More TK7 Go panel videos from Dave Kelly

Dave Kelly continues to make videos that explore different sections of the TK7 Go panel. Rather than trying to cover everything the panel does, Dave focuses on one or two methods for making and using masks, and then demonstrates different options within the panel for fine-tuning and using that mask.

The key to deciding which mask to use is usually dictated by the what you’re trying to select. If the brightness or the darkness of a particular element is its defining characteristic, then a luminosity mask or zone mask will be an effective starting point. Luminosity masks are probably best if you’re looking to target light tones or dark tones INCLUDING the whitest whites and the blackest blacks. Zone masks, however, are better at targeting the light gray, dark gray, and midtone gray tones that EXCLUDE pure white and pure black. If the defining characteristic of the element to be selected is color, then infinity color masks are a good starting point since they allow very targeted masks based on color.

Keep in mind that the first mask choice is not necessarily going to be the perfect mask. Modifying the mask is usually helpful for improving it. The TK7 Go panel has options for fine-tuning the initial mask choice, and the MODIFY section provides additional controls. These options often make significant improvements to the initial mask. The desired elements can be better selected (made whiter in the mask preview) and parts of the image that should not be selected can be made darker or even black. Properly modifying the mask is an important second step in order to better sculpt the mask to fit your particular image.

In the first video below, Dave focuses on using zone masks to make adjustments to different tonal ranges in the image. At the beginning, he takes a close look at how the Go module’s mask controls work using a step-tablet image of the different zones. Seeing what the different zone mask sliders do on this control image makes it easier to understand what they’re doing in the more complex setting like an actual photograph. (You can download Dave’s step-tablet image here.) Dave includes three different examples of using zone masks to adjust brightness in specific parts of the image. Zone masks are one of my favorite techniques since they are so precise at selecting the initial tone and then can be easily adjusted to be even more specific.

In the second video below, Dave uses both luminosity and zone masks to make gentle adjustments to the image. This video emphasizes the experimental nature of creating these masks. Sometimes a luminosity mask works better and sometimes a zone mask works better. It may not be entirely obvious which will work best until you try both and see. In addition to experimenting with different types of masks, Dave also uses different mask controls, like the different color channels for luminosity masks and the sliders for zone masks, to fine-tune the initial selection. Then, to take it a step further, he uses the MODIFY section of the Go module to add contrast to the mask and to paint out some areas with black paint to make an even better selection of his chosen subject. These types of adjustments quickly become second nature since you actually see the mask on-screen and can make modifications based on how the mask looks.

In the final video below, Dave looks at making adjustments using infinity color masks. Color masks add an entirely new dimension to the masking process. Unlike luminosity masks (which are based on pixel brightness), hue and saturation are the two pixel values that determine what gets selected with infinity color masks. Things that would be impossible to select based on brightness are sometimes very easy to select based on color. As with luminosity and zone masks, color masks also offer specific mask controls for choosing the hue range, mask brightness, and color feathering. And, of course, the MODIFY section can again be used to make even more precise masks. The one caveat when choosing to use infinity color masks is to make sure the colors are colorful. Unsaturated colors can still be selected, but the masks will be quite dark, even in the selected pixels. Saturated colors definitely produce brighter masks.

The big takeaway in Dave’s latest videos is that there is no preset way to use luminosity, zone, and color masks. The characteristics of the image will determine the best place to start, but the panel’s ability to quickly adjust and modify the initial mask also plays an important role in generating the best mask for a desired adjustment. Some experimentation may be necessary, but with a little practice, it’s easy to generate a targeted, perfectly-feather mask with just a few mouse clicks. I think you’ll enjoy Dave’s latest videos. Be sure give them a thumbs-up and consider subscribing to his YouTube channel to get the latest updates.

V5 Quick Tip #4: Off-Center Midtone Masks

Sean Bagshaw’s newest TKActions V5 Quick Tip looks at off-center midtone masks, also referred to as Zone masks. These are some of my favorite luminosity masks. The standard Lights and Darks masks always include either the lightest lights or the darkest darks, and using them can sometimes gray-down the whites or gray-up the blacks. Zone masks effectively eliminate the blacks and whites from the mask and thereby allow midtone values to be adjusted independently. Zones 2-1/2 and Zone 7-1/2 are a couple masks I often try. Zone 2-1/2 for adjusting the dark midtones and Zone 7-1/2 for the light midtones. However, the V5 panel includes presets for 21 different Zone masks, so there are lots of options. Zone masks can also be modified to make them more or less inclusive using the V5’s modification buttons. The V5 panel makes it easy to quickly craft a Zone mask and to put it work

Sean’s new video tip covers choosing the right mask, modifying it, and then painting it to make it just right for a particular image. If you’ve not experimented with Zone masks, I’m sure this video will provide incentive to try. With a little practice, Zone masks can be extremely helpful when developing images in Photoshop.

V5 Quick Tip #4: Off-Center Midtone Masks
V5 Quick Tip #3: Luminosity Mask Basics and the V5 Intro Module
V5 Quick Tip #2: Modifying Masks
V5 Quick Tip #1: Basic Luminosity Mask Tasks

TKActions V5 panel

Zone Masks

zone mask panel

I recently added “zone masks” to the custom actions panel using the buttons shown at the right. I’m starting to find them quite helpful in developing images and thought I’d offer a more in-depth discussion for people not familiar with them.

