Basically this blog is showing that filters or plug-ins do not have to be applied on a layer with the second one applied on top of the first one on the same layer, but rather they can be applied to the same original duplicated layer and by using layer masks the desired effects from can be inserted. This image above followed a workflow that followed my Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 and Topaz Clarity Together? Tidbits Blog from a few years ago. It had been a while since HDR Efex Pro2 (part of the free download from Google-Nik) was used so it seemed like a good time to try it out again. The original image from the Tidbits Blog is shown below. This image was taken yesterday at the 28th Native American Festival in Ormond Beach, Florida. The displays and costumes really give a nice variety for those who love photography (and the vendors and show organizers are some of the nicest people!). The focus area of the two teapots show more of the HDR plug-in effect and the rest of the image has more of the Topaz Clarity filter effect. Any plug-ins can be used this way, these are just what I was using for this image.
HDR Efex Pro 2
The image was first opened in Lightroom where it was brightened up just a bit. Then in Photoshop, the background was duplicated, converted to a Smart Object (right click on layer and select Convert to Smart Object), and HDR Efex Pro2 was opened from the Filters menu. Note: you do not have to be shooting HDR photos to use this plug-in – it works fine with just one image. (For info on how to use if shooting with more than one image, see my How To use Google (Nik) HDR Efex Pro 2 Blog.) This is another one of those huge plug-ins with lots of sliders and presets to play around with on your images so the Smart Object allows you to go back and adjust it if it look wrong (double click on the thumbnail in the Layer Panel). In this case the Outdoor 2 preset was applied. One of the best things in this plug-in is the Levels & Curves section where besides RGB and the individual channels, there is a the Luminosity Curve that can be adjusted – this was done for this image. The curve was pulled downward to get a nice overall effect. Then the Tonality section Structure slider was set to 31% and the Color Temperature was set to -20% and Saturation 19%. That was all that was done to this preset.
Now for the Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Clarity part. This is one of my favorite Topaz plug-ins partly because of the versatility in it. The HDR Efex layer was turned off and the background duplicated again and set just above the background layer. Since the HDR Efex layer had way too much contrast for the softer vintage effect I wanted, a preset that I created for painting was applied in Clarity. It totally softens the whole image but the colors looked really good. (Here are the settings if you are interested: Clarity Dynamics Micro Contrast -0.86, Low Contrast -0.86, Medium Contrast 0.63, and High Contrast 0.94; Tone Level Black Level -0.19, Midtones -0.36, and White Level 0.19; HSL Filter Hue – no changes; Sat Orange 0.06, Yellow 0.63, Green 0.13, Blue 0.25 0.25, and Overall -0.45; and Lum Orange 0.36, Yellow -0.34, Green -0.42, Blue 0.61, Purple 0.11, Magenta 0.75, and Overall -0.27 – all other colors were 0.00. Adjust these settings around if they do not quite fit the effect you want.)
The HDR Efex layer was turned on and a black layer mask was added (press ALT key while clicking the layer mask icon at bottom of Layers Panel). Just the areas where more contrast was needed was painted back into the image – mainly around the teapots where the focal point is. A round brush set to 50% opacity was used so edges were not too sharp.
Photoshop Brushes for Clean up
Some of the background in the curtains did not look so nice, so the brushes were brought out to paint in some colors and blend some colors on a New Layer. It is so handy to have a good Regular Brush and Mixer for clean up. A pastel with rough edges was used to paint over some greenish shadow colors that did not fit the image. The brush can be downloaded from SDW Haven Pastel Brushes Part 1 – it is the last brush or 11th brush in this free set. (These are the settings used for the brush: Brush Tip Shape: I like it as a small size so it is set to 8 pixels but enlarge it often, Angle 137 degrees, Roundness 100% and Spacing 35%; Shape Dynamics: Angle Jitter 42%; Texture – Rough located in PS Erodible Textures (load by clicking texture patter, then on the cog wheel and Load Erodible Textures, and set to Scale 87%, Brightness -45, Contrast 0, check Texture Each Tip, Mode Multiply, Depth 50%, Depth Jitter 1%, and Control Off; and check Smoothing.) This brush also clean up funny colored edges nicely – just ALT+click in the image on the color to sample, and lightly paint in. I usually paint at 67% opacity with this brush.
Then an overall soft Mixer blender was used to mix up the edges. The brush I use is by David Belliveau from Paintable – here is a link to his free brushes and his How to Blend Colors in Photoshop: 4 Essential Technique blog. David does a great job explaining how to use brushes in Photoshop. On the clean up layers, I just kept going back and forth between the Regular and the Mixer brush adding color and blending until the color and edges look smooth. The Mixer also does a great job of softening lines that appear too sharp in the background. I use these two brushes all the time to both clean up images and paint in Photoshop.
