Anything Photoshop or Photography

Posts tagged “Topaz Studio

SOME PHOTOSHOP WITH SAM PETERSON

Pixabay image of a model changed into a fairy

A few weeks ago Photoshop Guru Sam Peterson did another two weeks of challenges on the Adobe Creative Cloud website. I have done several of his challenges before, and it is always fun to try out new things following his new videos. Therefore, thought I would show what kind of things were presented in his short, but informative, videos last month. Sam always provides starter files to use for practicing and usually a timeline is added in the YouTube description showing what Photoshop skills were used.

The video covering the fairy image is called Caricatures for Beginners – Photoshop Illustration Challenge. The above fairy was created by first downloading this image from Pixabay (Jerzy Gorecki portraits are the best). In PS the model was selected and put on her own layer before taking the layer into Topaz Studio 2 or just Topaz Impression could have been used (Type 09 brush, Number of Strokes High, Brush Size 0.47, Paint Opacity 1.00, Stroke Color Variation 0.50) for the skin effect – a layer mask was used to paint it off her face a little. The Stroke Color Variation slider created the skin markings. Obviously Liquify layers were used for the eyes. Also a FaerieWings ii4 Falln Stock on Deviant Art brush was used. Fantasy Light Dirt 2-Large Glitter with spacing set to 126%, Opacity 52%, and Flow 62% was used for the fairy dust. The background was just painted using his brush (he tells you about it) and Fantasy Light Dirt 2-Flair 1 was used to create the fog look at the bottom. This was my favorite effect I did.

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Image of a flower pot with a watercolor border

The above is a really nice effect and can be used on any image. What is really nice is that Sam teaches you how to make an action so it can be applied very quickly since several PS filters are used to get the effect. Some of Kyle T. Webster, the Adobe brush guru, watercolor brushes were used to finalize the effect. The photo is by Annie Spratt at Unsplash. The effect is pretty easy video to follow – it is called Watercolor Effect – Photoshop Illustration Challenge. I actually ran it on the baby image from last week and it turned out really nice.

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B&W image of a lady playing a violin with text on the image

The typography look is another effect that was pretty easy to do – the video is called Text Portrait – Photoshop Typography Challenge. It basically creates a lot of different text layers that are rasterized and merged together to get the final effect. It is done several times and is a creative way to add text to an image. The image is from Pixabay (unable to find a link). A different font was used from the one that Sam preferred – this one is called Naive Deco Sans. The larger text was placed behind the player at 30% layer opacity while the smaller text was laid on top at 91% layer opacity. The background is called Texture Time Music Layer Mask by Evelyn Flint from 2013 (not sure how to find it now) and was set to black and white already.

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This video seemed to be the hardest for me – getting an image I liked and then making it look like it was popping off the page was not easy. Still it was a lot of fun to do. The video is called Illustrated Composite Effect – Photoshop Compositing Challenge. It took a while longer to do as there were a lot of steps in the technique. The starter file set has this nice notebook that can be used as a platform for the effect, but I had to mask out the wiring so the wood background could be changed. The image of the model is from Dollar Gill at Unsplash.

Adobe Create Cloud provides several PS experts that create Masterclasses and challenges – there is always something that catches my eye each week. I did not do all of Sam’s challenges this time as there were a few I was not interested in doing. It is fun to try out different techniques when you have a few minutes and Sam’s videos are only about 25 minutes long. In the Related References, there are a few of my blogs that used some of his previous challenges. Let me know if these were fun for you……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:

Some Fancy Text

Digitally Painted or Retouched?

Who’s Looking at You?


HOW TO GET THAT ABSTRACT FEEL EASILY

Abstract image of a sand sculpture look
Since it is the hot days of summer, I have just been having some fun creating a few rather abstract images using Photoshop and thought I would share some of my results. One thing I have found is that the Motion Blur filter, whether using Photoshop’s or Topaz’s, is wonderful to add with other filters to get some great abstract looks. For the image above I had watched a good video by Denise Ippolito, a really great wildlife and flower photographer, called The Art of Flower Photography. At the end of her video (at the 50:43 mark) and in her blog of 7/1/19, she shows you how to create some beautiful color abstracts in camera while taking floral and landscape images. That gave me the idea that maybe I could do the same thing using Photoshop.

This Sand Sculpture looking image used a Motion Blur and Liquify Tool along with several stamp brushes. For all the details, check out my Image 1 description at end of blog.

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Abstract image of the silhouette of a woman walking
This image was created using an image taken from behind of a person walking on the Queen’s Walk in London. She was selected and a new background created to obtain this rather abstract feel in the image. For post info, check out Image 2 details at end of blog.

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Abstract digital painting of some flowers
The above image represents a different way to create an abstract – this time a Mixer Blender Brush was used – one provided by Photoshop called the Fan Flat Mixer (located in PS’s Converted Legacy Tool Presets -> Default Tool Presets). The original image was from OnOne’s Springtime Nature Textures packet of small flowers just lying on the ground. The blender was used to stretch out and blend the stalks together, creating a very soft abstract effect easily. See Image 3 for more details.

Well that’s it for this week – I love doing creative things with images. It can turn a rather useless image into something rather spectacular. Have a good week – I will be skipping next week but will return with some new tips and tricks! ……. Digital Lady Syd

Image Details:

Image 1:  The top image is one I created from an image taken at Stirling Castle in Scotland of the surrounding countryside. In Lightroom the colors were kept to a fairly low contrast color palette using just the blue, aqua and gray tones. In Photoshop I changed the color palette to purples and pinks using the Camera Raw Filter which made the image look awful. On a duplicate layer Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) the Motion Blurs filter was applied – just dragged the arrow all the way left to create a straight horizontal line. Then used their HSL filter to get a good set of colors. (A very similar effect can be achieved in PS by going to the Filter -> Blur -> Motion Blur and using an Angle of 0 and a Distance of 2000 pixels.) The turquoise color was added in at this point. To get the wave effect, Liquify was used – just pushed the lines up and down. A clean up layer to even out some of the lines using the Clone Stamp brush was used. Next on a layer on top a bird brush by Wavenwater Brushes n Tools was added and the layer set to 73% opacity. On another layer a Neverhurtno Sealife Scallops brush was added. Next layer was from immrgy in a set of brushes called Anemone-Sheels-Corel/Mussel. Next a layer with just some speckles from Wavenwater’s set was also used. Finally a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added using the Abstract Cobalt-Carmine preset. On a New Layer on top a mixer was used to just smooth the edges between the sky and the waves. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added and the Adobe Paper Texture Pro was used to add the Apple Blush texture set to Overlay blend mode at 70% opacity. This was a lot of fun to create and really was not that hard.

Image 2:  This image took a while to create and several different options were tried before the correct feel to the image popped up. Mainly it was post processed in two major steps. First the woman was extracted and placed on her own layer. She was duplicated with a black layer mask where just her purse and shoes were painted back. Then the first layer of the lady was selected (CTRL+click on the thumbnail) and she was filled with black (set colors to black and white and ALT+Backspace). Now just the purse and shoes show up. The second major section was used the Motion Blur Tool on the image and stretching it. Then a second Abstract Texture by Inspiration Hut called Design Background 1 (their sight is not coming up correctly so I could not get a link, but will add it once it is straightened out) was placed on top and set to 78% layer opacity. On a new layer some black vertical brush strokes were added to the side. Last step was to add a vignette – this one used the one described in my recent Using a Levels Adjustment Layer for a Vignette blog. Silhouettes always create interesting subjects.

Image 3: As stated above, the original image was taken from an OnOne give away set in April called Springtime Nature Textures which contained little white and blue blossoms. The layer was duplicated and the Fan Flat Mixer brush (located in PS’s Converted Legacy Tool Presets -> Default Tool Presets) was used to smooth it all together with just long brush strokes – it looked really blurry at this point. Then several other brushes on individual layers were added to get more detail back into the image: Serge Ramelli watercolor brushes (see his How to Create a Watercolor Painting Effect with Photoshop video to download brushes), a whole bunch of Grut’s Brushes to create some new details (these are best brushes around – check him out), and one of my favorite brushes every by Melissa Gallo called a Vine Brush (only available with her PS painting class). French Kiss Artiste Fauve Rainbow texture (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) was added on top with a Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer clipped to it and the Saturation set to -100 to remove all the color and leave just the texture. That was it. Lots of fun.


MY ANIMAL BUDDIES THAT TOOK OVER MY BLOG

Image of a Great Flamingo

Since it is the Memorial Day Holiday here in the U.S., I am letting my Animal Buddies take over the the blog and I am going to play hookie. (Hope you all have a sense of humor!) With that, will see you in a couple weeks after a blog breather! Take it away guys!

I am a beautiful Greater Flamingo showing off my new pink beak polish (DLS: Where in the world did she get this?) at the Jacksonville Zoo in Florida. Syd took a selfie for me that involved a bit of post-processing in Photoshop to get my gorgeous looking beak. (DLS: To be honest, she had a pretty bright pink beak as it was). There’s a whole bunch of us in the pen – we love to dance and follow each other around. Please come and visit me and my large family. You can find us on the Main Path – we love it when people visit! (She has some really colorful, noisier relatives called Caribbean Flamingos further back in the zoo so visit them also – see my short blog called I Am Feeling So Sleepy!) (Check out Image 1 for pix info at end of blog.)

***** Image of a Ring Tailed Lemur at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Hi Everyone! Nice to have someone visit! I totally love living here at the Lemurs of Madagascar Exhibit at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. If you come by early when the Farm just opens, you can enjoy breakfast with me. I am a Ring Tailed Lemur and our family is headed by a female. I always check out my breakfast of tamarind and flowers carefully – I don’t like to share my food. (DLS: I think we’re seeing here a very picky eater!) I also have to share my quarters with several Red Ruffed Lemurs (Here is one sunbathing from a previous Flickr link). Usually after breakfast we all do a group sunbathe in the morning. Come on by and say “Hi” to us – we will be glad to entertain you for awhile. We have lots of fun here! (Check out Image 2 for post work on this image.)

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Image of an Eastern Bongo at the Jacksonville Zoo, Florida

OK, Syd thinks I wanted to eat her! Not really – I do not like to eat animals, strictly a vegetarian here. I just thought I would give her a different pose since she seemed upset I was not looking at her so she could take my picture. I am called an Eastern Bongo, which in your lingo is antelope, and there are some pretty weird stories about my species on the Jacksonville Zoo website. It says I can hang from branches by my horns and drop on unsuspecting hunters in the forest. Really??? I have never done that in my life! Where do these tales come from??? Come on by – I am near the Plains of East Africa section and either me or one of my family will be glad to give you a nice camera pose. (See Image 3 below for pix info.)

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Image of Spoonbill at the Jacksonville Zoo, Florida

Excuse me while I get situated here! I am not sure what happened! Oh my – this is embarrassing! Well apparently Syd got a shot of me at my worst! I am an African Spoonbill – not pink like the pink Roseate Spoonbills that are always flying into our River Valley Aviary at the zoo this time of year. I spend most of my time walking in the water looking for a seafood lunch, but sometimes I like to hang out on big branches. Did you know I am the size of a 3-year old human? I will be very happy to pose for you, but do not get too close or I will run away (DLS: or lose your balance?). (Image 4 has info this pix.)

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Digital Art of a Dolphin's Playground

DLS: Uh….Where did these guys come from? Hi – we are dolphins that are a figment of Syd’s imagination so we decided to make an appearance even though you can’t come visit us. Pretty nice digs though? I think she was thinking about Hawaii or maybe sailing in the Bahamas. Either place is fine since we will fit in anywhere. I know Syd loves dolphins so you will probably see us make other appearances in the future. Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday and celebrating like us! (Image 5 info below.)

All us animal buddies hope you enjoyed out blog this week. It was really fun to do something different and help Syd out with her blog. She will be back soon with more tips and maybe, just maybe she will let us do this again down the way. Everyone have a great weekend and come see us!…..Animal Buddies for Digital Lady Syd

Image Information:

Image 1: Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) DeNoise AI was applied first on the image first. Her background was created in Topaz Studio using the Impression Adjustment and the Chalk Smudge III preset where the bird was painted out. Precision Detail and Precision Contrast adjustments were used on the bird. PS’s Fan Flat Blend mixer was used to paint in the bird feathers, neck and head. The Topaz ReStyle filter was applied using the Cadet Gray and Copper preset – lots of changes in there to get the nice texture on the background. On a stamped layer, Skylum’s Luminar 3 (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) plugin was opened and Joel Grimes Details Warmth preset was applied at 52%. The last step was a Curves Adjustment Layer and a Levels Adjustment Layer Vignette. The font is called Style Casual, one of my favorites but is not free.

Image 2: Not much with done with my little friend here. In Topaz Studio AI Clear was applied to sharpen him up a bit. A little dodge and burning with Curves Adjustment Layers and an On1 Color Lookup Adjustment Layer set to 36% was used to pull the image colors together a bit. The font is a free one called kb Sickboy. That was about it.

Image 3: This pix was hard to post process since he was cut out of a larger image. I had to use a Blur in the background to create the DOF I wanted. The color was hard to get close to what he looked like – easy to over-color here and I am still not sure it is that accurate but he looks good. Topaz Sharpen AI was set to Stabilize and the defaults. Then just the standard (for me) dodge and burning, Nik Viveza 2, Spotlight layer and Curves Adjustment Layer to finish up.

Image 4: This Spoonbill took me a long to get right as I had a little trouble with the white feathers. Also the background was just too sharp so that had to be softened a bit. And then pretty much the same ole workflow – edges had to be cleaned up, a little sharpening, and contrast added. The font is another one of my favorites called Honey Script.

Image 5: This image was just total fun and tons of layers. The main attractions, the two dolphins, palm trees, and flying birds are all from my favorite object place, PixelSquid. The square effect is from a free action called Inception by Sparklestock which is what started me on make this composite. The waterfall is a brush from a set by Frostbo called Waterfall Set 2. The waves in the water are more brushes from Aaron Blaise’s water brushes. The overall soft effect was created by going into Luminar 3 using their new AI Filter 2.0 and AI Sky Enhancer filters along with another favorite, the Radiance filter, which gave the overall soft feel to the image. The not free font is called Fratello Nick. Nik Viveza 2 was used to even out the color in the palm fronds. Then just my basic workflow. I love doing this kind of image!


TOPAZ DENOISE AI – AND YES, FREE UPGRADE WHEN YOU OWN DENOISE6 OR AI CLEAR

Image of a home on The Big Island in Hawaii
This week Topaz (for website see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) came out with their new DeNoise AI filter which is supposed to replace the older DeNoise 6 filter and the Topaz Studio AI Clear Adjustment. I am glad we still have access to all of them – and yes, if you own either DeNoise or AI Clear Adjustment, you get the the DeNoise AI filter and stand-alone products for free. What could be better!

So what is DeNoise AI? Once again I have to take info from the website as there is not much info out there on the filter. It seems to me that a pretty noisy image works best when using this filter – for me that means a higher ISO setting or overall darker images. The interface (see screenshot below) is basically the same sliders as AI Clear Adjustment (without the Exposure and Clarity sliders) so it is easy to figure out how the filter works. Definitely need to fiddle with the Noise and Sharpness sliders but I could not see much change with the Restore Detail slider at this time. Also be sure to set the Automatically Update Preview button to Off. It seems this filter produces a much higher DeNoise effect than either AI Clear (which has Remove Noise buttons called Auto, Low, Med and High as choices) and Sharpen AI (which has a Suppress Noise slider). The older DeNoise 6 plugin does not use AI technology so it may not be so useful now.

The only negative I see is DeNoise AI has only a small preview area which limits viewing of the whole effect on the image. It takes a while to get the preview and has to be reapplied each time you move the view area. Once the Apply button is pressed, it takes an even longer time, depending on the size of the image, to set the change on the layer in PS. This will probably be improved with future updates. On difficult images like the one above, it does do a fabulous job and my house image can now be used. Therefore I am finding AI Clear is still working great when I just need a little quick noise clean up but when I see real noise issues, DeNoise AI is excellent. On Topaz’s website, there are several images you can download and try with this software.

