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Posts tagged “SJ Cloud

Fun with Clouds – Brush Them In to Add Some Interest

I love landscapes but there are so many times when you take an image in the bright sunlight and the sky is just a blaring blue. My favorite method to add clouds is to brush them in using cloud brushes you create yourself or download from someone else. These are placed on a layer by themselves so that the opacity can be adjusted later if they start to distract from the main focus of the image. Add a layer mask and paint out with black over areas where there should be no clouds. Use a brush at 50% opacity to blend in some of the clouds edges if they are too bright or sharp.

In the shot of the side of the old Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College) in St. Augustine, Florida, clouds were added before processing the image in NIK Color Efex Pro4. I used my Cloud #4 and #1 brushes in my SJ-Clouds Set. If you would like to download some other great cloud brushes, Obsidian Dawn has some beautiful cloud brushes on her site, especially her Cloud II Photoshop Brushes.

The Old Courthouse Cupola in Fairfax, Virginia, and the Ghost House Cupola at the Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Florida, are both examples of brushed in clouds on a separate layer on top of the image and then masked out where the sky is not.


The cupola sky was actually a blown out gray color as the day was very overcast. In this case the color of the sky was changed to a soft blue using the Color Replacement Tool (see my Tidbits Blog “Like a Chameleon – The Color Replacement Tool“) and then another layer was added where clouds were brushed on to get the soft cloud bank look. Finally the image was processed in NIK Color Efex Pro 3 using the Tonal Contrast filter to get the crisp vintage feel.


In the Ghost House image the sky was changed to a blue color using the Color Replacement Tool and then it was processed using the digital workflow by Don Smith (see “Digital Landscape Effects with Nik Software“) where the cloud layer was created with cloud brushes before processing in Color Efex Pro 3. This is one of my favorite cupola images with the unexpected bat flying on top.

One of the best ways to get the cloud effects you want is to photograph different types of clouds at different times of the day. Then create your own Photoshop brushes using you favorite clouds. I did a blog a while back that explains how to create your own brushes in detail – see “How to Create Photoshop Brushes from Objects or Text.” It is really not that hard and it is fun to see your own images in the clouds!

I believe this is the fastest and easiest way to add clouds to images – I have added cloud photos to images with pretty nice results but the selection process can be tedious and the edges will need to be cleaned up. I like being able to choose the clouds I want and place them where I want. The flexibility is very nice. Just be sure to try a Hue/Saturation or Curves Adjustment Level or paint some slight color in your clouds if you are not getting the contrast you need. Also try stacking your different cloud brushes to create some new clouds – possibly add a bit of color on your brush to add some realism. This can all be done on different layers so the color effect can be faded.  Experiment!

Try out some of your own clouds or some I have supplied above and see what you think. It really is very easy to get good results!…..Digital Lady Syd

Pseudo HDR Using NIK Color Efex Pro 4

Yep, it can actually do a pretty nice job of creating an HDR effect. I am providing you with the information needed to get the same effect so here we go. The image above is of the inside of one of the most beautiful libraries you will ever see, the Minsk Library in Belarus. I love the results and how Color Efex Pro 4 (CEP4) has turned this image into a reasonable HDR look with just a single image.

To create this effect, the following steps were done:

1. First process the image in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) or Lightroom to adjust tone and contrast. On four of these images, I used my SJ-Vivid Drawing Look preset as a starting point. Gives a nice starting point for a pseudo HDR effect.” Then adjust the exposure or any other settings to get the feel you want. (To get the actual settings, see my Tidbits Blog “Settings for Vivid Drawing Look ACR & Lightroom Preset and NIK Color Efex Pro 4 Pseudo HDR Recipe.”)

2. Next, either open the image as a Smart Object directly from ACR or Lightroom, or convert a duplicate layer to a Smart Object (right click on layer and choose “Convert to Smart Object.”) before opening the plug-in. This is really an important step since CEP4 will save your settings and control points when working on a Smart Object layer.

3. Go to Filters -> NIK -> Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in. My SJ Pseudo HDR1 recipe can be downloaded here. NOTE: Appears the link will not work if the download button is pressed directly, but if you right click it and select “Save Link As”, it will download. (To import, go to the Recipes section on left and at bottom click on the Import button, then navigate to file – it is put in the Imported section, or put the file in this folder for Windows Users: [User Name]\AppData\Local\Nik Software\Color Efex Pro 4\UserPresets). The Detail Extractor may need to be adjusted, especially if the image has too many artifacts or too much noise – try setting the Effect Radius to Large in this filter. Other filter effects may be added such as a Vignette or Color Effects. For settings, click on my Tidbits Blog link above in Step 1.

