Make a photo into a ‘watercolor’ painting

Creative Effects with Photoshop – How to make an image into a watercolor “painting”

Photoshop is an amazingly powerful, versatile tool.  There are tutorials all over the web (and right from Adobe.com) to help you do all sorts of things.  I find the hardest part is figuring out exactly *what* I want to do.  Once I have that knowledge, I can take a class through Creative Live or find tutorials with a basic Google or YouTube search.  Warning: millage may vary on tutorial uses as they are not all created equally.  I will endeavor to make this clear and concise.

Original photo image ready to be made into a watercolor

Original photo image ready to be made into a watercolor.  Make sure you fully edit your photo *before* you do the watercolor process.

Here is the image that I’ll be adjusting into a watercolor “painting.”  Open the image of your choice in Photoshop.  I now use Photoshop CC.  This is a great upgrade from CS4 that I had, but one of my go-to features seemed to be missing.  For this process, I use some “artistic” filters. Those used to be available in the regular Filter menu drop-down – but no longer.  The easiest way to access them if you’re going to use them more than once is to go into the Edit menu (in Windows, Photoshop menu on Macs), select Preferences, then select Plug-Ins.

Use the Edit menu (in Windows) to get your Artistic filters back into place in Photoshop CC

Use the Edit menu (in Windows) to get your Artistic filters back into place in Photoshop CC

Then you just need to check the “Show all Filter Gallery Groups and Names” and click OK.  Now you can go back to the Filter menu and the handy-dandy Artistic filters are “back.”  On to creating that watercolor!

Final step in reintroducing Artistic filters back into Photoshop CC

Final step for reintroducing Artistic filters back into Photoshop CC Filter menu

Step one: Ctrl-J three times to open 3 duplicate layers.  Click the eyeball “off” of all but for Background and Layer 1 and select select Layer 1 by clicking on it.  The selected layer will be highlighted in blue.  Photoshop will only edit an active (selected) layer.

You layer panel will show each layer that can be made visible or hidden by clicking on the eyeball next to that layer. Blending modes, opacity, and fill are also easily adjusted here.

You layer panel will show each layer that can be made visible or hidden by clicking on the eyeball next to that layer. Blending modes, opacity, and fill are also easily adjusted here.

Layer 1 eyeball is circled in green, the unselected eyeballs for layer 1 copy and layer 1 copy 2 are circles in blue.  The Blending Mode drop down menu is in red.  Notice layer 1 is highlighted in blue.  This means that layer is selected.  Just click on a layer to select it. Shift-Click to select more than one layer – but you don’t need that for this process.

Step 2:  Go to the filter menu and select Artistic then select Cutout.  I set all the sliders to their maximum range, so Number of Levels is 8, Edge Simplicity is 0, and Edge Fidelity is 3.  Then click OK.  Now set the Blending Mode for Layer 1 to Luminosity.  This is what my image looks like at this point.

Image with background and layer 1 visible after the first artistic filter is applied and blending mode changed to luminosity.

Image with background and layer 1 visible after the first artistic filter is applied and blending mode changed to luminosity.

Step 3: Click on the eyeball and select the Layer 1 copy.  Select this layer, then go back to the Filter menu and choose Artistic then select Dry Brush.  Set your Brush Size to 10, Brush Detail to 10, and Texture to 3.  Then click OK.  Now set the Blending Mode for Layer 1 copy to Screen.  Here’s my image at this point.

Image with background, layer 1, and layer 2 visible after the second artistic filter is applied and blending mode changed to screen.

Image with background, layer 1, and layer 2 visible after the second artistic filter is applied and blending mode changed to screen.

Step 4: Click on the eyeball on Layer 1 copy 2 (this should be the top layer). Select this layer, then go back to the Filter menu.  This time, select Noise and choose Median.  Set the radius to 12 pixels and click OK.  Now set the Blending Mode for this layer to Soft Light.

Final watercolor image

Final watercolor image

You have your finished image!  This is a technique, not a rule.  Try changing around some of the sliders to see if you like a different look.  Remember Photoshop will save the last settings you had on your filters so this process is easy to replicate on many images.  Just one note of caution: do all editing on the image before you begin this process.  The final image will be much cleaner and the editing is easier when done first.  If you see something you missed after the conversion process, you can flatten the layers and try to edit.  However, this process is so quick it’s best to go back to the start and edit there then do the process again.  You don’t even have to turn the eyeballs on and off – it just helps the first few times you do this to see your progress.  You do always have to select the layer on which you’re working.

