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Posts tagged “Textures

HOW TO GET A SOFT TEXTURED FLOWER EFFECT


Image of an orange Bird of Paradise plant

In the process of reorganizing my office so have not done a lot of Photoshop. But I did recently enjoy one of my favorite texture people, Kim Klassen, blogs and some of her really nice give-aways. She also is a Lightroom expert but her textures have always been great for that soft subtle look. Most of her looks are with florals and of very peaceful surroundings. Sign up for her newsletter and she will give you some great textures. Also a Jai Johnson texture was  used (see more on this below) and her textures are a favorite for me, especially with my animal images.

For the above image, Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Sharpen AI was applied on a duplicate layer. The spotlight effect was added to bloom and leaves (see my How to Add a Spot of Light blog to do this) to draw the eye to the focal point. To further sharpen the bloom only, a High Pass filter was added with a black mask – painted back only what needed a little more sharpening. Chris Spooner’s Wood Grain Texture 01 png was added next and the plant was painted out in a layer mask so the grain only affected the background. (These are really nice textures and are a free download – check out Chris’s site for lots of free goodies.) A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+click between the layers to clip) to add the blue color to the wood grain.  A texture by Jai Johnson at Daily Textures called Watercolor Experiment was set to Vivid Light at 20% layer opacity. This was a free give-away from Jai – if you sign up for her newsletter she will give you several great textures. Her specialty is creating natural textures that look great with animal images. Jai also has some great tutorials at her site for adding animals into her textures which is a lot of fun.

Now Kim Klassen’s Mocha stamp brush was used to soften the whole image down – this was a free give-away this month and is in her Dry Brush Stamps set. Set it to 43% and did just one stamp down. Kim’s Minimay grunge frame was added with a layer mask and everything but the frame was painted out. The texture was set to Pin Light at 83% layer opacity. Another Selective Color Adjustment Layer was clipped to the frame to adjust the color for a very rusty effect. The last step was a Curves Adjustment Layer to add back some contrast.

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Image of Pink Pentas in my Yard
This is more of a real Kim Klassen “look” compared to the top image. This also was a much simpler workflow. On a duplicate layer converted to a Smart Object, the Camera Raw filter was opened and the Calibration Panel was opened to add a little more pink back into the flowers – it really improved the color. This is one of Kim’s tricks when she is processing her images – a great way to remove some greens if they are overdone or not quit the right color. I brought a butterfly image taken at the Butterfly Rain Forest to just add a little interest – this orange beauty was turned into purple to fit in subtlety. Wish there really was a purple butterfly like this – to soften those edges a little, put an Inner Glow on it (compositing trick learned from Matt Kloskowski) – set your blend mode to Normal and sample color from image for swatch. Clip a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to butterfly layer to change its color. On a new layer another free brush set from Kim called Edged Stamp (used 2) was selected – just clicked once – it gave a beautiful textured look. On top another Kim Klassen texture called Paper and Grit 2 was added (this is from a set I got several years ago but I believe she still sells it – these are really beautiful textures). This one was sort of a concrete look but in a light beige color and was set to Soft Light blend mode at 100% layer opacity.

The last step is pretty nifty – very similar to my Spotlight Effect, but this time Unmesh Dinka did a One Trick to Add Light or Shine to Anything in Photoshop video that shows how to add some shine to any object. That is what was done on this image to just slightly pop the flowers. I actually created a simple action to do this as I found this technique really helpful – just need to create the brush first so it can selected in the action.

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Digital Art of some flowers
Just another example of a Kim Klassen’s effect. This time the steps in her A Start to Finish Quote Art Photoshop Video Tutorial were followed using her mostly-subtle stamp brushes that are available on the site. It was a lot of fun to do. The flowers are from Vector Huts Globe Flowers – 40 Plant III No. 4 which were free a while back.The outside frame is from Jai Johnson and is called Chaos Frame Border. The dark lines were selected using Color Range and a layer mask added – you want the dark areas to appear as white in the mask. It was one of her give-aways from December. That was all that was done.

If you want to get some nice textures to tryout, get on both Kim’s and Jai’s mailing lists – they are super about giving you samples to try out and their textures are absolutely fabulous! Have a good week…..Digital Lady Syd


CREATING COMPOSITE IMAGES USING THE JULIEANNE KOST WORKFLOW

An image of a composite containing the ocean and a small island
I would imagine everyone who has Photoshop has run across the name Julieanne Kost – she is an Adobe Evangelist and attends most major events that showcase Photoshop. She really loves to use texture and recently created a short video on her blog called Happy Birthday Photoshop! to let you see how she puts here fine art composites together. I found this short video really interesting and thought I would give her style a try and share it with you. The above image was my first attempt.

I have always felt that composites are really fun to do, but it does require a bit of creativity to pull together several different elements into a meaningful result. The above image I named “Hope on the Horizon” as I wanted to depict a rather lonely feeling but with the moving clouds and birds, there is always activity and hope.

WORKFLOW:

Here is how I perceived her workflow – my own steps for the image above is in italics.

    1. First select an image that would work as a nice background for the image. This usually means there is a really nice ocean scene, or flat foreground grassy area and it may or may not have a horizon line. Just need something of interest to build your composite on.
      In the above, an image taken while sailing showing the clouds out over the ocean was used as a basis for the image.
    2. She will add a texture on top of the background layer sometimes. It is often necessary to desaturate the texture so it does not change the tone in the image so SHIFT+CTRL+U is used to desaturate it.
      On the image above, a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using the Candlelight preset was added instead to reduce the color but not change the texture of the water at this time.
    3. Add in some elements – these can be brought in from anywhere. It can be helpful to select the items out of the image before copying them into your composite, but you do not have to – just add a layer mask to clean up what is being added.
      In the image above two images from PixelSquid (one of my favorite element places, but it is a membership site) using a sand and dunes element and a palm tree element. The dune contained the nice grass and weeds. The wood structure behind the tree was taken from another one of my images and just added in – used a layer mask to remove its background. Selective Color Adjustment Layers were used to adjust the color of the elements. Also added a New Layer and painted some small white and black flowers (scatter brush dots) in the weeds. And you may want to paint over the edges with a low opacity Regular brush or Smudge or Mixer brush to blend in elements.
    4. Used a fog brush to soften the horizon on a New Layer if you do not want it to be too noticable. Julieanne appears to soften the horizon a lot in her image.
      The brush used above was a cloud brush called Adonish CLOD3 from a free set by DanLuVisiArt on DeviantArt and does a great job with this – need to set the size of course.
    5. Next texture(s) need to be added – any number and try out different blend modes and and adjust layer opacity for each. Some may need to be desaturated and some may not – that is what makes it fun.
      Above two textures were applied: one from Melissa Gallo’s canvas collection called Dark Naples Yellow Canvas set to Overlay blend mode at 74% layer opacity and contains the strong yellow and green components, and one from the Adobe Texture Pro Panel called Villa Adriana – it was desaturated and set to Hard Light at 45% layer opacity.
    6. More elements can be added on top too.
      See the birds flying – they are also from PixelSquid but bird elements can be found all over the internet.
    7. Now the final steps need to be done. Usually a Curves or Levels Adjustment Layer need to be added to retain the  contrast lost by adding all the textures. Also any other masking or tweaking needs to be done to get your image just right.
      In the image above, Viveza was opened on a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and set to a Smart Object so it could be readjusted. The Camera Raw filter could have been used to do the same. The sliders were set to brighten up the whole image a little and add a little structure which was lost by adding all the texture. The last step involved adding a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer on top and reducing the saturation (-25) just a little as it was supposed to be a little darker than the happy yellow it currently was.

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    Image of a Sumatran Tiger
    This Sumatran Tiger from the Jacksonville Zoo is really not as mean as he looks (although I am not sure of this) – I wanted him to look like he was walking straight at you. Since there was a fence behind him, an element was created using some horizontal lines with a brush and adding some texture to the layer. So, yes, the original image and background of the tiger are the same, but many things were done that are similar to Julieanne’s type of image. A brush was created to paint in a warm orange texture around the lion but under the horizontal line layer. For instructions on how to do this, check out Envato’s tutorial called How to Create Photoshop Brushes from an Old Newspaper by Ivan Gromov. It was a lot of fun to do and the created brushes make nice texture layers. Two other texture layers were applied – Melissa Gallo’s Green Lake set to Overlay blend mode at 60% layer opacity and Trees in May set to 75% layer opacity. A High Pass layer was used to sharpen just his face (used a black layer mask and painted in just the face area). On top one of my own white textures was set at 75% Layer Opacity to give him a less sharp and bright overall appearance. A Levels Adjustment Layer was used to add back some contrast and that was about it.

    Julieanne has a class on compositing at Lynda.com for a fee. Her technique is pretty consistent if you watch her short video and she does create some really nice textured images. I hope you will give it a try since it is pretty fun to do and it is not a real hard workflow to master. Have a good week…..Digital Lady Syd

    DIGITAL LADY SYD RELATED BLOGS:
    How to Make a Basic Composite Image
    ReBlog – Get Inspired using Your Favorite Textures
    A Few Compositing Tips and Tricks! – Recycled
    A Flamingo’s Private Park


ADDING TEXTURES TO WILDLIFE PHOTOS

Image of a Rainbow Lorikeet at the Jackonsville Zoo in FloridaThis has been a busy summer for me so my posts are a little sporadic. I have not used textures a lot recently but I did get a chance to look at Jai Johnson, a wonderful wildlife photographer, and her Artistry Beyond texture videos. (Of course all her textures are to die for, especially if you do any wildlife shooting.) This got me interested in trying it out again so I followed several of her tips to create both images in this blog. She does use an older Topaz interface – photoFXlab plugin (I agree with Jai – I still love this little program) – but her steps can easily be adapted to Photoshop and Topaz’s new program, Studio (for website link, check out the sidebar on my Tidbits Blog). I just finished watching her Episode 4 on Working with Harsh Light and found her tips very helpful since I photograph a lot in bright light. This beautiful little Rainbow Lorikeet (a type of Parakeet) lives at the Jacksonville Zoo in Florida. Since you are inside the actual bird exhibit, images can be taken quite easily although these birds do not stay still for long.

This image followed Jai’s Farmhouse Art concept (see her Episode 7 for more on this) which basically is a desaturated, simple, subdued and fresh appearance. I have not seen this look very often although I think it is very popular for home decorating. Usually the background is white-washed looking with neutral tones so that is what was done in this image. This image used 9 different textures (only 2 were from Jai) at different blend modes and opacities. It was surprising how nice the effect built up but it did take a lot of trial and error to get the effect. The created texture can be saved down using the combined textures as a jpg to use again on other images. Many of these textures had lots of color in them so they were desaturated using a clipped (ALT+click between layers) Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Some textures were blurred to soften a little and layer masks were used on some to apply just in certain parts of the image. Also the bird had to be lightly desaturated by selecting it and using the Photoshop Camera Raw filter to soften it down. Using different blend modes at low opacities can really change how a texture applies itself. And do not forget those Blend If sliders in the Layer Style. Used all these tricks on the images. Also Nik Viveza 2 was used to help direct focus – still the best Photoshop plug-in out there!

I really like the font Blossom that was used in the word Rainbow and the Lorikeet font is Marcelle Script. A Dodge Brush set to Highlights at 30% Strength was used on a rasterized Rainbow text layer to add a tarnished effect to it. Still learning how to do this effectively, but it was fun to try.

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Image of an elephant at the Jacksonville Zoo in Jacksonville, FloridaThis elephant image was also taken at the Jacksonville Zoo. Similar steps as above were taken to get this effect. This time 5 different textures (these were all different kinds of textures, several I created using Painted and Photoshop) were used. One thing I learned from Jai is that if an area needs a certain color, light or texture, just load a texture that might work and hide the texture with an black layer mask. Then paint back the areas that will add the effect you want using a very low brush opacity. This was done several times on this image to get the darker and softer effect in the corners. The little bird is from a beautiful free set of watercolor birds by Anna Faun – he really looked good with the elephant. The font is called Candy Texture and I added a little smoke effect over it to soften the text.

If you are interested in learning more about how to get some great texture effects, I would recommend Jai’s videos. She has some really good techniques I have not seen anywhere else. I will probably be another week or so before updating again……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz photoFXlab v1.1
Taking Off From the Rookery Runway
InstaTone in photoFXlabs – Great Fun and Great Results!


2013 Inexpensive Gifts for the Photoshop Lover on Your List

Image of snowman and card scene created in both Photoshop and Corel PainterThe last two years I have done blogs on inexpensive gift items that I felt were a good deal if you are a Photoshop and/or Lightroom lover like I am. All the previous items I still recommend and would still make great gifts.

2012 Inexpensive Gifts for the Photoshop Lover on Your List
Inexpensive Gifts for the Photoshop Lover on Your List (for 2011)

This year I am running a little late with my list, but I thought I would add a few more items that might help you out if you need another quick, last-minute gift. All can be downloaded in some form and put on an inexpensive little thumb drive from WalMart or Staples for a nice little gift. These items are not listed in any particular order, just how I thought of them.

1. Topaz ReStyle ($59.99)

The snowman greeting above used this Photoshop plug-in which has turned out to be my favorite Topaz plug-in (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) – since I love all their plug-ins, that is quite a statement! I almost always try it on every image opened in Photoshop, usually as a last step, just to see if a slightly better color palette can be achieved. More times than not I will apply it. At least try out the trial to see if you like it – just a fabulous plug-in that no one else has. The snowman image was originally in whites, greens and browns, which looked okay. But when put into Topaz ReStyle and the Warm Steel Wash preset applied, this was the result which looks more wintry to me. Totally love this plug-in as seen by the various references to it throughout many of my recent blog postings.

2. Dave Delnea’s Lightroom Develop Presets ($10)

This is a set of 46 presets that I use all the time – I love the way he has added different light effects that sit on top of your other presets in many cases. It can really helps even out a dark corner in an image and the presets can be easily edited in Lightroom if the effect is too strong. These sell for $10 or you can get a bundle with David duChemin’s Lightroom presets (see last year’s #10 item) and get them for $16. Can’t go wrong with either set.

Image of Colonial Park Cemetary in Savannah, GeorgiaThis image of the Colonial Park Cemetery (the link is to a website on the ghosts said to haunt the cemetery in Savannah, Georgia where over 10,000 people are said to buried) used both David duChemin’s Toxic Cool Heavy + MTC preset which added the soft fall tones, and Dave Delnea’s Backlight Horizontal Left preset that filled the back corner with light for a more natural tree shadow and lighter background.

3. Argus Preset Viewer ($9.99)

Last year I recommended the Preset Viewer Breeze by Tumasoft (last years #3 item) and it has been a great little program, but the Argus Preset Viewer appears to me to be just as good, faster and cheaper. It adds thumbnails down the right side of your Windows Explorer where you can view a complete set of Photoshop brushes, swatches, styles, shapes, gradients, or patterns. This is such a time-saver and at such a reasonable price. Definite must have!

Image of screenshot of how Tumasoft Argus preset viewer looks

Above is an example of how my free Cloud Brushes look in the Argus Preset Viewer from my Deviant Art site when highlighted in the Windows Explorer.

4. Flypaper Nik Color Efex Presets  ($8)

We all know that Flypaper Textures are great. Recently they offered 84 presets for Nik’s Color Efex Pro plug-in and they have turned out to be really nice. Also gives a great starting point for stacking several filters to get an interesting effect. And the good thing is that they are very inexpensive! This would be a great stocking stuffer!
Image of an old building in the Belarusian countrysideThis image used three plug-ins: Topaz DeNoise, Nik Color Efex Pro using the Fly For Girls preset which stacked Cross Processing, Darken/Lighten Center, Reflector Efex, and Graduated Neutral Density filters, and Nik Viveza. The clouds were added using my brushes 1 and 2 in brush set shown above. The image is of an old residential building in the Belarusian countryside outside Minsk – I have always wondered what stories it could tell.

5. Melissa Gallo’s Painted Textures  ($5 to $35)

Her textures are so gorgeous and I use them on many of my images. If you like the very true vivid painted texture look, check out her textures. She does have a couple texture sets at very reasonable prices – her Winter Solstice Mini Collection of 10 textures for $20 and her Monet Collection of 20 textures for $35. This is something that you cannot get right now, but usually the first Friday of each month, she offers two of her beautifully painted textures for sale for $5 – only time they will be available. She has some more expensive bundles with tutorials and actions included. If your Photoshopper likes textures, definitely check these out.
Image of Mums with Melissa Gallo texturesJust an example of what several of Melissa’s beautiful textures can produce. My mums were not that outstanding an image, but by stacking Melissa’s Mist on the Lake texture at 100% opacity and painting back the flower, her Thanksgiving Mayflower texture set to Overlay blend mode at 87% layer opacity, and finally her Spring Rain texture set to Soft Light blend mode at 92% opacity, an interesting and unique texture look can be achieved. These textures were all from her 2 for $5 deals each month.

