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Posts tagged “Topaz Simplify 4

JUST A LITTLE CARTOON

Cartoon or Comic Image of a Sleeping Lion at the Jacksonville Zoo
It took some time to pull this little blog together. Sometimes it just takes time working with an image to get the effect wanted. I had found several videos on how to create a comic or cartoon effect over the past few years so I though I would share them. I am not sure I would like the effect on all my images, but they are fun to create. And you can tell there are many different types of cartoon effects that can be achieved. The image above is one I just did with mainly painting. The same basic image was used and up to a point for all four images. The one above used Kyle’s Spatter Blot Tilt brush (in regular PS specialty default brush) with Color Dynamics turned on to get the different colors on the bark of the tree and the ground around the lion. (Used orange and tan as the colors, created a separate layer, painted in the dots, and set the layer to Hard Light at 73% opacity. This brush is really fun to use!) A Scatter brush on the lion fur and Kyle’s Inkbox Classic Cartoonist brush (also in the default wet media brushes from PS) for the black outline was used. Obviously lots of touch up to get the effect, but overall it was a lot of fun to do.

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Image of a sleeping lion from the Jacksonville Zoo

Another iteration of the same lion, this time using a technique by Jesus Rodriguez. He recently created a video which basically creates a Smart Object of a duplicate layer of the image. Then the Filter Gallery -> Artistic -> Poster Edges, Threshold, and Oil Paint (you can see this in the image as a typical look for this filter) adjustments were added. Each adjustment can be changed. Then on a duplicate of the image he applies the Poster Edges and Oil Paint filters again. The video is called Smart Way to Quickly Make Comic Book Drawings from your Photos. It created a really nice image. I could have used a mixer on a New Layer set to a lower opacity to get a smoother coat and face, but the pattern looked rather nice on the overall lion. If you have a person’s face, this could be easily smoothed out using several different methods.

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Image of a sleeping lion at the Jacksonville Zoo

Yep, here he is again – still sound asleep. A lot of you may remember Topaz Simplify (which is still part of Topaz Studio 2 (for website info, check out my Tidbits Blog sidebar) but does not appear in quite the same format). I used the older version and added some Simplify and Adjust slider changes, but the big result is from the Edges (which Topaz Studio 2 has) set to a strong Edge Strength of 3.63 using a Normal Color Line and a fatten Edge of 2.57. Created the wonderful lines which I believe only Topaz Simplify can do. I think it creates a rather unique cartoon effect and the colors look great without having to manipulate them much back in PS.

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Image of a sleeping lion at the Jacksonville Zoo

This image looks very similar to the second image by Jesus Ramirez above – that is because they use some of the same filters but with different settings. This technique was by Chris Spooner and he shows you how to do it in his video called How to Create an Illustrated Cartoon Effect from a Photo in Adobe Photoshop. Chris uses the same technique of creating a duplicate layer smart object and then added these filters: Shadows/Highlights, Oil Paint, Poster Edges, Reduce Noise, Unsharp Mask, Smart Blur, and Cutout. It has a bit more of a drawing effect to it.

If you like this kind of look, these are just a few of the techniques that can be used to get that cartoon or comic effect. Many others incorporate a half-tone look in them and many paint parts out to make the image less detailed. Lots of creativity here and these few techniques were all pretty easy to try out. Have some fun and see what results you can get. Have a great New Year week!…..Digital Lady Syd


A VINTAGE LANDSCAPE EFFECT


This week posting another oldie but goodie from my Tidbits Blog and a newer image with some of my favorite newer filters. I loved the way the above image turned out – never expected it to be this pretty considering it was an image I snapped while standing on the street in front of our hotel. It is Nelson Monument (in center) and Acropolis (aka National Monument of Scotland on left corner) on Calton Hill – I did not get to visit this site but wish I had. This was not difficult to process once I got going. After cleaning up a rather boring image, Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Simplify was opened and a preset I call the John Barclay BuzSim Setting preset was used.  I listened to one of John’s excellent videos on Topaz Labs and created this preset which has a very subtle result. (The settings are: Simplify: Colorspace RGB, Simplify Size 0.19, Details Boost 1.00, and Details Size 0.20; Adjust: Brightness 0.01, Contrast 1.08, Saturation 1.03, Saturation Boost 1.15, Structure 1.00, and Structure Boost 1.00; and Edges: Edge Type – Color Edge Normal, Edge Strength 0.00, Simplify Edge 0.30, Reduce Weak 10.00, Reduce Small 0.20 and Flatten Edge 0.00.) Next I added 2 lil Owls (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Workshop 6 – Texture 1 which has the beautiful turquoise and light yellow sky color – the layer was set to Overlay Blend Mode. The beautiful text was supplied by my favorite Shadowhouse Creations – his Text Brush 5. I actually clipped a bright green Color Fill Adjustment Layer to the text (to clip just ALT+click between the two layers and the color fill adjustment layer will only affect the layer below) – then the text layer was set to 55% opacity. Another 2 Lil’ Owls Texture – texture 4 was used as an overlay frame. A light yellow Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture file. A Curves Adjustment Layer where the red, green and blue channels were adjusted to get this slight vintage feel. The last thing done was to add a Color Fill Adjustment Layer to the whole image using a soft cream color (#c6c3bd) and the Nelson Monument was painted out in the layer mask so the eye is drawn to that area of the image.

Image of Waterfall at Ormond Memorial GardensThis image from the Ormond Memorial Art Museum and Gardens in Ormond Beach, Florida, used the same Topaz Simplify preset by John Barclay and just used Topaz Texture Effects 2’s Facing Fast preset. This time the effect was removed from the foreground flowers and Nik Viveza 2 was used to add a little vignette effect to the image. Texture Effects does a really great job of giving vintage effects and it is always fun to try out the different presets and combinations by adding new sections to get some great results.

Had a lot of fun as usual – never get tired of this!…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO GET A FANTASY FEEL IN PHOTOSHOP

Image of the Giraffes Sculptor from Philip Hulitar Scupltor GardensDecided to do something different with this bronze giraffe sculpture this week. It 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. This workflow actually began with finding an image in an old 2003 Digital Photo magazine that used Find Edge and Gaussian Blur filters, which were blended into a black background to get a nice sketchy look.

Since I have Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog for website link) Simplify, it was used instead of the Find Edge filter. My final image does not look like the original image from 2003, but since Photoshop now has so many more nice features, I believe it is a better result.

So the first step was to apply Topaz Simplify 4 using an old preset I created called SJ S Ramelli (not sure where these settings were found:  Global Adjustments – Simplify: Colorspace RGB, Simplify Size 0.28, Feature Boost 0, Details Strength 0.00, Details Boost 1.00, Details Size 0.20, Remove Small 0.00, and Remove Weak 0.10; Adjust: Brightness 0.08, Contrast 1.00, Saturation 1.44, Saturation Boost 1.00, Dynamics 0.42, Structure 1.00, Structure Boost 1.00; and Edges: Edge type Mono Line – Normal, Edge Strength 2.40, Simplify Edge 0.42, Reduce Weak 16.39, Reduce Small 0, Fatten Edge 0.82; and Finishing Touches: Vignette – Vignette Strength -0.42, Vignette Size 0.10, Vignette Transition 0.60, and Vignette Curvature 0.66; and Transparency – Overall Transparency 0.12). This actually gave a pretty nice effect just by itself!

Next a Black Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was added above the background layer. This way, the color can be changed quickly if a different background is wanted. It was left to black in this case.

On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) the giraffes were roughly selected using the Quick Selection Tool and the new Select and Mask panel (old Refine Edge panel) was opened. I just figured out that for me, once in this panel, sometimes instead of using the Onion Skin View, I prefer the On White View set to about 70% opacity – then the Brush which is the third icon down on left was used to paint in or out areas that needed to be cleaned up. This way a very good selection can be obtained – the Refine Edge brush was not even needed. The panel was closed selecting the Output To: New Layer with Layer Mask in dropdown. The Select and Mask panel did a very good job, but more clean up work was needed on the layer mask. The key is to get a really good layer mask, and it may take some effort to finish cleaning up the mask, to get a good result.

Since the faces were getting lost in the texture of the image, the original background layer was copied and placed on top with a black layer mask (CTRL+I in layer mask to make black). With a really low opacity brush of 12%, the faces were very softly painted back to show the eye and ear details. On another stamped layer the Lighting Effects filter in Photoshop was used to light up the giraffes  – emphasis was placed on the faces and necks, and not so much on the legs. Note that a a soft yellow color (R249/G245/B98) was used and the original texture of the image was added back using the Red Channel set at a Height of 9. By trying different channels and heights, very different results can be achieved. See screenshot below of the settings for this layer.

Screenshot of the Lighting Effects Filter in PhotoshopSince the image still lacked a little pizzazz, on a New Layer a little vine regular brush was selected, but I was very tempted to use a Glitter brush. Just wanted a brush to give a bit of fantasy look to the image. To add color into the brushstrokes, a Pattern Overlay layer style (double click on a layer to open Layer Style Panel) using a pattern with orange and bluish tones was added to it. The layer was set to a lower layer opacity.

The image now has that fantasy look which I really like.
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Dandelions growing outside my doorThese dainty dandelions were taken at F/2.8 with my Nikon 60 mm Macro Lens with a Bower 0.5 x High Resolution Digital Lens with Macro added to the lens. I love the results I get with this set up. I wanted to try another fantasy image using similar workflow as above on the giraffes. This time, instead of using the Quick Selection Tool and the Selection and Mask panel, the now free Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 was used to select these blooms. Below is a Screenshot of how this was achieved. It leaves in tack all the little odd ball edges that would be impossible to get, even with the new and improved PS panel. Using the Control Points really helps select the weed. When back in PS, the stems and centers of the weeds were lightly painted back a white layer mask to add back a little color in these areas.