Finishing Up the Image
Last steps involved adding on a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Topaz Texture Effects 2 with adjustments to the Crisp Morning Run preset. A Spot Mask was used over the center pots so they were not affected as much by the plug-in. Duplicated the layer and applied Nik Viveza 2 to further sharpen the two middle teapots and add a little more saturation to that area. Duplicated the layer again and Topaz Lens Effects was opened and a Silver Reflector filter coming from the left was applied – just to add a softer effect and emphasize where the light was. Using these three plug-ins one after the other is an example of applying them onto each other and no masking was involved. Therefore the effects of Texture Effects is in the image where Nik Viveza 2 was applied which is in the results of applying the Lens Effects filter. If you wanted to get down to the original Background effect, many masks were have to be created. Subtle but significant difference.
Overall HDR Efex Pro and Clarity are not a bad combination for getting some nice effects in Photoshop. Both images used the filters discussed above. Each filter was added on its own duplicated Background layer and then the parts of the image to be concealed were masked in or out on each layer. For the top image it just did not look as good when one filter was applied over the other one. This is really important to remember if you are liking the effect in two different filters – they do not have to both be applied over each other – just mask in or out what you like on separate layers. And do try out the brushes – they work really well together. Hope everyone is coping with the winter and staying warm. Until next time…..Digital Lady Syd
For some reason I have been sort of fixated on how to create a nice wintry feel in an image without getting fake falling and unnatural looking snow. This week I will show a couple ways I use to create a more natural snow and piling up effect in my images. Its a lot in the brushes!
The image above is of a pretty red budded plant (unable to find the name in my resources) that was growing at the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, Florida. In a short Corey Barker video called Corey’s Universal Particle Brush video, a fabulous brush was created to add the falling snow in exactly the places it needs to be. Corey gives very clear steps to creating this brush that uses PS Noise Filter, PS Gaussian Blur, a Levels Adjustment, and Gradient Tool to make the basic brush. Then changes are made in the Brush Panel to the Shape Dynamics, Scattering, Transparency, and Brush Tip sections. This brush was then saved as both a brush and Tool Preset – size is 1000 pixels. Corey uses this brush not for just snow but anywhere that particles are needed like fire sparks and rain effects.
Now to processing the image. Once some random flakes are added to the image, Corey suggested adding a subtle Motion Blur to the flakes (Angle 75 and Distance 11) which makes the flakes look more realistic without doing anything else. Add a New Layer and make the brush smaller (500 pixels) to build up more dense snow around the plant branches. The layer opacity can be controlled for each snow layer to give the effect wanted. Also layer masks can be added to remove flakes where unwanted. A stamped layer was placed on top (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) and Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Black & White Effects was opened. In the filter, the Local Adjustments brush section was used to bring back the color in the image where I wanted it. The filter’s Color Brush was used to paint in the red buds and using a lower opacity, the green leaves were painted in. This softened the background a lot but color could still be introduced – in PS the layer opacity was set to 76%. On a New Layer more snow was painted in using the smaller sized Particle Snow brush again. This is how the lower leaves show snow building up on the leaves. A basic Mixer brush was used on a New Layer to add dabs of white paint for snow – I used Fay Sirkis’s Pet Pastel Underpainting Highlight Photoshop brush (I can’t seem to locate a resource with her brushes right now). But any small sized Mixer brush (45 pixels) will probably work – in the Options Bar set the mixer combination field to Dry and turn on the Load the Brush After Each Stroke with the color set to the snow color and just paint in the snow. Next a text layer with some icicles hanging from the letters were added on layers above using the free Frostbo Ice Brush 01 for the icicles. The last step was a Levels Adjustment Layer to adjust the contrast. I feel like this plant looks like it is in a “winter wonderland” and not a sunny Florida garden.
This image of the St. Johns Tower Entrance to apartments at Windsor Castle turned out to be lots of fun to convert to a spooky winter image. The original image was taken on a sunny day in August so it has definitely been winterized. First Topaz Clarity was used to sharpen the image overall. Then the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter, Topaz Glow, and Lucis Pro were all used to get a really sharp and correct image. At this point I was just trying out different plug-ins and this is what I ended up using. Now the snow was painted in. A free set of very basic star brushes was downloaded by KeReN-R on DeviantArt and 4 brushes were used to paint in a lot of the snow (Sample Brushes 4 – see next paragraph on how to adjust this brush, 6, 8, and 19). Also Grut’s FX Inky Leaks Bottle Topple and Romato brushes were used to give the wet slick look on the street and steps (many brushes in this set would make great snow brushes). This step was a lot of fun to do! At this point Corey’s Particle Brush could be used, but instead I took the image into Topaz Texture Effects 2 and used the Winter Day I preset which contains a snow texture. A Spot Mask was used on the entrance so it could be adjusted a little differently. Back in PS the layer was duplicated and a Gaussian Blur with radius set to 250 pixels to really blur the image. Then it was set to the Subtract blend mode. The same entrance area was painted out in a layer mask. This darkened the image down immensely. On a New Layer white was painted in the entrance and set to overlay blend mode. Another New Layer for snow was used and some snow effect painting around the doorway in front using the Grut Bottle Topple brush. On a stamped layer Nik Viveza 2 was used to really pull out the lighting effect in the doorway and to darken down the on the street. There was a lot of trial and error on this image and I personally believe that is how to actually pull this look together.
