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HOW TO CREATE A FUN CARTOON

Cartoon drawing of a pretty woman

If you are like me, you probably spend a lot of time just doodling in Photoshop. I like to try out new brushes and end up creating some pretty weird but fun cartoon characters. Then I end up tweaking it until it is something, well, as seen here in this blog. What I like best about doing this type of digital art is that it does not have to be perfect. I thought I would share with you some of my favorite brushes that work really good when cartooning or doodling. Also some nice brushes for adding color to the cartoon along with a couple little tricks to try out. This blog is a bit huge, but it is a lot of info to cover.

The cartoon lady above was the first one developed for this blog. Below are the basic steps I usually follow to create my cartoon images:

  • The first step is to draw a “Rough” drawing layer using a nice drawing brush. Usually a pencil or ink brush is selected to start – this image used Kyle Webster’s Tilty Pencil Brush from his Winter 2022 set (I changed mine from a Mixer to a Regular brush – see Appendix at end of blog on how to do this – it makes a great sketch brush, but both the Mixer and Regular brushes are great!) Begin by just doodling a few items to start your character, and black is my preferred sketch color. Usually I begin with the nose or eyes – then I throw an oval shape around the figure to create areas to build on. Then the body is drawn, if needed. Remember at this stage, it does not have to be proportioned perfect.
  • This step is optional if you are happy with the Rough drawing layer. Next create a “Refined” drawing layer by starting with a New Layer and setting the “Rough” drawing layer to a lower opacity. Then either use the same brush or a different one to draw over the original in a darker ink to fine-tune the lines. This totally depends on the look you want. For the above image, a New Layer was used to fine-tune the face separate from the body – the layers were merged together when the refining was done. Sometimes a rougher ink brush looks better at this stage for the character being put together.
  • Put a New Layer underneath the Rough Draft layer (turn it off now if there is a Refined drawing) and start painting in the different areas of your character. This image used a few of Kyle’s Real Watercolor Brushes – the Skirt used Wet Pull and her skin used Natural Edge Painter 2. The hair was called Sampled Brush 2 3 by Daarken in his Full Daarken Brushes Full Set (some really cool brushes in this large free set). It just created this great mass of hair! For the Blouse the Natural Edge Painter 2 was used again and Kyle’s Real Watercolor Spider Spread Blend smudge brush was used to spread out the paint and smooth the fabric effect. I love this smudge brush!
  • TIP 1: This next step is really important so the texture placed underneath your character does not show through, especially when using watercolor or if the layer opacity of one of the objects is less. To do this, duplicate your Refined drawing layer and paint solid white over just the character. Once done, move it down under all the color layers. If white shows through a little after moving, just erase what looks bad on the white layer. This will make your image look so much better!
  • Create shadow and lighten layers. TIP 2: For the lady above, a technique by Pratik Naik was used where a large round 100-pixel soft brush with Smoothing checked on. In the Options bar set the Flow to 9% and turn on the Airbrush. Created a white layer to lighten and a black layer to darken the image. This brush is my go-to do this and often a different color is used to get a different look. Very handy to use!
  • To finish up, just below the white layer a texture can be added. The one above was mine created in Corel Painter. A Color Look-up table was used to give a little more contrast. Could also add on top Curves, Levels, or Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers.

This is the basic process.

Cartoon of a guy

The Unhappy Man image above was created using a different free brush called Scratchy Scratchy by David Belliveau at Paintable from his Sketch Set (I have learned a lot from David and followed several of his classes – see my Where to Find a Good Photoshop Painter blog for an example and more info on him.) Another really nice brush – there are so many choices in PS for this kind of art. His lips were created using my SJ KTW Tilty brush (I have trouble with lips so to learn to do this, Etherington Brothers visual lip tutorials were very helpful – search on their Twitter Feed for How to Think When You Draw – Lips – Part A and Part B from May 21, 2021. It shows you how to draw spheres in the lips to get them balanced.)

The T-shirt pattern is from the Old Design Shop – Keating Bicycle Ad and the Free Transform-Warp tool was used to get it crooked (this layer was set to Multiply to remove the white – this messed up everything when a stamped layer was created on top at the end of the process. MAJOR TIP 3: If creating a stamped layer and a weird color shift or a layer style does not work correctly, go the layer(s) with the blend mode(s) that are different from the Normal layer blend mode and convert them into a Smart Object(s) – now everything will work once the original stamped layer is deleted and a new created on top. This took me forever to figure out but I find color shifts comes up a lot!

Grut’s NM Knowit was used for the light whiskers on the Refine drawing. A solid color brush was used on a layer underneath the Refine drawing layer and different colors added to the character. Sam Peterson’s Pencil Stumpy 6 was used to paint in the solid colors. Then Sam Peterson’s Airbrush for Shadows at 25% opacity to finish up. Both of these brushes can be downloaded for free by going to his in his Character Design in Photoshop YouTube video and in the chat relay sidebar there is a link – he does discuss how to use his brushes in this video. Sam always has some good PS techniques in his Creative Challenges. Next the white figure was painted on a layer underneath the colored parts of the person as explained in Step 4 of the process. Last step involved adding the texture background below the white layer. The background texture was one created from an elephant tutorial by Aaron Blaise (see my Got Some Free Time! Try Drawing blog for info on getting his fabulous tutorials) – he often starts his tutorials by creating really nice basic textures so check him out to learn about this and all sorts of drawing. This image is similar to the top image but used different brushes.

Cartoon character of a guy outside

This above Outdoorsman image followed the same basic steps, but once again used some different brushes. This time the Rough drawing layer was used with no Refine drawing layer. TIP 4: Where I differ from most drawers is that I do erase out lines and remake them on-the-fly or use the Lasso Tool to change the size or line up my lines. My Wacom pen is set to toggle between the ALT key for sampling and E for erasing – very handy. My new favorite drawing brush for cartoons is Kyle’s Clean Comic brush from his Magapack set – created a brush by changing these settings in the Options Bar: Size of 10 pixels, Flow 36% and Smoothing 12% – then the saving brush. It makes for a very clean line. The painting color brush is one I named SJ Smooth Painting and it uses the tip of Aaron Blaise’s Local Color Brush (from the Brush Tip section) with my settings. (His brush used a lot of settings, but I only used Transfer (Opacity Jitter 0% and Control Pen Pressure) and Smoothing. The Options Bar is set to Size 35 pixels, Opacity 100%, Pressure for Opacity on, Flow 83%, and Smoothing 10%.) It makes a really nice paint stroke for applying color. TIP 5: It is fun to try different brush tips from with other brushes to create new ones. Sometimes really great brushes are created as this one is for me.

The background was created by adding a layer underneath the white painted layer and just lightly drawing in some background features with the Clean Comic brush. I followed some tips from a recent video by Kyle T. Webster called Tips for Creating Space and Distance in Your Art – very informative. On a layer underneath the background sketch, Kyle’s Smitty brush from his Spring 2022 set was used for the landscape and the tree. The sketch was left just slightly showing by lowering the Sketch background layer to 64% opacity – wanted a bit of the cartoon look to still show to tie it into the character drawing. The slight floral effect was created by using a Pattern Stamp by Jessica Johnson using her English Garden Set (brush 30 and pattern 37) – my favorite set of hers! She is the Pattern Stamp expert! Used my Pratik Naik from above for the slight shadow effect.

Cartoon of a man sitting in a chair

This image is a lot more basic than the others. Just a Rough layer was created using a new ink brush called Tick Fission by GrutBrushes – it is his free brush of the week this week but all his brushes are only $1 if you find one you want. This site is fabulous if you have not checked it out before. I am really enjoying this brush as it gives some nice variety of lines for drawing. Underneath, a brush created from a texture brush using French Kiss was used to add some texture to his pants. (See my How to Create a Texture Brust to Match a Texture blog to learn how to do this – it is nice to have a texture brush from one of your favorite textures to use in images.) Under that is the painted white figure. TIP 6: A Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer was used to add the background – the above uses Kyle’s Gesso Canvas Knife pattern from one of his brushes. I can’t find the brush where this pattern is from, but several of his brushes have similar effects – Kyle’s Megapack Inkbox Brush Pen Queen uses one called kyle nupastel 2017 that also looked nice in this image. To download the pattern (texture) from the brush, just click the + icon to the left of the pattern line – it will automatically go into your pattern file. Use a Selective Color Adjustment Layer using the Colors Black, Neutral, and White colors and the black slider to adjust pattern contrast – try both Relative and Absolute. This is a great way to get a really nice painterly texture. By using the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer, they can be swapped out really easily. Even if the pattern is too light or dark, just change the blend mode or layer opacity of the adjustment layer and it may look really good. To learn about the textures in brushes, check out Brush Hour with Kyle T. Webster: Let’s Create Some Pattern Brushes video for great info on this. The font used was Segoe Print and is free for personal use.

Thank you so much for hanging in there with me on this huge blog. It has been a while since I did one – this is something I have been wanting to write about for a while. Hope you found something useful in it, even if it just finding some new brushes to try out. Have a great one!…..Digital Lady Syd

APPENDIX:

TIP 7: As promised here are the instructions on how to convert brushes between Mixers and Regular type brushes and other types too. The bottom line for converting a regular brush into a mixer: Select the Mixer brush that has the settings you like, then press down the CTRL+ALT keys while clicking on the Regular brush you want to convert to a Mixer with the original Mixer settings. They will appear in the Options Bar. Below is how I actually created the SJ Tilty Pencil brush.

How to turn Kyle’s Tilty Pencil Variant Brush from his Winter 2022 set from a Mixer into a Regular Brush. Not exactly how I figured this out, but it works great for me as a Sketcher. It gives very delicate lines, like the ladies face above, but much darker lines for more emphasis. To convert the Tilty Pencil Variant into a Regular brush is just the opposite from turning the above info on changing a a Regular Brush into a Mixer. In this case either create a basic Regular Brush with the Option Bar set to Opacity 100%, Flow 100% and Smoothing 20% or find a brush that is set up the way you like. Select this brush and press down the CTRL +ALT keys, keeping them held down until you get to the Tilty Pencil Variant, and click on it – it now turns into a regular brush with all the Mixer’s Brush Settings but the Options Bar will use the regular brush settings. Immediately go down and save the brush by pressing the + icon and naming it. Otherwise once you use a different brush, it goes back to a Mixer. Now you can change the size and the settings to match what you want. For my brush (a small round brush tip), it is no longer an Erodible brush (since the regular brush tip used was not Erodible brush type – need to create an Erodible brush like the Mixer settings on the new one if you want it to be an erodible Regular brush) – but is set to Size 7 pixels and Spacing 10%; Shape Dynamics – Size Jitter 11%, Control Pen Tile, Minimum Diameter 36%, Tilt Scale 104%, Angle Jitter 39%, Control Pen Tilt, Roundness 0% and Control Off; Scattering Both Axes at 30%, Count 5, and Count Jitter 62%; Texture – Pattern is Kyles WC Seamless 1 (saved down from one of his Watercolor brushes – see TIP 6 above), Scale 100%, Brightness -122, Contrast 5, Check Texture Each Tip, Mode Height, Depth 22%, Minimum Depth 0, Depth Jitter 0% and Control Pen Tilt; Transfer – Opacity Jitter 0%, Control Pen Pressure, Minimum 26%, Flow Jitter 0%, and Control Off; and Smoothing checked. In the Options Bar, Opacity is 100%, Flow 31% and Smoothing 20%. There you have it! This same technique can be used on most brushes in PS except the Clone Stamp Tool. Try it out – it works really good.

DIGITAL LADY SYD’S RELATED BLOGS:

The Lifeguard


CREATIVE PHOTOSHOP DIGITAL ART TIPS

Digital art scene

I have been working on getting my digital painting skills back up to speed and learning some new tips. Thought I would pass along a couple things I learned while creating these images this week – maybe some will help your workflow.

TIP 1: HAVE A BASIC IDEA OF WHAT TO CREATE. This image above may look simple, but it took forever to get this effect. Part of the problem is that I did not have a good “roadmap” of where the final composition should go so lots of bad choices were made before it was finished (in this case 7 iterations were made). One issue was finding a font that fit the the feel of the image (this one is from Design Cuts Nordica Collection where a slight Outer Glow layer style was added to it for contrast – the bear, which was later painted and redone to be a Polar Bear is included). So Tip One, if possible, is try to get a basic idea or make a sketch of where you want the image to go – it will save lots of time! That said, half the fun can be just experimenting which is what was done here. The eye is from a set called Mystic Sun Moon Logo Templates Kit by Olya Creative – it just looked so different!

TIP 2: MAKE LOTS OF LAYERS. The above contains 56 layers. Many digital painters will paint different elements and objects on different layers so they can be manipulated to get the correct opacity or effect needed to enhance the image. Then they merge them together. I am not that brave – usually I group the layers and close them up when finished, but never merge. Definitely start with many layers before merging.

Digital Art image of winter trees

TIP 3: WATCH FOR COLOR SHIFTS WITH STAMPED LAYERS. This is a problem that has driven me nuts for years. Once the layers are all finished, I find a final composite layer comprised of all layers merged into one is needed so a stroke layer style (set to Size 2-pixel, Position Inside, Opacity 100% and using a medium dark gray color) can be added for uploading to social media – it gives a nice hard edge differentiation for different formats. Often a color shift occurs when the merged or stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) is created. The Snow Tree image above had this problem – not sure why (it appears to happen when using some layer styles on one of the layers in the stack). To remove the color shift, set the stamped or merged layer to the Color blend mode and it will go back pretty much to the original look. Made the Snow Tree image just for fun to learn how to use Kyle’s Winter 2022 set of brushes – he has a good video called Illustration Masterclass New Photoshop Brushes for 2022 where he goes through every brush in the Winter 2022 set and Describes what it does. He also has one called Brush Hour with Kyle T Webster: The Winter 2022 Brush Set where he actually draws a scene using them. Used one of his tree brushes in the top photo left panel. The Font is called Thankful Sans.

Digital art image of a snow scene using Vesner's brushes

TIP 4: TRY OUT NEW BRUSHES AND SAVE THE ONES YOU LIKE. This sounds like a very logical thing to do, but it is very easy to download new brushes and forget all about them. The Winter Wonderland image used just a set I have had for a while and never checked it out. It has lots of fun brushes – all are in a free set of 174 brushes called Lazy Brush Set by Vesner on DeviantArt. It is an older set from 2013, but the brushes work great with CS5 and above. The image used several and three were added to my Creative Brush group (and there are a lot of other brushes in there) for use when doing this type of art work. Check out my blog called Finding a Photoshop Brush in a Big Set for tips on how to find brushes you do not use that often but want to remember. If you do a screen copy or right click and Save As on the download page image of the brushes, it creates a jpg of the different brush strokes similar to the example sheets made in my referenced blog. In this image only the birds from Shadowhouse Creations free Birds Brush Set 4 were not Vesner brushes. To get the birds on the left-hand side to appear in the distance, a layer mask was added to the bird layer and the Gradient Tool set to Linear Gradient was used to diminish their appearance by dragging diagonally top left to bottom right.

TIP 5: HOW TO STOP LAG IN YOUR BRUSHES. It has come to my attention that some brushes just have more adjustments and PS has trouble making them zip along the image as fast as most artists would like.

  1. First of all, yes it is great to have the ability to add just a little more smoothing to your brushes other than the default 10% PS gives you. This is very helpful if sketching or outlining an object, but it can really slow down the painting process. Turn it off up in the Options Bar if the brush is really slowing down.
  2. Adjust the Spacing of your brush. For example if the brush size is 100 pixels and the Spacing is set to 100%, a new stamp occurs with each stroke separated by 1 pixel. The PS Default is 5% – lots of overlap of strokes which can cause painting to slow way down when lots of other settings are turned on in the brush so just bump up the Spacing a little to make it paint faster.
  3. Turn off the Extras like rulers or overlays that may be visible. It can affect painting, transforming and dragging layers onto the canvas. Go to View -> Show -> None to turn off. I never knew this but it was in an Optimize Photoshop Performance article by Adobe (other good info in it also).
  4. Minimize or turn off the Preview thumbnails in the Layers Panel. Each time you change a file, PS updates all the thumbnails visible in the Layer Panel (and also Channels Panel). This affects painting, moving, or nudging layers. And the more thumbnails visible, the greater the effect. I will check to see if making stamped layers and hiding the merged layers below will make it faster to paint, but it makes sense it would. To minimize or disable previews, go to the hamburger icon in the upper right of the Layers Panel and selection Panel Options – select either small size or None. If switching to the small size thumbnail, it can be handy to switch from Thumbnail Contents Entire Document default to Layer Bounds to be able to see what is in the layer easier.
  5. Close the Library Panel if it is not being used much by going to the hamburger icon and selecting close. This will make your computer and brushes run faster. Not sure how much this helps as I have not tried it, but it seems like it might.

