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Posts tagged “Nik Analog Efex Pro


Image of flowers using Topaz Impression pluginThis is not a formal review of Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Impression due to some  constraints on my time right now, but I did want to give a quick shout out to them for creating for us Photoshop Lovers a new plug-in to fan our “flair for the artistic.” This is Topaz’s first attempt at making a painterly program – it is in a tough competition at this point since painting seems to be all the rage. I have had the opportunity to play around with this little gem for a few weeks and can say that once again, Topaz has a way of creating those little extras which makes you say – oh yeah, that’s really a nice feature!

Two things I really like about this program:

  • There is usually not really a lot that needs to be done to make the resulting image much better after applying one of the various presets they have created. I have played around with all the different sliders and settings, and find that adjusting the Stroke brush types is my personal favorite. All the Stroke sliders are really good so it is hard to choose a favorite from them.
  • My second really favorite item is that you can change the Hue, Saturation and Lightness of all the individual colors – this makes a huge difference depending on what colors you want to emphasize in the image. There are little red diagonal lines over the areas affected when hovering over each color with your mouse which is very helpful. (Something else I have never seen before.) Topaz has always been a leader in the way color is managed in their plug-ins. ReStyle set the bar very high for other software creators in this regard and Impression is continuing on with this tradition.

The image above was my first attempt at using Impression and I was totally surprised at how nice it turned out with very little manipulation. This image used one of their early Painting presets so the settings names do not match what was released but I know one of the new Painting presets is very close. I did set the image to Screen blend mode at 82% opacity – it gave a really nice finished look. I also used the Type 06 brush. Switch these brushes up and try different ones with the presets – you get some totally different results! The only other thing done after applying Impression was to use Topaz Detail 3 to sharpen up the focal points (the lower flower and secondary one is the pink and yellow one in the center). A black layer mask was applied (hold down ALT while pressing the layer mask icon in the Layers Panel) and just the centers were lightly painted back in. That was it!

Image of Clouds from my Front Porch with Topaz Impressions applied This little cloud image above was taken with my Android from my front porch here in Florida – got to love our skies! Used the Impression Pointillism II preset and made the follow changes to the preset: Stroke Brush Type 05, Brush Size 0.61, Paint Volume (Thickness) 0.27, Paint Opacity 1.00 (this really made the Impasto pop), Stroke Width -0.04, Stroke Length 0.11, Spill 0.14, and Smudge 0.05;  and in Color the Blue Saturation and Lightness were adjusted to give the sky a little more interest. These settings are a little rough since they were developing some of the settings for the program at the time this image was created. But the important thing is that by changing the brush types and those sliders in the Stroke section, some really interesting looks can be achieved. In the above I was leaning toward the bluish tones for the sky so that is what was adjusted. I even love the little stroke effects in the bushes in the foreground. Back in Photoshop there was not much extra work done except to add a selective color adjustment layer (Colors Whites – Yellow -7%, Neutrals Black +5, and Blacks Magenta +4, Yellow +9, and Black -7) – sort of  like adjusting blacks, midtones and whites in Levels. Last step was adding a Curves Adjustment Layer and a little more contrast into the light colors (pulled down just a little on corner at 3 – 1 in grid). I really like the results – especially just a little of the red tones peaking through the greenery. I had not even noticed that in the original image.

Image of some yellow daisies painted with Topaz Impressions plug-inThese daisies were taken on the Living With the Land ride at Epcot in Disney World, Orlando, Florida. I just love yellow daisies! I wanted to create an image reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Tournesols (Sunflowers) image although a Van Gogh preset was not used, but instead the Impasto I preset. In Lightroom Seim’s (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Supertone EQ X preset and Hill and Lucas preset were applied. In Photoshop a little clean up was done to the edges and Topaz Impression plug-in was opened. These settings were changed in the preset: Stroke section: Brush Type 05 – for some reason I like this brush for the heavy painted look, Brush Size 0.61 – the larger the number the more painterly it looks, Paint Volume 0.76 – how see through is the effect, Stroke Width -0.34 – at +1 more of a scribble and -1 more realistic – I wanted a slightly realistic look here, Stroke Length 0.19, Spill 0.27 – set to 1 it will spill over the edge, Smudge 0.18 – I am using the very sparingly as it has a bit of the Oil Paint Filter look to it and I do not love that effect all the time, and Coverage 1.00 – do not care for the edging look at this time – if you reduce to less than +1 a Transition slider will appear; Color section Overall Saturation 0.17 and Lightness 0.06, Red Hue 0.29 and Saturation 0.10, Orange Saturation 01.0, Yellow Hue -0.10 and Saturation 0.11, and Green Hue 0.19; Lighting section Brightness 0, Contrast 0.92, and Vignette 0 – Light direction x-0.32 y0.60; and Texture section was left alone. After using the plug-in, I did a little clean up on a New Layer in areas that were a bit overdone, and added a Levels Adjustment Layer to bring back just a little contrast. The last step was on a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) where Nik Viveza 2 was used to just saturate that middle flower a bit to draw the eye to it. This could just as easily be done using Camera Raw’s Radial Filter. It was a really fun working on this image.

