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Posts tagged “Topaz Sharpen AI

HOW TO GET A SOFT TEXTURED FLOWER EFFECT


Image of an orange Bird of Paradise plant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


JUST A LITTLE LANDSCAPE LOVE

Sunset image from Spanish Cay in the Bahamas
Taking a bit of a break this week from blogging. Well I thought I was but this image took a very long time to post process so it is a good thing I like Photoshop! I will share with you some of the techniques that went into creating this image.

  • This was a 5-image HDR taken at Spanish Cay in The Bahamas several years ago. (It is also one of the places to go through customs when sailing in and out of The Bahamas.) Used the Lightroom HDR program – just made sure the auto settings were turned off so I could do the next step.
  • The resulting DNG image was opened in Photoshop. I have been learning how to work with Jimmy McIntyre’s Luminosity techniques for landscapes. The steps he explains in his How to Use Luminosity Masks and Single Exposure video – this is a bit of a complicated technique that uses the Apply Image command, but it gives great results. In my Tidbits Blog of Thursday called Little House on Green Turtle Cay, the same technique was used.
  • The resulting image was pretty noisy so on a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E), Topaz (See sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) DeNoise AI was added – used the Auto settings and it cleaned it up with just a small amount of the sliders. Best I have seen it do! Also Topaz Sharpen AI was added using Stabilize model (Sharpness 74 and Suppress noise 16). Be sure to watch haloing with this filter – it probably caused some of my clean up issues that had to be addressed later.
  • The Lighting Effects filter added some more warmth to the image. Last week I did a blog on this filter – this week Colin Smith came out with a new video called Lighting Photos in Photoshop – add Stunning Sunset Lighting. I felt like it did a good job on this image.
  • There were several places with some color discoloration on the water – used a tip I learned from Randy van Duinen. This is the best way to fix it when faced with type of color distortion: make a rough selection of problem area and enter the Quick Mask Tool, go to Gaussian Blur Filter set to a large amount for blending edges (depends on size of selection), go out of Quick Mask, and add a Curves Adjustment Layer (or any Adjustment layer needed) and adjust all the channel curves to match up. See my How to Subtle Adjust Areas of an Image Using Two Methods blog for more on this. This is one of my favorite PS tricks.
  • There was a little haloing where the clouds met the treetops – it really was not haloing but it looked bad. To smooth the colors between the clouds and the trees, David Belliveau’s fabulous mixer blender brush was used at a small size – it can be downloaded at his Painter website. The brush is one of the best for blending anything.
  • Several areas were accented with a little spotlight effect – set a layer to Overlay blend mode and Brush Options set to 100% Opacity and 9% Flow. Just dab where a little brightness (or darkness or color) needs to be added.
  • Last step was to create a little vignette. Since this sunset makes the image off-balance, the vignette techniques I usually like did not work. Went back to Jimmy McIntyre and followed his The Power of Vignettes in Photoshop where he uses two different Curves Adjustment Layers to create the vignette. This technique worked the best and gave a more natural look.

Well that is it for this blog – just a little landscape jargon. Hope everyone is safe and still enjoying learning new things that can be done with Photoshop. I am slowly trying out some recently viewed video techniques – many were used above. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO USE THE LIGHTING EFFECTS FILTER

Image of a Squirrel Monkey at the Jacksonville Zoo
This week I did some video viewing and trying out the Lighting Effects Filter again. Colin Smith from Photoshop Cafe did a set of 5 videos on this filter the last few weeks. This filter has been around for a while (it is exactly the same in CS6) and I have used it on and off over the years. Colin is an expert at using this filter, and there is a lot more to it than what it appears to be and what I knew.

Colin Smith had one particular video I felt was extremely helpful for lightening the Squirrel Monkey image above and the Butterfly image below. It was called Lighting Portrait Photos in Photoshop, Its Amazing – Part 2. The other videos are definitely worth the time to watch if you are enjoying using this filter, but this one was the most helpful to me. An Alpha Channel selection to limit the effect to just certain areas in the image was not created for my images (but is discussed in great detail in the other videos and looks great on some images), but several minutes into the video Colin shows you how to adjust the lights and use the filter.

Basic adjustments: The above image is of a Squirrel Monkey at the Jacksonville Zoo. To use the Lighting Effects Filter (Filter -> Render -> Lighting Effects), it is best to begin with a stamped layer on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) that has been turned into a Smart Object (or Filter – they are the same thing). It is good to use it as a Smart Object so the settings can be re-adjusted after applying the effect. A default Spot Light is shown when the filter is first opened. Dragging your mouse around the points on the light give you several options for adjusting the actual light (Move, Rotate, and Scale Width or change its size).

Available lights: Three types of lights were added in the above: Spot Light, Infinite Light and Point Light – Colin goes into detail on each of these types of lights in the 5 videos, but he seems to prefer the Spot Light effect. If you look in the Options Bar Presets drop-down, the first one listed is called 2 o’clock and is a good starting place. (There are many choices in the drop-down menu – check out the Adobe link below for the list.) An Infinite Light was added to basically just lighten up the whole image. The Point Light was just a small light placed on his face to brighten it up a little more.

To get good results: Need to just go back and forth making adjustments between the “Color and Intensity slider” and the “Colorize (swatch for tint of the overall lighting) and Exposure slider (controls highlight and shadow detail).” Clicking on the color swatches bring up a Color Picker with an adjustable Intensity slider which makes the color lighter and is using 32-bit lighting (per Colin).

Other sliders: There is a Texture field that does not have to be added to your image but it can really help an image that is lacking a little in detail. First set in the Texture field drop-down the Red Channel (it appears to be the best channel to use for this) and a Height of 1 (if you want texture to be in the other direction, use -1) – it really sharpened up this guys fur. Moving the Height slider too much can give some really weird looks. For a natural look keep it to 1 or 2. The Metallic and Gloss sliders work mainly as contrast sliders. Ambience is one of my favorite sliders as it lightens up or darkens the surrounding areas around the lighting edges.

This filter requires a lot of playing with sliders, which is what I really like to do! For more info on the post-processing of the Monkey, check out the end of the blog. Here is the Adobe Photoshop link to the Lighting Effects Filter.

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Image of a Malay Lacewing Butterfly at the Butterfly Rainforest in Gainesville, FloridaThis image is of a Malay Lacewing Butterfly (took this pix at the Butterfly Rainforest in Gainesville, Florida) and was much easier to post process. (See post-info at end of blog). Used a stamped layer that was turned into a Smart Object before selecting the Lighting Effects Filter. A single Spot Light was added – similar to the giraffe image below. No Texture field was added since textures were added before on other layers in PS. The light was directed to the left side of the wing where the light was naturally falling onto the butterfly.

