is from the wonderful Obsidian Dawn St. Patricks Day brushes. Various layer styles were applied to the different layers and the Cosmi font is called 36 – you might find it on an old CD of fonts.

There are a few other tutorials out there on how to make a rainbow. One in an older book called Photoshop Photo Effects Cookbook has a fairly easy tutorial to follow – I just did not like the gradient effect and final rainbow quite as much. I hope you download my rainbow and give this a try. This was really a fun thing to try….Digital Lady Syd


Turning the Old into the New

Recently I have read about several people who have gone back and revisited some of their images they took many years ago before all the new technology, especially the Camera Raw technology, was created. So in this blog I decided to give it a try. The image above was originally photographed in June of 2003 with my 2 mg Casio QV-2900 UX Digital Camera – my first digital camera. I love the new look of these timeless Tamora Roses, possibly my favorite flower ever – it was always so nice to see them growing in my yard in Virginia after a long day at work and they smell fabulous! For all the blog original images and info on how they were processed, see the bottom of the post.
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I have been doing digital photography since 1998 when the Engineering Office I was working for decided to purchase a 1.3 mg Sony Digital Camera that saved images down onto a 3-inch disk. And this camera was expensive – I think it was over $600 when we bought it. That is when I learned to use Adobe Photo Deluxe, a precursor to Elements. I brought the camera home for a few family pix and I was hooked. The original image above was from my first batch of personal photos and was 40.7 KB in size! Not my favorite picture, but it was pretty cool to see what can be done with it now and a nice reminder of my salt water aquarium I used to maintain.
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This is just a simple snow image of a small bridge on Royal Lake near my old home in Fairfax, Virginia, and taken using my Casio camera again in the winter of 2003 – I actually like the original as well but it was fun to see what the new plug-ins can do on an image. Glad I do not have to deal with the snow anymore! This little 2 mg camera took some great images and I really put it through it’s paces back then.
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Just having fun with this beautiful yellow rose that also grew in my yard in Virginia. All the new textures that are available make it hard to choose a look! This was also taken with my old Casio.
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This is what my backyard looked like in April with all these aged Azaleas in bloom – definitely looked like a fairy garden! I really miss Virginia in the Spring! Actually you can see below what the real color of these flowers are – still beautiful – like both images.

Here is a tych I created from last week’s blog (see Using a Tych Panel to Show Off Your Images of my original images. Quite a difference!

If you have some older images that you really loved but just did not have the total feel you wanted, try reopening them up in Photoshop and applying some of the new techniques, textures and filters. This turned out to be a lot of fun for this rather boring time of year. Enjoy!…..Digital Lady Syd

Processing steps for each image:

Image 1: These flowers are actually a tangerine color – yellow inside and pink tinge on the outside. In Lightroom the image was cropped, and Basic panel sliders were adjusted, then with an Adjustment Brush the center of the big flower was sharpened and clarity added just a little. Once in Photoshop the background was duplicated and Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4’s Watercolor II preset was applied set to 90% layer opacity. A composite layer was created (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) and a Selective Color Adjustment Layer was applied to make the flower more pink (Yellows: Yellow -52%; Greens: Cyan -19, Magenta +56, Yellow -2, and Black +7; and Neutrals: Cyan and Magenta  0, Yellow -16, and Black -10). Next Melissa Gallo Painted Textures Winter Wheat was added and set to Hard Light blend mode at 100% opacity. I discovered that 2 Lil’ Owls Bonus Texture 4 created a great painterly looking frame – I created a PNG file of just the frame by following the steps in my blog How To Make Frames or Borders – scroll down to the section called “To save the frame you created as an overlay to use again.” A very light pink Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+ click between the layers). A Levels Adjustment Layer was added and the Output Levels changed to 33/255 to give a light hazy look to the image. In the layer mask, the main flower center was lightly painted in black to remove the haze. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added to remove a bluish cast in the bottom of the image (Saturation -56 and Lightness +57).

Image 2: After applying a few Basic Panel changes in Lightroom and doing an OnOne (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Perfect Resize to change the image size to 6 inches X 4.5 inches from 2 inches X 1.5 inches, I could work on the image. To get the above result, Topaz DeNoise 3 was applied using their strongest JPEG preset and then adjusting the Overall slider to 0.27 and no Recover Detail. Topaz Detail 3 was applied using the Highlights Detail IV preset. Then I went into Topaz Simplify 4 and added the Painting Tone IV preset changing the Size to 0.18, Saturation to 1.83, Saturation Boost to 1.42 and Dynamics (my favorite slider in Topaz is in Simplify also) to .31. I was able to get a bit of a texture in the image by applying Kim Klassen Cafe‘s free Sunkissed texture (sign up for her newsletter to get lots of beautiful textures) with a Bevel and Emboss layer style added where Texture was checked – used my free SJ Smudge Texture as a texture (which is really a pattern) to the image at 100%, and in the Bevel & Emboss dialog, I unchecked the Global Light box, changed the Size to 0, Highlight Mode Opacity to 85% and the Shadow Mode Opacity to 69%. (To create a pattern from a texture, just open the texture up in Photoshop and go to Edit -> Define Pattern and it will appear at the bottom of your patterns list.)  A light gray Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+click between the layers to clip the color to layer) to the texture layer. To add the painterly frame, my free SJ Painter Oil Frame (that I created this week in Painter) was added and the same Layer Style was added (hold down ALT+drag the one on the texture to copy to the frame layer). A Curves Adjustment Layer was added and that was it. I think it really has a painterly feel.

Image 3: This image was cropped in Lightroom and in the Basic Panel the Clarity, Vibrance, Contrast, Shadows, Highlights, and Exposure sliders were adjusted along with the Sharpening slider. In Photoshop Topaz photoFXlabs was opened and Topaz Adjust’s French Countryside was applied. Back in photoFXlab the Adjustments tab, my favorite Dynamics slider was set to 48. My free SJ Snow 2 Overlay-slight blur was applied at 73% opacity. Next my free SJ Painter Oil Frame (see download link Image 2 info) was applied at 69% opacity. On top of that French Kiss Artiste Collections grayish Northern Skies texture was added and set to Vivid Light at 41% opacity. By putting the texture over the frame also, it gives the canvas feel to the white frame. A slight S-shaped curve was added using a Curves Adjustment Layer.

Image 4: Basically this image was sharpened using Topaz Detail 3 Feature Enhancement II preset; Nik Color Efex Pro 4‘s stacking Film Efex Vintage using filters Film Type 16 and the Opacity slider set to 0 – that is because a Control Point had been placed just on the yellow flower, Darken/Lighten Center, and White Neutralize with a green Color selected; and adding 2 Lil’s Owls (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Workbook Bonus Texture 13 (this is a soft smooth pink texture) set to 76% opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture get the bluish tone for the background.

Image 5: To get this beautiful look, Nik Color Efex Pro 4’s Midnight filter set to Color Set Blue and White Neutralizer filter selecting a dark green color. Kim Klassen Cafe’s (see link in Image 2’s info) free unleashed texture was used, and once again I created a PNG following my Overlays blog steps (follow the steps in my blog How To Make Frames or Borders – scroll down to the section called “To save the frame you created as an overlay to use again”) and then clipped (ALT+click between the layers) a light gray Color Fill Adjustment Layer to it. That was it – really easy to do.

Image Tych: The background for the Tych was one from Kim Klassen free Texture Partings – I love the very soft subtle textures she creates!

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Photography Has Come A Long Way


Digital Lady Syd’s Top Ten Photos From 2012

It is that time where I try to put some perspective on my images for the past year and choose the ones that appeal to me most. I had a nice year and got to see some pretty interesting places. I try to see which images I would place in my home. Here is what my “inner critic” thinks are some of my best.

10.  Below is an image shot while in the Lightner Museum looking down at my favorite lunch spot in St. Augustine, Florida, the Cafe Alcazar which is located in the old hotel pool area (see Bathing in Casino on Shorpys website for how the pool looked in 1889). For more info, see my Tidbits Blog Cafe Alcazar and Vintage Topaz Adjust.

9. I love this sort of illustrative and humorous effect. This image is of a whale taken during the Shamu show at the SeaWorld Orlando Theme Park. For details on processing, see my Storytelling with Your Images blog.

8. The Big Island in Hawaii was one of my most favorite places I have ever visited. This photo art image depicts how I think of Hawaii. I discuss how I created the effect in my Using Color Efex Pro and Texture for a Warm Hawaiian Landscape Effect blog.

7. This lovely mallard duck pair’s image was taken at the SeaWorld Orlando Theme Park in Florida. This image used a texture by 2 Lil Owls and the new Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Detail 3 to bring out details and color, especially in the feathers and eyes.

6. This old corvette was for sale at the 39th Annual Turkey Run at the Daytona International Speedway infield. This is my favorite type of car –  so I had a great time photographing all the corvettes. (More will be showing up in my future blogs as I have a lot more corvette images.) To see how I processed this image, see my Little Red Corvette Tidbits Blog.

5.  Miniature Mums were used in a lot of my images this year. I like to photograph the flowers I grow. I have been trying to improve on my macro shooting  this year. To see how this flower was processed, see my Tidbit Blog Just Bloomin” Beautiful!

4. The wild surf is at Laupahoehoe Harbor on the Big Island. In my Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5! blog I used this same image with an artistic feel to it. Nik Color Efex Pro’s Detail Extractor filter helped give this image the sharpness.

3. I am always surprised how nice the flower pictures are that I get at the local grocery stores with my inexpensive Kodak point-and-shoot camera. These beautiful pink roses were shot at my neighborhood store. Post processing included adding 4 textures – two I bought from French Kiss’s website and two from a wonderful Flickr site by Lenabem-Anna which contains many beautiful vintage and painterly textures. I used her textures 130 and 72.

2. The purple lily pad image is one of my artistic experiments that I really like. They were taken at the Hilton Waikoloa Village by the Japanese Restaurant. To see how this effect was created with a slightly different result, see my Tidbits Blog Purple Lily Pads!

1.  It is hard to top Hawaii for beautiful everything. I settled on this image from along the road to Waipio Valley as my favorite of the year since it totally reminds me of my trip to the Big Island – the bright sunlight, the beautiful surf and the gorgeous clouds hanging out. To see how I processed this image, see my Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem! blog.

It’s been a great year and I have learned so many new things about post-processing my images in Photoshop. Hope you have enjoyed some of my blogs too. I hope next year is as fun and productive. Happy New Year Everyone!…..Digital Lady Syd


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Digital Lady Syd!

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday this time of year. My large flower blossom image was from one of the many lovely little gardens around the dachas in Belarus in the summer. (For info on how each was processed, see end of blog.)
…..This beautiful Christmas tree was located in a clubhouse dining area. It was actually decorated all in silver and was taken with my cheap Kodak point-and-shoot camera. Just goes to show how far you can take an imperfect image and give it some creative effects for a great result.
…..This was just fooling around with brushes and getting something really fun!
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This image was taken at Linlithgow, Scotland – a beautiful home near the train station. I basically turned it into a night Christmas scene. This is a beautiful little town to visit if you are in the Edinburgh area – it has interesting castle ruins you can explore too!
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I hope you enjoyed my holiday cards – they were much fun to create! Maybe they will inspire you to try some new techniques – all have been discussed at some time in my blogs (just search in both this and my Tidbits Blog)! In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday and I will see ya next year!…..Digital Lady Syd

Processing Details:

Image 1: Lightroom processing occurred first on this beautiful red flower and then it was opened up in Photoshop and the background layer turned off. A light green solid color layer was placed under the image along with French Kiss Watercolor Texture Vivacity set to Normal at 47% opacity. A Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer was clipped to the watercolor and the Yellow color Hue was shifted to a light green. The flower layer was turned on and a layer mask added to paint out the background so the watercolor texture shows through. Several French Kiss Splatter Brushes were applied and reddish, pinkish, and brownish Color Fill Adjustment Layers were clipped to some of the brush stroke layers. Also the opacity of these stroke layers was varied. Last, Obsidian Dawn’s Merry Christmas brush was placed on a layer with a layer style added (using Outer Glow, Pattern -created using the Vivacity water color texture, Inner Shadow, and a dark red Stroke) to get the candy cane look, and a text layer added using an Outer Glow layer style.

Image 2: Since this image was just a 14 mg image, but still a jpg, it took me a lot longer to get the final look I wanted. In a nutshell, this image was processed first in Lightroom using the basic adjustments. Next in Photoshop Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Simplify 4 was applied using the Oil Paint Toned III preset as a starting place – to get the soft color the tone section was changed to black, dark green, light green and red and set to a Tone Strength of .89. I basically just played around with the size sliders until I got a result I liked and created a preset since it was so different from their presets. Then I simply did a lot of clean up, added two textures – French Kiss Artiste Aspen (turned it green using a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and merging down) using Lighter Color blend mode at 23% opacity, and 2 Lil Owls Texture 1 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) set to Hard Light at 37% opacity. A Levels Adjustment layer was added, two layers of text, French Kiss Glorious Grunge Edging Overlay with inside lines removed and changed to a light tan color, and a spotlight vignette effect on the center left ornament. These are all techniques I have covered in past blogs here and on my Tidbits Blog so just search the blogs for more information on how to do a certain technique or drop me a line or comment if you have questions.

Image 3: I started with a New Document in Photoshop. My free SJ Holiday Greeting PNG Overlay was applied and a Red Color Fill Adjustment Layer set to a deep red color was clipped to the overlay. Next a New Layer was added and the Erodible Watercolor Blender brush was chosen and pinks and grays were painted around the overlay – the layer was set to 28% opacity. My Snow Overlay (in same download set as the greeting) was applied at 63% and a text layer with my name was added. A Levels Adjustment Layer and Curves Adjustment Layer was added to finish up.

Image 4: Basic processing was done in Lightroom. Lots of clean up and a Levels Adjustment Layer was added to add contrast. Painted Textures Christmas was added at Hard Light and 86% opacity – gives a beautiful warm glow to image. Some vignetting, sharpening and selective Hue/Saturation Adjustments changes were made. To get the night look, a Nik Color Efex Pro Midnight filter set to Blue was added.  Santa Brush by Flina was added with a layer style to get nice effect on the brush. Obsidian Dawn’s Light Beam brushes was added to light up the front of the house. My free Snow Overlay was added and set to 10% opacity. Obsidian Dawn’s Merry Christmas brush was added with an Inner Glow layer style and a text layer for my name was added last.


How to Create Personal Overlays for Your Images

I have been thinking about this subject ever since I bought some beautiful overlays from the French Kiss website. Their overlays are based on genuine old French letters and postmarks, but it seemed to me that it should be a fairly easy to create your own customized overlays. So this blog is about making your own overlays. The image above is of the pretty light purple Phlox Phloxy Lady flowers I had growing in my front yard and by adding texture and overlays to it, a soft romantic feel is created. This image used a quote from Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “The Flowers” and was a fairly easy example on how to start creating your own overlays. The steps below will guide you through this process.

The Basic Steps to Create a Text or Object Overlay (png) File for your Images.

