This week I am just going to give you a few of my favorite plugins that I think are worth checking out if you are interested in purchasing a few on Black Friday/Cyber Monday. I am a huge filter (plugin) fan and these are all ones I own and use a lot or I would not waste your time. The image above is the final after adding several of the filters below.
Topaz Sharpen AI
Hands down in my mind is Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Sharpen AI – it seems to be just getting better and better each rendition they release. Probably 80% of my images are improved by this filter, even if I do not realize the image needs it. The image below used the Topaz AI Sharpen set to my favorite settings of Processing Mode Stabilize, Remove Blur 0.80 (this is the sharpening slider) and Suppress Noise 0.30. For some reason these settings work on most of my images. I will try the other Processing Modes (Sharpen and Focus) if there is no noticeably improvement with these settings. And by applying and adding a black layer mask to the image back in Photoshop, just areas needing the sharpening can be painted back quickly. See my Topaz Sharpen AI – Good or Bad? and Yes, Free Upgrade for Infocus Owners blog for a quick review. Below is a split screenshot of how the image looked before using LR and after with this filter – it is especially noticeable in the little branches that are hanging down. Subtle but definitely better.
Luminar 4 or Luminar Flex – looks like Skylum has pulled Flex
Last week I did a quick review of Luminar 4 (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) and I have discussed Flex previously. Flex at one time was a free program for Luminar 3 owners and the was sold as a separate program. Until recently it was available on their site, but at this time I am having problems finding it. I hope that they have not quit updating or selling this product as it is very handy for people who do not need the cataloging function of the program but love the filters. I will try to find out more and update any new information. There is a difference – mainly in the filters. If you want the latest and greatest of the AI filters, Luminar 4 has them – the new AI Sky Replacement, AI Structure, and AI Skin Enhancer along with the new Portrait Enhancer are in it. Luminar Flex has the Accent AI Filter 2.0 and AI Sky Enhancer and a total of 51 filters that can be applied to your images. Luminar 4 has the cataloging capability but only 32 total filters (some are grouped together under a new name and were counted individually). This has upset some people. Also I have found in both programs that using the Structure filter with the Details filter gives an excellent Sharpening effect. Flex has been around for a while and the reason people loved it is that it had a Smart Object capability which Luminar 3 did not. Luminar 4 does have the Smart Object functionality, but if you are a Windows person, the recent update to Photoshop 2020 makes it uneditable – this is also true for Flex. The Tech team is working on it and the issue should be resolved soon. I think both programs do an excellent job at a fairly reasonable price. Once again, give them both a try. I find Luminar products seem to have really good color in them and some excellent photo filters. See my Checking out Skylum’s Luminar 4 blog and Luminar Flex – Exactly What Is This? blog for interface screenshots. I do use Flex all the time on my images – just got Luminar 4 so still deciding which is better.
DXO Nik Collection 2
They have now updated the original Nik Suite and added some new filters and a new interface. I am still using the original as it seems to be working fine for me with the new Photoshop 2020 update. My all time “Favorite” plugin that I use on 98% of my images is Viveza (the last step on the image above used this filter to emphasize some focal points). Many people feel that Lightroom does the same thing, but not for me. It was the second plugin I bought (behind the original Topaz Adjust) many years ago and I still love it (as well as Topaz Adjust – they have a Topaz Adjust AI program that I am still trying out). Back to DXO’s Nik Collection 2 – they claim to have added 40 new filters (8 to just the Color Efex Program). I can’t say enough good things about Nik – they supported my blog for years before Google bought them. I strongly suggest you try out their products.
TOPAZ STUDIO 2
Topaz considers this their “creative filter collection” and that is probably a fair assessment. Since it contains Topaz Impression and Topaz AI Remix leading the way to get some really unique results, it is probably the most versatile of all the suites available. It also contains Glow, Edges, Precision Contrast and Precision Detail, and Color Theme (a hidden jewel for changing colors in your image) filters besides all the useful Looks (presets). It is now available for just a flat fee – if you own some of the filters, there is a discount available to you but you need to contact them before you buy to find out what it will cost. That said, there is no cataloging and more limited Camera Raw ability going on here – just lots of filters to give unique effects and fabulous color results. Topaz has worked very hard to improve their original Topaz Studio 1 to make it easier and faster to use. I love parts of it, but I miss parts of it too. The biggest issue is that the older Topaz plugins are no longer linked within the interface (they can still be used from the Filter -> Topaz Labs back in Photoshop) – but it will link the newer AI filters. I use this program a lot – definitely worth getting. Check out my What About This Topaz Studio 2 Update? Not Bad! blog for more info on it.