A couple tips when using the Light Effects Filter:

  • It is a little cumbersome to use and sometimes it is hard to adjust the lights. To zoom out, click on the bottom left corner and change the amount in box to zoom, or hold the ALT key with the scroll wheel (this did not always work for me).
  • When the interface is in the way so you cannot tell what you are looking at, do a CTRL+H to toggle the tools on and off.
  • When I open this filter an awful scary dialog box called Embedded Profile Mismatch comes up – just click Cancel to use the filter. Get same dialog when applying the filter – still clicked Cancel and it applied the filter. Not sure if anyone else will see this, but this does work.
  • Need to be in 8-bit mode to use this filter now (used to be also for 16-bit, but no more).
  • For a dreamy glow effect, set the Metallic slider to -100 and then move the Gloss slider towards the right to achieve a nice result.

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Image of Bronze Giraffe Sculptures from the Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden in West Palm BeachThe above is an image I had shown before, but it used the Lighting Effect Filter. This bronze giraffe sculpture is part of the Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden in West Palm Beach and was created by Henry Mitchell in 1959 – and was one of my favorites at the Garden. To get this effect and see what Lighting Effects filter settings were used, check out my How to Get a Fantasy Feel in Photoshop blog that shows a Screenshot of the filter. You will see in the older blog that a Red Channel was used for a Texture and the Height was set to 9 to emphasize the really nice markings on the giraffes. In this case it is okay to set the Height slider amount up a little.

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Below is another older image taken at Flagler Beach in Florida and the Lighting Filter Effect was used for adding a little sunlight effect in a painted image sky. It shows a different way the filter can be used to add some artistic interest.

Image of Flagler Beach and the natural Sea Oats

Since this is a Photoshop filter, it is an easy one to try out and produces some really terrific lighting results. And since photography is all about light, it has a lot of possibilities. I have used it for years on and off, and I am going to try it out some more now that I have learned a few more things about how to use it. Hope everyone is doing fine and will be able to get out and start taking pictures soon……Digital Lady Syd

Image Post-Processing Details:

Squirrel Monkey Image:  To begin this image, a texture group was created using FrenchKiss’s Stone Blush texture (these are fabulous painted textures) and Kim Klassen’s Epic texture (and yes, Kim is doing her wonderful textures again). The textures were put in a Group and set to 30% opacity – this gave the image a really beautiful pastel spring-like feel. The monkey was selected and place on top and lots of clean up was done, including adding some fur in strategic places (used coyotemange brushes Rough Tuft and Long Fur from last week’s blog). Next on a stamped layer Skylum (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Luminar 4’s Sky Replacement look for this image was applied – it found all the white areas and added in the sky – totally Amazing! On another Smart Object stamped layer, the Lighting Effects Filter in PS was added. This really sharpened up his fur by setting the Texture field to Red Channel (appears to be the best default channel to use for this) and a Height of 1. A Spot Light was used first on the whole image. Next an Infinite Light basically just lightened up everything. Last a Point Light was just a small one placed on his face to brighten it up only and get that backlit feel. The rest of the image was the standard clean up layer, Curves Adjustment Layer, and Levels Vignette.

Butterfly Image: Just used Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Sharpen AI (love this filter) and Topaz DeNoise AI first. Then added a texture called BB Orange and Gold Bokeh (not sure where I got it as it is from 2008) set to Overlay blend mode at 72% layer opacity – duplicated texture and set it to 17% blend mode. On a new layer painted in some Bokeh circles sampling the colors from the texture (used a brush from MiniPixBox-Bokeh 34). Did some clean up and the image just looked a little drab to me. On a stamped layer turned into a Smart Object, the Lighting Effects Filter was opened – only a single Spot Light effect was added – similar to the giraffe filter settings. No Texture was added – here are my settings on a Spot Light set from upper left to lower center right: Color White and Intensity 26, Hotspot 22, Colorize (light yellow H58/S27/B75 and Intensity +1.50) and Exposure -76, Gloss -32, Metallic -6, and Ambience 26. It definitely added the light in the area on the wing where the light was coming onto it.


WHEN DO YOU USE TOPAZ DENOISE AI, SHARPEN AI, AND AI CLEAR?

Image of a large red hibiscus bloom
I was going to do a review of the updated Sharpen AI, but decided instead to write about when to use all these fabulous Topaz AI plugins since I think it is personally very confusing. I actually had this blog half-drafted a whole year ago and did not publish it as I could not figure out exactly what was going on. This week I finally got some answers in a couple Topaz (see sidebar of my Tidbits Blog for website link) Webinars that Joel Wolfson did in the last few months. So here is my take on what is going on and how I am using these products.

Always apply Topaz DeNoise AI (or any denoise product for that matter) first before applying Topaz Sharpen AI (or any sharpening filter) – you do not want to sharpen any noise residing in your image. Lots of photographers do their RAW processing first, then use DeNoise AI, and finally apply Sharpen AI – both programs can be reached directly from ACR, Lightroom, OnOne, and several other software programs or from within Photoshop as a plugin.

Topaz DeNoise AI

They have upgraded DeNoise AI several times since it was first released a year ago. It has been greatly improved with each revision. DeNoise AI also includes AI Clear and I will discuss that in more detail below.

So why use DeNoise AI? It is especially good for images set to a higher ISO, especially with lots of dark areas like night images. More noise will show up in the shadows and with the newer cameras especially, the ISO can be cranked way up to get that all-important detail. DeNoise AI has the ability to find just the noise in the darker (or lighter areas) areas and leave other noise-free areas alone. I have an older DSLR camera and the higher ISO setting images show lots of noise – this program has been a life-saver for me as I want to take those night-time shots too. The image above was taken in low evening light using 2000 ISO, which is unheard of for me and my camera. Below is the screenshot of what DeNoise AI was able to do to clean up this image – it may appear a little soft looking here, but at 100% it is still pretty sharp.

Screenshot of Topaz DeNoise AI interface

What the Sliders Do:

First, turn off the Auto-update preview or your computer will go nuts running all the time – just remember to click Update when ready to see the changes. Also note that at the top there is a Brightness button – it sometimes helps to see the noise better. To me the Auto button does not recognize the correct amount of noise in my images, so I do not use it. When adjusting these sliders manually, I usually over-adjust the Remove Noise amount, then move it back to the correct setting. And yes, keep hitting the Update button to see the change if Auto Update is turned off. What does the Sharpen slider do if there is a Recover Original Detail slider? According to Topaz, “It sharpens the details in your image since removing noise can sometimes soften the details in images, this allows you to retain that sharpness after processing your image.” The Recover Original Detail slider allows for refinement of details in the image to achieve a more realistic look if it appears that DeNoise AI has over-corrected the image. Still not clear on this, but it does seems to improved some images. It helps add some detail back when the image looks too smooth, especially with Portrait images – it definitely helped this flower image too. Looking at other images, it appears most people use Recover Original Detail somewhere around 25 to 35 for a setting. If there is color noise in your image, moving the Color Noise Reduction slider is very useful – a Size slider will appear where you must decide how much more of the image each pixel will look at – Joel says 0.50 is a good setting for this.