I am using Sample Brush 4 in the KeReN-R Star Brushes a lot to get the nice piling up effect of snow. These settings were changed in the Brush Panel to get a really great snow smoothing and piling brush: In Brush Tip Shape: Change size from 773 px to 150 px and leave Spacing at 25%; check Shape Dynamics and set Angle Jitter to 9%; and leave all other settings alone. In the Options Bar turn on the icon next to the Opacity amount so pen pressure will increase or reduce the amount of snow added. This creates a really nice brush to build up snow in any image.
Above is an image I painted showing how a duck sees the beauty in his home during a light snow that we humans do not get a chance to appreciate. It was initially painted in Corel Painter by first adding a lot of the basic elements and grasses. Just enjoying painting at this point. Then the image was opened in PS and many more details were added. In this case the snow was painted in using Corey’s Particle Brush and the snow was built up using the Snow Build Up brush (sampled brush 4) and sampled brush 6. Many more plant elements were added along with the duck. Topaz ReStyle was used to change the color scheme from a warmer one to a color for a more wintry look. This is a good example of how to use these snow brushes when doing creative painting.
It is very handy to have the snow in brush format as opposed to a large vector overlay. I hope you will try creating these two basic snow brushes if you enjoy making wintry scenes. I am still experimenting with them, and trying out other brushes. I like the overall effect of these two brushes and am using them a lot to just add a little wintry effect to a cooler image. Until next week…..Digital Lady Syd
This week turned out to be a little strange as my prepared blog needs some permission clarification before posting. Therefore, I decided to pay tribute to my kids and friends up north who were blanketed with over 20 inches of snow. I found this beautiful free stock image on pixabay (original image linked) and added my own touch to it. The deer that is photo bombing the image was supposed to go in the background, but he just so looked so natural in that spot, so that’s where he remains.
Here is a quick run down of how I achieved this sort of old-fashioned look. In Lightroom Trey’s Free Packs A Beautiful Release (from Jan 2015) preset was applied to the original downloaded image – an Adjustment Brush was used to paint the blue color out of the trees from the gradient in the preset. In Photoshop Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Clarity was opened where a Basic Tone Preset by Blake Rudis (here are the settings: Micro Contrast 0.13, Low Contrast 0.28, Medium Contrast 0.16, and High Contrast 0.26) was selected. A black layer mask was added once out of the plug-in and just the center area of the image where the creek turns was painted back for more detail. A New Layer set to Overlay blend mode and a soft round black brush set to 12% opacity was used to burn in a little contrast in the tops of the short trees in the middle. (See my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog.) A Curves Adjustment Layer was put on top. A stamped layer was created on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and the Nik Viveza 2 plug-in was opened to adjust the color tone in the center and soften the outer trees. On another stamped layer Nik Color Efex Pro 4 filters were stacked: Midnight Neutral at 67% opacity, Reflector Efex Silver to add light from the left, and Vignette Blur using Shape 2 and Type 1. This is when I got the great idea to add a deer – this little beauty is an image from Tara Lesher that she graciously let people use. The deer was removed from it’s background using Topaz ReMask 5 and placed in this image. Two Exposure Adjustments Layers were used to sharpen the eyes and the nose. (See my How To Do a Quick Eye Sharpening in Photoshop blog.) Two free snow overlays were added: one by Shadowhouse Creations called Snow Overlay 11 set to Screen blend mode at 74% layer opacity, and one by me called SJ-Snow2-Overlay-slightly blurred, which is a png file, set to 20% layer opacity. Last step was to add Kim Klassen’s Downtown Collection Edith texture (unfortunately I do not believe her textures are available anymore, but 2 Lil’ Owls (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website) has some very similar vintage effect textures) on top set to Overlay at 50% layer opacity. And that is my winter wonderland image.
Here is another wonderful wintry landscape from pixabay. Just screamed HDR effect to me, although it really is more of an illustrative look. This image used another Trey Radcliff’s free Lightroom preset in the package linked above called Xmas Pants Asunder. That is about all that was done to the image in Lightroom. The background was duplicated (CTRL+J) and Photoshop’s Oil Paint Filter was applied. I usually do not use this filter as it looks so canned, but it does one thing really good – it makes snow look fabulous! Also always set as a Smart Object (Smart Filter) so you can go back in and adjust the settings if the effect gets “over-the-top.” (Here are the settings: Stylization 0.8, Cleanliness 8.3, Scale 0.99, Bristle Detail 9.5, Angular Direction -151, and Shine 1.5 – remember to adjust them if the resolution of you image is very high or low.) The trick is not to use too much Shine, but if you do need it stronger, just paint out the areas that have too much striping effect going on in the filter mask. In this image, some of the snow had a little strip-look going on and it was painted out with a black brush in the mask. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was opened up as a Smart Object and three filters were stacked: Tonal Contrast using Balanced Contrast Type, Darken/Lighten Center using Shape 2 and centering effect on the barn, and Vignette Filter using Shape 2 – sampled a whitish color from the image and set the Opacity slider to 81%. Nik Viveza 2 was used to draw focus to the main little building in the front. My SJ Snow1 Overlay from same link as above was added on top and set to 20% layer opacity.
