Yesterday 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.
These 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.
This 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:
Birds of the Rookery
Great Egret Babies
Cattle Egret Looking for Love
Singing Spoonbill Duet Takes Rookery by Storm!
Very Busy Snowy Egrets
Coming in for a Landing!
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
This week I thought I would just give you a quick run-down of a few of my favorite plug-ins for Photoshop where at least a couple are used on almost every one of my images. These filters in most cases are not for major creative endeavors, although I have used them that way before (check out Detail 3 for some great abstract effects), but the ones needed to make your image perfect. I have listed several Topaz (for website link, see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) products as they seem to do exactly what I like, but many other companies have some similar filters and would be fine if those are the plug-ins you own. The above photo used both Nik Viveza 2 and Topaz DeNoise along with the Photoshop Camera Raw filter.
**NIK VIVEZA 2**
This “oldie but goodie” product is one I use on almost all my images, whether on the actual images or digital paintings. Viveza is just totally mind-boggling when it come to fine-tuning the tone or color in your image. I use it as the last step for when the focus is not actually on the focal point as intended, or if a corner is just a little too bright compared to the rest of the image, or if a color just does not work in a part of the image. Works great as a Smart Object which is great since it may take a couple times to get the adjustment just right. It uses control points for small localized adjustments. The Nik products were bought by Google and can be downloaded to try out. I do not see any other plug-in that overlaps what this program does, except possibly the Photoshop Camera Raw filter – it can do some similar effects using the Adjustment Brush, but definitely not as easy. For my review on Viveza, check out my blog, Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem!
**TOPAZ REMASK 5 **
Since I do a lot of animal and nature images, removing the objects from the original backgrounds is often necessary. ReMask is now so improved that it is totally worth the price if you do selections a lot. It really is better than Photoshop’s Refine Edge is most cases or any of the other plug-ins I own. I have written several blogs on this plug-in and that is why! Absolutely fabulous! See my blogs at Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz ReMask 5 and And the Best Complicated Selection Tool is?
**TOPAZ DETAIL AND TOPAZ CLARITY**
I still find the Detail plug-in is the best sharpening tool and use it on almost every image. Have used it for years. I also love Clarity (which uses contrast to control detail) – some images do better using Clarity, but for most of my images, Detail works best for me. Below is a good example of how good the Detail plug-in is and my review link at Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Detail 3.
Here is one of my favorite Clarity images and my review link at Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Clarity.
**TOPAZ DENOISE 5**
Most of my images are not taken at night, but since I still use an older Nikon D300 (I can’t seem to give it up!) which does not work great in dark areas, this plug-in works incredibly! It will always work for me when this situation occurs. (Also works great on aquarium pix!) This image was taken using ISO 1250, which with my camera sensor is really grainy, but this filter totally clean it up. Usually just an Overall Strength slider tweak and sometimes extra work in the Shadows, and it comes out nice and crisp. Check out my Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz DeNoise 5 blog for more information.
Well, there you have my basic filter run-down of the ones I use most often in my workflow. With some of the newer cameras, you many not need all of these. I know I am just very comfortable using those listed. There are some new filters out there that I have not had time to review – looking forward to putting Topaz Textures and OnOne Suite 10 (for website links, see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) through their paces soon. Looking forward to trying out some new plug-ins! Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd
Happy Valentines Day to everyone! Finally got a chance to get create a valentine for one of my favorite holidays! I took some still life type images today and used this wonderful pitcher purchased a while back at at the Deland Antiques Show. I bought the fake flowers at Michael Arts and Crafts Stores. Used Seim’s and 2 Lil’s Owls Studios (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for both website links) in Lightroom before bringing the image into Photoshop. Topaz (also linked at my Tidbits Blog above) Detail 3 was applied to overall sharpen up the detail. Then the hearts were adding using a valentine brush I created – to get the random opening in the heart, use a dual brush. The background doily was from Design Cuts Valentine Poster Freebies and a Pattern Fill Layer and a Gradient Fill Layer using a red gradient were clipped to the doily object. Some layer style effects were added to make it stand out a little. Similar effect was created using little valentines and setting the Color Dynamics section to add different colors. On a stamped layer Topaz ReStyle’s Pastel Green Field preset was added. The last step was to add the valentine pattern on the background just to add some interest.
