TK Quick Tip: Better vignettes via masks (Think H, S, and L.)

One way to get the most out of Photoshop masks that are based on pixel level data, like luminosity masks (where pixel luminance is the data source), is to always keep these masks in mind when solving problems or making adjustments in Photoshop. And the easy way to do that is to simply focus on the three basic characteristics that make up each pixel: Hue, Saturation, and Lightness. If the adjustment you have in mind or the problem you’re trying to solve can be isolated based on one of these three characteristics, then a mask from the TK8 Multi-Mask module might be of use. TK8 makes masks that target each of these characteristics as explained below.

Hue (or color)–If specific colors in the image need adjustment, an Infinity Color mask or Black & White Adjustment Layer mask can be used. Both make excellent masks that target specific colors in the image.

SaturationSaturation masks are based on pixel-level saturation values. The more saturated the color, the lighter the pixels are in the mask. Inverting the base Saturation mask provides access to Vibrance masks, which are brightest in the unsaturated colors in the image.

Lightness–To access pixel-level Lightness data, use Luminosity masks and Zone masks.

So, if you examine your image in terms of its Hue, Saturation, and Lightness, then it’s easier to pick the right type of mask for what you want to accomplish. As an example, I recently had an email discussion with a TK8 user on alternate ways to make image vignettes. TK8 Combo and Cx modules use an adjustment layer set to Multiply blend mode and a layer mask to provide darkening at the edges of the image. The amount of vignetting can be controlled by changing the layer’s opacity. The user’s concern was that this method sometimes made dark colors too saturated or too dark. Yes, this is a potential problem with any vignette, especially if the image’s edges already contain saturated or dark colors. My usual solution had been to paint black at varying opacities on the layer mask of the vignette adjustment layer to conceal the vignette in areas where it affects saturation or darkens the image too much.

In the Quick Tip video below, Sean Bagshaw demonstrates an even better method and it’s a good illustration of the how to think about adding pixel-based masks to the workflow. The user’s main concern was that dark colors were sometimes being affected too much by the vignette. So the question then becomes: Is there a way to select dark colors in the image using a mask? Well, yes, of course, there is. That would be a Darks-series luminosity mask. So the next question becomes how to use a luminosity mask to subtract the dark colors from a vignette so the dark colors are less affected by the vignette. The video shows how easy this is while still creating a really nice vignette.

One of the nice things about using these pixel-based masks is how perfectly the effect is revealed in the image with no visible edges or halos. In the example of the Freehand Vignette in the video, the vignetting still looked perfect even after Sean increased the opacity of the vignette layer. Seamless blending is one of the defining characteristics of pixel-based masks, so using them provides considerable latitude in the degree to which pixels selected by the mask can be adjusted before creating unwanted artifacts.

Summary: Think about Hue, Saturation, and Lightness when deciding if a pixel-based mask or selection would be useful in the post-processing workflow. If one of these characteristics helps isolate the areas that need adjustment, then the TK8 Multi-Mask module can be used to generate and refine a mask to better target the adjustment to where it’s needed most.

Extra Credit Challenge: Sean used the TK8 Mask Calculator to create an ideal vignetting mask. Can you think of a way to use TK8 to paint the same effect directly onto the layer mask WITHOUT using the Mask Calculator?

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.

Coming Soon: TK8

If things go according to plan, the new TK8 plugin will be released next Wednesday, September 22. This article provides information on several aspects surrounding its launch. Please review it carefully if you are a previous customer or are interested in trying the TK8 plugin.

The new TK8 plugin is built using Adobe’s new UXP architecture for extensions. It contains three modules: Multi-Mask, Combo, and Cx. The main interface of each is shown in the image above. TK8 works on Mac and Windows computers including the new Mac “M” computers. The new architecture required completely re-coding everything. Simply creating a TK7 clone would have saved time and been easier, but I wanted to use some of the new capabilities of UXP and also add several new features. So, I pushed ahead with developing a much improved plugin instead. TK8-beta, released in April this year, was essentially that TK7 clone. The full TK8 plugin goes much further. It’s truly a next-generation plugin that offers new levels of control and creativity in Photoshop. NOTE: The UXP architecture means TK8 will only work in Photoshop 2021 or later.

