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Posts tagged “NIK Silver Efex Pro2

Where to Find Those Cool Free Christmas Card Templates?

It is that time of year and everybody is looking for the cool Christmas Card templates so I am posting early this week. I have found a few sites that might help get you through the “I need to create a Christmas Card quick” panic or to make that special one for family or friends. Update: It is hard to keep links active as this blog was posted a couple years ago, but I have tried to keep it fairly current with a few corrections and additions.

Becky Higgins 2012 Holiday Cards (no longer available but check out steps in next paragraph on how to create it)
Becky Higgins website had 10 basic cards in PNG format and various sizes to add your photos into – please note that these templates are for personal use only. Above is an example using one of her beautiful templates. The image is a 1898 Christmas ad of Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railways ad that appeared in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine from The Old Design Shop site, a great website to find interesting vintage photos for free download. This template could be created fairly simply in Photoshop –  just fill the background layer with red (ALT+BACKSPACE), duplicate the layer and cut out the photo area using the Rectangular Marquee Tool press BACKSPACE. and remove selection (CTRL+D). Add a text layer (here is a link to some nice Christmas Brushes by annie 252). On a New Layer above, use a grunge brush with white (check out Obsidian Dawn’s Glitter II brush set).

Steps to add photo:
1.  Open PNG file up in Photoshop – you will see the checkered opening where your photo will go.
2. From Adobe Bridge drag you image into the PNG file and then drag it underneath the card template.
3. Use Free Transform (CTRL+T) to adjust you image to the opening.
4. In this case a Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped above the image to give a greenish tint to the black and white image.
That’s it! Pretty easy and beautiful results! You can always add another text layer and sign your name – I used the Beyond Wonderland font from dafont.com – check it out to find hundreds of really great free fonts.

Check out this short tutorial called How to Create a Beautiful Christmas Card with lots of free holiday references. They provide links to Christmas fonts that can be used for the holiday text also.
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MCP Actions
This card was actually created from a card furnished by the wonderful people from MCP Actions. These are very basic cards where you can substitute various elements to create a very unique card. In this case the birdesign-freebie1 front was used. To see how I did the flower image, see my Tidbits Blog Beautiful Christmas Flowers . After saving and finishing the image, it was brought into the card PSD file and placed above the background. It was adjusted to fit the opening. All the pattern layers were removed, guide layer, and the top text layer. The bottom text layer was changed to a font that I had on my computer – a free download font called SF Foxboro Script. I liked the sentiment for the card so all that was done was to add my name in a little larger font size. By double-clicking on the thumbnail, the layer style dialog was brought up – the Color Overlay style was chosen with a light beige color and a default Drop Shadow added. The turquoise bottom half had to go – so the background was changed to a color that was sampled from the flowers. The bottom half looked boring, so I found The Christmas Tree sheet music from Graphicsfairy. (This is an incredible vintage website.) To get rid of the yellow background and leave the sheet music, a Select -> Color Range was performed – once selected, backspace to remove the background so just the music remains on the layer. It was turned at a an angle, a Color Fill Adjustment Layer was changed to a white color, and Drop Shadow added with no changes. The opacity was set to 26% – adjusted last so it does not compete with the card text. To grunge up the bottom half a little more, French Kiss Glorious Grunge Edging Overlay was added and also turned at an angle, and a Solid Color Adjustment Layer set to a light pink to soften the music color. The last step was to apply a Curves Adjustment Layer on top. I could send this card out and be happy!
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Chasing Dreams PhotographyChasing Dreams Photography is a website I only found recently and she has two wonderful free Christmas Card templates using the chalkboard look that seems to be all the rage in textures right now. These can be downloaded (one of her 12 days of Christmas gifts) along with lots of other goodies at her Fan Page on Facebook, similar to the MCP Actions download above. It was very easy to place my image, and the fonts that are in the card templates are free downloads from dafont.com. The image is one I scanned on my old Epson Perfection scanner and had to do quite a bit of retouching. I actually used Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 plug-in on this photo to help enhance it. It printed up very nicely on a matte finish paper.
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Gavin Hoey just provided a very nice Christmas card template on his Gavtrain blog. Also Leslie Nicole at French Kiss Collections has a very wonderful vintage Christmas card available until the end of January 2013. Here is a link that links to several websites offering free holiday templates – check out Free Holiday Card Templates. (Wow- just realized one of my cards from last year is linked here!) Another place that has 4 nice photo templates is from DesktopPCWallpapers.com – check them out at this link. I hope everyone appreciates as much as I do these wonderful sites that are giving away their beautiful cards for free – it providses such quick and easy access to making beautiful cards. If it were not for these kind folks, it would take a lot more time and experimenting – thank you for sharing. Check out my Related Blogs below for more free resources to help add that original look to your cards. I hope these links will help you get a beautiful quick unique card out and take some pressure off so you can Enjoy the Holiday Season!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Free Christmas Card Templates-Part 2
Free Christmas Card Vectors and Brushes
Digital Lady Syd’s Free Christmas Card Template
Digital Lady Syd’s Free Christmas Card Template Using Photoshop Elements