On this image when a sky was added (see steps in next paragraph for this), I had to also run the sky layer through the DeNoise AI filter so it would match the image – did not expect to have to do this but it worked! Sometimes textures and sky images are pretty low res and have a lot of noise in them. (Set the sky to Noise Level 0.70 and left Sharpness and Restore Detail at 0.) The house image had these camera settings (ISO 1600, 35 mm using a 18-200 mm zoom lens, F/9.5 at 1/500 sec. taken from a moving car) and was in bad shape. In LR only did a Crop, Enable Lens Profile and Remove Chromatic Aberration. See the screenshot of what the interface looked like after applying the DeNoise filter to the LR image. Click on the image to see a larger view of the interface in Flickr. The noise was particularly apparent in the glass in the windows. Notice all the other reflections from the car window that had to be removed with a Clone Stamp Tool too.
Image of Topaz DeNoise AI filter
And a little trick for adding a sky: if the original sky is basically all white with lots of tree branches and leaves around it – just add the cloud image on top and then double click on the layer to open the layer style for the sky; set the Blend If to Blue and in Underlying Layer move the black tab right to bring back the leaves and branches (split the tab by ALT clicking on it to pull apart and get a more natural transition between sky and trees). Really quick and easy to do. I might also add that Skylum’s Luminar 3 (for website see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) upgraded this week and totally improved their Accent AI Filter – I used it on this image and was very pleased with the result. Their AI Sky Enhancer was also used on the image. This is also a free update for Luminar 3.0 owners.

I plan on writing about this filter again after I have had more time to test it out. If you own either of the other noise products, be sure to upgrade. Definitely worth doing and it really is a nice addition. I am sure there are many ways to use it on your images. Have a very nice week!…..Digital Lady Syd


TRYING OUT THE FREE WATERCOLOR ACTION FROM ADOBE – PRETTY NICE!

Watercolor image of a Angolan Colobus monkey eating some greens
This week I decided to just have some fun. I imagine most of you got the Adobe Magazine E-mail that came this week and one or their links was to a really cool Watercolor Artist Action Set created by Nuwan Panditha (also known as Black Null) – it contains an action set (Setup and Watercolor Artist actions), 20 watercolor brushes (all kinds of regular and splatter brushes), 5 patterns to use with your watercolor (or any) images, and a 7-page PDF Guide on how to load and use all the included items. These objects can be used in other images – still trying out some of the watercolor brushes. So even if you do not want to use the action, download the files to get the nice brushes and patterns. This blog contains a few examples of what I created since I am always looking for great watercolor actions. (See my Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs for links to other watercolor actions.)

The quick way I like to load brushes and patterns (instead of using the rather complicated way explained in the PDF) is to just open up Photoshop and then double-click on the brushes file (.abr) and they will load automatically. This is the same for the pattern (.pat) and action (.atn) files. Very simple. The Angolan Colobus Monkey above pretty much followed everything Nuwan tells you to do in the nice Guide although on the Adobe site there are two short videos that go over pretty much the same thing. If you do not want to watch the videos, I have created a synopsis of what was in his videos below these photos.
Image of some tables at a restaurant on Turtle Key in The Bahamas
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Watercolor Painted Coleus plants in front of Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida
Here is the quick low-down from Nuwan’s videos on how to do get this action to work nicely:

1. Image Information:

Make sure your image height and width parameters are between 2000 and 5000 px. Otherwise your image will be huge once the action is run completely. I tried this and got a 2.4 Gig image – my computer was not happy! Therefore, I changed my image size into one for the web before running the actions.

Make sure your image has a full range of tones with shadows, highlights and midtones before you start.

2. Setup Action:

After running the Setup Action, use the selected hard-edged brush called Watercolor Artist Basic Brush to paint in your “focus area.” Set the Opacity and Fill of all the brushes to 100%. I tried using the focus brush at a lower opacity to in bring less of certain areas, and it just did not look right. Can change the default orange color to a sampled color from the image and it will add more of that tone into the resulting watercolor image. A bright pink was used in the Coleus Plant image to give it more pink tones instead of orange.

Apparently other selection tools can be used such as the Lasso or Quick Selection Tools, and then fill the selection with the foreground color, but Duwan finds using the brush is the easiest way to define your focus point. Don’t make the whole image the focus area as different brushes and layers are used for areas outside the focus area than for the inside.

The focus area can be painted close to your subject or it can include areas outside the subject. In the Monkey image above, it was set outside a little which is why the foreground rock and greens have more definition than the background which was really busy in the original photo.

Nuwan says that a focus area with regular and simple shapes will generate fewer brush strokes than selected areas with complex lines. Also do not leave a bunch of holes in the focus area – it will not look good and they are hard to even out later.

This action converts the image into an 8-bit image.

3. Watercolor Artist Action:

When the Watercolor Artist action is run, it will take a while to process. He says that for a 3000 px image, it will take less than 3 minutes. It took me less than 3 minutes, but I am using smaller images.

The result will look a little scary if nothing else! There are 8 groups that cover all aspects of the resulting watercolor image. The PDF does a pretty good job explaining the different groups so I will only go over what I found really helpful.

  • First open up the Image Control group and highlight the Reveal Details layer. Choose a watercolor brush and paint in the mask with white. He used his Watercolor Artist-Medium brush just to help you get started at this point. The last 12 brushes were used in the action and do not necessarily work with this layer for painting. They can still work for special effects though.

Paint over in the highlighted layer mask some of the important parts of the image to bring back the details. If you have other watercolor brushes that you really like, there is no reason you cannot use them on this mask.

  • In the same Image Control group, select the Custom Watercolor layer. Paint in the layer mask with different brushes to add the custom effects around the subject. It can be duplicated several times to add different types of strokes. The opacity of the layers can be adjusted to give interesting results. Duwan used the Watercolor Artist-Dry brush for this. I used the same brush on my images and used extra Custom Watercolor layers.
  • Add Shadows, Add Midtones, Add Filling – try different blend modes for these layers and note that the opacity is controlled by adjusting the layer Fill slider and not the Opacity slider. By increasing the Fill on the Add Filling layer, it will fill in some of the empty areas of the watercolor effect – try some different blend modes like Multiply for a look. For Add Shadows and Add Midtones layers, try Darken, Multiply, and Color Burn blend modes.
  • Texture Overlay, Fine Sharpen, Sharpen – All use the Fill slider to adjust the opacity. The Sharpen layer is the one most affecting the final image.

The rest of the groups can be opened and layers opened and closed to get add or remove different effects – a lot of sketching and splatter strokes here and layer masks are provided to easily remove unwanted marks on your image. The opacities can be lowered individually or as a group. Different papers or textures can be substituted for the ones provided including any painted textures you might own. The Post FX group is one where many different adjustment layers are located – this can really help add the tones or colors needed to make the image really look great.

Syd’s Tip:  I found this is really necessary to get all the foci of the images to look correct. After making a lot of the adjustments in the various groups, either create a selection, as in the Monkey image where the face was duplicated with a Lasso Tool, or as in the other images where the whole background layer was duplicated – then place on top of the Watercolor Action group. Add a black layer mask and with a watercolor brush at a lower opacity like 20%, areas that needed a bit more structure can be painted back in. The actual layer opacity can also be adjusted if the result is too much. And if you are a bit of a digital painter, it is important to have a brush handy to clean up the edges and areas that need a little clean up. That is what was done on the pink Coleus Plants. As a final step for me a stamped layer of the image was opened in Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Studio using the Texture Adjustment’s Group set to Borders. There are several choices and the borders can be flipped, color changed, and blend mode and opacity changed. This was done on both the Monkey and Coleus images. I just painted a white watercolor border for the Bahamas image.

I hope you download and give this action a try. It does take a little time and I am still working on getting better results, but this action does have some great possibilities. Just using it as a starting point for painting digitally in watercolor would be good. Happy Painting!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Get Painting Effects from Actions-Part 1
Some Watercolor Fun!
Red Hibiscus Holiday Cheer!


HOW TO RANDOMIZE SOME COLOR WITH THE GRADIENT MAP ADJUSTMENT LAYER


Image of the Trail at Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka, Florida

This week I am getting back to just having some plain ole’ Photoshop fun! Recently I ran across an easy and quick technique to turn an image that looks ho-hum into something great! There are times when an image does not look quite right no matter what is tried. That is when I usually open one of Topaz’s (see the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) creative filters to see if something connects with me – that is usually the fabulous Topaz ReStyle plugin. (See blog links at bottom of post for more info.) But if you do not own ReStyle, this a pretty nifty way to get a somewhat similar result using a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer. The last two examples do not have extreme color changes, but by adjusting the layer opacity, which seems to be critical in getting certain looks, or trying different blend modes, very interesting results can be obtained.

What does a Gradient Map do? Photoshop maps the shadows in an image to the foreground color and the highlights to the background color. It also allows you to add as many colors as you want by using the Gradient Editor while still maintaining some of the photo’s original tonality. For more on using a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer for black and white images, see my blog links at end of post.

Workflow on How to Randomize a Gradient Map

Recently Kelby One placed a link to a short video by Victor Feyes called How to Get Easy Color Grades in a Simple Way that used this technique. Here are the steps used for getting some pretty fantastic quick results:

  1. Open Gradient Map Adjustment Layer and set the Blend Mode to Color and the Layer Opacity to roughly 50%. Don’t worry about the actual colors in the  color swatch.
  2. Click on the gradient strip to open the Gradient Editor dialog.
  3. Set the Gradient Type to Noise.
  4. Set the Roughness somewhere under 15%, usually nearer to 10%.
  5. Set the Color Mode to HSB or LAB.
  6. Check Restrict Colors box.
  7. Click Randomize as many times as you need to get an effect that looks good.
  8. If the colors are too intense but look good, go out of the dialog and change the layer opacity – less than 50% is best.

That’s it! It is so simple I am not sure why I didn’t try this a long time ago. These settings above are general and there is no reason why the Color Mode cannot be left at RGB, the Roughness setting increased, or Add Transparency checkbox turned on. And all the Color Mode sliders can be adjusted to give a little different result on the image. (See the last image’s screenshot.) Watch the gradient while clicking the Randomize button to see how the different colors are affecting different parts of the image. Once the gradient is applied, in the Gradient Map properties, there is a Reverse button that can give an interesting effect. To save the gradient for reusing, in the Dialog Box click in field to name if you want and click the New button – it appears at the end of the shown gradients. (Note: if the Save… button is clicked, it opens a dialog to save all the presets in one file and not just the new one.)

The image at top was taken at Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka, Florida (with this rather steep trail that tried to kill me!) and was pretty much a basic shadowy shot. The images I took here have been hard to post-process due to the bright sun and blotchy effect on the bushes and flowers which were in bloom. Therefore this image seemed like a logical choice to try out this Gradient Map technique. Below is a Screenshot showing the original image with only LR settings applied and the Gradient Map and settings used to create the new color look in the top image. The Adjustment Layer was set to Color blend mode and 36% Layer Opacity. (Click on screenshot to see larger in Flicker.)
Screenshot of the Gradient Map settings for the Ravine Gardens Trail image

What the Gradient Map Dialog Box and Sliders Do

The Photoshop Wow Book (from years ago but still one of the best PS books around) is the only good source I could find on how the Gradient Map Dialog Box actually works so the following info is from this book. By checking the Add Transparency box, random transparency is provided – by checking this box “….will probably introduce more variability than you want to cope with” so instead use a layer mask after the Noise gradient is applied. The Noise Gradient ranges are set by moving the sliders on the Color Model bars which will determine the Outside limits of the colors that can appear in your gradient but the gradient will often include a much narrower range of colors. The Wow Book also provides the following definitions: Roughness: a higher amount makes more and sharper color bands and a lower amount has fewer bands and smoother transitions. Restrict Colors is checked so that the gradient will not include any colors too saturated to be printed with CMYK inks. To create a gradient of just gray colors, set the Color Model to HSB and set the Saturation all the way to the left – now only the Brightness tabs will have any effect on the image. I could not get a very good result doing this. The pretty Azalea below was also taken at Ravine Gardens in Palatka, Florida and is another example of this workflow.
Beautiful White Azalea image taken at the Ravine Gardens in Palatka, Florida
Below are the settings used in the photo above – click on image to see larger in Flickr. The blend mode was still set to Color and the Layer Opacity was set to 55% – any higher opacity and the image becomes very yellow.
Screenshot of Gradient Map dialog for azalea image
A  different gradient was tried below. A screenshot shows more of a blue toned gradient applied. Used Color blend mode and 42% Layer Opacity. The image is not finished, but it does give a very different pretty result.
Screenshot of Blue-Purple Gradient Map for Azalea
This last image of Old St. Andrews in Scotland is an example of combining the two types of Gradient Maps – the first was a Noise Gradient Map (see screenshot for how image looked before applying the Gradient Map Adjustment Layer – click on it to see settings more clearly in Flickr). On top a regular Solid Gradient Type instead of Noise was selected and Blake Rudis’s action and his gray gradient 19 set to Soft Light blend mode at 41% Layer Opacity was added. Blake has a really good video called Advanced Color Toning Made Easy and he gives away the action and 20 gradients so check it out. It’s a very handy action and I use it all the time! This combination seems to bring some very good results in the images. It is not a huge change but definitely an improvement.
Image of a View of Old St. Andrews in Scotland
Screenshot of Gradient Map settings for St. Andrews image
Hope you will try this technique. It gives some really nice unusual looks and can really pull the colors of an image together for some needed pizzazz! I am having a lot of fun with it. Have a great week – Spring is almost here!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz ReStyle – from a while ago, but it is still relevant
Four Picture Triptych with Topaz ReStyle
How to Use a Topaz ReStyle Trick for Improving Your Image
How to Do a Black & White Gradient Map Conversion


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

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

Sharpen AI Interface

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Use the Sharpen Filter

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

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

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

What is the Difference between AI Clear and Sharpen AI?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line

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

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


WHAT IS GOING ON WITH ALL THE “AI” IN PHOTOGRAPHY SOFTWARE?

Image of an Imperial Bromeliad Plant
This blog is a little “long-winded” but it is something I have been trying to figure out and thought I would share. For the last several weeks I have been getting totally confused by all the new Artificial Intelligence (AI) software/plugins/filters and what qualifies them as AI software. This past week Adobe’s Lightroom/ACR modules gave us a new taste of their AI capability with the Enhance Detail command. I decided to do a quick recap on a few of the AI programs. The final image above used Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Studio’s AI Clear and AI ReMix. I have used the new AI masking capability in On1’s very recent update and gotten good basic masking results. Also Skylum has two filters, Accent AI Filter and AI Sky Enhancer Filter which are very nice effects on images – check out article on what Skylum’s AI team is doing. Adobe Photoshop has previously used AI to upscale images in the Image Size dialog and in the Quick Select Tool’s Select Subject option and now calls their AI Adobe Sensei. Since these other filters are a little different than these I am showing, I will try to do another blog on their AI Technology. There is so much info on AI that I could create a humongous blog!

WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

I found a blog from a C-Net article with this nifty definition -“Enter artificial intelligence — specifically the neural network technology loosely based on human brains’ ability to learn from real-world data, not rigid programming instructions.” In the article Adobe senior research scientist Vlad Morariu said “Using tens of thousands of examples of known, manipulated images, we successfully trained a deep learning neural network to recognize image manipulation.” This may be what started the whole AI software evolution for photographers.

As a good example of how AI is being used effectively in photography software, Topaz Labs ReMix adjustment says on their website that they collected hundreds of classic and contemporary artistic samples; then spent hundreds of hours developing a custom neural network to identify specific artistic styles and replicating the textures, colors, edges and shapes of those styles; and finally the results were put into an adjustment for Topaz Studio. This seems to be the basic process for a lot of the AI software being developed.

