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Posts tagged “Graphics

How to Create an Image From Nothing!

This week on CreativeLive I watched a two-day webcast called Photoshop Mastery: Retouching and Collaging with Ben Wilmore – another totally fantastic webinar by the best Photoshop teacher around. Check out CreativeLive’s calendar for their list of upcoming free live webinars. After all this inspiration, I decided to try out a few things I learned. It took a while to create, and lots of mistakes were made, but overall it was just super fun – and to me that is what Photoshop is all about! A new 8X10 document was opened, and then Photoshop’s Grass brush in a pink color got me started. After that, just different items were added to it until I ended up with something I will eventually use on my website! Since several techniques were used, I thought I would go over some of the steps on how to get this graphics look – it was not hard – just time-consuming.

1. Started with an 8 X 12 inch, resolution 300, 16-bit New Document.

2. A New Layer was created on top and the Grass brush was painted on top using the color 8f618e. A Layer Style was opened up (double click on the layer to bring up the Blending Options dialog box) and the Blend If Gray – This Layer’s white tab was set to 191. (Ben gave a good explanation of this – basically by dragging the white tab left, it removes any white areas in the image up to the point you stop. So a 191 setting corresponds to all tones between 191 to 255 on a histogram being eliminated. This technique is used a lot to remove skies and background areas. Split the tab by ALT+clicking on it to make a smoother transition if needed. This step did not split the tab.) This removed a lot of the white in the grass blades that were painted. Also an Outer Glow in a light pink and a Drop Shadow were added. The layer was set to Multiply Blend Mode at 100% opacity.

3. To make the grass look like it was on a cloud my free SJ Cloud 4 in a light grayish color (#bfbfbf) was clicked once on a New Layer and placed under the grass layer. It was stretched across the bottom using the bracket key to make the brush large although the Free Transform key (CTRL+T) could have been used to do this. (Tip – it does not make a difference whether you make the brush larger first or Free Transform holding the SHIFT keep to in proportion – get the same result.)

4. I selected 2 Lil’ Owls Studio French Script Brush 4 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) in a dark pink/purple. A Layer Style (double click on layer to open) was added using a Bevel and Emboss with Contour on, an Inner Shadow, and a Gradient Overlay going from gray to purple. The image below is where I was at – notice I had some birds that I removed later.5. This step would have been much easier if I had decided what I wanted to do with the French sign brush at the start – but I did not plan in advance so it took me a long time to get this right. Just realize that it would have been much easier to add the wood to the background sign (this used Caleb Kimbrough’s free Old Wood 3 texture), add one of my Overlays created in my How to Create Personal Overlays for Your Images blog and was in png format, and then displace the text on the wood using the steps in my Displacing an Overlay blog in a different file and add it back into this file. Otherwise this gets really messy, which is what I realized after-the-fact. I ended up doing all this as Smart Objects, and used three sub-groups within a top group to nest all the sign effects. The webcast did a very nice job of explaining how to use Smart Objects. At least I got some practice doing this. At this point, a layer mask was created on the top group and the sign post painted into the grass so it looks like it is coming out of it.

6. Since adding just brush strokes onto different layers gives transparent areas, a texture can be added behind them with no selection required. After trying at least 10 or 11 different textures, French Kiss Atelier Valley texture was chosen – I liked the subtle colors and the way it made the clouds look like soft grassy areas. It was placed just above the Background Layer set to Normal at 100% opacity.

7. Since there was no ground edge, a New Layer was created under the Grass brush layer and a Mixer Brush was used to add some straight lines to define the shoreline of the image. Used Fay Sirkis’s Palette Knife Classic FX Highlights #1 Brush, (one of the great brushes that can be downloaded for use with her Four Seasons painting online training classes on NAPP – she teaches you how to use this brush in her great Four Seasons painting series Fall training class on NAPP).

8. Another New Layer was created above the Clouds brush layer and using Fay Sirkis’s Cloud Moist Sky Blender 05 brush (included with the brushes in Step 7 – learn to use cloud brushes in her Four Seasons Spring training class), the clouds in the background were embellished a little to make them look a whiter and puffier. It was set to 54% layer opacity.