4. Press OK button to apply the filters . If you do not like the results or want to add another filter, change settings by double-clicking on the actual plug-in name (Color Efex Pro 4) underneath the Smart Object layer. If you click on the symbols to the right of the line, a Blending Options (Color Efex Pro 4) dialog box appears where the opacity and blend mode of the plug-in results can be changed. (Try this out to get  some more interesting effects.) Can also paint with black on the Smart Filters layer mask to reduce the effect of all the filters applied to the layer.

5. A noise filter may need to be applied at this point. It can be done right on the Smart Object layer – the filter will be added on top of the Color Efex Pro filter. Not all images need it, but it can happen whenever you are doing an HDR type effect. (If you do not have a noise reducer, the image can be brought back into ACR by using Dr. Brown’s script as explained in my blog “Edit Layers with ACR Script” and using the Noise Reduction panel – I do this all the time and it works great!)

Basically your image is finished unless you want to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to adjust contrast or add a layer style stroke or border around the outside.  Many resources say to sharpen the image at this point – try it but watch your noise carefully.

Once you have the Pseudo HDR1 recipe in place, it is very easy to get good results. Just remember to use a Smart Object so you can go in afterwards and tweak a slider or two or add another filter to the stack if you want.


This Tower of London image was first processed in Lightroom using the SJ Vivid Drawing Look preset. Once in Photoshop but before going into CEP4, clouds were added onto a layer above the image from my SJ-Clouds brush set, and then a layer mask was created to paint out any overlap. A composite layer was created on top (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) which was immediately converted into a Smart Object. This image was created using my recipe as in the first image, but then a Bi-Color User Defined filter was added to make the sky and clouds bluer (Upper color a blue R94/G111/B155 and Lower color off-white R192/G192/B192) – it started as an ugly gray.


Another good example of what you can do with just one image in CEP4. This image just used the Pseudo HDR1 recipe. I did adjust the Detail Extractor slider in that filter and that’s it! The original image was adjusted a bit in Lightroom using no preset before bringing into Photoshop. The image was taken at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Oahu, Hawaii.

This beautiful Great Egret was processed in Lightroom with the SJ Vivid Drawing Look preset and then in Photoshop using NIK’s CEP4 plug-in and the recipe provided, but also adding Vignette Blur and Vignette filters. Back in Photoshop a layer mask was added to selectively sharpen just the bird.

This image (of me and my photography buddy, Gary, at the Old Drugstore in St. Augustine) uses the same Lightroom Vivid Drawing Look preset and CEP4 Pseudo HDR preset. I am actually shooting into a huge mirror on the wall!

I really wanted to present the range of images that can be converted into a fairly convincing HDR effect with just one image. I hope you get a chance to try this recipe out and see what you think. This may be the easiest way to get that pseudo-HDR look that I have found! I will show several other examples over the next few weeks – it is really easy to do and gives a nice look to just about any picture. Once again, it goes to show why this updated plug-in from NIK is really great!

Hope you enjoy the recipe and let me know what you think!…..Digital Lady Syd

Related Blog Links by Digital Lady Syd (or click under Categories – HDR Effect):
NIK Color Efex Pro 4 – Digital Lady Syd’s Review!
Another Pseudo HDR Image with NIK CEP4 – Got to Love the Effect!
Pseudo HDR in OnOne Perfect Effects
The New Film Efex-Vintage Filter From NIK CEP 4
Digital Landscape Effects with Nik Software
NIK Color Efex Pro 4 – First Try!
With One Good Photo – Try the Pseudo HDR Effect


Clarifying Clarity! Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom Quick Trick

I ran across this little video by Matt Kloskowski for Lightroom called “The Clarity Super Edgy Trick” but can just as easily be done in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). The following image is an example of the technique.

To get this nice grunge/HDR effect, the following steps need to be done.

  1. First do adjustments to image and crop size in Lightroom or ACR. Set the Clarity slider to +100 at this time.
  2. Select the Graduated Filter (G) (11th icon from left at top) and set just the Clarity slider set to +100  (In Lightroom go to the Effect drop-down and choose Clarity – set slider to +100).
  3. Click and drag at bottom of image so the top line is totally off the image.  Clarity at 100% will have been applied again to the whole image. Everything above the green line in ACR or top line in Lightroom is getting the full 100% Clarity so make sure this line is dragged totally off the bottom of image. Hold SHIFT while dragging to keep the line horizontal with image and it is easier to control.
  4. Repeat Step 3 by creating a new Clarity Graduated Filter and do this as many times as you want. Usually this means 3 or 4 times.