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Dressage in August

Last week was Rolelu Stables, Inc’s August competition.  Every month from April through October, Rolelu offers an open competition with a Dressage Show, a Combined Test (dressage and stadium), a Jumping Derby, and Cross-Country Schooling as weather allows.  I am in the fortunate position to be the exclusive photographer for each of these shows!

Owen Wong and Raven. More than slightly biased, but I'm so proud of this pair

Owen Wong and Raven. More than slightly biased, but I’m so proud of this pair

The Dressage Show offers tests from introductory Level all the way through 4th level, including every “eventing” dressage test currently out there.  The Combined Test and the Jumping Derby both offer Introductory through Preliminary levels.  So, the possibility of some really nice rides on really nice horses certainly exists.  However, these are set up knowing that people use them as schooling shows.  Inexperienced horses and riders (sometimes together) come to get that valuable ‘out of their own barn/comfort zone’ experience.  So not every ride is beautiful from start to finish and there are definitely mistakes made – but that is the reason Rolelu hosts these shows.

Alyssa Teresi and Matthew. She is pretty small, but he's a gentle giant with whom everyone fell in love!

Alyssa Teresi and Matthew. She is pretty small, but he’s a gentle giant with whom everyone fell in love!

Even in the English-style competitive horse-back riding world, dressage tends to be among the least popular activates – especially at the lower levels.  Many eventers would rather skip dressage entirely or see it as a necessary evil they must conquer to be allowed to go have a blast on the Cross-Country course. Watching dressage has been likened more than once to watching paint dry.

Grady Fleming and Fred. I don't think you can be any cuter than these two.

Grady Fleming and Fred. I don’t think you can be any cuter than these two.

Personally, I have never been of that opinion.  Even as a youth I more than tolerated dressage.  As a teen, I loved doing dressage way more than doing cross-country – but that’s another story.  Dressage is a program to increase suppleness, balance, and obedience work that can prepare the horse for future work in any discipline.  For a primer on dressage basics, check on Rolelu Stables’ page.

Ann Lowe and Connect The Dots.  I love this picture, but I am biased towards appaloosas :)

Ann Lowe and Connect The Dots. I love this picture, but I am biased towards appaloosas 🙂

Olympic level riders and horses may have flashier tests, but the unique opportunity to see a team grow in flexibility, understanding, balance, gaits (collected through extended) makes watching even the lowest level tests at Rolelu Stables an exciting experience.  Sometimes, a green horse will add their own brand of excitement, too… Not that I’d share pictures of that with the world 🙂

Samantha Vanderstyne and Toot A Roo. A great pair.

Samantha Vanderstyne and Toot A Roo. A great pair.

Do you have a flair for lens flare?

Are you into Sci-Fi like we are in my family?  Are you team Star Wars or Star Trek (massive debates are held on this subject all the time)?  Personally, I like both but if I have to pick one… Star Trek wins in my heart.

The director JJ Abrams has infamously apologized for the amount of lens flare in Star Trek:  Into Darkness.  He used the effect so much during filming that several times the lens flare had to be removed in post-production!  There are still reportedly over 700 instances of lens flare in the movie (I haven’t counted myself).  There’s a lens flare ‘spin-off’ in a Leonard Nemoy/Zachary Quinto (old Spock, new Spock) Audi commercial!

http://www.starwarsunderworld.com posted this awesome meme:

JJ Abrams

According to Wikipedia, Lens flare is the light scattered in lens systems through generally unwanted image formation mechanisms, such as internal reflection and scattering from material inhomogeneities in the lens.   Blah, blah, blah.  I did not get this concept until it was too late – I thought.

My sister Janna and her husband, Lucio.  Aren't they gorgeous together?

My sister Janna and her husband, Lucio. Aren’t they gorgeous together?

My sister got married in San Francisco in February, 2013.  It was a whirlwind as they only got engaged ten days earlier!  My parents were already in California visiting.  Both my sisters live in the Bay area so my parents like to visit them in the winter.  It’s not usual for them to go from single degree F temps in western New York to 60-70F in California.  I wasn’t planning on going to cross-country, but then my sister called and said, “Hey, we’re getting married on Wednesday.  Wanna come?”

