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Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Clarity

Topaz Clarity is Here! I was surprised that Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) was coming out with a new plug-in and am finding that I actually love it! It is very different from any of their other plug-ins. So what are we talking about here? In a nutshell, this program provides two major features for your images: the use of Dynamic sliders to add contrast by using variations already in the image, and the use of  their IntelliColor Technology (keeps unwanted color shifts under control) by adjusting the Hue/Saturation/Luminosity of the image. I believe that Clarity does exactly what you expect a good plug-in to do – it takes a canned program’s limited capability and creates many more options, which is especially useful for that difficult image or for us “creative types.” This plug-in lets you create a very natural, sometimes quite stunning, look without any halos or artifacting (and that alone is a major accomplishment!). I am confident that I will use this plug-in on most of my images now that I have learned how to use it. The above is a farm located outside Minsk in Belarus. I have included the original RAW file images throughout the blog as I believe this is the best way to see what the plug-in can really do. See Image 1 info below for more on how it was post-processed, the Clarity settings used, and the before and after images.
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WHAT I LIKE!

1. The fact that the four Dynamics sliders are very similar to my very favorite Dynamics slider in TopazFXlab and Topaz Simplify. I believe it uses slightly different technology, but Nicole at Topaz Labs describes these four sliders as the original Dynamics slider “on steroids.” They do a great job of bringing out detail (using contrast instead of detail size) without looking unnatural. It has a really subtle sharpening feel to it. This alone is why this program is worth getting!

2. The Hue/Saturation/Luminosity sliders can be targeted to specific areas of your image easily. I like the Overall sliders at the bottom of each section that can give some very surprising results – sometimes just the thing to pop your image! And once again we get Orange (for skin tones) and Purple sliders which I really love. And if you have used Detail or photoFXlab, you know how good the IntelliColor technology is.

3. The addition of Color Range Brush and Feather Brush. I am still working on using these effectively, but so far they are proving to be quite useful. I like that certain areas of my image can be targeted by color(s) – saves a lot of time trying to get your selection in the Masks sections just right. The Color Range works very much like the one in Photoshop, which I use all the time. The Feather Brush is really nice since it now has the capability of softening or sharpening a selection’s edge as needed – once again similar to Photoshop’s Properties Panel for their layer masks. These are both great additions for the Masks panes. (And don’t forget this little Color-Aware Brush that is hidden with the Content-Aware Brush – it is becoming my favorite mask brush!) There is also a Gradient Tool Feature in the brush area that can be handy when working on your masks too.

4. I like that I can create more than one preset collection. I am finding it handy to have one that only addresses Hue/Sat/Lum Section changes and one for the Clarity Section changes. And you get previews for all of your own preset too!

5. The Dynamics/Tone Level section and the HSL Filter sections can be left open at the same time so that you can go back and forth between them to make adjustments very quickly. Small thing but really saves time. Unfortunately this is not true with the two Mask sections.

6. Overall Opacity sliders at the top of each section is proving to be very handy to use – works like the Layer Opacity slider in Photoshop or the Overall Transparency sliders in their other plug-ins. (This is different from the Overall sliders in 2.)

7. Maybe the best thing I like is that Topaz pushed the bar a little and tried something new. There is no one out there that I have found recently who is creating new plug-ins or effects to make your Photoshop experience a little better. Kudos to the staff for this!

WHAT I DON’T LIKE! (Not much)

1. It needs an Apply button so several different presets can be added since the Dynamics and Tone Level effects are so different from the HSL sliders effects. It would so nice to be able to stay in the program and selectively add the different section changes to the image instead of exiting the program and re-entering the plug-in for each change. My understanding is that they are trying to implement this shortly.

2. It can be a bit time-consuming to work on a mask that is at 1:1 – you have to keep hopping back into the Navigator pane to move the preview box to the next area to paint in. They need a toggle shortcut key or something else to make this easier. I left a request with the Topaz folks so hopefully this will be an option soon. On the good side, the Mask pane is much larger and easier to see than in their other plug-ins.

3. Would love to be able to copy the Clarity mask to the H/S/L mask and vice versa. Right now you have to create it again if you want the same areas selected. Possibly a shortcut key would be all that is needed here too.

4. This is a small nag, but when you zoom in on an image to mask out some eyes or something really small, the brush size is really hard to get to a reasonably small size. Some brush preset choices would be nice also, as they have in Black & White Effects.
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This image is actually of some beautiful bright red dahlias (see original below) that I planted in my front yard recently. Since I do not have an Apply button at this point, Topaz Clarity was actually opened three times, on three separate layers, by exiting, duplicating the layer, and going back into the program. For info on the processing and Clarity settings, see Image 2 notes at end of blog. No detail or color enhancers were required – it was all done with the sliders in Clarity. What was so nice is that it was relatively easy to give these flowers a totally different look without a lot of hassle. When playing around with HSL sliders in other programs, it is almost impossible to get two radically different colors on something that was one color to begin with – and make it look believable. Below is the original RAW file as it was brought into Photoshop (and yes, I did add a flower in the top right to balance out the image).…..
Below, this rather ordinary tourist shot taken of Umauma Falls on the Big Island is a good example of the results after processing with just Clarity, showing much improved color and contrast. This image would have been a great HDR candidate due to the large tonal range, except that there was no place to set up a tripod. Since I had the opportunity to get just a few quick snaps of this gorgeous waterfall, Clarity really gave me exactly the feel I wanted to accomplish in the first place. Considering this was a marginal hand-held, very shadowy shot, it turned out much more natural than an HDR tone-mapped image would have created!
See before and after close ups below. See Image 3 note at end of blog for more post-processing info. …..
The photo above is just a little bit of a change up here. This image, taken from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, used Topaz Clarity and Adjust to get this slightly artistic effect. Clarity was again applied three times and Adjust once. I really love to combine several different Topaz plug-ins, especially in photoFXlab (check out its InstaTone tab to get some really creative results), to try out different looks. See notes for Image 4 below for details on how this image effect was created.
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It is hard to imagine that these beautiful Zinnias were adjusted using only Topaz Detail and Clarity, but it is true. I was really pleased at how I could get an almost illustrative look to the flowers by using Clarity. For more info on how this image was processed and my Clarity settings, see Image 5 notes below.

