Been a busy couple of weeks – one preparing for a hurricane and one cleaning up after one. Very lucky here – only lost power for a few days so I can continue on with my blogs. Thanks for all the good wishes I received – they were really appreciated!
Before the storm Adobe sent out a newsletter with a link to a free Postcard with Instructions template that has turned out to be quite easy and fun to do. They used a .psdt file format (it will open in PS like a .psd file in layers) which listed some very good instructions on the top layer – this made the document much larger than the actual postcard size. Therefore the Crop Tool must be used eventually to remove the excess size. Just about every layer was substituted with my own objects and text. (The bird is called White Heron from the Design Fairy, two textures from 2 Lil’ Owls (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) called After the Rain 10 used at 57% layer opacity and Starry Night 6 used inside the letters, large font is called Consequences, and small font is called A Charming Font Superexpanded.) The palm trees are from another of my images. To get the rather textured result inside the large font, a Gradient Map was clipped to the text (ALT+click between the layer to clip) and in the Gradient Editor the Gradient Type was set to Noise and the Randomize button was clicked a few times until I found one I liked. (See my short I Didn’t Know That! Randomizing Gradients blog.) It does take a little experimentation to figure out where to set the different objects or add extras in, but it is pretty simple to adjust.
Here is another example of using the Adobe template and a Zebra Longwing Butterfly who was flying around in my Bottlebrush Bush. This is so much fun, especially if you like to work with text. The large font is called Castile Inline Grunge.
The text and image below are from an old blog created back in 2011 that created a similar effect as the template above. Had to edit out some old links, but the workflow is the same and very easy to do. Just follow along to give text some interesting effects.
1. Open image to use in text layer.
2. Unlock the Background layer. (Drag lock to trash can.)
3. Create a New Layer underneath Background Layer by ALT clicking the New Layer icon and fill with whatever color you would like to use.
4. Highlight top layer and select Text Tool.
5. Click on image and enter text with the font you want to use – can adjust size of text later. Click Check to finalize text.
6. Select the Move Tool and move the text where you would like it.
7. Can CTRL+T to adjust the text size. Click check to finalize text again.
8. Drag Background layer above Text layer.
9. Go to Layer – Create Clipping Mask or ALT+click between the two layers.
10. On Text layer, create Layer Style – double click on layer to open. Select Drop Shadow and set to 100% Opacity. Play around with the other sliders and contours until you like what you see. I also added a stroke to my images here.
For the above, the original image was converted to a Smart Object as the background. Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Simplify plug-in was set to Sketch Hardpencil (check out the Topaz Simplify 3 presets in updated version) and adjustments were made by adding Contrast, Details Strength, Details Boost, Details Feature Boost, and making the Edge Type Mono Line. The opacity of the layer was set to 49%. A free font called Freshman from dafont was selected. A Textures by Ash No. 26 (no longer available but was mainly a very yellow texture with grungy orange edges) was placed above the Background layer at 65% opacity to add warmth to the image.
Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend and are starting to enjoy what I consider the best month of the year!…..Digital Lady Syd
This week I spent some time playing with a Photoshop plug-in that is in beta testing called PixelSquid. It allows you to add various items to create realistic composite images. Each element has 225 pre-rendered images shot from various angles and with shadow layers that can be adjusted in different ways. It has a fairly large learning curve, but the website covers all aspects of the program and overall it is not that difficult to do. The elements are kept in a Pixel SquidPanel Panel or Extension in Photoshop. (It does take a few moments to fill the panel with your items when Photoshop is opened each time and sometimes you have to log-in to their site to see your items and get new ones – a bit cumbersome.) They will be offering elements for sale, but at the moment you are allowed to download up to 100 objects. The best description of what they are doing is demonstrated in this short 3-minute video that covers the basics called PixelSquid: Getting Started on Vimeo. For an excellent example of how this program works, check out a blog called A Little Compositing Inspiration by Pete Collins at KelbyOne which introduced me to this Add On (see his original post called Check Out Pixel Squid). If you try it as a beta program, you will be allowed to keep the elements you have chosen, and they will let you download them from the site for free any time you want to use them again. This is a really nice thing they are doing.
In the image above, the elements added were the rather cartoon looking dog and the bike. For me the main hurdle was to try and get a natural look so the elements blend into the original image. I could not get the items to go on the blank layer the program creates but had to use PSD and “Open As Another Document,” move in the layers I wanted to use, and then delete the blank layer in my image. I am assuming they are working on this aspect of the Beta program. They offer a Depth Layer to help with this, but for me, I just painted on the objects and used the Blur Tool to soften edges. Really a lot of fun. For other info on post-processing of this image, see my Image 1 Notes at end of blog (this was a really long workflow but it will give you idea of what was done). Also, be sure that you have your Adobe Creative Cloud running, or it takes a work around to add the Extension and elements into Photoshop. This plug-in extension only works in Photoshop CC2015, but there are PNG , JPG and PSD files that can be downloaded and used in the other versions. Just adjust the object view you want on their website and download it to your computer to place in Photoshop. The PNG files come in very nice with shadows already set. (It seems almost easier than using the Extension if you like the way the object will fit in your image.)
This image is of a beautiful park in Savannah, Georgia, on a gorgeous Fall day. Several elements were added with PixelSquid – two trees, bushes, fountain, park benches and a little butterfly. This was really fun to create. Just remember it is rather tricky to do a composite that looks real-life, but there are numerous tutorials on the internet on how to do this. My goal was just to add some interesting lighting and correct shadows without doing a lot more. For more on post-processing, check out Image 2 at end of blog.