Screenshot image of settings for Nik Silver Efex Pro Then some clean up was done on a New Layer to further paint black on any areas that are not totally darkened out. On a stamped layer, Lucis Pro 6.0.9 was used to further define the edges (Enhance slider set to 143 and the Assign Original Image Color was set to 0/100%. (See my Digital Lady Syd Reviews Lucis Pro 6.0.9 (Now Affordable!) blog.)

Next the Vine brush was used again with a different Pattern added in the Layer Styles Pattern section. Here is something to note: When Layer Styles are added to a layer, it is best to duplicate the layer and rasterize it to maintain the color in the layer style. That is what I had to do here, duplicate the layer, rasterize it (right click on layer and select rasterize – it will flatten just that one layer), then turn the eyeball off on the original layer in case it is needed to go back into to adjust. On another New Layer Kyle T Webster’s Inkbox Spatter Punk brush was used to give the glitter effect and set to layer opacity of 72%.

A couple Lighten and Darken Curves Adjustment Layers were used to dodge and burn the image in the flowers. (See my How To use Curves Adjustment Layers to Dodge and Burn an Image Blog.) Also a New Layer was created, set to overlay, and with a light yellow color on a soft small round brush, the centers of the flowers were painted in to add a little emphasis to the focal points. (See my How To Add a Spot of Light blog.) The last step was to create another stamped layer and apply Topaz Detail to the image – this time to soften some of the puffy flower areas that had become a bit too crunchy looking. Used the Soft and Dreamy III preset and painted out the colored background so it was not affected by the preset inside the plug-in. Then applied it and added a white layer mask. This time painted out areas of the flowers that I wanted to remain detailed.

This was fun to try out the Lighting Effects Filter in PS which I do not use nearly enough. I am also getting more comfortable with the Select and Mask panel in the latest version of PS CC. The one that surprised me most was how the flowers in the second image could be selected pretty closely with the Silver Efex Pro – very easy to do! This is it for this week – hope you have had a chance to try out some of these Photoshop effects – they are really good!…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO PAINT WITH A TEXTURE BRUSH FROM YOUR IMAGE

Image of a painted Rooftop at Harry Potter Land - Universal Studios OrlandoThis week I only have this one example using an image taken at Harry Potter Land in Universal Studios Orlando, but it works well for this very useful technique. Since I have been learning more about the brush engine in Photoshop, I discovered a rather useful way to link a part of the texture of the background to the brush being used to paint over the image.

Here are the beginning steps to making this image. First converted image to 8-bit (Image ->Mode->8-bit) so the brushes will paint faster. The sky was a very bland flat blue color so it just seemed to be begging for something to perk it up. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits blog for website link) Detail 3 was applied for an overall image sharpening and then some basic spot cleaning was done since my camera sensor was a little dirty.

Owl Steps: Next an owl brush from a set called harry_potter_brushes_by_nyvelvet-d4qcowz was applied on a New Layer by clicking just once at 100% brush opacity to get a nice owl outline. On another New Layer underneath, some brown was painted in the owl wings and head, then on another New Layer white was painted in other parts of the owl to make it stand out and look painted – just used a regular soft brush at 100% opacity. These three layers were grouped (highlight the layers and press CTRL+G) and named Owl.

A stamped layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top and this layer was opened up in Topaz Simplify where the BuzzSim III preset was applied to use as an underpainting. This broke up the image into a really nice color palette that can be used to sample colors for painting over the main objects. Note you do not have to use Simplify (or Detail above), these are just some ways I am experimenting. An underpainting could be created using different Photoshop filters or adjustments layers. I plan on covering this topic at a later date. Used Topaz ReMask to remove the sky and the selection was loaded as a layer mask from the plug-in (check ReMask settings at bottom to set this up) although Photoshop could easily have used for this as it was a very easy selection. Now a texture needed to  be added underneath to fill up the sky and various ones were tried. I settled on French Kiss Atelier Georgia texture (see sidebar at my Tidbits blog for website link) which gave the image a nice painterly feel. Obviously the Simplify BuzzSim edges in the towers looked bad, but it is now time to make a brush to smooth these out.

Creating Brush Steps: A brush was made right in this image by turning off all the layers except the texture layer. Next use the Rectangular (or Elliptical) Marque Tool and select a small portion of the texture that represents an area that might make a nice brush. Press CTRL+J and it copies the brush selection up onto its own layer. Turn off the full texture layer and on top of the sample layer, add a Threshold Adjustment Layer to get a strong nice black and white look – all brushes have to be in black and white tones or it will not pick up the texture. I think my Threshold Level was set to 162. Highlight the brush layer under the adjustment layer and go to Edit -> Define Brush Preset. Down at the bottom of your Brush Presets Panel is your new brush. The new Brush now needs to be turned into a pattern, so on a New Layer a one stroke click was done with the new 208 pixel brush at 100% opacity in a black color. With the Marque Tool again just the brush stroke was selected and then go to Edit -> Define Pattern and name it the same as your brush. Deselect and highlight all three layers to put into another group and name brush and pattern.

Now the rest of the Brush in the Brush Panel must be set up. The Brush Tip Shape size was set 30 pixels and Spacing 56% – keep the Size small but play around with the Spacing watching the Preview area. Next in Shape Dynamics the Control was set to Off and the Angle Jitter to 4% – just enough to give a bit of variation. The last step involved adding the new brush pattern that was just created. By clicking on the down arrow next to the current texture, the last entry should be the new brush pattern just created – select it. Set the Scale to 131% – needs to be set over 100% so no obvious patterning is observed. If you are using the CC or CC 2014 versions of Photoshop, adjust the Brightness and Contrast sliders – I used Brightness -19 and Contrast 11. Make sure the Texture Each Tip is checked and change Mode to Multiply. Depth was set to 100% and Depth Jitter to 59%. All these settings can be manipulated until you get a stroke you like, but these are settings I used on this image. A new Brush Preset was created with these new settings by clicking on the Create New Brush icon at the bottom of the panel. A video going over these brush and pattern steps is below in case you got lost in the description.

Finalizing the Image: Several New Layers were painted using just this Regular Brush to paint over the objects – no mixer involved – and by sampling in the different colors that Simplify supplied, the image could be painted fairly quickly. Basically I like to sample a darker similar color and paint over a light one and vice versa to get a nice blend effect. Since the texture adds enough empty space in the stroke the colors blend nicely and it also looks somewhat  like the added large sky texture. This does not have to be painted perfectly and it will give a totally painted look. It really was a lot of fun and did not take too long to complete. A Pattern Adjustment Layer with the new pattern set to 100% Scale was put on top. The layer opacity was set to Normal at just 3% layer opacity – just gave a little bit more of the overall texture. On a stamped layer, a Radial Filter was added in Camera Raw to help draw the focus to the top cupola.

Update: I just added a Tidbits Blogs called A Little More Painting with a Texture Brush where I finished up the image started in the video and got a very different result. Check it out for a couple more tips.

Hope you get a chance to try this – as you can see from the video, a different texture gives a very different brush – some are better and some are worse, but it is nice to be able to match the added texture to the paint brush strokes so the objects fit more smoothly into the texture. Have a good week!…..Digital Lady Syd


Painting Effects – Which Ones to Use?

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

Alien Skin’s Snap Art 3

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

Photoshop’s Oil Paint Filter

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

Topaz Filters

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

Jack Davis Wow Smart Object Painting 1 Action

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

Dynamic Auto-Painter

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

Auto-Painting with Corel Painter II

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

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

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

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

IMAGE INFORMATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


How to Use Those Handy Blend-If Sliders!

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

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

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

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

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


Topaz Simplify Artistic Workflow

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

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

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

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

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


Digital Lady Syd’s Artistic Flair!

This week I am just doing a post for the above image only – it took a long time to complete and I thought I would go over the workflow I used to create this rather current look. I have seen very similar images of  famous cities around the world in large poster format. This is an image of the street outside the London Bridge Station in Southwark, London (Boroughs High Street). I took this shot, without getting run over for some reason, during a Scott Kelby PhotoWalk where I joined a British group. It was a total blast and if you have not participated in his PhotoWalks, it is definitely worth the time – great way to meet local fellow photographers and it is free. Below is the original image – I thought you might find that interesting. Not an image that would normally catch my eye.
So how do you get the final image effect? The original image was a good choice for starters since street scenes lend themselves nicely for this look – this particular image has lots of color and detail in it before doing anything to it. Lightroom 5 was used to do a couple things. In the Lens Correction section the new Upright function using the Auto button was first selected. This straightened the image up instantly. The next important thing to do was the crop. After that was done, just minor tone adjustments were made before it made its way into Photoshop. I am finding I use the Auto Upright button on almost all my images now. (See my Tidbits Blog Lightroom 5′s New Upright Adjustments Section.)

I decided I wanted a painterly look so the first place I went was to Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Simplify 4 – this filter gives so many options and presets to try out different looks on your images. Here is what I did to get the image below. In Simplify the Oil Painting B&W preset was applied with the overall transparency set to 0.15 – the opacity of the Simplify layer was reduced to 69%. A white layer mask was added to bring back the detail to all the people’s faces. One of my favorite texture people, Kim Klassen‘s Gentle Whisper texture was added on top and set to Soft Light blend mode at 35% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used next with a very slight drag down on the curve to increase the contrast a little. I thought I was done and below is what I had created. It was starting to look pretty interesting.

I came back to the image a few days later and just started playing around with it. I actually did three other iterations before I got the final look I wanted. The final image was completed by first adding several steps to the file above, then flattening and finishing up on a different file – this was mainly because the file size was getting too large to handle.

