TK8: New features list and videos

As mentioned in the previous post, launching the TK8 plugin encountered some major issues. They have been taken care of now and the sales page and download server are working properly. Thank you for your patience during this unfortunate event. I’m staying caught up on email for the most part now and the feedback has been mostly positive. I’m happy to hear that the transition from TK7 was straightforward for most users and that the interface, especially the Multi-Mask module, is easier to navigate. As a reminder, the discount codes sent to previous customers are good until October 22, and there is also a site-wide 25% discount on everything using the code: TK25off

There are a lot of new and improved features in TK8. I wanted to take it well beyond what TK7 offered. I know no one will use ALL the buttons and functions in TK8, but hopefully there will be enough favorites for everyone to make the plugin an important tool in their Photoshop workflow.

It would nearly impossible to cover all the new features in detail in one blog post, but I did want to provide a list so readers have an idea of what to look for and what to expect. Below this list are several videos (in different languages) that review some of the new features.

All modules

  • Tooltips are persistent unless turned off, but even turned off, holding down the “ALT” key on Windows or the “option” key on Mac displays them when moving the mouse over a button.
  • New selection indicators are more prominent, easier to see, and less likely to be overlooked.
  • Improved error message alerts for when user does something that could cause an unexpected result, and these are now translated into different languages.
  • More icons/fewer words.

Multi-Mask module (replaces TK7 Go and RapidMask modules)

  • New smart-phone-like interface for accessing different types of masks and functions.
  • Color-wheel-based color grading (like in Camera Raw).
  • Edge masks that find edges in the image.
  • Edit selections as masks.
  • Workflow extras which include sketch actions and gradient actions.
  • One-click add-adjustment-layer buttons at the bottom of the main interface for quickly making favorite adjustment layers.
  • Layer Mask mode with changeable luminosity masks (Lights, Darks, and Midtones) for quickly testing the effect of different masks on the image.
  • 2-UP mode also returns to Layer Mask mode.
  • Real-time Levels and Curves modification for any mask.
  • Mask calculator has been moved to the output section and has bigger buttons.
  • “Paint Color” output option for adding color to the image through a mask selection using Linear Light blend mode for the layer being painted.

Combo/Cx modules

  • Many new buttons: Linear Light blend mode at 15% fill opacity (replaces Hard Light)Merge Visible is now Stamp Visible (CTRL+click on Windows/command+click on Mac moves it to the top of the layer stack)Select SubjectSelect SkyFeather SelectionExpand SelectionContract SelectionFree TransformExport As…Gradient and Solid Color adjustment layer options added to the Adjustment Layers menu.
  • New “TK” actions: Fill TransparentAlign+FocusFill Edges check boxCTRL/command+click on the Clarity action runs it without the result being turned into a smart object.
  • Expanded web-sharpening options including presets, file-naming, and file-saving.
  • Add your personal watermark/logo with ease.
  • Smart object indicator visually specifies the contents of smart objects.
  • New, easier method to add user and button actions to the module.
  • Ability to add unlimited user actions to the User Actions list.
  • Preference available to NOT close “TK” and “User Actions” menus automatically.  This makes it possible to use Combo or Cx module with an alternate interface (TK or User actions) and thereby use both modules with one set to an alternate interface.

New feature videos

Several of the affiliates I work with have recorded videos discussing the new TK8 features. I’ve linked to them below. Some are in languages besides English.

Sean Bagshaw is basically the Dean of Luminosity Masks. He probably knows the TK8 plugin better than anyone (except maybe me) and has the skills to explain it so that photographers get the most out of it. His TK8 Video Guide is the definitive guide to TK8 for the English-speaking world. In the video below, he reviews his five favorite new TK8 features. Sean’s YouTube channel has a TK Quick Tips playlist.

Dave Kelly is basically an enthusiastic lab assistant at Professor Bagshaw’s Luminosity Mask University. Dave does a weekly series (“TK Friday”) where he focuses on explaining different features in the TK8 plugin and applying them to various images. Dave’s actually a student of many different photography techniques and enjoys sharing what he learns with others. In the video below, he too looks at some of his favorite TK8 features. Dave’s YouTube channel is here.

I’m not a big video maker, but I usually try to make one when updates are released. Below is the video I made for Sean’s, Antonio Prado’s, and André Distel’s video guide courses. It goes over where to find the new features in the TK8 plugin.

