I do not use actions very often, partly because the good creative ones are very expensive. But Jerry Jones at Shadowhouse Creations came up with three sets of actions that I am finding really nice and plan on using. The image above used the Fond Memories Action in Action Set 3. First the image was cropped and basic sliders were adjusted in Lightroom. (See below for all the original images as brought in from Lightroom 4.1.) Then once in Photoshop, Topaz (see website link in sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Detail’s Overall Medium Detail II preset was applied and some basic flower clean up was done. When using Jerry’s actions, I like to first create a duplicate copy of the image (Image -> Duplicate) just before running the action. The duplicate image is then flattened (click pop-out window in upper right corner of Layers Panel and select Flatten). It also goes a lot faster if you set the image is set to 8-bit mode first (go to Image -> Edit -> 8-bit) – this is OK if you are not planning to create a huge final print. Next my free SJ Impasto Smeary Flat texture (created while messing around in Corel Painter with an Impasto brush – who knew I would use it) was applied and set it to Hard Light at 20% opacity. Next French Kiss Artiste Collections‘s Savoire Faire Overlay was added and using a layer mask, the French lettering was removed from the flower. The last step applied Shadowhouse Creations Grunge Gift Stock 10 texture set to Color Burn blend mode at 81% opacity.
Loved this shot of a very patriotic corvette from the 39th Annual Daytona Turkey Run (I love corvettes!). Anyway, the image did not need much work as the car was so pretty as is, but I did manage to run Shadowhouse Creations Classy HDR Effect from his Action Set 2. I actually used the History Brush to paint back the original image windshield as the action caught too much glare in the glass. If you have not used the History Brush, it is a pretty nifty tool for these kind of issues. Just select the History Brush in the toolbox, set the brush opacity to 100% in this case, go up to the original image (or history state that includes the part you want painted back in) in the History Panel and click to the left of the histsory state’s thumbnail to set the History Brush icon. Now add a New Layer and paint back the parts you want restored. In this case a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added and clipped it to the New Layer (ALT+click between the layers to link it} so just the changes occur to the New Layer. Then the Saturation was set to -54 to match the image better.
This image of Purple Fountain Grass uses the beautiful Classy Sepia Action from Action Set 1. I really liked the tone this action creates. This image first required a lot of clean up due to the various background distractions, and Topaz Detail 3 was applied to just the focal parts of the grass. I saved this image and then started with a flattened image to apply the action. Next Shadowhouse Creations Scratchbox 3 texture was applied at Normal blend mode and 43% opacity – a layer mask was added to paint out the center but left the edges softened by the texture. A PNG grunge border was added which I created (see my How to Make Frames or Borders blog). A beige Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped to the frame.
I really loved this action – the Dreamy Paint Action from Action Set 3. First I duplicated the flower in the first image and warped it so it sits behind the other flower. Then I ran the action, did some background clean up, and added a texture made with a spatter brush and turned into a PNG file so the background color still comes through behind the texture (set to 35% opacity). A Curves Adjustment layer was clipped to the layer to bring out some of the tones a little more. The last step involved adding an Edge Frame and changing the color with a clipped Color Fill Adjustment Layer. (See my Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 9: Get the Shot! Tidbits blog for more info on this.) Last step involved just sharpening the flower centers a little using Topaz Detail 3 Overall Medium II preset on flower centers only.
Pretty basic image here with little change in Lightroom before bringing into Photoshop. This time I ran the Hot Cocoa Action from Action Set 3. Since the middle ground got a little dark, I used the History Brush again on the original and painted back the grassy area behind the church and set the layer to 35% opacity. Next on a stamped or composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Topaz Detail 3 was applied using Overall Medium Detail II preset – a black layer mask was added and just the brick texture and the church spires were sharpened. My Thin Double Edged Frame layer style was applied using brown and beige for colors. I liked the warm color of the church in this image – really brightened up a rather bluish original.