TOPAZ SHARPEN AI

The above image also had Topaz Sharpen AI applied after Topaz DeNoise AI from above. This is turning out to my very favorite Topaz product because I do not often shoot with a tripod and it has saved me on many occasions. One thing Joel pointed out is that when you are looking at your image set to 100% in Topaz, it is really the equivalent of looking at your image at 200% in Photoshop or other image processors. So if your image looks a little “crunchy,” it will not look like that at 100% in Photoshop. I do believe I get some really tack sharp images with this filter and often do not use DeNoise at all, but go directly to this filter before doing any other post work. One down side about this filter is that it takes a while to process and the larger the image, the longer it will take to Update and Apply.

Image of Topaz Sharpen AI InterfaceWhat the Sliders Do:

So more confusion here. Personally I do not use the regular Sharpen mode – it corrects for just general out-of-camera softness and does not do too much for my photos. But usually I will try both the Stabilize Mode (for motion blur or camera shake issues) and Focal Mode (great for bringing an eye in really sharp focus – corrects up to 10 pixels of focus blur). Sometimes one gives better results than the other. I will use the Auto button as a starting point for this filter – it appears to be a little better than DeNoise AI’s. Also, turn off the Auto-update Preview if you do not want to update every time you move a slider or the image –  just remember to click Update when ready to see the changes. Obviously the Sharpness slider will sharpen. But why yet another Suppress Noise slider? Topaz says it is to help remove noise so I am not sure why they put it here when they have DeNoise AI. I have found that if I do not quite remove all the noise in DeNoise AI because I am losing too much detail, by going into Sharpen AI, the noise can be adjusted a little more accurately to keep the sharpness tack sharp. But that is a bit of a pain to do. I never use the Add Grain.

Here is the best part about this filter – it now has masking capabilities and you can paint in just where you want the sharpness to be applied. So if you are doing a portrait and want the eyes sharper, just adjust the whole image for the eyes only, then click on the brush icon at the top, adjust the brush size, and paint out the eye only. The rest of the image stays just how it was. This is a fabulous addition. I like that you do not have to sharpen the background of an image to get a really sharp foreground such as a bird or animal in the foreground. The brush has settings for Edge Aware, Radius Size, Softness, and Opacity. A red Overlay can be turned on and off to show where the mask is being applied and a small mask window appears in the bottom right. Just click apply mask, click update again, and Apply.

AI CLEAR

In the DeNoise AI filter, there is an AI Clear Model. This is supposed to be exactly the same filter as the one that is in Topaz Studio – one big difference is that you can adjust the View with the Scroll Bar in Studio while you must use the parameters Topaz gives in you in DeNoise AI – mainly 100% and 200% are the most useful. I will not go over all the settings as there is an overlap between them and the DeNoise AI sliders – basically one is simplified for quick use. Below is a screenshot of the red flower using only the AI Clear filter in Topaz Studio and using the extra Exposure and Clarity sliders.

Screenshot of AI Clear interface in Topaz Studio 2

I personally like having the other two sliders to help adjust the lost contrast that denoising causes. Also, I noticed that the Recover Details did not work well on this image using either filter. Below is an image of Piccadilly Circus in London after AI Clear (Remove Noise High, Enhance Sharpness High and Recover Details 55) and Topaz Sharpen AI (Model Stabilize, Manual mode, Sharpness 100 and Noise 100) was used. For some reason, when Topaz DeNoise AI Mode was applied it lost a lot of the detail, especially of the very back building.

Image taken at night at Piccadilly Circus in LondonHere is a screenshot of part of the original so you can see all the noise in the image – it was taken at ISO 1600 and F/7.1. I was totally surprised that AI Clear would do a better job, but it did here. I would suggest trying both modes in DeNoise AI if you do not the like the results of one of them.

Screenshot of a noisy close up of Piccadilly Circus

What is the difference between DeNoise AI and Sharpen AI?

From Topaz website “DeNoise AI uses AI algorithms specifically made for digital noise removal. Its sharpening functionality is used primarily to smooth out any artifacts created during the process, and aren’t nearly as advanced as Sharpen AI, whose AI algorithms are custom built for focusing images.”

What is the difference between Sharpen AI and AI Clear?

From Topaz website “The Stabilize (shake reduction) and Focus (focus correction) modes in Sharpen AI have no AI Clear alternatives. These modes serve the purpose of InFocus classic plugin (with better results) rather than pure output sharpening.

The Sharpen module in Sharpen AI does have similarities with AI Clear. The difference here is a bit more subtle and come from the training process between these two products. AI Clear was trained on images with generally more noise, whereas Sharpen AI was trained on images with generally less noise but more blur. Resulting in AI Clear’s main detection is noise whereas Sharpen AI’s main detection is to recognize blur.  This makes Clear optimal for noisy images and Sharpen more effective for a bit more blurry images.”

What is the difference between DeNoise AI and AI Clear?

Joel answered this question and I have found it very helpful. Most DSLR camera’s have a low pass filter in front of the sensor which blurs the image a little. AI Clear is basically a Capture Sharpening and he personally applies it on every normal image first thing. He does not need a lot of denoising or sharpening, but just a little. I know I have used AI Clear in Topaz Studio (he uses it from DeNoise AI) for a long time and it is one of my favorite filters. You should use DeNoise AI when there is a bigger noise issue.

Bottom Line

Use DeNoise AI for images that just have too noise. The Sharpen slider adds back any softness that the filter may have caused, but it has limited capabilities.

Use Topaz Sharpen AI to fix up any images that are a little soft from shake or lack of focus. Especially useful for helping images that were hand-held. The DeNoise slider in this tool does not seem to be as robust as using DeNoise AI’s Remove Noise slider but does work some.

Use Topaz AI Clear (in Topaz Studio or DeNoise AI) for capture sharpening at its default settings for most images. Just really sharpens them up the right amount and helps with the final look.

For me Topaz Sharpen AI may be the best filter on the market right now – it is totally incomparable IMHO! The new Masking Brush is just an added bonus. By having the Suppress Noise slider, it will find any excess noise that was missed in DeNoise AI. I would definitely get this filter if I did not already own it. I think DeNoise is a fabulous program but it is not usually my issue. AI Clear does a wonderful job in Topaz Studio for me so I stick with it. I believe if I upgrade my camera soon, DeNoise AI may be much more important since I will be using those higher ISO settings, but right now, AI Clear fixes most of my noise issues.

Hope this cleared up a bit of the confusion on these filters. It has been a struggle for me to figure out when and which one to use. Have another great week and I hope everyone is catching up on some of that post work that seems to be always waiting for you! ….. Digital Lady Syd


SCANNING WITH A BLACK BOX

Image of Plumbago flowers taken in a black box and scanned
To keep busy I have been watching a lot of videos, especially some drawing videos by Aaron Blaise, possibly the greatest wildlife illustrator around (and he has some great deals on his site right now), and Johannes Vloothuis, a fabulous painter and teacher (he creates these great “paint-along” videos using regular paint media, but the information applies to digital painting very nicely). Also this week I did try to get a bit creative with my photography and made a small black box out of cardboard to scan some of my yard flowers.