1.  Create a New Document – I used an 8 X 10 inch document at 300 ppi.

2. If creating text, select the Text Tool, which creates a Text Layer on top of your Background Layer. In the Options Bar set your text color to Black for now (3rd icon over from right) and select an appropriate font. In the case above, the Old Script Font was chosen because the letters actually look like writing.

3. Type in your text. I like to use poetry quotes but use your own work for a real personal feel. Several different Text layers can be created using the same or different fonts. Add Clip Art layers or use a New Layer to paint in your own ideas – I find sticking to black a good idea and then adding color in later.

4. Once finished entering text and/or objects, turn off your background layer click on the eyeball on the left edge of the Layer in the Layers Palette. The image above just had one text layer, so it was duplicated and rasterized (right click on text layer and select rasterize so it is no longer a text layer). If more than one text or object layer is in the file, create a composite layer at top by highlighting the top layer and pressing CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E so all the text or object layers are combined into one layer.

5. Now turn off all the eyeballs to the left of the layers except for the new top composite layer.

6. Here is the trick to getting this psd layer into a png file format to use as an overlay in your documents. Go to File -> Scripts -> Export Layers to Files. You need to set up a location for your new png file, name your file, and set the File Type to PNG-24. This takes a minute for Photoshop to process, but it eventually puts the png file where you told it to go, and takes you back to your original psd document with no changes made to it. If confused see my How To Make Frames or Borders blog, which uses the same basic process, where a screenshot of how this dialog box should look is provided.

How to Add the Overlay png File to an Image.

1. Open your document and go to Adobe Bridge to find your Overlay. Click on thumbnail, right click and choose Place -> In Photoshop.

2. Now adjust the handles and size (since the file comes in as a Smart Object layer, it works like the Free Transform command) and place the overlay where you want it. Double-click inside the overlay or click the checkmark in Options Bar to set the placement.

3. I always get rid of the Smart Object now by right clicking on the layer in the Layers Panel and select Rasterize Layer from the menu.

4. To change the overlay color go to Layer -> New Fill Layer -> Solid Color and be sure to check Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask. Select any color you want – I usually sample with the eyedropper that appears when hovering over the image to set the color of the text.

5. On the overlay layer, adjust the opacity or add a layer mask and paint with a low opacity brush in the mask to lighten part of the text. This was done on the image above to soften the look a little. Use Free Transform (CTRL+T) to resize, turn or move the overlay.
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This vintage looking pink gerbera daisy that was growing on my porch was a perfect image to try out my own French overlay. First I had to make the overlay png file, then it was added to my final image. I would suggest that you check out the French Kiss website and/or Graphics Fairy website to get a feel on how to set up a custom overlay look. Create your overlay file by following The Basic Steps above. In my overlay, a fancy font called ExtraOrnamental No. 2 was used. The other font used is Easy Street Alt EPS. I found the filmstrip layer from my blog header and removed all the white from it as another layer. Some ornamentation was added using paintbrushes called 100 old ornaments–Buburu Resources – a New Layer was created and by rotating the direction of the brush, you can connect them to create some nice looking ornaments. Once you have all your layers set up, follow the steps in The Basic Steps section to create your png file. Keep you psd file so you can reuse the layers to create different but similar overlays. I did this for the last two images below. Follow the How to Use Overlay section to finish up your image. Four texture layers and a frame overlay were also used in the image above. The overlay was set to 66% opacity. Below is the png file as it appeared before adding to the flower image. …..Here is another example of using several overlays that I created. I began this image by creating a png overlay file out of some daisies I found in an old Clip Art book called Flower Illustrations by Dover Publications that I bought years ago (there are still many similar books available on Amazon very inexpensively and can be a really fun resource). The clip art is just black lines on white. The white was deleted from the clip art by using Select -> Color Range and clicking on all the white so just the black lines were selected. Then I duplicated the selection by going to CTRL+J and just the line art shows up on the layer. This layer was taken into the Export Layers to Files using Steps 5 and 6 in The Basic Steps section above. Now I started a new document and added my new png flower layer. I decided to Warp it using Free Transform (CTRL+T) and selecting Warp in the Options Bar. By pulling on the different lines, you can get some very interesting effects. I felt this image looked like it was now blowing in the wind. Next I added a New Layer above and just painted different colors in the petals and stem. By lowering the opacity of the png flower layer, the lines disappeared and showed just the flower contours. I decided to create a text overlay png new file as described in The Basic Steps section above so I could use it again. Some text from Bob Dylan’s song “Blowin’ In the Wind” was added using 1942 Report font in purple-pink and a new png file was created. It was brought into my original document – the second time it was applied, it warped using CTRL+T again to get the crazy flying type look. A layer mask was added so the text could be removed from the flowers. Then I decided I wanted to create my own grunge border. There are several ways to do this (see my my How To Make Frames or Borders blog). This time I used NIK Color Efex Pro 4‘s Image Border filter and set Size to -100, Spread to 100, all the way Rough, and Vary to 9165. Once back in Photoshop, I selected the border using Color Range and placed it on its own layer. I cleaned up the lines using a fine black line and saved it down as a .png file so I can use it again. As you can see, there is a lot of repetition in this process. Not that difficult once you get a selection of what you want. I experimented with several different background colors and did add a soft white hazy look by painting on a layer using Nakatoni Texture Brush (I still cannot find them anymore) at a low opacity.
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This yellow mum shot uses the sames steps as the gerbera daisy image – a different line of text was added and several other elements removed from the same overlay psd file. Once the png file was added to the image, a Layer Style was applied to the png overlay layer using Bevel and Emboss and Outer Glow effects. The Outer Glow was spread out with a darker color to make the letters stand out a little better.
…..This final example took yet another arrangement of other the text. Once the png file was brought into the image, it was warped to get the old look. Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 was used to get the vintage look. You can get really creative with the overlay layer effects.

Just remember to create a composite of all the layers to include in your overlay and save just that layer as a png. This is such a simple process, but it looks hard. Be sure when you do download a font that you understand what the usage requirements for that font are – just because you can download them does not mean they are free for all uses. This romantic French effect seems to lend itself nicely to flowers and soft texturized images. In my Tidbits Blog Displacing an Overlay I show you how to displace your overlay onto a textures background to give it a real vintage look. Also, check out my newer blog How To Create an Overlay Out of a Texture for more fun overlay tricks. Try making an overlay – it is fun to do!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Checking Out French Kiss Textures
A Vintage Butterfly Postcard Effect


Storytelling with Your Images

This is a topic I struggle with since it seems that most images that tell a good story are those of people – and it is hard for me to take people shots that are interesting. So I have been working on this. Several photographers have written about storytelling within an image. David duChemin, one of my favorite authors and photographers, has written several great books on photography including one called Within the Frame – the Journey of Photographic Vision where he discusses storytelling. Basically he states “….two aspects of storytelling come to mind. The first is the study of themes that tie the image to our deeper, more universal human experience. The second is conflict, revealed in the frame by contrasts.” Another important point David states is “….the more deeply they [the viewer of your image] care, the stronger the story.” I am no David duChemin when it comes to photography, but I have tried to represent some of his ideas in my blog this week.

The gentleman above just popped out at me when I was in Steak n Shake a few weeks ago. I can imagine all kinds of stories – like he sneaked out to get a nice treat, or he didn’t feel that great and this ice cream really cheered him up, or maybe he just felt like ice cream! Any way you look at it, I felt something when I looked at the older man and nostalgic Steak and Shake pictures – it made me want to take the photo. The image is a good example of both aspects of storytelling – I see a basic theme that most people understand as to whether we should be eating this kind of food (as in that never ending diet or health issues) and are we spending too much in order to enjoy one of life’s little pleasures. I can relate to this experience and conflict! The colors and pictures around him also played an important part in this image – black, white and red create a very strong color palette. (See end of blog for details on how each image was processed.)
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I thought this image is a good example of a story – the way the trainer seems to be interacting with one of the Killer Whales at SeaWorld-Orlando. Then my husband looked at the image and said it reminded him of “Jaws” – it is reminiscent of the tragic trainer accident with a whale a few years ago (see Tilikum Wikipedia link). Goes to show how each person creates a totally different scenario in their mind. But it does serve its purpose – it tells a story and makes you think! I see conflict in this image – the small trainer vs. the large whale, humor vs. drama, man vs. animal, texture of water vs. smoothness of the subjects – all implied opposites.
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Here is another image I thought had a story associated with it – people seem to enjoy the beach no matter what the weather is. Here is Ormond Beach, Florida, and a young lady is having fun just playing on the beach. It was major windy and overcast as Hurricane Sandy had just missed Florida and gone up the coast much earlier in the morning. (See this incredible aerial view slideshow of a blacked-out New York City after Hurricane Sandy came inland.) I tried to convey how large and out-of-control the waves were vs. the smallness of the young lady. There is the conflict of the rage of the water and lightheartedness of the girl. I believe the way the image is colored gives the water a foreboding feel while the young lady is still in summerlike attire. What was she seeing?
…..Now that there are so many good plugins available to help create an effect, it does make it easier to convey a story. This image has a nostalgic feeling even though this man was making Satay Chicken Wraps in London during Scott Kelby’s Photowalk of 2008 (several of my PhotoWalk images are shown at this site). I think the effect makes the story more obvious and interesting. I believe this photo makes you want to know more about the cook – how good is the meal he is preparing, does he like to cook, does he own the store, etc.
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John Paul Caponigro, who does gorgeous fine art photography, creates images with stories without people present. He has a lot of interesting photography links on his website including this excellent short article on Storytelling. (Become a member for free to download his many interesting articles.) He states in this article that single images have a beginning at the “point of visual entry.” A series of images begins with the first image, and follow with a middle and an ending, as any story has. “The frame sets the stage. So, set a scene. You can think of anything that enters it as an actor of an unfolding drama. Then, introduce your characters. There’s lots of room for creativity in how you do this. Next, develop a theme.” In the image below, I took advantage of this concept and used a template that would place several images into a single page.
I really enjoyed the expression of both the porpoise and trainer in this series of photos from Marineland. The story began with just the image of the adorable dolphin as the main character. By introducing the hand of the trainer, the story begins to develop. You can see the interest of the dolphin increasing with each hand gestures. Finally the trainer is introduced and you start to see her reaction to the dolphin and dolphin’s willingness to perform the trick for her. The end shows the connection that has developed between our two main characters. There is no conflict in this story but there is a strong conclusion or outcome for our characters. And for some reason the dolphin’s bubbles were intriguing to me!

Rick Sammon, known especially for his wonderful HDR photos, did a blog series on storytelling that contains some different tips to accomplish this. Check out A Week of Storytelling – the link has days out of order, but they are all there. Craig Tanner, of the unfortunately inactive The Mindful Eye website (which is still one of the best places to learn about everything photography – especially how to use space effectively in an image) has several links to his short videos on Storytelling. One from the Daily Critique of 7/16/09 describes how to make an image convey a story more effectively with proper cropping and negative space use. And perhaps one of the greatest storytellers of recent times is the wonderful Joe McNally – everything he shoots tells a story as far as I can tell and every image is interesting. Just check out his blog to see what he is doing – and all his books are interesting. I still love his first book The Moment It Clicks. Another very inspiring photographer of recent times is Steve McCurry, best known for his National Geographic image of the Afghan Girl, has a wonderful blog and website.

I wish I had just get 1% of the talent of any of the individuals mentioned here. There is a lot to learn in this area but it is worth the time to understand what it takes to create a great image. Some work, some don’t, but eventually there will be that one shot that says it all! And don’t be afraid to crop or perform changes in Photoshop to make it more interesting. Take some time when shooting to find the story – they usually are the most powerful shots you will ever take!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Unsharp Mask Filter In LAB Mode
Humorous Shots Are Sometimes the Best

Image Processing Information:
Image 1: This image was processed in Lightroom – Matt Kloskowski’s (a major Lightroom guru and one of the Photoshop Guys) preset Focal Point (Portrait – Bottom Right) just lined up perfectly for this image. Since this was a jpg image (my Kodak point-and-shoot took the shot), the noise was pretty bad so the first thing done in Photoshop was to apply Topaz DeNoise 5 JPEG Strong preset (see sidebar for website link at my Tidbits Blog) was applied. Next Nik Viveza 2 was used to sharpen the ice cream and man’s face while the edges were darkened a little in all the corners. I still did not like the noise, especially in the red areas, so I applied Topaz DeNoise 5 again using my own settings – Overall Strength 0.24, Adjust Color – Red -0.18, Recover Detail 0.54, Reduce Blur 0.18 and Add Grain 0.11. Some clean up to remove distracting glare, sharpening to just the ice cream using a black layer mask on a High Pass Filter, and a Curves Adjustment Layer where only the red channel was increased slightly to add a little more red color back into the image. My B&W Border Frame was added to finish up.

Image 2: This image was first processed in Lightroom. Noiseware was applied to the image once brought into Photoshop. Then Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was applied using two of my favorite plug-ins, Detail Extractor just on the trainer and whale – the overall opacity was set to 0% so only the trainer and whale show any of the changes, and Film Efex Vintage using Film Type 11 – this gives the beautiful illustration type effect. A Curves Adjustment Layer and Vibrance Adjustment Layer were added to get the colors right. Some whale clean up and sharpening was done and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was applied to lower the saturation of the blue water. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added to make the tongue pinker – the adjustment layer was filled with black and the tongue was painted back in. My Thin Double Edge Frame was added sampling colors from the image to create.

Image 3: This image was mainly processed in Lightroom. The poles were slightly tipped out so they were corrected in Lightroom’s Lens Correction Manual tab (although the ones in Adobe Camera Raw or Photoshop would have done the same correction) using the Vertical slider set to -6 to adjust them. Since the bottom corners were drawn in, the image was taken into Photoshop and the corners cloned back in. Then back in Lightroom I decided the image would look good with Matt Kloskowski’s Wedding Fairytale (Bright Edge) applied, but at a lesser amount. That is where I used The Fader, a plug-in that lets you reduce the amount of the preset effect (or more – up to 150%) – see my Fun Photoshop Blog Great Free Plug-in for Lightroom – The Fader! I applied the Fader slider at 119% to get the pretty light colored waves and sandy brown beach. Next the image was brought back into Photoshop and Noiseware (I use both Topaz DeNoise and Noiseware – just grabbed this one) and Nik Viveza 2 were applied to adjust the noise and sharpness of the image. Frenchkiss’s free Glorious Grunge Overlay was applied and a Color Fill Adjustment layer was clipped to it (ALT + Click between the layers) and the color changed from black to a cream color.

Image 4: Loved the vintage feel on this not so perfect image. In Lightroom a preset was applied that I call Gritty Preset by Michael Rather – it was created by listening to a video called True Grit and I use it all the time! In Photoshop Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was opened and two of my favorite filters were applied: Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 57%, Contrast 6%, and Saturation 6%) with a (-) Control Point placed on his face and set to 25% opacity, and Film Efex-Vintage (used Film Type 15 and adjusted the vignette to 39%). A (-) Control Point was placed on his coat to make it whiter just a little (25% opacity). The image was sharpened in LAB Mode using the Luminosity channel and the Unsharp Mask. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to increase contrast. My Thin Double Edge Frame Layer Style was added using the default colors.