If you want to apply the Clarity to just part of the image, use the Adjustment Brush set to Clarity at +100. The same brush can be applied several times by just creating New Brushes.

In the image of the cupola on the old historic courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, I started with Matt’s 70’s Look preset in Lightroom (here is the preset for ACR), applied the Clarity slider at +100 in the Basic Module, and then set two Graduated Filters with Clarity set to +100. The image was finally brought into Photoshop and a rather brown colored sky was changed to a blue color using the Color Replacement Tool Brush. (See my Tidbits blog – “Like a Chameleon-The Color Replacement Tool” on how to do this.) I added some clouds using my SJ-Cloud Brushes Set.

Do watch when applying the Clarity Slider to landscapes – a bright sky next to a treeline can look bad as it tapers away from the trees edge. Since Clarity works on contrast at the edges in the midtone areas, if you do not want the grungy look, keep your setting to 40 0r 50 and do not use this technique.

One of my favorite shooting spots in Mesa, Arizona, is this old Buckhorn Motel in the center of town. In this case, the image was adjusted in Adobe Lightroom and the Graduated Filter was also applied twice. The image was processed using OnOne’s Perfect Layers Lightroom plug-in. In Perfect Layers, the image was duplicated with the new layer set to Screen at 52%, a Shadow Creations Another Mixed Texture Set – Texture Seattle was added as a texture layer set to Normal at 88%, and then the Masking Bug Tool was used on it to get the interesting side borders. This can all be done in Photoshop if you wanted to create this same effect without the plug-in. After opening image in Photoshop, a NIK Color Efex Pro 3.0 Tonal Contrast plug-in effect and an OnOne PhotoFrame were added to finalize the look. The tonal contrast could have been adjusted without the plug-in by using a Curves Adjustment Layer and/or Levels Adjustment Layer. Use Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer to pop the color.

The Magnolia Tree pod image was created by applying my Vivid Drawing Look Preset in Lightroom (here is the preset for ACR) first, adjusting the exposure and clarity sliders, running the Graduated Filter three times with Clarity set to +100 and once with Clarity set to +37,  and opening it up in Photoshop. Three effects were then added on separate layers to get this final result, all using NIK’s Color Efex Pro 3.0 (Tonal Contrast, Glamour Glow and Vignette Blur effects were applied – they are coming out with a new version shortly so I will report back on this when available). Sharpening and an OnOne PhotoFrame finished up the photo. It gives a very different feel from the two images above.

With this beautiful Great Egret, Matt’s 70’s Look preset was applied (same preset as first image-link to download above). The Adjustment Brush was used to selectively apply the Clarity/Sharpening as too much tends to give the whites a very dirty look. The Adjustment Brush was used with Clarity set to +100 and Sharpen +100. I painted over the head and beak of the bird. I then applied one more new Adjustment brush and painted just the beak and eye area. The image was opened in Photoshop, and NIK Color Efex Pro 3.0 Glamour Glow (default settings) and Brilliance and Warmth effects were applied. An OnOne PhotoFrame was added and that was it. Very easy and the face is very sharp using the Clarity technique in Lightroom or ACR.

I just have too much fun trying out this technique. It is a very easy one to do and the possibilities are many. Try using a couple different settings in the Graduated Filter or Adjustment Brush. Save the Filters as presets (they can then be used for both). I have to hand it to Photoshop Guy Matt Kloskowski for coming up with this interesting technique. Give it a quick try and see what you think…..Digital Lady Syd

With One Good Photo – Try the Pseudo HDR Effect

I am one of those people that does love the HDR effect and I do wish I always had the tripod at my beckon call, but usually it just does not work that way for me. I have spent a lot of time trying to get an HDR look anyway. My camera takes a good image most of the time, so the challenge is to find the right program/filters to get that HDR effect without all the perfectly matched images. This blog addresses what I have come up with so far and all sections used Photoshop CS5.

HDR Toning Adjustment Mode

The above Green Turtle Cay Beach is an example of a JPEG image. It was processed in Photoshop using HDR Toning Adjustment Mode. It is possible to get a decent HDR effect with a JPEG image but not all images turn out good using this method.