Above are the original images as brought in from Lightroom 4.1 (the view in portrait mode is shortened) so you can compare with my final results. I have been a big fan of the ShadowHouse Creations website – Jerry graciously gives away many wonderful textures which I have used repeatedly. He is asking for donations of $5 for Action Set 1 and $7 each for Action Sets 2 and 3. If you compare this to what most people are charging, this is incredibly reasonable for the scope of the actions you are getting. For more Before and After images, check out the individual set links. A few of the actions that use filters tend to run a little slow, probably due the high CS6 RAM use. That is why I have been changing to 8-bit mode before running them. On many of the actions you can go into the History Palette and change a setting or stop at a certain step if you are not happy with a result. So far I have not needed to do this. Well I hope you will check out Jerry’s great website and think about donating to use his actions. Thanks Jerry for the wonderful actions!…..Digital Lady Syd
I really love taking photos but I am slowly realizing that once in Photoshop, I end up with something entirely different than what I had in mind! There is an older book, Photoshop Secrets of the Pros by Mark Clarkson, where players “pass images back and forth making changes as they go” for a set number of rounds, ie., Photoshop Tennis. This book first got me thinking about doing radically different effects to images. Last week I did a blog on Digital Lady Syd’s Photo Art Workflow where I basically showed what I do to give a different feel to an image. This week I am continuing with that theme showing other options to get more of that photo art look. The images are also examples of what happens when I start playing around with different combinations of effects in Photoshop – I am never quite sure what I will end up with. I also downloaded and tried Photomatix Pro’s new program Merge to 32-bit HDR this week so that was part of the first two images’ workflow. This image of the Ormond Heritage Condominiums (located where the old Hotel Ormond used to reside in Ormond Beach, Florida) was first processed as a five-image HDR shot using Merge to 32-bit HDR. The really neat thing is that if you already own Photomatix HDR Pro 4.2 and Lightroom 4.2, you can download it for free from the link above. All you do is select all the HDR images in Lightroom, go to File -> Export and select Merge to 32-bit HDR (or just right click and go down to Export and select the program). A dialog opens where I chose the following: Preprocessing and Merging (Align Images, Crop aligned result,by matching features, and include perspective correction) and Remove ghosts; and Name Merged File: Combined file names and check Stack with first selected photo and Scale pixel values to fixed range. The images are processed very quickly and a TIFF file is placed back with the original images, just as if you had done this in Photoshop’s Merge to HDR, except Photomatix never opens up a program – it all happens inside Lightroom. What a cool little program from Photomatix! The above image was mainly processed in Topaz photoFXlab (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog) plug-in using Topaz Adjust presets. See Image 1 settings below for more info.
When adjusting the crop on the top image in Lightroom, I got a quick look at what a small crop would look like. Basically I just liked the way it looked – the frosted light of the lamp post and the comfortable porch balconies make you want to sit outside and enjoy the view and weather. The only thing done on this image in Photoshop was using Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and stacking a bunch of filters: High Key, Sunlight, Detail Extractor, Dark Contrasts, Bi-Color Filters and Image Borders. It just works!
This image was also processed in Lightroom using PhotoMatix Pro’s Merge to 32-bit HDR. I then did my adjustments on the resulting TIFF file in Lightroom. In Photoshop I decided right away to use the new Topaz photoFXlab program where Topaz Simplify and Topaz Lens Effects were used from the Plugins tab. See settings for Image 3 for the exact info on how this was applied.
Here is the same image with exactly the same settings as in the image above except for the framing, but the twist is that a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the Vivid Light texture and set to a Difference blend mode at 71% opacity. I loved the way it looks like as if it is being drenched in some bright light – almost a spooky feeling. I am glad I did not stop with just the image created above as I think I like this one better – there may be more of a story in this image.
The next two images show an example of starting with a night photo taken with my point-and-shoot camera at the Gold Lion Cafe in Flagler Beach, Florida, and turning it into a really interesting almost wintery looking sketch. I did not exactly plan this result. The night image is definitely what it looked like that night as I sat topside and listened to the ocean waves rolling in. But I really like the final image with the artistic pop added.
Here is the image with a more photo art feel.
Both images took a lot of manipulation but the second one used the Layer Styles dialog to get the beautiful color out of it. See Image 6 settings below to see how this was done.
As you can see, if you stick to the basic workflow, which all these images did, but add in that new tool or different feature (like the Layer Style Blend If sliders or the new Lookup Adjustment Layer or a unique crop or blend mode combinations), you can get some very different and interesting images and end up in a totally different spot. As always, every time I work on images, it is always completely consuming and lots of fun – otherwise, why do it? Tennis anyone?…..Digital Lady Syd
Settings for Image 1: Once the Tiff image is taken into Photoshop after making Lightroom adjustments, the background layer was duplicated Topaz photoFXlab plug-in was opened. After duplicating the layer, the Mask tab was selected and the plain sky was deleted. A new cloud image was load using +From File and placed under the top layer. A stamped layer was created using +From Stack and Topaz Adjust was opened up and Photo Pop preset was applied. In the Brushes tab, detail was increased throughout the image. PhotoFXlab was exited. The background was duplicated again and put on top in Photoshop. This layer was taken into Topaz photoFXlab again and Topaz Adjust’s preset Painting Venice was applied. Back in Photoshop a black layer mask was added and the bright areas of the image were painted in to add depth to the trees in the image. ShadowHouse Creations You’d Be Surprised texture was applied using Overlay blend mode at 34% opacity. Finally a Curves Adjustment layer was added. My frame layer style (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames) was added sampling colors from the image.
