How to Transform Your Images with Photoshop Luminosity Masks

 

If you always wanted to start working with Photoshop Luminosity Masks (LM) but felt overwhelmed - watch this short playlist of 3 videos. You will quickly learn:

 

  • what LM are
  • how to use them in your workflow
  • what are the benefits of working with LM
  • how to perform advanced Photoshop adjustments with LM
  • how to create a set of LM in a manual way in Photoshop

 

 

In the 3rd video I will explain step by step how to create a complete set of LM in manual way. This video is for those of you who are curious and want to deep dive & have a throughout understanding of the LM technique. To introduce LM into your photo editing workflow you don't have to create LM manually - the process can be automated with action - in a single click Photoshop will create all the masks for you.

 


TRANSCRIPT

VIDEO 1/3: Luminosity Masks in Photoshop - Introduction

In this course we will take a deep dive into luminosity masking in Photoshop. You will learn how to create precise and refined selections to enhance your images in a seamless way with the highest level of control. The concept of luminosity masking is simply another way of creating soft edged, pixel perfect selections with seamless tonal transitions. Photoshop is known for its complexity. There are always many ways to perform exactly the same adjustment. So in my opinion the clever way to learn Photoshop is to focus on its most powerful tools. This will offer great flexibility and widest range of image enhancements. If you want to master photo editing one of the techniques you must know is luminosity masking. Photoshop luminosity masks when combined with curves, can truly transform your work with a few simple steps. Luminosity masks often scare people away since they are quite difficult to create in a manual way. The great news is that the process of creating luminosity masks can be automated with Photoshop actions. So with a single click, we can produce a complete set of luminosity masks ready to be transformed into extremely precise selections.

The single operation of automating luminosity masks creation is a massive time saver. Once we have a complete set of luminosity masks at hand, we can use them to perform multiple advance adjustments. With luminosity masks we can enhance luminosity so we can adjust brightness and contrast in our images. We can adjust vibrance. We can target color balance. With luminosity masks we can as well work on hue and saturation in our photos and we can use luminosity mask as well to perform targeted sharpness adjustments. Since the luminosity masks are based on specific tonal ranges in an image, masks based on them are pixel perfect. That level of precision is simply not possible to obtain with any basic selection tool in Photoshop. Moreover, luminosity masks can be further fine tuned and modified exactly as any other Photoshop layer masks. Let's now move over to the next clip and let's discuss RGB channels, which are very strictly linked to the concept of luminosity masking. It's important for you to understand the connection to perform the luminosity masking technique. See you in the next video.

 

VIDEO 2/3:The Benefits of Luminosity Masking in Photo Editing Workflow with Photoshop

Luminosity masks are commonly used in landscape editing workflow. They are extremely efficient when enhancing complex dynamics scenes where smooth transitions are the basis of compelling final artwork.

Since they enable to create highly precise smooth edge selections, we can implement luminosity masking to any image editing, including portraiture.

There is really a massive potential for luminosity masking application in portraiture. When it comes only to luminosity adjustments, you could use them to create a greater sense of depth and volume to the image.

You can perform targeted dodging and burning adjustments on specific areas in the image. So for example, in this portrait I have treated eyes and hair of the model in a quite dramatic way. So let me just quickly jump to the layers panel and I just want to show you how the image looked like before applying the adjustments based on luminosity masks and that's my final result.

So with a great success, I have used the luminosity masks here to perform dodging and burning. Next, luminosity masks can be used to smoothen the skin and to brighten dark areas in the image. With luminosity masks we can introduce contrast in a  targeted way.

We can as well accentuate or brighten, in other words, crucial elements of the image. On the contrary, with luminosity masks we can as well mute or darken distracting elements in a photo. Luminosity masks are extremely helpful to increase tonal distinction between subject and background, and with luminosity masks we can enhance textures.

So beside the adjustments, that I have just mentioned, that deal with brightness and darkness values in the image, luminosity masks can be used with a great results to color grading. Selections based on specific luminosity ranges allow to inject specific colors into the artwork in a very effective, harmonious way.