This image had all the ingredients to make a nice HDR image – the beautiful detail on the restaurant and the windows and stone on the surrounding buildings. (All the rest of the images are camera RAW files.) This process usually gives a bit of the surreal look as shown in the above. Recently Scott Kelby released his CS5’s HDR Pro preset called Scott 5 that creates a really great “Pseudo HDR” effect. All of HDR Pro’s preset along with this preset will appear in the HDR Toning Adjustment Layer also. This preset was used here with a small increase of the Highlights slider to bring out the color a little. Otherwise that was it. If you have only a single image with some great detail in it, try out the preset in HDR Toning.  The results are considered hit-or-miss and will probably not be as good as using three HDR images. Check out my blog, Different Images-Same Look Using HDR! –  HDR Toning for Single Images section, for more information on this adjustment. Also, several of my images in my blog, Why I Love Topaz Adjust, used this technique before applying the Topaz Adjust plug-in.


Shadow and Highlight Adjustment Mode

This image had the great bright colors that I thought might create a really nice HDR effect. Unfortunately, when  CS5’s HDR Toning Adjustment Mode was tried,  it just did not look right, even with the Scott 5 preset. Some people have had success using the Shadows and Highlights Adjustment Mode, so that effect was used on this image. It took a lot of manipulation of all the sliders in the dialog, but I believe the “Pseudo HDR” look is present, just not as pronounced as with the HDR Toning Adjustment Mode.


The Sharpen Tool

The image above required a lot of prep work before even thinking about adding an HDR feel to it. The antennae had to be cloned out first.The Color Replacement Tool (see my Tidbits blog, Like a Chameleon – The Color Replacement Tool) was used to make the sky a blue – this tool was used since the sky and steeple were so close in color, it would have been hard to get a really clean selection. By using Options Bar settings as follows: the Mode to Color, Sampling Background Swatch (in this case, sampling the beige sky color to set as the Background Color and my new sky color, #c2d0d8, set as the Foreground Color), Limits to Find Edges, Tolerance 15% and Anti-Alias checked, it was pretty fast to paint over just the sky area. I used my SJ-Cloud Brush Set to paint in a couple clouds on a separate layer and created a composite above (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E).

I did not think the other pseudo-HDR techniques would work on this image since it had a rather flat look to it. I also did not want to HDR the clouds that were just added – only wanted the steeple and roof to have the detail effect. This week I listened to a NAPP Grid where Bryan Hughes, Product Manager for Adobe Photoshop, discussed how much the Sharpen Tool had been improved in CS5 and that it now has the best sharpening capability in Photoshop. That gave me the idea to use it for an HDR effect since I only wanted specific areas processed. So that is how this technique began. Select the Sharpen Tool and in Options Bar, set it to Mode Darken and 50% Strength. Paint over all the areas where the HDR look is to be added. Last, add Curves Adjustment Layer to give a little snap to the color. It may not be as effective as a true HDR processed image (the shadows are probably not as opened up as they would be in a true HDR image), but it does have some of the feel.


Lightroom HDR Preset

Many people say that with the correct settings, a decent HDR effect can be achieved with Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw. Here is an example of about as close as I could get to this effect using Lightroom and Photoshop.

For this Hawaiian landscape, a Lightroom preset from William Petruzzo Photography called HDR Effect – Heavy was applied. The Blacks slider was  increased a small amount and a Curves Adjustment Layer added in Photoshop for contrast. I tried this preset on a couple other images and got some pretty bad haloing so you need to find the right image to get this nice look. It definitely is worth trying. I am not sure if there is an ACR preset is created at this time, but if you or a friend have Lightroom, you can easily copy the settings over to create an ACR preset.

I hope this has given you a couple new techniques to try and see if you can get a close copy to the HDR effect. I will keep my eyes open for any new ideas and present them as they become available. In the meantime, have fun playing in Photoshop!…..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 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

How to Create Photoshop Brushes from Objects or Text

I keep finding cool brushes and started wondering how to make them.  Lots of times they are not of the quality or the look I want. In this post I want to go over what can be done with your own images to create really nice paintbrushes and how to save them so you can find them easily. This all began last week when I was catching up on my Photoshop User TV videos – Corey Barker, one of the Photoshop Guys, came up with this really simple way to make a Lens Flare Brush in Episode 259. It was a short tutorial – the blooming oleander tree image below is how it turned out.  The text tutorial was by Dave Cross in Photoshop User TV video Episode 258.