These were just some very easy winter looks that can be added to give your winter shots a very unique feel. Do try out the Oil Paint Filter on snow – the settings I used worked pretty well on a couple of different images I did. Also check out pixabay if you need a new image to work with – they have a great assortment of free stock images. Stay warm until next time!…..Digital Lady Syd
So even if you do not have Corel Painter or artistic talent, you can get some pretty amazing results with some Photoshop plug-ins and layer masks. These beautiful plumeria were taken in Hawaii and are a good example of what can be done with just a little set up. I am giving you some of my preset settings that you can try to see if you can get good some results.
This image used Topaz (see website at my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Impression to do the basic paint effect in this image. This worked because I created a wild preset in Impression I call SJ WC like effect on bkgds with the Brush Stroke changed to 1.00, to get this abstract background look. (Settings: Stroke: Brush Type 04, Brush Size 0.91, Paint Volume 0.42, Paint Opacity 0.87, Stroke Rotation 0, Stroke Color Variation 0, Stroke Width 0.33, Stroke Length 0.89, Spill 0.23, Smudge 0.26, and Coverage 1.00; Color: Overall Hue 0.15, St -0.20, and Lightness 0.06; Red Sat 0.47 and Lightness 0.14; Orange Sat 0.60 and Lightness -0.42; Yellow Sat -0.33 and Lightness 0.13; Green Sat 0.20 and Lightness -0.32; and Blue Sat 0.36; Lighting: Brightness -0.04, Contrast 0.39, and Light Direction x0.33 and y0.06; and Texture: Strength 0.78, Size 0.30, Canvas IV, Background Type Solid, and Background #d38967 (soft melon color). ) I was really surprised what these rather strange settings did to the background and making it look as though it was actually painted by hand. By duplicating the layer underneath and moving it on top of the Impression layer, then adding a black layer mask to it, the actual objects or flowers in this case can be painted back. See the original image as brought in from Lightroom at end of Image 2 section below. Since Topaz ReStyle had been applied to the layer underneath, there was already a bit of a grainy artsy effect applied to the overall image before Impression was applied to it. By duplicating the ReStyle layer, the graininess is still visible in the flowers when painted back and they blend in nicely with background. I tried adding another dose of the same Impression preset to the layer and got a very different background look so give this a try also. See Image 1 below for full instructions on the image workflow.
Instead of using a plain round brush, I used my SJ Pastel 3-painting texture adder brush set to a 30% or less brush opacity on the layer mask to add some softer edges when painting back the flowers. This is important to get a the painterly look. This same brush was used on several New Layers to clean up more edges, add some defining lines in the flowers, and blend in some additional color. (See my How To Use Photoshop’s Brush Texture Section for Painting Clean-Up blog for settings to create this brush.) Just sample colors, both the darker colors and lighter colors next to it, to soften edges. Any brush you like will do, but try to find something with some rough edges for this technique. I know I have mentioned it before, but GrutBrushes.com has different media type brushes for Photoshop, and on each Monday a free brush can be downloaded-click on Resources tab. This is a great way to try out different kinds of brushes and see which ones work best for painting on New Layers and which work well with layer masks, or both.
This image is of beautiful Flagler Beach, Florida, where another example of the same type of painted background effect was created. The original image was very blown out as I thought this was what I wanted the image to feel like at that point in post-processing. This time my SJ Painterly Impressionistic preset was used for the background, which produces a much smoother background effect. (Settings: Stroke: Brush Type 09, Brush Size 0.75, Paint Volume 0, Paint Opacity 0.50, Stroke Rotation, Stroke Color Variation, Stroke Width, and Stroke Length all set to 0; Spill 0.63, Smudge 0.10, and Coverage 1.00; no Color changes; Lighting – no changes; and Texture Strength 0.25, Size 0, Canvas II, Background Type white solid, and Background White.) A stamped layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) without including the Topaz Impression layer, and moved on top. Impression was opened again and my SJ Painterly Imp Mod was applied (Settings: SJ Painterly Imp mod – Stroke: Type 09, Point Volume 0, Paint Opacity 0.75, Stroke Rotation 0, Stoke Color Variation 0, Stroke Width -0.25, Stroke Length -0.17, Spill 0.63, Smudge 0.09, and Coverage 1.00; Color Overall Saturation -0.23, Orange Sat -0.27, Yellow Sat 0.28, and Aqua Sat 0.51; Lighting Brightness 0.08 and Contrast 0.14; and Texture Strength 0.25, Size 0, Canvas II, Background Type white solid, and Background White.) Any plug-in or Photoshop filter could be applied at this stage to get different effects on the main objects. A black layer mask was added and just the wanted objects were painted back. The color scheme did not suit me so Topaz ReStyle was used on a stamped layer to change up the colors. Pretty easy to get this painterly effect. See Image 2 for more post-processing details.
This time the image was taken at Sea World Orlando of the Flamingo Peddle Boats using Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4, which has a rather different approach to adding painterly effects to a layer. This program lets you set control points and make parts of the image very “photorealistic” if you want. In this case no control points were used but just the Impasto Detail preset. I really like the texture this plug-in adds to an image. This time the original background layer was duplicated and a black layer mask added. Only the fountains’ water was painted back from the original image. Topaz ReStyle was added above using a stamped layer on top with the Saturation Station preset, which created the pinkish tones. See Image 3 below for more details.
