Let’s Add Grain

Fine tuning grain

This week's tutorial is inspired by a discussion on improving grain at pixls.us In the first edit, I differentially apply grain to help separate subjects in the frame.
Thank you for such an interesting image to work with Kevin! We look forward to mailing you a print of it as a prize for your contribution.

In a second edit, I use some of my favorite tools to get some nice fluffy clouds and tune up a bothersome edge. Thank you, Fatdunky for that irresistible contribution!

Welder RAW
Welder XMP 1
Welder XMP 2

Flight from Auckland RAW
Flight from Auckland XMP1
Flight from Auckland XMP2

Complete Show Text

Download complete text here

(Mauna Kea from Hilo Town)
(Mauna Kea from Kea'au)
(Bridge above Honoli'i)
(Akaka Falls)
(Akaka Falls park)
(Mauna Kea and the supermoon from Kea'au)
(Ironwood trees on Red Road)
(Ohia trees at Lava Tree Park)
(Pahoa jungle)
(Red Road ocean sunrise)
(Kilauea moonrise)

Aloha everybody, and welcome to another edition of Weekly Edit.

This week's RAW contribution is sent to us by Kevin.

It's somebody welding.

It's a little dark, so we'll have to work with that.

It's also a little tough to see what's going on with the light because we've got the dark room, and there's light streaming in here -- it looks like the sun, maybe.

There are reflections of the welding here and here.

First, we'll apply a Base Curve to this image.

Let's see what kind of camera this was shot on: an Olympus.

We'll go to our Base Curve options and see.

We have two Olympus options.

Let's look at those.

Here's the first one: that's kind of contrasty.

And the Alternate: oh, that brings out a lot more detail in the smoke here.

I really want to emphasize this smoke.

I like it.

Okay, let's apply that.

I'll brighten this image so I can see what's going on with the White Balance.

I'll take a Tone Curve and just give it a pretty extreme curve, just so we can see what's going on.

Okay, there's a lot of blue.

It looks like there's a lot of blue everywhere.

I'm not trusting this White Balance.

Let's try some options and see if we can come up with something closer.

We'll use the Spot.

That looks pretty yellow, and maybe green in here.

I'll draw some areas.

Is the helmet black? That looks pretty believable.

How about this? It looks like aluminum.

Yeah, that looks pretty good.

How about over here? Oh, I like that: the color looks like the right color; the smoke does, and this looks like it's about the right color.

Maybe a little more yellow in here would be appropriate, but I'm not sure.

So, maybe the red is a little heavy.

I'll turn down the red a little.

I'm pretty happy with that.

So, now I can get rid of this Tone Curve.

I'll just use Tone Mapping for this.

I'll turn on the Tone Mapping and see.

Oh, look at how much information that pulls out; that's great.

The Spatial Extent is too much.

We want to bring that down, but not so far that it starts to look HDR-ish.

We still want it to be believable.

And I want to keep these lines of the sun.

I don't want to lose them with the Spatial Extent.

I ended up around 13% here.

I'll turn down my Contrast Compression as far as I can.

That looks like about it.

I don't want to get darker than that over here.

I don't want the Tone Mapping to happen in these brighter areas, so I'll apply this with a Parametric Mask based on the L Channel.

So, most of it where it's darkest.

Then I'll start to bring down this amount.

We'll turn on the Mask Indicator.

Like this.

Before, and after.

That looks pretty good.

I'll change the Opacity a little for a more natural looking blend.

In doing that, this gets a little darker, so I'll compensate by turning up the Contrast Compression a little.

There we go.

We're pretty equalized in terms of tone across the whole image now.

Now that I'm looking at the image, I think I'd like to show the welder, and the whole room, with some grain.

Turn up our Coarseness; increase our Strength.

Yes, I like this, but I don't want the grain in the smoke.

I want to separate the smoke from the rest of the image.

I want to apply grain to the whole image, and leave the smoke kind of floating on top of the grain.

In thinking about how I want the Grain to look, I don't want as much in the highlight areas or in the darkest shadows, but I do want it in the midtones.

I'll apply it with a Parametric Mask.

I'll use the Eyedropper tool here to find out where my midtones are.

Like, right around here.

Okay, there we are.

So, I'll center the effect there.

Now we have none in these areas.

This looks a little heavy in here.

I'll bring this up a little bit.

There we go.

Now our darker areas don't have any and our lighter areas don't have any.

The rest of it does.

I would like some grain in these areas.