So now we are looking at the final result, let me just open the folder edit, and if I switch off this folder where I have all the adjustment layers based on luminosity masks. If I switch it off we can see that this is the image before the color work and this is the effect I have achieved after when I have completed the color grading of this image.

It would be simply extremely difficult to perform such a precise and seamless adjustments without the support of luminosity masks.

Okay, so let's now have a quick look and I'm going to show you all the steps that we'll perform in the next videos to get to the final result.

So this is the finished edit and let's just jump to the initial stage. By hitting ALT key and clicking on this little eye icon, I'm switching off all the layers, all my adjustments that I have performed and this is the original image, the starting point that I have exported from the Adobe Camera Raw .

So this is the starting point. Next I have performed a little bit of dodging and burning and clean up to smoothen up the skin.

Next I was working on luminosity adjustments. Let’s just switch on this folder, and this is my stage after applying luminosity adjustments with luminosity masks. Next I was working on colors, so this is my color work on this image. Then I applied a little bit of final touches. I have polished the image. I have added a vignette. I have added a matt effect, and I have warmed up a little bit of the image.

So starting from this place, this is our original image, we are going to walk towards this final result. So let's move over to the next video and let's start the hands-on editing process.

See you in the next clip.

 

VIDEO 3/3:Photoshop Tutorial Create Set of Luminosity Masks - Manual Method

This video is for all of you who are really curious, and who want to understand how to create the full set of Luminosity masks manually. I want to make it clear that you don't have to create those masks manually, you can use the action provided with the course.

So you can fully automate the process. However, if you are really curious, and you want to know how these masks were created, you can do this manually. Follow me along, and let's start creating the Luminosity masks by hand, manually, step by step.

During the process I will be using multiple keyboard shortcuts. Please check the PDF provided with the course, where you have all the keyboard shortcuts listed. It will be much easier for you to use it as a reference.

Okay, so let's move over and let's start the manual process of creating Luminosity masks. We are going to create seven masks for lights, seven masks for shadows, and three or maybe four masks for mid tones. Let's actually start by creating the highlight masks. Let's move over to the channels panel, remember if you can't see the channels panel here, move over to the Photoshop menu bar and from Window, simple select Channels.

So let's move over to the channel's panel, and in the channel's panel command + click if you are on a Mac, or control + click if you are on a PC. So command + click on the RGB channel thumbnail. That way I have created a selection based on the RGB channel. We have the marching ants visible here, they indicate the selection. To save this selection simply click on the mask icon. I'm just going to pull my panel slightly upwards, so you can see what I am doing. So now let's click on the mask icon and let's rename our first Luminosity mask to Lights 1.

As you can see this is very general mask, it includes wide range of tones. To make more precise selections to narrow down the range we will intersect the mask. Don't deselect, leave the marching ants as they are. To intersect the mask use the keyboard shortcut shift + option + command + click on the Lights 1 channel.

If you are on a Mac it is shift + option + command, if you are on a PC it is shift + option + coNTROL + CLICK. So I am hitting shift + option + command, clicking on the Lights 1 channel, and now I have changed the selection. We can see that the marching ants look slightly different, so that way I have modified the selection. I have intersected the mask and let's again click on the icon that represents the mask, so now I have to rename this mask to Lights 2.

Okay, so that way we have created the second Luminosity mask for lights. Now we are going to simply repeat the process that way we will be narrowing the selection. Don't deselect, leave the marching ants as they are, and let's hit again shift + option + coMMAND if you are on a Mac, and CLICK now on Lights 2. As you can see I have modified the marching ants again, so on a Mac it will be always shift + option + command + click, if you are on a PC it is shift + option + coNTROL + click. Now let's move over and let's click again on the icon that is creating new mask and let's just rename this layer to Lights 3.

Let's repeat this operation. Don't deselect and let's hit shift + option + command + click on Lights 3. If you are a PC: shift + option + coNTROL + click on  Lights 3. Now again, let's move over to the channel's panel and let's click on the icon that way we have created another Luminosity mask, let's just rename it to  Lights 4. Let's repeat this operation. Don't deselect, shift + option + command + click on Lights 4 on a Mac, if you are on a PC it's shift + option + coNTROL + click on  Lights 4. Let's click on the icon. Let's create next Luminosity mask. Let's rename it to Lights 5.