Quick Workflow

  1. Took a small cardboard box (7″ X 10″) and cut the bottom and top off of it. Then cut down the sides so they were only 3″ tall. With some flat black matte spray paint, sprayed the inside of the box. Also sprayed one side of a flat piece of cardboard to use as a top – made it a little larger than the inside of the box. (Note: in the related blog at end, a black sunglass case was used as a black box for a small bloom.)
  2. Plucked a couple flowers off my Plumbago Plants growing outside and pulled a couple of leaves off also.
  3. Put the black box on the scanner with the top off and laid out my flowers and leaves. Put the black top piece facing down on the cardboard box.
  4. Fired up my old scanner (a 16-year old Epson Perfection 3200 scanner – I can’t believe Amazon still has it????) that is actually working fine – set the resolution to 3200 and tiff output.

And a rather interesting image appeared! I really liked the soft look of the flowers it created.

Issues to Look Out For

  1. The scanner software I use is called VueScan X64 which was bought ages ago. They continually upgrade it and it has always worked for me until their latest upgrade in March – I had to remove it and go back to the earlier version. I guess my scanner model is getting too old so just beware when upgrading your scanner software.
  2. I tried a few different arrangements. Found out that these flowers wilt very quickly, so you have to do this pretty quickly or pick more fresh blossoms to scan.
  3. I had not cleaned my scanner glass very well and it was also dusty even under the glass. Be sure to clean the top of the glass before doing your scanning. I have no idea how to clean the inside area.

There were lots of white dots showing up in my image with the black background. Luckily Photoshop came to the rescue. To get rid of these nasty white dots, went to Filter -> Noise -> Median and set the Radius to 2. It can be previewed easily while you adjust the slider. This got rid of most of the dots. Just remember the filter also softens up your image just like any noise filter does so don’t overdo it. A layer mask was added and the areas to keep sharp were painted back. Since there were still a few white dots left over and on some of the flowers painted back in, a New Layer twas added for the Spot Healing Brush to finish the clean up process. I could not believe how well this worked.

The image was sharpened using Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Sharpen AI before doing the white dot clean up – it definitely did help sharpen up the blossoms. The vintage border was from Heybing Supply Company. A little dodging and burning was done using lighten and darken Curves Adjustment Layers – painted in where the dodging and burning should occur using black layer masks. (See my How to Use Curves Adjustment Layer to Dodge and Burn an Image blog for more on this.)

What I liked about the black box effect is that the colors of the flowers were pretty close to what the blossoms really looked like. A slight depth-of-field was obtained with this method which I found rather pleasing.  Lots of fun but I did learn a few things along the way. Hope everyone is doing well and trying out some new techniques! Have a great week creating! ….. Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Scanning a Bloom for a Different Look


HOW TO ADD A LITTLE EXTRA DETAIL

Image of two Moon Jellyfish
This post was going to be a review about one of my favorite filters, the now updated Topaz Sharpen AI filter that contains a brush for creating a mask to locally sharpen certain areas of the image. There appears to be a few bugs yet so I am not ready to review it. Instead I went back into my archive to find some new things to work on during this stay-at-home time. Therefore this week is going to be just a short blog on getting a little detail into an image, in this case some Jellyfish images. Hum!

The Moon Jellyfish image above seems to be both creepy and beautiful at the same time. (Their body is white in color, round, and very transparent so when the sun or the moon is shining on them, they look just like a lit-up moon.) What was really interesting to me was how to get all the nooks and crannies of this image to look as transparent as the jellyfish really looked. The Camera Raw Filter was opened  and a free Profile in a Sparklestock set called Lemon – Pumpkin 02 profile at 106% was selected (they have many  great presets and all have free samples). Then the basic sliders were adjusted so that the background was a little darker and the light lines showed up a better. Some Texture and Clarity were also added. Since I did not have my Topaz Sharpen AI working, I decided to use my back-up which never lets me down – Luminar 4 (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link). It has also been recently updated for Landscapes or Portraits. Sometimes the AI Enhance Tool is used, but in this case it was lightening up the background too much. The AI Structure Tool (Amount 73 and Boost 43) and painted in a mask where on the areas needing sharpening was used first. Then applied the Details Enhancer Tool (Small Details 49, Medium Details 25, and Large Details 37). These are usually the only two filters needed to get some great detail from Luminar. Now here is a great trick when working with objects with thin lines – go into Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Studio 2 and apply the Edges Filter. This filter can do wonders to give a little more edge to objects. In this case these filters and settings were used: AI Clear: Remove Noise Auto, Enhance Sharpness High, Exposure 0.02 and Clarity 0.40 (I still love this filter in Studio and just by adding a little Clarity here helped quite a bit in this case); and Edges: Edge Type – Monochrome Line, Edge Tone – Light, Edge Strength – 0.67, Simplify Edge – 0.04, Suppress Weak Edges – 0.35, Suppress Small Edge 0.84, Edge Thickness 0.12, and Edge Resolution – 0.84 – painted off any long white lines which looked over the top. That was basically all that was done on this image, but the sharpening process turned out really good.

So for this image the following items were used to add the detail: (1) Camera Raw Filter and the Texture and Clarity sliders in particular; (2) Luminar 4 using their AI Structure and Details Enhancer Tools; and (3) Topaz Studio 2’s AI Clear (especially the Clarity slider) and Edges Filters.

*****

Image of a traditional jellyfish with a watercolor effect

This image is of a more traditional looking Jellyfish, the kind I have seen in the ocean before. This time a more painterly effect was applied and most of this was done in Topaz Studio 2 where the more artistic filters can be found. This time an older version of Topaz Sharpen AI (Model: Stylize at Sharpness 0.90 and Suppress Noise 0.20) was used to do my initial sharpening – and it did a great job. Luminar 4 was applied on a stamped layer and the Dramatic set Mystic Look preset was applied which gave it an overall painterly feel. Then on another stamped layer Topaz Studio 2 was opened and AI Clear applied – Remove Noise: Auto, Enhance Sharpness: High, and Clarity 0.78. Next the wonderful Edges filter set to 100 Opacity, Multiply blend mode, Edge Type Monchrome Edge, but this time Edge Tone: Dark instead of Light as above.  All the other sliders refine the original Edge Strength (0.78) setting:  Simplify Edge 0.40, Suppress Weak Edges 0, Suppress Small Edges: 0.00, Edge Thickness 0.40, and Edge Resolution 1.00. In layer mask with brush set to Transparency 0.50, Radius 0.03, Softness 0.50 and Edge Aware On, painted effect off in a mask where the lines were just too dark – this still left an enhanced line but was not as obvious. The Impression filter was set to Type 13, Background Color Original in Texture section, and in inverted layer mask, just painted over the top of the Jellyfish with brush at 0.78 Transparency. Back in PS, the background was created by using 3 different colors on 3 different layers using the Shadowhouse Creations texture brush set to a large size (it was the 2nd example created in my recent How to Create a Texture Brush to Match a Texture blog). Then put layers in a group and set it to 82% layer opacity. On a New Layer on top, the top part of the Jellyfish was smoothed with a Mixer brush. Then on another New Layer, a small brush was used to add in some of the tentacle lines that were missing. Text was Hardwired Script Update and it was a lot of fun to use – the creator added in many variations for the letters. Still more clean up, but these were pretty much the steps. Once again Studio’s Edges filter was a great help.

