Sometimes I like to just have one or two colors in an image for more impact and artistic appeal. There are many ways to do this in just Photoshop itself – some as simple as using a Black and White Adjustment Layer, a Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer (with the Monochrome box checked) or the Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer (with the Saturation slider set to 100), and in the attached layer mask painting back in the areas you want colored. I decided to use some of the wonderful Photoshop plug-ins that are available and all images in my post today are using them. The above uses probably the most powerful black and white plug-in made – Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2). This image is of the steps up the side of the Keck Telescope on the top of Mauna Kea on the Big Island in Hawaii. I loved the way the stairs made such a striking line against the white of the building and how the deep blue color matched the sky. I could actually imagine climbing up there and looking around and down at the telescope lens! Now that would be a cool shot! Since there were a lot of distracting colors in the image, the decision was made to convert it to a black and white to remove it, but wanted to retain the beautiful blue color. In SEP2 adjustments were made globally to the image using the Neutral preset and then control points were placed strategically on all the blue areas with the SC (Selective Coloration) sliders opened up to 100% to let the color show through. Nik’s Viveza 2 was used to even out the sky and that was about all. Very simple processing for a very simple image.
Here is another image (from the Hawaiian Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii) using Nik plug-ins: First Viveza to add contrast and sharpness to several elements in the image; next SEP2 where control points were placed on the lounger and the water where the color was to appear – adjust the SC slider to 100% to get the full color showing up (or set it lower for just a little color as shown in the water area); and finally Color Efex Pro 4 using the Detail Extractor and the Glamour Glow filters (set to an overall effect of 73%). Back in Photoshop a Gaussian Blur layer was added to slightly soften the background – a gradient was applied to a layer mask to do this and the close up tree trunks were painted back in. The original image was way to busy with the full color applied, but with the blue and cool tones applied, it makes for a relaxing image of Hawaii.
The image above was taken while walking to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner in San Francisco in the winter. I had a really difficult time getting the look I wanted. This image originally had a very tungsten yellow look that was corrected in Lightroom. I knew it needed a lot of work but I did not want to get rid of it since it represents to me what San Francisco is all about. After trying many different plug-ins and Photoshop tools, this dark foggy image was the winner. It was really cold, windy and damp outside and this is exactly how I remember it. There were two things I had trouble working with – the bright street light and the soft shot from taking the image at night without a tripod. My camera (a Nikon D300) is not the best at night. One other thing that really improved this image was the crop – it took several attempts to get the balance I was looking for. There was little color in this image to being with, so I already knew it needed to be processed as a black and white image. Therefore, I went back to another of my favorites, Topaz Black and White Effects (see sidebar for website link at my Tidbits Blog) using the Classic Traditional preset with adjustments. This plug-in is somewhat like SEP2, but does so many different things that it is hard to compare the two. Both are excellent products and I would be lost without either one of them. The windows were painted back in to bring out the soft warm glow feel. The last step added the Fog 1 preset in Topaz Lens Effects to enhance the fog that was already present to some extent, but this could have been painted in using a fog brush on a separate layer and adjusting the layer opacity. Also, I did use Imagenomics Noiseware on this image at the beginning as it had a lot of noise – they just came out with a new version and I am trying out the trial. So far I love it!
My last example is perhaps my favorite since it came out so sharp and clean. Believe it or not, this wonderful little mill sits outside the Big Thunder Mountain Roller Coaster (here’s a pretty lame U-Tube of the ride but it does bring back memories!) at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Once again, several attempts were made at processing this image with the red mill being the focal point I wanted in color. I ended up using OnOne’s Perfect Effects (see sidebar for website link at my Tidbits Blog) to get this terrific look. I keep forgetting how powerful this program can be and yet it created such a low distortion to the image even though there were four filters stacked to get this result: Black & White Grainy Film preset with the mill and center area of the image painted back in to show the color, Photo Filters Tobacco, Glow Black Soft, and Vignette Big Softy. The masking feature in this program is fabulous and it took just a few minutes to mask in the colors I wanted.