What I have done is to go to the Users Manual which downloads with the plug-in (go to Help menu and it is there), and look at what they say each of the sliders do. I made a sheet with what Topaz says they do, and then what settings I like to use for them until I get used to what they do. Like I said, they have done a nice job of creating presets, so they do give you some nice starting places for adjusting your images. The Topaz team said they are continuing to work on adding to this plug-in, so it is great to know they are listening to their clients. That is one reason I love working with Topaz, their customer service is excellent. Impression is totally fun and very addictive – I could do this all day! If you have a chance, download it and see what you think. I will be writing a more thorough blog on this in the near future once I learned some tricks to get great effects. Still learning so better get back to it!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
New Impression of Octopus and Seahorse


Image of flowers in a pot in The BahamasFirst of all, I am taking a little break from blogging as I have some wonderful overseas guests arriving for a month, but I will try to pop in with a few shorter blogs. This week’s topic is not that ground-breaking, but sometimes there is a need to perk up a basic photo. You do not have to add a really fancy texture, sometimes just a well placed brush stroke or two will give your image that added interest and personalization it needs. Painterly looking brush strokes have been added behind the main subjects to get a more unique look than just adding a basic texture or two. So here are a couple examples on how to do this. All you need is to either create some interesting marks and save them as a Photoshop brush (on a small sized document in 8-bit mode, make or combine brush strokes using black for the brush color, then go to Edit -> Define Brush Preset and it will appear at the bottom of your Brush Preset Panel), or download brushes from the Internet (to Load, go to the pop-out at the top of the Brush Preset Panel, select Load Brushes and find where you downloaded them, and click Open – they will appear at the bottom of your Brush Preset Panel) – some of my favorite downloaded brushes are linked in the text. One of my goals with this blog has been to help readers find resources to create interesting images.

This pot of flowers was shot on Green Turtle Cay in The Bahamas. It is a very simple object, but by adding some interesting brush strokes in Photoshop, it becomes a much more interesting image. My workflow for doing this is as follows.

1. My first step was to paint the flowers in Painter – no reason this could not have been done on a New Layer in Photoshop with a regular brush or Mixer brush – just sort of colored in the flowers and stems, and on another layer above the pot. For you Painter people, the flowers and stems were painted following the video Painter Cloning tools with professional photographer and digital painter Melissa Gallo and using the Coarse Sargent Jitter brush as a cloner brush to just paint in the flowers and stems. The original image was used as the source and an inverted version as a second source to paint in the darker leaves. The pot was painted using Melissa’s settings for the Luscious Oil Paint brush. The file was saved as a PSD file and opened in Photoshop.

2. This next step is important if you used Painter to paint the subject(s). In Photoshop first duplicate the flower layer. Using the Color Range command. Just remember when selecting in this dialog that the white area is the selection – if you select the background because it is easier to select, just check the Invert box before saying okay. While still showing a selection on the image, add a layer mask to the flower layer -the mask will pick up the selection showing just the flowers. There are other ways to create a selection and they work fine, just be sure to add the selection to a layer mask. You could click just CTRL+J to add them to a separate layer which is fine also. I like layer masks so I can check to make sure everything is included in the selection before the background is eliminated. It is also easier to clean up bad edges in a layer mask. Then right click on the mask and select Apply Layer Mask – now flowers are isolated.

For Photoshop folks, your subjects should have been painted on a New Layer(s) above the image, so you do not have to worry about selecting your objects.

3. You do need to add a New Layer over your original image and fill it with white to isolate what you selected. (Select white as your foreground color and ALT+BACKSPACE to fill.)

4. For both Painter and Photoshop subject, New Layers are added in which different strokes in different colors and opacities can be created. Three New Layers were added underneath each with a different stroke in different colors: The brown bottom color was a pastel brush I had, the blue paint was a Creative Toons watercolor brush (these were free from Photoshop Creative Magazine No. 113), and the yellow circle behind the flowers was created in my Texture Brush Video on You Tube and set to 46% layer opacity – yellow is a very strong color so it has to be tamed a bit. The Pot layer was selected and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to it to get just the right color. Each of these layers can be moved around using the Move Tool (can highlight layer in Layers Panel and press the CTRL key to turn cursor into the Move Tool). I am finding large watercolor brush strokes are very nice for this technique.

The following steps are all just cosmetic – you can do anything you want at this point. For the above image, underneath all the brush layers one of my free textures created a while back called Digital Lady Syd’s Smudge Texture was added as a layer and set to 23% layer opacity, which is why there are some very light soft colors in the border. On the next layer flowers that were selected – a layer mask was used to clean up some of the halos in places around the branches from the rather rough selection. Next a little Sketch Brush was selected and the pot was lightly sketched around and the dirt in the pot was given a little more definition. On a layer above it, a round soft brush was used to smooth edges of the pot. Next 2 Lil’ Owls Studio’s (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog for website link) Vintage Frame 2-frame 15 was selected – the creases in the texture were painted out as it was distracting and it was set to Linear Burn at 97% layer opacity. In the layer style, the Blend If This Layer was white tab was split (ALT+drag to split) and set to 158/218, and the Underlying Layer black tab was split and set to 73/126 and white tab split and set to 239/255. The last step was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a little more contrast. It really gave the image much more interest by varying the size, color and opacity of the layers. The image now has a lot more interest and the background strokes look very natural.
Image of Native American DollsNever been really excited by the doll images I took from the Native American Festival this year, but still had fun post-processing them. This was one of those images you were just not sure what you would end up with! In Lightroom added Seim’s (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog for website link) PW4’s Super Hero X – WhiBal preset. In Photoshop did a Perspective Warp first thing since the doll shot was not taken straight on – I was able to segment it into two pieces and straighten it up fairly nicely. Next on a New Layer did a Clone Stamp clean up for the ugly image edges I got from the Perspective Warp. Created a Stamped layer on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and ran a Photoshop Shake Reduction filter.

