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“Briscoe Light”

January 6, 2018

Sean Bagshaw has a great new video on creating dappled light and light rays using a technique he learned from Chris Brisoe.

The user gets to manually create the target that determines where the light is applied in the image. It looks to be dramatic yet subtle and also quite natural when done right. Definitely worth investigating if you’re into creatively modifying images in Photoshop.

Be sure to subscribe to Sean’s YouTube channel to get his latest tips, tutorials, and updates.

Brightness adjustments using Selective Color and luminosity masks

January 1, 2018

I recently started experimenting with Selective Color adjustment layers. Normally I rely on Curves and Levels for brightness and contrast adjustments, but in reading about and experimenting with Selective Color, it definitely has some advantages, especially when adjusting the light and dark tones in combination with luminosity masks.

The image I’ll be working with is shown below. After looking at a print for a couple of days, I realized it could use more drama, especially in the sky−darker clouds, a bit more contrast, and perhaps additional texture. (You can roll the mouse over the image to see the final result. It may take a few seconds for the second image to load. Rollovers probably will not work in the email feed, so please visit the blog if you want to see rollover images.)

base image

The Selective Color Properties panel has a drop-down menu of colors. The panel’s sliders are labeled with CYMK colors, but they actually allow hue, saturation, and brightness to be independently adjusted for any item chosen from the list once you understand how this panel works. For this tutorial, the “Whites” and the “Blacks” will be of primary interest. Using the “Whites” and “Blacks” to adjust image brightness (and to some degree contrast) has the advantage of avoiding the saturation and color shifts associated with using Curves and Levels for this purpose. With Curves and Levels adjustments, saturation and color changes become mixed in with brightness/contrast changes, and it’s hard to separate them out.

The best way to see this is with a strong “S-Curve” equivalent adjustment using different types of adjustment layers. The S-Curve adjustment increases contrast−the lights get lighter and the darks get darker.

In the Selective Color adjustment, the “Whites” correspond to the light values in the image and “Blacks” correspond to dark values. In order to create an “S-Curve” equivalent, the “Whites” from the drop-down menue need to be less black and the “Blacks” need to be more black. The screen shots below show the two Selective Color adjustments necessary to produce a strong “S-Curve” equivalent adjustment.

selective color adjustments

A similar adjustment for a Curves adjustment layer is shown below. Lights get lighter and darks get darker. (This curve shape is where the name “S-Curve” comes from.)

selective color adjustments

The results from these two similar adjustments, however, are definitely NOT similar. Below is the result from the Selective Color adjustment. Rolling the mouse over the image shows the result of the Curves adjustment. What’s immediately obvious is that the Curves adjustment has undergone a strong saturation shift compared to the Selective Color adjustment. All colors are more intense as a result of the S-Curve on a Curves adjustment layer. This does NOT happen in the Selective Color adjustment because the “Neutrals” in the drop-down menu, which basically correspond to the midtones in the image, have NOT been adjusted. Only the “Whites” and the “Blacks” were adjusted. It’s the midtone values that cause the color and saturation shifts in Curves and Levels adjustments. With Selective Color, it’s possible to leave these midtones (“Neutrals”) untouched, and the result is increased contrast without significant color and saturation changes. (NOTE: As an experiment, select the “Neutrals” and then move the “Black” slider to the right to add more black. There will be a sudden and pronounced shift in color saturation. This clearly demonstrates how the midtones are the source of the color and saturation shifts seen with Curves and Levels, where the midtones cannot be so easily excluded.)

With Curves and Levels adjustment layers, it’s common practice to change the blending mode to Luminosity to counteract the saturation shift, and the image below, which shows the Curves adjustment layer set to Luminosity blend mode, shows that this does indeed help. However, there are still color shifts, and the rollover (which shows the Selective Color adjustment) shows that they are still present. It’s most obvious in the blues of the lower clouds, but also somewhat visible in the reds and yellows. So when it comes to avoiding color and saturation shifts, Selective Color has an advantage even after changing the blending mode of the Curves adjustment to Luminosity.

For the adjustment to this image, I ended up using only the full-on “Blacks” Selective Color adjustment that darkened the “Blacks” as much as possible. The light tones in the image really didn’t need any lightening so the “Whites” were not changed. The result of this initial adjustment is shown below.

selective color adjustments

This adjustment is definitely too aggressive for my taste, but that’s intentional. It provides a good starting point for using luminosity masks. A luminosity mask can be used to filter this adjustment only to those tones that really need it. In doing so, much of the exaggerated adjustment will be concealed by the mask. The end result will be a more balanced adjustment that blends in perfectly to the rest of the image.