Three layers were added to the second image file using three different grunge brushes and painting different colors into different parts of the image. I used a pinkish-red color for three strips, a light tan on a few of the distant buildings, and pink for the top edge where the bridge bottom shows. It really is not too hard to experiment around and get the look you want. I did use a Burlap texture with the brush to get a nice rough edge. Just be sure you put each color on a separate New Layer so you can play with the opacity and color after the fact. Next Topaz Detail 3 was applied using the Overall Strong Detail II setting – normally I would not use that much but a black layer mask was applied and just the signs were painted back sharp. The Detail was run again to get sharper edges where I needed them. When I do this, I paint on the mask using a 60 pixel brush set to 30% opacity – in fact this brush I use all the time. A New Layer was created to paint out the license plate numbers – just sampled the solid area and painted over them. This is the end of the first file. A composite layer was created on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and saved. The image below is where I am now at.

To get the final effect, the image had to be opened in Photoshop CS5 so Mike’s Kill White filter could be run from Adobe’s Pixel Bender filter which only runs on CS4 and CS5. This is one of the main reasons I have left CS5 on my computer. It is still the best filter for removing white in my opinion, and the one using Pixel Bender is better than their regular filter, which will now run on CS6-32 bit only. (Try removing the white in a layer and applying different layer styles or filters to it to get different effects.) Moving right along now, this file was opened in CS6-64 bit where I merged all but the top Kill White layer. On the Kill White layer, that shows holes were the white was, the layer style dialog was opened (double click outside thumbnail on the layer to open) and the Blend Mode was changed to Hard Light. The Blue Channels check box was turned off which popped in some nice cool gray colors that I really liked. In the Underlying Layer sliders, the black tab was split (ALT+click in the middle and pull apart) and set to 0/167 and the white tab was moved as one tab and set to 226. This adjusted the blue tone colors a little bit. The Fill Opacity was set to 55%. I still wanted more color splattered throughout the image but I did not want it to take away from the total image. A Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer (Layer -> New Fill Layer -> Pattern) was added above and several patterns were tried. I settled on one I would never have thought would work – flashtuchka-d3e5lmu floral vintage patterns using the 10flo pattern (a black, pink and white rose pattern) at 515% Scale. If you look at the upper right tones, you can see a bit of the flowers in the grunge effect. The opacity was set to 60%. Four layers were created on top using Kim Klassen’s brush 2204 from the brushes set in her Cloth and Paper Collection. Any kind of light spray textured brush would work fine. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment was added to get rid of any tones that were too yellow – it was ruining the overall effect. The Yellows Saturation was set to -74 and a black layer mask was added. Just the yellow items were painted out slightly using my 30% opacity soft round brush again. Also the faces were painted back to a more natural color. The last step involved adding a Composite layer on top and my SJ B&W Border Frame.

This may not be exactly what your taste is in art, but I hope I was able to give you some ideas on what you can do with an image by just playing. I really had no idea where it would end up, but by trying different effects, I was able to find something that is both personal to me and I would not mind hanging up in my home. I do not consider myself an artist in the strictest sense, but I do look at some of my work and feel that it does express an artistic flair that represents me, and that to me is art!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Some Beach Fun!
How to Get That Creative Painterly Look
Photo Art Compositing For Fun
Digital Lady Syd’s Photo Art Workflow


A Little Kaleidoscope Fun!

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

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

Daffodil image post-processing:

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


Using Auto-Align to De-People Your Pix

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

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

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

Post-Processing Details of Images:

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

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

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

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


How to Get That Creative Painterly Look

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

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

Tips for Getting the Painterly Look:

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

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

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

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

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


Native American Beauty

This week I decided to just display a few of the beautiful images I got from the 24th Annual Native American Festival in Ormond Beach, Florida this past January. If you get a chance to go to a Native American event, it is a great place to photograph unusual items and the colors are wonderful! This headdress was one of the most beautiful things I saw.  Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Detail 3’s Overall Strong II preset was applied first. Topaz Simplify’s BuzSim preset was applied to a duplicate layer. With a soft black brush on an added layer mask, the edges of the feathers were painted back in showing the layer below. A composite layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top and Topaz Adjust 5’s French Countryside preset was selected. The layer mask for the Simplify layer was copied by highlighting it – press ALT and drag it up to the Adjust layer. Next Kim Klassen‘s texture 1612 (beautiful texture that was free by signing up for her newsletter) was left to Normal blend mode at 89%, but a layer mask was applied to the texture and the center painted out to clear out the middle. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used to lighten the image up just a little. A New Layer was added to burn in and define some of the feather edges where they overlap in the image. (See my Fun Photoshop Blog The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! for more information on how to do this.) The last step involved adding my free SJ Painter Oil Frame to the image with a Bevel and Emboss Layer style (check Texture and set Scale 100% and Depth +79} – used my SJ Smudge Texture set to grayscale for a pattern, but any gray and white pattern would be fine). The frame was set to 72% opacity.
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These Rawhide Rattles are something I do not ever remember seeing before. One of the vendor’s had this assortment for sale. The image was first processed in Nik Color Efex Pro 4 using three filters stacked: Detail Extractor, Midnight set to Neutral Color Set and Opacity of 67%, and Monday Morning using Sepia Color Set at 80% opacity – kind of an unusual group. 2 Lil’ Owls Workbook Bonus Texture 16 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) was applied using Soft Light at 100% opacity. In the white layer mask, some of the detail was brought back on the left rattle. Basically that was all that was done to get this very antique look.
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This image of a Mexican Aztec dancer was a little difficult to process due the fact that there were a lot of distractions in the background, and his face was not real clear and needed a lot of clean up. The feathers in his headdress were so beautiful that I really wanted to process the image. Therefore, first the headdress was carefully extracted the Quick Selection Tool and Quick Mask Mode, and Shadowhouse Creations Rage Texture was placed behind him and set to Normal at 100% opacity. Topaz  Adjust 5’s Painting Venice preset and Topaz Detail 3’s Overall Detail Medium II preset were applied. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was used to adjust the Reds and Yellows in the image. A frame was added and set to a tan color.
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This was a wide assortment of Native American toys that were on a bright red tablecloth. I decided it would look better as a sketch with toned down colors. In Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer was used to make the image overexposed. Topaz Simplify 4 was added and a preset was created using a painting preset as a starting point and Quad Tones of Black/Deep Red/Gold/Light Yellow tones were applied at a Tone Strength of .57. An Overall Transparency of .31 was applied. I ran Simplify 4 again on a duplicate background layer and this time applied a light black and white preset. Back in Photoshop it was stacked it on top of the first Simplify layer and set to Soft Light.  A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was placed on top where Reds Saturation was set to -41 to desaturate the color slightly. Kim Klassen’s Mary texture was applied using Normal Blend Mode and just painting out the center of the texture in a layer mask. As a last step, a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied using the Auto button to even out the colors and contrast. I think it gives a really nice sketch look and is appropriate for the various types of objects that were being displayed.
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These are feather headbands that were also being sold by a vendor. This is a funny story as I would never have used these settings if not for some spam I received from a comment that referenced how he added texture to his images. Here is the result I got from following some of the process. First Topaz Adjust 5’s Spicify preset was applied at 83% opacity. Next apply Topaz Simplify 4’s Watercolor II preset. Changed image to an 8-bit mode and went to Filter -> Stylize ->Diffuse Filter and selected anisotropic. Exit filter and rotate document -90 degrees counter clockwise using Free Transform (CTRL+T). Apply same filter again. Exit and rotate image clockwise +90. Apply the filter for a third time. Now go to Filters -> Texture -> Texturizer and set texture to Canvas, Scaling 200%, Relief 7, and Lighting Top. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Level was applied increasing the saturation to +30 and a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied to increase contrast. Kind of a strange technique but I really liked the results.

I hope you enjoyed these images – nice to do something a little different. Have a nice week!…..Digital Lady Syd


The Best Dodging and Burning Technique!

I loved the way this image turned – the kind of art I like to do! These orchids were sitting backwards in the grocery store and it just struck me how interesting they looked from this angle. So here is the shot I got with my little point and shoot. Since it was not the best quality image, I had to do quite a bit of manipulating to it and that included some major dodging to clean up the lines in the image. I can’t tell you how much I rely on Lightroom to help me clean up these JPGs from this little camera. There is no way I could get them looking this good without it. I did two major things in Lightroom – added David duChemin’s Lightroom 4 preset Honey on Land which turned the really purple and white flowers into rich pink and gold colors. Next I used the Lens Correction panel set to Color and manually defringed this image. It had some pretty bad yellow fringing going on. To fix this, the Remove Chromatic Aberration box was checked, and using the Fringe Selector Tool, the yellow area was clicked as a starting place. The final Amount for the Green Hue was 3 and the Green Hue tabs were set to 0/19. Unfortunately ACR does not have a Fringe Selector Tool but you can manually manipulate the defringe sliders and get very good results. This feature alone is one of the reasons you should upgrade to Lightroom 4 or Photoshop CS6. Now I will get off my soapbox.

Photoshop is where the burning and dodging magic come in to play. Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Simplify 4’s Watercolor II preset was applied. In an added layer mask, most of the flowers were painted back using a low opacity brush to reduce the effect of the filter on these areas. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer were added with some slight changes to the Reds and Yellows to bring back a bit of the purplish color. Next French Kiss Studio (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Botanique2 watercolor texture was added and set to 70% at Normal blend mode. In a layer mask, the flowers were lightly painted back but the background retained the greenish colors. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to add back the contrast lost with the texture.