Instead of painting this image, I wanted to just separate the dolls from their background which was really distracting. The white background was selected again using Color Range and adding a layer mask containing the selection. The Mask was applied and a lot of areas were added to it to get this image clean. (Color Range had selected not just the background but some of their clothes and parts of their faces, so in the mask these areas were painted back to white so they would show up on the layer.) The following step is basically the same thing as adding the various New Layers and adding strokes, if you create the texture yourself. My Pastel Watercolor texture was placed behind them and stretched out by Free Transforming the texture layer CTRL+T to make it fit right. For a free jpg download of this texture click here. Making a similar texture is very similar to what was done in Step 4 above when adding brush strokes layers above. In this case a New Document was created – I used 12 X 9 inches at 240 ppi. Next free brushes from bittbox called BB Watercolor II Brushes need to be downloaded – these are really pretty watercolor brushes I have used for years. On a New Layer Sampled Brush 19 was painted in a pink tone on the right and with 48% layer opacity; next on another New Layer Sampled Brush 14 was applied in orange with a layer opacity of 100%; next New Layer used Sampled Brush 1 on top of last brush stroke and set to 74% layer opacity; another New Layer with Sampled Brush stroke 3 in a different pinkish tone was added at 66% layer opacity; another layer using Sampled Brush 8 in yellow at 77% layer opacity; and finally a bright pink stroke on another New Layer set to 71% layer opacity – all at Normal blend mode. You can now move the whole document into the one your are working on, or individual layers with the unique strokes. The strokes can be moved around on each layer to adjust them just right or use a Free Transform to stretch out the stroke or warp it. Totally functional! And fun to do. I have used this texture a lot for my backgrounds and these brushes are really nice. By saving your texture as a jpg, it can be used like other textures that people make.

The rest of the post-processing is the following. For some reason I have been using the Nik Analog Efex Pro 2 filter (see my Digital Lady Syd’s Favorite Preset for Nik’s Analog Efex Pro with a few adjustments in the Detail slider including several control points on the individual dolls and the Luminosity curve). On a New Layer the Sharpen Tool was used to sharpen a few of the facial features. In Nik’s Viveza control points were added to drawing the eye toward the doll in the white coat in the middle. The Camera Raw Filter was further used to direct colors correctly in the image and a Radial Filter was used on the center doll. Then localized adjustment layers were added to pin-point areas I wanted corrected in the image. By filling adjustment layer’s mask with black (CTRL+I in mask) and painting back with a 30% opacity brush, areas that needed a color shift could be added. (A Color Balance, Hue/Saturation, and two Curves Adjustment Layers were added.) A New Layer was added on top and with a soft round brush set to 12% layer opacity, a couple of the dolls faces were painted over as they were too bright – the layer was set to 47% opacity. That was it – I really loved the doll with the bright orange-red dress on the far left and the feathers on the bird on the right!

I hope this has given you some ideas on how to create some interesting background easily – sometimes the easiest things are often overlooked. I think this is a pretty fun way to make new textures and to perk up some ugly backgrounds. Hope you have some fun experimenting! See you a few!……Digital Lady Syd


Image of totem poles in front of a store in St. Augustine, FloridaThis week is all about just having some fun painting – which is why I do anything in Photoshop! Thought I would pass along a few tips that occurred to me while painting away this week. This image is of some really beautiful wood totem poles that are in front of a store in St. Augustine, Florida. Had to take the image! The colors were marvelous!

This is an example of how to use your new brush skills to remove areas in your image – the texture was used to hide a very messy and distracting background and the basic objects were painted a little but kept in tact so you can appreciate the detail of the pieces. Since the last few posts have been about creating some nice brushes, this image used the one created for the first image in How to Paint with a Texture Brush blog. I like this brush because it contains a whole bunch of texture. If you want a more obvious texture in your brush, increase the Depth slider. What does this do? Well basically by setting to a high level, the deepest areas of the texture would not get any paint; set to 0% means that there really is no different between the high and low parts of the texture and very little of it will be seen in the brush stroke. The Depth Jitter adds some randomness to the brush texture in the stroke.

Lots of clean up was done before starting on this image – need to get any distractions out of the way and clone in areas that are covered up. Saves a lot of time later. In this case all the bottoms of the front totem poles had to be reconstructed and many had white sales tags on them. Note – Open up that Clone Stamp Panel and click on icon in front of the W – this reverses the direction of what you are cloning – totally useful to help with reconstructing a missing area. Added on top Melissa Gallo’s August Copper texture. By using a layer mask to paint back the totem poles, a pretty nice painterly effect is achieved. This is actually a very popular technique used whenever a texture is added. (See my Texture Resources – So Many Choices! So Many Choices! blog.)

Another tip is do not forget to try some of your plug-ins once you have got the image close to finished. I have often created much better results by doing this. This image used Nik Viveza 2 (one of my totally in-disposable plug-in) and Nik Analog Efex Pro 2 (another favorite) as a black and white layer and set to Overlay blend mode at 86%. Viveza let me make the faces a little sharper where I wanted to direct focus and add some slight vignetting in the corners. My last step involved adding yet another texture, August Marble also by Melissa, and setting it to a Color Burn blend mode at 52% layer opacity – and no layer mask this time.