LIGHTROOM/PHOTOSHOP’S ACR’S ENHANCE DETAIL VS TOPAZ AI CLEAR

Here is a screen shot of the flower shown above zoomed in to 100% to show a comparison of Lightroom/ACR’s Enhance Detail applied (for LR Develop Module right click and select and in ACR right click on the left strip and select) vs. Topaz Studio’s AI Clear, which was applied with LR as the host program. For a larger view in Flickr, click on image.

Screen Capture of DNG and Tiff file from Topaz StudioThe results to me looks like the DNG file has more texture in it but very similar sharpening – that would make sense since AI Clear has both Noise Reduction which will reduce the texture effect and Sharpening capabilities. All the settings were the same including the Details Panel sharpening and noise before applying the Enhance Detail or AI Clear. (I know, Topaz says do not do this but I do it all the time and it works just fine.) This may be a draw as far as which looks best in this case – the new LR/ACR Enhance Detail works pretty good as well as the AI Clear. But Lightroom/ACR creates a much larger DNG file while Topaz creates a Tiff. I find AI Clear probably the best product out there for subtle sharpening that is needed, especially when hand-holding your camera while shooting. Also Detail Enhance is not available in the Camera Raw filter as far as I can tell, only available when doing your original post-processing. Therefore, if you may want to get back to apply it, definitely open as a Smart Object from ACR or Edit ->Open as a Smart Object in Photoshop from LR. For the Enhance Detail command Julieanne Kost, a PS evangelist, says “I would suggest applying it on an image-by-image basis starting with images that have visible artifacts and which require the highest level of quality (images that will be printed in large format, for example).” Topaz Labs says for AI Clear use it on all kinds of images including High ISO with lots of grain, Nighttime with noisy skies, Action images with some blur, and Telephoto lens shots. My choice at this point is Topaz AI Clear – often my images are just a bit soft and this works wonders – and I can access it as a filter using Topaz Studio in PS on a layer – very easy and quick.

TOPAZ JPEG TO RAW AND TOPAZ GIGAPIXEL

Image of an Old Wooden Windmill in BelarusImage above is the final result after running this file through the various Topaz AI programs – it was from a very old IPhone and had a lot problems already. I do not believe there is an easy way to compare these two standalone packages from Topaz – they each do something that the other does not do, but there appears to be some overlap to me, like in sharpening or noise reduction. JPEG to RAW was specifically developed to take old phone (or current in some cases) and old digital camera jpg images and put them into a RAW format for better post-processing. (See my What Is Topaz’s New JPEG to RAW AI? blog.) I have always loved Topaz AI Gigapixel because it will take a really small image and enlarge it to something that looks pretty nice and detailed. (See my The Best New Software Around-Topaz A.I. Gigapixel! blog for more on it.) Below is a screen capture of how this image actually looked as the original windmill image, then after running running it through JPEG to RAW, then AI Clear adjustment in Topaz Studio, and finally AI Gigapixel (which is at half the zoom since it was doubled in size). This gives a pretty good idea of what is happening here and what basic order to use the software in. For a larger view in Flickr, click on image. The final image was finished up with some Topaz ReStyle effects (not an AI plugin but still one of my favorite Topaz plugins).
Screen Shot of all 3 Topaz AI products
Personally I believe that Topaz is setting the standard for implementing AI use in software and it has some of the big giants scrambling. It is amazing to me to see Photoshop trying to emulate some of Topaz’s software and that can be nothing but good for us Photoshop users. The AI technology seems to be breaking open right now and I can hardly wait to see what is coming next! Okay – I am done!!! Hope everyone has a great one!……Digital Lady Syd

Other Related Digital Lady Blogs:
What is Topaz AI ReMix????
Topaz ReMix – Update and Better Than Ever!
Updates, Updates, Updates! What To Do????
Some Topaz Studio Tips


HOW TO GET RID OF THOSE DARN FENCES IN ZOO SHOTS

Image of a Verreaux Eagle Owl at the Jacksonville Zoo
There’s the easy way and there’s the hard way to do this. And since I love taking images at zoos, I usually fall somewhere in between when post-processing those images with the ugly fence patterns in the foreground. So this blog hopefully will help with some of these issues.

I was so excited to get this beautiful Verreaux’s Eagle Owl image while at the Jacksonville Zoo with my Photo Club – BTW the Zoo is in the process of updating and it is looking fabulous! This guy was located in a very shady area hidden behind heavy black fencing (see images below) and definitely was very hard to see. This guy was so close, like 3 feet and he looked to be at least 2 1/2 feet tall, and yet I could not see his beautiful eyes or beak. It was a major surprise to see he had such colorful eyes and beak once downloaded on my computer! I love birds but the fencing here was so frustrating! (For more on the post-processing, see Image 1 at end of blog – check out how the Charcoal Filter was used for the background of this image.) The closer you can get to the fencing, the easier it was to remove the lines.

Tip 1: Use that Wide Aperture Setting to Remove the Foreground and Background Distractions

But I had done my homework this time and set up my camera to try and eliminate the fence lines. This short 2 minute video called Zoo Tip: Make the Cage Disappear by Tim Migot totally made the difference. The con to this technique is that you have to do this while at the Zoo.
For the above image, the camera was set to its widest aperture with auto focus on and zoomed in. By burst shooting, several shots were obtained that were pretty nice. The above was shot using a 18 to 200 mm zoom lens at 170mm, f/5.6, ISO 200, and -1 1/2 EV. Below is an example of how it looked when it did not work. The image on left does not really show the fencing but it is not sharp at all and one on the right is what the fencing looked like. The image used was in a second set of burst shots that gave much better results. It seems you just have to keep trying until the fence disappears.

Screen Capture of owl shots

Tip 2: To Fix Faint Fence Lines That May Show Up – Use a Darken Curves Adjustment Layer

Image of a Bonobo Monkey at the Jacksonville Zoo
This very striking Bonobo Monkey was sitting in a fairly high up crevice in the Kapok Tree, a new feature at the Jacksonville Zoo. This is a wonderful way for the whole family to view these fun-to-watch monkeys up close. The camera was set up with a telephoto 70-300 mm zoom lens and 300 mm was used to get the close up image. The aperture was set to F/8.0, I could have gone a little wider but this setting seemed to be working. The ISO was set to 400, which allows the shutter speed to increase for this difficult image. In this case the fence was fairly close to me, but the monkey was not. Unfortunately my Exposure Compensation was off a bit at -2 1/2 but it worked out fine – it just made the shot a little darker. In the screen capture below a fence shot is shown and then the used RAW file that did require some light clean up. (Click on images to see larger in Flickr.) See my Image 2 Post Processing Info on the other steps used and how the lighting effect was created.

Screen Capture of the Fencing and RAW file for Bonobo Monkey
If you look closely at the RAW file above (especially through the forehead and ear area), there are definite faint white lines still in the image. The fix? A Darken Curves Adjustment Layer set up so that the curve will overall darken down the image – mine is set up as an action with just one point set to Input 164 and Output 102. Then the layer mask was inverted to black by CTRL+I on the mask. Now with a soft 20-30% opacity round brush, painted over those light lines – set the size to roughly match the width of the lines. If it is too dark, go back into the Curves Adjustment itself and move the point up or down to match. I have used this trick over and over when light is not quite even on an image. And running the image through a sharpener like Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Studio’s AI Clear and for that matter Precision Detail which can help remove an overall soft effect that can result with the fence interference. In the Monkey image the light fence effect was left on the right background as I felt it added a nice soft texture effect to the image. This could have been removed using a Lighten Curves Adjustment Layer. To create a Lighten Curves Adjustment Layer, just set the point to Input 98 and Output 170 and fill the mask with black – paint back area to lighten – then adjust the point to match the surroundings.

Tip 3: Spot Healing/Patch Tools or Paint Out the Fence by Hand

The shooting technique does not work all the time. With the two images above the animal was pretty stationery and the fence fairly close, but when an animal is moving, it is hard to get a good focus on the subject. Doing everything that can be done to speed up the shutter speed, like setting the ISO higher, or turning off the Auto focus setting can help, but sometimes nothing works. If you really want the image, you need to take several shots of the moving animal so pieces can be patched into one if needed. Now you have to resort to removing the fence by hand and hoping you can clone over parts in different images you may have taken. This was done on the Amur Leopard image below. My main tools to start the process are using the Spot Healing Tool set to Content Aware and Sample All Layers, and the Patch Tool – mine is usually set to Patch Content-Aware, Structure 7, Color 5 and Sample All Layers checked. Adjust the Patch Tool settings if those do not work with your picture. After doing this, most of my time is spent using a small brush to sample and dab paint over areas that look rough – this is quite tedious and several different brushes is sometimes necessary. I do most of my spot removing, cloning and painting on individual layers and create a stamped layer (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) on top to finish up.

This may be obvious, but a major key point here is that, if you decided to use a texture to remove a very cluttered background especially, just remove the fence on the subject only. Then create a selection of your subject and place him on top of a different texture. Usually I place a white layer under the subject, then a texture and finally the subject so that blend modes and layer opacity changes can be used. That is what was done on this image.

Image of a Leopard at the Jacksonville Zoo
A lot of spot removing and painting to get rid of the fence and a separate image was flipped and copied over to get the jaw area to look correct. (In screen capture below the original RAW files with the main one used on the left and the copied jaw on the right.) It took several hours to get the image to this point, and I am not sure it is done. He was very agitated in his pen and was pacing and roaring all over the place – very hard to get a sharp image and his mouth really was open and big. Probably 20 pictures were taken (18-200 mm lens at 200 mm, F/5.6, ISO 640, and EV -1 1/2). This was really a difficult shot to get to look realistic while capturing the mood of the big cat. The background texture is one I painted in Corel Painter that had some complementary colors to the leopard. Just about everything was used on this image – Topaz Studio’s Precision Detail and Dehaze, Nik Viveza 2 to bring out the eyes, a Black and White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity blend mode, Lighten and Darken Curves Adjustment Layers, spotlight effect layers, Color Lookup Adjustment Layer, the Sharpen Tool and Selective Color Adjustment Layer, just to name some of them. His eyes were amazing in several of the images.

Screen Capture of leopard images
Another way to handle the fencing is to remove or paint over the subject and leave the fencing in place – it can possibly look like a fence behind the subject. The image below used this technique. The Monkey image has a similar but less obvious effect on the right side of the image.

Image of a Malaysian Tiger at the West Palm Beach Zoo in Florida
For more info on how the Tiger image was post-processed, check out a short Tidbits Blog I did a while back called The Break Out. It took a lot of time and effort to get this image – to paint out the fencing, one of my a painting brushes, which is based upon a hair brush and set to 35% brush opacity and 65% Flow, was used to sample and paint over the black lines – but it can be done. Topaz Impression was used to gave the Tiger a painterly look instead of hand-painting the whole image back in.

If you like to take images at the Zoo, I hope this blog gave you a couple tricks to try. These same tricks will work if shooting one of your kids baseball games through fencing. I had a great time exploring the Jacksonville Zoo again – the animals seemed ready for our Photo Club – and you will be seeing more of my images in the next few months. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Post Processing Info

Image 1: In Lightroom Serge Ramelli’s Safari Animal Vignette Cold Strong preset was used as starter (see my Showing Some of Serge Ramelli’s Effects blog to download them) and then tweaked the Basic, Detail, and HSL panels. In PS Topaz Studio’s AI Clear came to the rescue – used Remove Noise Auto and Sharpen High, Recover Details 0.10, and Exposure 0.21 – then set it to an opacity of 0.71 before applying. Next the Precision Detail Adjustment was added to just the Shadow areas. Last step used the HSL Adjustment to firm up the color in the eyebrows and beak – used a black mask and painted back those areas. I could not believe how good his eyes looked, just needed a little sharpening to pop them with an Exposure Adjustment Layer (see my The Eyes Have – How to Make Them Pop in an Image blog). This is pretty much my standard Topaz workflow for animals. In Photoshop Dodging and Burning was achieved with Lighten and Darken Curves Adjustment Layers. A little white spotlight effect on just his face using a layer set to Soft Light and white brush with low opacity, and that was it. To get that pretty background color, the Charcoal Filter was used on a stamped layer in Photoshop (had to convert the image to 8 bit before using) and set the Thickness to 4, Detail to 5, and Light/Dark Balance to 47 with foreground color a brownish color (2a2319) and background color greenish (1c2715) – this filter uses the Foreground and Background colors in the swatch. The layer was set to Exclusion blend mode at 78% opacity. Used regular soft round brush in mask painting over the Owl head and used the Sharpen Tool on eyes in mask.

Image 2: In Lightroom no preset was used – just adjusted the Basic Panel and the HSL Panel. This time the image was brought into PS as a Smart Object so the LR settings could be tweaked easily if needed in Adobe Camera Raw. Since this image had more problems than the owl above, I felt this might be needed. In PS The first thing done was to add a Darken Curves Adjustment Layer to paint out the light white fence lines where the fencing was not completely removed. A little clean up was done before a stamped layer was created for Topaz Studio. In Studio the AI Clear Adjustment set to its default settings and then Precision Detail Adjustment was used with Shadow Small Detail 0.22, Shadow Medium Detail 0.43, and Large Shadow Boost – painted in a mask of just the monkey so detail only goes on him – kept Edge Aware on and inverted the mask so the background is black and not affected by the detail. Back in Photoshop a Gradient Map was applied using a gray to brown to light blue preset from Blake Rudis (see his nice gradient presets in download from Advanced Color Toning Made Easy video – excellent video). A vignette was created. Then I decided that I needed a little more light on the image so a large Spotlight Effect was created on the Monkey – just washed it over the Monkey from the opening. A few other steps were done, but this describes the major steps.


WHAT IS TOPAZ’S NEW JPEG TO RAW AI?

Image of some pink daisiesI am with most of you – say what?????? I knew Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog for website link) was working on some new software for JPG’s but this one is a real surprise. I have been working with the stand alone program for a couple of weeks, but it has taken a while for its wonderful capabilities to sink into my head. So this is what is going on…..it is somewhat similar to AI Gigapixel which I totally love and AI Clear which I can’t live without. (See my The Best New Software Around – Topaz A.I. Gigapixel! blog.) JPEG to Raw AI (J2r) uses similar machine learning technology to recover lost detail in jpg files and convert them to a dng or tiff extension. This will open up the Raw Converter in Photoshop or gives better slider capabilities in Lightroom.

There is not a lot of info released on this software yet so their website seems to be the best resource to find out more info and where a trial version can be downloaded. Below is a rundown of what Topaz is saying about their product.

Why Use this Program?

  • Topaz states “There’s also enhanced dynamic ranges as shown by deeper shadows and enhanced highlights.” This is important and to me and is the best way to see results from applying the software. The program basically helps clean up jpg issues from smart phones, especially from some of the earlier versions, and older digital camera shots that just created jpg images.
  • J2r uses the ProPhoto RGB Color Space that Lightroom uses. Most jpg files contain the sRGB color space which has very limited color choices. With the ProPhoto color space there will be better saturation and vibrance without any visible artifacting in your image.
  • When an image is run through the program, it goes from 8-bit mode to 16-bit mode. This removes banding and converts the image from 72 dpi to 300 dpi, which usually results in a more normal sized file. I personally really like this. I hate opening up Image Size in PS to find out my image is at 72 bit resolution and 72 inches tall! Also, changing the resolution and downsizing in PS can be tricky.
  • Artifacts in some jpgs can ruin an image and can be accentuated by post-processing, especially when sharpening. Topaz says “This program will remove these artifacts while preserving natural image features.”