6.  Lightroom 5 Unmasked E-Book  ($20)

If you are like me and get a little discouraged that every time Adobe upgrades their software, you have to spend bunches of money on a new book to cover all the little upgrades they did, this is the solution. When Adobe upgraded to Lightroom 4, I bought Piet Van den Eynde E-book and it served my purposes since I knew how to use the program, just needed a quick reference for the new things. When Lightroom 5 came out, Piet came out with an update to his book for just a few dollars (Lightroom 5 Up to Speed) and I was now all set for version 5. His updated complete Lightroom 5 E-book is 356 pages.

7.  Trey Radcliff’s Photomatix Pro Presets  ($14.97)

Needless to say anything Trey sells has got to be good! I am listing these presets as they are very unique and once again I do not know anyone who sells this type of item. Trey also has several nice inexpensive Lightroom preset sets and many inexpensive E-books available in his website store so check them all out.Image of miniature mushrooms that look like hobbit homesThis is a 3-image HDR using Photomatix Pro 5.0 and Trey’s A Little Sumfum Sumfin preset was applied.Some mushroom edge sharpening and a radial vignette were added in Lightroom. These were the tiniest mushroom I have ever seen, only 2 inches high at the max, and I had to shoot them lying on my stomach! I actually expected a little tiny hobbit to walk out!

8. The Way of the Digital Photographer by Harold Davis  ($25.61)

I have always been a big fan of Harold Davis ever since he released The Photoshop Darkroom and The Photoshop Darkroom 2 books (they are still great books). This book is his latest and I just bought it. Planning on spending a few days enjoying some of his new techniques this holiday. Anyway, not sure you can go wrong with any Harold Davis book and they are all available in Kindle editions from Amazon.

9.  Video Tutorial – Snapseed – The Definitive Guide  ($15)

I just bought this and it looks really good. Snapseed is a free IPhone or Adroid application from Nik to create all kinds of interesting effects on your phone images. The above E-book, example images, and videos from Flatbooks discuss how to get the most out of this really cool app. Would make a great gift for someone just getting a new phone (like I did).

A COUPLE FREE ITEMS THAT MIGHT BE USEFUL

10.  Adobe Photoshop Suite CS2 and/or Photoshop CS2

For people who do not really want to buy Photoshop because they do not need to use it that  much, this is a pretty good alternative. Adobe no longer is supporting this version but they will let you download it for free. Since it is a 10-year old program, it lacks a lot of the bells and whistles of the newer versions, but for people who just want to add an adjustment layer or select with a channel, this is not a bad way to go. Thought I would put this out there since not everyone is as crazy about Photoshop as I am. And the bonus is that you can learn the basics of some of the other Adobe programs and see if you might want to actually upgrade to the CC Cloud verion. The link above goes to a recent Gizmoto blog that discusses this in more detail and contains the link to Adobe.

11.  NKS5 Natural Media Toolkit

This is a Photoshop Panel that I have been trying out a little but have not spent much time on it due to the holiday overload. It is a free download and you might want to give it a shot. It is opened from the Window -> Extensions -> NKS5 where a panel with all kinds of brushes and effects are set up on icons. It could be a real time saver. I actually added it to Photoshop CC without any issues even though it says it is for CS5 and CS6.

For some other fairly inexpensive gifts for the photographer, check out this recent episode of The Grid where Photoshop Guys Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski discuss all kinds of items. Lots of fun to watch too. Also, I cannot say enough good things about Creative Live and all the programs they present. If you like what you see during the live presentations, you can get the videos for a reduced price. Keep checking in as they often have different videos at reasonable prices – several are under $50. Still one of the best places to learn about all types of programs that have to do with photography.

Hope this little blog will give everybody some quick ideas for their last minute shopping.  Happy Holidays everybody!…..Digital Lady Syd


How to Use Those Handy Blend-If Sliders!

Got a little creative here and thought I would share what motivated me. Recently I purchased this little gem of a book called Digital Art Wonderland by Angi Sullins and Silas Toball. They do some incredible creative work and include several tutorials on how to make textures and create interesting fun images. So I decided to try out what they were showing and just start playing. Blend If sliders were a big part of the effects in their examples. So what am I talking about? These are the very under-used sliders that create the most interesting effects once you start applying them. They have been in Photoshop since the first version, which is hard to believe. Lots of the very creative work you are seeing in today’s digital art uses these sliders. To get to them, the Layer Style for a layer has to be opened. There are a few of ways to find the Layer Styles: 1) From the Menu, go to Layer -> Layer Style -> Blending Options; 2) Click on the fx icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel and select Blending Options; or 3) The easiest way is to double-click on the layer (not the thumbnail or layer title but just on the empty part of the line) and Blending Options dialog box automatically opens up. Once opened, towards the bottom are the Blend If sliders. The strips represent the darkest to lightest parts of your image – just like the strip in the Levels Adjustment Layer. If the black tab is pulled to the right, then the dark parts of your image to the left of the tab will be removed – the more the tab is moved right, the more pixels are removed. The same goes for the white tab – pull left and anything white to the right will be removed. The tabs can be split by ALT-clicking on them – this creates a smooth transition between the pixels that can and can’t be seen – the area between the tabs is the fade area. With no split, there will be an abrupt edge change, which sometimes you want. This Layer affects the layer you are working on and those pixels are removed; Underlying Layer removes the pixels from the layers below and how they blend with this layer. The rather rough edges of the corners in the shown texture is the result of using the Blend If sliders. I am never sure what I will get when applying these sliders, but it can prove to be quite interesting. See this screenshot for how the Layer Style looked after adding the White Hawaiian Flowers layer.
My basic background texture is actually layered textures from all sorts of places: 1) VP-Brown Paper 4 on the bottom (this texture came from Advanced Photoshop #84’s CD); 2) Caleb Kimbrough Subtlegrunge 2 was added and in the Layer Style the This Layer black tab was split and set to 121/166 – this gives the beautiful dark edge around the image; 3) a New Layer was created and French Kiss Splatter4-01 and 02 were painted in a dark color and set to 78% opacity; 4) Tim in Ohio’s Mr. Wilson’s Front Porch was set to Luminosity blend mode, 68% layer opacity, and in the Layer Style the Underlying Layer white tab was set to 142 (no split); and 5) Flypaper’s Taster Elysium texture was set to Overlay at 61% opacity. This provided a really nice base texture to use in the top and last images.
Once I created the texture, the rest of the image was pretty easy to do. First a White Hawaiian Flowers object I had created from an earlier post was placed on top. The settings used are in the above screenshot for the Layer Style. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment was clipped to the flower layer (ALT+Click between the layers to clip) and the Hue of the flowers was set to -141 to blend in nicely with the texture colors. A Levels Adjustment Layer was also clipped to the flowers and the Midtone tab was set to 0.35. It still looked too plain for me, so Painted Textures Black Friday Set 1-Floral Swirl was added and set to Overlay at 56%. In the Layer Style the Underlying Layer black tab was split and set to 62 and 93. A New Layer was created and some petal outlines were painted in with a small brush set to 12% opacity, and using a sampled color to emphasize some areas that were washed out slightly. The last step was to add a Curve Adjustment Layer to pop the color a little. In the layer mask, the right top corner was slightly painted out so it did not push the eye into the image too strongly.

You can see how great the Blend If sliders work on an image – they can really change the whole effect of an image. Angi and Silas and many of the really great texture creatives use these sliders all the time. If you are interested in getting unique perspectives or interesting textures, it is worth learning how they work and their book gives some wonderful examples and tutorials on how to do this.
…..Here is another image inspired by the Digital Art Wonderland book. Below I have gone to great length to show you how the various combinations of layer styles and Blend If sliders are working together to give the results for each of the items in the above image. You don’t have to understand it all – just get a feel for the steps that can be done to get a very unique look. Also there are some great resources at these links (some are free downloads and some are not) if you need some new ideas. This is basically a two-step process: create a unique texture and then add your own elements to get a charming personal image.

Once again a texture was created before adding elements to the image. The texture was created using these components: Lost and Taken‘s Hand stained paper 11 texture; Isabelle Lafrance Photography Christmas 2011-Lift texture and in the Layer Style Blending Options, the B Channel was unchecked and the Blend Mode was set to Overlay at 100% layer opacity; a New Layer was created and Nakatoni Custom Brushes Amazing Texture 2 (does not appear to be available anymore but any soft grunge brush would do) at 1500 pixels was used to create a beautiful textured effect that combined the soft pink and light yellow foreground and background colors – the layer was completely covered and set to 32% layer opacity; on a New Layer French Kiss Spatter4 Brush 21 was set to 3719 pixels and a greenish color and a few splats were painted on the layer – the layer opacity was then set to 23%; a New Layer was created and in a light pink foreground color, the Straight Grunge Lines by DieheArt was used to add lines across the image – the layer opacity was set to 52%; and a New Layer was created and the foreground color was changed to a light brown tone and also painted across image – the layer opacity was set to 41%.

Now for the various items. On a New Layer the first item added was a big dark green flower brush 1997 by Brush Lover (these used to be posted at BrushLovers.com but they do not appear to be available anymore – but there are many other choices at this site) at 1600 px and set to 72% opacity.  An object added was from Obsidian Dawn’s Fairies Brushes oo12. Since it was black, a Solid Color Fill Layer set to a darkish pink was used for a color. On the brush layer, the Layer Style was opened and a Bevel and Emboss was selected and set to the default and a Depth of 164; and Stroke set to 3 pixels, Position Outside, Opacity 72% and Color set to White. That gave the cutout edge around the brush. A vector from Buburu Resources called Pink and Green Clipart which was a plant, flowers, and butterfly on top, was added – since I only wanted the butterfly, I removed the rest of the vector. The layer was set to Luminosity Blend Mode at 67% opacity. In the Layer Style, lots of things were done: This Layer white tab was set to 213/255; Underlying Layer black tab was set to 79/128; Outer Glow was applied using a reddish color sampled from the Fairy layer and Size set to 8; Pattern Overlay was applied using a Normal Blend Mode, Opacity 100%, 10 Splatters Patterns by Idealhut – pattern 09 at 87% Scale; and Color Overlay sampling a light tan color from image using Normal Blend Mode and Opacity of 39%. A Text Layer was created using Beyond Wonderland font set to a light pink color. The layer was set to 65% opacity and a Layer Style set to Outer Glow set to Dissolve blend mode, Noise 20%, and Size 98 px; Pattern Overlay set to Normal Blend Mode, 100% opacity, and Photoshop’s Watercolor Pattern Bockingford Rough; and Color Overlay using a orange-tan color set to 71% opacity. Playful Flowers vector by Dryicons.com was added and once again the Layer Style was opened – in Blend If This Layer white tab was set to 139/223, and a Drop Shadow using an Opacity of 64%, Distance of 12 and Size of 5. The Layer was set to Color Dodge at 80% opacity. Kim Klassen‘s Frame It was applied on a New Layer and transformed to fit – a light pink color was used and the layer opacity was set to 50%. The last object was the Dirigible4 by NadinePau stock – a Layer Style was applied using Blend If This Layer black tab at 51/74; Drop Shadow set to Color Blend Mode, 100% opacity, Distance 11 px, and Size 9; and Bevel & Emboss set to a Depth of 100 and Size of 5 px. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added on top to increase the Midtone colors and add some contrast.
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Just another example of what you can get with those Blend If sliders. They can definitely give an image a totally different look. The above is an image of some yellow gerberas in a pot on my porch. This image turned out pretty crazy but once again it was a lot of fun to do – and that is why you do this! The first thing done was to work on the bottom layer that is covered up here. Last week I took some pix of clouds that were all broken up by shooting straight up and a brush was created. That is why you see a little bit of cloud along with some texture that was added on another layer. 2 Lil’ Owls (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Bokeh Grunge Set 5 overlay was placed above all this to soften the image. Then a composite of the image was made (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created on top and taken into Topaz (website link in sidebar of my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4 – Watercolor II preset was used and the pot and flowers were painted out with a brush set to .62 opacity. With a little clean-up, I ended up with a really pretty flower picture, but nothing special. The layer was duplicated and to get the funny hanging effect, the top layer was created by using Photoshop’s Lens Correction filter with the Remove Distortion at +50 and Scale of 67% as a Smart Object. A layer style was added and these styles were applied: Stroke set to 9 pixels; Outer Glow using a light pink color set to Normal, 75% opacity, Spread of 19% and Size 250 px; and Drop Shadow with an opacity set to 75, Angle 52,  Distance 40 and Size of 4. On a New Layer, one brush stroke of Midnight Touch’s rEgrets I’ve Had a Few Sampled Brush #6 at 500 px. was applied. Then the Blend If This Layer slider’s black tab was split (click ALT+click to split) and set to 6/55 and the Underlying Layer black tab was set to 188. Then the default Bevel & Emboss, Stroke, Inner Glow and Outer Glow were added to create an interesting white flying egret. The Blend If sliders make the wing slide under the top left corner paint. These were grouped and turned into another Smart Object. The Layer Mask Hides Effects was checked and then a layer mask was added to the image. Some of the edges caused by the layer styles could then be softly painted out. One of the final steps involved adding Nik Color Efex Pro 4′s Solarization filter set to Method 1, Saturation 50%, and Elapsed Time 50%. That’s what made the back pop – and that is where you can see the white area that was the Blend If sliders letting the layer underneath show through. Really interesting effect. Not sure how I feel about this image, but it was a good example of what you can do with the sliders.
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This image was created using one of the tutorials in the Wonderland book – didn’t think I would like doing it but was a lot of fun creating it. It basically involved taking some old master paintings that you like and combining them into something different. This image contains three paintings I admire with areas masked so they blend together nicely. Then Topaz Clarity’s High Contrast and Color Pop II preset was added to get the colors to work together better. Then Topaz Simplify 4 was a applied to a duplicate layer and Watercolor II was used with the Transparency set to .30 so some of the original poked through. My palm tree object with a Gradient Overlay Layer clipped to it was added to get the color correct in the trees. Kim Klassen’s Cloth & Paper Touch texture was used as an overlay and set to 50% opacity. (See my How to Create an Overlay Out of a Texture blog on how to do this.) Text was ExtraOrnamentalNo2 font. A Levels Adjustment was added increasing the contrast a little and setting Output Levels to 15/255 for a bit of a hazy look. The last step involved adding the texture shown above on top and setting it to Difference blend mode at 100% opacity. The Blend If This Layer black tab was set to 0/77 and the white tab was set to 80/183. The Underlying Layer black tab was set to 0 and the white tab was set to 178/233.

I hope you get a chance to try out these sliders. Also turn off the Channel R or G or B check box(es) and move the Fill slider around to see how the colors in the image are affected. (This was done on the texture for I Can Fly image above.) And of course keep trying out the different blend modes in this dialog box. It all adds together to give some very unique results. Have fun experimenting!…..Digital Lady Syd


How to Create an Overlay Out of a Texture

This technique is something I do a lot since so many of the beautiful textures out there have really nice borders or frames. Often the border would look great without all the extra texture effects and colors, and it is nice to be able to change the color easily by using a Color Fill Layer or a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer clipped to the overlay. So here is the way I create a nice png overlay from any texture. If I use someone else’s texture, I make sure they are credited with the effect – they did all the work to create it. The image above uses Shadowhouse Creations Heavenly Vintage Texture Lavender – he has several different colors of just this one texture and all his textures are free downloads. I have touched on this technique in some of my previous blogs linked at the end of this blog, if you want more ideas on how to use overlays

So here is the workflow:

1. Open any texture up in Photoshop that seems like a good candidate for the effect you want. I usually duplicate the texture layer and turn the Background layer off (click on the eyeball and it disappears) in case I mess up the selection. Be sure top layer is now highlighted in the Layers Panel.

2. The area to be kept needs to be selected. Usually I go to Select -> Color Range and in the drop-down Select field, choose Highlights. If this is too over-the-top, go back to Sampled Colors and click and/or drag on colors to select. Remember the white is selected in the Preview Pane. If it is easier to drag in areas you do not want selected, check the Invert box to get the correct areas selected. Enter.