Image 5: To create this image, it took a little more effort. The template is a free photo grid from PhotoRadar. 17 photos were added – essentially all but the large one were selected in Lightroom, cropped to the same size, then Edited in Photoshop -> Open as Layers. Once stacked in a file in Photoshop, the template was placed at the bottom of the stack and all the images were clipped to this bottom layer (ALT+click between the layers). Each one had to be Free Transformed (CTRL +T) to line up correctly in each of the openings. To create the large opening, the template was selected and the 4 bottom image openings were painted together. The large photo was placed at the bottom of the images so the overlap of the larger photo edges would not show in the other openings. A layer style was added to the bottom layer using a Stroke and Inner Glow so each image was outlined. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added on top to add contrast to all images. A Gradient was applied on the template to add the blue glow. The top text has an Outer Glow Layer Style added to it.


How to Create Unique Textured Backgrounds

This is a follow-up from last week’s How to Create Unique Watercolor Background Texture blog and more Photo Art examples. Below are listed several ways to create  interesting backgrounds using brushes and other Photoshop tools. The above is an example of what can be done using very traditional textures to make your image look a little different. Some clean up and a Curves Adjustment Layer were added to emphasize the sketch lines of the flowers more. Next Lost and Taken’s Remixed Chalk Pastel 03 texture was added and set to Pin Light at 100% opacity. To get the grungy look, a New Layer was created using the Amazing Texture Brush 2 by Nakatoni (apparently these are no long available but any grunge brush you like will work to add some splotchy purple color) – the layer was set to 52% opacity. A little color clean up was done on another New Layer. Next one of my favorite canned textures by Gavin Hoey’s grunge border 2 was added and set to Overlay blend mode. To get the flowers to appear, a white layer mask was added and the flowers were painted back in using black in the mask. This texture was set to Overlay blend mode. Next a composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created and a black 3 pixel stroke layer style was added as a small border line. Next my Cat Painting canvas texture was added using Soft Light at 100% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer, Levels Adjustment Layer, and Gradient Map Adjustment Layer (using a bright yellow to green gradient and layer set to Saturation blend mode at 46% opacity). Two more layers were created using different grunge brushes set to 20% opacity in purples and blues were the last steps. The reason I went over all this is to show what a few layers on top of rather traditional textures can give a very different look and be very targeted to get an interesting final result. Below is the Layer Panel workflow as basically listed above.

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This background was created in an interesting way. A New Document was created using the Photoshop Paint Brush Maple Leaves set to 369 pixels with pink and yellow set as foreground and background colors – the whole layer was covered with leaves. Next the Smudge Tool was selected and I dabbed and smoothed the colors together to give this nice blended look using Fay Sirkis’s Watercolor Liquid Mask I Photoshop Brush with the Smudge Brush Tool. If you do not have access to her wonderful brushes, try Alex Dukai Artist Set 01 using the Impressionist brushes which give a very similar result. (Note: the Smudge Brush Tool takes a lot of Ram to run so use a small sized brush like 150 pixels max to do do this.) Once this is created, save the background down as a JPG so it can be used over as an image texture. I used this background and added my sketched layer from the first image. A New Layer using Obsidian Dawn’s Random Swirls 2 Glitter Brush in light pink was added to add texture to the flowers. Nagel rough pastel brushes 3 and 4 were used in the different colors to fill in blanks spots and add some color to the petals – these are really nice smoothing brushes. My Double Edge Frame layer style was added as a last step. See my blog Digital Lady Syd’s Free Layer Style Frames. Here is just a different way you can create a unique texture for you images. You can download my Smudge Texture – see below how to change the effect and colors in this same texture.
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This original image was first taken into Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and three filters stacked: Midnight using Neutral color set, Reflector Efex using Method Gold. and Bi-Color Filters using Color Set Violet/Pink 3. The background came out as black so a layer was placed above and olive green grunge was added on the layer using another one of Fay Sirkis’ textures pastel brush (see last week’s blog for more on Fay). Again a good grunge brush would be fine. A second layer was added and a light pink grunge was painted – the layer was set to 19% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to darken the whole image down a bit. Next, the Smudge Texture created in the image above was placed in the image on top and set to Color blend mode at 80% opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture (ALT+Click between the layers) to adjust the hue (+14) and saturation (-71) of the texture itself – the adjustment layer was set to 49% opacity. Finally a composite layer was put on top and my Double Edge Frame layer style was added to finish up the image. I believe all these steps created once again a very unique background for these flowers.
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This image used a pattern applied with the Pattern Stamp Tool. This tool can create some really interesting backgrounds. The original image was loaded. Next a New Layer was added on top and the Pattern Stamp Tool (sits with the Clone Stamp Tool) was selected. Now to make this interesting you have to load some interesting patterns. This is one from Princess of Shadow Victorian Dreams Texture 6 but any pattern that has colors you like can be used. I wanted some blues and reds so that is why this particular pattern was chosen. Note you can use any of your textures and turn them into patterns by opening texture, going to Edit -> Define Pattern and it will be in your group of selected patterns. To make this work you need to go to the Options Bar and in the little box where the pattern is showing, click on the little down arrow and load your pattern. A layer mask was added to remove the color from the flowers. The Pattern Stamp layer was set to Color Burn blend mode at 77% opacity. This layer was duplicated which added in the blue and red tones in the texture once the layer was set to Hard Light at 64% opacity. The flowers were painted over using Mixer Brush blenders. Once again I have to thank Fay Sirkis for her great Signature Schlepp n Smear Blender brush and one by Dave Cross – his close up mixer brush. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added where the RGB, Red and Blue curves were adjusted. Finally I a used my Double Edge Frame layer style, this time adding a Layer Stroke effect and setting the size to 18 and Fill Type to Pattern. I selected the same pattern and set the scale to make it look right.
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I thought I would finish up with a couple real quick ways to add an interesting background. Kelby TV’s Ask Dave’s blog has a short video on How Did You Get That Cool Background? that was used to create the background above. This is a really easy technique. Basically Dave Cross (one of the NAPP Photoshop Guys and Hall of Famer at Photoshop World) used the Single Row or Column Marquee tool and apply a couple filters – I did this in a separate PSD file so I could use the texture over again. This time the flowers were cropped and set to Dissolve blend mode. An image that had yellows and reds was selected to create the background and a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer added for the purple/blue tones. A snow texture that Florabella Collections had given away at Christmas was placed under the flowers but above the adjustment layer – any snow texture is fine (it would be easy to create by painting with a spatter brush on a black background on a layer) and set the layer to Color Dodge at 35% opacity. A New Layer was created using Frostbo’s Snow Drops brush with purple tones – this is my favorite snow brush. My Thin Double Edge Frame was used as a last step sampling color from image.
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Hope you are not getting tired of my flowers but they were easy to use as an example. This last image first used a Randomized Gradient – it was originally in bright reds and oranges.

See my Tidbits Blog I Didn’t Know That! Randomizing Gradients which uses four steps to create. This gradient had Noise set to just 50%. The randomize button was pushed several times until I got a gradient I liked. In this case I used a Radial Gradient which was pulled out from one corner of the image. A Curves and a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer were added to change the colors to browns and pinks. The flowers were placed above the gradient layer. (See left  image.) A New Layer was added under the flowers but above the adjustment layers and a Mixer Brush was used to smear the color behind the flowers to get this effect. (I personally like John Derry’s Mixer Brushes – this used his Flat Fan High Bristle Count brush.) I was really surprised how this turned out. Try out different mixer brush settings to see which one does not pick up the flower colors but just those underneath. Now just a little clean up and frame. The Mixer Brushes can create some really interesting backgrounds.

I hope you have learned a few new ways to create some interesting background textures for your images, especially flowers. In the meantime, try some of these techniques and see if you get some good results!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel Updated!
Create a Winter Scene with Photoshop Brushes and Textures
Adding a Texture for Flair!
Adobe Photoshop CS5′s Mixer Brushes
Cold Dolphin Fountain in Florida


Photo Art Compositing For Fun


Keeping with my “photo art” theme, one my favorite things to do in Photoshop is to create composites so I decided to share some of my workflow and some of my experiences when creating one. I have created several composites that now hang in my home as canvas art. When I do a composite, it takes several iterations and a few days to get the exact feel I want in the image. This one above, which is named “Sisters,” has taken me a good part of three days and eight iterations before it was finalized. I try to create what I consider “relevant composites” or ones that convey a theme – not just slapping a bunch of unrelated images together.  I have found that most of my Photoshop skills are put to test when creating a good composite. This image contains five objects – the floral background and bee photos are my shots, the beautiful young ladies are from an artist at Deviant Art that was willing to share his lovely image, and two clip art butterflies.

So lets talk about how to get this final result.

1. FIND A BACKGROUND. First you need to select a good background image to place your other objects into. I knew I really liked this photo of Moss Rose flowers that grow in my front yard. I also know that it was a very blurry image (I do have some nice ones of them) but the color was beautiful in this image. It got me thinking this would give a nice background for a dreamy fairy tale look. Below is the image used for the background – it had been processed as a 3 image HDR and some texture added – only the basic HDR layer was used for the image. You can see how flurry everything but the front flowers were but the colors are very pretty.

2. ADD IN OBJECTS. The next step was to find something that would fit the “dreamy theme” I was going after. If you go up on Deviant Art (here is a link to my page), you can search for beautiful images of people dressed up in Victorian and all kinds of costumes and most are readily shared for your use. The artists at DeviantART are usually very willing to share their expertise and it is a wonderful community of people. That is how I got this wonderful image of the two young ladies in this image –  it is called Split Personalities by J Hicks at Deviant Art. Oddly enough, he used two images from another person, Eirian Stock, at Deviant Art.

From Adobe Bridge, place your selected image into your background layer image (or you can start with a totally New Document and add the background image in first) so it becomes the top layer. Add a layer mask to the image and paint out what parts you do not like showing. Free Transform the layer and change the size or distort it to fit – anything you want to do. Sometimes warping does the trick. In this case, the ladies were placed among the flowers and the whole background around the girls was painted out except for a small part of the bench they were on.

I decided that I would like to add some butterflies and a bee to the image – it seems like these objects have a fairy tale feel to them. Since I had the bee image, but it was only a small part of a bigger image, it was first opened into Photoshop and the bee was loosely selected and placed on its own layer (CTRL+J) – then this layer was copied (CTRL+A to select and CTRL+C to copy) and placed (CTRL+V) into the composite document. Using the same procedure as in Step 3, a layer mask was added to the bee layer and painting with black only the bee was left in white  on the mask. If you do not have object images, try some of the free stock photos places – I like stock.xchng.

Be aware of the composition you are creating – the image should be balanced and have a focus point. First I tried one of my butterfly images but the colors in the butterfly were too dark and it just did not blend in correctly into the total image. The two butterfly objects are from an old clip art book I purchased called Decorative Butterfly Illustrations by Dover Publications – they look rather authentic. They were on a white background so the white was removed using the Magic Wand Tool and CTRL+BACKSPACE to remove the white. Then Free Transform (CTRL+T) using Warp was applied to adjust them in the image.

3. CLEAN UP. Once you get all your objects assembled, then the clean up begins. In my image I did not add the bee until I realized that one of the girls was looking at something where there was nothing to look at in the image. First the upper left yellow flower was added  – this was cloned on a separate layer from the yellow flower on the bottom right and warped to look unique. Then the bee was added. I tried to adjust the objects so the eye stays toward the center of the image – with no bee, the eye tends to follow the girls gaze off to the left. The butterflies on the right also keep the eye from roaming too far right.

Another big issue was that the butterflies and bee were too sharp edged to match the soft edged flowers they were near. Therefore, a Gaussian Blur filter was applied to each at a fairly low amount, roughly a 4 radius, to give a soft feel and out-of-focus look to them. Some petal clean up was done where the petals looked overexposed. (See my Getting Rid of Those Blown Out Areas in Your Image blog.) Using a similar technique, little areas of the skin were smoothed out and hair and dress color was adjusted by adding New Layers and sampling color near the areas to be cleaned up – then with the brush tool set to a low opacity of 20% or less, painting back in to smooth rough areas of image. Below is what my image looked like at iteration 4. I decided I did not like the lighter colors – a little flat for the effect I wanted. Also it seemed the girls and their dresses did not stand out and I wanted them to be the focal point of the image. Using a Curves Adjustment Layer, they were lightened just slightly to make them stand out more from the colorful floral background. You can always clean up an effect anytime during the workflow if it just does not look right.

4. ADDING TEXTURES AND FILTERS. Now I could not resist the temptation to try some textures on this image. Several were tried but I decided to use one that created by using the Smudge Tool and Watercolor brushes in Photoshop – see texture below. I will be blogging on how to create your own background textures in the next couple of weeks and this is one of the examples. Use Dr. Brown’s Paper Texture Panel to try out different textures and blend modes. You can always paint out areas on the layer mask and create some very localized texture effects. For the final image, the texture was set to Multiply blend mode at 55% opacity, and it was painted out of the skin areas using a white layer mask and painting with black. The yellow and oranges really brightened up the image and gave me some colors I liked.

Thinking I was done I decided to try just one more thing – Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in. (Use Smart Objects for this so you can go back and adjust the sliders if needed – Filter -> Convert for Smart Objects.) Maybe it would do something really interesting. (If this had not worked, I would probably have gone into OnOne PhotoEffects 3 or Topaz photoFXlab’s InstaTone – for website links, see my Tidbits Blog). The new Film Efex: Nostalgic and used Film Type 4 filter was selected – it just softened up everything and created almost hyper-pastel colors but I really liked the effect. The Overall Strength of this filter was set to 86% to tone it down just a little. Also Brilliance and Warmth was applied adding just warmth at 29%.

5. FINAL STEPS. It now feels like the image is almost done so I used my favorite clean up plug-in, Nik Viveza 2, to lighten up the whole image. Also the middle area of the image was softened and more detail was added to the pillow flower. You can do all kinds of subtle changes with this plug-in that can really enhance the composition and direct the eye.

Last steps involved brightening up the dresses more using a Curves Adjustment Layer whose layer mask was filled with black and just the dresses painted back in with low opacity brushes.

A final texture is added for framing, one of my favorites – ShadowHouse Creations Old Photo2 which gives an very old vintage feel to the image. It was set to Darker Color blend mode at 55% opacity and a layer mask was used to paint out the center and just leave the texture details around the edges. Below is how my Layers Palette looked after completing this image.

This is a decent example of what goes into a good composite. In this image alone, there were 5 Curves Adjustment Layers, 5 clean up layers, and 5 paint layers where I sampled colors and painted over areas. My original file is 955 megs and 11 X 17 inches so this is a pretty large file by my standards. A composite lends itself nicely to large canvas images. There are many other composite techniques not used here in this example but  on others such as using the Gradient Tool and Color Fill Adjustments layers for unique effects and blending. This is definitely where you get a chance to experiment. Give a composite a try – it is very rewarding to create one that represents your own personal expression……Digital Lady Syd


My Version of Photoshop Tennis!