If there is a problem with this add on it is the issue discussed above that elements appear to need to be opened as PSD files in another document since I could not get the Low Res and High Res choices to open anything but a blank white layer. Then layers or the PSD group must be duplicated into your original document. (Highlight what you want to copy, be it layer or group or both, right click on the layer(s) and select Duplicate Layer (or Group)… In dialog, choose Document drop-down and select your image to place them in. Use the Move Tool to adjust location and Free Transform (CTRL+T) to adjust the size of the object(s).
I hope you will give it a try if you like to do this kind of thing in Photoshop. I can see a lot of uses for objects like this. It really is a lot of fun to try compositing, and since it is free right now, definitely worth looking into. Hope you all have a great Halloween and weekend!…..Digital Lady Syd
Notes for Images:
Image 1: This image needed a lot of manipulation to get to this point. First Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Clarity was used (used these settings: Dynamics Micro Contrast 0.19, Low Contrast 0.64, Medium Contrast 0.44, and High Contrast 0.25; Tone Level 0.30, Midtones 0.03, and White Level 0.19; and Hue Yellow -0.56, Sat 0.20, and Lum Orange 0.09). Next the Bike was added. The dog was added in next and it was duplicated to make a shadow as I did not like the way PixelSquid’s shadow looked for my lighting. The dog on the bottom layer was selected (CTRL+click on layer) and the dog was filled with black – then it was Free Transformed (CTRL+T) to look like the dog shadow, and the layer opacity was set to 22%. Two Curves Adjustment Layer was created – one for darkening the image and one for lightening. A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created and Topaz Simplify was opened. (The Simplify settings are: Simplify – Colorspace RGB, Simplify Size 0.28, Details Strength 0.67, Details Boost 1.75, Details Size 0.20 and Remove Weak 0.10; Adjust Brightness -0.16, Contrast 1.00, Sat and Sat Boost 1.00, Dynamics 0.27, Structure 0.85 and Structure Boost 1.36; Edges – Edge Type Mono Line Fine, Edge Strength 2.35, Simplify Edge 0.29, Reduce Weak 10.00, Reduce Small 0.20, and Fatten Edge 0.66; and Vignette centered on dog, Vignette Strength -0.20, Vignette Size 0.30, Vignette Transition 0.65, and Vignette Curvature 0.83; and Overall Transparency 0.20.) These settings created a cartoon-like effect in the image. (See Serge Ramelli’s video on How to Turn a Photo into a Cartoon or Painting with Topaz Simplify for more on this. ) On another stamped object Nik Viveza 2 was used to pinpoint the dog and bike to blend them into the image correctly. On another stamped layer, Color Efex Pro 4 was opened and three filters were applied. (Settings used: Film Efex:Vintage using Film Type 14, Old Photo using Style 3 and set to Opacity 31%, and White Neutralizer.) The Blue Tool was used on the white parts of the bike tire to soften the brightness and set to 73% layer opacity. On another New Layer the dog was blurred with the Blur Tool set to 53% Strength. On another New Layer, Gruts Brushes-Natural Media Brush Lead Thumb was used to enhance some of the shadows in the image. (These are really great brushes with lots of variety.) On another New Layer some clouds were lightly painted in the sky. Then I added one of my textures on top that gave the image the warmer color – set to Hard Light at 93% layer opacity. The dog was painted on another New Layer using another one of Gruts Oil brushes. Since there was some real chromatic aberration around the tree leaves, on a stamped layer a Gaussian Blur was added to soft those edges by setting the Radius to 2.5. Then a black layer mask was added to this layer (CTRL+click on the Add Layer Mask to make black or CTRL+I inside white layer mask) and just the edges of the trees were painted back to blur the outline of the trees – this was caused by the Simplify filter settings. The last step was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a little needed contrast back into the image.
Image 2: After initial tone adjustments in Lightroom, all nine objects and their shadows were brought into the image using the Duplicate technique in Image 1. On a stamped layer converted to a Smart Object (right click and select Smart Object), the Filter -> Render -> Lighting Effects was applied where an Infinite Light was applied in the direction of the light using a yellow light color; this really lightened up the image. On a stamped image, Topaz Lens Effects was opened and the Reflector filter was applied (Type Golden, Strength 0.11, Transition 0.32, Position 0.52, and Angle 122.9) to lighten more. On a stamped layer, Topaz Lens Effects was opened again and the Single Tone Filter, Warm Tone 2 preset, was applied to keep lightening up the image subtlety. The park benches and fountain edges were too sharp so a Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur was applied at Radius 2.5. A black layer mask was applied and just the areas to be softened were painted back with a low opacity soft brush. Next New Layers were added to create some leaves and grass to further soften edges under trees and around the base of the fountain. Two Selective Color Adjustments Layers emphasizing the Yellow and Red colors – wanted the right tree to show up more and the path through the image needed to be more colorful for the eye to follow. The layer masks were turned black and with a white brush, these areas were painted back in. Next two Curves Adjustment Layers were added – one for just brightening the water in the fountain (black mask and painted back water), and the second to darken the whole image for contrast. More New Layers were created and several brushes were used to paint in detail. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to give a bit of a vignette effect, but in the layer mask, areas showing the lighter edges of the trees and fountain were painted back. That was all that was done, but it takes a lot of adjustments to do compositing.
For a few weeks I have been experimenting with some of the wonderful painterly techniques of Jai Johnson, a wildlife enthusiast who creates absolutely beautiful images. I am finally getting some results that are appealing to my personal taste as I love photographing wildlife in the natural habitat. I thought I would pass on what works for me. On her website she has several really nice videos. She uses Topaz (see website link in sidebar of my Tidbits Blog) photoFXlab as a stand-alone, but it is pretty easy to follow along and do the same steps in most versions of Photoshop. Lately I have been doing my painting in CS6 to increase the stroking speed especially with the Mixer Brushes, although all the CC versions will work fine.
