Anything Photoshop or Photography

Posts tagged “Topaz Clarity


A Snowy Egret and Roseate Spoonbill flying in formation at the RookeryYesterday I had an opportunity to visit one of my very favorite places to photograph our beautiful Florida birds, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery. By visiting at various times of Spring, different types of birds and behavior are present. But beware, it is a pretty busy place for not just birds – if you get there early, you are trying to negotiate lots of photographer tripods, and as the day wears on, a myriad of kids arrive. All good fun though! This week the Wood Storks, Snowy Egrets, Blue Herons and Roseate Spoonbills were all very busy making nests. Therefore I had a chance to shoot lots of flying birds with all kinds of branches and leaves hanging out of their beaks. Will be posting these on off over at my Tidbits Blog especially. Hopefully I can return in a couple of weeks when there will be a lot of baby chicks.

The Snowy Egret and Roseate Spoonbill somehow both showed up in my image. I think I was trying to shoot the spoonbill, but the egret was also flying and I did not even see him until I looked at the photos in Lightroom. There were so many birds flying around that it was sometimes hard to capture them as they flew really close over your head at times. For me I keep my camera on Aperture mode at F/8 and shoot in continuous mode to capture as many shots as I can and hope one of the images will be sharp. Learned a lot about shooting birds from an old KelbyOn (NAPP at that time) video by Moose Peterson on taking images of Florida Birds. He is one of the best bird photographers around and has a great blog with lots of tips.

All the blog images were post-processed in Photoshop just using the same basic workflow I always use: First make sure no noise is in the image and fix that with Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) DeNoise 6, then Lucis Pro 6.0.9 (no longer available at the point) or Topaz Clarity (sometimes Topaz Detail depending on the image) to slighting sharpen the whole image (use a layer mask if needed), use a Red Channel Luminance Curve Adjustment Layer, a Black & White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity blend mode, and finally the free Google Nik Viveza 2 – this filter is a must. Viveza can really help even out the light and sharpen areas that need just a little boost. It can also add that subtle vignette needed in some images. If you have not tried it, do so – use control points to pinpoint the areas that need adjusting. Still my favorite all-time Photoshop filter! There are tutorials on all these different techniques so just search in my blog to find more info on any of them.

Image of baby Roseate Spoonbill chicks at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm RookeryThese little chicks were recently hatched to a Roseate Spoonbill and may be the first group to have arrived. They were so cute. At first it seemed there were only two in the nest, but the little guy on the left was in all the images. It is really easy to miss things until reviewing the shots at home. The light was a little harsh but they still looked pretty cute to me.

Hiding Snowy Egret at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm RookeryThis Snowy Egret was trying to get away from the crowds but the light was so pretty on his plume that he was quite noticeable. The grace and poise of the Snowy Egret is quite striking, especially when compared to the beautiful, but really clumsy Roseate Spoonbill. The spoonbills all see to have a lot of personality. And Wood Storks just sort of stay up high and stare you down. If you spend a little time watching the interactions of the birds, it is really entertaining!

I frequently use images shot at the Rookery and here are some past photo links for additional Rookery views:
The Rookery
Birds of the Rookery
Great Egret Babies
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret Looking for Love
Singing Spoonbill Duet Takes Rookery by Storm!
Very Busy Snowy Egrets
Tricolored Heron
Coming  in for a Landing!
Smiling Egret
A Happy Couple

I guess this post is a little different for one of my blogs, but it was so much fun to see these beautiful birds and wanted to share what an extraordinary place this is. If you are in Florida from April to the end of May, definitely stop by the Rookery in St. Augustine – the birds won’t mind and its always a day to remember! Oh yes, taking a week or two off blogging to finish up a couple classes I am taking. Will catch you on the other side. ….. Digital Lady Syd


Image of Native American PotteryBasically 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.

Topaz Clarity

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.

Image of the Belarusian Countryside
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


Image of some snowy berriesFor 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.

Image of entrance to apartments at Windsor Castle in EnglandThis 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.
Painting of a duck in his wintry home
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


Image of a wintry landscape with deerThis 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.

Image of wintry landscape with a barnHere 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


Image of Hawaiian PlumeriaSo 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 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.

Painted image of Flagler BeachThis 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.

Original images after Lightroom processing

Image of the Flamingo Boats at Sea World OrlandoThis 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.


Image of beautiful porch in Savannah, GeorgiaThis 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.


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!
Image of View on Big Island, Hawaii


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?
Image of a Snowy Egret


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. Image of a Native American Dancer
Here is one of my favorite Clarity images and my review link at Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Clarity.
Image of a farm in Belarus



Image of the Wharf in San FranciscoMost 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


Image of an old fence and houseThis 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.)


Image of a park in Savannah, GeorgiaThis 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.


Image of two baby Great Egrets in a nestWell, 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.

Original image of baby egrets before post processingI 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.
Image of a leopard and snakeThis 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

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
What Does the Flow Slider in the Options Bar Do?
Taking Off From the Rookery Runway


Image of a field of flowers and a butterflyRecently I have been enjoying taking images and creating something a little different with them – I like to think of it as giving the image a “little magical” feel. This is probably because of the various new brushes recently bought or downloaded. Last week’s blog was on some new brushes I discovered and a new technique for adding some variable color to those brushes. Since the brushes seem to be a major factor to getting this magical feel, I thought I would explore some other techniques using Photoshop brushes. The image above is just a quick phone snap of some beautiful pink agapanthus (Tulbaghia violacea) growing in my neighborhood. I have to be honest and say I added the Monarch butterfly to the image to add interest – I do not believe Monarch likes this particular flower. To start my workflow, below is the original image from Lightroom and the image before adding Topaz Impression filter at the end.
Original and Image Before Topaz Impression Filter appliedAs you can see, the original image is not exactly a beautiful shot, but for some reason it just had a look that I liked. I worked with this image a long time in both Lightroom and Photoshop, and almost gave up on it – just did not work as a realistic photographic image. For the final result not much was done in Lightroom, just a little Basic slider adjusting and a little sharpening with the Adjustment Brush. In Photoshop Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Clarity was applied and then on a duplicated layer, Topaz Glow was applied and the layer set to Overlay blend mode. (See Image 1 below for settings of the these filters.) Remember these are great filters, but similar results can always be obtained in other ways like using Photoshop sharpening techniques and adjustment layers. Now a few New Layers were added on top and some different brushes were selected to fill in and add color. The image on the right shows what results were obtained by adding in different brushes in different colors and using a Topaz Glow layer. I still really like Aaron Blaise’s Foliage Brushes so several layers used his weed and reed brushes to fill in the front brown areas. Several soft strokes were also added in the mid ground and background just to add some color that was sorely missing. With his brushes, not many changes were made in the brush engine as he has done a wonderful job of setting them up to give good results.

Also used several of Deviant Art’s Frostbo Grass Set 2 brushes. (Be sure to read his usage rules for use.) Frostbo is one of my very favorite brush people and his brushes are all free – check out his other brush sets too. These 11 grass brushes were very basic and  created in an older version of Photoshop, but that makes them very easy to manipulate with the Brush Engine. Two of his brushes were manipulated and added to this image. Brush 010 was selected, and in the Brush Engine, changes were made to Frostbo’s settings: Brush Tip Shape Spacing from 25 to 1000, Size 137 to 800; Shape Dynamics Size Jitter from 51 to 0, Control Pressure Off, Min Diameter 0, Angle Jitter 2, Roundness 0, Min Roundness 0, checked Brush Projection; Scatter not used; Color Dynamics Control changed from Pen Pressure to none, Hue Jitter from 19 to 4, and Saturation Jitter from 20 to 8; and checked Wet Edges. These changes created a slightly different brush that worked better for this image. A similar change was done to Frostbo’s Brush 004. There are no additional settings applied his original brush other than the Brush Tip Shape settings of Size 154 pixels and Spacing 25%. The changes I made to this brush are: Brush Tip Shape Size 700 pixels and Spacing 331%; Shape Dynamics just Angle 4 and Check Brush Projection; Texture Scale 78% with a really obvious light and dark watercolor pattern selected, Brightness 9, Contrast 5, check Texture Each Tip, Mode Color Dodge, Depth 100%, and Depth Jitter 0; Color Dynamics check Apply Per Tip; Foreground/Background Jitter 100, no Control on, Hue Jitter 3 and all the rest o; Transfer Opacity Jitter 8% and Flow Jitter 71%; Wet Edges check on, Build-up checked on, and Smoothing checked on. This created a very different effect. Below are what the brushes looked like before changes and after changes.
Example of Frostbo brushes used in photoThe After brushes look different – not a lot different, but different. One reason is that the Brush Projection is checked in my variants so the brush stroke can be stretched or squished depending upon how you tilt and move your stylus. The bottom row shows several variations of the same brush stroke with it turned on. It can add that additional variety needed to give the random look to the brush. Just uncheck it in the Shape Dynamics section if you do not like the effect.

The Monarch butterfly (an object I had cut out of another image) was added and a layer using Kyles Real Watercolor Salt Medium brush was used to add some of the little dots throughout the middle part of the image. Any splatter brush can do this, I just liked his. A stamped layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and Nik Viveza 2 was used to bring in the butterfly as the focal point. Next more Frostbo brush strokes were added on a New Layer and set to 56% layer opacity. On another New Layer above, the feel of small blooming flowers was achieved by using Kyle’s Real Watercolor Spatter Spread Brush set to 22% layer opacity and a Bevel & Emboss Layer Style added to give a little depth to the back area. A New Layer with Kyle’s Real Watercolor Spatter Mixed brush was used to add in the circles that I just liked and set to 80% layer opacity. This is where I was at in the right image above. Not a bad look, but it still needed something. That is when Topaz Impression was added – again using one of my own presets. These settings are also listed below if you would like them. Finally a Curves Adjustment Layer was added to correct overall contrast and another one to light the middle of the image a bit more. By filling the second Curves Adjustment Layer mask to black (CTRL+I in mask), then painting back the areas to brighten with a 30% brush opacity, the effect could be localized. That was it. The image was transformed into a magical colorful field of color.

Image of Tinkerbell and a composite magical imageHere is another example that actually is very similar to the first image. This time three images were composited to get this magical effect. They are all of weeds on my back porch (no comments please) and the base image is of the center weed in front of a step up. The pretty wild flowers and the front right green were masked from their backgrounds and Refine Edge was used to clean them up. It did an amazing job as it was difficult getting all the stems in the flower looking nice. They were then arranged in the original image and just a lot of exactly the same brushes used above were used to fill in the area. Tinkerbell brush was from Camilak3 on Deviant Art and on a layer below, her skin and clothes were painted in using a watercolor brush. To get the final feel, three four filters were applied as I just could not get it looking the way I wanted. They were Topaz Glow, Nik Viveza 2, Topaz photoFXlab and Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4. I will give the preset settings below under Image 2.

One of the things I am starting to understand is that you can take any brush and basically “own it” by going into the Brush Engine and start playing. Once you like a brush, be sure to save it down as either a Brush Preset by clicking at the bottom of the Brush Panel or Brush Preset Panel, or as a Tool Preset by going to the top left of the options bar and clicking on the tiny arrow to open-click on the Tool Preset icon on right. That way your own version is ready to use over and over. There is no limitation on what you can do with a good basic brush. I have always loved my basic Chalk 60 brush – it just works for me. But now I have been experimenting with more object type brushes and they are turning out to be quite flexible when settings are changed also.

