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Absolutely Fabulous


Paranormal PSP8--Tutorial Index--Text--Absolutely Fabulous

If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm more inclined to "teach a man to fish" rather than hand him a plate full of fish sticks.

As you go through my tutorials--some of which are a trifle bizarre--understand that the point is to learn techniques that you'll apply to your own work in new and creative ways.


In this tutorial, you're likely to learn how to take one basic technique and create 4- or more- very different looks

  • Light Colored Opals
  • "Black" Opals
  • Soft Opalescence
  • A cabochon effect

Don't like opals or create a lot of jewelry? click HERE for other uses for JP's Fire Opal Brush

OK, lets start with a couple of definitions and some explanation

I wear a cabochon opal ring that was designed by my father for my mother, so I have up-close-and-personal model literally right in front of my face. If you've never seen a high-quality opal up close, it's worth a trip to a good jeweler. Inexpensive opals are milky white with just a hint of color, but the best of them flash brilliant colors from within the while or black matrix.

 To complete this tutorial you will need to download the Fire Opal brush and preset script from my Resources page .
I have provided the tip and a script but I have not set the variances. Why not? Would you really learn about variances that way?


. The multicolored natural facets beneath the surface of the highly polished stone are fascinating-- but reproducing them in a graphic has always been something of a challenge. Larger than Noise, smaller and more irregular than tiles....it wasn't until PSP8 and its combination of custom brush tips and brush variances that there was a good repeatable technique for this.

A cabochon is a highly polished, convex-cut, unfaceted gem. Because it is highly polished, reflections are sharper and shadows are crisper than gel, but because of the nature of the stone it is mellower and more diffuse than glass.  The technique you're going to see demonstrated here is highly customizable and, with just a few simple adjustments, can be used to do more than just duplicate my results- it can open a door to things that are uniquely your own.

Crafting Opal Text

1. Open a new image. My default for this project is a 640x480, but it's totally irrelevant as long as you have enough room to work on.



2. Choose the text tool. (this works with shapes as well!) The font I'm using here is called RunTron and is available from www.fontfreak.com My choice was deliberate, because I wanted a font that was thick, heavy, and had rounded shapes. The technique will work with other fonts, but it looks great with this one. (I especially like the off-center voids in the O's). The colors you use at this point are largely unimportant, but I chose a white stroke and a pure blue fill.


Before we move on, let's look at some of the variance  settings

Color blend: this is the variance between the foreground and background colors

Hue This introduces a hue shift- the higher this number is the more "additional" colors your variance will introduce into the stroke. 128 is a rather high value, and, frankly, one of the secrets to making this opal effect work

Saturation: this introduces a saturation shift.  We want some, but not too much because we want our colors to stay "pure"

Lightness: this is 0, because there are better ways to vary this in this brush

Size: Again, a little is important, too much sacrifices control.

3. Choose Selections> From Vector Object to place a marquee around the letters, then choose Selections>Load/Save Selections> Save Selection to Alpha Channel. When the dialog box opens, give the selection a name and click Save. Do not deselect.

4. In the layers palette, hide the vector text layer and add a new raster layer. 

5. Choose the airbrush tool.  In the tool options bar preset menu, locate the Preset that you downloaded from my resources page. (at the end of this tutorial I'll provide a link to ways to use it to make things other than opals) You should see a preset called Opal No Variances. Load that preset by choosing  it and clicking OK

6. Press F11 to make the Brush Variances palette visible. Change the settings as shown below.

To create a preset that includes these settings, go back to the Tool Options palette and choose the preset menu again. Click the Diskette icon to save. When prompted for a name call it "Fire Opal Settings"










7. Choose your foreground and background colors. The colors you place in the foreground and background swatches control the kind of opal that is produced. Below are some swatches of foreground and background colors and the results they produce. Keep in mind that after we apply the contouring, the colors will appear a bit lighter.

Experiment with your own color combinations!




Click HERE for the ellipse shortcut

8. With your colors selected, airbrush the areas inside the selection. To create bigger "chunks" inside the opal, increase the brush size. You'll notice that the opacity for this brush is 37%-- increasing it much beyond that produces unpleasant results. You are better off making two passes with a lower opacity brush than one with a higher one. Do not deselect when you are done.

9. Now we need to add dimension, but Inner Bevel, no matter what setting I tried, never looked right. I had a little more luck with cutout, and I discovered a slick trick for simple ellipses, but irregular shapes like text need to be contoured by hand, so let's get to it.

  • With the saved selection still active, create a new top layer
  • Name this layer "highlights" and fill it with white
  • Choose Selections>Modify> Contract, and set the slider for 10 pixels
  • Press the delete key to clear the selected area.
  • Deselect, then reload the selection from the alpha channel
  • Choose Adjust> Blur> Average and set the slider for 25 pixels
     Do not deselect

This is starting to look like an opal


10. Next we'll add some shadows. Reset the airbrush to the defaults on the tool options palette (see the illustration in step 5 for the location of this button) and choose black as your foreground color. Add a new layer and name it "shadow" and paint in some shadows. (They don't have to be perfect.) Don't deselect.





11. Choose Adjust> Blur> Average and set the slider for 31 pixels
Change the layer blend mode to Multiply and the opacity to 50%
Don't deselect.

12. Add another new layer and name it "flare" With the airbrush hardness set to 0, and the foreground color set to white, paint in the bright highlights that would appear in the upper left corner of each character. Set the layer blend of this layer to screen. Gaussian blur them about 6 pixels.

(I've turned off the opal layer here so you can see the effect of the three lights layers "highlights," "shadows," and "flare")

This is the cabochon effect. It actually looks pretty cool all by itself. (and even better when you get the metal bezel in place.) You might want to reduce the opacity of the flare layer if you aren't going to use a patterned layer beneath it.


New PSP8 Feature!

13. Choose Selections>Modify> Select Selection Borders. When the window opens, set Border width to 7 pixels, Both Sides, Anti-Aliased and click OK.  Do not deselect

14. In the layers palette, create a new layer. Now, I used Eye Candy 4.0 Chrome at the default Chrome settings to create my metal bezel.  If you don't have Eye Candy, you can use PSP's own Sculpture Effect or Blade Pro to create your "metal". If you're using anything other than Eye Candy, you'll probably need to fill the selection with some color first. When in doubt, use Neutral Gray (128, 128, 128) (Eye Candy 3 made "yucky" chrome, but the chrome in version 4 is very nice :-))

15. Final adjustments: Depending on the colors you chose in step 7, you may want to adjust the highlights and shadows layers

  • To darken the shadow layer change from normal to multiply or burn; to lighten them, reduce the opacity.
  • To lighten the "light" layers (highlight and flare) try changing the blend to screen, overlay, or dodge; to mute the lighting, decrease the opacity.

16. To create the opalescent effect, reload the alpha channel selection and Gaussian blur the layer filled with the pattern generated by the Fire Opal brush. I used a factor of 10 in the example below









Want to see other uses for JP's Fire Opal Brush? Click Here