This is another Still Life image created using a different pitcher. I like this plain white vase as it is easy to put things on it, like the soft pink valentine, to fit your theme. So the original raw file was opened Lightroom where I used Jack Davis’s Five Step Tango from his videos at Creative Live to clean up the image. In Photoshop the image was sharpened using Topaz Detail 3. It was changed to an 8 bit image for Painter at this point. Then in Painter, 4 source images were created. A source using Topaz ReStyle was used the most to get the warm pinkish colors. Just did the basic painting steps to lay out the background and then bring in the object details. My favorite brush for this image was one from Legacy brushes called Medium Bristle Oils 25. Also one created from watching Commercial Packaging Illustration with Michael Bast – a Corel webinar. He uses a Distorto Brush that breaks up the texture – it really works great to get rid of those really eye drawing sharp lines. Painted Textures‘ Concrete Canvas was added and a Layer Mask was used to bring back the flowers. The layer was set to Multiply blend mode before bringing back into Photoshop. Here a very basic heart was added onto the pitcher and warped to look correct – then Pink Sherbert Dirty Grunge texture (not sure this is available anymore) was added and clipped (ALT+click between layers to clip) to get the right color in the heart. The heart layer was set to 63% layer opacity. The font is Kingthings Pique’n’meex, and a Levels Adjustment Layer was added last.
Hope everybody is having a great day!…..Digital Lady Syd
This 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,
This 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.
These 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.
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.
Topaz 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.
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
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Little 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.
This 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
For some reason this week I kept playing around with Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Black & White Effects – have not really done this in a while and am enjoying some of the really different effects that can be achieved with this little gem of a plug-in. I am not a great black and white image fan, although I have been trying to learn the technique. There are so many things to learn just to get a great black and white image. But I use Black & White Effects more for getting that unique and sometimes artsy look.
So what did I do to get this totally different look from this plug-in since this image was taken in the middle of the day in bright sunlight? This is another image from Universal Studios Orlando of the top of the Caro-Seuss-el in Seuss Landing. In Lightroom used Seim Power 4 Workflow (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Gentle Afternoon preset before opening image in Photoshop. Topaz Detail 3 was applied on the whole image to sharpen it up a bit. Nik Viveza 2 was used to add more emphasis to the little blue elephant and the really cool shadow from the pterodactyl-like bird. Then the image was taken into Topaz Black & White effects and one of my presets I created a long time ago was used. For the preset settings, see Image 1 info below. The Sharpen Tool was used on the elephant on a New Layer and some paint touch up was done to smooth everything together. A cloud layer was used (used my free Cloud Brushes No. 11) to add a little sky interest – the sky was cloudless. To get a really cool darker look, Kim Klassen’s free Simpleset Simple 2 black texture set to Screen blend mode at 56% was added and a dark blue Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT + click between layers) to the texture to make it dark blue instead of the black background color. I have to be honest and say I love to photograph and post-process images of signs, especially unusual and brightly colored ones. Universal Studios Orlando has so many from which to choose. This one is from Universal City Walk that is outside the two large theme parks and has some great restaurants and entertainment offered nightly. In Lightroom used Seim’s Power 4 Workflow Ultra Color preset. In Photoshop a Color Balance and Curves Adjustment Layers were added to sharpen up the image a little. On a stamped layer on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Content Aware Fill was used to get rid of some extraneous objects in the sky. Next Topaz ReStyle was