BOTTOM LINE:
Topaz Clarity is a great addition to the Topaz arsenal of plug-ins. I am not going to quit using Topaz Detail 3, my most used plug-in, just because of its release, but I am finding they work quite nicely together. This plug-in is definitely a great alternative to that over-the-top HDR effect that comes with too much sharpening, or even the over-application of Detail or Adjust. I think it would improve almost any kind of image you apply it on. It does take a few minutes to figure out exactly what each of the sliders will do. But once a combination is found, it is easy to set up a preset and use this as a starting point for your particular type of processing. And once again, you get it at a reasonable price and the Topaz guarantee that upgrades will always be free! Just another quality product from a quality company!

I will be doing more experimenting with this plug-in in the coming weeks and will share my findings, so stay tuned. Download a trial and give this new plug-in a try. You might be surprised at your results – I was!…..Digital Lady Syd

NOTES FOR POST-PROCESSING OF IMAGES
Image 1: No changes in Lightroom except cropping and checking Enabling Profile Corrections and Removing Chromatic Aberration. Once in Photoshop a preset I had created was applied in Topaz Clarity. (Here are the settings for my Very Vivid Sharp preset – Clarity Section-Dynamics: Micro Contrast 0.84, Low Contrast 0.56, Medium Contrast -0.31, and High Contrast -0.09, and Tone Control were all left at 0. In the Hue/Sat/Lum Section: No changes to Hue; Sat – Red 0.25, Orange 0.13, Blue 0.06, and Overall 0.17; and Lum – Red -0.81, Orange -0.09, Green -0.08, Blue 0.23, Magenta 0.33, and Overall -0.12. Then the Blue Lum was adjusted to -1.00 and Sat t0 0.22 to bring out the clouds a little more. See middle image below. Since I felt this whole look was a little too much, the layer was duplicated and this layer was taken into Clarity again. This time a preset I created with a more desaturated look was applied and the result is shown in the left image. (Here are these settings: Clarity Section-Dynamics: Micro Contrast 0.50, Low Contrast -0.42, Medium Contrast 0.03, and High Contrast -0.27; and Tone Level: Black Level 0.25, Midtones -0.37, and White Level -0.52. Hue/Sat/Lum Section: No changes to Hue; Sat – Overall -0.45; and Lum – Red -0.10, Orange 0.10, Yellow 0.10, Green 0.10, Aqua 0.10, Blue -0.10, and Purple -0.10) This gives a bit of spooky look to the image but the opacity of this layer was set to 28% to give the too bright effect a little softening. What an improvement to the clouds! Click on image for a larger view in Flickr.

Image 2: I did nothing in Lightroom except apply the Lens Correction Profile and check Remove Chromatic Aberration before taking the image into Photoshop. Cleaned up some spots on the flowers with the Spot Healing Brush and then into Topaz Clarity. First the Macro preset Flower 1 which changes only the Clarity Sections (Dynamics and Tone Level sliders) was applied. Then the Color Aware Brush (use eyedropper to sample the color first) was used in the Mask Section where the middle red flower was painted to keep the effect from applying on it. Since I wanted the opposite effect, the Invert icon was clicked so now just the middle flower contained the Clarity settings. Said OK to apply this to image and duplicated this layer. Entering Clarity again, the Reset button was clicked to start over. This time I wanted the three small flowers to be softer and a different color. This time only the Hue/Sat/Lum Section was used. To get the yellow flowers, the Hue Overall slider was set to o.41 to get all yellow flowers. In Lum settings, the Orange was set to 0.72 to lighten the center to give a greenish look, and the Overall Lum slider was set to 0.08 just to lighten up the flower color a little. Again these settings were applied and in Photoshop a layer black mask was added to this layer and just a touch of the pink color was brought into the petals. To get the painterly look, Painted Textures Creamsicle texture was layered on top using Soft Light at 100% opacity. The top painterly looking border was created using 2 Lil’ Owls Studio Bonus Texture 4 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link), turned 180 degrees, and turned into an overlay. (See Related Blogs below for more info on this.) Any border you have would work, but what is interesting is that the border was a then opened up in Clarity and the whole color scheme and contrast was changed. (These are the settings used: Dynamics: Micro Contrast -1.00, Low Contrast -1.00, Medium Contrast 0.26, and High Contrast 0.69; and Tone Level: Black Level -0.72, Midtones 0.16, and White Level -0.03. HSL Filter: Hue settings: Orange -0.44, Yellow 0.50, Green 0.33, and Overall -0.42; Sat settings: Orange -0.20, Yellow -0.11, Green -0.66, and Overall -0.09; and Lum settings: Orange 0.11, Yellow 0.08, Green -0.53, and Overall 0.09. Created Textures preset.) Note: When you change the Hue of an item, and then go to the Saturation or Luminance sliders, be sure you adjust the same sliders and not the new color sliders- there will be little or no change. In other words, if you change the Red Hue to a Yellow color, when you enter the Saturation sliders, you will need to still adjust the Red Saturation to adjust the actual yellow color saturation. Took me a minute to get the hang of this.

Image 3: Lightroom was only used to crop the image, add a Lens Correction profile, and check Remove Chromatic Aberration. In Photoshop the Background layer was duplicated and then Topaz Clarity was opened where the Landscape-Color & Contrast III preset was applied. The Micro Contrast slider was changed to -0.22, and in the Clarity Masks section the waterfalls were lightly painted out – they were  sharper than I wanted for the water effect.