The image above is one of my recent phone shots taken at a local Lowe’s Garden Shop using an older Android phone. Below is a before close-up of the  original out-of-phone jpg on the left and the converted to a dng file on the right. It is a very subtle adjustment, but look carefully at the lower green leaves to see more detail in the shadow areas of the dng file and a little more definition in the bright areas of the lower right petals. Even the yellow centers seem a bit more defined. In PS Topaz Studio’s AI Clear Adjustment was applied (I use it on just about every image). The final post-processing for the image above used a clean up layer, a little fine line dodging and burning (see my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog using John Paul Caponigro’s technique), a Curves Adjustment Layer, and a painted in vignette.Comparison of JPG vs DNG

I have had a bit of a problem figuring out why some of my images improve when run through the program and some not so much. One of the engineers explained in their presentation:  “While it will remove noise/blur and recover some detail, you’ll see most of the benefits when you try to edit the photo. Viewing a well-exposed high-quality JPEG before and after running it through J2r may not show a huge difference, but your editing capacity for that same image will generally go up.” After working with the program quite a bit, I believe this is very true. Since I use PS more creatively, I may not notice color shifts or tone changes as readily as many photographers who are looking to improve many of their less desirable images. Below is another example of what this software will do – this time a Casio QV-2900UX, a 2.1 Megapixel camera with a 8X zoom creating only jpg images, was selected. I was pretty impressed with the results – the image on the right is the original jpg file, the middle is the image after running through AI Gigapixel, it is still a jpg file, and on the left is the dng file. It definitely has a lot more detail – I thought it was a little crunchy for my taste but then realized it was little flowers showing up. Who knew they were there? On the sky to mountain line, there was some fringing going on after AI Gigapixel was applied.
Comparison image of the three programsFor the final image below, the fringing was removed by just painting on a new layer over with a small sized Clone Stamp. There was no fringing anywhere else on the image. A gradient map was added with blue and cream tones set to Soft Light blend mode at 71% opacity, a spotlight effect on a few of bright areas of the telescope domes, and Topaz Studio’s AI Clear at default settings. Overall the image turned out really nice and so much better than when I first post processed it back in 2004. We’ve come a long way!Image of telescopes at Kitt Peak, Arizona

What is the Difference between AI Gigapixel, AI Clear and JPEG to RAW AI?

Here is a quote from Celeste during the software release of their new product and pretty much sums up what Topaz is doing here. “While each of these products uses Artificial Intelligence to improve the quality of your photos, there are a few distinct differences. Gigapixel uses AI to enlarge your photos while preserving detail for printing. AI Clear uses AI to reduce noise and sharpen. JPEG to RAW uses AI for a variety of different purposes – it does reduce noise and sharpen, yes, but it also helps to restore details lost in a compressed JPEG, enhances shadows and highlights that are lost in a JPEG file, prevents banding, and reduces blockiness. There are distinct disadvantages to a JPEG file, and the AI for JPEG to RAW was specifically trained to restore the things that were lost when the JPEG was compressed. While they all have their advantages, JPEG to RAW is going to be the best for improving your compressed JPEG file!”

*****

Below is a screen capture image using Snip It that is from the Old Faithful web cam in Yellowstone National Park on January 31st in the early morning- I had never seen bison in the cam camera before and it looked spectacular! There appears to another geyser erupting in the background and Old Faithful was spewing pretty steadily so there was a lot of mist in the air. The screen shot was run through JPEG to RAW first to create a dng file (_edit is added to the end of the file name so you know this program was used). A Tiff file should have been selected, but I was not sure what I was doing. Then I ran it through AI Gigapixel set to 4 times creating a Tiff – Gigapixel puts the _output suffix on the file name.

Bison grazing at Yellowstone National ParkI will tell you what else I did but it is not pertinent to the new program so skip this paragraph if not interested. Next PS was used to open the image and ACR opened up where some changes were made. No sharpening was done at this point. Then it was opened as a Smart Object in PS and cropped. Lucis Pro was used to sharpen the bison – black mask and just the bison painted back. I imagine I could have added the sharpening in ACR. A Color Look Up table was applied – one I created to just create a sketch effect. Now the real magic came with using Topaz Studio – AI Clear (set to defaults and Exposure -0.08, and Clarity 0.48). Next the Edges Adjustment was used – this can really sharpen up an image and worked great on the bison (Edge Tone Dark, Edge Strength 0.15, Suppress Weak Edges 0.21, Suppress Small Edge 0.02, Edge Thickness 0.16, and Edge Resolution 1.00).  Precision Detail Adjustment was added (Overall Small Detail 0.30, Overall Medium Detail 0.43, and Overall Large Detail 0.36-used a Gradient Mask set in middle of the image so sky was not affected, just the middle ground and foreground); and Impression Adjustment used the default settings (set Number of Strokes to High, Stroke Color Variation set to 0.25 and Spill 0.32). To recreate a better mist effect, on a separate layer a fog brush was used to fill in where the screen shot lacked mist and several Grut Cloud brushes (the best around by far) were used to enhance this soft effect.

Okay, here is the original so you can see what a difference this made – all three programs – J2r, AI Gigapixel, and Topaz Studio – helped create the above.Original image of Yellowstone

Bottom Line

This is definitely a program that you should try out. Be prepared to have a bit of a wait if processing a large jpg through the program. It is not as fast as Gigapixel. I do believe that I am seeing some changes, even though they may be subtle, and I know that Topaz will be adding capabilities to the programming so it will be even better in the future. (Don’t forget, if you buy it, all updates are free forever!) They are definitely the cutting edge leaders in AI technology for photography and they have not let us down yet. So I will be trying out more images with the program and plan to write more as I learn. In the meantime, try out the 30-day trial on some of your images and see what you think. And let the Topaz team know if there are having problems, they are always very interested in knowing about them. In the meantime hope everyone is thawing out after this horrible cold spell that came through the US. Have a good week!…..Digital Lady Syd


SHOWING SOME OF SERGE RAMELLI’S EFFECTS

Image of an African Elephant at the Jacksonville ZooThis week I watched a few videos by the Lightroom guru Serge Ramelli. Thought I would show a few things I have learned from his techniques in the last few weeks. I have found that if you follow a few of his videos, you get the main idea of how he gets the results that are definitely a signature effect for his style. I like it, but not sure it fits all my photos. This blog will show a few things I have learned from him.

He went on a safari recently and created some interesting Lightroom/Adobe Camera Raw presets so I decided to try them out. The above African Elephant image was taken at the Jacksonville Zoo and seemed like a perfect subject for my first attempt.

To download the free presets, need to go to one of his U-Tube videos where he has a link to them – How to Edit Amazing Landscape Photos with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop or How to Remove Fence Lines: Simple Camera Trick. You must sign up for his site to get them. I do not feel these are Serge’s best videos, but I appreciate the fact that he has given us some interesting presets to try out. There are 10 presets with the download, and the one used above is called Warm Dramatic Light – it seems to be his favorite. Two Radial Filters were used to brighten up the elephant face a little light reflection on the foreground rock. Two Graduated Filters were used one on the bottom and one on right side. For the rest of the workflow, the image was brought into Photoshop (the latest PS update this week fixed the problem with opening PS from Lightroom to edit an image). I believe if one thing has changed my recent workflow from the holidays, it is Topaz (for website link, see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Studio’s AI Clear. I am now using it on every image as my first step in PS. In this image the Clarity slider was also set to 44. A Dehaze Adjustment was also added and set to 41. Back in PS an Exposure Adjustment Layer was used on the eye and a 50% Gray layer was used to Dodge and Burn on the elephant.

Another trick I learned this week was from Jesus Ramirez, definitely a PS guru, in his Color Matching in Photoshop Fast and Easy – 90 Second Tip #05 (Phew!). This is the coolest tip which uses the Curves Adjustment Layer – check out his video as it is really short and to the point. (I may do a blog on this as it really is a good technique to have in your arsenal of PS effects.) The last steps were just a little clean up in the image. Between the nice Safari preset of Serge and the Curves Adjustment Layer of Jesus, the image has a natural African safari feel to it.

*****

B&W image of Laupahoehoe Harbor on the Big Island in HawaiiThis image was created by following several videos in a class at Kelby One by Serge called Lightroom Classic Techniques for Creating Black and White Images. I felt like Serge did an excellent job on discussing this process and gave some really nice presets with the course. I have not taken any of his individual classes he sells, but for the $9 sale price, it is probably a good buy if you want to learn his black and white technique. This image used a B&W preset created in the class but he does have some that are in his free Welcome Kit (28 presets and lots of other goodies) offered at his site. One thing I did learn is when to use a black & white treatment. He says “Boring colors mean go black and white.” In Photoshop Topaz Studio’s AI Clear was applied. The image was cropped and a few spots cleaned up. A slight vignette was created using Matt Kloskowski’s technique – see my How to Create a Subtle Vignette blog. That was it – not even a Curves Adjustment Layer was needed for contrast.

*****

Image of a carved wooden post in the countryside of BelarusThis image was taken on a country road in Belarus and of course it did not have any snow. This image used Serge’s preset called Zoo Hollywood (in a free set of 6 that can be downloaded with his video called How to Turn Your Zoo Photos into Fine Art with Lightroom). In PS, Topaz Studio was opened and AI Clear applied, then Topaz Impression using the Type 03 brush. Next the Edge Adjustment was added to give some interesting edges to the cornfield. Back in PS Serge’s Snow brushes were applied – these are probably the best atmospheric snow brushes I have used – 10 of them in the set. Check out his video called How To Create Snow in Photoshop CC to download them. His video shows a few tricks to make them look good. I just had fun applying them. Nik Viveza 2 was used to even out the colors and that was about it.

Hope you get a chance to try out Serge’s presets and brushes – they are really nice. He takes a bit of a different approach to his images for processing and the presets show this. Enjoy your week!…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO TURN A NIGHTTIME DISASTER PHOTO INTO A KEEPER

Image of San Francisco, California, at nightHope everyone is having a great start to the New Year! It seems like there are some wonderful new Photoshop techniques being presented almost daily. What I am going to show this week is one that totally blew me away since my camera does have a lot of noise when I shoot over ISO 1000 especially. It is an older model Nikon that I can’t seem to part with and I have a ton of nighttime images that just do not look great due to the older sensor. So if you are like me, or have some images you shot before before getting a better camera, this technique may really help to salvage a few of your favorite images from the past.

It all started when I read an article by Serge Ramelli, the Adobe Lightroom guru, in Kelby One’s November Lightroom Magazine called Nighttime Photography Workflow. Yes, Kelby One (the old NAPP site) still puts out their Photoshop and Lightroom magazines just like when they used to be on the newsstand years ago. If you are a member, they are published digitally almost monthly. Below is the RAW image for the above image of San Francisco at night. I really liked the bridge lit up and the tall building on the right with the lights on, but the car and blinding lights and colors were awful! The only thing good about it was fairly sharp. What I learned from Serge’s article is that there are a few tricks to getting those night photos to pop and that you do not have to stick to the original color scheme – I really liked the cool night tones that ended up in my final image. Therefore you will see most of my images are now turned towards the cooler bluish-pink tones which I think looks much better than the ugly yellow-orange original colors. I might add that Serge has lots of very good Lightroom programs and some great tips on photographing.

Just to help everyone out, the preset has been added to my DeviantArt site so you can download it with the settings described below – zipped file is called SJ Nighttime Settings.

Original RAW photo of top image in blog
This is what was done with to the above image to get the final top image look – these are my settings so feel free to change if you like different ones. The preset (linked above for download) uses my settings shown below:

1. First I set the Profile in Lightroom (could use ACR for these same steps) to Vintage 07 with the Amount slider set to 78%. Always check through these profiles provided by Adobe (or any you may have acquired recently). This profile seems work with most of my night images.

2. Crop and straighten image. In the above the parked car roof had to be removed.

3. In the Basics Panel try making some of these adjustments – use any order you think works best on the image:

– Open the shadows up but not so much since it is a night image – in my case +63 was used. If image a lot darker than the above, use a smaller amount.

– Boost up the whites – this makes the lights in the image really pop if they do not already stand out as mine did above so it was set to 0.

– Blacks – set to reveal more of the sky but try not to add more noise. Mine was set to -7 which really did help.

– Highlights – I set mine back to -100, but in a dark image, this may too much.

– Temperature – I set mine towards blue or -80

– Clarity – really makes it pop – a +35 was used on this image.

– Vibrance – used a +24 here.

– Saturation – used more of this +33.

– Tint – +22 to give it a little of a magenta feel.

– Exposure and Contrast – these were adjusted as a last step. Only the Exposure was decreased to -98 for this image and preset.

4. Here is the tip that gives the image the depth it needs – add a Radial Filter over the midground subject – in this case the bridge area. Invert should be checked so only the inside of the filter is changed. Now slightly boost the Exposure to something like +1.47, which was used here along with Temp of 35, Tint of 35, Clarity of 41 and Whites 22 (since it really popped the lights of the bridge). Again, re-adjust these for the image being used. For this image, the Range Mask set to Luminance was used and the Range set to 95/100 so only the really light areas inside the circle were affected – that is why the lights look so vivid. If you cannot see what is happening, check Show Luminance Mask and watch as you move the sliders. Note: if you make a preset for these settings, be sure to turn off the Luminance Range Mask settings which is not needed for all image, and it will not looks right when you try to adjust the other sliders in the Radial Filter. For the preset the Radial Filter circle was left on the image with the above settings.

5. Last step involves using the Details panel and adjusting the Noise Reduction – in this case Luminance was 28 which is quite a bit and Contrast to 23. Then the Sharpening was set to 85. This is definitely a setting that you need to set yourself depending on your camera model and how much of a noise problem there is.

6. I made a preset (download shown above) with my settings so that I could reuse them on another image (with Luminance Range Mask off). Also, now that I was at a point where the image could be opened in Photoshop, it was opened sent over as a Smart Object (right click and select Edit In -> Open as Smart Object in Photoshop). This will open up ACR only if using RAW files. If needed, you can go back and adjust your settings in PS without going back to LR.

The following steps will vary depending on what will work with your image. For the one above, this is the workflow but the image below used totally different steps to remove noise and finish up the image.

7. In Photoshop the next thing done was try to sharpen and remove noise a little more by going into creating a duplicate layer and going into Topaz (for website see sidebar on my Tidbits Blog) Studio.  Their AI Clear adjustment was selected and these settings were applied:  Auto Noise Reduction and High Sharpening. The Precision Contrast Adjustment was added in Studio also and these settings were used: Micro, Low and Medium Contrast set to 0.30 and High set to -0.30. The last Adjustment selected was Dehaze set to a Strength of 0.52. Apparently their Dehaze filter is much superior to the one in Lightroom or ACR. I also find it is pretty good so I apply it using this filter.

8. Finished up with a Tone Curve to darken down the image to add contrast.

A couple things that can be also done to enhance these images. If another Radial Circle needs to be added to fix an image, go ahead and try it. To duplicate the one already in the preset, just right click it and select duplicate – then drag to the new location. If new settings need to be used, just click the New button. Also, add a Gradiant Filter or two if the foreground or background needs to be darkened some. And for the really hard to adjust area, just brush the settings in. Lightroom and Camera Raw are so flexible.

Below is another example of an image that was really bright yellow and did not look good at all.

Image of the Firehouse on Main Street at Disney WorldThis image followed pretty much the same steps as above – used the preset I created for the first image and just adjusted for this one. The Radial Filter had to be adjusted and the Luminance Range Mask set for this image. But this time in Photoshop, did a couple different things. Used Imagenomics Noiseware‘s default to remove more noise – it worked wonders! I always try different ways as sometimes one will not work but another will. This is not a new filter, but it is one of the best out there. The Fireworks was from Design Textures but it is pretty easy to create your own (see one of my older blogs called Faking Fireworks!). at A little clean up was done and the last step was to open up Topaz ReStyle and applied the City Lights II preset. A few sliders were adjusted in the plugin to tweek the colors. That is all that was done and the image now has a very Disney look. Below is the original image and another example of how Topaz ReStyle can change an image’s look, even a night one. This time the Royal Blue and Apricots preset was applied to give a much more Disney feel to it, but not what I would do to most of my nighttime images.

Original of the Disney Main Street image Alternate image of the Firehouse on Main Street USA-Magic Kingdom
Technique may or may not work on every image, and the image needs to be really sharp to get good results. I have a few images where the noise just could not be removed, but most work pretty well with this preset and a few tricks in Photoshop.