Important update information

The purpose of this post isn’t to detail all the new features in TK8. I’ll cover those in a future article. Right now I just want to let customers know that the plugin is ready and how to make sure they can get a copy if they’re interested. Below are some important points along this line.

  • Customers who purchased TK7 within the last year (12 months) will receive a free TK8 upgrade (some restrictions apply).
  • Previous customers who purchased the TK7 panel more than a year ago (or even an older version of the “TK” panel) will be offered a 50% discount on the new TK8 plugin.
  • Upgrade/update discount codes will be emailed on Wednesday, September 22 to the email address used when making the original purchase. If you have changed your email address since purchasing, contact me AFTER next Wednesday in order to receive the appropriate discount code.
  • Discount codes and upgrades expire in 30 days and will not be renewed or extended unless prior approval has been requested and approved.
  • Download server capability. While items purchased with 25% or 50% discount codes will NOT be affected, the download server will likely be unable to serve all the free upgrade requests, at least initially, probably for three or four days. If you receive an error message when trying to obtain a free upgrade, please try again the following day. I apologize for the inconvenience. Again, purchases with the 25% or 50% discount codes should be OK, just the free downloads may experience delays.
  • There will be a “soft launch” of the TK8 plugin and TK8 Video Guide on Monday, September 20. This mostly involves adding TK8 plugin information and purchase options to my website. The soft launch will test the website and download server to make sure things are working properly. Previous customers, however, should wait until Wednesday, September 22, to receive their discount codes before upgrading. Refunds will not be issued for purchases that do not utilize the appropriate discount codes.
  • There will be a site-wide 25% discount available during the TK8 launch period, so it’s a good time to get a good deal on any of Sean Bagshaw’s videos on the Panels & Videos page.
  • Free downloads for linear camera profiles will be temporarily unavailable during the launch period in order to allow the download server to provide free upgrades instead. If you’d like to download a linear profile for your camera, please do so before next Monday.

TK8 Video Guide

Just like the TK8 plugin is completely new, so is the TK8 Video Guide. Sean Bagshaw (English), Antonio Prado (Spanish), and André Distel (German) have all recorded new video guides covering the TK8 plugin. Each series reviews the plugin in detail in their respective languages and are probably the best way to quickly become proficient at using TK8. These photographers have been involved with the TK panel for many years. Their videos have been instrumental in making luminosity mask techniques available to photographers world-wide. They do a great job demonstrating the features in the TK8 plugin and each series provides numerous examples of innovative ways to add these masks to your workflow.

There will be special discounts on these video series for previous and new customers as well. These discount codes will be sent in a separate email on Wednesday, September 22, so be sure to watch for them. Sample videos will be available to watch when TK8 soft-launches on Monday, September 20. Check the Panels & Videos page for links.

The videos below are trailers from Sean Bagshaw, Antonio Prado, and André Distel for their respective TK8 video courses. In the first one, Sean Bagshaw provides a behind-the-scenes look at what’s involved in making a video course of this scope. He makes it look effortless, but there’s actually a lot of work that goes into a producing videos of this quality.

El siguiente video es un teaser de Antonio Prado en el que puedes ver lo que vas a encontrar en esta nueva versión de la Videoguía TK8.

In dem Video unten zeigt André Distel eine kurze Einführung seines TK V8 Video Guides in deutscher Sprache.

Final Note

I’m excited to finally release TK8. I think it’s the best “TK” panel yet and am sure you will find it useful. However, during a product launch, things tend to get a bit overwhelming with lots of questions and emails. I’ll apologize in advance for my slow replies. If you have a problem with the plugin, please check and try the recommendations in the “Troubleshooting” section of the installation PDF. If you continue to have problems, feel free to contact me, but please be patient. If you don’t hear from me in a day or two that probably means I missed or accidentally deleted your message. It can also indicate you entered an invalid email address on the contact form (that happens too). In either case, just contact me again. I want to help and I’m sure we’ll be able to connect eventually.

I hope you enjoy the TK8 plugin. I appreciate your patience while it was being developed and also the many recommendations and suggestions that have been incorporated into the final version.

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.