There are a bunch of really fun overlays in Pixlr Express, and one of our favorites is the Butterfly overlay. It’s located in the Bokeh effects pack, and today we’re going to show you how to use it to create a recipe we like to call “Butterfly Skies.” It’s a fantastical effect that works great for both portraits and landscapes to give the sky a magical effect. We’re using the web version of Pixlr Express, but you can do all of this in the mobile versions just as easily.
Of course, you’ll want to start with a photo that is either all about the sky or where the sky is an important element. We’re starting with this absolutely beautiful photo of a kid and some balloons practically being blown away on a windy day.
This is a stock photo, but we sure wish we would’ve taken this photo because it’s quite good. If you don’t have any great photos of the sky and want a good photo to try this technique out, go find one on Morguefile or Freestockphotos.biz or some other free stock site.
Step one: basic editing
You always want to do basic editing to get your lights and darks balanced. When using a lot of overlays or layering on a bunch of effects, one thing to consider is that adding a lot of overlays may ultimately darken your photo, so you may want to make sure it’s sufficiently light at the outset. Or you might even want to sharpen the image if you think it might be muddied by layering on tons of stuff. For this photo, all we did was bump up the saturation a bit. We want this to be a very colorful image.
Step two: Butterfly
Next, apply the Butterfly overlay. Notice that the overlays have a few additional options. Try rotating the overlay or flipping it to get the butterflies to work with other elements of the image. We applied this at 89% because we really want these butterflies to stand out. You’ll notice that the Butterfly overlay is really a non-color overlay, but you’ll quickly see how we can make this white butterfly sky way more colorful.
Step three: History Brush
This is an important step if you want your image to really pop. We use the History Brush (located in the Adjustments menu) to paint away the butterfly overlay that we just added in some spots. We do this only on the boy and the balloons and the grass, which is going to make the butterfly effect really only affect the sky. Notice in the photo below how the butterflies stop at the balloons. Get to know the History Brush in this way because it can really help you make richer, more illustrative edits.
Step four: Dreamscape
Next, we want to add some kaleidoscopic color. We use another effect from the Bokeh set, the one called Dreamscape. We set this at about 75%, but you can go full-on 100% if you like it.
Again, we use the History Brush to remove the effect on the boy, balloons, and grass. We want those balloons to really stand out in all their original beauty.
Step five: finishing touches
For our finishing touches, we sharpened the image a bit and bumped up the vibrance. And, we slapped a border on it. We chose the simple, classy border from the Default set called “Clean.” How you finish your image is up to you, but one good option at this point are the Color Correction overlays. If you want your butterfly sky to be a little more pink or a touch more blue, those options will help get you there.
As you can see, adding a few bokeh overlays completely lifts up this photo and makes it something more magical. While we bumped the effects up significantly to make our Bokeh Butterfly Dreamscape sky look completely out of this world, these overlays can be dialed down to provide just hints of bubbly texture if you like.
If you follow this recipe, let us know! Point us to it with a tweet: We’re @pixlr on Twitter.
Video Tutorial with Cindy Patrick Shows You How to Turn Photos into Fine Art
There’s a sweet spot between art and photography that we often seek out. We love to see people take their phones and tablets and create art out of photographs that might otherwise seem ho-hum or normal. That’s the promise of editing, and some people are quite good at it. In fact, some people can turn casually snapped photos into art that’s worthy of hanging on a wall.
Some people call this iPhoneographic art, but whatever you call it you will probably agree that making beautiful art from a phone you carry in your pocket is completely awesome and shows how great it is to live in this day and age. But can you, yourself, do it? Heck yeah you can. We’re going to show you how to make things like this:
We asked Cindy Patrick, a Philadelphia-based photographer who makes quite stunning art with apps like ours to show us how she does it. She uses lots of different apps but has developed a pretty streamlined process for creating what look like canvas paintings of seaside tableaux. We wanted to capture her process, and we thought the best way to do that would be to simply have her record her workflow so we can break down the process into easy-to-follow steps that Pixlr users can perform to make their own wall-worthy art.
We put together a video for you to watch, and we’ve included the steps here in this post so you can follow along. This is an excellent way to create a portrait of a loved one or a landscape that deserves to be immortalized as a painting — but without having to learn how to draw and paint from scratch.
Cindy’s goal with many of her images is to make the original photographic image look more like a painting. She also loves color, so she usually find ways to enhance or alter the existing color of the captured image. Here is her process for this image of a surfer:
Step 1: Basic Editing
She firsts opens her image in Iris Photo Suite and applies the “DynaRange” filter, which brightens the highlights and shadows, and “lifts” the image overall. This is very often the first step in her processing workflow. If you don’t have that app, some basic photo editing in Pixlr Express will get you there. The goal is to balance your lights and darks, and even something as simple as using auto-fix will probably get you there. After applying the filter, she saves the image to her camera roll.
Step 2: Stylize
Next, Cindy opens the image created in Step 1 in Pixlr Express. First, she crops the borders. She generally doesn’t like borders on her images, and she tends to crop them as a rule. But for this image, she knows she wants to add a stylized border later, so she eliminates it at this stage. She saves this cropped version of the image to her camera roll.
While still in Pixlr Express, she applies the “Dapple” filter (Stylize > Dapple). This gives her a nice painterly version of her photo. She saves this version to her camera roll and exits Pixlr.