This week I just wanted to let you see how this can be done – it did take several hours to do each image, but they were a lot of fun to do. Since that is what I like to do, it was just perfect. Hope you enjoyed some of the tips and try out a little “magical look” to your images. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image 1:  The Topaz Clarity preset is one I created called SJ White Tulip and here are the settings:  Clarity Dynamics-Micro Contrast -1.00, Low Contrast 0.05, Medium Contrast -1.00, and High Contrast 0; No Tone Levels or Hue/Sat/; and Lum Red 0.09, Yellow 0.42, Green -0.08, Blue 0.38 and all others 0.00; and Tone Level Black Level 0.11, Midtones 0.22, and White Level -0.33; and Sat Yellow 0.22, Green 0.08, Purple 1.00, and Magenta 1.00. Topaz Glow setting is also one I call SJ Mysterious II Water and here are the settings used for it: Primary Glow:  Glow Type Dark, Glow Strength 0.30, Effect Sharpness 0.63, Electrify 0.14, Simplify Details 0.17, Edge Color 0.28, Detail Strength -0.06, Detail Size 0.20, Brightness -0.56, Contrast 0.44, Saturation 0.00, Line Rotation 0.00, and Glow Spread 0.00; Secondary Glow:  Glow Type Light, Glow Strength 0.00, Effect Sharpness 0.22, Electrify 0.03, Simplify Details 0.00, Brightness 0.45, and Contrast 0.64; Color Overall – all set to 0; Red Sat 0.34; Orange Sat 0.33; Yellow Sat 0.03 and Lightness -0.29; Blue Sat 0.42 and Lightness -0.43; and Magenta Sat 0.75 and Lightness -0.35.  Topaz Impression preset is one I call SJ WC like effect on bldgs – here are the settings: started with Watercolor II preset and these were the final settings: Stroke Type 04, Brush Size 0.91, Paint Volume 0.42, Paint Opacity 0.87, Stroke Width 0.33, Stroke Length 0.89, Spill 0.23, Smudge 26, Coverage 1.00, Color Overall Hue 0.15, Saturation -0.20 and Lightness 0.06; Red Sat 0.47 and 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, Vignette 0, and Light Direction X0.33 and Y0.06; and Texture Strength 0.78, Size 0.30, Canvas IV, Background Type solid white, and Background color used #d38967 – all other settings not listed at 0.) Adjust your color swatches to get other color tones.

Image 2: Topaz Glow preset used is called Room Glow by Blake Rudis. (See my blog How To Get the Soft Glow in Topaz Glow for info on creating this setting.) Topaz photoFXlabs is a plug-in that does not support Photoshop CC2014, but can still be used with Photoshop CC which is what I usually use. I love the InstaTone setting in it and it was used for this image. Here are the steps and settings used just in case you own it:  First set Dyanmics slider on duplicate layer to -30; In Brushes, painted in burning around Tinkerbell and then used Detail brush to sharpen her and the line behind her; then set to Smooth to soften the lines in foreground.  Instatone Photo Library using
last image top row to get a nice tone to the image.  Then Adjustments Temp -9, and Dynamics 64. This time Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4 was used to apply just a gentle painterly feel to the final image. Here are the settings used to get the final result of the image: Oil Paint Detail preset modified:  Background Brush Size 14, Photorealism 62, Piant Thickness 84, Stroke Length 11, Color Variation 18 and Brush Style Default Brush, and Random Seed 7556; Detail Masking Effect on Mask 1 – Brush Size -30, Photorealism 80, Paint Thickness -40, Stroke Length 0, Color Variatino -29, and Brush Style -29 painted over Tinkerbell and some of the splatters and the front two flowers; Mask 2 – Brush Size 23, Photorealism 43, Paint Thickness -40, Stroke Length 0, Color Variation -29, and Brush Style Default Brush and painted in some of the center weed; and Mask 3 – same settings as Mask 2 and painted over the line at top; the Mask Tool was set to Size 11, Feather 50 and Amuont 85. Color Brightness 10, Contrast 12, Saturation 14 and Temp 0; Lighting Highlight Brightness 30, Highlight Size 35, Direction 280 and Angle 66, Highlight Color White, Vignette None; and Canvas No Texture.


Image of a Common Moorhen BirdThis week I thought I would just address a topic I consider when choosing pictures to post-process. That is, how do you get the most out of that not quite perfect image that you really like? Many times I end up taking a picture that does not look like much out of camera. I do not want to discard some of these pictures – after all, they are my memories, but it does seem to be a constant battle to figure out a way to pull out a good result with them.

One of the best starts is to try out different crops. Lots of times I have taken too much background and/or foreground in the shot, but the main subject does not look too bad close up. The image above is an example of this. This only works with my better camera where I have pixels to spare. Due to the lower resolution of my phone pix, they may not give a better result with a crop. That is one reason I like filters. So often a special effect turns a shot into something I totally love. With some pretty cool phone apps, you can get some very impressive results. But with my dSLR, I like to use the Photoshop plug-ins since I can often get some good results with marginal images. So let me walk you through the above example.

The image is of a male Common Moorhen – who knew – it was a really striking bird hiding in the grass. (To see the original RAW images, check out the end of the blog.) The patterns in the water were totally lost in the original image, but in Lightroom the image was cropped extensively and a totally different look appears. A good crop can make all the difference. Since cropping can create some rather soft edges in the image, Seim’s Super HDR X preset was applied to sharpen up the image overall. Then in Photoshop, Topaz Detail 3 was used to sharpen just the bird – a black mask was applied and the bird was painted back.  (See sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for Seim’s and Topaz website links.)

Now it was time to try out some different filters on this image. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Topaz Impression was applied. This is such a painterly look that I did not consider it one I would like, but it is still worth trying different effects to see what you get. One of my favorite Topaz filter guys, Blake Rudis, created a video called Atmospheric Backgrounds with Topaz Impression. Since this image had such a crazy zig-zag pattern in the background water, it seemed like a good time to try out the Ethereal Background preset he created in his video. All the settings are listed at the link and it really did calm down the color so the bird stands out. A Lookup Adjustment Layer using the Crisp Winter preset was added and set to 55% layer opacity to cool down the colors just a little bit. The last step was using Nik Viveza 2 to direct the focus to the bird a little more – this is almost always my last step, but it you do not have this filter, try using Photoshop’s Camera Raw filter and adjust some Radial filters in the image. It creates a very similar result and I use it a lot also. I now have a shot I really like!


Image of a Cattle Egret riding on the back of a cowThis beautiful little Cattle Egret was riding on the back of this gigantic cow. I was sitting in the backseat of a car and shot this through the opposite side window – I am still surprised it turned out at all! Now to be honest, this image was not really that great – lots of the background was very blurred. But the bird was not in too bad a shape. This image was turned into a black and white in Lightroom – it really made the bird show up nicely. (Used Seim’s Angels Kiss preset.) Otherwise its tiny size and all the colorful wild grass and reeds really made the bird hard to find. So definitely check out a black and white treatment just to see if it could enhance a rather tired looking color image. This is pretty easy to do in either Lightroom with the canned presets or Photoshop with the black and white adjustment layer.

In Photoshop the Shake Reduction filter was used, and it worked nicely on the bird, but way overdid the rest of the image. Therefore a black layer mask was used and just the bird and part of the palm tree in front were sharpened. The Shake Reduction filter can sometimes really straighten out a soft shot so check it out. Use the black layer mask if it is too much and paint back areas that needed the sharpening.

Use your brushes to paint in over the soft edges of focal objects. A New Layer was created on top and the bird edges were lightly painted in cleanly. Used a tiny soft round brush set to 7 pixels, 30% layer opacity, and sampled the bird color (ALT+click on object) – only painted his edges and a little bit in the beak area.  I still did not like the overall appearance. Topaz Clarity was opened and my SJ Artsy with highlights preset was applied, and all of the sudden it looked so much better! This is a preset I created for something totally different ages ago, but it worked on this image. In a layer mask only the bird was painted back to retain its detail as this preset really softened everything in it. (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 layer opacity was set to 84%. Since this filter was applied to a black and white image, it gave a different result than on color images. The post-processing could have been finished here as it looked pretty good. A blue toned Solid Color Adjustment Layer was placed on top and set to Color blend mode at 33% layer opacity to get a really pretty night feel to the picture. And once again, since the background was pretty busy, Topaz Impression was opened and the new Ethereal Preset by Blake Rudis was applied. The layer was set to 75% layer opacity and in a white mask, the bird and some of the areas I wanted the detail to show up was painted back. The last step was using Nik Viveza 2 to draw the eye to the bird.


Image of a Wood Stork and his reflectionHere is another example of an image a thousand people have taken and I wanted to get something a little different out of it. I have to say I have a soft spot for Wood Storks since they are all around where I live. In Lightroom the Crop was set, Seim’s Super Gentle X was applied, and the head was sharpened with an Adjustment Brush. The Clarity and Sharpness were set up fairly high. In Photoshop the first step was to extend the image size 50% so Flaming Pear’s Flood filter could be used. This is an oldie but goodie filter, but it is still one of my favorites and it gives major realistic results. (Flaming Pear Flood Settings: Horizon 56, Offset 0, Perspective 41, Altitude 29, Waviness 2, Complexity 43, Brilliance 39, Blur 27, Size 0, Height 24, and Undulation 38.)  Next Topaz Detail 3 was applied. (Here are the preset settings: Overall Small Details -0.51, Small Details Boost -0.40, Medium -0.39, Medium Details Boost -0.30, Large Details -0.51, and Large Details Boost -0.41; and Tone Exposure -0.40, Cyan-Red 0.48, Magenta-Green -0.29, and Yellow-Blue 0.31.) This looked really good as is when applied twice. (See my Tidbits A Reflecting Wood Stork blog.) But I decided to go after one application and use Topaz Glow on a stamped layer and my SJ Inter Web Variation preset. (Settings are: Primary Glow Type Dark, Glow Strength 1.00, Effect Sharpness 0.12, Electrify 1.00, Simplify Details 0.06, Edge Color 0, Detail Strength 1.00, Detail Size 0.42, Brightness 0.16, Contrast 0.18, Saturation 0.08, Line Rotation 0, and Glow Spread 0; Secondary Glow Glow Type Light, Glow Strength 0, Effect Sharpness 0.54, Electrify 0.11, Simplify Details 0, Brightness 0, and Contrast 0; Color Overall Saturation to 0.62, Red Sat to 0.44, Yellow Sat to 1.00 Yellow Lightness -0.36, Green Sat 1.00 and Lightness -0.51, Aqua Lightness -0.36, Purple Sat 1.00, and Magenta Sat 1.00 and Lightness 0.50. Set to Screen blend mode at 66% Strength; and no Finishing Touches.) This gave a very, artistic twist to the image. On another stamped layer Topaz ReStyle was applied to get the pretty pink and greens in the image. (Here are the settings: SJ Thistle Blush 2-Sr1 Sh1 preset – ReStyle Sat Fourth 0.78; Lum Fourth -0.52 and Fifth -1.00; and Texture Strength 0.05; Basic Blend Mode Soft Light at 62% opacity; Color Temperature 0.25, Tint 0.42, and Sat -0.06; Tone Black Level -0.33, Midtones -0.06, and White Level 0.64; and Detail Structure -0.09 and Sharpness 0.97.) The lower part of the image was darkened to try and copy the way a true reflection looks. And of course my last step was using Nik Viveza 2.

