Archive of ‘photoshop’ category

Texture work – The basics

The basics.

The first thing you have to remember when working with textures, is that the results will vary depending on your photo, the texture you choose, and the blending mode you select.  You have to play with them a couple of times to determine the effect you like best.

First step is to open both your photo and the texture you want in an editing software that allows layering (PS, PSE, Gimp.  But not Lightroom unless you add a plug-in for it, and that’s a whole other story…).

Then you slide the texture over the photo with the move tool or by copypaste.  You will have to adjust it’s size with the Move tool or the Free Transform tool so it fits perfectly your document.

Next you play with different opacity and blending modes on your texture layer.

The most commonly used are Soft light & Overlay, sometimes Vivid light.

Note that Darken and Multiply modes will give you a darker result. And that Lighten and Screen modes a brighter result.

An opacity ranging in the 20 to 35% will give you really subtle texture, if you want to lose part of a disturbing background, go higher.  From 50 to 80% is a safe opacity, unless the texture has very strong details.

Don’t hesitate to duplicate your texture layer (once you’ve removed it from the unwanted areas if you need to do so,  see below…) and vary blending modes.  Let’s say you start with one texture layer in Soft Light mode, add one in Multiply mode to get some stronger texture back.   Adding extra layers and blending them all at a different opacity will get you that custom look you’re after.


To remove the texture from some areas of your photo, like a face, three easy ways.

The first and the one I recommend is painting over the texture layer with a soft brush with a color you picked from within the texture itself.  With your texture in Normal mode and at 100% opacity, use the Dropper tool to pick a color from the texture, a mid-range one, not too light, not too dark.  Reduce the opacity of your layer so you can see what is underneath in order to be able to paint over the surface where you want the texture to be smoother.  With a soft brush at a reduced opacity, between 35-60%, paint over the face, skin, or other areas where you want the texture to lose it’s details.  This method is my fave because it allows you to keep the tint of the texture in the painted areas.

Second method is using the Magnetic Lasso tool. Use it to determine the area. Then run a Gaussian Blur Filter to clear the texture from the selected area.  The higher blur value you set, the clearer it gets. So, go for a 250 value.  This is method also allows the skin to retain some of the texture tint, so it looks naturally blended. But it’s a longer process than simply painting.

The third is by creating a layer mask.  Remember that where it’s white the texture shows, where it’s black it doesn’t show.  Paint with a black brush over the layer mask and the texture will be erased from the areas where you painted.  You can adjust the opacity of the brush to fade the texture along the edges of the area.


The best way to use textures is to get to know them by playing with them.  Some might be brighter some darker, that’s when your knowledge of blending modes is useful.  Everyone has a different taste, so whether you like strongly textured images or lightly enhanced ones,  the secret is how you will blend them!

Have fun working with your textures!

Using Gradients in your Photo Editing

I have to admit I love gradients in PS (or PSE).  I think it’s one of the neglected tools in your panel.  With gradients you can easily add fill light, contrast, haze, vignette, etc.  It’s easy to use, but you have to select the right gradient and the right blending modes to get the most out of them.

For this tutorial I’ll use a macro of a flower I did, on which I wanted to softly enhance the center.  Please keep in mind that my photo has it’s own color and exposure, yours will obviously be different,  so layer opacity and angle values (we’ll see it soon…) might need to be adjusted to your own image.  This serves only as a reference to make you want to use Gradients in your editing.

First off,  I had to make sure I had my color swatch set to white on black,  I’ll need it later.

Gradients can be found in two places in PS, on the side bar or under your layers palette, in the adjustment layer menu.  I use the ones in the adjustment layer menu the most because, as with every adjustment in the menu, it adds a layer mask for fine tuning and it’s also easily customizable, just click on the gradient icon and you can change the color and every value you had set, so it fits your image.  The Gradients you find in the side panel also offer many features, but you need to work on a new layer every time and you need to start again if you don’t like the effect.  Though it can be useful because you decide where you want the effect by dragging your mouse on the image, we won’t use it at this time.  Feel free to try both methods though, that’s the best way to learn new things!