For this image, these detailed items were used: (1) Topaz Sharpen AI; (2) Topaz Studio 2’s AI Clear and Edges filters; and (3) actually drew in any small lines that needed emphasis using a tiny small brush.

*****

Image of Moon Jellyfish in a sepia tone
More Moon Jellyfish – this time in a sepia tone. Did initial sharpening in Lightroom using the Detail Panel before applying the old Nik Silver Efex Pro filter to the image. Just the default preset was used to start and then changes were made using Toning Preset 9 to give a slightly bluish look. Back in PS the image was inverted (CTRL+I on the image). A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added using a Color Negative Device Link preset (not sure if this is from PS or not) set to Hue – it added the nice sepia effect. The Moon is from Rule by Art (in Design Cuts Planet-Space-Explosion-Background and Ancient Texture set) and it was also adjusted to match the Jellyfish using the same Silver Efex Pro and Color Lookup Adjustment Layer settings. Another Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added and set to the Foggy Night preset at 63% layer opacity and Overlay blend mode. Used the same Hardwired Script Update font. Last step was a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a little contrast back.

In this case, the only sharpening needed was in Camera Raw. It is interesting to see that each image had such different requirements.

Hope everyone is taking it easy and trying out some new techniques. That is what I was trying to do with my images – try a few different things and see what I like. It is actually nice to be able to slow down and think about this – just hope it is not for too long. Stay safe!…..Digital Lady Syd


WHAT FILTERS I USE AND WHAT IS NEW FOR ME

Image of tiny white and red flowers
This week I am just going to give you a few of my favorite plugins that I think are worth checking out if you are interested in purchasing a few on Black Friday/Cyber Monday. I am a huge filter (plugin) fan and these are all ones I own and use a lot or I would not waste your time. The image above is the final after adding several of the filters below.

Topaz Sharpen AI

Hands down in my mind is Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Sharpen AI – it seems to be just getting better and better each rendition they release. Probably 80% of my images are improved by this filter, even if I do not realize the image needs it. The image below used the Topaz AI Sharpen set to my favorite settings of Processing Mode Stabilize, Remove Blur 0.80 (this is the sharpening slider) and Suppress Noise 0.30. For some reason these settings work on most of my images. I will try the other Processing Modes (Sharpen and Focus) if there is no noticeably improvement with these settings. And by applying and adding a black layer mask to the image back in Photoshop, just areas needing the sharpening can be painted back quickly. See my Topaz Sharpen AI – Good or Bad? and Yes, Free Upgrade for Infocus Owners blog for a quick review. Below is a split screenshot of how the image looked before using LR and after with this filter – it is especially noticeable in the little branches that are hanging down. Subtle but definitely better.

Screenshot using Topaz Sharpen AI

Luminar 4 or Luminar Flex – looks like Skylum has pulled Flex

Last week I did a quick review of Luminar 4 (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) and I have discussed Flex previously. Flex at one time was a free program for Luminar 3 owners and the was sold as a separate program. Until recently it was available on their site, but at this time I am having problems finding it. I hope that they have not quit updating or selling this product as it is very handy for people who do not need the cataloging function of the program but love the filters. I will try to find out more and update any new information. There is a difference – mainly in the filters. If you want the latest and greatest of the AI filters, Luminar 4 has them – the new AI Sky Replacement, AI Structure, and AI Skin Enhancer along with the new Portrait Enhancer are in it. Luminar Flex has the Accent AI Filter 2.0 and AI Sky Enhancer and a total of 51 filters that can be applied to your images. Luminar 4 has the cataloging capability but only 32 total filters (some are grouped together under a new name and were counted individually). This has upset some people. Also I have found in both programs that using the Structure filter with the Details filter gives an excellent Sharpening effect. Flex has been around for a while and the reason people loved it is that it had a Smart Object capability which Luminar 3 did not. Luminar 4 does have the Smart Object functionality, but if you are a Windows person, the recent update to Photoshop 2020 makes it uneditable – this is also true for Flex. The Tech team is working on it and the issue should be resolved soon. I think both programs do an excellent job at a fairly reasonable price. Once again, give them both a try. I find Luminar products seem to have really good color in them and some excellent photo filters. See my Checking out Skylum’s Luminar 4 blog and Luminar Flex – Exactly What Is This? blog for interface screenshots. I do use Flex all the time on my images – just got Luminar 4 so still deciding which is better.

Screenshot of the effect Luminar 4 had on flower image

DXO Nik Collection 2

They have now updated the original Nik Suite and added some new filters and a new interface. I am still using the original as it seems to be working fine for me with the new Photoshop 2020 update. My all time “Favorite” plugin that I use on 98% of my images is Viveza (the last step on the image above used this filter to emphasize some focal points). Many people feel that Lightroom does the same thing, but not for me. It was the second plugin I bought (behind the original Topaz Adjust) many years ago and I still love it (as well as Topaz Adjust – they have a Topaz Adjust AI program that I am still trying out). Back to DXO’s Nik Collection 2 – they claim to have added 40 new filters (8 to just the Color Efex Program). I can’t say enough good things about Nik – they supported my blog for years before Google bought them. I strongly suggest you try out their products.

Image after applying Nik Photo Efex Pro Midnight Filter

TOPAZ STUDIO 2

Topaz considers this their “creative filter collection” and that is probably a fair assessment. Since it contains Topaz Impression and Topaz AI Remix leading the way to get some really unique results, it is probably the most versatile of all the suites available. It also contains Glow, Edges, Precision Contrast and Precision Detail, and Color Theme (a hidden jewel for changing colors in your image) filters besides all the useful Looks (presets). It is now available for just a flat fee – if you own some of the filters, there is a discount available to you but you need to contact them before you buy to find out what it will cost. That said, there is no cataloging and more limited Camera Raw ability going on here – just lots of filters to give unique effects and fabulous color results. Topaz has worked very hard to improve their original Topaz Studio 1 to make it easier and faster to use. I love parts of it, but I miss parts of it too. The biggest issue is that the older Topaz plugins are no longer linked within the interface (they can still be used from the Filter -> Topaz Labs back in Photoshop) – but it will link the newer AI filters. I use this program a lot – definitely worth getting. Check out my What About This Topaz Studio 2 Update? Not Bad! blog for more info on it.

OTHERS I LIKE BUT DO NOT USE ALL THE TIME

TOPAZ DeNoise AI

I am a huge Topaz fan so I must say that I do love their plugins, but some I do not use all the time. The Topaz DeNoise AI is a fabulous plugin – and it does contain everyone’s favorite AI Clear that can be selected when opened. I find I do not need to do this often since DeNoise AI seems to overlap with the Sharpen AI somewhat and AI Clear is in Topaz Studio 2. Usually I use Studio to add the DeNoise as this little filter is so handy to access (and you can use a brush to paint it off in parts of the image in Studio.) For more info, check out my Topaz DeNoise AI – And Yes, Free Upgrade When Your Own DeNoise6 or AI Clear blog.