I don't have a way of doing that with this Parametric Mask, so I'll have a second instance of the Grain.

Then I'll adjust the strength.

I'll take this one down a little; the other one I'll bring up a little.

So, I'll duplicate this instance and get rid of the Parametric Mask part of it.

I'll just do it uniformly.

So, I'll turn down this Grain, and turn down this one.

Between the two of them, I want to come up with the total amount of grain that I want.

This one down here doesn't give me any grain in the lighter and darker parts, so I can completely attenuate that with the top one.

Bring that Strength down.

Okay, that looks good here.

And it looks good in here too.

It's a little heavy here in the midtones, so I'll turn down this Strength a little.

And it's just a little large, so I'll bring both of these down from 6400.

Oh, that's a little small.

Let's go with 5000 and see what that looks like.

A little more.

This is touchy.

Ah, I think this is just what I'm looking for.

Now, do we still have the right amount here? This is a little more than I want in the brighter and darker areas.

I'll turn this one down -- the one with no Parametric Mask.

And I'll bring this midtone one up a little bit.

This is what I'm looking for.

I've got some in here, but it's kind of fading away.

And some in here, but it's kind of fading away.

And then I've got this stuff in the middle.

I think I'd like the grain to be smaller in the places where there's less of the effect.

I'll turn down this Coarseness.

Down to 4600 or so.

Oh, there we go.

So, I ended up with 3700 for my base Grain.

Then my Grain that's centered on my midtones is up at 5500.

I've got this one at 10% and this one's way up at 30% on strength.

That's a pleasing effect; I like that.

Still, I don't want it where the smoke is.

How can I exclude the smoke? I could draw an area around the smoke.

That would be a good start.

Drawn & Parametric Mask, and let's draw where the smoke is.

We'd better name that so we can find it.

There we go: smoke.

So, we want to exclude that: minus.

Alright, and let's apply it to this one and exclude it from this one too.

Smoke and minus.

Alright, now we've got our grain everywhere but not where the smoke is.

But, I do want it where the smoke is; I just don't want it in the darker areas where the smoke is.

I'll do a Copy of this.

Let's see: Duplicate Instance.

Okay, this is our base at 10%; this was the smaller grain.

And we already have this shape enabled.

I'll reverse the polarity of this shape.

Okay, so now this area is selected instead of de-selected.

I'll combine this with a Parametric Mask.

Here we go.

We're starting to get into the smoke here.

And a little Mask Blur.

Not too much.

Let's see what that looks like.

Oh, yeah; the grain is getting in here.


Let's increase the Strength of this.

There we go.

And a little more Coarseness.

Ah, like that.

And we don't have it where the smoke is: good.

I think I need to apply some Denoising so I can see what's going on here.

Let's see: we're at ISO 200.

And, that's too much.

So, let's turn down the Strength some.

There we go.

That looks nice.

Okay, we've got our grain in between our smoke.

Is the grain heavy enough? And does it go everywhere? I might want to go into these areas more with the grain.

Let's see now: Mask Indicator.

Yes, let's bring this up just a little more.

Yeah; like that.

Ah-hah! There we go.

I'm trying to create more delineation between the smoke and the grain.

That's what I'm looking for.

We should apply Chromatic Aberrations, and then I'm going to save this so I can work on the image with the grain in it.

Alright, now we've got our grain and we've got our smoke.

I want to bring out more detail in the smoke.

I'll start with the Tone Curve.

And, let's see.

I want brighter areas and darker areas.

That might be too dark.

Oh, this looks like a good range right in here.

I'll bring this up.

I really want to bring out this smoke.

Oh, there we go.

I'm missing some detail in some of these areas.

Yeah, in there.

Let's see if I can get some detail with the Highpass Filter.

Oh, yeah; there is.

Look at that.

Like that.


I'll use a Parametric Mask to try and center the effect in this brightness area.

Right in there.

I'll use a Softlight Blend Mode.

Alright, that looks good.

But I don't want it to do that everywhere because it's messing with our grain here.

So, I'll draw an area here and have it applied with a combination of a Drawn & Parametric Mask.

And feather my edge here.

And this is bringing out the detail here.

That's with it off, and that's with it on.

That helps a lot.

Is it too much? A little bit.

I'll bring down my Opacity.

Okay, there we go.

I'd like to de-saturate the image a little, but I'd also like to brighten it.

I can do that just by using the Tone Curve and increasing the gamma but setting the Scale Chroma to Manual.

