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Posts tagged “Topaz Adjust 5

Painting Effects – Which Ones to Use?

This week I decided to do the same image using different painting effects to see which ones I like the best. Since I was surprised by how nice Alien Skin’s Snap Art 3 plug-in performed in last week’s blog, I thought I would compare it to other programs and see if it was really that good. I wanted to keep to an Oil Paint look, but not all the software supports this. I must admit this is not a very scientific comparison since I used different steps for the different results each software presented – but it still gave me a feel for what painterly looks can be achieved with a little manipulation. This picture was taken along the International Coastal Waterway in Ormond Beach on a very windy day – the clouds were building. It is probably not the best image but I thought it made a good test choice since it had lots of foreground details and color, and a beautiful landscape cloud expanse in the background, All the examples started with the same basic brightening done in Lightroom and then applying Nik’s fabulous Viveza plug-in in Photoshop. (See my Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem! blog.)

Alien Skin’s Snap Art 3

I really like the very final look Snap Art gave this image above. The Oil Paint (dry brush) was used as the basis for this image with several slider changes made to get the final look. For more info on the post-processing settings, see Image 1 at end of blog. This plug-in is definitely a good choice if you want this type of look. (See my blog Digital Lady Syd Reviews Alien Skin Snap Art 3 for other examples of what this plug-in will do.)

Photoshop’s Oil Paint Filter

This image is one I created in Photoshop CC using the Oil Paint Filter, which was added in Photoshop CS6 (although it is available for CS4 and CS5 users by using the Pixel Bender Panel). I did a rather popular blog a while back that gives definitions of what each slider does and what effect is creates for both versions – see my Photoshop’s CS6 (and Pixel Bender’s) Oil Paint Filter blog. In fact I used it to help me create this image along with a recent short tutorial by Mark S. Johnson on Planet Photoshop called Luminous Painting Effect Using Oil Paint Filter. As I said in my previous blog, it is not a look I would use a lot since it definitely has a Photoshop look to it, but it gives a pretty rendition of this image. Apparently it is very popular effect since it is used in most recent tutorials for creating the oil painting look in Photoshop. The Jack Davis Action image below also uses this effect but a little differently. For information on the settings used here, see Image 2 info located at the bottom of the blog.

Topaz Filters

This image took a lot longer than I thought it would. Since Topaz (for website link see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4 is such a terrific plug-in for us creative types, I though it would whiz through this comparison. Instead I had a hard time getting a good oil painting look and never did get what I wanted without cheating a little. So above is what I came up with by applying Topaz Clarity, Adjust, and a new one coming out next week (I will add that info in once released but I needed the plug-in to get the effect I wanted) and never did use Simplify! The trick was to add a texture afterwards in Photoshop set to Hard Light at 34% opacity and desaturate it so it looks like an oil painting.  Now that does not mean that I don’t like Simplify’s oil paint look, it just means it did not work on this image. (Check out my Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs listed below for some that really worked.) One of the issues in Simplify was a little webbing in the foreground grass which can be an issue for this plug-in on some images. For the actual settings and texture info, check out Image 3 below.

Jack Davis Wow Smart Object Painting 1 Action

Thought I would show you what Jack Davis’ action does for this photo since he does add several filters together in this action to get this result. It still uses the Oil Paint filter in Photoshop, like image 2 above, but it does look different when added in a group with the other filters. I also ran it twice on the image like I suggested in my Can You Get a Painting Look With a Photoshop Action? Jack Davis Can! blog. Check out this link for download information for this free action and the blog tells you most of the specifics to get this effect. Also see Image 4 for a little more info. I really like the result as I did the results from my previous blog.

Dynamic Auto-Painter

This image uses Media Chance’s stand-alone Dynamic Auto-Painter that paints images in all sorts of styles and there are effects that can be downloaded to add to their presets. I have not used this program in a while and am not real proficient with it, but it gives some really interesting results and I felt it was worth a mention. The files must in 8-bit mode in JPG format. Other than that, it appears it has lots of options including masks that can be saved as PSD files. This image used Whistlers Rainbow for painting and I let it run for 14023 iterations. By placing the brush over areas you want emphasized, you can direct where more detail is applied. This is a really cool program and you should check it out if you want to try something different. I personally felt this look was pretty good. For a few more details, check out Image 5 below.

Auto-Painting with Corel Painter II

I wanted you to see what a nice result you can get with the incomparable Corel Painter – this took just a few minutes. I am not that proficient with this program, but the Auto-Painting technique is quite nice. Unfortunately I could not find an Oil Paint brush in my version to use when auto-painting, so the Acrylics Captured Bristle Brush was used. If I understand correctly, many people using Painter use the auto-painting function for underpainting an image and then paint on top the details. This image would look great if I knew how to use the actual brushes effectively in Painter. It does look quite a bit like the Snap Art plug-in, which is to Snap Art’s credit since it is quite a bit less expensive. For info on how this image was processed, check out Image 6 below.

There are a couple other ways to get a really nice painterly effect. The brilliant Russell Brown has developed two scripts panels to use  inside Photoshop that guides you along as you paint. The oldest is called the Adobe Painting Assistant which has different download links for CS6 and CS5 versions – just keep scrolling. The newest panel is the Adobe Watercolor Assistant Panel that can only be used with CS6 and on.  These are all free downloads at this link. The Watercolor Painting Assistant takes some practice to get a really nice result, but it will give a beautiful result. See my blog Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5! and Think Pink! Rally for the Cure Pink Rose for more information on the older and more user-friendly Painting Assistant Panel. I will also mention another Digital Painting program called PostworkShop 3 which has received some excellent reviews for its beautiful results. Their website has some excellent resources for using the program. I have not had time to try it, but I hope to in the near future. There are some older Photoshop plug-ins that I remember from days past like Virtual Painter and Twisted Pixels, but I do not remember if they were that good. And I even tried out my old PhotoArtMaster Gold stand alone that was given away in a magazine by the now defunct fo2pix.com. (Lots of webbing occurred using this program.) It was a lot of fun just to try them out. I hope we have advanced our painterly form a little from those times.

Well, I hope you got to see what a variety of plug-ins and programs are out there to use for painting. At this point, I am not sure which one I would go with – it totally depends on the image. In this case I still like Alien Skin’s Snap Art 3 rendition the best although also liked the soft effect with Photoshop’s Oil Paint filter image. It was fun to take just one image and try different styles just to get a feel for the differences. If you have a chance you should try this out. And you can always learn to paint with the Mixer and Bristle Brushes in Photoshop and probably get even better results!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Painterly Effect using Topaz Detail and Simplify
Getting a Nice Painterly Landscape Effect with Topaz Simplify and Texture
Corel Painter and Photoshop Together to Create a Pastel Painting
Topaz Adjust Using Painting Venice Preset – Beautiful Effect!
Topaz Simplify Artistic Workflow
How to Get That Creative Painterly Look
Adobe Photoshop CS5′s Mixer Brushes

IMAGE INFORMATION

For All Examples: In Lightroom the Lens Profile was added and Remove Chromatic Aberration was checked. Auto Tone was applied and Clarity (+67), Shadows (+73), Highlights (-92), and Vibrance (+47) were then adjusted before going into Photoshop. The Background layer was duplicated and by right clicking on the layer and selecting Converted To Smart Object. Nik’s Viveza plug-in was opened and no control points were used, which is unusual for me. Instead Brightness was set to -30%, Saturation 26%, Structure 28%, Shadow Adjustment -67%, Warmth 12%, and all other sliders set to 0%.

Image 1: A composite (stamped) layer was created by pressing CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E and it was converted into a Smart Object. The Snap Art plug-in was opened and these settings were applied. The Oil Paint (dry brush) preset was selected leaving the default settings in place for the Background tab. In the Color tab these settings were applied: Brightness 11, Contrast -40, Saturation 42, and Temperature -18. No changes were made in the Canvas tab. In the Layers tab, three layers were created and used the same Mask Tool setting of Feather 50 and Amount 53. Layer 1 had only the pink flowers selected and these were the settings: Effect Detail, Brush Size -54, Photorealism 61, Paint Thickness -28, Paint Stroke Length -34, Stroke Color Variation -54, and Brush Style Default Brush. Layer 2 selected the stems to the flowers and these were the settings: Effect Detail, Brush Size -15, Photorealism 0, Paint Thickness 48, Paint Stroke Length -34, Stroke Color Variation 40, and Brush Style Bristle Brush. Layer 3 selected parts of the clouds that needed more attention. These were the settings: Effect Detail, Brush Size 100, Photorealism -100, Paint Thickness -76, Paint Stroke Length 100, Stroke Color Variation 9, and Brush Style Soft Brush. Basically these settings were chosen by just experimenting and seeing what looked good in the image. A New Layer back in Photoshop was created and the Spot Healing Brush tool was used on a couple places in the image to remove distractions. That is all that was done to this image.