Let's create two more for the lights and then we will start working on Luminosity masks for the shadow range. So let's continue repeating the operation: shift + option + command + click on Lights 5. Don't worry if the marching ants are not visible. Actually we can still see a little bit here.

So I have created the new selection. Let's now move over and click on the icon. I have created new Luminosity mask and let's rename it to Lights 6. Now let's create the last Luminosity mask for the lights. So shift + option + command + click on Lights 6. Don't worry about the warning. Photoshop is simply warning us that no pixels are more than 50% selected, however the mask will be created. The selection is not going to be visible, not going to be represented by the marching ants, however, don't worry the mask will be effective.

So I have created the selection. I have shift + option + command + clicked on Lights 6, so now it's time to click on the icon and that way I have created the last channel for the lights.

Let's rename it to Lights 7. As you can see, I have narrowed down the initial first Luminosity mask, the very generic mask Lights 1, by intersecting the mask with itself. By intersecting the channel with itself I kept narrowing down the selection for lights.

So the bright area indicates the pixels that will be selected in the final image, that will be included in the mask, that will be visible when we apply adjustment. And the dark areas will be simply concealed.

Okay so let's now move over and let's create set of seven Luminosity masks for darks or shadows.

So to create the first level of darks, command + click on the Lights 1 channel. If you are on a Mac it is command + click. If you are on a PC it will be coNTROL + click. So, command + click on the Lights 1 channel. Now let's move over to the Photoshop menu bar and now let's pick Select and next Inverse. If you would like to use the keyboard shortcut you can go for SHIFT + COMMAND + I on a Mac or SHIFT + CONTROL + I if you are on a PC.

Next let's save the inverted selection by clicking on the mask icon in the channels panel. So let's click on the icon and let's scroll up. So this will be the first level of our darks channel. Let's rename it to Darks 1. Now we are going to intersect the Darks 1 channel to narrow down the selection. The process is the same as in case of creating the Luminosity masks for lights. So having the Darks 1 selection loaded, don't deselect. shift + option + command + click on the Darks 1 and now let's move over, click, on the icon at the bottom of the panel, and let's rename this next channel to Darks 2.

Let's quickly repeat the operation. So having the marching ants visible, don't deselect. Let's go again and let's hit shift + option + command + click on Darks 2 if you are on a Mac. If you are on a PC go for shift + ALT + coNTROL + click on Darks 2.

Now let's click on the mask icon, visible here, and that way I have created the third level of darks Luminosity mask. Let's just rename it to Darks 3. Let's repeat quickly this operation. So shift + option + command + click on Darks 3. Now hit the mask icon and let's rename to the Darks 4 level and let's repeat the operation again. shift + option + command + click on Darks 4, now the icon. That way we have created the Darks 5 Luminosity mask. And two more: shift + option + command + click on Darks 5. This is the same warning as we had when we were working on lights level. Don't worry about this, simply let's confirm.

Now let's hit on the icon that represents mask and I have created the next Luminosity mask for darks. Let's just rename it to Darks 6 and let's create the last one. The last Luminosity mask for darks: shift + option + command + click on Darks 6. Let's ignore again the warning and let's click on the mask icon. Let's rename the last Luminosity mask for darks to Darks 7. So at this point we have set of Luminosity masks for lights. We have seven masks for lights and we have seven masks for darks.

So now let's quickly create mid tones masks. Mid tones are the range of tones between dark shadows and bright highlights. So to create the first level of mid tones Luminosity masks, let's scroll all the way to the very top of our channels stack. So click on the RGB channel and next hit COMMAND + A if you are on a Mac, to select everything, or CONTROL + A if you are on a PC. So now we are going to subtract from this selection that contains everything: lights and shadows, and we will be left only with mid tones. That way we’ll create the first level of mid tones Luminosity mask. Having selected the RGB, let's now go for option + command + click on Lights 1. I'm on a Mac if you are on a PC, go for ALT + CONTROL + click on Lights 1.