Love the beautiful egrets that can be found in the rookery at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm in the Spring. This bird just seemed happy to me and was a lot of fun to paint. The background is one created in Painter for him. I believe you could create some nice watercolor backgrounds in Photoshop that would give a similar result. I needed a yellow warm light in the background to match the sunlight on his body. Used Jai’s basic workflow that puts him on top and then in a black mask, the original background is removed. She also uses Topaz Lens Effects Graduated Neutral Density filter – in this case used to lighten the bird up. The texture was duplicated two more times and placed on top – one used Multiply blend mode at 16% layer opacity and the other Color Dodge blend mode at 15% layer opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer was opened and the Colorize button was checked with the Hue set to 48 and Saturation 25 – filled the mask with black (CTRL+I in mask) and painted back just lightly areas I wanted the warmer color to appear. Nik Viveza 2 was used to add emphasis to the head area. The Eyes and Beak were sharpened using two Exposure Adjustment Layers. (See my How To Do a Quick Eye Sharpening in Photoshop blog,) Then a stamped layers (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created on top and opened in Topaz ReStyle using the Peppermint Gray preset (one of my favorites) to get a little different color balance. Back in PS the layer was set to 45% layer opacity and the bottom foreground was painted out in a layer mask to keep it slightly darker so the bird looks grounded. Last steps involved used New Layers to clean up distracting colors or areas.
I totally love Wood Storks, the gentle looking birds that are everywhere down here in Florida. This one happened to be standing in the top of a tree at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery, but they are everywhere in my neighborhood. There were actually two other birds next to him doing some crazy things so I removed them. They seem to tolerate people very well also.
In this image he was placed on a new texture created just for him in Painter. I tried to use complementary colors to the bird. If you like this type of texture, check out Jai Johnson‘s inexpensive (and some really nice free ones) and beautiful textures that give similar effects. The usual steps were taken of putting the bird layer on top of the texture, adding a black layer mask, and painting just the bird back with a white brush in the mask so the texture shows through from below. One of Jai’s great tips is to try to match up the texture with the original background colors of your subject. Used the Properties Panel Density slider to reduce the mask opacity to be able to see where the subject is for the initial painting in the layer mask, then put the slider back up to 100% when blocked in a little. Duplicated the texture and placed it on top of the bird layer, set it to Soft Light Blend Mode at 62% layer opacity. Did some clean up layers to even out some of the edges.
I am finding Topaz Lens Effect’s Toy Camera filter is working well with my bird images. A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created on top to apply this filter. Looked at the different presets and choose one, in this case the Yellow Green Low Contrast preset. The Vignette was set 0 and all the sliders in the Toy Camera Aberrations section far left to 0 since I really do not want the Toy Camera effect. The next Toy Camera sections should be adjusted for the individual image. (For the above the Region Size was set to 0.17, Transition 0.42 and Angle 55.25 – especially watch the Angle as it affects how the colors lay out on the image. Next adjusted the Region A Color Cast and Region B Color Cast to fit this image – mainly adding a little bit of Reds, Yellows and Blues to get the colors I liked.) I like how you can really adjust the colors around to get some nice blended effects. Finally adjusted the standard Image Adjustment sliders to add saturation and contrast. These presets, with some tweaking, can really give an image a beautiful soft and blended result.
The Eyes were again sharpened using the Exposure Adjustment Layer, and then another for just the beak. These two areas have to be sharp since the eye will look first at them with birds, but be careful not to over-sharpen so they do not blend into the image – reduce the opacity of the adjustment layer a little if this happens. Next I wanted to add just a little contrast around his head so a Curves Adjustment Layer was used to add some burning by pulling down on the curve to get the correct tone behind his head, filling the mask with black (CTRL+I), and painting back where I want the effect. (See my How to Use Curves Adjustment Layer to Dodge and Burn an Image blog). The last step added Nik Viveza 2 to really make the focal point, the head area, pop out. Since the background is competing with his white feathers, the feathers needed some punch and a little softening in this area.
This beautiful photo was from FreeImages – wish I could take credit for taking this image. The photo was used to follow the steps in Jai’s last video called Working With Bold Colors and Abstract Textures. This image had a really bright colored texture like Jai was using as a background. In her video she suggested trying out Topaz ReStyle, and that is where this color effect was applied. Also Topaz Adjust’s Boost preset was used instead of the Bold preset she prefers on the tiger layer. Topaz Simplify’s BuzzSim preset was used on just the subject layer. On a stamped layer Topaz Lens Effects Graduated Neutral Density filter was applied, and then ReStyle’s Dusty Desert preset which gives the almost colorless result. To finish an Exposure Adjustment Layer for the eyes and then Nik Viveza 2 to even out the background just a little were applied. Wish I had taken this image. Sigh!
Well hope you get a chance to check out Jai Johnson’s techniques on your wildlife images. Like I said, all her techniques can be used in Photoshop without too many changes – just experiment with the brush opacity and Flow settings is about all I see that is a little different. And I really like the Topaz Lens Effects Toy Camera effects – something I had not even looked at before! Hope you are all having a great summer – I am!…..Digital Lady Syd
Created this blog to show some painterly effects using the same image with some different Photoshop plug-ins. I started by first trying to get Topaz Impression and Alien Skin Snap Art to give a similar look. I really thought that if one looked nice a certain way, the other would give similar results since both plug-ins create painterly, and in this case oil painting effects. It just did not work! They are as different as can be and yet both plug-in are very good at what they do. The final results on all the images are ones that I thought looked good for each of the plug-in(s) used. I was pleasantly surprised at the variety in the images and all the very nice painterly results even though processed so differently! I hope you will get some ideas on how to achieve the look you want. Also, at the end of the blog I have links to reviews on each of the plug-ins used if you want more info on any of them.
