The last two years I have done blogs on inexpensive gift items that I felt were a good deal if you are a Photoshop and/or Lightroom lover like I am. All the previous items I still recommend and would still make great gifts.
This year I am running a little late with my list, but I thought I would add a few more items that might help you out if you need another quick, last-minute gift. All can be downloaded in some form and put on an inexpensive little thumb drive from WalMart or Staples for a nice little gift. These items are not listed in any particular order, just how I thought of them.
1. Topaz ReStyle ($59.99)
The snowman greeting above used this Photoshop plug-in which has turned out to be my favorite Topaz plug-in (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) – since I love all their plug-ins, that is quite a statement! I almost always try it on every image opened in Photoshop, usually as a last step, just to see if a slightly better color palette can be achieved. More times than not I will apply it. At least try out the trial to see if you like it – just a fabulous plug-in that no one else has. The snowman image was originally in whites, greens and browns, which looked okay. But when put into Topaz ReStyle and the Warm Steel Wash preset applied, this was the result which looks more wintry to me. Totally love this plug-in as seen by the various references to it throughout many of my recent blog postings.
This is a set of 46 presets that I use all the time – I love the way he has added different light effects that sit on top of your other presets in many cases. It can really helps even out a dark corner in an image and the presets can be easily edited in Lightroom if the effect is too strong. These sell for $10 or you can get a bundle with David duChemin’s Lightroom presets (see last year’s #10 item) and get them for $16. Can’t go wrong with either set.
This image of the Colonial Park Cemetery (the link is to a website on the ghosts said to haunt the cemetery in Savannah, Georgia where over 10,000 people are said to buried) used both David duChemin’s Toxic Cool Heavy + MTC preset which added the soft fall tones, and Dave Delnea’s Backlight Horizontal Left preset that filled the back corner with light for a more natural tree shadow and lighter background.
3. Argus Preset Viewer ($9.99)
Last year I recommended the Preset Viewer Breeze by Tumasoft (last years #3 item) and it has been a great little program, but the Argus Preset Viewer appears to me to be just as good, faster and cheaper. It adds thumbnails down the right side of your Windows Explorer where you can view a complete set of Photoshop brushes, swatches, styles, shapes, gradients, or patterns. This is such a time-saver and at such a reasonable price. Definite must have!
Above is an example of how my free Cloud Brushes look in the Argus Preset Viewer from my Deviant Art site when highlighted in the Windows Explorer.
4. Flypaper Nik Color Efex Presets ($8)
We all know that Flypaper Textures are great. Recently they offered 84 presets for Nik’s Color Efex Pro plug-in and they have turned out to be really nice. Also gives a great starting point for stacking several filters to get an interesting effect. And the good thing is that they are very inexpensive! This would be a great stocking stuffer!
This image used three plug-ins: Topaz DeNoise, Nik Color Efex Pro using the Fly For Girls preset which stacked Cross Processing, Darken/Lighten Center, Reflector Efex, and Graduated Neutral Density filters, and Nik Viveza. The clouds were added using my brushes 1 and 2 in brush set shown above. The image is of an old residential building in the Belarusian countryside outside Minsk – I have always wondered what stories it could tell.
5. Melissa Gallo’s Painted Textures ($5 to $35)
Her textures are so gorgeous and I use them on many of my images. If you like the very true vivid painted texture look, check out her textures. She does have a couple texture sets at very reasonable prices – her Winter Solstice Mini Collection of 10 textures for $20 and her Monet Collection of 20 textures for $35. This is something that you cannot get right now, but usually the first Friday of each month, she offers two of her beautifully painted textures for sale for $5 – only time they will be available. She has some more expensive bundles with tutorials and actions included. If your Photoshopper likes textures, definitely check these out.
Just an example of what several of Melissa’s beautiful textures can produce. My mums were not that outstanding an image, but by stacking Melissa’s Mist on the Lake texture at 100% opacity and painting back the flower, her Thanksgiving Mayflower texture set to Overlay blend mode at 87% layer opacity, and finally her Spring Rain texture set to Soft Light blend mode at 92% opacity, an interesting and unique texture look can be achieved. These textures were all from her 2 for $5 deals each month.
