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magic mid-tones tutorial


The Basic Mid-tones mask is a good starting point for mid-tones adjustments. The Photoshop action quickly creates it and a variety of different curves can be applied through it with good results. As is typical with many mid-tones masks, adjustments through the Basic Mid-tones mask look good, and even small adjustments can give an image a little extra pop.

Beyond that, mask subtraction and masking-the-mask are a little more complicated and take a bit more trial and error. Both require two masks, and while it's not always obvious which two will work best, it is usually possible to make some educated guesses. To facilitate experimentation, it's a good idea to place all the possible masks that might be needed on the Channels palette (Figure 29) using the "All Lights masks" and "All Darks masks" Photoshop actions.

Figure 29
Figure 29

Once the masks are created, it's possible to click on them sequentially to see what they look like, the goal being to find ones with lighter pixels in the area that needs adjustment and dark pixels in areas to be masked. Seeing the masks helps to choose which ones to use as a starting point. If the adjustment with the first choice isn't quite right, the results often give information on what to do next. With all the masks available on the Channels palette, it's easy to delete what's not working from the Layers palette and try something else.

Masking-the-mask provides an especially nice circumstance because the two masks that end up selecting mid-tone pixels are on separate layers; the controlling mask is associated with the group layer and the adjustment mask is on an adjustment layer within the group. Depending on how well the adjustment is working, either can be changed out separately with a different mask sitting on the Channels palette. This separation of the two masks on different layers usually makes it easier to fine tune both which pixels get selected for adjustment and how the adjustment is made.

A couple of intense days spent updating my images provided an opportunity to experiment with luminosity masks on a variety of images. While I started out using the Basic Mid-tones mask, once I got the hang of mask subtraction and masking-the-mask, these techniques were used repeatedly with good results. Both are methods I will use again in the future. I hope readers will try these techniques and be encouraged to experiment with the luminosity masks to discover other ways to use them and find out what works best for them.

As always, please feel free to me if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions. Information on getting the Photoshop actions to create the luminosity masks can be found on the  last page of the Luminosity Masks tutorial .  Special Offer