Step 3: Blending
Next, she opens the Superimpose app and opens the cropped “DynaRange” version of the image (from Step 2) which automatically becomes her background image. She then opens the “Dapple” version as the foreground image (from Step 3) and blends the two images together using the “Darken” blend mode. This gives her a painterly version of the image but with a little bit of the realism brought back in. She backs off on the opacity a bit, and then saves that version to her camera roll.
If you don’t have Superimpose, you can experiment with the add-an-image feature in Pixlr Express and perform a similar task. Or, if you’re happy with how stylized your image is and don’t want to dial it back with realism, you can simply skip this step. It’s up to you to decide how realistic/painterly you want your image to become.
Step 4: Blur
Next, she opens the new version of the image (from Step 4) in the Blur FX app. She sets the blur mode to median blur and turns on the mask feature so she can see her image beneath. She proceeds to erase the blur from the figure of the surfer. After erasing the blur, she continues to refine the edges and clean up the selection. Before saving, she backs off on the blur a bit by moving the slider to the left and bringing some of the original image back in. She saves this image to her camera roll.
If you don’t have Blur FX, try the blur option in Pixlr Express and then erase the parts you don’t want to be blurry using the History Brush. The History Brush is probably one of the most overlooked but most useful tools in Pixlr Express. You can use it to layer on intense effects and then “paint out” the details in your image (like the surfer figure in Cindy’s image).
Step 5: Color, Texture
Next, she opens this new blurred version of the image in Pixlr Express. She knows she wants to adjust the color a bit, so she adds a filter by selecting “Effect” and then “Vintage and “Borg.” This gives her an overall turquoise color that she loves.
Next, she applies a texture by selecting “Overlay,” “Canvas,” and “Sand.” She then selects the History Brush (adjustment > history) and erases the sand texture from the figure of the surfer. Sand is a superb choice of overlay based on her painting, but you might simply want to choose the Canvas overlay if you’re goal is to make it look like a canvas painting. You can control the opacity and dial back the effect if you’re looking for something more subtle. Experiment!
Step 6: Finishing Touches
Next, she selects Borders > Default > Grunge and applies the border of choice to her image. She saves and exits the Pixlr app.
Finally, Cindy like to add some drips and drops of paint, which she does in an app called Repix.
That’s it. That’s Cindy’s entire process for making art. You can skip some of these steps or do them all exactly like she does, but whatever you do keep experimenting.
Do you make art like this? Please let us know. We’re on the lookout for art like this, and you can reach us on Twitter: @pixlr.
Root for Your World Cup Team with "Beautiful Game" Flag Overlays in Pixlr Express
The World Cup is upon us! To celebrate, we’ve created some flag overlays and stickers in Pixlr Express to help you root for your team. You’ll find 32 flag overlays representing each of the teams competing in the World Cup. Each flag is designed as an overlay to put on top of your photos in a subtle way, and we’ll keep this special “Beautiful Game” effects pack around in Pixlr Express for the web, iOS, and Android for the duration of the World Cup. With these, you can make very neat images like this:
Even if you’re not a soccer/football fan, we encourage you to try them out. They look pretty sweet. A few tips for these overlays:
As with other overlays in Pixlr Express, you can dial down the opacity or rotate them to add a little more control.
Some work better with darker images, some work better with lighter images.
Want a really strong flag effect? Try knocking out the color completely from your image before adding these overlays (e.g., an antique filter). Then, after adding your flag effect turn up the saturation massively.
You can mimic a slight double exposure effect by lowering the contrast of your image before adding your flag overlay.
They’re definitely worth experimenting with. We made a few for this post to show you what they look like, but you can go make one right now in the web version of Pixlr Express. Go for it!
In fact, if you make something and share it out there in the social sphere, tag it #beautifulgame. We’ll be watching the social networks to see what people create. We’ll be tweeting, favoriting, and anointing Pic of the Day status to some the best photos that use these overlays.
Who do you think is going to win? We’re sort of leaning toward Italy:
Although there’s no denying that the home Brazil team has a serious shot at this:
But please pray for our U.S. team. They’re going to need it!
But before we give it away, we want to thank each and every one of you who participated. This was by far (BIG TIME!) the most successful contest we’ve ever run, both in the number of entries and in the quality of entries. We seem to have struck a nerve when we asked you to share photos of things you’ve made. There are some amazingly talented and creative people out there, and it was very difficult for our judges to pick winners.
But pick they must, and they were quite impressed with this culinary inspired hack:
It’s a photo of a KitchenAid mixer turned into a lamp by Emily Del Bel, a food science grad student at the University of Minnesota. We found this photo on Pinterest, where she shares a number of very crafty things she’s made. This entry was one of the most creative we’ve seen in this contest, and we like that she used a Pixlr app to give it a bit of atmosphere, color, and a grunge-y border. Great use of an otherwise dead kitchen appliance and a perfect example of something we never expected to see. Unique!
For her prize, Emily chose a $100 Sur La Table gift card, which completely makes sense because she is a creative food scientist at the University of Minnesota. She focuses on sensory science, which sounds incredibly interesting, and we’re stoked that she took the time to share this superb creation with us. Thank you, Emily!
That’s it for this contest. We’ll undoubtedly do another one soon, so please check in on this blog or follow us on Twitter (@pixlr) — or just keep your eyes on the Pixlr Express app when we add new effects packs.