Image 2: Following Mark’s video, a Levels Adjustment Layer was added on top of the Viveza filter layer and set to Screen blend mode. A composite (stamped) layer was created by pressing CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E and it was converted into a Smart Object. By going to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur with a radius of 34.6, a nice soft glow appearance was created. The layer blend mode was set to Multiply. Another composite layer was created and also turned into a Smart Object. This time Filter -> Oil Paint was added and the following settings were applied: Stylization 3.57, Cleanliness 10, Scale 0.55, Bristle Detail 8.1, Angular Direction  264.6, and Shine 1.2. A layer mask was applied and using a 30% opacity brush, the flowers were lightly painted back just give a little more detail in the image along with the shoreline in the background. A Curves Adjustment layer was added on the very top and using the little hand, the curve was dragged up a little. It ended up that my left edge point was moved to Input 0/Output 23 and that was it.

Image 3: This time a Composite layer was created and Topaz Clarity was applied – I love this plug-in, maybe as much as Detail! First started with a Reset and here were the settings: Dynamics:  Micro Contrast 0.30, Low Contrast -0.19, Medium Contrast 0.91, and High Contrat -0.11; Tone Level: Black Level 0, Midtones  0.27, and White Level  0.42; and HSL: Sat: Red -1.00, Orange -1.00, and Magenta 0.14; and Lum: Red 0.30, Yellow 0.52, Green -0.55. The Opacity for the whole section was set to 62% and the foreground rock was selected in the Mask so the HSL settings only applied to that area. Once out of the plug-in, a black layer mask was added and just the rock and cloud areas were painted back. Next another composite layer was created and Topaz Adjust was opened up. Started with Stylized Collection – Painting-Venice preset (one of my favorites). Then added Diffusion settings: Softness 0.29, Diffusion 0.93, and Diffusion Transition 0.50. In the Local Adjustments section, the Brush Out brush was set to Opacity .50 and the leaves to the flowers were painted back, then set to 1.00 and the flowers were painted back in the mask. The Sky was painted back using a brush set to .20 and the blue area was painted over in one long sweep. A last new filter was applied that basically just correct some color issues here. Back in Photoshop the last step involved add one of Melissa Gallo’s textures from Painted Textures called Snowy Sky set to Hard Light at 34% – A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to it (ALT+Click between the layers to clip) and the Saturation was set to -100. This way only the textured brush strokes show up but no color. (See my Tidbits Blog Getting a Nice Painterly Landscape Effect with Topaz Simplify and Texture.)

Image 4: This imaged used the default settings for the filters except for the Oil Paint filter where the same settings as for Image 2 were used. The layer was set to 72% opacity. Then a Composite was made on top and turned into a Smart Object. The action was run again. This time these settings were changed: Oil Paint filter – Stylization +10, Cleanliness 0, Scale 223, Bristle Detail 2, Angular Direction 264.6, and Shine .15; and Rough Pastels filter was set to Stroke Length 7, Stroke Detail 20, Scaling 67, Relief 4 and Top Right. This layer was set to Overlay blend mode and 68% layer opacity. A black layer mask was added and the sky was painted back.

Image 5: This image started as the same places as the others – just converted it to an 8-bit mode jpg to work on it in Dynamic Auto-Painter. By clicking the brush on the flowers while the program was running, I was able to get a little more emphasis on this area. The image was brought back into Photoshop for some clean up. A Color Balance Adjustment Layer was used to add more yellow into the image – in Midtones Yellow was set to -31. In the Curves Adjustment Layer, all the individual channels were adjusted to get the correct balance of colors. A composite layer was created and then a Gaussian Blur filter was applied with the radius set to 2.3, just enough to blend some of the painting lines on the rock. Then the flowers and shoreline were painted back slightly in a layer mask.

Image 6: The image was taken into Painter II with the Lightroom and Viveza changes. I changed the Underpainting settings that were set to Classical Color Scheme to Brightness +27%, Contrast -55%, Hue +2%, Saturation -8%, Value -17%, and Smart Blur 0%. The Acrylics Captured Bristle Brush from the Smart Stroke Brushes category was selected and Scribble Large was used in the Stroke Box. Very basic stuff here. Hopefully I will learn how to use this program better. Once the painting was finished, it was brought back into Photoshop where a clean up layer was created. A Curves Adjustment Layer, Color Balance Adjustment Layer and Selective Color Adjustment Layer were added to get the contrast and color correct.


A Little Kaleidoscope Fun!

This week I thought I would just do a quick little blog on the Kaleidoscope effect. Corey Barker, a great creative guru with Photoshop, did a tutorial called the Ultimate Kaleidoscope on the NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals) website where he taught you how to make this effect. Mark S. Johnson did a very similar video this topic – see Workbench 272 Simulating a Kaleidoscope if you would like to see how to do it. Mark later did a Workbench 288 The Lloyd Williams Kaleidoscope video using some templates to help you get this effect from Lloyd Williams Photography website. I used Lloyd’s templates and technique to create the kaleidoscope effect in the two images shown here. His website link has a very good step-by-step workflow on how to do this so I will not repeat the process. The template basically sets up what the two original videos teach you how to do, and has 7 different templates to use. Create one smart object layer using the part or all of your image, and then each Smart Object layer in the templates updates using the added image – no Photoshop action is used. Very ingenious! The background in the image above uses his 16_LoRez template. I added the Topaz (for website link see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog) Adjust 5 Comic Book preset on the resulting kaleidoscope look to get a more drawn line effect. The pattern had some little white lines created by the template that needed to be removed before the final kaleidoscope image could be moved it into my yellow daffodil image and used as a background. See the tych below of my original African Lilly image used to create the kaleidoscope look, top right the result after adding the image to the template, and the bottom right the final result after adding Adjust. See end of blog for details on how the daffodils were processed and the image finished.…..The above is just another example of the kaleidoscope effect using Lloyd’s 8_LoRes template. These are really fun to do and very easy. This is one of my miniature mums in this image. All I did with this image was add a Curves Adjustment Layer to bring out a little contrast and a Selective Color Adjustment Layer and set the Blue Color to Cyan +34/Magenta 0/Yellow +41/Black -48; Neutrals Cyan and Magenta 0/Yellow +2/Black -13; and Blacks Cyan +3/Magenta 0/Yellow -5/Black 0. I just thought it turned out to be an interesting design.

There are other ways to create the kaleidoscope effect. The Plugin Galaxy has a kaleidoscope effect that I wrote about some in my Instant Mirror and Quick Mirror for Photoshop blog for a little different look. It is easy to get some interesting effect with images that are not that great. Give it a try and see if you like the results!…..Digital Lady Syd

Daffodil image post-processing:

The yellow daffodils were shot at my local grocery store using my Kodak point-and-shoot. It was not the best picture, in fact it was awful, but I love daffodils and wanted to try and salvage the picture. I did everything I could in Lightroom but it still needed a lot of work in Photoshop. Whenever I have a bad image but great colors, I like to think photo art since it is never going to be a really sharp clean image. So in this case, I actually cut the daffodils out of their background as it was so cluttered. I used the Refine Edge to smooth edges in a layer mask before applying it. Next Topaz DeNoise 5 with the Overall Strength slider set to .19 was used. On a duplicate layer of the daffodils, Topaz Detail 3 was applied using the Feature Enhancement II preset. Duplicated the result again and this time applied Topaz Simplify 4 Impressions Natural without the Edges turned on. This created the beautiful painterly look that I wanted. Now the kaleidoscope texture could be put underneath this layer. Adjusted the color and contrast with Levels Adjustment Layer setting the Output Levels to 65 and 255, and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer with the Yellows turned into a Reds 2 by dragging in image to get effect I wanted (ended up Hue -90/Saturation +80) and Master set to Hue +29/Saturation -3/ Lightness -3. That is how I got the final effect to be more blue and yellow instead of the original green and blue. This was really just completely playing with it until I got something I liked. I decided I did not like the color of the flowers so I clipped (ALT+click between layers) a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and changed to color to more brown tones (Master Hue -10/Saturation -20/Lightness 0). I decided I did not like the sharp edges around the flower so I added a New Layer and with Fay Sirkis’s Signature Watercolor Smooth Blend Mixer Brush, I painted out the edges and anywhere I wanted to emphasize the painted area. This took a long time to get just right, but you can use the Eraser Tool and remove areas that did not turn out so good very quickly. French Kiss Studio 3 Wave texture was applied using Color Burn at 48% to get more blue tones into the petals and leaves. Next another Levels Adjustment Layer was added and the Midtones tab was set to 1.60, and the Output Levels were set to 0 and 200. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added next to lighten up the whole image by just dragging up the middle of the diagonal line. And I was done! I really liked the result but it took a lot of effort to get the image – the kaleidoscope effect was the easy part!


Using Auto-Align to De-People Your Pix

This week I thought I would give a few examples of how to use the Auto-Align command in Photoshop – it is really handy once you know how to use it. I have given you a couple standard examples, and also an example on how to go the other direction and use it to add people. Check out a great video on YouTube presented by B&H Photo called Scott Kelby’s Photoshop for Travel Photographers – lots of good tips here including this one. He explains how to do this very clearly.