The next step is the Burning and Dodging tip that comes from John Paul Caponigro, one of the best users of Photoshop to create fine art and a total Photoshop guru, in a course he offers called Drawing with Light – 21st Century Dodging and Burning (Kelby Training also has the tutorial if you are a member – this DVD is excellent covering many topics to improve your images). To add the burn effect to an image, a New Layer is created and set to Overlay blend mode. With a black soft-edged brush, paint over any areas or edges that need a little more separation. I like to use a very low opacity brush around 12% or less, but John Paul likes to use 100% and back it off completely.
The reason I love this method is that it is easy to erase a mistake or add a layer mask to reduce the effect. If you make one stroke too dark, just go to Edit ->Fade and reduce its strength. Also the layer opacity can be reduced if the total result is too much – you may only need a 15-20% layer opacity to get the effect. If you have a lot of changes and want to Dodge some areas, create another New Layer set to Overlay and use the same brush set to white. Be careful not to overdo this – it is easy to do. The white paint seems to really stand out. But it is a very easy way to direct the eye to the important parts of the image. Remember the layer is set to an Overlay blend mode which means that anything greater than 50% gray brightens the image, and anything darker than 50% gray darkens it. Therefore, when black is painted over the darker areas of the image, only the dark areas are being affected – the lighter areas stay the same. When dodging with white, only the lighter areas are being affected. One thing to watch out for is that the Overlay blend mode tends to increase saturation, so make sure this is not happening. May need to use a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to desaturate slightly. The last step for this image involved adding a Curves Adjustment Layer to bring in some overall contrast to the image. Textures can tend to flatten out an image.
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This image is of a little tiny hard pod or flower growing on my Peace Lily or Spathiphyllum plant.  A macro shot was taken of the flower with filtered light from the south facing window that gives a really soft background feel. Before doing any darkening on this image, it was processed in Lightroom using just the Basic sliders. Next in Photoshop, Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4’s BuzSim III preset was applied. 2 Lil’ Owls Mosaic Set Amour texture (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) was then applied twice. First time it was set to Overlay blend mode at 100% layer opacity. Second time it was set to Multiply at 100% opacity and the flower was lightly painted out in a layer mask. Finally the a New Layer was created and set to Overlay. In this case, the top of the pod was getting lost in the yellow of the leaf behind it and needed a little more definition. With a soft black lower opacity brush, the top of the pod was painted back to reveal the edge more clearly.

I have used this technique for several years now and still find it the best for localized dodging and burning. This technique is a totally non-destructive to the image, and I think the results are far superior to the other methods out there. Definitely on the top of my favorite techniques. Give it a try and see if you like the technique!…..Digital Lady Syd


Turning the Old into the New

Recently I have read about several people who have gone back and revisited some of their images they took many years ago before all the new technology, especially the Camera Raw technology, was created. So in this blog I decided to give it a try. The image above was originally photographed in June of 2003 with my 2 mg Casio QV-2900 UX Digital Camera – my first digital camera. I love the new look of these timeless Tamora Roses, possibly my favorite flower ever – it was always so nice to see them growing in my yard in Virginia after a long day at work and they smell fabulous! For all the blog original images and info on how they were processed, see the bottom of the post.
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I have been doing digital photography since 1998 when the Engineering Office I was working for decided to purchase a 1.3 mg Sony Digital Camera that saved images down onto a 3-inch disk. And this camera was expensive – I think it was over $600 when we bought it. That is when I learned to use Adobe Photo Deluxe, a precursor to Elements. I brought the camera home for a few family pix and I was hooked. The original image above was from my first batch of personal photos and was 40.7 KB in size! Not my favorite picture, but it was pretty cool to see what can be done with it now and a nice reminder of my salt water aquarium I used to maintain.
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This is just a simple snow image of a small bridge on Royal Lake near my old home in Fairfax, Virginia, and taken using my Casio camera again in the winter of 2003 – I actually like the original as well but it was fun to see what the new plug-ins can do on an image. Glad I do not have to deal with the snow anymore! This little 2 mg camera took some great images and I really put it through it’s paces back then.
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Just having fun with this beautiful yellow rose that also grew in my yard in Virginia. All the new textures that are available make it hard to choose a look! This was also taken with my old Casio.
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This is what my backyard looked like in April with all these aged Azaleas in bloom – definitely looked like a fairy garden! I really miss Virginia in the Spring! Actually you can see below what the real color of these flowers are – still beautiful – like both images.

Here is a tych I created from last week’s blog (see Using a Tych Panel to Show Off Your Images of my original images. Quite a difference!

If you have some older images that you really loved but just did not have the total feel you wanted, try reopening them up in Photoshop and applying some of the new techniques, textures and filters. This turned out to be a lot of fun for this rather boring time of year. Enjoy!…..Digital Lady Syd

Processing steps for each image:

Image 1: These flowers are actually a tangerine color – yellow inside and pink tinge on the outside. In Lightroom the image was cropped, and Basic panel sliders were adjusted, then with an Adjustment Brush the center of the big flower was sharpened and clarity added just a little. Once in Photoshop the background was duplicated and Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4’s Watercolor II preset was applied set to 90% layer opacity. A composite layer was created (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) and a Selective Color Adjustment Layer was applied to make the flower more pink (Yellows: Yellow -52%; Greens: Cyan -19, Magenta +56, Yellow -2, and Black +7; and Neutrals: Cyan and Magenta  0, Yellow -16, and Black -10). Next Melissa Gallo Painted Textures Winter Wheat was added and set to Hard Light blend mode at 100% opacity. I discovered that 2 Lil’ Owls Bonus Texture 4 created a great painterly looking frame – I created a PNG file of just the frame by following the steps in my blog How To Make Frames or Borders – scroll down to the section called “To save the frame you created as an overlay to use again.” A very light pink Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+ click between the layers). A Levels Adjustment Layer was added and the Output Levels changed to 33/255 to give a light hazy look to the image. In the layer mask, the main flower center was lightly painted in black to remove the haze. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added to remove a bluish cast in the bottom of the image (Saturation -56 and Lightness +57).

Image 2: After applying a few Basic Panel changes in Lightroom and doing an OnOne (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Perfect Resize to change the image size to 6 inches X 4.5 inches from 2 inches X 1.5 inches, I could work on the image. To get the above result, Topaz DeNoise 3 was applied using their strongest JPEG preset and then adjusting the Overall slider to 0.27 and no Recover Detail. Topaz Detail 3 was applied using the Highlights Detail IV preset. Then I went into Topaz Simplify 4 and added the Painting Tone IV preset changing the Size to 0.18, Saturation to 1.83, Saturation Boost to 1.42 and Dynamics (my favorite slider in Topaz is in Simplify also) to .31. I was able to get a bit of a texture in the image by applying Kim Klassen Cafe‘s free Sunkissed texture (sign up for her newsletter to get lots of beautiful textures) with a Bevel and Emboss layer style added where Texture was checked – used my free SJ Smudge Texture as a texture (which is really a pattern) to the image at 100%, and in the Bevel & Emboss dialog, I unchecked the Global Light box, changed the Size to 0, Highlight Mode Opacity to 85% and the Shadow Mode Opacity to 69%. (To create a pattern from a texture, just open the texture up in Photoshop and go to Edit -> Define Pattern and it will appear at the bottom of your patterns list.)  A light gray Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+click between the layers to clip the color to layer) to the texture layer. To add the painterly frame, my free SJ Painter Oil Frame (that I created this week in Painter) was added and the same Layer Style was added (hold down ALT+drag the one on the texture to copy to the frame layer). A Curves Adjustment Layer was added and that was it. I think it really has a painterly feel.

Image 3: This image was cropped in Lightroom and in the Basic Panel the Clarity, Vibrance, Contrast, Shadows, Highlights, and Exposure sliders were adjusted along with the Sharpening slider. In Photoshop Topaz photoFXlabs was opened and Topaz Adjust’s French Countryside was applied. Back in photoFXlab the Adjustments tab, my favorite Dynamics slider was set to 48. My free SJ Snow 2 Overlay-slight blur was applied at 73% opacity. Next my free SJ Painter Oil Frame (see download link Image 2 info) was applied at 69% opacity. On top of that French Kiss Artiste Collections grayish Northern Skies texture was added and set to Vivid Light at 41% opacity. By putting the texture over the frame also, it gives the canvas feel to the white frame. A slight S-shaped curve was added using a Curves Adjustment Layer.

Image 4: Basically this image was sharpened using Topaz Detail 3 Feature Enhancement II preset; Nik Color Efex Pro 4‘s stacking Film Efex Vintage using filters Film Type 16 and the Opacity slider set to 0 – that is because a Control Point had been placed just on the yellow flower, Darken/Lighten Center, and White Neutralize with a green Color selected; and adding 2 Lil’s Owls (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Workbook Bonus Texture 13 (this is a soft smooth pink texture) set to 76% opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture get the bluish tone for the background.

Image 5: To get this beautiful look, Nik Color Efex Pro 4’s Midnight filter set to Color Set Blue and White Neutralizer filter selecting a dark green color. Kim Klassen Cafe’s (see link in Image 2’s info) free unleashed texture was used, and once again I created a PNG following my Overlays blog steps (follow the steps in my blog How To Make Frames or Borders – scroll down to the section called “To save the frame you created as an overlay to use again”) and then clipped (ALT+click between the layers) a light gray Color Fill Adjustment Layer to it. That was it – really easy to do.

Image Tych: The background for the Tych was one from Kim Klassen free Texture Partings – I love the very soft subtle textures she creates!

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Photography Has Come A Long Way


Take the Time to Experiment!