The most important thing to know about Photoshop brushes is that they are all created in black and white – anything that is white in the image will not show up in your final brush (it is transparent), all that is black shows up clearly, and anything in gray tones shows up partially.

Creating a Brush Document:  Before starting to make a brush, first create a New Document in Photoshop – the all important size issue needs to be addressed here. BittBox, in a great little article called “How to Make a Photoshop Brush” stated that it is best to make your brushes as large as you can and reduce the size later when using the brush.  Since CS2, you can make the size as large as 2500 pixels each direction.  Therefore, in the New Document dialog, set up the width and height to 2500 pixels at a resolution of 300 (this creates a high resolution brush), Color Mode Grayscale, 8 bit mode, and White background. Save and name this document (Brush) so you can use it again anytime you want to create a new brush. Grayscale is used for a color mode since defining a brush automatically creates it as a grayscale brush.

Here’s how to create a good brush.

  1. In Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw, open an image that has an object you want to make into a brush.  For my example, I will use a cloud from one of my images. Crop to create a rough selection around your object, it does not have to be a square. In my case it will be one of the clouds used in the image below.
  2. There are many ways to adjust the contrast to create a good brush. I found that by first putting my image into black and white in Lightroom and then adjusting the sliders mainly in the Basic Panel, a lot of definition in the object could be obtained. For the clouds below, the following sliders were used:  Blacks at 95, Contrast at +100, and Clarity set to +47. Experiment with all the sliders to get a major contrasty look – you want a really extreme black and white with lots of detail in the object.  It does not have to be perfect at this point. (Alternate method:  If you want to experiment, do not convert you object to Black and White in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw, but do this in Photoshop using any method you would like – Black and White Adjustment Layer, Image or or Image -> Adjustments -> Desaturate (as used in Corey’s tutorial above) or maybe a plug in like Nik Silver Efex Pro, for example. Just be sure that you either merge any adjustment layers down into just one black and white layer, or do a composite layer (turn off all the layers but the ones you want to composite and highlight the top layer – then CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E to create).
  3. Open your object in Photoshop to begin the final adjustments.
  4. Look at your image to see if it needs to be inverted so the details you want to appear in the brush are showing up in black. For my clouds, the image needed to be inverted so the clouds looked black and the background was white – otherwise the clouds would not show up in the brush, only the dark background since only black and gray tones create the brush. To invert the image, just CTRL+I or Image -> Adjustments -> Invert.  A Curves or Levels Adjustment Layer may need to be applied if the contrast and detail is somewhat lost with the inversion. Be sure to merge adjustment layer(s) down so there is only one black and white layer, or do a composite layer (turn off all the layers but the ones to be combined, then create composite by highlighting the top layer and CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E). (For my Mountain set, this step did not need to be done – see below to download.)
  5. Next clean up any extraneous edges you do not want in the brush. I used a soft edged brush and painted white at a fairly low opacity to reduce hard edges around my clouds to get rid of the the distinct sharp lines around the outside of the document.  This can be tricky, but if the final brush turns out a little off, just come back to this document and try again.  Save your document now so all your work does not accidentally disappear if further adjustments need to be made.
  6. If a brush document is not already created, make one now (as described in “Creating a Brush Document” section above).  Drag your black and white object layer into into your new brush document. Use the Free Transform (CTRL+T) to adjust to fit the document if it is comes in too large. With the Crop Tool cut any extraneous areas not needed in the brush.
  7. Now in the Brush Document, go to Image -> Define Brush Preset.  If the Define Brush Preset is ever grayed out, the brush is larger than the 2500 pixel maximum Photoshop allows.  This is why you move it to a new document. I had this happen with Corey’s Photoshop User tutorial referenced above. It has you create the brush in the original document (which I do not recommend doing because of this issue) – it took a while to figure this out.
  8. It is important to save your new brushes in a set so click on the Open Preset Manager icon (2nd icon from the left) at the bottom of the Brush Presets Panel. In the Preset Type field, be sure Brushes is showing.  Now select your new brushes in the table by ALT+clicking on each one to highlight, and click the Save Set button. In Explorer, make sure you are in your Brushes folder in Photoshop to make it easy to keep track of where they are on your computer. (On a PC, it is located at User Name -> AppData -> Roaming -> Adobe -> Adobe Photoshop CS5 ->Presets -> Brushes.)  Name the .abr file, in my case SJ-Clouds.abr. I use my initials first so I can find them quickly in the fly out list when I want to choose them later. The brushes can now be loaded anytime by going to the Brushes Preset Panel and clicking on the fly out menu (the little arrow to the left of the Done button) and clicking on the brush set name. If brushes are present that you do not want in your set, you can Alt+Click them to delete the brushes and resave the set. This trick also works in the Brush Presets Panel – just highlight the brush name and ALT+click to delete. I found I had way too many brushes – some I use all the time and some I do not. I created a Favorite Cloud set, for example, by adding all my cloud sets into the Brush Presets Panel, appending each so I had a full list of the cloud brushes.  Next eliminate the brushes you do not use much (CTRL+click) and go to the Preset Manager to save as “My Favorite Clouds” set. (Be sure to CTRL+A to select all the brushes so they all appear in the set). Keep the original cloud brush sets in a folder called Extra Brushes so they can still be used by clicking Load Brushes in the Brush Preset Panel’s fly out and navigate to the folder if you need them. This has reduced the size of my brush list considerably.