There actually were two people walking in front of the hubcap exhibit (from the 39th Annual Turkey Run at the Daytona International Speedway), but since I had two slightly different shots, I was able to auto-align the layers in Photoshop and paint them out. If you are on a trip or at a busy place, just keep snapping photos a few seconds apart – eventually you will be able to get a totally clean image by stacking and aligning them in Photoshop. The tych below shows the two original images I stacked to get this image. Just highlight the two images you want to stack in Photoshop. In Lightroom, right click and select Edit In -> Open as Layers in Photoshop. If using Bridge, go to the Menu bar and select Tools -> Photoshop -> Load Files into Photoshop Layers. Once in Photoshop, highlight both layers and go to Edit -> Auto-Align Layers and leave Auto checked and click OK. Now images are lined up perfectly, although a crop will probably be necessary if you did stand perfectly still or did not shoot using a tripod. A layer mask is added to the top layer and a soft black brush was used at 100% opacity to paint out what I did not want seen. Pretty simple and pretty cool! This is a great way to get rid of tourists when taking a photo of a famous place – just take several pictures over several seconds (or it could take minutes) and let people move in and out of the frame. Eventually you will be able to create a very clean image with no people! Oh yes – you should not be shooting in a programmable mode as the focus may change between shots. I shoot in Aperture mode most of the time.
…..Had some fun with this image – reversed the process from above. This time, instead of removing people, I decided to add this young lady in using six images I had taken – two sets for HDR taken at Ormond Beach, Florida, right after Hurricane Sandy had passed by. Basically all that was done was to first, in Lightroom (or ACR), made sure all the exposures were set to 0. That means if the image was shot at -1 for an HDR image, the Exposure slider was set to 0 for that image only, so that it matched the middle exposed image. Then all six images were opened as stacked layers in Photoshop. First I had to decide which image was the overall best for the beach surf since not only was the girl moving, so was the water – it was then placed as the bottom layer. After that, it was pretty easy going. A black layer mask was added to each of the other five layers and just the girl was closely painted back in.
…..
Here is a final pix of my local Lowe’s Home Improvement Store that had a few people wandering around in the background. I took this with my cheap point-and-shoot Kodak (with just an auto-focus so I was lucky it was the same for each shot) and still got good results by taking two images of the same area a couple minutes apart. I was able to just stack two layers in Photoshop and paint out the intruders!

This is a really nice technique to have in your Photoshop bag-of-tricks as it can get you that image you really want when on a trip or at the beach or crowded place. I am starting to use it a lot more now that I know about it. Hope you get a chance to try this out when you are in a busy place and want a nice clean image……Digital Lady Syd

Post-Processing Details of Images:

Image 1: I got this really cool chrome look by applying Topaz (see sidebar for website link at my Tidbits Blog) Adjust 5’s Liquid Chrome preset, then applied another preset of mine I call Some Detail (changed Mild Detail’s preset slider: Details section – Strength to 1.41, Detail Boost to 1.36, Radius to 10.20; and Color section – Color Saturation to 1.24 and Saturation Boost to .79). The layer was set to Hard Light blend mode. Now this is the tricky part – on this layer a Layer Style (double click on thumbnail to open) was added and the Blend If: Gray This Layer tabs set to: black tab – split (hold ALT and they drag apart) to 42 and 92. This keeps the shiny appearance on the hub caps. Not sure why I tried this technique, but it worked! Next a composite layer was added (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was added on top and a Bevel and Emboss Layer style added to it – a Texture was added here called Laid Vertical which is really a pattern added to the whole layer to get that canvas feel. Need to uncheck Use Global Light, change your Highlight Mode opacity (19% in this case) and Shadow Mode opacity (30% in this case) to get this to work right. Also in the Texture area, need to play around with the Scale and Depth – I used 100% at +167. These settings will vary for each image you and with the different textures you use. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added for some needed contrast. Next Kim Klassen Cafe‘s free textures Revolution set to Linear Burn at 59% opacity and then her Papertrio-stampedright2 texture set to Vivid Light blend mode and 50% opacity with Fill set to 62% (not sure why I did this). The last step involved adding a white PNG frame to the whole image and adding the same Bevel and Emboss layer style (ALT+drag Fx layer icon to layer you want to add it to). I really did like the way the image turned out – much more interesting than the originals.

Image 2: Created a tych using the information provided in my blog Using a Tych Panel to Show Off Your Images.

Image 3: I actually duplicated a couple of the cutout layer mask layers, applied the layer masks by right clicking on them and applying, and moved them. Next they were warped using the Free Transform tool to make them look a little different from the others. That way I have 8 girls instead of 6. Topaz Adjust 5 French Countryside preset (my favorite) with a Detail Strength increased to 1.16 was added. French Kiss Tableaux Texture Collection Sponged Overlay is added as a border and set to a cream color sampled from the image.

Image 4: This image was post-processed using two applications of Topaz Simplify 4 – the first application I created using these settings if you are interested (Simplify Section: Simplify Size  0.29, Feature Boost  2, Details Strength  0.73, Details Boost  .61, Details Size  0.23, Remove Small  0.00, and Remove Weak  0.10; Adjust Section: Brightness  0.00, Contrast  1.00, Saturation 1.22, ration Boost  1.24, Dynamics  0.43, Structure  0.47, and Structure Boost  0.69; Tone: Color 1 Region  Black Color – 0.00, Color 2 Region  R54/G27/B9 – 100.0, Color 3 Region  R170/G135/B136 – 180.0,  Color 4 Region  White Color – 255.0, and Tone Strength  0.57; and Overall Transparency  0.41). The layer was duplicated and the Sketch – Pastel II preset was applied with the Overall Transparency set to 0.34. A New Layer was created above and Fay Sirkis‘s Signature Watercolor Smooth Blender Watercolor Mixer Brush was used to add some detail back into the white flowers which were blown out. A little border was added last.


How to Get That Creative Painterly Look

This week I decided to give a few examples of how I am getting the beautiful painterly look on images. This is the part of Photoshop I love the most – the creative part. And this is where I can take advantage of some wonderful plug-ins and textures that are now available.

I did not start out creating this fantasy painterly looking image, but I like it more the more I look at it. This image used just a basic cloud texture and Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Simplify 4 to get this dreamy effect. The image uses 5-shots taken along the road to Flagler Beach, Florida. I have always loved this house – it just looks like a Florida beach house to me. The HDR tone-mapped image was created using Photomatix Merge to 32-bit HDR in Lightroom and the resulting Tiff file was then processed. Once opened in Photoshop, Topaz Detail 3 was selected where the Lighten preset was first applied, and then the Overall Medium Detail II preset with the sky painted out to keep it smooth looking. Shadowhouse Creations beautiful free Puff Clouds texture was added in Normal blend mode at 100% opacity. I added a layer mask and painted out the clouds and started getting this really dreamy look by only removing the clouds from the house. Next Painted Textures 2 for Friday Seafoam texture was added and set to Overlay blend mode at 50% opacity. The last step involved creating a Composite layer of all the layers (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and applying Topaz Simplify 4 Painting V preset to it. On a New Layer above, a Mixer Brush was used to blend in the rough edges of the clouds and give an overall painterly look. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added and the Blue Channel Curve was moved to get the color of blue in the image. That was it! Not real hard but definitely a very abstract artsy look. This was a lot of fun to create!

Tips for Getting the Painterly Look:

