I have been experimenting with all types of sharpening methods over the last few months. I really liked the High Pass Sharpening method that is very popular, the new improved Sharpen Tool in Photoshop CS5, and the Smart Sharpen Filter that so many use. Recently I read Harold Davis‘ book The Photoshop Darkroom where he gives steps to sharping in the LAB Mode. I have now started using this method – it takes a little more time to do, but I believe it really gives the best results. Since I take a lot of time with my images, like to print them, and don’t batch process, it is important that each image gets the best sharpening I can do.
The above image of the fruit shop along the road on the Big Island in Hawaii is an good example of how nice the sharpening can be in an image. Both Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and Topaz Simplify 3 (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) were used in Photoshop to get the rich colors. The LAB sharpening was done after most of the adjustments were made to the image in Lightroom and Photoshop.
Why use LAB Mode sharpening? The most important reason people use it is to keep the colors true and not be influenced by any color shifting that other RGB Mode sharpening may produce. By using a black layer mask, the image is first over-sharpen and then just areas that need the sharpening can be painted back into the image selectively and to various degrees so it does not have that over-sharpened look. This process also works really well on portraits where just the eyes are sharpened or on areas you want to draw attention to a certain part of an image.
The workflow steps to get this effect are easy:
1. Apply most of the filters and do clean up to your image before the next step. Just be sure there are no adjustment layers in the document or they will be discarded upon the conversion. You will need to save the image as an unsharpened version and then flatten it to proceed.
2. Go to Image -> Mode -> LAB – Click “Don’t Rasterize” and “Don’t Merge” buttons.
3. Duplicate the layer by clicking CTRL+J.
4. Go to the Channels panel and highlight the L channel.
5. Turn on the top eyeball so all channels are showing but only the L channel is highlighted.
6. Go to Layers Panel and to Filters -> Sharpen -> Unsharp Mask. I like Harold Davis’s recommendation to start with these settings and adjust from this point.
Radius 2.7 – The higher the Radius setting, the more sharpening occurs
Threshold 9 – The lower the Threshold setting, the sharper the image
Amount – somewhere between 50-120
Watch out for noise enhancement, especially when adjusting the Amount slider.
7. Add a black layer mask to layer by holding down the ALT key and clicking the Layer Mask icon at bottom of Layers Panel. Using a soft white brush set to 30% opacity, paint back in the areas you want sharpened leaving areas with noise or over-sharpened edges unpainted. Paint over several times to enhance the effect.
8. Go to Image -> Mode -> RGB and press the “Don’t Flatten” button. Now you can add your Curves Adjustment Layer and frames to finish up.
Dan Margulis (one of the first three people ever inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame) is the most knowledgeable person when it comes to using the LAB Mode and has written the best book ever on the subject, Photoshop LAB Color. He covers LAB sharpening very thoroughly.
Here is another example of how great this type of sharpening works – it is great to be able to localize where the actual detail is emphasized. This old vintage car was parked in front of the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine, Florida. It is a three image HDR photo processed using Katrin Eismann’s workflow – see my blog HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow! (used Granny’s Attic preset in HDR Efex Pro and Structure Harsh in Silver Efex Pro). Nik’s Viveza 2 was used to increase the detail and color in the wheels and curtains in the windows. Then it was taken into the LAB mode and processed using the Unsharp Mask Filter (settings Amount 98/Radius 9.4/Threshold 1). Using a brush set to white at 30% opacity, the wheels, curtains and lettering were painted back in. I wanted the rest of the image to have that grungy old feel to it which HDR Efex Pro gave the image. OnOne PhotoFrame (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Kevin Kubota Flower was added as a last step.
The LAB Unsharp Mask was used on this image of an elephant puppet from Burma that was on display at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii. To see how it was processed see my blog Nik Color Efex Pro 4 Just Does It Right! The sharpening was applied as the last step and it was selectively painted in to just the details in the elephant but not the background. This really made the details in the puppet stand out. Also all the images but the Lightroom image in my blogs Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part One) and Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part Two) used this method on the bicycles very successfully.