Corel’s Painter Particalshop

This Photoshop plugin is a really great way to add some fun to your images. There are many new brushes that can be added to the plugin (at a cost) to get some interesting effects, so check it out if you want to see what is available. For example, Particleshop has a Perfect Pets set, Sketch, Sunny Rays, Rust and Patina, Trees & Foliage – all kinds of brushes to get. I do not this plugin a lot, but there are times it adds just the perfect touch. Most have several settings to change the look of the brushes. This plugin is working fine with Photoshop 2020. Check out my Intro to Corel Particleshop Brushes for Photoshop blog.

Flaming Pears Flood Filter

The Flood Filter has been around for years without changing much, but it is still one of the best effects for water I have ever seen. Lots of sliders and a very smooth effect with great reflections can be obtained as well as very rough waters and lot of waves. Great for getting some interesting effects. I have an older version and it works just fine with Photoshop 2020. And check my older blog called The Flood Look.

Old version of Flood Filter used on flowers

Topaz Gigapixel

Still the best for enlarging your image – I love this program and use it all the time. It is constantly being upgraded and does a fabulous job! Now you can add some sharpening to bring in more detail when enlarging and denoise if there is a problem with this. One of Topaz’s best! And yes, I have done a blog on it too – see The Best New Software Around – Topaz A.I. Gigapixel! blog.

These are just some of the great plugins out there. I have found that I get confused when I use them all so I am trying to choose what are my very favorites and stick to learning how to use them better. That being said, sometimes getting a new set of filters really helps on the creative end of things. I hope this blog gives you some ideas for a few nice add-ins to Photoshop. Have a great shopping week and Happy Thanksgiving to those celebrating! I am taking next week off, so see you in a couple!…..Digital Lady Syd


CAN A BLURRY IMAGE BECOME SHARP? MAYBE

Image of a bird feeder with a couple of birds
Just doing a really quick blog this week – have been working on an image that was taken this last summer that I really liked, but it just was not that sharp. Mainly my settings were off – they were working on the butterflies but not for the skiddish birds. If I walked in closer, the birds were totally freaking and would not come near the bird feeder, so this was a problem. Lesson learned – shoot manual when having problems! It may not be the best image, but I did get a nice remembrance of the birds and they are at least recognizable. So here is what I finally came up with to fix this.

Obviously I was shooting a lot of images and that was a big part of why this worked. I have learned that a little burst shooting and several attempts are especially good when I am not sure that I am getting the image I want. The two images were not shot at the same time – actually several deer images were taken in between. The juvenile Blue Jay image was shot first and the Cardinal second. You will probably never find a Blue Jay and a Cardinal at this feeder at the same time. That is why the bird images were taken at different times, but I decided to leave the Blue Jay alone as I thought he looked cute. Below are the actual RAW files taken. You can see these both are in pretty bad shape. One reason I wanted to use this Cardinal shot is that I liked the way his head was turned.

Original Raw photos of bird feeder and birds

In Lightroom these simple settings were applied: first opened the Detail Panel to adjust some Sharpness and add Noise reduction (because it is always there with this camera), then in Lens Correction the check boxes for Remove Chromatic Aberration and Enable Profile Corrections were turned on. The image was next cropped into a Square. In the Basic Panel the Auto button was clicked and Texture and Clarity sliders were adjusted. That was it. The image was taken into Photoshop where it could be seen this just was not good. Topaz (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Sharpen AI was added and set to Stabilize, Remove Blur 1.00, and Remove Noise 0.20. It helped, but it could not totally fix this pix. In Lightroom an image that used the same bird feeder that was sharper had to be found – the one with the juvenile Blue Jay was selected. The changes made to the RAW file for the Cardinal were copied over to the Blue Jay image and it was also brought into PS. Below you can see what they both looked like at this point.

Bird feeder images after Lightroom adjustments made to them

Now the Blue Jay image had to have Topaz AI Sharpen applied in PS before stacking on top of the Cardinal layer. Several layers of cloning and painting with both regular and mixer brushes was required to add back the needed detail and blend the colors together. Once brought into the Cardinal image, the Blue Jay layer had to be Free Transformed to fit and a black layer mask added – just painted back parts needed. The info was all there on the originals, just slightly blurry. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added on top using Sparkle Stock’s Bleak-Shoji 01 LUT and set to 58% layer opacity – this tended to tone down the very green background color. Viveza 2 was used to highlight the birds and add a little detail with the Structure slider. The setting were placed on the Blue Jay in this case where the Structure slider was set to 65%, Brightness 42%, Contrast 49%, Saturation 22% and Warmth 25% – really made the bird pop – I use this program all the time to even out an image. I used 6 different points in this image to help direct the eye to the birds. I really feel it is much better than Lightroom’s filters and a lot easier to use. I do still love LR so don’t get me wrong, but this program to me is still the best Photoshop plugin ever made. (See screenshot below of how this plugin was used.)

Screenshot Viveza 2
On a stamped layer, Topaz Lens Effect’s Vignette filter set to Burnt Sienna was used – the effect was painted off the birds and feeder in a layer mask. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to add some contrast back. Then on a New Layer the Sharpen Tool was set to a Strength of 100% to just the Cardinal and some of the seeds in the bird feeder – it was set to 45% layer opacity to keep it natural. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added next to adjust the red color in the Cardinal – this really added some depth and detail to the birds body which was not seen in the original image (Reds set to Cyan +82, Magenta +6, Yellow +2, and Black +13). Next a Black and White Adjustment Layer was added on top and the colors were adjusted as a black and white before setting the layer to Luminosity blend mode – great way to make sure you have your tonal values correct. (See my How to Use a Black & White Adjustment Layer to See Contrast in an Image blog.) Last step involved adding a Red Channel Luminosity Mask to a Curves Adjustment Layer – the Red Channel lighted up the birds the best. (See my How to Use a Red Channel to Create a Nice Blended Image Effect blog.) I hope I am getting across the fact that the sharpening is just slowly built up using different tools for different parts of the image.

Image of a painted deer
Who is this that just walked into my blog? Oh yes, one of the deer that was wandering around the yard near the bird feeder. My goodness! (Image was digitally painted mainly in Corel Painter 2019 and then finished up in Photoshop – my normal paint process.)

Anyway, thought I would show you how to fix something that may not seem fixable. It can be done, just takes a little experimentation and imagination to make it work. It actually is a lot like compositing images. Hope this was a bit of help to some of you – a favorite image might be saveable with a little manipulation. …..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO ADD A LITTLE INTERIOR GLOW

Image of room taken at the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida
This blog shows how to add some very soft directed lighting using Lightroom (or ACRs) Adjustment Brush, and how to get rid of the noise caused by the high ISO settings usually associated with interior images. I am not particularly an interior photographer, but there are times when touring old homes or museums I have taken some pretty boring images. I decided to try a technique learned from watching Serge Ramelli’s The One Trick That Got Me the Most Jobs on Interior Design Photography video to pop these image a little – if using LR (or ACR) a lot, check Serge out even if you do not like his total style, he always has some of the best ideas on how to use LR creatively. The image above was taken at the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida and was quite forgettable. Two major things changed this image dramatically: Serge’s LR adjustment brush settings and in the use of the new Topaz (for website link click sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) DeNoise AI filter in PS.