6. Lightroom 5 Unmasked E-Book ($20)
If you are like me and get a little discouraged that every time Adobe upgrades their software, you have to spend bunches of money on a new book to cover all the little upgrades they did, this is the solution. When Adobe upgraded to Lightroom 4, I bought Piet Van den Eynde E-book and it served my purposes since I knew how to use the program, just needed a quick reference for the new things. When Lightroom 5 came out, Piet came out with an update to his book for just a few dollars (Lightroom 5 Up to Speed) and I was now all set for version 5. His updated complete Lightroom 5 E-book is 356 pages.
7. Trey Radcliff’s Photomatix Pro Presets ($14.97)
Needless to say anything Trey sells has got to be good! I am listing these presets as they are very unique and once again I do not know anyone who sells this type of item. Trey also has several nice inexpensive Lightroom preset sets and many inexpensive E-books available in his website store so check them all out.This is a 3-image HDR using Photomatix Pro 5.0 and Trey’s A Little Sumfum Sumfin preset was applied.Some mushroom edge sharpening and a radial vignette were added in Lightroom. These were the tiniest mushroom I have ever seen, only 2 inches high at the max, and I had to shoot them lying on my stomach! I actually expected a little tiny hobbit to walk out!
8. The Way of the Digital Photographer by Harold Davis ($25.61)
I have always been a big fan of Harold Davis ever since he released The Photoshop Darkroom and The Photoshop Darkroom 2 books (they are still great books). This book is his latest and I just bought it. Planning on spending a few days enjoying some of his new techniques this holiday. Anyway, not sure you can go wrong with any Harold Davis book and they are all available in Kindle editions from Amazon.
I just bought this and it looks really good. Snapseed is a free IPhone or Adroid application from Nik to create all kinds of interesting effects on your phone images. The above E-book, example images, and videos from Flatbooks discuss how to get the most out of this really cool app. Would make a great gift for someone just getting a new phone (like I did).
A COUPLE FREE ITEMS THAT MIGHT BE USEFUL
For people who do not really want to buy Photoshop because they do not need to use it that much, this is a pretty good alternative. Adobe no longer is supporting this version but they will let you download it for free. Since it is a 10-year old program, it lacks a lot of the bells and whistles of the newer versions, but for people who just want to add an adjustment layer or select with a channel, this is not a bad way to go. Thought I would put this out there since not everyone is as crazy about Photoshop as I am. And the bonus is that you can learn the basics of some of the other Adobe programs and see if you might want to actually upgrade to the CC Cloud verion. The link above goes to a recent Gizmoto blog that discusses this in more detail and contains the link to Adobe.
This is a Photoshop Panel that I have been trying out a little but have not spent much time on it due to the holiday overload. It is a free download and you might want to give it a shot. It is opened from the Window -> Extensions -> NKS5 where a panel with all kinds of brushes and effects are set up on icons. It could be a real time saver. I actually added it to Photoshop CC without any issues even though it says it is for CS5 and CS6.
For some other fairly inexpensive gifts for the photographer, check out this recent episode of The Grid where Photoshop Guys Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski discuss all kinds of items. Lots of fun to watch too. Also, I cannot say enough good things about Creative Live and all the programs they present. If you like what you see during the live presentations, you can get the videos for a reduced price. Keep checking in as they often have different videos at reasonable prices – several are under $50. Still one of the best places to learn about all types of programs that have to do with photography.
Hope this little blog will give everybody some quick ideas for their last minute shopping. Happy Holidays everybody!…..Digital Lady Syd
This may sound like a really hard thing to do, but it is amazing how easy it is! And it can save a bunch of time if tailored to your own workflow. Adobe states “Configurator is a utility application that helps create custom panels for Photoshop and InDesign. Configurator makes it easy to drag and drop tools, menu items, scripts, actions, and other objects into a panel design, then export the results for use in Photoshop or InDesign.” Many people use specialized panels set up just to teach Photoshop.