So that way we have subtracted the selection Lights 1 from our full selection on RGB. Next step we need to subtract Darks 1. So let's scroll down, here we have our Darks 1. Again, I am hitting option + command + click on Darks 1. I am on a Mac. Let's confirm okay. If you are on a PC, go for ALT + CONTROL + click on Darks 1. So that way we have subtracted the channels Lights 1 and Darks 1 from our selection.

Let's now move over, let's move down to the channels panel and let's click on the mask icon. So that way we will be creating a new channel for our selection.

This is the new channel we have created and this is our mid tones first level. So I'm just going to rename it quickly to M1. We are going to repeat this steps to create further levels for our mid tones. So again, let's get back to our RGB channel. Let's click on the RGB. Let's hit COMMAND + A on the Mac or CONTROL + A on a PC. So that way we have the full selection on our RGB channel. Next we have to subtract the Lights and Darks at level two.

So I'm going for option + command + click on Lights 2. Now let's move down and I'm going again for option + command + click on Darks 2. Now I'm just hitting on the mask icon and that way I have created another channel, and this will be my channel for mid tones 2.

So as you remember, I am on a Mac, I am working with OPTION and COMMAND. If you are on a PC, simply go for ALT + CONTROL and click on the needed channel. Let's now create another level of the mid tones. These steps are quite simple. We are now repeating all the operations that we performed before, simply going down with another level either lights or darks. So, so far we have created mid tones level 1. Let's deselect: I am hitting COMMAND + D on a Mac. If you are on a PC go for CONTROL + D.

So this is our channel for mid tones 1. This is our selection for mid tones, and this is our channel for mid tones 2. Let's now repeat those steps and let's create the last channel for mid tones on the level 3.

So again, I'm hitting on the RGB channel, and I want to create the full selection of the channel here. So I'm going for COMMAND + A on a Mac, CONTROL + A on a PC. Now to subtract the lights and shadows of level 3, I'm going for option + command + click on Lights 3 first. And again: option + command + click on Darks 3.

Now let's scroll down and let's hit here on the icon representing mask. That way I have created the third channel for our mid tones.

If you want to create more channels for mid tones, simply repeat these steps and go with the next levels of lights and shadows. So you can, so far we have mid tones one, two, three. You can go and create further levels of channel for mid tones. So you can go for mid tones four, five, six, seven.

I don’t want to to repeat the steps here in the video, it’s already quite long. I'm sure that if you manage to get here, you will be able to produce further channels for mid tones by yourself. You will be simply repeating the steps we just performed by now.

Okay, so congratulations that way we have manually created the complete set of Luminosity masks. As you remember at the beginning, when we have loaded the image into Photoshop, we had only the first four default channels. So the component channel RGB and red, green, and blue separately, individually. Then we have created set of Luminosity masks for lights, seven Luminosity masks starting from Lights 1 through Lights 2 and so on, narrowing the selection of lights ending with Lights 7.

Next we have created the set of Luminosity masks for darks, starting with the widest selection of shadows in the Darks 1 channel going further, narrowing the selection up to Darks 7. In the end we have created the three Luminosity masks for our mid tones range.

So as I've mentioned before, you don't have to know how to create the Luminosity masks manually, you can simply download the action that is provided with this course. You can load the action and run this process in split of a second.

However, if you were curious and you wanted to know how to create all those masks manually, I hope that now you will be able to do this.

So this video was totally optional for all of you who are curious, and to give you the complete understanding of Luminosity masks creation process.

Okay, so having completed the manual process of creating Luminosity masks, we are ready to move over. See you in the next video.

 

 


I hope you find this class helpful and informative! Please subscribe to DAC Youtube channel to enjoy our other photo editing tutorials.

 


The playlist is part of the complete video course "Master Your Portraits with Luminosity Masks in Photoshop".

This online photo editing course will teach you how to enhance your photos in a seamless way, simply producing stunning images. Luminosity Masks allow to take a great level of control and to perform advanced adjustments fast. The course includes a free LM Action that generates full set of masks for you with a single click.

 

Kasia_Rome_Shiatsu

Hi, I'm Kasia! I’m a fine art photographer, artist, digital publisher and instructor. I have founded Digital Art Classes - online academy, where through range of photography courses I share my experience, the tools and techniques that help others create meaningful, compelling artwork. Welcome here. Read more

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