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The Soft, Dreamy Look

Have you ever just wanted to try a different look on your images? I wanted to try this type of look for a while, so this week I began experimenting. The technique seems to be very popular right now and involves adding a very soft fill layer to get the effect. Most of the time it works best on floral, nature or still life images. It can be effective with some landscape images, especially with the help of textures which I did not address in this blog.

I found that LPDragonfly at Deviant Art has described the steps very well in some wonderful tutorials. Her Background tutorial and the Soft Bright Colors tutorial were used (see linked .jpg tutorial images that can be downloaded). Frames from OnOne Software (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) were used on all the images.

To summarize her two tutorials and adding a bit of my own ideas, here is the basic workflow (see my action link further down in blog):

  1. For shooting flowers, her basic premise is to put the flowers in the shade and allow the background to be in the sun, preferably with a floral background. I did not do this for my images, but will try to do this on future flower shots. Also use the widest aperture your lens will allow and focus on just one flower or group of flowers.
  2. First clean up image such as removing any objects and getting rid of noise.
  3. Add a Color Fill Adjustment layer set to Soft Light blend mode and adjust the opacity. Try different colors – will give very different looks
  4. Create a Curves Adjustment Layer adjusting the Blue Channel (Try Input 0, Output 64; Input 255, Output 201 – and adjust the curve to taste). May want to use a different channel depending upon the image you are using.
  5. Add a Selective Color Adjustment Layer (be careful not to adjust the black sliders – this increases the contrast) and/or a Color Balance Adjustment Layer. May not need all of these adjustment layers.
  6. Create a composite on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E), set layer to Screen,  add a Gaussian Blur with a Radius set to +10 pixels, and adjust  layer opacity.
  7. Add a final Levels Adjustment layer and move the middle tab to get the best look.
  8. Try using the mixer brushes in Photoshop and paint on some of the flowers or objects on a separate New Layer to get a more painterly look. (See my blog “Adobe CS5’s Mixer Brushes.”)
  9. Now would be a nice time to add a texture for further emphasis.
  10. Try using a cream colored vignette (used NIK Efex Pro 3.0 Vignette preset but this can be created easily in Photoshop using a color instead of white for the vignette) as shown on the orange and yellow flowers below to get a different feel to the softness.

This same basic technique was used on all the images.

The same soft feel can be obtained by using some of Florabella’s Actions which are much more extensive and she has many more varieties than the simple one I created. They are fairly reasonably priced, so if you like the look, you may want to check out this website and buy one. She has a nice article on how she creates her look at this link, where she states she is doing basically what LPDragonfly outlined in her tutorial.

Obviously the easiest way to do this is to create an action with these different Adjustment Layers set up in it. OK – I did it for you and it can be downloaded here. You do not have to be on a Background Layer to get this to work and most of the Adjustment Layers do not have any settings in them – the Action stops so that you can adjust them as you go along. I tested it on several images – it contains the workflow from above.


I am sure with a bit more exploring, this effect can be achieved using some of the great Photoshop plug-ins such as AutoFX Software‘s Dream Suite or Mystical Suite. Hopefully I will be able to look into this at a later date.

That about wraps up my efforts for achieving the soft, dreamy look. I do believe adding some textures at low percentages and different blend modes, and using layer masks to mask out where the texture should not be in an image, would really add to the look. I hope you will get a chance to try out this look – it can be quite lovely!…..Digital Lady Syd


Create Realistic Planets

I was looking through some of my old magazines and I came across an old article in Photoshop Creative Issue No. 5 called “Create Space!” They had created this beautiful looking planet so I just had to try it out. My results are shown below.

I used another tutorial called “Creating Planet Rings” for the ring effect and the starfield and space object brushes are from Obsidian Dawn’s Space Brush set. This image took quite a while to complete so I began thinking about how this could be done easier. First, I will recreate the steps using just the magazine instructions for the planet (since I am not sure this issue is still available). Afterwards, I will show you how to get the same effect with the Planet brushes I created using this image. It only takes a few minutes!

THE LONG WAY – Actual Steps

STARFIELD:  First create a New Document which will eventually be your final image so make sure it is set to the size you which to make. Create a black background layer and on a New Layer, use some of Obsidian Dawn’s Space brushes to create the stars. I used the color c2d0d8, a light gray-blue,  for my objects. Put each of the objects on its own layer so it can be repositioned easily and the opacity may be adjusted individually. You may eventually need to add a Layer Mask to the starfield layer to get rid of any interfering dots in the body or rings of your planet, and the opacity may need to be reduced on this layer if the stars appear too bright.

