JeffM From United States of America, joined May 2005, 3266 posts, RR: 53 Posted (7 years 8 months 3 weeks 2 days ago) and read 6614 times:
I have had some interest from a statement I made in one of the posts about using Layer Masks. It seems some of you may not be familiar with ACTIONS and MASK LAYERS and how they work. Maybe this is common knowledge to some of you, if so, please disregard, download the actions if you want to try them out, and feel free to correct any errors I may make, or add links to some of your favorite actions to share. If you are not sure about these things, or need a refresher…continue reading.
An ACTION is simply a bunch of commands you would normally do in sequence to a photo, but recorded and able to be played back. Using them, you don’t have to remember all the steps you have taken. You just push PLAY, and the commands are run in the order you recorded them. Text can be inserted and popped up into view for reminders, suggestions, etc., and adjustments can be made to the settings that pop up. Actions are a very effective way to run multiple correction steps consistently.
A MASK LAYER is simply a duplicate of the original image to which corrections can be made in areas “Masked off” similar to using masking tape or paper. When you want to prevent something from being painted in your house, you cover it with paper or tape, a MASK LAYER does the same thing, it allows you to make your adjustment to just a specific area and not the entire image. Having a MASK LAYER recorded into an adjustment ACTION, adds a level of fine tuning to your processing in a few easy, and correctable steps.
For example, you may want to use the LEVELS tool on only the fuselage of an aircraft that you purposely underexposed to prevent blowing the white out, but you don’t want to change other areas of the image along with it. Or to adjust the midtones or black point to create some contrast in just a few areas, while leaving other areas as they were. To do this, I use an “Action” specifically designed for adjusting Levels (LevelsMask). It can be used to lighten or darken areas of an image, but should be done once to lighten, and once to darken for the best effect. Below is an example of the LevelsMask being downloaded, saved, loaded, and run.
First download the action, and save it to any location you will remember. I use a folder named ACTIONS which I made in C:_ProgramFiles_Adobe, but you may want them elsewhere. Again, remember the location, you will need to navigate to it when you go to load them.
Open Photoshop, and ensure the HISTORY/ACTIONS window is visible, if not go to WINDOW > ACTIONS in the menu and click ACTIONS or hit Alt + F9 and it will now reside in your work space. To load the Levels Action after downloading it. Click on the ACTIONS tab, then the little triangle in the upper right corner. This will drop down a menu. Then click on “Load Actions”…
This will allow you to browse to the folder you saved the actions in. (example: C:ProgramFilesAdobeactions)
Click on any image to view full size...
Select the action to load and click LOAD.
Once loaded it will show up in your Actions Menu.
Now, open an image to edit. Level it, crop it, and then resize it to your preferred upload dimensions. After doing all that, your image is ready to run an action on.
In this example, I’ve already leveled the image, cropped and re-sized it. It is now ready to have the fuselage lightened using the LEVELS ACTION I just loaded (you only need to load an Action once, it stays in the menu until you delete it). The pictures will show you what steps are pre-recorded in the action so you have a better idea of what is going on. To run the action, click on LEVELS MASK so that it is highlighted, and then the little “Run” icon on the bottom of the Actions window.
The pre-recorded steps of the LEVELS MASK action are outlined below.
First a duplicate layer is made. LAYER > DUPLICATE LAYER
You can rename the circled area, or leave it as Background Copy. You will see that in the following steps I have renamed it to MASK LAYER.
Second, the Levels adjustment screen will pop up. In this photo, I need to set the white point by moving the right side slider to the left, until it meets the right edge of the histogram. The preview will show the fuselage has been brought back to it’s proper white level. It was not off by much, but it did not have the “Pop” it should have, so I moved the right slider to the left (brighten).
Next, the mask will be created, LAYER > LAYER MASK > HIDE ALL. By doing this, the Action has returned the image to what it was before using the levels adjustment.
You can see the Mask Layer has been added by the black square linked to the duplicate copy. This is the equivalent of using masking tape or paper on an object in your home as mentioned above.
At this point, the LEVELS MASK action has completed, and you are ready to “Paint On” your levels adjustment wherever you want on the image. This photo will get it only on the fuselage.
Next select the paintbrush tool, adjust it’s size, hardness (something around 50%), opacity, and flow to vary how much of the ‘hidden’ levels effect you want to ‘paint’ on at a time.
Make the white ‘Swatch’ on the tool pallet active, and begin brushing over the fuselage. You will see the lightening effect of the Levels adjustment begin to show up where you brush. If too much is applied, simply make the black ‘Swatch’ on the tool pallet active by pressing “X” on your keyboard (the black box will now be on top of the white) and brush away the overdone area. You are in effect putting back that area of the original image. You may need to make the brush smaller to get into smaller areas.
You can see in the black Mask Layer where I brushed the LEVELS effect in on the image. The grayish areas are where the mask has been removed, and the Levels adjustments have been applied.
When satisfied, select LAYERS > FLATTEN, and move on to the next step in your photo’s adjustment, such as the VelviaMask, GrainRemovalMask, ShadowHighlightMask, etc. You can re-run this action for darker areas by setting the black point when the Levels window pops up, and then brushing in some darker contrast to the image. The order you run these in us up to you, or you may not need to run some at all. You can record your own actions for your favorite PhotoShop corrections to save you time, and make your processing more consistent.
Thanks for reading, have fun with them, adjust them as you need. I hope this has been helpful to some of you. If anyone makes their own or uses any new unique actions, don’t hesitate to share!
I’ll try to answer any questions if you have any.
Mongorat From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 165 posts, RR: 14 Reply 4, posted (7 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 6477 times:
Some great info...thanks...however due to the fact that your acceptance ratio has dropped below "100%" I'm hesitant to use it!! Kidding of course, I wish my acceptance ratio was half of yours. Thanks again for all the info, a great post with tons of useful stuff in regards to processing photos. Well done indeed.
That's the beauty of it Javi, you can adapt actions and masks to just about every function or multiple functions in Photoshop. Don't let the few samples I link to prevent you from giving actions or masks a try. Let 'em rip, they are easy to make, and easy to use.
Quoting Fergulmcc (Reply 3): Thanks for all that, well done, very much appreciated for the very indepth lesson! .. and thanks for the e-mail too.
No problem Fergul, give them a try, I know my example may not show the true value of using them, but they sure can speed things up, and make things far more adjustable.
Quoting Fly747 (Reply 1): That sure is some pretty cool stuff, thank you Jeff.
JeffM From United States of America, joined May 2005, 3266 posts, RR: 53 Reply 8, posted (7 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 6466 times:
Quoting Malandan (Reply 6): I'm blown away by this!
Sorry if I missed something but what issue(s) of Adobe Photoshop is this applicable to?
Thanks Malcom. I think they will work with just about any version, at least any that supports ACTIONS, though I've only used them on CS and CS2.
The exception might be the ShadowHighlightMask action which I think will be limited to CS and CS2 as it was not available before the CS release.
Fergulmcc From Ireland, joined Oct 2004, 1916 posts, RR: 55 Reply 10, posted (7 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 6353 times:
Quoting JeffM (Reply 9): On a side note, I can't believe how many downloads there have been! WOW.
I'm not surprised Jeff.....
As I said in an e-mail Jeff, I have bought a few books and am learning a lot but it helps when you hear it from someone else as you pick things up bit quicker.
That tutorial you have given is excellent and I hope to put things like that into practice.