Serge’s Lightroom (ACR) Adjustment Brush Settings

The RAW photo is shown below. After watching Serge’s video, the soft lighting effect was painted in on a JPG (gasp!!!) created when trying out the DeNoise AI filter. These are the Basic settings used: Exposure -0.44 (want it darker here for this technique), Highlights -91, Shadows +85, Whites +72, and Blacks -54 – pretty standard sliders to use when beginning the image processing. Next click on the Adjustment Brush set up a brush with these setting from Serge: Set the basic brush to Flow and Density around 70, Feather 100 and no Auto Mask (in LR only, I set my Brush B to these settings). In the Panel set the Exposure to +0.84 and Clarity to -48 (he says for a glow effect). At this point I created a preset of the brush called SRamalli Interior Lights. Then just started brushing with a fairly large brush in places where the light would go or have a pleasing effect on. Paint on the ceiling and carpet also. The trick is to go back and forth between the Basic Panel and the Adjustment Brush Panel settings to get exactly the right settings for the look needed. I would encourage you to watch Serge’s video to get the total feel of how he does this. To finish up this image, the Transform Panel’s Upright was set to Full since the image was very crooked (caused a few lights on the walls to disappear but this is not an image that I be publishing – just one to remember how nice the Museum was.)

Topaz DeNoise AI

Normally I would have finished up in LR by going into the Details tab and adding sharpening and removing noise, but this time I decided to let Topaz DeNoise AI filter do the heavy lifting in Photoshop. (Note that you can actually access DeNoise AI from Lightroom if you add it on as an External Editing program from your Preferences panel.) This image was originally selected to try out the new AI fiter and it really created a great result (set Noise Level to 0.50 and Enhance Sharpness to 0.50). Most of my images are not that noisy so this was the kind of shot needed to try it out. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added called Vintage Chrome by On1 (they recently gave out to software owners a whole bunch of great LUT’s for both their On1 (for website link click sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Photo Raw 2019 software and PS.) It was set to 57% layer opacity and the lace in the curtains were darkened in window using a layer set to Overlay blend mode and a low opacity black brush painted over them.

Raw file from Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida
This image below was an taken in one of the historic rooms at Flagler College (was the old Ponce de Leon Hotel built in 1888) in St. Augustine (not to be confused with the above Flagler Museum image taken where Flagler used to live in Palm Beach). Same steps in Lightroom and then in PS, used the Topaz DeNoise AI filter (set to Noise Level 0.50 and Enhance Sharpness 0.50). But also Topaz Sharpen AI filter was applied (set to Processing Mode Stabilize, Remove Blur 0.50 and Suppress Noise 0.50) – needed a little more sharpness since the image was taken hand-held at a high ISO and Stabilize mode will fix this. Last step involved adding a Levels Adjustment Layer to even out the midtone contrast. That was it.

Image of historic room at Flagler College (old Ponce de Leon Hotel)The original RAW image is below – pretty unbelievable that you can even get an image from it. It is nice to have a nice shot of the beautiful chandelier in the room.

Original RAW file for Flagler College room
Hope you enjoyed these couple little tricks – it is pretty easy to do and I plan on trying this technique out on a few old cathedral images taken in Europe. It does add some nice of emotion and color to an image which in normal circumstances would be pretty uninteresting. And do download DeNoise AI, especially if you have AI Clear or DeNoise6 – it is really good! Until next time…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Showing Some of Serge Ramelli’s Effects
Topaz DeNoise AI – And Yes, Free Upgrade When You Own DeNoise6 or AI Clear


TOPAZ SHARPEN AI – GOOD OR BAD? AND YES, FREE UPGRADE FOR TOPAZ INFOCUS OWNERS

Image of a Tigress at the Jacksonville Zoo
Recently Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) released yet another new AI (Artificial Intelligence) filter called Sharpen AI – this comes as a real surprise since just a a while back JPEG to Raw AI was released. What is interesting about this new release is that it was actually based upon the older Topaz Infocus filter. And if you already own Infocus, you get the new Sharpen AI automatically. I love Topaz for this – they do honor their company commitment that if a filter is upgraded and you own it, you get the upgrade free! See section below for info on how to do this as there appears to be a lot of confusion with this. Let’s start by showing what Sharpen AI’s interface looks like and does. I have added several sections so if you are not interested in all the details, you can skip through some of them. Above is the lovely Siberian Tigress named Dorcas at the Jacksonville Zoo – what a lovely creature she is!

Sharpen AI Interface

Sharpen AI And AI Clear both improves an image’s sharpness and reduces its noise. There is a difference with how they each deal with noise reduction. In AI Clear the noise is adjusted by clicking on Auto or the Low, Med and High buttons. So one of these settings must be chosen. Click on the image below to see the settings more clearly in Flickr.

Interface of the AI Clear adjustment in Topaz Studio
In Sharpen AI, there is an actual Suppress Noise slider and it can be applied at any amount and with any of the three modes that can be selected. Therefore there is a lot more versatility. Click on the image below to see a larger view of the interface for the Sharpen AI plugin in Flickr and the settings used on the Tigress. The left side is the original image with no sharpening at all and the right side has Sharpen AI applied. If you look closely, the eyes are definitely sharper in the Sharpen filter and some of the hairs around the face are subtly sharper. (The image above was enhanced with Sharpen AI. In Topaz Studio’s Precision Detail was applied to whole image and Impression applied to just the background, and in PS Lighten and Darken Curve Adjustments Layers to add contrast.)

Image of Tigress using the Topaz Sharpen AI plugin
There are three modes that can be tried on the image before applying it. I like this since one may not work as well as another. I am finding that the mode I thought I should use is not always the best one.

Sharpen Mode – this setting is supposed to only sharpen the things you want and brings out the detail in your image – Topaz says it “only sharpens the good stuff” and I guess this is where the AI comes in. It figures out what needs to be sharp in your image.

Stabilize Mode – it is supposed to be best when used with moving objects or low light situations. It “stabilizes” the motion blur that results.

Focus Mode – Topaz says it “rescues a blur within ten pixels” so that a slightly out-of-focus shot becomes much sharper. If part of an image is in focus, like the eyes, but the nose is not, this mode will fix that and bring the nose in focus also.

The Remove Blur slider is the main slider to adjust any of the three modes. They advise against setting it to 1.00 but I use 0.70 quite a bit. It can make the image look too crunchy but that may be okay if you are just using this filter for just the eyes. (See next section for more on this.) As noted above the Suppress Noise slider will reduce the noise in the image and is set to 0.50 as a default. I am also finding that this can be reduced to give some better results if you do not need the noise adjusted. Add Grain slider is only needed if the Mode over corrects your image resulting in an unnatural surface smoothness or loss of too much detail – some texture can be added back this way. It is probably not something that needs to be used often.