I really love taking photos but I am slowly realizing that once in Photoshop, I end up with something entirely different than what I had in mind! There is an older book, Photoshop Secrets of the Pros by Mark Clarkson, where players “pass images back and forth making changes as they go” for a set number of rounds, ie., Photoshop Tennis. This book first got me thinking about doing radically different effects to images. Last week I did a blog on Digital Lady Syd’s Photo Art Workflow where I basically showed what I do to give a different feel to an image. This week I am continuing with that theme showing other options to get more of that photo art look. The images are also examples of what happens when I start playing around with different combinations of effects in Photoshop – I am never quite sure what I will end up with. I also downloaded and tried Photomatix Pro’s new program Merge to 32-bit HDR this week so that was part of the first two images’ workflow. This image of the Ormond Heritage Condominiums (located where the old Hotel Ormond used to reside in Ormond Beach, Florida) was first processed as a five-image HDR shot using Merge to 32-bit HDR. The really neat thing is that if you already own Photomatix HDR Pro 4.2 and Lightroom 4.2, you can download it for free from the link above. All you do is select all the HDR images in Lightroom, go to File -> Export and select Merge to 32-bit HDR (or just right click and go down to Export and select the program). A dialog opens where I chose the following: Preprocessing and Merging (Align Images, Crop aligned result,by matching features, and include perspective correction) and Remove ghosts; and Name Merged File: Combined file names and check Stack with first selected photo and Scale pixel values to fixed range. The images are processed very quickly and a TIFF file is placed back with the original images, just as if you had done this in Photoshop’s Merge to HDR, except Photomatix never opens up a program – it all happens inside Lightroom. What a cool little program from Photomatix! The above image was mainly processed in Topaz photoFXlab (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog) plug-in using Topaz Adjust presets. See Image 1 settings below for more info.

When adjusting the crop on the top image in Lightroom, I got a quick look at what a small crop would look like. Basically I just liked the way it looked – the frosted light of the lamp post and the comfortable porch balconies make you want to sit outside and enjoy the view and weather. The only thing done on this image in Photoshop was using Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and stacking a bunch of filters: High Key, Sunlight, Detail Extractor, Dark Contrasts, Bi-Color Filters and Image Borders. It just works!
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This image was also processed in Lightroom using PhotoMatix Pro’s Merge to 32-bit HDR. I then did my adjustments on the resulting TIFF file in Lightroom. In Photoshop I decided right away to use the new Topaz photoFXlab program where Topaz Simplify and Topaz Lens Effects were used from the Plugins tab. See settings for Image 3 for the exact info on how this was applied.
Here is the same image with exactly the same settings as in the image above except for the framing, but the twist is that a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the Vivid Light texture and set to a Difference blend mode at 71% opacity. I loved the way it looks like as if it is being drenched in some bright light – almost a spooky feeling. I am glad I did not stop with just the image created above as I think I like this one better – there may be more of a story in this image.
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The next two images show an example of starting with a night photo taken with my point-and-shoot camera at the Gold Lion Cafe in Flagler Beach, Florida, and turning it into a really interesting almost wintery looking sketch. I did not exactly plan this result. The night image is definitely what it looked like that night as I sat topside and listened to the ocean waves rolling in. But I really like the final image with the artistic pop added.

Here is the image with a more photo art feel.

Both images took a lot of manipulation but the second one used the Layer Styles dialog to get the beautiful color out of it. See Image 6 settings below to see how this was done.

As you can see, if you stick to the basic workflow, which all these images did, but add in that new tool or different feature (like the Layer Style Blend If sliders or the new Lookup Adjustment Layer or a unique crop or blend mode combinations), you can get some very different and interesting images and end up in a totally different spot. As always, every time I work on images, it is always completely consuming and lots of fun – otherwise, why do it? Tennis anyone?…..Digital Lady Syd

Settings:

Settings for Image 1: Once the Tiff image is taken into Photoshop after making Lightroom adjustments, the background layer was duplicated Topaz photoFXlab plug-in was opened. After duplicating the layer, the Mask tab was selected and the plain sky was deleted. A new cloud image was load using +From File and placed under the top layer. A stamped layer was created using +From Stack and Topaz Adjust was opened up and Photo Pop preset was applied. In the Brushes tab, detail was increased throughout the image. PhotoFXlab was exited. The background was duplicated again and put on top in Photoshop. This layer was taken into Topaz photoFXlab again and Topaz Adjust’s preset Painting Venice was applied. Back in Photoshop a black layer mask was added and the bright areas of the image were painted in to add depth to the trees in the image. ShadowHouse Creations You’d Be Surprised texture was applied using Overlay blend mode at 34% opacity. Finally a Curves Adjustment layer was added. My frame layer style (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames) was added sampling colors from the image.

Settings for Image 3: Duplicated layer in plug-in. In Adjustments tab used these settings: Temp -4, Tint 23, Sat -12, Exp 1.80, Contrast -8, Dynamics 49, Sharpness 51, and Shadows 22. In InstaTone tab image from 500 px of an orange leaf from Aliona Shewtsova and set the layer to Saturation blend mode at 74%, which really brought out the colors. Next a +From Stack stamped layer was created. In Plugins tab Topaz Simplify was opened and the BuzzSim preset was applied as is. In the Adjustments Tab these settings were used: Temp -17, Contrast -5, Dynamics 87, and Sharpness 3. Layer opacity was set to 83%. Stamped using +From Stack. Plugins Tab used Lens Effects and applied Vignette Selective section-Soft Olive Green preset with these settings: Center on right side of slide, Vignette Strength 0.21, and Opacity 50%. Exit plug in. Exit Topaz photoFXlab. Flypaper Apple Blush taster texture was applied using Vivid Light blend mode at 100% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was applied with the individual channels being adjusted to bring out the colors I wanted. My thin double edges layer style was applied (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames).

Settings for Image 5:  After basic color adjustment in Lightroom (just a single shot), this image was opened in Photoshop CS6 and Nik Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in was opened. These filters were stacked:  Midnight using Neutral Color Set set to 65% Overall Transparency; Bi-Color Filters using the #1 Color Set; and Photo Stylizer using Cool Silver, Style 1, Strength 38% and Overall Opacity 61%. Back in Photoshop Sarah Gardner’s Blush Ginger texture was added and set to Overlay blend mode. The new Lighting Effects Filter in CS6 was used to add some soft light to the center lantern lights – the Spotlight effect was used at an Intensity of 7 and Ambience of 60. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer set to Abstract and Gold-Blue and the layer was set to a Screen blend mode at 64%. OnOne PhotoFrame (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog) Emulsion 02 was added sampling a dark color from the image for the color.

Settings for Image 6: After applying the same Color Efex Pro filters as Image 5, the image was opened up into Topaz Simplify and a Sketch preset I had previously created was applied so that the lines looked pretty much like a black and white sketch. (To create, use Mode Edges; Colorspace RGB and all sliders in Simplify section – set all to 0.00 except Details Boost 1.00, Remove Size 0.08, and Remove Weak 0.10; Adjust section – Brightness 0.00, Contrast 0.73, Saturation 1.40, and Saturation Boost 1.92; and Edges – MonoEdge Normal, Edge Strength 5.00, Simplify Edge 0.22, Reduce Weak 0, Reduce Small 0, and Flatten Edge 2.28. To adjust the sketch detail and darkness, adjust the Simplify Edge slider.) Now here is the tricky part – a Layer Style was added by double clicking on the layer and in the Blending Options dialog, the Blend If section is used. On This Layer, the black tab was split by ALT + clicking on the tab the split tabs set to 0 and 164 – the white tab was left at 255. On Underlying Layer, the White Tab was split and set to 0 and 72 and the Black Tab left at 0. It looks really weird but it gave me the color effect I liked. This layer was set to Lighten at 100% opacity. A composite layer was created (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) and using Select -> Color Range, the white was selected. CTRL+Backspace to delete the white from the image. Two layers were created underneath the top layer and using Best Mcbad Watercolor Brushes 22 and 30, a watercolor sky was created using blue and light pink. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added to increase the saturation in the Yellows. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to increase contrast. This image used different settings for the Lighting Filter – Intensity 5 and Ambience 93 – only wanted a slight glow since it is daylight. Some clean up was done. My Layer Style (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames) was added to frame the image and that was it! Whew!


Digital Lady Syd’s Photo Art Workflow



I am constantly amazed at how some of my images turn out – not at all what I had expected. This week I am going to go through my photo art workflow step-by-step so you can see what a difference a little tweaking will do. One of my favorite image types to play with in Photoshop are shots of art works. It is a nice break from cleaning up photos of family and large travel landscapes and gives me the opportunity to be creative. This image is of a type of art I had never heard of before that is on display at my favorite local museum – the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida. These are examples of Victorian era cigar band art. The Photoshop-processed image above is my final photo art result and the one I liked the best, but there were several other choices I considered.

NOTE: If you want to see the settings used for any of the steps, just click on the image and the larger Flickr image will appear.

  • Here is the initial image as a RAW NEF file. The dishes were enclosed in a glass case and the camera settings were a 44-mm lens at F/4.8, 1/8 sec, and ISO 1250. There is a lot of light glare on the pieces. This image is not one I would normally choose to process, but I just loved the composition of the items and the colors in the cigar bands.

  • My next step was to create a Virtual Copy in Lightroom (this does not have to be done if using Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop) to try to clean up the tone a little before going into Photoshop. Since only a few changes were done here, it does not look much different. First I go to the Lens Correction section and select the Profile tab where I set my lens info, and then the Color tab where I check Remove Chromatic Aberration (this can save a lot of time later). The next step would be to adjust the Crop of the image if it needs it – in this case it did not. Now adjust the Basic sliders. Also check out the noise in the image and try to correct if needed. Next I right click on the image in Lightroom and select “Edit In -> Edit in Adobe Photoshop CS6” which now opens up Photoshop, if it is not already open, with your image.

  • I am a big fan of combining my plug-ins until I get just the effect I like. If I do not like what results, I just delete that layer and try again. I always duplicate the background first so I know what the image looked like to start. On a really difficult image, which I considered this one to be, I usually will first open up Nik Color Efex Pro 4 – they have so many filters, you can sometimes get a great look right away. Shown below are stacked filters Tonal Contrast, which I believe is one of the best filters in this plug-in; Pro Contrast, which is one of my personal favorites, and works wonders on many of the images I have processed; and Brilliance/Warmth, one of the most popular Color Efex filters – just adds a really soft warmth to an image. Usually I like the Detail Extractor, but it really looked bad on this image due to all the glare on the items. Note that before entering the plug-in, I created a Smart Object (right click on your duplicated layer in Layer Panel and select Convert to Smart Object in menu) as Nik plug-ins work very well with Smart Objects. It allows you to go back into the plug-in and all settings and control points will still be in place so they can be readjusted easily.

  • Since there is so much glare in this image, there is only one plug-in I know of that does a good job controlling it and that is my most used plug-in, Nik Viveza 2. It will almost always improve if not remove problem areas on an image. You can see I have added 10 control points on the glare areas (click on image to see the little round circles more clearly in Flickr) to try to even out the tone. By comparing to the above, it is not perfect, but what a difference it makes! The detail and saturation of the image is also much improved. (See my blog Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem!)

  • Still have issues where the glare is – it needs to be cleaned up and the pink removed since it draws your eye into the left corner and it is distorted by the glare. The Color Replacement Tool was used to turn the pink color turquoise (see settings used in Options Bar in photo and turquoise foreground color in swatch) and some cloning was done on the dish to even out the pattern where the glare blows out the detail. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to get rid of another pink hot spot. I usually try to work completely non-destructively (meaning the original image was not changed by any of the adjustments made on the layers above), but the Color Replacement Tool is destructive and changes are made on the image itself – the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer may have been a better choice for this problem area.

  • I always add or at least try to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to adjust the contrast towards the end of my workflow. Since I thought I was almost done, it seemed appropriate to add it now. Below is what my curve looked like for this image. I usually just drag the Hand Tool (located in the upper lefthand corner of the panel) in the image to get this correct. It usually is just a subtle change but very significant. In this case I only wanted to brighten up the plate and mug where the color was located, not enhance where the glare was. The Curves Adjustment layer mask was turned black by clicking on the mask and CTRL+I to invert the color from white to black. Then a soft 30% opacity brush was set to white and used to gently paint back the areas where the I wanted additional contrast and color. This was a good point to create a composite layer that combines all the layers below into one on top by clicking (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) – this helps when the number of layers gets large as some techniques need a single layer to work correctly – this can especially be a problem with the Clone Tool.

  • At this point I thought I was getting the image to a final look. I decided I wanted sort of a vintage type edge on the image, so I used one of my very favorite textures, ShadowHouse Creations Old Photo 6. After trying several blend modes, I selected the Exclusion blend mode (which I do not use that much but worked in this case) set to 53% opacity. Still not sure it was quite what I wanted so I decided to add one of his new Assorted Mask Overlay (08) and set it to Soft Light blend mode at 100% opacity. Basically just the beautiful edges were used on both layers, and the image center was mainly painted out using black in the layer masks to keep the basic image intact. I often use the free Russell Brown Paper Texture Panel to try out and stack the various textures (the green square at the top of the icons to the left of the panels opens it up).

  • I must be done???? But then I thought, I wonder what happens if I take this image into the new Topaz photoFXlab (see sidebar for website in my Tidibits Blog). Well that proved to be a problem because I started finding all kinds of new effects I liked on this cleaned up image. The settings below were applied as a first step to the bottom layer for all the different Topaz effects tried on this image.

  • I duplicated the bottom layer in the plug-in and applied from the Effects tab a preset called Lithography by H. Hurst (Topaz used the preset from Topaz Detail) and set the layer to 65% opacity. In the Adjustment tab, the Saturation slider was set to 20. The Dodge Brush was used from the Brush tab to whiten around the pupil of the eyes of the girl on the plate using a brush strength of .10. Next the lips were slightly reddened using the Saturation brush. It was saved in the new Topaz extension .pfxl so the settings could be readjusted at a later date if needed. Clicked OK and applied to it to the image in Photoshop. At this point I did create a note to remind myself exactly what I did in the plug-in since I am still learning about the new extension. The image that resulted is shown below.

  • To be honest, I just didn’t love the final result so I decided to delete the layer where I applied the photoFXlab plug-in and start over in this plug-in. This time I decided to try out the results using the Plug-in tab and selected Topaz Adjust 5. Here I tried out one of my favorite presets I created from the French Countryside preset in the Vibrant Collection. It looked nice and more like what I wanted. I use this preset a lot when I want a nice artistic feel.

  • I decided to try one more preset just to see if I liked it and sure enough, it is the one I selected. It is in the Stylized Collection and is called Painting-Venice. I added several settings in the Finishing Touches section: Transparency – Overall Transparency slider to .7, Color – Warmth 0.03, and Tone – Quad Settings as shown on the image – the correct colors should be set already. Once out of the Adjust plug-in, in the Adjustment tab Exposure was set to 0.38, Contrast to -3 and Dynamics 24.