The original image above was taken at the Native American Festival in Ormond Beach, Florida. This image had a large group of people dancing and watching so it had to be totally clean up and the sky extended. The clouds were still there at least. Then a stamped layer was opened into Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4 where a preset I created from the Default preset for Snap Art 3 was used. One thing I like is that up to three different Detail Masks can be painted onto the image and different settings can used to pinpoint those areas. In this case two were used. There is a Photorealism brush which will bring back a little more of the image which is great to emphasize the focal point of the shot. Some clean up painting and horizon adjustments were done on separate layers. To get the pretty orange tones, Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) ReStyle was opened and the Shadowy Orange preset was applied. A Radial Filter was used to emphasize the wrap just below her head area. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was used to tone down her shadow. It actually took a lot of manipulation to get the final look but I really like the results. The plug-in settings are listed below under Image 1 if you are interested.
The above was more how I had envisioned this particular image. This time Topaz Impression was applied using the Turner Storms I preset with no changes. I liked the way the ground and shadow looked a little more realistic and the sky does look stormy, which it was not. I had originally tried to get this image to look somewhat like the Snap Art Image by applying the Oil Glaze by Blake Rudis, but it did not give quite as nice a final look. Therefore I went with a totally different filter look. Topaz ReStyle was also applied to this image – the Zambest Zest preset (changed the Basic section to Luminosity blend mode and the Structure to -0.59 and Sharpness 0.73). Nik Viveza 2 was used to emphasize the back of the wrap.
For those of you who own the Topaz Suite of plug-ins, this is an example of using both Topaz Simplify and Black & White Effects to get the above result. I think it looks just as good – just took a little creativity to get the total look. The background layer was duplicated twice. The bottom duplicate was taken into Black & White Effects and a preset showing lots of detail that I created was applied. Then on the top layer Topaz Simplify was applied and another of my presets that added the painterly look was applied. A layer mask was added to it, and just the parts of the B&W Effects that I liked were lightly painted into the Simplify layer mask – used my Chalk brush with black paint at 20% brush opacity. This technique was used since the Simplify preset added the painterly feel but basically wiped out any of the texture in the image – B&W Effects was used to add back the texture a little. This mainly included the shadow area and the details in the wrap. Lots of clean up was done using my Chalk Brush to just go around and sample and add in paint where needed. A Gradient Map Adjustment Layer, using the Gold-Copper gradient that comes with Photoshop, was set to Darken blend mode. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used to add contrast back into the image. Finally Nik Viveza 2 was added to direct attention to the focal point, but the Radial Filter in the Camera Raw Filter could have been used instead. For settings in the plug-ins, check Image 3 below.
Can this look more different from the other? This time I used Nik Analog Efex Pro 2 first. Then Smart Photo Editor was opened and just the Daniel-Davidson Lost and Taken 4-02 preset was applied to get this pretty result. The effect had to be adjusted in the plug-in to line it up properly. I did not love the resulting color when brought back in Photoshop – a real color shift occurred. Therefore a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added and Yellows were set to Hue +11 and Sat +29, and then Master Hue -2 and Sat -49. Next a Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was added and set to a deep purple color (R68/G35/B75), set to Overlay blend mode at 29% layer opacity to get the final more colorful effect. See Image 4 settings for Nik Analog Efex Pro settings.
I hope you can see that it probably does not matter which plug-in(s) you have, you can get something rather painterly and interesting in many different ways. I guess that is why we get them – you can often get a surprise while using them. I have my favorite plug-ins that seem to give me the results I love, but I was also pretty pleased to see some different results by just combining them in various ways. I hope this blog gave you some ideas on how to use plug-ins you already may have and maybe get you interested in some of the ones you do not have. Any way you do it, it is always fun to play with these filter effects! Have a very Happy Turkey Day if you are one of my U.S. friends and otherwise, just have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd Related Posts:
Digital Lady Syd Speaks Out on Topaz Impression
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Alien Skin Snap Art 4
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz ReStyle
How About That Update to Nik Analog Efex Pro 2?
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Smart Photo Editor Photoshop Plug-In
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Black & White Effects 2.1
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Simplify 4
Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem!
Image 1 Settings: Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4 SJ Factory Default preset – Artistic Style Oil Paint; Background – Brush Size 35, Photorealism 35, Paint Thickness 85, Stroke Length 45, Color Variation 30, Brush Style – Default Brush, and Random Seed 7556; Detail Masking used on the feathers and the small face portion – Effect Detail, Brush Size -22, Photorealism 56, Paint Thickness -6, Stroke Length -31, Color Variation 44, and Brush Style Default Brush; Detail Masking used on just the diagonal lines in her skirt – Effect Detail, Brush Size -30, Photorealism 7, Paint Thickness 43, Stroke Length 0, Color Variation 66, and Brush Style Default Brush; Colors – Brightness 22, Contrast 25, Saturation 12, and Temperature (cool/warmth) 34; and Lighting – Preset Default – Highlight Brightness 46, Highlight Size 35, Direction 120, Angle 59, Highlight Color White, and Vignette – Preset: None; and Canvas – Preset: No Texture. Topaz ReStyle settings: Shadowy Orange Rose preset with these changes: ReStyle blend mode Color; Color Style Hue Third 0.33; Sat Primary -0.69, Secondary 0.17, Third 0.47, Fourth 0.03, and Fifth 0.45; Masked out the bright green shadow to make it much blacker – used Edge Aware Brush, Strength 0.58, Brush Size 0.10 and Hardness 0.33; Basic Color Temperature 0.14 and Saturation 0.19; Tone Black Level -0.47, Midtones 0.14, and White Level -0.20; and Detail Structure 0.42.