CA coastline near Santa Cruz

CA coastline near Santa Cruz

The wedding was fabulous, and I was in California in February.  Woo hoo!  My parents and I went on a little road trip along the coast for sight-seeing.  Naturally, I was taking photos left and right.  I owned lens hoods for each of my lenses, but I was still in a western New York mindset and not sunny California.  It was -9F in Chicago when I had to change planes (and go outside O’Hare).  I never put a lens hood on, and I thought I was getting photos that I could turn into postcards.  My heart sunk when I got home and started editing all the files from the road-trip.  The Pigeon Point Lighthouse images were ruined because lens flare was all over (what would have been) the best shots.  So sad.  I left those images alone for a LONG time.

What, lens flare?!  Boo!  I thought this was going to be a post card.

What, lens flare?! Boo! I thought this was going to be a post card.

Recently, I went through my computer files from this trip.  My mindset had changed and all of a sudden I LOVED the lens flare on these images.  In two more years I might hate them again.  Opinions change.  But now these images make me happy and I hope you enjoy them, too.

Oh, lens flare.  It looks so great!

Oh, lens flare. It looks so great!

Oh, I want macro too!

When I first got my DSLR camera, I took pictures of lots of things.  I tried to capture images of things I love – mostly my son, but also pictures of the flowers and foliage in my garden, interesting shapes or architecture out on walks, and all sorts of other things.  Okay, so the VAST majority of my pictures were of my son.  But he was so cute.  How could I go wrong with a subject like this?

Owen after an afternoon of blueberry picking (he picked a lot - but most of them ended up in his mouth.  Hence, the blue stained teeth).  He's still cute!

Owen after an afternoon of blueberry picking (he picked a lot – but most of them ended up in his mouth. Hence, the blue stained teeth). He’s still cute!

I didn’t know much more about photography than I learned from the DVD that came with my camera.  I still refer to that DVD every now and then.  I got my new camera as a Mother’s Day gift.  So I took pictures of my son at the playground, I took pictures of my son in our backyard, out on hikes… You get the idea.  But it was spring, and I have a lot of plants in my garden.  I was playing around with composition of images and I was really drawn to some specific plants.  Peonies.  I have several varieties.  I have divisions of the white peonies my grandfather brought to Geneseo when he and my grandmother moved to Geneseo in 1975 from Long Island to be nearer their grandchildren (OK, their children too, but let’s be honest. They came for the grandkids). I have single flowering light pink ‘Sorbet’ and dark red ‘Sarah Bernhart’ and several with hues in between.  Their color and form drew me in as a photographer as well as a gardener.  The plant I have that is most populous in my garden isn’t even grown for their flowers.  I love hostas.  I grew over 3 dozen named varieties at our first house.  I divided and dug up parts of almost all of them.  When we purchased this house, it was being rented out by the previous owner.  They had a lease that we agreed to keep so for a short time we owned two houses.  That would have been very hard on the bank account if it lasted for more than a month, but that was plenty of time to move many of my plants from Irondequiot to Geneseo.  The first spring that we lived in this house, I went to garden centers and bought at least 10 more varieties of hostas.  I planted them under the sugar maple in the middle of our back yard. And the next day, I learned that hostas are ice cream to deer.  There was only one leaf standing of all the new hostas I had planted.  The rest were nibbled down nothing.

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Somehow, the hostas I planted right next to our house mostly survived.  And they still survive and thrive.  It’s not even that the deer don’t come near the house.  There’s a deer run that goes between our property and our next door neighbors’. Deer regularly walk down our driveway and occasionally down our front walk-way.  Have a mentioned how little I like deer?  And how much I like rain on hosta leaves?

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So, there I was, taking pictures of my hostas.  Different color patterns, different leave shapes.  Everything a photographer could want.  And I hit the jackpot because it had rained the early in the morning and there was rain still collected in many of the hosta leaves.  I took dozens of pictures of the same plant and then I moved on to another.  I was amazed I had never noticed how lovely the veining pattern was, or the way the color shifted from a soft blue-green to a darker blue when a certain variety was wet. Compose, click.  Compose, click. And on for a couple of hours.  It was glorious.  It was that day that made a new item jump to the top of my wish list.  A macro lens.  Just think what I could do with the ferns growing outside out dining room!  I could take really close-up images of insects. Maybe this would help my son reduce his dislike of insects – or maybe I could spring them on him when he was being ‘not so cute’ and scare him a little.  If I don’t screw him up a little, who else will? 🙂

The cu

The curling fronds of the fern.  It made me want to zoom in even closer to highlight a single segment in an image.