Image 4: First just HSL adjustments to the whole image; second time the Landscape Midday I preset was selected with the effect removed from the sky using the Clarity Masks section – and adjusting some of the HSL sliders; then my favorite Adjust preset – French Countryside – was applied as is; and finally Clarity’s Cityscape I preset was added. 2 Lil’ Owls (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Color Bokeh Grunge Set – overlay 2 was added to give a slight vintage vignette effect using Vivid Light blend mode at 74% layer opacity.Image 5: Just the same Lightroom changes – Lens Correction and cropping. If you would like the illustrative look, here are settings: in Clarity Section – Dynamics: Micro Contrast 1.00, Low Contrast 0.28, Medium Contrast -0.50, and High Contrast 0.06; Tone Level: Black Level 0.61, Midtones 0.14, and White Level 0.72; and in Hue/Sat/Lum Section – Hue: Only Red 0.16, Yellow -0.05, and Green -0.17 were adjusted; Sat: only Green -0.22 and Overall -0.45 were adjusted; and Lum: Only Orange 0.36, Yellow 0.89, Green -0.91, Aqua 0.30, and Blue -0.09 were adjusted. Kim Klassen Cafe‘s January Set 2801 texture was applied and set to Multiply at 100% opacity. Shadowhouse Creations Text  Brush 1 was put on its own layer at 61% layer opacity. (These brushes are free and really cool, as is his site, too.) A couple other steps were done to get the nice texturized feel, but overall, the flowers benefited greatly by using Clarity.

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Clarity with Texture!
Topaz Simplify Artistic Workflow
How to Make Frames or Borders
InstaTone in photoFXlabs – Great Fun and Great Results!

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Texture Resources – So Many Choices! So Many Choices!

This week I decided to do another texture blog, this time emphasizing some great resources that I have been lucky enough to find. I really enjoy trying out different types of textures on different types of images, and it is interesting to see how the various authors of textures create them and use them. What a wonderful field of photography!

The beautiful Belarusian Church above was photographed from a moving car out in the countryside near Minsk. The sky was major flat but thanks to a gorgeous sky texture by Cheryl Tarrant at Distressed Textures, the finished image turned out totally enchanting. What a surprise! I had never used her textures, but I follow her on Facebook where she had a great offer to buy some of her textures. This image was processed using Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Detail 3 (Overall Light Detail II preset) and Black & White Effects (SJ-Painterly Effect preset). The The Artists Palette-Drama set Dream I texture was applied twice, once set to Linear Burn blend mode and on a duplicate layer, to Multiply blend mode.
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This little gerbera flower looked totally confused as to how it was supposed to look, but it really caught my eye because of that. I love this flower since it always looks like it is looking back at you. (See How to Turn a Brush into a Watercolor Brush, third image down for my take on this!) Kim Klassen uses very creative methods to make her textures – all very natural items and she pastes and paints and tears and pulls it all together to create absolutely incredible soft beautiful textures. I loved this video by Kim on Vimeo called The art of Texture Making – absolutely fascinating! She is a total master at setting up beautiful soft restful shots. By signing up for her newsletter, you get lots of beautiful textures to try out. Her website has several video tutorials on how she gets this great look, so if you want to just check out some new techniques, this is a great place. For a reasonable fee, you can get subscribe to her Test Kitchen and get even more video instructions and textures. So many of my images use at least one of her textures.
This image is an example of what I learned by using some of her textures and techniques. The basic tone and color adjustments were done in Lightroom following my basic RAW workflow (see How to Use Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) or Lightroom 4 Quickly). Then Topaz Detail using the Overall Detail Light II medium preset was applied. Topaz DeNoise 5 was applied setting the Overall Strength slider to .24. Next Kim’s beautiful Rue texture was added at normal blend mode and the flower painted out on a layer mask. Next her Revolution texture was added at Multiply blend mode and a layer opacity of 70%. Next text was added using Batik Regular font. To finish it off the contrast and color was corrected with adjustment layers. This was a pretty simple image to process since Kim’s textures made it look so pretty.
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Moving on to another of my favorite texture makers, and what a totally different look and feel to your images when using them! Melissa Gallo at Painted Textures does some of the most fantastic painted textures you will ever find. What I like most about her textures is that I can never tell what results I will get until I apply the it – sometimes you get some of the most unexpected results! I love the way these textures give your image that fantastic painted look – very vibrant and beautiful texture effects! Another thing that is really great is that she has a 2 for $5 every month where you can try out something new on your images and at a reasonable price! Love this. Her site has several videos on how to use her textures in your images also. Used my 60-mm macro lens at F/2.8 to create this soft flower effect for the beautiful pink dahlias I bought to plant in my front yard (that is if the brown bunny that also lives in my front yard does not eat them!). Very easy image to process. Added Painted Textures 2 for 5 Friday Set 2 Seafoam texture, rotated and flipped it, and added a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer clipped to the texture layer (ALT+Click between the layers to create a clipped layer). The Cyans Hue was changed to -143; Blues Hue was set to -180, Saturation to -62, and Lightness to +51; and Master Hue set to -44 – this changed to the turquoise colors to light pink in the texture. Next a layer mask was added to the texture layer and the flowers were lightly painted out. A composite was created on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and Topaz Detail 3 was applied. (Here is what I applied: Applied Stylized Detail Collection -> Sunset I preset. Next went to Color and set Desaturated III and set Saturation Boost to -0.60. With Effect Brush set to Strength to 0.89, Brush Size 0.25, Hardness 1.00, Flow 1.00, Edge Aware 1.00, softly painted over the two flowers. The Overall Opacity slider was then set to 0.83.) A New Layer set to Overlay was created some of the focal lines were burned in (see my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique!) and the layer was set to 29% opacity. Next the text was added – in this case I used Kim Klassen‘s Dream brush but this could easily be done with a nice font. A layer style was added using a Stroke Effect at 3 pixels in a darker pink color; an Inner Glow Effect was used with the Blend Mode set to Normal, Size to 100 and a sampled medium pink color; and a Pattern Overlay added using my one of my free textures set to a scale of 295. (See SJ Impasto Smeary Flat – to convert to a pattern, open image in Photoshop and go to Edit -> Define Pattern – it will appear at the bottom of your pattern list.) Added a Levels Adjustment Layer and moved the midpoint right to 0.78 to bring back a little contrast and it is done. See my Tidbits Blog Painterly Red Berries for another example of her textures.
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Another one of my personal favorite texture makers are those made by French Kiss Collections by Leslie Nicole. She adds very artistic effects using several different painting media. Her watercolor textures are one of my favorites, but she also does a great job with acrylics and oils. Her colors are vivid, but have a little different feel from Melissa Gallo’s textures. Once again, lovely color and texture.This beautiful bromeliad plant is yet another image from the local grocery store.This image was first processed in Lightroom using the normal adjustments. Lightroom’s Color Presets Cross Process 1 was applied using The Fader set to 56%. (See my blog Great Free Plug-in for Lightroom – The Fader!) Stacked on top is French Kiss Solstice Collection‘s Zest texture set to Vivid Light blend mode. A layer mask was added and the plant was lightly painted back using a soft black brush set to 30% opacity. French Kiss Solstice Collection Ebullience set to Normal blend mode at 100% opacity was used. More painting on a layer mask was done before a Curves Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture to add some contrast (ALT+Click between the layers to clip). A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to change the Yellows channel Saturation to +33 and clipped to the top layer also. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added on top to the whole image to increase the contrast just a little by moving the center tab to 1.03. See my Tidbits Blogs Checking Out French Kiss Textures and Hibiscus Beauty for other examples of her textures and overlays.
….. So here is a photo that uses three of my favorites texture groups, and I find I do this a lot in my images – that is what makes your image unique and interesting. These zinnias were treated with all kinds of things! I used David duChemin’s Milford Greens + Grad-.33 Lightroom preset. I love his  inexpensive set (see my 2012 Inexpensive Gifts for the Photoshop Lover on Your List blog – number 10 for link). Once in Photoshop Topaz Detail 3 was applied twice – once for sharpening, and once applying the Abstraction I preset and painting out areas to get the soft flower look in the background area. Distressed Textures The Artist’s Palette – Drama Tawny Skies texture set to Hard Light; next Kim Klassen’s Cloth & Paper Touch texture (one of my all-time favorite textures!) set to Multiply at 36% layer opacity; and finally another of my favorite texture groups – 2 Lil’ Owls Studio’s (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Enchanted texture from the Workshop Bundle below set to Overlay at 45%. I love their Mosaic Textures – use them all the time but they have a whole lot of other interesting textures to choose from. I also got their Texture Workshop Ebook Bundle, which teaches you how to use textures using some different techniques and has some very nice textures supplied. (Here is link to one of the images that used a different Workshop texture and here is a Mosaic Texture image example.) Very nice website.
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I will list a few others that I have not discussed but I really enjoy their textures.