Well this is a good example of my workflow for a photo art image. I could have used OnOne Software’s wonderful Perfect Effects (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog), or any of the other plug-ins offered by Topaz, but it just depends on what I think will work. Overall the main components are 1) process as discussed above in Lightroom, 2) take into Photoshop and do any clean up, 3) add plug-in effects, 4) add any textures if you want, 5) I always go to Viveza 2 now, 6) do any extra sharpening or noise reduction that might be required,  7) add a Curves Adjustment layer for final tone and contrast, and 8) add any framing. I hope you can see that even though a change is very small, it can be very significant to the photo, and that you can always change your mind. An image can take on such a different feel with different plug-ins and textures applied. I thought originally I wanted a very sharp almost HDR look for this image, but I ended up with a very bright painterly result. I am happy with it but it is not exactly what I had in mind when I started! …..Digital Lady Syd


Using Topaz photoFXlab to Replace Skies

Now that the latest version of photoFXlab (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) has been released for several weeks, I have had a little time to come to grips with how to use the program and integrate it into my workflow. I have been surprised by how often I am using the Masking Brush to add new skies to my landscape images.


The above depicts a really cool private bar on the beach on one of the more remote roads in  Marsh Harbour in the Bahamas. I had the fortune of sailing there a couple years ago and am revisiting some of the images I did not process. It is so clear for starters because I converted it to a 32-bit HDR image in Photoshop CS6’s Merge to HDR and then processed the resulting TIFF file in Lightroom. (See my blog New Lightroom and Photoshop 32-bit Processing Capability for info on how to do this). So many of my images from Marsh Harbour had no clouds in them –  so I added a few in the background for effect. Now that I am getting familiar with the Edge Aware Masking Brush in photoFXlab, it is turning out to be one of my favorite selection tools.

These are the basic steps to replace a sky and it is very simple:

1.  Once inside the plug-in, duplicate the bottom layer (always do this when using photoFXlab – it can save you from a lot of problems in the long run.)

2.  Go to +From File button and select a cloud image you like – watch out for the way the sun is lighting up the clouds. If you took the original image in the middle of the day, use a cloud image from a similar time of day. Also be sure it is a jpeg or a psd file (it will flatten the layers when it comes in) – photoFXlab does not open up camera raw files. I took a NEF file I liked and saved it down as a jpg in Photoshop – pretty easy.

3.  Use the Tools tab in photoFXlab to Scale, Move or Rotate (or flip) the cloud layer to fit the area you want to fill – line up the part of the image you like, even if the edges go outside the original image size.

4.  Move this layer underneath the duplicated image layer.

5.  Now the magic starts!  Select the Masks tab and create a fairly small size brush setting the Strength to 0 (creates a black line on the mask so you see through to layer underneath), Hardness around .20 (shows a fairly large feather size – set to 1 it has no feather), Flow 1.00 (if you make this .5, you only get a gray or 50% black color and it is hard to keep the tone the same), and Edge Aware 1.00 (set to 0 it will detect no edges).  Start painting on the mask – make sure the crosshairs or inner circle of the brush do not enter into any part of the image you want to keep. Let the feather area of the brush slip over other areas so edges between image layers will be sharp. Zoom in if you need to get the details. Paint around the horizon edges first, and then fill in the background with a larger brush size and Edge Aware set to 0. Voila – there is your new sky.

What is really neat is that even if your little edges disappear – like the coat hangars and chain in the above image, the details can sometimes be brought back by lowering the opacity of your cloud image just a little – in this case I set it to 54% since I did not want the clouds being the major center of attention. Just be careful around the horizon lines – set the Strength to 255 (white) to clean up areas that you painted over – it actually acts like an eraser.

The +From Stack button was clicked to create a Stamped or Composite layer on top. In the Adjustments tab the Saturation was set to 23, Contrast to -23, Dynamics to 51, Highlights to -21, and Shadows to -4. The image was brought back into Photoshop where a Curves Adjustment Layer was added for additional contrast and that was it.

This is so much faster than using the Photoshop selection tools or any of the masking plug-ins, but it really works best on skies. I believe other programs should be used when you have a more complicated selection. Still, this is one of the major things I need it for and it works great!
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I listened to Topaz Webinar A Closer Look at Edge-Aware Brushes with Nicole Paschal, who does a great job creating  interesting and useful webinars that highlight all the Topaz products and how they work together. You can type in questions in an interactive way with both the staff and Nicole as she is presenting the webinar – very informative. Several webinar tips are listed below along with a few of mine:

  • If you find that you are not getting a good distinct line between the items you are trying to select, change the brush size down to a smaller size – it will give you a better result as large brushes do not recognize edges as well. The Edge-Aware technology is based upon the color under the crosshair so this gives a smaller and more accurate sample.
  • Can either brush or click to fill area. Usually the first pass of brushing will leave little areas not covered completely or with a little haloing, but if you brush back over it , they disappear. Nichole finds that it is easier for her to just click several times as she moves through the area of the image instead of actually brushing.
  • Make sure your inner circle is not touching any color you do not want selected.
  • Set the Brush Strength to 255 to paint back in areas that you accidentally covered up when painting on the mask. If you set the Strength to 125, the area allows 50% of the layer below to show through, as done in the last image below.
  • Probably best to create another +From Stack layer if you want to add some of the Brushes effects to an image. Nicole says she likes to do just one major brush effect to each layer at a time. There is then more flexibility in adjusting opacity and changing blend mode for each change done.


If you look closely, you can tell this Marsh Harbour image used the same cloud image, this time at full strength. The same workflow was used to get the clouds in the image. Normally at this point the Adjustments tab and the Dynamics slider would have been used, but it just did not give me the look I wanted.  Therefore Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was selected with these filters stacked: Detail Extractor with control points removing it from the sky, Darken/Lighten Center which gives the slight vignette effect, and Pro Contrast using the Dynamic Contrast slider which I do not always like. Nik Viveza 2 was also used to add detail into the water and sharpen the stones a little. Sometimes you have use more than one plug-in to get the right effect, but the sky still looks great using the Masks tab.
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This beautiful Lion’s Face is atop a tower on Flagler College (the old Ponce de Leon Hotel) in St. Augustine, Florida. They are all over the campus and city. These slightly different steps were followed:  The Adjustments tab settings were: Saturation set to 2, Contrast -37 and Dynamics +96.  From the +From File, Shadowhouse Creations Marshmellow Skies was opened, then scaled and rotated in the Tools tab so it was on a diagonal to fill out the sky area. A Stamp layer was created by clicking the +From Stack button, and in the Effects tab the Black and White Effect preset called Opalotype-Hand Tinted Cream preset was applied. This layer was set to Lighten Blend Mode at 100% Opacity. In the Masks tab again, the middle of image was painted out using a large brush set to a Brush Value of 145 (middle gray) so it just clears the effect from the lion’s face a little. Back in Photoshop my layer style frame was used (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames blog).

Pretty easy and fast to replace a sky in this new program from Topaz. If you have some of their products already, download the photoFXlab trial and see what you think – I personally like the feel of the new interface and am using it a lot!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz photoFXlab v1.1
Using photoFXlabs v1.1


When to Use Black & White or Sepia Tone on An Image


This topic has always interested me. There has been so much written on this so I am not going to go over all of it. I have found that for me a little trial-and-error works as good as anything when it comes to this type of processing. Luckily in Lightroom there are presets that will give you a quick look to see how an image will stack up as a monochrome type image, and there are many black and white presets for Photoshop’s ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) that can be downloaded. The St. Augustine, Florida lamp lights RAW file had a really bright blue background and very black wrought iron with little detail. By converting to more of a sepia tone, the detail came out very clear. The really interesting thing is that to get the detail to pop out of the ironwork, an Invert Adjustment Layer set to Soft Light Blend Mode at 92% opacity was used.
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When an image just seems overwhelmed by color and I am having trouble controlling the feel, applying a black and white conversion or introducing a slight color effect can calm down the whole image. That is what happened in the above image that was taken near the summit of the large volcano, Mauna Kea on the Big Island in Hawaii, of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (apparently to be dismantled in 2016) where the Keck Telescope is also located. The little observatory was lost from view in both the strong browns of the surrounding dirt and foreground gravel and the soft blues of the Mauna Loa volcano in the background and the sky. It was processed totally in Lightroom using the Basics section sliders and a preset I had created from reading David duChemin’s book Vision & Voice – Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. I call it the duChemin Massai Chocolate split-tone & vignette preset. Only those two sections of Lightroom 3 were used to create the preset so it still works with Lightroom 4. In Split Toning the Highlights Hue was set to 34 and Saturation t0 30, Shadows Hue was 0 and Saturation 6, and the Balance slider was set to -25. In the Lens Correction section’s Manual tab, the Lens Vignetting Amount slider was set to -63 and the Midpoint to 18. I have used this preset several times as it has a very nice subtle tonal appeal. That was basically all that was done to make this a much more interesting image.
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Another one of my favorite images from Hawaii but once again, the detail would have been lost if it had been processed as taken. The original RAW file had very little detail in the rising hillside and water and the color was totally dull – almost a flat-looking black and white. By converting it to a nice cool water tone, the image takes on new life. The image has several filters stacked in Nik Color Efex Pro 4: BW Conversation using Dynamic Contrast method, Photo Stylizer which give it the beautiful blue glow using Method 1 at 28% Strength, Low Key, Lighten/Darken Center, and Detail Extractor using 7 control points to selectively bring out the details in the image. Nik Viveza 2, Imagenomics Noiseware filter, and OnOne PhotoFrame were also used to complete the image.
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Here is another example of a very busy and overly bright image that really loses its appeal in color. Since it is the oldest drugstore (built in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1739) in the United States, it already has a that vintage feel to it. Therefore a sepia tone really adds to the effect the image should be portraying. This image was an HDR image taken in bright sunlight during the hottest part of the day. It was processed into a black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2, the the background original was layered on top and a black layer mask was added to bring back a hint of color in the windows. Topaz Lens Effects was used to add a slight vignette effect, and finally OnOne PhotoFrame acid burn controlled 05 was added. For both Topaz and OnOne website links, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog.
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It appears that if you have a really nice image but the colors just do not create the correct effect, or if the image gets lost in all the powerful colors or brightness of the day, give the black and white or sepia tones a shot. You do not have to have one of the mentioned filters – Photoshop has a wonderful Black and White Adjustment layer that also adds any monochrome color. Great way to get a quick impression of whether this effect will work on your image. Definitely do not write off an image just because of color issues – it may turn out to be a great shot!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
The Art Corner: Little Girl Knitting – A Mystery Sculpture!
NIK’s Champion Plug-in – Silver Efex Pro 2
Where Am I?
Topaz B&W Effects Plug-In – A Real Winner!


This and That – Just Having Some Fun!


Usually I try to have a particular theme for my major blog. I have been busy this week but doing all sorts of different things so I decided to just post some of my favorites. The image above is from the Big Island in Hawaii and it was not a first pick when I was processing. After I got a chance to play around in Photoshop with it though, it turned out to be one of my favorites. Sort of represents the kind of terrain that the trees in the area have to contend with and the light was very nice at this spot.

This is a 3-image hand-held HDR shot that ended up with a lot of different steps, starting first with Photoshop’s Merge to HDR to align and remove any ghosting. That tone-mapped image was then taken into Nik’s HDR Efex Pro and one of my favorite presets, Grannys Attic, was applied. Next Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 was applied using another one of my favorite presets, Midnight at 3% blur, which gives the tree more of a silhouette feel. Wow – not finished yet! Next Topaz Adjust 5 (see website link in my Tidbits Blog sidebar) was applied with the Timeless IV preset. But there’s more – one of my favorite textures, Shadowhouse Creations Paper Texture Scratchbox4 which has a golden lower half and a light greenish-turquoise top half set to Overlay at 80%, gives the image the warm vintage tones. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added for some tonal contrast. Finally, my Thin Double Edge Frame was applied (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames blog) – it creates a really nice slim framing and the colors can be changed easily by sampling within the image. Done!

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This wall art image is on display in the open-air one mile long corridor that contains all sorts of art at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii. Just one of the very unusual pieces that is available to view on your leisurely stroll about the resort, but this guy means business or else he has some really bad breath!

This time I tried a sharpening technique in Photoshop’s Merge to HDR (see John Paul Caponigro’s blog Creative Sharpening with HDR Software) as a first step. Next, using Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel (see links at end for blog link), two Flypaper textures were added, Paper Texture Creme Anglaise Taster set to Blend Mode Exclusion at 100% Opacity which turned the whole image dark and Paper Texture Touchstone Taster set to Color Burn Blend Mode at 64% Opacity. A slight S-Curve Curves Adjustment Layer was added to increase contrast a little. Finally OnOne’s PhotoFrame (see website link in my Tidbits Blog sidebar) acid burn controlled 04 frame was used with the color being sampled from the image.

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Oh no! Where did he come from? Back in my blog again?? – this is my office-mate Ted – had him way before he got famous. Seems to be enjoying himself. Hum! (See my Tidbits Blog My Office Friend Ted.)

Ted was processed using the wonderful Topaz Simplify 3 plug-in (see website link in my Tidbits Blog sidebar)  and here are my settings used: Simplify – Colorspace YCbCR, Simplify Size 0.52, Feature Boost 3.83, Details Strength 1.51, Details Boost 1.27, Details Size 0.62, Remove Small 0, and Remove Weak 0.16; Adjust – Brightness 0.01, Contrast 1.07. Saturation 1.03, and Saturation Boost 0.97; and Edges – Mono Edge Fine, Edge Strength 4.47, Simplify Edge 0.39, Reduce Weak 7, Reduce Small 0.07, and Fatten Edge 4.11. A composite was created above this layer (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) and set to Linear Light at 37%. Next Sarah Gardner’s texture Blush Cherry was added (the website is no longer offering this texture but ShadowHouse Creations Pastels Texture Set Pastel-10 is very close) set to Soft Light Blend Mode at 100% Opacity lightened up the image. A text layer was created using Sassys Teddys 3 font and a Layer Style with these settings were added to the text layer: Bevel & Emboss set to Contour and Texture, Style Inner Bevel, Technique Smooth, Depth 100, Direction Up, Size 7, Soften 0, Angle 25 wit Use Global Light checked, Altitude 30 and the rest default settings; Outer Glow set to Normal Blend Mode, Opacity 100, color R77/G30/B19, Technique Softer, Spread 0, Size 237 and the rest default settings; and Drop Shadow – just dragged around on screen a bit in Multiply Blend Mode and Black, Opacity 75%, Angle 25 & Use Global Light checked, Distance 29, Spread 0, and Size 7. Whew! Finally the same Layer Style was applied as for the first image using different colors in the frame.

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Thought I would finish off with an effect that reminded me of one of my kids favorite books from forever ago, The Berenstein Bear’s Spooky Old House. This old building image I use a lot for practice with the plug-ins is in Jackson, Mississippi and stands under one of the most striking buildings in the area, the Lamar Life Insurance Building (see my Tidbits Blog Topaz Adjust 5 Is Here! First Look!).

The processing for this image was practically all in Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 – four filters were stacked: Detail Extractor, Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast, and Midnight using Color Set Blue and Blur set to6%. These are some of my favorite filters and are used often with various other filters for different looks. Got to love Color Efex Pro! A Curves Adjustment Layer was added for a little more contrast and OnOne’s PhotoFrame Jack Davis 02i. Pretty simple but really cool looking.