OTHERS I LIKE BUT DO NOT USE ALL THE TIME
TOPAZ DeNoise AI
I am a huge Topaz fan so I must say that I do love their plugins, but some I do not use all the time. The Topaz DeNoise AI is a fabulous plugin – and it does contain everyone’s favorite AI Clear that can be selected when opened. I find I do not need to do this often since DeNoise AI seems to overlap with the Sharpen AI somewhat and AI Clear is in Topaz Studio 2. Usually I use Studio to add the DeNoise as this little filter is so handy to access (and you can use a brush to paint it off in parts of the image in Studio.) For more info, check out my Topaz DeNoise AI – And Yes, Free Upgrade When Your Own DeNoise6 or AI Clear blog.
Corel’s Painter Particalshop
This Photoshop plugin is a really great way to add some fun to your images. There are many new brushes that can be added to the plugin (at a cost) to get some interesting effects, so check it out if you want to see what is available. For example, Particleshop has a Perfect Pets set, Sketch, Sunny Rays, Rust and Patina, Trees & Foliage – all kinds of brushes to get. I do not this plugin a lot, but there are times it adds just the perfect touch. Most have several settings to change the look of the brushes. This plugin is working fine with Photoshop 2020. Check out my Intro to Corel Particleshop Brushes for Photoshop blog.
Flaming Pears Flood Filter
The Flood Filter has been around for years without changing much, but it is still one of the best effects for water I have ever seen. Lots of sliders and a very smooth effect with great reflections can be obtained as well as very rough waters and lot of waves. Great for getting some interesting effects. I have an older version and it works just fine with Photoshop 2020. And check my older blog called The Flood Look.
Still the best for enlarging your image – I love this program and use it all the time. It is constantly being upgraded and does a fabulous job! Now you can add some sharpening to bring in more detail when enlarging and denoise if there is a problem with this. One of Topaz’s best! And yes, I have done a blog on it too – see The Best New Software Around – Topaz A.I. Gigapixel! blog.
These are just some of the great plugins out there. I have found that I get confused when I use them all so I am trying to choose what are my very favorites and stick to learning how to use them better. That being said, sometimes getting a new set of filters really helps on the creative end of things. I hope this blog gives you some ideas for a few nice add-ins to Photoshop. Have a great shopping week and Happy Thanksgiving to those celebrating! I am taking next week off, so see you in a couple!…..Digital Lady Syd
Taking some time off due to the Dorian Hurricane that is coming up the coast near me. The Bahamas are right in the hurricane’s path. It is one of my favorite places – the Outer Banks especially where all the smaller cays are. The above is an older image of a sunset at the Spanish Cay marina, a little island with hardly any inhabitants but a really nice marina. This is also one of the places where you check in with your passport to continue your visit in the area.
The HDR effect was created using 5 images in Lightroom. Lightroom has made it so easy to do this – just select the images to use and right click to select Photo Merge -> HDR. Just click Merge to apply and a DNG file is created to finish up your post work. For this image one of Blake Rudis’s profiles called Warmifier was applied first in the Basic Panel. Then just the normal adjustments were done. An Adjustment Brush with settings of Texture 85 and Clarity 41 was used to paint over the treeline. A Graduated Filter was placed at the top with settings of Exposure -0.34, Shadows -10, Clarity -30, and Saturation 6. A Radial filter was placed over the clouds where they were slightly warmed up and Clarity removed to soften. In Details Panel, the Luminance had to be slightly increased as there was noise from the darker images. Since I wanted to Sharpen it without bringing back more noise, the Masking Slider was set up to 94 so only the major lines of the image were sharpened. Then the image was taken into Photoshop. On a duplicate layer, Luminar Flex was used to further enhance the image. Filters used were AI Sky Enhancer, Accent AI Filter 2.0, Golden Hour, Top & Bottom Lighting, and HSL adjusting only some of the foreground water color a little. The Filter Amount was then set to only 36%. Last step was to add a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using Crisp Warm Look at 8% opacity.
Here is hoping the Bahamas, the Florida coast and on up get through this storm. See ya on the other side!…..Digital Lady Syd
PS: Check out my Flickr Bahamas Album for more pix from the Outer Banks.