Settings for Image 3: Duplicated layer in plug-in. In Adjustments tab used these settings: Temp -4, Tint 23, Sat -12, Exp 1.80, Contrast -8, Dynamics 49, Sharpness 51, and Shadows 22. In InstaTone tab image from 500 px of an orange leaf from Aliona Shewtsova and set the layer to Saturation blend mode at 74%, which really brought out the colors. Next a +From Stack stamped layer was created. In Plugins tab Topaz Simplify was opened and the BuzzSim preset was applied as is. In the Adjustments Tab these settings were used: Temp -17, Contrast -5, Dynamics 87, and Sharpness 3. Layer opacity was set to 83%. Stamped using +From Stack. Plugins Tab used Lens Effects and applied Vignette Selective section-Soft Olive Green preset with these settings: Center on right side of slide, Vignette Strength 0.21, and Opacity 50%. Exit plug in. Exit Topaz photoFXlab. Flypaper Apple Blush taster texture was applied using Vivid Light blend mode at 100% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was applied with the individual channels being adjusted to bring out the colors I wanted. My thin double edges layer style was applied (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames).
Settings for Image 5: After basic color adjustment in Lightroom (just a single shot), this image was opened in Photoshop CS6 and Nik Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in was opened. These filters were stacked: Midnight using Neutral Color Set set to 65% Overall Transparency; Bi-Color Filters using the #1 Color Set; and Photo Stylizer using Cool Silver, Style 1, Strength 38% and Overall Opacity 61%. Back in Photoshop Sarah Gardner’s Blush Ginger texture was added and set to Overlay blend mode. The new Lighting Effects Filter in CS6 was used to add some soft light to the center lantern lights – the Spotlight effect was used at an Intensity of 7 and Ambience of 60. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer set to Abstract and Gold-Blue and the layer was set to a Screen blend mode at 64%. OnOne PhotoFrame (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog) Emulsion 02 was added sampling a dark color from the image for the color.
Settings for Image 6: After applying the same Color Efex Pro filters as Image 5, the image was opened up into Topaz Simplify and a Sketch preset I had previously created was applied so that the lines looked pretty much like a black and white sketch. (To create, use Mode Edges; Colorspace RGB and all sliders in Simplify section – set all to 0.00 except Details Boost 1.00, Remove Size 0.08, and Remove Weak 0.10; Adjust section – Brightness 0.00, Contrast 0.73, Saturation 1.40, and Saturation Boost 1.92; and Edges – MonoEdge Normal, Edge Strength 5.00, Simplify Edge 0.22, Reduce Weak 0, Reduce Small 0, and Flatten Edge 2.28. To adjust the sketch detail and darkness, adjust the Simplify Edge slider.) Now here is the tricky part – a Layer Style was added by double clicking on the layer and in the Blending Options dialog, the Blend If section is used. On This Layer, the black tab was split by ALT + clicking on the tab the split tabs set to 0 and 164 – the white tab was left at 255. On Underlying Layer, the White Tab was split and set to 0 and 72 and the Black Tab left at 0. It looks really weird but it gave me the color effect I liked. This layer was set to Lighten at 100% opacity. A composite layer was created (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) and using Select -> Color Range, the white was selected. CTRL+Backspace to delete the white from the image. Two layers were created underneath the top layer and using Best Mcbad Watercolor Brushes 22 and 30, a watercolor sky was created using blue and light pink. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added to increase the saturation in the Yellows. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to increase contrast. This image used different settings for the Lighting Filter – Intensity 5 and Ambience 93 – only wanted a slight glow since it is daylight. Some clean up was done. My Layer Style (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames) was added to frame the image and that was it! Whew!
I am constantly amazed at how some of my images turn out – not at all what I had expected. This week I am going to go through my photo art workflow step-by-step so you can see what a difference a little tweaking will do. One of my favorite image types to play with in Photoshop are shots of art works. It is a nice break from cleaning up photos of family and large travel landscapes and gives me the opportunity to be creative. This image is of a type of art I had never heard of before that is on display at my favorite local museum – the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida. These are examples of Victorian era cigar band art. The Photoshop-processed image above is my final photo art result and the one I liked the best, but there were several other choices I considered.
NOTE: If you want to see the settings used for any of the steps, just click on the image and the larger Flickr image will appear.
- Here is the initial image as a RAW NEF file. The dishes were enclosed in a glass case and the camera settings were a 44-mm lens at F/4.8, 1/8 sec, and ISO 1250. There is a lot of light glare on the pieces. This image is not one I would normally choose to process, but I just loved the composition of the items and the colors in the cigar bands.
