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Posts tagged “Topaz Studio 2

Trying Some Creative Art

Digital Art image of a tree

This week does not include a lot of actual painting, but it does contain a lot of free textures and brushes. I am not sure it matters as long as the creation is one of your own. Once again I followed a Julieanne Kost video called Photoshop Compositing Tools and Techniques from Adobe MAX 2020. It was an excellent fairly short video and a good refresher on how to make “fine art” digitally. Previously I did a Creating Composite Images Using the Julieanne Kost Workflow blog which gave details on her basic workflow. I am still learning her techniques and trying to keep my images as simplistic and to the point as she does. Her art does make me think about what I am trying to do with mine.

Julieanne says the “majority of her photos contain a primary subject, a secondary subject, and are set in a background or landscape that she creates.” All her items are there for a reason and she does not like to add in extraneous items that could be distracting. This is the goal I was trying to achieve with the above image.

I thought it might be helpful to include where my resources are from for this image and some of the basic techniques that were used. I hope this is something most people will find useful to do get a similar effect and quite easily.

  1. The tree was created first – just used the Filter -> Render -> Tree. No. 4 Maple Tree was selected (Light direction 36, Leaves Amount 1, Leaf Size 0, Branches Height 153, and Branches Thickness 58) which created a tree with no leaves. Lots of trees can be chosen here and the settings can be changed to get different effects easily. Really fun to do!
  2. Next a free texture was added from Shadowhouse Creations called Daguerreotype-8 to get the really odd foreground pattern. I have talked about his fabulous textures for years and he still has them all available for free. In a layer mask, the Gradient Tool was used to remove the texture from the sky area and leave it in the foreground only. A Black and White Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture and set to Linear Dodge blend mode.
  3. Next a sky was needed so back to Shadowhouse Creations to get one called GF-5 – a beautiful painterly texture. A duplicate of the sky was flipped horizontally with the Free Transform tool to get the the look needed. A layer mask on the top one was used to blend the two versions together.
  4. I felt like a hill would make a nice element behind the tree so one was painted in using a great free set of Chalky Brushes by Ioana Sopov and containing Chalk Noisy-2 texture brush, which gave the painted soft edge – it was set to 89% layer opacity. It still needed more texture so one called GF-3, which is an old post card in the same group of textures as the sky, was added to the image and clipped (ALT + click between the two layers to link the top layer to the bottom one) to the plain painted hill and set to Multiply blend mode. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added to blend the hills into the scene, mainly desaturating and lightening it in the Master settings.
  5. Then to cover up the harsh horizon line, a brush from Jose Rodriguez called PTC Hair Brush set to 200 pixels and a darkish brown color (can download brush for free at his How to Blur Backgrounds in Photoshop video which was very good) was used to create the fence, and I thought it was an important element to further separate the tree and give it more of a sense of loneliness. Note this is a small Hairbrush but it worked great for this image so keep this in mind when using brushes – they are not always what they seem!
  6. The tree looked too harsh so it was duplicated and taken into Topaz (see sidebar of Tidbits Blog for website link) Studio 2 where Impression was opened with just the Oil Pastel preset applied. (The older version of Topaz Impression would also have worked.) Now it looked a lot more painterly. The original tree layer was turned off permanently now. For the Painterly tree, a Black and White Adjustment Layer was clipped to it and set to 68% layer opacity to almost turn the tree black and white. This is something else to remember, single layers with just one element can often be brought into PS filters to give interesting element effects.
  7. On two New Layers, the first airbrush found in the Converted Legacy Tool Presets Airbrush folder (loaded just like the Legacy brushes – see my Kyle T. Webster’s Photoshop Brushes blog on how to load brushes) – it was set to a regular brush (it is a Mixer in the Tool Presets so select any regular brush first, then on the Airbrush mixer press CTRL+ALT+ click to switch it to a regular brush – and now adjust the brush settings to 3 pixels Size with Build Up and Smoothing checked) was used to draw along the tree roots – first used a dark brown, then with the same brush a lighter color was drawn next to them to make the roots stand out. If you have not used these older Tool Preset brushes, check them out – there are some good ones in there.
  8. Added textures – used the Adobe Paper Texture Pro, which is still working in PS for me, but it is no longer available from Adobe. Not sure what has happened, but textures can be added manually quite easily. The first one was called Necropolis that was set to Difference at 55% opacity – this gives a bluish tone to the whole image. Then Villa Adriana set to Color Dodge – opacity 32% and Fill 30% – a black layer mask was added and just the root area and a little bit of the trunk was painted back to get the rather glowy edges for the roots. They are both from Flypaper Textures – I believe I got the textures a long time ago with the PS extension so if you have it or had it previously, you may have already have a nice set of textures.
  9. Next a Photo Filter Adjustment Layer was added using a dark gold color (#8e7329) at 50% opacity.
  10. Added a Curves Adjustment Layer – just a straight diagonal line to upper right with a starting point at lower left set to Input 0 and Output 40 – gave a little bit of a matte look to the most dark pixels in the image.
  11. Next added a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer to give more of a dark blue as opposed to a dark black to the image – this technique was discussed in Julieanne’s video. A stop was added on the bottom of the gradient at Location 20 and a color swatch set to #292d33, a very dark blue. She continued adjusting the Saturation and Brightness amounts in the HSB settings of the swatch, but I did not need this. I liked this color that was being added. Only wanted it applied to the top area of the image, so in the layer mask a black to white gradient was created with the Gradient Tool to blend it in at the horizon.
  12. Added a New Layer and selected a brush I call “SJ Soft Br (MK) to blend orig. bkgds back into mask for animal pix” created from a Matt Kloskowski webinar. Basically the settings use a 30-pixel soft round brush with the Options Bar set to Opacity 41% and Flow to 26%. Matt uses this brush in a different way than how it was used in this image to soften the edges of the tree trunk so it blended into the background more, and soften some of the sharp color and edges of the smaller branches high up in the tree. A sampled color from the sky was used for this.
  13. A Color Balance Adjustment Layer was added and just a subtle change was made to add some lightness into the Highlights (Yellow-Blue set to -3) and darkness to the Shadows (Yellow-Blue +4).
  14. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was used to adjust the color in the overall image. The one used was called On1-Heat Wave LUTs-7 but there are so many to choose from that several were looked at before settling on this one – set to Normal at 19% layer opacity. I like to look at these last because LUTs tend to pull colors together really well.
  15. A Spotlight Effect was made with a New Layer set to Overlay blend mode at 87% opacity – using a white soft round brush to lighten up the middle of the sky where where the branches are. See my How to Add a Spot of Light blog for more on this.
  16. Last step was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer which was applied to only the top of the image by using the Gradient Tool in the layer mask at 90% layer opacity.

