For several months I’ve been working to expand the concept of the “Infinity Mask” first described in this blog post. An “infinity mask” is my term to describe a luminosity mask that has been further adjusted to more precisely select specific tones in the image. The “infinity” moniker comes from the fact that adjustments to the original mask are accomplished using a Photoshop Levels adjustment, which allows wide flexibility as to how the final mask actually looks. Granted, there may not be an infinite number of settings from which to choose when constructing an infinity mask, but there is certainly a huge new gamut of possible masks.
Feedback on the original infinity mask blog was very positive. Shortly after posting it I was contacted about the possibility of using a Photoshop plug-in to create these masks. The TK Infinity Mask panel is the result of this collaboration. It is shown below and offers a new method for working with pixel-based masks. The Photoshop plug-in that powers it has its own recipe for determining which pixels to include in the mask. The plug-in uses 32-bit floating point pixel-level data and is not restricted to just the luminosity values for individual pixels. Color channel data and even saturation data can be extracted from image pixels to create a new assortment of self-feathering masks that can then be “infinitely” refined.
The complete instructions PDF for the panel can be downloaded here. The most important features about the new panel are summarized below.
- The panel is mask-based. Like the Infinity Mask in the TKActions V4 panel, the user is seeing the mask in real time as they create the infinity mask that best suits their image. Having it visible helps insure that it correctly selects the intended image pixels as the mask is being manipulated by the panel.
- Different data channels can be accessed with one click. This is the top row of buttons on the panel. The plug-in can access Luminosity, red (R), green (G), blue (B), and Saturation data for all pixels. The panel then creates tonally feathered masks based of this data as it applies to these specific channels. The images below show what the different channels look like.
- Presets (Darks-1,Pick, and Lights-1) are available in the second row. These are channel-specific. For the Luminosity, R (red),G (green), and B (blue) channels, the Lights-1 mask is a black and white positive of the image (shown above). The Darks-1 mask is a negative of the image. For the Saturation channel, the Lights-1 mask is a saturation mask (lighter values in the mask correspond to higher color saturation) and the Darks-1 mask is a vibrance mask (lighter values in the mask correspond to lower color saturation). The “Pick” option is the most sophisticated preset of all. It opens the Color Picker to allow the user to click in their image. The plug-in extracts the pixel-level data of the area that was clicked and creates a mask specific to the chosen channel such that the clicked pixels are the brightest areas in the mask. If you’re familiar with the TKActions V4 panel, this would be like getting a matching Zone mask for any of the various Photoshop channel options at any point in the image.
- Sliders are used to adjust and fine-tune the mask (that is, to “infinitize” it). This is where the fun really starts. Once a preset button has been chosen, the sliders can be used to modify the mask in near real time depending on image size and computer speed and memory.
- TONE−This slider changes the tone that shows as white in the mask. For Lights-1 the TONE is set at 255 and for Darks-1 the TONE is 0. The slider or input box allows for any tone from 0 to 255 to be chosen. But how do you know which tone to choose? That’s actually quite easy when you can see the mask displayed on-screen. Just move the slider until the tones that need to be selected in the image are white in the mask. The on-screen mask updates every time the slider is moved. Or use the “Pick” button and select a tone directly from the image. The pick button automatically sets the TONE slider to match the tone that was clicked in the image.
- RANGE−This slider determines the tonal width of the mask. As the range is narrowed by pulling the slider to the left, more pixels are excluded from the mask and the mask gets darker. The selected TONE, however, stays white.
- FOCUS−This is a new feature for luminosity masks. The FOCUS slider increase midtone contrast in the mask, so the mask is less gray and more black-and-white as a result. The FOCUS slider addresses one of the common problems sometimes seen with luminosity masks, which is that they feather so perfectly that they bleed adjustments into parts of the image where no adjustment is intended. The FOCUS slider helps to prevent this. It increases midtone contrast in the mask while keeping the 50% gray value constant. When FOCUS is increased, there is more dark gray and black in the mask. As a result, adjustments bleed less beyond the selection border because they are more concealed by the mask. The panel also allows mask FOCUS to be decreased by pulling the slider to the left. This has the opposite effect. Midtone contrast in the mask is decreased, with the result being that adjustments through the mask bleed more into the surrounding pixels.
- STRENGTH−This slider is essentially the white point for the mask. At the default setting of 100, only the chosen tone will be completely white. Moving the slider to the left makes it so the chosen tone is no longer pure white but a shade of gray. The other tones in the mask are adjusted proportionally. A STRENGTH value greater than 100 allows tones near the selected tone in the image to also start showing as pure white in the mask.
- Multiple output options. Once the on-screen infinity mask has been adjusted to the satisfaction of the photographer, the output buttons at the bottom of the panel provide options to deploy it.
- Selection−Loads the infinity mask as an active selection.
- Apply−Applies the infinity mask as a layer mask to the active layer on the Layers panel
- Pixels−Creates a pixel layer of the infinity mask (more on this in a future blog post).
- Channel−Duplicates the infinity mask as an alpha channel on the Channels panel.
- Curves−Creates a Curves adjustment layer with the infinity mask as the layer mask.
- B/C−Creates a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer with the infinity mask as the layer mask.
- H/S−Creates a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer with the infinity mask as the layer mask.
- Levels−Creates a Levels adjustment layer with the infinity mask as the layer mask.
Summary: The TK Infinity Mask panel provides a new way to construct and adjust pixel-based masks in Photoshop. Luminosity masks, color channel masks, and saturation masks can all be managed from one panel. The mechanism for creating these masks is a plug-in that runs in the background. It provides a visible mask based on the settings chosen by the user. The mask-based interface provides near real-time control of how the mask looks and ultimately which parts of the image will be revealed by it.
NOTE #1: I have contacted all customers I’m aware of who purchased the TKActions V4 panel for Photoshop CC to provide update options for the Infinity Mask panel. If you have the CC version of the V4 panel and have not heard from me, please check your junk/spam email or contact me for update information. If you purchased the V4 panel from Adobe Add-ons, please forward your purchase receipt (from FastSpring) or other proof of purchase as Adobe provides no information to me as to who purchased from their website.
NOTE#2: The TK Infinity Mask only works Photoshop CC in RGB Color mode. It does not work in Photoshop CS6