So, I clicked on the adjustment layers icon and selected Gradient (Not Gradient Map!).   I started by adding a little haze so I chose a blue gradient, I made sure I had a Radial Gradient to get the fill light/halo effect and changed the scale to 150%.  I checked the Reverse box, to switch the lighter part to the center.  I also changed the angle that is by default set to 90 to 150 to fit my flower’s center the best.  That’s where you need to play with the values, the scale widens the fill light effect and the angle changes where it’s applied.  I then blended that layer in Exclusion mode at 25% to get me some haze.

My next step was adding another Gradient layer, same steps as before, but this time I went with a Sandy colored gradient to add light to my center. Once again a scale of 150% and I kept the 90 degree angle.  This layer was then blended in Hard Light mode at 10% (use hard light mode in low opacity otherwise the light will be too harsh!). 

My flower was hazy, but now I wanted more light and definition, so I added a white to black gradient  (It’s going to pop up by default if your swatch is set to white on black).  Scale at 150%  angle at 135.  This layer will be blended in Overlay mode at 50%.

I could have stopped right there but I wanted more punch to my image.   So, I duplicated this last gradient layer and blended it in Screen mode at 10% to light up the lovely bud even more.

Lastly, I added a Levels adjustment layer to darken my edges so the attention was brought even more on the center.  All I did is bring in the black slider a little, until I was happy with my edges.

And that’s it for this edit!  Writing it seems like a very long edit, but doing it once you get the hang of it will actually take you less than two minutes 🙂

The fun about using gradients is that the possibilities are endless, you can use any color your heart wishes for!  As I said, use blue to create haze, use white or grey to create fill light.  Use light yellow to mimic sunlight, orange to create sunset color.  In this tutorial I used only the Radial gradient, but if you use a linear gradient you can add tone to a landscape, let’s  imagine blue on top and green at the bottom…  I tell you, possibilities are endless!  You can create your own and save them in your gradient editor, just click on the color slider and replace the colors, give your gradient a name and click “NEW”, it will then be added to your palette.  You can find many free gradients online also, and to install them, it’s just like actions, open the gradient editor and click on “LOAD” to add new gradients to your palette.  I’m going to provide you the three gradients I used for this tutorial, they are pretty handy since they’re basic colors 🙂  Get them HERE and have fun! 

Fisheye effect Photoshop tutorial

In a fantasy world,  I would own a fisheye lens,  but reality is,  I don’t.  So,  whenever I want a little fisheye effect in my images,  I have to rely on Photoshop  (It will work in PSE too).   Here’s my photo,  before and after the Fisheye effect.



You will notice,  in this image,  my Fisheye effect is subtle.  Sometimes too much is just too much!  But once you know how to do it, you decide on how strong the effect fits your image.   Remember,  it is PS,  not the actual lens,  so it’s not as perfect,  and like any editing tool, it needs to be used with moderation,  but the effect is fine enough to use it every time you need!

So, let’s start with the actual steps you will need to take,  it’s pretty simple actually,  but it’s just a feature we tend to overlook,  and we might not notice if we do not look for it.

In PS,  duplicate your background layer,  then select all.  Right-click and select > Free Transform.  Once that Free Transform tool is activated,  you get access to the Warp tool,  that’s what we need!  So,  once you’ve clicked Free Transform,  right-click again (or use the top menu bar to access the feature, under Edit > Transform > Warp) and select the Warp tool.  On the top of your workspace, you will see the Warp menu,  it’s set to Custom.  Click on it to develop it and select Fisheye.  It’s set by default to a value of 50.   It’s pretty strong actually,  but depending on your image it could work just fine.  All you need to do at this point is click the check mark,  after you have adjusted the value.  Working on a duplicate layer makes it easier to get rid of and start over again if you find the effect too weak or too strong.  That’s it!  You just needed to know where to find the right menu for the tool!

In PSE,  duplicate your background layer, then select all.   Next go to Filter  > Distort >  Spherize.  Enter the value there,  it’s basically the same tool,  but it has a different name.

BUT I did make things easier for you by writing three Fisheye Tool actions  (values of 50, 25 and 15.  I used 15 in my image ).  Actions work in PS and PSE 7 and up,  via the ACTION PLAYER feature.

Actions will work on a flattened image.