As you can see, it was a pretty large endeavor to get this image. Even though the steps look straight-forward, it definitely was not. Several adjustment layers were added and removed and changes in opacity were made to them as an after-thought. I guess one of my main points is that if you look around there are lots of free resources that can be added into your composites. I wanted to share some of these with you since it is expensive to always be buying products that you may only use once or twice. Some brushes included are all pretty simple to make and several free ones are very nice and totally different from what Kyle Webster offers with PS. And as a second point, if you are like me, I am always trying to find something new and different to do in PS and to add some new dimension to an image. I think Julieanne has lots of good ideas and it did start me thinking. Have a good one!…..Digital Lady Syd


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

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

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

Topaz DeNoise AI

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

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

Screenshot of Topaz DeNoise AI interface

What the Sliders Do:

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

TOPAZ SHARPEN AI

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

Image of Topaz Sharpen AI InterfaceWhat the Sliders Do:

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

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

AI CLEAR

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

Screenshot of AI Clear interface in Topaz Studio 2

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

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

Screenshot of a noisy close up of Piccadilly Circus

What is the difference between DeNoise AI and Sharpen AI?

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

What is the difference between Sharpen AI and AI Clear?

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

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

What is the difference between DeNoise AI and AI Clear?

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

Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

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


HOW TO ADD A LITTLE EXTRA DETAIL

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

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

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

*****

Image of a traditional jellyfish with a watercolor effect

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

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

*****

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

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

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


HOW TO CREATE A TEXTURE BRUSH TO MATCH A TEXTURE

Image of a Blue Morpho Butterfly
Creating a brush to match a texture might not need to be used on every image, but there are times is can be really handy to have, especially if the texture has a very obvious texture. In the Blue Morpho Butterfly image above, it created a very nice painterly effect to place on top of the subject. Thought I would write a very short blog on how to do this as it took me a few minutes to figure it out. Maybe I can save you a bit of time when you need one.

The beautiful texture I was using is one by Melissa Gallo called Bowl of Roses Canvas and it comes with her older Painting with Photoshop Workshop (this is still an excellent class if you are serious about learning to paint in PS and she provides lots of extras). The butterfly looked really strange lying on top of the texture I liked so by creating the brush with a similar texture, the edges and new color could be added to the butterfly to blend it in nicely.

So this is how the brush was created:

1. While still in my document with the texture added, the Circular Marque Tool was used to make a small selection on a part of the texture that looked particularly nice.

2. Press CTRL+J to place it on its own layer above the texture.

3. Turn off all the other layers so only the circular texture can be seen.

4. Select the Gradient Tool set to Black/White in the swatches and drag out from middle to lightly fade the edges of the brush.

5. Go to Edit -> Define Brush. My brush was named SJ Round Texture Bowl of Roses.

6. As the brush looks right now, it is not very good. Need to open the Brush Settings Panel so that a few variables can be added. In the brush above, only two sections were changed. In the Brush Tip Shape section, the Spacing was set to 70% so you can see the texture. Then the Textures section was adjusted as shown on the left below. Pretty Actions Antique is the pattern used – this will blend with the texture in the brush. Try different patterns that will give different results. A variation of the brush which enhanced the spatter that was in the pattern more is shown in the brush settings on the right side. Same brush but slightly different settings tipping the texturing in the brush more towards the pattern and less the original texture. Note that the pattern’s Invert box is checked for this brush.

7. Once you are happy with your settings, be sure to resave the brush by clicking on the plus icon at the bottom of the Brush Settings and the Brushes Panels.

Screenshot for Texture Brush used in blog
Screenshot of the variable brush for blog

That is all there is to it. Of course the different sections can be added to the brush to a really special look you want, but it is a really easy and fun way to create these brushes. The strokes were applied on their own layer above the butterfly so that the opacity and blend mode could be adjusted. In this case, the blend mode was left set to Normal and at 100% opacity.

*****

Two birds at the Jacksonville Zoo
These two birds (not sure what kind they are but appear to be a type of duck) were not fighting, but seemed to be buddies (or mating possibly). Anyway I thought the connected beaks was sort of interesting as far as birds go. The image was also post processed the same as the butterfly image above. First selected the birds from their background, found a texture to put behind them (in this case it was a free Shadowhouse Creations Nov 2014-7 texture) and then a brush was created from the texture using the above steps. Changes were made to the brush settings with the spacing to 139% (to avoid patterning), Angle Jitter 50% (to avoid pattern repetition), and Orchid Pattern (4) from Jessica Johnson set to Scale 249% (again to avoid patterning – this was a freebie from one of her newsletters), Brightness -1, Contrast 7, Mode Multiply, Depth 84 and Depth Jitter 16. In the Options Bar the Smoothing was set 12% – this seems to make the brush move smoother. Two brushes were made – one at 234 pixels and one at 900 pixels, which was used with a rust color on the background to add in some color over the texture. Then on a New Layer above the birds, the smaller brush was used at a 30% opacity to paint a soft beige over some of the edges of the birds. One of Jessica Johnson’s Pattern Stamps (see my blog link on this below) was used to paint in the blue-green clumps of grass between the birds (using her The Masters 52 pattern). Two Color Lookup Adjustments Layers were added (Foggy Night preset at 64% and a free Sparklestock Bleak Spire 02 preset at 28%) – Color Lookup Adjustments can really pull the color of an image together.

I had written on this subject 6 years ago but it is still a fun technique to use and it really helps keep the texture flowing on the edges of a subject. It is also a nice way to add other colors and texture to a background for a more unique effect. Hope you give it a try – it is so much fun to make brushes! And hope everyone stays healthy this Spring. It is is a great time to enjoy Photoshop and learn a few new things – I know that is my plan!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

How to Paint with a Texture Brush from Your Image
What About the Pattern Stamp Tool? Not So Bad!


HOW TO CONVERT BLACK AND WHITE IMAGES TO COLORFUL PAINTINGS WITH TOPAZ STUDIO 2

Image of Cowboys at a Roundup in Montana in 1939
As most of you know, I have been working on learning to paint in both Photoshop and Corel for a long time – it is a very challenging process and sometimes I do resort to using my favorite Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) filters to use with my paintings. While playing with Topaz Studio 2 recently, I discovered several filters that could be combined to create very colorful and painterly looking images out of black and white ones. I have blogged several times on how to colorize black and whites (see end of blog for lots of links), but with a few of the Topaz Studio filters, very nice painting effects can be achieved fairly quickly.