This week I am presenting an “oldie but a goodie” from my archives of several years ago. Keeping with the vein of the original post, the above image was created today using the same cup and the same wood floor from the image below. The lace curtain background texture was from Shadowhouse Creations and Luminar’s (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Flex plugin applying the Enhance Detail and Structure filters to get the beautiful sharpness in the texture – used a mask in the program to paint out the cup. The Egyptian cat is from Skybox Creative. The font is A Charming Font Expanded. And yes, I drink my coffee out of the mug all the time! Hope you enjoy it!
I am a huge fan of Kim Klassen textures and her type of photography. I joined her test kitchen a few months ago (no longer active) and have learned much from her site. All the images in this blog use the same beginning shot. This plain white cup was bought from Tuesday Morning for just a couple dollars. The picture was taken by placing the cup on a white piece of cardboard for the bottom and a 22″ X 14″ Elmer’s Tri-Fold Display Board (found in WalMart). It was shot using a 60-mm macro lens at F/3.2 for 1/60 sec and was taken on a table near a window where there was natural lighting. In Lightroom only the basic sliders were adjusted and some chromatic aberration was removed.
Since I wanted a bit of a vintage feel for the top image, Caleb Kimbrough’s free Old Wood 4 texture was used for the floor. All but the bottom area was painted out and the opacity was set to 25%. The canvas was expanded on the left side of the image by using the Content Aware Move Tool. Next Kim Klassen’s iAm texture was applied using Soft Light blend mode at 100% layer opacity. Her marchtrio totally texture was added using Soft Light at 79% layer opacity. By signing up for Kim’s newsletter, she will send you lots of textures throughout the year – these both were links from her newsletters. A light blue Color Adjustment Layer (#b8bfe0) was clipped (ALT+click between layers) to the marchtrio texture texture to give it more of a soft blue tone – it was set to a 49% layer opacity to lighten up the photo just a little. A New Layer was created and placed between the two texture layers – Kim Klassen’s Cloth & Paper Extras Brush 1084 was selected to paint in light gray on the left side of image at 2285 pixels to add a little more texture to the image and set to 59% layer opacity. Here was the tricky part – a New Layer was created and with Brush Lovers 1941 brush (these used to be posted at BrushLovers.com but they do not appear to be available anymore – but there are many other choices at this site), one click was painted on the front of the cup. The layer was duplicated and set to Multiply blend mode to darken. Then with a layer mask, the highlights and shadows were carefully painted out so it looks like the flower design was already on the mug. I put this in a group (CTRL+G on the two selected layers). Added a Levels Adjustment Layer and moved Output Levels a little left to lighten the whole image and painting back the mug so it shows up a little better. Added text using Batik Regular font and it’s done!
Got into some Hawaiian dreaming on this one. I used an image I had taken while in Hawaii and placed the cup on a sand-like texture. The cataramaran in the water is the whale-watching boat where a whale actually hung around our boat for 5 minutes while we were on it – biggest thrill I had while in Hawaii! (See Topaz Simplify and Lens Effects Saves an Image! blog for image processing.) First the water image was stacked on top of the cup image. Next the cup layer was duplicated and the sky and background were cut out using a layer mask and applying it. It was moved on top of the water layer. My wonderful palm tree clip art objects (created from an image I took of the palm trees that were extracted from the background and filled in with a solid color), and a Bevel and Emboss layer style was added using a Size of 7 px, Soften of 10 px, and Depth of 50%. A dark blue Color Fill Layer was clipped to the tree layer (ALT+click between the layers to clip). Next Kim Klassen’s Cloth & Paper Touch texture (my favorite) was added using Soft Light blend mode at 95% opacity. Shadowhouse Creations Photo Tint Peach was set to Soft Light at 100% layer opacity, and then a Levels and a Curves Adjustment Layer were added to get the right tonal effect. A second Curves Adjustment Layer was used to make the bottom color look like sand and the rest of the image was painted out in the layer mask. A Text Layer was added using FFF Tusj font at 65% layer opacity. An Outer Glow Layer Style was added to the text using a sampled light tan color set to 62%, a Spread of 8, and Size of 193 – this was done to make the lettering stand out just a little from the sand background. The whale is from a Dingbat Font called Flood Font Dingbat m and was set to 47% layer opacity. Painted Textures (Melissa Gallo’s texture that I do not believe is available anymore) Winter Wheat texture from her Cyber Monday Set 1 was applied using the Subtract blend mode at 45% opacity to add a painterly look to the overall image. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture and Saturation set to -67 to remove most of the color from the texture. Another Hue/Saturation Adjustment was clipped to the texture – the layer mask was filled with black and just the cup was painted back so no color showed up in the white cup.
