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Adding a Soft Focus Effect to Your Renders in Photoshop
June 24, 2014
We've often been asked how we get our toon renders looking the way they do...

Obviously a lot of the quality comes from the lighting setup used for the render, but there are some tricks that can be used to boost a render's colors and bring it to life.

So here's a little photoshop technique we like to use...

Although we prefer DAZ Studio to Poser, this render is saved straight out of Poser. The scene has one IBL light with Ambient Occlusion on, one infinite light that acts as a fill light, a specular only infinite light and a rim light. All lights have ray-traced shadows enabled.

The render is ok-ish, but definitely lacks that extra kick that we're going to give it...

In Photoshop, I load up the render... by default is is on a layer called "Background". First, I duplicate the layer creating a "Background copy" layer. 
With this new layer selected, I do a Gaussian blur with a setting of 4 pixels, and I do a Hue/Saturation adjustment to it, pulling the Saturation right down to -100. This effectively makes the layer grey-scale.

I now set this layer blending mode to "Overlay" and set it's opacity to "30%". This gives the colors a nice yet subtle boost like this:


I now select the original layer ("Background" in my case) and duplicate it again creating "Background copy 2". I drag it to the top of the layer list (above the previously edited layer).
I once again do a Gaussian blur with a setting of 4, and then adjust the Levels of the layer and change the "Midtone input level" from "1" to "0.5". 

This layer's blend mode is then changed to "Screen" with an opacity of "30%". This gives us a soft, dream-like glow to the image...

Finally, I add an Levels adjustment layer on the top of the layer list and set it's "Midtone input level" to "0.9". This adds back a bit of contrast to the image. Our final image looks like this - much better than the original render!


Note, you can play with the layer opacity a bit. In my example, I used "30%" for both layers, but you can increase this to increase the effect. I do find, however that keeping them the same value gives the best overall effect.

I hope you can use this trick to make your render pop!

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Ok guay

@Jindi - thanks for the feedback. We're glad you like her!

Thanks so much for sharing this. I love the way Willow renders straight out the box with just an AoA ambient light (I'm a DAZ Studio user) but I'm always glad of post-processing tips. I don't use Photoshop but will give this technique a go in GIMP.

Can I just add that I love your characters and especially Willow! :)

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