- My next step was to create a Virtual Copy in Lightroom (this does not have to be done if using Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop) to try to clean up the tone a little before going into Photoshop. Since only a few changes were done here, it does not look much different. First I go to the Lens Correction section and select the Profile tab where I set my lens info, and then the Color tab where I check Remove Chromatic Aberration (this can save a lot of time later). The next step would be to adjust the Crop of the image if it needs it – in this case it did not. Now adjust the Basic sliders. Also check out the noise in the image and try to correct if needed. Next I right click on the image in Lightroom and select “Edit In -> Edit in Adobe Photoshop CS6” which now opens up Photoshop, if it is not already open, with your image.
- I am a big fan of combining my plug-ins until I get just the effect I like. If I do not like what results, I just delete that layer and try again. I always duplicate the background first so I know what the image looked like to start. On a really difficult image, which I considered this one to be, I usually will first open up Nik Color Efex Pro 4 – they have so many filters, you can sometimes get a great look right away. Shown below are stacked filters Tonal Contrast, which I believe is one of the best filters in this plug-in; Pro Contrast, which is one of my personal favorites, and works wonders on many of the images I have processed; and Brilliance/Warmth, one of the most popular Color Efex filters – just adds a really soft warmth to an image. Usually I like the Detail Extractor, but it really looked bad on this image due to all the glare on the items. Note that before entering the plug-in, I created a Smart Object (right click on your duplicated layer in Layer Panel and select Convert to Smart Object in menu) as Nik plug-ins work very well with Smart Objects. It allows you to go back into the plug-in and all settings and control points will still be in place so they can be readjusted easily.
- Since there is so much glare in this image, there is only one plug-in I know of that does a good job controlling it and that is my most used plug-in, Nik Viveza 2. It will almost always improve if not remove problem areas on an image. You can see I have added 10 control points on the glare areas (click on image to see the little round circles more clearly in Flickr) to try to even out the tone. By comparing to the above, it is not perfect, but what a difference it makes! The detail and saturation of the image is also much improved. (See my blog Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem!)
- Still have issues where the glare is – it needs to be cleaned up and the pink removed since it draws your eye into the left corner and it is distorted by the glare. The Color Replacement Tool was used to turn the pink color turquoise (see settings used in Options Bar in photo and turquoise foreground color in swatch) and some cloning was done on the dish to even out the pattern where the glare blows out the detail. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to get rid of another pink hot spot. I usually try to work completely non-destructively (meaning the original image was not changed by any of the adjustments made on the layers above), but the Color Replacement Tool is destructive and changes are made on the image itself – the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer may have been a better choice for this problem area.
- I always add or at least try to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to adjust the contrast towards the end of my workflow. Since I thought I was almost done, it seemed appropriate to add it now. Below is what my curve looked like for this image. I usually just drag the Hand Tool (located in the upper lefthand corner of the panel) in the image to get this correct. It usually is just a subtle change but very significant. In this case I only wanted to brighten up the plate and mug where the color was located, not enhance where the glare was. The Curves Adjustment layer mask was turned black by clicking on the mask and CTRL+I to invert the color from white to black. Then a soft 30% opacity brush was set to white and used to gently paint back the areas where the I wanted additional contrast and color. This was a good point to create a composite layer that combines all the layers below into one on top by clicking (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) – this helps when the number of layers gets large as some techniques need a single layer to work correctly – this can especially be a problem with the Clone Tool.
- At this point I thought I was getting the image to a final look. I decided I wanted sort of a vintage type edge on the image, so I used one of my very favorite textures, ShadowHouse Creations Old Photo 6. After trying several blend modes, I selected the Exclusion blend mode (which I do not use that much but worked in this case) set to 53% opacity. Still not sure it was quite what I wanted so I decided to add one of his new Assorted Mask Overlay (08) and set it to Soft Light blend mode at 100% opacity. Basically just the beautiful edges were used on both layers, and the image center was mainly painted out using black in the layer masks to keep the basic image intact. I often use the free Russell Brown Paper Texture Panel to try out and stack the various textures (the green square at the top of the icons to the left of the panels opens it up).
- I must be done???? But then I thought, I wonder what happens if I take this image into the new Topaz photoFXlab (see sidebar for website in my Tidibits Blog). Well that proved to be a problem because I started finding all kinds of new effects I liked on this cleaned up image. The settings below were applied as a first step to the bottom layer for all the different Topaz effects tried on this image.
- I duplicated the bottom layer in the plug-in and applied from the Effects tab a preset called Lithography by H. Hurst (Topaz used the preset from Topaz Detail) and set the layer to 65% opacity. In the Adjustment tab, the Saturation slider was set to 20. The Dodge Brush was used from the Brush tab to whiten around the pupil of the eyes of the girl on the plate using a brush strength of .10. Next the lips were slightly reddened using the Saturation brush. It was saved in the new Topaz extension .pfxl so the settings could be readjusted at a later date if needed. Clicked OK and applied to it to the image in Photoshop. At this point I did create a note to remind myself exactly what I did in the plug-in since I am still learning about the new extension. The image that resulted is shown below.