All the blog images used a Studio “Look” to get the colored effect. Looks can contain many different filters so different results can be achieved. The really cool thing is that each filter in the Look can be manipulated individually and additional filters can be added to get an effect. And these Looks are saved just like a Filter preset is saved so it can be used over several times. That is what I did with a Look I call my SJ BW to Painted Color. I would post it to their community, but I do not believe they are doing this at the moment. Therefore, I will share the settings below so if you want to create the Topaz Studio basic Look and save it, you are welcome to use it.

The top image is called “Cowhands Singing after Day’s Work” – Quarter Circle U Ranch roundup in June 1939 – thank you Shorpy for finding this gorgeous image! (If you love historical images, you have got to check out Shorpy.) Click the link to see the original black and white image. See Image 1 (Cowboys Image) for all the details on how this image totally post-processed.

IMPORTANT: With old images, the size and resolution needs to be reviewed first – most have resolutions like 3200 pixels/inch since they were probably scanned. Go to Image -> Image Size and set Resolution to 300 ppi – the size can go really crazy like 0.5 X 0.7 inches so uncheck Resample, next look at the sizes and change if needed, then recheck Resample before exiting – the image will downsize and upsize just fine in PS. And always do your Topaz Studio changes on a duplicate layer since it does not support Smart Objects.

Topaz Studio Basic Looks Settings for these Images

Screenshot of Topaz Studio 2 Look
The screenshot shows a different image I am working on (a B&W Shorpy image called Cathedral Place at Charlotte Street, Plaza de la Constitucion, St. Augustine from 1906) where a screenshot of the settings was taken as they appear in Studio. See how there are 8 filters included and two additional filters added on top (Color Theme and Edges again). For the Cowboy image,

This could get long but here we go – wish the Community was available for downloading it. My Look is saved in a Look Category called My Looks and contains only ones I created since Topaz Studio 2 was introduced. I go in and automatically Apply the Look. Right away the image I am working on looks pretty good. At this stage, the Opacity could be adjusted and just use it as it is. I would normally start off adjusting the top AI ReMix filter and then go into Impression before changing the other filters. If the colors or effect still does not look right, another AI ReMix is added (turned on my Look’s since one is toggled on and other one is off in the Look). But since I am giving you my settings, lets start with the bottom filter and build it up.

Filter 1:  All Clear – set to Opacity 0.10, Normal blend mode, Remove Noise Auto, Enhance Sharpness High, Recover Details 0.10, Exposure 0.31 and Clarity 0.85. Now if the image needs less sharpness or it looks crunchy, you can always adjust these settings or turn it off if not needed. Note that I set the Opacity very low as I felt it most images don’t need much with all the manipulation being done, but it is very easy to change this.

Filter 2: AI ReMix – this is the turned off one. Mine is set to Opacity 0.71, Normal blend mode, Neon Rose Style, Style Strength High, Brightness -0.31, Contrast 1.26, Sat 0.75, Hue -0.10, Smooth Edge 0.20, Sharpness 0.64, Suppress Artifacts 0. These are probably the settings I was using on a different image a while ago and never reset the filter. But at least it is a starting point for adding some different effects. As you can see, ReMix is where the color is picked up by the image. For my image I will turn it off again as it was not too good on it.

Filter 3: AI ReMix – this is the ReMix filter I use most of the time but change the style. My default is set to Opacity 0.25, Overlay blend mode, Beige Sketch Style, Style Strength High, Brightness -0.61, Contrast 1.65, Saturation 1.69, Hue 0, Smooth Edge 0.20, Sharpness 0.82, and Suppress Artifacts 0. All these settings are changed depending on the image. The Ballerina image used the Cotton Candy Style and it gave a totally different color and overall effect.

Filter 4: Edges – this filter may or may not be useful – need to turn it on and off to see if it helps or if Dark edges are better than the Light ones. Here are the settings: Opacity 1.00, Screen blend mode, Edge Type Color Edge, Edge Tone Light, Edge Strength 0.51, Simplify Edge 0, Suppress Weak Edges 0.09, Suppress Small Edges 0.02, Edge Thickness 0.16, and Edge Resolution 1.00.

Filter 5: Glow – this filter can make a huge difference in your image so be sure to turn it on and off to see what it is doing. Currently set to Opacity 0.85, Overlay blend mode, Glow Primary, Primary Glow Type Dark, Primary Glow Strength 0.62, Primary Effect Sharpness 0.87, Primary Electrify 0.45, Primary Simplify Details 0.66, Primary Edge Color 0, Primary Detail Strength -1.00, Primary Detail Size 0.05, Primary Brightness 0, Primary Contrast 0, Primary Saturation 0.72, Primary Line Rotation 0, Primary Glow Spread 0.80; Finishing Touches – Effect Coverage 0, Coverage Transition, 0.50, Sharpness 0, and Sharp Radius 0.10.

Filter 6: HSL Color Tuning – Opacity 1.00, Normal blend mode, Color – Red Hue 0.29, Saturation -0.54, and Lightness 0.29; Orange Saturation 0.51, Yellow Sat -0.3, and Blue Hue -0.32; Details 0, Suppress Artifacts 0, and Color Sensitivity 0. These all need to be adjusted depending on how the image is getting colorized.

Filter 7: Impression – I believe this is Topaz default settings except I like Stroke Type 03; I will give the settings anyway as these are the ones I like. Opacity 1.00, Normal blend mode, Brush Type 03, Number of Strokes High, Brush Size 0.50, Paint Volume 0, Paint Opacity 0.50, Stroke Rotation 0, Rotation Variation 0, Stroke Color Variation 0, Stroke Width 0, Stroke Length 0, Spill 0, Smudge 0, Coverage 1.00, and Painting Progress 1.00; Color – no changes; Lighting – no changes; and Texture – no changes except Background Type set to Original.

Filter 8: Precision Contrast – I do not always use this one and often I will add Detail filter on top instead. Opacity 0.51; Normal blend mode; Contrast – Micro 0.30, Low 0.54, Medium 0.78, and High -0.54; Lighting – Shadow 0, Midtone 0, Highlight 0, and Equalization 0; and Color – Saturation -0.52, Vibrance 0, and Color Contrast 0.

Now you can add any individual Filters and maybe another Look on top of these settings if you want. You can also add new filters into the Look and save another Look. This is a very flexible process and has so many possibilities.