I hope you will try out either one or both plug-ins, Topaz Impression and Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4, to see what results you can get. The whole basic concept is to change up a duplicate layer and apply something a little outrageous but making a nice background look. Then duplicate the original background layer, place it on top – then apply a different filter to it, use the same filter with different settings, or just use the original layer. Add a black layer mask (CTRL+I in the mask to change white to black) and with a white low opacity brush paint back what you want to show through. Use different types of brushes to paint back these effects in the masks. These two painterly plug-ins are not the only ones that will give nice effects – try Topaz Adjust or Topaz Simplify, or maybe Nik Analog Pro 2 for example. And don’t forget to try Topaz ReStyle if you want to change up the color scheme. This all can give a really nice painterly effect without having to paint every stroke in the image.
Enjoy your painting!…..Digital Lady Syd
Image 1: First do the basic tone and color changes in Lightroom or Camera Raw. In Photoshop, I used Topaz Detail to sharpen up the image as I wanted the details to still show up nicely in the flowers and the colors were also adjusted in this plug-in. Topaz ReStyle was applied on a stamped layers (CTRL+ALT+SHIFTS+E) above. This time I used a preset that had lots of blue tones as I wanted the colors to be more bluish as opposed to the yellow and green colors in the original and it softened the background colors. A Basic Mask in the plug-in was used to paint back just the flowers to keep the details. Next Topaz Impression was opened on a duplicate layer and my SJ WC like Effect on bkgds presets was used to get this crazy painterly background. Settings are shown above. The ReStyle layer was duplicated and placed on top with a black layer mask (Add layer mask and (CTRL+I) in the mask to turn black). Clean up on several layers and Nik Viveza was used to slightly darken the background edges and lighten the flowers a little. The last step was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to increase contrast.
Image 2: First Topaz Clarity was applied to the image – used one of my presets to get the image the sharpness I wanted (SJ Big Clouds preset with changes: Dynamics Micro Contrast 0.98, Low Contrast -0.14, Medium Contrast 0.22, and High Cntrast -0.37; Tone Level -0.23, Midtones 0.19, and White Level -0.19; Hue Green -0.30; Sat Red 0.03, Orange -0.78, Yellow 0.28, Green 0.19, Blue -0.25, and Overall 0.03; and Lum Red 0.39, Orange 0.11, Yellow -0.47, Green 0.23, Aqua 0.55, Blue -0.09, Purple 0.14, Magenta -0.20, and Overall -0.20. ) I like to use Clarity on landscape images. Topaz DeNoise 5 was used set to Overall 0.13 and Highlights 0.72. Since I am never sure how my final image will look, I usually try to get my image as sharp as I can. On a stamped layer above, Topaz Impression preset (SJ Painterly Impressionistic) was added as discussed above. Then another stamped layer and the second Topaz Impression preset (SJ Painterly Imp Mod) was applied with the black layer mask. Just painted back what I wanted with my SJ Past 3-painting texture adder brush. Curves, Selective Color and Color Balance Adjustment Layers were added. Then on a stamped layer Topaz ReStyle was opened and a preset taken from an image processed previously was used or I would give you the settings. Nik Viveza 2 was used to add a little structure to the focal point. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added to tone down the dark areas.
Image 3: There was not as much to do with this image as Snap Art added a lot of the effect I actually wanted in the image. Next ReStyle was added using the Saturation Station preset. Two separate layers were added where Kyle’s Spatter Brushes – Spatter Bot B (75% layer opacity) and Aaron Nace’s Glitter Brush (12% layer opacity – info for making this brush can be found at end of my Some Christmas Cheer and Resources blog) for a little more miscellaneous water being thrown around. Nik Viveza 2 was used to give a little bit of a darkened vignette feel around the edges of the image. The last step was a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer with Master set to Saturation -76 to try and soften the big dark blue splotches in the trees. The layer mask was filled with black and just the splotches were painted back with a white brush where the blue was.
This week I thought I would just give you a quick run-down of a few of my favorite plug-ins for Photoshop where at least a couple are used on almost every one of my images. These filters in most cases are not for major creative endeavors, although I have used them that way before (check out Detail 3 for some great abstract effects), but the ones needed to make your image perfect. I have listed several Topaz (for website link, see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) products as they seem to do exactly what I like, but many other companies have some similar filters and would be fine if those are the plug-ins you own. The above photo used both Nik Viveza 2 and Topaz DeNoise along with the Photoshop Camera Raw filter.
**NIK VIVEZA 2**
This “oldie but goodie” product is one I use on almost all my images, whether on the actual images or digital paintings. Viveza is just totally mind-boggling when it come to fine-tuning the tone or color in your image. I use it as the last step for when the focus is not actually on the focal point as intended, or if a corner is just a little too bright compared to the rest of the image, or if a color just does not work in a part of the image. Works great as a Smart Object which is great since it may take a couple times to get the adjustment just right. It uses control points for small localized adjustments. The Nik products were bought by Google and can be downloaded to try out. I do not see any other plug-in that overlaps what this program does, except possibly the Photoshop Camera Raw filter – it can do some similar effects using the Adjustment Brush, but definitely not as easy. For my review on Viveza, check out my blog, Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem!