In this case, I experimented with Darks, Midtones, and Zone masks and found that a Zone 4 mask added as a layer mask did a nice job of creating the desired effect. The result after adding the layer mask is shown below. The rollover shows the adjustment without the luminosity mask in order to see how seamlessly the mask blended the adjustment into the image.

The ease at which a preset luminosity mask finished this adjustment points out another possible advantage of using the Selective Color adjustment. And that is that it works well to create an initial adjustment to a broad, but limited, range of tones (“Whites” or “Blacks”), which can then be quickly and accurately refined with a luminosity mask. It’s almost like having a targeted double-masking technique where a strong targeted adjustment is first applied, and this can then be fine-tuned and focused using the narrower tonal range of a luminosity mask.

The video below shows the entire process for this adjustment that accomplishes the goal of adding drama in the sky. It uses the RapidMask2 panel’s Layer Mask Mode to quickly find the right luminosity mask for the adjustment. There is also a similar adjustment to a second image included in the video that uses the “Whites” instead of the “Blacks.” If you’d like to practice along with the video, a smaller jpg version of the unadjusted image is available here. (The download image will probably open in a browser window. Right-click on it and choose an option to save it on your computer, and then open it in Photoshop.)

SUMMARY−Adjustments to brightness (and to some degree to contrast) using a Selective Color adjustment layer helps avoid the saturation and color shifts associated with Curves and Levels. Additionally, Selective Color adjustments allow a two-step adjustment process where the initial, somewhat extreme adjustment can be easily modified by applying a more targeted luminosity mask to the adjustment layer to better control which tones in the image are affected.

FINAL NOTE: Every image is different and there’s likely no single workflow with Selective Color and luminosity masks that will work the same repeatedly. I’m finding that using Selective Color to adjust the “Whites” and “Blacks” provides expected and desirable results once I find the correct luminosity mask as demonstrated in the video. It’s always possible to return to the Properties panel to tweak to the initial Selective Color adjustment if necessary.

TK Basic V6 panel: New and FREE!

December 14, 2017

NOTE: This free panel is available on the Panels and Videos page. It is NOT a replacement for any of the current V6 modules. It is simply a new panel for people who want a fast and simple way to start working with luminosity masks.

I’m very happy to announce the new TK Basic V6 panel for Photoshop. It has the same core process and speed as the more comprehensive RapidMask2 module, and has similar features and layout. It’s essentially RapidMask2-lite and is a great way to experiment with adding luminosity masks to the Photoshop workflow. It’s also free and comes with some great videos.

TK Basic V6 panel

Key features:

  • Rapid Mask engine. The Basic V6 panel uses the same technology for generating 16-bit luminosity masks as the V6 RapidMask2 module. New masks are calculated and displayed on screen at near real-time speeds.
  • Mask-based interface. Users see masks up front to make intelligent choices about which one to use.
  • Intuitive layout. Top-to-bottom workflow with numbered sections for creating and deploying masks.
  • Click-tracking. The last button clicked retains an accent-colored shadow. Users always know which mask they last generated.
  • Multiple output options. Curves, Levels, Brightness/Contrast and Hue/Sat adjustment layers are available in the “Layer” menu. Selection, Channel, and Apply buttons provide additional output options.
  • Compact design. Small footprint so the image window is not obscured. The panel can be conveniently placed above any standard Photoshop panel or docked at the side of the workspace.
  • Instant help. Moving the mouse over any button provides information on what it does in the window at the bottom of the panel.
  • Active selection indicator. Provides visual feedback that Photoshop has an active selection even if it’s too weak to generate selection borders or if the marching ants have been turned off.
  • Language switch. Settings dialog offers six language options for the panel’s user interface.
  • Photoshop CC and CS6 compatible. Download folder has versions that work in PS CC and CS6.

There are many ways to use luminosity masks when developing images in Photoshop. Adding them as layer masks on adjustment layers and painting through active luminosity selections are two common techniques. The Basic V6 panel makes it easy to incorporate these methods into the workflow simply by clicking a couple buttons. The panel is also a great way to to see how easy it is to use luminosity masks since the Rapid Mask engine does all the hard work in the background. Luminosity masks need to be fast and intuitive in order to become a standard part of the workflow. The TK Basic V6 panel makes this possible and is the ideal tool for quickly getting up to speed with their creative potential.

To make the panel even easier to use, Sean Bagshaw has recorded a fantastic set of six new videos that are also included in the free download. Three of them are available to watch below. The first is a brief introduction to the new Basic V6 panel. The second is probably best and most concise description of luminosity masks I’ve ever watched. And the third video is a button-by-button walk-through of the entire panel. The download folder has additional videos on installing the panel, setting up the color workspace, and workflow demonstrations on how to use the panel.