So in this case we found that painting is not that much of the process – need to really clean up the image, use  your plug-ins wisely, and find a perfect texture to hide distractions! Always be on the look out for that great texture!
Image of a painted bouquet of flowersThis bouquet is of an image I actually put a white background behind and shot with natural light. All that was done on this image is to just paint on a New Layer on top of the flowers using a Mixer brush. First Seim’s (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) PW4 Super HDR X preset was added to add some contrast and sharpen the image a little. In Photoshop I converted the image to 8-bit (Image -> Mode -> 8 Bit) and made the image smaller since I was going to use a Mixer brush to paint and it is common knowledge that these brushes slows everything down – a lot! Usually this works along with keeping the brush size pretty small. This image just used Photoshop’s default Flat Fan Single Bristle Wet Edge brush at 25 pixels as a Mixer brush. The Options Bar was set so the “Load the brush after every stroke” icon was turned off – do not want to add any color – and Sample All Layers turned on. Set the Wet to 100%, Load 1%, Mix 100% (want to mix our colors up), and Flow 100%. I could have used the Very Wet Heavy Mix, in the drop down which increased the Load to 50% – not sure it matters at this point since no color is being loaded. Now just dabbed and stroked away to my hearts content on this image trying to keep my focal point in mind and not overdo that area. Two texture layers from French Kiss (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) were added – the Atelier Valley set to Hard Light blend mode at 35% and Tableaux Mirage set to Vivid Light at 67% layer opacity – no layer masks were added. A New Layer was created and set to Overlay – then with a dark greenish brush set to 19% brush opacity, some of the lines in the flower were painted back to emphasize the separation in my focal area. (See my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog.) Another New Layer was added where the Mixer brush was used to just add some extra strokes in the leaves – if the texture that was added is too strong, this can be blended into your strokes to make this less obvious. It just cleaned up some of the painting. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used to add back some of the contrast when the textures were added. A stamped layer was created and now I decided to go into Topaz ReStyle just to see if I could improved upon the color palette. The Thistles and Bright Sky preset was used (here are the setting if you are interested: ReStyle opacity 55%; Hue Secondary 0.30, Third 0.38, and Fifth 0.86; Lum Primary -0.33, Third -0.09, Fourth -0.33, and Fifth -o0.37; and Sat no changes; Texture 0.86; Basic Opacity 49% at Color blend mode; Color Tint -0.56 and Saturation 0.03; Tone Black Level 0.20 and Midtones -0.30; and Detail – Structure -0.42 and Sharpness 0.20.) Another Curves Adjustment Layer was added and by dragging in the focal flower area, more contrast could be added. By filling the layer mask with black, just this area was lightly painted back until it looked just right. It took a lot of steps but it ended up creating a very nice result! Used a similar process but different brush in my Tidbits Blog called Red Carnations on a Bright Sunny Texture.

Here’s a little tip I wanted to pass along – actually found this in the Photoshop Manual’s shortcut key section and it is a real time-saver when changing brushes. In the Preset Brush Panel pressing the “.” (period key) takes you to the next brush in the list and the “,” (comma key) takes you to the previous brush. You can skim through all your brushes very quickly by just pressing these keys. Also, by pressing the “<” key, you are taken to the first brush in your preset list and the “>” takes you to the last one. This is very handy since every time you create a new brush, it ends up at the bottom of the stack , and if you are like me, there can be many brushes in your list – so just press the > key and it takes you to the last entry quickly.

Well that’s it for this week. Maybe you picked up a couple new brushes or tips to try. See you next week!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of a horse in St. Augustine, Florida using Nik Analog Efex Pro2NIK has updated Analog Efex Pro to the 2 version and kept it free for all Nik collection owners. I am loving the results already. This easy to use plug-in is now even better!

The New Stuff: Nik has added several 6 new cameras called Tool Combinations – B&W, Color Cast, Motion, Subtle Bokeh, Double Exposure, and Multilens – each with presets. The biggest improvement is the addition of control points. The control point sliders for the Basic Adjustments section includes all 4 sliders for easy localized adjustments. Light Leaks, Dirt & Scratches and Photo Plate all have Control Points with a strength slider so the effect can be removed from certain object or areas. Motion Blur has an interesting item called Add Blur Point that allows you to set the angle of the blur and the strength by dragging the blue dot around or using sliders, and several points can be added. Double Exposure is another interesting filter – can either just click in your image and you get a square that superimposes your image on the original. By dragging out the corners of the square, the scale can be change and hovering near a side of the square, the rotation can be changed on the superimposed image.  You can also add your own image to superimpose – some really creative possibilities with this one. One of my favorite new features is the Multilens which allows you to divide your image into various different configurations (see last image)! The Lens Distortion Tool has a new Defocus slider which can be used to shift the image out of focus. The Bokeh Tool now contains both the elliptical style and a new linear style which acts like a Tilt Shift filter. There is now an “I’m Feeling Lucky” preset at the end of each Tool Combination – when clicked it completely randomizes all the preset filter settings from the selected Tool Combination. This is different from the Vary button at bottom of the right panel which makes just subtle changes to only the settings of the individual filter that is open (hold SHIFT while clicking to get greater variation). More choices are in the Dust and Lint styles. In the Film Type section all the styles have names which is helpful and two new groups, B&W Neutral with 15 styles and B&W Toned with 12 styles, have been added. Frames now has a very handy Scale slider and added 10 new styles to the Lightbox frame choice. I think that about covers it – a pretty big update!

The horse image was taken in St. Augustine, Florida on a recent beautiful day! First applied Topaz (see Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Detail 3’s Soft Dreamy preset on the background before taking the image into the updated Nik Analog Efex Pro2 – both are favorite plug-ins I use all the time. I wanted to show what a nice effect you can get without actually making the image look too vintage. Three control points were set for the Basic Adjustments section which included the Detail Extractor slider. Individual control points can be set throughout the image, just like in the Nik Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro plug-ins – and when the layer is converted to a Smart Object before entering the plug-in, the control points are saved and can be adjusted later. Got to love this plug-in! Four control point in Light Leaks were added – only the texture strength can be adjusted and you cannot add a different light leak to the image, but it is still better to have the localized option. For this image a Lens Vignette, Film Type, and Levels & Curves were also selected. A New Layer was placed on top and the Sharpen Tool was used to just sharpen up the horse face and details. Last step involved adding my free Thin Double-Edges layer style – sampling colors from the image for the border.