1.  Needless to say Shadowhouse Creations – he is brilliant and has absolutely some of my favorite textures and they are all free. This guy is fabulous for sharing his expertise and his textures.

2.  Flypaper Textures – another wonderful texture group that are once again gorgeous and have their own feel to them. Check them out!

3. Don’t want to forget Sarah Gardner – I learned a lot from her book Art Beyond the Lens. She also has a pdf magazine called Beyond the Camera that is always interesting. And of course her textures are great also.

4.  Lost and Taken Textures by Caleb Kimbrough is another free texture site (although donations are requeted) that has some  highly unusual textures – not always what you are looking for – but then you come across one that is so unique and beautiful! Here is a link to some textures I have used for years.

5. Check out Chasing Dreams Photography has some very nice textures. I am not as familiar with them but they appear to be very good.

6. Isabelle Lafrance Photography is another wonderful website chocked full of goodies and textures. It is another great texture resource and I have had the opportunity to use her textures and overlays a couple times – very lovely.

7. Florabella Collection has many textures besides her very famous actions to choose from. Definitely check them out.

8. Iron Owl Designs is one I just found out about and it looks like they have some great textures. This is a site I am hope to look at soon.

9. For some high-end priced textures, check Jesh de Rox site – he has gorgeous textures and images to see how they look applied!

10. Mark S. Johnson Photography has recently created some very nice textures that can be purchased on his website along with several nice blogs and videos on how to use textures in your artwork.

You can also find many flickr sites (check out The Golden Textures High Quality site for a good place to start) and deviantART (just do a search for textures) sites that offer some beautiful textures for free – just be sure to read how you may use the textures before placing your images all over the internet. There are so many beautiful textures out there. A great resource for finding new people creating textures is to follow Texture Photography Masters – the group, where many participants show some beautiful images and what textures they used. Also, don’t forget Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel Updated!– can direct it to your favorite textures to try out real fast!

I like that I have so many choices from so many wonderful texture vendors who have so many different ways of approaching and applying textures. I have learned so many different techniques and am still sorting out what works best for me and what kind of look I want to pursue. I hope I have been able to direct you to some new resources for getting the look you want. It is a lot of fun to try them all out! Have fun experimenting!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Using a Couple of My Textures
Tips for Flower Textures
Creating That Vintage Texture Feel
How To Create Unique Watercolor Background Texture
Creating a Healing Brush Background Texture
Just click the Texture Category on the right hand side for posts using textures to see more examples and links.
Check out my Tidbits Blog and click on the Textures Category for more examples and short blogs.


Turning the Old into the New

Recently I have read about several people who have gone back and revisited some of their images they took many years ago before all the new technology, especially the Camera Raw technology, was created. So in this blog I decided to give it a try. The image above was originally photographed in June of 2003 with my 2 mg Casio QV-2900 UX Digital Camera – my first digital camera. I love the new look of these timeless Tamora Roses, possibly my favorite flower ever – it was always so nice to see them growing in my yard in Virginia after a long day at work and they smell fabulous! For all the blog original images and info on how they were processed, see the bottom of the post.
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I have been doing digital photography since 1998 when the Engineering Office I was working for decided to purchase a 1.3 mg Sony Digital Camera that saved images down onto a 3-inch disk. And this camera was expensive – I think it was over $600 when we bought it. That is when I learned to use Adobe Photo Deluxe, a precursor to Elements. I brought the camera home for a few family pix and I was hooked. The original image above was from my first batch of personal photos and was 40.7 KB in size! Not my favorite picture, but it was pretty cool to see what can be done with it now and a nice reminder of my salt water aquarium I used to maintain.
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This is just a simple snow image of a small bridge on Royal Lake near my old home in Fairfax, Virginia, and taken using my Casio camera again in the winter of 2003 – I actually like the original as well but it was fun to see what the new plug-ins can do on an image. Glad I do not have to deal with the snow anymore! This little 2 mg camera took some great images and I really put it through it’s paces back then.
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Just having fun with this beautiful yellow rose that also grew in my yard in Virginia. All the new textures that are available make it hard to choose a look! This was also taken with my old Casio.
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This is what my backyard looked like in April with all these aged Azaleas in bloom – definitely looked like a fairy garden! I really miss Virginia in the Spring! Actually you can see below what the real color of these flowers are – still beautiful – like both images.