Why use a personal panel? For me it saves a lot of time when I am switching between two different tools. For example, there are many times I am going between a regular brush and a mixer brush. By setting up the two tool icons in the panel, it is very quick for me to click on the icon with my Wacom stylus to switch between them. Switching to the Eraser Tool is nice to have. Menu items used all the time can be added to your panel (like the Convert to Smart Object button below) and even actions can be connected here (see in the Postcards panel all the actions I have connected there). Here is an example of a pretty basic panel I created and actually nested with the History, Adjustments, and Properties panels. Multiple tabbed panels can be created. I will be tweaking this one since you can go back and edit them to make it easier to use, but it was a good start. (Double-click on screenshot to see it better in Flickr.)
Go to Adobe’s website and download the Adobe Configurator 4 – here is the link to the Adobe page for Photoshop CS6 and CC. The basic steps needed to get the panel up and going on your computer are provided. Basically Adobe AIR needs to be downloaded to make sure the latest edition is on your computer, then load the Adobe Configurator 4. Unfortunately it appears the Adobe Configurator 3 download links have recently been removed from Adobe Labs which CS4 and CS5 need – if you are interested, I would drop them a line and see if they could hook you up with the ones that worked with those two versions.
Adobe has a 16-minute introductory video on the Adobe Configurator 3 from Adobe TV which also shows how to put your panels up on Adobe Exchange if you have created one you would like to share. The Sample Panels version 4 does not appear to be working but Adobe is expecting to update Configurator within the next few weeks. When you first open up Adobe Configurator 4, you get a nice 5 step workflow to get your started. Thought I would copy them for you to give you an idea about how easy it is to get started doing this. So from Adobe:
1. Begin by created a new panel (File -> New Panel).
2. Drag items you want to add to your panel from the area on the left, then drop them inside the new panel.
3. Use the controls on the right to customize the layout and functionality.
4. When finished, export your panel (File -> Export). NOTE: At this point also do a File -> Save Panel As to get a File Name.gpc file that is needed to edit the panel in Configurator at a later time – and be sure to save it in a different place than the Photoshop Panel folder.
5. In Photoshop CC or Photoshop CS6 or InDesign CS6, load your new panel from the Window -> Extensions menu. (Restart Photoshop or InDesign after exporting your panel for the first time).
That is really all there is to it – very simple to do. I don’t know why everyone is not creating panels for all their different workflows. Adobe says to make a CS4 or CS5 panel compatible with CS6, you must open the Configurator 1-3 format file in Configurator 4 and when it asks you to create a CS6 panel – say yes. Then export for CS6 (File -> Export Panel). To make your panel compatible with CC, choose Edit > Convert to CC, then go to File -> Export Panel and navigate to the CC Panel folder. There is a slight difference between the files the two programs use. (In Windows the Panel folder resides in the Plug-ins folder.) If also saving your file for further editing, be careful not to Save As to your Photoshop Panel folder, or the panel will not appear in the Windows -> Extensions list. (I did this and had to figure out what went wrong.) I had forgotten how much I used the panel created for Dan Margulis’s workflow in CS4. (Double-click on image to get a better look in Flickr.) Here is a screenshot of the Postcards panel when opened in Photoshop CS6 – obviously I put it on my second monitor or I would not be able to see anything! You can make the column quite small so it does not get in the way for less complicated panels. If you are having problems with the Configurator, Adobe does have a forum group that is linked with the download link above. BTW, if you decide you do not want an Extension in your program, open up the Adobe Extension Manager and go to File -> Remove Extension. You will need to download the Adobe Extension Manager CC from the Adobe Application Manager if you did not while installing the new Photoshop CC. The top image was created using the my Postcards panel created for Dan Margulis’ techniques – he goes for very exact color and sharpness to an image. He is one of the original Photoshop Gurus – at Photoshop World in Las Vegas in 2009 he presented his Picture Postcard Workflow, and that is what my panel was based on. Here is the Dan Margulis website to get more info on his techniques and a free download of a much better panel than what I created earlier. Dan’s panel is an excellent example of what can be done using the Configurator. (Once his file is downloaded, double-click on the file and the Adobe Extension Manager for your version of Photoshop will open. It then adds it into the correct panel folder in Photoshop.) All of his books are excellent but extremely technical, so be ready for a challenge!
