Infinity color mask magic

As I was adding infinity color masks to the TK7 panel, Sean Bagshaw was busy recording his Sean’s Favorite Photoshop Techniques, Volume 2 series. The download folder for that series contains lots of good color images, and I experimented with some to make sure the new infinity color masks offered something useful and unique for other people’s images, not just my own. They do, and I sent some quick edits to Sean to show him how I’d used the masks on his images.

Sean took these tests and incorporated them into the Quick Tip video below. And, not surprisingly, he’s gone well beyond my own attempts at using the masks and came up with some innovative ways to take infinity color masks to the next level.

This video is a little longer than the other Quick Tips, but it moves fast. Sean covers the basics of using infinity color masks and then demonstrates using them on six different images. Here are some things to pay close attention to as you watch the video:

  • Try to choose a color that actually has some decent color. Remember, these are color-based masks, and if you choose a weak color (low saturation), you’ll get a weak (dark) mask. When creating an infinity color mask, the Color Picker eyedropper extracts the hue value of the selected pixels to build the mask around. The saturation levels of that hue in the image then determines the brightness of the mask. This means that low-saturated colors will still be dark in the mask. So, as much as possible, click on colorful colors to make the best and brightest masks.
  • The initial mask preview is extremely accurate, but modification can sometimes create an even better mask. One of the great features with for infinity color masks is that you get to choose the color from the image and the mask is built around that selection. As such, the original mask preview is always on target, and in several of his examples, where this initial mask is essentially perfect, Sean just uses it as is to adjust the image. At other times, though, he first experiments with adjusting the color range or modifying the mask using the tools in the MODIFY section of the RapidMask module. MODIFY is especially helpful for darker masks where a less-saturated color was the target for generating the infinity color mask preview. The key to success in all cases is to start with a mask properly focused on a specific color selected from the image. And since this is the core process for generating an infinity color mask, the initial mask is always a great starting point. Once it’s available, there are lots of opportunities to customize the mask depending on what you’d like to do to your image.
  • Infinity color masks aren’t just for color adjustments. One of the things that really comes through in watching Sean work on these images is the variety of different techniques he employs. Infinity color masks are used to adjust color, saturation, brightness, and contrast. And he uses them with Curves, Levels, Hue/Saturation, Brightness/Contrast, and Solid Color adjustment layers to achieve the desired effect. This illustrates a good point, I think. To really get the most out of these infinity “color” masks it’s necessary to let go of the “color” concept and simply start seeing them as new precision masks for making targeted adjustments. Just like luminosity masks can be used to make adjustments other than brightness, infinity color masks aren’t restricted to adjusting color. When you start seeing these different types of pixel-based masks as a continuum of masking possibilities, the full power of what they can do really starts to take shape.

If you have Sean’s Favorite Photoshop Techniques, Volume 2 video series, you might want to go into the practice images folder and follow along with what he’s doing here. Working along with Sean will help you see where and how you might be able to apply infinity color masks to your own images.

Finally, just a quick reminder that everything on my website’s Panels & Videos page, including the TK7 panel with infinity color masks and Sean’s Favorite Photoshop Techniques, Volume 2, is 20% off through the month of September with the following discount code: Update20

Be sure to subscribe to Sean’s YouTube channel for more great tips on photography and post-processing including those listed below.
Infinity color masks
Linked vs. unlinked smart objects
Three ways to use Levels and Curves
Reusing saved luminosity masks
Developing a quality night sky
Split toning
Cloud sculpting
Exposure blending
Favorite new V6 features

TK7 Update: Infinity color masks and more

I’m happy to announce that the first update to the TK7 panel has just been released. If you already have TK7, check your email for a free download link. It was sent to the email address you used when purchasing. Be sure to check the spam/junk folder as in many cases it ends up there. Also, be sure to add the download server as a contact. That will insure you get these updates in your inbox. The download server’s address is: client@e-junkie.com

This is a really exciting update. It adds two new mask options to the RapidMask module: infinity color masks and “My Channels” masks. Infinity color masks are a huge step forward. They offer a novel way to generate masks based on ANY color found in the image. You’re no longer limited to Photoshop’s Color Range command (bad blending edges) or color sliders (R,G,B,C,M,Y) for making a color mask. You can now select a color directly from the image and the infinity color mask is constructed precisely around that selected hue. Pixel-based hue values are the foundation for these masks, and hue opens up an entirely new dimension for creating masks. It’s all 16-bit and it’s all pixel-based, so the blending through these new masks is awesome. Infinity color masks are essentially a Magic Wand tool for color. You’ll be amazed at what they can do.

The new “My Channels” option allows you to bring your own masks and selections into the Rapid Mask process. This means that user-generated masks can be easily combined with the module’s native luminosity, channel, color, and saturation masks to better target specific elements in the image. So the Rapid Mask engine can now be powered by ANY mask. There are no limits anymore. With “My Channels” every mask and selection is a Rapid Mask.

Infinity color masks and “My Channels” masks offer a significant expansion of the already considerable masking capability of the RapidMask module. There are also some minor updates in a couple of other RapidMask functions. The video below reviews everything in detail.