Image of a roller coaster at Universal Studios-Orlando with Nik Analog Efex Pro 2 appliedThis roller coaster image was actually very much in-focus but I really liked the effect I got from using the Analog Efex Pro 2 update. This wonderful roller coaster at Universal Studios-Orlando is called Dragon Challenge Roller Coaster (for You Tube Video click here). The photo used Basic Adjustments, Bokeh to add some background blur, Motion Blur and two control points were added for more blur on the left track, and Direction Blur applied on the roller coaster, Light Leak set to 54% Strength, a slight light Lens Vignette, and Film Type using the Nikko2 preset – slider set towards Faded.

Image of view from Castillo de San Marcos in St. AugustineThis image is a view of the Montanzas River (technically part of the Intracoastal Waterway or ICW) from Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine, Florida. The settings used were: the Basic Adjustments with a control point on the trees to sharpen and brighten them even more; Lens Distortion set all the way left to Pincushion; Bokeh with the new Tilt Shift style set vertically over the Palm Trees and using a Blur Strength of 22% for the rest of the image; Dirt & Scratches Organic style with Strength at 26% just to get some vintage look, and a control point on the trees so they are still the main area of focus; Lens Vignette to darken edges slightly; Film Type using the new B&W toned Mijet2 preset style; Frames with Scale at 76%; and Levels and Curves where a Luminosity curve was created. I do not believe there is any other plug-in that can give this type of vintage feel to a photo so easily and quickly.

Image of a beach in Hawaii using Nik Analog Efex Pro 2 multilens effectThis last image shows what the Multilens filter can do – I really liked the results. This is a Puako Bay beach on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island in Hawaii that has been split and enlarged in sections with different focal points. Very different result and it was easy to do with this plug-in. The filters used were Basic Adjustments, Light Leaks, Film Type, Multilens, Frames, and Levels & Curves. It really looks like a vintage postcard to me. Note that if the Multilens images look in the wrong order, just click in the section and drag the little square around to set it correctly. Drag corners to scale and click near edge of square to rotate – pretty simple to and and lots of fun!

I loved Nik Analog Efex Pro when it first came out and I totally love Nik Analog Efex Pro 2! If you like a touch of the vintage feel, and it is really popular right now, this plug-in will probably give you any look you like. It is definitely in my top 5 plug-ins. If you have the Nik collection already, it is a free upgrade – just download the trial and it will automatically be added to your software for you. Okay, now I must get back to working on some more vintage images!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Nik Analog Efex Pro
Topaz ReStyle with Corel Painter & Nik Analog Efex Pro


Image of a pink gerbera post-processed in Corel PainterThis week I decided to mention a few things I personally like and don’t like about Corel Painter at this stage of my learning process, and basically, what I think it does better and worse than Photoshop. I have been starting to dive down into some of the more hidden features of Painter. (PRO) We all know the brushes are definitely better – there are so many ways you can change a brush in Painter. I have not even begun to explore how to use them properly, much less figure out what can be changed to get certain effects. I find I am going into Photoshop a lot to clean up parts of the painting. I understand Photoshop’s brush panel and I know which brushes to use for the final tweaking. So that is where I am at this week with my New Years Resolution.

The above image is a good example of how I can get to a certain point in Painter, but then end up in Photoshop. For one thing, I usually do some basic processing in Lightroom – then I have to take the Camera Raw image into Photoshop if for no other reason than to change it to an 8-bit image since (CON) Painter will not open up a 16-bit image. Then I save down the image and usually designate it for use in Painter in the rename.

Now the image is opened in Painter. Not sure what I would do without Corel Master Skip Allen‘s wonderful videos on YouTube and his website – there is so much information there if you need help. This time I followed his video called Advance Auto-Painting with Watercolor, which selectively applies effects using channel selections in this technique. I never thought I could do watercolor images, but he explains it so well that I may actually get comfortable with this artistic medium. After following this video tutorial, the gerbera image actually looked pretty good, but I decided to add some contrast in Photoshop. I really like the Curves Adjustment Layer and this does not seem as easy to do in Painter. (CON) Painter does have an Effects menu with various items listed that appear to be similar to Photoshop’s layer adjustments, but many of them have very different results when applied. They cannot be applied as easily as Photoshop’s Adjustment Layers. Therefore, I find myself going back into Photoshop to control the contrast that I am used to. (PRO & CON) This does not mean that Painter does not give some interesting results when manipulating, for example the Effects -> Tonal Contrast -> Color Correction which has a Curves option in the drop down under the curve, but it definitely gives different results than in Photoshop. I also added a Photoshop Selective Color Adjustment Layer where the Reds, Greens, Cyans, Magentas, and Neutrals were adjusted. Adjust Selected Colors in Painter seems similar – check out Skip’s Beyond Painting videos to learn about how this is different. On another layer WOW BT Watercolor Small brush was used to clean up edges and fill in – I am finding it is very handy for adding in some color to a missed place or smoothing out an ugly edge. This brush is in Davis One-Click Wow Preset Mini Sampler of brushes from Jack Davis, who allows you to download it from his Facebook page Freebies or directly by clicking here if you do not have Facebook. (He has lots of other goodies on his Facebook page so check it all out.) Added a watercolor frame created using my SJ WC Salt Brush at 60 pixels on a New Layer. The last step involved going into Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) ReStyle to check for a little better color combination. This time I got one (started with Butterfly Wings preset and set ReStyle Panel Opacity to 78%; Color Blend Mode; Color Style Hue to Fourth -0.62 and Fifth -0.33; Sat – no changes; Lum Primary -0.27, Third 0.52, Fourth -0.45, and Fifth 0.83; Texture Strength 1.00; Basic Panel Opacity 28%; Multiply Blend Mode; Color Temperature 0.56; No Tone changes; and Structure Detail -1.00 and Sharpness 0.44. Named preset SJ Very Soft Watercolor). Plug-ins can actually be added into Corel Painter – ReStyle is one of them – but I am just more comfortable adding them in using Photoshop. (CON) In Painter to create a stamped layer on top so the plug-in effects can be applied requires going through a lot of steps – another disadvantage.