Just had some fun experimenting this week and came up with these images.  For the above I love the way the texture and color and abstract form compliment each other. I started out with a very over-exposed image of two pink grocery tulips – I was actually experimenting with my shutter settings on my camera when I shot this image. (See top image in photo below.) I do not know why I decided to use this image but it just looked so different – a few adjustments were made to the RAW file in Lightroom following my blog workflow in How to Use Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) or Lightroom 4 Quickly before opening it in Photoshop. (See bottom image in the photo below.) I wanted to try out some of my new watercolor brushes (here is a download link) I made in my How to Turn a Brush into a Watercolor Brush blog. Following this blog’s basic workflow the layer was duplicated and, instead of selecting the flowers, this top layer’s blend mode was set to Darken so the white disappears. On a New Layer set between the Background layer and duplicated layer, I selected SJ Watercolor Erodible 2 brush set to 250 pixels and a blue color where the watercolor background was painted in. A Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+click between the layers to clip) to the blue watercolor layer to change it to the purplish color. Since I only want to change the flowers, the top layer was highlighted and Topaz (see sidebar for website link at my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4 plug-in was opened. The Oil Painted Tone I preset was applied as is. Back in Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer was added for a little more contrast to make the background stand out more. The center image below is where I was at in the workflow at this stage.
I decided to try just one more thing so a composite layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) of all layers. I opened up Topaz photoFXLab (this is the new Topaz interface to access the different plug-ins quickly) since I was not sure where I was going with the image. First I went into Topaz Adjust 5 and applied the Spicify preset – it looked great! I created a Stamped (same as a composite) layer in the plug-in and opened Topaz Lens Effects to see what a Fisheye effect would do – it did not look good so I started trying out the other lens effects. I ended up in the Lens-Split Prism section. After clicking on all the presets, I liked the Seven Way Split Prism with changes. (I changed the Mixing Level to .50, Radius to .42, Rotation to 83.76 and left at Type I.) Back in photoFXLab I created another stamped layer and in the Adjustments tab, the Saturation slider was set to -37 and my favorite Dynamics slider to +27. Another stamped layer and Topaz Simplify4 was opened where one of my old presets I call Factory HDR Look was applied. (The settings are Simplify section: YCbCr Colorspace, Simplify Size .52, Feature Boost 3, Details Strength 1.51, Details Boost 1.27, Details Size .62, Remove Small 0, and Remove Weak 0.16; Adjust section – Brightness .01, Contrast 1.07, Saturation 1.93, Saturation Boost .97, Dynamics 0, Structure 1.0, Structure Boost 1.00; Edges section – Edge Type MonoEdge – Fine, Edge Strength 4.47, Simplify Edge .39, Reduce Weak 7.78, Reduce Small 0.07, and Fatten Edge 4.11. In Finishing Touches section the Transparency was set to .53 – it made the flowers pop!) I decided this was enough photo manipulation. Back in Photoshop I wanted the tulips a different color than the actual reddish pink they were. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to turn them into the purple colors. (The settings were for Reds Hue to -97, Saturation to -38 and Lightness to +14; the Yellows Saturation was changed to -21; and the Greens Hue to -124 and Saturation to -29.) Totally changed the image. I used 2 Lil Owls (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Texture 4 from their Texture Workshop E-Book bundle set to Darken blend mode to remove the white center to create a border, and then turned the frame color to white by clipping a white Color Fill Adjustment Layer to the texture (ALT+click between the layers to clip). A final Curves Adjustment Layer was added just to even out contrast.
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This is another image that I had to really fiddle around with to get something interesting. I liked the different plants in the image – it was taken while in my car at a stop light outside a shopping center. The original image is seen below.
I got the idea for the initial steps to this image from a very creative book I just purchased by Theresa Airey called Digital Photo Art New Directions. In it she uses a program called Akvis Sketch to create some effects on her images. With the new Topaz Simplify 4 Sketch section, it seemed reasonable to me that it could be used in the same way. It worked! This image started off using Topaz Adjust Mild Detail preset on a duplicate background layer. This layer was duplicated and Topaz Simplify 4 was opened to the Sketch section Hard Pencil II preset and adjustments were made to the preset. (All sections but Edges were turned off (here area the slider settings:  MonoEdge Fine, Edge Strength 5.00, Simplify Edge .40, Reduce Weak .54, Reduce Small .52, and Flatten Edge 0). In Photoshop a composite layer of just the Topaz Adjust layer and the background  (turn off the Simplify 4 layer by clicking on the eyeball in the Layers Panel) and highlight the two remaining layers – CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E. On this layer Topaz Simplify 4 was applied again but this time the Pastel preset was used.  (These settings were changed: Simplify Section –  YCbCr, Simplify Size  0.27, Details Boost  1.00, Details Size  .20, Remove Small  0.10, and Remove  Weak  0.31; Adjust Section  – Brightness  0.10, Contrast  1.48, Saturation  1.70, Saturation Boost  1.24 , Dynamics  0.36, Structure  3.33, and Structure Boost  0.67; Finishing Touches, turned on the Tone section – Tone Strength  0.46; and Local Adjustments – painted back the yellow flowers and a little of the pink and whitish leaves  using a .37 opacity brush). This layer was placed below the sketched layer and set to 73% opacity.) The Sketch Layer should be placed above the Simplify Pastel preset layer, turned on, set to Multiply blend mode to get rid of the white area, and set to 73% opacity. A new Composite layer was created using all the layers. A clean up layer was added to get rid of distracting areas. I decided I needed to fill the lower center area so I copied the purple pansies in the center, warped them and changed flowers to pink. Next I used a program that I have always loved but do not use a lot – The Plugin Galaxy – which has this marvelous Mirror Effect plugin. It was set to Vertical Right – then you can drag in the interface by right clicking and dragging to get very different results. I dragged all the way left for my final image above, but below is a screen shot dragging almost all the way right.
Since I wanted the pink hyacinth back in the image, I added a layer mask to the mirrored layer and used a black brush to paint back the pink flower and the side. A PNG filter similar to my SJ PNG Borders was added and a Gradient Overlay using the Pastel Grunge gradient (free from Graphix1 A White Shade of Pale Gradients set) at 130% scale at -112 degrees was added to create the pink to green frame effect. It took a while to do but the results are very nice and interesting.

Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 1: Take the time to Experiment! – Definitely paid off in this instance. Hope the workflow did not put you to sleep but I wanted to show how you can create some very interesting effects by just experimenting a little. In both cases Topaz Simplify 4 was applied twice using different presets for each image. Really liked the final results and they are  something unique and truly mine!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz photoFXlab v1.1
Instant Mirror and Quick Mirror for Photoshop


How to Turn a Brush into a Watercolor Brush

I just keep learning more about textures. This is one of those little tips that just did not occur to me until I looked at my old notes from Fay Sirkis’s “A Stroke of Genius-Photoshop Art Studio” webinar at the NAPP website and it sort of “jumped out” at me. BTW, if you want to learn how to paint in Photoshop, Fay’s video is full of information to teach just that – she does a great job of explaining all the famous artist’s techniques.

Now for the basic tip: If you want to make a regular brush into a watercolor brush, just check the Scattering section in your Brush Panel – even the default settings can do wonders. You will probably need to reduce the opacity of the brush to get a good effect and also adjust the size. Can try changing the scattering amount and adding texture to the brush for more interest. Just be sure to save it if you want to reuse it by clicking on the Create a New Brush icon at bottom of the Brush Panel. If you use a Wacom tablet, you will get different results using a regular tablet brush and/or Barrel Rotation Brush, besides what you get with just a mouse stroke. My images all used the Barrel Rotation Brush to get the painterly look (I use an old large Intuous 3 Tablet that still works just fine), but I did switch between brushes and mouse to get a little different texture added. See bottom of blog for download link to all the brushes I have created.

For the agapanthas (African Lily) flower image above, these steps were followed:

1.  First duplicate the image.

2.  Place a layer underneath the top layer and fill with white (One way to do this is to go to Edit -> Fill and select in the Use drop-down white).

3.  A black layer mask was added to the top layer with the image, and in the mask the flowers were painted back in carefully using a 30% opacity white soft brush.

TIP: For the flowers in the bottom two image, first the Select -> Color Range command was used before the Layer Mask was added to get most of the flower and/or background selected (instead of painting it all in the mask by hand). The Quick Mask (press Q to enter and exit) was used to fine-tune the selection before adding the Layer Mask to the flower layer – this puts the selection into the layer mask when you click the icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel. If the wrong area is black, just highlight the layer mask and invert by pressing CTRL+I.

4.  A new blank layer was added underneath the flowers but above the white layer. This is where I started experimenting with the above brushes – the watercolor texture was painted in exactly where I wanted it to fit around the flower. I ended up using a Watercolor Salt Brush set to Scattering at 368%, 170 pixel Brush Size at 30% opacity in a light blue. (This will look totally wrong at a higher opacity.) I tried several different colors and ended up using this soft greenish color (R160/G174/B124) in a Solid Color Adjustment Layer that was clipped to the painted texture (go to Layer -> New Fill Layer -> Solid Color and check Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask). The Watercolor Salt Brush layer was set to 41% opacity. (This is my SJ Watercolor Salt Brush Tool Preset brush.)

5.  I decided to add in another watercolor texture layer made with the Round Watercolor Brush set to 30% opacity and Scattering 169%. (See my SJ Round Watercolor Erodible Brush 1.) The layer was set to 100% and the Solid Color Adjustment Layer was duplicated and placed above the top texture layer and clipped (hold down the ALT+click between the layers to get a clipping mask).

Optional Step as shown in first and second image: To get the look that this is on watercolor looking paper, all that you need to do is to add a Pattern Overlay Layer Style on the white layer created in Step 2 and use the same Pattern Overlay Layer Style on the actual flower layer in Step 3. When the Layer Style (double click on the layer thumbnail and select the Pattern Overlay style where you replace the default bubble with the CS6 Artist Surface Watercolor Pattern. (Click on the down arrow by the bubble pattern and click on the little gear on the upper right – navigate to the the Artist Surface patterns.) I set the scale to 536% and the pattern opacity to 74%. For Step 3 layer, set pattern opacity to 34%. You can find other watercolor patterns on the internet if you want a different look.