Image 3: Topaz B&W Effects settings: Conversion Section – Basic Contrast -0.33, Brightness -0.01, Boost Blacks 0.25, and Boost Whites 0.25; Adaptive Exposure – Adaptive Exposure 0.86, Regions 18, Protect Highlights 0.02, Protect Shadows 0.10, Detail 2.58, Detail Boost 1.11 and checked PDI; Color Sensitivity – Red 0.15, Yellow -0.14, Green 0.47, Cyan 0, Blue 0.31, and Magenta 0; and Color Filter – Hue 325.1 and Strength 0.27; Creative Effects Section – Simplify 0.12 and Feature Boost 1; and Finishing Touches Section – Silver and Paper Tone – Tonal Strength 0.40, Balance 0.30; Silver Hue 0, Silver Tone Strength 0.50, Paper Hue 4.00, and Paper Tone Strength 0.25; and Transparency – Overall Transparency 1.00. I also had Border (Border Type Grungy BW7 set to Size 0.36) and Vignette (Vignette Strength 1.00, Size 0.71, Transition 0.44 and Curvature 0.55) that were turned off before applying the preset. The Topaz Simplify preset settings were: General Adjustments Section – Simplify – Colorspace RGB, Simplify Size 0.84, Feature Boost 0, Details Strength 1.29, Details Size 0.96, Remove Small 0.10, and Remove Weak 0.20; 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 – Edge Type Color Edge – Normal, Edge Strength 0, Simplify Edge 0.60, Reduce Weak 24.00, Reduce Small 0.20, and Fatten Edge 0. My Chalk Brush settings: Select Photoshop’s Chalk 60 brush and in the Brush Panel set size to 200 pixels and in the Shape Dynamics section set the 19% – everything else off. I use this brush usually at 30% brush opacity or less to paint in texture and clean up layers.
Image 4: Here are the settings used for my Nik Analog Efex Pro 2 plug-in: Basic Adjustments – Detail Extraction 81%, Brightness 4%, Contrast -17%, Saturation 13% and two control points were used on the image – both placed in the sky on the right and left and set to Detail – 100%, Brightness -16%, Contrast -42%, and Sat -100 to soften the overall detail effect in that area; Bokeh – Bokeh Style – circle for apply elipse, Blue Strength 87%, and Boost Highlights 90%: Light Leaks Strength 50% and set to Soft choosing the 3rd row and 1st column soft red glow leak set right in the center of the image; and my favorite section Levels & Curves – Opacity set to 100%, Luminosity Curve pulled down with two points (7.5/6 and 12/16.5), Red one point at (12/13), Green two points at (7/6) and (12/14), and Blue two points at (5.5/6) and (12/16).
I think most people are pretty much in a rut and do not even think about using anything other than a basic round brush in Photoshop. But Wow! There is so much more sitting in that Brush Panel that is not really that difficult to use and the results can do some amazing things to an image. This week I am going to give you some very basic settings for making a nice brush variation and how to use it as both a regular brush and a Mixer Brush without having to learn everything “under-the-sun” about them. So here we go.
I have decided I must see things differently since I seem drawn to shooting these sort of close-ups of funny things I see at theme parks. They do such a good job with color and expression that it is hard not to enjoy them. So once again a Universal Studios Orlando image close up of a couple of the characters to ride on from the Caro-Seuss-el in Seuss Landing.
I decided I wanted a painterly feel to this bright colored image. Most people will over-saturate an image in Camera Raw or Lightroom as the painting can make the image lose its contrast. In Photoshop first do any cropping, straightening and clean up of distractions and convert your image to 8-bit mode to help speed up the painting process (Image -> Mode -> 8-bit).
This step does not have to be done – you can just go on to Creating the Brush step and then start painting on a New Layer without an underpainting effect. For this image, on a duplicate layer (CTRL+J), Topaz (see website link in sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4 plug-in was opened to create an underpainting before beginning to add my personal painting brush strokes. This is the same process as traditional painters do when they paint large blocks of color on their canvas before they begin painting the details. Especially for these bright contrasty images, it is a great way to start. Simplify does a great job of doing just that, simplifying your picture so you can take time working on your details. A preset I created back in version 3 was used (here are the settings used: Simplify section: Size 0.60, Feature Boost 0, Details Strength 0.80, Details Boost 1.28, Details Size 0.60, Remove Small 0.10, and Remove Weak 0.47; and Adjust section: Brightness 0.02, Contrast 0.82, Saturation, Saturation Boost 2.31, Dynamics 0, Structure and Structure Boost 1.00; no other settings used. ) This creates a rather bright flat image, but perfect for painting on the image. There are other ways to create an underpainting – the copy of the actual image could actually be blurred so only the basic shapes and colors are distinguishable and the detail removed. Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4 is another plug-in that creates a great underpainting effect. (See the first image in my More Plug-in and Painting Effects blog for an example using Snap Art 4.)
Creating the Brush
Next a New Layer was added on top and a watercolor Regular brush was created from the set I am always talking about – Creative Toons Watercolor Brushes – these were free from Photoshop Creative Magazine No. 113. (See next section for some other choices.) The brush used was Sample No. 15 but in the Brush Tip Shape in the Brush Panel, I set the size to 90, Roundness 100%, and the Spacing to 55%. Then added these brush sections by clicking on the words (not just check boxes or the settings don’t show up): Shape Dynamics was set to an Angle Jitter of 19% – no other settings on; Scattering with Scatter slider turned on and set to 30% and Count to 1 – no other settings on; Texture was turned on and the Gauze Pattern in Photoshop’s Artists Surfaces set was selected – Scale 100%, check Texture Each Tip, Mode Multiply, Depth 100% and Depth Jitter 40%; and of course Smoothing. (To locate pattern, click on side of pattern in Texture brush section, then click on the cog in upper right corner and select Artist Surfaces in list and Append – newly loaded patterns appear at bottom of already loaded patterns.) All the Control settings are turned off in all the sections. Be sure to save down as a Brush Preset so you do not lose your settings by clicking on the third icon over at the bottom of either the Brush Panel or the Brush Preset Panel. These were all settings I figured out since I really liked the shape of the original brush from Creative Toons, a brush that originally had a Size of 2500 px and Spacing of 25%. When painting, the 90-pixel size is as large as you want to use, especially when used as a Mixer brush. I believe any nicely shaped watercolor brush would work with these settings. Please try different settings and different types of brushes, not just watercolor, as you can get some very different but equally beautiful effects – I just happen to think this brush is very versatile and blends so beautifully. When using as a Regular brush, I usually set the brush opacity in the Options Bar to 30% and leave the Flow at 100%. If painting on a layer mask, may want the brush opacity set to 100%. For info on Flow, check out my blog called What Does the Flow Slider in the Options Bar Do?