******Image of a painted Yellow RoseThis yellow rose, a free image from stock.xchng y MEJones, was used to begin my painting. Skip’s Beyond Painting Tutorial videos were followed on this image. (PRO) Painter’s Stroke Attributes feature is really interesting and helped to get the effect in the rose petals especially. Skip talks about how to use this with Painter brushes – it is very similar to changing the Mode in the Options Bar in Photoshop. Now here is the big question – how often have you done this in Photoshop? Probably every so often when using the Burn Tool to adjust bright spots, but usually not to paint on an image. Most Photoshop gurus say don’t mess with this since it is easy to forget that you have changed the Blend Mode since it is a “sticky” setting and will mess up a different image when using the Brush Tool again. It is recommended to change the Blend Mode in the Layer Panel instead. The Stroke Attributes actually is a really nice feature in Painter and seems to be better than its Photoshop counterpart. For me the biggest problem seems to be that Stroke Attributes do not work on all brushes, only some and I do not understand how to tell when it will work. This appears to be another “quirk” Painter has and it takes some sorting through the brushes to figure out which ones work best. By watching the videos, you can learn a few of the brushes that do work with this feature.

(PRO) Painter also has a couple of extra Photoshop “blend modes” or what they call Composite Methods. One is Gel which acts like a transparent area or gel overlaid on top of your layer, and another is Colorize which affects just the color in an image. If layer is set to Gel and you want to take it into Photoshop, change the method to Multiply so it will copy since there is no Gel blend mode in Photoshop. Colorize comes into Photoshop as Color and looks bad – change to Lighten blend mode. The reason I bring up this information is that if you find brushes they works with, it can create some really nice effects on your images. You can switch between Composite Methods for your layers depending upon whether you want to darken an outline in the image, or add some really bright strokes in another part to smooth out or fill out an outline. Sample the color by ALT clicking on color in image (just like Photoshop) and painting. (CON) A layer mask can be added, just like in Photoshop, but not all brushes work on layer masks, unlike Photoshop. Need to watch Skip’s videos to get a handle on this, but the good news is that he does supply you with a pretty decent brush to use on a layer mask. The original background, splashes of color, and flower coloring were all done in Painter, and then I brought the image into Photoshop. On a New Layer, Jack Davis WOW Watercolor Small brush was used again to clean up some of my mistakes. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to increase contrast just a little. Next a different plug-in, Nik Analog Efex Pro, was added to get the vintage feel – the Nik plug-ins will also work with Painter. Lots of filter effects were used on the image, but not Film Type which can change the color of an image and I did not want that.

Skip says he actually prefers doing the things I am doing in Photoshop in Painter because he learned that program first and understands it better. I totally get that – I am not sure I will be able to do everything in Painter as well as he does. I seem to need my crutch using Photoshop. I hope Adobe is working on making the brush engine better in Photoshop so that many of the Painter brush effects can be achieved. The Mixer Brushes were a great start, but they do not have many ways to manipulate them or the range of strokes effects like Painter. When I look at my work in Painter, it does seem to be more realistic like I would expect a painting to be. So this is where I am at – a few steps forward but still a lot of things to learn. I hope I have not confused everyone, but I believe that if this program can be “tamed,” it will reap great benefits toward creating a unique style for anyone that wants a creative look in their images – but I will always love Photoshop!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of painted Alstroemeria flowersEven though I have been spending a lot of my time recently trying to learn some of the “bells and whistles” of  Corel Painter, I find I still enjoy going back into Photoshop and using brushes I am more familiar with using. This is where I started learning painting techniques and I believe it is a good place for others to start. Painter has a lot to offer, but you have to get used to using brushes in either program to create beautiful images – for me Photoshop was the place to begin. And selecting flower images was a nice easy place to get the feel of a brush or to experiment with new settings. That is what was done in this case above with the Alstroemeria flower that was shot a while back.

1.  First a texture was dragged into and re-sized to fit an image from Bridge, but you can right click and choose Place -> In Photoshop. If you open the texture in Photoshop and then move it into the image, you lose the texture name in the Layer Panel which I find useful to have. I guess you can tell it is Melissa Gallo’s Painted Textures Christmas Present Texture that she graciously gave away for the holidays. Can’t say enough good things about her textures! If you want to learn a lot more on this effect from a real expert, she offers classes on this type of painting at her site . This texture was left at Normal blend mode and 100% layer opacity.

2.  Next a layer mask was added to the texture and the flower was painted out partially with black to hide some of the petal edges using my Chalk Brush set to 30% opacity. This was an easy brush to create and a good example of one I just started using and liked the  results – in this case just used Photoshop’s Chalk Brush 60 with the Shape Dynamics turned on and Angle Jitter set to 19% in the Brush Panel. The jitter creates a little different angle for each stroke so the strokes do not look so uniform in the image. On the layer mask I  just dabbed with short strokes to keep some of the rather scratchy effect from the texture on the flower. By using a lower brush opacity, 30% or less, or changing the size of the brush, you can go over certain areas to get just the right amount of the image being hidden. And if you go too far, just press the X key to switch the paint color to white and paint back areas that don’t look correct. If you are not quite sure you like the effect of this brush, try some of the other brushes Photoshop offers – Spatter 59 gives a slightly different effect with the Angle Jitter turned on. If you like a brush you created, save it down as a New Brush Preset by clicking on the pop-out in either the Brush Panel or the Brush Preset Panel. When I really like a brush, I also save it as a Tool Preset by clicking on the little arrow next to the brush icon in the far left of the Options Bar and click on the bottom icon, New Tool Preset. This is where I keep my Chalk Brush – always have it available.