Conclusion: As I said, there are many ways this can be done – you do not have to have the plug-ins. I do believe Photoshop’s Black and White Adjustment Layer is quite a powerful tool to turn you images into really beautiful black and whites. Most of the plug-in effects can then be accomplished using Hue Saturation Adjustment Layers or Selective Color Adjustment Layers. Even Curves and Levels Adjustment Layers can add some real interesting colors and contrast to an image. The plug-ins I used here do add a lot more dimension to an image in a very short time to get effects that take longer to do in just Photoshop, so I do recommend you try out any of the ones I mentioned. Experiment around and see what you can get. As you can see, it took me several attempts and I even walked away from an image for a day, to get the results I wanted. The really nice thing is that if an image is just too busy and there is too much color in it, try adding a quick B&W Adjustment Layer to see if converting it to a black and white can calm it down. If so, then try different Photoshop tools or plug-ins to bring back color on where you want the viewer to focus – it can make what appeared to be at first glance a bad picture into a great one!……Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
NIK’s Champion Plug-in – Silver Efex Pro 2
Topaz B&W Effects Plug-In – A Real Winner!
Where Am I?
Black and White Photo or Not? Give It a Try on That Difficult Image
Loving Both Filters!
A while back I listened to a really good webinar at the old Nik site called Incorporating Nik Software into your Daily Workflow with Don Smith. (See my blog “Digital Landscape Effects with Nik Software.”) Don Smith runs a great website called Nature’s Best by Don Smith Photography. In his excellent workflow, that is discussed in my earlier blog, he talked about using Nik’s Viveza 2 plug-in, a powerful plug-in to selectively control color and light in your photographs. I have owned Viveza since it first came out and never used it that much since I thought it was like Adobe Camera Raw. I only used the plug-in after I had processed an image in Lightroom (or ACR) and could not get back to make adjustments*.
This image was taken on the road up to the incredible Waipi’o Valley – it represents how the Big Island of Hawaii felt and looked to me while I was there. It was very windy and I had to really work hard to get a good HDR shot since the tree leaves and waves were moving so much. The final result was processed with PhotoMatix Pro 4. (It gave a great result since it lets you pinpoint exactly where the problem areas will be.) The tone-mapped image was processed in Photoshop and the first thing done was to use Dr. Brown’s Edit Layers with ACR script to get rid of noise in the sky and blue water. Noise and clean up corrections need to be done first before applying the beautiful color and light effects that the Viveza plug-in adds. Next a composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) of the image was created and converted into a Smart Object, and then opened up in Viveza 2. Here is what my dialog box looked like before applying and after applying Viveza.
The top window shows how the image looked as it was brought into Photoshop at this point. The settings indicate what settings were used on the blue sky area but is not turned on in the view screen. The second image shows how the image looked once all five control points were turned on and gives a much closer look to the final. These settings show what ones were used where the dot is placed. The circle indicates where these settings will be applied and they can be applied by pulling out the lines on the image or adjusting the sliders on the right. You can set the control point circle size by just dragging out the bottom bar to fit. The really nice thing is that the changes you are doing will not affect colors that are not in its range where the point is set. If a slight change does occur, just set a control point in that area and do not make any changes – that part goes back to the original state. To finish the image a Curves Adjustment Layer was created to emphasize the grassy area and the sky. The masks were filled with black and the areas to emphasize were painted back in the mask using a very low opacity brush and building up the effect.
