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TKActions V5 Quick Tip #5: Dodging, Burning, and Luminosity Painting

June 16, 2017

Luminosity painting has always been one of my favorite methods for using luminosity masks. Painting through luminosity selections has significantly more power to influence image tone than using luminosity masks as layer masks, especially when it comes to burning and dodging. Not only does luminosity painting target specific tones in the image to receive paint, but paint can be applied repeatedly with multiple brushstrokes to enhance the effect. Luminosity layer masks limit what can be achieved by what the mask will reveal. Luminosity painting does not have this constraint. Paint can be applied repeatedly even through partially selected pixels until maximum white or maximum black is achieved if necessary. Plus, the active luminosity selection insures it all blends in with the rest of the image regardless of how much paint is applied. So there is much greater effect possible with luminosity painting on burn/dodge layers compared to using layer masks. Not all images need the enhanced effect that luminosity painting can achieve, but using it instead of a luminosity layer mask insures that dynamic control isn’t throttled by what a layer mask can reveal.

Sean’s newest quick tip video shows how easy and precise luminosity painting can be with the V5 panel. Highlights with contrast and shadows with depth can quickly be painted into an image using this technique. I particularly like the way Sean uses the “Pick” tool to find the best off-center midtone (Zone) mask to paint through. This is definitely one of my favorite tips so far since it’s something I use on almost every image. I hope you enjoy it too. Be sure to subscribe to Sean’s YouTube channel to keep up with his latest technique videos.

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

V5 Quick Tip #4: Off-Center Midtone Masks

June 8, 2017

Sean Bagshaw’s newest TKActions V5 Quick Tip looks at off-center midtone masks, also referred to as Zone masks. These are some of my favorite luminosity masks. The standard Lights and Darks masks always include either the lightest lights or the darkest darks, and using them can sometimes gray-down the whites or gray-up the blacks. Zone masks effectively eliminate the blacks and whites from the mask and thereby allow midtone values to be adjusted independently. Zones 2-1/2 and Zone 7-1/2 are a couple masks I often try. Zone 2-1/2 for adjusting the dark midtones and Zone 7-1/2 for the light midtones. However, the V5 panel includes presets for 21 different Zone masks, so there are lots of options. Zone masks can also be modified to make them more or less inclusive using the V5’s modification buttons. The V5 panel makes it easy to quickly craft a Zone mask and to put it work

Sean’s new video tip covers choosing the right mask, modifying it, and then painting it to make it just right for a particular image. If you’ve not experimented with Zone masks, I’m sure this video will provide incentive to try. With a little practice, Zone masks can be extremely helpful when developing images in Photoshop.

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 panel

V5 Quick Tip #3: Luminosity Mask Basics And The V5 Intro Module

June 1, 2017

In Sean Bagshaw’s newest TKActions V5 Quick Tip video, he takes a closer look at the Intro module. For those just starting out with Photoshop masks, he also provides a brief review of how masks control what is revealed in the layer. Luminosity masks are just like other masks except that their grayscale values are determined by the tones of individual image pixels. This prevents halos and other obvious edges when using luminosity masks to reveal adjustments in the image. Sean explains how the Intro module quickly makes all the basic luminosity masks, how the user can evaluate them, and how to create adjustment layers with the chosen luminosity mask in place as the layer mask. If you are new to these techniques, the Intro module provides an easy way to quickly add luminosity masks your workflow.

V5 Quick Tip #1: Basic Luminosity Mask Tasks
V5 Quick Tip #2: Modifying Masks

TKActions V5−updated and improved

April 29, 2017

First off, a big “THANK YOU!” to everyone who as emailed suggestions for improving the TKActions V5 panel. Lots of good ideas out there that I would not have thought of on my own. The panel has been updated to incorporate many of them into the CC version. A download of the updated version was emailed to V5 customers on April 22 and 23. Please check your junk/spam email folder for those dates if you didn’t receive it yet. I’m also excited that there are more updates planned for the V5 panel in the coming months, some even for the CS6 version. Customers who have purchased the V5 will receive them for free, so be sure to watch your email and this blog for additional information. If you would like to purchase the V5 panel, it is available on the Panels & Videos page. NOTE: The current update is only for the Photoshop CC version of the panel. Most of the enhanced features cannot be programmed into the CS6 version.

Sean Bagshaw has a great video that runs through the new features in the V5 panel:

Below is a quick review of the new features listing details and advantages. The original function of each button remains unchanged. What’s new are the enhanced functions accessed by pressing a modifier key when clicking a particular button on the panel. The “ALT” key on Windows (“option” key on Mac) is the most frequent modifier. This is designated as “ALT/option” in the text below. The “Shift” key is also occasionally used as is the “CTRL/control” key (Windows-“CTRL” / Mac-“command”).