**TOPAZ REMASK 5 **
Since I do a lot of animal and nature images, removing the objects from the original backgrounds is often necessary. ReMask is now so improved that it is totally worth the price if you do selections a lot. It really is better than Photoshop’s Refine Edge is most cases or any of the other plug-ins I own. I have written several blogs on this plug-in and that is why! Absolutely fabulous! See my blogs at Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz ReMask 5 and And the Best Complicated Selection Tool is?
**TOPAZ DETAIL AND TOPAZ CLARITY**
I still find the Detail plug-in is the best sharpening tool and use it on almost every image. Have used it for years. I also love Clarity (which uses contrast to control detail) – some images do better using Clarity, but for most of my images, Detail works best for me. Below is a good example of how good the Detail plug-in is and my review link at Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Detail 3.
Here is one of my favorite Clarity images and my review link at Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Clarity.
**TOPAZ DENOISE 5**
Most of my images are not taken at night, but since I still use an older Nikon D300 (I can’t seem to give it up!) which does not work great in dark areas, this plug-in works incredibly! It will always work for me when this situation occurs. (Also works great on aquarium pix!) This image was taken using ISO 1250, which with my camera sensor is really grainy, but this filter totally clean it up. Usually just an Overall Strength slider tweak and sometimes extra work in the Shadows, and it comes out nice and crisp. Check out my Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz DeNoise 5 blog for more information.
Well, there you have my basic filter run-down of the ones I use most often in my workflow. With some of the newer cameras, you many not need all of these. I know I am just very comfortable using those listed. There are some new filters out there that I have not had time to review – looking forward to putting Topaz Textures and OnOne Suite 10 (for website links, see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) through their paces soon. Looking forward to trying out some new plug-ins! Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd
This week I spent some time playing with a Photoshop plug-in that is in beta testing called PixelSquid. It allows you to add various items to create realistic composite images. Each element has 225 pre-rendered images shot from various angles and with shadow layers that can be adjusted in different ways. It has a fairly large learning curve, but the website covers all aspects of the program and overall it is not that difficult to do. The elements are kept in a Pixel SquidPanel Panel or Extension in Photoshop. (It does take a few moments to fill the panel with your items when Photoshop is opened each time and sometimes you have to log-in to their site to see your items and get new ones – a bit cumbersome.) They will be offering elements for sale, but at the moment you are allowed to download up to 100 objects. The best description of what they are doing is demonstrated in this short 3-minute video that covers the basics called PixelSquid: Getting Started on Vimeo. For an excellent example of how this program works, check out a blog called A Little Compositing Inspiration by Pete Collins at KelbyOne which introduced me to this Add On (see his original post called Check Out Pixel Squid). If you try it as a beta program, you will be allowed to keep the elements you have chosen, and they will let you download them from the site for free any time you want to use them again. This is a really nice thing they are doing.
In the image above, the elements added were the rather cartoon looking dog and the bike. For me the main hurdle was to try and get a natural look so the elements blend into the original image. I could not get the items to go on the blank layer the program creates but had to use PSD and “Open As Another Document,” move in the layers I wanted to use, and then delete the blank layer in my image. I am assuming they are working on this aspect of the Beta program. They offer a Depth Layer to help with this, but for me, I just painted on the objects and used the Blur Tool to soften edges. Really a lot of fun. For other info on post-processing of this image, see my Image 1 Notes at end of blog (this was a really long workflow but it will give you idea of what was done). Also, be sure that you have your Adobe Creative Cloud running, or it takes a work around to add the Extension and elements into Photoshop. This plug-in extension only works in Photoshop CC2015, but there are PNG , JPG and PSD files that can be downloaded and used in the other versions. Just adjust the object view you want on their website and download it to your computer to place in Photoshop. The PNG files come in very nice with shadows already set. (It seems almost easier than using the Extension if you like the way the object will fit in your image.)
This image is of a beautiful park in Savannah, Georgia, on a gorgeous Fall day. Several elements were added with PixelSquid – two trees, bushes, fountain, park benches and a little butterfly. This was really fun to create. Just remember it is rather tricky to do a composite that looks real-life, but there are numerous tutorials on the internet on how to do this. My goal was just to add some interesting lighting and correct shadows without doing a lot more. For more on post-processing, check out Image 2 at end of blog.
If there is a problem with this add on it is the issue discussed above that elements appear to need to be opened as PSD files in another document since I could not get the Low Res and High Res choices to open anything but a blank white layer. Then layers or the PSD group must be duplicated into your original document. (Highlight what you want to copy, be it layer or group or both, right click on the layer(s) and select Duplicate Layer (or Group)… In dialog, choose Document drop-down and select your image to place them in. Use the Move Tool to adjust location and Free Transform (CTRL+T) to adjust the size of the object(s).