TIP 6: COPYING SETTINGS FROM ONE BRUSH TO ANOTHER. In the Brush Settings Panel, click the little locks on the right side of the sections in the brush panel to copy those setting to a different brush. Be sure to turn them off in the brush with the new settings or they will get applied to the next brush used. This can be a little tricky but it is an easy way to copy setting over. Very helpful if creating a new brush and wanting to use similar settings from one of your favorite brushes.

TIP 7: WORK WITH JUST A FEW BRUSHES AND REALLY LEARN HOW TO USE THEM. Similar to Tip 4, it is easy to get distracted by a new brush and think it is really so much better than your stand-by brushes just to find out that it really is not as good as it seemed. I am still using a pastel brush created back in 2017 to do a lot of the basic painting – it is a brush that I am very comfortable using and have learned how it works with different settings added. The Polar Bear in the top image was painted using it. (See my How to Create My Favorite Brush Blog.)

I hope these tips will help you a little with your digital painting and art. I am slowly learning more about this from the many wonderful digital artists that use Photoshop for their jobs. It is amazing what the brushes can do! Hope everyone is getting through winter just fine and are Waiting for Spring!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

How to Do a Little Subconscious Digital Art Journaling

Working on Digital Painting in Photoshop


FINDING A PHOTOSHOP BRUSH IN A BIG SET

Drawn and painted image of a Red Legged Honey Creeper Bird

So how do you keep all your great Photoshop brushes organized and how do you remember what they look like for a given effect? This blog shows what I have been doing to combat this huge Photoshop brush debacle! I have two tips on how to do this.

For the past several months, Kyle T. Webster (Adobe Brush Evangelist) has been creating videos on how to use some of the different brushes in his PS sets. It got me to thinking about how to see these brushes and their strokes quickly to decide if I wanted to apply any to an image. Since Kyle has over 2000 brushes to download, with 400 in his Megapack alone, it can get very confusing. (Note: To download these brushes, open PS and go to the Brush Panel’s upper right corner drop-down menu and choose Get More Brushes. If you are on the PS subscription service, you will be able to choose any of his sets.) And if you are like me, I am always on the lookout for other great brushes such as the fabulous GrutBrushes (he gives a free one away every Monday so check him out – you won’t be disappointed with them), Aaron Blaise brushes (the wonderful Disney drawer with lots of nice brushes and wildlife tutorials – watch for his great sales), and Maddy Bellwoar (Adobe Create artist that has some beautiful painterly brushes and great weekly painting videos), to name just a few. Just these few artists’ brushes create a huge amount to organize!

For a quick bit of info on the image above (which was really just a practice image BTW and not finished), it was drawn by following a video by Maddy on Behance called Painting Beautiful Birds in Photoshop. Below most of her videos is a link to download a free set of 44 brushes and many were used on the blue bird she painted. Below is my stroke page for these brushes. (See my American Goldfinch Tidbits Blog for more info on Maddy and her brushes.)

First Tip: Create a Brush Group with Duplicates of Brushes Used in Image

The first tip is what I now do anytime a new image is painted. It is very important that the layers are labeled with the different brushes being used so you know where they were applied in your painting – then you can see how to create a similar effect in another painting.

  • When painting, click the “Create a New Group” in the Brushes Panel – click on Folder icon at bottom and name it. See in screenshot below.
  • A duplicate of any brush being used is created as I paint. To duplicate a brush, highlight the brush to copy and press the middle box with a (+) icon next to the Group icon. Sometimes the duplicated brush will show a different name (the Soft Airbrush below shows a name of Soft Round 200 730) so it is renamed back to the original and sometimes the initials of the brush artist, like MW is added if needed. (You can save any brush you want this way – just rename and decide if you want the Tool Type, Size and Color saved with the brush in the New Brush dialog box.)
  • Then highlight and drag the duplicate brush to the new group. Below is an example of all the Bird brushes used so far for the top image.
  • When finished, be sure to save the Group of brushes by highlighting all the brushes in the Group – then in upper right drop-down menu, choose Export Selected Brushes and Name the file on your computer (I usually use the image name and place in a special folder called Project Set Brushes). It will save down as a PS brush .abr file. If you add more brushes later, the file can always be saved over with the added brushes. To open file in PS, go to the drop-down again and select Import Brushes – go to the file and double click and it will be shown at the bottom of your brush list. Very handy to have!
Image of brushes used in bird image.

Second Tip: Make Brush Stroke PSD Files for Reference in Bridge

Kyle recently created a really interesting video called Brush Hour: the Fall 2021 Brush Set on his Fall 2021 set of 26 brushes where he drew a Halloween-looking guy like below. For this image it was really good practice to try and emulate what he did just to learn how to use the brushes. (I also learned how to stack drawing layer effects in this video.) No Brush Panel Group was created since most of the brushes used were in the his Fall 2021 set.

Drawing of a vampire in Photoshop

To keep brushes straight in all of Kyle’s free sets from Photoshop, or any others I have downloaded, a Photoshop PSD document was created for each stroke, and anything else can be placed in it. Two files are usually made with big sets of brushes – often my own little sketches using the brushes are added. Below is an example of my Fall 2021 Brushes Set showing each brush – the ones liked are marked with a dot. (For the vampire pix, the Double Edged Hatch, Boxit, Circlez, Ripopolo, Pigmentia Edge, and Ratchet brushes were used just to create the background. Then Pigmentia and Rachet were mainly used to create the character but also a little Concept Pencil and Vincent for Vincent Van Gogh were also used – you can see I liked several of these brushes.)

Examples of Kyles Fall 2021 Brushes

Below is the sheet created of Maddy’s Free Brush strokes. (Click on the image to see better in Flickr.) The third brush in the top row is one I created (from a Maddy video) based on the second brush – it has been saved with the brushes in this set file. The Canvas Size (go to Edit -> Canvas Size) was extended to accommodate all the brush strokes in this set (it would be hard to print the files out this way as it needs two files for printing).

Image of Maddy's Free Brush and Variations

The PSD file is saved and placed into a folder to access in Adobe Bridge (mine is called Paintbrush Example Files). This way the files can be reviewed very quickly to see where the needed brush is located or to find a good one to use. Below shows my folder of some of the PSD files in Bridge.

If there is an interesting technique being used, select the Note Tool (toggled with the Eyedropper Tool and several others) to include this info with your image for extra reference – this can show brush change info, like adding a Color Dynamics section to it or changing the spacing of the brush. Or if a change is made to a brush, it can be saved with a name showing what was done to it as shown in the SJ Soft Shading and Blending-no opa transfer brush in Maddy’s Blue Bird Group above.

It takes a while to do this, but it has saved so much time now that they are available. Getting the backlog of Kyle’s and Grut’s brushes set up took a lot of time. And having the brushes in a folder when painting is also very handy, especially if I am trying to get a similar look to a painting or drawing from a previous image. And it is a great way to learn how to use the brushes with your stroke style! Wish I had been doing this all along!

I hope this is helpful to some of you who are like me and collect who knows how many brushes. Hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful weather like we are having here in the States. Fall is such a great time of year!…..Digital Lady Syd


WORKING ON DIGITAL PAINTING IN PHOTOSHOP

Digital Art image of a cat at a store door.

Sorry I have not been blogging as much as I have in the past. I have been watching a lot of videos and trying to figure out how to use the Photoshop brushes to actually give a reasonable painterly brush stroke. There does not seem to be much on how to actually do this – only a few digital artists talk about it. I felt like the above image starts to emulate painterly strokes as it might look in Corel Painter, but not sure about if it emulates real media results. (In my Painting Acrylics Digitally – Can It Be Done? blog, I did get a pretty decent acrylic look.) The original above image is from Unsplash by Luca Bravo in Arles, France and was posted in my Beautiful Blue Door Tidbits Blog 3 years ago that used the Mixer brushes. For this blog I have been experimenting to try and get a consistent painterly stroke and finding settings that might work on other brush tips for a similar look. I have listed throughout this blog several free resources for brushes used in the above so check out the hyperlinks. I am also finding out this is a huge subject to cover so I am just addressing a small portion this week.

Creating the Sketch (black outline)

In the above the black lines were drawn in to create the layout of the original image. Used the PS Megapack Inkbox and Kyle’s Clean as a Whistle brush – lots of Click + SHIFT’s to draw straight lines (and it still is not perfect). When drawing a horizontal or vertical line, just keep holding down the SHIFT key while dragging to see how it is looking. This was handy for this image. If needing a more diagonal line, it will not work. When doing regular sketching, I usually use Grut – I Qwillo brush ($1 for all his individual brushes). Nicolai has an enormous number of fabulous brushes on this site (his Cloud set is the best around) . Every Monday there is a free brush of the week to download and is a great way to try out different media brushes. In this case a little richer stronger line was needed. So I would suggest trying different brushes until you get the line effect you need.

Painting Brushes

I have been trying to stick mostly to Kyle’s brushes here that can downloaded easily to try tout if you are using the later versions of Photoshop. For more info on how to download his PS brushes, see my Kyle T. Webster’s Photoshop Brushes blog. BTW Kyle has just released his Adobe PS Spring 2021 Brush set, so give them a try. The Edvard Munch brush set first appeared in 2017 in a 4-part video series called Get Started with Digital Painting Photoshop – they are not part of the PS2021 brushes, but are a free download here at the Adobe Creative Cloud. He found the Munch Filbert Dry Mixer gives a sort of an impasto look. To get the painterly strokes on each side of the door, I liked Kyle’s Munch Medium Flat brush but I did make some setting adjustments. I am using the brushes below to get some nice painterly strokes. I did switch a bit between them to get the right stroke effect on the walls.

The first brush was named SJ KTW Munch-Medium Flat-painting (150 px) and does not have much color variation but does use both the foreground and background colors with Pen Pressure (this means press light and background color appears and hard for foreground color when using a tablet.) Only the settings listed were changed: Texture section – was changed to one I imported from Painter, but the Rough pattern texture (Invert checked) seems pretty close (it can be found in the Photoshop default Erodible Textures set) and setting Brightness to -22, Contrast 57, Depth 19%, Minimum Depth 82%, Depth Jitter 27%, and Control to Pen Pressure; in Color Dynamics section checked the Apply Per Tip and set the Control to Pen Pressure; and in Transfer section set Opacity Jitter to 38%, Minimum to 55%, Flow Jitter 13% and Minimum 74%.

The second brush was named SJ KTW Munch-Med Flat-Painting Var1-try sim colors (175 px) to remind me how to use the brush. These settings were changed: Texture – changed it to same Rough pattern (Invert checked), Brightness to -13, Contrast to 33, Depth to 14%, Min Depth to 21%, Depth Jitter to 69%, and Control Pen Pressure; Color Dynamics changes were to check Apply Per Tip, Control set to Pen Pressure, and Saturation Jitter to 4%, Brightness 4%, and Purity to -20%; and Transfer set to Minimum Opacity Jitter 84%, Flow Jitter 43%, and Min 28%. Also the Dual Brush section was opened and the same brush,130 (size) Kyle munch flat medium1, was selected – should already show a Size of 130 px, Spacing 17%, Scatter with Both Axes checked, Scatter to 202% and Count 1; and finally Wet Edges section checked.

Try changing the Brush Tip Shape Spacing to adjust how much texture is showing up. Below are examples of how the strokes look all using the same foreground and background colors. If you have a different Texture pattern you want to try, go ahead but do adjust the sliders. Just be sure to save any brush variants you like when finished. See if you can get some nice stroke effects for solid areas especially. I would suggest trying a different brush tip (check out the list provided in the Brush Tip Shape section and just select one you like) using similar settings (or the settings from any brush you like). This is a great way to create your own paint stroke effect. I will talk more on this in a later blog.

Finishing Up

The bottom sidewalk and door pane effect was created using Kyle’s India Brushes Clay brush that I purchased recently for only $1 for his humanitarian cause of Covid 19 in India. (Available until May 10th.) All these brushes are great but I especially like the effect of this one. Kyle also has a free Builder Brush available at his website seems to do a similar result.

The other brushes used in this image were from Jessica Johnson and her fabulous Pattern Stamp brushes – I always seem to be using them! What I love most about Jessica is that she gives out samples of her different types of brushes which is always very helpful. This time it was the pattern at the top that was a give-away called 3 Modern Renaissance which included a brush and a pattern. Check out her You Tube video Free Photoshop Brush & Metallic Color Palette: Inspired by Dior Couture – Modern Renaissance to get her freebies (see 4-13-Free Renaissance Brush zip file) – and be sure to sign up for her E-mail to get notified when she has new brushes and patterns to release. In this case the Modern Renaissance was used as a regular brush and painted on in a darker gray color. Also used her Moody Floral Bold pattern stamp brush with her English Garden pattern (TM12) was used for the colorful flowers on the window sill and by the cat. When you go to her freebies for the Modern Renaissance brush, click on the 3-15-Free Brush Mon zip folder which contains the Moody Floral Brush and an accompanying pattern. I just love the flower stroke with this brush.

One of Chris Spooner’s free Subtle Grain Textures (6) was applied to give the wall a bit of a cement feel and tie it in as a building. It was masked off the cat and windows. He has lots of nice free resources at his site. The name plate with instructions are in my blog called How to Create Personal Overlays for Your Images – one of my most popular blogs.

Contour Trick

The large black cat is part of a set called Egyptian Hieroglyphs by Skybox Creative that cost $12. If you check every Monday several items are available at Free Goods of the Week which is how I got this vector cat. To give him the cool contour (like my gray cat Sophie), a Bevel & Emboss layer style was added using an Inner Bevel, Smooth, Depth 230%, Direction Up, Size 68 and Soften 0. Then in the Gloss Contour, the Gaussian contour was selected – then Highlight Mode Screen, White, at 29% Opacity and Shadow Mode Multiply, Black, at 32% Opacity. The Contour was checked and the Contour was set to one by Jenni and I have no idea where I got it. Just play around a little with – it give some really cool 3D effects. The other cat is from a set called Cat Family by teddybearcholla (found in a very old Photoshop Creative magazine). A Bevel and Emboss layer style was also used on this cat, with a Depth of 532%, Up, Size 7 px and Soften 0 – Highlight Opacity set to Screen and 77% opacity and Shadow Mode set to Multiply and 33% opacity. A Watercolor pattern texture was added and set to a Depth of +26%. The layer styles really gave both cat items a fresh look.

Digital Art image of a cat at a store door.

Above is a variation of the same image with just a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer with a Cerulean preset at 25% layer opacity and a Gradient Map set to Overlay at 34% layer opacity that used purple and pink randomized color added. Quite a different look. Eventually I hope to get an E-book or PDF together that can be used as a basic guide to show some of the little tricks the sliders do. For example, did you know that if you put the Shape Dynamics Size Jitter Control (even with no Jitter set) to Pen Pressure, the actual Brush stroke appears smaller. Check the Brush Preview in the Brush Settings panel to see the range between the thick and thin stroke now. There is a lot more to this, but that is just an example showing how the stroke will be different with just one setting change. And the people who do paint digitally use all kinds of different settings to get their brushes to work. In the meantime, I will try to pop in more often! Have some fun trying out some new brushes……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

ReBlog – How to Use Photoshop’s Brush Texture Section for Painting Clean-up

Looking at the Smudge Tool – Again

How Photoshop’s Color Dynamics Brush Settings Work

What about the Pattern Stamp Tool? Not So Bad!


ENJOYING SOME SPRING BUTTERFLIES

Graphic image butterflies and flowersThought about taking a few weeks break so I can try out some things I am learning, but I am still here – I keep wanting to pass on info. I created this image just for fun and trying to reinforce a few work habits when creating this type of composite. Also thought I would add  on a few more tips I promised when creating my Giraffe composite a few weeks ago. (See my Taking a Break to Learn Some New Things blog.)

