How To Create Luminosity Masks

How To Create Luminosity Masks Title Image

Traditionally luminosity masks were created by making selections through your channels. The process for creating the masks can be cumbersome so actions were made to make the process easier. As the uses and power of the masks became more understood, the complexity in the masks that could be created expanded. At the same time a greater understanding of the bit depth of masks started to be discussed (8-bit vs 16-bit). As a result, new methods, other than channels, to create luminosity masks started to be explored.

Today there are two popular methods of creating luminosity masks on the market. Masks are created through calculations, and directly from the image with layers, both of which are 16-bit. They each have their advantages & disadvantages, and both methods are built into ADP Pro tools, so you don’t have to choose. In this article, we will discuss how to create luminosity masks using ADP Pro tools and why you’d choose one method over another.

Create Luminosity Masks Using Channels (Legacy Method for Mask Creation)

Channel masks are a legacy method of mask creation, but are still an effective way of creating luminosity masks. These masks are available in ADP Pro as a legacy tool, but are not the method used to create luminosity masks in our panel. You can also watch a short video, to the right, that shows how all of this is done.

Creating Lights Luminosity Masks

Step 1: Press “Cmd” and left click on the RGB Channel, marching ants will appear on the image

Step 2: Click the “Save Selection” button at the bottom of the Channels Palete, and rename the layer to Lights 1

To then create a lights 2 through 6 follow these steps:

1: Press “Cmd” and left click on the Lights 1 Channel.

2: Press “Cmd + Opt + Shift” and left click on the Lights 1 Channel.

3: Click the “Save Selection” button at the bottom of the Channels Palete, and rename the layer to Lights 2

Repeat this process until you have created all of the luminosity masks you desire.

Creating Darks Luminosity Masks

1: Press “Cmd” and left click on the RGB Channel, marching ants will appear on the image.

2: Press “Shift + Cmd + I” to invert your selection, or go to Select > Inverse

3: Click the “Save Selection button at the bottom of the Channels Palete, and rename the layer to Darks 1

To then create Darks 2 through 6, follow the same steps as you do in the Lights, except using the Darks masks.

Creating Midtone Luminosity Masks

1: Create the lights and the darks luminosity masks.

2: Press “Cmd + A”, this will select your entire image.

3: Click “Cmd + Opt + Shift” and click on Lights 1 , this will remove the Lights 1 mask from your selection.

4: Press “Cmd + Opt + Shift” and click on Darks 1, this will remove the Darks 1 mask from your selection.

5: Click the “Save Selection” Button at the bottom of the Channels Palete, and rename the layer to Midtones 1

Repeat this process using Light & Darks 2 through 6 to create all of the Midtone masks.

Quick Tip: Once you have created a Lights 1 or Darks 1 mask, you can restrict that selection by applying a levels adjustment to the mask. Select the layer that you want to adjust without loading it as a selection, then press “Cmd + L”. This will bring up a levels adjustment. You can now slide the middle slider on the levels adjustment to create an infinite number of masks.

How To Create Luminosity Mask Selections
Saving Luminosity Mask Selections

Video: Create Channel Luminosity Masks

Create Luminosity Masks With Layers in ADP Pro

Creating Luminosity Masks with Layers is one of the most powerful methods of mask creation. This method of mask creation uses layers to create the luminosity selection. As a result, there is a major advantage, we can now use colours within the image to manipulate the mask. In this section, we will describe how to create luminosity masks with layers using ADP Pro.

In the first image shown to the right, the area highlighted in red represents the buttons on the main panel, that will open up the Luminosity Masks with Layers panel. Choosing any of these buttons, will create the initial mask, and then give you all the editing tools and choices to use the mask.

In this section, we are going to cover the Darks, Lights, Midtones and Colour Channels. We cover the Restricted, Expanded and Heat Map in a separate article, that can be found in the “Create Zone System Luminosity Masks Section“.

Creating Luminosity Masks Using Layers

From the main panel, you can make any luminosity selection, the mask and adjustment layers will be created, and the Luminosity Masks With Layers panel will open. Once you are in this panel you can cycle through all of the available masks, very quickly. Included in your options are 5 Darks, 5 Lights, 4 Midtones, 11 Restricted Zone, and 5 Expanded Zone masks. All of these masks can be final or just a starting point for further adjustment.

Another set of buttons you’re going to find in this section are the colour masks. What these buttons do is restrict your selection to these colour channels. This means you can more accurately target specific areas in your image by eliminating colour channels. These are particularly useful if you’re finding it difficult to find the mask that targets your desired area.

Select Your Mask > Adjust Your Mask > Choose How To Use

Our Luminosity Masks panels have been created with a top down approach. At the top, you are choosing your starting point, or the mask that you want to work with. In the next section, you are modifying your mask. In the last section, you’re choosing how you want to use the mask.

At any point, if you decide you no longer want to create a luminosity mask, or you want to use another method, press the close button at the top right of the panel and you’ll be taken back to the main panel.

Adjusting Luminosity Masks Using Layers

The options available to modify the mask to perfectly suit your needs are extensive, but simple to use. There are two areas that you can use to modify your masks. You can modify your mask directly from the panel itself, using the “Adjust Your Mask” section. In the layers palette, you will also find three adjustment layers that can be used to modify your mask.