9. I wanted to add some kind of building structure to my image. I went up on the free stock photo site Stock.xchng and found an image called abandoned stone house – perfect for what was now getting that spooky feel. The house image was brought into the image above the sign groups layers and then Free Transformed (CTRL+T) to fit. A layer mask was added to paint out the road and green trees around the house. It was way too bright so a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+Click between the layers) to the image and the Yellows and Greens sliders were adjusted to match the feel of the image. I put these layers into a Group called Old House Image.

10. The last major thing done was to add a reflection to the foreground grass by using Flaming Pear’s Flood plug-in – an oldie but a goodie. I do not know of any other filter that does this as well. A composite was created on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and the filter run. Just played around with the various sliders until I got just a slight wave effect and that was a a little darker than the image. See my The Flood Look blog for more details on this plug-in. (Here are the settings I used for this image to give you a feel for the amount of detail this plug-in contains: Horizon  83, Offset 0, Perspective 42,  Altitude 50, Waviness  9, Color Swatch Black, Complexity  20, Brilliance  44, Blur  9, Size  0, Height  33, Undulation  40, and Glue Normal.) Lots of fun to use! A black Layer Mask was added to the layer and just the reflection was painted back where I wanted it.

11. The French Kiss Atelier Valley texture was duplicated and placed at the top of the stack to add the canvas feel to the whole image. First a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture and set to Saturation -100 and Lightness +46. Then the texture was set to a Multiply blend mode at 12% layer opacity. Now the whole image has the texture but no color from the texture. See my Getting a Nice Painterly Landscape Effect with Topaz Simplify and Texture blog for more on this.

These were the basic steps. There was some clean up and a Curves Adjustment Layer added, but overall this was it. Sort of surprised how it finished up – the beautiful texture really added the overall effect to the image. Try just fooling around with some of the interesting brushes that come with just Photoshop (or check out some of my other blogs for some interesting brushes that can be downloaded free from the Internet) and some of the skills you know – you might be surprised what you come up with. Have fun creating!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Create a Winter Scene with Photoshop Brushes and Textures
Just Plain Fun Brush Effects!
Spooky Halloween Fun!
Hyacinths Deep in Reflection

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Digital Landscape Effects with Nik Software

I have always loved Nik products. This week I decided to follow a digital workflow by a wonderful landscape artist who posted on Nik’s website a video called “Incorporating Nik Software into your Daily Workflow with Don Smith.” His blog is called Nature’s Best by Don Smith Photography if you would like more information on this great photographer.


The image of Oahu in Hawaii is an example of how Mr. Smith uses Nik software in his workflow. His basic premise is that you have to have a plan how you want to fix a landscape. The following steps indicate how the images in this blog were created using Photoshop and Nik plug-ins.

  1. Crop and do a basic exposure adjustment in Lightroom or ACR – the image will appear a little flat in Photoshop.
  2. Look critically at image and decide what needs to be fixed. Check out the sky for noise, the foreground, middle ground and background for areas that need to be color corrected. Look at the shadows and highlights in image.
  3. Open up the Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 plug-in and select the Tonal Contrast Effect. Just the default setting can make an image look much better. Move the Midtones slider – if it looks too harsh, move slider to the left a little. To keep other areas like the sky from being affected by this change, put a minus U-point in a couple places in the sky to protect the area and set the opacity to 0. (Click Alt on U-point to duplicate the one set down and drag to move.) When finished, click the OK button to go back into Photoshop.
  4. If part of the image needs some additional contrast, open the Nik Viveza plug-in (a powerful plug-in to selectively control color and light in your photographs) and set a U-point in that area. (This can be done in Photoshop using a Curves or Levels Adjustment Layer, but it is harder since layer masks need to be utilized.) Whatever is under that point will be affected by the adjustment sliders in the circle created. Just the Brightness slider may be all that is needed to darken the area a bit. This can be done a global basis if the whole image needs some change. Click OK and go back to Photoshop.
  5. Next go back and apply Nik Color Efex Pro Brilliance and Warmth. I created a Good Basic Setting preset that I use on almost all my images and is very similar to what Mr. Smith uses. I set Brilliance at 62% and Warmth at 57%.
  6. Now sharpen image. I usually just duplicate the image and apply a High Pass filter set to Soft Blend or Hard Blend mode. If it is overly sharpened, use a layer mask and paint out where it is too sharp or if the whole image is too sharp, just lower the layer opacity. Nik Sharpener Pro is a good plug-in that I do not own.
  7. If there is noise in the image, Nik Dfine 2.0 Noise can be used. Since I do not own this plug-in, I go back into ACR using Dr. Brown’s ACR script and clean up the noise in the Detail-Noise Reduction panel – adjust the Luminance and Detail sliders. (See my Fun Photoshop Blog “Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script on how to do this.”) This does a great job of getting rid of the noise.