FONT TIP: This image started when I downloaded a couple new free fonts from Design Cuts called Style-Casual and Style Endings by TypeSETit. At first I was not too taken by either one of the fonts, and then I realized that by using the Style Endings font for the first and last letters of the text, and then using Style Casual font to connect the rest of the text, it looked really good – along with the pretty nice fancy small “o.” A Simply Wonderful text line was created and then turned into a brush by going to Edit -> Define Brush Preset. This is really fun to do if you have some nice fonts on your computer – they can easily be turned into text brushes and .PNG files. Very could be very useful for graphic projects.

ADDING A SUBSTRATE LAYER TIP: My substrate layer was non-existent almost until the end of working on this project when I finally put the white one created in the Azaleus image (see my How to Create a Pretty Simple Background and Text Effect blog) the text added. It definitely filled in some texture that was missing especially in the lighter areas of the image. So that is one thing I learned while creating this image – be sure to add some kind of bottom level texture just to fill in the holes. It can always be swapped out later after adding your elements.

PAINT ON THE ADDED ELEMENTS TIP: Another thing I did was to actually paint on some of the elements that were put in the image. The two butterflies on the left side were from a really nice brush set by Marrielle P Kokosidou – by painting in the elements after stamping down the original element, some additional interest could be achieved. The same was true with the branch of leaves at the top (from a painted set from Design Cuts in their Nature Plant Graphics Watercolour Grit Textures set with Octopus Artis elements), additional painting was done using some other colors on it. Design Cuts is a great place to get free samples of very good elements from great artists for these type of photos. The brush I used was mainly the SJ Pastel 3-painting brush (see my How to Create my Favorite Brush blog) – use it every day along with my SJ 3 Pastel-Van Gogh TI brush. (It can be created by following my Painting Fun in Photoshop blog’s third paragraph – gives an explanation on how to make the base brush more painterly.) The other butterfly was also one from Design Cuts called Watercolour Butterfly by Octopus Artis – not much was done to the butterfly itself, but a watercolor paint stroke (stroke by Vintage Design Co. but could not find the download link) and a moon brush stroked (from 20 moon brushes by Liza Giannouri-moon 3) was placed behind it. Wanted to give credit to the people who did the flowers in this image – the pink center flower is from a frame in a set by from Creative Market (another site to follow – they  have some great free sets like this one and good deals like the Hydrangea set)  Ginko Textured Watercolor Graphic by Paperly Studio; and the Hydrangea flower is from Beautiful Watercolor Butterflies Knopazyzy Handrangea Flower set.

CREATE MORE PAINTBRUSHES TIP: Created a paintbrush (named it SJ Butterfly Brush 5 Row-Marrielle P Kokosidou) at a very small size and setting it to a small size with Spacing at 180%, Shape Dynamics Size Jitter 24% and Angle Jitter 21%, and a Color Dynamics set to 100% Foreground/Background Jitter and Purity -24%. It was used at the top of the image using a slight color variation and at the bottom of the image in just one color. I have brushes using hearts and bubbles using similar settings. So the  tip is: make a small object type of brush to add some interest around major elements instead of just using round splotches (which does work in some cases).

BRUSH IN SOME COLOR BEHIND YOUR ELEMENTS TIP: This is something I have been doing for a while, especially using the spotlight effect with white and black color at a low opacity and the layer set to Overlay blend mode. (See my How to Add a Spot of Light blog.) It also works for any color using any type of brush – it will add some soft color into your image. The layer does not have to be set to Overlay blend mode – some very interesting effects can be achieved using other blend modes like Linear Burn – and be sure to adjust the Fill (not Layer) opacity to get some really nice effects. NOTE ON FILL SLIDER IN LAYER PANEL: The Layer Opacity will affect certain blend modes differently than the Fill slider – Color Burn, Linear Burn, Color Dodge, Linear Dodge (Add), Vivid Light, Linear Light, Hard Mix, and Difference. Check out which effect you want. Also the Fill opacity does not affect the opacity of layer effects such as drop shadows – this can be important if you have added a layer style like a stroke or bevel effect on a element. A reddish effect was added to the upper left corner. And obviously green in the upper right. The corners were subtlety darkened down using this technique to draw the eye in. Some texture was actually painted on the font lettering to add some interest by using a texture brush and setting the layer to Overlay blend mode – it really brightens up parts of the font.

A couple last things were done in this image. Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Studio was opened and a black and white sketch effect was applied. It is called SJ Graphic Sketch 1 preset (contains these adjustments: Basic, Precision Contrast, Tone Curves, Smudge and Abstraction) and is up in the community if you would like to try it out. And for me the best way to pull this whole image together is to use the (Google) Nik Viveza 2 – I could not have done this without using this filter. It adjusted out the focus since so much is going on in the image and the colors by adjusting the brightness of each element and sharpness. Need to try it out and since it is still free right now and still works just fine, definitely worth using.

The final image had 43 layers and lots of tweaking but I like the final result. It is important to find a subject you want to work on – this suited me just fine since Spring is almost here! Hope this answered everyone’s scrapbook effect questions – I have learned a lot and it just takes practice to get some nice designed. Also be sure to check out my Tidbits Blog – I added a nice sharpening tip last week. Have a wonderful week!…..Digital Lady Syd


WHAT IS NEW IN THE PHOTOSHOP BRUSHES PANEL AND USING THE SMOOTHING SLIDER

Image of a digitally painted Tri-colored HeronThis week Adobe Photoshop released CC2018, a long awaited update, which finally addresses some of the issue we painterly people have wanted for a long, long time. Adobe claims to have increased the speed of brushes for just painting. Since a lot of us have used Corel Painter for years and it has one of the easiest systems to set up brush palettes, it was always a wonder why Photoshop did not do a similar thing. Well they finally have. It may not be quite as easy to use as Painter’s, but it goes a long way towards correcting some of the digital artist problems with organizing their brushes. Above is a tri-colored heron taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm that was painted using the new Brushes Panel set-up. It took a while to get my brushes converted over, but it is overall a much faster workflow.

Photoshop Brushes Panel

To clean up some initial confusion, the old Brush Panel is now called the Brush Settings Panel and is where the settings for each brush are located. The old Brush Presets Panel is not called the Brushes Panel and is where all the brushes are listed.

  • Photoshop now allows New Groups (or folders) for saved brushes and sub-groups can be added into the new group. So for example, if you want to put all your Texture brushes into one group, the group can be added and sub-groups created for brushes used for backgrounds and those used in drawing. Also Mixers or Erasers or any different types of brushes can be grouped with Regular brushes so you can easily switch between the different types without having to select the new Tool.
  • Within the Brushes Panel, the brushes can be moved between the groups by just clicking and dragging. No need to go to the Preset Manager to organize the brush order. Some people like to keep brushes together for a current project so the top Group might be named Flower, and the sub-groups Background and Retouching. If you want the same brush in two places, a new copy of the brush needs to be made by highlighting the group to add it to and clicking on the New Brush icon at the bottom of the Brushes Panel – name it the same and the new preset brush will pop into the highlighted group.
  • The brush presets now store all the Options Bar information with them as if it was a Brush Tool Preset. So if you wanted to have one brush set to 100% opacity and the same brush set to 50% opacity, they could be created and saved in the same group for quick switching. This means no more Brush Tool Presets, but will still need to create Tool Presets for the Gradient Tool and Paint Bucket since they are not brushes.
  • Both the Brush Tip and the Brush Strokes can be seen in the display. To load the Brush Tip, click on the upper right pop-out in Brushes Panel, and check Brush Tip along with the Brush Stroke and Brush Name. The brush view can be made bigger or smaller by moving the slider at the bottom of the Brushes Panel. And the panel can be dragged out horizontally to display several columns of brushes if several are listed in a group. If a color is saved with the brush, a little square shows up in the list showing the color.
  • Brush Tool Presets can be easily converted to regular Brush presets. If just converting one or two Tool Preset brushes, just select the brush in your Tool Preset and click the Create New Brush icon at the bottom of the Brushes Panel. A New Brush dialog box appears with check boxes for Capture Brush Size in Preset, Include Tool Settings, and Include Color. A note of caution here – PS might name the brush some really weird title if that the brush creator used so make sure the brush has the desired name. The brush will be placed either at the bottom of the Brushes list or in a Group that was highlighted before saving the preset. If you accidentally try to save the brush as a Tool Preset, a long dialog appears asking if you want to actually change it to a Brush Preset instead. By saying yes, the brush will then be placed into a new Converted Tool Presets group. For converting all the Brush Tool Presets, go to the pop-out in the upper right corner of the Tool Preset panel and select Convert All to Brush Presets – they will all be placed in a new group called the Converted Tool Presets group. In this case, all the brushes will retain the same names from the Tool preset. Really weird. By converting the Tool Preset brushes to regular brushes, the brush file extensions in PS will change from a .tpl to .abr files.

Here is a link to a short video by of my favorite Adobe people, Julieanne Kost, called New Brush Preset Management in Photoshop CC for more information on the Brushes Panel.

Smoothing Slider

This new little feature has been added to the Options Bar in Photoshop whenever the Regular Brush Tool, the Pencil Tool, the Mixer Tool or the Eraser Tool is selected. This Smoothing Slider filters out jittering in your paint strokes. The default setting is 10% and it goes from 0 to 100. There are a couple drawbacks to setting this slider too high. 1) It can really slow your computer down depending on the brush selected. 2) And there can be a big lag – by clicking on the little gear next to the Slider field, there are some options that can be chosen which controls this.

By default, the Stroke Catch Up (Enables paint to catch up when brush cursor movement is paused) and Adjust for Zoom (Automatically adjust smoothing amount to avoid jitter in low zoom percentages) are checked. Disable Stroke Catch Up and the paint application stops as soon as the cursor movement stops. In Adjustment for Zoom, if the Smoothing amount will be decreased if zoomed in, and increased if zoomed out. The Pulled String Mode (Enable paint application beyond the radius set by smoothing values. Use when sharp corners are desired.) creates a really large lag if Smoothing is set high. It paints only when the string is taut and outside the radius. Definitely experiment with this slider and drop-down settings to see what works best for you. To change the setting on the fly, press ALT and numerical number like 3 for 30%. To completely turn off Smoothing in the selected brush, go into the Brush Settings Panel and uncheck the Smoothing box. For you Painter folks, it is still not near as sophisticated as the Smoothing Panel in Painter (the slider appears to be very similar to the Damping slider), but it is definitely a step in the right direction. I personally think the default settings are fine for most brushes as it seems there is not much of a lag in most brushes. But when using your favorite painting brushes where a lag can occur as you stroke, definitely adjust the Smoothing setting and try the different Smoothing options. In the above image a Smoothing setting of 35 was used and the default options.

Once again here is a short video by Julieanne Kost called Brush Stroke Smoothing and Paint Symmetry in Photoshop CC that goes into a really good explanation on these settings and shows some great examples.

Adding the new Kyle T Webster Default Brushes

Also, there is another little thing Photoshop added to the Brushes Panel – Kyle T Websters brushes are now most of the Default Brushes except for the round brushes. Many new brushes that can be explored here. To get to them, need to go to the pop-out in the Brushes panel and select Restore Default Brushes – they will not override the ones already in the list, but will add 4 new groups of brushes (General Brushes, Dry Media Brushes, Wet Media Brushes and Special Effects Brushes) – only the General Brushes are ones from before. If you want all brushes from CC2017, in the pop-out select Legacy Brushes – all of them will be appended and put in original category types groups. There is also a set called Convert Legacy Tool Preset brushes (some of you may not have known the Tool Preset Brushes were there – many of them are very nice brushes so check them out.) that can be appended to your brushes.

It appears to me that Adobe is beginning to phase out the Tool Presets and the Preset Manager. If you are interested to learn more on Photoshop CC2018, check out Adobes Information Page or a longer video by Jesus Ramirez at the Adobe Training Channel called Photoshop CC 2018 Tutorials – What’s NEW in Adobe Photoshop CC 2018. Well I think I am about talked out here. Lots of other new things to explore in Photoshop. Have a nice busy weekend catching up!…..Digital Lady Syd


SOME FLOWER POWER

Digitally painted image of flower on a purple backgroundJust doing a quick post this week. Thought I would pass on just a couple thoughts on doing a digital painting. I find that when I am painting that either the Color Panel (set to Hue Cube – click the pop out in upper right corner to see other options) or Coolorus is open on the left side of my screen so colors in the same color palette can be selected very quickly by just clicking in the color areas. Coolorus is an inexpensive add-on for Photoshop CS6 and up. The Color Wheel  and the Mixer section Swatches, Color History, and Shades & Tones strips are all kept open so all you do is choose a color you want by clicking in it with your brush. For painting with the mixer brushes, the Current Brush Load needs to be set to Load Solid Color Only in the drop-down toggle menu. Then colors can be sampled using the ALT+click in the Mixer brushes also.

These are some of my favorite painting brushes I am using right now for most of my Photoshop painting. For this image the purple color was used as the major color and the rest of colors were mainly complementary greens. First started out with a purple background color – used a new Paint Bucket Tool preset by Grut (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) called FI Paper Deeds. On a layer above just drew a rough sketch of the leaves using Grut’s I Qwillo brush (one of my favorite drawing brushes!). Then painted in the leaves underneath using Gruts NM Pans Attic and OI Shiff Din brushes – made the brushes much smaller and just kept blending the colors using both brushes. The white flowers were painted in using my SJ 3 Pastel Van Gogh TI1 brush (see below for settings) and turned off the Color Dynamics sections to paint in centers. My sharp line texture png was added underneath and some green grass with flower were added that I had painted previously. Then a stamped layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and Topaz (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Impression 2 where Rembrandt Portrait II preset was applied a little. Then on a New Layer the fence was drawn, Jai Johnson’s flying birds png was added and set to 23% layer opacity. Two text layers were created – one used Castile Inline Grunge font and the other a font called Chiller. Used one of my painted borders created a long time ago. Some little spatter marks were created using Grut’s FX Flick Tub brush. A purple light leak I created a while back was added to the right side of the image and one of Sebastian Michaels borders was added on top. Finished up the photo with Nik Viveza 2, and a Red Channel Luminosity Adjustment Curve. See my Related Blogs for more info on some of the techniques used above.

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Digitally painted Purple-Pink FlowersThis digitally painted image above is using the same basic workflow as above. I used a couple different brushes on the flowers and leaves, but overall pretty much the same results. The major trick is to find a brush to remove some of the sketch work without losing the definition of the petal. I used a mixer on this one to soften those lines. The mixer brush layer was lowered to add back in some of the texture in the leaves and blossoms. And definitely a lot of brush size variations to add detail versus smoothing. Underneath all the painting and sketch layers, Kim Klassen’s Dream texture (not sure it is still available) was added and set to 46% layer opacity (on top of a white background layer). The frame is from one of my Double Edged Frames layer styles that can be downloaded on DeviantArt.  Lots of fun but it does take some time to get a nice overall effect. My sketches were so rough looking it is amazing to me that it all pulls together.

Have a nice week and try a little illustration even if you are not that great at it. It is a lot of fun to try different Photoshop brushes and see what turns out……Digital Lady Syd

Brush Settings for SJ 3 Pastel Van Gogh TI1 brush: To make your own, follow my How to Create my Favorite Brush blog but with a couple important changes. First a small square was selected using the Marquee Tool showing a part of the plant Impression layer that showed some nice contrast and brush strokes in it. It was turned into a Pattern by going to Edit -> Define Pattern and name it. (I named mine TI Van Gogh). Next the Brush Panel Texture section was opened. Select the Pattern drop-down (little arrow on right side of pattern swatch) and go to the very bottom where the new Pattern is located. The setting for the pattern I created are: Scale 46%, Brightness -46, Contrast 34, check Texture Each Tip, Mode Color Dodge, Depth 38% and Depth Jitter 12%. Try adjusting all these settings to fit your particular pattern. This brush gives a nice stroke effect at both larger and smaller sizes. Then open the Color Dynamics section and check Apply per Tip, set the Hue Jitter to 2%, and Brightness Jitter to 11%.