Let's try that.

I want to bring out more of these rays of light.

Here's a brighter area.

There we go.

That gives me a little more gamma there.

Then I'd like to go back to having this be a higher contrast image and get my Black Point set right.

Yes, I like this de-saturated look, especially with the grain.

And lastly, it seems to me the smoke is very blue, and I'd like it to be more neutral.

How can we fix that? Maybe we can adjust it based on its brightness in this area.

I don't want to catch this area, though, and change its color.

Let's try the Color Zones Module.

We'll sample the smoke.

It says it's right in here.

Now, let's see if that's different than other areas.

Yeah, that's different than there and there.


Alright, we'll take our Saturation at this point here, right here, and bring that down.

Oh, there we go.

Not all the way, though.

That's what I want: just like that.

And I don't want it everywhere, so I'm going to draw a Mask.

I'd like this image to be a little more dramatic.

I'd like to separate the large-scale elements from each other by increasing contrast spatially.

I'll do that with the Lowpass Filter.

So, I'll turn my Saturation down to zero and increase my Radius until I get the macroscopic-size features that I want, like these large light and dark areas and the welder and the mask.

There we go, and the smoke.


That's up around 40 px or so.

I'll apply that with an Overlay Blend Mode.

I'll have to attenuate that because it will be too strong.

There's before, and there's after.

I think I can go with a little more even.

There's before and after.

Oh, that makes it just a little more dramatic.

I'm really enjoying the lack of grain in the smoke.

It helps separate it from the rest of the image.

I think I'm done with this one.

I hope you like it.

Hey, that went quickly! That means I've got time for a second image.

Fatdunky sent me another image, and I could not resist because it had big, beautiful clouds and lots of noise, and it just looked like a fun project.

Okay, what have we got here? We've got an airplane.

The wing is out of focus.

We've got fringing on the sides.

We've got an awful lot of noise.

We've got dark areas.

Oh, I love a challenge.

This looks great.

The first thing we should do is apply a Base Curve.

Let's see: Base Curve.

What kind of camera? Canon.

What do we have for Canon? We've got two.

Okay, there's one.

Kind of contrasty.

And this one.

I like the first one better.

Okay, let's go with the first one.


What do we do now? Shadows and Highlights.

We'll turn up our Compression so it just affects the clouds and not the sky so much.

We'll set our Highlights to zero so we're just affecting the shadows.

I'll crank this up and then we can see what we're doing.

Let's apply this with a Drawn Mask.

Okay, now we can turn this down.

That's about as far as I want to push that.

Let's see if we can get rid of some of this noise with DeMosaic-ing.

Well, the AMAZE helps.

And VNG? A little soft, like always.

I'm looking at the shape of the grain in here.

I'll turn on Color Smoothing.

Well, that got rid of the hot pixels.

And VNG.

I like the VNG.

Let's go with that.

And I turned the Color Smoothing up all the way.

Next, I'd like to lighten up the foreground here.

I don't really want to exceed the brightness of this area back here.

Right about there, I think.

And noise.

We've got a lot of noise.

We're going to have to use Wavelets.

Denoise (profiled) with Wavelets.

Wavelets gets rid of the noise, but you end up with this leftover stuff and you've got to do a second pass with the Equalizer.

The Wavelets comes on really strong and you lose a lot of detail, so you want to back off from it as much as you can.

Somebody wrote to me last week and said that they didn't get much of an effect from the Denoise (profiled) until they selected the specific profile for their camera.

I've been getting good results with the profile match.

Let's see if it's different if I select it for this contribution.

It looks like the results are pretty similar.

Maybe they had a camera that had a bad profile.

I want to back off on this as much as I can without introducing the noise, and then we'll go through and clean up the leftover stuff with the Equalizer.

This looks like -- right around here: 0.3 or so on the Strength.

And Equalizer: I'll go in, and there's both really fine-grain L Channel noise -- the black and white tonal stuff-- and then there's these large splotches of green and then magenta.

I will address those separately.

First off: this fine-grained stuff.

The bottom line is for noise reduction.

I'll make my cursor smaller so I have control.

I'll pull up these first two.

That allows me to set the width with this control.

Then I'll use this third control to set the endpoint.

Then I can control the shape of this curve.

I'll aim for enclosing the smallest amount of area as I can so that I don't reduce data in the image, but I want to get rid of all this leftover matrix of color and tone.

Well, that gets rid of it.

Now let's see if I can make this smaller and still have it be gone.