3. With selection active add a layer mask – is what the basic overlay will look like. Add either an image or a colorful layer underneath to see what the results really look like. With a soft black brush set at a low opacity, paint out any areas you don’t like in the layer mask. I find using a very large soft brush (500 px) set to 12% opacity works good on the inside so you do not take too much of the effect out at once, but gently build up a clear central area. Or if you want just a little texture in middle, use a low opacity brush and paint out just a little bit of the texture. You can always use brushes with edges to paint in the mask to keep a grungy rough edge feel.

4. Next step is to right click inside the Layer Mask and select Apply Layer Mask. I usually duplicate the layer in Step 3 and turn off the Eyeball. Then Apply Layer Mask on the duplicate layer so if I don’t like the way it looks, it can be changed easily.
Above is a screenshot of the Photoshop file – the Scripts action can be run on the top layer. The bottom two layer’s eyeballs need to be turned off in this screenshot before doing to Step 5.

5. It is time to just save this layer as a .png file. Turn off all layers (click on any open eyeballs) in Layer Panel except this one. Go to File -> Scripts -> Export Layers to Files and select File Type: PNG-24. Set a Destination for your file and give your file a name. You can always rename it later as it adds some strange naming convention. The rest of the settings are fine. Click Run. See screenshot of Export Layers to Files Dialog Box as it should look when you run it below. It takes a minute or so to get the new file, but once it is done, you are returned to Photoshop with no changes made to your original image. I now usually save the psd file in case I want to do something different with the same texture later. Note: if you forget to turn off all the eyeballs, you will get files for each layer – not the end of the world, just delete the extra layer files.
6. Now go to the destination folder you listed and there is your file. It can be added as an overlay to any image. Just use Free Transform (CTRL+T) to stretch it out to fit your image. Try flipping it, changing the blend mode, lowering the opacity, and/or adding a layer mask for final frame. Totally wonderful!

I did a Digital Lady Syd Tidbits Blog Pretty in Pink! with Topaz Clarity on how the top image was processed before I added it to the the background. The actual background that is behind the image was created by just using a nice solid color background layer. Next the image was brought in and the edges were lightly painted out on a layer mask so the edges of the image blended into the image.  A New Layer was added behind the image and a brush I created called Montage Brush Tool grunge1 was used to spread a pretty design over the background in two sampled colors. The Overlay was added next and a Color Fill Layer was clipped to the overlay using color #462b2d. (Here are the brush settings if you would like them – I know it is hard to get really cool effect brushes and this one works really nice on background. Brush Tip Shape: Size 464 px and Spacing 25%; Scattering: Scatter 321% Control Off, Count 1, and Count Jitter 0% Control Off; Color Dynamics: Check Apply Per Tip, Foreground/Background Jitter 48% Control Pen Pressure, Hue Jitter 9%, Saturation Jitter 35%, Brightness Jitter 0%, and Purity 0%; and check Smoothing. Colors used were light blue Foreground: R169/G200/B209 and pink Background: R244/G190/B205, but you can sample any colors from image for this. It was then saved as a Brush Tool preset to use again – best way to save your brushes. And don’t forget to go to the Preset Manager and save down as a set so if Photoshop crashes, you don’t lose it.)
…..Here is the same texture but this time, instead of the center being somewhat clear, it contains that soft dreamy effect applied throughout. These beautiful flowers are Dalmatian Purple Foxglove and I love the water drops on them!

To get this soft overlay effect, before performing Step 2, a Color Overlay (double click on layer outside thumbnail to bring up the Blending Options Dialog) was set to Blend Mode Normal, white color, and Opacity of 29%. This lightens evenly across the whole texture. The layer was duplicated and by right-clicking on the layer and choosing Rasterize, the layer style was applied to the layer. Step 3 was done and below is the Color Command Dialog as it was used on this texture.
Once OK is clicked, CTRL+J to put the active selection on its own layer. You now have a fairly decent lighten texture that could be converted to an overlay at this stage. For me it was too sterile looking. The layer was duplicated (and all other layers turned off) and by right clicking and selecting Convert to Smart Object, a Gaussian Blur filter was applied using a Radius setting of 180.3 and a Noise Filter using a Noise setting of 8. Since it is a Smart Object, you can go back and adjust those amounts if it looks bad over your test image layer. Once it looks good, Step 5 above can actually be run on the Smart Object – I duplicated and rasterized mine so I have a final in the PSD copy. You now have a different look with the same texture! Below is the how the layers stacked up for the soft effect overlay. Even the test lace image looks good with the overlay!
The flower image actually used Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Countryside preset – my favorite Adjust preset – then Kim Klassen‘s canvas grunge texture set to Soft Light blend mode at 100% layer opacity. A layer mask was added and the flowers for the main focus in the image were lightly painted back. Next the Shadowhouse Creations Lavender Texture overlay we created above was added at 66% layer opacity and a layer mask was created to lend focus to the main flowers. That was it! Beautiful soft result!

This is really a simple process and I hope you will give it a try. There are lots of different ways you can adjust the textures before you turn them into overlays. Try changing blend modes of the textures first or adjusting the Blend If sliders it the texture layer styles. It can turn your favorite textures into an even more useful resource……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Create Personal Overlays for Your Images
How To Make Frames or Borders
Displacing an Overlay
Using a Couple of My Textures


Topaz Simplify Artistic Workflow

Been under the weather this week so I thought I would just go through my basic Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Simplify 4 workflow. Nothing too fancy, but always a lot of fun to work with Simplify. The image above is a composite of a variegated leaf from Hawaii and the body of a Palamedes Swallowtail Butterfly that was in my penta flowers. The butterfly body was selected and placed on its own layer before moving into the leaf image. On a composite image some of the colors in the leaves were swapped around using the new Topaz Clarity and then Topaz Simplify 4 was applied using my Tulip Preset to get the pretty colors. (The preset settings if you would like them are as follows: oost 0, Details Strength .80, Details Boost 1.29, Details Size 0.96, Remove Small 0.10, and Remove Weak 0.2o; Adjust: Brightness 0.02, Contrast 1.11, Saturation 0.60, Saturation Boost 2.06, Dynamics 0, Structure 1.00, and Structure Boost 1.00; and Edges – Color Edge: Normal, Edge Strength 0.00, Simplify Edge 0.60, Reduce Weak 24.00, Reduce Small 0.20, and Fatten Edge 0.00.) While still in Simplify, another preset was applied, Sketch -> Pastel II preset with Transparency: Overall Transparency set to 0.52. The layer was duplicated and a Gaussian Blur was added to soften the details in the background. With a layer mask, the leaf and butterfly were painted back. On another composite layer, the wings effect was created using the CS6 Oily Classic Blender #4 Mixer Brush to smooth out the rough edges that are a dead give-away that you used Simplify. Just put an OnOne PhotoFrame effect on image (this program is no longer available) and FrenchKiss Studio 3 WhiteWash texture set to Soft Light to give a painterly effect. There were a few other steps and tweaks to get the color pop but overall it followed the workflow below. I love using the Mixer Brushes – always adds that more realistic feel to the Simplify images.
…..This may not be the perfect photo, and obviously I was not that enamored with it until Lightroom 5 came out with their Upright correction, but the more I looked at this image, the more interesting it was. And the color in the image turned out to be quite striking. Below you can see what is going on with all the people. What a treasure trove! You can see all kinds of activities and expressions with just the people in front of this busy cathedral. Very cool!
This follows one of my pretty basic workflows for getting a crisp artistic look to an image, not exactly painterly, but not a photographic effect either.

  • After using Lightroom to straighten up the image at least to an acceptable amount, the image was cleaned up in Photoshop and a sharpener added for clarity of the detail lines. Now is a good time to use both Topaz DeNoise and Detail – I use them both before doing any real painting or filtering of an image.
  • Next Topaz Simplify 4 is used starting with one of their presets, changing it, and saving as my own preset if I like the results and think I would want to use it again. The above images used this preset: Used Painting -> Watercolor preset as a starting point, then adjusted the following settings. Simplify: Color Space YCbC4, Simplify Size 0.46, Feature Boost 1, Details Strength 1.87, Details Boost 0.20, Details Size 0.58, Remove Small 0.10 and Remove Weak 0.20; Adjust: Brightness 0.02, Contrast 0.82, Saturation 0.85, Saturation Boost 2.06, Dynamics 0, Structure 1.00, and Structure Boost 1.00; and Turned off Edges Section.
  • A layer mask is added to the Simplify layer and areas are painted out where more detail was to be added.
  • A Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer is added to adjust colors, green in the above case.
  • A New Layer is created and a Regular or Mixer Brush is selected, an artistic feel is added to the image. Above I used CS6 Oily Classic Blender Mixer Brush #4 (found in the CS6 Mixer Brush Tool Presets when Mixer Brush Tool is selected) for the tree branches to give a more “painterly” look to the image – this brush is excellent for smoothing out jagged edges on any of your images. The opacity of that layer was then set to 46%
  • Another New Layer was created to paint out distractions like wrong colors on white that draws the eye.

The last step for the Cathedral image was to add another a Hue/Sat Adj Layer to get rid of purple color in sign on Church (used a black layer mask and painted back just the sign in white). To see a different way I processed the same image, check out my Tidbits Blog called Lightroom 5′s New Upright Adjustments Section.
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Used exactly the same workflow above except in the Topaz Simplify 4 preset, I also checked the Tones section and set the Tone Strength to .67. Some of the grasses did not look natural, so with a 30% soft black brush, parts of the detail in the grasses were painted back to give a more natural look and not so computer generated feel. I find Topaz does seem to do this if you do not get the Simplify slider set just right – that is OK because you will probably want to clean it up in Photoshop a little anyway. The Hue/Saturation Level was set to Colorize and a yellow color used (Hue 298/Saturation 63/Lightness -23). Then a Pastel Brush was used to paint the white blow out daisy flowers that now look yellow, with a couple pink colors to add interest. Several New Layers were created and the petals and edges of the petals were painted using pastel brushes with texture added and the Pencil Tool Watercolor Salt brush to paint around the edges of the flowers to give some additional texture to the flowers. This time two of Melissa Gallo’s Painted Textures were added on top – 2 for Friday Set 5 Green Lake texture set to Soft Light at 77% opacity, and Set 2 Creamsicle set to Pin Light at 37% opacity. Both had a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer clipped to them with the Saturation slider to -100 so no color, just texture, was added to the image. I used my free Default SJ Thin Double Edge Frame layer style to finish up.
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Just one final image using the same workflow. This is a lovely little dasha in the countryside near the city of Minsk in Belarus – definitely has that fairytale look to it. The Simplify preset used was the Painting -> Dynamic Boost Warm preset, where the Simplify Size was set to 0.37, the Feature Boost to 2, and the Vignetting was turned off. I used OnOne’s PhotoFrame instead. On the Simplify layer, a layer mask was added and with a black soft brush set to 30% opacity, the detail was added back into the area where it was needed to keep it from looking too cookie-cutter. Used the Mixer Brush layer to clean up a few things. Some Curves, Levels, and Hue/Saturation Adjustments Layers to balance out everything and that was it!

It takes a while to get a really good look, but the plug-in definitely helps get you started. Hope this gives you a little bit of a workflow to help get started using this plug-in effect if you have not tried it before. I really love this plug-in – it is easy to use and easy to fit into an artistic workflow. I am not sure there are any other plug-ins on the market that do exactly what this one does. Lots of fun!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Getting a Nice Painterly Landscape Effect with Topaz Simplify and Texture
Using Topaz Simplify for That Artistic Feel!
Painterly Effect using Topaz Detail and Simplify
Topaz Simplify and Lens Effects Saves an Image!


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.


Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Black & White Effects 2.1

I first reviewed this plug-in with its initial release back in my Topaz B&W Effects Plug-In – A Real Winner! blog where I cover lots of things I still like about this plug-in. Behind Topaz Detail 3 and DeNoise 3, plug-ins I consider essential for any image, Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Black & White Effects is my next most used Topaz plug-in – even more than Adjust. And black and white treatments are not the first thing I think about when using this plug-in – I think creative expression (as you can see by this and my related blog posts). It is a very easy way to adjust the tones and color effects without having to do more manipulation later in Photoshop, which is usually required with other black and white plug-ins. When I am stuck on what to do with an image and nothing seems to look right, I can almost always find the answer in Black & White Effects – it never ceases to amaze me what it can do with an image! The actual black and white effect creates very good results also. I loved the original version so to me the newer release is just a better and updated version of the original. It now supports very clear large thumbnail views of the large number of presets (over 200) that come with the program. It has a cleaner interface that is more in line with Lightroom (which I think has the best interface of any program) and its competitors.

The image above shows an example of how I like to use this plug-in. The Traditional Collection’s Warm Tool II preset was used as a starting point. In the Basic Exposure section only the Contrast and Brightness was changed slightly. The Adaptive Exposure slider was increased to 0.16 and the Regions was changed to 15.10 – these two sliders are usually where all the Topaz magic occurs when adjusting image exposure. In Local Adjustments, several different brushes can be applied to the image at different overall strengths. A Detail brush was used to paint over the cups, a Smooth brush was applied to the reddish hanging jacket and white sack, a Burn brush was added over the white sack to tone it down a bit, and a Dodge brush was used on the top cup to make it show up a little more. Only the Color brush was not used above, which can really give an image a very special effect. The final step in the program was to set the Overall Transparency slider to 0.35. For more info on the image processing, see Image 1 at end of blog.

WHAT I LIKE!

1. Price! Price! Price! This program has all the features of the other programs and is a great value if you are not specializing in black and white photography. All the bells and whistles are there. And the guarantee that you are will receive free upgrades – this is a no-brainer in my opinion. I got the upgrade for free and this guarantee is true with all their plug-ins. I do not know of any other software developers that offer this type of program. In fact recently, Topaz released a version 2.1 to add more depth to the program.

2. The Quad Tone section is, in my humble opinion, the major reason this program is better than the others. No one offers these Quad Tone sliders for changing the color combinations (except in Photoshop itself using an 8-bit flattened Grayscale, then to Indexed mode) – this is just plain unique! It also is one of the major reasons the unusual soft effects can be created quickly.

3. There is now a full screen window that shows all the presets on large thumbnails of your image. It makes it really easy to compare the various effects from the different presets. And it will also do this on your own My Collection presets and your Favorites. Very handy! If you do not want to do this, a larger thumbnail will appear with the effect applied to your image as you slide over the list of presets.

4. One little feature it now has, and that I love, is the ability to leave each panel open so you can go back and forth without opening up each section every time you want to adjust a slider. Lightroom has always had this capability and it can be very handy to have various panels open. This can be turned on and off in Preferences if you do not like it, but I think it is great feature.

5. The Overall Transparency slider (which maxes out at only 50% of the color in the image) – use this with the Localized Adjustments Color Brush and you can get some wonderful soft color effects on your images. This combination cannot be done near as easily in other programs.

Version 2.1 Update

6. My biggest complaint was answered – Topaz put in an Apply button so you can stack your effects. This allows you to create special Quad Tone presets and Diffusion setting presets that can be applied to an image after you have created your basic black and white image. What a great feature to have – now you do not have to go out of the plug-in and re-enter – it can all be done at once!

7. Another great addition –  I particularly love the Silver and Paper Tone presets shown as drops of color at the top of the right panel in their new Quick Tools section. These can create some beautiful subtle changes to your image. And once again you can set up special preset effects just for this section to use after the original effect has been created. The Color Filter presets are very nice to have handy also.

8. They added many more variations in a drop-down list for black and white borders that makes this section much more functional. It still has a size slider to adjust how large to make it on the image. I will probably use it much more now.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE!

Topaz has been really great about adding new features to this plug-in, so it does not have too many things I do not like, but there are a few.

1. I have a problem with the Adjustment Brushes totally disappearing. This happens when using a brush tool(s) on your image, and you switch to another section to and change a slider in a any of the other section, like Diffusion Effect for example, leaving your brush panel open. When your return to the Localized Adjustments section the brushes will not appear even. This was a problem in some of the Beta versions and that was fixed but reappeared again in this latest version. Why let you keep the panels open if they do not work when you return to them? I have put in a comment on this in the forum so hopefully this will get fixed soon. This should be an easy fix for Topaz. The work-around is to totally close up the brush panel by clicking the little down arrow next to the number 3 Local Adjustments section (do not worry, your original brush strokes will remain), and re-open it up again. Your brushes will now start working again.

2. Wish they would put an Tone Effect slider for the Quad Tones section so just that area could be adjusted. This is available in Adjust5 and Simpify4. It would also be nice to have a Strength Slider active for the Color Brush, as it is for all the other brushes.