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Painted image from a famous B&W image by Albert in 1936
The above original black and white image was called “Ballerinas on Window Sill in Rehearsal Room at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet” from 1936 – it was taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life Magazine and appears to be a Getty image now. The original image used was very small so it was taken into Topaz Gigapixel to make it larger – 4 X was used (I mention this program as it is fabulous for this type of issue). Then the file was opened in Photoshop. Since it was still a very small image, the resolution was set to 300 and the size increased to roughly 6″ by 8″ (need to uncheck Resample to change the size, then recheck. Then Topaz Studio was opened on a duplicate layer and the “Look” applied. I have gone through all the individual steps in Image 2 below if you are interested. This one took a little more effort than the others – some just are easier to do.

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Black and white image converted to color
This image taken by Jean Eugene Auguste Atget of the “Passage des Singes, seen towards rue Vieille-du-Temple, 4th arrondissement, Paris” in 1911 and was provided by the City of Paris Museum. This is the original image used to create my Looks settings above – it was taken from a Topaz Studio 1 preset and migrated over to Topaz Studio 2. For more info, check Image 3 (Paris image) below. Basically wanted to show what a nice landscape type image can be obtained using these same basic settings.

I hope you will try this – it really amazed me how realistic the painting results were. I do think I get better results in Corel Painter, but it does have a very large learning curve and takes a while to get the brushes down. I am not sure PS has these effects down, although they are making great strides toward getting it. And the interesting thing is that Topaz packed all these creative filters together for you – you cannot get these type results without combining Topaz ReMix, Impression, Glow and mixing in a few others. And don’t forget the to try the Topaz ReStyle filter. I will be working on a few more images to show you but for now, if you own Topaz Studio 2, give it a try. (And actually you might be able to do it with Topaz Studio 1). This is really so much fun to do! Have a great week……Digital Lady Syd

Image 1 (Cowboy Image): After duplicating the background layer in Photoshop, the image was opened in Topaz Studio 2 where my Look was applied. The following changes were done to my Look: AI ReMix: Changed Style to Market Street at 0.23 filter Opacity and Overlay blend mode; Glow: Opacity 0.85, Primary Glow Strength 0.42, and Primary Electrify 0.11; Edges: turned off; Impression: 50% Opacity; and the Additional Filters – Color Theme filter: changed the second color swatch to more of a red color (37400c); and Detail: Overall – Overall Small Detail 0.61. Note that the second AI ReMix was not used as it is turned off but present in my Look since sometimes I need two of them. Back in PS the biggest problem facing the image was the color of the grass in the front – it was blown out. Color was added by setting a layer to Color blend mode and painting with a soft round brush a sampled tan color over all the grass – tried not to go into the face areas. Next one of my favorite Color Lookup Adjustment Layer presets called Foggy Night (a PS preset) was set to 43% layer opacity. This really softened down the overall effect. Then a Levels Adjustment Layer was added to add some contrast in the midtones (0.78) and clip a little of the black (Output Levels 0/229). Next a Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer (Master: Sat +62 and Lightness +3) was used to add just a bit of color into the skin areas of the cowboys – the layer mask was inverted to black and just areas needed were painted back. Last step was a Color Balance Adjustment Layer (Midtones +17/-12/-55, Highlights 0/-12/-55, and no change to Shadows) for the grass – black layer mask and grass painted back.

Image 2 (Ballerina Image):  Going to go into detail here so you can what can be done to get a really nice painterly effect. After resizing the black and white image, Topaz DeNoise AI was applied on a New Layer. On another New Layer changes were made in Studio to my Look preset: AI ReMix: 0.30 Opacity, Overly blend mode, Cotton Candy Style, Style Strength High, Brightness -0.61, Contrast 1.65, Saturation 1.69, Hue 0.04, Smooth Edge 0.20, and Sharpness 1.00; Edge: Set Opacity to 0.76; Impression: In layer mask, painted back the 2nd ballerina’s face and part of the closest ballerina’s back – used a brush in layer mask set to 0.69 transparency; Precision Contrast: Opacity 0.10; and added Filter: Texture: Opacity 0.24; Selected Rainbow Leak 4; Brightness 0.06, and Contrast -0.02. Back in PS, Topaz ReStyle was used to adjust the color tone a little. Created a preset called Ballerinas using the colors now in image and placed it in my Colors from Images collection: ReStyle Opacity 68% and Color blend mode, Color Style Sat Primary 0.06, Secondary 0.08, Fourth -0.09, and Fifth 0.22; and Lum Secondary -0.02, Third 0.63, Fourth 0.33 and Fifth 0.31; and Texture 1.00; Basic Color Temp 0.23 and Sat -0.16; Tone Black Level 0.09, Midtones 0.33 and White Level -0.06; and Detail Structure 0.36 and Sharpness 0.30. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added using Joel Grimes Soft and Desaturated preset set to 30% opacity. Some clean up layers were used to even out some of the face distortions caused by Studio Impression. A Red Channel Curves Adjustment Layer was used and set to 57% layer opacity. A Selective Color Adjustment Color was opened and the Whites and Neutrals were used to add a little cyan to the sky outside the window. Viveza 2 was used to sharpen up the paint strokes in the ballet skirts. a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer at 12% layer opacity was added on top to adjust the color – had trouble getting the effect just the way I wanted it. Then a Black and White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity blend mode and 47% layer opacity was added. A Levels Adjustment Layer was the last step and a Gradient Tool was applied to the layer mask going from black to transparency so only the front two ballerinas were affected by these changes – it also emphasized the stroke more on the front ballerinas.

