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.
- Crop and do a basic exposure adjustment in Lightroom or ACR – the image will appear a little flat in Photoshop.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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%.
- 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.
- 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.
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
- Nik Software Announces Color Efex Pro 4 (prweb.com)
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