I hope you will give it a try if you like to do this kind of thing in Photoshop. I can see a lot of uses for objects like this. It really is a lot of fun to try compositing, and since it is free right now, definitely worth looking into. Hope you all have a great Halloween and weekend!…..Digital Lady Syd
Notes for Images:
Image 1: This image needed a lot of manipulation to get to this point. First Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Clarity was used (used these settings: Dynamics Micro Contrast 0.19, Low Contrast 0.64, Medium Contrast 0.44, and High Contrast 0.25; Tone Level 0.30, Midtones 0.03, and White Level 0.19; and Hue Yellow -0.56, Sat 0.20, and Lum Orange 0.09). Next the Bike was added. The dog was added in next and it was duplicated to make a shadow as I did not like the way PixelSquid’s shadow looked for my lighting. The dog on the bottom layer was selected (CTRL+click on layer) and the dog was filled with black – then it was Free Transformed (CTRL+T) to look like the dog shadow, and the layer opacity was set to 22%. Two Curves Adjustment Layer was created – one for darkening the image and one for lightening. A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created and Topaz Simplify was opened. (The Simplify settings are: Simplify – Colorspace RGB, Simplify Size 0.28, Details Strength 0.67, Details Boost 1.75, Details Size 0.20 and Remove Weak 0.10; Adjust Brightness -0.16, Contrast 1.00, Sat and Sat Boost 1.00, Dynamics 0.27, Structure 0.85 and Structure Boost 1.36; Edges – Edge Type Mono Line Fine, Edge Strength 2.35, Simplify Edge 0.29, Reduce Weak 10.00, Reduce Small 0.20, and Fatten Edge 0.66; and Vignette centered on dog, Vignette Strength -0.20, Vignette Size 0.30, Vignette Transition 0.65, and Vignette Curvature 0.83; and Overall Transparency 0.20.) These settings created a cartoon-like effect in the image. (See Serge Ramelli’s video on How to Turn a Photo into a Cartoon or Painting with Topaz Simplify for more on this. ) On another stamped object Nik Viveza 2 was used to pinpoint the dog and bike to blend them into the image correctly. On another stamped layer, Color Efex Pro 4 was opened and three filters were applied. (Settings used: Film Efex:Vintage using Film Type 14, Old Photo using Style 3 and set to Opacity 31%, and White Neutralizer.) The Blue Tool was used on the white parts of the bike tire to soften the brightness and set to 73% layer opacity. On another New Layer the dog was blurred with the Blur Tool set to 53% Strength. On another New Layer, Gruts Brushes-Natural Media Brush Lead Thumb was used to enhance some of the shadows in the image. (These are really great brushes with lots of variety.) On another New Layer some clouds were lightly painted in the sky. Then I added one of my textures on top that gave the image the warmer color – set to Hard Light at 93% layer opacity. The dog was painted on another New Layer using another one of Gruts Oil brushes. Since there was some real chromatic aberration around the tree leaves, on a stamped layer a Gaussian Blur was added to soft those edges by setting the Radius to 2.5. Then a black layer mask was added to this layer (CTRL+click on the Add Layer Mask to make black or CTRL+I inside white layer mask) and just the edges of the trees were painted back to blur the outline of the trees – this was caused by the Simplify filter settings. The last step was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a little needed contrast back into the image.
Image 2: After initial tone adjustments in Lightroom, all nine objects and their shadows were brought into the image using the Duplicate technique in Image 1. On a stamped layer converted to a Smart Object (right click and select Smart Object), the Filter -> Render -> Lighting Effects was applied where an Infinite Light was applied in the direction of the light using a yellow light color; this really lightened up the image. On a stamped image, Topaz Lens Effects was opened and the Reflector filter was applied (Type Golden, Strength 0.11, Transition 0.32, Position 0.52, and Angle 122.9) to lighten more. On a stamped layer, Topaz Lens Effects was opened again and the Single Tone Filter, Warm Tone 2 preset, was applied to keep lightening up the image subtlety. The park benches and fountain edges were too sharp so a Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur was applied at Radius 2.5. A black layer mask was applied and just the areas to be softened were painted back with a low opacity soft brush. Next New Layers were added to create some leaves and grass to further soften edges under trees and around the base of the fountain. Two Selective Color Adjustments Layers emphasizing the Yellow and Red colors – wanted the right tree to show up more and the path through the image needed to be more colorful for the eye to follow. The layer masks were turned black and with a white brush, these areas were painted back in. Next two Curves Adjustment Layers were added – one for just brightening the water in the fountain (black mask and painted back water), and the second to darken the whole image for contrast. More New Layers were created and several brushes were used to paint in detail. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to give a bit of a vignette effect, but in the layer mask, areas showing the lighter edges of the trees and fountain were painted back. That was all that was done, but it takes a lot of adjustments to do compositing.
Well, these two little guys were just adorable. This shot was taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm‘s famous Rookery. I was surprised how newborn they looked. If you get in the St. Augustine area in the April/May time slot and you love bird photography, there is just no better place to go. It is crazy with birds, people, tripods, and did I say kids, but you can still get some really nice shots.
This blog is about getting rid of the ugly natural backgrounds that often surround these beautiful creatures and totally distract the eye. One of the first things you need to think about is getting a texture that sort of matches what you are trying to block out. You want the texture to fit in seamlessly so that you do not notice when looking at the photo that a texture is even there. Below is what my image Background layer looked liked after the tone was adjusted a little and a huge crop was done in Lightroom. The mother egret’s leg is actually just to the left of the crop.