The TK Basic V6 panel and videos are available as a free download on the Panels and Videos page.

If you like the Basic V6 panel and Sean’s videos, please consider trying the all-inclusive V5/V6 panel and Sean’s V5/V6 Video Guide. This “Combo” product is a complete luminosity mask resource that allows generating an infinite number of luminosity masks with many more ways to use them. For a limited time, the following code can be used for a 15% discount on the Combo, which is also available on the Panels and Videos page:  Combo15

I hope you enjoy the new TK Basic V6 panel and find it useful. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Complete Workflow: Northland−A new video series by Sean Bagshaw

October 7, 2017

I’m very excited to let readers know that Sean Bagshaw released a new start-to-finish workflow series. It features his recent “Northland” image from Lofoten, Norway, and I think it’s his best video series yet. It takes some flat, colorless RAW files and shows how they can be transformed into a photograph full of drama, light, texture, and contrast. The finished image is shown below. Roll the mouse over it to see how it looks without the Photoshop adjustments (might take a few seconds to load). The transformation is remarkable and is covered in detail in the new series.


The final image is beautiful and quite striking, but the actual steps to get there are surprisingly straightforward. Sean mentions in the first chapter that he obviously had to work through the various steps before recording the video, but he also details his creative vision for the image so viewers can understand how it informs the development process. This, along with his excellent teaching style, makes the videos very easy to follow and understand. The three RAW files used to create the image are included in the download folder so viewers can work along with Sean.

While the “Northland” video chapters provide an excellent demonstration of development technique, they’re not meant to be a how-to guide for TKActions. However, the TKActions V5/V6 panel is used throughout the series. Luminosity and other pixel-based masks have long been a component of Sean’s workflow, and, since I frequently collaborate with him, the panel has naturally evolved to support this high level of creativity. It’s instructive even for me to watch how Sean uses this tool to develop his images, often in ways I hadn’t considered before. There is a lot of functionality and possibility built into the panel, and Sean does a great job showing how to use the various options to enhance artistic expression.

I know Sean’s videos are a great benefit to many photographers, and I’m happy to recommend them and offer them on my Panels & Videos page. For the “Complete Workflow: Northland” video series, readers can get a 15% discount by entering the following code in the shopping cart: CWFN15 (this code also stacks with the quantity discounts listed on the page). I’m sure you’ll enjoy watching what he does here and will find many useful techniques to apply to your images.

Note to previous customers: A private discount code was emailed from my download server to you on October 3. Contact me if you didn’t receive it.

The first video below shows a time-lapse of the entire series and the second a segment demonstrating a customized Orton effect.

Please visit Sean’s YouTube channel for more videos.

RapidMask2: The first TKActions V6 module

September 8, 2017

I’m pleased to announce that there is a new RapidMask2 module for TKActions.

RapidMask2 module

Since releasing the TKActions V5 panel last December I’ve played with several new ideas for using the Rapid Mask engine to generate luminosity and other masks in Photoshop. The new RapidMask2 module is the result of these experiments and effectively replaces the V5 Intro, RapidMask, and LayerMask modules. It has all their functionality plus lots of new features.

Because it’s such a significant improvement, RapidMask2 is going to start TKActions V6. TKActions already went modular with the V5 panel, so I’ll simply be updating and releasing new V6 modules, like RapdidMask2, when they are finished. Since this first V6 module is happening relatively soon after the release of the V5 panel, the new V6 modules will be free to customers who have already purchased V5. During the transition from V5 to V6, customers will receive all V5 and V6 modules and can choose the ones they want use.

Customers who purchased V5 for PS CC were emailed links to download RapidMask2 directly from the server on September 5/6. Be sure to check your email’s junk/spam folder if you missed it. Also, be sure to add the server’s address (client@e-junkie.com) as a safe email contact to insure future updates go to your inbox and do not get sorted to the spam/junk folder where they can be missed.

A couple of important things:

  1. Spanish customers have not received their updates yet. I apologize for the delay. Hopefully everything will be ready next week.
  2. There is no Photoshop CS6 version of RapidMask2. This module uses advanced coding that is only supported by Photoshop CC. V5 customers using CS6 should contact me if they upgrade to CC.

Below is a list of the most important new features in RapidMask2.