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Yes, dear readers, I am spoiled.  I have a cute son.  I have a great husband who liked buying me things.  And I have a birthday and wedding anniversary that are 3 days apart, so I traditionally get a big gift that covers both. Woo hoo!  So, one summer I got a macro lens for my birthday/anniversary present.  It was glorious.  It took great *really* close shots.  It would be great for portrait photography.  And it was heavy!  That’s a transition I continually have to make.  I thought the DSLR camera with a kit lens was so heavy when I got it (and it was compared to the point and shoot digital or film cameras I’d had before).   Every new lens I’ve gotten seems to be heavier.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about every new thing, but I am also a little scared of them.  I didn’t think I would be able to hold up the new camera and lens for hours taking photos because my arms would simply fall off.  Not to worry, my son was told that there is *really* good glue in the school office and they could just reattach his arms if that ever happened to him.  I’m sure they would let me borrow some, too.

Even without the beautiful raindrops, hostas can offer such great textures!

Even without the beautiful raindrops, hostas can offer such great textures!

Even without a macro lens, you can take amazing close-up images.  A tri-pod helps a lot, but holding your breath works, too, on a budget!

How I started as a hockey photographer

Here I am, jumping in to the blogging world.  I will be posting highlights from future events – both sporting and traditional portraits.

Letchworth State Park portrait

Letchworth State Park Portrait

I began photographing seriously after my son, Owen, was born. I was smitten with my adorable child.  I was also enamored with being able to capture images that would allow me to remember those special moments specific to young children. Especially since the sleep deprivation known only to parents of newborns and perhaps prisoners of war kept me from remembering anything more than how to rock a baby and sometimes, even walk!

Fact #1: I’m old enough (and my son is old enough) that I started taking photographs on actual film.. that had to go and be developed before you knew if you got any good shots!

Another fact you should know about me:  I married an alien.  There, it’s out in the open and you know.  Phew!

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I promise he’s going after the puck and not trying to trip the other player!

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Defenseman on the attack

Yes, you guessed it…

I married a Canadian.  So when my precious baby boy was three years old, my husband decided it was past time for him to join the local hockey club.  Luckily the Livingston Blues have a great learn to skate program.  Unfortunately, my husband did not find out about the program until December and they had started in October.  “That’s okay,” they said, “he can join now.”

As long as I’m baring my soul here, there’s something else you need to know about me.  I am NOT a hockey mom – I just happen to have a child that plays hockey.

So, when my only child laced up at the tender age of 3, I was terrified (partly because I knew little of the hockey world – I had only visions of bench-clearing brawls at Olympic games and snippets from my husband’s Fantasy Hockey Leagues (yes, leagues, plural)).  But then I saw my son on the ice.  They have these  red sliding pushers to help the kids keep their balance as they learn to skate.  And by December, the program had mostly moved past the ‘learn to skate’ part and had moved on to the ‘learn the game of hockey’ part.  But Owen had never skated.  So I watched with a mixture of dread and hysterics as Owen scissor skated from one end of the rink to the other.  The dread lasted about 2 minutes.  The hysterical laughing lasted the next 18 minutes because that’s how long it took him to get to the other end of the rink!

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Younger days, when all five players on the ice tended to be all in the same spot chasing the puck (or in this case, falling over the opposing goalie)

That wasn’t so bad.  I could handle a little hockey if it made my heart melt.  Then I figured out I could act as the team photographer and not only get images of my son, but to document the whole team.  And, as a bonus, I figured I actually watched less of the game because I was trying to get great images.  I still see when someone lambastes my kid (and I’m NOT okay with that), but I also make my family and the whole team happy by providing galleries to view and print my pictures.

Now my baby boy is growning up.  He is at Bantam level hockey with a team in Batavia, NY.  This is the first year that checking will be legal.  It’s happened LOTS of times, it just should have been called as a penalty up until now.  I’m not looking forward to the more aggressive and scary step because I have the heart of a helicopter mom.  I want my child safe.  But I also want him to be (mostly) fearless, love being part of a team, and to give him a place to get his aggression out that doesn’t involve loud or unkind voices in our home.

And, to make it easier, I still have my camera.  Now, I’m not hiding behind it, I’m using it for the greater good (okay, I’m still hiding from the checking a little).