Where to Find Some Nice Starter Watercolor Brushes
If you are unable to create this brush since the set is not free without the magazine, try downloading this large set of brushes from Env1ro watercolor brush and select Brush 3-697 pixels using exactly the same settings – when tested it creates the same effect as the brush used above since the shapes are very similar. It is also used in image below. Some other similar results were obtained using SwimchickWatercolours – brush no 480 which gave a little softer result. Kahara has a nice 8-brush set and the third one made a beautiful brush with these settings and a different pattern, a concrete pattern from Photoshop’s Texture Fill set (click on side of pattern in Texture brush section, then click on the cog in upper right corner and select Texture Fill in list – new patterns appear at bottom of loaded patterns). Changing up the patterns can give a brush new life. For a great list of free brush downloads, check out 45 Watercolor Brushes For Photoshop by Petshopbox Studio.
Turning it into a Mixer Brush
The real trick is to get your new Regular brush to work as a good Mixer Brush, and that is determined by what is up in the Options Bar – these settings are all sticky so when using your Mixer brushes, check them out if the brush is not working correctly.
So here are the options to make this really easy:
- To blend the colors (creating a blender Mixer brush), in the Options Bar turn off the “Load the brush after each stroke” icon by clicking on it and always leave “Clean the brush after every stroke” clicked on, and selecting the Very Wet, Heavy Mix in the drop-down – have Sample All Layers checked. Now you have a pretty nice blending Mixer brush. If some color shows up, you left the “Load” icon turned on.
- But what if you need to add some color to an area (creating a painting Mixer brush)? Turn On the Load the brush after each stroke icon (or no color will be painted) and flip the drop down to Dry, Light Load. Dab a few times to add your color and go back and turn off the Load icon and set to the Very Wet Heavy Mix to blend some more.
Really not that hard at all if you know where to look. And that is what I did on this image. Photoshop does try to make it easy. I blended areas where Simplify left a rough edges between color and added color to areas that were blown out as highlights or needed a more solid color added. Be sure to use dabs as well as longer strokes to get a nice painterly feel. If your brush gets much bigger than 90-pixels, the computer may slow down considerably so reduce the brush size – I usually paint at 20 pixels or less anyway. If still having problems, resize your image smaller – it will not matter if you are creating a painting – it can always be increased again after the image is finished. This was just too much fun to do! I love happy characters to work on!
NOTE: For painting with the Mixer brush – to sample colors that are under a brush stroke where you are painting, just press ALT+ click to add the(ose) colors to the “Load the brush after each stroke” icon which shows what is being painted by the brush. If you want to use a pure color from the Color Picker, you will need to use the Eyedropper Tool or double-click on the foreground swatch. I find this very time-consuming, so I do two things. First I have set up a keyboard shortcut for the letter “n” to open up the Color Picker. (Go to Edit -> Keyboard Shortcuts) Since I do not use the letter “n” for the 3D Camera Rotate Tool, I changed it in the Shortcuts For: Tools and scrolled to Foreground Color Picker, clicked Add Shortcut button, and typed in the letter “n” – it said it was in use and do I want to do this and I said yes. There you have it – very handy! Also my Wacom Stylus pen is set up so that the top of the long button opens up the Color Picker by selecting my “n” shortcut key, and the bottom is for Enter to accept the new color. This speeds up the painting process immensely! As a Regular brush – to sample an image color, just ALT+click on the color in image and the Eyedropper Tool pops up and selects it. The “n” shortcut key will bring up the Color Picker no matter what brush tool you are using.
Finishing up Your Painted Photo
I decided that the image needed a few lines showing, especially on the faces to draw the eye a little better. Again, this does not have to be done with a plug-in. One of the best ways to do this is to add a New Layer and select a Pencil Ink pen and add them in yourself – adjust the layer opacity so it is not over-whelming. For my painting the original bottom layer was duplicated and Simplify was opened again. This time the Black Line Only preset was chosen and just the Reduce Weak slider was set to 1.00 – all other settings were left. In Photoshop the layer was moved up to the top and set to Overlay blend mode. A black layer mask was added and just the eye areas and a few other details were painted back with the lines showing using a low opacity white brush. Many painted images have some lines in them and there are various actions around that add lines to your images, but by using just the Edges section in the Simplify plug-in is by far the fastest way to do this. The Reduce Weak slider controls a lot of the lines in the image but also check out the Edge Strength and Simplify Edge sliders for getting the illustrated look you want. This layer was set to Overlay blend mode so the white disappeared and a black layer mask was applied – painted in lightly with white brush where just the eyes and a few other areas had lines added for a little additional definition. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added for contrast. The Camera Raw Radial Filter was added to draw focus to the eyes , especially the center figure (Inside Radial Filter settings: Exposure 0, Contrast +5, Highlights +44, Shadows -4, Clarity +41, Sat 0, and Sharpness +33). And finally OnOne’s (see website link in sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Perfect Effects plug-in was used to add the pretty border – they have always had the best borders. This one was called Antique Rounder Border. This turned out to be quite a lot of effort, but when you are painting an image, it usually does take some extra effort – even with the underpainting already added.