Image 3 (Paris Image): Well this image took a while to complete since I was experimenting and trying to get a nice “Look” together that would be somewhat useful to all types of black and white images. I started with a Look using a Cartoon Look I had created in Topaz Studio 1 that contained the HSL Color Tuning, Glow, Edges, AI ReMix twice and AI Clear filters. (See my Best Friends Tidbits blog for where I used it first.) The settings are slightly different from the above Looks settings so I will list them. HSL Color Tuning: Red – Hue 0.29, Sat -0.54, and Lightness 0.29; Orange – Sat 0.50; Yellow – Sat -32; and Blue – Hue -0.32. Glow: Set to Overlay at 0.85 Opacity; Primary – Glow Type: Dark; Primary Glow Strength 0.62; Primary Effect Sharpness 0.87; Primary Electrify 0.45; Primary Simplify Details 0.66; Primary Detail Strength -1.00; Primary Detail Size 0.05; Primary Contrast 0.29; Primary Saturation 0.72; and Primary Glow Spread 0.80. Edges: Set to Screen blend mode; Edge Type – Color Edge; Edge Tone Light; Edge Strength 0.51; Simplify Edge 0; Suppress Weak Edges 0; Suppress Small Edge 0.02; Edge Thickness 0.02; and Edge Resolution 1.00. First AI ReMix: Set to 0.25 Opacity and Overlay blend mode; used Beige Sketch preset; Style Strength – High; Brightness -0.61; Contrast 1.65; Sat 1.69; Smooth Edge 0.20; and Sharpness 0.82; Second AI ReMix: turned off; AI Clear: Opacity 0.19, Remove Noise Auto, Enhance Sharpness High; Recover Details 0.10; Exposure 0.31, and Clarity 0.85; and on top of the Look, added Impression filter with my SJ Basic Favorite preset (Stroke: type 03; Number of Strokes – High, Brush Size 0.50; Paint Opacity 0.50; Coverage 1.00 using Original Background Type in Texture section). Next Filter: Precision Contrast – Opacity 0.50; Contrast – Micro 0.30, Low 0.54, Medium 0.78 and High -0.55; and Color Sat -0.50. Back in PS French Kiss Spring Impasto texture was added and set to Linear Light at 45% opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+click between the layers to clip) to the texture and Master-Saturation was set to 100. A Levels Adjustment Layer was clipped on top of it to contrast back to the image (Midpoint set to 0.92 and white tab Output Levels set to 174). (See my How to Add Texture to an Image without Adding Its Color blog and short video.) Then a Light Gesso layer style I had purchased from Kyle Webster before he became famous at PS was used to add some extra painterly strokes into the image. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added last.(See my How to Create an Impasto Texture Layer Style blog and video.)

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Colorize an Old Photo
Giving a Vintage Young Lady a New Appearance
How to Hand Tint a Vintage Image and Create a Brush to Do This
Colorizing NASA Photos and Using Topaz Studio (And Check out Updated Detail)
Get the Boy Something He Wants
Abandoned Texaco Station
A Cowboy in Montana
Contemplating Life
Topaz ReMix – Update and Better Than Ever!


WHAT FILTERS I USE AND WHAT IS NEW FOR ME

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

Topaz Sharpen AI

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

Screenshot using Topaz Sharpen AI

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

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

Screenshot of the effect Luminar 4 had on flower image

DXO Nik Collection 2

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

Image after applying Nik Photo Efex Pro Midnight Filter

TOPAZ STUDIO 2

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

OTHERS I LIKE BUT DO NOT USE ALL THE TIME

TOPAZ DeNoise AI

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

Corel’s Painter Particalshop

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

Flaming Pears Flood Filter

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

Old version of Flood Filter used on flowers

Topaz Gigapixel

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

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


CREATING SOME MINIMALIST LANDSCAPE IMAGES

Infrared effect image taken at Green Turtle Cay in The Bahamas
This week I happened upon a really excellent video by Mark Denney called How to Embrace Minimalism for Improved Landscape Photos so I thought I would see if I had a few images that would qualify. It was fun to try a different technique using some of my older shots. Apparently a lot of minimized images are black and white due to color issues. So here are my first attempts at minimizing my images.

Mark says the major areas to be concerned about when doing a minimal landscape are Obvious Subject, Expansive Composition (negative space), Minimizing Color, Light and Shadows, and Keep It Simple. He has lots of great examples in his short video to show how to do this. I believe the image above of Green Turtle Cay, one of my favorite places that is in the Bahamas, fits most of these criteria. (Here is a great short video of how Green Turtle Cay and the little town of New Plymouth looked after Cat 5 Hurricane Dorian came through – amazingly good considering!) The image is very dark, but does have great highlights. There is not much in the image to see, but the little shoreline and small pier in the distance serves as fairly Obvious Subjects. The color palette is very limited and there is quite a bit of negative space in the foreground. What I like is that it creates an image that is very different from my normal way of looking at landscapes. (See Image 1 descriptions below for more details and links on how this image was finished.)

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Small island in the Bahamas
The above image is another one from the Bahamas – a little lonely island near Green Turtle Cay. This area is a great place to get minimalist type images as it is very flat with these gorgeous skies. This image has an obvious subject, lots of negative space, minimal color palette, and some great highlights and shadows. I think it meets the criteria. In this case it does not need a black and white treatment as it does not have a lot of colors that distracts from the subject. (For more info, check out Image 2 below in descriptions.)

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Image of a lone tree on Spanish Cay on the Bahamas
Another example of a simple minimalist landscape. The original image was created from 5 raw files in Lightroom using the Photo Merge command which creates a DNG file. It was then opened in Photoshop. (For more post details, check out Image 3 description below.) The subject definitely is a strong one in this image. Quite a bit of negative space, minimal color and with highlights and shadows. Very desolate looking but I like the image – the beach was very bare looking.

Hope you enjoyed the blog and will try out creating a minimalist landscape. I am going to photograph some local places using this effect and getting some more practice – I think it is really an interesting technique. Hope you have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Descriptions:

Image 1:  The original image of Turtle Cay in the Bahamas was a very colorful one with lots of blues and turquoise colors. I decided to turn it into an infrared effect by using a really old preset (still works great) in Lightroom called GA B&W Infrared 01. Then several adjustments were made in both the Basic and B&W Panel to get the correct balance for the effect wanted. The image was taken into Photoshop and a Spotlight Effect layer was added to mainly the beach edges. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added using the Nathan Black Atmosphere preset from the wonderful PS guru Glyn Dewis and set to 32% layer opacity. (I am having trouble tracking down this LUT but it may be in his Creativity Tool Kit downloadable from his website.) The Blur Gallery’s Field Blur was set to 33 px and added on a stamped layer to soften down the whole image – then a layer mask was added and the Gradient Tool was used so only the foreground received the softening effect from the blur. On two new layers above, a fog brush was used ,one with white color and one with black, to further soften the foreground and were set to very low opacities. Another new layer was added on top and the Blur Tool set to 100% Strength and used to paint over the objects on the right to further soften their effect. To get the soft blue tones, another Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was used and set to the PS Horror Blue preset at 20% opacity. That was the last step.