Those are all the basic steps to get this beautiful result. The hardest part was creating the layer mask for the flowers. You can always work on the flower layer mask more after you get your textures in place.
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This image followed exactly the same workflow above except a different color was used and the layer opacity was left at 100% for the texture. The Optional Step texture is from Russell Brown’s Watercolor Assistant Panel that is a free download for Photoshop CS6 users. It contains this beautiful watercolor paper pattern called Bockingford_rough. Download the panel and try painting – it is a lot of fun and you get this beautiful pattern to use for your watercolor background effects.

I got really nice results with the tablet brush using the new CS6 Round Watercolor Erodible Brush and adding the default Scattering settings, 30% brush opacity, and a larger 125 pixel brush. (See my SJ Round Watercolor Erodible Brush 1 in downloadable set below.) The CS6 Watercolor Salt brush actually generates a pretty realistic cloud effect when set to a soft bright blue color. Try the new Bristle Brushes too – gives a totally different look. I also created a nice Watercolor Brush using CS5 – in this case I started with the Round Blunt Medium Stiff brush. In Brush Tip Shape, Shape is Round Blunt, Bristles 14%, Length 137%, Thickness 37%, Stiffness 71%, and Angle 53 degrees. Then the Shape Dynamics section was checked with and Angle Jitter set to 34%, Scattering set to the Scatter 338%, Texture using one called White Stationary, Transfer  – Opacity Jitter set to 47% and Control Pen Pressure, Wet Brushes and Smoothing checked. (This is my SJ Watercolor Brush Tool Round Blunt brush in download set.) There several watercolor brushes in the Natural Brushes 2 set and Wet Brushes for CS5 users that would probably make really nice scatter brushes too.
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This image used roughly the same workflow except the background color is a lovely soft orange. This time my Salt Watercolor brush set to a light orange was used along with McBad’s Watercolor Brush 37 at 768 pixels using a light yellow. When finished, Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Adjust 5’s French Countryside (one of my favorites) preset was applied (with these changes: Adaptive Exp. .47, adjusted Contrast and Brightness, turned off Diffusion and Vignette, and set Tone Strength to .78), Topaz Detail 3 set to the Overall Medium Detail preset (I use this setting all the time on my images now), and Topaz DeNoise 3 used to clean up noise in flower center only – used a black layer mask and painted out the center. rbcampos Iris Set 01 Brush 005 was used for the center eye and set to a layer opacity of 27%. A catchlight was added to the eye and OnOne (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) PhotoFrame Dave Cross 13 was added in a matching soft orange.
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Here is a final example that follows the same workflow. In this case the background was created using McBad’s Watercolor Brush 11 with Scattering on and the Brush Size set to 2000 pixels. Just dabbed on a separate document until I got an interesting watercolor texture – then dragged it into the flower image under the Step 3 flower with layer mask layer, but above the Step 2 white layer. Topaz Simplify 4 was applied to the flower layer and the Watercolor II preset applied, except to the center of the flower. French Kiss’s free Glorious Grunge Edging Overlay with the center cleared out was applied and a purple Color Fill Adjustment Layer added. Just a slightly different look using a different type brush.

I have made my five brushes in this blog available for download at my Deviant Art: SJ WATERCOLOR BRUSH TOOL PRESETS. Load them into Photoshop by clicking on the first icon in Options Bar – click to open Tool Preset Picker and open up fly-out menu or little gear on top right – select Load Tool Presets and navigate to where you downloaded the file. (The file is in a compressed ZIP file format as Deviant Art would not take a .tpl extension.) Change all the settings – you can always get back to what they were by opening up the Tool Preset Picker and clicking on the brush tool again. Hopefully you will develop some even better brushes than these I supplied. Have fun experimenting with this…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Create Unique Watercolor Background Texture
How to Create Unique Textured Backgrounds
Using a Couple of My Textures


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Digital Lady Syd!

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday this time of year. My large flower blossom image was from one of the many lovely little gardens around the dachas in Belarus in the summer. (For info on how each was processed, see end of blog.)
…..This beautiful Christmas tree was located in a clubhouse dining area. It was actually decorated all in silver and was taken with my cheap Kodak point-and-shoot camera. Just goes to show how far you can take an imperfect image and give it some creative effects for a great result.
…..This was just fooling around with brushes and getting something really fun!
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This image was taken at Linlithgow, Scotland – a beautiful home near the train station. I basically turned it into a night Christmas scene. This is a beautiful little town to visit if you are in the Edinburgh area – it has interesting castle ruins you can explore too!
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I hope you enjoyed my holiday cards – they were much fun to create! Maybe they will inspire you to try some new techniques – all have been discussed at some time in my blogs (just search in both this and my Tidbits Blog)! In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday and I will see ya next year!…..Digital Lady Syd

Processing Details:

Image 1: Lightroom processing occurred first on this beautiful red flower and then it was opened up in Photoshop and the background layer turned off. A light green solid color layer was placed under the image along with French Kiss Watercolor Texture Vivacity set to Normal at 47% opacity. A Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer was clipped to the watercolor and the Yellow color Hue was shifted to a light green. The flower layer was turned on and a layer mask added to paint out the background so the watercolor texture shows through. Several French Kiss Splatter Brushes were applied and reddish, pinkish, and brownish Color Fill Adjustment Layers were clipped to some of the brush stroke layers. Also the opacity of these stroke layers was varied. Last, Obsidian Dawn’s Merry Christmas brush was placed on a layer with a layer style added (using Outer Glow, Pattern -created using the Vivacity water color texture, Inner Shadow, and a dark red Stroke) to get the candy cane look, and a text layer added using an Outer Glow layer style.

Image 2: Since this image was just a 14 mg image, but still a jpg, it took me a lot longer to get the final look I wanted. In a nutshell, this image was processed first in Lightroom using the basic adjustments. Next in Photoshop Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Simplify 4 was applied using the Oil Paint Toned III preset as a starting place – to get the soft color the tone section was changed to black, dark green, light green and red and set to a Tone Strength of .89. I basically just played around with the size sliders until I got a result I liked and created a preset since it was so different from their presets. Then I simply did a lot of clean up, added two textures – French Kiss Artiste Aspen (turned it green using a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and merging down) using Lighter Color blend mode at 23% opacity, and 2 Lil Owls Texture 1 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) set to Hard Light at 37% opacity. A Levels Adjustment layer was added, two layers of text, French Kiss Glorious Grunge Edging Overlay with inside lines removed and changed to a light tan color, and a spotlight vignette effect on the center left ornament. These are all techniques I have covered in past blogs here and on my Tidbits Blog so just search the blogs for more information on how to do a certain technique or drop me a line or comment if you have questions.

Image 3: I started with a New Document in Photoshop. My free SJ Holiday Greeting PNG Overlay was applied and a Red Color Fill Adjustment Layer set to a deep red color was clipped to the overlay. Next a New Layer was added and the Erodible Watercolor Blender brush was chosen and pinks and grays were painted around the overlay – the layer was set to 28% opacity. My Snow Overlay (in same download set as the greeting) was applied at 63% and a text layer with my name was added. A Levels Adjustment Layer and Curves Adjustment Layer was added to finish up.

Image 4: Basic processing was done in Lightroom. Lots of clean up and a Levels Adjustment Layer was added to add contrast. Painted Textures Christmas was added at Hard Light and 86% opacity – gives a beautiful warm glow to image. Some vignetting, sharpening and selective Hue/Saturation Adjustments changes were made. To get the night look, a Nik Color Efex Pro Midnight filter set to Blue was added.  Santa Brush by Flina was added with a layer style to get nice effect on the brush. Obsidian Dawn’s Light Beam brushes was added to light up the front of the house. My free Snow Overlay was added and set to 10% opacity. Obsidian Dawn’s Merry Christmas brush was added with an Inner Glow layer style and a text layer for my name was added last.


How to Create Unique Textured Backgrounds

This is a follow-up from last week’s How to Create Unique Watercolor Background Texture blog and more Photo Art examples. Below are listed several ways to create  interesting backgrounds using brushes and other Photoshop tools. The above is an example of what can be done using very traditional textures to make your image look a little different. Some clean up and a Curves Adjustment Layer were added to emphasize the sketch lines of the flowers more. Next Lost and Taken’s Remixed Chalk Pastel 03 texture was added and set to Pin Light at 100% opacity. To get the grungy look, a New Layer was created using the Amazing Texture Brush 2 by Nakatoni (apparently these are no long available but any grunge brush you like will work to add some splotchy purple color) – the layer was set to 52% opacity. A little color clean up was done on another New Layer. Next one of my favorite canned textures by Gavin Hoey’s grunge border 2 was added and set to Overlay blend mode. To get the flowers to appear, a white layer mask was added and the flowers were painted back in using black in the mask. This texture was set to Overlay blend mode. Next a composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created and a black 3 pixel stroke layer style was added as a small border line. Next my Cat Painting canvas texture was added using Soft Light at 100% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer, Levels Adjustment Layer, and Gradient Map Adjustment Layer (using a bright yellow to green gradient and layer set to Saturation blend mode at 46% opacity). Two more layers were created using different grunge brushes set to 20% opacity in purples and blues were the last steps. The reason I went over all this is to show what a few layers on top of rather traditional textures can give a very different look and be very targeted to get an interesting final result. Below is the Layer Panel workflow as basically listed above.