I found the large branch behind the birds along with the over-sharpened next branches to be a bit overwhelming for this image. I wanted a bit of a painterly look to the image, but too much would just take away from the subjects which were so natural and nice already. Therefore there is one person who has the most beautiful natural textures for images that you can find and her name is Jai Johnson. She has several that can be downloaded for free, including the one that was used in this image, and it is definitely worth your time to look at all of her collections. She takes the most incredible bird and nature images and almost always blends in one of her beautiful textures to enhance the images. The one used in this image is called emeraldgreen-canvas and it matched the background and green colors of the original image very nicely.
Once the texture is placed into your image, put the texture underneath the image and add a layer mask to the image. Jai says there is more control by putting the texture under the image and then removing the image background in the layer mask. In my case, I like filling the mask with black by CTRL+I inside the mask and just painting back what I want showing. Since you cannot see where the objects are with a black mask, go to the Properties Panel and reduce the Density slider until you see what you need (I used 82%). TIP: To keep from accidentally painting on your image instead of your layer mask, click on the image thumbnail and click on the Lock Image Pixels icon, 2nd Lock icon at top of Layer Panel. Now you are unable to paint in the image. Just Unlock to open it up if you need to. Do some painting with white in the mask and then put the Density back up to 100%. Any brush can be used to add the paint into the layer mask where you want a little painterly effect. The Brush Opacity and Flow on the Options Bar can be adjusted to get really nice blended fits into the image. For the mask above, I painted with a My Chalk Brush around the birds. (Photoshop’s Chalk 60 brush and in the Brush Panel set size to 200 pixels and in the Shape Dynamics section set the 19%.) Then used a Brush Opacity of 100% and Flow of 3% to paint around the bird feathers in the layer mask. I use a very tiny brush size to do this – definitely under 10 pixels and sometimes just 1 or 2 to get the coverage I want. Lightly paint over the feather’s edges. Set Brush Opacity to 30% and Mode to Multiply for painting in nest area in front so the white feathers are not painted over but the nest twigs picked up the slight color texture color and were softened. Since this texture was similar to what was really in the original background, it blended very nicely.
Next Mixer Brushes were used on New Layers above to just blend the bird hairs back into the background. I like to use separate layers for each brush I use – just be sure that Sample All Layers is checked. Many people just paint directly on top of a duplicated image to give it the painterly feel. I like to have the option to adjust the painted layer or erase if something looks bad. In this case a Chalk brush mixer was used as a blender so no color was added (Load Brush after each stroke is turned off), a Soft round brush blender mixer, and a Wax Crayon mixer brush used to add paint back in were used to create the effect. I am working on creating some good Mixer brushes to share, but I would suggest you try some of Photoshop’s mixers for now as some of them are very nice.
An Exposure Adjustment Layer was used to sharpen the eyes by first selecting the eyes (I used the Quick Selection Tool or Q), and then opened the Exposure Adjustment Layer – the selection goes right into the mask. The Gamma slider and Exposure sliders were used to sharpen the eyes just a bit. Next a Curves Adjustment Layer was added to add contrast. The last step was using Nik Viveza 2 to draw the eye to the babies.
This image is of a scene that was set up at the Native American Festival in Ormond Beach earlier this year. Before adding the texture, Topaz Clarity was used to give some detail in my subjects. (Settings for SJ Good Bird Preset: Clarity Dynamics Micro Contrast 0.80, Low Contrast 0.91, Medium Contrast -0.62, and High Contrast -0.80.) The layer mask was once again used to start the painterly brush effect. Next Jai Johnson’s subtlenature-canvas layer was placed in the image. This texture technique Jai Johnson explained very nicely in her Peach Blush Texture Demonstration video. She uses Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) FXLabs interface but the principles can still be applied on a Photoshop layer mask. Once again adjusting the Brush Opacity and Flow was used to create the more painterly looking edges. In this layer mask, a Soft (same as Hardness at 0) Round Brush set to 100% Brush Opacity and a Flow of 1.00 was used to do the large brush strokes in the layer mask to remove the image background. I keep painting back and forth between the black and white colors using the Brush Opacity at 96% and the Flow at 5%. Need to keep flow under 6 or 7% to soften the hard edges on the image. Already the image had a very nice soft look and you could stop here. I also found that I liked the Density slider at 82% in the Properties Bar so it was left there. Jai duplicates the texture layer and puts it on top with a different blend mode. Once you get the background the way you want, there are many other choices you have to finish up the image. In my case New Layers were added again to add even more of a painterly effect. Above the eyes were sharpened with the Exposure Adjustment Layer, applied Nik Viveza 2 to even out the color, and added a vignette using the Curves Adjustment Layer.
I hope this gave you some ideas on how to blend in those backgrounds really nicely – the Flow is a major player when getting that natural look in your images along with a good Mixer Brush. I appreciate Jai shared her insights on how to do this. Have a very Happy Holiday – I may take a few weeks off to try and catch up. See ya soon!…..Digital Lady Syd