  • If you like to get a quick painterly feel, Topaz Simplify 4 cannot be beat! The nice thing is that once you apply the filter, even though it may look somewhat canned, you can always use Photoshop’s Mixer Brushes, layer masks, and various textures to make the image your own look – that is exactly what I did on the image above. Topaz Adjust also has several presets that can also give a very nice base painting look. See my blog Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Simplify 4 for more information on this blog.
  • I cannot say enough about using the right texture. Most of the sites I listed have either free or fairly inexpensive small sets to try out to see if you like what they do. Try different textures, and when you find a few you really like, put them together in a special file so you can get to them quickly when needed. (Click on Categories Textures for several links on this topic.) If you like what the color is doing to an image at a particular blend mode, leave it in place. With a layer mask you can paint in localized areas of texture.
  • Photoshop’s Mixer Brushes just cannot be beat for getting some really nice artistic results. They are great for hiding that very contrasty background, or for smoothing out edges, or blending colors that have too sharp a transition. The pink flowers below have the whole background smoothed to get rid of a very contrasty green garden behind them. On a separate layer, a larger sized Mixer Blending Brush was used to fill in the dark contrasty areas, then a smaller size was used to smooth edges. You can always erase areas where you make a mistake since the Mixer Brush strokes are on a separate layer. A couple things to remember when using the Mixer Brushes is that (1) in the Options Bar be sure you are set to Sample All Layers and turn off the layer eyeball if you do not want to pick up color from some of the layers; (2) the Blender Brush is probably the type to be used the most and should be set to a higher Wet field in the Options Bar to work easily – at least 20% and up to 100% give really nice results; and (3) the larger the brush, the longer it takes to lay down a stroke so keep it under 75 pixels if you can. Also take History Snapshots every now and then (or add a Padlock to your base image so you cannot paint on it) so if you get on the wrong layer, which is easy to do, you can go back to a previous step without losing all your previous painting. If you want to add color with a Mixer Brush, just click on the “Load the Brush After Each Stroke” icon (5th one over) in Options Bar. Make corrections with layer masks and apply them (right click and choose Apply Mask) as you go along. Create clone and paint on layers above and merge down (CTRL_E) – then use a Mixer Brush to blend. See my blog Adobe Photoshop CS5′s Mixer Brushes for lots more info on how to use them.
  • There are a couple other ways to get a really nice painterly effect. The brilliant Russell Brown has developed two scripts panels to use  inside Photoshop that guides you along as you paint. The oldest is called the Adobe Painting Assistant which has different download links for CS6 and CS5 versions – just keep scrolling. The newest panel is the Adobe Watercolor Assistant Panel that can only be used with CS6.  These are all free downloads at this link. The Watercolor Painting Assistant takes some practice to get a really nice result, but it will give a beautiful result. See my blog Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5! and Think Pink! Rally for the Cure Pink Rose for more information on the older and more user-friendly Painting Assistant Panel.
  • The last effect that has proven to be a real hit the last couple of years is the new Oil Paint filter in Photoshop CS6, although it can be added to CS5 by using the Pixel Bender Panel. See my blog Photoshop’s CS6 (and Pixel Bender’s) Oil Paint Filter for more information on how to use this filter. It is a lot of fun and easy to do!

To create this painterly effect, the pink Belarusian flowers were brought into Photoshop and cleaned up. A New Layer was created and Fay’s Signature Watercolor Smooth Blender Brush was used to smooth out the whole contrasty background.  I have looked at lots of painting tutorials and Fay Sirkis tutorials make the most sense to me. If you are a member of NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals), and you should be if you love Photoshop – best value and site for Photoshop nuts, Fay has several great webinars on line there and you can download all her brushes. Here is a link to a great article on her unique technique where she shows how she made one of her Monet Blender brushes – if you want to give it a try – Fay Sirkis: Painting Magic, Adobe Photoshop CS5. Next Kim Klassen’s Cloth & Paper magicfilm3 texture, which is a black scratched up texture, set to Linear Dodge blend mode at 56% opacity was added – it gives just a touch of texture without losing all the strokes from the Mixer Brushes. The Sharpen Tool was applied to the center of the two main flowers to draw the eye and a Darken Layer was added and set to 56% to emphasize edges. (See my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog for more info on this.)
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The painterly effect in the Flagler Fishing Pier image was created using a solarized preset and some soft painting with the Mixer Brush. Just had to get out and do a little shooting even though it was major chilly and windy at the beach. The original image was created from 5 images put together using Photomatix 32-bit Merge to HDR for Lightroom. Once in Photoshop I added two New Layers and added my Cloud Brushes SJ Clouds 1 brush (layer set to 60% opacity) and SJ Clouds 11 brush (layer set to 35% opacity) at 5000 pixels. A New Layer was added on top and filled with black, set to Soft Light, and the opacity set to 23% to increase the overall contrast of the image. (Check out Mark S. Johnson’s  Photography Site Photoshop Workbench 374: Creating Dramatic Lighting with Blend Modes on how to do this.) A Curves Adjustment Layer was added and Auto button pressed to get a nice contrasty image. Next Topaz (for website see sidebar) Adjust 5’s Solarized Dreams III preset was applied with Detail Strength set to 0.82 and Detail Boost set to 0. A New Layer was created and Fay Signature Watercolor Smooth Blend Mixer Brush was used to smooth out details in the foreground sand. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was used and the Blues Cyan was set to +17 and Yellow to +24 – the layer mask was converted to black (CTLR+I inside the mask to invert) and the sky was painted back with a soft white brush. Another Selective Color Adjustment Layer as added to make the sand look the right color in the foreground – Yellows Cyan was set to +100, Magenta -14, and Yellow +1, and Greens Magenta +19. Next French Kiss Artiste Fauve Rainbow texture was set to Hard Light blend mode at 28% opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped (CTRL+click between the layers) and Saturation was set to -100 to remove the color from the texture but leave the canvas look. This is one of my favorite textures to give a real painted appearance to my images. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added and the center tab set to .85 to add just a little more contrast to the midtones. I really was surprised how painted this image turned out.
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This image uses Topaz Simplify 4 again and textures to get the painterly look. I decided to show this image as it is a favorite technique of mine to use the power of good textures to give that painterly effect. The basic image was very nice with to begin with and probably would have been fine with just the Lightroom tweaks, but I thought it would make a beautiful painterly piece. Topaz DeNoise was run on this image since it had a 2000 ISO setting. On a duplicate layer Topaz Simplify 4 was applied using the Watercolor II preset – in the Localized Adjustments section, the pink and white flowers were lightly painted back to bring back some detail but leaving the background with a very soft look. Once back in Photoshop the detail was still not strong enough so the DeNoise layer was duplicated and placed on top of the Simplify layer. A black layer mask was added and the flowers were softly painted back using a white low opacity brush to add a bit more localized detail to the image. Two beautiful textures from Melissa Gallo at Painted Textures were added on top: 2 for Friday Set 2 Creamsicle at Hard Light blend mode at 74% opacity, and Cyber Monday Set 1 Winter Wheat set to Linear Light blend mode at 78% opacity. On the top texture a Layer Style was opened and on the Blending Options page, the B channel was turned off. One of my new favorite textures is by French Kiss – Studio 3 White Wash – it was added using the Overlay blend mode at 65%. All of these textures are really great for getting the painterly effect. Once all these textures are added, you really have to try different blend combinations and opacities. It is not at all unusual to have to add a layer mask and paint out areas that are not working right. In this image I added a layer mask to the white wash texture and painted out just a little bit around the edges of the flowers to get them to stand out a little. In fact I had actually added a different top texture and decided I did not like it and started looking for a different texture when I came up with the white wash texture. I had to back and add a Mixer Brush layer to get rid of some distractions in the original image once the textures had been added and it looked bad. If you do not like the way the painterly effect is flowing, it probably is not quite right and you need to walk away and come back again later – it really is a work of art you are working on.

If you just want a nice painterly brush texture on top of the whole image, check out my Getting a Nice Painterly Landscape Effect with Topaz Simplify and Texture for a short workflow – this gives a nice finishing look to an image if there is not enough of a painterly effect already.

I hope you got some new ideas for creating that artsy look. Check out some of my related blogs for more examples and resource links that might help you along. This was a lot of fun to put together this week and I hope you enjoyed it!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 6: Try Something New!
Photo Art Compositing For Fun
Digital Lady Syd’s Photo Art Workflow
Using Topaz Simplify for That Artistic Feel!
Using a Couple of My Textures
Simplifier and Simplify Filters
Topaz Adjust Using Painting Venice Preset – Beautiful Effect!
Topaz Simplify and Lens Effects Saves an Image!


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


Creating a Healing Brush Background Texture

This simple Amerilius flower image was taken at the grocery store with my Point and Shoot Kodak EasyShare Camera. Not quite sure how I came up with this technique but I loved the result. And it was easy to do.

1. Open image and duplicate the background layer (CTRL+J).
2. Use Quick Selection Brush (or any selection tool you like) to select the Background (or select flower and CTRL+SHIFT+I to invert selection so the background is selected).
3. With selection still active, click on New Layer icon and your selection will appear on the new layer.
4. Create New Layer underneath your object layer.
5. Select the Healing Brush Tool and in the Options Bar click on the Pattern radio button and find a pattern you like. This image used French Kiss Watercolor Expression Set texture called Vivacity – I turned it into a pattern by opening the jpg in a separate document, and going to Edit -> Save as a Pattern. (Note: the size of the texture you are converting will determine how large your repeating pattern will be so try a couple different sizes to see what you like. Also whether you have Sample field set to Current Layer or Current & Below will make a huge difference.) Now when the Source is changed to Pattern, the pattern you just created is at the bottom of the list in the drop down menu on the right of the pattern field. A 235 pixel brush was used which does take a while to paint in – just paint over your selection and the pattern is laid down.

