TK8-beta: Video plus more information

Adobe’s new UXP plugin architecture continues to evolve rapidly. Less than a year ago, Adobe indicated that the current CEP architecture for extension panels, like the TK7 panel, would be supported for years to come. Now, in this post on an Adobe forum, there are hints that CEP panels may be deprecated as soon as Photoshop 2022, which is likely to be released in October this year. CEP panels are essentially already deprecated on Mac M1 computers (unless running Photoshop in emulation mode), and I think this decision NOT to support CEP on Mac M1 computers is possibly a signal that Adobe is hoping to move entirely to UXP plugins sooner than originally anticipated.

TK8-beta was released on 1 April 2021. It is built on Adobe’s UXP architecture and includes almost all the features of the TK7 panel. As such, TK8-beta works fine on Mac M1 computers and should be compatible with future versions of Photoshop even if Adobe stops supporting CEP panels. TK8-beta is a free upgrade for customers who have downloaded TK7 version 2, which was released 1 July 2020. To get TK8-beta, either look for the download link I emailed from the download server on 1 April 2021 or use your original download link. Both download links would have come from “” and searching your email for that address might be the easiest way to find a download link for TK8-beta.

Given the uncertainty surrounding this transition from CEP to UXP for Photoshop extensions, I’d suggest that all TK7 version 2 users download TK8-beta to make sure you have a working TK panel going forward. As of April 1, TK7 purchases automatically receive TK8-beta in the download folder, but those who purchased before 1 April 2021 will have to download using one of the methods listed above to insure they have a copy. If you can’t find the recent or original download link, please contact me and we’ll get it worked out.

I’ve received a fair amount of feedback on TK8-beta already, and can happily report that it installs and works as expected. There are a few typos in the tooltips (no surprise), and I’ll get those corrected. There’s also the issue of the plugin stealing focus from Photoshop and not handing it back as discussed in this post. This results in keyboard shortcuts not always working properly after clicking on a UXP panel. I’ve found that the best solution is to simply click on a blank area of the Options bar for current Photoshop tool. This restores focus to Photoshop 100% of the time and re-enables all keyboard shortcuts. This focus issue is something Adobe is aware of and working to correct.

Overall, TK8-beta is a fully functional UXP plugin that is living up to expectations. The final TK8 plugin will look and run almost exactly like the beta version but with several new features added. So, if you’d like to get a head start on transitioning to a UXP-style plugin, TK8-beta is available now. It works in Photoshop 2021 and makes luminosity masks and other masks just like TK7. Both TK7 and TK8-beta are available on the Panels & Videos page. The video above goes over the new features in TK8-beta compared to TK7. Please give TK8-beta a try and let me know if you if you have any thoughts or questions.

Free Update: TK8-beta

With the release of Photoshop 22.3.0 in March 2021, users of Mac computers with the M1 chip now have an ARM-based version of Photoshop that runs natively on the new chip. Adobe claims increased speed for this version of Photoshop, and from watching it perform via internet screen-sharing, it does appear to be noticeably faster.

This new ARM-based version of Photoshop only supports Photoshop extensions (now called “plugins” by Adobe) that use Adobe’s UXP plugin architecture. The older CEP architecture is still supported if Photoshop is run in Intel emulation mode, i.e. Rosetta, but this sacrifices the optimization and speed Adobe has developed for the M1 chip.

The current TK7 panel was developed using the older CEP architecture since that was all that was available at the time. However, I started UXP coding in July 2020, and the TK Lum-Mask plugin released last October used it. Based on what I learned developing that plugin, I planned to convert TK7 to the UXP format also. However, once I started this process, I knew that simply recreating TK7 using the new UXP architecture wasn’t going to cut it. UXP lets me do new things, so why not push further? And so, the idea for TK8 quickly came into focus. The general layout of TK7 would be maintained in TK8 to make the transition as easy as possible, but there would be new functions, new actions, new masks, bigger buttons, better options, and faster response. TK7 would be a conceptual foundation, but TK8 would be a next-generation plugin, better than anything that came before.

Months into the process, TK8 is on target to live up to expectations. I’m really excited by it and hope to have it available later this year. However, ARM-based Photoshop is here now, and Mac M1 users need a plugin that utilizes the new UXP architecture now. So, TK8-beta is being released now to accommodate them. It has almost all the functions of the current TK7 panel plus a few of the new features planned for TK8. And, while the Mac M1 is the main reason for releasing TK8-beta at this time, the new plugin also works on all computers running Photoshop 2021. Intel-based Mac and Windows computers can install TK8-beta the same as M1 Macs. So even if you don’t have a Mac M1 computer, you can still try out TK8 to see where things are headed. Both TK7 and TK8-beta can be installed simultaneously, so you can choose which you’d like to use.

