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.

More TK7 videos from Dave Kelly

Dave Kelly has continued to create video content about the TK7 panel on his YouTube channel, The Joy of Editing. One of the themes he’s exploring is how to use the different masks available in the Go module. The Go module was the new mask generator in last year’s TK7 update and it’s part of an evolution to simplify the mask making-process. The videos below are his most recent ones that take a look at using the Go module.


Dodging and burning is covered in the first video linked below. This is one of the most fundamental and powerful ways to us luminosity masks. The mask essentially creates a stencil, and painting through this stencil in the form of a Photoshop selection deposits either black paint for burning or white paint for dodging precisely on those parts of the image where it’s intended to have an effect. Multiple brush strokes can be used to intensify the effect in certain parts of the image and not others, and even colored paint can be applied, so it’s possible to burn and dodge with color. There is a lot of creative flexibility when burning and dodging through luminosity mask selections, and it’s a technique that can be used on almost every image.


In the next video, Dave looks at combining luminosity masks with Photoshop plug-ins like Topaz Studio. This is a really interesting application of luminosity masks and it makes perfect sense. Luminosity masks, because they are based on pixel-level data, provide perfectly feathered edges. So blending in a Topaz adjustment is very much like exposure-blending with luminosity masks. In both cases there is a seamless blend creating a natural transition between the different effects.


In the third episode of the series on using the Go module, Dave runs through several processing steps on three different images. What I really like about this episode is Dave’s experimental approach to incorporating the masks in his workflow, and experimentation is a very important part of the creative process. It’s sometimes easy to forget that generating luminosity and other pixel-level masks would be hopelessly inefficient if we had to do it manually. The Go module completely removes this barrier by making a huge variety of masks available at the click of a button. Dave shows that it’s easy to experiment and find the right mask and then apply it to achieve the desired outcome. This video also features luminosity masks being used on monochrome images. Luminosity masks have a reputation for being best suited for color landscape and nature photography. The reality is they can be used with ANY photograph, and monochrome, especially, can benefit from their ability to isolate specific tonal ranges in the image.


I find Dave’s videos enjoyable to watch as they reflect a real-world application of the panel. No one is going to use every feature in the different modules, but there’s a high likelihood that certain features will be incredibly useful. It all depends on what you’re looking to do with an image, and Dave provides plenty of ideas for incorporating different functions into the workflow.

Since many people will find Dave Kelly’s videos useful, I reached out to him and provided a discount code that he’s included in his video descriptions on YouTube. It’s works on all items on the Panels & Videos page.

Luminosity Mask Masterclass: A new video series by Sean Bagshaw

I’m very happy to announce that Sean Bagshaw’s newest video series, Luminosity Mask Masterclass, is now available on the Panels & Videos page. I’ve included several sample chapters below.  Previous customers should check their email for a private discount code.  New customers can use the following code for an introductory 20% discount:  Master20

From almost the time the original tutorial was released in November 2006, Sean Bagshaw has been a user and proponent of luminosity masks.  He’s been teaching them for nearly a decade and has had significant input into designing the panels I’ve made to generate them.  His first Complete Guide to Luminosity Masks series in 2013 and the follow-up “2nd edition” in 2015 helped many photographers understand the potential of these amazing masks for the first time.  Since then he has done numerous courses utilizing luminosity masks.  His Complete Workflow videos, for example, demonstrate how easily these techniques can be incorporated into the digital workflow and what a difference they can make.

However, it’s been over five years since Sean released a series devoted exclusively to luminosity masks, and this makes Luminosity Mask Masterclass an important and timely update.  I’ve continued to evolve masking concepts over the years, and new masks and new panels are now available.  While preset luminosity masks are still the core type of pixel-based masks, they’re no longer the only type of mask that can be derived from pixel values.  Saturation masks, color masks, and zone masks are now easily generated, and these too can be extremely useful when making targeted adjustments in Photoshop.  In addition, there are new ways to modify masks, new ways to output them, and new techniques that take advantage of these masks’ immensely useful self-feathering character. 

So the universe of pixel-based masks has expanded considerably in the last five years.  Luminosity Mask Masterclass looks to combine this new knowledge about pixel-based masks with Sean’s expertise in using them to provide a detailed overview of their creative potential.  Masterclass is a compendium that provides both a broad look at this masking landscape as well as in-depth demonstration of how to use these masks in specific situations.

The new series is composed of fifty (50) chapters and would require around five hours if you watched them all straight through.  Fortunately, Sean has the content arranged into broad topics that include:

  • Basic concepts
  • Ways to mask
  • Choosing masks
  • Modifying masks
  • Mask techniques

It’s filled with lots (and lots) of examples and includes images, so you can practice along with Sean.  The organization makes it easy to focus your attention on topics and chapters that interest you most and to learn at a pace that feels comfortable.  Additionally, this is Sean’s first course that makes extensive use of the new TK7 Go module, and I’m really happy to see how it performs. It’s instructive to see how he employs it in a wide variety of situations.

I’m sure you’ll enjoy this new series. Sean is a talented teacher and an expert at explaining the way things work and how to do them, especially when it comes to luminosity masks. Luminosity and other pixel-based masks can certainly make a difference in your images, and this course will help you get the most out of them. I hope you’ll give the new series a try. Please feel free to leave a comment or contact me if you have any questions.

NOTE: The Master20 discount code expires on November 26, 2020.

Big sale: The Complete Guide to Luminosity Masks video series—$5

Sean Bagshaw’s Complete Guide to Luminosity Masks, 2nd edition is approaching retirement.  These videos have been the definitive resource for understanding luminosity masks for over five years, but time and techniques continue to advance.  The basics of luminosity masks are now pretty much common knowledge, but the methods for using these masks has expanded considerably since the series was released, as has the types of masks available and the different pixel values around which masks can be created.  The series utilized the older TK V4 panel.  It was cutting edge in its day, but it’s also considerably less capable and has fewer masks and features than the current TK7 panel.  So Sean has decided, and I concur, that’s it’s time to sunset this older series and move on to something newer and better.  The older series still has lots of valuable information on how to generate and use luminosity masks, and, before it’s gone completely, Sean is discounting the price to just $5 for photographers who want to add it to their collection.  The sale price on this product will last approximately one month on the Panels & Videos page.  No discount code is needed.

I’m also retiring my TK Actions V5 panel for Photoshop CS6.  The number of CS6 users has dwindled over the last year, and I want to concentrate future panel and plugin development on the current Photoshop platform.  Photoshop CS6 is now seven years outdated and I can’t make a good case for encouraging users to continue using it.  As such, the “CS6 Combo” product will also be on sale for $5 on the Panels & Videos page for anyone still using this version of the software.  It too will be removed in the near future.  NOTE:  If you are using Photoshop CS6, the Basic V6 panel is still available and contains a CS6 version.

This “last chance” sale is prompted by the need to make room for the new video series Sean is working on.  It’s called Luminosity Mask Masterclass and is set to debut in November.   It provides a fresh look at all the different things luminosity and other pixel-based masks can do.  The TK panel has advanced considerably since the last Complete Guide to Luminosity Mask series was released, and Sean’s had several years to refine his approach to using these masks in his workflow.  It all comes together in this new series. The Masterclass course will provide an exciting update that shows how to take the potential of luminosity masks even further.