After that you can add plug-ins – this one used Topaz (see sidebar for website link at my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4’s BuzSim Split Toned I preset with the overall transparency set to .90. I also created an Overlay from 2 Lil’ Owls Bonus Texture 4 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) (created a PNG file of just the frame by following the steps in my blog How To Make Frames or Borders – scroll down to the section called “To save the frame you created as an overlay to use again.”) and changed to pink using a Color Fill Adjustment Layer clipped (ALT+click between the layers). A Curves Adjustment Layer brought out more contrast and a Selective Color Adjustment Layer brought more color in the background.
…..This image used My Smudge Texture four times. The hardest part with this image was selecting the feathers from my original image to get a nice clean layer mask – Refine Edge was used to really get the clean edges. Next I put a New Layer underneath and painted in my Digital Lady Syd’s Smudge Texture as a pattern for the background. The first pattern I used followed the technique in Step 5 above and was a very large texture pattern as it was a larger size in Photoshop – the Healing Brush default settings for the brush were used and it created a really clean soft color texture for the background. For all the layers in this image, the Sample was set to Current Layer in the Options Bar. (If you set Current & Below, you will blend the layers together.) Next I created another New Layer above it and used my texture at a smaller size which resulted in a repeat pattern look. Using a 100 px brush set to Multiply Mode, several random lines were created down the layer by clicking with the Healing Brush at the top of the layer and Shift clicking at the bottom to get a straight line. Next a Free Transform was done (CTRL+T) to put the lines on a diagonal going somewhat with the feathers. By double clicking on the thumbnail, the Layers Style can be opened. In Pattern Overlay I selected my smaller sized texture again and set the scale to 37 and the Divide Blend Mode at 56% – this pretty much covered the straight line patterns but still kept the straight lines. A Stroke effect was added with the Size set to 35 and the Fill Type set to Pattern using my smaller sized pattern. The Scale was set to 31%. That was it for the background. The layer mask was applied to feathers by right clicking on the mask and selecting Apply Layer Mask. This layer was taken into Topaz (see website link in sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Adjust 5 and the Spicify preset applied to bring out the feathering more clearly. A black layer mask was applied and then just the areas where the effect should be was painted back in. Topaz Detail 3 was added next with the Overlay Light Detail II preset was applied on a duplicate layer and set to 67% opacity. Jess Warriors 1  pottery brush was painted on its own layer at 30% opacity. Finished up with a Curves Adjustment Layer to lighten up some of the white feathers. OnOne’s Grunge 04 Frame was added in a yellow and French Kiss’s Glorious Grunge Edging PNG file (a free download) was added using a dark burnt orange Color Adjustment Layer for the border effect.
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Healing Brush vs Pattern Stamp – what are the differences?

After playing around with the Healing Brush technique, I will say it can give similar results as the Stamp Pattern Brush, but actually has fewer choices available. The Healing brush blends the pattern in with the underlying color and texture – the Pattern Stamp lays down the pattern exactly as it appears in the Options Bar. To get the softest edges on the Healing Brush’s pattern, use a soft brush by clicking on the drop-down menu by pressing the arrow by the Brush Size and setting the Hardness to 0% (default setting is 3%). The Pattern Stamp Brush lets you choose many of the Photoshop brushes that come with the program so you can get some interesting effects doing that where you have to use the settings in the Brush drop-down for the Healing Brush, and there is a really neat Impressionistic effect in the Options Bar that gives you some really neat looks for your background. Also, the Healing Brush has no brush opacity setting and only 8 blend mode options, including one, the Replace blend mode, that I have never seen before.  To quote Julianne Kost’s blog (she knows everything there is to know about Photoshop and Lightroom and gives great Photoshop World classes), “Using the Healing brush with the blending mode set to Replace makes it behave like the Clone Stamp tool (in that it doesn’t automatically try to blend color or tonality of the source and destination), with one advantage: if you’re trying to clone high frequency image information, the edges of the cloned area will not appear soft as they do with the Clone Stamp tool.” The Stamp Pattern Tool has an opacity brush slider and lets you use all the regular blend modes for your brush and also has a Behind mode. Try out different blend modes on your brushes – it can give really interesting results.
…..This is a female Palamedes Swallowtail Butterfly (the males are smaller and blacker in color) that was so much fun to photograph – she would wait for me to take the picture before moving just like a model! Totally adorable! The trick to getting the shots since her wings are flapping like crazy was to set your ISO to 1600 and shot at F11 or higher. Got some great pictures of her. After selecting her and placing her on the top layer, Kim Klassen‘s Cherish Set-Cherishscript texture (sign up for her newsletter to get lots of beautiful textures) was placed right underneath the butterfly layer. A New Layer was placed above the texture and the Healing Brush was selected. The brush was set to Multiply Mode and one of my patterns that had a rough painted texture to it was selected in the Options Bar. Current and Below was set so the colors from Kim’s texture were blended with my pattern. When finished filling in the layer, the Source was changed to Sampled (and brush set back to Normal mode) and the hard edges between the two tiling were blended by ALT+clicking in an area to sample from. Using the Pattern Stamp Tool, French Kiss’s Spatter Brush4-01 was set to 1008 pixels and one stroke was applied. The layer was set to 77% opacity. French Kiss’s French Script No1 1876d overlay was added above that layer and set to 64% opacity with a brown Color Fill Adjustment Layer clipped to it. (The color in the splatter brush was picked up from the pattern shown in the Pattern Stamp Tool, which was the same one I was using.) The butterfly layer is still on top through all this. The last step is to add a Curves Adjustment Layer.

It was a lot of fun to try this out and you can use any pattern you want to get a different look. I am enjoying experimenting with some tools I do not use much to get a different look to my textures. Give it a try and see what you think…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
How to Create Unique Textured Backgrounds


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


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://i1.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://i1.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://i1.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


Digital Lady Syd’s Photo Art Workflow



I am constantly amazed at how some of my images turn out – not at all what I had expected. This week I am going to go through my photo art workflow step-by-step so you can see what a difference a little tweaking will do. One of my favorite image types to play with in Photoshop are shots of art works. It is a nice break from cleaning up photos of family and large travel landscapes and gives me the opportunity to be creative. This image is of a type of art I had never heard of before that is on display at my favorite local museum – the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida. These are examples of Victorian era cigar band art. The Photoshop-processed image above is my final photo art result and the one I liked the best, but there were several other choices I considered.

NOTE: If you want to see the settings used for any of the steps, just click on the image and the larger Flickr image will appear.

  • Here is the initial image as a RAW NEF file. The dishes were enclosed in a glass case and the camera settings were a 44-mm lens at F/4.8, 1/8 sec, and ISO 1250. There is a lot of light glare on the pieces. This image is not one I would normally choose to process, but I just loved the composition of the items and the colors in the cigar bands.

  • My next step was to create a Virtual Copy in Lightroom (this does not have to be done if using Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop) to try to clean up the tone a little before going into Photoshop. Since only a few changes were done here, it does not look much different. First I go to the Lens Correction section and select the Profile tab where I set my lens info, and then the Color tab where I check Remove Chromatic Aberration (this can save a lot of time later). The next step would be to adjust the Crop of the image if it needs it – in this case it did not. Now adjust the Basic sliders. Also check out the noise in the image and try to correct if needed. Next I right click on the image in Lightroom and select “Edit In -> Edit in Adobe Photoshop CS6” which now opens up Photoshop, if it is not already open, with your image.

  • I am a big fan of combining my plug-ins until I get just the effect I like. If I do not like what results, I just delete that layer and try again. I always duplicate the background first so I know what the image looked like to start. On a really difficult image, which I considered this one to be, I usually will first open up Nik Color Efex Pro 4 – they have so many filters, you can sometimes get a great look right away. Shown below are stacked filters Tonal Contrast, which I believe is one of the best filters in this plug-in; Pro Contrast, which is one of my personal favorites, and works wonders on many of the images I have processed; and Brilliance/Warmth, one of the most popular Color Efex filters – just adds a really soft warmth to an image. Usually I like the Detail Extractor, but it really looked bad on this image due to all the glare on the items. Note that before entering the plug-in, I created a Smart Object (right click on your duplicated layer in Layer Panel and select Convert to Smart Object in menu) as Nik plug-ins work very well with Smart Objects. It allows you to go back into the plug-in and all settings and control points will still be in place so they can be readjusted easily.

  • Since there is so much glare in this image, there is only one plug-in I know of that does a good job controlling it and that is my most used plug-in, Nik Viveza 2. It will almost always improve if not remove problem areas on an image. You can see I have added 10 control points on the glare areas (click on image to see the little round circles more clearly in Flickr) to try to even out the tone. By comparing to the above, it is not perfect, but what a difference it makes! The detail and saturation of the image is also much improved. (See my blog Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem!)

  • Still have issues where the glare is – it needs to be cleaned up and the pink removed since it draws your eye into the left corner and it is distorted by the glare. The Color Replacement Tool was used to turn the pink color turquoise (see settings used in Options Bar in photo and turquoise foreground color in swatch) and some cloning was done on the dish to even out the pattern where the glare blows out the detail. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to get rid of another pink hot spot. I usually try to work completely non-destructively (meaning the original image was not changed by any of the adjustments made on the layers above), but the Color Replacement Tool is destructive and changes are made on the image itself – the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer may have been a better choice for this problem area.

