You resort to Luminosity Masks in Photoshop (selective adjustments) when you need to change only a particular area of the photo. A Luminosity Mask lets you alter color and contrast, do digital blending, dodging & burning selectively, as well as make an accurate hard line selection.
Making these Luminosity Masks can be a time-consuming and challenging process, but the effect you get is worth it. Learn how to use Luminosity Masks in Photoshop fast and easy.
Luminosity Masks in Photoshop are selections with a tonal basis that allow you to affect only certain part of the photo. These selections are “programmed” at changing only darks, mid-tones and brights, so only these parameters are subjects to altering.
Photoshop doesn’t come with default Luminosity Masks, so you need to create them yourself by making selections according to the RGB channels.
Luminosity masking in Photoshop implies building an alpha channel of the selection, which works by analogy to Layer Masks.
Black = concealed
Grey = ascribes layers different amount of transparency based on how much grey is on the photo
White = reveals
A layer mask influences only the layer below.
Luminosity Masks in Photoshop don’t function as tools that directly influence a photo. They are more like channels through which changes are made. This refers to all sorts of adjustments (color balance, curves, various plug-ins, etc.)
In general, I mean the brightness of pixels. Every photo consists of pixels. Their number may reach million and even more. The luminosity value of a pixel ranges from 0% to 100%. The higher this value is, the brighter the picture you get.
Luminosity Masks may be subdivided into 3 groups: Darks (Shadows), Midtones and Brights (Highlights). You may find several methods of how to make these selections, but I will describe the fastest options. Download Photoshop if you don’t have it, open your photo, and follow the instructions below.
Hold Ctrl/Cmd + the RGB thumbnail (you can find it in the Channels Tab). You will now see marching ants appear around certain areas in your photo.
Click Ctrl/Ctm + Shift + I or go to Select – Inverse to carry the action out.
The marching ants should be active! Save the selection as a new channel, so that you’ll be able to use it or even improve later. Click the Save selection channel icon or go to “Select – Save Selection”. Now, it is called “Alpha 1”.
Double click the name and change it to “Shadows”.
Click Ctrl/Cmd + D. Done. Now you will see this layer in the Channels panel.
Hold Ctrl/Cmd and the RGB thumbnail simultaneously. You will see the marching ants around the light parts in a picture
Save the selection. It is named “Alpha 1”. Rename the channel. It should be called “Highlights”.
Click Ctrl/Cmd + D. That’s it. You will now see the layer appear in the Channels panel.
Select the whole photo by clicking Ctrl/Cmd + A. To subtract lights click Ctrl/Cmd + Option/Alt + click on the “Brights” channel’s thumbnail. To subtract darks click Ctrl/Cmd + Option/Alt + click on the “Darks” channel’s thumbnail.
Save selection. Give the channel a new name – “Midtones”.
Luminosity masks have been created. To use them, simply hold down the Ctrl/Cmd key and click on the desired layer.
While mastering Luminosity Masks, at some point you will think about possible ways to refine them and get even more flexibility while tweaking certain parts of an image.
For instance, if you need to refine the Darks selection, do the following:
The new selection you get, namely the one called “Darks 2”, represents a narrower range of shadows. If you want to work with a very specific area of a photo, repeat the steps described in this section and create the Luminosity Mask named Darks 3/4/5, etc. The number of such channels is related to the level of precision you want to achieve.
The results of using Luminosity Masks can be truly stunning. However, remember that by simply creating Masks, you don’t really change your photo. It serves as a “courier” for any adjustments applied. So, how should you use Luminosity Masks? The variants are numerous. I have enumerated the most popular methods/techniques of using these channels:
Don’t be afraid to click on various masks and play around with diverse adjustments. Only in such a way you can master Luminosity Masks in Photoshop and achieve the desired result.
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