I am not really sure why, but I definitely see an improvement in sharpness using the LAB method of sharpening. There are times when not that much needs to be sharpened in an image and the Sharpen Tool is enough or Nik’s Viveza 2 adds enough sharpening so this process is not necessary. I do think it works really great on my landscape and HDR images where I want a very clear edge on most of the objects. Give this easy method a try and see what you think…..Digital Lady Syd
I have been enjoying processing some of my Hawaiian images recently and noticed that I really liked the orange-brown tones on some of them. Often the greens tone, especially in the beautiful Hawaiian landscapes, becomes a bit overwhelming so this creates a more appealing look. This technique basically involves using Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in using two filters to start the look (although a very similar effect could be obtained using Color Efex Pro 3) and then Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel (see my blog on “Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel – A Real Winner!“) to finish it up.
The image above looks out on the Pacific Ocean from the Big Island’s Eastern Side near Umauma Falls and creates a particularly nice feel with this effect added. After applying SJ-My Vivid Drawing Look preset in Lightroom orACR (be sure to adjust the new Shadows and Whites sliders if using Lightroom 4 or Photoshop CS6) and doing basic spot clean up to the image, it was first taken into Nik’s Color Efex Pro and two filters were stacked (and saved as a preset): Contrast Color Range (Color set to 221 degrees, Color Contrast set to 147%, Brightness set to 7%, Contrast set to 8%, and Highlights set to 54%) and Brilliance/Warmth (Saturation set t0 21%, Warmth set to 32%, and Perceptual Saturation set to 21%). In this case a plain black Image Border was also added (Type 13 set to Size -66% and Spread 0%). Next Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel was opened and Flypaper Texture‘s Apple Blush Texture added as a layer on top set to Overlay Blend Mode at 83% opacity. That was it! It gives a really soft warm feel to the image and it looks the way I remember it.
This image (taken of the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa beach area) followed a similar process except that the original image had more overall problems. Since the sky was blown out in the original, a little more texture had to be added to the sky to keep the warm feel. The same Color Efex Pro filter recipe was applied, and then textures were added from Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel – Flypaper’s Leaky Garret texture set to Soft Light Blend Mode at 100% Opacity, and the Apple Blush texture set to Overlay Blend Mode at 100% Opacity. A new texture layer using ShadowHouse Creations ScratchBox4 texture set to Hard Light Blend Mode at 48% Opacity was applied next to give the cloud look in the sky. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was created with Saturation set to +43 to add more yellow to the sky only (filled Layer Mask with black and painted back just the sky). I still was not happy so a Curves Adjustment Layer was added to just make the water brighter (filled the layer mask with black and painted back in the water). A Gradient Map Adjustment Layer was added using the Graphix1 Warhol 2 gradient that goes from a whitish yellow to a medium yellow to lighten the whole image just a little more, and the layer was set to Linear Burn Blend Mode at 22% Opacity. OnOne’s PhotoFrame (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog) Grunge 10 was added as a last step.
This image used the same Color Efex Pro stacked filters as the first image with no changes to settings. I also used Nik’s Viveza 2 to adjust a color imbalance in the plant reflection and to tone down the blue sky in the left corner. Back in Photoshop, using Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel, Apple Blush texture was set to Overlay Blend Mode at 43% Opacity, and Muscatel texture set to Linear Light Blend Mode at 51% Opacity. If the effect is too strong on any of the image, just add a layer mask to the texture and use a low opacity brush to paint out some of the effect on the mask. I did that with the Muscatel texture where the orange fish became a little too electric for my taste. Finally a Curves Adjustment Layer was used to add back a little contrast to the image.
I think this technique is a nice change of pace for tree and plant landscape images, but I did not have much luck using it on other type images. Since I do like to experiment with Nik plug-ins, I got the idea to use the Contrast Color Range filter from Nik’s Education Blog. Each week they are examining a different filter and showing you what it will do. Hope you enjoy this recipe, it is really easy and fun to use!…..Digital Lady Syd
This week I am going to discuss textures since I suggested using them in last week’s blog on “The Soft, Dreamy Look,” which created a free action to apply to your images. Textures are a very popular effect and can give a totally nice and different look to an image if applied correctly.
