Create Bright & Vibrant Midtones

A midtone luminosity mask is a very powerful tool for editing your images. There are many different ways that they can be used. In this series of videos we’re going to explore the different ways that Midtone Masks can and get your images jumping off the screen.

In this tutorial, I show you how to use a Midtone Luminosity Mask to brighten your images, and add colour and vibrancy.

 

What a Midtone Luminosity Mask?

A Midtone Luminosity Mask is a mask that targets the middle tones in your image. Midtone masks eliminate the highlights and the shadows from the selection, allowing us to make adjustments without affecting those areas. They vary in strength from an M1 mask, which only uses a small amount of information in the midtones. The strongest selection is the M4 selection, which selects a very large range in the midtones.

Visually these masks don’t make a lot of sense. The best way to visualise Midtone Masks is to look at the histogram of tones selected. Below you will see a series of images, below each of the images you will see the Gradient Histogram. This shows the tones selected and the strength of that selection.

The gradient is very similar to looking at a histogram. The left side of the gradient represents the shadows, and the right side the highlights. The areas that are white, represent the areas that are being selected by the masks. So, in the case of the midtones, you are seeing a selection through the middle tones, with the highlights and shadows not being selected. The larger the number of the midtone selection, the stronger (whiter and wider through the midtones) the selection becomes.

From Left to Right: M1, M2, M3, M4

Midtone Luminosity Mask Examples
M2 Midtone Luminosity Mask
M3 Midtone Luminosity Mask
M4 Midtone Luminosity Mask

How is a Midtone Luminosity Mask Made?

A Midtone Luminosity Mask is made through a series of subtractions. To create the masks we are making a selection of the entire image, and subtracting away the areas that we don’t want included, as shown below:

M1: Select All, Subtract Lights 1, Subtract Darks 1
M2: Select All, Subtract Lights 2, Subtract Darks 2
M3: Select All, Subtract Lights 3, Subtract Darks 3
M4: Select All, Subtract Lights 4, Subtract Darks 4

By subtracting away the highlights and the shadows, we are left with a selection through only the middle tones. This allows us to make adjustments in the area of greatest impact in our image, without affecting highlights or shadows.

 

Techniques to Brighten and Make Your Midtones Vibrant

In this video, I use one technique on three images to brighten and increase the vibrancy in the images. When tones are lightened in an image, the colours in those areas are also lightened. Through lightening the colours they lose their vibrancy. The two-step technique below lifts the brightness of the midtones, but also increase the colour to bring life back to the image.

Midtone Curves Adjustment

Step 1: M3 Curves Adjustment for Brightness

  • Select an M3 Curves Adjustment gives you a large range in your midtones.
  • Create a Curves Adjustment Layer
  • Grab the middle of the curve and drag it up, until you’re happy with the brightness.

Note: if you find the dark areas getting to bright, pull the dark side back down just a little bit.

Midtone Vibrancy Adjustment

Step 2: M3 Vibrance Adjustment for Colour

  • Create a Vibrance adjustment layer.
  • Copy the M3 Mask from the curves layer, and hold Opt (Alt) left click and drag the mask onto the Vibrance layer.
  • Increase the Vibrance, don’t be shy, then add a little bit of saturation.

Note: The luminosity mask will control the area affected by the adjustment. The areas that were lightened the most will be effected the most, and is what you want.

You may find that there are areas of the image that you didn’t want to be affected, particularly around the perimeter of the image. If this is the case follow these steps:

  • Select both of the adjustment layers. To do this, being on one layer, hold your shift key and select the other adjustment layer.
  • With both layers selected go to the “Group” section of the panel and select “Group White Mask”. This will drop both of the layers into a group and place a white mask on the layer.
  • Using a black brush, at a lower opacity, at around 20-30%, start to paint away the areas you don’t want affected. Repeat the painting to remove more of the adjustment.

Your image should now have a lot more brightness, and the colours are still rich and vibrant without being oversaturated.

The next image in the series will be released soon. Come back to learn more ways of using Midtone masks to create dynamic punch in your images.