The important thing to understand is the the real power of this plug-in is not in the global adjustments you can make when you first open it up (which appear to be similar to ACR); it is with the use of the control points on the image that make this plug-in incredible! If you have just one area that is not sharp enough, just add a control point to that area and move the Structure (great little slider!) and maybe the Contrast or Brightness sliders to blend the area into the rest of the image. The Warmth slider is great also. If you want to warm up the image just a bit, as done above in the foreground area, it can really give a lovely lighted glow. To cool down are area, just move the slider a little bit to the left. Move the Structure slider to the left to make a background area smooth out in a blur so it practically disappears. The more you work with this little plug-in, the more handy it is. I am not sure I could process an image without it now – although I am still using Lightroom’s Develop module as my first step. Most people apply Viveza after using the other plug-ins like Nik’s Color Efex Pro, OnOne Perfect Effects 3, or Topaz Adjust or Black and White Effects. In this photo, Viveza was the only plug-in applied.
Another webinar I listened to at the Nik site was called “Mastering Macro Images with Nik Software & Photoshop Elements, Presented by Mike Moats” who also uses the basic workflow like Don Smith, but applies it to the macro world. If you like macro photography, check out his Tiny Landscapes blog for some great information. He uses Nik Color Efex 4 first and then Viveza to finish up his photos. On this image, I used a recipe created by Matt Kloskowski of Lightroom Killer Tips fame in Nik Color Efex 4 and then added a Lens Blur to soften the bottom left edge and background. In Viveza I used 7 control points for color adjustment. Mike Moats does a great job in this webinar showing you how to apply the control points so you get the best results. If you have this plug-in, even if you do not do macro photography, this video should be viewed.
The Dome is in the Main Building of Flagler College, aka. Ponce de Leon Hotel circa 1887 (79 Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows line the dining room in this building). Viveza was used with 14 control points to bring out the detail since the lighting was so uneven. It was also processed using OnOne Perfect Effects 3 (see the sidebar in my Tidbits blog for website) where a Glow Effect was added using the Effect Options (Effect-Glow; Type-Surface; Strength-70; Halo-68; Threshold-60; and Mode-Softlight.) to bring out the rich brown wood feel.
I hope you can see how the colors and lighting are fabulous when this plug-in is applied to an image, and it also works with all kinds of other plug-ins. Take the time to download Viveza 2 and see if you like the results. Check out some of my short blogs listed below for more examples of what this plug-in can do. I believe that after having used this plug-in for several months now, if I could only have just one plug-in, it would probably be this one. It does more to improve my photos than any other plug-in I have used…..Digital Lady Syd
* Now that has changed since Dr. Brown has come up with his script to let you open a layer into ACR once inside Photoshop – see my blog “Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script” which, among other things, lets you get into ACR’s Noise Reduction sliders to fix your image.
Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Topaz Star Effects on a Wildflower?
The Macro Shot
Another Pseudo HDR from Me!
Combining Plug-ins for More Image Interest
OnOne’s Perfect Mask Works Great!
Problems for Big Ben
Daisies are Everywhere!
I have been enjoying adding textures to the beautiful flowers on my porch. Thought I would share where I got some of the textures and some of the techniques used.
Three textures created this beautiful effect. The textures used were: ShadowHouse Creations Oil Painting 1 set to Overlay at 100%, ShadowHouse Creations Faux Marble set to Hard Light at 21%, and Blue Color Fill Adjustment layer set to Normal blend mode at 43% opacity and stacked on each other. Using a Color Fill Adjustment layer is an easy way to change a texture to a color you like – this image was very greenish colored from the Faux Marble texture but the adjustment layer was added to turn it into a color combination I liked. Also, the layer mask was painted in to give a bit of a spotlight effect on the flower so it stands out a little more in the image.
For this image I followed a ShadowHouse Creations tutorial called “Applying and Blending Textures Tutorial” which lists all the textures used in this image and where to download them. This is a very easy technique and I think it turns out quite nice.