The original luminosity masks tutorial describes how to create a series of light and dark selections based on an image’s tonal values. While these selections are a handy way to target tones for adjustment, the primary masks are not the only tonal selections possible using these techniques. In fact, once the initial masks are generated, a whole new level of tonal selection becomes accessible.

Some of the most useful secondary selections are off-center midtones created by subtracting one selection from another. The Magic Midtones tutorial describes how to do this. It’s also discussed in the Questions and Answers About Luminosity Masks tutorial. Basically, the process involves first creating a tonal selection and then subtracting another tonal selection with fewer selected pixels from it. Generally this is done using masks on the Channels panel. Ctrl-click (Mac: Command-click) loads the first mask as a selection and then Ctrl+Alt-click (Mac: Command+Opt-click) on a second mask subtracts the second mask’s selection from the first.

The new selection is midtone-like. It is not anchored to either the light or dark tones in the image the way the Lights- and Darks-series masks are anchored to one end of the tonal spectrum. Instead, the selection tapers into both lighter AND darker tones surrounding the desired selected tones. In addition to insuring excellent blending into the surrounding tones, this dual-tapering also makes it easier to control image contrast. For subtracted masks in the light tones, the lightest tones are subtracted off and won’t “gray down” significantly with a darkening adjustment. For subtracted masks in the dark tones, the darkest values are subtracted off and won’t “gray up” as much when being lightened. By using subtracted masks for adjustments instead of the primary luminosity masks, the darkest darks and lightest lights can be better maintained so that overall image contrast is preserved.

Below is an image of a black-to-white gradient with the selection edges showing a subtracted selection of the Light Lights minus Super Lights. The red in the image shows the tapering effect into both the lighter and darker tones. Notice how the very lightest tones are excluded from the selection and the taper because the Super Lights were subtracted off.

zone mask panel

With the primary masks (five Lights-series masks and five Darks-series) there are many possible secondary subtracted masks. Robert Fisher took some of the possibilities and organized them in to what he calls The Digital Zone System, and published a book by this title in December 2012. He connected specific subtracted masks with the zones of Ansel Adams’ zone system for black and white photography. While there are notable differences between the two that I discuss on page 18 in this PDF, having a defined spectrum of subtracted masks can make it easier to decide which one to choose for a specific adjustment.

Scrambled Egg

The table below describes the different zone masks/selections (DESCRIPTION column) and how they are created using the primary luminosity masks (METHOD column). The image above is used create the the zone masks. The the black and white images in the table show red in areas that correspond to the pixels selected by the mask. This helps visualize what parts of the image will be affected by adjustments through the corresponding mask.

ZONE DESCRIPTION METHOD ZONE MASK IMAGE
0 Total black in print Ultra Darks selection Zone 0 mask Zone 0 view
1 Tonality above black, no texture Super Darks minus Ultra Darks Zone 1 mask Zone 1 view
2 Very dark tones, first hint of texture Shadow Darks minus Super Darks Zone 2 mask Zone 2 view
3 Dark tones, adequate texture Dark Darks minus Shadow Darks Zone 3 mask Zone 3 view
4 Dark midtones, excellent texture Darks minus Dark Darks Zone 4 mask Zone 4 view
5 Tonal midpoint, excellent texture Basic Midtones selection Zone 5 mask Zone 5 view
6 Light midtones, excellent texture Lights minus Light Lights Zone 6 mask Zone 6 view
7 Light tones, adequate texture Light Lights minus Bright Lights Zone 7 mask Zone 7 view
8 Very light tones, minimal texture Bright Lights minus Super Lights Zone 8 mask Zone 8 view
9 Tonality just below white, no texture Super Lights minus Ultra Lights Zone 9 mask Zone 9 view
10 Pure white in print Ultra Lights selection Zone 10 mask Zone 10 view

As the above table shows, zone masks are for the most part subtracted masks made by subtracting adjacent luminosity masks in the Lights- and Darks-series. They are a group of narrow-range luminosity masks and a subset of the larger collection of possible subtracted masks. With all of them, except zones 0 and 10, no pixels are more than 50% selected, so there will be no selection edges (marching ants) when these selections are active. However, like other luminosity masks with no selection edges (the Basic Midtones, for example), the selections are still accurate for the tones they’re meant to select and will guide adjustments or brushstrokes appropriately. Plus, despite the multiple pixel manipulations needed to create them, adjustments through these selections naturally and perfectly blend into the rest of the image. (NOTE: Because there are no marching ants with zone selections, the new “View” buttons on the custom panel can be beneficial to see what has been selected.)

I hope you’ll give zone masks a try. They offer a unique, flexible, and effective way to control brightness and contrast in an image. Zone masks are a good place to start understanding subtracted masks since the zones provide a practical method for deciding which subtracted mask to choose. I’m finding zones 1, 2, and 3 in the Shadows and zones 7, 8, and 9 in the Highlights especially helpful in my own photos. These particular masks allow me to target tone zones that often make a difference.