If you have looked through any of my Fun Photoshop Blogs, you will find several other people’s panels that can be added to Photoshop to do all sorts of things. See my Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs below for links to panels others have created. They are all using this program to create some very original uses. Hope you get a chance to try this out. At least it is very easy to create new ones. Give it a go and see what you think!…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Using a Tych Panel to Show Off Your Images
Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5!
Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel Updated!
Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script
Last week I gave away a template to organize your images for use on a Valentine or for just putting related ideas together. (See Using a Template to Create Your Own Unique Valentine.) This week I found this incredible little free program that can be loaded into Photoshop CS5 or CS6 as a panel that does a very similar thing. This is totally ingenious and very simple. All you need is to have your images or objects already post-processed and a bit of an idea on how you want to put them together. For the Tych above, the images are all from the 24th Annual Native American Festival in Ormond Beach, Florida – I had a great time photographing. Above are a few of the images I have completed the post-processing on and put together to form what I consider a pretty nice grouping of the event. I plan on blogging on how I created some of the effects in the individual images at a later time.
So let’s talk about Tych Panel 2 by Reimund Trost. The best way to learn about it is to view the short video for instructions on how to use it. Basically you can add rows, columns, additional rows after you have created it, background color, borders and/or rounded corners around each image and/or the whole image, and even use it from Adobe Bridge if you want. Totally cool and very fast. It is action based and the order of the images can be set for each row or column you create or add. Really gives a nice quick result for posting to blogs. All I can say is that it was a lot of fun to do. The grouping of flowers below was my first effort and took just a couple minutes – I really liked the results!
There are only a couple of little issues I noticed when using the program.
- First, you need to make sure your images are all in the same folder for each row or column you are adding as there is no way to add additional images from another folder to form each individual row or column. Unfortunately the panel does not interface with Lightroom where you could use a collection for image selection.
- The second issue is that the program will adjust the image to fit in an opening – if the aspect ratios of the images you are selecting to create a row or column are different, part of the image will be compressed so they fit uniformly. If you are adding a landscape sized image with a portrait sized image, it apparently makes the portrait sized image the same height as the landscape – it appears much smaller in your image. If you add three different sized images into a row, it takes the largest sized image and adjust the other images to that size by compressing them. So far, none of the image sizes I have added are too changed so they still look pretty nice. The easiest way around this is to make sure your images are the same size before adding them to the Tych.
If you want to exchange an image, I usually turn off all the layers except for the one I want to replace. If you used rounded corners on your images, right click on the black layer mask thumbnail and select Disable Layer Mask (a big red X appears in it). Now File ->Place your new image above the one to be replaced, and Free Transform it so the old and new images are the same size. Double click on the black layer mask to enable it and drag it up to the new image. Then delete the old layer.
This is another example showing the rounded edges on just the flower images. I added a French Kiss Solstice Zest textured background on this image and a couple curves to create the background effect I wanted.
The panel below was created using four images, one column on the left and three on the right; then turning off Column 1 Group which contains the three layers on the right side. The background treatment was a bit complicated. If you have the border turned on in the Tych Panel options, I usually drag that top Border layer down to just above the background layer so my background appears complete on the image. 2 Lil’ Owls Mosaic Set crescent grunge (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) was added at 55% opacity above the background layer. Next 2 Lil’ Owls French Brocante Set 10-1 texture with the beautiful Eiffel Tower image was added and set to Linear Burn at 85% opacity. Above that a New Layer was added and French Kiss Spattered4-06 brush at 511 pixels was applied in black over the whole layer – loved the drippy watercolor feel although it just adds a cloudy looking effect once combined with the other textures. 2 Lil’ Owls Enchanted2-4 png overlay was put on the next layer at 45% opacity. Note that the small flower image can be adjusted within the larger background image by just using the Move Tool and dragging – the layer mask will adjust as you move the image. An Inner Shadow and Stroke layer style was added to the flower image to make it stand out more. Another New Layer was placed above the pink flower image and one stroke using Flowers Swirls and Hearts Sampled Brush 8 was added next. Last a slight contrast adjustment was made on a Curves Adjustment Layer. This image really does not have a very organized look to it, but the image guide did really help me to figure out how to lay out this image.