3. Watch out after applying an effect that used a Localized Brush – the brushstrokes are not reset after an Apply. This can really mess your next effect you are adding. Just be sure to reset the section if you do not want the same brushstrokes applied again. (This also happens in Topaz Adjust 5 and Simplify 4, but does not happen in Topaz Detail 3 with the Effect Mask.)

4. Still having trouble getting the correct basic settings back when using the image as a Smart Object – I cannot get them to stick. The Last Used preset usually appears from when the program was last opened. I feel this is the weakest point with all the recent Topaz plug-ins. If there are settings I really need to remember, I create a preset or create in Notepad a list of my setting to copy into a Note in Photoshop (sits with the Eyedropper Tool).

5. Little personal complaints here: I miss the old preset image that was on the top left. Sometimes the large thumbnails are just too much and stick a bit more than I like and it would be nice to have that choice back. That is just my personal opinion. Please make a larger Apply button at bottom like in the other programs. Another little request of mine. Please move the size icons back to the right – I do not like going up to the top of the middle of the image to increase to 1:1.

I guess I am sounding a little critical in this blog, but this is such a good plug-in that I would really like it to be perfect. I know Adjust is Topaz’s  best known plug-in, but this B&W Effects has the ability of being one of the best ever created with just a few tweaks. There are some other really nice features too. There is now a Curves Tool section and a nice selection of curves to choose from in a drop-down list which other programs do not offer – this is very handy if you are not liking the way the image looks and need to add some quick contrast. It still has the Diffusion section where the Softness, Diffusion and Diffusion transition can be adjusted gives a slight softness to the whole image – add the detail back in a specific area by using opening the Localized Adjustments and selecting the Detail Brush. This is a wonderful addition to your images and also appears to be unique to B&W Effects. Usually this is found in a color effect plug-in. Another add-on that has been included is a Zone Mode (click the Z at the top right which changes the navigation window into a histogram). By clicking on a number underneath, you can see by different colors which areas are part of that zone on your image. Since I am not into black and white and the Ansel Adams effect to that extent, it is probably not a feature I will use a lot, but many people will find this extremely useful.

If you have other Topaz plug-ins, you will find they all have very similar interfaces and the learning curve is pretty quick for this plug-in. As you can see from my selection of images and previous blogs, I really like the artistic flair this plug-in can add to an image for a needed pop. It is especially strong with the vintage feel. Since I own the other plug-ins and I have been comparing results, I cannot find any areas that Topaz has missed for those interested in doing straight black and white conversions.
……These begonias were just ending up too bright for my taste. To tone it down subtly, as a last step this image was opened up in Topaz Black & White Effects II using a preset I created in the first version that I call SJ Vintage Feel (all my old presets were moved upon updating). This preset contains these settings for Basic Exposure: Contrast 0.06, Brightness 0.06, Boost Blacks 0.26, and Boost Whites 0; and Finishing Touches: Silver and Paper Tone – Tonal Strength was set to 0.64, Balance 0, Silver Hue 12.29, Silver Tone Strength 0.85, Paper Hue 43.90, and Paper Tone Strength 0.38. The Overall Transparency slider was set to 0.55. It gave the soft feel that I needed with just a few clicks. This is something that I cannot do as easily if at all in the other black and white plug-ins. See Image 2 below for more details.
…..Another image from the Native American Festival. These beautiful leather purses being sold by a vendor looked a little overcome by color in the original RAW image. But by using the Black & White Effects plug-in, it becomes much more interesting to view. For the post processing in this image, all I did was click the reset button down at the bottom of the right-hand panels. Then I just went into each section and adjusted each slider until I liked what I saw. One section to look very closely at is the Adaptive Exposure and Regions sliders in the Adaptive Exposure section – these two sliders will give some very good results (this is true with any Topaz filter that has these sliders – always check them out). See Image 3 below for more info.
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These beautiful pink dahlias were so easy to process. It was hard to decide which version to present but this was basically created by combining a very rich texture with Black & White Effects. I used a preset I had created called Hawaiian Morning uses my favorite Quad Tone section to get the results that are always spectacular. See Image 4 below for preset settings if you would like to them. The Black & White Layer was set to a Hard Light blend mode at 75% opacity so the original image is still preset.
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To create my rather dark sepia toned image, Black & White Effects was applied to the image layer and also to one of the texture layers. The Platinum preset was applied with a Diffusion effect added, and then used a Detail Brush to bring back the fairies face. Another preset was applied to add a Quad Tone effect to the image for the nice sepia feel. See Image 5 information for more details, including my preset settings. A colorful texture was added in Photoshop on top of the fairy layer, and another of my old presets was applied to it to give it a similar color tone.
…..I took some artistic liberty on this image of the Towers at Westminster Abbey in London. I wanted to make the picture look different from what everyone else has. My first step once in Photoshop was to go to Topaz B&W Effects 2 and just added Traditional Collection High Pass I with the Creative Effects Diffusion – Softness slider at .16 and Diffusion slider at .14. Then three textures were added to get the final effect. See Image 6 info for more.

Bottom line – if you want a black and white plug-in, this is a fabulous way to go without spending so much and you get all the added color options. This program is one of the most powerful in the Topaz line-up in what it provides and the new upgrade just gives it a fresher look. It is still a solid contender as a black and white plug-in. It is definitely worth a second look if you want to add some creative aspects to your images. Check out my related blogs below – there are many different Quad Tones settings you may like. Definitely try out the trial and see what you think!

Sorry for the long post, but this is really that good a plug-in so I felt it needed to be reviewed thoroughly……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs – check them out to see how I used this plug-in in different ways:
Beautiful Feathers!
Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 7: Check Out Your Local History
Clowning Around with Topaz!
Where Am I?
Hibiscus Flowers – I Love to Photograph Them!
Black and White Effects on Outside Art
Cleaning Up a Messed Up Photo
Topaz Black and White Effects Quad Tones Are Great!
The Art Corner: Painting and Sculpture by Tassaert
Sunny Preset for Topaz Black and White Effects
Quad Tones in Topaz Black and White Effects Plug-in
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IMAGE INFORMATION
Image 1: Topaz Detail 3 using the Overall Medium Detail II preset was applied – a layer mask filled with black was added and the mugs were painted back. Next Topaz Black & White Effects 2 was applied using setting discussed above. Kim Klassen’s Return texture (sign up for Kim’s newsletter and get several of her beautiful textures including the Return texture used in this image) was added with a 78% layer opacity – a white layer mask was added and the center of the image softly painted back into view. Next French Kiss Artiste Breeze texture was set to Overlay and 53% opacity. 2 Lil’ Owls Bonus Texture 4 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) was used as a border in white that was placed around the image. A Curves Adjustment Layer was the last step to add some contrast back into the image.
Image 2: This image actually used Topaz Detail 3 twice and localizing the effect on the flowers. Also some leaves had to be added to cover some rather ugly tissue paper that was sticking up. Three textures were stacked: 2 Lil’ Owls Mosaic Set Destine texture was set to Soft Light at 100% opacity, Kim Klassen’s Cloth & Paper Texture Florence set to Soft Light blend mode at 47% layer opacity, and French Kiss Artiste Avril texture set to Overlay blend mode at 29% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was applied and the Auto button clicked to get the good colors. Then the Black & White Effects plug-in was applied as stated above.
Image 3: This image was very simply processed. Just used Topaz B&W Effects 2 to begin with using settings under image, then added a slight S Curves Adjustment Layer and painted out the two purses in the middle to add focus. Next a Levels Adjustment Layer was added with the middle tab set to 0.65 and the Output Levels set to 41 to soften the image just a little.
Image 4: I bought these dahlias to plant in my yard, but before I did, I took their picture using a kid’s bent white poster board for a background. It was then easy to add a painterly texture to the image without any distractions in the background. Mellisa Gallo’s Painted Textures 2 for 5 Friday Spring Sky texture was added. The Dahlia layer was duplicated, moved on top, and set to Soft Light blend Mode at 100% opacity – this removes all the white areas so the texture shows through. A Levels Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+Click between layers) and the Output Levels were set to 0 and 229 to lighten the image a little. Next I used created darken and lighten layers to dodge and burn on the flowers (see my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog). A composite layer was created on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was placed on top where Black & White Effects was applied. (Here are the settings I used: Adaptive Exposure:  Adaptive Exposure  0.41, Regions  26, Protect Highlights 0, Protect Shadows  0, Detail 1.11, Detail Boost  1.09, and Process Details Independently; Quad Tone: Color 1 Region (R1/G1/B12) at 15.08, Color 2 Region (R63/G78/B85) at 143.9, Color 3 Region (R216/G211/B129) at 227.5, and Color 4 Region (R255/G254/B237) at 255.0;  Vignette:  Vignette Strength  -.039, Vignette Size  0.83, Vignette Transition  0.58, and Vignette Curvature  0.70.; and Transparency:  Overall Transparency 1.00.). Once back in Photoshop, in the Layer Style Advanced Blending section, the B Channel was unchecked which gives a bluish tint to the whole image. The layer was set to Hard Light blend mode at 75% opacity.
Image 5: Once out of Lightroom, Black & White Effects 2 was applied using the Platinum preset and changing Adaptive Exposure slider to 0.42. Next the Diffusion section was opened and the Diffusion slider was set to 0.79. In the Located Adjustments, the Details Brush at 0.50 opacity was used to paint detail back into the fairy’s face and hair. These settings were applied. Next a Quad Tone preset was applied and set to an Overall Transparency of 1.00. (Here are my SJ_Quad_DkB_Gr_Yel_Wh preset settings: Color 1 Region (R1/G1/B12) at 15.08 ; Color 2 Region (R63/G78/B85) at 143.9; Color 3 Region (R216/G211/B129) at 227.5; and Color 4 Region (R255/G254/B237) at 255.0.) Back in Photoshop Kim Klassen’s Framed texture was added on top and set to Soft Light at 100% to get the slight edge around image. Next Kim Klassen’s Abstract Texture was added and taken into Black & White Effects 2 where my SJ Partial Color Look preset (one of my favorites) was applied. (Here are the settings for this preset if you would like them: Basic Exposure:  Contrast  0.10, Brightness  -0.02, Boost Blacks  -0.10, and Boost Whites  0.50; Adaptive Exposure:  Adaptive Exposure  0.64, Regions  50, Protect Highlights  0.02, Protect Shadows  0.02, Detail  2.28, Detail Boost  1.00, and check Process Details Independently; Quad Tone:  Color 1 Region  (R16/G15/B11) 7.46, Color 2 Region  (R79/G78/B68)  83.33, Color 3 Region  (R159/G156/B143)  164.2, and Color 4 Region  (R255/G254/B242)  255.0; Film Grain:  Grain Kodak TMaxPro 100, Grain Contrast  1.25, and Grain Size  32.50; Vignette:  Vignette Strength  -.058, Vignette Size  0.92, Vignette Transition  0.28, and Vignette Curvature 0.11; and Transparency:  Overall Transparency  0.67). This layer was set to Soft Light blend mode at 43% opacity.) Now just a Levels Adjustment Layer and a couple text layer using free Radium J and Batik Regular fonts.
Image 6: The three textures used in the image were: Melissa Gallo’s Painted Textures Winter Storm set to Linear Burn blend mode at 42%, Taupe Canvas set to Linear Dodge at 48% opacity, and Confetti set to Color Burn at 60%. These textures were all obtained from her specials such as Black Friday or 2 for Friday specials.


Native American Beauty

This week I decided to just display a few of the beautiful images I got from the 24th Annual Native American Festival in Ormond Beach, Florida this past January. If you get a chance to go to a Native American event, it is a great place to photograph unusual items and the colors are wonderful! This headdress was one of the most beautiful things I saw.  Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Detail 3’s Overall Strong II preset was applied first. Topaz Simplify’s BuzSim preset was applied to a duplicate layer. With a soft black brush on an added layer mask, the edges of the feathers were painted back in showing the layer below. A composite layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top and Topaz Adjust 5’s French Countryside preset was selected. The layer mask for the Simplify layer was copied by highlighting it – press ALT and drag it up to the Adjust layer. Next Kim Klassen‘s texture 1612 (beautiful texture that was free by signing up for her newsletter) was left to Normal blend mode at 89%, but a layer mask was applied to the texture and the center painted out to clear out the middle. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used to lighten the image up just a little. A New Layer was added to burn in and define some of the feather edges where they overlap in the image. (See my Fun Photoshop Blog The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! for more information on how to do this.) The last step involved adding my free SJ Painter Oil Frame to the image with a Bevel and Emboss Layer style (check Texture and set Scale 100% and Depth +79} – used my SJ Smudge Texture set to grayscale for a pattern, but any gray and white pattern would be fine). The frame was set to 72% opacity.
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These Rawhide Rattles are something I do not ever remember seeing before. One of the vendor’s had this assortment for sale. The image was first processed in Nik Color Efex Pro 4 using three filters stacked: Detail Extractor, Midnight set to Neutral Color Set and Opacity of 67%, and Monday Morning using Sepia Color Set at 80% opacity – kind of an unusual group. 2 Lil’ Owls Workbook Bonus Texture 16 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) was applied using Soft Light at 100% opacity. In the white layer mask, some of the detail was brought back on the left rattle. Basically that was all that was done to get this very antique look.
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This image of a Mexican Aztec dancer was a little difficult to process due the fact that there were a lot of distractions in the background, and his face was not real clear and needed a lot of clean up. The feathers in his headdress were so beautiful that I really wanted to process the image. Therefore, first the headdress was carefully extracted the Quick Selection Tool and Quick Mask Mode, and Shadowhouse Creations Rage Texture was placed behind him and set to Normal at 100% opacity. Topaz  Adjust 5’s Painting Venice preset and Topaz Detail 3’s Overall Detail Medium II preset were applied. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was used to adjust the Reds and Yellows in the image. A frame was added and set to a tan color.
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This was a wide assortment of Native American toys that were on a bright red tablecloth. I decided it would look better as a sketch with toned down colors. In Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer was used to make the image overexposed. Topaz Simplify 4 was added and a preset was created using a painting preset as a starting point and Quad Tones of Black/Deep Red/Gold/Light Yellow tones were applied at a Tone Strength of .57. An Overall Transparency of .31 was applied. I ran Simplify 4 again on a duplicate background layer and this time applied a light black and white preset. Back in Photoshop it was stacked it on top of the first Simplify layer and set to Soft Light.  A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was placed on top where Reds Saturation was set to -41 to desaturate the color slightly. Kim Klassen’s Mary texture was applied using Normal Blend Mode and just painting out the center of the texture in a layer mask. As a last step, a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied using the Auto button to even out the colors and contrast. I think it gives a really nice sketch look and is appropriate for the various types of objects that were being displayed.
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These are feather headbands that were also being sold by a vendor. This is a funny story as I would never have used these settings if not for some spam I received from a comment that referenced how he added texture to his images. Here is the result I got from following some of the process. First Topaz Adjust 5’s Spicify preset was applied at 83% opacity. Next apply Topaz Simplify 4’s Watercolor II preset. Changed image to an 8-bit mode and went to Filter -> Stylize ->Diffuse Filter and selected anisotropic. Exit filter and rotate document -90 degrees counter clockwise using Free Transform (CTRL+T). Apply same filter again. Exit and rotate image clockwise +90. Apply the filter for a third time. Now go to Filters -> Texture -> Texturizer and set texture to Canvas, Scaling 200%, Relief 7, and Lighting Top. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Level was applied increasing the saturation to +30 and a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied to increase contrast. Kind of a strange technique but I really liked the results.

I hope you enjoyed these images – nice to do something a little different. Have a nice week!…..Digital Lady Syd


Using Curves Adjustment Layers to Get Rid of Shadows and Highlights

This may be my very favorite method of evening out an images tonality. Usually I am not shooting during the Golden Hours and my images have a lot of bright spots in the highlights or huge and dark shadows. The following technique may not cure all the problems, but it can certainly help draw the eye to other areas so the picture is saved. I learned this great technique from David Nightingale‘s CreativeLIVE course called Dramatic Post-Processing. (Check out David’s Photoblog – he has some great images posted. Also check CreativeLIVE for other interesting courses – the site has free live broadcasts running around the clock on a variety of topics.) He sometimes uses as many as 20 Curves Adjustment Layers to fine-tune an image. My image above used three. This is Navajo Horsehair Pottery by Matt Vail, a Navajo potter and artist (unfortunately he does not have a website but sells his wares with a vendor at the local Native American Festivals held around the country), who uses the golden sunset colors  Each piece is hand-etched. The horse hair is from the mane and tail that burns when it touches the hot pottery leaving a light stain cooked into it. This makes unique patterns on each piece. The colors are absolutely beautiful, and I actually bought the purple and gold one in the center. Some have turquoise added to the pottery and can be quite expensive.