Just another example of how to fix up the same image. This time Kim Klassen’s Cloth & Paper touch texture was added behind the cup. A shadow was added to the cup. Fay Sirkis’s Texture Pink Rose (from her Fay’s Master Background Collection at Kelby Training) was used for the beautiful flowers on the cup – just cut out the flower and added as a layer. As you can see a lot of clean up was done to get the cup looking right – just created New Layers and painted by sampling the image to even out the colors. 2 Lil’ Owls The Artisan Coll-Big Set 2-2 texture (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) was used – it was turned into an overlay using my How to Create an Overlay Out of a Texture blog. Kim Klassen’s Dream Definition was added as text. Two layers using my free Cloud Brushes – Cloud 1 set to 43% layer opacity and Clouds 3 at layer opacity 23%. The last step was a Level Adjustment Layer to add some overall contrast.
This was a lot of fun trying different effects on a very basic image. Not sure which one I like best but it is interesting to see how you can change up an image by using different textures. And thanks to Kim Klassen for her great textures and techniques in creating this type of effect. Until later…..Digital Lady Syd
This week I thought I would just show a creative way to present your subjects if you get tired of just using a single image. The above image is of a beautiful Lioness at the Jacksonville Zoo. This was supposed to be a sepia tone but after a lot of iterations, the cool tones looked the best to me. By using two images, it displayed her different expressions. These kind of composites can be really beautiful and are fun to do, especially if you have a couple images that compliment each other.
Here are the steps to get the above look: This image was originally post processed in Lightroom as a color image and settings were pasted between the images so they looked similar in tone. Then in a New Document in Photoshop a black background layer was created and the images were added. For the top face, Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) ReMask was used to select the lion as a nice result could not be achieved with Photoshop’s Select and Mask command. For the foreground Lion, the Pen Tool was used to select her. I tried using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 to convert this image to black and white, but it just did not work – the image looked degraded. Instead I used Topaz Studio’s Black and White filter – it has an Orange slider which really worked with a lion image (also Topaz has had the best color sliders since they started), Precision Detail, a Color Overlay using a charcoal blue color (#2e4e62), and Precision Contrast. Still needed something else, so Luminar (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Flex’s Image Radiance filter was added for the soft effect – it just popped this image. In the filter mask, the faces were painted back to retain the detail. A spotlight effect and rim lighting on the right side of both faces was added in Photoshop. Some Mixer Brush magic was used on the upper image to blend her neck into the background, and a Gradient Tool was used on a new layer to slightly darken the top face. This image took some manipulation to get the look I liked – luckily I like to play around with all the different filters! But I think the results can be quite outstanding.
For a slightly different look, these Day Lilies taken at the Harry P. Leu Gardens were put on a black background just like above, but this time a leaf image was added to the upper right edge to add a very subtle feel. (See my Beautiful Leaves Tidbits Blog for the original leaf image.) To get the flowers to light up so much, the Lighting Effects filter in Photoshop was used. A little spotlight effect also helped and some leaves were drawn in to fill them out a little. Next Viveza 2 was used to blend the two images together seamlessly. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used at the end to get the final look.
Here is an older image taken several years ago in Arizona with yet a different way of using this kind of effect. In this case a box was added on top of the image where another image could be inserted. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was used to give the background image a really darker feel.
The above is actually a really simple technique. It used to be more popular and was used a lot in wedding photography. It is still a nice way to achieve a different effect.
Well hope you give this one a try – it is a lot of fun and if you have several good shots of something you like, it might look really nice. Will chat at ya soon!…..Digital Lady Syd
I am a little late discussing this software, but I only recently got a chance to really try it out. Luminar (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Flex is basically a spin-off of the bigger program, Luminar 3, meaning your images are not being pulled into a catalog for sorting. Basically it just contains the filters. Currently it is a free program so if you own Luminar 3 or Luminar 2018, please go download it. Why? See the quote below from Skylum that pretty much sums up what is happening and why you need to download it:
“We’re fully committed to our desktop editing and organizing platform in Luminar 3. But we’ve heard from many current customers and several others that they want just our editing tools for enhancing their images when working in other apps.
Our goal is to develop Luminar as a comprehensive platform which will become your go-to photography tool. With your support, we’ll be there soon.
Current workflow – Both Luminar Plugin and Luminar 3 with Libraries offer plugin options for popular photography software.
