Make-It-Glow: A favorite TK7 action

The TK7 panel isn’t just about luminosity masks. There are also several actions to enhance images during processing. One of my favorites is Make-It-Glow.

The Make-It-Glow action is like the Orton effect in some ways except that it produces no noticeable blur. The color is blurred a little to help create the glow effect, but the detail and texture in the image remains unchanged. In addition to the more diffuse color, saturation is also enhanced, like with the Orton effect, so it’s important to use Make-It-Glow on images that can handle a little extra color saturation. I often use it near the start of the Photoshop workflow. This is often a time when the image can use a little boost in color saturation. The effect generally looks quite good, so it can help set the tone for further development. Below is an image before Make-It-Glow was applied. Roll the mouse back and forth over the edge to see the difference running the Make-It-Glow action can have. NOTE: The image is not visible on the email feed, so please visit the blog to see this. Also, the rollover image might take a few seconds to load.

Make-It-Glow actions

It’s not an overly dramatic change, but it works extremely well on this image to saturate the existing colors in way that looks natural. Photoshop’s Vibrance adjustment layer can have a similar affect on color saturation, but it tends to add saturation to cool colors more than warm colors, and this is the opposite of where glow usually looks best. Make-It-Glow has no color preference; it just works with whatever colors are present in the image. So compared to Vibrance, warm colors get a better saturation boost with Make-It-Glow. In addition, Make-It-Glow blurs the existing color a bit, and this provides a better sense of glow that a Vibrance adjustment layer can’t replicate.

Still, it’s important use Make-It-Glow in the right situations. Here are some that I’ve found useful:

  • Low-saturation images.
  • Intimate landscapes−those with land but no sky.
  • Autumn foliage.
  • Rocks, like sandstone and slot canyons.
  • Grand landscapes with lots of clouds, like stormy or overcast skies. NOTE: Clear skies sometimes get over-saturated with this technique.

The Make-It-Glow action is found in the “Color” section of the menu opened with the “TK►” button on the TK7 Combo and Cx modules. It has only one user input, and that’s a Gaussian Blur pixel radius. This blur radius determines the color diffusion for the effect. A radius that equals the megapixel count of the image is a good starting point, and this is what is calculated and suggested by the panel.

Gaussian Blur window

In addition to the blur radius, there are ways to customize the effect after the actions completes.

  • Run the action a second time to enhance the effect.
  • Adjust the layer opacity if it feels too strong. This is potentially useful if running multiple Make-It-Glow actions on the same image (which sometimes works quite nicely).
  • Add a layer mask to the Make-It-Glow layer to fine-tune the effect. The video below shows several methods to do this.

Of the various techniques that help improve the color in my images, Make-It-Glow is at the top of the list. It plays a role−sometimes a very large role−in determining where the image goes color-wise. It’s also a bit of a safety valve when I’m creatively stuck. Once I see what Make-It-Glow does, I can often find a way forward with the image.

Watch the video below for additional tips on using the Make-It-Glow action. View it full-screen in order to see the subtle changes from the action and the masks.

8 thoughts on “Make-It-Glow: A favorite TK7 action

  1. I watched your video and tried it on images and it works as advertised—the reds and warm colors do get improved. This can also be achieved by using a Lum Mask created with the red option in your panel, or using other color options to create selection and then increasing the Saturation or other measures. Can you describe why using the “make it glow” is a better way to go?

    Mike Isenberg


    1. Thanks for pointing that out, Mike. Yes, you can achieve a glow-like effect in the warm colors with a SOURCE > Channel > Red-1 mask added to a Hue/Sat adjustment layer and then increasing the saturation of the Master channel in the Properties panel. However, sometimes, like in my third image in the video of the sandstone abstract, there are cool colors that benefit from Make-It-Glow also, and the Red Channel method leaves them under-saturated relative to the glow that’s added to the warm colors. So the glow balance ends up being off in the end. I also recently had an image with a large blue storm cloud that glowed-up quite nicely with Make-It-Glow and I’m pretty sure the Red Channel option would have missed this element as well. I’ve not experimented extensively with saturation increases through the Red-1 Channel mask, but based on trying it just now, I think it has good potential for images where warm colors are the main things that need to be glowed. Still, the underlying processes are quite different, and there may be advantages to the blur that’s added as part of the Make-It-Glow action. I do know that Make-It-Glow has worked on a large number and variety of images for me. So it’s a pretty reliable tool that I think is worth a try.


  2. Thank you Tony – this effect is entrancing and the multiple examples very helpful. *Best, Mariann*

    If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito. Dalai Lama


  3. Thanks Tony. I use make it glow often. This was a great explanation. However, I do have one question. You mentioned that make it glow is often preferable to using the orton effect because it does not change detail and texture. Is there a type of image where the orton effect is preferable to make it glow?


    1. Sometimes a bit of blur from the Orton Effect looks good, especially in the lighter tones. It all depends on the image. The examples in the video didn’t have a lot of light tones, so keeping good detail throughout worked well. Blurring the bright tones, though, via the Orton Effect, can look natural and artistic at the same time.


  4. Tony,

    Thanks for making us aware of this awesome feature. My interest is mainly wildlife photography though I do like landscapes. Please can you enlighten us on whether this feature can be used for wildlife and some of the dos and don’ts.

    Jay Shah


    1. Make-It-Glow can be use on any photograph, Jay. It will always be up to the photographer, though, to decide if it looks good. I generally try it on all my images just to experiment. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, well, I delete the layer and try something else. The action makes it all very easy. Overall, though, the effect is subtle and looks good in lots of situations. Possibly with a mask like explained in the video, or maybe at lower opacity.


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