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Create My Favorite Brush
How to Create Scanned Photoshop Brushes
How to Create Light Leaks to use Over Again
How To Make Frames or Borders
How to Use a Red Channel to Create a Nice Blended Image Effect


HOW TO CREATE SCANNED PHOTOSHOP BRUSHES

Image of a young lady daydreamingAs you know, I am a major Photoshop brush fanatic. This week I am doing a quick blog on creating brushes from scanned marks  and then turning them into brushes. I am finding it so handy to have these brushes for detail or grunge effects for areas that need just a little more subtle texture. So here are the steps I am finding useful for creating this type of brush.

Creating the Brushes

  1. Need to create some square marks on paper – in my case an inexpensive Sketch Pad from WalMart that is good for Pen, Pencil, Pastel and Oil Pastel was used. 10 different marks were created on the page as shown below. All but the Pencil Brush mark were created using an inexpensive set of Faber Castell Black India Ink artists pens sized to S (0.3 mm), F (o.5 mm), M (0.7 mm), and B (1.8 mm) – any of their sets look pretty nice. Any type of media could be used here.
  2. Scan the whole document as a JPG at 600 dpi. Below is the scanned document with some explanatory text added for blog.
  3. Bring scanned document into PS and increase the brightness with Levels Adjustment (CTRL+L) or Curves Adjustment (CTRL+M) to make sure the background is white – the scanner tends to darken the whites as seen below.
  4. Select each mark with the Marquee Tool and put on its own layer (CTRL+J). More contrast can be added here if the mark is still not as dark as needed by using the same Levels or Curves Adjustments.
  5. One by one, toggle each layer on with the others off and create brush by going to Edit -> Define Brush Preset and name it.
  6. Once created, add different settings in the Brush Panel to make different effects. I experimented with all the marks, but only kept the labeled brushes shown below. Some just do not work out well.

Scanned Ink and Pencil marks for PS BrushesMy favorite brush in this group turned out to be the Pencil Brush which was just a basic pencil scribble. In Image 1 above the green soft vertical lines that seem to stretch the columns out is from this brush effect. Image 2 below is another example of using this brush. (For both image details see end of blog.) By making a few changes in the Brush Panel, a new brush called Pencil Thin Vert Lines brush was created. Using this I was able to create a very nice vertical effect for use below extracted objects. (Here are the settings used if you would like to create a similar brush: Brush Tip – used Pencil Brush mark, Size was huge – usually have to reduce it as it came in as 2955 px, Angle set to 90 degrees (makes strong vertical lines), Roundness 12%, and Spacing 10%; Shape Dynamics Size Jitter Control set to Pen Pressure and both the Flip X Jitter and Flip Y Jitter boxes are checked; and Smoothing section checked.) 

Here are steps to create a handy PNG file from a layer in a document that would be nice to use in other images.

Turn a Layer with a Brush Effect into a PNG File

  1. Highlight the layer in the Layer Panel.
  2. Right click and choose Duplicate the Layer.
  3. In dialog in Destination Document drop-down, select New to create a new document.
  4. Just this layer appears in the New Document that can be saved as a PNG file. For the Vertical Pencil effect, I saved it in my Library Panel for quick use.

Sketch of a New Zealand Flower The Duplicate Layer command also my favorite way to move layers between files with lots of layers – none of this dragging with the Move Tool. In the Destination Document drop-down, select the document to move layer(s) into instead of New and of course do not save as a PNG. Hope this will give you some ideas on creating your own unique brushes – I am going to try scanning in some crayon marks and also some watercolor marks. By making changes in the Brush Panel, lots of subtle texture effects can be created. Have a good week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Enjoy the Doodle!

Image Info:

Image 1: This image turned out to be very complicated and several iterations were created before I settled on this look. I first began with the beautiful model image called peach2 by faestock and extracted her from her background using the Select and Refine command. She was duplicated and put in the background at 35 % layer opacity and at a smaller size to get the two face look. The hair was thickened by using my basic SJ Pastel 3 brush (see How to Create My Favorite Brush blog.) The floral headband is from Carousellerie Creative Pinkish Blooms Arrangement Wreath 04 – Free Transform (CTRL+T) was used to adjust it to her head. The background was added – starting with 2 Lil’ Owls (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Making Waves 2 texture. Then the column was extracted from the Ancient Ruins IV by Pelleron at DeviantArt and taken into Topaz Impression2 using my Colored Pencil preset. (Started with Colored Pencil II preset and ended up with these settings:  Stroke Brush Type 07, Brush Size 0.90, Paint Volume 0.77, Paint Opacity 0.20, Stroke Width -0.82, Stroke Length -0.25, Spill 0.26, Smudge 0.16, and Coverage 1.00; Color Overall Sat 0.37, and Red Hue 0.78, Red Sat 0.32 and Red Lightness 0.28; Lighting Brightness 0.21 and Contrast -0.40, Light Direction X: 1.00 and y: 1.00; and Texture Strength 0.33, Size 0, Paper I texture and white background.). Next the Pencil Brush was turned into a PNG object to add the effect on a layer underneath to add a very vertical grunge look. On top of the model an Orange vertical light leak was added on the right side and some Gold Dust Glitter by Alaina Jensen added on top of her head. A Watercolor Wedding Collection flower bunch by Lisa Glanz was added down the right side of the image. French Kiss (see my Tidbits Blog for website link) Tableaux Fresco texture was applied and set t0 54% layer opacity – a layer mask was added and the model and some more center areas were painted out. Kim Klassen’s Downtown II Collection Isobel (could not find link) was added at 48% layer opacity and set to Soft Light Blend Mode. On top 2 Lil’ Owls Comos 11 texture was desaturated and set to Overlay blend mode for the star effect. The Bumble Bee brush his from fartoolate at DeviantArt. The text is from Robert Louis Stevenson. There were lots of adjustment layers in this file also.

Image 2: I actually had posted this image a few weeks ago using a different color palette. Here is some of the blog post from my Tidbits Blog. This pretty flower is from an old album called Illustrations of the New Zealand Flora (Plate 139) published in 1914. It was just a black and white line drawing and I added the color and texture. The image was removed from a page in the downloaded PDF file using the steps in my How to Create Vintage Text for Images Fun Photoshop Blog -just go towards the end for steps to pull images. I am afraid I took a little color liberty here as the volume says the flowers are actually white, but I liked the pink color. The flowers pink color was created by using a Curves Adjustment Layer’s individual Red channel with the layer mask filled with black (CTRL+I in the mask) – just painted in the pink on the petals – layer was set to Color blend mode. On a separate blank layer under the outline, painted in the green textures using Grut’s I Qwillo (I love this brush for drawing and painting!) and a Mixer blender to paint in the leaves and stem. Below that but above a white background layer a texture layer was painted – just experimented with a couple of my brushes (the Pencil Brush from above for the vertical lines and the squares are a brush that was created from Subtle Grunge Texture 10 – Cement texture 10 by Spoongraphics).  Took just the texture layer into Topaz Studio (see my Introducing the Free Topaz Studio blog) and sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for free download. The Radiance filter was applied so the fine lines showed up – I thought it matched the line drawing effect of the flower. The font is Viner Hand ITC and an Outer Glow layer style with a Contour change was used to make the text stand out. Used a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to set the background texture color. The original flower outline was set to 15% layer opacity at the top of the layer stack. That was it.


PAINTSTORM STUDIO FUN!

Painted Image of some Spring FlowersKnow I am taking a little time off from blogging, but wanted to share a new inexpensive painting program called Paintstorm Studio recently purchased (currently $19) that is so much fun. (Can also download to try out for 15 days.) I created a few different brushes created from viewing a few of their videos. The Help tab on the website has several at the bottom – no audio but if you watch closely, some really nice brushes can be created from them to use along with some great ones provided. Check out this 3 minute video if you are interested in what it does – Paintstorm Studio – Overview. Since I love to do flowers, it fits my painting expression very well. Used lots of layers in Paintstorm and then saved as a PSD files so they could be manipulated more in PS – they actually come in with no background layer unless you add one. Created my own background  in PS using a brush made from Grut’s OI Shore Cap (check out Grut’s other wonderful brushes – look under the Resources tab for a free Brush Sampler and free Brush of the Week) and in the Brush Engine, changed the brush texture to Gauze with various texture slider changes and layer opacity of 68%. Now the strokes match the ones created in Paintstorm Studio brushes. With this brush a background layer in white was painted on a layer at 55% layer opacity with a Layer Style called Kyle’s Impasto – Just Right with the Gauze texture used to get the nice canvas effect. On a stamped layer, John Derry’s Layer Style Varnish Gloss Light was applied also with the texture changed to Gauze at 69% layer opacity.

Photoshop brushes can actually be brought into this program and many features are similar to both Photoshop and Painter. There is an application for iPads besides the stand-alone program on regular computer. Check out my Purple Flowers Tidbits Blog with another image example.

Also, if you have not heard, Google Nik Collection Photoshop plug-ins are now available for free – this is probably the death toll for these wonderful plugin – they have always been a wonderful supporter of my blog! I love the Nik Viveza plug-in – my all-time favorite. Definitely worth downloading just for this plug-in and the price is right!

Another quick link – Perfectly Clear Photoshop plug-in is offering its Perfect Exposure module for free – I tried it out this week and really like it – lots of sliders to experiment using. So check it out – again, can’t beat the price.

I will try and do some blogs on both Paintstorm Studio and Perfect Exposure as time permits. That was it for this week! Have a nice week trying out all these new things!…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO SAVE YOUR FAVORITE OR NEWLY CREATED BRUSHES

Image of a Valentine Garden
Happy Valentines Day! Hope all are celebrating with some wonderful treats! How often do you lose those favorite brushes or ones you created? This has always been one of my biggest frustrations when using Photoshop because I either forget to save my created brushes, they get lost in the long list of other brushes in the Brush Preset Panel , or I did not give it a name that will remind me why I made it and how I used it. It has taken me a while to get a total grip on this, but I think I have finally figured out how to keep my brushes a lot more organized and easy to find. This week I am going to go give you the info on how to save your new brushes as an .abr file and next week on how to save your brushes as Tool Presets using a .tpl file extension and when to use both file types. With a little bit of effort, your brushes can be organized so you can find them quickly when needed. UPDATE: As of Photoshop CC2018, the information in this blog is now out-dated. Check out my newer blog to see what has changed at What Is New in the Photoshop Brushes Panel and Using the Smoothing Slider blog. For all versions older than CC2018, this blog is still relevant.

SAVING A NEW BRUSH

How do you save a brush? After making a change to a brush in the Brush Panel (see first Quick Tip below to locate) where the PS brush engine resides and changes are made to a brush, the new brush now must be saved in the Brush Presets Panel (Windows -> Brush Presets or click Brush Presets button at top middle of Brush Panel) so it can be used again with your new settings. Both of these brush panels have at the bottom a little Create a new brush icon that looks like a square with the right corner folded up. Just name the brush and check the size box if you want it set (I always check this). Now it is listed at the bottom of the Brush Presets list – see my SJ Heart Leaf Brush at the bottom of screenshot below (this brush was used as the heart background brush in the above image). This brush was created using a basic Heart shape and adding settings from the Brush Panel’s Dual Brush, Scattering, Color Dynamics, and Texture sections. As you can see the PS default name for the brush was Heart 1 – that name did not mean much to me. Instead it was named to something indicating it was my brush using SJ at the beginning, and changing the name to how the brush was used as shown in the top image .

Screenshot of Brush Presets Panel

SAVING BRUSH SETS IN PRESET MANAGER OR BRUSH PRESET PANEL POP-OUT MENU

This would seem like enough, but if you decide to append other brushes into the Preset Panel list , it is very easy to lose your new brush or accidentally delete it when replacing brushes. Therefore, if you like the brush, it should be saved as a set by itself, or with a number of your favorite or created brushes in a set – only the Preset Manager will let you select specific brushes to save as a Set. To do this, the Preset Manager must be opened – it is easiest to just click on the icon where the blue arrow is pointed in the screenshot above in either the Brush Panel or Brush Preset Panel or use the Brush Preset Panel pop-out menu item.  All the currently loaded brushes are listed in the Preset Manager.

Image of Preset ManagerThis screenshot shows what the Preset Manager will look like with the PS default brushes loaded and my one created brush. My brush is highlighted in the list for saving. After pressing the Save Set button, the brush file (with just one brush inside it) is saved. Many different brushes can be saved and the file can be named anything. On the top line of my explorer list, the brushes loaded in my Brush Preset Panel (file name SJ CC2016 brushes as of 021216) is listed so they can be reloaded back into PS after writing this blog. This set obviously contains lots of brushes as can be seen by the large file size versus the 20 KB file that only holds the SJ Heart Leaf Brush, where the set and the brush file have the same name. Just press CTRL+highlight each brush that you want to save in the current set. The brushes can be removed by CTRL+highlighting the brushes and brushes can be moved around to place in a different order.

The biggest tip I can give is to occasionally save all your brushes. If you have to reload PS due to a software problem, having those brushes backed up is very helpful. There are two ways to save all the currently load brushes. Can go to the pop-out in the Brush Preset Picker and select Save Brushes. Or you can go into the Preset Manager and just click on the first brush in the Preset Manager, press CTRL+A to Select All the brushes, then save down as a set like I did with my large file. If you decide to Reset or Replace brushes to the PS Default as shown here, it will ask you if you would like to save the current list of brushes. Say Yes and name, and the set will be listed underneath the PS brushes in the pop-out menus – note it does not show up on list until Photoshop is exited and reopened. This has saved me a few times!

BRUSH PRESET PICKER????

Photoshop can drive you a little crazy with some of the redundancy in the program. The Brush Preset Picker is just another way to view the loaded brushes, but it is not exactly the same as the Brush Preset Panel. Brushes can also be saved from this panel. To open right click on a mouse or Wacom pen, or press on the second icon over in the Options Bar. The size, hardness or angle can be quickly adjusted on the fly in this drop-down panel. I keep it set to the Large Thumbnail view so I can the brush more clearly when just looking for a type of stamped or static brush to add to a painting. I do not use it all the time but many artists find it very handy. The wheel cog pop-out panel in the upper right corner is almost exactly the same as the one shown in the screenshot image of the Brush Preset Panel.

Image of my Brush Preset Picker

QUICK TIPS

  • A quick way to open the Brush Panel which contains the brush engine – with any Brush Tool selected (including Clone Stamp, History, Smudge, etc), just click on the third icon over in the Options Bar that looks like a folder with paintbrushes in a can on it – hover over it and it says Toggle the Brush Panel. The panel will turn on and off as needed.
  • Some handy Shortcut keys for Brush Preset Panel:

Select Previous brush:  , (comma)
Select Next brush:  . (period)
Select First brush in Brush Presets list:  SHIFT + , (comma)
Select Last brush in Brush Presets List:  SHIFT + . (period)

  • As you can see, there are several sets of brushes PS provides that can be used as starters for your own creations. Just click on the pop-out menu in the Brush Preset Panel or Picker to see the list, along with any sets of brushes you saved in the default PS brush folder.
  • Stack the Brush Presets Panel on top of the Brush Panel and when the toggle button is used in the Options Bar, they will both open and close together. Very handy to tweak a brush quickly when painting. Just drag the top of the Brush Panel underneath the Brush Presets Panel until you see a blue line appear – they will now be connected.
  • To see same choices in pop-out menu as Brush Preset Panel or Picker in the Preset Manager, press the little wheel cog in upper right where the  way you view the brushes and names for each loaded brush can be changed. I prefer showing mine as a Large List, but that is just my preference.
  • With the latest version of PS, in the Brush Preset Panel and Picker, the latest 7 brushes used will be shown at the top of the panel. See in the Brush Preset Picker screenshot above to see my last 7 brushes and size that was used. By clicking on them, the brush is instantly loaded with the and brush settings changes that you had used. It does not save the brush changes, but for simple size changes, it is very handy!
  • Be sure to save your favorite brushes frequently!

I hope you found this information helpful – it can be very confusing if you are just learning about PS. Now at least you can be comfortable that any brushes you created can be loaded back onto your computer easily. Next week I will cover the Tool Presets and how they differ from the brush presets and when to use them. Until then, have a very fun holiday!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Info This is actually an image of some colorful leaves taken at the entrance to the Jacksonville Zoo. I actually painted them using Photoshop’s Default Action called Mixer Brush Cloning Paint Setup.  Two of my textures were added underneath – my Pastel Watercolor texture and on I painted in Painter I call SJ Fireworks set to 86% layer opacity. It created the nice blue and golden tones I wanted behind the cut out painted leaves. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Lens Effects’ Toy Camera Yellow Green Low Contrast with Camera Shake turned off. This helped blend in the painted leaves into the painted texture. Two layers of valentines were used – one just a little valentine shape with the default Bevel and Emboss applied, and one using the brush loaded above to give a painterly valentine feel. The text used the Selima Regular font with an light yellow outer glow to help it stand out. That was it!