Image 2: Basically nothing was done in Lightroom except some cropping. The image was taken into Photoshop to do the rest of the post work. This image turned out to be mainly a Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) image. The original layer was duplicated and the top layer was opened into Topaz Studio 2. Topaz Adjust AI filter was then opened and set to Standard at 1.00; Brightness Exposure -0.06, Contrast -0.31, Shadow -0.41 and White -0.09; and Split Tone Highlight Sat 0.49, Highlight Hue 0.15, Shadow Sat 0.37, Shadow Hue 0.65, and Balance 0.33. Next the Impression filter was set to the Default and a mask was created and set to Transparency 0.71. Painted a little paint off the palm trees, then clicked on the Adjust icon – on the Density slider, set the mask to 0.27 so just a bit of the effect was apparent. Went back to the Brush and set it to 0.33 Transparency and painted back a little more definition to the palm trees. Lots of little tweaks here. The Dehaze Filter was set to Strength 0.72, and yet another Impression Filter, this time using Stroke Type 07 with the Texture set to Original – and in the layer mask painted back the island and in Adjust set Contrast to 1.44 and Density 0.36. Set Filter Opacity to 0.65. I am giving you all the settings so you can how much tweaking can be done to get just the look you want with all these filters – kudos to Topaz for this! Next on a stamped layer Topaz ReStyle was added – used the Snow Flight preset with several changes. (ReStyle: 32% opacity, Sat Primary 0.38, Secondary -0.58, Third -0.61 and Fifth 0.34; and Lum Primary -0.14, Secondary -0.56, Third -0.11 and Fifth -0.23; and Basic Color Temperature -0.23, Tint 0.19, and Sat -0.22; Tone Black Level -0.08, Midtones -0.03, and White Level -0.22 and Detail Structure -0.28 and Sharpness -0.05.) After viewing another excellent video called Advanced Color Toning in Photoshop by Blake Rudis, a Gradient Map called Blake Rudis gray gradient 19 set to Soft Light at 62% layer opacity was selected. (Do download his free gradients if you use the Gradient Filter at all!) Next added a group of adjustment layers created from a video (Trick the Photo Filter to Add Drama & Color in Photoshop) by Unmesh Dinda and changed several of the settings to fit this image – then setting the group to 89% layer opacity. On a couple new layers some painting was done to smooth out the colors a little. Added a Color Balance Adjustment Layer to remove just a little bit of Magenta in the sky in the Shadows and Highlights. Next Topaz Lens Effects was opened and the Fog Filter was used with these settings: Fog Adjustments Amount 0.43, Region Size 0.38, Transition 0.21, Angle 180.0, and Diffusion 0.55. That was it.

Image 3: This image was created from 5 raw files in Lightroom. They were combined into an HDR using the Photo Merge -> HDR command which created an HDR .dng image. This was brought into Photoshop and on a duplicate layer, Luminar Flex was opened. This is where the image was converted into a black and white image using the B&W Conversion filter. Also a small amount of Dehaze, Image Radiance, Top & Bottom Lighting, and Whites/Blacks filter were used. A Red Channel Curves Adjustment Layer was opened and an S-curve created. The Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was set to Edgy Amber and 66% layer opacity. A Levels Adjustment Layer vignette was created. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used to lighten up the right top area – black mask added with just the area needed painted back. Most of these techniques are in other blogs of mine.


A LITTLE DIGITAL PAINTING IN PHOTOSHOP AND NEW PHOTOSHOP BRUSHES!

Image of a Lion at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC

This week was spent mainly sharpening up my “digital painting” skills. This Lion image taken at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, just seemed to be the right type for this process as his background was up against a rather rocky fence. That is one thing to look for when choosing a subject to paint – what the background is and does it help or hurt the subject. This is not unlike adding a texture to an image to remove an ugly background. But in this case, the lion had such a wonderful furry head, he was perfect for doing a little digital work.

If you are new to digital painting and Mixer brushes, which are a main part of painting in PS, check out a couple videos by PS guru Jesus Ramirez. The first is less than two minutes long showing how to make a very basic brush (which worked pretty well for me) and is called Oil Painting Effect From Your Photos – Photoshop Mixer Brush Technique. The second is longer Photoshop Daily Creative Challenge – Mixer Brush from Adobe Creative Cloud (skip to the 9 minute mark for the tutorial). These two videos show how to get a really quick digital painting by just learning to use a Mixer Brush and make a few changes in the settings. And the results are much better than just using the Oil Paint Filter in PS.

I have been experimenting with painting on a layer(s) above using regular and mixer brushes, then going back to the original image layer and duplicating it. Next going into Topaz Impression via Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Studio or Topaz Labs, and applying the Impression filter. (For this image, used default settings and changed: Stroke to 07, Stroke Width -0.24, and Texture set to Background Type Original – had to do a little smoothing in PS to remove stroke edges.) Back in PS the top layer(s) are still your original digital painting strokes with the Impression layer underneath – this gives a nice undercoating to continue painting over. The Mixer Brushes will now begin picking up some color from the Impression layer. Create more layers using different brushes to get a really nice painted image that will show off your own style.

The lion image took several hours to complete, lots of layers, and 7 iterations before the best look was achieved. It has been my experience that digital painting takes quite a while to get a good look, especially if there are a lot of details in the image. You may want to keep it in but be sure to soften it down.

2019 Summer Brushes

Also as a side note, I just downloaded Kyle T. Webster’s 2019 Summer Brushes – to download, open pop out menu in the upper right corner of the Brushes Panel and select Get More Brushes. (if you are not logged into the Cloud, you will need to log in at this point.) Kyle’s website opened up where the new brushes shown at the top of the page. Kyle says “Find your perfect summer color with brushes that take advantage of Photoshop’s unique color mixing effects. Also included in this set: A tribute brush to the great Ben Shahn, an updated China Marker, and great new pattern brushes.” There are 23 new brushes, 3 of them Mixers. I am looking forward to giving them a test run!

Hope you get a chance to check out those two videos and try out some digital painting. It is a lot of fun!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Where to Find a Good Photoshop Painter
Can You Get a Painting Look With a Photoshop Action? Jack Davis Can!


TOPAZ STUDIO 2 IMPRESSION AND PHOTOSHOP BRUSHES


Image of a Water Lily blossom at the National Zoo in Washington, DC

This week I have been playing around with the update Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Studio 2. (Last week I did a review of the of it – check out my What About This Topaz Studio 2 Update? Not Bad! blog and video.) I imagine that everyone has noticed several small updates came out this week, each adding a couple more features to the interface. There now is a Navigation Tool on the bottom right toolbar – it is so handy for moving around the image when zoomed way in. A Crop/Rotate/Straighten tool has also been added – probably will not use this a lot but sometimes when an image is crooked, it is nice to have. Your own textures can now be added into the Texture filter as in Topaz Studio 1. I am really looking forward to being able to add another layer as an image (like the Image Layer filter in the original) – I miss not having this feature. But all in all Topaz has been working hard to get this updated software running smoothly.