Original images for the above post-processed images

I am showing thumbnails of what the originals looked like or this whole blog would have little meaning. It really does not matter whose filters you apply or what colors, it is just experimenting until you get something that makes the image look good. I could have used other filters and gotten totally different results. And by using adjustment layers and blend modes, even better results can be achieved. I know I have covered this before, but it is something I consider for the post-processing of each image. I love to just play in Photoshop and have fun – and that is what this whole blog is about. Challenge yourself to get something nice out of a “maybe not so nice” image. Have a good week…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of Somewhere in ScotlandCould not resist blogging just a little bit on what I did recently in my favorite programs, even though I am taking a vacation from blogging. The above image was post-processed in Photoshop – an image in Scotland that I overlooked. Won’t go into great detail as this was pretty basic – each was done on a duplicate layer – Shake Reduction filter, Topaz (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog for website link) Clarity Clouds 1 preset, then Clarity Color and Contrast III preset, Topaz Glow using the Room Glow Blake Rudis preset created in blog link below, a couple Selective Color Adjustments Layers, one for the clouds in particular, and Nik Viveza 2 to adjust vignetting.
Landscape image painted in Corel PainterJust created a little impressionistic painting following the basic steps from Thomas Churchwell’s video called Turner Style Painting in Corel Painter using Marilyn Sholin Brushes. I did have to add the my image in as a Source in the Clone Panel for me to get it all the brushes to clone correctly. And a pretty rough paper texture worked best on the canvas for the effect. Love the free cloner brushes from Marilyn (see bottom blog link below for site).

Well that is it – have a good week!

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Get the Soft Glow in Topaz Glow
Corel Painter’s Auto-Painting Results – Not Bad!


Image of Pink Hibiscus Well, now that the holidays are over, I have had a chance to get reacquainted with Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Glow and start to understand this little gem of a plug-in a little bit more. I watched a Topaz Webinar by Blake Rudis’s (Integrating Topaz Glow into Your Workflow) and then another shorter video (Topaz Glow A Closer Look with Blending Options), and the program actually makes a lot more sense to me. I thought I would show you a few more examples of how Blake is using Glow to get some absolutely beautiful soft glow effects. Click on the Webinar link above for a download button that links to a Glow PDF file showing how to make his presets and several of his actions – I refer to the PDF file all the time now.

For me it seems Topaz Impression works great as the second step once Glow has been applied. The image of the two pink hibiscus has both filters applied. If you would like the detailed steps and plug-in settings used, check Image 1 info below. Two things were done differently from the usual application of this filter: 1. A black layer mask was added to the Glow layer and just the parts where I wanted the Glow to show up were painted back in the layer mask. Since the original image was pretty nice for starters, Glow was used to just add detail and highlights to just the flower centers and leaves – the rest of the image looked way over-the-top with the settings used. 2. Then the layer opacity of the Impression layer was reduced so you can still see some of those preserved Glow strokes. This image resulted in a pretty natural final look, which is what I wanted.

Image of Pink Flowers taken at Epcot Disney WorldThese flowers were taken at Disney World Epcot Center last year. I could not get this image to post-process correctly so I had skipped it. Then Glow came out and it has actually turned it into a rather unique feeling image. Glow added the light to the foreground colors but by using Topaz ReMask, it did not affect the reflection and sky in the background. Then Topaz Impression was applied using one of my presets at 82% Strength. All the steps and settings are below under Image 2.

Image of White Tree In this image of a leafless tree taken from above on my phone, a different workflow was used. First some texture and Topaz ReStyle was applied before Topaz Glow was used. That is because I felt the image needed that beautiful light effect that Blake discusses in his videos. His Room Glow preset was applied at 66% Strength and set to Hard Light blend mode before going back into Photoshop – it basically popped the picture! See Image 3 info for settings.

Image of bottles at Takeya Steak House in Ormond Beach, FloridaThis image is from my favorite eating place in the Daytona Beach area, Takeya Steak House – just the best! I could not resist taking this image while waiting of a table recently. It seemed to be begging for a Glow application, so here it is, but it definitely also shows the fractal side of the plug-in. Not much was done this image other than adding Glow and clean up. See Image 4 for the complete workflow and plug-in settings. I like this sort of illustrative feel that Glow can give to an image.

I decided to give you a small look at the original images as it is really hard to tell what effect this plug-in had on the images without them. So below are the images as they appeared after Lightroom but before Photoshop.
Originals for image shown

This last example is for all of us animal lovers – wanted to show how this plug-in does a great job with lighting on animal images. The image is from MorgueFile Free Photos – this site is loaded with fabulous pictures. The beautiful dog image was taken by GaborfromHungary, and I wish I had taken it. I wanted to try out Blake’s Animal Glow preset. It did not work well with this image, but my Graphic III Beach preset looked real great on the image. You need to try different settings for different types of images. The presets Blake gave us and the ones I am providing are just nice starting places. Once you find one you like, make a few changes for the specific image – you will get a real feel for what the sliders do and what effects you like. For all the settings on the dog image, check out Image 5 below.

Image of a beautiful Huskie dog I hope this blog has shown you how to get some gorgeous lighting effects with this plug-in. One of Blake’s workflow steps when using Glow is t0 set the Overall Saturation to -1.00 so you can see what is going on with the luminance and not the color. Then adjust your saturation back. I find this very helpful to do when adjusting the sliders for each image – you are just looking at the black and white tones and not the vivid colors, which can sometimes get in the way. You really need to at least look at his PDF and try his settings to see how the light effect changes in your images. It really is an incredible result and I am so happy I tried out the presets. Maybe this info will make you look at what can be done with this plug-in from a little different point-of-view – I know it changed how I am using it. Blake has really found a new way to use Topaz Glow that makes this plug-in much more useful and interesting. Hope you give it a try at least! Until next week, stay warm and have a good one!…..Digital Lady Syd.

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Glow
Simply Glowing!
On the Beach
Using Topaz Glow to Add Color
HDR Tree

Workflow Steps and Plug-in Settings:

Image 1: This is a very basic image taken with my Android phone camera, then in Lightroom 2 Lil’ Owl (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Hazy Days 22 preset was applied to get a bit of a Tuscany feel to the image. Once opened in Photoshop, some clean up was done on a New Layer, a stamped layers created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E), and Topaz Glow opened. If you watch Blake’s videos, you will find he uses the plug-in to add a beautiful soft light effect to almost all his images. That is is exactly what I did with this image. A preset I created was used to get some very nice lines in the leaves and flowers and some nice lighting. Then once back in Photoshop, a black layer mask was added (CTRL while clicking on layer mask icon at bottom of Layers Panel) was added – just the flowers and leaves were painted back into the mask. Next Topaz Impression was opened and a preset following the instructions in Blake’s free download PDF (see first paragraph above) was used to create a preset I call Abstract Settings-Blake Rudis. (Here are the settings if you would like them: Primary Glow Type Dark, Glow Strength 1.00, Effect Sharpness 0.12, Electrify 1.00, Simplify Details 0.06, Edge Color 0, Detail Strength 1.00, Detail Size 0.42, Brightness 0.16, Contrast 0.18, Saturation 0.08, Line Rotation 0, and Glow Spread 0; Secondary Glow Glow Type Light, Glow Strength 0, Effect Sharpness 0.54, Electrify 0.11, Simplify Details 0, Brightness 0, and Contrast 0; Color Overall Saturation to 0.62, Red Sat to 0.44, Yellow Sat to 1.00 Yellow Lightness -0.36, Green Sat 1.00 and Lightness -0.51, Aqua Lightness -0.36, Purple Sat 1.00, and Magenta Sat 1.00 and Lightness 0.50. Set to Screen blend mode at 66% Strength; and no Finishing Touches. In this image I set the Primary Glow Saturation to -0.41.) Since I did not want too much applied, the layer was set to 55% opacity. A New Layer was created above and I just painted using my Chalk 60 Brush (just the Shape Dynamics Angle Jitter is set to 19%) to clean up some of the painted areas that need to be smoothed out – here your own touch can be added. Last step was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a little contrast back into the image.

Image 2: Just basic changes were made to this image in Lightroom, no preset. This time Topaz Clarity was applied using the settings Blake suggested in his Webinar (here are his basic settings and they usually are a pretty good starting point for the image: Micro Contrast 0.13, Low Contrast 0.33, and Medium Contrast 0.52 – than can look at histogram and black tone – I did not adjust that here). Next Topaz Remask was used to separate the foreground from the background so Topaz Glow would only be applied to the foreground. In Glow, Blake’s Abstract setting was applied as shown with no changes and no blend mode changed in the plug-in. Back in Photoshop, the blend mode was changed to Pin Light at 100% layer opacity. On a stamped layer (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) above, Topaz Impression was applied using my Abstraction preset set to 82% Strength (Stroke Type 12, Brush Size 1.00, Paint Opacity 0.38, Stroke Rotation 0, Stroke Color Variation 0, Stroke Width 0.85, Stroke Length -0.50, Spill 0.72, Smudge 0, and Coverage 1.00; Color Overall Hue 0.14, Sat 0.23, and Lightness 0.06; Red Lightness 0.14, Yellow Sat -0.11, and Green Lightness -0.36; Lighting Brightness 0.13, Contrast -0.23, and Vignette 0, Light direction X 0.34 and Y 0.05; and Texture Strength 0.19, Size -0.43, and Canvas I, Background type white solid and Background White). Now the painterly effect was added to the whole image, not just the foreground. A little clean up was done and that was it.

Image 3: In Lightroom used 2 Little Owls’ Fresh Color 1 preset. In Photoshop Topaz Clarity was used, but this time John Barclay’s settings were used (check out his Topaz Webinar called Creating Your Images with Topaz Plugins (not posted yet but is from 12/23/14) for another good video and some good Clarity info here.) The settings used for this image are: Micro Contrast 0.36, Low Contrast 0.20, Medium Contrast -0.11, and High Contrast -0.23 (see the stair stepping effect of the sliders) – then he looks at the histogram to adjust the Tone Levels – I usually do this in Photoshop but Clarity does a great job with the tones and colors. I am finding I like these basic settings a lot for this plug-in. Next Painted Textures Thanksgiving Winter Marsh was added twice – once set to Multiply at 64% layer opacity and Blend If This Layer white tab split (ALT+drag) was set to 96/130 and the top texture set to Linear Light at 22% layer opacity. Then Kim Klassen’s Deep Sigh texture was added and set to Hard Light at 74% layer opacity and the layer style Blend If sliders were set to: This layer white tab split and set to 149/196, and Underlying Layer black tab split and set to 14/42. This lightened up the background some. Next on a New Layer I used a brush I created using a portion of French Kiss’s Atelier Georgia texture set to 1600 px and just painted some green texture over the tree and everything –  set layer to Soft Light blend mode. Created stamped layer and applied Topaz ReStyle Regal Blue Shades (settings changed here: Restyle Opacity 50% and Color blend mode; Basic Opacity 22% and Multiply blend mode; Detail Structure 0.50 and Sharpness 1.00. Mask for Basic painted to bring back some of the white in the tree – Brush Strength 0.77, Brush Size 0.05, and Hardness 0.30 using Edge Aware and Color Aware sampling tree branch). On a New Layer above, the Sharpen Tool was used to sharpen up the tree branches – it did a pretty good job on this image. Next Topaz Glow was applied using the setting in Blake’s PDF for his Room Glow preset – the Strength was set to 66% and blend mode was Hard Light before returning back to Photoshop. This one really took a while to complete and ended up very different from the start. Totally fun to do!