NIK’s Champion Plug-in – Silver Efex Pro 2

Since I have been giving such glowing reviews to their newest competitor into the black and white plug-in world (Topaz Black & White Effects), I really should show you why, if you totally love black and white images, this is the plug-in you want. I was reminded by a webinar sponsored by NIK and featuring Dave Devitale called “The Creative Edge in Digital Photography” (the sound quality on this video was not good), that Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2) really does give wonderful results. The interface is familiar and similar to the other great NIK plug-ins so it makes getting up to speed really fast. The presets give you excellent quick looks at the different effects and make it easy to get a pleasing result without a lot of adjusting. NIK really knows how to put together a great plug-in and this one is no different. It’s biggest drawback is the price.
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St. George Street in St. Augustine was processed in black and white due to a large contrast in the original image. A simple workflow was followed and was a pretty basic use of NIK’s SEP2. Clean up your image, duplicate it and make it a Smart Object (right click on layer and select Create Smart Object since SEP2 remembers your plug-in settings and control points), got to Filter -> NIK -> Silver Efex Pro 2 and look at the presets. The 015 Full Dynamic (harsh) preset was chosen as a starting point. An Orange color filter was used and Sensitivity colors were adjusted for the image. Toning 4 was added. Back in Photoshop the standard layers were added: a Curves Adjustment Layer to adjust contrast, a Sharpen Tool layer, and a basic layer style for the framing. That’s it and you get a very nice black and white image.
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This image followed a slightly different technique that Moose Peterson, the famous outdoor photographer recommended in a NIK video called “Finishing Techniques Using NIK Software.” The original image was processed in ACR and then brought into Photoshop. The background layer was duplicated and in SEP2, the Full Dynamic Smooth preset was applied for a starting point. Moose prefers this preset. Then he duplicates the black and white layer and opens up the NIK Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in – he likes the Neutral Density filter where he can adjust the tonality of the clouds. Back in Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer is added and its layer mask filled with black – it is then painted on with a 20% white brush to darken the foreground and add detail to the clouds. For a better explanation check out the video which is very good.
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Above is the current Casa Monica Hotel (was the Cordova Hotel in 1888 when it was opened) in St. Augustine, Florida, and one of the grand old hotels of city. I have used this technique before when processing color images – a color image is opened, the layer duplicated and turned into a Smart Object, and the top layer is taken into the SEP2 plug-in to create a black and white effect. (See next image explanation for settings used in SEP2.) Once back inside Photoshop, different blend modes are tried for the black and white layer. In this case, the Screen blend mode was selected at 59% opacity. A Curves Adjustment layer was added. Finally a New Layer was created for use with the Sharpen Tool where I went over the edges of the building and some of the window details. I love the final postcard look – perfect for this type of historic building. The SEP2 settings listed for the next image are exactly the same for the hotel except the Image Border is Type 13.
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This is of the backside of run down storefronts in downtown Jackson, Mississippi. I loved the slight touch of color and texture that came through in this image. The workflow was very similar to the one used on the image above – except this time the blend mode was left to Normal at 70% opacity. It gives a very different look even though the same oo5-High Structure (Harsh) preset was used in SEP2 with slightly different settings applied. Different Control Points were used to add extra contrast in localized areas and the green leaves were darkened using a Control Point. In the Film Types section the Orange Filter was used and in the drop-down, Film Type Kodak ISO 32 Panatomic X was selected as a starting point. The creamy color is achieved using Toning 14. A slight dark vignette was created and Image Border Type 2 was added. Be sure to create your own preset at this point if you find some settings you like by clicking on Add Preset and name it. In Photoshop the Sharpen Tool was used on the ironwork to bring out the detail a bit more and a final Curves Adjustment Layer was added.
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The Tomorrowland Sign is an example of using two different layers for your effect. Duplicate your original layer (CTRL+J) and turn off the top layer. On the bottom layer, a Topaz Adjust Spicify preset was applied to the image. This gives the really bright and edgy look of the actual sign. Now on the top layer, go to SEP2 and convert your image emphasizing how you want to the background of the image to appear such as softening the lines. Once out of the plug-in, add a Layer Mask and carefully mask out the Tomorrowland Sign. The final step involves going to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur to make the black and white background a softer feel so it does not compete with the colorful sign for attention. I believe this is a really nice way to apply the SEP2 plug-in for a different look.

I hope this gives an idea of what can be achieved with what is considered the best black and white plug-in ever created. I have enjoyed trying some photos in this program and I would suggest that if you like black and white, it is worth a trial download to see what you think. Enjoy yourself and try out some new looks and techniques…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Black and White Photo or Not? Give It a Try on That Difficult Image
Same Image-Different Plug-in
Topaz B&W Effects vs. Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2
Same Image-Different Look!