For the image below, the sky was just a flat clear blue. To get the pretty cloud effect, I used three of the brushes I created using three different images. Two new layers were added and just one dab of each brush was used over the sky area. Then I erased out what I did not want to use and set the layers to Screen blend mode at different opacities to get this effect. I think it is a realistic look. The clouds can be set where you want them for effect. If you would like to see an example of some nice cloud brushes, here is a link to some very beautiful clouds that I also use often called by Clouds by Rubina119 (see my “Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Mixer Brush” blog’s last image). Click link to download my 12 cloud brushes called SJ-Cloud Brush Set.

Text can also used to make a brush and used as a repeated pattern in an image. Using the steps above, but creating a much smaller sized brush, the image below uses text layers repeating the word “daisies.” Each layer used a different size and color to create the receding type effect.

I feel the hard-working people who create so many of the wonderful resources should be given credit for their work. The brushes I did not create but used on this photo include:  the bright purple daisy is a beautiful brush from Texturemate and can be downloaded here and one of their grunge brushes was used on a layer to add texture. This site has a lot of very nice resources for your images; and a texture from Caleb Kimbrough‘s set called Color Grunge Texture, texture no. 295, and BittBox‘s Ice and Snow Textures – Ice Texture bluer (I could not find these two textures still available on the internet). BittBox has several other beautiful textures available on their Flickr account. Also, the font is my favorite Fantaisie Artistique that can be downloaded for free from

One of the really cool free programs I came across is called abrMate that allows you to view all the brushes inside a set before adding them to your Photoshop brushes. I use this little program all the time since I like to download interesting brushes.  Here is the link under the abrMate download section.  If the program comes up with a Brush Reading Issue dialog that says “Issue Reading brush file, file may be protected.”, it is because the brush was saved as a 16 bit file – when the brush is selected in Photoshop’s Brush Presets Panel, it can be used but it shows a 16 in the top right of the brush icon. The size of the thumbnail can be adjusted and the name of the brush can be displayed by clicking on the top menu Settings. Below is an example of what the program looks like when open.

These beautiful free brushes are from Mel’s Easter Eggs set. The reason I am showing these is that this is another great example of how you can create nice brushes by making different parts to fit together. The decoration for the eggs fit exactly over the basic egg brush so different brushes can be stacked to create a very colorful design. See my blog on “The Incredible Editable Easter Egg” from a few weeks ago.

If you are interested, the following all totally free brushes were used in this image:  Two of the clouds from my cloud set you can download above, a mountain image brush set contains this mountain in Nevada from a trip last year, the flying bird brush and grasses and plants  are great sets from Obsidian Dawn (this site has some beautiful brushes and other resources), 20 people brushes by digitally present, trees from Larrydnjr, waterfall brushes from Midnightstouch and Redheadstock water brushes.  To finish off the image, in Nik Color Efex Pro a Custom Bi-Color preset was created using a blue tone on top and brown tone on the bottom to give a late in the day feel, and an OnOne PhotoFrame was added. I was surprised how realistic this image came out! There are some really nice brushes out there.

Well that should wrap it up for this blog this time. It was fun to learn so much about the basic object brush and I feel I can now make better brushes when I need them. I hope you learned some new tips too! See ya next time!….Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Just Plain Fun Brush Effects!
Create a Winter Scene with Photoshop Brushes and Textures
That Flaming Fire Brush!
Brushing up on Circles!