If you don’t have the TK7 panel yet, you can use the following discount code for 20% off the updated version and anything else on the Panels & Videos page through the end of September: Update20

Infinity color masks are the most significant new feature in this update and possibly best thing to happen to masking since I pioneered the now ubiquitous luminosity mask techniques in 2006. Luminosity masks are excellent if you’re trying to create selections based on pixel brightness, but not so good if your primary selection criterion is color. Completely different colors can have the same level of brightness, and luminosity masks can’t differentiate between them. Adobe’s Color Range command can be used as an alternative to select specific colors (and it’s the basis for the single-color selections in the RapidMask module), but the edges of Color Range selections aren’t very good. I frequently find it hard to get good blending using standard Color Range selections in many situations. That’s why I added the calculated Color Zones to the TK7 panel. Much better blending at the edges than Color Range masks, but they are still limited since there are just six Color Zone masks that can be calculated.

Infinity color masks completely eliminate both these shortcomings. They can be built around ANY color and the blending edges are excellent. In fact, you get to choose both the color AND the edge feathering as you create the mask. Infinity color masks add a whole new dimension to the masking experience because they indeed work in a completely different dimension in the 3-D color model compared to luminosity masks.

3-D Color Model

These new masks are dead-on accurate, have perfect blending edges, and are programmed with an amazing level of intuitive control so they are easily customized. They’re also true 16-bit masks (of course). No 8-bit selections are involved anywhere from creation through deployment. Infinity color masks are definitely better than luminosity masks when you need to make a color-based mask.

Once you install the update, to generate an infinity color mask, go to the SOURCE section of the TK7 RapidMask module and click the Color > Choose menu item.

Choose color option

This opens the Color Picker where you select a color from your image to build the mask around. The RapidMask module then calculates a starting mask and displays it on-screen while the new Infinity Color Mask control window opens on the RapidMask module.

Infinity Color Mask window

While infinite control is possible with these new color masks, you’ll likely find the initial mask generated from the Color Picker selection to be quite good. It properly isolates the selected color and provides the correct feathering for most adjustments and selections. Once you’re satisfied with the mask, clicking “OK” outputs it as a Rapid Mask and then all features in the MASK, MODIFY and OUTPUT sections of the RapidMask module can be used to adjust and deploy it. Infinity color masks are amazing and quite possibly the next masking revolution. They will quickly find a place in any workflow.

“My Channels” is another new masking option and it’s found at the bottom of the SOURCE > Channel menu.

My Channels option

This feature was recommended by another user and I’m a little embarrassed I didn’t think of it sooner as it makes perfect sense for a full-featured masking panel like the TK7 RapidMask module. However, the coding for it is somewhat complicated, so waiting this long has likely resulted in a better overall implementation.

Clicking “My Channels” scans the immediate document environment for user-created masks and selections. This includes:

  • User-created alpha channels on the Channels panel
  • The layer mask of the active layer on the Layers panel (if it has a layer mask)
  • An active selection (if one exists)

It then lists all these options as individual buttons in a new window on the RapidMask module.

My Channels list

Clicking one of these buttons turns that “channel” into the new Rapid Mask. From there, all the buttons in the MASK, MODIFY, and OUTPUT sections of the RapidMask module can be used with it. “My Channels” makes it possible to bring any masks you’ve created and/or saved into the Rapid Mask process, and this includes using them with the mask calculator. So the RapidMask module now not only works with the masks it generates, it also works with any of the user’s own personal masks and selections. This greatly expands the possibilities for making highly custom masks that combine pixel-based masks from the module with detailed masks of specific elements the user has already created. The video above explains how “My Channels” masks work.

In addition to the new mask options in this TK7 update, there are also a couple smaller changes. One that improves workflow efficiency is the new “I/M” buttons.

Image/Mask toggle button

These are simply single buttons that toggle between viewing the composite image and viewing the current mask. You don’t have to move your mouse between separate “Image” and “Mask” buttons anymore to do this. You can just keep your mouse in one place and click repeatedly to check your mask against the actual image. The new I/M buttons are available in the main Rapid Mask interface (above), in Layer Mask mode, and in the new infinity color mask control window.

The last update is the addition of a “Feather Selection” step in the Mask-the-Rapid-Mask MODIFY option.

Image/mask-the-rapid-mask

The action now stops with a suggested feather pixel radius for the masking that will be applied with the user’s active selection.

Feather option

This feather selection blurs the edges of the selection mask to help insure smooth blending. In the original version of the TK7 RapidMask module, this automatically occurred using a calculation based on the size of the image. Some users preferred a different amount of feathering or none at all. To accommodate the different possibilities, the action now stops and lists the calculated pixel radius for the feathering. The user can accept this, adjust it if they choose, or, if they want no feathering at all, click “Cancel,” in which case the action completes without adding any additional feathering to the user’s active selection.

I’m pleased that the TK7 panel is able to continue to evolve in a positive fashion. Infinity color masks are a big improvement, and “My Channels” offers a new level of masking control. And I’m happy to be able to provide these new features as a free update to customers who already have the TK7 panel. If you don’t have the TK7 panel yet, you can get a 20% discount on the updated version for the next couple of weeks with the following discount code: Update20

This code takes 20% off anything on the Panels & Videos page, so it’s a good time to shop for both panels and videos.