Here is another example using the same settings on a new brush.
This image is of some Dwarf Firebush tubular flowers growing in my front yard and the Halifax River (aka Intracoastal Waterway) at Ormond Beach, Florida, is the background. Not sure how I came up with this combination, but it turned out kind of nice and definitely different. The reason it fits in this blog is that the flowers were painted using the same settings as the Mixer Brush in the above image, but with a similar brush I created. Wanted to show you that applying these settings to any brush is totally easy and the results can be very nice. But first I had to select just the flowers from the background using Photoshop’s Color Range Command. I needed to put them on something, so I added a Pattern Adjustment Layer and found this image of the river that looked kind of nice behind it since the roof on the pier is so similar to the flower colors. The pattern was left at a Scale of 100%. I wanted to add a little grunge to the image so Kim Klassen’s Make Grunge Set Allard texture was added and set to Luminosity blend mode at 54% – any grunge texture would be fine but I like really like Kim’s textures as most of them are very subtle. Next Env1ro watercolor brush 697-3 was loaded with the same settings that were used on the Creative Toons brush. Unfortunately due to an electrical storm that knocked out electricity and totally busted my Photoshop preferences, workspace, brushes, and image, I lost the layers for this image – what a mess! But since I did have my History in Preferences set to Metadata and Edit Log Items Detailed, and all my steps were listed in the File -> File Info and the History tab. Pretty nice extra-back up to have, especially in this case! Another Simplify Black Line Preset was added on a duplicate background layer and placed on top, set to Overlay blend mode, and a black layer mask added to paint back the flower details. Topaz ReStyle was applied to a stamped (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top with my favorite Cream and Plum preset (here are my settings: ReStyle blend mode set to Color. In Basic blend mode set to Luminosity; Temperature was set to -0.75, Tint 0.20, and Saturation 0.13; Tone Black Level -0.37 and White Level 0.22; and Detail Structure -0.20 and Sharpness 0.64). This gave it a bit more of a soft look as opposed to a grungy effect. The last step was to use the new brush as a Mixer and blend the edges by painting around it. I am not sure this image has that much of a painterly look, but I still liked the results.
Hopefully this blog makes sense to you and you now have enough information to actually start painting on layers on top of your image. Also use the same brush to paint in a layer mask, to use with the Clone Stamp, and create borders. It really is not that hard. Experiment with the settings in the Options bar – try some of the other choices in the drop-down menu for the Mixer brush. Try different patterns in your brushes. It is all pretty easy – just keep saving your brushes as presets so you do not lose them. I would suggest going in to the Preset Manager (icon at bottom of the Brush Panel) and saving your new brushes down since I did lose all of the ones I had created when my electricity went off. And if you have Topaz Simplify, try out the line and flat painting presets. Hope you have a fun week experimenting – I know I will!…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Simplify 4
This week I thought I would just do a quick additional blog to go along with the one last week on Topaz Black & White Effects and Alien Skin Snap Art Together! Alien Skin Snap Art 4. Loved this little candy shop at Harry Potter Land in Universal Studios-Orlando. I am not sure I have seen so much candy in one place in a long time! What I want to emphasize is that you can combine different painting techniques, including free hand painting, to achieve a look that is unique. This image has used the same workflow as last week, but also had additional painting throughout to remove distractions and to add additional tones and colors.
In Lightroom started with Seim’s (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) free Color Fantasies 2 Sampler HDR Classic preset. In Photoshop, followed the basic workflow from my Fun Photoshop Blog linked above, then applied Snap Art’s default oil preset. On a duplicate layer above, Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Black & White Effects plug-in was opened and the Harry Potter Sky preset was applied without the vignette settings (for settings see the last image info in my Fun Photoshop Blog linked above). Topaz Simplify 4 was opened on another layer and the Color Sketch 3 preset was applied – then a black layer mask and just a few areas painted back where I needed a little line effect. Try using different Simplify sketches and adjust the Edge Section sliders to get a nice sketch look. Then in Photoshop the opacity and blend mode can also be changed to get more choices. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added for contrast. A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) layer was created and the Camera Raw filter was opened and two radial filters were used to direct focus to the cones in the center of the image. A New Layer was placed on top and a Photoshop Oil Mixer brush was used to smooth some of the areas around the candy and remove some of the distractions in the ceiling. (These were the Mixer Brush settings used in the Options Bar to get this effect: Both Load and Clean were turned on, Wet 0%, Load 50%, No Mix, Flow 19%, and check Sample All Layers.) Sample colors in image by clicking on the ALT button to get a matching area shown under the dropper, or bring up the Color Picker and sample just one color. Another New Layer used my Chalk Brush as a clone stamp brush. Both these layers were necessary to give the image a true painterly effect, and not just a canned feel. Finally another New Layer was used with the Sharpen Tool to localize sharpening. Pretty much what was done in my last blog.
Created this effect by combining Alien Skin Snap Art 4’s Impasto Vignette preset and Topaz Simplify 4’s Oil Paint preset, in that order. I had never tried this combination, but I liked the results! Simplify’s layer was set to Screen at 38% opacity and the main focal point flowers were painted out in layer masks on both plug-in layers to direct focus better. 2 Lil Owls Stained 12 texture (see sidebar for my Tidbits Blog for website link) (these are some of her prettiest textures I think) was added on top and just the flowers I wanted showing were painted by in a layer mask using my Chalk brush. Added back some contrast with a Curves Layer, and the free font is Ornatique Regular. On a New Layer set to Overlay, the edges in the flower were painted in with a black brush set to 12% layer opacity to just give a trace where edges needed to be sharpened in the flower. (See The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog.) That was it – Snap Art, Simplify, and painting edges on an Overlay Layer.
