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TKActions panel



TKActions Panel

The TKActions panel is a custom panel that works in 32- and 64-bit versions of Photoshop CS5, CS6, and CC. It displays like other panels in Photoshop and makes it easy to play a large number of actions without having to scroll through various action sets on Photoshop's regular Actions panel. The buttons on the panel are linked to specific actions from the different tutorials that have been loaded onto the regular Actions panel. Clicking a button plays the corresponding action. (NOTE: This panel is an update to the original panel released in 2012. Full details on installing and using this new panel are in the  Instructions PDF . While the Instructions PDF is meant to be an all-inclusive guide for using the panel, many people also benefit from a more visual reference. To help meet this need, Sean Bagshaw has recorded a comprehensive set of videos that covers all aspects of installing and using the panel. Information on the videos can be found here.)

This custom panel is actually two tabbed subpanels—ACTIONS and BASIC + TP—as shown in the figures below. Clicking a tab brings up the actions on that subpanel and hides those on the other subpanel. There are also two versions of the panel−regular and mini. The regular-size panel works well on desktop computers that generally have bigger monitors. The mini panel has smaller buttons and less space between buttons so it's ideal for laptop computers and smaller screens. (NOTE: The Photoshop CC versions of the panel are shown below. The Photoshop CS5/CS6 version looks slightly different but has the same buttons, same layout, uses the same action sets, and works exactly the same. There is only a regular-sized version of the Photoshop CS5/CS6 panel as it generates scroll bars on smaller screens.)

TKActions panel            TKActionsMini panel

The "BASIC + TP" tab is a good place to start for photographers new to luminosity masks and Photoshop actions. Each button on this subpanel runs a single action that can be useful in developing an image. Buttons in the "Curves" column create a Curves adjustment layer with the designated luminosity mask in place as the layer mask. The "Levels" buttons create Levels adjustment layers with the listed mask in place as the layer mask. After the "Curves" and "Levels" actions finish running, it's necessary to go to Photoshop's Properties panel and actually make an adjustment for the adjustment layer. The "Channels" column buttons run actions that place the listed luminosity mask(s) on the Channels panel. After these actions finish running, check the Channels panel for the results.

The "TRIPLE PLAY" section of this tab has buttons to run actions for the triple play processes. The various "TRIPLE PLAY" actions affect either light or dark tones in the image. The entire Triple Play process is described in the Luminosity Mask Triple Play and Advanced Masking tutorial PDF that's included in the download folder.

The "ACTIONS" tab is a more advanced section of the panel. It introduces "progressive actions" into the workflow. This means that the result obtained by pressing one button on the panel becomes the starting point for an action called by pressing another button. This allows for an almost infinite combination of selections, layers, masks, and blending modes to be created, tried, and/or deleted. Instead of one button only doing one thing, many of the buttons in this section work sequentially WITH other buttons to quickly produce the desired effect. The various sections of the "ACTIONS" tab are briefly described below. Again, the  Instructions PDF  has complete information on using all the buttons in this section.

Creative Masking section Creative Masking—The "Creative Masking" section is meant to be a luminosity mask command center. It incorporates several ideas discussed in Sean Bagshaw's The Complete Guide to Luminosity Masks video series. For example, instead of limiting luminosity selections to just Lights, Darks, and Mid-tones where the composite RGB channel is the starting point, this section makes it possible to create luminosity selections based on color channels as well. And instead of limiting luminosity adjustments to Curves and Levels adjustment layers, several different types of useful adjustment layers can be generated in this section with the luminosity selection incorporated as the layer mask. Even blending mode changes, which are also very useful in making adjustments, can easily be applied using buttons in this section.

Zone Masks gif Zone Masks section Zone Masks— Zone masks are luminosity masks with very narrow tonal ranges created by subtracting one luminosity selection from another. The Digital Zone System by Robert Fisher discusses these masks in greater detail. Mask subtraction is an important technique described in The Magic Mid-tones and Questions and Answers about Luminosity Masks tutorials. The Digital Zone System takes certain subtracted masks and connects them with an 11-tone Zone System, a method made popular by Ansel Adams for controlling brightness and contrast in an image. The animated graphic at the left shows the colors and tones selected by the different zone masks. While zone masks and the Zone System have some differences, the narrow tonal range selections can be useful for making adjustments, and photographers familiar with the Zone System might find it practical to employ a "zone approach" in deciding which selection would work best to target specific tones.