Two of my favorite textures, Oil Painting 1 and Marshmellow Skies, by ShadowHouse Creations were used on these pink daisies. The trick to getting a nice blend of textures is to try different blend modes at different opacities and to use layer masks and paint with a very low brush to blend carefully to clear the texture in places that are too heavy. The above image took quite a few attempts until I liked the way the textures blended together. Also, be sure to do all the clean up and color work on your image first and create a composite layer (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) on the top of your layers before adding your textures. This way, if a color is really not working, you can go back to the original corrections if you have to and create a new composite.
This yellow daisy was processed in OnOne Software Perfect Effects program (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog for website link). It has some great features once you learn how to use them. In this case I layered two presets on top of the original photo – in the Color & Tone category the Tonal Contrast preset and in the Textures category called Warm Swirl. All their presets can be adjusted for your image by going into the Effect Options and applying different drop-down settings or adjusting sliders. Also, you can use the Brush Tool or the Mask Bug to paint in or paint out the effect and at different opacities. OnOne PhotoFrame acid burn controlled 11 was applied and it added more texture around the edge.
This image uses three free textures all by Shadowhouse Creations – Aged and Distressed Vintage 1, Oil Painting 3, and Attic Treasures Creative Texture 7. All his textures are beautiful and he has great tutorials on how to combine the many textures. The first texture was added into a layer mask by opening up the texture in it own document, CTRL +A and CTRL+C to select and copy the texture; ALT+Click on the layer mask to make the layer white; and CTRL+V to place the image into the layer mask. The other two textures were added above and a layer was added with the Snow Drops brush by Frostbo.
With textures there are so many choices – you can make them, find them in plug-ins, and find them on the internet. The more your work with textures, the better you get at applying them. The above tricks really help – the opacities of the layers and brushes are crucial to get a smooth blend. Try out some of these resources and see if you like them as much as I do. Sometimes an image can be perked up with just a bit of textures…..Digital Lady Syd
Recently I discovered that several of the major Photoshop plug-ins all seem to be presenting a dual tone effect in their arsenal. I decided to create for you a Dual Tone Comparison using similar settings for each plug-in. In each case I used an image of a Spanish Cay beach in the Bahamas taken last year while sailing. I am trying to add a believable sunrise effect. So let’s get to comparing!
NIK Color Efex Pro 3.0
This NIK Color Efex Pro effect was created using the BiColor User Defined Preset. The swatches colors were set as follows: the Pink top color was set to R180 G152 B151, and the bottom blue color was set to R143 G141 B162. In the past I have used this preset with different colors on other images – it is really easy to apply and the BiColor Filter has many quick presets to choose from if you do not need to use specific colors. Personally I believe the real strength of most of the NIK plug-ins is that they provide quick, very visual choices which usually can create the look you want fast – and if you do not like the presets, you still have all the wonderful sliders to adjust to make the effect the way you like. Also, there are control points that can be applied on the image – in this case the opacity can be adjusted in the shadows and/or highlights areas. Four presets can be saved in the BiColor User Defined Preset Quick Save Slots to use again. To get a really nice look, the Polarization preset was also added with Rotate set to 0 and Strength set to 200%.
OnOne PhotoTools 2.6 (Now OnOne Perfect Effects 3.0)
OnOne has a totally different way of accessing the plug-in which I find a bit cumbersome. I have to go to the Image -> Automate and select it from a list to open up the interface. My computer runs more sluggish whenever I use one of their plug-ins but not a big enough problem for not using their products. That said, I was surprised at what a nice result I got in OnOnePhotoTools 2.6 (no longer available – see OnOne Perfect Effects 3.0 – click on OnOne icon in my Tidbits Blog sidebar) on the above image. Since the interface is different from most plug-ins, it takes a bit of practice to find where all the settings reside to get this effect, but once there, your choices are unlimited.