PLANET:  This looks hard but it actually is pretty simple:

  1. First find a texture that you think may create a nice look. In this case, I used a free texture from Mayang Texture called concrete_with_stones_4060445.jpg. Open this image up in Photoshop.
  2. With Elliptical Marquee Tool, create a circle (hold SHIFT and ALT keys to center and make a circle while dragging) to just fit the inside the edges of the texture. Now CTRL+J to copy the selection to a New Layer and name “Texture.”
  3. With selection still active (if not, CTRL+click on the layer thumbnail), go to Filter -> Distort -> Spherize and set to 100%. Repeat this filter a few times to get an effect you like for your planet terrain.
  4. Fill your background layer with black and and copy your Texture layer three times (CTRL+J).
  5. On Texture 1 copy, fill with a blue (may want to change this color later to get a better effect) and name the layer “Color.”
  6. On Texture 1 copy 2, fill the circle with black (CTRL+click the thumbnail and ALT+Backspace to fill with black), name it “Shading.” Texture 1 copy 3 name “Atmosphere.”
  7. Highlight the Atmosphere Layer and set to Screen Blend Mode. Create a Layer Style (double click on name to bring up Style dialog) and select first:  Inner Shadow changing just these settings — Mode (Screen), Color (light cyan – I used b5d2e3), Global Light Angle (8 degrees), and adjust Distance and Size sliders to the right to get the color effect on the planet you like; Outer Glow — Mode (Screen), Color (Light Cyan), Size to create halo effect or atmosphere (120); and Inner Glow — Mode (Screen), Color (Light Cyan), and Size (120).   Now create a New Layer underneath and merge the Atmosphere layer down (highlight both layers and press CTRL+E to merge) – this applies (gets rid of the layer styles which you do not need anymore).
  8. Highlight layer called Shading and move it above the Atmosphere layer. With Move Tool, drag darkened disk up to the right so it masks the top-right third of the Atmosphere layer. Go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and set Radius to 95 pixels. Go to the Texture shape layer (be sure to use only this layer) and CTRL+click on thumbnail to create circle selection; then with the Shading layer highlighted, go to Select -> Inverse (SHIFT+CTRL+II) and then press BACKSPACE to remove shading from starfield. CTRL+D to deselect.
  9. Highlight Atmosphere layer and add a Layer Mask. With a soft brush set to 10-20% opacity and gently remove most of the remaining glow on the top and left side of the planet. See photo above for guidance. When done, right click on Layer Mask and select Apply Mask.
  10. Drag Texture layer above Color Layer and set blend mode to Screen. Go to Image -> Adjustments -> Hue/Saturation and select Saturation and move to bring some of the color back into the planet. Reduce opacity of layer to 33% and duplicate the layer two more times. Free Transform (CTRL+T) and select Rotate on the two duplicate layers you just created to adjust some of the detail on the planet. Highlight all three Texture layers and CTRL+E to merge together.
  11. Duplicate the Texture layer. On copy go to Image -> Adjustments -> Levels and pull black and white tabs towards the middle – try to create a hard cloud effect. Free Transform (CTRL+T) and Rotate to get a good effect. Rename this layer to “Clouds.” Rename the Texture layer to “Land.” Reduce the Shading layer opacity to 95% so more texture shows through.
  12. Duplicate the Land Layer. Go to Filter -> Stylize -> Emboss and set the Angle to (-15), Amount to 1, and Amount 500%.  Name this layer “Highlights” and duplicate layer and name it “Shadows.”
  13. On Highlight layer go to Image -> Adjustments -> Levels and input 145/1.00/210 and set layer to Linear Dodge blend mode at 50% opacity. On Shadow layer go to Levels and input 87/1.00/111 and set layer to Multiply blend mode at 70% opacity. The Clouds layer may need to be brightened a bit now – go to Levels or Image -> Adjustments -> Brightness/Contrast.

All the steps above do not have to be done exactly as listed – sometimes I did not Free Transform three times if I already liked the effect or sometimes I went back to adjust my colors. This is just a basic guideline on how to create a relatively realistic planet.

Your planet is done!

RINGS: Now I followed the “Creating Planet Rings” tutorial to create the ring for this planet. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Create a New Document and fill with black. Set your Foreground color to Black and Background to White. Go to Filter -> Render -> Clouds. If you do not like the way the pattern looks, run the filter again until you like it.
  2. Go to Filter -> Distort -> Twirl and set to 999 – then apply the filter about three times to get a clean twirl look.
  3. With a Layer Mask, clear out inside and outside the twirl to create a ringed circle. When happy with the result, right click on Layer Mask thumbnail and Apply Layer Mask.
  4. Go to Edit -> Transform -> Scale and flatten ring as much as you want.
  5. Go to Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise and set to 15% and Gaussian. To get rid of the colored dots, go to Image -> Adjustments -> Hue/Saturation and set Saturation to (-100).
  6. Go to Image -> Adjustments -> Levels and move center tab to right (0.32). The go to Image -> Adjustments ->Hue/Saturation and click colorize. Choose a color. Set layer to Screen blend mode so black parts become invisible.

MOONS:  These are just like small planets only they do not need atmospheres or textures on their bodies.

  1. Create a small circle on a New Layer and fill with a light color.
  2. Duplicate layer and fill circle with black – with Move Tool drag to create shading cut out. May need to adjust the opacity of the color layer if it appears to bright in your sky.

The final stage is to copy your planet, ring and moon into the Starfield document. Now clean up any starfield stars that may show up in the wrong places, add a Layer Mask to ring layer (if needed) to hide overlapping areas, and place your moonlet. I actually lightened the ring in the darker area behind the planet to try and give a more realistic look.

Here’s another image using similar steps to the first image but I have also supplied the brushes for the planet in the download.


In this case two colors were used for the rings – just click on the layer and with the Free Transform Scale (CTRL+T and right click to select Scale) to make the rings fit, then erase if they enter into the planet. The texture for this planet can also be found in my Planet brushes. I used BittBox’s Grunge Ice Texture 3 for the red planet. As an update to this tutorial, Photoshop Creative Magazine just came out with an article in their latest US edition (Issue 74) called “Create a Spacescape” that uses similar techniques to that above.  Definitely a good reference.

THE SHORT WAY  – Planet Brushes

Download for my Planet Brushes

Now that you can know how all the space images were created, here are those same images using brushes made from the major components above.

Here are the steps to create the planet images as brush images very quickly:

    1. Create your starfield as discussed above.
    2. Set Foreground color to b5d2e3.
    3. Add a New Layer and select the SJ-Basic Planet Brush brush. Click once.
    4. Next create a New Layer and select the SJ-Texture for Planet brush. Click once.
    5. Create another new layer and change Foreground color to white. Use the same brush and click once on top of the texture layer you just created. Add a layer mask and use a black brush set to 50% opacity and lighten up area inside the planet so it is not too bright – you still want a fairly white rim around the edge.
    6. Go back to the light blue color and use the SJ-Graduated Light Ring brush. Click once and adjust layer opacity to get the right effect.
    7. Add galaxies using Obsidian Dawn’s brushes. Select SJ-Moonlet brush to add a small moon circling the planet and then change the color to black and click once more to add shading.

Try experimenting by stacking the planet texture brush strokes in different colors on individual layers – then change the blend modes and opacity, or add layer masks and only let a small amount of color show through. Also, use the Blender brush I included in the download for a soft blend of the the colors or to adjust the atmosphere of the planet. You can some very unique planets this way.

That’s it!


Here is another example of an image that was created just using brushes. Some of the brushes used are: my planet brushes that can be downloaded above, my lens flare brushes (for the sun in the upper corner) that were created in the blog “How to Create Photoshop Brushes from Objects or Text” and can be downloaded here, Obsidian Dawn’s Space-Starfield2 and Comet1 brushes, Hawkmont’s Moon8 brush, and qzma’s Realistic Planets and Star Field Brush-Frozen Planet. I created the face following my blog on creating Photoshop brushes linked above.

I feel that following the long planet tutorial at the beginning does give the best planet results but it is a rather time-consuming process. The brushes can give the same feel quickly if you need to fill a certain look in an image or need it for a background. For just plugging in realistic images of our solar system in the sky, then download Obsidian Dawn’s Planet brushes – these are absolutely wonderful. They would be perfect for that full or partial moon that is missing from your image. Also, here is a Life Photos Gallery link to “NASA Envisions Alien Worlds” that shows what others are envisioning for this type of art. I hope this has inspired you to try a couple quick, out-of-this-world images for a real change of pace…..Digital Lady Syd


More Filmstrip Fun – How Can This Be?

Once again, I am doing a filmstrip blog. Gavin Hoey came out with a couple new tutorials this week and I found an older one from Dave Cross.  So here we go!

Dave Cross is one of the NAPP Photoshop guys and totally brilliant with his use of Photoshop. I have never seen this technique used before or since this tutorial. (Dave Cross recently wrote an article in Photoshop User Magazine‘s March 2011 – pg. 70 called “Bridge Output” using this technique.)  Dave introduced this concept a couple years ago on Photoshop User TV in Episode 155 and called it “Bridge CS4 Outputs – Filmstrip PDF.”

Basic steps for this filmstrip effect occur while using Photoshop’s Bridge:

1. To get images into Photoshop as a small filmstrip, go to the Bridge and select several photos. (As far as I know there is no limit to the number of images you can use – Dave used 12 in his example.) To get the images in the correct order, I would suggest creating a folder and copy and rename each image with a number designation at the start.
2. At the top right of the Bridge, change the workspace to Output – choose it by opening up the drop-down menu and selecting it.
3. On the upper left column, highlight the PDF icon.
4. For this image, create a filmstrip look in the Document section by setting width to 14 inches and Height to 2 inches, Quality to High, and Background to White. You can change the Layout’s columns or rows to get the look you want. There are some Page Presets in a drop-down in the Document section that may work nicely.
5. Press Refresh Preview to preview results of your settings. Make any adjustments and preview again until the effect looks right.
6. At bottom of Output panel, click the Save button – will save to a PDF file.
7. Can now go into Photoshop and open the PDF file or place it into another image, which is what was done above.
8. The filmstrip images may need to be adjusted a little to get the correct spacing or canvas added to make the whole image larger.
9. The Magic Wand Tool was used to select and delete the white background to make it appear transparent.

To create the Photoshop effects above, the technique from Gavin Hoey referenced on my last blog was used. Instead of making the reflected images “true” reflections, a layer was filled with yellow and a layer mask was applied so the filmstrip was not affected, only the reflected images and background. Then a Gradient Adjustment Layer was added using a pink and yellow pastel colored gradient. Finally Topaz Detail‘s Abstraction preset was applied to all but the original filmstrip. The bottom edge of the reflected images was erased slightly. An OnOne PhotoFrame was added to give the interesting framing.

The left image is pretty much a cookie-cutter version of the one Gavin Hoey presented recently. Once the video tutorial “Grunge Filmstrip Template in CS5” is followed, the object can be saved as a template to reuse with a different picture. See smaller image above. A free texture called Color Grunge by Princess of Shadows-Texture 3, (unfortunately she is no longer supporting her wonderful textures at DeviantArt but check out BittBox’s Grunge Frost textures that give a similar look), was used for the background grunge look instead of the Photoshop Fiber Filter from the tutorial. The original image (here on Flickr) was run through Nik’s Silver Efex Pro using control points to highlight the tips of the leaves.  Basic settings for Photoshop’s Unsharp Mask filter were applied, along with a mirror effect (Mirror Vertical Right) and colorize effect from  The Plugin Galaxy. The metallic pattern on the filmstrip was a really nice technique. An OnOne PhotoFrame was used to finish up.

The final image followed a second tutorial by Gavin called “How to Make a 3D Film Strip in Photoshop.” I wanted to create more of a montage feel this time. An Hawaiian panorama of Kapalua in Maui was used instead of trying to place individual images in each slot. (By the way, Gavin discusses how to use Content-Aware to fill in missing areas around a panoramas in the “Photoshop CS5 Top New Features” video from last week – this panorama used 7 images and Gavin’s tip worked great!)  This 3D tutorial starts with creating the filmstrip from scratch. I scanned one in for last week’s blog (download here) if you don’t want to go through these steps or have the new CS5 film shapes. A couple of filled palm tree objects created for a project years ago was added.  The free font is one of my favorites called Fantaisie Artistique.  The beautiful free texture was created by Caleb Kimbrough, the texture guru,  in a great tutorial called “How to Create Subtle Grunge Textures” – this one is called Subtle Grunge-Example 3. (I hope to blog about textures in the near future.)



Once again, these were fun and fairly simple projects to attempt. I like to try different effects from the actual information in the tutorials when I can. I usually get surprised by what happens. It makes Photoshop a very entertaining toy! Now go experiment!


Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Mixer Brushes

This week I decided to tackle a big one. I have been really confused about exactly what to do with this new category of brushes called Mixer Brushes. Information is not readily available and most of the Photoshop CS5 general books barely scratch the surface of what they can do. Therefore, I spent a lot of time figuring out just what I can do with them and trying to decide if I like them as well as Corel Painter results. To make a long story short, there is a place for this new tool but you have to know how to use it. That said, I will begin with a very basic image I did in Photoshop CS5 to show what you can do fairly easily.

The images are of some tulips bought at the grocery last week – an unusual variety that makes for beautiful photographs. The smaller second image was processed just a bit in Lightroom using Matt’s 70’s Look Preset (download Lightroom version here and Adobe Camera Raw here) and a little Vibrance. I liked the pleasing blue tones the preset added to the background. Please understand that I am not an artist but I felt that the Mixer Brush did a nice job on the top photo. The instructions used were from a tutorial posted by Russell Brown, a total Photoshop genius that works for Adobe and everything he does is brilliant! Needless to say, this tutorial called “Clone Painting Basics” does not let you down, is very entertaining, and is very easy to follow.

The above served as a great introduction to the brushes, but I wanted to learn more. Next Richard Harrington’s video blog posted last week called “Using the Mixer Brush – 211 UAP (Understanding Adobe Photoshop series)” was viewed. He gives information to create some brushes that are actually very good. Perhaps the most useful information comes from Geoff Priest in his two part series – “Photoshop CS5-Mixer Brush Tips and Tricks” and “More Photoshop CS5 Mixer Brush Tips.” This is a must read if you want to learn some important issues with the Mixer Brushes. There are many things you can do to get better and quicker results and his two blogs really put it in perspective. Below are two examples of a “Painted Lady Hibiscus” that were created in the same file using Layer Comps, a good way to see if the effect you are getting is what you want.  (The original image is published on Flickr here.) Several Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers, a Topaz Simplify Sketch Hard Pencil adjusted preset (see below on how to use a black and white blown out preset to make a similar sketch), different texture layers and finally edges were used. The reason there is no background behind the images is that the Sketch Layer was reduced to just the sketch by selecting the free Adobe Pixel Bender filter and applying the free Kill White filter (it works better with Pixel Bender than just as a Photoshop plug-in) to delete the white areas the Topaz filter applied. It just left the lines. I love this filter and use it all the time. Next erase any of the background lines out and to get a clean sketch.

There are several other places that have good information on Mixer Brushes. Julieanne Kost (another Adobe guru) has an interesting video tutorial called “Painting in Photoshop CS5 – Part 2” on Adobe TV. Mark S. Johnson did a great overview in his series on What’s New in CS5 – Part 10 is called “Painting on a Photograph with the Mixer Brush” and he creates some easy brushes to try. Tim Shelbourne also has a good tutorial video called “Introducing Photoshop CS5 Mixer Brushes“. One of the best resources found was from John Derry – he sells Mixer Brushes for $20 with six very helpful video tutorials on how to use them. These brushes are by far the easiest way to get comfortable with the Mixer Brushes and I would highly recommend them if you really like the Mixer Brush effects. In his bundle he includes some textures for the brushes to help get a real painterly look on the image. Also, an action to set up for painting on an image is included and I am still trying this out. What may be the best part of this set is a restore brush that can bring part of the unpainted image back into the painted areas and is totally unique as far as my research indicates. Karen Sperling, considered one of Corel Painter‘s gurus, tackled the Mixer Brushes in her E-zine Art Tips Magazine of August 2010 which can be purchased here for $15. The main article is called “How do I paint flowers in Photoshop CS5?” but there is a follow up article on painting portraits. She gives lots of actual painting tips on how to use the brushes and colors to your advantage so your image does not still look like a photograph after painting. This is an excellent article.  I did track down two written tutorials on the internet that appear to be well written and here are  links to both:  “Use the Mixer Brush in CS5 to Turn a Photo into a Realistic Painting” by Wassim Ouartsi, and “Mixer Brush Tool Photoshop CS5” by Wendi E. M. Scarth.  Both use Photoshop filters to help with the artistic effect – the second one includes some good Mixer Brush painting tips.

Enough on the resources.  After all my research, below are some points I think are really important to know about the Mixer Brushes:

  • Put you image into 16 bit mode, even if you open your image in 8 bit first. (Go to Image – Mode – 16 bit)  This creates a totally different and better effect.  (Geoff Priest’s blog tip)
  • Reduce the opacity of your original image when working on a painting layer and be sure to LOCK the original image layer so you will not accidentally paint on it. It is easy to get on the wrong layer while painting and it can mess up your image real quickly.  (John Derry tip)
  • Important to understand there are TWO types of Mixer Brushes – brushes that lay down actual color and act like real paintbrushes and blender brushes that do not pick up color but blend colors already present in the image. To create a blender Mixer Brush, you need to deactivate the Load Brush icon (5th one over) in the Options bar and check “Sample All Layers” (otherwise you will not see paint on the layer as you stroke)  and do not paint on the original, use a layer above. To change brush over to a painting Mixer Brush that paints with color, just activate the “Load the brush after each stroke” and deselect the icon next to it called “Clean the brush after each stroke.” Select a color and paint away! Paint in areas generally, then come back and add details and colors to your image. Switch frequently between laying down paint and blending what is there by just turning on and off the the Load Brush icon (try setting this up as a keyboard shortcut).
  • I also learned a valuable lesson about Mixer Brushes – if the brush you created is saved to the Brush Panel, the Option Bar settings are not saved. You must save the Mixer Brushes as TOOL PRESETS which will save the Option Bar settings.
  • Be sure to mix up your brushes a little and use lots of shadow and highlights to add interest to the image. Also adding some texture to your brushes, by checking the Texture section in the Brush Preset panel, will add that painted look you want. Be sure to fiddle with the Amount and Height sliders and look at the previews. This will give you a sense of what the stroke will look like when applied. It is very important to use a tablet (I still use my large Intuos 3 so if you can get one cheap, it works fine) with these brushes – the stroke is much harder to control without one. Also, I recently purchased a barrel rotation pen which emulates a paintbrush to some extent and is very pressure sensitive.  It helps create much better results when using the Mixer Brushes.
  • Use the following guidelines to create your own Mixer Brushes: Wetness set to 0 behaves like a normal brush – the higher the number, the more streaking. Low load rates result in shorter brush strokes. A high Mix rate results in more color being picked up from the canvas. The higher the Flow rate, the more paint is applied as you paint.
  • One last major point is that the larger the size of the brush, the slower it works. Unlike the regular brushes, there can be a considerable lag time between laying down strokes and actually seeing them on the image, especially if the you do not have a state-of-the-art system (or even if you do in some cases). It has been suggested in these references to set your resolution of your image to 150 dpi (minimum size most ink jet printers use to get good prints), and do not use a brush size over 75 pixels – I found I was not using anything near that large for the detail painting, usually preferring 25-35 pixel brushes. I have a pretty fast system and am finding this tip to be a real time-saver, especially since most of my images are not going to be huge in size. May need to reconsider how to proceed if you really want a large image produced. (John Derry explains this clearly in one of his videos.) It is much easier to switch to round brushes or special effect brushes to cover the less detailed background areas and just use the Mixer Brushes to bring in the details.

Below is my final example of what you can do with the Mixer Brushes. I created this image using my own method of Mixer and Brush painting – I call it the “Desaturated Color Look.” Even though it does not look very painterly, the foreground and water were painted with a Mixer Brush and I have tried to give a little different technique than what I found in the listed resources.

The basic steps are:

1.  In Lightroom, use a black and white preset to blow out some of the details (will change depending on the image). In the Split Toning section, I made shadows (black color in image) a color by moving the Hue slider to a green color in this case and set the Saturation slider to 45.  I left the Highlights and Balance alone.
2.  Go into Photoshop CS5. Duplicate the image. Create a white layer between the bottom image and the duplicate image.
3. Highlight top layer and go to Filter – Pixel Bender – Pixel Bender Gallery and in drop down, select MikeYael KillWhite. Now you have a sketch of the image on top of a white layer underneath. It is important to lock this layer so you will not accidentally paint on the sketch. Name this layer Sketch.
4. Create a New Layer between the white layer and sketch layer. Paint with a Mixer Brush over one of the main areas from the image. Name this layer something appropriate, like Water. Using the Sketch layer as a guideline, paint color in the image – I used a blunt – round short dry brush at 25 pixels (John Derry provides this brush in his collection along with the Italian texture). The texture was set to 100% scale with a Height of 10% and Pen Pressure turned on in the Texture Section of the Brush Preset Panel for the above.
5. For each new paint color, create a New Layer and paint just that color on the layer and name it. You could have many different colors if needed. The nice thing about doing this is that each main area is on its own layer so blend modes can be changed, layers duplicated  several times, or the opacity changed to create many different effects. I used the same brush as above for the sand but this time I used two different colors set up as the foreground and background colors. Paint with one color and then switch to the background color and paint near the first color (press x to switch quickly).  Hold the ALT key over the combined colors and you will get a mixed color in the “Current Brush Load” icon (4th over) in the Options Bar that can now be used for painting.  This gives a really nice blended look. Note, this is not a blender brush, this is a brush that lays down color.  (Many of the cited resources use the actual Blender Brushes.)
6. For the sky, I used a regular brush called Cloud Brush by rubina119 – #8 at the largest setting to create the soft blue sky. Then used the same brush at a smaller size and very lightly to create the white clouds. This is a case where it would have taken too long to use the Mixer Brush to create this very lightly textures sky area.
7. In the image above, the sketch layer is duplicated two more times with the top layer set to Multiply and 77% opacity. The background sky layer was also duplicated twice. Finally an OnOne PhotoFrames (here is shortened free version) was added.

This is a long post as it is a very difficult topic to cover. I am still learning how to use them. The new Mixer Brushes are well worth pursuing if you feel like adding an artistic look to you images. I think it is important to give people the resources to try new things.  This may not be for everyone, but I believe it is fun to try things outside your “comfort zone” and Photoshop has given us an easy way to try something new. Have fun exploring these brushes!

UPDATE ON MIXER BRUSHES!

Since writing this blog, I have created a Mixer Brush for use with textures that you might be interested in trying.  I have included my favorite texture Mixer Brush that can be downloaded here (there are two brushes – same brush at different sizes) and added to your Tool Presets. (Put the file in the User Name -> AppData -> Roaming -> Adobe -> Adobe Photoshop CS5 -> Tools file. Restart Photoshop to add brushes to your Tool Presets – go to the top upper left corner icon under the Menu line and click on down arrow, click on right pointed arrow in upper corner to open fly out menu, and select Load SJ Mixer Brushes Presets. I usually Append the tools and they will appear at the bottom of the list. NOTE: You must have the Mixer Brush selected in the vertical Toolbar to get the Mixer Brush variations to appear in the Tool Preset drop-down.)…..Digital Lady Syd


A Few More Valentines to Make

This is just a quick blog to finish up my series on Valentines.  Recently OnOne Software came out with more templates (no longer available) including some  more Valentine templates.  I used the Valentine Layout 5×7 Vertical Back and added a few embellishments of my own to give you an idea of what you can do with these wonderful templates that OnOne keeps furnishing to us for free.

This image contains similar elements I used in previous Valentines on my blog. Just to save you time, if you want to link to them: McSweetie Hearts from dafont.com, Cupid Brushes by glass-prism at Deviant Arts, and scatter heart brush from digitalTouch at Deviant Arts. The large heart was created using a Custom Shape in Photoshop and creating a large stroke with a pattern in it to give it the white edge. I did try out the Topaz Remask 3 (see sidebar for website link on my Tidbits Blog) to cut my lovely model out of the image I had taken. I was pretty pleased with the result for my first attempt.

The above image I created using a fairly quick tutorial from Gavin Hoey called “Valentines Card from Scratch” that he posted up on YouTube. I basically followed the tutorial except I changed the color of the roses.  Have a Happy Valentines Day!


Create Postage Stamps with Your Images

Method One:  (the old fashioned way – do it yourself)

I just did a really fun tutorial from Gavin Hoey at TipSquirrel.  This site has lots of short fun tutorials.  This is one from a few months ago and is called “Old Postage Stamp Effect in Photoshop.” Here is an example of following the tutorial pretty closely.

The original image was cropped and Matt Kloskowski’s Lightroom preset Matt’s Vintage Style was applied along with a few adjustments to get the correct colors. I wanted a vintage look since the postmark has a 1968 date on it. I also found out that stamps cost only 6 cents then. The image was brought into Photoshop to begin the stamp look. Gavin has graciously given us the brown envelop background and the two postmarks as a download to help complete the tutorial.   Ok, here goes the quick tutorial version – check out Gavin’s short video for a visual understanding.

1.  Open up your image.

2.  Set Color Picker to default Blank and White.

3.  Go to Image – Canvas Size and increase the canvas by 10%

4.  Unlock background layer by double clicking on the layer.

5.  Select Eraser Tool and in Options set brush Mode to Pencil, Size 100 pixels and in the Brush Panel, set Spacing to 150%.   Click on top left corner once, then hold SHIFT+click on upper right corner, SHIFT+click on bottom right corner, SHIFT+click on top left corner to complete the outside of the image with perforated edges.

6.  Add text layer to indicate the cost of the stamp.

7.  Go to Layers – Merge Visible to preserve transparency for edges.

8.  Open up background, in this case the brown texture Gavin provided.

9.  Drag stamp layer into this image and close the stamp image.  Free Transform (CTRL+T to center and adjust on paper texture.

10.  Go to File – Place and choose post-mark-lines-GAVIN-HOEY.  Free Transform (CTRL+T to size and place along top of stamp.  Change Layer Blend Mode to Multiply and reduce opacity.

11.  Go to File – Place and choose post-mark-GAVIN-HOEY.  Free Transform (CTRL+T) to size, rotate slightly and place in upper left of image.   Change Layer Blend Mode to Multiply and reduce opacity.

12.  Highlight stamp layer and open Layer Style at bottom of Layers Palette.  Select Bevel and Emboss and change Depth to 144 in my case, Size to 32 and Soften to 7.  Change Shadow Mode Color to H37/S79/B35 for a nice soft brown.

That’s it.  I used OnOne’s PhotoTools Professional Edition 2.6 software and added an Antique Color set to Soften at 41% opacity.  I used OnOne’s PhotoFrame 4.6 Professional Edition to Dave Cross’s Frame 17.   I love both of these products and use them all the time.

Method Two:  (the easy way)

I just created another stamp image using pshero’s Photoshop tutorial and file with a stamp template that can be downloaded by scrolling to the bottom of their tutorial. This is a really simple way to get a quick stamp effect if you do not want to go through all the steps. They also include some wonderful brush postmarks from Kiyay71677 on the Deviant Art site to add on top of your stamp.  If you want postmarks indicating that are very nice but contain UPS and FedEx stamps, check the Redheadstock Brushes also at Deviant Art. I created the above stamp image using a tutorial from 123RF’s website called Cloudy Text Effect.  They should have included the vintage look in the title as it is a great effect and the Cloud Text Brush was easy to create.   To make it easy for you to try, I created a Photoshop Action called SJ-Vintage Effect Action to use.  You can adjust the Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer and Layer Style to taste.  Run this action on your original image background layer.  I also created the Cloud Text & Smoke Brush to download and add to top layer of action.  It can create nice good looking white heavy smoke or clouds.

Finally I created this Valentine Stamp using the same template from the tutorial above.  The center hearts are My Valentine Shapes from Brusheezy.  The really cute cupid brushes can be downloaded for free.  I put each stroke on its own layer and then copied the layer a couple of time to get the pure white look I was after.   The little hearts are just one really nice scatter brush from digitalTouch on Deviant Art. I used my old standby font from Cosmi that I used in previous valentine blogs.  So here is my final stamp.

Well that about does it for this blog.  Hope you get a chance to try Gavin’s tutorial or at least download the template, brushes and action in Method Two.  (Check out pshero’s website for other great tutorials while there.) It is fun to give your images a different look sometimes…..Digital Lady Syd


Free Christmas Card Vectors and Brushes

As promised, I am presenting a few more ideas on how to make really nice Christmas Cards.  I found a box of Heavyweight Textured Half-Fold Cards from Avery (No. 3378) that are perfect for a bit of vintage look and print out very nicely.  Amazon carries it here.  I make cards all year using this stock of paper and my own pictures.  People respond very nicely to the look.  Just a couple of card tips that I learned from Lesa Snider:  She starts with a 5 x7 inch document at a resolution of 250 ppi to begin her images – this works nicely with the above cards.  Also be sure to keep your text and any other important parts of the image at least 1/4″ away from the documents edge so you will not  accidentally cut them out when printing.  Check out her link for three nice short tutorials on holiday greeting cards.

This year I decided to use the following image as the tree for my cards.  I got the idea from a tutorial at Adobe Tutorials, one of the 80 tutorials gathered by Photoshop Roadmap.  There were so many ideas to choose from in this group – I could have made many different looks and had a great time creating them all!  Photoshop Roadmap always has a really great variety of tutorials they upload all the time so bookmark this one if you can.

For the  next image I just wanted to try out some of the great free vector images and holiday brushes that I downloaded. Once again the people from Photoshop Roadmap took the time to pull 30 Delightful Christmas Photoshop Brushes, Patterns and Vectors together for our use. I did not even get through a portion of it but I believe if you have a certain look you want, you should be able to find it here. On the image below, I used the Christmas Vectors Package from Obsidian Dawn for the tree – you can download both brushes and images.  Obsidian Dawn is another great resource, especially for any Photoshop presets.  In this case I used the image for the base tree and then I used the brushes for the deer, bird and star at the top.  Also, for this image I used a gradient from the Wow 7 Gradients set from Jack Davis.  They were on the CD  of a little gem of a book called “Adobe Photoshop 7 One-Click Wow!‘ that I have used over and over (in 2014 I am still using these layer styles – check out a free download from Jack’s Facebook Page and click on More-Jack’s Freebees – his Mini Sampler has some in it).   They may still be available in the How to Wow books currently being sold.  I put a final touch on this image using Matt Kloskowski’s Vintage preset in Lightroom.  This preset is for Lightroom 3 but it can be easily updated to work with Lightroom 5. In late 2014 Matt left KelbyOne (NAPP) so I am not sure his blog will be up for long. I also used an OnOne (see website link in sidebar of my Tidbits Blog) PhotoFrame for the vintage look border. Unfortunately the do not support PhotoFrame (which was one of my very favorite plug-ins) but have incorporated their frames and borders into OnOne Perfect Effects.

I just found a good article on 8 Tips for Printing Inkjet Greeting Cards from Red River Paper that may help with your cards.  Well I believe this should be enough resources to make some really pretty Christmas Cards.  I hope everyone has a great time with them – I know I did!…..Digital Lady Syd