  • I always add or at least try to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to adjust the contrast towards the end of my workflow. Since I thought I was almost done, it seemed appropriate to add it now. Below is what my curve looked like for this image. I usually just drag the Hand Tool (located in the upper lefthand corner of the panel) in the image to get this correct. It usually is just a subtle change but very significant. In this case I only wanted to brighten up the plate and mug where the color was located, not enhance where the glare was. The Curves Adjustment layer mask was turned black by clicking on the mask and CTRL+I to invert the color from white to black. Then a soft 30% opacity brush was set to white and used to gently paint back the areas where the I wanted additional contrast and color. This was a good point to create a composite layer that combines all the layers below into one on top by clicking (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) – this helps when the number of layers gets large as some techniques need a single layer to work correctly – this can especially be a problem with the Clone Tool.

  • At this point I thought I was getting the image to a final look. I decided I wanted sort of a vintage type edge on the image, so I used one of my very favorite textures, ShadowHouse Creations Old Photo 6. After trying several blend modes, I selected the Exclusion blend mode (which I do not use that much but worked in this case) set to 53% opacity. Still not sure it was quite what I wanted so I decided to add one of his new Assorted Mask Overlay (08) and set it to Soft Light blend mode at 100% opacity. Basically just the beautiful edges were used on both layers, and the image center was mainly painted out using black in the layer masks to keep the basic image intact. I often use the free Russell Brown Paper Texture Panel to try out and stack the various textures (the green square at the top of the icons to the left of the panels opens it up).

  • I must be done???? But then I thought, I wonder what happens if I take this image into the new Topaz photoFXlab (see sidebar for website in my Tidibits Blog). Well that proved to be a problem because I started finding all kinds of new effects I liked on this cleaned up image. The settings below were applied as a first step to the bottom layer for all the different Topaz effects tried on this image.

  • I duplicated the bottom layer in the plug-in and applied from the Effects tab a preset called Lithography by H. Hurst (Topaz used the preset from Topaz Detail) and set the layer to 65% opacity. In the Adjustment tab, the Saturation slider was set to 20. The Dodge Brush was used from the Brush tab to whiten around the pupil of the eyes of the girl on the plate using a brush strength of .10. Next the lips were slightly reddened using the Saturation brush. It was saved in the new Topaz extension .pfxl so the settings could be readjusted at a later date if needed. Clicked OK and applied to it to the image in Photoshop. At this point I did create a note to remind myself exactly what I did in the plug-in since I am still learning about the new extension. The image that resulted is shown below.

  • To be honest, I just didn’t love the final result so I decided to delete the layer where I applied the photoFXlab plug-in and start over in this plug-in. This time I decided to try out the results using the Plug-in tab and selected Topaz Adjust 5. Here I tried out one of my favorite presets I created from the French Countryside preset in the Vibrant Collection. It looked nice and more like what I wanted. I use this preset a lot when I want a nice artistic feel.

  • I decided to try one more preset just to see if I liked it and sure enough, it is the one I selected. It is in the Stylized Collection and is called Painting-Venice. I added several settings in the Finishing Touches section: Transparency – Overall Transparency slider to .7, Color – Warmth 0.03, and Tone – Quad Settings as shown on the image – the correct colors should be set already. Once out of the Adjust plug-in, in the Adjustment tab Exposure was set to 0.38, Contrast to -3 and Dynamics 24.


Well this is a good example of my workflow for a photo art image. I could have used OnOne Software’s wonderful Perfect Effects (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog), or any of the other plug-ins offered by Topaz, but it just depends on what I think will work. Overall the main components are 1) process as discussed above in Lightroom, 2) take into Photoshop and do any clean up, 3) add plug-in effects, 4) add any textures if you want, 5) I always go to Viveza 2 now, 6) do any extra sharpening or noise reduction that might be required,  7) add a Curves Adjustment layer for final tone and contrast, and 8) add any framing. I hope you can see that even though a change is very small, it can be very significant to the photo, and that you can always change your mind. An image can take on such a different feel with different plug-ins and textures applied. I thought originally I wanted a very sharp almost HDR look for this image, but I ended up with a very bright painterly result. I am happy with it but it is not exactly what I had in mind when I started! …..Digital Lady Syd


This and That – Just Having Some Fun!


Usually I try to have a particular theme for my major blog. I have been busy this week but doing all sorts of different things so I decided to just post some of my favorites. The image above is from the Big Island in Hawaii and it was not a first pick when I was processing. After I got a chance to play around in Photoshop with it though, it turned out to be one of my favorites. Sort of represents the kind of terrain that the trees in the area have to contend with and the light was very nice at this spot.

This is a 3-image hand-held HDR shot that ended up with a lot of different steps, starting first with Photoshop’s Merge to HDR to align and remove any ghosting. That tone-mapped image was then taken into Nik’s HDR Efex Pro and one of my favorite presets, Grannys Attic, was applied. Next Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 was applied using another one of my favorite presets, Midnight at 3% blur, which gives the tree more of a silhouette feel. Wow – not finished yet! Next Topaz Adjust 5 (see website link in my Tidbits Blog sidebar) was applied with the Timeless IV preset. But there’s more – one of my favorite textures, Shadowhouse Creations Paper Texture Scratchbox4 which has a golden lower half and a light greenish-turquoise top half set to Overlay at 80%, gives the image the warm vintage tones. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added for some tonal contrast. Finally, my Thin Double Edge Frame was applied (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames blog) – it creates a really nice slim framing and the colors can be changed easily by sampling within the image. Done!

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This wall art image is on display in the open-air one mile long corridor that contains all sorts of art at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii. Just one of the very unusual pieces that is available to view on your leisurely stroll about the resort, but this guy means business or else he has some really bad breath!

This time I tried a sharpening technique in Photoshop’s Merge to HDR (see John Paul Caponigro’s blog Creative Sharpening with HDR Software) as a first step. Next, using Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel (see links at end for blog link), two Flypaper textures were added, Paper Texture Creme Anglaise Taster set to Blend Mode Exclusion at 100% Opacity which turned the whole image dark and Paper Texture Touchstone Taster set to Color Burn Blend Mode at 64% Opacity. A slight S-Curve Curves Adjustment Layer was added to increase contrast a little. Finally OnOne’s PhotoFrame (see website link in my Tidbits Blog sidebar) acid burn controlled 04 frame was used with the color being sampled from the image.

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Oh no! Where did he come from? Back in my blog again?? – this is my office-mate Ted – had him way before he got famous. Seems to be enjoying himself. Hum! (See my Tidbits Blog My Office Friend Ted.)

Ted was processed using the wonderful Topaz Simplify 3 plug-in (see website link in my Tidbits Blog sidebar)  and here are my settings used: Simplify – Colorspace YCbCR, Simplify Size 0.52, Feature Boost 3.83, Details Strength 1.51, Details Boost 1.27, Details Size 0.62, Remove Small 0, and Remove Weak 0.16; Adjust – Brightness 0.01, Contrast 1.07. Saturation 1.03, and Saturation Boost 0.97; and Edges – Mono Edge Fine, Edge Strength 4.47, Simplify Edge 0.39, Reduce Weak 7, Reduce Small 0.07, and Fatten Edge 4.11. A composite was created above this layer (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) and set to Linear Light at 37%. Next Sarah Gardner’s texture Blush Cherry was added (the website is no longer offering this texture but ShadowHouse Creations Pastels Texture Set Pastel-10 is very close) set to Soft Light Blend Mode at 100% Opacity lightened up the image. A text layer was created using Sassys Teddys 3 font and a Layer Style with these settings were added to the text layer: Bevel & Emboss set to Contour and Texture, Style Inner Bevel, Technique Smooth, Depth 100, Direction Up, Size 7, Soften 0, Angle 25 wit Use Global Light checked, Altitude 30 and the rest default settings; Outer Glow set to Normal Blend Mode, Opacity 100, color R77/G30/B19, Technique Softer, Spread 0, Size 237 and the rest default settings; and Drop Shadow – just dragged around on screen a bit in Multiply Blend Mode and Black, Opacity 75%, Angle 25 & Use Global Light checked, Distance 29, Spread 0, and Size 7. Whew! Finally the same Layer Style was applied as for the first image using different colors in the frame.

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Thought I would finish off with an effect that reminded me of one of my kids favorite books from forever ago, The Berenstein Bear’s Spooky Old House. This old building image I use a lot for practice with the plug-ins is in Jackson, Mississippi and stands under one of the most striking buildings in the area, the Lamar Life Insurance Building (see my Tidbits Blog Topaz Adjust 5 Is Here! First Look!).

The processing for this image was practically all in Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 – four filters were stacked: Detail Extractor, Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast, and Midnight using Color Set Blue and Blur set to6%. These are some of my favorite filters and are used often with various other filters for different looks. Got to love Color Efex Pro! A Curves Adjustment Layer was added for a little more contrast and OnOne’s PhotoFrame Jack Davis 02i. Pretty simple but really cool looking.