A Little about Brushes

The Water Lily image, taken at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC, is an example of using the wonderful Impression filter that comes with Topaz Studio 2. For me it works great as either a nice painterly background for regular portraits or animal images or as a painting starting point as used in the Lily look. For this image Impression’s default settings were applied except the Type 06 Brush Stroke was used. Back in PS, on separate layers, Blender Mixer Brushes and my SJ Pastel 3 regular painting brush were used to add color and smooth out the strokes. (To create this brush, check out my How to Use Photoshop’s Brush Texture Section for Painting Clean-up blog – in the middle are the settings.) Even though they have been around for a while, Fay Sirkis mixers are some of the best – only place I can find to download them is from her Kelby One painting courses and they are worth it.

Obviously Kyle Webster provides a huge amount of choices for painting.  The PS Legacy brushes are also still available and have a lot of good mixer brushes. The Fan Flat Blender Mixer brush, located by clicking the Brushes Panel pop-out in top right and select Converted Legacy Tool Presets (when dialog appears asking to “Restore the Converted…”, say OK to add set to the brush list) is a great brush and several variations can easily be made in the Brush Settings Panel (like changing the Brush Angle and Size, adding Shape Dynamics, and adjusting Texture settings).

I also love GrutBrushes – his cloud brushes are just the best available and his InkyLeaks splatter set is really good also (check out his free sampler of brushes and his free brush of the week each Monday).


Image of the Toucans greeting visitors at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm

My previously presented Toucan image is an example of using an Impression filter, in this case it was the Edward Hopper Look (previously preset) – used a Topaz brush to mask out the eyes and beaks of the birds, but the result of not applying the whole painterly effect to the image can be seen. This to me is one major reason why I have to have Topaz Studio 2 as no other plugin company has anything like Impression in their filters. Back in Photoshop a regular soft small soft round brush was used on a New Layer to really emphasize the eyes more. Most of the time a painting clean up layer needs to be done to fine-tune where a few strokes are off a little.

Turning Any Blender Mixer Brush into a Painting Mixer Brush (or One that Adds Color)

To create some of your own Mixer Brush variations, I have listed a few steps to help you out.

Settings for a Blender Mixer: To blend the colors , in the Options Bar:

  • Turn off the “Load the brush after each stroke” icon by clicking on it
  • Always leave “Clean the brush after every stroke” clicked on
  • Select the Very Wet, Heavy Mix in the drop-down
  • Check Sample All Layers

Now you have a pretty nice blending Mixer brush. If some color shows up, you left the “Load” icon turned on.

Settings for a Painting Mixer:

  • Turn On the “Load the brush after each stroke” icon (or no color will be painted as the icon will be clear)
  • Change the drop down to Dry, Light Load
  • ALT+click in your image to sample a color if using one from your image. Note that there is a drop-down by the “Current Brush Load” icon which gives you a choice to “Load Solid Colors Only” instead of a bit of what was under your brush when you clicked

Dab a few times to add your color and then turn off the “Current Brush Load” icon and set back to the Very Wet Heavy Mix to blend some more. This is really handy to know when you are blending away and find that you are missing a color to mix into the background. Since just blending the color back in, it does not have to look that good when you dab. This being said, lots of times I just use a regular brush to add the color in if using the same stroke effect is not that important. Either way works great depending on where the blending is occurring in the image.

That’s it for this week – just thought I would share a little how I paint using Topaz Studio 2 Impression. I like to work this way as Impression gives a nice effect in the background and as much or as little of this effect can be left in the image by using Photoshop brushes. It gives me the creative aspect I want but cuts down on the actual background painting time. Hope this was a helpful blog for those of you wanting to try out painting. Impression is definitely the way to go. And remember, it comes with Topaz Studio 2! Have a great week…..Digital Lady Syd


WHAT ABOUT THIS TOPAZ STUDIO 2 UPDATE? NOT BAD!

Image of a moth on a Zinnia flower
Well I missed last week due to some traveling and it was a busy one for Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link). Since I have always been a huge Topaz fan, I knew this would be a good update, and to be honest, when I first heard about it I had my doubts. But having worked with the program on a few images, it is really good and a much needed update. I have been spending my time just getting up to speed on what they have changed in the interface. They now have a much better way of adding filters – no more Apply step – just filters stacking as Effect Layers, a lot like the other plug-ins have begun doing. This is probably the biggest change. So lets get started and dive deeper into what is going on with this software update. (For what was used in the image above, check Image 1 Info at end of blog.)

First off: who qualifies for a free update? From Topaz website “If you own Studio adjustments with total list price > $99.00, you’ll receive Studio 2 for free.”  “If you own Studio adjustments with total list price <$99.99, you’ll receive store credit for the adjustments you do own.” I received an e-mail indicating I qualified for an update, but if you are not sure, go to Topaz Help Center -> Studio -> Topaz Studio 2 which opens the Topaz Studio 2 Frequently Asked Questions – go down to question 4 where a link will tell you if you are eligible. Otherwise there is now just a one time payment and Topaz Studio 2 will contain all the filters that were available in the original Topaz Studio, which as I see it, is a good deal anyway you do it.

What I Like about Topaz Studio 2:

  • They now have official Effect Layers in the program and no longer is an Apply button needed before you add other filters! Best news and brings Studio 2 up to date with all the other big guys out there.
  • AI Clear is still in the program! Definitely one of my top 5 plugins ever! (And that is saying something for me!) In my opinion, used with Precision Detail (which is also included in the program), they create the most incredible detail.
  • Other filters that are provided: Impression (another fabulous totally unique program by Topaz – no one else has anything like it), AI ReMix (another totally unique filter), Precision Contrast, Texture, Glow, Motion Blurs (one of my favorites – get some really unique effects with it), and Color Theme (which allows you to change 5 major colors in the image) along with all the standard filters one would expect with this program. Shortly Topaz will be connecting up all your original plug-ins into the interface.
  • The masking tools are much smoother and better than ever. I have always felt that Topaz has the best masking tools of any program (runs much smoother than Lightroom’s brush), and they are promising more improvements in this area shortly.
  • Much cleaner interface. The filters are broken down into three sections: Essential, Creative, and Stylistic. Within each section, the filters are now listed alphabetically which I find very handy. Just click the Favorites heart icon to have a list with just your favorite filters showing. Can now see the recent filters applied also. All the Looks (previously presets) are no longer listed by specific plug-in but alphabetically in one group or specific styles like abstract for example.

What I Don’t Like about Topaz Studio 2:

  • I was originally upset that my presets were not present. If you go under Help -> Migrate custom TS1 Presets, they are immediately brought into TS2. Originally you could only do this once, but as of yesterday, it is okay to do it again if you created a recent preset in TS1 and want to bring it into TS2.
  • Can only save the layers as a .ts2 file if you want to go back and tweak the filter settings. If used in Photoshop as a plugin, the settings will not be retained so you better save your changes as a new Look (preset) if you want to use it again. The Save Look icon is in the top right of the interface.
  • Would love to see a Color Lookup Table filter.