NOTE: A couple little things to know about the Brush Panel. You need to click on the words of the individual  brush section to get it to open up – if you just check the section on the left side, it applies whatever settings are there without your seeing them. One thing I noticed, if you set the Shape Dynamics Angle Jitter to 19%, this setting is sticky (does not change until you make a change to it) if using the same type of brush tip – it will always appear at this amount in the Shape Dynamics section until you change it. The Chalk and Spatter brushes are use the same Brush Tip so the setting sticks. But if you switch to a different Brush Tip, like an Airbrush for example, the Angle Jitter amount changes. It is recommended that you lock the setting in a section when creating new brushes if you like the setting so it does not change when trying out different brushes. Any unlocked attributes revert to those with which the original Photoshop brush tip was created. I do not lock my brush settings once save it down as a preset. Whew! Brushes in Photoshop can be confusing!

3.  Used the same brush to add paint on a New Layer above the texture layer to add a few different colors (light pinks and blues). Also used Fay Sirtis’ Water Impressionist Blender Brush #1 Mixer Brush. Fay is both a Corel Painter Master and a Photoshop painting guru – if you were a NAPP member, and now are a Kelby One member, her fabulous painting brushes are all downloadable for free from her webinars and videos posted on-line at the site.

4.  Now to add some texture back into the area where the layer mask removed it. The same texture layer was duplicated (CTRL+J) and placed at the top of the layer stack with the layer mask deleted. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the layer (ALT+click between the layers) and with the Colorize button checked, Hue was set to 282, Saturation slider was set to 21, and Lightness -37. (I just discovered that with Colorize checked, the Saturation slider only goes from 0 to 100 so a setting of 21 is not that saturated in this case.) This added a slight pinkish cast to the whole texture. The texture layer was then set to Hard Light blend mode at 28% layer opacity – this adds the stroke texture over the flower and just added a little pinkish color. Basically I just experimented until I got a look I liked.

5.  On a New Layer on top, French Kiss Spatter2_13 brush was used to add a little more localized texture to the image in different colors. These were added at a very low opacity.

6.  The last step was to walk away until the next day (learned this from Aaron Nace) and realized I needed a little more color pop so a Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added. The Reds were adjusted so more pink was showing up in the upper right , Whites cyan was adjusted toward red, and Blacks cyan, yellow and black sliders were adjusted. Since this was over the top, the layer mask was filled with black (CTRL+I in mask) and just the areas I wanted to look a brighter were painted back. You have to be careful when messing with the Whites and Blacks Colors in this adjustment layer as they can really ruin an image if too much is applied. That was it. I really like the resulting colors!

******Image of red anthuriums on a white textureThis image used even fewer steps with a different texture – just painted out parts of the flower with the Chalk Brush. I did not think it needed texture added above the flower in this case. The beautiful white texture is from French Kiss’s Tableaux collection and called CremeFraiche, another one of my favorite texture sites. Next a Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added and only the Reds and Yellows were adjusted to darken the red in the front flower and greens in the leaves. The layer mask was filled with black and just a little bit of localized color was painted back with a white low opacity chalk brush I created. The last step involved adding Nik Analog Efex Pro using just a few filters – Basic Adjustments was checked with the Detail Extraction set to 74%; Light Leaks was added over the red flowers using the first light leak in the Dynamic category and set to 52% Strength – this gives the lovely light pink in the texture; Lens Vignette was added to just whiten the image edges; and Levels & Curves – what I like to manipulate is the Luminosity Channel, just dragged it up a little and the RGB Channel down a little all set to 100% opacity. I believe the Luminosity curve is what makes me like this plug-in so much! Last step was a Curves Adjustment Layer in Photoshop. This was a very simple process, but the image is so much prettier than the original with the distracting background.

I am still learning to paint in Photoshop, but I feel like I can count on getting a pretty nice painterly look with just these few steps. The bottom line is that you should just make a couple of brushes that you like (and as noted above, be sure to save them as a brush and a tool preset if you really like them). Just start building up paint on separate layers or removing texture with layer masks at very low opacities, and maybe higher if you like the effect. With a few adjustment layer tweaks and blend mode changes, a very interesting image can be achieved out of one that looked rather ordinary. ….Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Trying Out Some Aaron Nace Techniques
A Few Painterly Tricks!
How to Turn a Brush into a Watercolor Brush
Create a Winter Scene with Photoshop Brushes and Textures
Adobe Photoshop CS5′s Mixer Brushes


Image of Lafayette Fountain in Savannah, Georgia, using Nik Analog Efex ProWell this was a most unexpected and very much appreciated addition to the Nik Collection since Nik had not given us any hope that they would be updating or adding to their plug-ins. If you own the Nik Collection already and have not gotten the update, just go over to Nik’s website and download the trial – it will automatically update and add the new plug-in into your software for free. Since I am not very familiar with some of the older film processing, it has been fun to try some of these looks on my images. The above image is of the top of Lafayette Fountain in historic Savannah, Georgia. All filters but the Lens Distortion, Zoom & Rotate Blue, and Light Leaks were used on this image – that means the other 8 camera filters (Basic Adjustments, Bokah, Dirt & Scratches, Photo Plate, Lens Vignette, Film Type, Frames, and Levels & Curves) were added! (Other than Lightroom basic slider changes and a Selective Color Adjustment Layer adjusting the Reds and Yellows for more yellow tones, there were no other changes but the plug-in.) Since I love adding a vintage feel to an image, I am finding this plug-in to be one I am using more than I thought I would! All my original images are shown in the Tych Panel at end of blog so you can get a feel for what this plug-in actually does to an image.
Toy Camera processing on gumball machines imageAll but the top image were taken with my cheap little point-and-shoot, which does not take the best images to begin with, and were then processed in the new Analog Efex Pro by Nik. It was a perfect match and I totally love the results. For the gumball machine image a basic Lightroom workflow was done and then in Photoshop the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter was used to straighten out the shelves a little. Since the edges got a little wonky, I added Kim Klassen‘s Serendipity texture set to Normal behind the image to fill in the blank edges with her beautiful brown texture. The last step involved add the new plug-in – opened up the Toy Camera presets and choose the fourth down, then just did a few adjustments to get the look I liked. Most of the changes occurred in the Basic Adjustments sliders and Lens Vignette tab. The Film was changed to the bottom middle one the Subtle group and a more Faded look was added. Not much to change here. For a quick overview of what each filter does, check out the Nik Collection Help link here.