Image 4: In Lightroom 2 Lil’ Owls’ At the Vineyard 7 preset was applied. In Photoshop John Barclay’s Topaz Clarity preset was applied with same settings as Image 3. In Topaz Glow I used these settings for my Inter Web Variation preset (Here are the settings: Primary Glow Type Dark, Glow Strength 1.00, Effect Sharpness 0.12, Electify 1.00, Simplify Details 0.06, Edge Color 0, Detail Strength 1.00, Detail Size 0.42, Brightness 0.16, Contrast 0.18, Saturation 0.08, Line Rotation 0, and Glow Spread 0; Secondary Glow Glow Type Light, Glow Strength 0, Effect Sharpness 0.54, Electrify 0.11, Simplify Details 0, Brightness 0, and Contrast 0; Color Overall Saturation to 0.62, Red Sat to 0.44, Yellow Sat to 1.00 Yellow Lightness -0.36, Green Sat 1.00 and Lightness -0.51, Aqua Lightness -0.36, Purple Sat 1.00, and Magenta Sat 1.00 and Lightness 0.50. Set to Screen blend mode at 66% Strength; and no Finishing Touches.) On a New Layer above, the Sharpen Tool was used on the lettering in the bottles and hats. A little vignetting on the sides was applied with a Brown Solid Color Fill Layer with the mask filled with black (CTRL+I in white layer mask) and the edges painted back.

Image 5: First the image was duplicated and taken into Topaz Clarity (John Barclay Basic Settings from Image 3 was used, then Tone Level Black Level 0.13, Midtones -0.16, and White Level 0.30; HSL Filter Sat Red 0.45, Aqua 0.69, and Blue 0.33 were added). The Spot Healing Brush Tool was used to get rid of areas. Then in Topaz Glow my Graphic III Beach preset was applied ( (Here are the adjusted settings I used:  Secondary Glow: Glow Type Light, Glow Strength 0.23, Effect Sharpness 0.47, Electrify 0.17, Simplify Details 0, Brightness 0.36, Contrast 0.62, and the other two 0; Color: Red Sat 1.00, Orange Sat 0.27, Yellow Sat 0.20 and Lightness 0.09, Aqua Sat 0.78 and Lightness -0.26, and Blue Sat 0.49). The Blend Mode and Strength is the same as the blend mode and layer opacity in Photoshop, so usually I do not apply them until I go out of the plug-in so they can be readjusted easily. This time the Overlay blend mode was used and set to 67% layer opacity. A black layer mask was added, and the dog was painted back in. In the Properties Panel, the Density was set to 85% and the Feather 31.6. The last step was a Curves Adjustment Layer that was used to add back just a little contrast and the Blue/Yellow curve was used to move the image to a more cool look. That was it.


Image of a little Native American Girl with headressThis week Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) released their newest plug-in, Glow, and it is once again so fun and unique! I will say right from the start that if you like plug-ins and filter effects in Photoshop, Topaz has the best selection to chose from. They are raising the bar with their new innovative effects to be used in your images. Topaz Glow is so unusual and I did not think I would like it that much – what can I do with it? But after using it for awhile and combining it with some of their other plug-ins, it is becoming one of my favorites. It brings out detail, color and lighting to get some very nice results. So lets see what we have here.

On the image above, of a beautiful little Native American child, is a good example of the use of color and lighting effects to get a lovely result, especially in the headdress area. First used Topaz Clarity’s Skin Smooth and Brighten II preset (these settings were adjusted: Dynamics Micro Contrast -0.36, Low Contrast -0.41, Medium Contrast -0.09, and High Contrast 0.19; Tone Level – Black Level 0.05, Midtones 0.06, and White Level 0.28) for a more natural skin look that this plug-in does so well. Next Topaz Glow was applied using one of my favorite presets, Mysterious I (these settings were adjusted: Overall Saturation 0.22; Red Saturation -0.63 and Red Lightness 0.23; Orange Hue 0.24 and Orange Saturation 0.62; Yellow Saturation 0.46; Blue 0.66; and Purple Saturation 0.68. Set to Multiply Blend Mode at 100% strength). This preset makes the image very dark as it uses a Dark Glow Type. By setting the blend mode to Multiply, the beautiful color and sharpening in the feathers of the headdress is achieved. A layer mask was added and with a soft round black brush, the face was lightly painted back so the filter did not apply to the face.  Several clean up layers were used and a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied to create a black vignette effect by just dragging the top right dot straight down to the .25 line. The face was lightened just a little bit more using the Camera Raw Radial Filter. That was it. There was not really much manipulation to get this nice result. And what is really nice is that the effect is apparent just in the rather straight lines of the image, but it does not look like just a neon application or over-sharpening of the image. Since there was such a drastic change done on this image, the original is shown below for comparison.

I am finding that using images with lines in the objects work well with this program. Glow can really bring out the details that you did not realize were present. I seem to prefer the effect on flowers and grasses,

Image of trees that were painted and taken into Topaz GlowThis image was done just a little differently. It was first painted in Corel Painter using oil brushes where several sources of this same image were used to get a very colorful and illustrative final result. In Photoshop Topaz Glow was added and the Mysterious II preset selected with a few changes. (Changed Secondary Glow to Dark and set Fractal Strength to 0.20, Red Lightness to -1.00, and Sharpness 0.27. Strength 0.82 and Multiply blend mode.) By using the Secondary Glow, the effect could be emphasized even more to create this rather illustrative effect. On a stamped layer Topaz ReStyle’s Dark Goldenrod Sunset preset (Detail Structure 0.50 and Sharpness 1.00) was applied. I was really please how Painter worked with Glow.

What I Like About Topaz Glow

1. Love the totally unique effects this plug-in creates! Like I said, at first I was not sure how I would use it, but once I got the feel for what the different collections (6 collections and 50 presets) are doing, it became much easier to figure out and get the subtle looks I like.

2. I have an older computer and this plug-in zipped along really nicely when adjusting the large number of sliders (over 70) that were required to get the effects I liked.

3. The results actually work very nicely with several other plug-ins I like to use a lot, especially Topaz Impression and Topaz ReStyle. Below are examples of each of these being used with Glow.

4. Having a duplicate set of sliders to use as a Secondary Glow makes it very useful to fine-tune an effect. I am using this more as I get used to what the slider do.

What I Don’t Like About Topaz Glow

1. There is not an undo function. It makes it a little hard to compare the old setting to the new setting. The company is promising this will be in the update for the program – which by the way, is always free to people who have purchased the program. Maybe this should go under What I Like…… hum! Also you have to go back to the preset list, click on a different preset, and and then go back in to the original preset and start over if you do not like some of your changes.

2. Wish Glow had a mask so the effect could be removed from parts of the image and remain on other parts. Right now you have to apply the effect, then add a layer mask in Photoshop and paint out the effect with a black brush in the mask, to localize the result.

3. Wish we had a few more blend modes to chose from – currently just Normal, Multiply, Screen, Overlay, Soft Light and Hard Light are available.

Image of my miniature mums and Boston Fern on my porchThese are my miniature mums that bloomed on my porch a month ago – they are my very favorite mums! What worked in this image are the lines in the flowers and fern that Glow emphasized. To create this effect, first in Lightroom Seim’s (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) PowerWorkflow Magic Portrait preset and Dave Delnea’s Backlight 002 vertical preset.  (If you want some spectacular lighting effects in Lightroom, you need to check out Dave’s inexpensive presets. These may be the best ones I have ever downloaded.) I like the effect of Glow and Impression used together, which is what this image did. The basic steps are as follows: On a duplicate layer, Topaz Detail 3 was applied using my preset (Medium Details 0.38, Large Details 0.16, and Contrast 0.30). Some clean up was done on a New Layer. Created a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and Topaz Glow was opened – Wonderland preset was applied and set to Multiply blend mode at 66% opacity while still in the plug-in. Now you start to see the magical effect this plug-in can creates. Next Topaz Impression was applied on another stamped layer using the Monet II preset as is. A layer mask was added and some of the Glow detail in the flowers was painted back. One again a Radial filter was used to dial in the center right flowers which is the focal point of the image. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used to add contrast back into the image. Remember that when you apply lots of filters from these plug-in, you almost always need to add a Curves Adjustment Layer or Levels Adjustment Layer to bring back the contrast that gets lost.

Image of Disney Parking Lot Tram Another example of some of the effects you can get on an image. I created this preset and cannot figure out what preset I started using – even my settings are off a bit so I will try to reconstruct this and present another example. The nice webbing effect in the sky and the sleek colors in the front tram area are apparent. To me, this is the way it should look at Disney. The original of this is one is also shown below to give you a comparison. Also Smart Photo Editor using Burton’s frame and lowered effect so some color came through, and Violet Dream effect was used for the border.
Original Images before Topaz Glow appliedTopaz has included their really great color sliders which gives a lot of flexibility to making the image colors look correct. I almost always adjust these sliders in both Glow and Impression. Also I seem to prefer the Multiply blend mode, but discovered that by reducing the Brightness slider some of the other Overlay, Soft Light and Hard Light blend modes will work nicely. I also discovered that the Electrify slider can give some really crazy results so sometimes it needs to be reduced. Still exploring how all these sliders work together – lots of fun here!

There are a couple of things that can be done to make using this program a lot easier. First, check out the manual that does a pretty decent job of explaining all the sliders and what they do. (Go to Help -> User’s Manual) And what I consider is the best resource is to go to Topaz’s webinars website and watch their wonderful videos. UPDATE: Topaz has now posted a really good video called Introduction to Topaz Glow. I find it extremely helpful to know what the software designers were thinking when the program was designed and how others use the plug-in. For example, I learned that in the Neon Collection, if you do not like the non-natural colors in the preset, reduce the Edge Color slider by moving it left to get a more natural look. Or that the Heavy Metal presets look good on cars! Still working on that one. I believe Topaz does have some of the best instructional videos.

Bottom Line

If you love the special effects that so many of Topaz’s filters create, this is a definite “Yes” for you! It creates some very different results and works nicely with their other creative plug-ins. I have been having a lot of fun working on different types of images and will present more as the holidays get past. This is not just a neon filter, but lots of different effects that use the neon-type effect as a starting place. Topaz has once again created something totally different and for that I am grateful – no one else seems interested in doing this. It definitely adds something new in the “artistic” area to give more of a creative style to an image. Thank you Topaz!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Simply Glowing!


Image of outdoor cafe in Edinburgh, ScotlandSince such a busy week so I thought I would just post some of the painterly effects I have been trying and maybe give you some new ideas to improve your digital artistic flair! The above was done completely with Photoshop plug-ins – I am always amazed at how these results can be achieved with a little mix and matching! This image used Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Clarity, Topaz Impression twice, Topaz ReStyle, and Nik Viveza 2. For the specific settings, check out Image 1 info at end of blog.

Image of some painted looking gondolasThese gondolas I had actually painted in Corel Painter before opening them up in the Smart Photo Editor. Check out Image 2 info for the shorter details in this case!