Hope everyone will give this a try – it really surprised me how good some of my image could be. Hope everyone has a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd


AND THE AWARD GOES TO…..

Image header for blogSince it is that time of year when everyone is evaluating their images from the past year, I have decided that instead of doing my top pix, I am going to create some special award categories for my photography. I am finding this is really tough to look at your images and think about them objectively.

Best Humorous Image of the Year

Image of a Tri-Colored Heron using a Scribble EffectMany choices for this category but they all either were bird images or Christmas images. Still love the effect the Scribble Action created on this guy so he won the Category – for original blog see my Updates, Updates, Updates! What to Do???? blog.

Best Creative Use of a Plugin

Digital Art Image of a Horse and Rider with Fiery BackgroundThis year in my opinion, the best new Plug-In was Topaz Studio’s AI ReMix – something totally different to use to bring a whole different look to your images. This image is my favorite example of the ReMix look so it was chosen as my favorite for this category. For the matching blog on this image, check out my Dodging the Fire blog.

Best Digital Painting of the Year

Digitally Painted image of DandelionsDid not do as much painting this year – this is on my resolution list for next year to do more painting. I did like how these unusual dandelions turned out. Here is blog which contains a little more info: Blowing in the Wind.

Best Animal Picture of the Year

Painted image of a foxI had several animal images and it was hard to figure out which I liked best, but this painted fox was one of my favorites. He appeared in my Introducing the Beautiful Fox blog that contains a little more info.

Best Drawing Image of the Year

Drawn image of a Young LadyThis was my first attempt at drawing a face and I totally enjoyed doing it. I learned the technique from David Belliveau at Paintable.com – for more info on this fun workflow, check out my short blog at Where to Find a Good Photoshop Painter.

Best Landscape of the Year

Image of hotels in OahuSort of a strange landscapes where special effects were applied, but it looks pretty cool I think. For more info on this image, check out my blog at Oahu Landscape.

Best Macro of the Year

Image of painted Pink CarnationsThis year I did not shoot as many macros as I usually do, but this one turned out very nice. It was painted using Corel Painter. A short blog called Pink Carnation was created showing more info.

Best Black and White Image

Image of a girl playing an ErhuThis image had been post processed in color previously, so it really surprised me how nice it looked as a black and white image. For more info, check out my Girl Playing Erhu blog.

Best Floral Image

Image of some colorful Queen Emma bloomsOne of my favorite flower images this year just because I loved the way the color came out. For more info on how this was done, check out my Colorful Queen Emma Lily blog.

Best in Creative Category

Image of my Fantasy MapThis may not have been the most striking image, but I like that a lot of my favorite people are on this map and sort of represents me and my taste as an artist and Photoshop nut. It was a lot of fun to do and definitely was creative. For more on how to create a fantasy map of your own, check the original blog called My Personal Fantasy Map.

Best Image Created using a New Technique

Image of Parliament in LondonThis image represents a pretty cool technique used to get rid of camera shake (not the PS filter) and create a really sharp image from Deke McClelland. For links to the video on this, check out my Parliament blog.

Best Use of Texture

Image of a Rainbow LorikeetThis image I was particularly proud of since I created several textures to use in it. For more info on this, check out my Adding Textures to Wildlife Photos blog.

Best Use of Color

Image at The Land, Epcot, Disney WorldThis image is one of my favorites since it is so bright and cheery with a very strong color palette. For more info on how this image was post processed, check out my blog called Three Views of Air Balloons at Epcot’s The Land Pavilion.

Most Dramatic Image

Image of a Church in BelarusThis beautiful Church in Belarus has a nice dramatic night effect applied to it. Check out my First Snow of the Season blog for more info.

GRAND AWARD WINNER FOR 2018

Drawn image of a wolfI decided this was my Grand Award Winner because it represents the various things I have been working on in many of my  images. Mainly, I have been trying to learn to draw (and Aaron Blaise is the master that taught me how to do this), textures, and lighting effects. Check out my Learning to Draw a Wolf! blog for more info. Hopefully during the next few years I will be able to draw more animals and apply more of what I have learned to date.

Hope you enjoyed my photos and my theme for this blog. It is very hard to decide what is your best work, but it does make you really think about what you have done and where you are going with your art. Happy New Year to everyone!…..Digital Lady Syd


A SHORT CHAT ABOUT PHOTOSHOP CC2019

Image of a Santa Claus Christmas Ornament
A little late on this post – but then writing about Photoshop is never late to me. As usual whenever Photoshop updates to a newer version, I have mixed feelings. It seems to take me a while to get organized and this was the case with Photoshop CC2019. I have watched several recent posts by some of my favorite Photoshop gurus, Julieanne Kost, Colin Smith, and Scott Kelby, and here are a few things I discovered about this new update:

  • First I got totally confused with the old Edit -> Fill command (for me it used to mean Content Aware Fill) and the new Edit -> Content-Aware Fill command. After playing around with it, it does seem to have much better results than the old “Fill” command and it is much easier to see what is changing right in the new panel. One thing I learned is that if you do not use the Lasso Tool but instead the Magic Wand or Quick Selection Tool, there can be discernible lines where the selection edge was. To fix this, just go into the Select -> Modify -> Expand Selection and set it to 2 pixels before going into the new command. Lines disappear or edges are much smoother.
  • On the Toolbar the tools can be pulled apart and added in by clicking on the three dots near bottom of the Toolbar (under the Zoom Tool) and then dragging the tools apart. I set both the Rectangle Marque Tool and Elliptical Marquee Tool up on my toolbar. Also put the Patch Tool under the Spot Healing Brush (which still contains all the other tools). I added the new Frame Tool onto the Toolbar but not sure it is that useful.
  • There is now a Windows -> New Guide Layout panel (versus the old New Guide panel) where the number of columns (or rows) and a Gutter amount between them can be set up. This is handy to blend two different images together using the Gradient Tool in a mask and placing the gradient between the two line in the gutter area to create a nice smooth transition.
  • Here is something you may have not noticed – when adding an object/texture/image whatever into the main document and a Group is highlighted showing layers, the object layer will go into the group and not above the group. Just close the group before adding the new material to add above.
  • Did you know that if a part of a filter name like Gaus for Gaussian Blur is added in the search field (on the Options Bar on the right side), it will bring up the dialog box without going through all the steps to get there?
  • To me this is a biggie! Regarding those darn layer styles that sometimes just do not look right when applied. Here is one thing that is going on. If applying a style to a group, PS treats all the layers in the group as if they are flattened before applying the layer style to the group as a whole. Same thing with blend modes. So if you start to get some really strange results when applying a lot of different layers styles in image, check out the group and layers underneath to see if this issue is happening. Hope to blog on this later as I want to experiment with this.
  • I personally, and apparently many other people, have been having problems taking an image from Lightroom Classic into Photoshop when PS is not already open – most of the program is grayed out. The work-around is to first open PS before bringing the LR image into the program. Very annoying but it does work.
  • If you are like me and use the File -> Info panel, the Photoshop History field is stuck and you cannot scroll within it. This information is set in the Preferences -> History Log – I always keep mine set to Save Log Items to: Metadata and Edit Log Items: Detailed. It come in handy when you forget what you did not an image. The good news is that the information is contained in Adobe Bridge under the Metadata tab, Edit History section and it works.

I am sure there are lots of other new ways to do things with this update. I just have not had time to find them all. I hope this helped you out a little with some of the things going on.

So how did I get Santa to twist like this? Well once again it is a filter in Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website) Studio called the Motion Blurs Adjustment – set to Type Swirl, placed marker on nose, and Angle to 0.06 (just a little is enough). Then added the Smudge Adjustment set to Strength of 0.13, Extent 0.49 and Sharpness 0.61 and painted it in a mask just on the Santa and letters to get an illustrative feel to the ornament. Then went back into PS.

Hope everyone is having a great holiday – Enjoy!…..Digital Lady Syd


SOME TOPAZ STUDIO TIPS

Image of statues at Westminster Abbey, London, EnglandThis week I decided to share a few tips and tricks I have learned about the Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) software since they have had a bunch of absolutely fabulous Webinars in the past few weeks. I have learned so much about so many of the filters and thought I would pass along some of the new things I learned. Believe me, this just scratches the surface of what is shown in the the webinars, so do check them out. The statues above (I do not know who they represent) are from the front of Westminster Abbey and Topaz Studio’s AI ReMix was used to get the interesting color effects. (See end of blog for more Image 1 details if you are interested.)

  • Many of the Topaz experts are going into Studio, running IA Clear, then go into Topaz Adjust plugin from inside the interface – Joel Wolfson calls it the magic exposure balancer. This is a really fantastic effect. Reset the filter by clicking the button on the bottom right. The Adaptive Exposure slider adjusts exposure without losing the shadows and highlights. Set the Adaptive Exposure slider to the right with the Regions, which breaks down the image into sections to apply the correct amount of Adaptive Exposure to it, set to 0. Once the Adaptive Exposure looks pretty good, move the Regions slider to the right to get the perfect look. Keep the two settings fairly close to each other. If the Regions is set to 1, it just applies the effect the same to the whole image. To get the best results, keep the numbers pretty close together. Some people like to use the Color Section which works very similarly. The Adaptive Saturation and Color Regions work together the same way. Also, the same Adaptive Exposure and Regions sliders are also in Black & White Effects also.

TOPAZ STUDIO

It always amazes me what I don’t know about certain programs even though I think I understand them very well. I watched several Webinars from Topaz this week and found out a few little gems I will share. These are things that are really simple but major important! Note that Topaz Studio will not open PSD files from Lightroom or ACR, but will take native camera Raw files, TIFF, PNG and JPG. Below are a few things that had always confused me until recently.

  • When you Apply adjustments to an image, it is the same as creating a flattened composite layer in Photoshop which contains all the previous effects and masks. A new iteration shows up in the row at the bottom of the interface with the blue line around the one just created.
  • What to do when you want to keep both iterations of an image, like one in color and one in black and white. Need to save one that will be stacked with the Lightroom images, but the second one must be Saved As (or it will overwrite the one you just did) – Studio will ask where you want to have it saved. Therefore, both iterations will be retained. If used as a plugin from PS, I am not sure how to do this.
  • If you want to retain all the masks and layers in an image, save the image as a .tsp extension – this is a Topaz unique file extension and can be reopened in the Topaz products. It is helpful if you forgot how you did something for a special effect. I use it a lot – just keep it in the file along with the other image files.
  • Did you know that if you click the little plus (+) sign at the bottom of an adjustment to add additional adjustments, it is actually acting like a clipping mask in Photoshop and filters added only affect the one it is attached to. I always wondered about this.

Image of seven turtles talking on a pondJust AI Clear was used on this image above but not much else. For more post-processing info, check Image 2 below.

AI Clear Adjustment

  • It is important that after the settings are selected, the Adjustment needs to be applied or else it will continue to try and reapply the settings every time you make more changes to the image. This had been driving me crazy – love the adjustment but could not get it to stop running. Well, to me that is a huge tip! (Thank you John Barclay!)
  • Important to remember that if using AI Clear, be sure not sharpen first in Lightroom or ACR – it can mess up the results.
  • The Recover Detail slider keeps noise reduced but is working to bring back some of the detail that is lost in the image from the noise reduction. The higher you set this slider, the more blending that occurs. Set to 1.00 is like setting your opacity to 30%. I find that sometimes this works and sometimes not. Same with the Exposure and Clarity sliders – not always helpful.

Image of a digitally painted jaquarThis image is an example of a more abstract effect you can get with the AI ReMix Adjustment. For actual post-processing info, check out Image 3 at end of the blog.

AI ReMix Adjustment

  • Remember changing the blend modes and opacity can do wonderful things to your image. And try adding the filter using a different Style to get different results.
  • Note it is much quicker to set the Style Strength to Low to decide which one you want to use, then switch to the higher resolutions Med or High amounts.

I feel like I have been writing a lot about the Topaz products – it seems they do have the best creative effects and I use them a lot. I will attempt to show you results of some other plug-ins next time. Have a good shopping week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Post-Processing Steps:

Image 1: First in Lightroom the image was cropped and the Transform panel was opened where the Guided lines were added to straighten the image up and make it look more like it at your eye level. This is a really cool tool to use for this. In Basic panel just some changed to Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks. Then from LR, took the image into Topaz Studio where the AI Clear Adjustment was immediately selected and set to Auto Noise and High Sharpen – It was immediately Applied as a new “layer” in the bottom tray (now has a blue line around it). Made sure AI Clear was not still open – if it is close it so it does not keep running. Now selected AI ReMix (set to 0.49 opacity and Color Burn blend mode) and the first Style called A Neon Style at Low Style Strength; Brightness 0.53, Contrast 1.22, Sat 0.77, Hue 0, Smooth Edge 0.17, Sharpness 0.83, Suppress Artifacts 0.49 – Layer mask created using the brush and just selecting the figures. Then HSL Color Tuning Adjustment: Color – Red Sat -0.54 and Lightness -0.25; Orange Sat 0.12 and Lightness 0.28; Green Sat -1.00 and Lightness 0.38; and Aqua Hue -0.86 and Lightness 0.36. Then it was sent back to Lightroom as a stacked Tiff. Next took the image into Photoshop with the Lightroom Changes selected. This is where I tweaked it and made the image very dark with spotlight lighting. Duplicated the layer twice – set one to Multiply blend mode at 59% and top one to Hard Mix at 66% opacity and 9% Fill. This gave the really dark but sharp image. On a couple New Layers painted some color on the faces to lighten them up a bit but kept the layer opacity very low, around 20-30%. Then added a Spotlight Layer using a low flow white brush to direct the eye to the faces. That was basically all that was done – a lot of adjusting the layers in PS had to be done to get the correct color effect, but it was AI ReMix that gave the beautiful colors in the image.

Image 2: Most of the work occurred in Lightroom. Cropping and Basic panel changes occurred. The color of the image was not touched. The background layer was duplicated and Topaz Studio was opened. The AI Clear Adjustment was opened set to Auto for Noise Reduction and High for Sharpening. Back in Photoshop a little spotlight effect was put on the turtle shells and set to Overlay blend mode at 71% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added and that was it.

Image 3: This funny Jaguar was busy checking out his house I think. I do not believe much was done with this image. Mainly followed the steps in Greg Rostami’s A.I. Magic with ReMix and Clear Webinar – just used similar settings from his dog image and created a preset to use the settings over – check out my SJ AI ReMix painterly Effect in the public list. After Studio was applied, went back to Photoshop. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added and the blue color and the color around her body was darkened (used a dark Curves Adjustment layer with a black layer mask – just painted in where it should be darkened). A little spotlight effect on the white area of the neck and Matt K’s vignette was created to finish up. That was it. I left the colors really strong and I think they are gorgeous


UPDATES, UPDATES, UPDATES! WHAT TO DO????

Image of a Tri-colored Heron using the Scribble Artist PS ActionIt has been a busy week since all the major software and plugin companies have recently updated and there is a bunch of new information to learn. I have been spending several hours sorting through all this. Unfortunately Black Friday and Cyber Monday is right around the corner so I have not had a complete chance to figure out all the new things. I will give you a quick view of what I like about each which may help you to sort out what to do. I will try to post a couple short videos after I complete some images to share what looks good from below. Note: All the links for the first five programs below can be found at my Tidbits Blog sidebar. So here I go – these are not in any special order, I love all the ones I am presenting and use them each differently:

Topaz Studio: Topaz Studio I totally love. Studio is fine – it seems very stable and I have had no problems using it so I do not believe anyone should have a fear about upgrading to this software. I usually use Topaz Studio and Labs as a PS plugin. I often just pop into Topaz ReStyle using just Topaz Labs. But I do love how quick I can get into Impression with Studio, and now with their newest adjustment, AI Clear (works wonders on slightly soft images), the Studio interface is much more appealing for me. I really love AI ReMix – the more I am learning, the better I like it. (See my What is Topaz AI ReMix???? and Topaz ReMix – Update and Better Than Ever! blogs.) If you are a creative, need to check out the Topaz Webinars. They contain a lot a information on how to use their filters and I find them major helpful.