Antonio Prado is the Spanish world’s leading expert in everything TK. He too has a very deep understanding of the different pixel-based masks made possible by the TK8 plugin and explains everything in his Videoguía TK8 series. In the video below, in Spanish, he goes over the new features, and only he could cover this much territory in such a short amount of time.

Rafael Coutinho was a major source of ideas for TK8. He was constantly asking for new features and refinements, and they were all good, so I kept adding them. It’s great to have someone like this to prod me into constantly making a better product. In his video below, in French, he also covers the new features in TK8.

Isabella Tabacchi has been working with and teaching about luminosity masks for many years. In the video below, in Italian, she goes over the differences between the TK7 panel and TK8 plugin.

I hope you enjoy the new TK8 plugin.

Updates: Paint Contrast video and TK8-beta with Photoshop 22.5

Paint Contrast

Dave Kelly posted a good video last week demonstrating how to use the “Paint Contrast” action in the TK7 Combo and Cx modules. I’ve linked to it below.

My friend B. pioneered contrast painting. Dave’s video bumps it up a notch. I’ll explain. The Paint Contrast action allows adding contrast to an image simply by painting on a specially constructed pixel layer on the Layers panel. To make it easy, there are just three “colors” to paint with:

  • 50% Gray–Which darkens shadow values and lightens highlight values, i.e. increases contrast in both shadows and highlights.
  • Black–Which primarily darkens shadow values (increased contrast in the shadows) and affects highlight values less.
  • White–Which mostly lightens highlight values (increased contrast in the highlights) and affects shadow values less.

The neat thing about this technique is that you don’t need a luminosity selection to paint through in order to target specific tones. Painting with black paint is almost like painting through a Darks-1 or Darks-2 selection and painting with white is like painting through a Lights-1 or Lights-2 selection. Black paint automatically selects dark tones to darken and white paint automatically selects light tones to lighten. And, just like with luminosity masks, the painting blends seamless, especially when painting with a feathered brush. So, while painting with black affects shadow values most, it also feathers the effect perfectly to blend the change into the image’s midtones and highlights. Likewise, painting with white affects highlights most, but also tapers perfectly into midtones and shadows. And, of course, painting with 50% gray feathers the effect into both the shadows and the highlights.

Dave demonstrates painting with all three colors, but the new thing I learned from the video is to use a different layer for each color. I had been using this technique on a single layer, mostly painting with 50% gray and occasionally lighter or darker shades of gray. However, by doing a separate “black paint” layer and “white paint” layer, as shown in the video, you can affect shadows and highlights independently and better tailor the effect to the image. This offers more control in both tonal ranges even when working on the same area of the image that has both shadow and highlight values. This control also extends to subsequently fine-tuning the adjustments, like changing the layer’s Fill opacity. The painting contrast technique is super easy and often yields pleasing results. I hope you’ll give it a try.

TK8-beta with Photoshop 22.5.0

Adobe released Photoshop 22.5.0 almost two weeks ago, and I’m happy that TK8-beta still works with it. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking whenever there is a new Photoshop drop. Something is always broken that wasn’t broken previously, and it’s almost impossible to predict if the TK panels will be affected. This isn’t entirely unexpected. The new UXP architecture on which TK8-beta is built is still evolving with new features being added and talk of some elements eventually being deprecated. I really like what UXP can do, so overall I think it will be positive direction long-term. I’m committed to trying to keep up with Adobe and fixing things as soon as possible if they do break. If you do have problems with TK8-beta, be sure to contact me so I can investigate and get things working. Also, it’s a good idea to save your download link. It can always be used to download the latest version from the download server so that when bugs do get fixed, you can get updates installed soon after I post information on this blog.

There are two things worth noting after the recent update to Photoshop 22.5.0. The first is that some of the formatting for the TK8-beta user interface shifted a little. The spacing around some elements in the sub-menus might look a bit off. This doesn’t affect the functioning of the plugin, but if it bothers you, use your download link to get the newer version, which has been added to the download server, or contact me if you need your link reactivated. These formatting issues will also be corrected in the final version of TK8 to be released later this year.

