Sunday, February 19, 2012

Painterly Effect

On Thursday, Kim Klassen's Beyond Layers prompt and instructions were about creating a painterly effect with a heavily textured photograph which was altered in Photoshop to make it sharper and give it a vintage look. She included a video with many instructions for different techniques in Photoshop, including using the lasso tool and content-aware fill to remove unwanted objects from a photograph without having to crop it out (which is what I tended to do), turning the photograph into a smart object and using a high pass filter to sharpen the image, using a black and white adjustment, but with a soft light blend mode to add contrast, using hue/saturation adjustments to reduce blues in the sky, and using a solid color (blue) adjustment with a difference or exclusion blend mode (to give a yellowish cast to the photograph, which gives it a vintage look). Many of the these techniques I knew knew about before--just enough to be dangerous--but many I did not even know (such as the lasso tool, which I am thinking will come in very handy). I still know only just enough to be dangerous but if I play around, I should get the hang of it. 

I am missing the technical 'whys' behind some of these concepts and for me that is always helpful. If I understand why something works the way it does I can take it beyond simply a memorization of the methods, to being able to make the same adjustments over and over again and then to getting closer to knowing what to do on my own to achieve some look that I am going for. This reminds me of something my son, Ian's karate Sensei explained about learning karate: the student start out learning by rote memorization--kicks, punches, blocks, over and over again; kata memorized and practiced--but eventually they have to combine the memorized content with knowledge of the reason why it works as and put into to practical use during sparring. Otherwise the students can just get 'stuck'; they won't really know what to do in a given scenario. The memorization makes it natural, the whys behind it bring the understanding and then the application to 'real life' situations brings it all together to the point where the students have true expertise. 

The day before Kim prompted us with the challenge to process a picture and add heavy textures to give an image a painterly effect, I had posted the image below on Flickr. I took it on our one day this winter that we had enough snow to cover the ground (still only about 2 inches)  . . . even that did not last more than half the day, though, because as is the pattern this winter, the temperatures warmed up well above freezing and it started to rain so I was glad I got a chance to sneak out for a few minute to get a couple of shots in the snow. And when I saw this shot, I did want to go heavy on the texture even before Kim's prompt, but I converted the image to black and white (it looked pretty much black and white anyway with the lack of color in the sky, the snow and the bare trees; I also made most of my adjustments in Rad Lab, which is an awesome plug-in to Photoshop, before applying the textures. I liked the way it turned out, for the most part.

But in the interest of practicing and because I liked the idea of using a barn and snow like Kim's example image and this was the only one I was going to have because of the lack of snow here in Indiana, I went ahead and reprocessed the photo by following Kim's steps. I stayed mostly true to the recipe. I think the textures were desaturated a bit more and also the opacity was lower. I do like how this has a more vintage feel to it, but because of the black and white and the contrasts in the above image, I think I like it a bit better.

I am not quite understanding how the solid color, with the 'hex #' that brought us to a blue color, worked. All I do understand is that it helped to produce the vintage feel and I can only surmise that it was because it was providing a yellow-ish tint--opposite of blue on the color wheel. Well I am not quite sure, but I will figure that out. Learning about the lasso tool and how to clip layers together so that they only affect the one was worth it in and of itself (though, I could not figure out how to 'unclip' them.)


Then I moved on to this image and tried the exclusion blend mode when I did the solid color adjustment and I did a few other steps but mostly was going for the vintage look. It came out okay.

Then there was this one. I intended to try to go heavy and 'painterly' on this one. I ended up backing off and I am okay with the final results even though the reason I backed off was because Photoshop got all in a funk. This happens to me sometimes . . . it seems like I do some combination of steps and then I end up with these texture layers becoming  transparent and they won't work properly . . . they won't really show up in the photo when I layer them over. Other unexpected things happen as well. When things seem to be just getting too out of control (and I'm sure it is something that I did inadvertently that caused this, but I just don't know what or how to get out of it), I just close everything out and start all over again. I came back to this image and ended up just running a few items in Rad Lab and applying one layer of the Sienna texture . . . the blend mode was multiply still but with a bit of a reduced opacity and then I just left it at that.

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