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This background was created in an interesting way. A New Document was created using the Photoshop Paint Brush Maple Leaves set to 369 pixels with pink and yellow set as foreground and background colors – the whole layer was covered with leaves. Next the Smudge Tool was selected and I dabbed and smoothed the colors together to give this nice blended look using Fay Sirkis’s Watercolor Liquid Mask I Photoshop Brush with the Smudge Brush Tool. If you do not have access to her wonderful brushes, try Alex Dukai Artist Set 01 using the Impressionist brushes which give a very similar result. (Note: the Smudge Brush Tool takes a lot of Ram to run so use a small sized brush like 150 pixels max to do do this.) Once this is created, save the background down as a JPG so it can be used over as an image texture. I used this background and added my sketched layer from the first image. A New Layer using Obsidian Dawn’s Random Swirls 2 Glitter Brush in light pink was added to add texture to the flowers. Nagel rough pastel brushes 3 and 4 were used in the different colors to fill in blanks spots and add some color to the petals – these are really nice smoothing brushes. My Double Edge Frame layer style was added as a last step. See my blog Digital Lady Syd’s Free Layer Style Frames. Here is just a different way you can create a unique texture for you images. You can download my Smudge Texture – see below how to change the effect and colors in this same texture.
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This original image was first taken into Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and three filters stacked: Midnight using Neutral color set, Reflector Efex using Method Gold. and Bi-Color Filters using Color Set Violet/Pink 3. The background came out as black so a layer was placed above and olive green grunge was added on the layer using another one of Fay Sirkis’ textures pastel brush (see last week’s blog for more on Fay). Again a good grunge brush would be fine. A second layer was added and a light pink grunge was painted – the layer was set to 19% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to darken the whole image down a bit. Next, the Smudge Texture created in the image above was placed in the image on top and set to Color blend mode at 80% opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture (ALT+Click between the layers) to adjust the hue (+14) and saturation (-71) of the texture itself – the adjustment layer was set to 49% opacity. Finally a composite layer was put on top and my Double Edge Frame layer style was added to finish up the image. I believe all these steps created once again a very unique background for these flowers.
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This image used a pattern applied with the Pattern Stamp Tool. This tool can create some really interesting backgrounds. The original image was loaded. Next a New Layer was added on top and the Pattern Stamp Tool (sits with the Clone Stamp Tool) was selected. Now to make this interesting you have to load some interesting patterns. This is one from Princess of Shadow Victorian Dreams Texture 6 but any pattern that has colors you like can be used. I wanted some blues and reds so that is why this particular pattern was chosen. Note you can use any of your textures and turn them into patterns by opening texture, going to Edit -> Define Pattern and it will be in your group of selected patterns. To make this work you need to go to the Options Bar and in the little box where the pattern is showing, click on the little down arrow and load your pattern. A layer mask was added to remove the color from the flowers. The Pattern Stamp layer was set to Color Burn blend mode at 77% opacity. This layer was duplicated which added in the blue and red tones in the texture once the layer was set to Hard Light at 64% opacity. The flowers were painted over using Mixer Brush blenders. Once again I have to thank Fay Sirkis for her great Signature Schlepp n Smear Blender brush and one by Dave Cross – his close up mixer brush. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added where the RGB, Red and Blue curves were adjusted. Finally I a used my Double Edge Frame layer style, this time adding a Layer Stroke effect and setting the size to 18 and Fill Type to Pattern. I selected the same pattern and set the scale to make it look right.
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I thought I would finish up with a couple real quick ways to add an interesting background. Kelby TV’s Ask Dave’s blog has a short video on How Did You Get That Cool Background? that was used to create the background above. This is a really easy technique. Basically Dave Cross (one of the NAPP Photoshop Guys and Hall of Famer at Photoshop World) used the Single Row or Column Marquee tool and apply a couple filters – I did this in a separate PSD file so I could use the texture over again. This time the flowers were cropped and set to Dissolve blend mode. An image that had yellows and reds was selected to create the background and a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer added for the purple/blue tones. A snow texture that Florabella Collections had given away at Christmas was placed under the flowers but above the adjustment layer – any snow texture is fine (it would be easy to create by painting with a spatter brush on a black background on a layer) and set the layer to Color Dodge at 35% opacity. A New Layer was created using Frostbo’s Snow Drops brush with purple tones – this is my favorite snow brush. My Thin Double Edge Frame was used as a last step sampling color from image.
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Hope you are not getting tired of my flowers but they were easy to use as an example. This last image first used a Randomized Gradient – it was originally in bright reds and oranges.

See my Tidbits Blog I Didn’t Know That! Randomizing Gradients which uses four steps to create. This gradient had Noise set to just 50%. The randomize button was pushed several times until I got a gradient I liked. In this case I used a Radial Gradient which was pulled out from one corner of the image. A Curves and a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer were added to change the colors to browns and pinks. The flowers were placed above the gradient layer. (See left  image.) A New Layer was added under the flowers but above the adjustment layers and a Mixer Brush was used to smear the color behind the flowers to get this effect. (I personally like John Derry’s Mixer Brushes – this used his Flat Fan High Bristle Count brush.) I was really surprised how this turned out. Try out different mixer brush settings to see which one does not pick up the flower colors but just those underneath. Now just a little clean up and frame. The Mixer Brushes can create some really interesting backgrounds.

I hope you have learned a few new ways to create some interesting background textures for your images, especially flowers. In the meantime, try some of these techniques and see if you get some good results!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel Updated!
Create a Winter Scene with Photoshop Brushes and Textures
Adding a Texture for Flair!
Adobe Photoshop CS5′s Mixer Brushes
Cold Dolphin Fountain in Florida


How to Create Unique Watercolor Background Texture

Everyone it seems is texture crazy right now! I have to admit that I love to use textures in my photo art but some of what I am seeing does not seem that terribly creative to me. Once you buy a texture action, and don’t get me wrong – there are some beautiful textures and actions to make your photos look great – the results may start to look a little canned. That is what I was feeling when I created the above image from a shot of beautiful white flowers from Hawaii. I have to admit I tried a few boilerplate textures from some of my favorite texture people, but it just did not do anything for me. Then I decided to take things in my own hands and try making some interesting textures that would work for me.
As I have said before, I am not a trained artist, but I do like to play around with brushes. Here is the original image before adding my textures. The first thing I did was to create a sketch in Topaz Simplify (for website link, see sidebar of my Tidbits Blog) using colored edges. (I still have not found anything that works better to get a really good sketch effect.) In fact I got the idea from an image I posted in my My Version of Photoshop Tennis! blog where I used the Simplify plug-in to get a nice line drawing of the outdoor cafe image. The settings are very similar but instead of using mono color edges, color edges were used (see settings for Image 6 in blog). Back in Photoshop, Color Range was used to delete all the green background out of the image so only the sketched flowers remained. I duplicated this layer and put it to Multiply blend mode to make the lines a little darker and even added a Curves Adjustment Layer to bring out more  detail in the petals. A New Layer was placed between the original green image layer and the sketch and filled with a light yellow.  Above the yellow layer, several New Layers were added where I just painted with a chalk or charcoal brushes using 30% opacity in light pinks and blue colors around the petals to start getting a painted background. This does not have to be painted perfectly as they are blended into the image later. Different new layers were created for the different colors – if one color is not looking that great, you can delete it from the image without losing your other colors. (In fact I had created a rather bright orange layer using a charcoal brush that just did not work so it was deleted.) I used some of my very favorite brushes by Fay Sirtis, a Corel Master Painter, but she also does Photoshop brushes. The best way to get hold of them is to join NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals) where her videos and brush downloads are available. She has created several of the old masters’ brushes to use in Photoshop, but also has some of her own pastel, chalk and charcoal brushes. Her dry, texture pastel, and chalk add color brushes were applied to add a nice texture to just the flower petals. Check out your Natural, Dry Media and Wet Media Brush sets that came with Photoshop for some other good brush choices. I try to rename the layer with the name of the brush used if it a unique one. Now a composite (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) stamped layer is created to finish up. Below is where we are at.


The image still needed more interest so a I created one to place over the sketched flowers. This was done by starting a New Document and creating several layers of strokes in different soft colors and opacities. The brushes used in this file are BittBox Free Hi-Res Watercolor Photoshop Brushes. A Composite was created at the top of this document like above. I then saved the Pastel Watercolor texture image as both a .PSD and .JPG file. Click on image to see steps more clearly in FlickR (click again in FlickR to bring up an even larger view). To download my texture from Deviant Art, click here. See “Create a Colorful Paint Background in Photoshop” by EntheosWeb.com for a good article on how to do this.

This watercolor JPG texture image was then placed above the Composite layer of the flower file. I did not like the way it lined up so a Free Transform (CTRL+T) was done and it was flipped vertically and horizontally to get the look I liked. A layer mask was added to clear some of the paint from the petals where it looked overdone. The layer was set to  Lighten blend mode at 57%. Note my layer is called Adobe Paper Texture Pastel Watercolor because it was added using Dr. Brown’s Paper Texture Panel (see link below) just like any other texture – it will rename your layer for you which is very helpful when stacking texture effects. What I did next was to add several layers of cloning and painting to clean up or paint some additional color texture and paint on the individual petals to give emphasis in certain areas and less in others. As you can see, there is a little blue painted in the flowers on one layer – this is painted at a very low brush intensity, between 15 and 30%, and the layer opacities were adjusted afterwards. A really light vignette was created and set to 30% opacity and Overlay blend mode to direct the eye just a little. Finally my Double Edge Layer Style (can be downloaded here) was added sampling the colors from the image for the frame on yet another composite top layer.