- To be honest, I just didn’t love the final result so I decided to delete the layer where I applied the photoFXlab plug-in and start over in this plug-in. This time I decided to try out the results using the Plug-in tab and selected Topaz Adjust 5. Here I tried out one of my favorite presets I created from the French Countryside preset in the Vibrant Collection. It looked nice and more like what I wanted. I use this preset a lot when I want a nice artistic feel.
- I decided to try one more preset just to see if I liked it and sure enough, it is the one I selected. It is in the Stylized Collection and is called Painting-Venice. I added several settings in the Finishing Touches section: Transparency – Overall Transparency slider to .7, Color – Warmth 0.03, and Tone – Quad Settings as shown on the image – the correct colors should be set already. Once out of the Adjust plug-in, in the Adjustment tab Exposure was set to 0.38, Contrast to -3 and Dynamics 24.
Well this is a good example of my workflow for a photo art image. I could have used OnOne Software’s wonderful Perfect Effects (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog), or any of the other plug-ins offered by Topaz, but it just depends on what I think will work. Overall the main components are 1) process as discussed above in Lightroom, 2) take into Photoshop and do any clean up, 3) add plug-in effects, 4) add any textures if you want, 5) I always go to Viveza 2 now, 6) do any extra sharpening or noise reduction that might be required, 7) add a Curves Adjustment layer for final tone and contrast, and 8) add any framing. I hope you can see that even though a change is very small, it can be very significant to the photo, and that you can always change your mind. An image can take on such a different feel with different plug-ins and textures applied. I thought originally I wanted a very sharp almost HDR look for this image, but I ended up with a very bright painterly result. I am happy with it but it is not exactly what I had in mind when I started! …..Digital Lady Syd
Since I have reached this major milestone, I decided this week I would show a few examples of what I use the most in Photoshop and what is the most fun for me when using Photoshop. In some of these cases, I will be mentioning certain products or people but that is mainly because I really like what they do – they do not know me. Also, no external plug-ins will be discussed here.
- Photoshop’s Merge to HDR 32-bit ability that can be adjusted in Lightroom 4.1 (see my blog New Lightroom and Photoshop 32-bit Processing Capability)
- Photoshop’s Puppet Warp magic (see Straightening with Puppet Warp!)
Several things were done in Photoshop to process this image of a sailboat model of the USS Constitution located at The Casements in Ormond Beach, Florida. The most important is that a 32-bit tone-mapped image was created in Photoshop’s Merge to HDR, saved as a TIFF file, and then brought into Lightroom 4.1’s Develop module using the sliders to bring out all the details. This now makes Photoshop’s HDR processing on par with several of the other HDR software programs. The TIFF image goes back into Photoshop to finish up using another one of my favorite tools – Puppet Warp – to straighten out the extreme warping in the original image (it was actually applied twice). It was a difficult image to work on since it has a square glass encasement and the horizontal louvered blinds in the background. Just using the arrow keys is sometimes enough to push and pull the image pins the correct amount and Puppet Warp works much better than Lens Correction or the new Adaptive Wide Angle filters for me. Puppet Warp can be used in a Smart Object for readjusting later if needed.
- Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel for Photoshop CS5 and CS6 (see Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel Updated!)
I am slowly really getting into textures – they just do so much for a boring image. The texture above was created using one of the best panels you can apply to Photoshop and that is Dr. Brown’s (may be the top Photoshop guru of all time and works for Adobe) Paper Texture Panel – biggest time saver for anyone that likes to experiment with textures! This is one feature I use all the time and can’t believe I used to go through my textures individually to try them out. To really enhance this process, create a folder on your desktop that contains several sub-folders to place copies of your favorite textures. He recommends keeping these folders to around 20 textures as it takes a while to load if it is much bigger. I have sub-folder on textures I created, my favorite textures I use all the time, and a few on textures I have downloaded or bought. You can switch folders very quickly in the panel. This image used Paul Grand’s Scratches Texture and Gavin Hoey’s beautiful grunge frame 1. I am also putting a plug in here for my favorite texture guy, ShadowHouse Creations, who offers all kinds of beautiful textures for free, and I use them all the time. I reference his textures in many of my older blogs.
- Photoshop Brushes including the wonderful Mixer Brushes! (see Adobe Photoshop CS5′s Mixer Brushes)
Those wonderful brushes in Photoshop! My very first blog featured the above image where I actually used a Photoshop Mixer Brush to paint in the petals of the flowers. This is still one of my favorite painted images – the Oleander flowers in the original were not near as pretty. The background was a Karen Sperling texture called 08Sperling (I believe this now has to be purchased – not sure how I got it) that added was a very delicate complement to the image. She is actually a Corel Painter Master and does some wonderful things in that program.