These changes are coming soon: plug-in support – in other words, all the Topaz plug-ins you previously bought that are listed as the Plug-ins in the top Menu Studio 1 will soon be available within the new TS2 interface. To find out what was recently updated in the interface, go to the Topaz Help Center -> Studio -> Topaz Studio 2 -> Topaz Studio 2 Changelog (open see all articles to find it). As of yesterday they added a Histogram which is located in the lower right corner of the interface, filter presets (the ones that are in the drop-down menus in the individual filters) available – noticed my personal presets did not show up, just the Topaz ones. They say these are their priority items: Plug-in support, Custom Filter Presets, Image Navigator, Texture Names (now none are shown – update – now named), and Texture Management. Then Masking updates will be coming out. I am pretty excited for the masking update as this is such a great part of most Topaz plugins.
Elephant image from the Washington National Zoo in Washington, DC
Below is a short video on how I used Topaz Studio 2 to create this effect and show you how to create a mask. Both the Elephant and the Guitar Man images are in the video. See Image 2 below for the actual settings for the Studio filters in the Elephant image. See Image 3 at end for Guitar Man info.

As you can see this is definitely a more modern plug-in interface and using the plug-in is much more user friendly than Studio 1. I was initially worried that this was not going to be a good update, but it has definitely exceeded my expectations. If you do not qualify for the update, which I am sure many of you do since Topaz has been around a while, give this new software a spin. It has a 30-day trial and currently they are running a $20 off sale until August 9th. Here’s a great tip for you: if you miss this offer, watch one of Topaz’s live webinars as the presenters always give a good discount for a week or so just for watching.

Image of a man playing the guitar

Bottom Line:

If you are a Topaz fan, this is a no-brainer. The update is definitely a good one and once our older plug-ins are attached, it will be a great one. If you are new to Topaz, you will be in for a big treat. Since I consider myself a creative, this software comes with Impression and AI ReMix along with Textures, AI Clear and many other sliders that make regular filters something quite spectacular. Lots of fun with this program so check it out.

Hope everyone is having a great summer. I am excited Topaz has updated Studio and I know they are working on some more wonderful programs to help create some amazing pictures. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Info:

Image 1 Info:  First did a little tone adjustment in Lightroom before opening this image in Photoshop. The background layer was duplicated and this layer was opened in Topaz Studio 2. These filters were applied in Studio: TSO2 – AI Clear: default settings; Precision Detail: Overall Small Detail 0.35, Overall Medium Detail 0.32, and Overall Large Detail -0.74 and Boost -0.08; Midtones 0.18, Shadows -0.13, Highlights -0.52, Black Point 0.24 and White Point 0.07; and Color Overlay: Color #dfd698 and used Color mask – selected just the flower and the butterfly and it evened out the background color. Applied and back in Photoshop a New Layer was created to paint over a few areas that needed smoothing out. Darken and Lighten Curves Adjustment Layers were used. Two textures were added using the free extension called Adobe Paper Texture Pro (Alice was added set to Overlay blend mode at 91% layer opacity and Aquarius set to Darken blend mode at 68% layer opacity – the moth and flower were painted out in a layer mask to remove texture from them. A Levels Adjustment Layer was used. Next a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using On1 Landscape5 preset at 83%, and the last step was a spotlight effect on the moth. The text is a font called Ramland. Notice I do not just use Topaz. I like to use several different types of plug-ins to get a look I like. But Studio does have a lot of great filters to get a good start look.

Image 2: The Elephant image used another preset I created called SJ Wildlife Look. It contains all the filters in the video but I will list the settings used in the blog image here. Topaz Studio 2 – AI Clear: default settings; Basic Adjustment: Exposure 0.14; Blur: Blur Type Gaussian, Amount 0.31 and Preserve Edge 0.22 – not a Gradient Mask was selected, flipped and Applied, like in the video, to remove effect from foreground and lower elephant – then the Brush was used to mask the effect off the rest of the elephant; HSL Color Toning: Opacity 0.66, Orange Saturation 0.45, Yellow Hue -0.06, Sat 0.45 and Lightness 0.18, and Green Hue -0.45, Sat -0.58 and Lightness 0.01, and Details 0.22 – this image was a little more green than the video image which had more yellow tones to it; Texture: 3rd column/6th row, Brightness -0.07, Contrast -0.21, Detail -0.37, and Sat -0.06: Vignette: Strength 0.99, Size 0.56, Transition 0.99 Roundness 0.13, and brown color (#261f1c); and Curves: Used a very slight S curve. Back in Photoshop the Liquify Tool was used to slightly increase the Elephant’s eye so you could see it. The eye was selected using the Quick Mask Tool and then the Exposure Adjustment Layer was used to bring out the contrast of the eye just a bit. On a New Layer the Blur Tool at 100% Strength was used to slightly blur the tree stump behind the Elephant’s trunk. That was it.

Image 3: Guitar Man image used a Look (preset) that I created from the filters I put together. Here are the basic settings if you would like to try them out. Impression: Stroke Type05, Number of Strokes Low, Brush Size 0.57, Paint Volume 0.02, Paint Opacity 0.56, Stroke Width -0.08, Stroke Length 0.18; Basic Adjustment Filter (note these will be different depending on your image): Exposure 0.45, Clarity 0.81, Shadow -0.56, Highlight 0.23 and Saturation 0.73; Color Theme: all new colors listed left to right. #474545 (Lightness 0.28), #57776f (Lightness 0.47), #3f2cc7 (Lightness 0.78), #6b9af7 (Lightness 0.97), and #d7d7f7 (Lightness 0.97); Brightness Contrast set to Opacity 0.71 and Color Burn blend mode, Brightness -0.47, Contrast 1.39, and Saturation 1.37; and AI ReMix: Opacity 0.18, Color Marker preset, Style Strength Low, Contrast 0.69 and Saturation 0.64. Note that several of these filters used masks to remove the effect from his hands or the actual guitar. Unfortunately Studio does not retain the masks for you, and you would not want it in a Look anyway since each image is different. But definitely do some masking to get a pleasing effect with this combination of filters. When I did this effect in the video, I just pulled back the amount to something below 50% and added another AI ReMix filter using A Neon Rise style on top with a lowered opacity (22%) – no other changes. Last step in Photoshop was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer. I created in Topaz a preset called SJ Abstract Look using all the filters but the top AI ReMix Filter.