Image of some red roses paintedThis is an image I did mostly in Corel Painter 2015, but finished up in Photoshop. The roses were painted from an image taken at the grocery store and painted on a gray background where the finished image was saved as a Photoshop file in Painter. See Image 3 for more info.

Image of a Bird Still LifeThis image I set up and took in my home-sort of a little still life. Wanted to remind everyone that Photoshop still does a great job of getting that painterly look with its wonderful brush engine. This image used Melissa Gallo’s Antique Rose Canvas texture for the beautiful background effect. More info under Image 4 below.

I know I have said it several times before, but it is definitely a lot of fun to mix and match the different softwares and plug-ins to get different effects. This is definitely worth the time exploring if you are interested in creating unique artistic effects. Now that there are so many apps that can be uploaded to fix up phone images, it is hard to look unique and not just canned. That is why you have to pay attention to how these programs work together. Hope you get some time to paint and play with your plug-ins over the holidays and try out some new combinations……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Painterly Plug-ins – So Many Choices, So Many Choices!
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Smart Photo Editor Photoshop Plug-In
Getting Back to Playing in Photoshop

Image 1:  Started in Lightroom with a preset I created from David duChemin’s wonderful, but dated book, called Vision & Voice which used Lightroom 3. It is just a Split Toning setting which means it can be used with other Lightroom settings. Highlight Hue is 50, Saturation 60, Shadows Hue 266 and Saturation 35 – that’s it! I have used this preset a lot in the past as it creates a very pretty tint. Clean up was done to remove some people walking. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Topaz Clarity’s Color & Contrast Boost III preset was applied as is. On a new stamped layer, Topaz Impression’s Charcoal I preset was applied. Then the layer style was opened (double click on the layer to open) and set the Blend Mode to Divide, Opacity to 32%, Blend If Gray-This Layer white split tab (ALT and drag to separate) and set to 90/156. Added a Solid Color Fill Layer set to Color Blend Mode using R77G51B31 reddish/sepia tone. Topaz Impression was applied on a new Stamped Layer using my Watercolor-like effect on buildings preset – what the heck is this! Okay, this little preset is one I am using a lot in this plug-in so you would like to try it, here are the settings for SJ WC like effect on bldgs preset (started with Watercolor II preset and these were the final settings: Stroke Type 04, Brush Size 0.91, Paint Volume 0.42, Paint Opacity 0.87, Stroke Width 0.33, Stroke Length 0.89, Spill 0.23, Smudge 26, Coverage 1.00, Color Overall Hue 0.15, Saturation -0.20 and Lightness 0.06; Red Sat 0.47 and 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, Vignette 0, and Light Direction X0.33 and Y0.06; and Texture Strength 0.78, Size 0.30, Canvas IV, Background Type solid white, and Background color used #d38967 – all other settings not listed at 0.) Adjust your color swatches to get other color tones – this is the secret to this preset. Next was Topaz ReStyle set to my SJ BW with greens preset (changed ReStyle blend mode to Color; Color Style Sat Primary -0.14, Secondary 0.48, Third 0.77 and Fifth -0.58; Lum Third 0.57; Basic Opacity 76% and blend mode Luminosity; Color Temperature -0.58, Tint -0.22, Saturation -0.11; Tone Black Level -0.59, Midtones -0.16, and White Level 0.36; and Detail Structure 0.73). On a new Stamped layer, opened Nik Viveza 2 and just add a little extra Structure, Contrast, Saturation and Warmth on the people in the center – basically my focal point area. Next another Stamped layer and Photoshop’s Gaussian Blur was applied using a Radius of 8.4. Adding a black layer mask, paint out just some of the signs so you cannot see all the writing too clearly – it draws away from the focal point. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added to add back some contrast. Next a Color Balance Adjustment Layer was added (Highlights Cyan-Red -5, Magenta-Green -4, and Yellow-Blue -37; Midtones Cyan-Red -2, Magenta-Green -6, and Yellow-Blue +17; and Shadows Cyan-Red +2, Magenta-Green -6, and Yellow-Blue -3). Next I painted a white edge frame around the image. This was a rather extensive workflow, but I love the results!

Image 2: The Photo art at a click of 050 preset by andrewb2012 was applied. (Here were the settings: Effect Controls: Master Fade all the way right; Multi-color Match 0.81, Exp -0.029, Highlight Clipping 0.254, High Clip Detail 0.044, Vibrance 0.673, Hue -1.000, Sat -0.312, Bright 1.156, Gamma -0.223, Contrast -0.085, High Clipl 0.421, High Clipl Detail 0.54, Vibrance 0.85, Hue 0.146, and Sat 0.265.) Used Grunge White Border by superdave to add the pretty edging, and then went out of Smart Photo Editor. Took the same layer back into Smart Photo Editor and applied the Photo art preset again with a little less Master Fade. This produced quite an interesting effect. This plug-in is so much fun!

Image 3: To learn to do this effect in Corel Painter, I have to thank Melissa Gallo and her Painter Workshop for Photographers and the Autumn Still Life Workshop. If you use Painter and want to get the most out of your brushes, definitely sign up for one of her future workshops. In Photoshop Two Little Owl’s Shabby Creek texture was applied and was set to Darker Blend Mode at 61% layer opacity. In the Layer Style the Blend If Gray This Layer white tab was split to 190/227. French Kiss’s Brayer Blocks 13 was added and a copy of the background layer was clipped to the png file (ALT+click between the layers to clip). A Stamped layer was created on top and Topaz ReStyle was opened using the Orange Bush in Snow preset (these settings were adjusted: ReStyle opacity 57%, Hue Primary -0.89, Third -0.31, and Fourth 0.30; Sat Primary 0.84 and Secondary -0.03; Lum Primary -0.06, Secondary 0.25, Third -0.62, Fourth -0.16, and Fifth 0.08; Texture Strength 1.00; Basic Blend Mode Color; Temperature 0.22, Tint 0.50, and Saturation -0.17; Tone Black Level 0.41, Midtones -0.39, and White Level 0.13; and Detail Structure 0.86 and Sharpness 0.45). Nik Viveza 2 was used to emphasize the top rose and add a little structure into the bottom two roses. Four New Layers were used to selectively sharpen and paint in to fix distracting areas. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added for more contrast and another Levels Adjustment Layer was created. The layer mask was turned to black by CTRL+clicking in the mask and painting back just the very center of the flower.

Image 4: This image was done totally in Photoshop following the directions of Melissa Gallo’s Painting with Photoshop. This was definitely the turning point for me in understanding the brushes and how to use them. This image was cleaned up a lot and Topaz Detail 3 was used to sharpen up the image. Most of the technique is how Melissa uses layers and brushes to get the final effect. Just wanted to let everyone to know that Photoshop can be very effective as an artistic form. Just experiment with the different types of brushes and you may be surprised how nice an effect you can get from them.


Image of a beach on Greater Guana Cay in The BahamasJust having some fun and showing a couple files I worked with this week. This image was taken on the beach in front of Nippers Beach Bar and Grill on the Greater Guana Cay in The Bahamas. They claim to be located on the beach right off the third largest coral reef in the world. Totally fun place to go and I thought this was a rather fetching way to end the summer season before moving on to fall!

So what did I do to get this look? It did not start out this way at all – it was just a nice beach picture which I liked just because the water was so pretty and the people were doing something interesting. I did not follow my basic plug-in workflow like I did in the image below. In Lightroom Seim’s (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) PW4 Magic-Ugly Shade Fixer and Sampler Tone Chocolate presets were applied. Then in Photoshop the Shake Reduction filter was used – I am finding it works really well with any of my hand-held shots – subtle but nice difference! On a New Layer the Patch Tool was used to remove a few people in the right side of the image. The image looked pretty nice and what I thought I would originally post, but then I added Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) ReStyle using my favorite preset, Cream and Plum. (Settings changed: Hue Primary -0.31; Sat no changes; and Lum Primary 0.08, Secondary 0.42, and Fourth -0.47; Texture Strength 0.44; Color Tone Black Level -0.81, Midtones 0.05, and White Level 0.20; and Detail Structure 0.34 and Sharpness 0.80.) This brought back a lot of the detail in the sand and water, but also gave the whole image a bit of a pink feel –  therefore in an added black layer mask (when you click the layer mask icon, hold down the CTRL key also to get a black mask), the people were painted in to remove the effect back in Photoshop. This layer was set to 89% opacity to reduce the overall effect a little.

Then a Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was added using a cream color (#eee3b9) set to Color Blend Mode at 34% layer opacity. The layer mask was turned to black (CTRL+I inside mask thumbnail) and the people were painted back. This color gave them more of a natural tan look. The photographer’s pants were bright red and drawing the eye away from the girls, so another Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was added to turn the pants to a brown color (#221007). Did the same thing – filled the layer mask to black and just painted back the pants. It was also set to Color Blend Mode at 100% layer opacity. This is a cool way to change colors to an object in the photo – and by dragging in the Color Picker, you can see the change in live preview so you get just the right tone. I would recommend changing the layer to Color Blend Mode first before choosing a color so you can see the effect different colors are having. On a Stamped Layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Nik’s Viveza 2 was opened. Ten control points were added, mainly to the people and water at top edge to get nice effects. Did you know that if a control point overlaps into a different object and the results look bad, you can set another controlpoint  on that part – don’t have to make any slider changes – and it goes back to the original color(s)? By adjusting the size, you can remove any bad effects. I just love this plug-in!

On another Stamped layer, Nik’s Analog Efex Pro 2 was opened. I just love making my own presets so that is what I did in this plug-in. Only 4 sections were used: Basic Adjustments, Light Leaks, Lens Vignette, and Levels % Curves. (I named this preset Blown Out Beach and here are the settings if you are interested: Basic Adjustments – Detail Extraction 45%, Brightness -4%, Contrast 13%, and Saturation 0%; Light Leaks – Strength 23%, Soft type with the first top left corner leak used and set on the mid lower right between the girls; Lens Vignette – Amount 52%, slider under the ct in Rectangle, and Size 53%; and Levels & Curves – the grid is 16 blocks x 16 blocks so I will try to get the right location for the dots – RGB – (3,1) (9,10) (16,16), Luminosity (2,0) (11,8) (16,14.5), Red (0,0) (7,8 ) (16,16), Green (0,0) (3.5, 3) (16,16), and Blue (0,0) (5.5, 5.5) (13.5, 12.5) (16,16), and Opacity set to 70%.)

The last step involved adding Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Detail 3 (also one of my very favorite plug-ins) using another preset I created that caused this rather soft blur effect (settings for my preset I call Soft Leaves are: Detail – Small Details -0.51, Small Details Boost -0.40, Medium Detail -0.39, Medium Details Boost -0.30, Large Details -0.51, and Large Details Boost -0.42; and Tone Exposure -0.40, Cyan-Red 0.58, Magenta-Green -0.29, and Yellow-Blue 0.31.) The Tone Exposure sliders really added the nice color to the water. The last step was a “clean up” layer where the skin was smoothed by sampling color and painting with a soft round brush.