When choosing the effect you want, you must first go to the Library section at the bottom of the interface and select a Category which brings up many different results. In this image, Photo Filters was selected and 30 results were obtained; the Polarizer effect was choosen by clicking on Add to Stack. If the effect looks awful, just click Undo and it disappears. If you look under the Navigation Panel on the right side of the image above, you can that I stacked three effects (they can be dragged up or down for a different order) to get this one final look: Polarizer, Graduated Red, and Graduated Warm-Cool. You can spend many hours finding the perfect formula to get very creative results. I was not able to add the exact colors used in the NIK BiColor User Defined preset above, but it was a pretty close approximation. I will try to cover this plug-in more thoroughly at a later date. Just note that it does create a good dual tone effect and compares nicely with the Nik Color Efex Pro result. (Also, as far as I am concerned, there is no better way to add a frame to finish up your image than using OnOne’s PhotoFrame – all images in this blog have the same one applied from this program.)
Topaz Lens Effects
I really figured that the Topaz Lens Effect Dual Tone Filter would not be as good as the two above. When I did my blog on this feature last week, it did not create exactly the look I wanted. But bingo bango, I think this is the most accurate effect and it was pretty easy to adjust the sliders to get the look.
As you can see, I have created a SJ-Sunset preset that contains the settings used to make this dual tone effect. The Transition Adjustments section under the Navigation window sets how large and where you want the filter to be applied. The Region A Adjustments and Region B Adjustments allow you to create the colors you want – there is not option to add a specific color as in the BiColor User Defined preset but you adjust Cyan, Red, Magenta, Green, Yellow, and Blue sliders to get the two colors. A Polarization Filter can also be applied after the Dual Tone Filter, but there is only one slider, Strength, and I just did not care for the effect on the water. The polarizations effect was not as good as in the other two plug-ins above. Still, just the dual tone filter created a very good overall representation of what I wanted to present.
Plugin Galaxy 2.0
Plugin Galaxy 2.01 surprised me with the above result. I did not think the plug-in had the capability to do what I wanted, but I was wrong. Once again, you have to get used to the interface so you can figure out where to find the look you want. The interface appears to be much smaller than on the other three plug-ins but all you have to do is drag out the bottom right edge and it will almost fill the screen. Also, one of the tricks of this plug-in is that whenever you see a (+) in the center of your image, you can right click and drag it to place the effect in a specific location. In the interface image below, you can see the (+) in the lower right hand corner of the image. This is where I placed the effect.
I used the Expert Mode which gives you the most choices, and selected the Nature Group with the Sunset FX (filter effect). The first attempt was not so great as the Mode under the Brightness slider was set to Normal. But by trying different modes, I was able to select Add and get a really nice effect. The color sliders I had to experiment with to get the look – it makes a big difference whether you add just a bit of green or blue to the red – and the intensity and brightness sliders must be adjusted carefully. The interesting thing is that this plug-in has a lot of versatility – you just need to work with it to get that final look. This plug-in contains one of my vary favorite effects, the Instant Mirror Effect, which I blogged about here.
For me this has been a very interesting comparison. Each plug-in definitely has strengths that I love about each. My final decision on which plug-in worked best for the above image is the result I got with Topaz Lens Effects Dual Tones filter. Why? Because the mood created looks like what I think it should look like – the way there is a touch of yellow in the clouds that gives a more believable look to me. I really thought the NIK BiColor User Defined filter would do the trick best – it is one of my favorite filters. And OnOne’s PhotoTools really surprised me – I had not considered how many choices I had with that plug-in and if I played around a bit more with the presets, I might have been able to get the best look. And even though I did not like the Plugin Galaxy’s overall look for this particular image (and actually I really liked the way there was some color in the sand on the left bottom side which none of the other plug-ins created), this plug-in has some amazing choices that I am definitely going to experiment with more. Both Topaz Lens Effects and Plugin Galaxy have very reasonable prices for their plug-ins so they do give you a good alternative to the more expensive plug-ins and are definitely worth downloading and trying out the trial versions. With that said, I hope you enjoyed this comparison and all the images turned pretty nice – maybe you can try some comparisons of your own. You might get some surprises just as I did with the image above……Digital Lady Syd