New features available in TK8-beta compared to TK7 include:

  • Optional “always on” tooltips
  • Cleaner user interface with bigger buttons
  • Expanded web-sharpening options
  • Improved Layer Mask mode to allow rapidly trying different luminosity masks as layer masks
  • New method for adding user actions
  • Ability to add unlimited user actions to the Combo and Cx modules
  • More obvious selection indicators
  • New mask modification options

However, this is a beta version of TK8. It’s is still being developed and Adobe is also still developing the UXP architecture as well. So, while I see the potential of TK8, I’m also aware of some limitations.

  • No written instruction manual or video documentation. There are extensive tooltips coded into all buttons and sliders and much of the TK7 literature applies equally well to TK8-beta, but there is no definitive resource that covers the different elements and how they work.
  • English-only. Multiple languages are once again planned from the product version of TK8, but translation happens near the end of the development process and will be added later.
  • All UXP plugins have a “focus” issue as discussed on this thread. They steal focus from Photoshop so that keyboard shortcuts don’t always work after clicking on a UXP plugin. This is an issue Adobe is aware of and plans to fix, but it can be annoying. NOTE: Clicking on the Options bar restores focus to Photoshop.
  • Can’t rule out bugs. While I’ve been testing TK8 extensively, it’s all new code, which means there’s the possibility I’ve missed something. However, releasing an early beta version means that anyone using the plugin can contribute to making it better. Simply contact me if you find something that doesn’t work or could be improved.

TK8-beta is free for all customers who have previously downloaded TK7 version 2. The download server has already sent an email with the necessary files. Check your email (including the junk/spam folder) if you already have TK7 version 2 that was released in July 2020. Additionally, TK8-beta is now included in the download folder for TK7. So you can also use your original “TK7 (updated)” download link to get a new download folder that contains the installer for TK8-beta.

TK8-beta will give you an idea of what to expect when the product version is available later in 2021. It’s continuing to evolve and already has several new features beyond what’s included in this beta version. I hope you’ll give it a try and provide feedback on any problems encountered or additional features that would be useful.

The Complete Guide to Smart Object Techniques: A new video series by Sean Bagshaw

Last Thursday, Sean Bagshaw released The Complete Guide to Smart Object Techniques, a new video series that provides an in-depth look at creatively incorporating smart objects into the Photoshop workflow. The early chapters provide a very thorough overview of how to make smart objects and how they work. After that, he takes viewers on an journey that, while centered on smart objects, is also an incredible odyssey through Photoshop. Sean uses menus in Photoshop that I didn’t know existed and combines them with smart objects to do things I didn’t know were possible. So in many ways, this series is as much about new techniques with Photoshop as it is about smart objects.

There are over 40 chapters in this series. Before watching it, I would have struggled to come up with even a dozen ways to use smart objects, but, chapter after chapter, Sean shows innovative ways to improve images by combining smart objects with novel Photoshop techniques. Color, sharpening, glow, blending, noise, filters, printing, transforming, blur, cloning, and texture are just some of the topics covered.

It’s also important to note that Sean’s techniques are as practical as they are plentiful. The infinite adjustments possible with smart objects means that things normally fixed in place on a pixel layer, like filters, transforms, and Camera Raw modifications, now have the flexibility of an adjustment layer. Sean capitalizes on this easy flexibility to incorporate a variety of additional Photoshop functions into his workflow. Below is a list of a few of my favorite techniques from the series.

  • Smart warp
  • Dehaze cloud-sculpting
  • Noise removal
  • Smart print-sharpening
  • Light-sculpting
  • Exposure-blending (five examples from easy to difficult)
  • Orton-soft light variations
  • Filter Gallery options

While Sean makes use of luminosity masks and the TK7 panel throughout the course, this series isn’t specifically focused on either as its scope is much broader. However, these tools naturally fit into this type of workflow and it’s instructive to see how they contribute to the larger effort.

I’ve linked to Sean’s intro below. You can watch additional chapters here.

As always, Sean has priced the new series quite reasonably and I’m happy to be able to offer it for sale on my website. All readers can use the following public discount code, which takes 20% off the price during the month of March: Save20

If you’re a previous customer, check your March 4th email for additional savings (possibly in junk/spam folder), or contact me if you didn’t receive the private discount code.

Sneak peek: Luminosity Mask Masterclass

Sean Bagshaw finished his Luminosity Mask Masterclass video series and currently plans to release it in November, soon after he returns from taking pictures. This new course is a major update to his Complete Guide to Luminosity Masks, 2nd edition series, currently on sale for $5 on the panels and videos page. That older series is now five-years-old, and pixel-based masks (like luminosity masks) have advanced considerably in that time. New masks, new methods, and a new TK7 panel are all available. I’ve been watching the new course and thoroughly enjoying it. It clocks in at nearly 5 hours and is packed with information. Fortunately, Sean has it organized in to compact chapters, so it’s possible to skip around and choose topics that interest you most, instead of watching it straight through. One of the chapters, with a brief introduction by Sean, is linked below.

Luminosity Mask Masterclass will provide a timely and comprehensive update on using multiple types of pixel-based masks, and I’m sure you’ll find it useful. More information coming soon.