What I Like About Nik Analog Efex Pro

1. It is totally creative and fun – what a big surprise since I was not even sure what these different type of old-time cameras did. Can make a boring image into something fabulous.

2. There are On Image Controls for most of the filters – very easy to adjust and set up in your image.

3. Love that you are not limited to the settings they want you to use for each of the camera categories. By going into the Camera Kit, you can add any of the other filters not used in the original camera preset. Totally creative use of the filters!

4. I love that they gave us Nik Collection owners the plug-in for free – totally made my day!

What I Don’t Like About Nik Analog Efex Pro

These are pretty minor gripes.

1.  It would be nice if you could apply some of the filters more than once. For example, I would like to add more than one Light Leak on the same image. At least they can be moved round inside your image but not rotated or resized. It would be nice to have more border choices too or to be able to adjust the width of the frames in this section.

2. Not real happy with the Vary button since you never know what the variation will be and what sliders will be changing – just have to hope a nicer one comes up next. It can be fun to try different looks within the filter by clicking on the Vary button and if you hold down the SHIFT and click Vary, all the filter’s settings randomizes for all the filters being applied. Luckily you can get back to the original settings in the History tab as long as you have not applied the plug-in first.

3. No control points. Nik says at this point that the plug-in does support U-Point Technology but they plan on adding it in later versions. It would be nice to have that.

I am finding that if I get settings I like, I am saving them down as presets such as SJ Toy Camera-gumballs. Since I have been using the Vary button a lot, this seems to be the only way to save those effects to use again. It is nice there is Smart Object capability which will save these settings, but you would have to open the original image that contains them by moving all the settings or writing down the settings and resetting to a new image to achieve the same look.

This guy below was an image taken at the wonderful Gulfstream Family Day in Savannah, Georgia, a while back. He really screamed vintage to me so he got it!
Image using Nik's Analog Efex Pro on an eagleThis image needed some major clean up since there were distracting feet at the top and a rope on his foot, and it just did not seem right to have this beautiful bird looking this way. In Lightroom just basic changes were done. In Photoshop the Patch Tool was used to get rid of a lot of the problem areas. In Analog Efex Pro the Wet Plate Camera 9 preset was used as a starting place. I removed some of the filters on the right by going into the Camera Kit and picking what ones I wanted removed and what I wanted added. This really is a trial-and-error process since every image I process comes out quite different when applying similar effects. The Wet Plate presets are quite lovely and I could have used several of them on this beautiful bird. The plug-in really is one of those that is just plain fun to use.
Image of cowboy on stilts post-processed using Nik Analog Efex ProA cowboy picture is definitely a worthy image for this plug-in! This guy was up on tall stilts greeting everyone coming into Family Day – what fun! Just the basic panel sliders and cropping were used in Lightroom before going into Photoshop. Then Analog Efex Pro was applied – not sure what I started with but the following filters were used: Basic Adjustments, Bokeh at 45% blur strength, Dirt & Scratches at 67% strength, Photo Plate at 31% strength, Lens Vignette left for darker edges, Film Type at 100% strength, and Frames. It does not seem to matter where you start if you plan on adding the filters you like and saving it as a preset. Very simple to use. That was all the changes made on this image.
Ferris Wheel at Gulfstream Family Day image using Nik Analog Efex ProThis may be my favorite image I have processed using the new plug-in. Again not much done in Lightroom except for a dramatic crop. In Photoshop I applied a saved preset I had used on my first image using this plug-in and saved the results at a preset. So you can compare how the strengths and filters varied, I have given you basic strength settings.  It started with a Vintage Camera preset and the Basic Adjustments, Bokeh at 88% blur strength, Dirt & Scratches at 82% strength, Photo Plate at 20% strength, Lens Vignette set to the right for a white edge, Film Type at 52% strength, and Levels & Curves dragging RGB curve down in midtones were added. The Camera Toolkit was used to get all the filters used. I added my own little edge frame as I did not like how the ones in the plug-in looked. I love the delicate colors in the final image!

As promised, here are the originals – don’t be too critical – my point-and-shoot is not the best, but as the saying goes – at least I got the shot! (Got to get my phone upgraded – on the to-do list!) It is pretty amazing what you can do with an imperfect image!Tych Panel of the original images from this blog

Bottom Line

This plug-in is definitely worth a second look. You can get similar results using Photoshop or other plug-ins. But Nik does such a super job of interfacing with Photoshop, and they make it so easy to apply the effects, that I think it is a real winner. I think the greatest thing is that Nik is back and gave us another great plug-in – we Photoshop Nuts have to be ecstatic! This plug-in is lots of fun and I am starting to see many uses for it. I am now going to get back to having some more Fun with the Analog Efex Pro plug-in – please excuse me!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Using Nik’s Analog Efex Pro on a Historic Statue