used – The Bright and Shiny preset was selected and few minor changes were done to the Basic Color sliders and Detail and Structure sliders. Some clouds were lightly added to background using Creative Toons Watercolor Brush 41 (these were free from Photoshop Creative Magazine No. 113) and then a layer mask was added to remove the cloud paint from the signs. A Gaussian Blur set to Radius 3.8 was used on a duplicate layer above to soften the background. The layer mask was copied (ALT+drag to new layer) from the layer below. On another stamped layer, Topaz Black and White Effects was used – started with my House Fronts preset and then did minor adjustments. (For settings, see Image 2 info below.) What made this effect look so good was the use of the Local Adjustments brushes – the Detail Brush was used to sharpen the letter in the signs, Color Brush was used to paint back in the original photo color of the arrows to brighten parts of them, Dodge the Brush was used to soften some of the background details, and the Darken Brush separated the edges of the signs that ran into the busy roller coaster background. The brush settings were all the same and were Size 54, Opacity 0.56, Harness 0, and Edge Aware 0.50. This really perked up the image and gives it less of a “canned plug-in” look. Topaz may do brushes the best of any plug-in as they are very different and easy to apply! The last step added a Camera Raw filter Radial filter to just the inside to brighten it up only a bit. I was so surprised how this image turned out – I keep forgetting how good Black & White Effects really is!
This beautiful cactus was growing on the porch of a friend of mine and I had to take it’s picture – it looks like a variety of Mother of Pearl Plant, (aka Ghost Plant, Graptopetalum Paraguayense Plant). The color above is actually pretty close to the original – very lovely plant. Anyway, just another quick example of a different look in Black & White Effects. What really worked on this image was adjusting the Quad Tones to new colors – used a dark reddish brown, turquoise, citrus green and light yellow for the different regions. The Adaptive Exposure Protect Shadows brought back the detail in the pot so it did not look too flat. (For settings, see Image 3 info below.) Last step in Photoshop was adding an overlay for a slight vignette effect from a texture by 2 Lil’ Owls Artisan Collection 2/1 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) – then added a Color Fill Adjustment Layer clipped to the layer (ALT+Click between layers) to change the color to a dark green color. (See my How to Create an Overlay Out of a Texture blog for info on how to do this.)
I would recommend you try using the different brushes in Black & White Effects and see if you can get some creative results. It has a lot of good adjustments – can use low or high opacity brushes and flow, can set the hardness to hard or soft, and has a pretty good Edge Aware capability when needed. This was an area I had not even bothered using much, but I can see some real benefit in learning how to use these tools in the plug-in for that unique look. And the Quad Tone section is really a great addition to give some very interesting tones to the image. I am really trying to pass on some of the little tricks I am learning when I use this plug-in and maybe the settings listed at the end will give a good starting place to create a very different look. Hope all are having a great weekend!…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Topaz Black & White Effects and Alien Skin Snap Art Together!
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Black & White Effects 2.1
Sunny Preset for Topaz Black and White Effects
Topaz Black and White Effects Quad Tones Are Great!
Image 1 Topaz B&W Effects Settings: The Vignette setting is one of the areas that made this special effect so dark. The teardrops on the upper right area control Paper Tonal Settings. Here are the settings for all sections: Conversion Basic Exposure 0.02, Brightness 0.02, Boost Blacks 0.71 and Boost Whites 0; Adaptive Exposure 0.62, Regions 34, Protect Highlight and Shadows 0.01, Detail 2.47, Detail Boost 1.04, and PDI checked; Finishing Touches Silver and Paper Tone Tonal Strength 0.19, Balance 0, Silver Hue 42.58, Silver Tone Strength 0.46, Paper Hue 46.48, and Paper Tone Strength 0.48; Quad Tone Color 1 Region 1 (color black), Color 2 Region 67.18 (color R3/G36/B22), Color 3 Region 146.6 (color R214/G223/B238) and Color 4 Region 255.0 (color white); Vignette Strength -0.25, Size 0.01, Transition 0.17, and Curvature 0.50); and Transparency 0.92.