The basic technique involves just adding a texture image (a jpg can be added to a raw, psd or tiff file at this stage) on top of your image. Do this by dragging the texture into your photo as a Smart Object from Photoshop Bridge or just open the texture file and copy and paste the layer onto the photo. At this point I usually rasterize the layer by right-clicking on the Smart Object in the Layers Palette and select Rasterize from the menu. A Smart Object is not necessary unless you are applying a filter to the texture and may want to adjust the settings at a later date. Most texture effects are achieved by changing the layer blend modes and varying layer opacities, then using layer masks to delete out areas where the texture is too obvious. The uniqueness can come from stacking several textures using different blend modes and opacities. There are many resources available on textures and how to use them effectively. The linked article, called “Tips for Texturing Photographs,” has several great tips – some that I want to share.
- How do you match your image subject to a texture? Look for subjects with a soft quality like flowers, misty images, or of simple composition.
- Figure out what you are trying to do with your picture – fill open spaces, get a painterly look, vintage feel, or grunge look?
- If the texture does not work, try a different one. Usually match the texture strength with the subject – soft textures for flowers, stronger textures for structures.
If using textures over photos of people, please check out this short video, “Guide to Using Textures with Photos in Photoshop (must be a member to access now),” to adjust the tone on the people and their skin. It uses the Average Filter in Photoshop instead of layer masks.
Textures can be bought or downloaded for free
There are many beautiful textures that can be bought. Florabella Collections has two very nice sets of textures. I like the Ash Textures that I purchased several years ago, but I just figured out he is no longer selling them. This is a shame since they are really nice textures. Flypaper Textures (blog linked above to Tips for Texturing Photographs) also has some very nice textures for sale. This site also has a lot of good information on textures so take a look. Caleb Kimbrough has released several hundred textures, some of excellent quality and most are free, at his website Lost and Taken. He has also written a really nice blog entry called “How to Create Subtle Grunge Textures” that shows how to make your own interesting textures by combining several different ones.
The top image uses a very popular effect. It is made simply by adding a worn-looking board texture at Hard Light blend mode over a flower photo (Curves Adjustment Layer on photo gives the blown out look). This particular texture is one from BittBox, another great free texture site – this particular texture can be downloaded from the Bittbox Flickr site here – just select the size you want, right click on image, and choose Save Image As to save on your hard drive.
This image was created using a brownish Ash texture layer set to Hard Light at 75% opacity and one of Caleb Kimbrough Summer textures, which I really like, set to Overlay at 73%.
The daisy image started with my “SJ-Soft Dreamy Look Action” that I created in last weeks blog. The image can be cleaned up on a layer before applying the action since it does not require a labeled Background Layer to run. An Ash Texture was added using the Hard Light blend mode at 75% opacity, and an OnOne PhotoTools (now OnOne Perfect Effects 3.0 – website link at my Tidbits Blog sidebar) layer using the HDR Enhancer effect and HiKey Color – Cool Fade preset as a second effect layer (I am getting some nice results with its stacking capabilities). The OnOne PhotoTools effect was basically a darkening of the edges and brightening in the middle, a heavy vignetting feel. Finally an OnOne PhotoFrame was added.
Textures can be found in plug-ins
As shown in the daisies above using the OnOne PhotoTools 2.6, this plug-in has many texture options as does its sister application, OnOne’s PhotoFrame, which surprisingly has many textures that can be applied with various blend modes, just like in Photoshop’s Layers Panel. Even plug-ins like Plugin Galaxy 2.0 have some interesting effects, such as Rain-Short Streaks, Snowflake effects, and Color Effects section, which can add some interesting textures. You just need to play around with whatever filters or plug-ins you have and start trying different settings with them.
Once again my action was applied to the Scottish home picture which starts you off with a really nice soft look (create a composite layer or CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E layer on top of the action layers to apply the plug-in). An OnOne PhotoTools 2.6 Overlay Effect with the Antique Paper preset at Normal blend mode and 100% opacity was added. A similar look could probably be achieved by adding a final Color Fill Adjustment Layer using a golden tone or a Photo Filter Adjustment Layer using a warm color at a fairly high density, and a layer mask to reduce the color in the house area. That is all that was done to get this nice look.
This image does contain a brownish Ash texture, but any darkish brown texture would look good, set to Vivid Light at 38% but the painterly effect of the sky was achieved in Topaz Lens Effects – with the Graduated Color Blue1 preset applied. Then the layer was copied and set to 62% opacity to make the sky bolder.
Textures can be created within Photoshop itself
I want to show that a texture does not have to be some fancy texture that you have to buy or download – it can just be a really nice paintbrush effect on a layer that you create. Then just experiment with the blend modes, layer opacities, and layer masks to get the exact feel you want.