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Hope you enjoyed some of the images I was working with this past week and hope I did not put you to sleep with all the details. Most of these images did not require a lot of work and the plug-ins gave a really nice boost to the final look in all of them……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR EFex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow!
Using Color Efex Pro and Texture for a Warm Hawaiian Landscape Effect
Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel Updated!
White Daisies! Using Color Efex Pro Midnight Filter


Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part Two)


Last week I used this bike picture to create an HDR image from three bracketed shots. The image above was created from just the 0 exposure to use as a basic single image to try out the other workflows (this one uses only Lightroom adjustments) and to compare with my own single image workflow. See Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part One). This week I wanted to explore some of the vast number of workflows that give an HDR feel even though all are single exposure images, and try to decide – can a Pseudo HDR image really be as good as the real thing?

The top image used just a simple Lightroom preset (HDR Strong) furnished by Matt Kloskowski, one of the NAPP Photoshop Guys, that gives a pretty good place to start when just using Lightroom for the effect. It is a more realistic look, but still has that detail oriented feel HDR images present. (In this case, three Adjustment Brushes were used on the image: a Sharpen brush painted over just the bikes to bring out the edges cleanly; a Contrast brush to make the white wall in the background appear more gritty; and a Clarity brush painted on the closer posts and the sitting girl.) In Photoshop, a Curves Adjustment Layer was added along with the OnOne PhotoFrame (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) – that was it. I believe this gives a nice realistic look to what I saw but not exactly the HDR feel I wanted to.

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The image above used Topaz Adjust 5, one of the best and most inexpensive Photoshop plug-ins that can be bought. (See sidebar on my Tidbids Blog for website link.) That being said, I also used Topaz Detail, Topaz Simplify 3 and Nik Viveza 2 on the image. In the image below, you can see a comparison as each filter was brought into the final image. To be honest, I really liked the results even though, once again, the HDR image trumped this one for really sharp detail and color saturation.

You can see that just applying the Spicify preset in Topaz Adjust gives a pretty nice start to the pseudo HDR effect. The other plug-ins each added a little more detail and color toning. It seems logical that by trying different plug-ins together, you should be able to get some fairly good approximations to the real HDR look.

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This image used OnOne’s Perfect Effects where filters are also stacked in a similar manner as Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4. The image was processed as above in Lightroom, and then taken into Photoshop where the Perfect Effects plug-in was opened. (The following filters were stacked: Photo Filter -> Blue using a custom blue color of R16G32B136 using a Strength of 39; Movie Looks -> Faux HDR; Landscapes -> Golden Hour Enhancer using the Mask Bug to target the brickwork in top of image and Opacity set to 45%; Color & Tone -> Tonal Contrast with Shadows at 52, Highlights at 92 and Clarity 13 and Strength to 50%; and Detail -> Texture Booster with Blacks at 4.) Image was sharpened and the OnOne PhotoFrame added. This gives a very strong HDR feel but the bikes do not stand out quite as nicely against the brickwork. With a little effort this image could be adjusted  to bring it more in line with the original HDR from last week.
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This image gives the closest and cleanest approximation to the true realistic HDR look. It was created using three Lightroom virtual copies of the same image with the exposures sliders set for to 0, -2, and +1.37. Other settings were also adjusted to enhance individual areas of the image. (For example, the 0 exposure image was adjusted to bring out the midtones clearly. The -2 exposure was used to bring out the gritty appearance of the gray back wall and tree. The +1.37 exposure was used to lighten up some of the brick that was too dark and to enhance the silver and white on the bikes. They were all selected in Lightroom. By right clicking on one of the images, select Edit In -> Stack as Layers in Photoshop option in the menu. In Photoshop, they all appeared in one document as individual layers. Now Black Layer Masks could be added (ALT+Click on Layer Mask icon) to the top two layers. With a low opacity brush, carefully paint back in the areas you want exposed at the different levels.) It is a really great way to stretch the tones in an individual image without using any HDR software or third party plug-ins. Create a composite on top and do localized sharpening where needed. I learned this great technique from Harold Davis and am finding I use it a lot to really get great detail in my images. He calls this technique “Hand HDR” and it is described in his book The Photoshop Darkroom. He has a new book coming out Creating HDR Photos: The Complete Guide to HDR Photography that I am really forward to getting.

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I created several other iterations of this image with varying amounts of success. Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 was used following a very helpful recipe presented in a short Nik blog called My Go-To Recipe for Bringing Out Details with Ellen Anon. The single image was also taken into PhotoMatix Pro and the results were pretty good. Both of these examples had to be readjusted in Camera Raw again before I liked the results. Also processing a single image in Nik’s HDR Efex Pro gives some really interesting results although not all a true HDR effect. Several different Adjustment Layers in Photoshop can help get the color and tone in the image. Experiment to find out which ones work for you.

What an advantage to have a real HDR shot for comparison. Based on this, my conclusions on the pseudo HDR look is as follows:

  • I believe it is possible to get that HDR feel with with just one image, but, and this is a big one, how good the results obtained will be depend on the image you are trying to use. Do not expect a huge landscape with a really large dynamic range to have the detail a true HDR is going to have. If the image does not have a large light to dark range, you will probably have some pretty nice results. The image in this blog has an average range of highlights and shadows, but as seen above there is still some detail missing in all the images.
  • Saturation of the colors can easily get messed up with HDR images, much less with the pseudo imaging look. All of my examples had a real problem getting that nice brick color that my original HDR image contained.  The single images required using Camera Raw processing (sometimes twice) since it is the only filter/program in Photoshop or Lightroom that handles the orange tones. Haloing can occur with the saturation shifts and then other steps need to be taken to reduce the obvious shading.
  • Sharpening is an absolute necessity if doing pseudo HDR – otherwise it just does not have that sharp detail look a real HDR has.
  • Watch the gritty look – it occurs a lot with regular HDR images. With pseudo HDR images, it seems to be even easier to get a totally over the top look if you are not careful.

There are several resources that give some great advice. Ferrell McCollough in his book Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Digital Photography makes a great statement. “…. the choice to shoot a single image rather than an HDR image set should be based on the contrast of the scene. A low contrast scene is easily captured and tone mapped for a single image, but a medium contrast scene can go either way in terms of quality.” RC Concepcion (one of the NAPP Photoshop Guys) has a great book, The HDR Book, that covers single image HDR processing very well and has some great tips on post-processing to get the look.

After comparing all the results, I believe that my best result was with the Harold Davis workflow – it had the sharpest edges and no halos or noise developed by the stacking of the three exposure copies. It also took the longest time to complete since several layer masks had to be created to get the final look. I still like many of the other processes though – I know I will still use my Lightroom preset from last week’s blog, and both Topaz and OnOne have the potential of creating a very good fake HDR look. But this was not just about how the different workflows create the HDR look.

The real question is – is the final result as good as a true HDR. Based on my experimentation, it is not (and to be honest I am not surprised but my curiosity made me look into this). After doing a lot of research and trying many different methods on the same picture (I am tired of this image!), I don’t think any of the results were quite as good as the original tone-mapped HDR image. You can get close, and if you did not have a true HDR image to compare to, you might think several of the single image results were good enough. But bottom line, the detail, color and tonal range is just not up to true HDR standards. I decided the image I liked best is below because it is not competing at all with the original HDR look. It was created by using the Davis Workflow image and adding Topaz Adjust to it. The Curve was changed to Negative and the Adaptive Exposure, Details, and Color sections were adjusted.  The effect was then brushed off the reading girl. I love the colors – it gives a really fantasy look and the bikes show up great!

Maybe the real question is what is HDR? Is it that over-saturated look or that super-detailed look? Or is it a totally different looking image as above that is definitely an HDR look but way out there! My advice is that if you think you want an HDR look, no matter what kind, you need to bracket and take the shots. If you take 5 images, you should be able to get a nice HDR image, even if all the shots are not great. If you could only get one shot, there are some pretty easy ways to get that HDR appearance. It may take some effort to pull the final look together, but at least you got the shot the way you wanted it! Hope you enjoyed this blog and it helps you with your single image processing…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Pseudo HDR Using NIK Color Efex Pro 4
With One Good Photo – Try the Pseudo HDR Effect
Another Pseudo HDR from Me!
Another Pseudo HDR Image with NIK CEP4 – Got to Love the Effect!
Settings for Vivid Drawing Look ACR/Lightroom Preset and NIK Color Efex Pro 4 Pseudo HDR Recipe


Topaz Plug-Ins – Same Image Trying Each!

Since I am such a big fan of Topaz, I thought it might be interesting to use the same image and see what effects I could come up with using each of the five major plug-ins in the Topaz Plug-in Bundle (to go to website, click on the sidebar in my Tidbits Blog). The photo is of an old Sears Victorian house built in St. Augustine about 100 years ago. There are still a few that can be seen when driving around the city. Very beautiful houses! I could picture myself living in one! All these images were finished by painting in a flare in the top right corner using my Lens Flare Brushes since the image was blown out by the sun in that corner, and a Curves Adjustment Layer. I have written about almost all of these plug-ins previously, so check out my related blogs at bottom if you find you want more information on one of them.