Another problem related to Photoshop 22.5.0 only happens on Windows computers and concerns input boxes, those boxes where the user can type in a value, like the Opacity value on the Layers panel. If you click in an input box to create a cursor there and then click the “Backspace” key, it doesn’t delete characters in the input box like you’d expect. Instead, it deletes layer masks or even layers on the Layers panel. Definitely not a good thing. You could accidentally delete a layer mask or even a layer without realizing it. This is new to Photoshop 22.5.0 and can affect the TK8-beta modules as well. (Interestingly, TK7 modules appear to NOT be affected.) For example, if you click in an input box on one of the TK8-beta modules, like to change the Height or Width for web-sharpening, and then tap the backspace key, the active layer(s) get deleted. Adobe has acknowledged the problem in this post, and it’s bad enough that they’ll probably try to get it corrected in the next dot update. Again, this is only a Windows issue. The “delete” key or “fn + delete” on Mac doesn’t have this problem. The short-term workaround is to use the cursor to highlight the letters and numbers that need to be changed and then immediately type their replacements without clicking the backspace key. This works, but if you’re like me, the backspace key is used almost as often as the space bar. So it’s hard to remember not to use it when working inside an input box. I know Adobe is dedicated to fixing bugs and am sure this one will get fixed in the near future.

Linear Profile Follow-Up, Triple Play Actions, Luminosity Mask Workflow

Linear Profile Follow-Up

First off, I want to offer a sincere “thank you” to everyone who has contributed RAW images to help expand the linear profile repository.  There are now free linear profiles for nearly 170 cameras available on this site, and I hope to keep adding more.  I also appreciate the feedback from photographers who have experimented with the linear profiles on their images.  Many have let me know they’ve had good results.  That’s not surprising.  Linear profiles provide additional flexibility and often an improved RAW file conversion. Once installed, it’s super easy to try the linear profile during any RAW conversion in Lightroom or Camera Raw to see if it makes a difference. I hope you’ll try working with a linear profile on a few images and see what you think. Also, if your camera isn’t listed on the repository page, please contact me to get it added.

Here are a few of other things worth mentioning about linear profiles. 

  • You won’t apply a linear profile using the Camera Raw filter inside Photoshop.  I show how to install the linear profile using Photoshop’s Camera Raw filter in the installation PDF, but installation and application are two different things.  The linear profile can only be applied to a RAW file during the conversion process.  That means using Lightroom or Camera Raw (not the same as the Camera Raw filter).  Some people have written that they can’t see their installed linear profile.  That’s likely because they are trying to use it on an image in Photoshop via the Camera Raw filter.  That’s not going to work.  A RAW file is the only image the linear profile can be applied to.  So make sure you’re working with a RAW file in Lightroom or Camera Raw when you want to apply the linear profile in your workflow. You can then open the converted image in Photoshop to finish processing it.
  • If you already have a dedicated color-matching workflow, I’m not advocating discarding it in favor of using a linear profile.  There are people who have indicated they’ve found ways to combine color-matching with linear profiles (and several more who have asked about it), but this is not an area where I have any expertise.  I use linear profiles simply because they help enhance creativity in my workflow.  I go with what looks right when it comes to image color and am relatively unconcerned if my choice is correct relative to the original subject.  So, if you already have a workflow that properly matches output color to your satisfaction, I’d stick with it until someone publishes additional information on how to incorporate linear profiles into the color-matching process.
  • No linear profiles for “monochrome” cameras. RAW files from monochrome cameras, like some Leica models, can’t be imported into the Adobe DNG Profile Editor that’s used to create the linear profile.  So I’m not able to profile these monochrome-only cameras.
  • Linear profiles for cameras where the sensor has been converted for infrared photography are questionable.  In fact, I’m not sure if linear profiles are even possible with these converted cameras or if they’d be as effective as linear profiles for color images.  Page 8 of the documentation for the Adobe DNG Editor instructions discusses infrared-modified cameras if anyone wants to experiment with this.

Triple Play Actions

Dave Kelly has a good video on using the Lights and Darks Triple Play found in TK Actions menu of the TK7 Combo and Cx modules.  The Triple Play can help improve brightness, contrast, and detail in the image.  It creates a set of layers on the Layers panel in Photoshop, and users then turn on the visibility of different layers to achieve the desired effect.  My favorite way to use these actions is using the Darks Triple Play to enhance image details, and Dave demonstrates how to do this.  The Lights Triple play is best used for enhancing brightness and contrast in the highlights.  Both actions are easy to use once you understand what they do.  Watch Dave’s video and I think you’ll be ready to give both a try.