  • Better organized−Four distinct sections (SOURCE, MASK, MODIFY, and OUTPUT) that mirror the mask-making process.
  • Source menus−New menu design for choosing different pixel data as the starting point for making masks.
  • Spectrum interface−Compact spectrum interface for choosing different masks.
  • New masks−Lights-6, Darks-6, and Vibrance.
  • User-created color masks−Color masks that target specific colors can be generated with ease and converted to Rapid Masks for modification and output.
  • Add and subtract masks with calculator simplicity−Two buttons, plus(+) and minus(-), make it so all masks can be added and subtracted just like using a calculator.
  • Enhanced “Layer” output button−Provides new pixel layer choices for generating layers with the current Rapid Mask as the layer mask.
  • Updated Layer Mask mode−Provides an image-based option to quickly choose or create the best mask by having it applied directly as a layer mask on the active layer.
  • Accent color−There is just one color for the entire module, an accent color, that users can change to whatever they prefer.
  • Click tracking−Buttons retain an accent-colored shadow after clicking so users can track which mask they last chose.

The video below reviews these features in more detail. It is best viewed in full-screen mode in order to see everything that’s happening.

Sean Bagshaw has also updated his V5 Video Guide series to include five new videos that cover the RapidMask2 module in detail. A download link for these has also been emailed to customers who purchased his original V5 Video Guide. The new vids are included in his updated V5/V6 Video Guide series. The intro is shown below.

If you already have the V5 panel, I think you’ll find the new RapidMask2 module a big step forward both in masking functionality and ease of use. Please be sure to check for the free update in your email, install it, and give it a try.

If you don’t have the TKActions panel yet, a 25% discount code is available for the next two weeks: V625off.
It provides a 25% discount on anything on the Panels & Videos page.

TKActions V5 Quick Tip #7 – Rapid Mask Module: Normal vs. Auto-Apply Mode

July 19, 2017

Sean Bagshaw has another new V5 Quick Tip video and this time he takes a closer look at the RapidMask module. There are two ways to use this module: normal mode and auto-apply. Normal mode allows the user to quickly see the different masks as they’re generated. This is the real-time, mask-based interface introduced with the V5 panel that allows users to make intelligent choices about which mask to use. Auto-apply mode provides an image-based approach to mask selection. With auto-apply, the masks are again quickly generated in the background, but instead of being viewed on-screen, they are automatically applied as a layer mask on the active layer. Which mask works best is determined by what makes the image look best. Sean demonstrates these two methods of working with the RapidMask module and how to combine them. In addition to showing how these functions work with the regular spectrum of masks, Sean also explains how modifying the mask in either mode can help create the optimal mask for the image.

These techniques are very much at the heart of using luminosity masks successfully. Both normal mode and auto-apply have a place in the development workflow, and the V5 panel is designed to make these methods quick and accessible. Sean’s video shows how easy it is to switch back and forth with these techniques in order to achieve the best results.

V5 Quick Tip #7: Rapid Mask Module: Normal vs. Auto-Apply Mode
V5 Quick Tip #6: Masking A Mask
V5 Quick Tip #5: Dodging, Burning and Luminosity Painting
V5 Quick Tip #4: Off-Center Midtone Masks
V5 Quick Tip #3: Luminosity Mask Basics and the V5 Intro Module
V5 Quick Tip #2: Modifying Masks
V5 Quick Tip #1: Basic Luminosity Mask Tasks

TKActions V5 Quick Tip #6: Masking a Mask

June 25, 2017

Sean Bagshaw’s newest V5 Quick Tip reviews the “masking a mask” technique. Luminosity masks offer unique ways to make targeted and easily blended tonal changes in the image, but they select tones throughout the image, not specific elements. This can sometimes lead to adjustments affecting parts of the image where a change is not desired. For example, when adjusting tones in the sky through a luminosity layer mask, similar tones in the non-sky parts of the image can be unintentionally altered. While it would be possible to paint black on the luminosity layer mask to conceal the unintended changes, this is also a destructive process that potentially ruins the luminosity layer mask in case parts of it need to be revealed later on.

A better solution is to put the adjustment layer inside a group, and then paint on the group’s layer mask to reveal the desired parts of the adjustment in the image. Sean demonstrates this method using the new black-masked group layer option that was released in the most recent upgrade of the V5 panel. Masking-the-mask allows significant changes to certain elements in the image while also protecting other parts.

V5 Quick Tip #6: Masking A Mask
V5 Quick Tip #5: Dodging, Burning and Luminosity Painting
V5 Quick Tip #4: Off-Center Midtone Masks
V5 Quick Tip #3: Luminosity Mask Basics and the V5 Intro Module
V5 Quick Tip #2: Modifying Masks
V5 Quick Tip #1: Basic Luminosity Mask Tasks

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