Image 2 Topaz B&W Effects Settings: This is my SJ House Fronts preset adjusted from last week’s image to fit this image. The settings are: Basic Exposure – Contrast -0.50, Brightness -0.01, Boost Blacks 0.20, and Boost Whites 0.59; Adaptive Exposure 0.86, Regions 18, Protect Highlights 0.02, Protect Shadows 0.10, Detail 1.49, and Detail Boost 1.13 – PDI checked; Color Sensitivity: Red 0.73, Yellow -0.14, Green 0.61, Cyan 0, Blue -0.33, and Magenta 0.02; Color Filter Hue 325.1 and Strength 0.68; Simplify Size 0.08 and Feature Boost 1; and Vignettes – center on image, Strength 1, Size 0.78, Transition 0.59, and Curvature 0.78. In Local Adjustments painted in detail back into the signs using brush size 54, Opacity 0.56, Hardness o and Edge Aware 0.50; painted in color back into parts of arrows and signs to give a more painterly effect using same brush, used Dodge to remove man in lower left edge; and used Burn to sharpen edges of signs from roller coaster edges.
Image 3 Topaz B&W Effects Settings: I created a SJ Cactus preset with these settings that also contain the new Quad Tone colors: Conversion – Basic Exposure Contrast 0.08, Brightness -0.11, Boost Blacks -0.27, and Boost Whites 0.21; Adaptive Exposure 0.18, Regions 26, Protect Highlights -0.04, Protect Shadows 0.15, Detail 2.02, and Detail Boost 0.79; Color Sensitivity Red 0, Yellow 0.51, Green -0.33, Cyan 0.50, Blue 0.68, and Magenta 0; and Color Filter Hue 106.0 and Strength 0.67; Creative Effects Softness 0.37, Diffusion 0.74, and Diffusion Transition 0.50; Finishing Touches Silver and Paper Tone – used first tear drop called Selenium above; Quad Tone Color 1 Region (R49/G5/B5) at 0.00, Color 2 Region (R51/G76/B83) at 92.08, Color 3 Region (R106/G127/75) at 128.9, and Color 4 Region (R240/G240/B178) at 255.0; and Transparency Overall set to 1.00. In Local Adjustments used the Detail brush to paint over the foreground flower Brush Size 110, Opacity 0.60, Hardness 0.01, and Edge Aware 0.50; next used the Color brush to paint in more of the blue color in the foreground flower and its stem – set Opacity to 0.20; the Overall Strength for the brushes was set to 0.57.
This week I wanted to show some of the results be combining a couple of very popular third party Photoshop plug-ins to get a very painterly or artistic effect with just a little experimenting. This above image was taken at Universal Studios-Orlando – they have some wonderful looking bikes around the park. I particularly like the effect of Topaz (for website see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Black & White Effects and Alien Skin’s Snap Art together, although this first image did not use both. The above image started with one of the free Seim’s Color Fantasies 2 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) using Classic Holga preset in Lightroom. In Photoshop Topaz Detail 3 was used to really sharpen up the lines of the bike by adding a black layer mask and just painting the bike back in in white. (Used a very subtle sharpening preset I use all the time on my images with these settings are just: Detail Overall Medium Details 0.38 and Large Details 0.16 and Tone Contrast 0.30 and Shadows -0.01.) On a duplicated layer Nik Viveza 2 was used to even out the tone and color with several control points. Next on another duplicated layer Topaz Black and White Effects was applied. (Here are my settings: Basic Exposure Contrast -0.33, Brightness -0.01, Boost Blacks and Boost Whites 0.25; Adaptive Exposure 0.86, Regions 18, Protect Highlights 0.02, Protect Shadows 0.10, Detail 2.50, and Detail Boost 1.11, and check PDI box; Color Sensitivity Red 0.15, Yellow -0.14, Green 0.47, Cyan 0, Blue 0.31, and Magenta 0; Color Filter Hue 325.1 and Strength 0.27; Creative Effects Simplify Size 0.12 and Feature Boost 1; Silver and Paper Tone Tonal Strength 0.40, Balance 0.30, Silver Hue 0, SilverTone Strength 