This image is of Iolani Palace State Monument in the middle of Honolulu, Hawaii on Oahu. It is another example of following the steps above pretty closely, except I did used Nik Viveza twice – once to tone down the green foreground color but leaving the palm trees the bright green; then back in to give the sky a little more blue tone. This was done before sharpening and noise reduction.

Cloud Brushes, some pretty fluffy clouds were also painted in. A composite layer was made above (ALT+SHIFT+CTRL+E) and then the workflow was followed. I did use Viveza to increase the contrast on the bat and the roof areas only.


For another example of this workflow, see my Tidbits blog, “Straightening with Puppet Warp,” where these steps were followed after the puppet warp effect was applied.

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Nik has come out with a new version of Color Efex Pro (NIK Color Efex Pro 4 – Digital Lady Syd’s Review!). I am looking forward to trying out their new effects since they have done such a wonderful job with all their plug-ins. I can honestly say they are the fastest plug-ins to apply and my computer never has a problem processing them when added to an image. That in itself is a great feature since most plug-ins are so RAM hungry. If you have not tried out the Nik products, definitely download their trial versions, especial Color Efex Pro. There are so many things you can do with just this one plug-in that it is amazing. Try them out – you will not be disappointed!…..Digital Lady Syd


Free Christmas Card Vectors and Brushes

As promised, I am presenting a few more ideas on how to make really nice Christmas Cards.  I found a box of Heavyweight Textured Half-Fold Cards from Avery (No. 3378) that are perfect for a bit of vintage look and print out very nicely.  Amazon carries it here.  I make cards all year using this stock of paper and my own pictures.  People respond very nicely to the look.  Just a couple of card tips that I learned from Lesa Snider:  She starts with a 5 x7 inch document at a resolution of 250 ppi to begin her images – this works nicely with the above cards.  Also be sure to keep your text and any other important parts of the image at least 1/4″ away from the documents edge so you will not  accidentally cut them out when printing.  Check out her link for three nice short tutorials on holiday greeting cards.

This year I decided to use the following image as the tree for my cards.  I got the idea from a tutorial at Adobe Tutorials, one of the 80 tutorials gathered by Photoshop Roadmap.  There were so many ideas to choose from in this group – I could have made many different looks and had a great time creating them all!  Photoshop Roadmap always has a really great variety of tutorials they upload all the time so bookmark this one if you can.

For the  next image I just wanted to try out some of the great free vector images and holiday brushes that I downloaded. Once again the people from Photoshop Roadmap took the time to pull 30 Delightful Christmas Photoshop Brushes, Patterns and Vectors together for our use. I did not even get through a portion of it but I believe if you have a certain look you want, you should be able to find it here. On the image below, I used the Christmas Vectors Package from Obsidian Dawn for the tree – you can download both brushes and images.  Obsidian Dawn is another great resource, especially for any Photoshop presets.  In this case I used the image for the base tree and then I used the brushes for the deer, bird and star at the top.  Also, for this image I used a gradient from the Wow 7 Gradients set from Jack Davis.  They were on the CD  of a little gem of a book called “Adobe Photoshop 7 One-Click Wow!‘ that I have used over and over (in 2014 I am still using these layer styles – check out a free download from Jack’s Facebook Page and click on More-Jack’s Freebees – his Mini Sampler has some in it).   They may still be available in the How to Wow books currently being sold.  I put a final touch on this image using Matt Kloskowski’s Vintage preset in Lightroom.  This preset is for Lightroom 3 but it can be easily updated to work with Lightroom 5. In late 2014 Matt left KelbyOne (NAPP) so I am not sure his blog will be up for long. I also used an OnOne (see website link in sidebar of my Tidbits Blog) PhotoFrame for the vintage look border. Unfortunately the do not support PhotoFrame (which was one of my very favorite plug-ins) but have incorporated their frames and borders into OnOne Perfect Effects.

I just found a good article on 8 Tips for Printing Inkjet Greeting Cards from Red River Paper that may help with your cards.  Well I believe this should be enough resources to make some really pretty Christmas Cards.  I hope everyone has a great time with them – I know I did!…..Digital Lady Syd