Photos © 2003, Anthony L. Celeste, All Rights Reserved
Although plug-ins are often
referred to as "Photoshop Plug-ins," most of them can be
used in many photo editors other than Photoshop (such as Corel Photo-Paint
and Ulead PhotoImpact). Since everyone doesn't own a copy of Photoshop,
it's good to see developers who bring us programs that can be
used by just about everyone.
Such is the case with the Auto FX Mystical Lighting package, which contains
16 lighting effects and a powerful interface that provides numerous
options for each effect. It also allows you to preview each adjustment
before any changes are actually made to your photos.
those not familiar with the term "plug-in," a plug-in is a
program that adds new features to your photo editing program. Plug-ins
are normally added to your program's "filter" or "effect"
menu. However, Mystical Lighting is unique in that it not only operates
from within photo editors, it can also be opened as a stand-alone program
by clicking on its desktop icon.
The Mystical Lighting
The majority of Mystical Lighting's controls are located on the
left side of the screen; the main work area is located on the right side
of the screen (#1). In Mystical Lighting, buttons with arrows on the right
are actually menus; the menu items appear when you click on the button
or on the arrow.
The File, Edit, and View menus require little explanation, other than
to note that undo/redo and preferences controls are available via the
Edit menu. To the right of these menus you'll find the Pan, Zoom,
and Memory Dot controls. When you click on a Memory Dot, a snapshot of
your current settings is taken so you can then return to these settings
at any time simply by clicking on the same dot.
Mystical Lighting's 16
lighting effects, along with presets for most of the effects, are accessed
via the Special Effects menu. Beneath this menu are the Save button and
the Remove menu. Note that the Save button is not used to save your work,
it's used instead to save your current settings as a new preset.
The Remove menu is used to remove presets. The large tab below Save and
Remove contains controls for all of the effects. Each time you select
a new effect, the tab updates its appearance, so that it displays only
the controls needed for that particular effect.
At the top of the screen you'll find Mystical Lighting's "Original"
button. By holding down your left mouse button you can use the Original
button to compare your photo's current look to the unedited original.
In the top right corner of the screen there's a slider control that's
used to set the overall opacity (transparency) value of any effect you
apply (0 means complete transparency and 100 means no transparency). Beneath
this slider, you'll find a list of effects that you've applied
since opening the current photo. You can turn off any effect that you've
already applied by clicking the small dot to the left of the effect's
Casting Light On A
Photo Using The Ethereal Effect
The Ethereal effect is used to cast a diffused light onto an image. In
this example, I'll use it to cast light through a series of trees
and on to a waterfall (#2). The Ethereal effect is accessed by clicking
Special Effects | Mystical | Ethereal (#3).
The Cast button is used to control how light is applied to your photo.
It has four available options: Soft Cast (a standard non-directional diffused
light); Light Cast (a diffused light that streams in the direction set
by the Cast Direction control); SoftLight Cast (similar to Light Cast
but provides a more diffused light); and Protect (used if you need to
protect certain areas of your photo from the Ethereal effect).
For this image, I chose Light
Cast, since it will display a moderately powerful directional light. I
set the Cast Direction to the lower right of the Cast Direction control,
since I want the light to look as if it's originating from behind
the trees, and radiating down and to the right, toward the waterfall.
When you start using the Ethereal effect you'll notice that Mystical
Lighting places a wire frame styled ellipse over the image. The ellipse
is used frequently in Mystical Lighting effects. The inner circle shows
the area where the effect is strongest and the outer circle displays the
outer boundary area of the effect.
You can show or hide the ellipse by clicking on the Transform Ellipse
button (this is the higher of the two buttons on the upper right of the
Ethereal menu). When the ellipse is displayed, hovering your mouse over
it will display a cursor representing one of the transform tools. As you
move your mouse over various areas of the ellipse, the shape of the cursor
will change, indicating which transform tool is currently available.
There are five transform tools:
(#4) Scale (re-sizes and re-shapes the ellipse); Constrain (re-sizes the
ellipse while keeping the current ratio of width to height); Rotate (rotates
the ellipse); Move (moves the ellipse); and New (used to distinguish newly
created ellipses from other ellipses). I used the Move Transform tool
to move the ellipse to an area near the upper left of the photo so that
the light will be cast from the area near the trees.
Some settings in the Ethereal menu need to be changed in order to achieve
the desired effect. Clicking on the small white box next to the words
"Cast Color" accesses the Mystical Lighting Color Picker,
which is used to set the color of the light being cast. In this case,
I chose an almost pure white color, with just a touch of yellow in it,
so that the light would resemble sunlight. Note that when choosing the
Ethereal effect's cast color it's usually best to select a
bright color, since this will most closely resemble natural light.
The Cast Color slider is used
to set the opacity (transparency) of the color you selected. To create
a natural looking effect, a certain amount of transparency is built into
the Ethereal effect, so you generally won't need to add much additional
transparency here. Lower values increase the transparency level, while
higher values decrease the transparency level. In most cases, you'll
probably want to use a high value. For the waterfall image, I left the
slider set to its default value of 100.