The above image of Scotland has a rather vintage feel to it. This was accomplished by running my SJ-Soft Dreamy Look Action and then creating a New Layer above and using Grungetract Brushes Sample #16 by alex16 at deviantArt at 2500 pixels with a light tan color. The brushed layer’s blend mode was set to Screen, the layer opacity to 66%, and a layer mask was added using a 50% opacity brush to mask out the texture in certain areas.
In the floral photo, a coral colored Mixer Brush layer was created above the other texture layer using a 300 pixel brush, and was set to Soft Light blend mode. (See my blog “Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Mixer Brushes” for more information on the Mixer Brushes.) It can be quite addictive once you start playing around with the Mixer brushes and create some beautiful textures. I found that the by varying the size and the color of the same Mixer Brush, and actually painting with them by moving slightly, you can get really nice effects. I have included my favorite texture Mixer Brush that can be downloaded here (there area two brushes – same brush at different sizes) and added to your Tool Presets. (Put the file in the User Name -> AppData -> Roaming -> Adobe -> Adobe Photoshop CS5 -> Tools file. Restart Photoshop to add brushes to your Tool Presets – go to the top upper left corner icon under the Menu line and click on down arrow, click on right pointed arrow in upper corner to open fly out menu, and select Load SJ Mixer Brushes Presets. I usually Append the tools and they will appear at the bottom of the list. NOTE: You must have the Mixer Brush selected in the vertical Toolbar to get the Mixer Brush variations to appear in the Tool Preset drop-down.)
This is a very simple example of applying texture that can be done just using Photoshop. First two New Layers were created and the Mixer Brushes I created above were used, the small brush in beige on the bottom layer and the larger one with the same color on the top layer to create an interesting texture. A layer mask was added to the top layer to bring out the center part of the flower. Now here is the neat part, a New Layer was created and a gradient applied with the Gradient Tool . This image used Graphix1 Gradient Muted4 which is a white to yellow beige color, but try out different gradients to see what effect you like. In the Options Bar select the Radial Gradient icon and drag with your cursor from the center of the flower outward to create the gradient. Set the layer blend mode to Soft Light and add a Bevel and Emboss Layer Style (2nd icon from left at bottom of Layer Panel) and double click the Texture option. This image used the Fractures Pattern Overlay, which is located in the Texture Fill set of patterns that come with Photoshop CS5, and set the Scale to 555% and the Depth to +34. Create a layer mask to darken the center again so the pattern is not as apparent over the center of the flower. That’s it – a texture applied that gives a really different look. Try other patterns – you can find lots of them on the internet.
And don’t forget the nice filters that come with Photoshop to create pleasing textures. I really like the Texturizer Filter using the Canvas texture set to Relief 3 to add a painting touch to an image.
I have tried to show that adding texture to an image can be done in many different ways and the different techniques can be combined to get some unique looks. Once again, it is just another way the versatility of Photoshop makes it so much fun to use. It is so satisfying to create your own textures that can actually go towards creating your own artistic style. Have fun creating!…..Digital Lady Syd
This week I am taking a break from my usual blog topics. Instead I am just going to post a few of the images I created while trying out some of my own blog techniques. I hope you get some new ideas from viewing them.
I added a couple of textures to this image to get the soft vintage look – one an Ash Texture (these textures are no longer available but see my more recent blog “Adding a Texture for Flair!” for other texture sites) and one from OnOne Software’s PhotoFrames. This beautiful egret was taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery in May, a really good place to visit in Spring if you like to take pictures of birds.
Created this image by using Caleb Kimbrough’s beautiful Summer8 texture (he has a vast assortment of really nice textures and most are free – please check them out), the Tranquility Brushes by wyckedBrush, and my SJ-Cloud Brushes.
I loved this building in Jackson, Mississippi. It was perfect for an HDR effect (used Image ->Adjustments -> HDR Toning in Photoshop CS5 on a single image) A wonderful action called “Vintage Effect – Ps Actions – by photoshop-stock” was applied afterwards to give this nice vintage feel. (This site has a number of nice actions and textures – great resource!)