Subtracted Masks section Subtracted Masks—Subtracted masks are made by subtracting a selection containing fewer selected pixels from one containing more selected pixels to create a new mid-tones-like selection that feathers into both lighter and darker tones surrounding the selection. These have long been one of my favorite ways to use luminosity masks since adjustments or painting through these subtracted selections generally maintains or improves contrast in the tones being adjusted. Examples of subtracted masks would be a Lights selection minus a Bright Lights selection, or a Dark Darks selection minus the Super Darks. In each case, the tones at the extreme end of the tonal gradient have been removed leaving a selection of off-center mid-tones. Subtracted selections are a great way to create customized selections to target specific tones. The image below shows the selected areas of the tonal spectrum for two subtracted selections.

Subtracted masks illustrated

Saturation/Vibrance Masks section Saturation/Vibrance—As an image develops, changes to contrast, brightness, and color can also affect saturation. Saturation changes tend to accumulate during image processing and it's often useful to purposefully address saturation balance at some point to impart a more natural look to the image. The "Saturation/Vibrance" section provides useful tools for obtaining proper saturation balance through use of saturation and vibrance masks. Saturation masks select the most saturated colors in an image and vibrance masks select the least saturated colors. The buttons in this section actually create two levels of selection: regular and focused. The "focused" selections can be thought of as "ultra" selections—the focused saturation mask selects the most saturated colors in an image and the focused vibrance mask only selects the most unsaturated colors. The "Saturation/Vibrance" section provides two ways to adjust saturation: (1) Hue/Saturation layers with saturation and vibrance masks serving as layer masks and (2) saturation painting, which involves painting through saturation and vibrance masks, which are first created on the Channels panel.

Miscellaneous section Miscellaneous—The "Miscellaneous" section of the "Actions" tab has a variety of actions that can be useful for image development.

B/D layers—Sets up two layers that are used for luminosity painting. White paint is applied on the "Dodging" layer to lighten the image and black paint is applied on the "Burning" layer to darken the image. Painting through luminosity selections created in the "Creative Masking" section helps confine burning and dodging brushstrokes to specific tones.

Orton Lights—The Orton effect blurs an image slightly and increases saturation. It works particularly well for light tones. This action creates the Orton effect for the image and then masks the effect to the light tones using a Lights luminosity mask on the layer group for the effect. There is a blog entry that describes this.

Detailed Darks—This action is somewhat the opposite of the Orton Lights—it subtly increases detail in the darker tones of the image. This blog post describes the effect.

Saturation Painting—This button creates the saturation painting layer and changes the default brush colors to red and gray. The Saturation Painting tutorial describes how this process works.

Cloud Sharpening—This is the action for the Cloud Sharpening tutorial.

Make-It-Glow—This is an action that imparts a glowing quality to the image.

Color Clone—This button creates a layer for changing color but maintaining texture as described in the Cloning Color, Retaining Texture tutorial.

Clear Channels—This button runs a Clear Channels script to remove non-color, non-layer mask channels from the Channels panel. The script is slower on large image files with multiple layers, so it's best used for small image files or flattened images. This new panel incorporates several "X" buttons that will help keep the Channels panel clean too.

#1, #2, and #3 buttons—These buttons, located in the upper right of the "Miscellaneous" section, are spare buttons with no particular action associated with them. They allow the user to record actions to be incorporated into the panel. Once recorded, simply pressing the button will play the keystrokes and/or menu commands to execute the desired maneuver.

Web-Sharpening section Web-Sharpening—The "Web-Sharpening" section of the "Actions" tab has buttons that downsize and sharpen an image for web presentation. This is done on a duplicate image in order to preserve the original file intact. The number buttons run actions that provide a sharpened image with the number providing the final horizontal pixel dimension. The "V" button to the right of each number button provides a sharpened image with that number as the final vertical dimension. This latest revision of the panel also has buttons for full-HD dimension, 1080 x 1920. In all cases, the horizontal and vertical dimensions of the final sharpened image are proportional to the dimensions of the original image. The "Choose" button allows the user to choose a different pixel dimension if one of the pre-programmed buttons doesn’t match what is needed. The "SAVE" button opens the "Save for Web" dialog box in Photoshop so that the image can be quickly saved for upload to the Internet or other purposes.