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Hope you enjoyed some of the images I was working with this past week and hope I did not put you to sleep with all the details. Most of these images did not require a lot of work and the plug-ins gave a really nice boost to the final look in all of them……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR EFex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow!
Using Color Efex Pro and Texture for a Warm Hawaiian Landscape Effect
Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel Updated!
White Daisies! Using Color Efex Pro Midnight Filter


Selective Color on a B&W Image for Impact


Sometimes I like to just have one or two colors in an image for more impact and artistic appeal. There are many ways to do this in just Photoshop itself – some as simple as using a Black and White Adjustment Layer, a Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer (with the Monochrome box checked) or the Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer (with the Saturation slider set to 100), and in the attached layer mask painting back in the areas you want colored. I decided to use some of the wonderful Photoshop plug-ins that are available and all images in my post today are using them. The above uses probably the most powerful black and white plug-in made – Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2). This image is of the steps up the side of the Keck Telescope on the top of Mauna Kea on the Big Island in Hawaii. I loved the way the stairs made such a striking line against the white of the building and how the deep blue color matched the sky. I could actually imagine climbing up there and looking around and down at the telescope lens! Now that would be a cool shot! Since there were a lot of distracting colors in the image, the decision was made to convert it to a black and white to remove it, but wanted to retain the beautiful blue color. In SEP2 adjustments were made globally to the image using the Neutral preset and then control points were placed strategically on all the blue areas with the SC (Selective Coloration) sliders opened up to 100% to let the color show through. Nik’s Viveza 2 was used to even out the sky and that was about all. Very simple processing for a very simple image.
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Here is another image (from the Hawaiian Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii) using Nik plug-ins: First Viveza to add contrast and sharpness to several elements in the image; next SEP2 where control points were placed on the lounger and the water where the color was to appear – adjust the SC slider to 100% to get the full color showing up (or set it lower for just a little color as shown in the water area); and finally Color Efex Pro 4 using the Detail Extractor and the Glamour Glow filters (set to an overall effect of 73%). Back in Photoshop a Gaussian Blur layer was added to slightly soften the background – a gradient was applied to a layer mask to do this and the close up tree trunks were painted back in. The original image was way to busy with the full color applied, but with the blue and cool tones applied, it makes for a relaxing image of Hawaii.
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The image above was taken while walking to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner in San Francisco in the winter. I had a really difficult time getting the look I wanted. This image originally had a very  tungsten yellow look that was corrected in Lightroom. I knew it needed a lot of work but I did not want to get rid of it since it represents to me what San Francisco is all about. After trying many different plug-ins and Photoshop tools, this dark foggy image was the winner. It was really cold, windy and damp outside and this is exactly how I remember it. There were two things I had trouble working with – the bright street light and the soft shot from taking the image at night without a tripod. My camera (a Nikon D300) is not the best at night. One other thing that really improved this image was the crop – it took several attempts to get the balance I was looking for.  There was little color in this image to being with, so I already knew it needed to be processed as a black and white image. Therefore, I went back to another of my favorites, Topaz Black and White Effects (see sidebar for website  link at my Tidbits Blog) using the Classic Traditional preset with adjustments. This plug-in is somewhat like SEP2, but does so many different things that it is hard to compare the two. Both are excellent products and I would be lost without either one of them. The windows were painted back in to bring out the soft warm glow feel. The last step added the Fog 1 preset in Topaz Lens Effects to enhance the fog that was already present to some extent, but this could have been painted in using a fog brush on a separate layer and adjusting the layer opacity. Also, I did use Imagenomics Noiseware on this image at the beginning as it had a lot of noise – they just came out with a new version and I am trying out the trial. So far I love it!
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My last example is perhaps my favorite since it came out so sharp and clean. Believe it or not, this wonderful little mill sits outside the Big Thunder Mountain Roller Coaster (here’s a pretty lame U-Tube of the ride but it does bring back memories!) at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Once again, several attempts were made at processing this image with the red mill being the focal point I wanted in color. I ended up using OnOne’s Perfect Effects (see sidebar for website  link at my Tidbits Blog) to get this terrific look. I keep forgetting how powerful this program can be and yet it created such a low distortion to the image even though there were four filters stacked to get this result: Black & White Grainy Film preset with the mill and center area of the image painted back in to show the color, Photo Filters Tobacco, Glow Black Soft, and Vignette Big Softy. The masking feature in this program is fabulous and it took just a few minutes to mask in the colors I wanted.

Conclusion: As I said, there are many ways this can be done – you do not have to have the plug-ins. I do believe Photoshop’s Black and White Adjustment Layer is quite a powerful tool to turn you images into really beautiful black and whites. Most of the plug-in effects can then be accomplished using Hue Saturation Adjustment Layers or Selective Color Adjustment Layers. Even Curves and Levels Adjustment Layers can add some real interesting colors and contrast to an image. The plug-ins I used here do add a lot more dimension to an image in a very short time to get effects that take longer to do in just Photoshop, so I do recommend you try out any of the ones I mentioned. Experiment around and see what you can get. As you can see, it took me several attempts and I even walked away from an image for a day, to get the results I wanted. The really nice thing is that if an image is just too busy and there is too much color in it, try adding a quick B&W Adjustment Layer to see if converting it to a black and white can calm it down. If so, then try different Photoshop tools or plug-ins to bring back color on where you want the viewer to focus – it can make what appeared to be at first glance a bad picture into a great one!……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
NIK’s Champion Plug-in – Silver Efex Pro 2
Topaz B&W Effects Plug-In – A Real Winner!
Where Am I?
Black and White Photo or Not? Give It a Try on That Difficult Image
Loving Both Filters!


Some Digital Infrared Fun!


I have always wanted to try this technique, so I finally got up the courage to see if I could get something interesting without actually taking an old camera and converting it for infrared picture taking. Maybe sometime I will do this, but right now I am having fun using all my Photoshop tricks to get what I think is a reasonable infrared look. Most infrared images have a small amount of graininess and glow in them. Trees appear white and skies very dark – can produce very surreal effects. There are many techniques that do this, so I will cover just a few that I like.

Technique One – the Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer

The image above is of Laupahoehoe Harbor (link to the tsunamis that hit this area in 1946 and 1960) and is actually one of my favorite color images from my trip to the Big Island. Since infrared photography does well with landscapes that have blue skies with white clouds and nice green foregrounds, I thought I would try this image first.

I used a technique that I learned a while back from Photoshop TV (Episode 41) where the Photoshop Guys say it takes the blue color in an image and makes them really dark, and the greens and makes them really light. This is a pretty simple explanation, but I believe it created a very true infrared look. Below are the steps used in Photoshop:

1. Open a landscape image that has sky, clouds, trees, grass – something similar to the above.
2. Add a Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer and check Monochrome box, which converts the image to a black and white. Use these numbers to start with:
Red +60
Green +60 (many resources say start with +200)
Blue – Move until you get a nice dark sky – then readjust the greens to a lighter amount
Adjust the Reds – foreground gets more contrast and lightens up
3. Create a composite layer – CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E.
4. For this step you need to make sure your Foreground color is set to white (it took me forever to figure this out – my glow kept coming out orange-duh) and your image is in 8-bit mode (Adjust -> Mode -> 8 bit) for this filter to work.
5. Run the Distort -> Diffuse Glow and use these slider settings:  Graininess (adds noises to image) 2; Glow Amount 2; and Clear Amount (detail visible) 10-12. (In Scott Kelby’s book referenced below, he suggest Graininess set to 3, Clear Amount 15, and move Glow Amount until you just get a glow without blowing out the highlights.)

There is a built-in Black and White Infrared preset in the Channel Mixer that you can try, but it makes the sky too light where it should have a nice dark look. After creating this image, I spent a few minutes looking in other resources for more information. Scott Kelby’s The Photoshop Channels Book has a small chapter on the above. He states “…..in infrared, if they (the Red, Green and Blue sliders) don’t add up to 100%, you’ll have a tint when you’re done.” On my image above, I used Red (+61), Green (+200) and Blue (-163) and Constant (-18). The Constant slider can be lowered to keep the whites from being so blown out, which I noticed in my image. I found I did not like the Diffuse Glow on any of my images so I did not use it (it was making the whites murky-looking if Diffuse Glow Amount is set above 1).

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Technique Two – Using the Black and White Adjustment Layer

This dreamy image was actually taken in Hawaii along the road to Waipi’o Valley even though the Infrared effect makes it look like the U.S. New England coast in winter. I started with the Infrared preset in the Black and White Adjustment Layer drop-down field and just started moving sliders until I got that dark sky (blue slider set to -34) and white trees (green slider set to +241 and don’t forget the yellow +195 and red -40 sliders too). To get the really pretty glow I could not get with the Photoshop filter, I ended up using Glamour Glow in Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 with the Glow Amount set all the way up at +100. Then back in Photoshop, I painted out on a white layer mask using a black brush some of the areas that were overdone. The Glamour Glow filter really added the dreamy feel I wanted for this image.

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Technique Three – Nik Color Efex Pro’s Infrared Film Filter

This filter is why I decided to write a blog on Infrared imaging. The large tropical plants were along the pathway to Akaka Falls on the Big Island in Hawaii. The actual color image does not show off the plant leaf structure as nicely as the infrared effect does. It is interesting to see that the really bright green leaves look very light in this image, but as the tone of green goes darker, the leaves go much darker. This image stacked the Infrared Film filter (Method 2, Lighten Highlight 24, Brightness 30, Contrast 91, and Shadows 67); Detail Extractor filter (Detail Extractor 41, Contrast 69, Saturation -12, and Normal mode with the Overall Opacity slider set to 3% and + Control Points set in the middle bottom and trees on upper right to improve the detail in these areas only); and Glamour Glow filter (Glow 27, Saturation -27, Glow Warmth 0, Shadows 41 and Highlights 44). This image definitely has the soft glow effect and a little graininess that is characteristic of the Infrared look.

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Technique Four: Use a Lightroom Infrared Preset

This one took me by surprise – I did not think it would work that great but as it turns out, it did a pretty nice job without much adjusting. (Click on image to see original color shot on Flickr.) You must have Lightroom to use this preset that can be downloaded from the Adobe Exchange and is called GA B&W infrared 01. The power in this preset lies in the Camera Calibration settings where the Tint is set at -100 (towards the green side) and the Blue Primary Hue is very negative – this all helps give the infrared look. I mainly went into the B&W panel since the preset uses it and adjusted my blues, reds and yellows a little; adjusted the Tone Curve by dragging in the image until I got the look I liked; and then added a small dark vignette to the edges. I “Edited a copy with Lightroom Adjustments in Photoshop” where WOW-Frame 09 layer style was added and that was it. (All the above images used this frame – see my Tidbits Blog Let’s Focus on OnOne’s Focus Point 2 – Nice Little Plug-in!) Very easy.

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Thought I would add this image just to show you that the infrared look can be used on something other than a landscape – this was using the Lightroom preset also. (Click on image to see original color shot on Flickr.) I think what I learned is that the image must have pretty striking blues and greens to get the look. Infrared images can get a very cluttered look if you are not careful – I had a hard time making sure you could really see what the image was showing. There were several images that just did not turn out at all so it does take some practice to get it right. It seems easy to destroy the quality of the image – lots of noise shows up or edges get blurred so that can be hard to control also.

My bottom line is use the Lightroom preset on a Virtual Copy if you think you might want to try infrared on an image. If it looks pretty good after playing with the sliders a bit, take it into Photoshop and try the other methods or plug-ins to see if you can get a better look. Personally, almost everything I tried with the Lightroom preset looked nice with some adjusting. I am not sure I love the infrared effect but if I decided to use it, that is probably the method I will use. Hope this little analysis helped a few of you out – there is so much out there on infrared photography but I believe the methods above are the easiest ways to get good result in Photoshop. Give it a try…..Digital Lady Syd


Unsharp Mask Filter In LAB Mode


I have been experimenting with all types of sharpening methods over the last few months. I really liked the High Pass Sharpening method that is very popular, the new improved Sharpen Tool in Photoshop CS5, and the Smart Sharpen Filter that so many use. Recently I read Harold Davis‘ book The Photoshop Darkroom where he gives steps to sharping in the LAB Mode. I have now started using this method – it takes a little more time to do, but I believe it really gives the best results. Since I take a lot of time with my images, like to print them, and don’t batch process, it is important that each image gets the best sharpening I can do.

The above image of the fruit shop along the road on the Big Island in Hawaii is an good example of how nice the sharpening can be in an image. Both Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and Topaz Simplify 3 (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) were used in Photoshop to get the rich colors. The LAB sharpening was done after most of the adjustments were made to the image in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Why use LAB Mode sharpening? The most important reason people use it is to keep the colors true and not be influenced by any color shifting that other RGB Mode sharpening may produce. By using a black layer mask, the image is first over-sharpen and then just areas that need the sharpening can be painted back into the image selectively and to various degrees so it does not  have that over-sharpened look. This process also works really well on portraits where just the eyes are sharpened or on areas you want to draw attention to a certain part of an image.

The workflow steps to get this effect are easy:

1.  Apply most of the filters and do  clean up to your image before the next step. Just be sure there are no adjustment layers in the document or they will be discarded upon the conversion. You will need to save the image as an unsharpened version and then flatten it to proceed.

2.  Go to Image -> Mode -> LAB – Click “Don’t Rasterize” and “Don’t Merge” buttons.

3.  Duplicate the layer by clicking CTRL+J.

4.  Go to the Channels panel and highlight the L channel.

5.  Turn on the top eyeball so all channels are showing but only the L channel is highlighted.

6.  Go to Layers Panel and to Filters -> Sharpen -> Unsharp Mask.  I like Harold Davis’s recommendation to start with these settings and adjust from this point.

Radius  2.7   – The higher the Radius setting, the more sharpening occurs
Threshold 9   – The lower the Threshold setting, the sharper the image
Amount  – somewhere between 50-120

Watch out for noise enhancement, especially when adjusting the Amount slider.

7.  Add a black layer mask to layer by holding down the ALT key and clicking the Layer Mask icon at bottom of Layers Panel. Using a soft white brush set to 30% opacity, paint back in the areas you want sharpened leaving areas with noise or over-sharpened edges unpainted. Paint over several times to enhance the effect.

8.  Go to Image -> Mode -> RGB and press the “Don’t Flatten” button. Now you can add your Curves Adjustment Layer and frames to finish up.

Dan Margulis (one of the first three people ever inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame) is the most knowledgeable person when it comes to using the LAB Mode and has written the best book ever on the subject, Photoshop LAB Color. He covers LAB sharpening very thoroughly.


Here is another example of how great this type of sharpening works – it is great to be able to localize where the actual detail is emphasized. This old vintage car was parked in front of the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine, Florida. It is a three image HDR photo processed using Katrin Eismann’s workflow – see my blog HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow! (used Granny’s Attic preset in HDR Efex Pro and Structure Harsh in Silver Efex Pro). Nik’s Viveza 2 was used to increase the detail and color in the wheels and curtains in the windows. Then it was taken into the LAB mode and processed using the Unsharp Mask Filter (settings Amount 98/Radius 9.4/Threshold 1). Using a brush set to white at 30% opacity, the wheels, curtains and lettering were painted back in. I wanted the rest of the image to have that grungy old feel to it which HDR Efex Pro gave the image. OnOne PhotoFrame (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Kevin Kubota Flower was added as a last step.