This panel is really fun to use and shows off your images so quickly. Very handy to have when wanting to put a quick collage together for a friend or for a blog post. Just watch the aspect ratios on your images and it will all work fine. If you own Photoshop CS5 or CS6, give this a try. It is extremely easy to use and the results can be quite stunning…..Digital Lady Syd
I have been enjoying processing some of my Hawaiian images recently and noticed that I really liked the orange-brown tones on some of them. Often the greens tone, especially in the beautiful Hawaiian landscapes, becomes a bit overwhelming so this creates a more appealing look. This technique basically involves using Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in using two filters to start the look (although a very similar effect could be obtained using Color Efex Pro 3) and then Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel (see my blog on “Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel – A Real Winner!“) to finish it up.
The image above looks out on the Pacific Ocean from the Big Island’s Eastern Side near Umauma Falls and creates a particularly nice feel with this effect added. After applying SJ-My Vivid Drawing Look preset in Lightroom orACR (be sure to adjust the new Shadows and Whites sliders if using Lightroom 4 or Photoshop CS6) and doing basic spot clean up to the image, it was first taken into Nik’s Color Efex Pro and two filters were stacked (and saved as a preset): Contrast Color Range (Color set to 221 degrees, Color Contrast set to 147%, Brightness set to 7%, Contrast set to 8%, and Highlights set to 54%) and Brilliance/Warmth (Saturation set t0 21%, Warmth set to 32%, and Perceptual Saturation set to 21%). In this case a plain black Image Border was also added (Type 13 set to Size -66% and Spread 0%). Next Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel was opened and Flypaper Texture‘s Apple Blush Texture added as a layer on top set to Overlay Blend Mode at 83% opacity. That was it! It gives a really soft warm feel to the image and it looks the way I remember it.
This image (taken of the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa beach area) followed a similar process except that the original image had more overall problems. Since the sky was blown out in the original, a little more texture had to be added to the sky to keep the warm feel. The same Color Efex Pro filter recipe was applied, and then textures were added from Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel – Flypaper’s Leaky Garret texture set to Soft Light Blend Mode at 100% Opacity, and the Apple Blush texture set to Overlay Blend Mode at 100% Opacity. A new texture layer using ShadowHouse Creations ScratchBox4 texture set to Hard Light Blend Mode at 48% Opacity was applied next to give the cloud look in the sky. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was created with Saturation set to +43 to add more yellow to the sky only (filled Layer Mask with black and painted back just the sky). I still was not happy so a Curves Adjustment Layer was added to just make the water brighter (filled the layer mask with black and painted back in the water). A Gradient Map Adjustment Layer was added using the Graphix1 Warhol 2 gradient that goes from a whitish yellow to a medium yellow to lighten the whole image just a little more, and the layer was set to Linear Burn Blend Mode at 22% Opacity. OnOne’s PhotoFrame (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog) Grunge 10 was added as a last step.
This image used the same Color Efex Pro stacked filters as the first image with no changes to settings. I also used Nik’s Viveza 2 to adjust a color imbalance in the plant reflection and to tone down the blue sky in the left corner. Back in Photoshop, using Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel, Apple Blush texture was set to Overlay Blend Mode at 43% Opacity, and Muscatel texture set to Linear Light Blend Mode at 51% Opacity. If the effect is too strong on any of the image, just add a layer mask to the texture and use a low opacity brush to paint out some of the effect on the mask. I did that with the Muscatel texture where the orange fish became a little too electric for my taste. Finally a Curves Adjustment Layer was used to add back a little contrast to the image.
I think this technique is a nice change of pace for tree and plant landscape images, but I did not have much luck using it on other type images. Since I do like to experiment with Nik plug-ins, I got the idea to use the Contrast Color Range filter from Nik’s Education Blog. Each week they are examining a different filter and showing you what it will do. Hope you enjoy this recipe, it is really easy and fun to use!…..Digital Lady Syd