0.50, Paper Hue 4.00, and Paper Tone Strength 0.25; Vignette – need to adjust center, Strength 1.00, Size 0.71, Transition 0.44, and Curvature 0.55; and Transparency Overall 1.00.) This is a great plug-in that most people use for black and white image, but I like the Transparency turned on at 100% which adds back roughly 50% of the color in the image. By using the individual Detail, Darkening and Color brushes on the image, a very painterly effect can be obtained. Try experimenting with the brushes in the Topaz products – can get some great effect with them! Back on another duplicated layer of the Nik Viveza 2 layer, Topaz Simplify’s Pencil Hard II preset was applied, moved to the top of the stack, and set to Overlay blend mode at 26% opacity. This gives it a more illustrative feel which I was aiming to get. On a New Layer on top, the vignette and some of the colors were evened out out by sampling in the image using my Chalk Brush (Adobe Chalk Brush 60 with a Shape Dynamics set to 19% in Brush Panel). The last step involved adding a Curves Adjustment Layer to add back contrast to the image. Sometimes all the different manipulations tend to make the image lose its contrast.
This image of a small water fountain at an eatery in The Lost Continent at Universal Studios in Orlando just caught my eye – loved the tiles. Very similar settings in Topaz Black & White Effects were used. On a New Layer above the plug-in layer, the chalk brush was used to even out the vignette, instead of using the plug-ins brushes. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4 was applied using the Detailed Watercolor preset. On a New Layer, the Clone Stamp Brush was set to my Chalk Brush as used above, and at 60% brush opacity, it was cloned to add a few brush strokes into the areas so it looks like a really painted effect. On a New Layer on top, some small paint spatters were added back lightly into the image to give it just a little bit of a realistic feel and set to 70% layer opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was place on top.
One final image is of the Rooftops at Harry Potter Land at Universal Studios Orlando. Had so much fun taking images there! This image used Topaz Detail 3 with my detail preset from above, then I added a cloud since the sky was a rather flat blue using my Cloud 1 from my free set of Cloud Brushes. Next Snap Art 4 was opened and this time the Impasto Vignette was applied. On a stamped layer Topaz Black & White Effects was applied using a preset I called Harry Potter Sky (Here are the settings if you want them: Conversion Basic Exposure: Contrast -0.04, Brightness 0.09. Boost Blacks 0.29, and Boost Whites -0.24; Adaptive Exposure 26, Regions 26, Protect Highlights and Protect Shadows 0, Detail 1.07, and Detail Boost 0.70; Color Filter Hue 63.87 and Strength 1.00; Quad Tone Color 1 Region 15.08 – R1 G1 B12; Color 2 Region 143.9 – color R63 G78 B85; Color 3 Region R216 G211 B129; and Color 4 Region R255 G254 B237; Vignette – Vignette Strength -0.11, Vignette Size 0.68, Vignette Transition 0.93, and Vignette Curvature 0.75; and Transparency Overall 0.85.) Really gives the more spooky look that I wanted for this image. Next a Curves Adjustment Layer for additional contrast. The last step used the Photoshop’s Camera Raw filter using the same Radial Filter effect to add the largest tower. Lots of fun to do!
I hope you can tell that with just a little experimenting you can get a very painterly feel on an image. And try a different brush, instead of just a round soft brush, to use when cloning – this can really add a painterly feel to the image and the clone effect is not nearly so evident. It is so much fun to try out different presets and sliders and different plug-in combinations to get something very different. Hope you try mixing up your plug-ins and see if you can get some very artistic looks too!…..Digital Lady Syd