All modules


All modules

  1. “TK” appears in front of the module names in the Window > Extensions menu in Photoshop and on the module’s tab. This makes it easier to find the V5 modules in the “Extensions” list if the user has multiple extension panels installed.
  2. The animated active selection indicator is slightly taller. This is subtle but provides slightly better visibility when the “Animated” indicator is chosen. The “Fixed” selection indicator (red dashes) has not changed.
  3. Theme-matched rollover Help. This provides a much cleaner look to the modules that blends better with the overall theme chosen as the Photoshop interface. The Help messages still appears in the window at the bottom of each module, but this window is no longer a distracting white box.

Control module

  1. +/- Layer Mask button: ALT/option adds a black (hide-all) mask on the active layer.
    Advantage: A black mask makes it easier to paint in adjustments that affect only small parts of the image.
  2. Control module

  3. Group button: ALT/option adds a black (hide-all) mask to the Group layer when it’s created.
    Advantage: A black mask can be useful when using the mask-the-mask technique described in Sean Bagshaw’s videos when only a small portion of an adjustment within the group needs to be revealed in the composite image.
  4. Burn/Dodge buttons: ALT/option creates the Burn/Dodge layer filled with 50% gray.
    Advantage: 50% gray provides better visibility of where paint is applied to the layer.
  5. View button: ALT/option opens a Curves adjustment instead of a Levels adjustment for modifying the mask of an active selection.
    Advantage: Some people prefer Curves to Levels.

Intro module

Intro module

  1. This module has been redesigned to incorporate the “spectrum” interface first introduced in the V4 panel. With it, the relative amount of tones selected by each mask is suggested by the location and width of the buttons, which are placed against a tonal gradient background. Wide buttons select more tones, narrow buttons select fewer tones.
    Advantage: For people new to luminosity masks, this arrangement can help visualize the tonal range of each mask. The Intro module continues to use the Luminosity Lock/Rapid Mask engine for generating luminosity masks, so the power, speed, and mask-based interface are all still available when using this module.
  2. Infinity (∞) button: ALT/Option opens a Curves adjustment layer instead of a Levels adjustment layer for modifying the Rapid Mask.
    Advantage: Some people prefer Curves.

LayerMask module

LayerMask module

  1. The black background of the LumLock section now tone-pulses from black to gray then back to black.
    Advantage: Visually more distinct than the previous black background to better distinguish the LayerMask module from the RapidMask module that has a similar layout.
  2. Infinity (∞) button: ALT/option opens a Curves adjustment instead of Levels.
    Advantage: Some people prefer Curves.

RapidMask module

  1. Paint button: ALT/option just resets brushes for saturation painting without creating a new layer.
    Advantage: Makes it easier to return to the Saturation Painting layer to update it.
  2. Infinity (∞) button: ALT/option opens a Curves dialog window instead of Levels.
    Advantage: Some people prefer Curves.
  3. Enhanced visibility when “Auto-Apply” is checked. The words “Auto-Apply” change to green and the black background tone-pulses from black to gray.
    Advantage: Better distinguishes when “Auto-Apply” is turned on.

RapidMask module

RapidMask module

Actions module

Actions module

  1. Clarity button: ALT/option runs the action on a Smart Object layer.
    Advantage: Allows the blur radius to be changed later. This is done by double-clicking the “High Pass” filter on the Smart Object layer and entering a different Radius value.
  2. Orton Effect button: ALT/option runs the action on a Smart Object layer.
    Advantage: Blur can be readjusted later as needed by double-clicking Gaussian Blur on the Smart Object layer.
  3. Personal action buttons: Several changes:
    a) ALT/option-click opens a window that allows the user to change the button’s name.
    Advantage: Easier to remember the action associated with each button.
    b) CTRL/command-click opens a window that allows the user to change the button’s rollover Help message.
    Advantage: A more descriptive message about the action programmed into this button can be entered.
    c) Shift-click restores the default name and rollover Help for the button.
  4. Larger font size for the “Dimension” and “Opacity” fields.
    Advantage: Easier to see on high-resolution monitors.
  5. Better stacking capability for smaller monitors via a workaround that fools Photoshop into believing the panel is shorter than it is.