Topaz AI Gigapixel: My favorite is the new software by Topaz called AI Gigapixel. I was totally blown away by it and you should check it out if you like to change the sizes, both up and down, of your images while still keeping the image quality. A real winner here. (See my The Best New Software Around – Topaz A.I. Gigapixel! blog.)

Skylum Aurora HDR 2019: Nothing better for HDR – period! I don’t always do HDR a lot, but this software is very special – most of the HDR effects can be loaded using just one image – no need to take 5 or more images. And for me, it really sharpens up a soft image, which is important to me. Also, the interface is now pretty much the same whether using Windows or Apple, so that is really good for us Windows users! Trey Ratcliff is the major contributor to this software and I believe it is one reason it is so good – his work is fabulous! His favorite filter is Image Radiance and he uses it on most of his images – it is a nice effect. I did a recent blog on this software which goes into all the great things it does (see my What About Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019?).

Skylum Luminar Update: I guess there is no better software that has come on the scene recently – I personally believe that is because they created software for Windows users now. A recent update came out with a rather fabulous filter that makes the whole program a game-changer for landscapes – it is called their AI Sky Enhancer filter. It is just one little Amount slider but it does incredible things to a sky. Skylum says it adds details using 100,000 images to define the sky, uses segmentation to do this, and removes noise and halos. Used in conjunction with their earlier Accent AI Filter, that may be all an image needs to pop it. I am loving these two filters. Of course I still love the Sunrays filter – no one else has anything even close to this. And the Golden Hour filter gives a beautiful look on some images. It also has that same wonderful Image Radiance filter – it does magic to a landscape image. (See my MacPhun (now Skylum) Luminar 2018 Sun Rays at a Glance blog and video.)

On1 Photo Raw 2019: There is so much to say on this one. A huge update IMHO. Much bigger than the Photoshop update. I am so happy to see how good this software is becoming. One major advantage is that you own the software. Each update is bringing it much closer in line with PS but it still has a ways to go. It loads your images so much faster than Lightroom that it is amazing. I really like that. As a PS plugin (and stand alone program), it can switch between the four modules just by clicking on Develop, Effects, Portraits (brought back and and seems better than ever – I have to check this one out), and Local tabs very quickly – all it is lacking is the Layers capability as a plugin. And they now support Layers! In the stand-alone version, the files can be saved as, get this, layered PSD files saving their masks and layers for use in PS – kind of like a smart object in PS. So you can do your initial changes in On1 Photo Raw and then finish up in PS. I think this is really impressive. I also like their new Color Enhancer panel – it is like the PS Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer on steroids with a Color Range section added to really tweak a color. They also added a new Film Grain filter and a Curves filter (very similar to PS). On1 is another company that has wonderful videos and tutorials on their website for getting up-to-speed. Biggest issue for me is that it has a fairly large learning curve, but once you figure it out, it is very good. Oh yes, you can also use your other plugins already owned with Photo Raw.

Lucis Pro 6: This software has been re-introduced to the public but with no changes that I can see. Still is it a really nice effect and fairly inexpensive. Check out my blog and short video at Lucis Pro is Back!!!!! for more information.

DXO, Google, Nik Collection: As far as I can tell, this 7 program software has not been updated from the early version, only updated to work with newer operating systems. I am not having any problems with mine, so I am not messing with the upgrade. I use Viveza 2 on almost every image – still in my mind, it is the best plugin ever made. It does compete with the Camera Raw filter, but I find it easier to use and creates better results. (See my Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem! blog.) And of course Color Efex Pro is still a wonderful program. In fact all their programs are first rate and still work fine, maybe better, than most new plugins. If you have it, continue using it. Otherwise it can be bought at the DXO Website.

Photoshop CC2019: Figure you actually do the monthly update thing or you do not. It took me forever to set up the program as I had it – always does when PS does a major update, but it seems to be major solid now. Did have one crash when I ran the large action used on the above but that it is. I love the new Edit -> Content-Aware Fill, but found the name major confusing since Edit -> Fill has always been content-aware fill to me. Also love being able to use Math in the fields like *2 to double the size of an image. I think what you like is based upon how you use PS. Anyway, it is still the industry standard so it is hard not to keep it updated. I will add I do keep CS6 on my computer and often use it for painting and to use the now defunct, but very useful, Variations adjustment.

So now, to save a bit of money this week, my image is of a tri-colored heron above created using a free Adobe Action from Adobe Create Magazine. This was really fun to make but I did have to watch all the short videos to understand how it all works. Your image has to be set up correctly to get the action to run properly. The action takes several minutes to complete, but when done, there are lots of layers that can be adjusted to give some great looks. The cute font is called Flamingo Shaddow. It was a lot of fun to do while taking a quick break from all this software/plugin craziness.

Hope everyone checks out the trials on all these programs and good luck with the sales!…..Digital Lady Syd


WHAT’S NEW IN THE PHOTOSHOP PLUGIN WORLD

Image of Edinburgh, Scotland, cityscape

This has been a major busy week for us Photoshop people so I thought I would pop in with what’s new. The above image was post-processed with the new Aurora HDR update using 5 layers including one that totally softened down the clouds. This program is turning out to be a favorite of mine, especially when wanting a really nice sharp look.

Adobe Camera Raw/Lightroom Updates

Apparently the biggest news is that Adobe added the ability to sync your presets and profiles with Lightroom Mobile on your phone and tablet. In LR Classic the Preset Rollover feature can now be turned off and the Profiles feature can be stopped by just holding down the ALT key while selecting and no previews will be seen. To me the best feature is that any preset folder can be turned off by right clicking the plus sign on the Preset column and select “Manage Presets.” Then uncheck the ones you do not want to see and click save. This seems major handy to me. It can also be done to the Profiles by right clicking on any profile group – then uncheck ones not needed and save. There are a couple other features for stacking images and adding label colors for folders. Check out Scott Kelby’s Lightroom Classic 7.4 Update blog on Lightroom Killer Tips for more information.

Skylum’s Aurora HDR 1.2.0 Update

I really love both the Luminar and Aurora HDR programs that Skylum owns, but lets face it, we Windows people still are not quite caught up with the Mac versions. (For website links, check out the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog.) Aurora now supports batch processing – it seems all the plug-ins are rushing to get this added to their programs. Other updates includes a new White Balance/Eyedropper Tool, layers can be renamed, and quick previews are enhanced. Aurora seems not near as finicky – the brushes work smoother in both the layer masking area and the Darken & Brighten filter. That was one area that needed improvement. For more update info, check out this page called Aurora Is Better Than Ever.

On1 Photo Raw 2018.5

On1, not to be outdone by Lightroom, did a huge release this week and it appears to be really good! This program is starting to grow on me. When I first got the new On1 plug-in several years ago, it ran my computer hard and I did not like that. Now this is not a  problem and it is lightening fast when adding files into its Browse module. One of the areas that I am totally loving is they have added lots of new LUTs (lookup tables) that can now be hovered over to see the effect. You can now right click and choose Create Version which is the same as a Virtual Copy in LR – love that! There are so many things that it is best to just check out the website to find them – I am still digging through it all. (For website link, check out the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog.) I will blog on its new features soon after I have had a chance to try them all out.

Image of some pink azaleasThese beautiful pink azaleas were growing in my yard a while back. What a perfect color of pink! Most of the post-processing was done in the new stand alone version of On1 Photo Raw 2018.5, but a little more was done in PS. The Effects module’s LUTs filter was applied with the Color Pop category and Honkey Tonk LUT. Just loved the result. Also used my favorite Dynamic Contrast and Sharpening filters at their default settings.

Topaz Studio AI Clear

I love Topaz and this is their newest filter released this week. (For website link, check out the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog.) It detects and removes noise in an image while sharpening the details at the same time. They say the filter “uses the insight of a custom neural network trained on millions of images to detect and reduces noise as well as enhances details in your images automatically.” When I tried it out, it did a pretty good job on my images. But it seems to overlap with their really good Noise Reduction and Detail/Clarity filters – I need to work with it more to understand how to use it properly. In the Disney Tomorrowland  image below, one of my new favorite filters, AI ReMix, was applied and then Topaz Adjust was added on top. Topaz recently added several new presets to the filter which gives a lot more choices for making images more interesting. There are so many ways to use Studio that is it a bit mind-boggling.

Image of Tomorrowland Sign at The Magic Kingdom

Google (Nik) Collection

Last, but not least, DxO recently bought the Nik Collection from Google. They have now updated the collection to run with all the operating systems. I do not believe any new filters have been added to the group, but now it is functioning properly for everyone. If you have had problems with the original aging plug-ins, I would definitely recommend updating to this new version. To get the upgrade, here is a link.  I am so glad these filters are being updated and will continue to be used. It contains my favorite plug-in that I use on almost every image – Viveza 2 so I could not be happier!

Well that’s it – just thought I would catch you up since it seems like a lot is going on in the plug-in world. I am so glad the plug-in folks are busy adding to their collections and improving their programs to keep up with the times. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO SAVE A PHOTOSHOP CC2018 REGULAR BRUSH AS A DIFFERENT TOOL

Image of a Leopard in a poster effectJust dropping in this week to share this composite Leopard image. The whole image started because of a blog that Chris Spooner recently wrote called How To Create an Animal Fur Text Effect in Adobe Photoshop. I am not sure how often I will use this text effect, but he gives instructions on how to make a fur brush using the Pen Tool so I had to try it out. It has turned out to be a very nice brush and was used in several places in the above image. The actual brush created has several little spikes sticking out in a circular manner and is mainly used to create a fur edging on a path for the actual text effect. I personally found it to be very useful for adding softness to the edges of the Leopard around the cat’s body and to add more of a hairy emphasis to the lettering edges. I applied it manually using different sizes. I wanted to use it as a Clone Stamp Tool to add some of the actual texture and color from inside the Leopard body to the outside edges. That is how the steps below were created which turns a Regular Photoshop brush into any other type of Brush Tool.  Since PS’s latest updates that now keep a brush’s Options Bar info with the brush preset, it has been difficult to use it for other Tools such as the Clone Stamp, or Eraser, or Smudge Brush. So here is the trick to actually using the brush for other tools:

    1. Save the Regular Brush created as a preset in the Brush Settings Panel using the default settings if the brush was just created. The Create New Brush icon is at the bottom of the Brush Settings Panel or the Brush Preset Panel (located to the left of the Trash Can) and the brush will be shown at the end of the list in the Brush Preset Panel. If brush to be converted is already listed, skip this step.
    2. Highlight this brush in the list and create a new preset by clicking the Create New Brush icon as in Step 1.
    3. When dialog opens up, Rename brush but do not check “Include Tool Setting” – now no tool will be connected with this brush. No brush icon appears to the right of the name in the Presets Panel.
    4. Select a different Tool such as the Clone Brush Tool. The settings from the regular brush are now connected to the selected Clone Stamp Tool.
    5. To save this Clone Stamp brush, create another preset and this time check “Include Tool Setting” – all your settings will be preserved with the brush.

For the above fur brush, the spiked ball brush settings from both the Brush Settings Panel including the dab structure and the Options Bar settings are now part of the my new Clone Stamp brush which was immediately saved down as a new Clone Brush to retain the settings.

It seemed to take a long time to complete this image but all the layers are just the same ones used in any composite. The Background was created in Corel Painter. The Fur font is Cosmi 04, a really old font. The Leopard font is one called Braveheart, which was rasterized and warped on a New layer to get it to fit over the Leopard (which was a free image from Pixabay). The font letters were also connected by hand as they did not look correct after warping. On1 (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Photo Raw 2018 Effects was used to initially sharpen the leopard. The cat’s Paw and the little cat are a set of brushes from Brusheezy and a black leather texture was clipped to the paw. The fur brush was then used to paint on the paw print at a low opacity to get the shiny highlights. A Dodge and Burn layer at 50% gray set to Overlay blend mode was used. A shadow was created for the leopard and smudged to smooth out. One of the legs of the leopard look strange so the front forward paw was duplicated, warped and placed in back to cover up this area. The last step involved going into Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Studio and applying AI ReMix using the Ink Blot swatch set to Overlay blend mode at 0.89% opacity (Topaz Studio has added several new swatches to AI ReMix so if own it, update to get them). It gave the whole image a sort of abstract feel. This was all very easy to composite.

If you like making brushes, I would recommend checking out Chris’s tutorial – it is a really interesting brush and a new way to create a brush effect. Well, so much for being gone – will probably miss the next couple weeks. Hope you are enjoying the lovely Spring weather!…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO CREATE A QUICK LAYER STYLE BORDER OR FRAME

Image of a quiet cove at Spanish Cay in the BahamasThis week I am just going to share a few simple border techniques I have used for years. Many people do not realize how easy it is to create these to finish off an image. Both Topaz and On1 (for websites, see sidebars at my Tidbits Blog) have some great frame filters for doing this, but sometimes you just want to finish off an image with a quick border. Photoshop’s layer styles dialog box is a great place to do this. Both plain color, pattern, and some with a bevel effect can easily be created. The image above was taken at Spanish Cay in the Bahamas. For post processing info, see Image 1 at end of blog.

Basically the process involves opening up some of the Effects in the Layer Style dialog box and just changing the settings to get something you like. I find that the Inner Glow and Inner Shadow work best for my borders, but often the Stroke effect is used also. (Settings for above are: Inner Shadow: Blend Mode Normal, Tan color swatch, Opacity 100, Angle 135 and no Use Global Light, Distance 0, Choke 67, Size 54, regular Contour map, no Anti-aliased, Noise 0; and Inner Glow: Normal, Opacity 100%, Noise 0, Swatch purple, Technique Softer, Source Edge, Choke 99%, Size 57 pixels, Contour Map 5th one to right, Range 100 and Jitter 0). The following slider information is mostly from The Photoshop Wow! book referenced below.

Settings for Both Inner Glow and Inner Settings

Size determines the amount of blur applied to the border. The greater the size, the more the Glow or Shadow is blurred so at a higher setting, it is more diffuse – thinner and spreads out more.

Increasing Choke makes the effect more concentrated – it controls the transition made from dense to transparent as set by the Size (in the Outer effects, the spread slider does the same thing). Set the Choke high, and it gives very sharp edges and set it lower to get a soft blended look.

Contour settings remap the intermediate tones that are created by the blur used to make a Shadow or Glow. Using the default 45 degree straight contour causes the blur to thin out more as it goes from outside to inside. By changing the Contour in the drop-down, different types of effects can be obtained. These can be fun so definitely try them out!

Inner Glow Settings

The only sliders I look at here are the Opacity, Color Swatch, Choke, Size and sometimes the Contour, changing to a drop-down choice. Try changing to the 2nd Contour map and you will see a thin line created inside the edge of your image for a nice single line effect.

A Glow effect is usually light and radiates evenly in all directions. Therefore a Glow has a Gradient choice in the dialog box. I have not used this but it appears that a change in blend mode would be needed to look good.

I set the Technique to Softer – I do not see much difference in my thin borders when it is set to Precise but there is a difference if the frame is larger.

There are no Distance or Angle settings for Glow effects.

Set the Source to Edge (which I always use for a border) to radiate Glow from the edge getting thinner as it moves further away. Set the Source to Center for some artistic looks that radiate color from the center outward, getting thinner as it moves away.

FYI: For use with the Contour drop-down, Range determines which part of the gradient is used for the Glow and Jitter mixes up the pixels in the gradient for less defined transitions.

Inner Shadow Settings

A Shadow effect is dark and can be offset while here Shadows only have a color swatch.

There is an Angle field showing where the light source is. If the Distance is set to 0, this does not matter what the setting is. If there is a Distance amount, then adjust it and try clicking use Global Light to set with the other effects – but make sure you like how it looks.

When using Contour map, Noise helps prevent any banding, but may help when printing. I do not use this setting for frames.

Stroke Settings

A basic large Size set to Position Inside and Fill Type Color gives a nice solid color effect. I have done this several times. This can be combined with the other two effects above for some more different looks.