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Why Use the Tool Preset Panel? Photoshop Painters Listen Up!


A PAINTED NATURE SCENE IN PHOTOSHOP (WITHOUT THE MIXER)

Painted image of Early Morning in the SwampSince I am still on my blogging break, I thought I would share a little painting done completely in Photoshop. And I might add, no Mixer Brushes! A few months ago my photo club took a trip to the Viera Wetlands in Brevard County, Florida. This inspired me to create what I imagine how the wetlands would appear in the early morning of a summer day.

Some of the brushes used in this image were purchased, but all of them are very inexpensive or free brushes and links have been provided below, along with a few of tips. The final image included 34 layers so it took some time to create. It represents a lot of experimentation and trying different effects to see what looked good. To me, this is what I love about Photoshop – all the possibilities and ways to do things is just incredible. This is probably why this program has remained the image editing standard for other programs to try and emulate. I hope everyone will have a chance to paint and play in Photoshop this week. Try out some new strokes with these resources…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Info including Resources and a Few Tips:

The basic scene of the tree, grass, and water was created on 8 individual layers. I tend to put each type of brush stroke on its own layer so the strokes can be erased, opacity changed, blend modes used, or just redone easily without redoing all the painting, – then group all the layers together to create just one line in the Layers Panel so it appears as a single layer. The brushes used to create the grass were from one of my very favorite natural brush sets and are available for free at DeviantArt called Grass Set2 Frostbo Grass 009. (Frostbo has many brush sets that can be downloaded and all the brushes are really easy to tweak in the Brush Panel to create different strokes. See my How To Create a Magical Feel in Photoshop blog on how to do this. Also, be sure to read his usage rules.) The tree was created using a brush from Aaron Blaise’s Foliage Set – SB 46-4. Water ripples from Aaron Blaise’s Water Set was used for the water effect (Brush SB 51-15-1436). Aaron has some great inexpensive brushes with videos explaining how to use them. He is a former Disney animator and all his brushes are wonderful. Light shoreline sketches were made using a very simple sketch brush  (Settings if you need one: Brush Tip Shape – 2 pixels, Hardness o, and Spacing 9%; Shape Dynamics – Size Jitter Control set to Pen Pressure; Transfer – Flow Jitter Control set to Pen Pressure; and Smoothing on. This makes a really nice sketch stroke and I use it all the time in my paintings. These layers were all put into a group by highlighting them all and pressing CTRL+G.

Underneath the group a New Layer was placed and Grut Brushes.com brush NM Wool Meander was used to add a little soft yellow accent in the sky and water, showing some behind the reeds and tree. Check out his site each week for a new free brush – these are totally great brushes. A stamped layer was placed on top. Topaz  (see the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Impressions was opened and the supplied Ethereal Background by Blake Rudis preset was applied. A layer mask was added to the layer and the tree and reeds were painted back. On another stamped layer converted to a Smart Object, Nik Viveza 2 was added and 7 controls points were used to add blue into the image. The resulting layer opacity was set to 79%.

A New Layer was added on top and a free DeviantArt Midnighttouch’s rEgrets I’ve Had a Few set Egret Sample Brush #51 was used to create the bird in the image. A Bevel and Emboss layer style was added to the layer and set to Style Emboss, Tech Smooth, Depth 93, Direction Up, Size 2, Soften 5, Highlight Mode Linear Dodge (Add) at 5% opacity, and Shadow Mode Multiply at 38% opacity. This gave the bird just a touch of edge to it. On a New Layer the Beak and Eye were painted in with light orange and black. It was set to a 50% layer opacity. The layers were all highlighted and put into another group called Egret. On a New Layer above the group, Midnightstouch Sample Brush #4 was used to add the bird grouping. This layer was set to 36% layer opacity. She also has lots of other beautiful unique brushes – and do check out her use requirements before using.

Now to me the focal point was all off center, so the Crop Tool was selected to line up my objects, and then Content Aware Scale was used to add to the canvas. Content Aware Move was used to readjust the flying birds in the sky. On a stamped layer Topaz Lens Effects Reflector Gold filter was selected (Strength 0.17, Transition 0.40, Position 0.20, and Angle 90). You could do the same thing with Nik Color Efex Pro – I learned this trick from Jai Johnson. The Gold reflector filter adds a nice subtle warming effect to nature images.

So another cool trick for adding some localized blurring is to use the Blur Tool set to Strength of 72. I have never used this tool much, but it worked really great in this image. Since I did not want the white egret so emphasized, the blur tool just softened those edges a bit on the emboss layer style created on the bird. It was also used to soften the rather sharp edges of the leaves in the trees to give a more painterly look without removing the actual shape too  much. The flying birds were also blurred slightly.

I really did not like the reflection of the tree and some of the grass in the water and was having trouble getting it softened the way I liked it. Finally the Smudge Brush was selected and using Aaron Blaise’s Grass SB 48-3-236 smudge brush, the area was smoothed. This brush comes with his Foliage brushes but probably any smudge brush would work fine. Just keep it subtle – it was set to 35% Strength. This layer was then set down to 65% layer opacity as the smudge effect was a bit too much. (See my How To Use the Brush Modes and Smudge Brush on Objects blog.) A Levels Adjustment Layer was added. Since this image was supposed to have a dreamy soft early morning look, but still needed a contrast boost, the middle tab was set to 0.70 but the black and white tabs were left alone. The trick to the dreamy effect is to adjust the Output Level strip. The black tab was set to 23 and white tab to 239 to maintain the soft look. Lots of other clean up layers were sprinkled throughout this document, but I hope you can see how to get some pretty nice effects with these brushes.


HOW TO PAINT WITH A TEXTURE BRUSH FROM YOUR IMAGE

Image of a painted Rooftop at Harry Potter Land - Universal Studios OrlandoThis week I only have this one example using an image taken at Harry Potter Land in Universal Studios Orlando, but it works well for this very useful technique. Since I have been learning more about the brush engine in Photoshop, I discovered a rather useful way to link a part of the texture of the background to the brush being used to paint over the image.

Here are the beginning steps to making this image. First converted image to 8-bit (Image ->Mode->8-bit) so the brushes will paint faster. The sky was a very bland flat blue color so it just seemed to be begging for something to perk it up. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits blog for website link) Detail 3 was applied for an overall image sharpening and then some basic spot cleaning was done since my camera sensor was a little dirty.

Owl Steps: Next an owl brush from a set called harry_potter_brushes_by_nyvelvet-d4qcowz was applied on a New Layer by clicking just once at 100% brush opacity to get a nice owl outline. On another New Layer underneath, some brown was painted in the owl wings and head, then on another New Layer white was painted in other parts of the owl to make it stand out and look painted – just used a regular soft brush at 100% opacity. These three layers were grouped (highlight the layers and press CTRL+G) and named Owl.

A stamped layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top and this layer was opened up in Topaz Simplify where the BuzzSim III preset was applied to use as an underpainting. This broke up the image into a really nice color palette that can be used to sample colors for painting over the main objects. Note you do not have to use Simplify (or Detail above), these are just some ways I am experimenting. An underpainting could be created using different Photoshop filters or adjustments layers. I plan on covering this topic at a later date. Used Topaz ReMask to remove the sky and the selection was loaded as a layer mask from the plug-in (check ReMask settings at bottom to set this up) although Photoshop could easily have used for this as it was a very easy selection. Now a texture needed to  be added underneath to fill up the sky and various ones were tried. I settled on French Kiss Atelier Georgia texture (see sidebar at my Tidbits blog for website link) which gave the image a nice painterly feel. Obviously the Simplify BuzzSim edges in the towers looked bad, but it is now time to make a brush to smooth these out.

Creating Brush Steps: A brush was made right in this image by turning off all the layers except the texture layer. Next use the Rectangular (or Elliptical) Marque Tool and select a small portion of the texture that represents an area that might make a nice brush. Press CTRL+J and it copies the brush selection up onto its own layer. Turn off the full texture layer and on top of the sample layer, add a Threshold Adjustment Layer to get a strong nice black and white look – all brushes have to be in black and white tones or it will not pick up the texture. I think my Threshold Level was set to 162. Highlight the brush layer under the adjustment layer and go to Edit -> Define Brush Preset. Down at the bottom of your Brush Presets Panel is your new brush. The new Brush now needs to be turned into a pattern, so on a New Layer a one stroke click was done with the new 208 pixel brush at 100% opacity in a black color. With the Marque Tool again just the brush stroke was selected and then go to Edit -> Define Pattern and name it the same as your brush. Deselect and highlight all three layers to put into another group and name brush and pattern.

Now the rest of the Brush in the Brush Panel must be set up. The Brush Tip Shape size was set 30 pixels and Spacing 56% – keep the Size small but play around with the Spacing watching the Preview area. Next in Shape Dynamics the Control was set to Off and the Angle Jitter to 4% – just enough to give a bit of variation. The last step involved adding the new brush pattern that was just created. By clicking on the down arrow next to the current texture, the last entry should be the new brush pattern just created – select it. Set the Scale to 131% – needs to be set over 100% so no obvious patterning is observed. If you are using the CC or CC 2014 versions of Photoshop, adjust the Brightness and Contrast sliders – I used Brightness -19 and Contrast 11. Make sure the Texture Each Tip is checked and change Mode to Multiply. Depth was set to 100% and Depth Jitter to 59%. All these settings can be manipulated until you get a stroke you like, but these are settings I used on this image. A new Brush Preset was created with these new settings by clicking on the Create New Brush icon at the bottom of the panel. A video going over these brush and pattern steps is below in case you got lost in the description.

Finalizing the Image: Several New Layers were painted using just this Regular Brush to paint over the objects – no mixer involved – and by sampling in the different colors that Simplify supplied, the image could be painted fairly quickly. Basically I like to sample a darker similar color and paint over a light one and vice versa to get a nice blend effect. Since the texture adds enough empty space in the stroke the colors blend nicely and it also looks somewhat  like the added large sky texture. This does not have to be painted perfectly and it will give a totally painted look. It really was a lot of fun and did not take too long to complete. A Pattern Adjustment Layer with the new pattern set to 100% Scale was put on top. The layer opacity was set to Normal at just 3% layer opacity – just gave a little bit more of the overall texture. On a stamped layer, a Radial Filter was added in Camera Raw to help draw the focus to the top cupola.

Update: I just added a Tidbits Blogs called A Little More Painting with a Texture Brush where I finished up the image started in the video and got a very different result. Check it out for a couple more tips.

Hope you get a chance to try this – as you can see from the video, a different texture gives a very different brush – some are better and some are worse, but it is nice to be able to match the added texture to the paint brush strokes so the objects fit more smoothly into the texture. Have a good week!…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO EASILY CREATE A PHOTOSHOP BRUSH FOR PAINTING

Image of some of the characters making up the Caro-Seuss-el at Universal Studios OrlandoI think most people are pretty much in a rut and do not even think about using anything other than a basic round brush in Photoshop. But Wow! There is so much more sitting in that Brush Panel that is not really that difficult to use and the results can do some amazing things to an image. This week I am going to give you some very basic settings for making a nice brush variation and how to use it as both a regular brush and a Mixer Brush without having to learn everything “under-the-sun” about them. So here we go.

I have decided I must see things differently since I seem drawn to shooting these sort of close-ups of funny things I see at theme parks. They do such a good job with color and expression that it is hard not to enjoy them. So once again a Universal Studios Orlando image close up of a couple of the characters to ride on from the Caro-Seuss-el in Seuss Landing.

Getting Started

I decided I wanted a painterly feel to this bright colored image. Most people will over-saturate an image in Camera Raw or Lightroom as the painting can make the image lose its contrast. In Photoshop first do any cropping, straightening and clean up of distractions and convert your image to 8-bit mode to help speed up the painting process (Image -> Mode -> 8-bit).

This step does not have to be done – you can just go on to Creating the Brush step and then start painting on a New Layer without an underpainting effect. For this image, on a duplicate layer (CTRL+J),  Topaz (see website link in sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4 plug-in was opened to create an underpainting before beginning to add my personal painting brush strokes. This is the same process as traditional painters do when they paint large blocks of color on their canvas before they begin painting the details. Especially for these bright contrasty images, it is a great way to start. Simplify does a great job of doing just that, simplifying your picture so you can take time working on your details. A preset I created back in version 3 was used (here are the settings used: Simplify section: Size 0.60, Feature Boost 0, Details Strength 0.80, Details Boost 1.28, Details Size 0.60, Remove Small 0.10, and Remove Weak 0.47; and Adjust section: Brightness 0.02, Contrast 0.82, Saturation, Saturation Boost 2.31, Dynamics 0, Structure and Structure Boost 1.00; no other settings used. ) This creates a rather bright flat image, but perfect for painting on the image. There are other ways to create an underpainting – the copy of the actual image could actually be blurred so only the basic shapes and colors are distinguishable and the detail removed. Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4 is another plug-in that creates a great underpainting effect. (See the first image in my More Plug-in and Painting Effects blog for an example using Snap Art 4.)

Creating the Brush

Next a New Layer was added on top and a watercolor Regular brush was created from the set I am always talking about – Creative Toons Watercolor Brushes – these were free from Photoshop Creative Magazine No. 113. (See next section for some other choices.) The brush used was Sample No. 15 but in the Brush Tip Shape in the Brush Panel, I set the size to 90, Roundness 100%, and the Spacing to 55%. Then added these brush sections by clicking on the words (not just check boxes or the settings don’t show up): Shape Dynamics was set to an Angle Jitter of 19% – no other settings on; Scattering with Scatter slider turned on and set to 30% and Count to 1 – no other settings on; Texture was turned on and the Gauze Pattern in Photoshop’s Artists Surfaces set was selected – Scale 100%, check Texture Each Tip, Mode Multiply, Depth 100% and Depth Jitter 40%; and of course Smoothing. (To locate pattern, click on side of pattern in Texture brush section, then click on the cog in upper right corner and select Artist Surfaces in list and Append – newly loaded patterns appear at bottom of already loaded patterns.) All the Control settings are turned off in all the sections. Be sure to save down as a Brush Preset so you do not lose your settings by clicking on the third icon over at the bottom of either the Brush Panel or the Brush Preset Panel. These were all settings I figured out since I really liked the shape of the original brush from Creative Toons, a brush that originally had a Size of 2500 px and Spacing of 25%. When painting, the 90-pixel size is as large as you want to use, especially when used as a Mixer brush. I believe any nicely shaped watercolor brush would work with these settings. Please try different settings and different types of brushes, not just watercolor, as you can get some very different but equally beautiful effects – I just happen to think this brush is very versatile and blends so beautifully. When using as a Regular brush, I usually set the brush opacity in the Options Bar to 30% and leave the Flow at 100%. If painting on a layer mask, may want the brush opacity set to 100%. For info on Flow, check out my blog called What Does the Flow Slider in the Options Bar Do?

Where to Find Some Nice Starter Watercolor Brushes

If you are unable to create this brush since the set is not free without the magazine, try downloading this large set of brushes from Env1ro watercolor brush and select Brush 3-697 pixels using exactly the same settings – when tested it creates the same effect as the brush used above since the shapes are very similar. It is also used in image below. Some other similar results were obtained using  SwimchickWatercolours – brush no 480 which gave a little softer result. Kahara has a nice 8-brush set and the third one made a beautiful brush with these settings and a different pattern, a concrete  pattern from Photoshop’s Texture Fill set (click on side of pattern in Texture brush section, then click on the cog in upper right corner and select Texture Fill in list – new patterns appear at bottom of loaded patterns). Changing up the patterns can give a brush new life. For a great list of free brush downloads, check out 45 Watercolor Brushes For Photoshop by Petshopbox Studio.

Turning it into a Mixer Brush

The real trick is to get your new Regular brush to work as a good Mixer Brush, and that is determined by what is up in the Options Bar – these settings are all sticky so when using your Mixer brushes, check them out if the brush is not working correctly.