Let’s start with my pottery image that had too many highlights issues.

1.  Add a Curves Adjustment Layer (click on half moon icon at bottom of Layers Panel and select Curves) and click on the Adjustment Eyedropper Tool icon in the upper left of the panel under the word Preset. This creates an eyedropper that can be used for sampling the image.

2. With the eyedropper active, click on the part of your image with a problem area. In the case of my pottery image, the front red and blue pottery piece near the blue ring where the highlights are blown out was sampled in the top left image below. If a shadow needs to be lightened, sample the dark area of the shadow, but only choose one area at a time. A white point will appear on the Curves Adjustment Layer showing the point that was sampled with the eyedropper on the straight diagonal line curve.

3. Underneath the RGB curve there is an Input field  and an Output field showing the same number relating to this point on the curve.

4. Move the Adjustment Eyedropper Tool back over the image again. As you move over the image, a little white circle moves up and down on the curve diagonal line showing what tone is under the tool. The numbers in the Input/Output fields are also changing as you move over the different parts of your image. This time just hover over an area that represents the new tone and/or color for the blown-out highlights or deep shadow areas, but do not click! Look at the new Input/Output number and remember it – this is the number to be placed in the Output field.

5. Unfortunately once you click back in the Curves panel, the field spaces disappear. To open them up, place your cursor over the white point so it turns into a cross hair and click on it – the fields will open up. In the Output field enter the new number from Step 4. There will now be a rounded curve with a new white point shown – although if the numbers have very different amounts, the curve may turn into very straight lines. You can always manually adjust the curve to get the effect needed, even adding extra points or sample again. Sometimes it is necessary to create two Curves Adjustment Layers and increase the tone in two different steps. For my pottery image a whitish color located in my purple and yellow pot was used for the Output field. To toggle between the Input and Output fields, just press TAB.

6. Fill the Curves Adjustment Layer mask black (by clicking inside it and pressing CTRL+I) and with a low opacity (like 12-30%) soft white brush, paint in the areas that need the new tone applied. Just build up the area until it blends in nicely with the other parts of your image.

The Curves Adjustment Layer technique can be used as many times as needed on different parts of your image. And the Curves can always be adjusted after-the-fact by clicking on the Curve icon in the Layers Panel – your settings will reappear. If you want to see a larger view of the image below, click on it for Flickr view.

The bottom row of images above is changing the Red Curve to darken the foreground tablecloth color. To do this, just open up the RGB field drop-down and find the color to blend in. You can manually change the curve or you can use the Eyedropper and place the point on the Red Curve, then find the output color number. This can be done using all three color channel curves and the Info panel, but it can get a little tricky. I use a Curves Adjustment Layer when I just need a small color change as shown above where the Red Channel Curve was manipulated. If a large color shift is required, the Hue/Saturation or Selective Color Adjustment Layers are easier to use.

Here are what the curves with the Input and Output fields included looked like for the two changes above. The white parts in the Curve Layer Masks are the areas being affected by the change. (White reveals and black conceals.) Click on the image below for a larger view in Flickr.

This technique can be used on a landscape as well as close-ups or portraits. It can really improves an image using very subtle changes and it is easy to do once you get the hang of it. This is one of the reasons that Curves in Photoshop is so powerful. Some people actually take their images into Photoshop just for this blending feature as Lightroom and ACR’s Tone Curves can not be manipulated like this. If you cannot get it matching completely, create a New Layer and just sample and paint with a low opacity brush to finish the clean up – see Getting Rid of Those Blown Out Areas in Your Image. (Just to give credit where it is due, the pottery image used Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Adjust 5’s Spicify preset and Topaz Detail 3 – best sharpening program around. Kim Klassen’s beautiful textures Desert at 78% layer opacity and Archived Set-printed set to Hard Light blend mode at 70% layer opacity. Sign up for Kim’s newsletter and get several of her beautiful textures including the Archived texture used on top in the above.)
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My images taken at the 24th Annual Native American Festival in Ormond Beach, Florida, were all taken in very bright sunlight at around high noon so there were heavy shadows everywhere and lots of strong highlights. This next image of a large stuffed brown bear was another example where two Curves Adjustments Layers were applied to get more detail and to even out the coloring of the fur.
Topaz Detail 3 was applied using the Overall Medium Detail II preset and the Tone preset Skin Brightening II (check out the new drop-downs on the right side panel sections). Next a Curves Adjustment Layer sampling the dark area as an Input Amount (8) on the right side shoulder and using a setting from the chest for the Output amount (28). The Curves layer mask was filled with black by clicking inside and pressing CTRL+I to make it black. Then the shadow areas were slowly built using a white brush at 30% opacity. Since this was such a drastic change as can be seen in the before and after above, a second Curves Adjustment Layer was applied again sampling roughly the same area, but this time the Input Amount was 29 (close to the Output Amount with first curve) and an Output amount of 56 was used. This does not have to be exact. But you can really see the shadows and color open up! Another Curves Adjustment Layer was applied but for colors, not tone. The Red Channel Curve was pulled up slightly to return some of the reddish tone to the image. A Levels Adjustment Layer was applied and the contrast was increased slightly with the Output Level set to 34 to add a softer, more hazy look to the image. The Sharpen Tool was used on the eyes and mouth areas just a little. 2 Lil’ Owls Mosaic Set Aveline texture (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link), a basic light cream color, was set to Multiply blend Mode and layer opacity. Next French Kiss’s free Glorious Grunge Edging Overlay was added. A red color from the skin was sampled in yet another Color Adjustment Layer to get the matching red color. I also created both a Darken and a Lighten layer following my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog to finish up.

These Curves are major powerful and it is definitely worth time to try them out – it can totally save an image. I use this method at least half the time when processing my images – most people do not take the time to learn how to do this and their images look like it. Give it a try and see if you don’t immediately see improvements in your images!…..Digital Lady Syd


The Best Dodging and Burning Technique!

I loved the way this image turned – the kind of art I like to do! These orchids were sitting backwards in the grocery store and it just struck me how interesting they looked from this angle. So here is the shot I got with my little point and shoot. Since it was not the best quality image, I had to do quite a bit of manipulating to it and that included some major dodging to clean up the lines in the image. I can’t tell you how much I rely on Lightroom to help me clean up these JPGs from this little camera. There is no way I could get them looking this good without it. I did two major things in Lightroom – added David duChemin’s Lightroom 4 preset Honey on Land which turned the really purple and white flowers into rich pink and gold colors. Next I used the Lens Correction panel set to Color and manually defringed this image. It had some pretty bad yellow fringing going on. To fix this, the Remove Chromatic Aberration box was checked, and using the Fringe Selector Tool, the yellow area was clicked as a starting place. The final Amount for the Green Hue was 3 and the Green Hue tabs were set to 0/19. Unfortunately ACR does not have a Fringe Selector Tool but you can manually manipulate the defringe sliders and get very good results. This feature alone is one of the reasons you should upgrade to Lightroom 4 or Photoshop CS6. Now I will get off my soapbox.

Photoshop is where the burning and dodging magic come in to play. Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Simplify 4’s Watercolor II preset was applied. In an added layer mask, most of the flowers were painted back using a low opacity brush to reduce the effect of the filter on these areas. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer were added with some slight changes to the Reds and Yellows to bring back a bit of the purplish color. Next French Kiss Studio (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Botanique2 watercolor texture was added and set to 70% at Normal blend mode. In a layer mask, the flowers were lightly painted back but the background retained the greenish colors. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to add back the contrast lost with the texture.

The next step is the Burning and Dodging tip that comes from John Paul Caponigro, one of the best users of Photoshop to create fine art and a total Photoshop guru, in a course he offers called Drawing with Light – 21st Century Dodging and Burning (Kelby Training also has the tutorial if you are a member – this DVD is excellent covering many topics to improve your images). To add the burn effect to an image, a New Layer is created and set to Overlay blend mode. With a black soft-edged brush, paint over any areas or edges that need a little more separation. I like to use a very low opacity brush around 12% or less, but John Paul likes to use 100% and back it off completely.
The reason I love this method is that it is easy to erase a mistake or add a layer mask to reduce the effect. If you make one stroke too dark, just go to Edit ->Fade and reduce its strength. Also the layer opacity can be reduced if the total result is too much – you may only need a 15-20% layer opacity to get the effect. If you have a lot of changes and want to Dodge some areas, create another New Layer set to Overlay and use the same brush set to white. Be careful not to overdo this – it is easy to do. The white paint seems to really stand out. But it is a very easy way to direct the eye to the important parts of the image. Remember the layer is set to an Overlay blend mode which means that anything greater than 50% gray brightens the image, and anything darker than 50% gray darkens it. Therefore, when black is painted over the darker areas of the image, only the dark areas are being affected – the lighter areas stay the same. When dodging with white, only the lighter areas are being affected. One thing to watch out for is that the Overlay blend mode tends to increase saturation, so make sure this is not happening. May need to use a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to desaturate slightly. The last step for this image involved adding a Curves Adjustment Layer to bring in some overall contrast to the image. Textures can tend to flatten out an image.
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This image is of a little tiny hard pod or flower growing on my Peace Lily or Spathiphyllum plant.  A macro shot was taken of the flower with filtered light from the south facing window that gives a really soft background feel. Before doing any darkening on this image, it was processed in Lightroom using just the Basic sliders. Next in Photoshop, Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4’s BuzSim III preset was applied. 2 Lil’ Owls Mosaic Set Amour texture (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) was then applied twice. First time it was set to Overlay blend mode at 100% layer opacity. Second time it was set to Multiply at 100% opacity and the flower was lightly painted out in a layer mask. Finally the a New Layer was created and set to Overlay. In this case, the top of the pod was getting lost in the yellow of the leaf behind it and needed a little more definition. With a soft black lower opacity brush, the top of the pod was painted back to reveal the edge more clearly.

I have used this technique for several years now and still find it the best for localized dodging and burning. This technique is a totally non-destructive to the image, and I think the results are far superior to the other methods out there. Definitely on the top of my favorite techniques. Give it a try and see if you like the technique!…..Digital Lady Syd


Creating a Realistic Rainbow in Photoshop

Since I am doing a post on rainbows, I thought I would first pass on a little  trivia about them. Did you know that there are usually seven colors in a rainbow, but most people do not see the indigo layer between the lighter blue and purple arcs? The stronger the sunlight and rain, the more intense the rainbow. This is actually a pretty complicated weather effect. The image of my miniature mums was just plain fun to do and is not exactly a very realistic rainbow representation. I started by adding French Kiss Artiste Promenade texture and painting out the mums in a layer mask. Next a rainbow was created following Deke McClelland‘s Creating a Synthetic Rainbow Effect from his Photoshop Masking and Compositing Fundamentals DVDs. (He is coming out with his new Photoshop book shortly that should be great!). The Gradient Tool was selected to create a rainbow. Below are the basic steps for creating a rainbow effect:

1. Add a New Layer. An optional step is to restrain the actual size of the rainbow – select the Rectangular Marquee Tool and in the Options Bar set t0 Style -> Fixed Size and enter Width  the settings I used above were 1000 and Height 337 pixels while Deke used 1840 width by 187 height.

2. If using a selection, keep it  active and set up a gradient using settings as shown in the screenshot or download my gradient below. The Rainbow gradient provided by Photoshop has some issues – mainly rainbows do not contain any orange colors, the reds are too squished, and a cyan color is included which is not in a rainbow. Deke suggested these basic gradient settings to make a more realistic rainbow gradient.

The lower color tab locations could be adjusted to get more or less of a specific color in the rainbow. Save your new Gradient as a preset so it can be used again or click to download my SJ Rainbow Gradient and resulting rainbow PNG files that contain these settings.

3.Using the Gradient Tool with the Options Bar set with the new rainbow gradient and Linear, drag out to create a horizontal line rainbow. If using an active selection from Step 1, drag exactly between the top Rectangular Marquee line and bottom while holding the SHIFT key to get a straight across effect. Be sure you drag top to bottom or your rainbow will be backwards. (I know because I did this.) Deselect (CTRL+D) the selection.

4. Now go to Edit -> Transform -> Warp and in the Options Bar select Warp Arc and Bend 90% to get a large semi-circle rainbow. To switch back to the other Free Transform settings, just click the Warp icon in Options Bar. To make size of rainbow smaller to fit in your image, set bend and click on the little chain icon (Maintain Aspect Ratio icon) in the Options Bar between W: and H: and change 100% to 70% (or whatever size works on your image). If scaling manually, be sure to hold the SHIFT button while dragging on the corners or the perspective of the rainbow will change. To get a more stylized rainbow look or one that fits around an object, the corners  can actually be pulled to adjust the transform lines to make the rainbow line up any way you want by right clicking in the rainbow and selecting Distort or Skew. Then click on the check mark to set the total transformation.

5. Add a layer mask and with a soft low opacity black brush, adjust the rainbow into your image.

6. Set rainbow layer blend mode to Linear Light and change the Fill value to 15%

7. To reduce the edges of the colors in your rainbow, go to Filters -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and set a Radius to 8 (or whatever setting you think looks good).

You now have a beautiful rainbow in your image! I actually added a sketch on top of my flower and a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer using the rainbow gradient again and set the layer to 31% opacity to get the rainbow effect on the petals.
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Here is another image that uses the same rainbow created for the first image. The PNG rainbow blurred from my rainbow download was brought into the image. The image was first processed in Lightroom starting with David duChemin’s Iceland Split Greens preset (from his newest book The Print and the Process: Taking Compelling Photographs from Vision to Expression) and using an Adjustment Brush to add sharpening and clarity to the houses. In Photoshop Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was opened and the Detail Extractor and Graduated Neutral Density filters were added to enhance the clouds and give them a brighter look on the right side of the image. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to darken down the area behind the houses to give more of a stormy effect, which is needed to get a realistic looking rainbow. Next the rainbow was placed in the image and Free Transform (CTRL+T) to get the right size and location. The rainbow layer was set to 51% opacity and a layer mask was added – the upper right corner of the rainbow was gently painted out. My SJ Painter Oil Frame was applied and a Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+click between the layers so change only effect the layer below) to the frame – the color was changed to a matching light color in the image. To get the painted edges, a layer mask was added and using a 12% soft brush, the edges were painted out lightly to get more of a painted canvas look. French Kiss Artiste Breeze texture was added on top. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to it and the Saturation set to -100. The texture layer was set to Vivid Light blend mode at 22% opacity. This is an image I probably would not have processed if a texture had not been applied to it and the rainbow really opened up the sky. Now I really like it – it looks like the English countryside that I saw while traveling to Bath.
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Just having fun here. Was not sure where this was going and this is what I ended up with. This is actually made up of three groups – Rainbow, Shamrock Pot and Flower Pot. French Kiss Artiste Flower Garden texture was used as a backdrop. It took a lot of manipulation to get the main components set up correctly. The Rainbow was warped to fit into the pots. The flowers were created from an image of a pin I had taken and turned into a brush. All the clip-art is from the wonderful Obsidian Dawn St. Patricks Day brushes. Various layer styles were applied to the different layers and the Cosmi font is called 36 – you might find it on an old CD of fonts.

There are a few other tutorials out there on how to make a rainbow. One in an older book called Photoshop Photo Effects Cookbook has a fairly easy tutorial to follow – I just did not like the gradient effect and final rainbow quite as much. I hope you download my rainbow and give this a try. This was really a fun thing to try….Digital Lady Syd


Using a Tych Panel to Show Off Your Images

Last week I gave away a template to organize your images for use on a Valentine or for just putting related ideas together. (See Using a Template to Create Your Own Unique Valentine.) This week I found this incredible  little free program that can be loaded into Photoshop CS5 or CS6 as a panel that does a very similar thing. This is totally ingenious and very simple. All you need is to have your images or objects already post-processed and a bit of an idea on how you want to put them together. For the Tych above, the images are all from the 24th Annual Native American Festival in Ormond Beach, Florida – I had a great time photographing. Above are a few of the images I have completed the post-processing on and put together to form what I consider a pretty nice grouping of the event. I plan on blogging on how I created some of the effects in the individual images at a later time.