Here is a tych I created from last week’s blog (see Using a Tych Panel to Show Off Your Images of my original images. Quite a difference!

If you have some older images that you really loved but just did not have the total feel you wanted, try reopening them up in Photoshop and applying some of the new techniques, textures and filters. This turned out to be a lot of fun for this rather boring time of year. Enjoy!…..Digital Lady Syd

Processing steps for each image:

Image 1: These flowers are actually a tangerine color – yellow inside and pink tinge on the outside. In Lightroom the image was cropped, and Basic panel sliders were adjusted, then with an Adjustment Brush the center of the big flower was sharpened and clarity added just a little. Once in Photoshop the background was duplicated and Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4’s Watercolor II preset was applied set to 90% layer opacity. A composite layer was created (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) and a Selective Color Adjustment Layer was applied to make the flower more pink (Yellows: Yellow -52%; Greens: Cyan -19, Magenta +56, Yellow -2, and Black +7; and Neutrals: Cyan and Magenta  0, Yellow -16, and Black -10). Next Melissa Gallo Painted Textures Winter Wheat was added and set to Hard Light blend mode at 100% opacity. I discovered that 2 Lil’ Owls Bonus Texture 4 created a great painterly looking frame – I created a PNG file of just the frame by following the steps in my blog How To Make Frames or Borders – scroll down to the section called “To save the frame you created as an overlay to use again.” A very light pink Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+ click between the layers). A Levels Adjustment Layer was added and the Output Levels changed to 33/255 to give a light hazy look to the image. In the layer mask, the main flower center was lightly painted in black to remove the haze. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added to remove a bluish cast in the bottom of the image (Saturation -56 and Lightness +57).

Image 2: After applying a few Basic Panel changes in Lightroom and doing an OnOne (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Perfect Resize to change the image size to 6 inches X 4.5 inches from 2 inches X 1.5 inches, I could work on the image. To get the above result, Topaz DeNoise 3 was applied using their strongest JPEG preset and then adjusting the Overall slider to 0.27 and no Recover Detail. Topaz Detail 3 was applied using the Highlights Detail IV preset. Then I went into Topaz Simplify 4 and added the Painting Tone IV preset changing the Size to 0.18, Saturation to 1.83, Saturation Boost to 1.42 and Dynamics (my favorite slider in Topaz is in Simplify also) to .31. I was able to get a bit of a texture in the image by applying Kim Klassen Cafe‘s free Sunkissed texture (sign up for her newsletter to get lots of beautiful textures) with a Bevel and Emboss layer style added where Texture was checked – used my free SJ Smudge Texture as a texture (which is really a pattern) to the image at 100%, and in the Bevel & Emboss dialog, I unchecked the Global Light box, changed the Size to 0, Highlight Mode Opacity to 85% and the Shadow Mode Opacity to 69%. (To create a pattern from a texture, just open the texture up in Photoshop and go to Edit -> Define Pattern and it will appear at the bottom of your patterns list.)  A light gray Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+click between the layers to clip the color to layer) to the texture layer. To add the painterly frame, my free SJ Painter Oil Frame (that I created this week in Painter) was added and the same Layer Style was added (hold down ALT+drag the one on the texture to copy to the frame layer). A Curves Adjustment Layer was added and that was it. I think it really has a painterly feel.

Image 3: This image was cropped in Lightroom and in the Basic Panel the Clarity, Vibrance, Contrast, Shadows, Highlights, and Exposure sliders were adjusted along with the Sharpening slider. In Photoshop Topaz photoFXlabs was opened and Topaz Adjust’s French Countryside was applied. Back in photoFXlab the Adjustments tab, my favorite Dynamics slider was set to 48. My free SJ Snow 2 Overlay-slight blur was applied at 73% opacity. Next my free SJ Painter Oil Frame (see download link Image 2 info) was applied at 69% opacity. On top of that French Kiss Artiste Collections grayish Northern Skies texture was added and set to Vivid Light at 41% opacity. By putting the texture over the frame also, it gives the canvas feel to the white frame. A slight S-shaped curve was added using a Curves Adjustment Layer.

Image 4: Basically this image was sharpened using Topaz Detail 3 Feature Enhancement II preset; Nik Color Efex Pro 4‘s stacking Film Efex Vintage using filters Film Type 16 and the Opacity slider set to 0 – that is because a Control Point had been placed just on the yellow flower, Darken/Lighten Center, and White Neutralize with a green Color selected; and adding 2 Lil’s Owls (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Workbook Bonus Texture 13 (this is a soft smooth pink texture) set to 76% opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture get the bluish tone for the background.

Image 5: To get this beautiful look, Nik Color Efex Pro 4’s Midnight filter set to Color Set Blue and White Neutralizer filter selecting a dark green color. Kim Klassen Cafe’s (see link in Image 2’s info) free unleashed texture was used, and once again I created a PNG following my Overlays blog steps (follow the steps in my blog How To Make Frames or Borders – scroll down to the section called “To save the frame you created as an overlay to use again”) and then clipped (ALT+click between the layers) a light gray Color Fill Adjustment Layer to it. That was it – really easy to do.

Image Tych: The background for the Tych was one from Kim Klassen free Texture Partings – I love the very soft subtle textures she creates!

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Photography Has Come A Long Way


Shadowhouse Creations Actions

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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


How to Turn a Brush into a Watercolor Brush

I just keep learning more about textures. This is one of those little tips that just did not occur to me until I looked at my old notes from Fay Sirkis’s “A Stroke of Genius-Photoshop Art Studio” webinar at the NAPP website and it sort of “jumped out” at me. BTW, if you want to learn how to paint in Photoshop, Fay’s video is full of information to teach just that – she does a great job of explaining all the famous artist’s techniques.