Luminosity Mask Workflow

In a second video linked below, Dave presents a simple Photoshop workflow involving luminosity masks.  Lights, Darks, Midtone, and Zone masks are used along with the “mask-the-mask” technique to isolate the adjustments to specific parts of the image.  One thing that comes through in this video is that luminosity masks aren’t restricted to making just brightness and contrast adjustments in the image.  Dave also uses them for making Hue/Saturation adjustments, and this demonstrates the flexibility of these masks.  Basically, once you’ve found the right mask to target what you want to adjust in the image, you can use whichever adjustment works best to accomplish your goal.  Regardless of the type of adjustment, the self-feathering nature of luminosity masks insures all adjustments through these masks blend smoothly into the image.

Be sure to subscribe to Dave Kelly’s YouTube channel to be notified when he posts new content.

The Perfect Mask and Vignettes/Spotlights

Making the Perfect Mask

One of the most important things to understand about luminosity masks, zone masks, color masks, and saturation/vibrance masks in the TK7 panel is that that they are created using actual pixel values. The masks that are generated reflect pixel-level differences between individual pixels. These masks are not like selections made with the Lasso or Marquee tools, where the mouse draws the physical boundary around specific elements. Instead, pixel-value masks use the luminance, hue, and saturation values in each pixel to determine what gets revealed by the mask (white and light gray in the mask), and what gets concealed (black and dark gray).

This concept plays a central role when generating masks using the TK7 Go module. Pixel-value masks should not be pure white in the selected areas, like the masks created with the Lasso or Marquee tools. Instead, selected pixels should have a gradation of light gray values reflecting the underlying textures in the image. The TK7 panel does a good job of quickly generating a proper pixel-value mask based on the chosen data source (luminance, hue, or saturation). Lights-1, Darks-2, Midtones-1, Zone 3, and a “red” color mask are examples. These initial masks are usually an excellent starting point for a planned adjustment. In addition, some masks, like zone and color masks, offer modification options built into the user interface. There’s also an entire modification section in the Go module for sculpting any initial mask to better match the areas to be selected. Modification is often quite useful. Be sure to give it a try for additional control in creating the ideal mask. Here are some rules that can help.

  • Avoid pure white in the mask for areas that require subtle and seamless transitions. Pure white in the mask means that the nuance possible with pixel-value masks has been lost.
  • Aim to create masks that have light gray values for selected areas and dark gray or black values for areas not selected.
  • Look for light gray texture in the selected areas of the mask that matches the texture in the image. Texture in the mask indicates that the pixel-level differences in the image are still present in the mask.
  • Areas that should not be selected by the mask can go to pure black, but also make sure that there is a smooth, gray transition to lighter areas of the mask. Hard edges in the mask can lead to hard edges in the image when adjusting or painting through the mask.

In the video below, Dave Kelly uses a Lights mask, a Darks mask, a Color mask, and a Zone mask, and then modifies them to create a more suitable mask for achieving his goals with the image. Notice how he works to keep light gray texture in the mask in the selected areas and then how using the mask automatically insures a smooth transition of the effect as he paints it in.

Vignettes and Spotlights

One of the simplest techniques to focus the viewer’s attention in a photograph is using vignettes and spotlights. As we look at photographs, light areas attract our attention. Vignettes generally darken the edges of the frame so that our eyes don’t wander outside the borders. Spotlights, on the other hand, brighten specific areas or elements in the image to move the eye to these areas and indicate their relative importance. Both vignettes and spotlights are meant to be subtle. They are almost always feathered to insure they blend in with the rest of the image. In the best circumstance, the viewer is unaware they exist, but is also guided by them to view the image the way the photographer intended.

In the video below, Dave Kelly demonstrates four useful techniques available in the TK7 panel for building vignettes and spotlights.

  • The Vignette action adds symmetrical circular or oval darkening around the edges of the image.
  • The Freehand Vignette action also creates a vignette inside the image’s borders, but it uses a selection drawn by the photographer, usually using the Lasso or Marquee tool, as the guide for the shape of the vignette’s transition zone.
  • The Spotlight action again uses a freehand selection created by the photographer, usually on something near the center of the image, and then the action adds some subtle brightness to the selected area.
  • Burning and dodging through a Midtones-1 mask is also a great way to add vignettes and spotlights to an image that look completely natural.

In order to provide smooth transitions, the Vignette, Freehand Vignette, and Spotlight actions add a Gaussian blur to the selection based on the size of the image. The size of the blur is adjustable as the action executes. For burning and dodging through a Midtones-1 mask, simply choose an appropriately large brush with 0% Hardness to insure smooth blending.

Be sure to check out other videos by Dave Kelly on his YouTube channel.