Guess what I am learning in my painting adventure this year is that you do not have to go only one way with your painting effects – and if you do not get the results you want using one technique, try another. And use your brushes – they do not have to be in the same media even – to give that unique look. Creating or finding a couple brushes that you can use to get your own style is great to to have – that is what I am trying to do with my simple Chalk brush. The plug-ins can be a great aid to filling up a canvas quickly, but that additional layer on top with your own paint strokes can give the image your personal stamp. I am learning to do this and feel I am slowing getting a good workflow and painting technique in place. It does take a lot of practice to get the feel down but I believe it will be worth it in the end!…..Digital Lady Syd
This week I wanted to show some of the results be combining a couple of very popular third party Photoshop plug-ins to get a very painterly or artistic effect with just a little experimenting. This above image was taken at Universal Studios-Orlando – they have some wonderful looking bikes around the park. I particularly like the effect of Topaz (for website see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Black & White Effects and Alien Skin’s Snap Art together, although this first image did not use both. The above image started with one of the free Seim’s Color Fantasies 2 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) using Classic Holga preset in Lightroom. In Photoshop Topaz Detail 3 was used to really sharpen up the lines of the bike by adding a black layer mask and just painting the bike back in in white. (Used a very subtle sharpening preset I use all the time on my images with these settings are just: Detail Overall Medium Details 0.38 and Large Details 0.16 and Tone Contrast 0.30 and Shadows -0.01.) On a duplicated layer Nik Viveza 2 was used to even out the tone and color with several control points. Next on another duplicated layer Topaz Black and White Effects was applied. (Here are my settings: Basic Exposure Contrast -0.33, Brightness -0.01, Boost Blacks and Boost Whites 0.25; Adaptive Exposure 0.86, Regions 18, Protect Highlights 0.02, Protect Shadows 0.10, Detail 2.50, and Detail Boost 1.11, and check PDI box; Color Sensitivity Red 0.15, Yellow -0.14, Green 0.47, Cyan 0, Blue 0.31, and Magenta 0; Color Filter Hue 325.1 and Strength 0.27; Creative Effects Simplify Size 0.12 and Feature Boost 1; Silver and Paper Tone Tonal Strength 0.40, Balance 0.30, Silver Hue 0, SilverTone Strength 0.50, Paper Hue 4.00, and Paper Tone Strength 0.25; Vignette – need to adjust center, Strength 1.00, Size 0.71, Transition 0.44, and Curvature 0.55; and Transparency Overall 1.00.) This is a great plug-in that most people use for black and white image, but I like the Transparency turned on at 100% which adds back roughly 50% of the color in the image. By using the individual Detail, Darkening and Color brushes on the image, a very painterly effect can be obtained. Try experimenting with the brushes in the Topaz products – can get some great effect with them! Back on another duplicated layer of the Nik Viveza 2 layer, Topaz Simplify’s Pencil Hard II preset was applied, moved to the top of the stack, and set to Overlay blend mode at 26% opacity. This gives it a more illustrative feel which I was aiming to get. On a New Layer on top, the vignette and some of the colors were evened out out by sampling in the image using my Chalk Brush (Adobe Chalk Brush 60 with a Shape Dynamics set to 19% in Brush Panel). The last step involved adding a Curves Adjustment Layer to add back contrast to the image. Sometimes all the different manipulations tend to make the image lose its contrast.
This image of a small water fountain at an eatery in The Lost Continent at Universal Studios in Orlando just caught my eye – loved the tiles. Very similar settings in Topaz Black & White Effects were used. On a New Layer above the plug-in layer, the chalk brush was used to even out the vignette, instead of using the plug-ins brushes. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4 was applied using the Detailed Watercolor preset. On a New Layer, the Clone Stamp Brush was set to my Chalk Brush as used above, and at 60% brush opacity, it was cloned to add a few brush strokes into the areas so it looks like a really painted effect. On a New Layer on top, some small paint spatters were added back lightly into the image to give it just a little bit of a realistic feel and set to 70% layer opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was place on top.
One final image is of the Rooftops at Harry Potter Land at Universal Studios Orlando. Had so much fun taking images there! This image used Topaz Detail 3 with my detail preset from above, then I added a cloud since the sky was a rather flat blue using my Cloud 1 from my free set of Cloud Brushes. Next Snap Art 4 was opened and this time the Impasto Vignette was applied. On a stamped layer Topaz Black & White Effects was applied using a preset I called Harry Potter Sky (Here are the settings if you want them: Conversion Basic Exposure: Contrast -0.04, Brightness 0.09. Boost Blacks 0.29, and Boost Whites -0.24; Adaptive Exposure 26, Regions 26, Protect Highlights and Protect Shadows 0, Detail 1.07, and Detail Boost 0.70; Color Filter Hue 63.87 and Strength 1.00; Quad Tone Color 1 Region 15.08 – R1 G1 B12; Color 2 Region 143.9 – color R63 G78 B85; Color 3 Region R216 G211 B129; and Color 4 Region R255 G254 B237; Vignette – Vignette Strength -0.11, Vignette Size 0.68, Vignette Transition 0.93, and Vignette Curvature 0.75; and Transparency Overall 0.85.) Really gives the more spooky look that I wanted for this image. Next a Curves Adjustment Layer for additional contrast. The last step used the Photoshop’s Camera Raw filter using the same Radial Filter effect to add the largest tower. Lots of fun to do!
I hope you can tell that with just a little experimenting you can get a very painterly feel on an image. And try a different brush, instead of just a round soft brush, to use when cloning – this can really add a painterly feel to the image and the clone effect is not nearly so evident. It is so much fun to try out different presets and sliders and different plug-in combinations to get something very different. Hope you try mixing up your plug-ins and see if you can get some very artistic looks too!…..Digital Lady Syd