Image of Sandhill Cranes on our local golf courseI loved these wonderful Sandhill Cranes that were wandering around our golf course this week. I have never seen this type of bird here, so I had to rush and get their picture! What gorgeous birds! Every bit as majestic as the beautiful Herons that are all over the place! Since fall is arriving, I felt a fall feel should be added to the image. Following my basic workflow from my my Digital Lady Syd’s Plug-in Workflow blog, these effects were added: in Lightroom Seim’s Super Hero X Natural and Tint Bronzed Sepia presets were applied; in Photoshop the Shake Reduction was applied using Auto settings; Topaz Detail 3 was applied using my favorite preset (Detail Overall Medium Details 0.38 and Large Details 0.16 and Tone Contrast 0.30 and Shadows -0.01 ); next Nik’s Analog Efex Pro 2 created in first image was used (for this image these settings are different: set to Basic Adjustments with Detail Extraction to 70%, Brightness -23%, Contrast -9% and Saturation 28%; Light Leak Strength 36% and set in middle; and Lens Vignette – Amount 68%, Full right to Rectangle, Size 56% and set just above the birds); a New Layer was added for some burning on edges of the birds (see my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog); another New Layer was added and by using a soft low opacity brush, haloing was removed around the birds since this was taken on an Android phone; another New Layer was added where the vignette border was filled in using the Kahara brush created in my How to Easily Create a Photoshop Brush for Painting Blog; a Curves Adjustment Layer was added for a little contrast to the image; and finished up with Nik’s Viveza 2 setting control points on the two left birds to sharpen and highlight a little, and on the background trees to give the soft fall color look – one of my favorite ways to end post-processing an image.

I really enjoy working with the plug-ins because they can give your image a unique effect if used properly. Nik’s Analog Efex Pro 2 and Viveza 2 work very well together. I do still love a good photograph but I am constantly trying to find something that is totally different, and the plug-ins often give me lots of options for this. It does take time to understand what each does, but once you find an effect you like, saving a preset speeds up the process for the  next time you use the the plug-in. Short but sweet blog for this week. Have a good one!…..Digital Lady Syd


Sign on a deserted beach in Spanish Cay in the BahamasLittle bit of a strange title, but that is exactly where I am with this huge program. I decided to try and see what I could do with this new version of Corel Painter 2015 (this website has lots of resources to help you out), but I must be honest and say I keep falling back on my Photoshop painting experience. I was having a hard time deciding if it was worth the upgrade since I am still just learning this program. I do believe I am happy with the new version if for no other reason than it seems to be running a lot smoother on my older computer. Since I have not fully explored all the new “bells and whistles,” I am not considering this a review – just showing you what I am trying out using this updated version of Painter – I by no means have even scratched the surface of this program. For those who are in the know about Painter, Aaron Rutten has a great video on all the new things called What’s New In Corel Painter 2015 that I just watched and was really surprised at all the updates (he also gives useful tips on how to use them).

The sign image above was located on a beautiful beach on a basically deserted cay – only a marina and small hotel/restaurant were open – but lots of abandoned buildings from the 1990’s were still standing. It was taken at Spanish Cay in the Abacos. Most people only stop here in their boats to get through Customs for entering The Bahamas. This image was first processed in Lightroom using Seim’s (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog for website link) Power Workflow 4 Super Hero X-Natural preset. The lettering was also sharpened with a Local Brush set to high in Clarity and Sharpen. In Photoshop clean up was done to the image and Topaz (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog for website link) Detail 3 was used to sharpen up just the lettering again (a black mask was added to the Detail layer and only the signs were painted back). A Curves Adjustment Layer was used to get rid of some of the shadows on the signs – once again a black layer mask was applied and just the brightened shadow areas were blended back into the image. Topaz Adjust 5’s French Countryside preset (one of a couple of my favorites in Adjust) was applied and this time a white layer mask was added in Photoshop and only the lettering brought back since there is some diffusion going on in this preset.

I opened up the original image in Corel Painter 2015 to try it out. I selected a clone brush using the Cloner Category – Bristle Brush Cloner (which is not new) to paint in the signs and some foreground on the Canvas layer. On a New Layer above I used Karen Bonaker’s July Cloud Category brushes (these were made for the X3 version, but once Imported they seem to work fine) – she did a wonderful video using her Cloud Brushes called Corel Painter Mixed Media Painting (if you have the time, it is worth the watch) and she lets you download them for free from the Digital Arts Academy – actually love all her brushes but these are especially nice. Her Simple Cloud brush was used to create the blue water effect and her Soft Cloud New and Summer Sky brushes were used in the sky. On another New Layer from the new Particles Category – my SJ Spring Feathers Sketch brush variant was used – same as the original Particle brush variant designed by Cher Pendarvis (of Painter Wow! book fame and another one of my favorite Corel Masters) for outlining the signs except in the Brush Calibration Panel the Enable Brush Calibration was checked – the brush just worked better for me this way. I did learn that if you open up this little gem of a panel and check the Enable Brush Calibration box and either adjust the sliders or open up the brush window to add your own stroke effect, you can override your general brush calibration settings and make it specific for this brush variant. Very cool! To learn more about this brush, check out her short video called Painter 2015 Particle Feather Sketch Brush – this brush is turning out to be a new favorite for me. To learn about brush calibration in major detail, check out Jason Maranto’s Chapter 04 Part 01 video on Brush Tracking (I have been following his free Painter 2015 Video Manual series on You Tube – he is doing a fabulous job covering this program.) The image was now saved as a Photoshop (PSD file) and reopened in Photoshop.

Now the cool thing – opened up both versions in Photoshop. Did some clean up to the Corel file layers and added a stamped copy on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E). Copied the Topaz Detail layer into this image to restore the sign lettering. This could be done by adding to the Topaz Detail layer a black layer mask and painting with a white brush just the lettering, or by placing the Detail layer under the stamped Painter layer with a white layer mask and painting with a black brush the the lettering – either way works just fine. Or use the Clone Stamp Tool between the two files to restore the lettering. All work equally well. I am sure I could also have done this some way in Painter, but I have not tried that yet. On a New Layer on top, my chalk brush was set to 19% brush opacity and used to paint in the ground area in the background – the complimentary color from the blue sky tones was used as a color.  To get a complimentary color quickly invert your image (CTRL+I in image thumbnail in Layer Panel) and then sample by ALT+clicking in the image to get color, and finally undo this step. Or add an Invert Adjustment Layer, sample the image, and then delete it. Also added a little bit of this color in the foreground. Next added a Selective Color Adjustment Layer and only adjusted the Neutrals – Cyan +2, Magenta +6, Yellow +3, and Black +17 set to Absolute, just enough to pop the image a little. Another stamped layer was added and Nik Viveza 2 was applied – it was used to bring out the sky and yet slightly soften the structure, and to sharpen the signs a little more. Added a Levels Adjustment Layer and moved Midtones to 0.79 and Output Levels to 36/255. This just gave me the effect I wanted. Usually I use Curves for both of the last two layer adjustments, but I could not get it to look right so I tried something else. That is the end of my workflow for this image. It took a lot more work than I expected but I am find that this is what happens when you are looking for the right effect and working between programs. Here is a link to the first time I published this image, if you are interested.

Image of a Small Barge docked at Spanish Cay in the BahamasThis small barge that was docked at the Marina in Spanish Cay in the Bahamas. Not sure why I painted it, but it was something different to try. Admittedly, I am still in the learning process with using Painter so I am trying out different types of images. I still like doing the final tweaks back in Photoshop and find I am using almost the same workflow I used when just painting in Photoshop. So for a quick recap of how I got to this point, and unfortunately this one took me a while also, the workflow is as follows. Topaz Clarity’s Color & Contrast Boost III preset was used with no changes – wanted a more natural looking sharpening and Detail made it too crisp. Next added Painted Textures Christmas texture and set to Luminosity Blend Mode at 100% layer opacity. I decided to use this as a sort of underpainting since it gave a really simplified view of the image. A layer mask was applied and the barge and some of the pier was painted back in. On top French Kiss’s (see) Studio 3 Wave texture was applied and set to Screen at 79% layer opacity.

Image was opened in Painter several layer were created. First used more of Karen Bonaker’s wonderful July Clouds category brushes from above. On one layer used Impressionist Sky brush variant with blues and whites to create a hint of clouds – layer was set to 17% layer opacity later in Photoshop, and another layer used the Impressionist DW brush variant at 105 pixel size where different colors were added to background to give a green yellow foliage feel and add some color interest. It was also set to Multiply at 76% layer back in Photoshop later. Another Painter person to follow is Aaron Rutten – I have been trying out his Corel Painter 2015 Custom Workspace and brushes and used his Smooth Palette Knife brush variant to emphasize the white color to the barge. I like a lot of his brushes and he also has some great instructional videos on You Tube. Next layer used a brush I created after watching Painter 2015 Particle Brushes Featuring Jeremy Sutton. It was based on one of the new particle brushes, Gravity Lazy Sketch which I really like, but in the Particle General Panel, Jeremy explains some changes that can be made. For my brush I set the Count from 32 to 73, Global Chaos from 0 t0 10, and Local Chaos from 0 to 32. A rather shimmery brush was created that was used add some depth to the water areas and some of the sky. Really liked the effect. Image was then saved and brought back into Photoshop where I proceeded to add yet another layer on top where my SJ Chalk Brush as a regular brush was used to soften some of the harsh edges on the boat. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to get a good contrast. A stamped layer was created and Topaz ReStyle’s Silver and Ivory Cloak preset was used. (Here are the adjusted settings if you are interested: ReStyle Layer Opacity 66% and set to Luminosity blend mode; Color Style Hue Primary 0.14, Fourth 0.14, and Fifth -0.44; Sat Primary 0.14, Secondary 0.02, Third -0.12, Fourth -0.47, and Fifth 0.09; and Lum Secondary 0.16, Third 0.67, Fourth -0.31, and Fifth 0.06; Texture Strength -0.77; Basic Color Temperature 0.33 and Saturation 0.03; Tone Black Level 0.31, Midtones -0.27 and White Level -0.17; and Detail Structure -0.03 and Sharpness 0.66; and in Masks painted back the white of the boat using Brush Edge Aware, Strength 0.55; Brush Size 0.25 and Hardness 0.30, then switched to Strength 0.18 and painted a bit of the in barge softly.) Set this layer back in Photoshop to Overlay at 71% layer opacity. Created another stamped layer on top and this time opened up Nik Viveza – added 13 control points to get the colors the way I liked them! Not sure I have ever used this many before. Mainly wanted to make sure the barge was working properly as the focal point. That was about it. I am always amazed how much work goes into creating these paintings, but usually I like the results if I spend the time doing it.

Well, as you can see I was able to get use some of the new things in Painter, especially the Brush Calibration panel for brush tracking and the new Particle brushes. Watching Jason’s videos (link above) is taking up a lot of time, but he is really covering the different topics very thoroughly so I am find them very helpful – and a lot of it is just on basic Painter. Since there are not many books on the newer versions available, these videos are a great resource. Hope you have all at least downloaded the trial to see what you think. Oh yes, another thing that is pretty cool is that there are now live previews like in Photoshop when using commands like Equalize and others I have not tried. That is very handy! Hopefully I will start to pull some of these new changes into my limited workflow and start painting more creatively! Well, I must get back to my painting and practice, practice, practice!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image from The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad Stunt Show at Universal StudiosThis week I just did what I call some “fun” Photoshop and just played. Know I have touched on these things before, but liked the results so thought I would share again and go through my plug-in workflow. This time I have added small images showing the results of each plug-in layer. Also wanted to say thanks to the Photography Club of Flagler County, the club to which I am a proud member, for letting me “bend their ears” for an hour on my passion of painting using Photoshop. So many of its members are totally excellent photographers so check them out!