New Luminosity Masks—This version of the custom panel introduces actions to make four new luminosity selections/masks:

The new selections are off-center, mid-tone-like selections (see image below). They select tones around their stated gray values, but unlike the "straight" luminosity masks, they exclude the very lightest and very darkest tones in the image.

New masks graphic

(NOTE: A useful strategy to employ when using these new selections is to create an adjustment layer with one of these masks in place as the layer mask, and then, instead of making an adjustment to the layer in the Properties panel, simply change the blending mode of the layer to either Screen (to lighten the tones) or Multiply (to darken the tones). Finally, use the layer's opacity setting to fine-tune the adjustment to the desired level.)

These four new luminosity mask actions can be found on both tabbed subpanels. Because of space considerations, they may be designated by their abbreviations (ML, MD, 1/4 and 3/4).

"View" buttons—This version of the panel has several "View" buttons on the ACTIONS tab. They allow a quick preview of which pixels in the image are included in a selection. Once there is an active selection, clicking the "View" button creates a low-contrast black and white version of the image. Superimposed on the soft gray image will be a red overlay wherever pixels are selected. The more intense the red, the more the pixel is selected. Pixels 100% selected are completely red. Partially selected pixels are light red or pink.

The images below illustrate how this works. In the first image, a Bright Lights selection is active and marching ants are enclosing pixels that are at least 50% selected. After clicking the "View" button, the image turns low contrast monochrome and the red mask shows pixels selected by the Bright Lights selection (second image). Everything enclosed by marching ants is significantly red indicating a relatively high degree of selection. However, there is also quite a bit of less intense red outside the marching ants. These are pixels that are less than 50% selected but are still partially selected by the Bright Lights selection. They represent the feathering of the Bright Lights selection into the surrounding tones. Parts of the image are also completely gray without any red. These are pixels that are not included at all in the Bright Lights selection. Looking at the "View" button image can help determine if the selection is correct for the tones where adjustment is desired.

Image with marching ants showing selected pixels    Image after pressing the View button

New Action Sets/Getting the Panel—The new version of the custom actions panel needs to have the following actions sets installed on Photoshop's regular Actions panel:

The needed action sets and the files for installing the TKActions custom panel are included in the "Complete Catalog" of all tutorials and actions and the "Complete Package" on the  Special Offers  page. (NOTE: Previous customers can for information on upgrading to the new panel instead of purchasing a whole new package.)

This new panel will hopefully make it easier to experiment with different techniques as well as improving overall productivity when processing an image. Please feel free to if you have any questions.

Grateful acknowledgement is extended to Matt Anderson, Keith Bauer, Sean Bagshaw, Daniel Anderson, Victor Beer, Al Darby, and Doug Kaye for their generous and valuable assistance in preparing this panel.


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New Sean Bagshaw Videos—Sean Bagshaw is a super-user of luminosity masks, and his video series The Complete Guide to Luminosity Masks has helped many photographers learn to use luminosity masks successfully in their photographs. I worked closely with Sean when developing this new custom panel, and many buttons and actions are based on his recommendations and skill in using these techniques.

For the new TKActions panel, Sean has once again recorded several videos that provide comprehensive instruction on how to use this tool. While the panel may look a bit overwhelming at first glance, Sean examines the tabs and sections in detail to show how a desired result can be readily achieved using the panel's buttons. There are 17 videos and they cover how to install the panel and action sets into Photoshop, how to use the various buttons on the panel, and ways to incorporate the panel into a creative image-processing workflow. Sean has a unique ability to explain even complicated things in a manner that makes them understandable to almost everyone, and while the panel really isn't all that complex, Sean shows just how easy it is to use. The TKActions Panel videos are included in the "Videos from Sean Bagshaw" and the "Complete Package" items on the  Special Offers  page. There are sample videos from the new series below.

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