Simple artistic photo retouching tip and resources


Learn photographic Lighting

The trick to doing artistic photo retouching effects is to keep them simple.

In this image, I used an An image from my Organic Vignette package to bring a slight dreamy quality to the image.

I knew what I was looking for when I started, but let me outline the art theory principles behind what I ‘saw’ in my minds eye before I completed the image.


First, hue I knew that I wanted to blend and tie in the warm yellow skin tones, and the blues/purples of the grooms suit and boutonnière. The dreamlike quality of the image comes from the blended and smudged look of the tonalities so their close relationship in Hue is very important. The clever part of my texture sets is their interrelationships within the close Hue relationships-here that close relationship is yellow to orange, with a vignette in the complementary color of blue. Here is the sample image form the texture set for you to see what it looked like:

Organic Vignette Texture Set by Make Light Real


If you notice carefully there is a rim of natural light on the bride’s right cheek – the sunshine was coming through trees near sunset, and the bride and groom had their backs to it. So the overall contrast in the luminance of this photo is not very high – that’s good for applying a lighting effect or texture…because you can trick the viewer more easily. So it’s important to note that I’m starting with an image basically lit by open shade…nice and soft. The Hue of the overlay image is important because I want a unified color theme – but also because it creates a brighter spot of sunlight (of sorts) on her dress. That dapple of bright highlight where her hair ends and the semicircle of her necklace dips rounds out the counterpoint of her smile in the composition.  The rest of the image’s contrast is burned down by the vignette pushing the viewer’s attention to the warm emotional embrace, and the warm sunshine dappled across their embrace.

The simple steps to getting this done in Photoshop is to use a “Hard Light” layer of somewhere between 15-25%.  You want to look to smudge the tones, but not make the texture file in any way prominent to the main  image’s subject matter.

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fairytale bokeh by =DyingBeautyStock on deviantART

fairytale bokeh by =DyingBeautyStock on deviantART

High Resolution photoshop texture file free download pink – purple – bokeh – overlay – real light

If you like this file purchase a whole set:

Bleautiful Blur Overlays - Volume 2

Bleautiful Blur Overlays – Volume 2

Buy the Beautiful blurs set now and add creativity of any design or photography project:

  • Page Backgrounds
  • Contrast modifying overlays for single photographs
  • Color adding overlays for designs or photographs
  • Website background images

70 High Resolution 16mp images for your creative project!

Free Light Friday 8-14-09

Lighting Overlays Disk 1

The Make Light Real Lighting Overlays disk 1. Read the online tutorials to understand how they are used completely. Buy this set and get started!

High Res texture download (one click)
Free Light Friday 08-14-09

These images are retouched with ‘lighting effects overlays’
Charlotte NC Actress Headshots 35.jpg

Modern Artistic Portrait photographer Charlotte NC

Check the tutorials for ideas!

Vignette Complex Shapes

Does this image look useful to you?  

 Vignette Complex Shapes - veritas-10.jpg

Well I included it in the Verities Vignette texture set in the hopes of inspiring your creativity, this is how I used it tonight – Before:

Vignette Complex Shapes - Before image effect 

Vignette Complex Shapes - After effect applied

There you’ll see the edged dodged down in a nicely organic way…control the darkness and control the perception of the image!

Veritas Vignette Overlays

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Free Light Friday – 1/23/09

Blue Bokeh blobs from Deanna’s Lensbaby adventures

Download high resolution image for texture or overlay

Comparitive Retouch – Lighting overlay blue on Flickr – Photo Sharing!

A quick comparative set using LAB color mode and the ONE ACTION set: starting with the original file just out of raw conversion….

Comparitive Retouch original file

First we retouch the skin to taste, consider the light when you do (opensextensive skin retouch tutorial)!

Comparitive Retouch clean skin

After skin retouch we have a richer and more directional feel to the light.

Comparitive Retouch LAB - Black and White

A Black and white conversion using L*A*B* color mode for luminosity.  A very classy B+W conversion.  Once we’ve shown the client the expected results we can easily proof them something more artistic, and unexpected using Beautiful Blurs, or Lighting Overlays.

Comparitive Retouch - Lighting overlay blue

Here a basic texture file from the Bleautiful Blur Overlays – Volume 2 gives the picture a little blue juice which contrasts the warmth of the skin with a Photoshop layer mode of soft light.