As I said before, for some reason I really loved Universal Studios Orlando and got some different shots when visiting. This image was from The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad Stunt Show. I liked the flames and graininess that were due to the high ISO (1250) needed to take this shot. The original RAW file was extremely dark (see below). Probably not the best image for drawing your eye to the focus point, which to me was the girl, but I still liked the image so here it is. In the original image as it came from Lightroom, Seim’s Super Gentle X preset was applied as a starting point. Have not talked much about Gavin Seim’s Power Workflow 4.1 Lightroom presets (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) – I really like them and find I almost always use them over playing with the sliders in Lightroom now. They are different from others I have bought – uses a lot of curves and HSL changes to get some very natural effects. You can download a free sampler, which is how I got started with them, and if interested, watch for the good sales he offers every now and then. He also has a really interesting You Tube video called Gavin Seim’s History of Photography. The Noise Luminance was set to 26, Detail 59, and Contrast 30 to handle some of the noise issue. Below is the RAW file and the file as it looked when brought into Lightroom. If that does not sell you on using Lightroom or Camera Raw, I am not sure what will!

Image of Raw file of Sindbad showImage of original file with Lightroom changes of Sindbad Show

Next Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Clarity was used – I did not want to sharpen the noise, but definitely wanted a more natural sharp look to the image so Clarity was used instead of Topaz Detail. The Micro Color Boost II preset was used with a few adjustments (Dynamics White Level -0.55; Hue/Sat/Lum settings: Hue Orange -0.06 and Magenta -0.61; Sat Orange 0.42, Yellow 0.03, Green 0.47, Blue 0.77, and Overall 0.33; and Lum Red 0.17, Orange -0.14, Green 0.38, Aqua 0.33, Blue 0.19, Purple 0.16, and Magenta 0.36). Back in Photoshop a black layer mask was added so the effect was removed, and then it was painted back in where I wanted the nice saturated colors showing up, mainly the foreground and flames. The image below has just Clarity applied. Very subtle difference from the Lightroom preset image – mainly shows up in the colors in the foreground.

Image of Sindbad Show after using Topaz ClarityOn a duplicated layer (CTRL+J) Topaz Black & White Effects was opened and the Toned Collection Sepia II preset was chosen. This time a lot of the settings were changed, or else it would look like sepia, right? Here are the settings used (Selected the 4th over teardrop which set the settings for Section 4 Finishing Touches Silver and Paper Tone. Left Basic Exposure with preset settings. Adaptive Exposure was set to 0.24 and other setting left as set. Creative Effects Diffusion set to Softness 0.71, Diffusion 0.67, and Diffusion Transition 0.56. Finishing Touches used the Quad Tone settings provided by the preset. Vignette was set and centered on the girl. Vignette Strength set to -0.28, Vignette Size 0.61, Vignette Transition 0.83, and Vignette Curvature 0.82. Transparency set to 0.40 to just bring a little color back into the image). What is really neat about Black & White Effects is that the Local Adjustments section has so much variety that you can sort of sculpt the image. Therefore all the brushes were used to enhance most of the special effects above. First the Detail brush was used to paint over the girls face and body to emphasize it a little more. Used these settings for all brushes: brush opacity of 0.14, Hardness 0.00 and Edge Aware of 0.50. This is just enough opacity to see a change. Painted over the area again where more detail was needed. Second, painted with the Color brush over the flames once, her face several times, and her body once. Also the foreground color was lightly painted over. Third, painted with a Smooth brush over the flames – I usually do not see much of a change here with this brush but I wanted the overall feel soft, so it was used. Fourth, painted with the Burn brush on the areas that shows up too bright around the edges. This included part of the flames on the right edge. Fifth, painted with Dodge brush just around the large pot in the foreground and her pant legs to brighten these areas up just a little. In Photoshop a white layer mask was added and some of the detail was painted back in the foreground and flames – that is because the Diffusion settings were pretty strong in this plug-in. I wanted to use it for a more ethereal feel, but there are places that needed more detail. The Local Adjustment brushes did add some of this detail back, but there is a little more painting control back in Photoshop. Once again the difference was very subtle, but there is some definite darkening going on by adding this plug-in. Also, this plug-in’s layer was only set to 59% layer opacity which also lessens the effect. Below is how the image was starting to appear with Black & White Effects applied.

Image of Sindbad Show with Black & White Effects applied

Two Curves Adjustment Layers were added to darken the edges down and brighten the girl just a little. Below you can see the Adjustment Layer mask’s were turned black (CTRL+I inside the mask to turn it black) and a white brush was used to paint back the localized sections to reveal. Since I am never one to leave things alone, Nik’s Viveza 2 was used to add the red tones to the flames (actually used the little eyedropper under the Hue slider and sampled the red in the flame to add more) and pop her face a little (mainly used just a little Contrast of 28% and Structure of 44% to make the face show up just a little more). You can see the flame settings in the screenshot below. (Click on image to see settings larger in Flickr.)

Screen Capture Image of Nik Viveza 2 settingsSince the effect was still a little strong, a black layer mask was added and just the areas I wanted more were painted back in white, of course using my Chalk Brush 60 with 19% Angle Jitter. How cool to use so many of my favorite plug-ins in one image. The final image is shown at top of blog and below is an image of the Layers Panel from the finished file. (Click on the Layer Panel to see close-up in Flickr.)
Image of Layers Panel for Sindbad ShowWell I hope this gave you some insight into how to do use plug-ins effectively in Photoshop. You do not have to overdo the effect – can just add a black layer mask in Photoshop and paint back with white where you want the effect to show up. Or try changing the Layer Opacity or Blend Mode to get a different look. And don’t forget to try some different types of brushes other than the Round brush when painting in that layer mask. Lots of choices here! Until later…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How Topaz Black & White Effects Can Create Some Surprising Results!
More Clarity on Topaz Clarity
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Clarity
Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem!


Image of Pink Chrysanthemums in BelarusIt seems like this has become a rather popular look, especially with the Vintage Film looks that are so popular right now. Thought I would preset a few different sources for creating some nice looking light leak effects. The Belarusian Chrysanthemum image above used the Light Leak tab (see below) in Nik’s Analog Efex Pro (Crisp – 5th row down-3rd over) to get this nice subtle effect on these flower.

Lightroom Technique

Image of St. Andrews Castle in Scotland using light leak effectWell I just found several good short Lightroom videos that Gavin Hoey, a great Photoshop guru from England, posted on his Gavtrain website. I followed his Light Leak Effect Creative Lightroom Episode 1 to get the beautiful color in this image of St. Andrews Castle in Scotland. He gives you two ways to do this, one using Graduated Filters (the left side of image) and one using the newer Radial Filter in Lightroom (the right side of the image). I was totally surprised how nice this turned out. First I applied Jack Davis Cross Processing 01 Lightroom preset (basically it is a higher Clarity, lower Vibrance and higher Saturation for the sliders, and a slight backward S-shaped Tone Curve – download his Lightroom presets on link above) before adding Gavin’s light leaking effect. In the Adjustment Brush settings that Gavin used, I did change a few settings to get the effect to look right on this image. The image was taken into Photoshop where Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Clarity was opened and the Architecture Collection’s Exterior Texture preset was applied as is – it really sharpened up the bricks on the castle. That was all that was done. I guess I got more of a dramatic effect, but I really liked the result so it is my customized “Light Leak Effect.”

Using a Photoshop Plug-in for a Light Leak Effect

Image of Santa at the Beach using a Light LeakThis Santa image took advantage of the beautiful Light Leak choices in Nik’s new Analog Efex Pro plug-in. This one used the first one listed in the Soft list of Light Leaks and set to a 50% Strength – definitely created a little pop to the image. All but the Lens Distortion, Zoom & Rotate Blur, and Dirt & Scratches tabs were used. In the Light Leak tab there is a large dot on the image that can be adjusted so the light leak affects just the part you want. The candy cane border was created by adding a Stroke Layer Style (Position Inside, Blend Mode Color Burn, and Opacity 82%) and setting the Fill Type to Pattern using Christmas day by Photoshop-Stock pat 5 set to a Scale of 239%. Once again I love the vintage effect that Nik’s Analog Efex Pro gives to an image.
Image of man blowing a wooden whistle in Old Village in BelarusThis image at The Old Village of Ayaymku in Belarus of a guy blowing a wooden whistle was processed in both Nik Color Efex Pro using Flypaper Textures Steps preset and then in OnOne (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Photo Suite 7.5, (but the new Suite 8.0 will have these effects), using their Light Leak 3 and Brushed Realism 10 set to 81% opacity, then Amazing Detail filter, and topped off with Sloppy Border 19 and the Tin Type 001 at 57% to get the real vintage look. I did not want to overdo the leak look, but it does add some colorful effects to the image.

Using a Light Leak Overlay on the Image

Image of buildings in Minsk, Belarus, using several filters and presetsThere are actually quite a few jpg Light Leak images on the internet that can be downloaded for free. The image above used one from Lomo Light Leaks by Denny Tang (scroll way down to download from website)  – really nice light leak images. Have to talk a little about this image – it was an awful image taken from a moving car and the third shot I took in Minsk, Belarus. I wanted to see what the new Trey Radcliff’s (my favorite HDR guy) Lightroom presets could do with a bad image – I loved the results and I love the new presets – this one used Super Flatjack – really grainy and very subtle. Once in Photoshop I had to remove a whole bunch of electrical lines (see my Get Rid of Those Power Lines Fast – with Paths and Spot Healing Tool! blog). Next I applied Topaz Adjust’s Classic Collections Low Key I preset – another great product from Topaz. Of course, I could not stop there even though the image looked really nice – Nik’s Analog Efex Pro was added and the beautiful vintage color came out (used Basic Adjustments, Light Leaks which added a slight red tint using just a -36% amount, Lens Vignette, Film Type and Levels & Curves) and the layer opacity was set to 76%. The sky still did not look quite right to me, so now Denny Tang’s light leak was applied – set to Screen blend mode and 75% layer opacity – to add just some subtle interest into the sky. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added and I just dragged in the sky with the Targeted Adjustment Tool to get the color I wanted (note – used ALT+CTRL to get the Hue slider to change as the Tool defaults to the Saturation slider). Also, Shadowhouse Creations has 17 beautiful light leak textures for free download.

Hopefully you can see what a nice effect the Light Leak can create. They really add a little additional vintage feel to an image. It does not have to be overdone and with a Hue/Sat or Selective Color Adjustment Layer, you can tweak the colors for a great subtle look. Hope you get a chance to try out this technique. It really can add that little bit of extra interest into an image to really make it pop!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of miniature mums using Corel Painter in backgroundThis week I am going to discuss a really short but sweet way to increase areas to be brighter and darker in localized areas. Last week my Photoshop with Corel Painter for Texture blog covered how to use Corel Painter in image backgrounds, which is what was done in the above Miniature Mum shot. For this week’s technique, Pete Collins (one of the Photoshop guys) did a short video on the NAPP website (best deal for Photoshop Nuts to learn new tricks) a while back demonstrating this concept, but I have also seen it in other places.