- The Curves Adjustment Layer (see I Didn’t Know That! Curves Adjustment Layers)
Totally indispensable! The last step I always do before I save an image. A few months ago I viewed a short video tutorial at Kelby Training called Mastering Curves: Adjusting Tonality by Ben Wilmore, another great Photoshop guru, who teaches how to use Curves correctly. (I have found the Kelby Training tutorials to be the best you can find on every aspect of photography and photoshop.) The basic thing to know about Curves is that by selecting the hand tool in the top left of the adjustment panel and dragging straight up in the image it lightens it up, and down darkens it. If you get two dots close and rather flat on a Curve line, you will lose detail. A black layer mask can be created to target just the areas you want changed. It is a pretty simple technique but can improve an image quickly. Also you can save Curve settings if you want to apply them again. The image above of the beautiful birds in the Spring at the Rookery used several Curves Adjustment Layers to match the tones for the composite.
- Layer Styles to create simple framing effect (see Digital Lady Syd’s Free Layer Style Frames).
I have been using this Double Edge Frame layer style a lot on my images – gives a nice clean look with colors that can be sampled from the image. Also plain black borders can easily be created. To download this layer style for free or directions on how to create it, see my blog referenced above. There are many other uses for layer styles that I love, but I use the frames the most. Also a couple textures were added here with Dr. Brown’s Paper Texture Panel.
- Smart Objects (see Black and White Photo or Not? Give It a Try on That Difficult Image)
I love the way you can go back in and fix your settings if you do not like the way they look. Most of the plug-ins I use have Smart Object capability and this is why I use them. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone back into Nik’s Viveza 2 and adjusted my control points! Just another great Photoshop feature. The image above of the Hilton Time Share swimming pool on the Big Island in Hawaii used Smart Objects for both the Nik HDR Efex Pro using Granny’s Attic preset and Viveza 2. Also two Curves Adjustment Layers were used.
I could go on and on about all my favorite features I love. The above are some of the ones I use the most. I thought about writing on the new Defringe section in Lightroom 4.1 and Adobe Camera Raw that works wonders on this problem – better than any of the noiseware software available for controlling the ugly fringe problem. The new sliders in both are much improved and both now do a great job on reducing noise too. Also the Graduated Filter is much improved. Back in Photoshop I love being able to use LAB mode to sharpen some of my images selectively. Content-Aware tools cannot be beat but I still use the plain old Clone Tool the most. And the improved Sharpen Tool is fabulous for those little areas that need a detail boost. I even love the Color Replacement Tool that hardly no one uses! And all the blend modes just add so much to an image. Needless to say, there is a lot to like about Photoshop and so many ways to do things. I guess the real fun is learning new ways to use it and that is why I blog! Hope you have enjoyed some of what I have learned these past couple years!…..Digital Lady Syd
Now that the latest version of photoFXlab (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) has been released for several weeks, I have had a little time to come to grips with how to use the program and integrate it into my workflow. I have been surprised by how often I am using the Masking Brush to add new skies to my landscape images.
The above depicts a really cool private bar on the beach on one of the more remote roads in Marsh Harbour in the Bahamas. I had the fortune of sailing there a couple years ago and am revisiting some of the images I did not process. It is so clear for starters because I converted it to a 32-bit HDR image in Photoshop CS6’s Merge to HDR and then processed the resulting TIFF file in Lightroom. (See my blog New Lightroom and Photoshop 32-bit Processing Capability for info on how to do this). So many of my images from Marsh Harbour had no clouds in them – so I added a few in the background for effect. Now that I am getting familiar with the Edge Aware Masking Brush in photoFXlab, it is turning out to be one of my favorite selection tools.
These are the basic steps to replace a sky and it is very simple:
1. Once inside the plug-in, duplicate the bottom layer (always do this when using photoFXlab – it can save you from a lot of problems in the long run.)
2. Go to +From File button and select a cloud image you like – watch out for the way the sun is lighting up the clouds. If you took the original image in the middle of the day, use a cloud image from a similar time of day. Also be sure it is a jpeg or a psd file (it will flatten the layers when it comes in) – photoFXlab does not open up camera raw files. I took a NEF file I liked and saved it down as a jpg in Photoshop – pretty easy.
3. Use the Tools tab in photoFXlab to Scale, Move or Rotate (or flip) the cloud layer to fit the area you want to fill – line up the part of the image you like, even if the edges go outside the original image size.