Now for the basic tip: If you want to make a regular brush into a watercolor brush, just check the Scattering section in your Brush Panel – even the default settings can do wonders. You will probably need to reduce the opacity of the brush to get a good effect and also adjust the size. Can try changing the scattering amount and adding texture to the brush for more interest. Just be sure to save it if you want to reuse it by clicking on the Create a New Brush icon at bottom of the Brush Panel. If you use a Wacom tablet, you will get different results using a regular tablet brush and/or Barrel Rotation Brush, besides what you get with just a mouse stroke. My images all used the Barrel Rotation Brush to get the painterly look (I use an old large Intuous 3 Tablet that still works just fine), but I did switch between brushes and mouse to get a little different texture added. See bottom of blog for download link to all the brushes I have created.

For the agapanthas (African Lily) flower image above, these steps were followed:

1.  First duplicate the image.

2.  Place a layer underneath the top layer and fill with white (One way to do this is to go to Edit -> Fill and select in the Use drop-down white).

3.  A black layer mask was added to the top layer with the image, and in the mask the flowers were painted back in carefully using a 30% opacity white soft brush.

TIP: For the flowers in the bottom two image, first the Select -> Color Range command was used before the Layer Mask was added to get most of the flower and/or background selected (instead of painting it all in the mask by hand). The Quick Mask (press Q to enter and exit) was used to fine-tune the selection before adding the Layer Mask to the flower layer – this puts the selection into the layer mask when you click the icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel. If the wrong area is black, just highlight the layer mask and invert by pressing CTRL+I.

4.  A new blank layer was added underneath the flowers but above the white layer. This is where I started experimenting with the above brushes – the watercolor texture was painted in exactly where I wanted it to fit around the flower. I ended up using a Watercolor Salt Brush set to Scattering at 368%, 170 pixel Brush Size at 30% opacity in a light blue. (This will look totally wrong at a higher opacity.) I tried several different colors and ended up using this soft greenish color (R160/G174/B124) in a Solid Color Adjustment Layer that was clipped to the painted texture (go to Layer -> New Fill Layer -> Solid Color and check Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask). The Watercolor Salt Brush layer was set to 41% opacity. (This is my SJ Watercolor Salt Brush Tool Preset brush.)

5.  I decided to add in another watercolor texture layer made with the Round Watercolor Brush set to 30% opacity and Scattering 169%. (See my SJ Round Watercolor Erodible Brush 1.) The layer was set to 100% and the Solid Color Adjustment Layer was duplicated and placed above the top texture layer and clipped (hold down the ALT+click between the layers to get a clipping mask).

Optional Step as shown in first and second image: To get the look that this is on watercolor looking paper, all that you need to do is to add a Pattern Overlay Layer Style on the white layer created in Step 2 and use the same Pattern Overlay Layer Style on the actual flower layer in Step 3. When the Layer Style (double click on the layer thumbnail and select the Pattern Overlay style where you replace the default bubble with the CS6 Artist Surface Watercolor Pattern. (Click on the down arrow by the bubble pattern and click on the little gear on the upper right – navigate to the the Artist Surface patterns.) I set the scale to 536% and the pattern opacity to 74%. For Step 3 layer, set pattern opacity to 34%. You can find other watercolor patterns on the internet if you want a different look.

Those are all the basic steps to get this beautiful result. The hardest part was creating the layer mask for the flowers. You can always work on the flower layer mask more after you get your textures in place.
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This image followed exactly the same workflow above except a different color was used and the layer opacity was left at 100% for the texture. The Optional Step texture is from Russell Brown’s Watercolor Assistant Panel that is a free download for Photoshop CS6 users. It contains this beautiful watercolor paper pattern called Bockingford_rough. Download the panel and try painting – it is a lot of fun and you get this beautiful pattern to use for your watercolor background effects.

I got really nice results with the tablet brush using the new CS6 Round Watercolor Erodible Brush and adding the default Scattering settings, 30% brush opacity, and a larger 125 pixel brush. (See my SJ Round Watercolor Erodible Brush 1 in downloadable set below.) The CS6 Watercolor Salt brush actually generates a pretty realistic cloud effect when set to a soft bright blue color. Try the new Bristle Brushes too – gives a totally different look. I also created a nice Watercolor Brush using CS5 – in this case I started with the Round Blunt Medium Stiff brush. In Brush Tip Shape, Shape is Round Blunt, Bristles 14%, Length 137%, Thickness 37%, Stiffness 71%, and Angle 53 degrees. Then the Shape Dynamics section was checked with and Angle Jitter set to 34%, Scattering set to the Scatter 338%, Texture using one called White Stationary, Transfer  – Opacity Jitter set to 47% and Control Pen Pressure, Wet Brushes and Smoothing checked. (This is my SJ Watercolor Brush Tool Round Blunt brush in download set.) There several watercolor brushes in the Natural Brushes 2 set and Wet Brushes for CS5 users that would probably make really nice scatter brushes too.
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This image used roughly the same workflow except the background color is a lovely soft orange. This time my Salt Watercolor brush set to a light orange was used along with McBad’s Watercolor Brush 37 at 768 pixels using a light yellow. When finished, Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Adjust 5’s French Countryside (one of my favorites) preset was applied (with these changes: Adaptive Exp. .47, adjusted Contrast and Brightness, turned off Diffusion and Vignette, and set Tone Strength to .78), Topaz Detail 3 set to the Overall Medium Detail preset (I use this setting all the time on my images now), and Topaz DeNoise 3 used to clean up noise in flower center only – used a black layer mask and painted out the center. rbcampos Iris Set 01 Brush 005 was used for the center eye and set to a layer opacity of 27%. A catchlight was added to the eye and OnOne (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) PhotoFrame Dave Cross 13 was added in a matching soft orange.
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Here is a final example that follows the same workflow. In this case the background was created using McBad’s Watercolor Brush 11 with Scattering on and the Brush Size set to 2000 pixels. Just dabbed on a separate document until I got an interesting watercolor texture – then dragged it into the flower image under the Step 3 flower with layer mask layer, but above the Step 2 white layer. Topaz Simplify 4 was applied to the flower layer and the Watercolor II preset applied, except to the center of the flower. French Kiss’s free Glorious Grunge Edging Overlay with the center cleared out was applied and a purple Color Fill Adjustment Layer added. Just a slightly different look using a different type brush.