The Technique

The basic premise is that you can use any adjustment layer – does not matter which one you choose – to create an overall brightening or darkening of your image by just changing the blend mode of the layer. So to brighten your image, select the Screen blend mode, and to darken your image choose the Multiply blend mode, for example. Now just fill the layer masks with black by clicking in the mask and pressing CTRL+I or going to the Properties Panel and clicking the Invert button. With a soft brush, or any kind of brush for that matter, paint back in white areas you want brighter for the Screen blend mode layer or darker for the Multiply blend mode layer. In the image above, an unadjusted Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer was set to Screen blend mode and the white petals were painted back at a low opacity brush setting to dial in the focus a little more to the flower and yellow center. Next an unadjusted Curves Adjustment Layer was added and set to Multiply blend mode. The image became really dark. By filling the layer mask with black and painting back a slight vignetting effect, the focus could once more be directed to the flower effectively. If you want to add a little feathering for the vignette, go the Properties Panel and set it to 100 pixels as a starting point. The Layer Opacity was set to 68% so the vignetting was not too dark. (See screenshot of Curves Adjustment Layer below showing no changes made to it and corresponding layer highlighted in Layer Panel.) If you wanted the image lighter or darker, you can always duplicate the adjustment layers and then adjust the layer opacities to get the exact amount required. You can also make changes in the actual adjustment layer if it helps the image. This is such a wonderfully easy technique and it keeps the image size much smaller than if you were duplicating the layer each time. The text font is a free download called Adorable.

Screenshot of Curves Adjustment Layer

Christmas Ornament of Santa Claus imageJust thought I would add a Christmas image that used the same technique above. This time the Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer was set to Screen and the Santa Claus and Red M&M ornaments were painted back in the black layer mask. Then on top another Curves Adjustment Layer was set to Multiply – this time the outside edges were painted white in the layer mask to reveal darker edges, similar to the screenshot above. No Painter was used but it does use my free SJ-Snow2 Overlay – slight blur set to 65% layer opacity that I created last year. Last, Obsidian Dawn’s Merry Christmas brush was placed on a layer with a layer style added (using Bevel & Emboss, Stroke, Pattern – created using Christmas day by Photoshop-Stock pat 5 set to a scale of 332%) to get the candy cane look. I should also add that the first thing done in Photoshop was to apply Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) DeNoise, the best noise plug-in around, and Topaz Clarity, another favorite used to add a little localized sharpening on the Santa Claus.

This is definitely a really easy way to pop you images and get the lighting the way you want in your image without having to do a lot of Camera Raw, Curves or Levels adjustments. Hope you enjoyed this tip – have a great Turkey Day for my fellow US friends!…..Digital Lady Syd

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 (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


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.

How to Use Those Handy Blend-If Sliders!

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

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

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

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

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

More Clarity on Topaz Clarity

Since I have been trying Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Clarity for a few weeks, I thought I would just pass on some of my recent image results. I am using this plug-in more now that I have created a few of my own presets for a starting point with the sliders. So far I have not had a reason to selectively apply it – although a few times I have taken out a sky so it is not affected. The yellow gerberas above provides one of the sentiments that I base this blog on – playing in Photoshop! The image used Topaz Clarity twice, and then I went back to the original background layer and processed it using Topaz Detail without the Clarity layers included. It was then placed on top and a layer mask allowed the Topaz Clarity results to pop through. Then just some textures, text and fancy brushes. Total Fun! For specific information how I processed this image, check out Image 1 at end of blog.
…..This is one of my favorite images from Belarus I took several years ago. This time Photoshop’s HDR Toning was applied first, then Topaz Clarity and Detail. The last step was to add a light pink overlay from Kim Klassen – all this resulted in this magical effect. See end of blog for Image 2 settings.
The image below represents some of the tools used on a the windmill above. I thought I would show how the image will differ when a Topaz plug-in is used without Clarity applied first, and when it is applied before the other plug-ins. Below is what the image looked like with just the Enabling Profile Corrections and Removing Chromatic Aberration checked – basically a RAW file. The right image is after using Topaz Clarity on the image. See Image 3 notes below for the exact settings if you would like to see them.
Now this next image shows both Topaz Simplify with a preset I had created a long time ago that I call Nice Soft Pastel Effect. I selected it as it really shows what a different look you can get with Simplify on an image. For settings used, check out Image 4 at end of blog.
BelowTopaz Black & White Effects plug-in was applied – another one of my very favorites. This plug-in always produces absolutely incredible results and was recently updated to add most of the interface features Clarity has. The preset used was Platinum III. You can really see what a nice job Clarity did to enhance this black and white image.
The last image is Topaz Adjust with my personal favorite preset, French Countryside. I don’t know why, but this preset has the look that I really like on images.  I would probably print this one as it gives a little bit of that vintage feel the log cabin building exerted, but still has the nice country colors in it. As you can see, adding Clarity first can really change the whole look to your image. I would recommend trying both ways if you are having problems getting a plug-in to look the way you want it to. It may need Clarity to boost the contrast in a very natural way. Well, if you have not tried out this new plug-in from Topaz, you might want to give it a whirl. Check out my related blog links at the very bottom for more info on using this plug-in. It adds that very subtle contrast to an image that I really love, and am finding I am using it more and more!……Digital Lady Syd

Notes for Images:
Image 1: Just the little processing in Lightroom (Cropping, Lens Correction and Defringe) before opening in Photoshop. The background was duplicated and Topaz Clarity was opened and only changes to the Clarity section were applied. (Settings include:  Dynamics settings – Micro Contrast 0.91, Low Contrast 0.53, Medium Contrast -0.86, and High Contrast -0.48; Tone Level settings – Black Level 0.56, Midtones -0.16, and White Level 0.28; and HSL Filter – Hue: Orange -0.11, Yellow -0.02, Green -0.05, and Overall 0.09; Sat: Red -0.03, Orange 0.02, Yellow 0.17, Green 0.03, Blue 0.27, and Overall 0.11; and Lum: Red 0.16, Orange 0.30, Yellow 0.55, Green 0.50, Blue -1.00, and Overall 0.08.) Once applied the layer was duplicated in Photoshop and Topaz Clarity was opened up again. (Settings are the same for the Clarity section above. HSL Filter – Hue: Orange 0.52, Orange -0.30, Yellow -0.31, Green -0.05, and Overall 0.09; Sat: Red -0.03, Orange -0.62, Yellow -0.37, Green -0.27, and Blue 0.27; and Lum: Red 0.30, Orange -0.67, Yellow 0.20, Green -0.39, Blue -1.00, and Overall 0.08.) The Background layer was duplicated again and this time Topaz Detail was applied. (The settings: Detail Section – Overall, Small Details -1.00, Small Details Boost 0.00; Medium Details -1.00, Medium Details Boost 0.00, Large Details -1.00, and Large Details Boost 0.00; Tone Section – no changes; and Color Section – Temperature -0.27, Tint 0.34, Saturation -0.65, and Saturation Boost 0.21.) This layer was moved above the top Clarity layer and a layer mask was applied. The yellow flowers and center were lightly painted out in the mask so the detail from the Clarity layers showed through. Next a Darken layer was created (see my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog). This time I used a dark brown brush sampled from the image instead of a dark black brush. 2 Lil’ Owls (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Color Bokeh-Grunge Set – 3 was added as a layer on top and set to Hard Light blend mode and 100% opacity. A layer mask was added to remove a little bit of the texture from the centers of the flowers. French Kiss Artiste Old Master texture was placed next and set to Soft Light at 73% opacity. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added to lighten up the image a little by moving the Midtones slider to the left. Two text layers were created – one using Rough Typewriter and one using Batik Regular and the opacities of both reduced almost halfway. My free SJ Cloud 1 (actually taken while on the International Coastal Waterway in St. Augustine, Florida) was set to 4300 pixels was added in a New Layer on top. Shadowhouse Creations free Bird brush 7 was added on another New Layer and set to 30% opacity. The last step was a Curves Adjustment Layer where I just dragged down in the image to get the right tone.

Image 2: In Lightroom David duChemin’s New Maasai Split Tone preset was applied along with some basic slider adjustments. In Photoshop’s HDR Toning, the Vibrance was set to +100, Saturation +100, and Detail +100. I had thought I might try to make this a painting, and I still might, so these settings were used to enhance the image. A duplicate of the image was created and Topaz’s new Clarity plug-in was applied. These were the setting used: Dynamics – Micro Contrast 0.98, Low Contrast 0.42, Medium Contrast 0.22, and High Contrast -0.37; Tone Level – Black Level -0.23, Midtones -0.19, and White Level 0.06; and HSL Filter – Hue Green slider set to -0.30, Saturation sliders: Red 0, Orange -0.47, Yellow 0.36, Green 0.47, Aqua 0, Blue -0.12, Purple 0, Magenta 0, and Overall 0.11; and Luminosity sliders: Red -0.72, Orange 0.11, Yellow 0, Green 0.19, Aqua 0.55, Blue 0.10, Purple 0.66, Magenta -0.05, and Overall 0. Next Topaz Detail was applied to a duplicate layer setting the Overall Detail to 0.78 and Red 0.40. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was put on top and Cyans were set to Hue 41, Saturation 5, and Lightness 31, and Blues set to Hue -13, Saturation -37, and Lightness 1. A Darken Layer was created and set to Overlay blend mode to burn in some of the clouds. Kim Klassen’s beautiful Cloth & Paper Texture Touch was used – an overlay had been created using it and it was set to Normal blend mode at 77% opacity. The last step was a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a little contrast back into the whole image. (See my How to Create an Overlay Out of a Texture blog.)

Image 3: The Topaz Clarity plug-in was opened and I started with Street Scene Strong Contrast. Changed several settings to: Dynamics: Micro Contrast  1.00, Low Contrast  0.30, Medium Contrast  -0.34, and High Contrast  -1.00; Tone Level: Black Level  -0.14, Midtones  0, and White Level -0.44; and HSL Filter: Hue – Red -0.83, Orange 0.10, Yellow 0, Green 0.10, Aqua -0.29, Blue -0.83, Purple -0.10, and Magenta -0.17;  Sat – Red 0.06, Orange 0.17, Yellow 0.94, Green 0, Aqua 0.78, Blue 0.27, Purple 0, and Magenta 0.38; Hue – Red 0.61, Orange 0, Yellow -0.45, Green -0.12, Aqua -0.36, Blue 0.06, and all the rest 0. Named preset Balanced Contrast. That is all that was done at this point.

Image 4: The Topaz Clarity settings are the same as those in Image 3. The Simplify plug-in used these settings: Global Adjustments: Simplify – YCbCr, Simplify Size 0.27, Feature Boost 0, Details Strength 0, Details Boost 1.00, Details Size 0.20, Remove Small 0.10, and Remove Weak 0.31; Adjust – Brightness 0.10, Contrast 1.48, Saturation 1.70, Saturation Boost 1.24, Dynamics 0.36, Structure 3.33, and Structure Boost 0.67; and Edges – Edge Type Color Edge-Normal, Edge Strength 0.00, Simplify Edge 0.30, Reduce Weak 10.00, Reduce Small 0.20, and Fatten Edge 0; and Finishing Touches: Tone – Color 1 Region (R0G0B0) slider 0, Color 2 Region (R54G27B9) slider 100.0, Color 3 Region (R170G135B136) 180.0, and Color 4 Region (R255G255B255) slider 255.0; and Tone Strength 0.46.

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Clarity
Clarity with Texture!
Pretty in Pink! with Topaz Clarity
Some Vintage Zinnias

Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Clarity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT I DON’T LIKE! (Not much)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Topaz Simplify Artistic Workflow

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

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

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

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

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