Batch module

Actions module

  1. Larger font size for the “Dimension” and “Opacity fields.
    Advantage: Easier to see on high-resolution monitors.
  2. Multi-dimensional batch web-sharpening is now available. If images need to be output to different sizes, multiple dimensions can be entered in the “Dimension” field. It’s just necessary to separate each value with a semicolon and have no spaces. Example: 800;1024;2048. Using this example, three images will be output for every input image, each having one of the three listed dimensions: 800-pixels, 1024-pixels, and 2048-pixels. The action adds a suffix to each image listing the dimension to which it has been sized.

I hope you find these enhancements useful. More to come, so stay tuned.

V5 Quick Tip #2: Modifying Masks

April 20, 2017

Sean Bagshaw continues his TKActions V5 Quick Tip series with a closer look at mask modification. Even though the V5 panel can generate hundreds of standard masks (Lights/Darks/Zones), the best mask is often one customized specifically for the image by the photographer. A full range of mask-modification functions is built into the V5 panel to insure that the perfect mask is always just a few clicks away. Sean shows how easy this is while discussing his thought process behind his choices.

If you missed the first episode, it covers the basics of viewing and selecting luminosity masks and adding them to adjustment layers.

Hope you enjoy these. If you have other V5 topics you’d like to see covered, please leave them in the comments section below.

TKActions V5: The next step in luminosity masks (discount code included)

February 2, 2017

I’m very happy to announce the all new TKActions V5 panel for Photoshop. This version is the next step in the evolution of luminosity masks, and it’s quite significant. The V5 panel was coded from the ground up and designed to make luminosity masks easier, faster, and more powerful than ever before. It features a new masked-based interface made possible by a speedier method I developed to generate pixel-based masks. Users will now see luminosity masks up front to quickly decide which one to use. If the standard masks aren’t quite right, no problem. There are buttons to modify any mask in real time and create a custom mask specific to the image. To complete the process, there is a full range of dedicated output buttons to insure a 16-bit workflow from mask to image.

It’s worth noting that the V5 panel still makes true 16-bit luminosity masks using Photoshop calculations.  They are the same self-feathering masks that have changed the way we develop images in Photoshop.  But now they’re available faster than ever, can be infinitely customized, and are displayed on-screen in a way that makes them much easier to see and use.

The new panel is also much smaller.  Instead of one large mega-panel, the V5 is a series of modules.  Users can open, close, dock, and arrange the modules in whatever way works best for their workflow.

Additional features in the TKActions V5 panel include:

Extended spectrums in multiple channels.  In addition to the full spectrum of luminosity masks, the V5 generates Lights, Darks and Zone masks for component color channels, saturation/vibrance, color, and Color Range.

Quick-click “Control” module.  This module has new buttons to run Photoshop to avoid having to search menus or remember keyboard shortcuts.

Quick-learn “Intro” module. This new module provides a simplified interface that creates all the basic luminosity masks, offers infinity modification, and has the full range of deployment options. Plus there is extended rollover help for those just getting started using luminosity masks.

Advanced “Auto-Apply” option.  Applies masks directly to the active layer to instantly see the effect on the image.

Updated web-sharpening.  Now with new controls for color profile conversion, running a personal action on the sharpened image, and an “extra sharp” option for detailed images.

Batch sharpening.  Entire folders of images can be sharpened and saved instead of doing one at a time.

Multiple languages.  The V5 comes programmed with a user interface that displays in four languages−English, Italian, German, or Spanish.

Updated active selection indicator.  Users can now choose different active selection indicators to optimize how this feature displays on each module.

Rollover help on all buttons. A “Help” window at the bottom of each module tells what each button does.

Many other new actions and features. Mask modification, smart “Pick” button, history tracking of luminosity masks, creative image enhancement, and much more

There are videos about the new panel below.  The one by Sean Bagshaw is from his new V5 Video Guide series.  More information and additional videos can be viewed on my website. You can also download the detailed Instructions PDF.

There are two different versions of the V5 panel:  one for Photoshop CS6 and another for Photoshop CC. An illustrated installation guide is included in the download folder.

As part of the official release of the new panel, an introductory discount is available to everyone on new purchases for next 2 weeks. Use the following code: V520off

It takes 20% off anything on the Panels & Videos page including the new V5 panel and Sean’s V5 Video Guide series that explains it in detail.  Just copy and paste the code in the shopping cart to take advantage of this discount.

I hope you will give the TKActions V5 panel and videos a try.  It’s another big step forward for luminosity masks and will change forever the way you use them.

NOTE #1:  Things tend to get a bit hectic when there is a new panel. If you leave a comment or contact me and I don’t respond right away, please be patient. It may take a few days, but I’ll eventually catch up.

