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tk_actions panel


The TK_ACTIONS 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 invoke a large number of actions without having to search through various action sets on Photoshop's regular Actions panel. The gray 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 .)

This custom panel is actually three tabbed subpanels—Actions, TP+LM, and Basic—as shown in the figure below. Clicking a tab brings up the actions on that subpanel and hides those on the other two subpanels.


The "Basic" tab (right panel) is a good place to start for photographers new to luminosity masks and Photoshop actions. Each button on this panel 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.

"TP+LM" stands for "Triple Play plus Luminosity Masks" and this tab (center panel) has buttons to run actions for these processes. The various "TRIPLE PLAY" actions affect either light or dark tones in the image. The entire Triple Play process is described in the Triple Play tutorial PDF that accompanies the panel in the download folder. The buttons in the "LUMINOSITY MASKS" section duplicate the actions on the "Basic" tab but in a more compact manner. The mask name creates the luminosity masks on the Channels panel. The "C" buttons create Curves adjustment layers and the "L" buttons create Levels adjustment layers with the specified mask in place as the layer mask.

The "Actions" tab is the most advanced section of the panel. It introduces "progressive actions" into the workflow. This means that the results 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.

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 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 that 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.

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.

 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.

Clr 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.

#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 that 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. In both 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 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 all the tabbed subpanels (yellow highlights on the panel image above). Because of space considerations, they may be designated by their abbreviations (ML, MD, 1/4 and 3/4).

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 TK_ACTIONS custom panel are included in the "Complete Catalog" of all tutorials and actions and the "Complete Package" on the  Special Offers  page.

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, and Doug Kaye for their generous and valuable assistance in preparing this panel.