For a different look set a fairly large Size and set to Inside. Then go to Fill Type and choose Gradient. The same Gradient Styles are in the drop-down and also one that only appears in this dialog – the Shape Burst gradient (it can create a neon effect, an inline-outline effect for text or a multi-color glow outer edge effect). Who knew? I demonstrate this effect in my video.

Also the Stroke effect is really good for adding a pattern effect as a border. If you have a texture you would like to use as a border, first open the texture in Photoshop and go to Edit -> Define Pattern – just name it and it appears at the bottom of your pattern list. Set a fairly large Size (like 200 px) and set to Inside. Go into the Fill Type and change to Pattern. Open drop-down and at bottom is the new pattern from the texture. This can create some really looks. Combine this with the other two effects above for more looks.

Below is a quick video just showing how to do this – it seems to be easier to look at it than read about it. If you do not see the video link in your RSS feed, please open up blog and click through.

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Image of a Scottish Church with a viewIn the image above, a very nice basic layer style was applied to get this frame. For post-processing info, see Image 2 below. This image used the same basic Effects in the Layer Styles Panel: First added an Inner Glow (set to Normal blend mode and black color, Technique Softer, Source Edge, Choke 100%, Size pixels); next the Inner Shadow (set to Normal, a peach orange color, Angle 135, Distance 0, Choke 44%, and Size 54 pixels); and finally a Stroke (Size 2 pixels, Position Inside, Blend Mode Normal, Opacity 100%, Fill Type Color, and Color Black). Pretty simple settings and easy to adjust – change the sizes and colors in the Inner Glow and Inner Shadow effects for a different look.

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Image of a herd of African Antelopes
The African Antelope image uses one of the Star Burst gradients in the Stroke Effect. This border was created using a Stroke Layer Style and setting the Size t0 49 pixels, Position Inside, Blend Mode Normal, Opacity 100%, Fill Type Gradient using Gold Sepia (in Photoshop Toning Gradient set), Style Sharp Burst with Align with Layer checked, Angle 89, Scale 100%. If you like the result of the style, click New Style and name it. It will appear at the bottom of the canned Layer Styles when you click on the section labeled Styles at the top of the Effects list. I actually changed the color from a blue to a green for the inside color by going into the gradient and changing the 2nd from the right tab to a sampled green color. For info on how this image was post-processed, see Image 3 below.

I have some canned layer styles for download free at my DeviantArt site – then just change the colors of the Inner Shadow by clicking on the color swatch and sampling a color in the image. These work great as a starting point. Last week I added a layer style to my image using the same style as in the top image except instead of a tan color, it was a brownish gray color (see my How to Create Profiles in ACR from LR Presets and Some LUT Files blog).

The best reference for layer styles is from one of my favorite Photoshop Gurus, Jack Davis, and Linnea Dayton who created a little gem of a book called Adobe Photoshop 7 One-Click Wow! book. This book covered everything I needed to know about layer styles. Also Linnea Dayton and Cristen Gillespie co-wrote the older but still fabulous The Photoshop Wow! books which go into great detail on everything to do with layer styles.

I hope you get a chance to try this out – it can really give an image a very finished look. Until next time, have a good one…..Digital Lady Syd

Post Processing Information:

Image 1: This image was taken on a relatively deserted island in the Bahamas called Spanish Cay. There were many little hidden coves and beaches. The birds were added using a low res free stock photo and selecting just the birds with Color Range. Opened up Topaz Studio and followed steps in a Topaz video called Creating Imagery Driven by Imagination with Topaz Studio Creating Imagery Driven by Imagination with Topaz Studio. (Actual settings: Impression Adj: used the settings from Shannon Rose and saved a custom preset called SJ Acryllic Painting by Shannon Rose preset (see Lovely-pg. 18); Add mask to mask just the body of one bird and the heads of the others; AI ReMix Adj: used the Pasture (Row 3/Col 2) and set it to Opacity 0.37 and Color blend mode – applied layer mask to area in water with little island that was already muddy looking – also mask out odd color in the birds, esp the wings; HSL Color Tuning: Overall Hue 0.19 and Lightness 0.19, Orange Sat 0.37, Yellow Sat 0.37, Green Hue -0.32 and Sat -0.36, and Blue Sat -0.57, Details 0.26, Suppress Artifacts 0.08 and Color Sensitivity 0.28 – used same mask as in AI ReMix adj and Opacity 0.72; Color Theme: set to Normal blend mode, used same mask inverted to just affect the muddy water and turned it slightly bluish – changed the 3rd icon to #498727 (Lightness 0.53), 4th icon to #8ba9c7 (Lightness 0.83) and 5th icon to #e8e8e8 (Lightness 0.91); and added Second Color Theme Adj: Changed first icon to #422c16 at Lightness 0.26.) A Dodge and Burn 50% gray layer was added. Also a Color Dodge lighting layer was applied (see Digital Painting Blending Modes: 3 Easy Ways to Color Artwork by David Belliveau). Last step was a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and applied the above listed Layer Style settings.

Image 2: This image of a Scottish Church had a most beautiful view. On1 Photo Raw 2018’s Effects using Dynamic Contrast and Sharpen filters was used first on the image. A Color Lookup Table using the Candlelight preset was added and set to 76% layer opacity. The Warming Filter (85) was added and set to 51% Density and set to Multiply blend mode and 77% layer opacity. Then some clean up and spotlight effect on the buildings. There was a lot of window reflection in this image, so it took a lot of clean up. A Color Dodge layer was used to light up the sky a bit. A Lighten-Darken 50% gray layer was used to add some contrast. Last step adding the layer style to a stamped layer on top with settings listed above.

Image 3: This image is from a packet I recently bought from Deal Jumbo in a set called Amazing Wild Animals 2 from images taken at South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. This is a group of Red Hartebeest African Antelope. On1 Photo Raw 2018’s Effects using Dynamic Contrast and Sharpen filters was used first on the image. Next, one of my new favorite filters called Topaz AI ReMix was applied (Settings:  AI ReMix Adj: Opacity 0.78, Luminosity blend mode, Style Strength High, Row 2/Col 2 swatch, Brightness 0, Contrast 1.00, Sat 0.75, Hue 0, and in mask painted out the animals lightly and more so in some of the white flower foreground; HSL Color Tuning Adj: Opacity 0.58, Orange Hue 0.10, Sat 0.02, and Lightness 0.73; Dehaze Adj: Opacity 0.62, Strength 0.54; Impression Adj: Opacity 0.71, default settings painted out the animals using an 0.58 Mask Transparency). Nik Viveza 2 was used to direct the focus of the image. A Black & White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity blend mode and a Red Channel Luminosity Curves Adjustment Layer were added. The last step involved create a stamped layer on top and adding the Layer Style as described above.


USING TOPAZ PLUG INS CREATIVELY

Digitally painted landscape image I find Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Labs and/or Topaz Studio is totally in a “league of its own” when it comes to helping digital artists take their images to a new level. Even though I have blogged about Topaz plugins and most recently Studio’s AI Remix adjustment (see What is Topaz AI Remix????), this week I am presenting a short blog and video on how I created this image using some of the Topaz Studio’s and Lab’s plugins.

The products that really are outstanding to me for creativity are: Topaz Studio AI ReMix adjustment, Topaz Studio (and previously Labs) Impression, Topaz Labs ReStyle, and, believe it or not, this wonderful little program no longer marketed called photoFXlab which uses an InstaTone program section (the 500 px and 1X.com do not work, but the other three do so it works just fine) (See my short InstaTone in photoFXlabs – Great Fun and Great Results! blog). This is not to say that many of their other plugins, like Topaz Adjust, Black & White Effects, Glow, and Texture Effects are not useful for the creative – they are great but maybe not as unique as the ones I mentioned.

AI ReMix adjustment fits right into what I like about Topaz products. It has a bit of a steep learning curve to figure out what works and what does not when trying to get that creative uncanned look. That is why I decided to do this quick blog and video. The original image was beautiful and is from a group of photos at Deeezy called 20 Free Photos from Seychelles – I like to practice with some of these free images. I did not realize I would like the results but since it has an interesting artistic appearance applied, it does not matter that I did not use my own equipment for the image. Wish I had been there to do so. If you do not see the You Tube link in your browser, please open the video from within the blog.

Steps for Post-Processing the Top Image

Once opened in Photoshop, the image was duplicated and taken into Topaz Studio where two adjustments were used: the Impression Adjustment (used Default settings but set it to Stroke Type 09) and AI ReMix (used my SJ Soft Painterly Effect in Preset dropdown and adjustment 0.27 opacity – the SJ Soft Painterly Effect has these settings:  Opacity 0.27, Style Strength Low, Col 7/Row 3 swatch, Brightness 0.53, Contrast 1.17, Saturation 0.98, Hue 0.04, Smooth Edge 1.00 and Sharpness 0.50). Back in Photoshop, many tweaks were made since the adjustments had added a great creative starting point. I will not go through all the steps – they were quickly reviewed in the video – but it did take a bit of work to get the image to a place that worked for me. Nik Viveza 2 was used to help direct focus and there was a spotlight effect layer. John Derry’s Impasto Varnish Smooth layer style (no longer available-Kyle Webster had some also but I cannot find them either – try searching for Photoshop Impasto layer styles. Basically what is going is that a Bevel and Emboss layer style is added and the Layer Fill slider is set to 0 – preferably use a brush with some interesting edges to paint add the painterly effect on the layer). Used my SJ Pastel 3 favorite brush to paint over a few waves and rock edges to add some additional definition. Then a texture called Solstice Elan2 from French Kiss (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) was added – the same layer style was used on the texture set to 22% layer opacity to soften the whole foreground effect. Then added a frame I created in Corel Painter was added for a final more painterly touch.
Image of a digitally painted landscape

Steps for Post-Processing this Image

Same steps were as above with the same Topaz Studio Impression and AI ReMix adjustment settings and clean up layers. To get this different effect, a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was taken into Topaz ReStyle and I used my SJ Tulips preset with changes to some of the sliders. This preset was created from a tulip image previously processed in ReStyle (see my How to Use a Topaz ReStyle Trick for Improving Your Image blog). You can actually get a very similar effect as the ReStyle filter gives when photoFXlab Instatone is opened and applied. Nik Viveza 2 was also used and Curves Dodge and Burn adjustment layers were also used. A little clean up and spotlight effect was applied but no impasto layer styles.

Issue Encountered

One thing noticed was that by applying so much post-processing to an image that was not as high a quality as a RAW file, some artifacting became apparent. On the cooler image below, I rather meticulously painted away the artifacting in the foreground mountain and rock formations mainly using a very tiny (3-9 pixel) brush at 50% strength – this took several hours and could probably use more. On the top image, I got smarter. It occurred to me to just use the Spot Healing Brush set to: Content Aware, Multiply, and Sample All layers using a small brush around 7 pixels. Just smeared long strokes over the areas – only the white artifacting was healed (colored in), but the color in the darker areas was left alone. It took about 10 minutes instead of several hours. Wish I had thought of it earlier before hand painting and healing the first image.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun for you to see how these creative plug-ins can be used together. Below are a couple recent blogs you might have missed on my Tidbits Blog showing some other image examples. Hope everyone is enjoying the Spring – looks like the weather is starting to improve finally!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Enjoying the Attention (Studio AI ReMix Adjustment)
Stand Tall (Studio AI ReMix Adjustment and Impression Adjustment)
Dodging the Fire (Studio AI ReMix Adjustment)
A Scottish Countryside Town (Studio AI ReMix Adjustment)
Four Picture Triptych with Topaz ReStyle (Topaz Labs ReStyle)
Heathcliff in Toon Lagoon (photoFXLab InstaTone)


COMPARING SOME SHARPENING TECHNIQUES


Image of some lovely Spring African Violets
I have never really discussed sharpening so this week I am going to just cover the surface of this topic. It is such a huge subject and there are so many ways to sharpen that it is almost impossible to figure out which is best. Lots of questions here on when to apply the sharpening filter that I am not covering. Basically this blog is a quick comparison of techniques to see what is happening when sharpening is applied using different plugins – in both PS and from other software products.

What is sharpening?

Bottom line: Adding edge contrast to make an image look sharper. So when you go through the various plugins, watch for what the various sliders are doing. For more technical info, check out the Resources paragraph.

Now we can understand a little more what is going on when sharpening an image and figure out what is really affecting the sharpness in an image. Different methods were tried to see if one really stood out or does it actually matter. And are they all just doing sharpening or are they added other changes to make the image look better, and possibly affecting the overall tone of the image. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer or Levels Adjustment Layer may need to be added on top. One big issue I found is that some generate a large amount of noise. Therefore a Noise Reduction filter might be needed. A black layer mask to localize the sharpening could be used to contain the noise by painting back just where the sharpening is needed. Also Blend If sliders in the Layer Style could be used – apparently it does not matter which slider is used for sharpening since just adjusting the impact on the far highlights or shadows in the image. Also, look at the Radius settings in the filters – that is where the halo issued develop many times.

These plugins and filters were explored and just the results for each are shown in the short video (see link below): Topaz Studio and Labs Detail or Clarity adjustments, On1 Photo RAW 2018 Precision Contrast and Sharpening filters, Google Nik’s Color Efex Pro’s Detail Extractor filter, Lucis Pro’s 6.0.9 filter with a layer mask, Luminar 2018’s Details Enhancer and Structure filters, and even Aurora 2018 HDR software. Photoshop’s own methods were also tried including: the Unsharp Mask Filter, Shake Reduction Filter, High Pass filter, the Sharpen Tool, the Camera Raw Filter, the Hard Mix blend mode, and Smart Sharpen Filter. It has also been demonstrated even HDR software can do wonders to sharpen an image so I added an example using Aurora 2018. No wonder there is so much confusion about which is the best to use. So many of these examples sharpen very nicely. Just want for the color or noise changes. For links to all the software, check out my Tidbits Blog sidebar). If the video link is not appearing in the RSS feed or phone, click on the blog to access.

Bottom Line

My favorite techniques as noted in the video were:

  • Topaz Studio or Labs Precision Detail – have used it for years and it never lets me down but did not like Studio’s Unsharp Mask. (Settings:  Shadows Small Detail 0.58, Medium Detail 0.65 and Large Details 0.51; Highlights Small Detail 0.35, Medium 0.37, and Large Detail 0.32; Lighting Midtones -0.12, Shadows 0.36, and Highlights -0.50. In layer mask painted effect into the flowers only.)
  • On1 Photo Raw 2018 Sharpening Filter – I have noted this before and it is still gives excellent results. (Settings: Type High Pass, Halo 84, Amount 68, Protect Shadows 11 and Protect Highlights 11.) I did not like their Dynamic Contrast for this, but it is still a really good filter.
  • Photoshop Unsharp Mask using LAB Mode twice. (Settings: Amount 100, Radius 3.0, and Threshold 4.) Downside is that I had to create a duplicate document to go into LAB mode to apply and then bring the layer back into PS. (This technique was first seen in Scott Kelby’s The Digital Photography Book. (Go to Image -> Mode -> Lab color; Highlight the Lightness Channel in Channel’s panel, Apply Unsharp Mask Amount 100, Radius 3, and Threshold 4; Apply Unsharp Mask filter again; and go back to Image -> Mode -> RGB.)
  • Photoshop Smart Sharpen filter. I have never used this much, but Blake Rudis discussed it in his Photoshop CC Boot Camp on Creative Live recently and it really looks good. (Settings: Amount 417%, Radius 2.7, Reduce Noise 40%, Remove Gaussian Blur, Shadows Fade Amount 12, Tonal Width 50%, Radius 21, and Highlights set to Fade Amount 0.)