NOTE #2: The TK Infinity Mask panel has NOT been updated. This panel works independently of the V5 and remains the same. The TKActions V5 panel only replaces the TKActions V4 panel.



Luminosity Masks 10th Anniversary−A brief history of how it all started

November 13, 2016

Today is the 10th anniversary of my original luminosity masks tutorial.  It was linked in this post on NPN on November 13, 2006.  NPN is a wonderful website to participate in image critique and improve photography skills.  I had been posting images here for a few years prior.  The tutorial was meant to be a way to share a Photoshop secret with my many friends on the forum.   Here’s how it came to be.

I had been using luminosity masks for about 8 months before the tutorial was published.  I first saw the term in a spam email in March that year, and, not knowing what a “luminosity mask” was, I turned to Google for answers.  At the time, there wasn’t much to go on.  I was able to piece together the method to make the initial selection, Lights-1, using Alt+Ctr+tilde in Photoshop 7.  Looking at the mask I immediately knew this could very useful.  A perfect mask created from the image itself.  How cool!  I understood Photoshop masks, but this “luminosity mask” was quite unique compared to the masks I was making with Photoshop’s standard selection tools.

I was instantly hooked.  I soon started using luminosity masks all the time because they worked all the time.  My images quickly improved.  The luminosity masks and selections I used were created ad hoc by adding, subtracting, and intersecting the initial Lights mask and other masks derived from it.  It was not an orderly process, but I could eventually find the mask I needed to target the tones I wanted to adjust.

Given how much I liked them and how little information I could find, I decided to try writing a tutorial that explained luminosity masks to others.  This project started in late May 2006 and continued until mid-September.  In addition to the challenges of writing and illustrating a tutorial for the first time, I also had to figure out how to explain the creation of these crazy (but very useful) masks on the fly as I developed images in Photoshop.

It was while writing the tutorial that I found the answer.  I realized that focusing on “intersection” for the Lights and Darks series and “subtraction” for the Midtones would provide the needed framework for photographers to understand and visualize how these masks could target different tones.  I wrote the first set of actions to make luminosity masks during the summer of 2006 and used them to create the tutorial’s illustrations.  I also quickly realized these actions were much better than the ad hoc masks I had been cobbling together previously.  They provided a huge efficiency boost compared to the “freehand” method.  I could now do in one click what had been taking me several minutes before.

I was somewhat nervous as I prepared to post a link to the tutorial on NPN.  There was still considerable disdain surrounding Photoshop manipulation in 2006.  We all knew photographers were doing it, but most were reluctant to admit how much. Once posted, this tutorial would out me as an enthusiastic manipulator.  Plus luminosity masks felt like an overly geeky process compared to the standard Photoshop tutorials of the time.  Would readers be able to follow along?  Would they even be interested?  Regardless of these concerns, I had come to love this technique, and after over 3 months of writing, editing, illustrating, and recording actions, it was definitely time to set it free.

It turned out I was right about one thing . . . luminosity masks. They are indeed a useful technique for developing images in Photoshop.  I was totally wrong, however, on how they would be perceived by the photographic community.  Even in the manipulation-averse culture of 2006 they were quickly and enthusiastically embraced.  The method for making luminosity masks described in the tutorial was adopted by other photographers and even became the standard of practice for a soon-to-emerge flock of luminosity mask experts.  No one was more surprised than me that there would be this level of interest . . . or that luminosity masks would still be going strong a decade later.

While I didn’t coin the term “luminosity mask” (thankfully there was no spam filter on my email back in 2006), I am happy that this tutorial introduced them to a mainstream audience.  I’m also pleased to have been able contribute to the body of knowledge about luminosity masks with additional tutorials on luminosity painting, mask painting, subtracted masks, 16-bit luminosity masks, infinity masks, and several blog posts.

But written tutorials only go so far.  The world prefers videos, and this luminosity mask anniversary would be incomplete without acknowledging Sean Bagshaw.  His video series are the clearest, best organized, most informative, concise yet thorough video instruction available on luminosity masks, and his examples demonstrate how they can be personalized to any workflow.  There’s no doubt that Sean has helped many photographers grasp and ultimately harness the power of luminosity masks.

While the awareness, acceptance, application, and appreciation of luminosity masks has increased dramatically since that first tutorial, there’s still more to come.  I love luminosity masks as much today as I did in 2006 and continue to experiment both with the masks and the extension panels that make them possible.  I have a goal of making luminosity masks and these panels even smarter, faster, and more fun to use.  While the first decade was a good start, I still have ideas that I want to explore and share.  Please stay tuned.

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