Comparitive Retouch - Lighting overlay streaks

the Lighting Overlays Disk 1 streaky image, gives the image a funky modern splash on the left side when I used a Photoshop Layer mode of screen.

There are two answers to why to be creative – one is from your own motivation, the other is to sell more to your clients.  With the ONE ACTION workflow you could complete this whole series in less than 3min simply saving out a JPEG at each stage.

ONE ACTION: workflow and training . Bleautiful Blur Overlays - Volume 2 . Lighting Overlays Disk 1

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Beautiful Blurs Volume 2

Bleautiful Blur Overlays - Volume 2

Bleautiful Blur Overlays – Volume 2

The beautiful blurs can do a lot for your images! Read any of the online tutorials to get ideas:

The Beautiful blurs add to the creativity of any designer or photographer:

  • Page Backgrounds
  • Contrast modifying overlays for single photographs
  • Color adding overlays for designs or photographs
  • Website background images

70 High Resolution 16mp images for your creative project!

Soundtrack is “In McDonalds” by Burial

Available for immediate download – Liscensed for unlimited reproduction in any media with purchase from copyright holder Neil Cowleey ©2008 – Do not redistribute – liscense is non-transferable from original purchaser. Free Sample available here for download <–

Painted Purple - LAB color

Understanding the power of darkness: from high key to low key

Following in the footsteps of my retouching tutorials:

I know these are written to a more abstract level and so today I’d like to provide a more hands-on experience and so I have posted this L*A*B* colorspace photoshop file for you to download.  There are eleven layers in this file, from the starting image, on up through the finished look.

 From Light to dark photoshop tutorial

Let’s dig in


Vintage Postcards – Small Set

Put more creativity on the back of your postcards!

 Vintage Postcard Templates - antique textures

Here’s a look at a 5 back set of Vintage Postcards – Small Set – $19.00 : Zen Cart!, The Art of E-commerce

Two of the cards have 1 cent stamps attached – these cards are vintage 1910-1919

Vintage 1941 authentic antique postcard back design

Here’s how I used it, and on the front I used a texture overlay to complete the vintage look.  I would recommend the Dark Descent texture set to add a touch of vintage feel.

Vintage 1941 Wedding thank you card front

vintage postcard designer's set

What does a texture do for an image?

Let’s talk about texture

In response to my release of the Light Touch beginner’s textures, we’re about wisdom here


Can you see what’s happening when I added the texture in the first image?

Can you quantify it in your mind?

If not I recommend taking a read of the classic text “Perception and Imaging” to give yourself a strong backbone in realizing the subtitles and abstractions of what you see.

But let’s try and put our finger on it for a moment with the end in mind – what does a texture do for an image?

In the first image I composed the shot with a piece of the ceremony decor in focus with the bride’s head in the background but out of focus.  The sharp objects are perceived by our eyes as the subject – the blurry or soft things are the ground – upon which the subject ‘rests’ or ‘resides’.  Without separation there is nothing.

So what happens when a texture file with small sharp details is introduced?

Click to enlarge (huge)

In the texture file that I used from the Lighting Overlays Disk 1 set, a focal plane runs through the image with the texture of paper in sharp focus.  In this image where only one small object is in the focal plane the texture adds to the perceived depth of the image by adding more ‘figure’ to the figure/ground relationship.  It appears as though the crystalline beads rest on something as they sway in the breeze.

The second image of the diptych shows the opposite point of focus, but has the same exact texture applied to the image.  Even with my best blue sky photo processing tricks, I couldn’t help the bride’s face rise in perceptual value without some additional lightening or darkening of the sky.  I chose the blue texture file and applied it in overlay blend mode which darkened the sky while increasing saturation.  Here’s the image as it looks straight out of camera raw.

Interesting perspective, but not the same dramatic picture energy as the finished version.  The lighting overlay helps channel the image’s tones into a dramatic and emotionally engaging corner burn (compare the top and bottom right.  The cooling blue effect helps the skin-tones rise in prominence and the overlay blend mode deepens the shadows and brightens the highlights for a stronger dimensional feel to the hazy sunlight.

I hope this discussion brings you deeper understanding on your path to visual wisdom!

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buy downloadable texture files