This seems like a long process, but you now have another texture and it is unique because you made it. I have used this Pastel Watercolor texture in other images. Add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and clip it to the texture (ALT+Click on line between the layers) to change the colors in the texture. By adding some textured brush strokes with the Pastel Watercolor texture, a very unique and artistic look can be achieved. Next time I will show a few other ways to get some different background effects. Until then, have fun with your brushes!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Create Unique Textured Backgrounds
How to Turn a Brush into a Watercolor Brush
Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 7: Get Textures From Objects Inside Your Home!
Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel Updated!
Orchids with Russell Brown’s Paper Textures Panel


Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Simplify 4

As everybody probably knows by now, I am a big fan of Topaz plug-ins (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link). If you like to create “photo art” (which I do), then many of their products are outstanding for this and Simplify leads the group. This is not the go-to plug-in to get that major realistic look or HDR feel to an image –  stick to Topaz Adjust for that, although the lighthouse image below has a pretty realistic look to it. This beautiful Monarch butterfly image really expresses what Topaz Simplify 4 can do. You do not have to be an artist to give a beautiful artistic feel to an image. This latest version has opened up a whole bunch of new options and I am totally excited about trying them all out. Simplify 3 was a great product and I used it a lot. Simplify 4 adds more of the little extras that Topaz’s newer plug-in updates offer. But the real strength is in the addition of all the new presets – Topaz can make a basic photo look fabulous with just a few clicks. The image above used the Sketch Effect category Pastel II preset. Since I have photoFXlab (the new Topaz interface) that contains a great Adjust Tab – the Temperature slider was set to -100 and all of the sudden instead of a green and yellow image, which was really nice, it became a much bluer image. (This could easily be changed later in just Photoshop using ACR or a Color Balance Adjustment Layer.) Using the photoFXlab Mask Tab, the orange color was painted back in the butterfly – I really like the blue-orange color palette. In Photoshop the canvas looking border was applied using ShadowHouse Creations Assorted Mask Overlay Mask04 on top and set to Linear Dodge at 100% opacity. A little clean up was done to emphasize the eyes and blend some over bright colors. Very beautiful result and very easily created.
….. What I really love about Simplify is that it can save a “soft” image – that one shot you really want to save but the image is just not that good. The image above is an example of just that kind of problem. This shot was taken from a moving train using an ISO of 2000 – pretty high for my camera and it created a pretty soft look. How did I get this sharp look? First I used DeNoise set to RAW Moderate (be sure you have sharpening turned off in ACR or Lightroom – I did not on the first pass and it really messed up the noise removal). Next Topaz photoFXlab was opened and the layer duplicated – then from the Plugins Tab, Simplify 4 was opened. Lots of choices here – hard to make a decision which effect looks best. The Painting Effect category’s Impressions Color preset was selected – all detail is lost but the color is great! Back in photoFXlab, the layer was set to Color blend mode and the colors just popped as you see above. If you do not like the result, just delete your layer, duplicate again and go back into Simplify. A +From Stack stamped layer was created and the Adjust Tab’s sliders were set to: Temp 15, Saturation 14, Exposure 15, Contrast -12 and Dynamics 92. The Desaturation Brush was set to Strength -0.21 to brush out the bluish pavement and turn it back to a gray tone. The Detail brush was set to Strength 0.79 and used to paint over the buildings and the Burn brush Strength set to -0.33 and used to make the center building less bright. In Photoshop ShadowHouse Creations Blurred Smoke texture was added (a layer mask was added and the center painted out with black brush to reveal the image) and my B&W Border Frame layer style was added. I loved the results!

So what is new? Over 100 new presets that are organized into 7 Effect Categories: BuzSim, Detail Removal and Enhancement, Line and Ink, Painting, Sketch, Simplify 3 Preset List and My Collection which is where I save most of the presets I create (I put my old ones from Simplify 3 here also). I have not completely explored all the categories but I am loving the Painting Effects.

Here is a snapshot of a the new Simplify 4 interface. The Preset Thumbnail View is closed at upper left to show all the new Painting Effects presets. The image in the plug-in is shown at 1:1 (this is the recommended view by Topaz so you can actually see what the effect is doing) and has the Oil Painting preset applied with some slider changes in the Adjust Panel. It now contains not only my favorite Topaz slider, Dynamics  for localized contrast similar to Topaz Adjust effects, but also Structure and Structure Boost sliders to get more detail like Topaz Detail uses. The Saturation and Saturation Boost sliders made this image a little more colorful than the original preset results (this is a common result with the Oil Painting preset) – these sliders were already in Simplify 3. You could play all day with the effects and sliders! The Simplify Panel and Edges Panel have not been changed with this revision but a new Curves Tool has been added to the Global Adjustments Panel with several choices in the drop-down Curves field or by just dragging with your cursor inside the grid. I usually do this step at the end of my workflow in Photoshop, but it might come in handy on a difficult image.

What I Like!

  • All the new presets and new painterly effects!
  • New Dynamics and Structure sliders. Fabulous addition!
  • Localized brushes where the effect can be brushed out in places where it is too much – contains Dodge, Burn, Brush Out and Smooth brushes with the fantastic Edge Aware technology.
  • Ability to add a Vignette from within Simplify.
  • Ability to Apply an effect and then apply another one before exiting plug-in. This has the potential to give some interesting results.
  • The addition of the Quad Tones to change the colors inside the program – learning curve here but could be quite useful!
  • Detail Removal and Enhancement Effect category may have some good uses with some experimentation.

What I Don’t Like!

  • Still have a little webbing problem when using the BuzSim presets. Usually on a separate layer in Photoshop the webbing color issue can be corrected. First try the various Simplify panel sliders to fix, especially the Simplify Size slider – just do not overdo adjusting this slider or you lose the painterly look.
  • No Detail Enhancer brush in the Local Adjustments section – would be nice to have the ability to bring back detail, not just brush it out, on certain parts of the image like eyes and floral centers.
  • Ability to save Quad Tones colors down as separate presets although I guess if you get a favorite color combination, it could be saved as a preset with no change to any of the other sections – then applied separately after applying the original preset. It seems a little cumbersome this way.
  • Would love to have a color change tab like the HSL tab in Camera Raw. It would be nice to isolate just one color to change.

I have to admit, the things I do not like are not that big a deal – this is a great program for making an artistic statement and is totally fun to use! The upgrade has made this a very versatile plug-in for Photoshop users. And for us Topaz fans who already owned Simplify 3, it was a free upgrade! Can’t beat that!
…..Okay – here is my problem. Now that Topaz has this new photoFXlab interface, it is hard to keep what you are doing in the individual plug-ins separate from other things you can do to an image in the interface. That is a good thing! The Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly image above used the new Line and Ink Effect category with the Cartoon by D. Pacheco preset. The image does not look like it did in Simplify 4 because it was taken into InstaTone and the tones from Yellow Flower by Richard Susanto at 500 px were applied. This changed the whole color scheme to a better one.
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The British scene above used one of the new BuzSim category presets – BuzSim Toned II. I did add an Overall Transparency of .34 to the image to bring back some of the natural colors in the image. In photoFXlab, the Dynamics slider was set to 76 and Contrast to -9 to pop the detail just a little. This image was taken back into Photoshop where a layer was added on top to clone in the correct color in the Coca-Cola lettering – just a slight webbing problem that was easy to fix in this case. The red awning was made brighter by using a Color Balance Adjustment Layer and setting only the Highlights to Red at +27 – the mask was filled with black and the awning was painted back in. The color was too bright so I set it to 57% opacity.
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The beautiful purple orchids that were growing in Hawaii also uses Topaz Simplify 4 and the Painting category’s Watercolor preset. In this case I decided I wanted to actually paint the flowers and needed a really strong color background to base my Mixer Brush blending on. The Temperature slider was adjusted to reduce the blue tones just a little and the saturation was increased only a little to get finish the colors in Topaz photoFXlab. Many experts believe the Saturation sliders in Topaz plug-ins are superior to the ones in ACR and Photoshop. Back in Photoshop I used Fay Sirkis‘ Signature Watercolor Smooth Blender brush (you must be a member of NAPP to get these brushes – check out her videos there) to paint the flowers – the layers were set to around 73% so some of the Simplify detail is preserved. Fay’s Texture Regular brush was used to smooth out the background area and basic blender brush was used to smooth the transition edges of the flower. A final Curves Adjustment Layer added back a little contrast the Mixer brushes tend to delete and my Double Edged Frame layer style were added.
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Another interesting preset category, Detail Removal and Enhancement, is included to help with actual dust removal in an image. On the image in the interface, there were little water drops on the long skinny leaves. When Spot Removal IV was applied, you can hardly see them in the original image. Rather amazing! It can be used on faces with blemishes. Using a layer mask in Photoshop or photoFXlab, move the corrected layer underneath the original with the blemishes – then just dab at the blemishes and they disappear. I need to experiment with this section but it looks like it has great promise. BuzSim has always been one of my favorite presets ever since Amphisoft came out with the the original Buzz Simplifier filter (see my blog Simplifier and Simplify Filters). Topaz did a great job in picking up this rudimentary filter and making it into a great filter. Now you have many choices to get this wonderful look.

Bottom Line:

If you want to add some beautiful effects to your images, get Simplify 4. It is easy to use and can be changed by using all the different adjustments layers and blend modes in Photoshop and Topaz photoFXlab. Even beginners will be able to feel great about their results. For more information on using this new version, see Topaz Labs video Introduction to the New Topaz Simplify 4 that explains everything about the plug-in. You may not use it on every image but when you do use it, it will create an effect that is very hard to duplicate with any other plug-ins on the market. At least download a trial and see what you think. Good job Topaz!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz photoFXlab v1.1
Using Topaz Simplify for That Artistic Feel!
Using photoFXlab v1.1
InstaTone in photoFXlabs – Great Fun and Great Results!
Topaz Simplify and Topaz Detail Together
Topaz Simplify and Lens Effects Saves an Image!
Adobe Photoshop CS5′s Mixer Brushes