So here are the options to make this really easy:

  • To blend the colors (creating a blender Mixer brush), in the Options Bar turn off the “Load the brush after each stroke” icon by clicking on it and always leave “Clean the brush after every stroke” clicked on, and selecting the Very Wet, Heavy Mix in the drop-down – have Sample All Layers checked. Now you have a pretty nice blending Mixer brush. If some color shows up, you left the “Load” icon turned on.
  • But what if you need to add some color to an area (creating a painting Mixer brush)? Turn On the Load the brush after each stroke icon (or no color will be painted) and flip the drop down to Dry, Light Load. Dab a few times to add your color and go back and turn off the Load icon and set to the Very Wet Heavy Mix to blend some more.

Really not that hard at all if you know where to look. And that is what I did on this image. Photoshop does try to make it easy. I blended areas where Simplify left a rough edges between color and added color to areas that were blown out as highlights or needed a more solid color added. Be sure to use dabs as well as longer strokes to get a nice painterly feel. If your brush gets much bigger than 90-pixels, the computer may slow down considerably so reduce the brush size – I usually paint at 20 pixels or less anyway. If still having problems, resize your image smaller – it will not matter if you are creating a painting – it can always be increased again after the image is finished. This was just too much fun to do! I love happy characters to work on!

NOTE: For painting with the Mixer brush – to sample colors that are under a brush stroke where you are painting, just press ALT+ click to add the(ose) colors to the “Load the brush after each stroke” icon which shows what is being painted by the brush. If you want to use a pure color from the Color Picker, you will need to use the Eyedropper Tool or double-click on the foreground swatch. I find this very time-consuming, so I do two things. First I have set up a keyboard shortcut for the letter “n” to open up the Color Picker. (Go to Edit -> Keyboard Shortcuts) Since I do not use the letter “n” for the 3D Camera Rotate Tool, I changed it in the Shortcuts For: Tools and scrolled to Foreground Color Picker, clicked Add Shortcut button, and typed in the letter “n” – it said it was in use and do I want to do this and I said yes. There you have it – very handy! Also my Wacom Stylus pen is set up so that the top of the long button opens up the Color Picker by selecting my “n” shortcut key, and the bottom is for Enter to accept the new color. This speeds up the painting process immensely! As a Regular brush – to sample an image color, just ALT+click on the color in image and the Eyedropper Tool pops up and selects it. The “n” shortcut key will bring up the Color Picker no matter what brush tool you are using.

Finishing up Your Painted Photo

I decided that the image needed a few lines showing, especially on the faces to draw the eye a little better. Again, this does not have to be done with a plug-in. One of the best ways to do this is to add a New Layer and select a Pencil Ink pen and add them in yourself – adjust the layer opacity so it is not over-whelming. For my painting the original bottom layer was duplicated and Simplify was opened again. This time the Black Line Only preset was chosen and just the Reduce Weak slider was set to 1.00 – all other settings were left. In Photoshop the layer was moved up to the top and set to Overlay blend mode. A black layer mask was added and just the eye areas and a few other details were painted back with the lines showing using a low opacity white brush. Many painted images have some lines in them and there are various actions around that add lines to your images, but by using just the Edges section in the Simplify plug-in is by far the fastest way to do this. The Reduce Weak slider controls a lot of the lines in the image but also check out the Edge Strength and Simplify Edge sliders for getting the illustrated look you want. This layer was set to Overlay blend mode so the white disappeared and a black layer mask was applied – painted in lightly with white brush where just the eyes and a few other areas had lines added for a little additional definition. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added for contrast. The Camera Raw Radial Filter was added to draw focus to the eyes , especially the center figure (Inside Radial Filter settings: Exposure 0, Contrast +5, Highlights +44, Shadows -4, Clarity +41, Sat 0, and Sharpness +33). And finally OnOne’s (see website link in sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Perfect Effects plug-in was used to add the pretty border – they have always had the best borders. This one was called Antique Rounder Border. This turned out to be quite a lot of effort, but when you are painting an image, it usually does take some extra effort – even with the underpainting already added.

Here is another example using the same settings on a new brush.

Image of Dwarf Firebush flowers with the ICW in the background This image is of some Dwarf Firebush tubular flowers growing in my front yard and the Halifax River (aka Intracoastal Waterway) at Ormond Beach, Florida, is the background. Not sure how I came up with this combination, but it turned out kind of nice and definitely different. The reason it fits in this blog is that the flowers were painted using the same settings as the Mixer Brush in the above image, but with a similar brush I created. Wanted to show you that applying these settings to any brush is totally easy and the results can be very nice. But first I had to select just the flowers from the background using Photoshop’s Color Range Command. I needed to put them on something, so I added a Pattern Adjustment Layer and found this image of the river that looked kind of nice behind it since the roof on the pier is so similar to the flower colors. The pattern was left at a Scale of 100%. I wanted to add a little grunge to the image so Kim Klassen’s Make Grunge Set Allard texture was added and set to Luminosity blend mode at 54% – any grunge texture would be fine but I like really like Kim’s textures as most of them are very subtle. Next Env1ro watercolor brush 697-3 was loaded with the same settings that were used on the Creative Toons brush. Unfortunately due to an electrical storm that knocked out electricity and totally busted my Photoshop preferences, workspace, brushes, and image, I lost the layers for this image – what a mess! But since I did have my History in Preferences set to Metadata and Edit Log Items Detailed, and all my steps were listed in the File -> File Info and the History tab. Pretty nice extra-back up to have, especially in this case! Another Simplify Black Line Preset was added on a duplicate background layer and placed on top, set to Overlay blend mode, and a black layer mask added to paint back the flower details. Topaz ReStyle was applied to a stamped (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top with my favorite Cream and Plum preset (here are my settings: ReStyle blend mode set to Color. In Basic blend mode set to Luminosity; Temperature was set to -0.75, Tint 0.20, and Saturation 0.13; Tone Black Level -0.37 and White Level 0.22; and Detail Structure -0.20 and Sharpness 0.64). This gave it a bit more of a soft look as opposed to a grungy effect. The last step was to use the new brush as a Mixer and blend the edges by painting around it. I am not sure this image has that much of a painterly look, but I still liked the results.

Hopefully this blog makes sense to you and you now have enough information to actually start painting on layers on top of your image. Also use the same brush to paint in a layer mask, to use with the Clone Stamp, and create borders. It really is not that hard. Experiment with the settings in the Options bar – try some of the other choices in the drop-down menu for the Mixer brush. Try different patterns in your brushes. It is all pretty easy – just keep saving your brushes as presets so you do not lose them. I would suggest going in to the Preset Manager (icon at bottom of the Brush Panel) and saving your new brushes down since I did lose all of the ones I had created when my electricity went off. And if you have Topaz Simplify, try out the line and flat painting presets. Hope you have a fun week experimenting – I know I will!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Simplify 4


HOW TO GET PAINTING EFFECTS FROM ACTIONS-Part 2

Image of Edinburgh, Scotland, from the castleI have been enjoying learning about several actions people have created that give some interesting twists to an image, and some are quite painterly. Last week I presented Part 1 on action based images, and this week Part 2 is a totally different kind of look also created with actions. I have to thank Diana Day for the blog comment (here is a link to a beautiful flower image she created with the following set) that directed me to this little gem.

Ultimate Artist Action by Brandy Murry

The above image was taken from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland.The Ultimate Artist packet is an inexpensive set ($7.50 at this time) provided by Scrap Girls, one of the really nice website that scrapbook hobbyists use. Besides the three actions provided, this packet also included three brushes (although you can use any of your brushes),  six layer styles including one pattern for use in the styles and Pattern Adjustment Layers, two videos, and PDF instructions. I wanted to try a landscape so the Sepia Action was selected. The supplied Sketch brush was used to painted detail in the buildings but not the sky area. Following her suggestion in the videos, I copied the bottom original layer and moved it on top to add some color back into the image. This layer was set to Vivid Light at 59% opacity. On a New Layer some color was added into the image by painting with her Sketch brush. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added to get the colors exactly how I liked them, then set it to Darker Color blend mode at 77% layer opacity. Now the sky looked bad, so a cloud texture I had painted in Corel Painter were added for a more painterly feel. Any cloud brushes would also have worked. The sky color was changed back to a beige color as the blue just did not look right from the original. To do this a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the painted cloud layer and the city was painted back in the mask.  Added a painted edge border on a New Layer on top – used the provided Sketch brush again to do this. Finally on a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Brandy’s Texture 2 layer style was applied. The pattern did not completely cover the image and left a line down the right side, so the Pattern Overlay Scale was changed to 165% and the Blend Mode was set to Multiply at 24% (from the default Overlay at 100%) to get a very subtle overall textured feel. I really like the supplied pattern for this effect. This image took a long time for me to get to a point that I liked.

Image of yellow daisies that used Ultimate Artist action for effectThis image of my front yard yellow daisies that gives a very popular effect and is sold as an artistic effect in many stores. This image was cropped into a square and then the Color Action was run. The Watercolor Brush supplied was used to paint in the flowers on the action’s created black layer mask. When finished I decided to apply the layer mask so that I could add a texture behind the flowers that I painted in. The Outline Guide layer was turned off and Melissa Gallo’s beautiful Painted Texture April Pastel was brought in as layer under the flowers. French Kiss’s (see my Tidbits Blog for website link) Vintage French Recois overlay (the French writing) was placed over the flowers layer and set to a brownish color using a clipped Color Fill Adjustment Layer (CTRL+click between layers to clip). A layer mask was added to the lettering layer and it was lightly painted away from the flowers. Next I decided I wanted a more painted texture in the image so several New Layers were added using Creative Toons Watercolor brushes ( Creative Toons Watercolor Brushes – these were free from Photoshop Creative Magazine No. 113) on the different layers in different colors at different opacities. They were grouped to create just one layer look and set to 82% layer opacity. On a New Layer French Kiss Dot Grunge 04 was added and changed to a purplish color using same technique as the French Kiss overlay. Last step involved creating a watercolor border by painting around the edge of a layer with your favorite brush – the supplied brushes can do this easily. This was really a lot of fun to create and the package was very inexpensive.

Image of a vintage post cardJust having some more fun with this little action set. The flower followed basically the same actions and painting steps as above, just different Creative Toons Watercolor brushes. Next added the image to a beautiful free frame from Keep Designing.com called Antique Design Background and Rustic Frame and then Shadowhouse Creations free vintage Post Card Set 3-post card 3. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReStyle was used to really get the look I liked. The address is one of my overlays I created (see my How to Create Personal Overlays for Your Images blog) and the French stamp is from French Kiss Collections. This image really took a lot of fiddling around with to get it to all go together but it was lots of fun to do.

A Few Brush Hints

After spending a large amount of time with these actions, I felt really nice effects can be achieved with them. The bottom two image worked out very well when flowers are used. But the landscape image turned out to be a lot of work and a  lot of manipulation had to be done to achieve a look I liked – I believe I could do this same effect in some of my Photoshop plug-ins a lot easier and get a similar result. I discovered the watercolor brush to be especially nice, but you need to go into the Brush Panel and check the Spacing checkbox to see the stroke effect in the Preview box. I had trouble getting the nice watercolor effect she got in her videos so some of the brush parameters were adjusted. Remember that the Options Bar settings are sticky so check the opacity and flow settings – a wrong setting can give very different results. On her Watercolor Brush she has the Enable Airbrush-style Build Up turned on – this means that the paint builds up as you hold her Watercolor Brush in one place. (To turn on in a brush, check the Build Up section in the Brush Panel – it activates the Option Bar icon at the same time or just check the Options Bar icon.) Jack Davis uses this setting in his watercolor brushes but most do not use it. I got a little bit of edge difference so experiment with turning it on and off – and a mouse vs. a stylus can give very different results so play with these settings. And if your lines are not as scattered as hers, go in and change the scattering – check out the preview section and change the sliders to see what is happening. I got a really nice Scattering effect with this brush by setting the Scatter to 190% and the Count to 2. The Brush Panel can be very useful to help get the look you like. Also, if you find a brush you like, be sure to save it as a brush preset to use again – otherwise your settings are lost when you change brushes.

Overall I think Brandy has done a great job in creating thee actions – it definitely creates more of a sketch look and would look great on note cards or for personal gifts. I still need to work with the actions to get some better results. Definitely spend time watching the included videos as they do give some extra info on how to set up the brushes. There were several images I used that did not work out – the landscape image needed a lot of contrast, which she says to do, to get a good result. What I liked best were her brushes – very nice place to start so you can create some really useful ones of your own – and her layer styles. If you enjoy this painting effect, it would definitely be worth purchasing – there is a lot of “bang for the buck” with this set. See ya next week!…..Digital Lady Syd


MORE PLUG-IN AND PAINTING EFFECTS

Image of a candy shop at Harry Potter Land in Universal Studios OrlandoThis week I thought I would just do a quick additional blog to go along with the one last week on Topaz Black & White Effects and Alien Skin Snap Art Together! Alien Skin Snap Art 4. Loved this little candy shop at Harry Potter Land in Universal Studios-Orlando. I am not sure I have seen so much candy in one place in a long time! What I want to emphasize is that you can combine different painting techniques, including free hand painting, to achieve a look that is unique. This image has used the same workflow as last week, but also had additional painting throughout to remove distractions and to add additional tones and colors.

In Lightroom started with Seim’s (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) free Color Fantasies 2 Sampler HDR Classic preset. In Photoshop, followed the basic workflow from my Fun Photoshop Blog linked above, then applied Snap Art’s default oil preset. On a duplicate layer above, Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Black & White Effects plug-in was opened and the Harry Potter Sky preset was applied without the vignette settings (for settings see the last image info in my Fun Photoshop Blog linked above). Topaz Simplify 4 was opened on another layer and the Color Sketch 3 preset was applied – then a black layer mask and just a few areas painted back where I needed a little line effect. Try using different Simplify sketches and adjust the Edge Section sliders to get a nice sketch look. Then in Photoshop the opacity and blend mode can also be changed to get more choices. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added for contrast. A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) layer was created and the Camera Raw filter was opened and two radial filters were used to direct focus to the cones in the center of the image. A New Layer was placed on top and a Photoshop Oil Mixer brush was used to smooth some of the areas around the candy and remove some of the distractions in the ceiling. (These were the Mixer Brush settings used in the Options Bar to get this effect: Both Load and Clean were turned on, Wet 0%, Load 50%, No Mix, Flow 19%, and check Sample All Layers.) Sample colors in image by clicking on the ALT button to get a matching area shown under the dropper, or bring up the Color Picker and sample just one color. Another New Layer used my Chalk Brush as a clone stamp brush. Both these layers were necessary to give the image a true painterly effect, and not just a canned feel. Finally another New Layer was used with the Sharpen Tool to localize sharpening. Pretty much what was done in my last blog.

Image of some pretty pink rosesCreated this effect by combining Alien Skin Snap Art 4’s Impasto Vignette preset and Topaz Simplify 4’s Oil Paint preset, in that order. I had never tried this combination, but I liked the results! Simplify’s layer was set to Screen at 38% opacity and the main focal point flowers were painted out in layer masks on both plug-in layers to direct focus better. 2 Lil Owls Stained 12 texture (see sidebar for my Tidbits Blog for website link) (these are some of her prettiest textures I think) was added on top and just the flowers I wanted showing were painted by in a layer mask using my Chalk brush. Added back some contrast with a Curves Layer, and the free font is Ornatique Regular. On a New Layer set to Overlay, the edges in the flower were painted in with a black brush set to 12% layer opacity to just give a trace where edges needed to be sharpened in the flower. (See The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog.) That was it – Snap Art, Simplify, and painting edges on an Overlay Layer.

Guess what I am learning in my painting adventure this year is that you do not have to go only one way with your painting effects – and if you do not get the results you want using one technique, try another. And use your brushes – they do not have to be in the same media even – to give that unique look. Creating or finding a couple brushes that you can use to get your own style is great to to have – that is what I am trying to do with my simple Chalk brush. The plug-ins can be a great aid to filling up a canvas quickly, but that additional layer on top with your own paint strokes can give the image your personal stamp. I am learning to do this and feel I am slowing getting a good workflow and painting technique in place. It does take a lot of practice to get the feel down but I believe it will be worth it in the end!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
What I Am Learning About Digital Painting
6 Tips for Painting in Photoshop
Painting Effects – Which Ones to Use?