I have made my five brushes in this blog available for download at my Deviant Art: SJ WATERCOLOR BRUSH TOOL PRESETS. Load them into Photoshop by clicking on the first icon in Options Bar – click to open Tool Preset Picker and open up fly-out menu or little gear on top right – select Load Tool Presets and navigate to where you downloaded the file. (The file is in a compressed ZIP file format as Deviant Art would not take a .tpl extension.) Change all the settings – you can always get back to what they were by opening up the Tool Preset Picker and clicking on the brush tool again. Hopefully you will develop some even better brushes than these I supplied. Have fun experimenting with this…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Create Unique Watercolor Background Texture
How to Create Unique Textured Backgrounds
Using a Couple of My Textures


How to Create Unique Textured Backgrounds

This is a follow-up from last week’s How to Create Unique Watercolor Background Texture blog and more Photo Art examples. Below are listed several ways to create  interesting backgrounds using brushes and other Photoshop tools. The above is an example of what can be done using very traditional textures to make your image look a little different. Some clean up and a Curves Adjustment Layer were added to emphasize the sketch lines of the flowers more. Next Lost and Taken’s Remixed Chalk Pastel 03 texture was added and set to Pin Light at 100% opacity. To get the grungy look, a New Layer was created using the Amazing Texture Brush 2 by Nakatoni (apparently these are no long available but any grunge brush you like will work to add some splotchy purple color) – the layer was set to 52% opacity. A little color clean up was done on another New Layer. Next one of my favorite canned textures by Gavin Hoey’s grunge border 2 was added and set to Overlay blend mode. To get the flowers to appear, a white layer mask was added and the flowers were painted back in using black in the mask. This texture was set to Overlay blend mode. Next a composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created and a black 3 pixel stroke layer style was added as a small border line. Next my Cat Painting canvas texture was added using Soft Light at 100% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer, Levels Adjustment Layer, and Gradient Map Adjustment Layer (using a bright yellow to green gradient and layer set to Saturation blend mode at 46% opacity). Two more layers were created using different grunge brushes set to 20% opacity in purples and blues were the last steps. The reason I went over all this is to show what a few layers on top of rather traditional textures can give a very different look and be very targeted to get an interesting final result. Below is the Layer Panel workflow as basically listed above.

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This background was created in an interesting way. A New Document was created using the Photoshop Paint Brush Maple Leaves set to 369 pixels with pink and yellow set as foreground and background colors – the whole layer was covered with leaves. Next the Smudge Tool was selected and I dabbed and smoothed the colors together to give this nice blended look using Fay Sirkis’s Watercolor Liquid Mask I Photoshop Brush with the Smudge Brush Tool. If you do not have access to her wonderful brushes, try Alex Dukai Artist Set 01 using the Impressionist brushes which give a very similar result. (Note: the Smudge Brush Tool takes a lot of Ram to run so use a small sized brush like 150 pixels max to do do this.) Once this is created, save the background down as a JPG so it can be used over as an image texture. I used this background and added my sketched layer from the first image. A New Layer using Obsidian Dawn’s Random Swirls 2 Glitter Brush in light pink was added to add texture to the flowers. Nagel rough pastel brushes 3 and 4 were used in the different colors to fill in blanks spots and add some color to the petals – these are really nice smoothing brushes. My Double Edge Frame layer style was added as a last step. See my blog Digital Lady Syd’s Free Layer Style Frames. Here is just a different way you can create a unique texture for you images. You can download my Smudge Texture – see below how to change the effect and colors in this same texture.
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This original image was first taken into Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and three filters stacked: Midnight using Neutral color set, Reflector Efex using Method Gold. and Bi-Color Filters using Color Set Violet/Pink 3. The background came out as black so a layer was placed above and olive green grunge was added on the layer using another one of Fay Sirkis’ textures pastel brush (see last week’s blog for more on Fay). Again a good grunge brush would be fine. A second layer was added and a light pink grunge was painted – the layer was set to 19% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to darken the whole image down a bit. Next, the Smudge Texture created in the image above was placed in the image on top and set to Color blend mode at 80% opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture (ALT+Click between the layers) to adjust the hue (+14) and saturation (-71) of the texture itself – the adjustment layer was set to 49% opacity. Finally a composite layer was put on top and my Double Edge Frame layer style was added to finish up the image. I believe all these steps created once again a very unique background for these flowers.
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This image used a pattern applied with the Pattern Stamp Tool. This tool can create some really interesting backgrounds. The original image was loaded. Next a New Layer was added on top and the Pattern Stamp Tool (sits with the Clone Stamp Tool) was selected. Now to make this interesting you have to load some interesting patterns. This is one from Princess of Shadow Victorian Dreams Texture 6 but any pattern that has colors you like can be used. I wanted some blues and reds so that is why this particular pattern was chosen. Note you can use any of your textures and turn them into patterns by opening texture, going to Edit -> Define Pattern and it will be in your group of selected patterns. To make this work you need to go to the Options Bar and in the little box where the pattern is showing, click on the little down arrow and load your pattern. A layer mask was added to remove the color from the flowers. The Pattern Stamp layer was set to Color Burn blend mode at 77% opacity. This layer was duplicated which added in the blue and red tones in the texture once the layer was set to Hard Light at 64% opacity. The flowers were painted over using Mixer Brush blenders. Once again I have to thank Fay Sirkis for her great Signature Schlepp n Smear Blender brush and one by Dave Cross – his close up mixer brush. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added where the RGB, Red and Blue curves were adjusted. Finally I a used my Double Edge Frame layer style, this time adding a Layer Stroke effect and setting the size to 18 and Fill Type to Pattern. I selected the same pattern and set the scale to make it look right.
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I thought I would finish up with a couple real quick ways to add an interesting background. Kelby TV’s Ask Dave’s blog has a short video on How Did You Get That Cool Background? that was used to create the background above. This is a really easy technique. Basically Dave Cross (one of the NAPP Photoshop Guys and Hall of Famer at Photoshop World) used the Single Row or Column Marquee tool and apply a couple filters – I did this in a separate PSD file so I could use the texture over again. This time the flowers were cropped and set to Dissolve blend mode. An image that had yellows and reds was selected to create the background and a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer added for the purple/blue tones. A snow texture that Florabella Collections had given away at Christmas was placed under the flowers but above the adjustment layer – any snow texture is fine (it would be easy to create by painting with a spatter brush on a black background on a layer) and set the layer to Color Dodge at 35% opacity. A New Layer was created using Frostbo’s Snow Drops brush with purple tones – this is my favorite snow brush. My Thin Double Edge Frame was used as a last step sampling color from image.
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Hope you are not getting tired of my flowers but they were easy to use as an example. This last image first used a Randomized Gradient – it was originally in bright reds and oranges.