Adjust Your Mask Section of The Panel

Restrict & Expand Tonal Range: Without using the adjustment layers you can restrict or expand the tonal range in the image by 5% or 10% at a time. These are the first 4 buttons in this section of the panel.

Darken Darks & Lighten Lights: Here you can make the darker areas of your image darker by shifting the black point. You can also lighten the light areas of the mask by shifting the white point. This is done with the dark black and bright white arrows.

Dodge & Burn: This is a new and completely unique tool that has been added. One of the shortfalls of creating luminosity masks with layers is the ability to dodge & burn. Dodging is meant for the highlights, and used to make your light areas lighter. Burning is meant to darken the shadows. When you choose one, a new layer will be created. Then using a white brush, you paint on the black mask to lighten or darken the luminosity mask.

White & Black Paint: This is another completely new concept to Luminosity Masks With Layers. Choosing one of these will create another new layer, allowing you to paint white or black directly on the mask itself.

Adjustment Options in Layers 

When you create luminosity masks using layers, you are given three adjustment layers. These layers can be used to modify your mask, giving you incredible control over your mask. Using these tools is also completely non-destructive. If you want to undo any adjustment you’ve made it’s available to you.

Levels Mask Creation: With this adjustment layer you can restrict of expand your selection by sliding the midtone slider. This means you only need Lights 1 to create any mask you desire. You can also shift the black point to darken your darks and the white point to lighten your whites.

Curves MC: Similar to the levels adjustment, we can restrict or expand our selection with a curves adjustment. This tool gives us further control, by allowing us to target specific tones in our mask, giving us finer adjustment options.

B&W Mask Creation: This adjustment layer is what makes this method of mask creation stand out against using calculations. With this adjustment layer, we can modify the way colours appear in our masks, giving us ultimate control to create luminosity masks.

Using Your Luminosity Mask

Continuing on from the many ways we have to create luminosity masks, we now have many options for how we can use them. Built into the bottom section of the Luminosity With Layers panel, are the options to choose how you’re going to use the mask, including:

Dodge & Burn: This is a powerful method of using luminosity masks. This allows you to control the tonal values that will be affected. You have three different options for Dodging or Burning as well. You can dodge and burn on a transparent layer, which also means you can dodge or burn using colour. A middle grey layer is also available, which gives you a better visual of what is being lightened or darkened. The last method is with curves, allowing you to lighten or darken without affecting colour.

Adjustment Layers: The 10 most commonly used adjustment layers used with luminosity masks are included. Choosing any of the adjustment layers will create an adjustment layer with the luminosity mask already applied.

B&W Image: This will actually convert your luminosity mask into a black & white image, on its own image layer.

B&W Image With Layers: This will maintain all of the layers used to create your luminosity selection. This gives you the ability to modify your B&W adjustments at any time.

Selection: This will load your mask as a selection to be used how over you like.

How To Create Luminosity Masks With Layers
How to Adjust Luminosity Mask Selections
Choose how to use your luminosity mask

Create Luminosity Masks With Quick Masks (Calculations) in ADP Pro

Using calculations is another popular method to create luminosity masks in Photoshop. Unlike Luminosity Masks With Layers, you will not get a set of layers to work with. These 16-bit masks are stored in the background, but are adjusted using all the adjustment options available.

The functionality in Quick Masks is almost identical to that with layers with a couple of exceptions. The differences in the functionality of Quick Masks compared to Luminosity with Layers are detailed below. All of the other functions are the same, and to see those details, you can read them above in the Luminosity With Layers section.

Creating Luminosity Masks Using Quick Masks

When you click on the Quick Mask button from the main panel the Quick Mask Luminosity Masks Panel will open. This panel opens initially with a Lights 1 selection already made. All of your selections and adjustments of your mask are now going to be done from within the panel itself, there are no layers created with this method. 

The key differences with this panel are: 

  •  The Restricted zones have 19 zones instead of 11. See the Create Zone System Luminosity Masks section for more details.
  • When you choose the colour channels, they will automatically revert to a Lights 1 selection of each channel. Unlike with layers, you will always be reverted back to Lights 1. This means that if you want to use colour channels, you must make your colour channel selection before modifying your mask. 

Adjusting Luminosity Masks Using Quick Masks

In the Adjust Your Mask section you will see a few differences, and they are:

  • The dodging and burning tools here are much more powerful than they are with layers. They utilise the dodging and burning tools built into Photoshop, and allow much finer control in the modification to your masks.
  • You no longer have the ability to use colour to adjust your mask. This option is not available with this method to create luminosity masks.
  • Layers are no longer available, but you can still use Curves & Levels to adjust your mask. On top of that brightness & contrast has also been added as an adjustment. Selecting any of these will bring up the adjustment window so you can make modifications.
  • A blur tool has been added if you want to soften the edges of your selection. Our preference is to use the feather slider on the mask properties itself, but this is also an effective method for feathering.
  • The refine tool is used for very fine adjustments in the lights, midtones and darks of your luminosity mask.
  • You can also invert your mask. This can come in handy when you’ve created a mask and realise you have actually created the opposite selection.

Using Your Quick Mask Luminosity Mask

The options for using your luminosity masks are exactly the same as they are in Luminosity with layers, with only one exception. Layers are not created with this method, so the option to create a black and white image with layers is not available.

Our next article in the luminosity mask series is all about the zone system. This is a powerful method of tonal control in your images, allowing you much visual control over directing light.

How To Create Luminosity Masks With Quick Masks