PHOTOSHOP BRUSH FUN!

Image of a Cherry Tree created in PhotoshopI thought I would post something I did for fun a few weeks ago – used some basic ingredients to create some similar but different images. Know I have posted this type of thing before, but sometimes you just need to unwind with what you like to do. All these images used a 10″ X 8″ size at 200 Resolution. The above was the first image created with the various resources listed below. It began with a really nice free vector tree using Mel’s Winter Tree 2 brush and painting in some pink blossoms on a separate layer above it. The brush I used a really cool brush from the Paint with Photoshop Workshop by Painted Texture’s Melissa Gallo and another one from Blur’s Good Brush 5.1 – a really interesting set of free brushes but many labeled only in Chinese. The pretty blossoms can be created using the Size 100 brush with a (- 2) at end of brush name about half way down the list. Next on a New Layer using my free Cloud Set brush 9 flipped (click the Flip X in the Brush Tip Shape section of Brush Palette) was added and set it to 74%. Next French Kiss Color Wash Juin was applied and set to Linear Burn blend mode and 24% layer opacity. Everything else was added to layers either above or below this core area of layers. I used my 60 px Chalk Brush (see my A Dreamy Rose! blog to create) to paint in the ground, Shadowhouse Creations Assorted Brush Pack bird brush 1, and my free Snow 2 Overlay-slightly blurred (colored light blue using a Solid Color Adjustment Layer) at 50% layer opacity for some more texture. The flowers under the tree were actually created in Painter and turned into a png file to add to images (see my I Didn’t Know That! Export Layers Files in Photoshop blog). The font is Dirty Halftone by Offset and a Radial Filter in Photoshop was used on the Cherry tree to draw the eye towards it more. Dave Cross’s Spatter & Splattered Stroke Filter Frame (created using a Dave Cross technique presented in his Photoshop CS5 Finishing Touches for Photographers video on Kelby One Training – this is still a good video to watch if you are a member even if it is for CS5 as Dave does great border effects. Really love the colors from the textures and border.) was added and a Solid Color Fill Layer was clipped to it (ALT+Click between the two layers to clip). It was finished up with a Levels Adjustment Layer on top to give just a bit more contrast.
Painted image of a summer treeThis is a similar image using using Mel’s Winter Tree 2 brush and painting in green leaves on a separate layer above it, then placed in a group named Tree. Underneath this group, the first layer was a texture from French Kiss’s Artiste Collection called Flower Garden. A selective color adjustment layer was added and the reds, yellows, and greens were adjusted. A New Layer was added with just some small 40 pixel colorful strokes to add a flowery feel on the ground using a chalk brush set to 19% Angle Jitter in Brush Panel. On a layer above painted a few more clouds using my Cloud Brushes again (layer set to 54%). Used Shadowhouse Creations Bird brush 1 again. Above the tree group, a text layer using the same font and Camera Raw Radial Filter were added. On a New Layer on top, French Kiss Dot Grunge 05 brush at 498 pixels was splashed on in a darkish green color. Also same border using a Pattern Adjustment Layer clipped to it for the edging effect. These steps are very similar to the image above, just different textures and colors. This was so much fun to do!
Painted image of a red fall treeThe Fall scene is another example of using the basic brushes from above. The tree is the same one as in the first image. Under the group a New Layer was used to paint a soft ground area in white using the Chalk Brush. On various layers the same painted flowers from first image, clouds and birds were used. Above the group more French Kiss Dot Grunge was added and my snow overlay at 40% opacities. Painted Textures Baby Gold texture was set to Linear Burn at 100% which made the tree color red and the tones brownish. Same text font, Camera Raw Radial Filter settings, and border with a different pattern were used. Loved the different result!
Painted image of winter treeThis time it is the same tree without any leaves. Underneath the tree group, French Kiss Artiste L Aube was set to Normal at 100% as a background. A Color Balance Adjustment Layer was added to give more of a bluish tone. On a New Layer, used my cloud brushes to created a soft white ground and clouds. Shadowhouse Creations birds were used again. My Snow 2 Overlay-slight-blur was added and the same Camera Raw Radial Filter and border was used.

I hope you can see how easy it is to use just a few elements and get some very dramatic differences. I love creating these kind of images – totally fun and you never know how it will end up!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Create a Winter Scene with Photoshop Brushes and Textures
What To Do With a Plain White Cup?
How to Create an Image From Nothing!


Halloween Greetings!

Unusual vintage hearse at Univeral City’s City Walk Horror Night in Orlando, Florida (for a nice video of this event see Halloween Horror Nights 2012 at Universal Studios Orlando). This image was created by using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2, duplicating the layer and painting out the center in a layer mask to retain some of the original color of the image. Brushes used:  BB’s Fogs and Mists Brushes; Halloween Spider font with a layer style that includes a Bevel & Emboss, Stroke, Inner Glow, Color Overlay and Outer Glow effects; Obsidian Dawn’s Halloween Vectors and Cobweb Brush Collections; Pureanodyne Halloween Brushes, and Janine Smith’s Vintage Halloween Brushes. Finally OnOne (see sidebar for website link at my Tidbits Blog) PhotoFrame 4.6 was added. I think it is a pretty spooky image!
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This is an image I created a year ago on my Tidbits Blog – see Spooky Halloween Fun! for info on how I created it.
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Here is another image I created on my Tidbits Blog – see Halloween Resources – Time to Go Batty! for information on how it was created.
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Image from my second blog post two years ago. See Around My Neighborhood. Still love it!
…..This may be my favorite bat image – the Haunted House at The Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida. This image was included in a previous blog called Digital Landscape Effects with Nik Software.

It is a lot of fun to create your own Halloween images. Give it a try. Have a Happy Halloween!…..Digital Lady Syd


Create a Winter Scene with Photoshop Brushes and Textures



A while back I did a Fun Photoshop Blog called “Just Plain Fun Brush Effects!” and I find it is still one of my favorite pastimes, especially when I seem to lack that creative urge. Here is a fairly detailed “how to” on creating the first image. So here we go.

1. First start with a New Document – I used a 10 ” X 8″ size at 240 Resolution. This whole image uses the same gray blue color.

2. One of my favorite places for textures and brushes is from ShadowHouse Creations – almost everything he has is great. On a New Layer I loaded up his Tree Brush Set 2 and started with The Woods brush in a dark blue at the largest size. Clicked once in the foreground of my file and my image is started. Add a layer mask and paint out (in black with a soft brush) some of the bottom edge so it is not just a straight line across but looks like a little snow drifting.

3. Added a New Layer below the foreground tree and selected his Tree 9 from the above set – clicked once near the middle of the image to create a horizon with some soft trees showing by setting the layer opacity to 33%.

4. I had to add another New Layer and selected The Woods brush again. Click once, Free Transform (CTRL+T) and line up with the treeline in the first layer you created. Add a layer mask and paint out the tree sticking in the image so it is just a line of grass across the lower image.

5. In Tree Brush Set 2 add the deer on its own layer on top.

6. In ShadowHouse Creations Birds Brush Set 3 are the Birds – 14. Add on their own layer.

7. With Obsidian Dawn’s Grasses and Plants brush set, use grasses 1 and 8 and at different sizes to cover the sharp edge of the foreground line.

8. Create a group for all the brush layers -all but the background layer and name it Objects.

9. Next I added a sky image above the bottom background image. Add a layer mask and paint black on mask to cover all but the sky. I set the opacity of the layer to 19% as I did not want much color in the sky, just a feeling of blue. Add a Curves Adjustment Layer to further light it up if it is still colorful.

10. Highlight the Objects Group layer and add ShadowHouse Creations Texture ST-8 to give a really old feel to the image.(Go to File -> Place, locate your image, and click Enter. Adjust texture to fit image and click Enter to set. Finally right click and in menu select Rasterize to get rid of the Smart Object.) Set layer to Linear Burn mode at 63% opacity.

11. Florabella’s Snow 3 texture (the link is to her Facebook page with the free download on the left side) layer was added under this layer to add a snow falling effect. Highlight the Objects group and then follow the steps for bringing in a layer as in parenthesis above.

12. The last step involved adding two OnOne PhotoFrames (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog) using Taufer Texture 05 and grunge 09. This gave the cool effect of snow appearing on the tree. A layer mask was used to remove too much white from the tree areas in places that did not look natural. So I don’t eave you at this last step and not know what to do if you do not own OnOne PhotoFrames, try BittBox Ice Texture 2 set to Soft Light blend mode, another one of my favorite textures and gives a very similar effect.

It looks like a lot of steps but it becomes very intuitive once you get going and a lot of fun.

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For another winter look, here is an image I created just from brushes and posted on my Tidbits Blog back in September. Since it fits the theme for this blog, I am going to add this image again and give you the resource information to use some of these beautiful brushes. Same basic workflow as above: creating a New Document, adding objects and brush effects (in slightly different colors this time) on individual layers above, and adding interesting textures and frames or styles as a last step.

This images use tree brushes from Winter Trees by Melbrushes and Trees from c4grfx brushes. Textures from Shadowhouse Creations Old Canvas 4 and the Glitter Brush Set by Obsidian Dawn.
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I guess you can tell I like to use tree brushes. This look will take a little more time but I love the overall calm feel to the image. Used the same tree brushes as above, from Winter Trees by Melbrushes and Trees from c4grfx brushes with a light gray-tan color. Then I added the best Flood Filter around – the Flood Filter from Flaming Pear to create the water reflection. I have not found any other plug-in that simulates flooding and reflections as well. In this case a simple reflection in Photoshop could be made with a Wave Filter applied. To create the foggy look, BB Brushes Fogs and Mists 12 was used in a soft white. A layer was added just above the white background to add a slight texture effect using a light tan color with Seu Davi brush 775 applied to the upper sky area at only 6% opacity. This layer was copied (CTRL+J) and flipped vertical so it shows up in the reflection area and the layer was set to 9%. Next a New Layer was created using beautiful gradient from Graphix1 Tainted Love gradient set called Contrast 30. The gradient was lined up to separate the sky from the ground and set to 49% opacity. Last, the little lights in the reflection were created in Topaz’s new Star Effects plug-in (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) but a similar effect could be created by using Frostbo’s Snow Drop brush (love this brush!).

I am constantly amazed at all the beautiful brushes available for free download and what great images you can put together with very little effort or artistic skill. Download these brushes and textures that I have indicated and see what you can put together. The sources listed are some of the best resources you will find and their websites are packed with lots of other goodies…..Digital Lady Syd


That Flaming Fire Brush!

I admit it – I have certain people that I think are brilliant when it comes to Photoshop creativity – one is the totally awesome Russell Brown and another one is NAPP guy, Corey Barker. They never let you down when it some to discovering new things to do in Photoshop. This week I listened to this short video on Corey’s website, Planet Photoshop, called “Creating Exploding Brushes.”  This first image basically looks very similar to Corey’s but I loved the effect. The cloud brush created in the tutorial was used as the background texture – I used my SJ-Cloud Brushes Set Cloud 4 brush. You may download my SJ-Firebrush used for all these images.

This image uses BB Brushes and Mists Sampled Brush 3 to add a fog feel behind the cloud of flames created in this image. This silhouette is from a set called People Silhouettes by redheadstock at deviantArt. A grunge effect was added with OnOne PhotoFrames (see website link on sidebar of my Tidbits Blog).

First used the Gradient Tool to create a radial gradient using Graphix 1’s Muted 6 gradient. Next two different palm trees brushes by Midnightstouch were added. Char Ultimate Grass Brushes and Obsidian Dawn’s Grasses & Plants Brush No. 9 were used.  My Firebrush was used to make a background texture, without the layer style used to create the fire effect. A little Warp Tool on the brushes and that was it for this image.

I started this image by painting a sky with the Photoshop chalk brush using a color I really like for skies (#c2d0d8). A tree from MelBrushes Winter Trees and Falln-Brushes Tree Brushes Set 2 (Dead Tree 1) from deviantArt were added. The tree leaves and the bushes were created using the SJ-Firebrush by just dabbing a bit on the leaves with small size of brush and using a couple different hues – can always a add Layer Mask to trees to hide some of the branches. Also the foreground was created using the Firebrush and the bush, from The Grasslands set by Midnightstouch at deviantArt. The birds are from Obsidian Dawn’s Bird Flying Group. Put a frame on it and it is done. All very easy to do and lots of fun!

This image was created using two of Caleb Kimbrough’s fabulous free textures, Summer texture 4 and Subtle Grunge Example 3. I used my SJ-Soft Blending Brush to create the flower stems and the SJ-FireBrush at a small size to create the flowers. I used Nik’s Color Efex Pro Graduated User Defined filter using a reddish hue for the sky and a Vignette Frame from OnOne PhotoFrame (see website link on sidebar of my Tidbits Blog).

This turned out be just sort of a fun blog – wanted to show that if you get an interesting brush to play with, you can get some really cool effects and it is a lot fun. Experiment! (Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 1) You can get some surprising results!…..Digital Lady Syd


Just Plain Fun Brush Effects!

This week I am going to show pictures I basically created from scratch some of the great Photoshop brushes available for free download. You might get a really nice special effect to fill that space on your wall. A few weeks ago I did a blog called “How to Create Photoshop Brushes from Objects or Text” which contains basic information on how to make and save your brushes and might be useful here.

This image was created using Vintage Grunge Brushes by alex16 at DeviantArt, the great Summer Texture8 by Caleb Kimbrough (one I use a lot – love the warm tones in it) and some plain ole splotches and lines I made just by playing with the brush settings in the Brush Panel. Please note that on the DeviantArt downloads, please be sure you look at the terms each individual requires – these people work very hard to bring you all the many free downloads and you should be kind enough to follow their terms for use. Most have very reasonable requirements such as letting them know when you used their items and back-linking to them on your sites.

Once again, brushes from DeviantArt were used to create this image. The flowers were created using Flowers 1 Brush Pack for Photoshop from Texturemate using flower01.png and 03.png brushes. These are really nice large flower brushes that I also used in an image in my linked paintbrush blog above. For the grunge background, abstract grunge brushes pack 2_by xaliasx at DeviantArt were used. Finally a layer style was created using a Pattern Overlay called Noise (in Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Texture Fill pattern set) at 100% opacity and 1000% scale, an Inner Glow using a cream color at 75% opacity and Size of 144 pixels, and the basic Stroke at dark gray, inside and 4 pixels size.


The Fantasy Look was made by selecting a Radial Gradient called Singing the Blues by cazcastalla (Blues21) centered on the flair (my 3 Lens Flare brushes – SJ-Brush Flare). The snowflakes background is from Obsidian Dawn (SS Glitter Photoshop Brushes – snowflakes-glitter brush), the clouds uses several of my clouds SJ-Cloud Brush Set that contains 6 brushes can be downloaded here), white fog from DeviantArt  BB-Brushes Fogs and Mists using Sampled Brush #11. The Female Figure was supposed to be from an image I found on DeviantArt, but was unable to get permission in time to use their photo for this blog, so I improvised with clip art from a book called Dragons & Wizards. The clothing had to be painted in so I used a soft blend brush I created (can be downloaded here). I think in the end it may be as nice as my first attempt. When I get permission, I will post for comparison. Finally a cracked texture effect, I used the one from PhotoFrame plug-in but there are many out there that will give a similar look, was added. Pretty easy and fun to do!

I found this really nice pack of grass brushes and had to experiment. This is what I ended up with. I really love the colors and the image of the girl – and it was a fairly easy image to create. Used my cloud brushes that can be downloaded above, Midnightstouch Grasslands Brushes at DeviantArt (really nice grass and plant brushes), Charfades Ultimate Grass Brush Set (more very nice brushes), Obsidian Dawn’s Flying Bird Brushes (always the best brushes), papyrus brushes in Trees by Horhew Brush Set. The beautiful young lady is from an image called “By the Window” from Eirian Stock at DeviantArt.

This final brush painting was once again created after downloading these great Photoshop Daily Chinese Painting Brushes. Used my Textures – Pastel Watercolor for layer 2  by creating a watercolor texture for the background (see “Create a Colorful Paint Background in Photoshop” by EntheosWeb.com) which is a really fun tutorial to do.  I created a Texture Dots texture and then applied the Plug in Galaxy Warp-Flare Warp to the composite. Painted using the Chinese painting brushes one side of flowers, duplicated the layer and merged. Added a few layers styles, adjustment layers, and the frame from PhotoFrames. That’s it.