So let’s talk about Tych Panel 2 by Reimund Trost. The best way to learn about it is to view the short video for instructions on how to use it. Basically you can add rows, columns, additional rows after you have created it, background color, borders and/or rounded corners around each image and/or the whole image, and even use it from Adobe Bridge if you want. Totally cool and very fast. It is action based and the order of the images can be set for each row or column you create or add. Really gives a nice quick result for posting to blogs. All I can say is that it was a lot of fun to do. The grouping of flowers below was my first effort and took just a couple minutes – I really liked the results!
There are only a couple of little issues I noticed when using the program.

  • First, you need to make sure your images are all in the same folder for each row or column you are adding as there is no way to add additional images from another folder to form each individual row or column. Unfortunately the panel does not interface with Lightroom where you could use a collection for image selection.
  • The second issue is that the program will adjust the image to fit in an opening – if the aspect ratios of the images you are selecting to create a row or column are different, part of the image will be compressed so they fit uniformly. If you are adding a landscape sized image with a portrait sized image, it apparently makes the portrait sized image the same height as the landscape – it appears much smaller in your image. If you add three different sized images into a row, it takes the largest sized image and adjust the other images to that size by compressing them. So far, none of the image sizes I have added are too changed so they still look pretty nice. The easiest way around this is to make sure your images are the same size before adding them to the Tych.

If you want to exchange an image, I usually turn off all the layers except for the one I want to replace. If you used rounded corners on your images, right click on the black layer mask thumbnail and select Disable Layer Mask (a big red X appears in it). Now File ->Place your new image above the one to be replaced, and Free Transform it so the old and new images are the same size. Double click on the black layer mask to enable it and drag it up to the new image. Then delete the old layer.
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This is another example showing the rounded edges on just the flower images. I added a French Kiss Solstice Zest textured background on this image and a couple curves to create the background effect I wanted.
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The panel below was created using four images, one column on the left and three on the right; then turning off Column 1 Group which contains the three layers on the right side. The background treatment was a bit complicated. If you have the border turned on in the Tych Panel options, I usually drag that top Border layer down to just above the background layer so my background appears complete on the image.  2 Lil’ Owls Mosaic Set crescent grunge (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) was added at 55% opacity above the background layer. Next 2 Lil’ Owls French Brocante Set 10-1 texture with the beautiful Eiffel Tower image was added and set to Linear Burn at 85% opacity. Above that a New Layer was added and French Kiss Spattered4-06 brush at 511 pixels was applied in black over the whole layer – loved the drippy watercolor feel although it just adds a cloudy looking effect once combined with the other textures. 2 Lil’ Owls Enchanted2-4 png overlay was put on the next layer at 45% opacity. Note that the small flower image can be adjusted within the larger background image by just using the Move Tool and dragging – the layer mask will adjust as you move the image. An Inner Shadow and Stroke layer style was added to the flower image to make it stand out more. Another New Layer was placed above the pink flower image and one stroke using Flowers Swirls and Hearts Sampled Brush 8 was added next. Last a slight contrast adjustment was made on a Curves Adjustment Layer. This image really does not have a very organized look to it, but the image guide did really help me to figure out how to lay out this image.
This panel is really fun to use and shows off your images so quickly. Very handy to have when wanting to put a quick collage together for a friend or for a blog post. Just watch the aspect ratios on your images and it will all work fine. If you own Photoshop CS5 or CS6, give this a try. It is extremely easy to use and the results can be quite stunning…..Digital Lady Syd


Take the Time to Experiment!

Just had some fun experimenting this week and came up with these images.  For the above I love the way the texture and color and abstract form compliment each other. I started out with a very over-exposed image of two pink grocery tulips – I was actually experimenting with my shutter settings on my camera when I shot this image. (See top image in photo below.) I do not know why I decided to use this image but it just looked so different – a few adjustments were made to the RAW file in Lightroom following my blog workflow in How to Use Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) or Lightroom 4 Quickly before opening it in Photoshop. (See bottom image in the photo below.) I wanted to try out some of my new watercolor brushes (here is a download link) I made in my How to Turn a Brush into a Watercolor Brush blog. Following this blog’s basic workflow the layer was duplicated and, instead of selecting the flowers, this top layer’s blend mode was set to Darken so the white disappears. On a New Layer set between the Background layer and duplicated layer, I selected SJ Watercolor Erodible 2 brush set to 250 pixels and a blue color where the watercolor background was painted in. A Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+click between the layers to clip) to the blue watercolor layer to change it to the purplish color. Since I only want to change the flowers, the top layer was highlighted and Topaz (see sidebar for website link at my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4 plug-in was opened. The Oil Painted Tone I preset was applied as is. Back in Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer was added for a little more contrast to make the background stand out more. The center image below is where I was at in the workflow at this stage.
I decided to try just one more thing so a composite layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) of all layers. I opened up Topaz photoFXLab (this is the new Topaz interface to access the different plug-ins quickly) since I was not sure where I was going with the image. First I went into Topaz Adjust 5 and applied the Spicify preset – it looked great! I created a Stamped (same as a composite) layer in the plug-in and opened Topaz Lens Effects to see what a Fisheye effect would do – it did not look good so I started trying out the other lens effects. I ended up in the Lens-Split Prism section. After clicking on all the presets, I liked the Seven Way Split Prism with changes. (I changed the Mixing Level to .50, Radius to .42, Rotation to 83.76 and left at Type I.) Back in photoFXLab I created another stamped layer and in the Adjustments tab, the Saturation slider was set to -37 and my favorite Dynamics slider to +27. Another stamped layer and Topaz Simplify4 was opened where one of my old presets I call Factory HDR Look was applied. (The settings are Simplify section: YCbCr Colorspace, Simplify Size .52, Feature Boost 3, Details Strength 1.51, Details Boost 1.27, Details Size .62, Remove Small 0, and Remove Weak 0.16; Adjust section – Brightness .01, Contrast 1.07, Saturation 1.93, Saturation Boost .97, Dynamics 0, Structure 1.0, Structure Boost 1.00; Edges section – Edge Type MonoEdge – Fine, Edge Strength 4.47, Simplify Edge .39, Reduce Weak 7.78, Reduce Small 0.07, and Fatten Edge 4.11. In Finishing Touches section the Transparency was set to .53 – it made the flowers pop!) I decided this was enough photo manipulation. Back in Photoshop I wanted the tulips a different color than the actual reddish pink they were. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to turn them into the purple colors. (The settings were for Reds Hue to -97, Saturation to -38 and Lightness to +14; the Yellows Saturation was changed to -21; and the Greens Hue to -124 and Saturation to -29.) Totally changed the image. I used 2 Lil Owls (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Texture 4 from their Texture Workshop E-Book bundle set to Darken blend mode to remove the white center to create a border, and then turned the frame color to white by clipping a white Color Fill Adjustment Layer to the texture (ALT+click between the layers to clip). A final Curves Adjustment Layer was added just to even out contrast.
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This is another image that I had to really fiddle around with to get something interesting. I liked the different plants in the image – it was taken while in my car at a stop light outside a shopping center. The original image is seen below.
I got the idea for the initial steps to this image from a very creative book I just purchased by Theresa Airey called Digital Photo Art New Directions. In it she uses a program called Akvis Sketch to create some effects on her images. With the new Topaz Simplify 4 Sketch section, it seemed reasonable to me that it could be used in the same way. It worked! This image started off using Topaz Adjust Mild Detail preset on a duplicate background layer. This layer was duplicated and Topaz Simplify 4 was opened to the Sketch section Hard Pencil II preset and adjustments were made to the preset. (All sections but Edges were turned off (here area the slider settings:  MonoEdge Fine, Edge Strength 5.00, Simplify Edge .40, Reduce Weak .54, Reduce Small .52, and Flatten Edge 0). In Photoshop a composite layer of just the Topaz Adjust layer and the background  (turn off the Simplify 4 layer by clicking on the eyeball in the Layers Panel) and highlight the two remaining layers – CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E. On this layer Topaz Simplify 4 was applied again but this time the Pastel preset was used.  (These settings were changed: Simplify Section –  YCbCr, Simplify Size  0.27, Details Boost  1.00, Details Size  .20, Remove Small  0.10, and Remove  Weak  0.31; Adjust Section  – Brightness  0.10, Contrast  1.48, Saturation  1.70, Saturation Boost  1.24 , Dynamics  0.36, Structure  3.33, and Structure Boost  0.67; Finishing Touches, turned on the Tone section – Tone Strength  0.46; and Local Adjustments – painted back the yellow flowers and a little of the pink and whitish leaves  using a .37 opacity brush). This layer was placed below the sketched layer and set to 73% opacity.) The Sketch Layer should be placed above the Simplify Pastel preset layer, turned on, set to Multiply blend mode to get rid of the white area, and set to 73% opacity. A new Composite layer was created using all the layers. A clean up layer was added to get rid of distracting areas. I decided I needed to fill the lower center area so I copied the purple pansies in the center, warped them and changed flowers to pink. Next I used a program that I have always loved but do not use a lot – The Plugin Galaxy – which has this marvelous Mirror Effect plugin. It was set to Vertical Right – then you can drag in the interface by right clicking and dragging to get very different results. I dragged all the way left for my final image above, but below is a screen shot dragging almost all the way right.
Since I wanted the pink hyacinth back in the image, I added a layer mask to the mirrored layer and used a black brush to paint back the pink flower and the side. A PNG filter similar to my SJ PNG Borders was added and a Gradient Overlay using the Pastel Grunge gradient (free from Graphix1 A White Shade of Pale Gradients set) at 130% scale at -112 degrees was added to create the pink to green frame effect. It took a while to do but the results are very nice and interesting.

Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 1: Take the time to Experiment! – Definitely paid off in this instance. Hope the workflow did not put you to sleep but I wanted to show how you can create some very interesting effects by just experimenting a little. In both cases Topaz Simplify 4 was applied twice using different presets for each image. Really liked the final results and they are  something unique and truly mine!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz photoFXlab v1.1
Instant Mirror and Quick Mirror for Photoshop


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


Digital Lady Syd’s Top Ten Photos From 2012

It is that time where I try to put some perspective on my images for the past year and choose the ones that appeal to me most. I had a nice year and got to see some pretty interesting places. I try to see which images I would place in my home. Here is what my “inner critic” thinks are some of my best.

10.  Below is an image shot while in the Lightner Museum looking down at my favorite lunch spot in St. Augustine, Florida, the Cafe Alcazar which is located in the old hotel pool area (see Bathing in Casino on Shorpys website for how the pool looked in 1889). For more info, see my Tidbits Blog Cafe Alcazar and Vintage Topaz Adjust.

9. I love this sort of illustrative and humorous effect. This image is of a whale taken during the Shamu show at the SeaWorld Orlando Theme Park. For details on processing, see my Storytelling with Your Images blog.

8. The Big Island in Hawaii was one of my most favorite places I have ever visited. This photo art image depicts how I think of Hawaii. I discuss how I created the effect in my Using Color Efex Pro and Texture for a Warm Hawaiian Landscape Effect blog.

7. This lovely mallard duck pair’s image was taken at the SeaWorld Orlando Theme Park in Florida. This image used a texture by 2 Lil Owls and the new Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Detail 3 to bring out details and color, especially in the feathers and eyes.

6. This old corvette was for sale at the 39th Annual Turkey Run at the Daytona International Speedway infield. This is my favorite type of car –  so I had a great time photographing all the corvettes. (More will be showing up in my future blogs as I have a lot more corvette images.) To see how I processed this image, see my Little Red Corvette Tidbits Blog.

5.  Miniature Mums were used in a lot of my images this year. I like to photograph the flowers I grow. I have been trying to improve on my macro shooting  this year. To see how this flower was processed, see my Tidbit Blog Just Bloomin” Beautiful!

4. The wild surf is at Laupahoehoe Harbor on the Big Island. In my Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5! blog I used this same image with an artistic feel to it. Nik Color Efex Pro’s Detail Extractor filter helped give this image the sharpness.

3. I am always surprised how nice the flower pictures are that I get at the local grocery stores with my inexpensive Kodak point-and-shoot camera. These beautiful pink roses were shot at my neighborhood store. Post processing included adding 4 textures – two I bought from French Kiss’s website and two from a wonderful Flickr site by Lenabem-Anna which contains many beautiful vintage and painterly textures. I used her textures 130 and 72.

2. The purple lily pad image is one of my artistic experiments that I really like. They were taken at the Hilton Waikoloa Village by the Japanese Restaurant. To see how this effect was created with a slightly different result, see my Tidbits Blog Purple Lily Pads!

1.  It is hard to top Hawaii for beautiful everything. I settled on this image from along the road to Waipio Valley as my favorite of the year since it totally reminds me of my trip to the Big Island – the bright sunlight, the beautiful surf and the gorgeous clouds hanging out. To see how I processed this image, see my Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem! blog.

It’s been a great year and I have learned so many new things about post-processing my images in Photoshop. Hope you have enjoyed some of my blogs too. I hope next year is as fun and productive. Happy New Year Everyone!…..Digital Lady Syd


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Digital Lady Syd!

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday this time of year. My large flower blossom image was from one of the many lovely little gardens around the dachas in Belarus in the summer. (For info on how each was processed, see end of blog.)
…..This beautiful Christmas tree was located in a clubhouse dining area. It was actually decorated all in silver and was taken with my cheap Kodak point-and-shoot camera. Just goes to show how far you can take an imperfect image and give it some creative effects for a great result.
…..This was just fooling around with brushes and getting something really fun!
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This image was taken at Linlithgow, Scotland – a beautiful home near the train station. I basically turned it into a night Christmas scene. This is a beautiful little town to visit if you are in the Edinburgh area – it has interesting castle ruins you can explore too!
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I hope you enjoyed my holiday cards – they were much fun to create! Maybe they will inspire you to try some new techniques – all have been discussed at some time in my blogs (just search in both this and my Tidbits Blog)! In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday and I will see ya next year!…..Digital Lady Syd

Processing Details:

Image 1: Lightroom processing occurred first on this beautiful red flower and then it was opened up in Photoshop and the background layer turned off. A light green solid color layer was placed under the image along with French Kiss Watercolor Texture Vivacity set to Normal at 47% opacity. A Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer was clipped to the watercolor and the Yellow color Hue was shifted to a light green. The flower layer was turned on and a layer mask added to paint out the background so the watercolor texture shows through. Several French Kiss Splatter Brushes were applied and reddish, pinkish, and brownish Color Fill Adjustment Layers were clipped to some of the brush stroke layers. Also the opacity of these stroke layers was varied. Last, Obsidian Dawn’s Merry Christmas brush was placed on a layer with a layer style added (using Outer Glow, Pattern -created using the Vivacity water color texture, Inner Shadow, and a dark red Stroke) to get the candy cane look, and a text layer added using an Outer Glow layer style.

Image 2: Since this image was just a 14 mg image, but still a jpg, it took me a lot longer to get the final look I wanted. In a nutshell, this image was processed first in Lightroom using the basic adjustments. Next in Photoshop Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Simplify 4 was applied using the Oil Paint Toned III preset as a starting place – to get the soft color the tone section was changed to black, dark green, light green and red and set to a Tone Strength of .89. I basically just played around with the size sliders until I got a result I liked and created a preset since it was so different from their presets. Then I simply did a lot of clean up, added two textures – French Kiss Artiste Aspen (turned it green using a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and merging down) using Lighter Color blend mode at 23% opacity, and 2 Lil Owls Texture 1 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) set to Hard Light at 37% opacity. A Levels Adjustment layer was added, two layers of text, French Kiss Glorious Grunge Edging Overlay with inside lines removed and changed to a light tan color, and a spotlight vignette effect on the center left ornament. These are all techniques I have covered in past blogs here and on my Tidbits Blog so just search the blogs for more information on how to do a certain technique or drop me a line or comment if you have questions.

Image 3: I started with a New Document in Photoshop. My free SJ Holiday Greeting PNG Overlay was applied and a Red Color Fill Adjustment Layer set to a deep red color was clipped to the overlay. Next a New Layer was added and the Erodible Watercolor Blender brush was chosen and pinks and grays were painted around the overlay – the layer was set to 28% opacity. My Snow Overlay (in same download set as the greeting) was applied at 63% and a text layer with my name was added. A Levels Adjustment Layer and Curves Adjustment Layer was added to finish up.