The High Pass Filter effects in the past have proved to be quite nice, but not so good on this image. I will still use the Sharpening in Lightroom – it does work well at the very beginning of the workflow when just a little sharpening is needed. I will probably use the Smart Sharpen Filter in Photoshop when I need a hammer! And a lot of people use Topaz Detail to do a final sharpening for printing. Many of the other choices would do fine for sharpening and with a different kind of image, they  might look a lot better than what the floral results were. And remember if you are working in a plugin using various adjustments or filters, using the compatible sharpening filters will probably work just fine – they were developed to work with their own products. This blog just presented some examples of some of the things that can be done to sharpen an image. There are so many combinations that I could have done many more techniques. Check out the resources below for other ideas on how to do this well.

Resources

Continue reading for a good technical explanation of this and some good resources to learn about this subject. Harry Guiness gives an excellent explanation as to what sharpening is and what has to be done. To take a quote from his blog at EnvatoTuts+ in What is Image Sharpening: “Sharpness is a combination of two factors: resolution and acutance. Resolution is straightforward and not subjective. It’s just the size, in pixels, of the image file. All other factors equal, the higher the resolution of the image—the more pixels it has—the sharper it can be. Acutance is a little more complicated. It’s a subjective measure of the contrast at an edge. There’s no unit for acutance—you either think an edge has contrast or think it doesn’t. Edges that have more contrast appear to have a more defined edge to the human visual system. …..Sharpness comes down to how defined the details in an image are—especially the small details. For example, if a subject’s eyelashes are an indistinct black blur they won’t appear sharp. If, on the other hand, you can pick out each one then most people will consider the image sharp……the only way to increase apparent sharpness is by increasing acutance. If you want your image to look sharper, you need to add edge contrast.” This was a great article and part of 3 so check out his The 7 Hidden Dangers of Image Sharpening blog and his Selective Sharpening Using High Pass in Adobe Photoshop blog – all excellent information. I have an older book that is still really relevant called Image Sharpening by Bruce Fraser and Jeff Schewe that is considered one of the best on the subject ever written. So if you want some really good info on this, check out this book. I wanted to figure out which of the various plug-ins and filters work the best for this. Also Martin Evenings Photoshop books all cover this topic very thoroughly.

This blog turned into quite a project but I learned a lot about sharpening. If you have time, try out some of the filters I used above, especially the Photoshop filters to see what results you are getting. I did all my changes on a flower image, but a landscape image would be nice to try with the same set of filters to see what happens. Hope everyone has a great week – Spring is finally here!…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO QUICKLY ADD A TOUCH OF GOLD TO YOUR TEXT

Image of beautiful gold colored fonts Just popping in to do a quick blog on having fun with text. Recently I blogged about using a word(s) created from interesting fonts to make brushes or PNG files for graphic projects. Sometimes it is fun to just create using all the beautiful digital fonts available. (See my Enjoying Some Spring Butterflies blog.) This week I ran across a couple quick and easy ways to add a really nice bling look to your fonts.

PSD File

The image above was created using a very sophisticated Photoshop file that contains lots of Smart Objects to create most of this final result. The file is called Free 3D Gold Text Effects by Alifuwork. The file comes with a font Smart Object layer and three groups – Effects, 3D Gold which contains all the layer styles with smart objects (all the same smart object so when the top Text Here layer smart object is updated, all the others update with it), and Backgrounds which contains all the lighting effects and background color. So by double clicking on the Text Here layer to open the main Smart Object, the fonts can be changed to different ones easily – just click CTRL+S to save the resulting PSB document and it all update in the PSD file. This was really a great way to add the gold lettering effect without having to do a lot of work.

Layer Styles (Patterns)

To get the other nice gold effect on the above image, a really wonderful pack called Gold Foils 7th Avenue Design Textures was used – it contains 20 different gold jpg files to choose from – I only loaded my 6 favorite which included the gold 9 as patterns. Just open the JPG file and go to Edit -> Define Pattern. The pattern will appear at the bottom of your list to use with PS’s various adjustment layers, brushes, layer styles, or tools that use patterns. Major cool! So add in your favorite texture effects for sure. In the image above, Pattern 9 gold was used several times. The bird image below used the gold glitter texture created from my How to Create a Glitter Texture video and blog, where the texture was saved as a pattern, just like with the gold images from the Foil Pack. To change the color to a gold, the glitter texture was opened, a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer added setting the Hue to something like 57 and Saturation to 100. Next a Levels Adjustment Layer was added to accentuate some of the lights and darks. Finally go to Edit -> Define Pattern. Now a personal gold glitter pattern can be used in your projects. If you want a silver one, use the Black and White Adjustment Layer instead of the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Very easy.

Photo details for above image are as follows: The fonts used above are: Rich were Buffalo Inline 2 Grunge, Lucious was Points and Lines, “and” was Castile Inline Grunge, and Expensive was Alex Brush. I added a new group in my file called Background Elements that was placed just above the Background group. There was a layer with just a glitter look behind the text and was created using Grut’s Charcoal Shin Ding brush (free brush for this week) set with two layer styles – a Pattern Overlay using the Gold 9 pattern set to Scale of 85% and a Stroke using a Size of 18, Inside, and Fill Type Pattern using Pattern 9 again – the whole layer was set to 80%. The object on the upper left from 2 Lil’ Owls Studio (see the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) All New Textures/vintage frames 2/frame 25 using the same layer styles and pattern, but the Pattern Overlay was set to 59% opacity and the Stroke was set to Size 7, Blend Mode Screen. The leaf on the upper right was from Ginko Textured Watercolor Graphics by Paperly Studio/elements 13 with same layer styles. The Pattern Overlay was set to 60% opacity and the Stroke set to Size 7 and Opacity 93%. In the Backgrounds group the Color Fill was changed to a green color. For the last step, a stamped layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top and yet another Stroke layer style was added using Size 7, Inside, Screen blend mode, Fill Type Pattern using the same pattern 09.

Graphic image of a white heron and some textThis image used my gold glitter pattern in the Pattern Overlay layer style set to Size 18 and Scale 47. The White Heron was from Graphics Fairy, the background texture was from French Kiss Artiste Bold Brush2 (see the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link), filter used was Topaz Studio (see the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) AI ReMix SJ Graphic Design Effect preset, and the font was Mr. Grieves.

Hope you enjoyed the gold extravaganza!…..Digital Lady Syd


ENJOYING SOME SPRING BUTTERFLIES

Graphic image butterflies and flowersThought about taking a few weeks break so I can try out some things I am learning, but I am still here – I keep wanting to pass on info. I created this image just for fun and trying to reinforce a few work habits when creating this type of composite. Also thought I would add  on a few more tips I promised when creating my Giraffe composite a few weeks ago. (See my Taking a Break to Learn Some New Things blog.)

FONT TIP: This image started when I downloaded a couple new free fonts from Design Cuts called Style-Casual and Style Endings by TypeSETit. At first I was not too taken by either one of the fonts, and then I realized that by using the Style Endings font for the first and last letters of the text, and then using Style Casual font to connect the rest of the text, it looked really good – along with the pretty nice fancy small “o.” A Simply Wonderful text line was created and then turned into a brush by going to Edit -> Define Brush Preset. This is really fun to do if you have some nice fonts on your computer – they can easily be turned into text brushes and .PNG files. Very could be very useful for graphic projects.

ADDING A SUBSTRATE LAYER TIP: My substrate layer was non-existent almost until the end of working on this project when I finally put the white one created in the Azaleus image (see my How to Create a Pretty Simple Background and Text Effect blog) the text added. It definitely filled in some texture that was missing especially in the lighter areas of the image. So that is one thing I learned while creating this image – be sure to add some kind of bottom level texture just to fill in the holes. It can always be swapped out later after adding your elements.

PAINT ON THE ADDED ELEMENTS TIP: Another thing I did was to actually paint on some of the elements that were put in the image. The two butterflies on the left side were from a really nice brush set by Marrielle P Kokosidou – by painting in the elements after stamping down the original element, some additional interest could be achieved. The same was true with the branch of leaves at the top (from a painted set from Design Cuts in their Nature Plant Graphics Watercolour Grit Textures set with Octopus Artis elements), additional painting was done using some other colors on it. Design Cuts is a great place to get free samples of very good elements from great artists for these type of photos. The brush I used was mainly the SJ Pastel 3-painting brush (see my How to Create my Favorite Brush blog) – use it every day along with my SJ 3 Pastel-Van Gogh TI brush. (It can be created by following my Painting Fun in Photoshop blog’s third paragraph – gives an explanation on how to make the base brush more painterly.) The other butterfly was also one from Design Cuts called Watercolour Butterfly by Octopus Artis – not much was done to the butterfly itself, but a watercolor paint stroke (stroke by Vintage Design Co. but could not find the download link) and a moon brush stroked (from 20 moon brushes by Liza Giannouri-moon 3) was placed behind it. Wanted to give credit to the people who did the flowers in this image – the pink center flower is from a frame in a set by from Creative Market (another site to follow – they  have some great free sets like this one and good deals like the Hydrangea set)  Ginko Textured Watercolor Graphic by Paperly Studio; and the Hydrangea flower is from Beautiful Watercolor Butterflies Knopazyzy Handrangea Flower set.

CREATE MORE PAINTBRUSHES TIP: Created a paintbrush (named it SJ Butterfly Brush 5 Row-Marrielle P Kokosidou) at a very small size and setting it to a small size with Spacing at 180%, Shape Dynamics Size Jitter 24% and Angle Jitter 21%, and a Color Dynamics set to 100% Foreground/Background Jitter and Purity -24%. It was used at the top of the image using a slight color variation and at the bottom of the image in just one color. I have brushes using hearts and bubbles using similar settings. So the  tip is: make a small object type of brush to add some interest around major elements instead of just using round splotches (which does work in some cases).

BRUSH IN SOME COLOR BEHIND YOUR ELEMENTS TIP: This is something I have been doing for a while, especially using the spotlight effect with white and black color at a low opacity and the layer set to Overlay blend mode. (See my How to Add a Spot of Light blog.) It also works for any color using any type of brush – it will add some soft color into your image. The layer does not have to be set to Overlay blend mode – some very interesting effects can be achieved using other blend modes like Linear Burn – and be sure to adjust the Fill (not Layer) opacity to get some really nice effects. NOTE ON FILL SLIDER IN LAYER PANEL: The Layer Opacity will affect certain blend modes differently than the Fill slider – Color Burn, Linear Burn, Color Dodge, Linear Dodge (Add), Vivid Light, Linear Light, Hard Mix, and Difference. Check out which effect you want. Also the Fill opacity does not affect the opacity of layer effects such as drop shadows – this can be important if you have added a layer style like a stroke or bevel effect on a element. A reddish effect was added to the upper left corner. And obviously green in the upper right. The corners were subtlety darkened down using this technique to draw the eye in. Some texture was actually painted on the font lettering to add some interest by using a texture brush and setting the layer to Overlay blend mode – it really brightens up parts of the font.

A couple last things were done in this image. Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Studio was opened and a black and white sketch effect was applied. It is called SJ Graphic Sketch 1 preset (contains these adjustments: Basic, Precision Contrast, Tone Curves, Smudge and Abstraction) and is up in the community if you would like to try it out. And for me the best way to pull this whole image together is to use the (Google) Nik Viveza 2 – I could not have done this without using this filter. It adjusted out the focus since so much is going on in the image and the colors by adjusting the brightness of each element and sharpness. Need to try it out and since it is still free right now and still works just fine, definitely worth using.

The final image had 43 layers and lots of tweaking but I like the final result. It is important to find a subject you want to work on – this suited me just fine since Spring is almost here! Hope this answered everyone’s scrapbook effect questions – I have learned a lot and it just takes practice to get some nice designed. Also be sure to check out my Tidbits Blog – I added a nice sharpening tip last week. Have a wonderful week!…..Digital Lady Syd


HOW TO CREATE A PRETTY SIMPLE BACKGROUND AND TEXT EFFECT

Image of a group of Pink AzaleasI started to write about some of the things I learned from a mixed media scrapbooking class a few weeks ago and found that it was just too huge a topic to cover in one blog. Therefore, this week I am going to discuss only a couple items used in the Pink Azaleas image blooming in my yard right now. It is so good to see some Spring flowers and these were real beauties. Think I will take next week off (I say this right now – hum!)

First a  substrate for the flowers needs to be created. This is basically just a “pumped up background” layer(s). The texture often has a gesso effect applied to it. It can include typed text layers (as shown above), or various kinds of brushes to create stamps elements or strokes for color effects that make for an interesting background. It can contains multiple layers of stacked paper or texture layers using different blend modes and layer opacity to get some very unique effects. I hope to try creating my own gesso texture soon – it looks like fun but could be messy. This image used French Kiss’s (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Tableaux Wind Song texture for a  painted gesso-looking bottom layer substrate.

To me, it seemed logical to use text that is relevant to the subject. I decided I wanted to use a little poem from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses book called The Flowers (this was one of my very favorite books as a small child) as text for the image. The poem was converted into a Photoshop brush as follows:

  • Go online and find some text you like on the subject.
  • Highlight text and CTRL+C to copy
  • Open up a Text Layer in Photoshop by choosing the Horizontal Text Tool – make sure the color swatch is set to the default Black and White (D) and the actual size of the font is not too large for the text being brought into the image – otherwise the text can be cut off at the bottom. Just start by selecting a readable size that is fairly small as it can be expanded to fit later.
  • Next drag out a text block in the image in Photoshop approximately where the text will be placed.
  • Inside the block, paste by clicking CTRL+V and the text will appear as black in the box.
  • With the text added, it is time to turn this text layer into a brush for use in various places on a layer above the substrate layer. Make sure the Opacity and Flow in the Options Bar are set to 100%, and go to Edit -> Define Brush Preset and name it. It does not need any additional tweaking since the text is a dark black – no midtones to worry about. The new brush appears at the bottom of the list in the Brushes Panel. If the size is really large, that is Okay – it will reduce down in size just fine. If not large enough, just delete the created brush and go back to the text layer and increase the size in the Text Layer. It is harder to get clean edges by sizing up a brush so larger is better.

The brush can now be stamped down in several places on a layer above the substrate layer(s) – add a layer mask to the text layer and using a brush set to 30%, paint out some of the text so it does not look all one brightness. I applied this mask and saved the text down as a second brush and used both in the image above. If using text from a PDF document, then check out my How to Create Vintage Text for Images blog for instructions on how to do this.

If you want would like to convert the text layer to a PNG file to add as an element instead of stamping as a brush, highlight the Text layer. Duplicate the text layer by right clicking and selecting Duplicate… in menu, then in Document drop down, choose New. The document can now be named if you want – it creates a new document. Go to File -> Save As and select the .PNG format so the transparency is retained for adding as a layer into another image. This can be very  handy to have as it seems to me the edges are sharper on the individual element than when using it as a stamped brush. Totally depends on the effect needed.

To finish up the image above, Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) AI ReMix adjustment was used to sharpen the stamens in the flowers by using a black layer mask to the Topaz layer in PS and painting back areas to reveal the sharpening (here are the settings using in AI ReMix: Set to Luminosity blend mode using last row/first column swatch and Medium Style Strength. Slider settings were: Brightness -0.12, Contrast 0.98, Sat 2.91, Hue 0.10, smooth Edge 0.11, and Sharpness 0.59.) The actual Azaleas image was copied and placed on top and another black layer mask was added so the flowers could be lightly painted in so some of the text showed through in places. A Black and White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity blend mode and 65% layer opacity was added along with a Color Look Up Adjustment Layer using the Crisp Warm preset (see Matt Kloskowski’s short video called My Favorite Tool for Styling in Photoshop) set to Color blend mode and 54% layer opacity. On a New Layer some painting was done to define edges of the flowers a little more. Nik Viveza 2 was used to emphasize the center of the flowers and add a little corner vignetting and set t0 58% layer opacity. A Red Channel Luminosity Adjustment Layer was added for a little contrast.

This is a pretty simple way to include a few scrapbook effects to an image but I think it also has almost a painterly look to it. I will go over a few more tips on how to add some more interest to a piece in a later blog. Have a wonderful week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs
How to Create Personal Overlays for Your Images
How to Create Photoshop Brushes from Objects or Text