Sometimes it seems that the images are so complex you forget to see the beautiful colors and the simplicity of a design. Photoshop brushes bring this back into perspective when creating a document. And it never ceases to amaze me how much you can actually create with brushes, whether from others or your own. Hope you got some ideas on what to do when you just need to try something different. It seems I tend to make these images when I discover new brushes to try out. Maybe you will find some inspiration from the ones I mentioned here. Have fun!…..Digital Lady Syd


Playing in Photoshop!

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.

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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.
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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!)
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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


Same Image – Different Look!

I started playing around with the small image below that was taken of the ruins at St. Andrews Cathedral in Scotland. I loved the composition and feel of the image before I ever did any adjustments to it. This image shows what it typically looks like in Scotland.

The original appears pretty flat but overall it has a lot of interest and the details are very sharp in this shot.

  • First I tried processing the image in Lightroom and applied my Vivid Drawing Look preset, a preset from a previous blog (Great Free Plug-in for Lightroom – The Fader!) and is available for download here. Then only an adjustment to the Luminance slider to get rid of a little noise and the Detail slider to add detail back to the overall image was done. (This can also be done after loading image into Photoshop by using Russell Brown’s script – see my blog called Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script.) I also created this preset for people that use Camera Raw from Photoshop and it may be downloaded here (I just realized it has the wrong extension on the file in the Zip folder – change it to .xmp to get it to work). Just download and load into ACR using the pop-out panel in Presets tab.

I modified his technique to make it faster and I will give you a quick recap of how to do this here:

  1. Open image and duplicate the background layer.
  2. Turn off top layer (click on layer eyeball in Layers Palette to remove) and highlight the original Background layer.
  3. Create a black and white image using any method you feel gives a really contrasty high key (washed out or over-highlighted) look. He used Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 which is a great program but very expensive. I think the Black and White Adjustment Layer does a fine job and if you own Lightroom, there are many really nice Black and White presets for that program that can be downloaded for free.
  4. Make a composite of these two layers by highlighting the Adjustment Layer and going to CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E (keeps image intact so you can adjust later if need be by deleting this layer).
  5. Turn on the top layer (click where eyeball should be and it turn ons) and change blend mode to Soft Light.
  6. This may be all it needs for corrections. If not, create another composite image as in Step 4, duplicate it and set the blend mode to Screen. Add Layer Mask and paint in area to brighten up image.
  • Now this next image really changed up the feeling – it surprised me how good it looks in a monochrome. Nik Silver Efex Pro2 was used but any black and white conversion method that gives a really contrasty appearance can be used. Then a Hue/Sat Adjustment level was added and Colorize was checked. I found a really spooky inky blue color (Hue set to 242) and dropped the Saturation to 25 and this is what you get!

  • Below a totally different look was created in Lightroom and used a preset called whoiswolf_cross_retro – there are several nice free presets in this group that can be downloaded here. Only this preset and then the Luminance and Color sliders in the Noise Reduction panel were used.

  • For this next iteration, Gavin Hoey’s Blast From the Past actions set called Lomo effect Style 1 was applied to create this soft look. This is a very inexpensive set of actions that are great for creating some new effects.

  • In this image below, first the Imaging Factory’s Graduated Fog Filter was applied using a dark blue color for the foggy feel (could just use the Fogs and Mists brush set by BB Brushes to create you own effect – see my Foggy Weather! blog for more on this) ; then a Curves Adjustment Layer to get a vivid blue on top and bright green color on the ground; next a Gradient Map adjustment layer with a tan color (c4b190) to a light blue color (c2d0d8) for the gradient (try different gradients – get some really interesting results doing this) and set layer Blend Mode to Color Dodge at 82%;  a Levels Adjustment Layer to wash out the results to get more of a foggy look; added a New Layer and painted on Wycked – birds-sm brush from the Tranquility brush set (this is a fabulous set to own); and finished off with a PhotoFrame from OnOne Software (simply the best!). This image is presented to show what a very different look you can get with just a little experimentation.


  • The next picture was created using an action I created in my blog “Create Postage Stamps with Your Images” blog under Method Two called Vintage Effect from Cloudy Text Effect (here is the download link). I am presenting it here, even though it has a similar feel to other effects like the Lomo action above, because the action is free and it gives a very nice look on many types of landscape images.

    • My last image is for my son, Metal Chris at DC Heavy Metal (a great music blog with some fabulous musician photography for DC folks), who likes it when I do something different with my photos. The Mirror Filter (Kaleidoscope vertical) was applied from the Plugin Galaxy 2.0 (see my blog Instant Mirror and Quick Mirror for Photoshop for more on this great plug-in), along with the Imaging Factory’s Graduated Fog filter and a Gradient Map adjustment layer. Gives a whole new perspective to the picture.

That should about wrap up the blog for this time. I think I could just keep doing effects – this image lends itself well to that. As I have said before, if you can get a good picture in your camera, you have lots of post-processing options – the image makes the processing easy.

Hope this inspired a few people to try different effects with the same image – it is a lot of fun to see how different the image ends up!…..Digital Lady Syd


Foggy Weather!

This smokey look from all the small forest fires as seen in the photo above taken right outside our addition in Florida a couple days ago made me start thinking about how to get this look without actually seeing (and smelling) it. I decided to try several different ways to create a hazy foggy look and see which I method I liked the best. The image below is of the Scottish Highlands (where Hamish the cow can be seen) and is a great example of how the the last tendrils of fog appears once the sun rises. No corrections were done on this image except some power lines were removed using the Healing Brush in the lower right corner.

Here is a link where I downloaded several free stock images on Stock.xchng to see what the fog really looks like for reference.

The most important thing I learned is that decent fog brushes are absolutely essential. So lets begin with that – these two set of fog brushes will give the needed look:  Fogs and Mists by ~BBs-Brushes – Brush No. 11 and Brush No. 13 give really nice fog effects, and Tranquility Brushes by ~wyckedBrush – the Sky brush and experiment with several others to see what you like. Here is a nice link to 10 sites which includes the above at 10 Free Fog Brush Sets.

Two fog tutorials, three Photoshop plug-ins and one action tutorial were tried to see which had the best results. My first attempt began with a tutorial called “Create Dramatic Misty Landscapes” in Photoshop Creative Issue No. 72.  There is also a very similar tutorial on the Internet called “Realistic Fog and Mist” and has very clear and simple steps to follow so I will not list them here. After trying both tutorials with several image, I just did not like the results, not even well enough to show them here. I could not seem to get a really good flat colored image appearance and I did not like the way the fog was distributed – too heavy and uneven.  Hopefully you might get a better result.

Next, I pulled out my arsenal of Photoshop plug-ins:  Nik’s Color Efex Pro 3.0, Topaz’s Lens Effects, and a very old filter I had from 10 years ago by the Imaging Factory called Graduated Fog. (Download it for a 30 day trial – not sure if it is still available for sale.) Believe it or not, the Graduated Fog filter did just as well as the other two advanced plug-ins. They all either made the colors too vivid or the fog effect way too heavy or both – very unnatural looking. Below is an example of what I did with The Imaging Factory’s Graduated Fog effect – note the fog color is a yellow (the white appeared too heavy) and not exactly realistic. I added a layer with some light white brush strokes using BB Fogs and Mists Brushes – Sample Brush #11. Still, this image turned out the best of the plug-ins.

There is another stand-alone program that can be downloaded in the demo mode only (meaning you cannot save any results) – it has a fairly large learning curve, but it appears to have a really great interface for this particular look. It would take some effort but a nice effect can probably be obtained with some experimenting – try downloading AutoFx Mystical Lighting and Ambiance 2.0 demo and go to Ambiance, then Haze and Fog effect. I will definitely spend some more time in the demo looking at some of the other effects also.

Then I came upon a recent blog that made me feel much better! This tutorial supplied an action that works very good and is a great starting point. The link is called:  “How to Create Fog in Photoshop: Gloomy Photoshop Action Included” by Timkainu. Definitely check this link out and download Tim Kainu’s Sun to Gloom Photoshop Action – the two photos below (of Maui and the Scottish Highlands) used this action and it required just a bit of touch up. He says that the action works great with images taken in harsh sunlight! I think the image below reflects more what I believe a fog would really look like for this image.


The final image is the same as the one above, but done entirely with the brushes linked in this blog. The effect is a little heavier, and it was created by just putting the fog on its own layer (or several different layers) and building up the effect until you like it. A layer mask can be added to get the exact intensity using different brush opacities, blend modes can be changed, and layer opacities adjusted – it was definitely easier than anything else I tried except for the wonderful action. I would suggest giving this a try if the action does not give quite the look you want.

This has definitely been a long week of experimenting. I learned about many things that did not work! I also learned sometimes it is easier to just go with what you do know – the special filters and tricks may not cut it. I hope I have helped guide a few fellow digital artists to find the resources they need and not waste time with what they do not need. Until next time…..Digital Lady Syd


Faking Fireworks!

(Updated 07/04/20) Since the Fourth of July is just around the corner, I thought I would create a blog for making some of your beautiful night images into spectacular holiday images. Just to get you in the mood, here is a link to Stunning Fireworks Photos from Smashing Magazine. This was helpful to see the colors needed to get a realistic look on some of the fireworks.

As far as I can tell, there are two major ways of making images look like a fireworks celebration: either by adding fireworks images to a nighttime image or painting in the fireworks with brushes. This blog will address both types.

Creating Fireworks with Images

The above image used five different fireworks – old jpg images (from a 2 megapixel camera taken 8 years ago so don’t delete those old images, you may use them years later) brought into the original nighttime photo of the Main Street Bridge in Jacksonville, Florida. The basic steps are as follows:

  1. Do correction to your original image. A really dark scene is helpful.
  2. Go into Adobe Bridge and just drag the first image into Photoshop (does the same thing as File -> Place an object).
  3. The new image comes in as a Smart Object (right click and your will see the Free Transform choices) and can now be moved and sized (adjust by just dragging in the handles). Click Enter. I usually rasterize to get rid of the Smart Object as it makes the file bigger and is not needed for this workflow – just right click on the fireworks layer and select Rasterize layer.
  4. Double-click on the fireworks layer to open up the Layer Style and go to the “This Layer” slider near the bottom of the dialog box. Since the fireworks images have dark backgrounds, move the black tab right to get the correct effect. Then hold the ALT key to split the tab, click on the left side of the tab and drag it back to get a smooth the transition. If your image has a white background, move the right tab left, hold the ALT key and drag the right portion of tab back for the desired look.
  5. Add a layer mask to the layer and paint out any areas that are covering up part of the background image to make the fireworks look realistic. May need to lower the opacity of the level to see where to mask and then bring it back up to 100% when finished.
  6. Keep adding in more fireworks.
  7. Use a Basic Soft White Cloud Brush to paint in the soft black smoke coming from the fireworks. Set layer opacity to around 5-10% – do not overwhelm the image with smoke.

This basic workflow is from Scott Kelby’s book, Classic Photoshop Effects, “Adding Fireworks to Nighttime Photos,” one of the few nice fireworks tutorials I could find. Also, the Basic Soft White Cloud Brush was created by following the video Brush Dynamics and Fluffy Clouds in Photoshop by Ice Flow at PictureSocial.com (no longer available but many other tutorials on this subject are).

Several beautiful fireworks images were downloaded for free from Stock.xchng and can be added to your images following the above workflow. They were moved into a black background. Here is a link to the Fireworks images – there are 46 pages of them so have fun finding some nice ones! Once you log in and download an image, you need to right click and select the Save Image As to your computer.

Painting Fireworks into your Images

Here is an example of Fireworks brushes that can be downloaded from the internet. After trying many fireworks brushes, the best are once again from Obsidian Dawn’s Fireworks set with a very small fee attached to the download now. (There are also jpg’s of these same brushes for download – to use follow the steps in the next section.) Obsidian Dawn had some great tips on how to use her great brushes so I thought I would share:

  • Can use as just a solid color and they look great but to make them more colorful, apply a Radial Gradient to the layer. This is pretty easy – just follow these steps:
  1. Create a New Layer above your nighttime image.
  2. Click to make just one brush stroke – choose a bright color.
  3. On the brush layer, double click the layer to open the Layer Styles dialog and go to Gradient Overlay. Change Style to Radial and select any Gradient. A new group of gradients may be added by clicking the drop down arrow and clicking on the right pointing arrow in the top right corner. Try clicking Reverse checkbox to change color order. Change the scale to adjust which colors go where and try different blend modes and opacity.
  • Remember some fireworks are brighter in the center – some the outer edges. To get this effect for using only one color, use a basic Black and White gradient in the Gradient Overlay Layer Style and set the blending mode to Screen. Set the Gradient opacity to 50% so it is not too bright. Use the Reverse checkbox to toggle where the darker and light colors show up.
  • Try an Outer Glow Layer Style to make them more luminescent – try a different color too. Also try Color Overlay in a different color at a very low opacity to add some new color.

The Fountain above was created by using Photoshop Free Brushes Firework’s Brushes no.3 – placed on its own layer, duplicate it, Free Transform (CTRL+T) and flip Horizontal. Add a Linear gradient to get the effect. This set of  brushes were created from clip art so most of them are not so realistic looking but nice if you want a more graphic look.

There is another way to get some interesting fireworks results that was posted as a comment on Photoshop Daily blog by Jo Cole that you might want to try. Once a fireworks brush is selected, here is what Kazzie said in her comment about creating a new brush to get a really nice fireworks:

“Shape Dynamics: size jitter – 75-100%.  Color Dynamics: foreground/background 75-100%, Hue – 50-100%, Saturation – 100%, Purity – (+100).  Brush Tip Shape: spacing = 1% or OFF. I set the foreground/background colors to bright colors in the main menu. Then I just clicked in the same place to achieve glorious fireworks using basic white color in between clicks.”

I tried this and it creates some very nice results that look similar to the orange and yellow fireworks above, but you must be careful not to click too much or you lose the effect. Go in and try different Hue settings. Once you get some settings you like, be sure to save as a new brush so you do not have to keep resetting it every time you try a different brush. (See my blog on “How to Create Photoshop Brushes from Objects or Text.”)

Combining the two processes



For the above image, both fireworks brushes and several jpg images from Obsidian Dawn were used. Since the fireworks are on a white background, I used the free Adobe Pixel Bender filter and my favorite filter for it, the free Kill White filter (This filter does not appear to be available anymore but am not sure about Pixel Bender.) It works better with Pixel Bender than just as a Photoshop plug-in) to delete the white areas – can get some very interesting effects using Kill White so I recommend downloading it. (Note often an error warning comes up when applying Pixel Bender – just say OK.) Below is the workflow used for the jpgs.

  1. Open up your base nighttime image.
  2. Drag over one of the jpg from Adobe Bridge – comes in as a Smart Object so adjust the size and position. The right click on the layer and choose Rasterize layer to remove Smart Object.
  3. Go to Pixel Bender and select MikeYael_Kill White. Pixel Bender is not long available but Select -> Color Range is and choose Shadows. Say OK and a layer mask – then apply it.
  4. Double click on the fireworks layer and open the Layer Style. Choose the Gradient Overlay and set the Style to Radial. Open up the different Gradients and load any new ones you want to try by clicking the popout at the top right and appending them. Then adjust the Scale, try reversing the colors and changing the blend mode.

To get the reflection on the water, after making all your fireworks, put them in a group named fireworks. Next right click on the Layers Panel popout and select Merge Group to create just one layer of the firework objects. Free Transform (CTRL+T) and select Flip Vertical. Hold SHIFT Key and drag straight down to a point. Enter. Go to Filter -> Blue -> Gaussian Blue and select a Radius between 3 and 10. Add  a layer mask to mask out anywhere the reflection should not be or to tone down some of the brighter colors with a 20% opacity soft round Brush. Can add in some smoke with the Basic Soft Cloud Brush and set to a very low opacity – usually between 5 to 10%.

I guess you can tell that an image which may not be that great can take on a really nice look with the fireworks. This has once again been a lot of fun to explore and try. It is really worth your time to play around with some of these effects – you can learn a lot! Hope everyone has a very happy Fourth of July celebration!…..Digital Lady Syd