Get your actions HERE,  and have fun!

Smoke Photography – A Tutorial

I’ve done smoke photography in the past, but never went further than capturing it and converting one image to a decent smoke trail.  This time around I wanted to combine different smoke trails in one image.  I loved the result so I decided to share the tutorial with you guys!

What you’ll need:
Camera (with pop-up flash activated or a speedlite to capture the elusive smoke)
Incense sticks
A large room with a black background,  or a black studio box kit if you plan on doing it inside.  I did it outside,  at night,  the smell of the dollar store bought incense was too strong to have it inside.  If you plan on shooting outside, choose a night without wind!

Capturing the smoke is not that hard given you have good conditions.  Inside,  a black background,  your incense sticks not too close to the background,  otherwise the flash will light it up too much and you’ll have a washed out background.  Be careful where your speedlite bounces too,  it could add up a lot of unwanted light.  Outside,  at night,  no wind.  Direct your camera at a wide space (sky is perfect) so your flash doesn’t pick up anything in the background.

My camera settings:   160,   f/7.1,   iso 200  (raw files, cloudy white balance)
Focus on the incense stick,  I like to keep a small part of it in the image,  you probably won’t see the smoke anyway,  the flash will pick it up.  It helps to focus and compose the image. I used two incense sticks, one works fine as well, I just thought I’d have a wider trail.   Make sure you have the right aperture,  7.0 and up,   since you never know where the smoke will be,  you want to have the most you can in focus.   Photo below shows the incense sticks in the frame, smoke was enhanced in Camera Raw,  I could see it on my LCD screen,  but since the LCD is brighter and compressed,  when I did open the RAW file,  smoke still needed a good boost.  Incense sticks are now blown, but we’ll get rid of them anyway!

Shoot away!  Look at your images from time to time,  sometimes a light breeze will make your smoke leave the frame.  You’ll need to take more than a few images to get a bunch of trails you’ll want to keep.

Once you’re happy with the amount of images you have,  it’s now time to edit them.

I work in Camera Raw & Photoshop.
I used a Raw image, so I opened every image with Camera Raw,  in which I reduced the blacks,  added exposure and fill light so my smoke was exposed in such a way I would see all the little swirls.  I also cropped my incense out right in Camera Raw and kept only the most interesting part of the trail.  Do the same if you’re using LR.
If you are not using Camera Raw or LR,  open your image and use a Curves or Levels adjustment layer and adjust until the smoke comes out.  Once done merge the layers so you’re left with one Background layer.  **Elements users, well, we do need to work with layer masks to remove all the background,  you could opt for a selection of the smoke and use the Background Eraser tool to remove the background. Once done you can play with the Hue and change the colors of the smoke.  Add your smoke trail to a new document and repeat, just like we will be doing in Photoshop**

In Photoshop

1- Select the image and cut it into your clipboard (Ctrl+A to select then Ctrl+X to cut). This should leave you with an empty  layer and the smoke image stored in your clipboard.

2- Add a new layer,  add a layer mask to this new layer.

3- Alt+click on the layer mask to edit the mask and then paste (Ctrl+V) the contents of your clipboard into the mask.

4- It should paste your image in the mask with the smoke white and the background black.

5- Get out of your layer mask and now the smoke should be completely cutout. It’s hard to see,  but you’ll have to trust me with this one!  Turn off the background layer  and go back to the new layer.  Fill this layer (Edit > Fill) the color you’d like to have your smoke.

Since your smoke isn’t perfectly white and your background perfectly black,  a tint may show on the background.  You can easily fix that later when you’re done playing.

Create a new document the size you want,  I went with the size of my first cropped image.  Drag your first layer of smoke into this new document,  place it the way you want it.

Repeat all those steps for every layer of colored smoke you want to add if you plan on working with different smoke photos.  You can also use the same image and just fill the colored layer with different colors and add them to the new document,  flip them,  stretch them,  play around with them so they look like different smoke trails!  Or you can use different smoke photos,  edit them and add them to the document one by one.

When you’re done,  now fix the color tint in the background in the new document.  To do so,  add a Levels adjustment layer and use the white dropper and select a point in the background which should be white.  It will clear up right away.  Save your project.  That’s it,  you’re done!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, if you try your hand at smoke photography and want to share your work,  don’t hesitate to post your results on the Facebook Page!