How to Use the Sharpen Filter

I usually use this filter from Photoshop since I like to tweak the results once applied. It also is much easier when using the masking as I am describing in this section. I am also finding that the Focus mode fits my problem areas in photography – many people also like the Stabilize mode. One of the best uses for Sharpen AI is to apply it so the eyes so look really sharp, then go back into PS and add a black layer mask to everything but the eyes. Paint them back with white at any brush opacity to make it look good. I have not tried this on a person pix yet but saw this demonstrated with great success.
Image of a Guereza Colobus Monkey at the Jacksonville ZooThe Guereza Colobus Monkey above used the Focus mode with Remove Blur at 0.70, Suppress Noise at 0.30 and Add Grain at 0 (therefore more sharpening and less noise reduction smoothing) on a layer in PS. In PS a black layer mask was added and just the monkey and foreground was painted back for sharpening. Click on screenshot to see large in Flickr.
Screenshot of Monkey image showing original and Sharpen AI filter applied
Other work was done in Photoshop like using a Lighten Curve to lighten him up a little and the palm shadow was added to take the distracting background away (see 15 Shadow Mockup Overlays by andshesbrave). I am often sharpening the whole image and then masking out completely the other parts of the image in the PS with a 100% white brush or using a lower amount set to reduce part of the effect in the mask. Also Blend If sliders could be handy here.

Below is an example of a landscape hand-held from of all things a bus! Sharpen AI really pulled out all the rigging lines that I have never been able to get clear – this filter saved my image – it may not be the best I have ever taken, but it sure is one of my favorites from Scotland. The filter made the image usable and that is probably the key to what makes a filter a good one. All your images are not going to be that great but some definitely have more meaning and need to be saved of those precious memories.
Image of a sailboat in the Highlands of ScotlandAbove, this whole Scottish image was sharpened, probably a bit too much – used settings of Processing Mode Focus, Remove Blur 0.70, Suppress Noise 0.80 and Add Grain 0. Then back in PS a black mask was added again and just the sailboat and its lines were painted back which made them very sharp. Using the Focus mode sharpened these lines up beautifully – never have been able to do this with any other product. AI Clear could not help this image. Then I took the image into Topaz Studio where Precision Detail was applied just to the boat. Several other clean up and color toning steps were done but the sharpening on the boat makes this image.

I am finding it is best not to use both AI Clear and Sharpen AI on the same image. It will usually over sharpen the image and add artifacting. You can add other forms of sharpening like using the PS High Pass to sharpen or the Sharpen Tool on special areas with either filter. Just be sure to localize your sharpening when doing this. The Monkey above also had a High Pass added at the end of my workflow but it was only added selectively where the foreground elements needed just a bit more sharpness. In other words, this filter does not do it all, but it is a great place to start, especially if an image needs a little extra help.

What is the Difference between AI Clear and Sharpen AI?

The big question is “Why do I need this filter?” To be honest, I rarely used Infocus so I was as perplexed at this as everyone else. And now that AI Clear is such a fabulous product, is it needed? Let’s address AI Clear first. Since Topaz fixed AI Clear back in October of last year, I use it on almost every image I post-process. I think a lot of people feel that way – I have yet to find another filter that does what this one does in just a couple clicks. It is fast and easy to apply from either Lightroom, Photoshop, or Topaz Studio. It almost always improves an image’s sharpness and reduces its noise.

It seems to me that Topaz Sharpen AI should be used for images that have what I consider bigger issues. Topaz claims it is a great asset for shots taken when hand-holding the camera. “The machine learning training process allows it to understand the difference between detail vs. noise. This means that it can selectively apply sharpening to just the image features it perceives as detail.” On landscapes it brings back detail in all parts of an image while removing noise. Sharpen AI is both a stand-alone (which will only accept Tiff, Jpeg and Png files but plans to add Raw file capability are in the works) and a plug-in that can be accessed by Lightroom, PS and Topaz Studio. NOTE: A big tip is to be sure the Automatically Update Preview is set to No or else you and your computer will be going crazy as it keeps updating the filter! The Stabilize and Focus modes in Sharpen AI are not contained in AI Clear – they originated from the original Infocus techniques. It is not fast at processing and can be down-right slow when saving the final settings to the image – this depends on the size of the file you are using. The Tigress image took 2 minutes to save on my computer which has a pretty fast processor. I did run the Shake Reduction filter in Photoshop (remember when we thought this was the greatest filter ever????) for comparison and it is not even close to either Sharpen AI or AI Clear – we have come a long way with this technology.

Topaz describes the subtle differences between the two programs by saying: “AI Clear’s main detection is noise whereas Sharpen AI’s main detection is to recognize blur.  This makes Clear optimal for noisy images and Sharpen more effective for a bit more blurry images.” I believe this is true with my experience using both programs. Sharpen AI does not have batch capability – it is too computer intensive at this point while AI Clear does have the capability.

If you already own Topaz Infocus, Here is how to Upgrade to Topaz Sharpen AI:

Not sure if you own Topaz Infocus? Check out your Topaz Labs Account for purchased products – should be able to tell if you had this plugin originally.

1. Download a trial version of the program and load it on. It should say you have a 30-Day Trial at the top of the program.

2. Now click on the Help Menu and select Update Ownership which should be the second item in the drop-down list. Just click on it and it will remove the Trial information.

If having problems with the above (and hopefully you do not have to do the following steps), here is the info direct from the website forum:

Log into your Topaz Account. Click on Coupon either on the left side of your account page or under Account > coupon then click on the coupon tag. Next go to the Stand alone > Sharpen AI menu at the top of the page and select Sharpen AI. Once on the page, scroll to the bottom and find Buy Now. Once you have the cart it should show the price minus the coupon. Then check out normally to purchase. Finally, download or if you are using a trial go to the Help menu > Update ownership (in the program) and it will change from trial to normal version.

Bottom Line

I am starting to like the Sharpen AI better the more I use it but no way am I getting rid of my AI Clear! Sharpen AI is very slow and I can get fairly similar results with AI Clear and a little Precision Detail or Precision Contrast in Topaz Studio – that is when using an image that is in pretty good shape. If your image does not have that really tack sharp image result (and many of mine do not as seen in the sailboat image), Sharpen AI may really be the answer for you. I believe that as time goes on, Topaz will be updating this plug-in, like they did with AI Clear, and it will be a much faster and better product. In the  meantime, I am going to continue using it to see when it is best for my own images. I know this is not a definite answer, but I trust Topaz and believe they will improve this filter to where it will be a no-brainer to use it (like AI Clear is for me right now). I do believe Topaz is going in the right direction with all the AI plug-ins and are working very hard at staying on top of this new technology. Kudos to them for that! I will continue to keep you updated on all their new products – I love the Topaz products. They fit into my workflow very well.

Hope you download the trial to try Sharpen AI out at least and if you own Infocus, definitely download it and check it out. Have a good week! …..Digital Lady Syd