4. Move this layer underneath the duplicated image layer.
5. Now the magic starts! Select the Masks tab and create a fairly small size brush setting the Strength to 0 (creates a black line on the mask so you see through to layer underneath), Hardness around .20 (shows a fairly large feather size – set to 1 it has no feather), Flow 1.00 (if you make this .5, you only get a gray or 50% black color and it is hard to keep the tone the same), and Edge Aware 1.00 (set to 0 it will detect no edges). Start painting on the mask – make sure the crosshairs or inner circle of the brush do not enter into any part of the image you want to keep. Let the feather area of the brush slip over other areas so edges between image layers will be sharp. Zoom in if you need to get the details. Paint around the horizon edges first, and then fill in the background with a larger brush size and Edge Aware set to 0. Voila – there is your new sky.
What is really neat is that even if your little edges disappear – like the coat hangars and chain in the above image, the details can sometimes be brought back by lowering the opacity of your cloud image just a little – in this case I set it to 54% since I did not want the clouds being the major center of attention. Just be careful around the horizon lines – set the Strength to 255 (white) to clean up areas that you painted over – it actually acts like an eraser.
The +From Stack button was clicked to create a Stamped or Composite layer on top. In the Adjustments tab the Saturation was set to 23, Contrast to -23, Dynamics to 51, Highlights to -21, and Shadows to -4. The image was brought back into Photoshop where a Curves Adjustment Layer was added for additional contrast and that was it.
This is so much faster than using the Photoshop selection tools or any of the masking plug-ins, but it really works best on skies. I believe other programs should be used when you have a more complicated selection. Still, this is one of the major things I need it for and it works great!
I listened to Topaz Webinar A Closer Look at Edge-Aware Brushes with Nicole Paschal, who does a great job creating interesting and useful webinars that highlight all the Topaz products and how they work together. You can type in questions in an interactive way with both the staff and Nicole as she is presenting the webinar – very informative. Several webinar tips are listed below along with a few of mine:
- If you find that you are not getting a good distinct line between the items you are trying to select, change the brush size down to a smaller size – it will give you a better result as large brushes do not recognize edges as well. The Edge-Aware technology is based upon the color under the crosshair so this gives a smaller and more accurate sample.
- Can either brush or click to fill area. Usually the first pass of brushing will leave little areas not covered completely or with a little haloing, but if you brush back over it , they disappear. Nichole finds that it is easier for her to just click several times as she moves through the area of the image instead of actually brushing.
- Make sure your inner circle is not touching any color you do not want selected.
- Set the Brush Strength to 255 to paint back in areas that you accidentally covered up when painting on the mask. If you set the Strength to 125, the area allows 50% of the layer below to show through, as done in the last image below.
- Probably best to create another +From Stack layer if you want to add some of the Brushes effects to an image. Nicole says she likes to do just one major brush effect to each layer at a time. There is then more flexibility in adjusting opacity and changing blend mode for each change done.
If you look closely, you can tell this Marsh Harbour image used the same cloud image, this time at full strength. The same workflow was used to get the clouds in the image. Normally at this point the Adjustments tab and the Dynamics slider would have been used, but it just did not give me the look I wanted. Therefore Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was selected with these filters stacked: Detail Extractor with control points removing it from the sky, Darken/Lighten Center which gives the slight vignette effect, and Pro Contrast using the Dynamic Contrast slider which I do not always like. Nik Viveza 2 was also used to add detail into the water and sharpen the stones a little. Sometimes you have use more than one plug-in to get the right effect, but the sky still looks great using the Masks tab.
This beautiful Lion’s Face is atop a tower on Flagler College (the old Ponce de Leon Hotel) in St. Augustine, Florida. They are all over the campus and city. These slightly different steps were followed: The Adjustments tab settings were: Saturation set to 2, Contrast -37 and Dynamics +96. From the +From File, Shadowhouse Creations Marshmellow Skies was opened, then scaled and rotated in the Tools tab so it was on a diagonal to fill out the sky area. A Stamp layer was created by clicking the +From Stack button, and in the Effects tab the Black and White Effect preset called Opalotype-Hand Tinted Cream preset was applied. This layer was set to Lighten Blend Mode at 100% Opacity. In the Masks tab again, the middle of image was painted out using a large brush set to a Brush Value of 145 (middle gray) so it just clears the effect from the lion’s face a little. Back in Photoshop my layer style frame was used (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames blog).
Pretty easy and fast to replace a sky in this new program from Topaz. If you have some of their products already, download the photoFXlab trial and see what you think – I personally like the feel of the new interface and am using it a lot!…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz photoFXlab v1.1
Using photoFXlabs v1.1
Usually I try to have a particular theme for my major blog. I have been busy this week but doing all sorts of different things so I decided to just post some of my favorites. The image above is from the Big Island in Hawaii and it was not a first pick when I was processing. After I got a chance to play around in Photoshop with it though, it turned out to be one of my favorites. Sort of represents the kind of terrain that the trees in the area have to contend with and the light was very nice at this spot.