Image 4: Basic processing was done in Lightroom. Lots of clean up and a Levels Adjustment Layer was added to add contrast. Painted Textures Christmas was added at Hard Light and 86% opacity – gives a beautiful warm glow to image. Some vignetting, sharpening and selective Hue/Saturation Adjustments changes were made. To get the night look, a Nik Color Efex Pro Midnight filter set to Blue was added.  Santa Brush by Flina was added with a layer style to get nice effect on the brush. Obsidian Dawn’s Light Beam brushes was added to light up the front of the house. My free Snow Overlay was added and set to 10% opacity. Obsidian Dawn’s Merry Christmas brush was added with an Inner Glow layer style and a text layer for my name was added last.


2012 Inexpensive Gifts for the Photoshop Lover on Your List

Last year I did this blog and felt that it would be a good idea to list a few more reasonably priced gift items that you might not know about. I hope you find it useful for that perfect stocking-stuffer or gift for your favorite Photoshop user. These are all items I personally own and recommend for your use.  Also, scroll down to the Totally Cheap Corner for some free great gift ideas! So here we go!

1. TOPAZ ADJUST 5 FILTER – ($50)

I am keeping my number 1 from last year as my number 1 for this year too. This plug-in is the best and this company is the best – once you buy any of their products, all updates are free – who does that in this day and age? It was a hard choice to choose just one to showcase as I use most of their plug-ins regularly. Topaz Adjust is wonderful as it gives that HDR feel to an image even if it is not an HDR and now there are more choices than ever for creating this look. If you are an artistic person, try their newly updated Topaz Simplify 4 – totally fun to use! And the Black and White Effects is really good!  Topaz Adjust (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog) using the Vintage Grunge IV preset was applied below without the vignetting. Otherwise just my usual workflow in both Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6. It was taken recently at the 39th Annual Daytona Turkey Run in the infield of the Daytona International Speedway – it is the largest antique auto show in the U.S.

2. FRENCH KISS COLLECTIONS – ($8 to $60)

Leslie Nicole of French Kiss Collections has some of the most beautiful and unique textures. She offers many free textures to try out and several inexpensive sets you can download. She has some good video tutorials on how to use her textures. Below are some bougainvillaeas that use one of her textures and one of her overlays. (For more information on how it was processed, see my Tidbits Blog Checking Out French Kiss Textures.)

https://i0.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8474/8114780763_31fe9bd42e.jpg

3. PRESET VIEWER BREEZE PROGRAM – ($20)

Once again I am recommending this little program. I would be lost without the Preset Viewer Program. When you need that special brush to load into Photoshop and cannot remember which set is it in, this program will open them up to view within seconds to help you find what you need. Definitely a real time-saver. It also reads patterns, fonts, jpgs, shapes, styles, and swatches. A great addition for speeding up your Photoshop workflow. I often have it open while working on an image to see which brushes I need to load. Below is a screenshot of how my program looks when open – I have several folders where I store extra brush presets. These are my cloud set brushes that can be downloaded for free at my Deviant Art site.

4. CREATING ART WITH MACRO IN NATURE E-BOOK – ($14.95)

If you like taking Macro images, or even if you don’t know if you do, Mike Moat (one of the best macro photographers around) has an E-Book called Creating Art with Macro in Nature that is terrific! I learned so much from this 184-page pdf book that covers everything you need to know with beautiful images to show you the results. Very enjoyable read. His website Tiny Landscapes also has very helpful information on it. Below is an example of using some of Mike’s tips to create a nice Macro image.

5. THE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS – 1 THROUGH 4 – ($13 and up)

Scott Kelby (need I say anymore?) started creating “quick tip” Digital Photography Books a while back and this year he released his fourth. They are all loaded down with lots of photography and Photoshop tips to make shooting any kind of image painless. He covers every kind of shot and has many recipes sprinkled throughout the books to help with processing. I have totally enjoyed all of them as they are a quick read – you can look up whatever you want to shoot at the moment and get the quick tip for taking the image. The HDR image below is a shot from my hotel room in Orlando while attending Photoshop World (these are a blast to attend if you have not done so yet) a few years ago that follows the tip “Shoot From Up Really High” in Book 3. I just checked the price on his books and they are quite reduced from the cost on the cover – very good buys!

6. THE FADER PLUGIN FOR LIGHTROOM – (now $10)

I did a blog on this cool little plug-in program back when it first came out. (See Great Free Plug-in for Lightroom – The Fader!) They have since upgraded it but it is the same basic program and I find I use it all the time. The basic concept is that when you apply a preset in Lightroom, it is applied at 100% – that is your only choice. Using this Fader plug-in, you can set it to any amount up to 150% and you get a live view of how it looks while adjusting the one slider. It is absolutely ingenious! The image of the mum below used Photoshop Guy Matt Kloskowski’s Wedding Fairytale Dark Edge preset applied to it at 115% using the Fader. Then an adjustment brush adding the slight yellow color for the centers was added. The texture is Painted Textures Taupe Canvas, French Kiss PhotoStudio2 Overlay ( from No. 2 above), and my free SJ-Snow1 Overlay.

7.  THE ARTIST QUARTER (TAQ) WATERCOLOUR BRUSHES – (around $30)

As I have always said, I am no painter but I just love dabbling. So when Dr. Russell Brown (my Photoshop hero) and Tim Shelbourne (a wonderful artist) came up with their Artist Assistant panel, I fell victim. The Watercolour Assistant Panel is free for Photoshop CS6 and can be downloaded from Dr. Brown’s Scripts page. I can tell you it takes practice to be successful at this, and I have not mastered it yet, but using Tim’s TAQ Watercolour Cloning Brushes definitely helps to create a nice watercolor feel from an image. If you are interested in painting watercolor, check out his website and his brushes. I hope to do a future blog on this technique since it really is a lot of fun to do.

8.  STEADEPOD CAMERA ACCESSORY – ($29.95)

How many times have you been out shooting and wished you had a tripod with you? Unless I plan on going somewhere that is easy go with my car, I usually just wing it. When I went to Photoshop World a couple years ago, this was one of the items in the vendor area. I bought a Steadepod and I now carry it with me whenever I shoot. It may not be a great as a tripod, but it sure beats having nothing. What a life-saver! and fairly inexpensive. This is one of those gadgets you wonder how you ever got along without it. It sets up very quickly and you can get those wonderful HDR landscape and indoor shots you want – and no one says you cannot use it in some places where tripods are not allowed!

9.  LIGHTROOM 4 UNMASKED E-BOOK – ($20)

Recently I decided that I needed to get a new Lightroom reference book since the latest version has been updated a lot. When Craft & Vision issued a notice that a new E-book on Lightroom was available for a reasonable price, I decided to give it a try. Piet Van den Eynde does an excellent job with this Lightroom 4 Unmasked E-book. It is 313 pages long and covers everything, and from a fresh perspective. Besides a Table of Contents which links through properly, he has a Cases page with links that answer basic questions and offer new techniques. Also check out Craft & Vision’s other E-books – David duChemin (a really great photographer) and Piet have several listed. These E-books are great reads at reasonable prices.

10. LIGHTROOM PRESETS BY DAVID duCHEMIN – ($10)

Speaking of David duChemin, he came out with a set of 36 Lightroom Develop Presets and instructions on how to use them. I bought them as I really liked the Milford Greens presets and several of his Black and White presets are now my favorites. This is a very handy set and reasonably priced (approx $0.25 a preset). The Hawaiian Boy and Turtle Sculpture below uses one of the beautiful Milford Greens presets, then The Fader plug-in (see No. 6 above) was opened and applied at 115% before finishing up in Photoshop.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8064/8238688964_bbfd5f52c3.jpg

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TOTALLY CHEAP CORNER!

11. SHADOWHOUSE CREATIONS – LARGE VARIETY AND BEAUTIFUL TEXTURES – ($0 but he deserves donations!)

Jerry Jones of Shadowhouse Creations is one of the most generous people in the texture community. His textures are fabulous with a large variety from which to select. He often adds good examples and details on how to use the set he is featuring. He also creates brushes, layer styles, overlays, and actions. This is a “must have” bookmark for anyone who dabbles in the artistic aspects of Photoshop. The pink daisies are treated with two of my very favorite textures from Shadowhouse Creations: Marshmellow Skies set to Normal blend mode at 72% opacity and Oil Painting 1 set to Hard Light at 26%.

https://i0.wp.com/farm8.staticflickr.com/7175/6813181699_a95ea3bef8.jpg

12.  SEVERAL RUSSELL BROWN PANELS – ($0)

I mentioned one of these in No. 7 above – Russell Brown’s panels are the best! Download them all from Dr.Brown’s Scripts page.

  • The one I use the most is the Adobe Paper Texture Panel. This is a quick and easy way to try several textures on top of your image quickly – it sizes them and sets them to any blend mode you want to see. See my blog Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel Updated! for more info. I noticed he does not have the CS5 version posted anymore.
  • Another panel I really like is the Edit Layers in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) panel for Photoshop CS6. (Scroll down the page to get the same as an equivalent script for CS5.) This is very useful, especially if you use Lightroom. It saves time if you need to fix something in Camera RAW quick (like remove noise or Chromatic Aberration or adjust orange which is not in Photoshop) and you do not want to go back into Lightroom to adjust it.  Basically all you have to do in CS6 to access this script is to open the panel and click on the button  – it immediately turns your layer into a Smart Object so you can edit again later if needed, and takes you right into ACR. For CS5 you will have to go to the File -> Scripts -> Dr. Brown’s Edit Layer in ACR to run. Check out my blog Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script for more information on this.
  • As already mentioned above, Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5! is another fun free panel to try out! It takes you through several steps – like a Photoshop action that stops at each step. It also takes some practice but if you are a little artistic, you will love it. See my blog Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5! on how to do this.
  • And once again, the Watercolour Assistant Panel is free for Photoshop CS6 only – see No. 7 above for more on this.

The flowers below were created using the Photoshop CS5 Painting Assistant.

https://i0.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8454/8008222158_bd9608f384.jpg

13. PIXEL BENDER (FOR PHOTOSHOP CS5 ONLY) – ($0)

This item has been around a while – is a great little plug-in offered over at Adobe Labs Downloads that contains several different filters, and others can be added in. Click on 7. on download page to get to the Adobe Pixel Bender Exchange to find what they have to offer. I am so sorry that it cannot be used with Photoshop CS6 because some of my favorite effects were in this little plug-in. That is one reason why both CS6 and CS5 are on my computer – I still use this plug-in. When you download the plug-in, you get the really nice Oil Paint Filter, which is similar to the one added to Photoshop CS6 – see my blog Photoshop’s CS6 (and Pixel Bender’s) Oil Paint Filter. One that is a lot of fun is the Escher’s Droste Effect – see my blog Pixel Bender Droste Effect for more information on this filter. The filter I use the most in Pixel Bender is from an outside source and is called Kill White – it takes out all the white from an image in a single click. Very handy! (Mike at Mike’s Extra says the 32-bit filter download currently works with the 32-bit Photoshop CS6 but he has not been able to get the 64-bit plug-in working.) This image is of one of my Orange Hibiscus using instructions from my Droste Effect blog link above.

https://i0.wp.com/farm6.staticflickr.com/5256/5459666308_4ca45d5487.jpg

14.  PHOTOMATIX MERGE TO 32-BIT HDR PLUG-IN FOR LIGHTROOM 4.1 USERS – ($0 if you already own Photomatix Pro)

Since there is not much for the HDR fanatic (although the Steadepod in No. 8 above is perfect for HDR in difficult places), the Merge to 32-Bit HDR Plug-in is a little heralded plug-in that HDR Soft released earlier this year and I find it indispensable. Since it is free to owners of the Photomatix Pro program (one of the HDR industry standards for processing HDR images), I thought I would mention it here. The first image in this blog was created from 3 images stacked with this program.  You first select your HDR images in Lightroom, go to Export -> Merge to 32-Bit HDR – it then aligns and brings the file back into Lightroom as a TIFF for processing. Very quick and very useful – much faster than going into Photoshop to stack and align them.

15. 50 FREE HIGH QUALITY TEXTURE PACKS – ($0)

This is a just-for-fun link I found over a year ago but it has 50 sites which also have links and lots of freebies on each site, not just great textures. Total fun and your Photoshop buddy will love browsing through all the wonderful things available and you will be a hero! Check out 50 Free High Quality Texture Packs by tutslist.com.

I hope this blog has given you some ideas and places to check out if you are looking for that special Photoshop or Photography gift that will not “break the bank!” If you want more ideas, check out my Inexpensive Gifts for Photoshop Lovers for 2011. I know with the economy the way it is, it is hard to find something that is really nice or unique – maybe this blog will give you some great ideas. Happy Shopping!…..Digital Lady Syd


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


My Version of Photoshop Tennis!

I really love taking photos but I am slowly realizing that once in Photoshop, I end up with something entirely different than what I had in mind! There is an older book, Photoshop Secrets of the Pros by Mark Clarkson, where players “pass images back and forth making changes as they go” for a set number of rounds, ie., Photoshop Tennis. This book first got me thinking about doing radically different effects to images. Last week I did a blog on Digital Lady Syd’s Photo Art Workflow where I basically showed what I do to give a different feel to an image. This week I am continuing with that theme showing other options to get more of that photo art look. The images are also examples of what happens when I start playing around with different combinations of effects in Photoshop – I am never quite sure what I will end up with. I also downloaded and tried Photomatix Pro’s new program Merge to 32-bit HDR this week so that was part of the first two images’ workflow. This image of the Ormond Heritage Condominiums (located where the old Hotel Ormond used to reside in Ormond Beach, Florida) was first processed as a five-image HDR shot using Merge to 32-bit HDR. The really neat thing is that if you already own Photomatix HDR Pro 4.2 and Lightroom 4.2, you can download it for free from the link above. All you do is select all the HDR images in Lightroom, go to File -> Export and select Merge to 32-bit HDR (or just right click and go down to Export and select the program). A dialog opens where I chose the following: Preprocessing and Merging (Align Images, Crop aligned result,by matching features, and include perspective correction) and Remove ghosts; and Name Merged File: Combined file names and check Stack with first selected photo and Scale pixel values to fixed range. The images are processed very quickly and a TIFF file is placed back with the original images, just as if you had done this in Photoshop’s Merge to HDR, except Photomatix never opens up a program – it all happens inside Lightroom. What a cool little program from Photomatix! The above image was mainly processed in Topaz photoFXlab (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog) plug-in using Topaz Adjust presets. See Image 1 settings below for more info.

When adjusting the crop on the top image in Lightroom, I got a quick look at what a small crop would look like. Basically I just liked the way it looked – the frosted light of the lamp post and the comfortable porch balconies make you want to sit outside and enjoy the view and weather. The only thing done on this image in Photoshop was using Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and stacking a bunch of filters: High Key, Sunlight, Detail Extractor, Dark Contrasts, Bi-Color Filters and Image Borders. It just works!
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This image was also processed in Lightroom using PhotoMatix Pro’s Merge to 32-bit HDR. I then did my adjustments on the resulting TIFF file in Lightroom. In Photoshop I decided right away to use the new Topaz photoFXlab program where Topaz Simplify and Topaz Lens Effects were used from the Plugins tab. See settings for Image 3 for the exact info on how this was applied.
Here is the same image with exactly the same settings as in the image above except for the framing, but the twist is that a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the Vivid Light texture and set to a Difference blend mode at 71% opacity. I loved the way it looks like as if it is being drenched in some bright light – almost a spooky feeling. I am glad I did not stop with just the image created above as I think I like this one better – there may be more of a story in this image.
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The next two images show an example of starting with a night photo taken with my point-and-shoot camera at the Gold Lion Cafe in Flagler Beach, Florida, and turning it into a really interesting almost wintery looking sketch. I did not exactly plan this result. The night image is definitely what it looked like that night as I sat topside and listened to the ocean waves rolling in. But I really like the final image with the artistic pop added.

Here is the image with a more photo art feel.

Both images took a lot of manipulation but the second one used the Layer Styles dialog to get the beautiful color out of it. See Image 6 settings below to see how this was done.

As you can see, if you stick to the basic workflow, which all these images did, but add in that new tool or different feature (like the Layer Style Blend If sliders or the new Lookup Adjustment Layer or a unique crop or blend mode combinations), you can get some very different and interesting images and end up in a totally different spot. As always, every time I work on images, it is always completely consuming and lots of fun – otherwise, why do it? Tennis anyone?…..Digital Lady Syd

Settings:

Settings for Image 1: Once the Tiff image is taken into Photoshop after making Lightroom adjustments, the background layer was duplicated Topaz photoFXlab plug-in was opened. After duplicating the layer, the Mask tab was selected and the plain sky was deleted. A new cloud image was load using +From File and placed under the top layer. A stamped layer was created using +From Stack and Topaz Adjust was opened up and Photo Pop preset was applied. In the Brushes tab, detail was increased throughout the image. PhotoFXlab was exited. The background was duplicated again and put on top in Photoshop. This layer was taken into Topaz photoFXlab again and Topaz Adjust’s preset Painting Venice was applied. Back in Photoshop a black layer mask was added and the bright areas of the image were painted in to add depth to the trees in the image. ShadowHouse Creations You’d Be Surprised texture was applied using Overlay blend mode at 34% opacity. Finally a Curves Adjustment layer was added. My frame layer style (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames) was added sampling colors from the image.