Before and after, a tutorial

Here’s the tutorial for this underexposed image.  I could have only corrected the exposure, BUT if you know me, I could not leave it at that.  I needed to make something more, add my artsy touch to it.  So today I’m sharing this editing recipe,  complete steps whether you use PS or PSE,  you’ll get the same results.


Here’s what I started with:

Ouch! You say?  Yes, it happens to me all the time,  while I check my settings, I always end up wanting to keep the images I took while he’s not aware of it.

So let’s get started.  Since I shoot in RAW, I opened first my image in ACR.  I’ll give you steps if you’re not using ACR, don’t worry.  I first adjusted the recovery slider a bit, as the sky was close to be overexposed.  Then added fill light for the face and body, around 35.  I upped the brightness to 60 and contrast to 40.  I always add contrast a bit to my RAW files, I find they have more zap this way.  You don’t have to, it won’t change much to your end result.

After ACR here’s what my image looked like.  I could have gone further or left the image as it was, BUT I wanted my artsy edit!

If you are a PSE user or do not use ACR, here’s some steps you can take that will give the same results.

Fist start with a Levels adjustment layer.  Move the Black point to the right a little, bring up the midpoint and the white point to the left.  Drag your sliders for the output and input values as well.  You’ll see my own settings, but your image will be different than mine, so stop when you feel you have corrected enough.  After that add a Brightness and Contrast adjustment layer.  I went for 30 for Brightness and 20 for Contrast, that suited my image.  Once again, it has to fit YOUR image.

My next step was adding a texture to warm it up and jazz it up.  I used Impasto from my Impressions set.

If you’re new to using textures, the next steps will be very helpful to you.

Place, drag or copy and paste your texture on top of your image.  Stretch it if you need to so it covers the whole photo.  BEFORE blending it, we will remove texture from the face and body area.  Your texture should be on Normal mode at 100% opacity.  Use the dropper tool and select a mid-range color from the texture.  Reduce the texture opacity so you can see your subject and where you are going to paint.  Select a soft brush at around 50% opacity and brush over the face, hands, whatever applies to your image.  I usually reduce my brush opacity around 20% and paint on the edges of where I erased the texture so the “erasing” looks naturally blended.

See how it looks once painted over?  No gritty texture over the face, but the texture’s tint remains.  Now we’re off to blending the texture.  I first blended it in Overlay at 50% to add depth.  Then I duplicated the texture layer and blended in Screen at 25%, to give the hazy look.  I duplicated the texture again and went for Multiply at 25% to add intensity.  Once the painting is done, playing with the blending modes and opacity is so easy.

We still need to work on the image.  Of course you can always stop there if you like your image.  I decided to go further and add a gaussian blur around the edges to give it more impact. Merge your layers so you are left with only a background layer.  Duplicate this background layer.

With your duplicated layer selected, go to Filter in the top menu, select Gaussian Blur and run at a radius of 28.  Add a layer mask and make sure it’s filled with black.  Now the blur isn’t showing.  We’re going to paint it back in.  Make sure your layer mask is selected.  Use a soft white brush and paint on the mask.  Start at 100% opacity and paint in an elliptical motion around the edges.  don’t go too close to your subject.  Reduce your brush opacity to 50-60% and get a bit closer, you won’t lose as much detail and the results will be nice.

Last step for this edit, I added a vignette.  I could have used an action, but I decided to make it myself so I could show you how to do it yourself.  Select the Gradient adjustment layer.  Choose either the Black to White gradient or the Neutral Density gradient.  Select a Radial gradient, and up the scale to 150%.  The darkest tone should be on the edges!  If not, tick the Reverse box.  Blend this layer in Soft Light mode at around 45% and you’re done!

Writing it all step by step  makes it look longer than it actually is,  I can guarantee you that.  Once you’ve done it, it goes quite fast.  I’m sure the PS or PSE beginners will find many useful steps, the more seasoned users will enjoy a new challenge, if not, just a new perspective on doing things.  Final result is posted below, have fun editing!

1 2