Topaz Adjust


This is the mainstay of the whole Topaz Plug-in Bundle, in my opinion, so this is the first plug-in used on the image. I used a preset I had created a long time ago to get this effect. Basically it involved using a warm feel to achieve an early morning look. Many different filters could easily have been used – this plug-in is fun to try on new looks to your images.

Topaz Simplify


This is a creative plug-in – definitely gives a more painterly look as opposed to the more realistic look some of the other plug-ins give. The canned Buzz Sim preset was used to create this look, an effect I have always enjoyed – see my blog “Simplifier and Simplify Filters” about the original filter that was picked up by Topaz many years ago.

Topaz Lens Effect


Topaz recently updated this plug-in and added three more filters and several presets to make this plug-in even more versatile. I am not the best at setting up a great depth map, it does take some practice. In the image above, you can see that the center ground is more in focus than the foreground and background. This is where this plug-in really excels and once you get the hang of it, it is quit effective. I do not know of any other plug-in that does this type of effect. In this image, a Bokeh Selective effect was applied and several adjustments made after the depth map was created. This plug-in allows you to stack filters, so next a Filter Dual Tone was created where a Blue/Cyan color was added to the top and a slight yellow cast added to the bottom of the image. Finally a new filter from the latest upgrade was used called Warmth and the Warm I preset was applied. Overall, a bit of a different look with softer lines of the house with the focal point being centered on the palm tree and the color beams in the image.

Topaz Detail


Topaz Detail is an overlooked plug-in but actually gives some wonderful results. This image uses the Desaturation Blush preset with the Saturation slider set to -0.62. It gives a very nice effect on this house and perhaps the most natural of them all. I was surprised how similar it looks to the Topaz Adjust filter result.

Topaz Black and White Effects


This is my favorite plug-in in the bundle and a relative newcomer. Every time I use it, the image comes out really nice – not necessarily like I shot it, but with a bit of artistic flair added, and yet it retains the true nature of the image. It looks like how I envision an old Victorian house should look on a hot summer morning. Totally unique feel. In this image a preset I created for a sunny water landscape was used. (This preset contains the default Basic Exposure settings; Adaptive Exposure Settings: Adaptive Exposure 0.18, Regions 26.10, Protect Highlights and Shadows – 0, Detail 1.11 and Detail Boost 1.09; Quad Tone settings: Color 1 Region (color R1/G1/B12) set to 0.60, Color 2 Region (color R63/G78/B85) set to 95.97, Color 3 Region (color R216/G211/B129) set to 141.2, and Color 4 Region (color R255/G254/B237) set to 255.0; Edge Exposure set; and Transparency set 1.00. The key to this look is the Quad Tone section in Finishing Touches. See my Tidbits Blog “Quad Tones in Topaz Black and White Effects Plug-in” for more information on this.

Topaz Adjust, Detail and Black and White Effects


Topaz has done a wonderful job of providing great videos to learn how to use all their plug-ins provided in the bundle. A video, “Creative Essentials with Topaz Plug-Ins presented by Joel Wolfson,” was presented where he went over his Topaz workflow to create some beautiful works of digital art. I followed some of his suggestions and created this final image. I was very pleased with the results – looks similar to the one above but is more of a black and white effect and, again, not unlike what I visualize an old Victorian house might look like.

I hope this is giving everyone a chance to see the flexibility that this bundle of plug-ins can produce. With just a few of these plug-ins, a great variety of effects can be achieved and they can be used together to get even more interesting results. I am very happy that I have this set of filters at my fingertips – they do produce beautiful results. …..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Using Topaz Adjust 5 and Color Efex Pro 4 with Photoshop Elements
Topaz Adjust 5 Is Here! First Look!
Topaz Lens Effect’s Artistic Flair!
Combining Plug-ins – Double the Effect! (Several Topaz Plug-ins)
Little Nighttime Fun from Topaz! (Topaz Adjust and Len Effects Plug-ins)
Loving Both Filters (Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in)
Trying Out the Minimalist Look? (Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in)
Same Image – Different Plug-In (Topaz B&W Effects and Lens Effects Plug-ins)
Sunny Preset for Topaz Black and White Effects
The Art Corner: Painting and Sculpture by Tassaert (Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in)
Quad Tones in Topaz Black and White Effects Plug-in
Get Rid of Those Power Lines Fast – with Paths and Spot Healing Tool! (Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in)
Why I Love Topaz Adjust!
Just Another Topaz Black & White Effect Example
Topaz B&W Effects vs. Nik’s Silver Efex Pro
Topaz B&W Effects Plug-In – A Real Winner!
Topaz Lens Effects Plug-In
Topaz InFocus Plug-in – Digital Lady Syd’s Review
More Filmstrip Fun – How Can This Be? (Topaz Detail Plug-in)
Instant Mirror and Quick Mirror for Photoshop (Topaz Simplify Plug-in)
How to Add Images to Text (Topaz Simplify Plug-in)


Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz Adjust 5!


A no brainer here – another winner! Topaz Adjust has been probably the best plug-in value since the first version came out (and the first plug-in I bought). The price is always reasonable and the results are always great! Therefore there was no reason not to believe that this plug-in would not be up to the same standard and it is. The train engine image above was created using the classic Spicify preset which has been their signature look since they created this plug-in. Still looks great and there are many adjustments that can made to the preset to get the overall feel you want. (To access the Topaz website, click on my Tidbits Blog and click on the Topaz Adjust 4 sidebar.)

Below I created several different looks using the same HDR (done in NIK HDR Efex Pro – Realistic Strong preset) storefront image to show the vast variety of looks with a minimal amount of adjusting. So here they are:


This storefront image is from Jackson, Mississippi. The same tone colors used in my Tidbits Blog “Topaz Adjust 5 is Here! First Look!” image which were the same colors I have used in the Black and White Effects plug-in – see “Quad Tones in Topaz Black and White Effects Plug-in” for exact colors. I really like the Tone section in Adjust – very similar to the Quad Tones in Black and White Effects plus the added benefit of a Tone Strength slider to change the amount applied. Another benefit over the Black and White Effects is that a preset with just the Tone section can be saved so the colors can be changed to your favorites easily.
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The above uses two presets applied separately – first the Lomo III preset as is and then the Vintage III preset, both from the Film Collection. In the last preset, on the right side I adjusted in the Color Section the Hue slider to 0.1o to change the storefront color from orange to yellow and then the Color Saturation slider to 2.39. The Tone slider was set to 0.94. In the Local Adjustments section, with the Brush Out tool set at 100% opacity, the whole image was brushed out except for the yellow storefront. Therefore you are getting the Lomo III preset effect on everything except the middle storefront. I thought it turned out really nice and was very easy to do.
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The unusual look of the image above was created by applying the Spicify preset in Topaz Adjust 5 with a Tone Strength set to 1.00, Warmth set to 0.57, and Transparency set to 0.44. Then the photo was taken into Topaz Black and White Effects and a sunset effect preset I had created a while back with Transparency set to 1.00 (which is really 50% of the color in the image). Overall a very nice combination of the two plug-ins.
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Pros:

1.  They have changed to the interface to look like their new great plug-in “Topaz Black and White Effects” and what a great improvement!
2.  You can apply more than one effect to get some really great new looks like in their “Topaz Lens Effects” plug-in. This allows you to save your favorite Tone colors or Vignette settings as presets to apply individually. Much increased versatility here.
3.  There is a new Local Adjustment Brush (like in Lightroom or ACR) that can used to brush out effects (at varying depths) that is totally fabulous. You can apply a new effect and brush out everything except what you want to show through. It is a great addition!
4.  Price is still the best in the plug-in world and once you buy the plug-in, all the newer versions are free! Now that is unheard of in the plug-in world!
5. It loads in Photoshop very quickly – very refreshing!

Cons:

1. Does not save the settings you applied with the first effect if using Smart Objects unless you saved that portion as a preset first.
2.  Smart Object does not save your Local Adjustments that you did with the various brushes.
3.  Topaz said that the plug-in can be set to save as a new layer with the changes instead of having to duplicate the background layer and then apply the plug-in. So far I have not been able to find how to enable this.
4.  When you brush out the effect, I am not having much luck brushing out the vignette I applied within Adjust. It has to be turned off completely, not painted away from certain areas.
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Here is a final image done with the new Topaz Adjust 5. It is of a closed cafe’s sign in Jackson, Mississippi.


The Extreme Color Blast preset in the Stylized Collection was applied and the letters and white part of the little pictures were painted with the Dodge brush to make them whiter. That was it and I love the beautiful texture in the wall and sign.

Well, once again I do believe that Topaz has created a very strong plug-in to compete with its more expensive competitors. I would say if you cannot afford much but would like a great plug-in to start with, this is the one hands down. Lots of versatility in a small bundle. The pros definitely outweigh the cons and the cons may be fixed without much difficulty. Have fun experimenting and see what you think – I will be…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Why I Love Topaz Adjust!
Little Nighttime Fun from Topaz