I wish I had a fisheye lens, but since I do not, I used Topaz Lens Effects selecting the Fisheye Lens effect with the Extreme Fisheye preset on this Palm Tree in Palm Beach Gardens in Florida. See my blog on “Topaz Lens Effects Plug-in” for more information on this fun plug-in.
More fun with text – used gradient, cloud layers using cloud brushes (can download my SJ-Cloud Brushes set here) and my blog on “How to Add Images to Text” to do this.
The image above was taken in Phoenix, Arizona at the Desert Botanical Gardens. I used mixer brushes (see my blog “Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Mixer Brushes” and followed a tutorial on Sandstorms in the book called “Digital Painting Techniques!,” which is loaded with tutorials from various designers making all kinds of special effects.
Here is a composite of images I pulled from a video I took of the fireworks at Flagler Beach for the 4th of July celebration (video below). See my blog, “Faking Fireworks” for tips on how to create this look.
I hope you liked some of my “Playing in Photoshop” creations – it is just so much fun to make these images. Take some time out and just explore something new – may give you a whole new perspective on what you can achieve! Enjoy…..Digital Lady Syd
There is a lot of excitement in the Lightroom community this week about this new plug-in from OnOne software (see Digital Lady Syd’s Tidbits Blog sidebar to access website). If you love Lightroom, like I do, you need to try it out. Not unlike my “Fader” blog from a few weeks ago, this plug-in is accessed from the Plug-In Extras under the File menu. Below is a version I created solely in Lightroom (even OnOne’s PhotoFrame can be accessed from Lightroom) except for my signature layer. The following three images are all of Urquhart Castle in Scotland – a wonderful place to take photos!
I spent a few hours looking at the various short videos (most about 2 minutes long) on the OnOne site that were very helpful. When I first installed the program, I had some problems and had to reinstall it. It worked fine after that. Check out both Matt Kloskowski’s and Scott Kelby’s videos (on the same page as the download) for great explanations on how to use this add on. For the above image, I just used the original image and a Virtual Copy with a preset I created called Emphasize Purple (you may download here). A layer mask made inside Perfect Layers masked out the drab sky from the one image and added the beautiful virtual copy sky layer. which was set to Darken Blend Mode at 100% opacity. Very easy and very clean! Most of the Photoshop shortcuts work so it does not have that large a learning curve. Please note that in this version of Perfect Layer, the following Photoshop options are not supported – text layers, vector masks, layer styles, adjustment layers, paths, alpha channels, smart objects, layer groups, and clipping masks. These options will be flattened into a new psd file copy and rendered as a single layer in Perfect Layers. Simple psd files containing basic layers and masks will open correctly. Your original version with all your original layers is always left untouched.
The image above uses the original image and a virtual copy that was converted to black and white – no preset used. Both copies of the image were selected and loaded into Perfect Layers with the B&W image on top. A Darken Blend Mode at 84% opacity was added along with a “Painted Out” Layer Mask so that the castle itself would retain its color and detail. The B&W layer was copied so the background water and hill could be emphasized even more – this new layer was set to Multiply Blend Mode at 100% opacity with the Layer Mask painted to hide the castle and foreground. An OnOne PhotoFrame was added to finish.
Below, two virtual copies were created and the Fader plug-in applied with a setting of 150% for each preset: the Blue and Gray preset (one I created to correct the water color) and Lightroom’s packaged preset called Direct Positive (for the castle and foliage). Both virtual copies were selected and loaded into Perfect Layers with the Blue and Gray preset layer on the bottom. The Direct Positive preset layer on top was put into an Overlay Blend Mode. A Layer Mask was “Painted Out” using the Brush Tool at 75% opacity over the water on the bottom edge. An OnOne PhotoFrame was added last. I am glad the two plug-ins both work together in Lightroom.
Texture and image blending can easily be handled. In the image below, after bringing a Maui landscape into Perfect Layers, the sky was stretched and cropped to become the whole image. One of Caleb Kimbrough‘s beautiful free grunge textures (that can be downloaded here) is not in my Lightroom catalog but was added by going to File and selecting Add Layer(s) From File. Really sweet!
I have not tried all the ideas suggested in the videos and hope to try them soon. Once again, this has been a fun week of trying out something new – that is what is so great about Photoshop and Lightroom – there are always new things to explore! Hope you try out this new plug-in – I believe it is worth the time to do so!…..Digital Lady Syd