The LAB Unsharp Mask was used on this image of an elephant puppet from Burma that was on display at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii. To see how it was processed see my blog Nik Color Efex Pro 4 Just Does It Right! The sharpening was applied as the last step and it was selectively painted in to just the details in the elephant but not the background. This really made the details in the puppet stand out.  Also all the images but the Lightroom image in my blogs Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part One) and Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part Two) used this method on the bicycles very successfully.

I am not really sure why, but I definitely see an improvement in sharpness using the LAB method of sharpening. There are times when not that much needs to be sharpened in an image and the Sharpen Tool is enough or Nik’s Viveza 2 adds enough sharpening so this process is not necessary. I do think it works really great on my landscape and HDR images where I want a very clear edge on most of the objects. Give this easy method a try and see what you think…..Digital Lady Syd


Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part Two)


Last week I used this bike picture to create an HDR image from three bracketed shots. The image above was created from just the 0 exposure to use as a basic single image to try out the other workflows (this one uses only Lightroom adjustments) and to compare with my own single image workflow. See Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part One). This week I wanted to explore some of the vast number of workflows that give an HDR feel even though all are single exposure images, and try to decide – can a Pseudo HDR image really be as good as the real thing?

The top image used just a simple Lightroom preset (HDR Strong) furnished by Matt Kloskowski, one of the NAPP Photoshop Guys, that gives a pretty good place to start when just using Lightroom for the effect. It is a more realistic look, but still has that detail oriented feel HDR images present. (In this case, three Adjustment Brushes were used on the image: a Sharpen brush painted over just the bikes to bring out the edges cleanly; a Contrast brush to make the white wall in the background appear more gritty; and a Clarity brush painted on the closer posts and the sitting girl.) In Photoshop, a Curves Adjustment Layer was added along with the OnOne PhotoFrame (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) – that was it. I believe this gives a nice realistic look to what I saw but not exactly the HDR feel I wanted to.

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The image above used Topaz Adjust 5, one of the best and most inexpensive Photoshop plug-ins that can be bought. (See sidebar on my Tidbids Blog for website link.) That being said, I also used Topaz Detail, Topaz Simplify 3 and Nik Viveza 2 on the image. In the image below, you can see a comparison as each filter was brought into the final image. To be honest, I really liked the results even though, once again, the HDR image trumped this one for really sharp detail and color saturation.

You can see that just applying the Spicify preset in Topaz Adjust gives a pretty nice start to the pseudo HDR effect. The other plug-ins each added a little more detail and color toning. It seems logical that by trying different plug-ins together, you should be able to get some fairly good approximations to the real HDR look.

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This image used OnOne’s Perfect Effects where filters are also stacked in a similar manner as Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4. The image was processed as above in Lightroom, and then taken into Photoshop where the Perfect Effects plug-in was opened. (The following filters were stacked: Photo Filter -> Blue using a custom blue color of R16G32B136 using a Strength of 39; Movie Looks -> Faux HDR; Landscapes -> Golden Hour Enhancer using the Mask Bug to target the brickwork in top of image and Opacity set to 45%; Color & Tone -> Tonal Contrast with Shadows at 52, Highlights at 92 and Clarity 13 and Strength to 50%; and Detail -> Texture Booster with Blacks at 4.) Image was sharpened and the OnOne PhotoFrame added. This gives a very strong HDR feel but the bikes do not stand out quite as nicely against the brickwork. With a little effort this image could be adjusted  to bring it more in line with the original HDR from last week.
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This image gives the closest and cleanest approximation to the true realistic HDR look. It was created using three Lightroom virtual copies of the same image with the exposures sliders set for to 0, -2, and +1.37. Other settings were also adjusted to enhance individual areas of the image. (For example, the 0 exposure image was adjusted to bring out the midtones clearly. The -2 exposure was used to bring out the gritty appearance of the gray back wall and tree. The +1.37 exposure was used to lighten up some of the brick that was too dark and to enhance the silver and white on the bikes. They were all selected in Lightroom. By right clicking on one of the images, select Edit In -> Stack as Layers in Photoshop option in the menu. In Photoshop, they all appeared in one document as individual layers. Now Black Layer Masks could be added (ALT+Click on Layer Mask icon) to the top two layers. With a low opacity brush, carefully paint back in the areas you want exposed at the different levels.) It is a really great way to stretch the tones in an individual image without using any HDR software or third party plug-ins. Create a composite on top and do localized sharpening where needed. I learned this great technique from Harold Davis and am finding I use it a lot to really get great detail in my images. He calls this technique “Hand HDR” and it is described in his book The Photoshop Darkroom. He has a new book coming out Creating HDR Photos: The Complete Guide to HDR Photography that I am really forward to getting.

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I created several other iterations of this image with varying amounts of success. Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 was used following a very helpful recipe presented in a short Nik blog called My Go-To Recipe for Bringing Out Details with Ellen Anon. The single image was also taken into PhotoMatix Pro and the results were pretty good. Both of these examples had to be readjusted in Camera Raw again before I liked the results. Also processing a single image in Nik’s HDR Efex Pro gives some really interesting results although not all a true HDR effect. Several different Adjustment Layers in Photoshop can help get the color and tone in the image. Experiment to find out which ones work for you.

What an advantage to have a real HDR shot for comparison. Based on this, my conclusions on the pseudo HDR look is as follows:

  • I believe it is possible to get that HDR feel with with just one image, but, and this is a big one, how good the results obtained will be depend on the image you are trying to use. Do not expect a huge landscape with a really large dynamic range to have the detail a true HDR is going to have. If the image does not have a large light to dark range, you will probably have some pretty nice results. The image in this blog has an average range of highlights and shadows, but as seen above there is still some detail missing in all the images.
  • Saturation of the colors can easily get messed up with HDR images, much less with the pseudo imaging look. All of my examples had a real problem getting that nice brick color that my original HDR image contained.  The single images required using Camera Raw processing (sometimes twice) since it is the only filter/program in Photoshop or Lightroom that handles the orange tones. Haloing can occur with the saturation shifts and then other steps need to be taken to reduce the obvious shading.
  • Sharpening is an absolute necessity if doing pseudo HDR – otherwise it just does not have that sharp detail look a real HDR has.
  • Watch the gritty look – it occurs a lot with regular HDR images. With pseudo HDR images, it seems to be even easier to get a totally over the top look if you are not careful.

There are several resources that give some great advice. Ferrell McCollough in his book Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Digital Photography makes a great statement. “…. the choice to shoot a single image rather than an HDR image set should be based on the contrast of the scene. A low contrast scene is easily captured and tone mapped for a single image, but a medium contrast scene can go either way in terms of quality.” RC Concepcion (one of the NAPP Photoshop Guys) has a great book, The HDR Book, that covers single image HDR processing very well and has some great tips on post-processing to get the look.

After comparing all the results, I believe that my best result was with the Harold Davis workflow – it had the sharpest edges and no halos or noise developed by the stacking of the three exposure copies. It also took the longest time to complete since several layer masks had to be created to get the final look. I still like many of the other processes though – I know I will still use my Lightroom preset from last week’s blog, and both Topaz and OnOne have the potential of creating a very good fake HDR look. But this was not just about how the different workflows create the HDR look.

The real question is – is the final result as good as a true HDR. Based on my experimentation, it is not (and to be honest I am not surprised but my curiosity made me look into this). After doing a lot of research and trying many different methods on the same picture (I am tired of this image!), I don’t think any of the results were quite as good as the original tone-mapped HDR image. You can get close, and if you did not have a true HDR image to compare to, you might think several of the single image results were good enough. But bottom line, the detail, color and tonal range is just not up to true HDR standards. I decided the image I liked best is below because it is not competing at all with the original HDR look. It was created by using the Davis Workflow image and adding Topaz Adjust to it. The Curve was changed to Negative and the Adaptive Exposure, Details, and Color sections were adjusted.  The effect was then brushed off the reading girl. I love the colors – it gives a really fantasy look and the bikes show up great!

Maybe the real question is what is HDR? Is it that over-saturated look or that super-detailed look? Or is it a totally different looking image as above that is definitely an HDR look but way out there! My advice is that if you think you want an HDR look, no matter what kind, you need to bracket and take the shots. If you take 5 images, you should be able to get a nice HDR image, even if all the shots are not great. If you could only get one shot, there are some pretty easy ways to get that HDR appearance. It may take some effort to pull the final look together, but at least you got the shot the way you wanted it! Hope you enjoyed this blog and it helps you with your single image processing…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Pseudo HDR Using NIK Color Efex Pro 4
With One Good Photo – Try the Pseudo HDR Effect
Another Pseudo HDR from Me!
Another Pseudo HDR Image with NIK CEP4 – Got to Love the Effect!
Settings for Vivid Drawing Look ACR/Lightroom Preset and NIK Color Efex Pro 4 Pseudo HDR Recipe


Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part One)



This week I have been pondering this question. Since this is such a large subject for me, I am making this a two part blog so I can show some other workflows to try next time. (See Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part Two))It seems there is so much software and so many tutorials on both subjects available and it gets pretty confusing. What really works and is it possible to get that HDR look with just one photo (hence Pseudo HDR)? In my many past blogs on Pseudo HDR, I have had a pretty fair amount of success getting one image pretty close to a true HDR look. When creating a Pseudo HDR image, only one image is used. I have to admit that I am horrible about dragging my tripod with me so I hand hold when shooting – many times one or more of the images are totally blurry so I am stuck using just one.

The image above is the actual HDR image to use for a quick comparison. It was taken at Flagler College (the old Ponce de Leon Hotel) in St. Augustine, Florida. Only three shots were bracketed using exposure compensations set to 0, -1, and +1. The shot was taken knowing it would make a great HDR image – the girl never saw me taking the image as she was so engrossed in her book, but she really makes the picture pop. Katrin Eismann’s method for processing HDR images (see my blog HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR EFex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow!) was used although there are several other techniques out there that do a great jobs in HDR (see Related Blog Links below for more information on this). Basically I just followed her workflow.
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This image used my SJ Pseudo HDR preset in Lightroom (or ACR) to begin the HDR process on the the 0 Exposure Compensation image. I followed my workflow (see my blog Pseudo HDR Using NIK Color Efex Pro 4 for steps and all download links) which entails using my SJ Pseudo1 Recipe in NIK Color Efex Pro 4. Below is the original NEF file as downloaded from the camera. The presets I created for Lightroom and ACR create a warmer tone than the original image and the processing in both Katrin’s HDR workflow and my Pseudo HDR workflow produced dramatically different colors. To get this closer to what the beautiful brickwork really looks like in the single image, I used Dr. Brown’s ACR script twice to cool down the original major orange yellow tint. Adobe Camera Raw is the only place that is easily accessible to adjust orange (especially for skin tone adjustment) so it was the logical place to work on this color issue. The first attempt I adjusted the HSL panel and changed all three settings for the Reds, Oranges, Yellows and Greens. I still did not like the result so the second time around the Temperature and Tint was adjusted and more Hue changes. I think I finally got the result I like, but it still has a little too much beige-yellow tone in it. (See my blog Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script.) The true HDR image has more colors in the image and the detail is still a little more distinct even though the pseudo image was sharpened extensively. On the other hand, the bikes pop more in the single image and appear to be closer in color to the original image.


Above you can really see in this 2 to 1 blow up of the back wheel chain area the difference between the detail and color toning. (Single image on left and HDR on right.) I definitely like the sharper detail on the true HDR but the color and saturation of the colors in the single image is quite appealing, especially when viewed overall.

When I look at the original, I have to admit I even like the softer tones. Makes you ponder whether an HDR was really necessary in this case – which is a whole other area to cover. Next week I am going to apply some Topaz Adjust and OnOne Perfect Effects filters (for website links, see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) to this image and see if the results are as good. Both plug-ins give some great HDR results with the right image. I also have another totally different type of workflow using just one image that can give some fabulous results when used correctly. Until then, try processing a single image and compare it to your HDR results and see what you get. I am not sure which one of mine I like best…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Different Images – Same Look Using HDR!
Pseudo HDR Using NIK Color Efex Pro 4
With One Good Photo – Try the Pseudo HDR Effect
Why I Love Topaz Adjust!
Nik HDR Efex Pro Example
Another Pseudo HDR from Me!
Problems for Big Ben
Pseudo HDR in OnOne Perfect Effects


Using Color Efex Pro and Texture for a Warm Hawaiian Landscape Effect


I have been enjoying processing some of my Hawaiian images recently and noticed that I really liked the orange-brown tones on some of them. Often the greens tone, especially in the beautiful Hawaiian landscapes, becomes a bit overwhelming so this creates a more appealing look. This technique basically involves using Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in using two filters to start the look (although a very similar effect could be obtained using Color Efex Pro 3) and then Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel (see my blog on “Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel – A Real Winner!“) to finish it up.

The image above looks out on the Pacific Ocean from the Big Island’s Eastern Side near Umauma Falls and creates a particularly nice feel with this effect added. After applying SJ-My Vivid Drawing Look preset in Lightroom orACR (be sure to adjust the new Shadows and Whites sliders if using Lightroom 4 or Photoshop CS6) and doing basic spot clean up to the image, it was first taken into Nik’s Color Efex Pro and two filters were stacked (and saved as a preset): Contrast Color Range (Color set to 221 degrees, Color Contrast set to 147%, Brightness set to 7%, Contrast set to 8%, and Highlights set to 54%) and Brilliance/Warmth (Saturation set t0 21%, Warmth set to 32%, and Perceptual Saturation set to 21%). In this case a plain black Image Border was also added (Type 13 set to Size -66% and Spread 0%).  Next Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel was opened and Flypaper Texture‘s Apple Blush Texture added as a layer on top set to Overlay Blend Mode at 83% opacity. That was it! It gives a really soft warm feel to the image and it looks the way I remember it.


This image (taken of the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa beach area) followed a similar process except that the original image had more overall problems. Since the sky was blown out in the original, a little more texture had to be added to the sky to keep the warm feel. The same Color Efex Pro filter recipe was applied, and then textures were added from Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel – Flypaper’s Leaky Garret texture set to Soft Light Blend Mode at 100% Opacity, and the Apple Blush texture set to Overlay Blend Mode at 100% Opacity. A new texture layer using ShadowHouse Creations ScratchBox4 texture set to Hard Light Blend Mode at  48% Opacity was applied next to give the cloud look in the sky. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was created with Saturation set to +43 to add more yellow to the sky only (filled Layer Mask with black and painted back just the sky). I still was not happy so a Curves Adjustment Layer was added to just make the water brighter (filled the layer mask with black and painted back in the water). A  Gradient Map Adjustment Layer was added using the Graphix1 Warhol 2 gradient that goes from a whitish yellow to a medium yellow to lighten the whole image just a little more, and the layer was set to Linear Burn Blend Mode at 22% Opacity. OnOne’s PhotoFrame (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog) Grunge 10 was added as a last step.