The Softness/Distance slider is used to set how far the Ethereal effect
travels from its point of original near the center of the ellipse. As
the distance increases, so does the softness, thus the name "Softness/
Distance" slider. In this case, I wanted the effect to travel all
the way down to the waterfall, so I chose a value of 85.
The Cast Amount slider controls
the overall strength and intensity of the Ethereal effect. This control
has to be used cautiously to avoid adding too much light to your photo.
In this case I found that raising the setting from 0 to 1 was sufficient
to achieve the desired effect.
One of my goals in editing this photo is for the light to appear as though
it's streaking in from between the trees, since light shining through
the trees obviously wouldn't look very natural. The Tonal Range
slider is used to control this effect. A low tonal range will cause the
light to appear only in the areas between the trees, since a low tonal
range allows the effect to become visible only in areas of the image that
are already light. By keeping the tonal range set to a low value, the
Ethereal effect is applied only to the areas between the trees.
The Soften Cast slider is used to control the softness (the amount of
blending) when casting directional light. Lower values produce streaks
of light, while higher values produce a more blurry, almost fog-like light.
Since I wanted streaks of light for this image, I set the cast slider
to a relatively low setting of 2.
Remember that the ellipse for
this image is currently located in the upper left corner. Since light
should also shine from between the trees in the upper right corner of
the image, another ellipse, placed in the upper right corner, would be
very useful. I duplicated the ellipse by clicking the Ethereal Ellipse
tool (located directly under the Transform Ellipse tool). I then clicked
the Transform Ellipse tool, hovered my mouse over the ellipse, waited
for the new ellipse cursor to appear, and then moved the new ellipse to
the upper right side of the image.
Note that by setting all of the Ethereal menu controls first, and then
duplicating the ellipse, I did not have to set the controls again for
the second ellipse. When you create a new ellipse, instead of using default
settings, the ellipse adopts the settings of the most recently used ellipse.
This is a major time saver. The new waterfall image, with the Ethereal
effect applied, can be seen in #5.
Before opening a new image in Mystical Lighting, it's a good idea
to click the Save button to save a preset for the effect you just created.
This is useful if you want to edit the effect later, or use it as a preset
effect for another image. Also, click File | Save to save your newly edited
photo (if you're using Mystical Lighting from within a photo editor
such as Photoshop, click the OK button, next to the Original button, to
return the newly edited photo to your photo editor).
Adding A Rainbow To
The Mystical Lighting Rainbow effect is used to add a rainbow to your
photos. The most efficient method of making a rainbow is to use the Rainbow
Shape control, which is the lowest of the three controls located on the
far right side of the Rainbow menu in #6.
In this example, I'll be adding a rainbow to a mountainous sunrise
photo (#7). In keeping with the mystical theme of this plug-in, I'm
going to create something that can't be seen in real life: a rainbow
that appears on the same side of the horizon as the sun (you may never
have noticed it, but rainbows always appear opposite of the sun).
To create a rainbow, click on the Rainbow Shape control. Move your mouse
over the photo, press the left mouse button down at the point where you
would like your rainbow to start, drag the mouse to the point where you
would like the rainbow to end, and then release the mouse button.
Once you release the mouse button, the rainbow will be created (#8). If
the placement of the rainbow is not quite right, it can be moved by hovering
your mouse over the line used to create the rainbow, and wait a moment
for the Move cursor to appear.
The most unique control available for rainbows is the Rainbow Colors button.
When you click this button, you access a selection of rainbow color patterns
that can be used to replace the standard rainbow color pattern. I also
noticed an undocumented feature here: you can create your own custom color
schemes to use as rainbow color patterns. To do so, use your photo editing
software to create a new image 34 pixels wide by 218 pixels high. Add
whatever colors you desire to the image, and save it as a high quality
JPEG in Mystical Lighting's "mystical lighting\Mystical\Rainbows"
folder. The next time you click the Rainbow Colors button, the new rainbow
pattern will be available.
Adding Mist To A Lake
Using The Mystical Lighting Mist Effect
The Mystical Lighting Mist effect is used to add realistic looking mist
to your photos. The mist is literally painted on the screen using the
Mist Brush (the middle of the three items on the far right side of the
Mist menu, as in #9). Each brush stroke is controlled by the Brush Size
Control (located beneath the Mist Brush).
The Brush Size Control (#10) accounts for more than size; it's also
used to control Opacity (the transparency level of each brush stroke)
and feathering (the amount of semitransparency on the outside edge of
each brush stroke). It's this combination of size, semitransparent
edges, and overall transparency that enable the Mist Brush to paint realistic
Another method of adding realism is to occasionally remove a stroke of
mist, since this helps to create a more natural, diffused appearance.
To accomplish this, hold down the ALT key (Windows) or Option Key (Mac)
while using the Mist brush. Also, making slight changes to the Brush settings
after every few strokes can help to create a natural looking mist (#11).
Space does not permit a look at all 16 of the Mystical Lighting effects,
so I've focused here on effects that demonstrate concepts needed
throughout Mystical Light (such as using ellipses and brushes), and on
effects that I feel may be most useful to you when editing photos. I encourage
you to download the Mystical Lighting demo from www.autofx.com
and experiment with using this powerful tool when editing and enhancing
Tony Celeste appreciates feedback
from his readers, you may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Auto FX Software