This is a 3-image hand-held HDR shot that ended up with a lot of different steps, starting first with Photoshop’s Merge to HDR to align and remove any ghosting. That tone-mapped image was then taken into Nik’s HDR Efex Pro and one of my favorite presets, Grannys Attic, was applied. Next Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 was applied using another one of my favorite presets, Midnight at 3% blur, which gives the tree more of a silhouette feel. Wow – not finished yet! Next Topaz Adjust 5 (see website link in my Tidbits Blog sidebar) was applied with the Timeless IV preset. But there’s more – one of my favorite textures, Shadowhouse Creations Paper Texture Scratchbox4 which has a golden lower half and a light greenish-turquoise top half set to Overlay at 80%, gives the image the warm vintage tones. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added for some tonal contrast. Finally, my Thin Double Edge Frame was applied (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames blog) – it creates a really nice slim framing and the colors can be changed easily by sampling within the image. Done!
This wall art image is on display in the open-air one mile long corridor that contains all sorts of art at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii. Just one of the very unusual pieces that is available to view on your leisurely stroll about the resort, but this guy means business or else he has some really bad breath!
This time I tried a sharpening technique in Photoshop’s Merge to HDR (see John Paul Caponigro’s blog Creative Sharpening with HDR Software) as a first step. Next, using Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel (see links at end for blog link), two Flypaper textures were added, Paper Texture Creme Anglaise Taster set to Blend Mode Exclusion at 100% Opacity which turned the whole image dark and Paper Texture Touchstone Taster set to Color Burn Blend Mode at 64% Opacity. A slight S-Curve Curves Adjustment Layer was added to increase contrast a little. Finally OnOne’s PhotoFrame (see website link in my Tidbits Blog sidebar) acid burn controlled 04 frame was used with the color being sampled from the image.
Oh no! Where did he come from? Back in my blog again?? – this is my office-mate Ted – had him way before he got famous. Seems to be enjoying himself. Hum! (See my Tidbits Blog My Office Friend Ted.)
Ted was processed using the wonderful Topaz Simplify 3 plug-in (see website link in my Tidbits Blog sidebar) and here are my settings used: Simplify – Colorspace YCbCR, Simplify Size 0.52, Feature Boost 3.83, Details Strength 1.51, Details Boost 1.27, Details Size 0.62, Remove Small 0, and Remove Weak 0.16; Adjust – Brightness 0.01, Contrast 1.07. Saturation 1.03, and Saturation Boost 0.97; and Edges – Mono Edge Fine, Edge Strength 4.47, Simplify Edge 0.39, Reduce Weak 7, Reduce Small 0.07, and Fatten Edge 4.11. A composite was created above this layer (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) and set to Linear Light at 37%. Next Sarah Gardner’s texture Blush Cherry was added (the website is no longer offering this texture but ShadowHouse Creations Pastels Texture Set Pastel-10 is very close) set to Soft Light Blend Mode at 100% Opacity lightened up the image. A text layer was created using Sassys Teddys 3 font and a Layer Style with these settings were added to the text layer: Bevel & Emboss set to Contour and Texture, Style Inner Bevel, Technique Smooth, Depth 100, Direction Up, Size 7, Soften 0, Angle 25 wit Use Global Light checked, Altitude 30 and the rest default settings; Outer Glow set to Normal Blend Mode, Opacity 100, color R77/G30/B19, Technique Softer, Spread 0, Size 237 and the rest default settings; and Drop Shadow – just dragged around on screen a bit in Multiply Blend Mode and Black, Opacity 75%, Angle 25 & Use Global Light checked, Distance 29, Spread 0, and Size 7. Whew! Finally the same Layer Style was applied as for the first image using different colors in the frame.
Thought I would finish off with an effect that reminded me of one of my kids favorite books from forever ago, The Berenstein Bear’s Spooky Old House. This old building image I use a lot for practice with the plug-ins is in Jackson, Mississippi and stands under one of the most striking buildings in the area, the Lamar Life Insurance Building (see my Tidbits Blog Topaz Adjust 5 Is Here! First Look!).
The processing for this image was practically all in Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 – four filters were stacked: Detail Extractor, Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast, and Midnight using Color Set Blue and Blur set to6%. These are some of my favorite filters and are used often with various other filters for different looks. Got to love Color Efex Pro! A Curves Adjustment Layer was added for a little more contrast and OnOne’s PhotoFrame Jack Davis 02i. Pretty simple but really cool looking.
Hope you enjoyed some of the images I was working with this past week and hope I did not put you to sleep with all the details. Most of these images did not require a lot of work and the plug-ins gave a really nice boost to the final look in all of them……Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR EFex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow!
Using Color Efex Pro and Texture for a Warm Hawaiian Landscape Effect
Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel Updated!
White Daisies! Using Color Efex Pro Midnight Filter