Create An Infinite Number Of Luminosity Masks


Blog-Title-ImageIn the past we would create Luminosity Masks by creating an initial selection then through the use of calculations or a few clicks of the keyboard reduce that selection by 50% (i.e. Lights 1 – Lights 2). Then for each subsequent reduction we would repeat the process. This would give us about 5 to 6 useful masks. This tutorial covers a technique which means we are only having to create our initial mask, then using a levels adjustment we can restrict our masks and no longer be limited to 50% reductions, instead being able to create an infinite number of variations to our masks. 

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The video tutorial below shows the technique of using levels adjustments to refine your Luminosity Masks in detail. I have also followed that up below with some written information on the technique. 

In the example below and the video I want to create a mask that targets the trees on the right of the image as well as some of the darker areas and the trees on the left of the image. Previously I would have selected one of the darks masks and then checked if it was an appropriate Luminosity Mask to do the job. Now I can create a darks one mask and refine that selection until it’s only targeting the areas that I am interested in. 


The image on the left above is a finished image, but I’d like to pull a little more detail out of the shadows in the trees. Creating a luminosity mask based on this image would be difficult do because of the balanced tones throughout the image. So instead of creating the Luminosity Mask based not he finished image I go back to the image on the right which was exposed for the shadow areas and blowing out the highlights, making it much easier to make selections. 

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 4.20.45 pmOpening the luminosity panel with the image on the right shown on the screen and other layers hidden I select the Darks 1- Luminosity Mask which selects all of the tones from middle grey to pure black in the image. 

Once the selection has been loaded I simply the type of adjustment layer that I want to work with. In this case I will be working with a curves adjustment layer. 



The steps I go through to make my adjustments are:

1. Select the starting Luminosity Mask that you want to make your refinement, typically that would be a Lights 1, Darks 1 or one of the Colour Luminosity Masks (1). You don’t have to start from 1, but this gives you the option to create any mask. 

2. Create an adjustment layer, this can be any adjustment that you desire to make, in the case of this tutorial I created a curves adjustment layer. 

3. Show the luminosity mask, to do this you simply hold Alt (PC) or Option (Mac) and left click on the mask. This will bring up the mask on the screen. 

4. Open a levels adjustment. Note this is not a levels adjustment layer, which will not work. You need to go to Image > Adjustments > Levels….


 5. Using the mid-tones slider I start to slide it towards the right side to darken the mask until I have reached the targeted areas that I want to work with. (Shown circled in red in the image above)

6. I may slide the darks slider (left) to the right to darken the darks a little more, or slide the lights slider (right) to the left to make the white a little whiter. You want to do this sparingly, otherwise you will start to remove the seamless transitions in the luminosity masks. 


7. Once you have completed making the adjustments to your mask simply press ok to complete the changes. Your mask will now be modified to your liking. 

You can now make your adjustments. If you find that it has still selected to much of the image you can either paint black into the mask in the areas that you don’t want effected, or mask your mask (this technique is shown in the video above). 

Now taking complete control over your luminosity masks is in your hands, you are no longer limited to only the masks that are provided in the actions or panels that you have purchased. 


This entry was posted in Luminosity Masks, Post Processing, Tutorials.


  1. Thonord September 22, 2016 at 6:20 pm #

    I am forever grateful for your “Unlimited Luminosity mask”.
    I’m pushing 70 and have been struggling to fathom 18 different masks.
    A single mask creation technique, with real time feedback is exactly what I needed.

    And not only that! The -, as we say in Norway, “Raisin in the Sausage” *. Your explanatory video on tonal values – a paragon of lucidity!

    Thank you.

    * Trust me, it’s a compliment.

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