Settings for Image 3: Duplicated layer in plug-in. In Adjustments tab used these settings: Temp -4, Tint 23, Sat -12, Exp 1.80, Contrast -8, Dynamics 49, Sharpness 51, and Shadows 22. In InstaTone tab image from 500 px of an orange leaf from Aliona Shewtsova and set the layer to Saturation blend mode at 74%, which really brought out the colors. Next a +From Stack stamped layer was created. In Plugins tab Topaz Simplify was opened and the BuzzSim preset was applied as is. In the Adjustments Tab these settings were used: Temp -17, Contrast -5, Dynamics 87, and Sharpness 3. Layer opacity was set to 83%. Stamped using +From Stack. Plugins Tab used Lens Effects and applied Vignette Selective section-Soft Olive Green preset with these settings: Center on right side of slide, Vignette Strength 0.21, and Opacity 50%. Exit plug in. Exit Topaz photoFXlab. Flypaper Apple Blush taster texture was applied using Vivid Light blend mode at 100% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was applied with the individual channels being adjusted to bring out the colors I wanted. My thin double edges layer style was applied (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames).

Settings for Image 5:  After basic color adjustment in Lightroom (just a single shot), this image was opened in Photoshop CS6 and Nik Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in was opened. These filters were stacked:  Midnight using Neutral Color Set set to 65% Overall Transparency; Bi-Color Filters using the #1 Color Set; and Photo Stylizer using Cool Silver, Style 1, Strength 38% and Overall Opacity 61%. Back in Photoshop Sarah Gardner’s Blush Ginger texture was added and set to Overlay blend mode. The new Lighting Effects Filter in CS6 was used to add some soft light to the center lantern lights – the Spotlight effect was used at an Intensity of 7 and Ambience of 60. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer set to Abstract and Gold-Blue and the layer was set to a Screen blend mode at 64%. OnOne PhotoFrame (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog) Emulsion 02 was added sampling a dark color from the image for the color.

Settings for Image 6: After applying the same Color Efex Pro filters as Image 5, the image was opened up into Topaz Simplify and a Sketch preset I had previously created was applied so that the lines looked pretty much like a black and white sketch. (To create, use Mode Edges; Colorspace RGB and all sliders in Simplify section – set all to 0.00 except Details Boost 1.00, Remove Size 0.08, and Remove Weak 0.10; Adjust section – Brightness 0.00, Contrast 0.73, Saturation 1.40, and Saturation Boost 1.92; and Edges – MonoEdge Normal, Edge Strength 5.00, Simplify Edge 0.22, Reduce Weak 0, Reduce Small 0, and Flatten Edge 2.28. To adjust the sketch detail and darkness, adjust the Simplify Edge slider.) Now here is the tricky part – a Layer Style was added by double clicking on the layer and in the Blending Options dialog, the Blend If section is used. On This Layer, the black tab was split by ALT + clicking on the tab the split tabs set to 0 and 164 – the white tab was left at 255. On Underlying Layer, the White Tab was split and set to 0 and 72 and the Black Tab left at 0. It looks really weird but it gave me the color effect I liked. This layer was set to Lighten at 100% opacity. A composite layer was created (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) and using Select -> Color Range, the white was selected. CTRL+Backspace to delete the white from the image. Two layers were created underneath the top layer and using Best Mcbad Watercolor Brushes 22 and 30, a watercolor sky was created using blue and light pink. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added to increase the saturation in the Yellows. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to increase contrast. This image used different settings for the Lighting Filter – Intensity 5 and Ambience 93 – only wanted a slight glow since it is daylight. Some clean up was done. My Layer Style (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames) was added to frame the image and that was it! Whew!


My 100th Post! – My Favorite Things About Photoshop

Since I have reached this major milestone, I decided this week I would show a few examples of what I use the most in Photoshop and what is the most fun for me when using Photoshop. In some of these cases, I will be mentioning certain products or people but that is mainly because I really like what they do – they do not know me. Also, no external plug-ins will be discussed here.

Several things were done in Photoshop to process this image of a sailboat model of the USS Constitution located at The Casements in Ormond Beach, Florida. The most important is that a 32-bit tone-mapped image was created in Photoshop’s Merge to HDR, saved as a TIFF file, and then brought into Lightroom 4.1’s Develop module using the sliders to bring out all the details. This now makes Photoshop’s HDR processing on par with several of the other HDR software programs. The TIFF image goes back into Photoshop to finish up using another one of my favorite tools – Puppet Warp – to straighten out the extreme warping in the original image (it was actually applied twice). It was a difficult image to work on since it has a square glass encasement and the horizontal louvered blinds in the background. Just using the arrow keys is sometimes enough to push and pull the image pins the correct amount and Puppet Warp works much better than Lens Correction or the new Adaptive Wide Angle filters for me. Puppet Warp can be used in a Smart Object for readjusting later if needed.

I am slowly really getting into textures – they just do so much for a boring image. The texture above was created using one of the best panels you can apply to Photoshop and that is Dr. Brown’s (may be the top Photoshop guru of all time and works for Adobe) Paper Texture Panel – biggest time saver for anyone that likes to experiment with textures! This is one feature I use all the time and can’t believe I used to go through my textures individually to try them out. To really enhance this process, create a folder on your desktop that contains several sub-folders to place copies of your favorite textures. He recommends keeping these folders to around 20 textures as it takes a while to load if it is much bigger. I have sub-folder on textures I created, my favorite textures I use all the time, and a few on textures I have downloaded or bought. You can switch folders very quickly in the panel. This image used Paul Grand’s Scratches Texture and Gavin Hoey’s beautiful grunge frame 1. I am also putting a plug in here for my favorite texture guy, ShadowHouse Creations, who offers all kinds of beautiful textures for free, and I use them all the time. I reference his textures in many of my older blogs.


Those wonderful brushes in Photoshop! My very first blog featured the above image where I actually used a Photoshop Mixer Brush to paint in the petals of the flowers. This is still one of my favorite painted images – the Oleander flowers in the original were not near as pretty. The background was a Karen Sperling texture called 08Sperling (I believe this now has to be purchased – not sure how I got it) that added was a very delicate complement to the image. She is actually a Corel Painter Master and does some wonderful things in that program.

Totally indispensable! The last step I always do before I save an image. A few months ago I viewed a short video tutorial at Kelby Training called Mastering Curves: Adjusting Tonality by Ben Wilmore, another great Photoshop guru, who teaches how to use Curves correctly. (I have found the Kelby Training tutorials to be the best you can find on every aspect of photography and photoshop.) The basic thing to know about Curves is that by selecting the hand tool in the top left of the adjustment panel and dragging straight up in the image it lightens it up, and down darkens it. If you get two dots close and rather flat on a Curve line, you will lose detail.  A black layer mask can be created to target just the areas you want changed. It is a pretty simple technique but can improve an image quickly. Also you can save Curve settings if you want to apply them again. The image above of the beautiful birds in the Spring at the Rookery used several Curves Adjustment Layers to match the tones for the composite.

I have been using this Double Edge Frame layer style a lot on my images – gives a nice clean look with colors that can be sampled from the image. Also plain black borders can easily be created. To download this layer style for free or directions on how to create it, see my blog referenced above. There are many other uses for layer styles that I love, but I use the frames the most. Also a couple textures were added here with Dr. Brown’s Paper Texture Panel.


I love the way you can go back in and fix your settings if you do not like the way they look. Most of the plug-ins I use have Smart Object capability and this is why I use them. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone back into Nik’s Viveza 2 and adjusted my control points! Just another great Photoshop feature. The image above of the Hilton Time Share swimming pool on the Big Island in Hawaii used Smart Objects for both the Nik HDR Efex Pro using Granny’s Attic preset and Viveza 2. Also two Curves Adjustment Layers were used.

I could go on and on about all my favorite features I love. The above are some of the ones I use the most. I thought about writing on the new Defringe section in Lightroom 4.1 and Adobe Camera Raw that works wonders on this problem – better than any of the noiseware software available for controlling the ugly fringe problem. The new sliders in both are much improved and both now do a great job on reducing noise too. Also the Graduated Filter is much improved. Back in Photoshop I love being able to use LAB mode to sharpen some of my images selectively. Content-Aware tools cannot be beat but I still use the plain old Clone Tool the most. And the improved Sharpen Tool is fabulous for those little areas that need a detail boost. I even love the Color Replacement Tool that hardly no one uses! And all the blend modes just add so much to an image. Needless to say, there is a lot to like about Photoshop and so many ways to do things. I guess the real fun is learning new ways to use it and that is why I blog! Hope you have enjoyed some of what I have learned these past couple years!…..Digital Lady Syd


Creating That Vintage Texture Feel

These beautiful pink dahlias grow in my front yard. This image composition really fits the criteria for a good vintage feel. One of the major objectives is to have some nice negative space – or blank area – in your image to show off the textures. This image had a clean light gray background because they were shot in front of a white board on a shaded porch with lots of natural light before being planted. If they are planted already, try using a very wide open aperture setting so the background is blurred slightly, or have someone hold a white reflector behind them while shooting (and one over them if it is a really sunny day – overcast days are the best for photographing flowers). This image was shot at eye level using a 60 mm AF Micro Nikkor at F6.7. After uploading to Lightroom, the image was cropped and all the sliders in the Basic section were adjusted. In Photoshop bad spots on flowers were cloned out and then the following layers were added:  1) the new Color Lookup 1 Adjustment Layer using 3DLUT File set to FoggyNight preset (gives a more purplish flower color) at 89% opacity; a Gradient Fill Adjustment Layer (adds the pinkish bottom half) set to a deep brown red color (foreground color in Color Picker) to translucent gradient, Linear Style, 90 degree angle and Scale 149% with layer opacity set to 39%; Paul Grand’s terrific Scratches Texture set to Soft Light at 38% layer opacity and removing some cracks using a layer mask on texture; ShadowHouse Creations Old Photo 2 (click Large View and right click to select Save Image As) set to Soft Light at 100% (gives the beautiful old looking frame around image); ShadowHouse Creations Bokeh 2 (really lightens up the image) set to Soft Light at 62% opacity – painted out most of the bokeh on a layer mask; ShadowHouse Creations T2 (this is one of my favorite textures – old lace) set to Soft Light at 63% opacity; a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a little contrast back into the image; and finally a Levels Curve with black Output tab set to 8 to lighten the whole image only a little. This is really not as hard as it seems. The important thing is that you need find a few favorite textures and then try them out on various dark and light images to get a feel for how they look when set to different blending modes and opacities. I use Soft Light frequently for the textures but try out other blend modes to see what they will do. The textures used in the above image are some of my favorites.
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One of the reasons I am so inspired this week is that Sarah Gardner‘s Art Beyond the Lens book on using textures in your digital images finally was reprinted and came in the mail. She creates some beautiful textures on her website along with some beautiful images. Her book is a great read and very easy to follow. She demonstrates a few different techniques for adding textures and using some of Photoshop’s other tools to create beautiful effects! The above was my first attempt using some of her tips and I am pretty happy with it. These flowers are called Phloxy Lady Phlox and also grow in my front yard. Both textures are from free give-aways Sarah had going a few months ago, one is Beyond – Seagrain Dark set to Soft Light at 100% opacity and Artisan Ink set to Overlay at 42% opacity. She also posts interesting things on her Facebook page so follow her. The frame is my basic layer style using sampled colors from the image (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames blog).
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Here are some delicious chocolate covered strawberries from the Melting Pot Restaurant. For starters, this was a five image HDR processed using Nik’s HDR Efex Pro 2. Then in Photoshop lots of the same textures were added – Caleb Kimbrough’s Summer 5 texture set to Overlay at 34% opacity to get that beautiful golden Tuscan feel; Paul Grand’s Scratches Texture (link listed above) used twice to give it more interest (both set to Soft Light with 50% and 23% layer opacities – using layer masks to paint out different parts of image); and ShadowHouse Creations OldPhoto 6 set to Overlay at 100% opacity. Now here are a couple things you can do to get a really nice vintage feel. Next a Color Fill Adjustment Layer was added and the color I used was a deep red (49250f) – it was set to Soft Light at 80% opacity and the plate and chocolates were painted out with black in a layer mask. This created the marvelous deep brown in the upper background especially. I now realized I had some texture areas that were slightly bare looking so this time a New Layer was added on top. Using Gorjuss Grunge Again Brushes (unfortunately these are no longer available but any grunge type brush would do) with Brush 01 at 30% and sampling a darker brown color in the image for foreground color, the area in the upper right was filled in lightly. Another New Layer was created using Brush 08 at 30% and sampling a lighter brown color; and finally yet another New Layer was added using Scratch Heavy Brush (this is a mystery brush – not sure where I got it) at 30% and rotating it 90 degrees to paint in the top with a yellow-gold color sampled from the image. A few more strokes were added to the left to brighten the image a little more. If you find you have a hole or want a little different texture, go back to your brushes and see if you have something that will fill it in. In fact you can make your own textures with these brush effects.
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Here is another example of following Sarah Gardner steps from her book. I added three textures using Russel Brown’s Texture Panel (see my blog links below to find more information on this wonderful free panel) – ShadowHouse Creations T2 lacy texture (see download link above), Oil Painting-2 and Painted Clouds. Parts of the lacy texture were painted out to sharpen the mid-section flowers, which is the focus of the image. Something different I did and have not really seen before is to add a Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer set to Parchment at Scale 397%. Then the layer mask was filled with black and just the foreground flowers were painted with the pattern texture. Finally the layer opacity was set set to 35%. Since I wanted a little color in those areas, a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added and linked to the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer below by ATL+clicking between the two layers (a little box shows let you know it is working) so the changes in the Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer only occur on the layer below.  The Hue was set to +292, Saturation +34, Lightness +21 and Colorize was checked – this gives the light pink color to the grain in the foreground flowers only. That was it – used my layer style to frame the image (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames blog).  I believe this image portrays that soft Victorian look quite nicely.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Since this is such a long post, here is a summary of what I think is important about using textures.

1.  Textures definitely add that old time look to an image if used properly. Flowers really benefit from this type of look. If you check out some of my blogs below, there are some landscape images using textures that turned out really nice.

2.  The Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer can add a vintage feel to your images – they look like a texture when added to an image and by using the Scale slider, very different effects can be created. (See image 4 information.)

3.  The new Color Lookup Adjustment Layer in CS6 also gives you another way to add texture and color to get the vintage feel. (See image 1 information.)

4.  Create a New Layer and use unique brushes – there are many grunge brushes and scratch brushes available for download on the internet. Sometimes it is necessary to create a texture using brushes to fit the needs of your image. And don’t forget you can change the settings to make the brush stroke in a different direction or to stretch out the spacing. (See image 3 information.)

5.  Use a Gradient Fill Adjustment Layer to give some color variation and then paint out in a layer mask areas you do not want affected. Be sure to try different blend modes. (See image 1 information.)

6.  Use a Color Adjustment Layer to add a bold color and then reduce the opacity of the layer. Again, be sure to try different blend modes. (See image 3 information.)

7.  Use Russell Brown’s texture panel to try out texture looks really fast – this is a really great tool (see download information in blog links below).  The Flypaper Textures that are loaded with the panel create some wonderful results. I also keep a folder of my favorite textures on my Desktop so I can access them really fast when using this panel. (See image 1 information.)

It usually takes several attempts to get the effect you want. All these images took several hours to get the look I liked. If one techniques does not work, try a different one. Check out some of my blogs below to find more ways to create the vintage feel in Photoshop. …..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Create Unique Watercolor Background Texture
How to Create Unique Textured Backgrounds
Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel – A Real Winner!
Orchids with Russell Brown’s Paper Textures Panel
Russell Brown Texture Panel Landscape Image
Tips for Flower Textures
Using Color Efex Pro and Texture for a Warm Hawaiian Landscape Effect
Create a Winter Scene with Photoshop Brushes and Textures
Adding a Texture for Flair!
The Soft, Dreamy Look
Soft-Look Flowers Using Textures