And bring this one in.

Oh, it's starting to re-introduce.

Okay, that's about as small as I can get and clean that up.

Now for the color.

The color is much larger.

It's probably up around here, but we can try different things and see.


That gets rid of some of it.

Ah, there we go.

So, way up here.

And if I move to the right, it's starting to come back.

It looks like it's right around here in size.

Alright, that knocked down our color, and that knocked down our L-Channel noise, but we have reduced detail because of that.

Well, I want to be careful when I bring back detail that I don't introduce fringing up here.

This might clean up with Chromatic Aberration control, so I'll apply the Chromatic Aberration Module, and then I'll save this so I can look at that edge.

Oh, that got rid of a lot of it: good.

Alright, then I don't have to worry about it.

I'm pretty sure Fatdunky sent this to me, because it's just the perfect image for using my preferred method of bringing out tones with the Lowpass Filter and Softlight Blend Mode.

I'm excited to do that.

I'll set my Saturation to zero.

First thing I want to bring out is the larger parts of the clouds.

Where one cloud separates from another cloud, I want to use an Overlay Method, so I'll save that for later.

But, these large round areas about this size in the cloud: I want to bring those out first.

I'll bring up my Radius until I get these nice rounded edges.

Yeah; that looks appetizing.


I'll apply that with the Softlight Blend Mode, but it gets really dark, so I'll bring up my Brightness a little and bring down my Contrast so it's not so dark.

Let's see what we've got.

That's a little heavy, so I'll bring down the Opacity a little too.

There we go.

Right about there: a little more than 50% Now I'll do the same thing again because I really want to bring out these shapes.

I want to exaggerate them.

I set up a pre-set that goes to 0.93 and 0.03 for Contrast and Brightness, and then I can just vary my Radius to get the features I want.

I'm going for the same size a second time; I really want to exaggerate the larger shape of these clouds.

Okay: 13.45 What was the first one? A little larger.


Same thing: Softlight Blend Mode.

Once again, I don't want to bring it on full strength.

Let's take a look at what that's done for us.

This is what we started with, and this is where we are now.

It makes these clouds pop so much more, but it gets a little dark in the shadows.

I'll apply a little gamma adjustment here with the Tone Curve.


The shadow and light area here has a different border than it does here, and this gives it more of a rounded feel.

Now I'd like to get some finer detail.

I'll use the Highpass Filter for that.

Like this stuff, right in here.


I'm using a combination of Sharpness and Contrast Boost to get whatever details I want to get.

I like how it's adding more shading in this area instead of having it be undifferentiated.

I'll add this also with the Softlight Blend Mode, but I'll use a Parametric Mask based on the L Channel to apply it because if I don't do that, then it comes on too strong.

Here's our before and here's our after.

That cleans up the edge and adds a little more structure.

That's getting closer.

We've got these little dots left over.

I wonder if I can get rid of that.


Tough to get rid of.

I can use a brute force method and just apply a Lowpass Filter to it.

That will do it.

It kind of messes up our edges.

But maybe we can recover our edges a little more with this Highpass, by doing another instance of it but without the Parametric Mask.

Let's try that.

Duplicate Instance.

And just get rid of the Parametric Mask and just go with Uniformly but set our Opacity to try and recover some of that edge.

That gets rid of the leftover dots, and it gets some of our edge back.

We're a little soft, but we've got a cleaner image.

That's for sure.

I want to do something about the plane.

Look, the plane is...

Actually, I have to do something about this Highpass Filter here because it's adding a halo around the plane and around the edge of these clouds too.

Okay, I'll just apply it with the Drawn Mask.

There we go.

Reverse the direction.

It's down there.

Okay: the plane.

The plane has a soft edge.

I don't know what I can do about that.

I think I'll re-draw the border with a Parametric Mask and then just fill it with a darker color.

So: Tone Curve would work just fine.

I will take a Drawn & Parametric Mask and select this area.

I'll turn on our Mask Indicator so we can see what's going on.

Now I'll adjust the Input so it excludes the sky and gives us a nice clean edge.

Like that.

And we want to cover up everything.

That looks good.

And these little jiggles on the edges.

I can clean those up with the Mask Blur by just doing a 1px Mask, or maybe a half pixel.

Yeah, right there: 0.4 Then I can just fill that with a dark color.

Before, it's got a soft edge; after, it's got a much sharper edge.

I like that.

Well, that's what I came up with.

Those were two fun edits.

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