Future workflow – With the next major version of Luminar, you’ll find plugins available only in Luminar Flex. The plugins workflow will be removed from Luminar with Libraries.”
It looks like Skylum has decided to create different modules, not unlike what On1 (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) has done with the Develop vs. Effects modules. I do not see this as a real problem since I do not use Luminar as a Raw Processor, even though their Develop filter is in Flex, to categorize my photos like Lightroom does at this point. I may decide to do this down the road, but at this point I mainly use Luminar 3 as a plugin with all their beautiful filters.
This macro image above is of a Queen Emma Lily plant, possibly my favorite bloom in my yard – you certainly notice them from the street. Luminar Flex was mainly used on this image – Accent AI Filter, Golden Hour, Advanced Contrast, and Detail Enhancer filters. A High Pass sharpen was used and Nik Viveza 2 was used on the front petal.
Both programs interface with most of the major programs including Lightroom and Photoshop. The Workspace names appear to have been renamed, but seem very similar between the two. Flex opens up with the Image Aware workspace but that can be changed by going into the the drop-down.
The major difference between the two programs at this point is with the new Accent AI 2.0 that is available with Luminar 3 but not yet with Flex – it is coming later this year (Flex is still using just Accent AI). Is this a deal breaker – not a problem since Luminar 3 still is supporting its filters but down the road it will probably only be available in Flex.
Regarding the Looks (presets), those made or used in Luminar 3 or Luminar 2018 are all compatible with the Flex, even the ones downloaded from other sites. You can either reinstall your custom Looks packs in Flex, or manually copy items between the Luminar Looks folders.
This image was taken on the water’s edge of Lake Rowena at the Harry P. Leu Gardens in the heart of downtown Orlando, Florida. Hard to believe such a tranquil place is located in all this hustle and bustle! And yes, Luminar’s Flex was used – landscapes are Luminar’s specialty. These filters were used to get this soft cool effect on a very hot day: The first layer contained the wonderful Accent AI Filter and AI Sky Enhancer Filter – both set pretty high, just a little Golden Hour Filter and Foliage Filter, the Saturation and Vibrance Filter (toning down the color a little), and the Brilliance and Warmth Filter – then on a 2nd layer above, one of my favorite filters called Image Radiance was applied. To see if I liked the filter on this image, it was placed on its own layer and the Gradient was used to remove the effect off the clouds which had gotten way too soft. One thing to watch with the Luminar filters is they tend to over-saturate the image so in PS the Saturation/Vibrance Adjustment Layer was added and the Saturation reduced to -17, even after adjusting it in the plugin. I think I could have pulled up a chair and just enjoyed the view from this point for a while, but the flowers were waiting!
About all I can say is “Thank You Mike Moats” for teaching me many years ago how to do this! If you like macro photography, he is the guy to learn how to do it right! This was taken using Aperture Mode set to ISO 200, F/7.1, and -1/2 EV with my Nikkor 60 mm Lens with a Bower 0.5 x High Resolution Digital Lens with Macro added to the lens. This center of a Neoregelia Bromeliad image from the Gardens was also taken into Luminar Flex and just a few filters were required to get this effect: Foliage Enhancer, Structure, Brilliance/Warmth, Top and Bottom Lighting (to reduce the top reddish bromeliad color from the actual bromeliad), and Details Enhancer (just using the Small slider) filters. Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) new DeNoise AI was used to remove some of the noise (this plugin is incredible and now AI Clear is included with it. This is pretty cool -first set the Remove Noise high to 0.72, Enhance Sharpness to 0, and applied; then added a mask and painted back with a small brush set to 30% just the areas that needed a little detail brought back like the centers of the blue flowers. Got both the sharpness and noise removal at once!) Not much else was done but to add a spotlight effect in the center. This was definitely a Tiny Garden inside a Big Garden! Here is how the interface looked for this image (click on image to see larger in Flickr):
Bottom Line: Flex is definitely here to stay since it will be the only way in the future that Luminar’s filters can be accessed using Photoshop, which is what I like to do. I love Luminar’s filters because they are unique, and in a sort of odd way, their results always make me happy. I like it when my photos make me smile so that is probably why I am a big fan. Please check Luminar Flex out – it is much more than just their Sunrays and AI filters – very easy to use and the program does not make your computer go into crazy mode to apply them. It is so exciting to have so many choices and new ways of applying effects being available to us Photoshop nuts who totally love this! Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd