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Posts tagged “Viveza

REBLOG – GET INSPIRED USING YOUR FAVORITE TEXTURES

Comic Image of me watching TV

This week I am doing a reblog from a few years ago – thought you would enjoy it since it is on one of my favorite subjects and lots of fun to use with images. In the meantime I am taking a week off from blogging to get some new pic and ideas (and taking a little down time – HaHa)! Have a great week!

Digital painted image of a farm sceneLots of times I have found or created a texture I really like that I would like to use in an image but not sure where. So this is a blog on how to create images for that texture, and possibly get your creative mind going. Not particularly a new concept, but a little different approach for using texture. It also gives you a chance to brush up on your compositing skills and try out some nature brushes. The image above is an example of my using a texture that I created in Corel Painter and used in this image originally.

There are not a lot of steps to this process. Just open the texture above a white Background layer in case the texture needs to be set to a different blend mode or opacity amount. Next add elements and/or text, and finally do the finishing steps as if post-processing an image.

That is exactly what was done above – here is the workflow for this image to demonstrate the steps. The texture was added and left as it is. Next Photoshop’s tree filter was used to create this pretty foreground tree. If you have not experimented with this filter, give it a try. (For more on this see my How to Create a Photoshop Artistic Tree.) It is so much fun! These are my tree settings – most of the settings were changed to get the tree effect shown above. (Base Tree Type: 19: Fraxinus Griffithi which is an Evergreen Ash, Light Direction 85, Leaves Amount 22, Leaves Size 130, Branches Height 94, Branches Thickness 77, Uncheck Default Leaves and select 8: Leaves 8, Uncheck Randomize Shapes Arrangement 21.3.) A layer mask can always be added if you do not quite like the way the branches look – in this case some of the leaves were too dark so a 30% brush was painted over them in the mask to lighten them up. The Liquify Tool can also be used to get the branches sitting just right. A Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the tree to make it more golden in color to match the texture. The texture looked like a golden wheat field to me so a little red barn from PixelSquid was added – a mask was added so the bottom of the barn could be removed and hide it from view. The layer was set to 55% layer opacity so it is looks a little less sharp and more distance. I love the brushes by DeviantArt’s ninelvlsup and her Dandelion Whisps brush was used in the foreground. Some of the edges were removed with a layer mask. The birds are from a Flypaper Bird Set that I use all the time. To soften the effect of the birds, a Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+click between the layers to clip) to the birds and a yellow and red pattern was used. The bird layer was set to Multiply blend mode at 77% layer opacity. The last element is the single bird from the same brush set called Big Crow Fly Birds brush – it was duplicated and the top layer was set to Multiply blend mode at 65% layer opacity to emphasize the bird a little more. The elements are now in place. A stamped layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) ReStyle was opened. There a different color palette was applied – one that was less bright and yellow and created a cooler color tone – the preset was created from another image. (See my Flagler Beach Pier image for color palette used.) This layer was set to Color blend mode. The final steps are what I generally do when finishing up a regular photo image. Not all my steps were used here but a lot of them. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added to add some contrast back. On another stamped layer Nik Viveza 2 was used to shift the focus back over to the bird from the barn. On a New Layer a little spatter brush was used to give the grass a little life – I wanted it to look like little bugs flying around. A soft orange Light Leak was added to the top left for a bit of color in the sky. A Red Channel Luminosity Curves Adjustment Layer was added to pull the whole image together. The last step was to add a layer style to the edge for a soft brown border – just an Inner Shadow set to Normal blend mode, brown color, Distance 0, Choke 53, and Size 29; and Inner Glow set to Saturation blend mode, Opacity 100%, white color, Softer Technique, Edge, Choke 0, and Size 250 pixels. Know this got a little long, but it is a pretty good example of how to pull a composite effect together once the texture is chosen.

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Below are two examples of using basically the same elements in the same place but used with different textures that give a totally different look. Digital Art image of fur trees and a deerThis image used a really colorful background texture that I created using a whole bunch of the brushes in Grut’s Inky Leaks Splatter Brushes, which are fabulous brushes. Here is a link to how this texture was used before. It gives a subtle effect especially in the sky in the above. Here is a quick run-through of the steps using a very similar workflow. The tree was created using the PS Tree filter again (the Pine Tree 2 was used) and duplicating and flipping it to make a second one. The deer element is from Tara Lesher (could not get weblink to work). Frostbo Grass Set 2 brushes were used. The flower under the large tree is actually from a recent Checking Out the Buds Tidbits Blog. I try to save out anything that could be used again for other images. The flying ducks are also from the Flypaper Bird set above. A light leak was added on right side. A Van Gogh preset was applied in Topaz Impression 2 – a layer mask was used to paint back the deer, birds and tree trunks. Three more textures were used get even more of a painterly look: one of mine which had yellow and a slight bluish vignette around it and set to Darken blend mode at 57% layer opacity (used Topaz Texture Effects in PS to create it), 2 Lil’ Owls (for website link, see sidebar on my Tidbits Blog). The Grey Collection 3 was set to Overlay blend mode, and her Ancient 1 set texture 2 was set to Linear Light at 28% layer opacity. Nik Viveza 2 was applied to adjust focus. Last step added a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using a Candlelight preset – it was set to Linear Burn at 10% layer opacity. Pretty much the same as above but very different result.

In the image below I wanted to show how a different texture gives a very different result. It contains the same basic elements except that the grass was created using Aaron Blaise‘s Foliage brush set and Directional Fur and Hair brush set. I was really surprised what nice flowers and grass can be created with these brushes. The texture is another one I painted in Corel Painter. The font is called Winter Holidays. I am not sure I have ever used this texture before but I like it. The reason this image looks so different is that the PS Lighting Effects filter was used to set the lighting on the right side. Otherwise the image was post-processed as the first one.

Digital image of fur trees and a deerThis is something to try when you do not feel so inspired. There always seems to be some texture that will get you interested in creating. Until later…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blog:
How to Make a Basic Composite Image
Creating Winter Wonderland Effect!
How to Create an Image From Nothing!


Painting Effects – Which Ones to Use?

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

Alien Skin’s Snap Art 3

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

Photoshop’s Oil Paint Filter

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

Topaz Filters

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

Jack Davis Wow Smart Object Painting 1 Action

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

Dynamic Auto-Painter

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

Auto-Painting with Corel Painter II

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

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

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

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

IMAGE INFORMATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Digital Lady Syd’s Top Ten Photos From 2012

It is that time where I try to put some perspective on my images for the past year and choose the ones that appeal to me most. I had a nice year and got to see some pretty interesting places. I try to see which images I would place in my home. Here is what my “inner critic” thinks are some of my best.

10.  Below is an image shot while in the Lightner Museum looking down at my favorite lunch spot in St. Augustine, Florida, the Cafe Alcazar which is located in the old hotel pool area (see Bathing in Casino on Shorpys website for how the pool looked in 1889). For more info, see my Tidbits Blog Cafe Alcazar and Vintage Topaz Adjust.

9. I love this sort of illustrative and humorous effect. This image is of a whale taken during the Shamu show at the SeaWorld Orlando Theme Park. For details on processing, see my Storytelling with Your Images blog.

8. The Big Island in Hawaii was one of my most favorite places I have ever visited. This photo art image depicts how I think of Hawaii. I discuss how I created the effect in my Using Color Efex Pro and Texture for a Warm Hawaiian Landscape Effect blog.

7. This lovely mallard duck pair’s image was taken at the SeaWorld Orlando Theme Park in Florida. This image used a texture by 2 Lil Owls and the new Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Detail 3 to bring out details and color, especially in the feathers and eyes.

6. This old corvette was for sale at the 39th Annual Turkey Run at the Daytona International Speedway infield. This is my favorite type of car –  so I had a great time photographing all the corvettes. (More will be showing up in my future blogs as I have a lot more corvette images.) To see how I processed this image, see my Little Red Corvette Tidbits Blog.

5.  Miniature Mums were used in a lot of my images this year. I like to photograph the flowers I grow. I have been trying to improve on my macro shooting  this year. To see how this flower was processed, see my Tidbit Blog Just Bloomin” Beautiful!

4. The wild surf is at Laupahoehoe Harbor on the Big Island. In my Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5! blog I used this same image with an artistic feel to it. Nik Color Efex Pro’s Detail Extractor filter helped give this image the sharpness.

3. I am always surprised how nice the flower pictures are that I get at the local grocery stores with my inexpensive Kodak point-and-shoot camera. These beautiful pink roses were shot at my neighborhood store. Post processing included adding 4 textures – two I bought from French Kiss’s website and two from a wonderful Flickr site by Lenabem-Anna which contains many beautiful vintage and painterly textures. I used her textures 130 and 72.

2. The purple lily pad image is one of my artistic experiments that I really like. They were taken at the Hilton Waikoloa Village by the Japanese Restaurant. To see how this effect was created with a slightly different result, see my Tidbits Blog Purple Lily Pads!

1.  It is hard to top Hawaii for beautiful everything. I settled on this image from along the road to Waipio Valley as my favorite of the year since it totally reminds me of my trip to the Big Island – the bright sunlight, the beautiful surf and the gorgeous clouds hanging out. To see how I processed this image, see my Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem! blog.

It’s been a great year and I have learned so many new things about post-processing my images in Photoshop. Hope you have enjoyed some of my blogs too. I hope next year is as fun and productive. Happy New Year Everyone!…..Digital Lady Syd


Photo Art Compositing For Fun


Keeping with my “photo art” theme, one my favorite things to do in Photoshop is to create composites so I decided to share some of my workflow and some of my experiences when creating one. I have created several composites that now hang in my home as canvas art. When I do a composite, it takes several iterations and a few days to get the exact feel I want in the image. This one above, which is named “Sisters,” has taken me a good part of three days and eight iterations before it was finalized. I try to create what I consider “relevant composites” or ones that convey a theme – not just slapping a bunch of unrelated images together.  I have found that most of my Photoshop skills are put to test when creating a good composite. This image contains five objects – the floral background and bee photos are my shots, the beautiful young ladies are from an artist at Deviant Art that was willing to share his lovely image, and two clip art butterflies.

So lets talk about how to get this final result.

1. FIND A BACKGROUND. First you need to select a good background image to place your other objects into. I knew I really liked this photo of Moss Rose flowers that grow in my front yard. I also know that it was a very blurry image (I do have some nice ones of them) but the color was beautiful in this image. It got me thinking this would give a nice background for a dreamy fairy tale look. Below is the image used for the background – it had been processed as a 3 image HDR and some texture added – only the basic HDR layer was used for the image. You can see how flurry everything but the front flowers were but the colors are very pretty.

2. ADD IN OBJECTS. The next step was to find something that would fit the “dreamy theme” I was going after. If you go up on Deviant Art (here is a link to my page), you can search for beautiful images of people dressed up in Victorian and all kinds of costumes and most are readily shared for your use. The artists at DeviantART are usually very willing to share their expertise and it is a wonderful community of people. That is how I got this wonderful image of the two young ladies in this image –  it is called Split Personalities by J Hicks at Deviant Art. Oddly enough, he used two images from another person, Eirian Stock, at Deviant Art.

From Adobe Bridge, place your selected image into your background layer image (or you can start with a totally New Document and add the background image in first) so it becomes the top layer. Add a layer mask to the image and paint out what parts you do not like showing. Free Transform the layer and change the size or distort it to fit – anything you want to do. Sometimes warping does the trick. In this case, the ladies were placed among the flowers and the whole background around the girls was painted out except for a small part of the bench they were on.

I decided that I would like to add some butterflies and a bee to the image – it seems like these objects have a fairy tale feel to them. Since I had the bee image, but it was only a small part of a bigger image, it was first opened into Photoshop and the bee was loosely selected and placed on its own layer (CTRL+J) – then this layer was copied (CTRL+A to select and CTRL+C to copy) and placed (CTRL+V) into the composite document. Using the same procedure as in Step 3, a layer mask was added to the bee layer and painting with black only the bee was left in white  on the mask. If you do not have object images, try some of the free stock photos places – I like stock.xchng.

Be aware of the composition you are creating – the image should be balanced and have a focus point. First I tried one of my butterfly images but the colors in the butterfly were too dark and it just did not blend in correctly into the total image. The two butterfly objects are from an old clip art book I purchased called Decorative Butterfly Illustrations by Dover Publications – they look rather authentic. They were on a white background so the white was removed using the Magic Wand Tool and CTRL+BACKSPACE to remove the white. Then Free Transform (CTRL+T) using Warp was applied to adjust them in the image.

3. CLEAN UP. Once you get all your objects assembled, then the clean up begins. In my image I did not add the bee until I realized that one of the girls was looking at something where there was nothing to look at in the image. First the upper left yellow flower was added  – this was cloned on a separate layer from the yellow flower on the bottom right and warped to look unique. Then the bee was added. I tried to adjust the objects so the eye stays toward the center of the image – with no bee, the eye tends to follow the girls gaze off to the left. The butterflies on the right also keep the eye from roaming too far right.

Another big issue was that the butterflies and bee were too sharp edged to match the soft edged flowers they were near. Therefore, a Gaussian Blur filter was applied to each at a fairly low amount, roughly a 4 radius, to give a soft feel and out-of-focus look to them. Some petal clean up was done where the petals looked overexposed. (See my Getting Rid of Those Blown Out Areas in Your Image blog.) Using a similar technique, little areas of the skin were smoothed out and hair and dress color was adjusted by adding New Layers and sampling color near the areas to be cleaned up – then with the brush tool set to a low opacity of 20% or less, painting back in to smooth rough areas of image. Below is what my image looked like at iteration 4. I decided I did not like the lighter colors – a little flat for the effect I wanted. Also it seemed the girls and their dresses did not stand out and I wanted them to be the focal point of the image. Using a Curves Adjustment Layer, they were lightened just slightly to make them stand out more from the colorful floral background. You can always clean up an effect anytime during the workflow if it just does not look right.

4. ADDING TEXTURES AND FILTERS. Now I could not resist the temptation to try some textures on this image. Several were tried but I decided to use one that created by using the Smudge Tool and Watercolor brushes in Photoshop – see texture below. I will be blogging on how to create your own background textures in the next couple of weeks and this is one of the examples. Use Dr. Brown’s Paper Texture Panel to try out different textures and blend modes. You can always paint out areas on the layer mask and create some very localized texture effects. For the final image, the texture was set to Multiply blend mode at 55% opacity, and it was painted out of the skin areas using a white layer mask and painting with black. The yellow and oranges really brightened up the image and gave me some colors I liked.

Thinking I was done I decided to try just one more thing – Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in. (Use Smart Objects for this so you can go back and adjust the sliders if needed – Filter -> Convert for Smart Objects.) Maybe it would do something really interesting. (If this had not worked, I would probably have gone into OnOne PhotoEffects 3 or Topaz photoFXlab’s InstaTone – for website links, see my Tidbits Blog). The new Film Efex: Nostalgic and used Film Type 4 filter was selected – it just softened up everything and created almost hyper-pastel colors but I really liked the effect. The Overall Strength of this filter was set to 86% to tone it down just a little. Also Brilliance and Warmth was applied adding just warmth at 29%.

5. FINAL STEPS. It now feels like the image is almost done so I used my favorite clean up plug-in, Nik Viveza 2, to lighten up the whole image. Also the middle area of the image was softened and more detail was added to the pillow flower. You can do all kinds of subtle changes with this plug-in that can really enhance the composition and direct the eye.

Last steps involved brightening up the dresses more using a Curves Adjustment Layer whose layer mask was filled with black and just the dresses painted back in with low opacity brushes.

A final texture is added for framing, one of my favorites – ShadowHouse Creations Old Photo2 which gives an very old vintage feel to the image. It was set to Darker Color blend mode at 55% opacity and a layer mask was used to paint out the center and just leave the texture details around the edges. Below is how my Layers Palette looked after completing this image.

This is a decent example of what goes into a good composite. In this image alone, there were 5 Curves Adjustment Layers, 5 clean up layers, and 5 paint layers where I sampled colors and painted over areas. My original file is 955 megs and 11 X 17 inches so this is a pretty large file by my standards. A composite lends itself nicely to large canvas images. There are many other composite techniques not used here in this example but  on others such as using the Gradient Tool and Color Fill Adjustments layers for unique effects and blending. This is definitely where you get a chance to experiment. Give a composite a try – it is very rewarding to create one that represents your own personal expression……Digital Lady Syd


Digital Lady Syd’s Photo Art Workflow



I am constantly amazed at how some of my images turn out – not at all what I had expected. This week I am going to go through my photo art workflow step-by-step so you can see what a difference a little tweaking will do. One of my favorite image types to play with in Photoshop are shots of art works. It is a nice break from cleaning up photos of family and large travel landscapes and gives me the opportunity to be creative. This image is of a type of art I had never heard of before that is on display at my favorite local museum – the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida. These are examples of Victorian era cigar band art. The Photoshop-processed image above is my final photo art result and the one I liked the best, but there were several other choices I considered.

NOTE: If you want to see the settings used for any of the steps, just click on the image and the larger Flickr image will appear.

  • Here is the initial image as a RAW NEF file. The dishes were enclosed in a glass case and the camera settings were a 44-mm lens at F/4.8, 1/8 sec, and ISO 1250. There is a lot of light glare on the pieces. This image is not one I would normally choose to process, but I just loved the composition of the items and the colors in the cigar bands.

  • My next step was to create a Virtual Copy in Lightroom (this does not have to be done if using Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop) to try to clean up the tone a little before going into Photoshop. Since only a few changes were done here, it does not look much different. First I go to the Lens Correction section and select the Profile tab where I set my lens info, and then the Color tab where I check Remove Chromatic Aberration (this can save a lot of time later). The next step would be to adjust the Crop of the image if it needs it – in this case it did not. Now adjust the Basic sliders. Also check out the noise in the image and try to correct if needed. Next I right click on the image in Lightroom and select “Edit In -> Edit in Adobe Photoshop CS6” which now opens up Photoshop, if it is not already open, with your image.

  • I am a big fan of combining my plug-ins until I get just the effect I like. If I do not like what results, I just delete that layer and try again. I always duplicate the background first so I know what the image looked like to start. On a really difficult image, which I considered this one to be, I usually will first open up Nik Color Efex Pro 4 – they have so many filters, you can sometimes get a great look right away. Shown below are stacked filters Tonal Contrast, which I believe is one of the best filters in this plug-in; Pro Contrast, which is one of my personal favorites, and works wonders on many of the images I have processed; and Brilliance/Warmth, one of the most popular Color Efex filters – just adds a really soft warmth to an image. Usually I like the Detail Extractor, but it really looked bad on this image due to all the glare on the items. Note that before entering the plug-in, I created a Smart Object (right click on your duplicated layer in Layer Panel and select Convert to Smart Object in menu) as Nik plug-ins work very well with Smart Objects. It allows you to go back into the plug-in and all settings and control points will still be in place so they can be readjusted easily.

  • Since there is so much glare in this image, there is only one plug-in I know of that does a good job controlling it and that is my most used plug-in, Nik Viveza 2. It will almost always improve if not remove problem areas on an image. You can see I have added 10 control points on the glare areas (click on image to see the little round circles more clearly in Flickr) to try to even out the tone. By comparing to the above, it is not perfect, but what a difference it makes! The detail and saturation of the image is also much improved. (See my blog Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem!)

  • Still have issues where the glare is – it needs to be cleaned up and the pink removed since it draws your eye into the left corner and it is distorted by the glare. The Color Replacement Tool was used to turn the pink color turquoise (see settings used in Options Bar in photo and turquoise foreground color in swatch) and some cloning was done on the dish to even out the pattern where the glare blows out the detail. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to get rid of another pink hot spot. I usually try to work completely non-destructively (meaning the original image was not changed by any of the adjustments made on the layers above), but the Color Replacement Tool is destructive and changes are made on the image itself – the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer may have been a better choice for this problem area.

  • I always add or at least try to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to adjust the contrast towards the end of my workflow. Since I thought I was almost done, it seemed appropriate to add it now. Below is what my curve looked like for this image. I usually just drag the Hand Tool (located in the upper lefthand corner of the panel) in the image to get this correct. It usually is just a subtle change but very significant. In this case I only wanted to brighten up the plate and mug where the color was located, not enhance where the glare was. The Curves Adjustment layer mask was turned black by clicking on the mask and CTRL+I to invert the color from white to black. Then a soft 30% opacity brush was set to white and used to gently paint back the areas where the I wanted additional contrast and color. This was a good point to create a composite layer that combines all the layers below into one on top by clicking (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) – this helps when the number of layers gets large as some techniques need a single layer to work correctly – this can especially be a problem with the Clone Tool.

  • At this point I thought I was getting the image to a final look. I decided I wanted sort of a vintage type edge on the image, so I used one of my very favorite textures, ShadowHouse Creations Old Photo 6. After trying several blend modes, I selected the Exclusion blend mode (which I do not use that much but worked in this case) set to 53% opacity. Still not sure it was quite what I wanted so I decided to add one of his new Assorted Mask Overlay (08) and set it to Soft Light blend mode at 100% opacity. Basically just the beautiful edges were used on both layers, and the image center was mainly painted out using black in the layer masks to keep the basic image intact. I often use the free Russell Brown Paper Texture Panel to try out and stack the various textures (the green square at the top of the icons to the left of the panels opens it up).

  • I must be done???? But then I thought, I wonder what happens if I take this image into the new Topaz photoFXlab (see sidebar for website in my Tidibits Blog). Well that proved to be a problem because I started finding all kinds of new effects I liked on this cleaned up image. The settings below were applied as a first step to the bottom layer for all the different Topaz effects tried on this image.

  • I duplicated the bottom layer in the plug-in and applied from the Effects tab a preset called Lithography by H. Hurst (Topaz used the preset from Topaz Detail) and set the layer to 65% opacity. In the Adjustment tab, the Saturation slider was set to 20. The Dodge Brush was used from the Brush tab to whiten around the pupil of the eyes of the girl on the plate using a brush strength of .10. Next the lips were slightly reddened using the Saturation brush. It was saved in the new Topaz extension .pfxl so the settings could be readjusted at a later date if needed. Clicked OK and applied to it to the image in Photoshop. At this point I did create a note to remind myself exactly what I did in the plug-in since I am still learning about the new extension. The image that resulted is shown below.

  • To be honest, I just didn’t love the final result so I decided to delete the layer where I applied the photoFXlab plug-in and start over in this plug-in. This time I decided to try out the results using the Plug-in tab and selected Topaz Adjust 5. Here I tried out one of my favorite presets I created from the French Countryside preset in the Vibrant Collection. It looked nice and more like what I wanted. I use this preset a lot when I want a nice artistic feel.

  • I decided to try one more preset just to see if I liked it and sure enough, it is the one I selected. It is in the Stylized Collection and is called Painting-Venice. I added several settings in the Finishing Touches section: Transparency – Overall Transparency slider to .7, Color – Warmth 0.03, and Tone – Quad Settings as shown on the image – the correct colors should be set already. Once out of the Adjust plug-in, in the Adjustment tab Exposure was set to 0.38, Contrast to -3 and Dynamics 24.


Well this is a good example of my workflow for a photo art image. I could have used OnOne Software’s wonderful Perfect Effects (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog), or any of the other plug-ins offered by Topaz, but it just depends on what I think will work. Overall the main components are 1) process as discussed above in Lightroom, 2) take into Photoshop and do any clean up, 3) add plug-in effects, 4) add any textures if you want, 5) I always go to Viveza 2 now, 6) do any extra sharpening or noise reduction that might be required,  7) add a Curves Adjustment layer for final tone and contrast, and 8) add any framing. I hope you can see that even though a change is very small, it can be very significant to the photo, and that you can always change your mind. An image can take on such a different feel with different plug-ins and textures applied. I thought originally I wanted a very sharp almost HDR look for this image, but I ended up with a very bright painterly result. I am happy with it but it is not exactly what I had in mind when I started! …..Digital Lady Syd


My 100th Post! – My Favorite Things About Photoshop

Since I have reached this major milestone, I decided this week I would show a few examples of what I use the most in Photoshop and what is the most fun for me when using Photoshop. In some of these cases, I will be mentioning certain products or people but that is mainly because I really like what they do – they do not know me. Also, no external plug-ins will be discussed here.

Several things were done in Photoshop to process this image of a sailboat model of the USS Constitution located at The Casements in Ormond Beach, Florida. The most important is that a 32-bit tone-mapped image was created in Photoshop’s Merge to HDR, saved as a TIFF file, and then brought into Lightroom 4.1’s Develop module using the sliders to bring out all the details. This now makes Photoshop’s HDR processing on par with several of the other HDR software programs. The TIFF image goes back into Photoshop to finish up using another one of my favorite tools – Puppet Warp – to straighten out the extreme warping in the original image (it was actually applied twice). It was a difficult image to work on since it has a square glass encasement and the horizontal louvered blinds in the background. Just using the arrow keys is sometimes enough to push and pull the image pins the correct amount and Puppet Warp works much better than Lens Correction or the new Adaptive Wide Angle filters for me. Puppet Warp can be used in a Smart Object for readjusting later if needed.

I am slowly really getting into textures – they just do so much for a boring image. The texture above was created using one of the best panels you can apply to Photoshop and that is Dr. Brown’s (may be the top Photoshop guru of all time and works for Adobe) Paper Texture Panel – biggest time saver for anyone that likes to experiment with textures! This is one feature I use all the time and can’t believe I used to go through my textures individually to try them out. To really enhance this process, create a folder on your desktop that contains several sub-folders to place copies of your favorite textures. He recommends keeping these folders to around 20 textures as it takes a while to load if it is much bigger. I have sub-folder on textures I created, my favorite textures I use all the time, and a few on textures I have downloaded or bought. You can switch folders very quickly in the panel. This image used Paul Grand’s Scratches Texture and Gavin Hoey’s beautiful grunge frame 1. I am also putting a plug in here for my favorite texture guy, ShadowHouse Creations, who offers all kinds of beautiful textures for free, and I use them all the time. I reference his textures in many of my older blogs.


Those wonderful brushes in Photoshop! My very first blog featured the above image where I actually used a Photoshop Mixer Brush to paint in the petals of the flowers. This is still one of my favorite painted images – the Oleander flowers in the original were not near as pretty. The background was a Karen Sperling texture called 08Sperling (I believe this now has to be purchased – not sure how I got it) that added was a very delicate complement to the image. She is actually a Corel Painter Master and does some wonderful things in that program.

Totally indispensable! The last step I always do before I save an image. A few months ago I viewed a short video tutorial at Kelby Training called Mastering Curves: Adjusting Tonality by Ben Wilmore, another great Photoshop guru, who teaches how to use Curves correctly. (I have found the Kelby Training tutorials to be the best you can find on every aspect of photography and photoshop.) The basic thing to know about Curves is that by selecting the hand tool in the top left of the adjustment panel and dragging straight up in the image it lightens it up, and down darkens it. If you get two dots close and rather flat on a Curve line, you will lose detail.  A black layer mask can be created to target just the areas you want changed. It is a pretty simple technique but can improve an image quickly. Also you can save Curve settings if you want to apply them again. The image above of the beautiful birds in the Spring at the Rookery used several Curves Adjustment Layers to match the tones for the composite.

I have been using this Double Edge Frame layer style a lot on my images – gives a nice clean look with colors that can be sampled from the image. Also plain black borders can easily be created. To download this layer style for free or directions on how to create it, see my blog referenced above. There are many other uses for layer styles that I love, but I use the frames the most. Also a couple textures were added here with Dr. Brown’s Paper Texture Panel.


I love the way you can go back in and fix your settings if you do not like the way they look. Most of the plug-ins I use have Smart Object capability and this is why I use them. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone back into Nik’s Viveza 2 and adjusted my control points! Just another great Photoshop feature. The image above of the Hilton Time Share swimming pool on the Big Island in Hawaii used Smart Objects for both the Nik HDR Efex Pro using Granny’s Attic preset and Viveza 2. Also two Curves Adjustment Layers were used.

I could go on and on about all my favorite features I love. The above are some of the ones I use the most. I thought about writing on the new Defringe section in Lightroom 4.1 and Adobe Camera Raw that works wonders on this problem – better than any of the noiseware software available for controlling the ugly fringe problem. The new sliders in both are much improved and both now do a great job on reducing noise too. Also the Graduated Filter is much improved. Back in Photoshop I love being able to use LAB mode to sharpen some of my images selectively. Content-Aware tools cannot be beat but I still use the plain old Clone Tool the most. And the improved Sharpen Tool is fabulous for those little areas that need a detail boost. I even love the Color Replacement Tool that hardly no one uses! And all the blend modes just add so much to an image. Needless to say, there is a lot to like about Photoshop and so many ways to do things. I guess the real fun is learning new ways to use it and that is why I blog! Hope you have enjoyed some of what I have learned these past couple years!…..Digital Lady Syd


Using Topaz photoFXlab to Replace Skies

Now that the latest version of photoFXlab (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) has been released for several weeks, I have had a little time to come to grips with how to use the program and integrate it into my workflow. I have been surprised by how often I am using the Masking Brush to add new skies to my landscape images.


The above depicts a really cool private bar on the beach on one of the more remote roads in  Marsh Harbour in the Bahamas. I had the fortune of sailing there a couple years ago and am revisiting some of the images I did not process. It is so clear for starters because I converted it to a 32-bit HDR image in Photoshop CS6’s Merge to HDR and then processed the resulting TIFF file in Lightroom. (See my blog New Lightroom and Photoshop 32-bit Processing Capability for info on how to do this). So many of my images from Marsh Harbour had no clouds in them –  so I added a few in the background for effect. Now that I am getting familiar with the Edge Aware Masking Brush in photoFXlab, it is turning out to be one of my favorite selection tools.

These are the basic steps to replace a sky and it is very simple:

1.  Once inside the plug-in, duplicate the bottom layer (always do this when using photoFXlab – it can save you from a lot of problems in the long run.)

2.  Go to +From File button and select a cloud image you like – watch out for the way the sun is lighting up the clouds. If you took the original image in the middle of the day, use a cloud image from a similar time of day. Also be sure it is a jpeg or a psd file (it will flatten the layers when it comes in) – photoFXlab does not open up camera raw files. I took a NEF file I liked and saved it down as a jpg in Photoshop – pretty easy.

3.  Use the Tools tab in photoFXlab to Scale, Move or Rotate (or flip) the cloud layer to fit the area you want to fill – line up the part of the image you like, even if the edges go outside the original image size.

4.  Move this layer underneath the duplicated image layer.

5.  Now the magic starts!  Select the Masks tab and create a fairly small size brush setting the Strength to 0 (creates a black line on the mask so you see through to layer underneath), Hardness around .20 (shows a fairly large feather size – set to 1 it has no feather), Flow 1.00 (if you make this .5, you only get a gray or 50% black color and it is hard to keep the tone the same), and Edge Aware 1.00 (set to 0 it will detect no edges).  Start painting on the mask – make sure the crosshairs or inner circle of the brush do not enter into any part of the image you want to keep. Let the feather area of the brush slip over other areas so edges between image layers will be sharp. Zoom in if you need to get the details. Paint around the horizon edges first, and then fill in the background with a larger brush size and Edge Aware set to 0. Voila – there is your new sky.

What is really neat is that even if your little edges disappear – like the coat hangars and chain in the above image, the details can sometimes be brought back by lowering the opacity of your cloud image just a little – in this case I set it to 54% since I did not want the clouds being the major center of attention. Just be careful around the horizon lines – set the Strength to 255 (white) to clean up areas that you painted over – it actually acts like an eraser.

The +From Stack button was clicked to create a Stamped or Composite layer on top. In the Adjustments tab the Saturation was set to 23, Contrast to -23, Dynamics to 51, Highlights to -21, and Shadows to -4. The image was brought back into Photoshop where a Curves Adjustment Layer was added for additional contrast and that was it.

This is so much faster than using the Photoshop selection tools or any of the masking plug-ins, but it really works best on skies. I believe other programs should be used when you have a more complicated selection. Still, this is one of the major things I need it for and it works great!
…..
I listened to Topaz Webinar A Closer Look at Edge-Aware Brushes with Nicole Paschal, who does a great job creating  interesting and useful webinars that highlight all the Topaz products and how they work together. You can type in questions in an interactive way with both the staff and Nicole as she is presenting the webinar – very informative. Several webinar tips are listed below along with a few of mine:

  • If you find that you are not getting a good distinct line between the items you are trying to select, change the brush size down to a smaller size – it will give you a better result as large brushes do not recognize edges as well. The Edge-Aware technology is based upon the color under the crosshair so this gives a smaller and more accurate sample.
  • Can either brush or click to fill area. Usually the first pass of brushing will leave little areas not covered completely or with a little haloing, but if you brush back over it , they disappear. Nichole finds that it is easier for her to just click several times as she moves through the area of the image instead of actually brushing.
  • Make sure your inner circle is not touching any color you do not want selected.
  • Set the Brush Strength to 255 to paint back in areas that you accidentally covered up when painting on the mask. If you set the Strength to 125, the area allows 50% of the layer below to show through, as done in the last image below.
  • Probably best to create another +From Stack layer if you want to add some of the Brushes effects to an image. Nicole says she likes to do just one major brush effect to each layer at a time. There is then more flexibility in adjusting opacity and changing blend mode for each change done.


If you look closely, you can tell this Marsh Harbour image used the same cloud image, this time at full strength. The same workflow was used to get the clouds in the image. Normally at this point the Adjustments tab and the Dynamics slider would have been used, but it just did not give me the look I wanted.  Therefore Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was selected with these filters stacked: Detail Extractor with control points removing it from the sky, Darken/Lighten Center which gives the slight vignette effect, and Pro Contrast using the Dynamic Contrast slider which I do not always like. Nik Viveza 2 was also used to add detail into the water and sharpen the stones a little. Sometimes you have use more than one plug-in to get the right effect, but the sky still looks great using the Masks tab.
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This beautiful Lion’s Face is atop a tower on Flagler College (the old Ponce de Leon Hotel) in St. Augustine, Florida. They are all over the campus and city. These slightly different steps were followed:  The Adjustments tab settings were: Saturation set to 2, Contrast -37 and Dynamics +96.  From the +From File, Shadowhouse Creations Marshmellow Skies was opened, then scaled and rotated in the Tools tab so it was on a diagonal to fill out the sky area. A Stamp layer was created by clicking the +From Stack button, and in the Effects tab the Black and White Effect preset called Opalotype-Hand Tinted Cream preset was applied. This layer was set to Lighten Blend Mode at 100% Opacity. In the Masks tab again, the middle of image was painted out using a large brush set to a Brush Value of 145 (middle gray) so it just clears the effect from the lion’s face a little. Back in Photoshop my layer style frame was used (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames blog).

Pretty easy and fast to replace a sky in this new program from Topaz. If you have some of their products already, download the photoFXlab trial and see what you think – I personally like the feel of the new interface and am using it a lot!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz photoFXlab v1.1
Using photoFXlabs v1.1


Unsharp Mask Filter In LAB Mode


I have been experimenting with all types of sharpening methods over the last few months. I really liked the High Pass Sharpening method that is very popular, the new improved Sharpen Tool in Photoshop CS5, and the Smart Sharpen Filter that so many use. Recently I read Harold Davis‘ book The Photoshop Darkroom where he gives steps to sharping in the LAB Mode. I have now started using this method – it takes a little more time to do, but I believe it really gives the best results. Since I take a lot of time with my images, like to print them, and don’t batch process, it is important that each image gets the best sharpening I can do.

The above image of the fruit shop along the road on the Big Island in Hawaii is an good example of how nice the sharpening can be in an image. Both Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and Topaz Simplify 3 (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) were used in Photoshop to get the rich colors. The LAB sharpening was done after most of the adjustments were made to the image in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Why use LAB Mode sharpening? The most important reason people use it is to keep the colors true and not be influenced by any color shifting that other RGB Mode sharpening may produce. By using a black layer mask, the image is first over-sharpen and then just areas that need the sharpening can be painted back into the image selectively and to various degrees so it does not  have that over-sharpened look. This process also works really well on portraits where just the eyes are sharpened or on areas you want to draw attention to a certain part of an image.

The workflow steps to get this effect are easy:

1.  Apply most of the filters and do  clean up to your image before the next step. Just be sure there are no adjustment layers in the document or they will be discarded upon the conversion. You will need to save the image as an unsharpened version and then flatten it to proceed.

2.  Go to Image -> Mode -> LAB – Click “Don’t Rasterize” and “Don’t Merge” buttons.

3.  Duplicate the layer by clicking CTRL+J.

4.  Go to the Channels panel and highlight the L channel.

5.  Turn on the top eyeball so all channels are showing but only the L channel is highlighted.

6.  Go to Layers Panel and to Filters -> Sharpen -> Unsharp Mask.  I like Harold Davis’s recommendation to start with these settings and adjust from this point.

Radius  2.7   – The higher the Radius setting, the more sharpening occurs
Threshold 9   – The lower the Threshold setting, the sharper the image
Amount  – somewhere between 50-120

Watch out for noise enhancement, especially when adjusting the Amount slider.

7.  Add a black layer mask to layer by holding down the ALT key and clicking the Layer Mask icon at bottom of Layers Panel. Using a soft white brush set to 30% opacity, paint back in the areas you want sharpened leaving areas with noise or over-sharpened edges unpainted. Paint over several times to enhance the effect.

8.  Go to Image -> Mode -> RGB and press the “Don’t Flatten” button. Now you can add your Curves Adjustment Layer and frames to finish up.

Dan Margulis (one of the first three people ever inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame) is the most knowledgeable person when it comes to using the LAB Mode and has written the best book ever on the subject, Photoshop LAB Color. He covers LAB sharpening very thoroughly.


Here is another example of how great this type of sharpening works – it is great to be able to localize where the actual detail is emphasized. This old vintage car was parked in front of the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine, Florida. It is a three image HDR photo processed using Katrin Eismann’s workflow – see my blog HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow! (used Granny’s Attic preset in HDR Efex Pro and Structure Harsh in Silver Efex Pro). Nik’s Viveza 2 was used to increase the detail and color in the wheels and curtains in the windows. Then it was taken into the LAB mode and processed using the Unsharp Mask Filter (settings Amount 98/Radius 9.4/Threshold 1). Using a brush set to white at 30% opacity, the wheels, curtains and lettering were painted back in. I wanted the rest of the image to have that grungy old feel to it which HDR Efex Pro gave the image. OnOne PhotoFrame (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Kevin Kubota Flower was added as a last step.


The LAB Unsharp Mask was used on this image of an elephant puppet from Burma that was on display at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii. To see how it was processed see my blog Nik Color Efex Pro 4 Just Does It Right! The sharpening was applied as the last step and it was selectively painted in to just the details in the elephant but not the background. This really made the details in the puppet stand out.  Also all the images but the Lightroom image in my blogs Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part One) and Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part Two) used this method on the bicycles very successfully.

I am not really sure why, but I definitely see an improvement in sharpness using the LAB method of sharpening. There are times when not that much needs to be sharpened in an image and the Sharpen Tool is enough or Nik’s Viveza 2 adds enough sharpening so this process is not necessary. I do think it works really great on my landscape and HDR images where I want a very clear edge on most of the objects. Give this easy method a try and see what you think…..Digital Lady Syd


Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem!



A while back I listened to a really good webinar at the old Nik site called Incorporating Nik Software into your Daily Workflow with Don Smith. (See my blog “Digital Landscape Effects with Nik Software.”) Don Smith runs a great website called Nature’s Best by Don Smith Photography. In his excellent workflow, that is discussed in my earlier blog, he talked about using Nik’s Viveza 2 plug-in, a powerful plug-in to selectively control color and light in your photographs. I have owned Viveza since it first came out and never used it that much since I thought it was like Adobe Camera Raw. I only used the plug-in after I had processed an image in Lightroom (or ACR) and could not get back to make adjustments*.

This image was taken on the road up to the incredible Waipi’o Valley – it represents how the Big Island of Hawaii felt and looked to me while I was there. It was very windy and I had to really work hard to get a good HDR shot since the tree leaves and waves were moving so much. The final result was processed with PhotoMatix Pro 4. (It gave a great result since it lets you pinpoint exactly where the problem areas will be.) The tone-mapped image was processed in Photoshop and the first thing done was to use Dr. Brown’s Edit Layers with ACR script to get rid of noise in the sky and blue water. Noise and clean up corrections need to be done first before applying the beautiful color and light effects that the Viveza plug-in adds. Next a composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) of the image was created and converted into a Smart Object, and then opened up in Viveza 2. Here is what my dialog box looked like before applying and after applying Viveza.


The top window shows how the image looked as it was brought into Photoshop at this point. The settings indicate what settings were used on the blue sky area but is not turned on in the view screen. The second image shows how the image looked once all five control points were turned on and gives a much closer look to the final. These settings show what ones were used where the dot is placed. The circle indicates where these settings will be applied and they can be applied by pulling out the lines on the image or adjusting the sliders on the right. You can set the control point circle size by just dragging out the bottom bar to fit. The really nice thing is that the changes you are doing will not affect colors that are not in its range where the point is set. If a slight change does occur, just set a control point in that area and do not make any changes – that part goes back to the original state. To finish the image a Curves Adjustment Layer was created to emphasize the grassy area and the sky. The masks were filled with black and the areas to emphasize were painted back in the mask using a very low opacity brush and building up the effect.

The important thing to understand is the the real power of this plug-in is not in the global adjustments you can make when you first open it up (which appear to be similar to ACR); it is with the use of the control points on the image that make this plug-in incredible! If you have just one area that is not sharp enough, just add a control point to that area and move the Structure (great little slider!) and maybe the Contrast or Brightness sliders to blend the area into the rest of the image. The Warmth slider is great also. If you want to warm up the image just a bit, as done above in the foreground area, it can really give a lovely lighted glow. To cool down are area, just move the slider a little bit to the left. Move the Structure slider to the left to make a background area smooth out in a blur so it practically disappears. The more you work with this little plug-in, the more handy it is. I am not sure I could process an image without it now – although I am still using Lightroom’s Develop module as my first step. Most people apply Viveza after using the other plug-ins like Nik’s Color Efex Pro, OnOne Perfect Effects 3, or Topaz Adjust or Black and White Effects. In this photo, Viveza was the only plug-in applied.
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Another webinar I listened to at the Nik site was called “Mastering Macro Images with Nik Software & Photoshop Elements, Presented by Mike Moats” who also uses the basic workflow like Don Smith, but applies it to the macro world. If you like macro photography, check out his Tiny Landscapes blog for some great information. He uses Nik Color Efex 4 first and then Viveza to finish up his photos. On this image, I used a recipe created by Matt Kloskowski of Lightroom Killer Tips fame in Nik Color Efex 4 and then added a Lens Blur to soften the bottom left edge and background. In Viveza I used 7 control points for color adjustment. Mike Moats does a great job in this webinar showing you how to apply the control points so you get the best results. If you have this plug-in, even if you do not do macro photography, this video should be viewed.
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The Dome is in the Main Building of Flagler College, aka. Ponce de Leon Hotel circa 1887 (79 Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows line the dining room in this building). Viveza was used with 14 control points to bring out the detail since the lighting was so uneven. It was also processed using OnOne Perfect Effects 3 (see the sidebar in my Tidbits blog for website) where a Glow Effect was added using the Effect Options (Effect-Glow; Type-Surface; Strength-70; Halo-68; Threshold-60; and Mode-Softlight.) to bring out the rich brown wood feel.

I hope you can see how the colors and lighting are fabulous when this plug-in is applied to an image, and it also works with all kinds of other plug-ins. Take the time to download Viveza 2 and see if you like the results. Check out some of my short blogs listed below for more examples of what this plug-in can do. I believe that after having used this plug-in for several months now, if I could only have just one plug-in, it would probably be this one. It does more to improve my photos than any other plug-in I have used…..Digital Lady Syd

* Now that has changed since Dr. Brown has come up with his script to let you open a layer into ACR once inside Photoshop – see my blog “Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script” which, among other things, lets you get into ACR’s Noise Reduction sliders to fix your image.

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Topaz Star Effects on a Wildflower?
The Macro Shot
Another Pseudo HDR from Me!
Combining Plug-ins for More Image Interest
OnOne’s Perfect Mask Works Great!
Problems for Big Ben
Daisies are Everywhere!


Using NIK’s Color Efex Pro 4 and Viveza Together

If you don’t watch the wonderful webinars and training videos that all the major plug-in makers are offering, you are really missing out on some great tips for using their software. Recently Nik released a really great video titled “Mastering Macro Images with Nik Software and Photoshop Elements, presented by Mike Moats” and is located at Nik Software On Demand Center. Mike Moats (he has a really interesting blog) shows how he changes up the workflow from what one might normally do with the Nik products. He first applies Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 (CEP4) and then Nik’s Viveza. He is never quite sure what the CEP4 filters will do to an image. Since the Viveza plug-in adjusts the color and light of an image, it does make sense to apply it after adding CEP4 filter changes. Note: All my CEP4 settings for images are listed at the end of the blog.

I bought the Viveza plug-in when it first came out and everyone was singing its praises. I must confess that after getting Lightroom, I hardly used this plug-in. Now I think I was crazy not too! This video refreshed my memory on why this is the great little plug-in that everyone was raving about. The reason this image pops is that Viveza is able to pin-point small or large areas on the image and adjust it individually – adding in a bit of detail, or toning down a certain color. He teaches you how to set the Control Points that Nik is famous for to get exactly the results you want. In this case, both the saturation and structure control point sliders were individually adjusted on the butterfly and flowers without affecting the background. This is very similar to Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw’s adjustment brushes, but with much better control and more variables available. It absolutely made a huge difference to all of the images in this blog. See the comparison below showing the layer with Vizeva filter turned off and then on. Seven control points were set to get this effect and no Global Adjustments were made. Both plug-ins can be applied to the same Smart Object layer and all image control points are saved for each plug-in on this layer so you can go back and adjust a slider if you do not like the results. The final processing involved cloning out some of the brown spots on the leaves and sharpening the body and wing lines of the butterfly.

The pink daisies are in a container on my front porch. CEP4 and Viveza (using 11 control points) were both used along with OnOne PhotoFrame weathered wood frame (see sidebar on my Tidbits Blog for website).

This last image is a different shot of my carnation and daisies Christmas flowers. The original image required me to duplicate the original layer and apply a Gaussian Blur at 9.1 pixels to block out the distracting background. A layer mask was added and the flower painted back into the mask with a black brush. Then the CEP4 and Viveza (with 17 control points) plug-ins were applied. OnOne PhotoFrame grunge 05 was added along with the Sharpen Tool and a Curves Adjustment Layer.

As you can see, by using the control points to your advantage, very interesting images can be attained. The Viveza plug-in definitely helps sharpen up a slightly soft image. And by setting control points with Structure at -100, the background can be smoothed almost like a gaussian blur effect. If you own either or both of these plug-ins, definitely take a look at this video. Even though he is using flowers and close up photography, he illustrates how to use the control points very well. I learned a lot and am very happy Nik released such a good example of how to use their products…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Nik Color Efex Pro 4 – Digital Lady Syd’s Review
Pseudo HDR Using Nik Color Efex Pro 4

CEP4 Settings for each of the images:

The Monarch Butterfly image above was first adjusted in CEP4 with these filters stacked: Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 26%, Contrast 37%, Saturation 53% and Effect Radius Large); Darken/Lighten Center using #1, Center Luminosity 28%, Border Luminosity -100, Center Size 53% and centered on butterfly head); and Bi-Color User Defined (Opacity 7%, Blend 17%, Vertical Shift 41%, Rotation 46 degrees, Upper Color R66 G68 B98 and Lower Color R184 G103 B4). I would never have thought about using a Bi-Color User Defined filter without viewing this video, but it really enhanced the oranges in the wings and brought out the pink in the flower.

The Daisies used Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 86%, Contrast 78%, Saturation 39% and Effect Radius Large); Bleach Bypass (Brightness -2, Saturation -20%, Contrast 50% and Local Contrast 50%); and Cross Processing (Method L02 and Strength 45%). This example uses similar setting to his first example.

The Christmas Flowers CEP4 settings were: Bleach Bypass (Brightness -6, Saturation -2%, Control 27%, and Local Contrast 65%), Darken/Lighten Center (#1, Center Luminosity -10%, Border Luminosity -27%, Center Size 44% and Place Center just below red carnation), and Detail Extractor (Detail Extractor 36%, Contrast 6%, Saturation 21%, and Effect Radius Large with control points in background to remove effect).


Recycling Those Old Camera Lenses

While cleaning up my office this week, I came across my beloved Pentax K1000 film camera. It really depressed me to realize that I had several wonderful lenses for this camera and that the chances of ever using them again were pretty slim. On a hunch, I did a search on the internet to see if there were any adapters to attach these lens to my Nikon D300 since I knew that most of the old Nikon lenses still work with their digital cameras. (If you have old Nikon lenses and are shooting Nikon digitally, that is really good news as you may not need an adaptor – same goes for Canon.) Well, I was surprised to find that for $40, I could attach these old lenses to my camera – I decided it was worth the expense and here is what I have happily discovered.
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Tokina SD 28-70 mm F/3.5-4.5 Zoom and Macro Lens (SZ-X270)


My beautiful pink poinsettia was taken with a Tokina SD 28-70 mm zoom lens, though the metadata does not indicate the aperture size, it was shot manually at F3.5, Shutter speed 1/4000 sec, ISO 200, at 28 mm. For post-processing the pink color and detail was enhanced just a bit on the front part of the leaves using NIK’s Viveza plug-in Photoshop CS5. The Sharpen Tool was used to sharpen just around the leaf edges to make them stand out from the wall, and Layer Styles, white Inner Glow and gray Stroke, were added. That is it. Very little manipulation was needed to get this beautiful plant image. Normally I would have cleaned up some of the background distractions. The point is that this lens and my digital camera produced an excellent sharp image that is as good as any I have taken with my digital lenses.

I found out this lens is considered a really good lens. (See Flickr Group Discussing Tokina SD 28-70 F/3.5-4.5 Macro for more image examples.) I have no idea what I paid for it, but I can understand why I was able to get this sharp a shot after reading about it.
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Takumar-A Zoom 1:4 70-200 mm with Tamron-F Tele-Converter 2X


This lens gives a very beautiful result also. This Painted Lady Hibiscus was shot manually at 70 mm at F/5.4, ISO 200, Shutter Speed 1/60 second and -1/2 EV. Since it has a doubler on it, it really was shooting at 140 mm. In Photoshop CS5 a Shadowhouse Creations Texture Clouds and Birds layer was set to Hard Light at 77% opacity and a layer mask was added to painted out texture from the flower. No sharpening or Curves Adjustment Layer were added – this was it.

Now on to the Takumar lens, which applies to any original camera body. It does not get as good ratings as the first lens. This lens is not recommended because it is not SMC (Super Multi Coated). The Photo.Net forum stated: “The non coated Takumars are average lenses. Some SMC Takumars are classics, recommended even today. So, when you see a Tak, look also if it is multi coated.” The Tamron-F 2X Tele-Converter was attached to the lens above. I just realized that to get maximum sharpness, do not use the maximum aperture of the lens. In the image above, a minimum aperture of F/5.4 was used – the camera should have been stopped down two stops to F/11 on the Takumar lens. I will try this on my next efforts.
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Takumar 135 mm Lens


This image turned out pretty nice since I was shooting at a window with bright sunshine coming through it. Maybe that is why I like the image. Very little manipulation here – just increased Exposure by 1/2 stop, added a little Clarity (+59) and reduced the  noise by adjusting the Luminance slider to 31 (probably because this lens has not been cleaned in how long?) in Lightroom. In Photoshop only a Curves Adjustment Layer was added to increase contrast just a bit – no sharpening was used all! This lens was set to a f/5.4, not the wide open setting and it seems to get the sharpest edges. Other settings were shutter speed 1/250 sec., ISO 320, and EV 1/2.

This Takumar lens gets a five star rating across the board from various sites, even the older lens from the 1960’s. My husband got this lens back in 1972 and has some great pictures through the years to show for it. Therefore, it seems to be in my best interest to try and use this lens. I am looking forward to taking this lens and shooting a nice nearby landscape such as the ocean. Hopefully I will be able to put this old lens through its paces soon.

Lens Mount Adapter

On the Nikon site, this comment was made about the limitations of using a manual teleconverter: “Some newer lenses can be used with older Nikon manual focus teleconverters with limited compatibility. With a manual teleconverter there would be no autofocus operation, the camera’s internal exposure meter would not be active and only “Manual” exposure mode could be used. Further, there may be vignetting (darkened corners of the photo) in some photos or other image defects.”

For more information on the adapter I purchased, see Fotodiox Lens Mount Adapter.

Conclusion

It was definitely worth the money to buy the adapter and have the option of using these lenses again. There are some limitations since the pictures must all be used on a manual setting. Also note that most newer DSLR cameras will use the Center-Weighted average setting for light metering with these older lenses. If you have some nice lenses from previous film cameras sitting around, check them out on the internet and see if it is worth your money getting an adapter to fit your digital camera. Also, because you are shooting through an adapter and the lens, it may require a larger aperture or slower shutter speed or higher ISO to get the same results as the original film camera prints.

I am also finding it helpful to research at what focal lengths each of the older lenses create the sharpest images. A couple websites I researched gave suggestions for special settings to use in camera to improve the results on a particular lens. Also keep in mind the crop factor of your digital camera (my Nikon D300 has a 1.5 crop factor meaning a 10 mm lens will shoot at 15 mm due to the crop factor) which essentially crops around the edge of what you are seeing in the viewfinder so you do not get as much in your photo as what you are seeing. A good explanation of this is in the Digital Photography School “Crop Factor Explained” article, and they give some of the factors for popular cameras here – this is an important issue to understand especially when looking through these older lenses.

Recycling these old lenses is a great way to expand your lens collection without spending much to do it. My impression is that many people are buying these older lenses at incredibly cheap prices so they can shoot very sharp images for a fraction of the cost of buying all the new auto focus, vibration reduction, expensive lenses. I believe a couple of my older lenses are comparable if not better than what I am shooting digitally since I do not own the really expensive lenses so many professionals use.

Go give yourself an early present and try out those old lenses – you might be surprised how good they are!…..Digital Lady Syd


Digital Landscape Effects with Nik Software

I have always loved Nik products. This week I decided to follow a digital workflow by a wonderful landscape artist who posted on Nik’s website a video called “Incorporating Nik Software into your Daily Workflow with Don Smith.” His blog is called Nature’s Best by Don Smith Photography if you would like more information on this great photographer.


The image of Oahu in Hawaii is an example of how Mr. Smith uses Nik software in his workflow. His basic premise is that you have to have a plan how you want to fix a landscape. The following steps indicate how the images in this blog were created using Photoshop and Nik plug-ins.

  1. Crop and do a basic exposure adjustment in Lightroom or ACR – the image will appear a little flat in Photoshop.
  2. Look critically at image and decide what needs to be fixed. Check out the sky for noise, the foreground, middle ground and background for areas that need to be color corrected. Look at the shadows and highlights in image.
  3. Open up the Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 plug-in and select the Tonal Contrast Effect. Just the default setting can make an image look much better. Move the Midtones slider – if it looks too harsh, move slider to the left a little. To keep other areas like the sky from being affected by this change, put a minus U-point in a couple places in the sky to protect the area and set the opacity to 0. (Click Alt on U-point to duplicate the one set down and drag to move.) When finished, click the OK button to go back into Photoshop.
  4. If part of the image needs some additional contrast, open the Nik Viveza plug-in (a powerful plug-in to selectively control color and light in your photographs) and set a U-point in that area. (This can be done in Photoshop using a Curves or Levels Adjustment Layer, but it is harder since layer masks need to be utilized.) Whatever is under that point will be affected by the adjustment sliders in the circle created. Just the Brightness slider may be all that is needed to darken the area a bit. This can be done a global basis if the whole image needs some change. Click OK and go back to Photoshop.
  5. Next go back and apply Nik Color Efex Pro Brilliance and Warmth. I created a Good Basic Setting preset that I use on almost all my images and is very similar to what Mr. Smith uses. I set Brilliance at 62% and Warmth at 57%.
  6. Now sharpen image. I usually just duplicate the image and apply a High Pass filter set to Soft Blend or Hard Blend mode. If it is overly sharpened, use a layer mask and paint out where it is too sharp or if the whole image is too sharp, just lower the layer opacity. Nik Sharpener Pro is a good plug-in that I do not own.
  7. If there is noise in the image, Nik Dfine 2.0 Noise can be used. Since I do not own this plug-in, I go back into ACR using Dr. Brown’s ACR script and clean up the noise in the Detail-Noise Reduction panel – adjust the Luminance and Detail sliders. (See my Fun Photoshop Blog “Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script on how to do this.”) This does a great job of getting rid of the noise.

This image is of Iolani Palace State Monument in the middle of Honolulu, Hawaii on Oahu. It is another example of following the steps above pretty closely, except I did used Nik Viveza twice – once to tone down the green foreground color but leaving the palm trees the bright green; then back in to give the sky a little more blue tone. This was done before sharpening and noise reduction.

Cloud Brushes, some pretty fluffy clouds were also painted in. A composite layer was made above (ALT+SHIFT+CTRL+E) and then the workflow was followed. I did use Viveza to increase the contrast on the bat and the roof areas only.


For another example of this workflow, see my Tidbits blog, “Straightening with Puppet Warp,” where these steps were followed after the puppet warp effect was applied.

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Nik has come out with a new version of Color Efex Pro (NIK Color Efex Pro 4 – Digital Lady Syd’s Review!). I am looking forward to trying out their new effects since they have done such a wonderful job with all their plug-ins. I can honestly say they are the fastest plug-ins to apply and my computer never has a problem processing them when added to an image. That in itself is a great feature since most plug-ins are so RAM hungry. If you have not tried out the Nik products, definitely download their trial versions, especial Color Efex Pro. There are so many things you can do with just this one plug-in that it is amazing. Try them out – you will not be disappointed!…..Digital Lady Syd