This image used the same Color Efex Pro stacked filters as the first image with no changes to settings. I also used Nik’s Viveza 2 to adjust a color imbalance in the plant reflection and to tone down the blue sky in the left corner. Back in Photoshop, using Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel, Apple Blush texture was set to Overlay Blend Mode at 43% Opacity, and Muscatel texture set to Linear Light Blend Mode at 51% Opacity. If the effect is too strong on any of the image, just add a layer mask to the texture and use a low opacity brush to paint out some of the effect on the mask. I did that with the Muscatel texture where the orange fish became a little too electric for my taste. Finally a Curves Adjustment Layer was used to add back a little contrast to the image.

I think this technique is a nice change of pace for tree and plant landscape images, but I did not have much luck using it on other type images. Since I do like to experiment with Nik plug-ins, I got the idea to use the Contrast Color Range filter from Nik’s Education Blog. Each week they are examining a different filter and showing you what it will do. Hope you enjoy this recipe, it is really easy and fun to use!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel – A Real Winner!
NIK Color Efex Pro 4 – Digital Lady Syd’s Review!
Russell Brown Texture Panel Landscape Image


Use NIK Color Efex Pro 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2 Together to Create Fabulous Landscapes!


I love this Hawaiian image of the wonderful wooden boats that run between the different stopping points along the one mile walkway at the Hilton Waikoloa Village resort. These boats are an absolutely great way to move about – and a great way to meet other people!

I tried a new technique to process all the landscape blog images that was learned from another of Nik’s great webinars! The first example in “Integrating the Complete Collection Workflow to Create the Dynamic Image” by Dan Hughes was used to create all these great effects. It does require that you own both Nik Photoshop plug-ins, Silver Efex Pro 2 and Color Efex Pro 4.

Here is the basic workflow.

1. First adjust the image in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw and bring it into Photoshop – clean up any problem areas and noise.

2. Go into Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 – this image used the High Structure (Harsh) preset, which seems to be a good starting place on most images tried (and Dan Hughes started with this one). Go to the Color Filter section and set the Color and Color Strength slider. Adjust globally the Contrast sliders and Structure sliders. If the clouds look too sharp, which they did in this image, use a (-) Control Point on the clouds to remove some of the effect in this area. Add (+) Control Points in areas you want more Contrast or Fine Structure. The Structure sliders add texture to the image and make it appear very sharp. Exit to Photoshop and change the Layer Blend Mode to Luminosity – this is an important step!

3. Open Nik Color Efex Pro 4. Any of your favorite filters can be selected but the above image and Nik’s example used these two filters stacked: Brilliance/Warmth – use the Perceptual Saturation slider which works like the human eye sees color; and Darken/Lighten Center which acts like a vignette. Exit to Photoshop.

4. Final steps to consider are adding a High Pass filter to sharpen the image further, and adding a Curves Adjustment Layer for additional contrast. Not all images will need these steps, but both were used on the image above using a High Pass Radius set to 8.9 and a Curves Adjustment Point set to -1/2. (See the tip on the image in my Tidbits Blog “I Didn’t Know That! Curves Adjustment Layers.”)
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The view of the coastline from one end of the Hilton Waikoloa Resort used the exact same workflow as above. Nik’s Viveza 2 filter was added after the other two plug-ins to even out the saturation in the brown rock wall. This could have been done in Photoshop using a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer with the mask filled to black –  use a soft brush set to low opacity to bring in the saturation where you want it.
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This is an image of the road up Mauna Kea volcano on the Big Island in Hawaii – it has a bit of a surreal feel but the wild yellow daisies were beautiful and unusual. The same basic workflow was used except that the stacked  filters used in Color Efex Pro are the Detail Extractor, the Graduated Neutral Density to darken the top some, and Pro Contrast to make the yellow flowers show up more. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was targeted for just the flowers (using the same technique as on the wall above) to get the correct yellow tone. The original filters from the workflow were tried first, but the results did not look quite right to me so more experimenting had to be done until I came up with the ones used. Don’t get discouraged if you do not like the results with the filters you start with – there is always something in Color Efex Pro that will enhance even the most difficult images.
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Image is of Lapakahi State Historical Park on the Big Island in Hawaii, which shows part of a 600 year old village ruins. It was processed using the above workflow and adding Midnight to the bottom of the stack to get a little less of that bright daylight look. Otherwise the same workflow was followed.
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The Umauma Falls image is an example of a more difficult image to process. The first iteration used the settings in the workflow – it looked okay but the waterfalls were lost in the all the detail and color in the image. So I went back into Color Efex Pro 4 and started over. This time the following filters were stacked: Detail Extractor; Foliage to make the yellow flowers show up better; Remove Color Cast for the overdone yellow-green feel that is common in nature shots; Midnight – this filter made the image pop and gave it a “later in the day” feel (set to Color Set Blue, Blur slider moved way back to 10%, and the overall opacity of the filter set to 58%); and Vignette Blur using Type 3 to guide the eye through the image – a couple (-) control points were set on the waterfalls so they stayed in focus. After changing the plug-in filters, the whole image took on a totally different look. I think it gives a more unique look to the falls and does not look as much like your typical tourist shot.

QUICK TIPS: When working with Color Efex Pro 4, be sure to experiment with the Shadows and Highlights sliders at the bottom of many of the filters. By moving the sliders even just a little, you can bring out some missing details so be sure to check it out each time. Also, click on the arrow by the Control Points to get to the filter’s overall opacity sliders and try reducing some of the effect. The Midnight filter at 100% looked way overdone on the waterfall image. Press P to toggle between your original and your current look quickly.

If you have these programs, give this easy workflow a try – stacking the different Nik plug-ins can give some great results and takes your work to a higher level. And if you have not listened to some of Nik’s webinars, check them out – they have many great tips by some very knowledgeable people…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
NIK Color Efex Pro 4 – Digital Lady Syd’s Review!
Pseudo HDR Using NIK Color Efex Pro 4
NIK’s Champion Plug-in – Silver Efex Pro 2
Black and White Photo or Not? Give It a Try on That Difficult Image
Using NIK’s Color Efex Pro 4 and Viveza Together


Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem!



A while back I listened to a really good webinar at the old Nik site called Incorporating Nik Software into your Daily Workflow with Don Smith. (See my blog “Digital Landscape Effects with Nik Software.”) Don Smith runs a great website called Nature’s Best by Don Smith Photography. In his excellent workflow, that is discussed in my earlier blog, he talked about using Nik’s Viveza 2 plug-in, a powerful plug-in to selectively control color and light in your photographs. I have owned Viveza since it first came out and never used it that much since I thought it was like Adobe Camera Raw. I only used the plug-in after I had processed an image in Lightroom (or ACR) and could not get back to make adjustments*.

This image was taken on the road up to the incredible Waipi’o Valley – it represents how the Big Island of Hawaii felt and looked to me while I was there. It was very windy and I had to really work hard to get a good HDR shot since the tree leaves and waves were moving so much. The final result was processed with PhotoMatix Pro 4. (It gave a great result since it lets you pinpoint exactly where the problem areas will be.) The tone-mapped image was processed in Photoshop and the first thing done was to use Dr. Brown’s Edit Layers with ACR script to get rid of noise in the sky and blue water. Noise and clean up corrections need to be done first before applying the beautiful color and light effects that the Viveza plug-in adds. Next a composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) of the image was created and converted into a Smart Object, and then opened up in Viveza 2. Here is what my dialog box looked like before applying and after applying Viveza.


The top window shows how the image looked as it was brought into Photoshop at this point. The settings indicate what settings were used on the blue sky area but is not turned on in the view screen. The second image shows how the image looked once all five control points were turned on and gives a much closer look to the final. These settings show what ones were used where the dot is placed. The circle indicates where these settings will be applied and they can be applied by pulling out the lines on the image or adjusting the sliders on the right. You can set the control point circle size by just dragging out the bottom bar to fit. The really nice thing is that the changes you are doing will not affect colors that are not in its range where the point is set. If a slight change does occur, just set a control point in that area and do not make any changes – that part goes back to the original state. To finish the image a Curves Adjustment Layer was created to emphasize the grassy area and the sky. The masks were filled with black and the areas to emphasize were painted back in the mask using a very low opacity brush and building up the effect.

The important thing to understand is the the real power of this plug-in is not in the global adjustments you can make when you first open it up (which appear to be similar to ACR); it is with the use of the control points on the image that make this plug-in incredible! If you have just one area that is not sharp enough, just add a control point to that area and move the Structure (great little slider!) and maybe the Contrast or Brightness sliders to blend the area into the rest of the image. The Warmth slider is great also. If you want to warm up the image just a bit, as done above in the foreground area, it can really give a lovely lighted glow. To cool down are area, just move the slider a little bit to the left. Move the Structure slider to the left to make a background area smooth out in a blur so it practically disappears. The more you work with this little plug-in, the more handy it is. I am not sure I could process an image without it now – although I am still using Lightroom’s Develop module as my first step. Most people apply Viveza after using the other plug-ins like Nik’s Color Efex Pro, OnOne Perfect Effects 3, or Topaz Adjust or Black and White Effects. In this photo, Viveza was the only plug-in applied.
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Another webinar I listened to at the Nik site was called “Mastering Macro Images with Nik Software & Photoshop Elements, Presented by Mike Moats” who also uses the basic workflow like Don Smith, but applies it to the macro world. If you like macro photography, check out his Tiny Landscapes blog for some great information. He uses Nik Color Efex 4 first and then Viveza to finish up his photos. On this image, I used a recipe created by Matt Kloskowski of Lightroom Killer Tips fame in Nik Color Efex 4 and then added a Lens Blur to soften the bottom left edge and background. In Viveza I used 7 control points for color adjustment. Mike Moats does a great job in this webinar showing you how to apply the control points so you get the best results. If you have this plug-in, even if you do not do macro photography, this video should be viewed.
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The Dome is in the Main Building of Flagler College, aka. Ponce de Leon Hotel circa 1887 (79 Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows line the dining room in this building). Viveza was used with 14 control points to bring out the detail since the lighting was so uneven. It was also processed using OnOne Perfect Effects 3 (see the sidebar in my Tidbits blog for website) where a Glow Effect was added using the Effect Options (Effect-Glow; Type-Surface; Strength-70; Halo-68; Threshold-60; and Mode-Softlight.) to bring out the rich brown wood feel.

I hope you can see how the colors and lighting are fabulous when this plug-in is applied to an image, and it also works with all kinds of other plug-ins. Take the time to download Viveza 2 and see if you like the results. Check out some of my short blogs listed below for more examples of what this plug-in can do. I believe that after having used this plug-in for several months now, if I could only have just one plug-in, it would probably be this one. It does more to improve my photos than any other plug-in I have used…..Digital Lady Syd

* Now that has changed since Dr. Brown has come up with his script to let you open a layer into ACR once inside Photoshop – see my blog “Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script” which, among other things, lets you get into ACR’s Noise Reduction sliders to fix your image.

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Topaz Star Effects on a Wildflower?
The Macro Shot
Another Pseudo HDR from Me!
Combining Plug-ins for More Image Interest
OnOne’s Perfect Mask Works Great!
Problems for Big Ben
Daisies are Everywhere!


Using NIK’s Color Efex Pro 4 and Viveza Together

If you don’t watch the wonderful webinars and training videos that all the major plug-in makers are offering, you are really missing out on some great tips for using their software. Recently Nik released a really great video titled “Mastering Macro Images with Nik Software and Photoshop Elements, presented by Mike Moats” and is located at Nik Software On Demand Center. Mike Moats (he has a really interesting blog) shows how he changes up the workflow from what one might normally do with the Nik products. He first applies Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 (CEP4) and then Nik’s Viveza. He is never quite sure what the CEP4 filters will do to an image. Since the Viveza plug-in adjusts the color and light of an image, it does make sense to apply it after adding CEP4 filter changes. Note: All my CEP4 settings for images are listed at the end of the blog.

I bought the Viveza plug-in when it first came out and everyone was singing its praises. I must confess that after getting Lightroom, I hardly used this plug-in. Now I think I was crazy not too! This video refreshed my memory on why this is the great little plug-in that everyone was raving about. The reason this image pops is that Viveza is able to pin-point small or large areas on the image and adjust it individually – adding in a bit of detail, or toning down a certain color. He teaches you how to set the Control Points that Nik is famous for to get exactly the results you want. In this case, both the saturation and structure control point sliders were individually adjusted on the butterfly and flowers without affecting the background. This is very similar to Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw’s adjustment brushes, but with much better control and more variables available. It absolutely made a huge difference to all of the images in this blog. See the comparison below showing the layer with Vizeva filter turned off and then on. Seven control points were set to get this effect and no Global Adjustments were made. Both plug-ins can be applied to the same Smart Object layer and all image control points are saved for each plug-in on this layer so you can go back and adjust a slider if you do not like the results. The final processing involved cloning out some of the brown spots on the leaves and sharpening the body and wing lines of the butterfly.

The pink daisies are in a container on my front porch. CEP4 and Viveza (using 11 control points) were both used along with OnOne PhotoFrame weathered wood frame (see sidebar on my Tidbits Blog for website).

This last image is a different shot of my carnation and daisies Christmas flowers. The original image required me to duplicate the original layer and apply a Gaussian Blur at 9.1 pixels to block out the distracting background. A layer mask was added and the flower painted back into the mask with a black brush. Then the CEP4 and Viveza (with 17 control points) plug-ins were applied. OnOne PhotoFrame grunge 05 was added along with the Sharpen Tool and a Curves Adjustment Layer.

As you can see, by using the control points to your advantage, very interesting images can be attained. The Viveza plug-in definitely helps sharpen up a slightly soft image. And by setting control points with Structure at -100, the background can be smoothed almost like a gaussian blur effect. If you own either or both of these plug-ins, definitely take a look at this video. Even though he is using flowers and close up photography, he illustrates how to use the control points very well. I learned a lot and am very happy Nik released such a good example of how to use their products…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Nik Color Efex Pro 4 – Digital Lady Syd’s Review
Pseudo HDR Using Nik Color Efex Pro 4

CEP4 Settings for each of the images:

The Monarch Butterfly image above was first adjusted in CEP4 with these filters stacked: Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 26%, Contrast 37%, Saturation 53% and Effect Radius Large); Darken/Lighten Center using #1, Center Luminosity 28%, Border Luminosity -100, Center Size 53% and centered on butterfly head); and Bi-Color User Defined (Opacity 7%, Blend 17%, Vertical Shift 41%, Rotation 46 degrees, Upper Color R66 G68 B98 and Lower Color R184 G103 B4). I would never have thought about using a Bi-Color User Defined filter without viewing this video, but it really enhanced the oranges in the wings and brought out the pink in the flower.

The Daisies used Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 86%, Contrast 78%, Saturation 39% and Effect Radius Large); Bleach Bypass (Brightness -2, Saturation -20%, Contrast 50% and Local Contrast 50%); and Cross Processing (Method L02 and Strength 45%). This example uses similar setting to his first example.

The Christmas Flowers CEP4 settings were: Bleach Bypass (Brightness -6, Saturation -2%, Control 27%, and Local Contrast 65%), Darken/Lighten Center (#1, Center Luminosity -10%, Border Luminosity -27%, Center Size 44% and Place Center just below red carnation), and Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 36%, Contrast 6%, Saturation 21%, and Effect Radius Large with control points in background to remove effect).