See my Tidbits Blog I Didn’t Know That! Randomizing Gradients which uses four steps to create. This gradient had Noise set to just 50%. The randomize button was pushed several times until I got a gradient I liked. In this case I used a Radial Gradient which was pulled out from one corner of the image. A Curves and a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer were added to change the colors to browns and pinks. The flowers were placed above the gradient layer. (See left  image.) A New Layer was added under the flowers but above the adjustment layers and a Mixer Brush was used to smear the color behind the flowers to get this effect. (I personally like John Derry’s Mixer Brushes – this used his Flat Fan High Bristle Count brush.) I was really surprised how this turned out. Try out different mixer brush settings to see which one does not pick up the flower colors but just those underneath. Now just a little clean up and frame. The Mixer Brushes can create some really interesting backgrounds.

I hope you have learned a few new ways to create some interesting background textures for your images, especially flowers. In the meantime, try some of these techniques and see if you get some good results!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel Updated!
Create a Winter Scene with Photoshop Brushes and Textures
Adding a Texture for Flair!
Adobe Photoshop CS5′s Mixer Brushes
Cold Dolphin Fountain in Florida


How to Create Unique Watercolor Background Texture

Everyone it seems is texture crazy right now! I have to admit that I love to use textures in my photo art but some of what I am seeing does not seem that terribly creative to me. Once you buy a texture action, and don’t get me wrong – there are some beautiful textures and actions to make your photos look great – the results may start to look a little canned. That is what I was feeling when I created the above image from a shot of beautiful white flowers from Hawaii. I have to admit I tried a few boilerplate textures from some of my favorite texture people, but it just did not do anything for me. Then I decided to take things in my own hands and try making some interesting textures that would work for me.
As I have said before, I am not a trained artist, but I do like to play around with brushes. Here is the original image before adding my textures. The first thing I did was to create a sketch in Topaz Simplify (for website link, see sidebar of my Tidbits Blog) using colored edges. (I still have not found anything that works better to get a really good sketch effect.) In fact I got the idea from an image I posted in my My Version of Photoshop Tennis! blog where I used the Simplify plug-in to get a nice line drawing of the outdoor cafe image. The settings are very similar but instead of using mono color edges, color edges were used (see settings for Image 6 in blog). Back in Photoshop, Color Range was used to delete all the green background out of the image so only the sketched flowers remained. I duplicated this layer and put it to Multiply blend mode to make the lines a little darker and even added a Curves Adjustment Layer to bring out more  detail in the petals. A New Layer was placed between the original green image layer and the sketch and filled with a light yellow.  Above the yellow layer, several New Layers were added where I just painted with a chalk or charcoal brushes using 30% opacity in light pinks and blue colors around the petals to start getting a painted background. This does not have to be painted perfectly as they are blended into the image later. Different new layers were created for the different colors – if one color is not looking that great, you can delete it from the image without losing your other colors. (In fact I had created a rather bright orange layer using a charcoal brush that just did not work so it was deleted.) I used some of my very favorite brushes by Fay Sirtis, a Corel Master Painter, but she also does Photoshop brushes. The best way to get hold of them is to join NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals) where her videos and brush downloads are available. She has created several of the old masters’ brushes to use in Photoshop, but also has some of her own pastel, chalk and charcoal brushes. Her dry, texture pastel, and chalk add color brushes were applied to add a nice texture to just the flower petals. Check out your Natural, Dry Media and Wet Media Brush sets that came with Photoshop for some other good brush choices. I try to rename the layer with the name of the brush used if it a unique one. Now a composite (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) stamped layer is created to finish up. Below is where we are at.


The image still needed more interest so a I created one to place over the sketched flowers. This was done by starting a New Document and creating several layers of strokes in different soft colors and opacities. The brushes used in this file are BittBox Free Hi-Res Watercolor Photoshop Brushes. A Composite was created at the top of this document like above. I then saved the Pastel Watercolor texture image as both a .PSD and .JPG file. Click on image to see steps more clearly in FlickR (click again in FlickR to bring up an even larger view). To download my texture from Deviant Art, click here. See “Create a Colorful Paint Background in Photoshop” by EntheosWeb.com for a good article on how to do this.

This watercolor JPG texture image was then placed above the Composite layer of the flower file. I did not like the way it lined up so a Free Transform (CTRL+T) was done and it was flipped vertically and horizontally to get the look I liked. A layer mask was added to clear some of the paint from the petals where it looked overdone. The layer was set to  Lighten blend mode at 57%. Note my layer is called Adobe Paper Texture Pastel Watercolor because it was added using Dr. Brown’s Paper Texture Panel (see link below) just like any other texture – it will rename your layer for you which is very helpful when stacking texture effects. What I did next was to add several layers of cloning and painting to clean up or paint some additional color texture and paint on the individual petals to give emphasis in certain areas and less in others. As you can see, there is a little blue painted in the flowers on one layer – this is painted at a very low brush intensity, between 15 and 30%, and the layer opacities were adjusted afterwards. A really light vignette was created and set to 30% opacity and Overlay blend mode to direct the eye just a little. Finally my Double Edge Layer Style (can be downloaded here) was added sampling the colors from the image for the frame on yet another composite top layer.

This seems like a long process, but you now have another texture and it is unique because you made it. I have used this Pastel Watercolor texture in other images. Add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and clip it to the texture (ALT+Click on line between the layers) to change the colors in the texture. By adding some textured brush strokes with the Pastel Watercolor texture, a very unique and artistic look can be achieved. Next time I will show a few other ways to get some different background effects. Until then, have fun with your brushes!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Create Unique Textured Backgrounds
How to Turn a Brush into a Watercolor Brush
Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 7: Get Textures From Objects Inside Your Home!
Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel Updated!
Orchids with Russell Brown’s Paper Textures Panel