Photoshop Before and After: Kick It Up {Plus a FREE Action!}

This is a simple method to pop color in your image without making it too contrasty.  It’s just a few simple steps, and there is a FREE action at the end of the tutorial!  Woot woot!  This method uses a luminosity mask which is a topic for another day.  But I will show you how to do it!

Run this action after you have done your Clean Edit.  We don’t want to boost any blemishes or wonky colors.  Okay, here we go!

You should have your image open in Photoshop.  We are going to do a luminosity selection, which selects pixels based upon their brightness.  In simple terms, we are going to select the lightest parts of the image.  Go to your Channels palette and click the icon for ‘Load Channel as Selection’ (In CS4, the shortcut is Ctrl+Alt+Shift+2).

We have selected the lightest half of the pixels.  But what we want for this method is to select the darkest half of the pixels, so we are going to invert our selection.  You can go to Select->Inverse from the menu or use Ctrl+Shift+I as a shortcut.  The image now looks like this…

Now that we have the darker half of the pixels selected, we are going to create an adjustment layer.  The type of adjustment layer is actually irrelevant in this case, so I will arbitrarily choose a curves layer.  Since we have a selection loaded, Photoshop will automatically create a mask based upon our selection.  You can see in the mask that darker areas in our photo are showing through the mask (white), while the lighter areas (especially the skin) are covered in black.  This is exactly what we want – the darker areas showing through the mask while the light areas are concealed.

Now we are going to change the blending mode of the layer to Soft Light.  You can play around with other blending modes as well – Overlay will give an even more intense contrast.  Because of the mask, we are applying the ‘Soft Light’ effect to the darker areas of the photo while leaving the lighter areas relatively the same.

Here is what our image looks like now:

What I like to do next is add a mask to the effect for more control.  I make sure the curves layer is selected and press Ctrl+G to create a group.  This places the curves layer we created into a folder.  I renamed the folder “Kick It Up” and added a mask.

Now I can paint over any areas in my photo where I don’t want the effect.  Under her chin became very shadow-y when the effect was applied, so I am going to paint with a black brush at about 30% opacity on the ‘Kick It Up’ layer mask to reduce the contrast there.

And that’s it!!  Again, the before and after…

You can download the free Polished Picture Kick It Up action HERE!

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10 Responses to Photoshop Before and After: Kick It Up {Plus a FREE Action!}

  1. Cynthia says:

    Will this also work in Photoshop Elements 9 i can’t seem to find the tools. Is it worded different in Elements 9? And is there a better photo shop i should buy? Thank you for your help. Cindy

    • Angie says:

      Hi Cindy! Some things work in Elements, and others don’t – but you can definitely do a lot of things with Elements. The Coffee Shop Blog ( is a great resource for more in-depth tutorials using Elements. But many of the tutorials on my blog will work in Elements as well, it will just be on a case-by-case basis. I no longer have Elements, so unfortunately I don’t know the ins and outs anymore! Hope this helps just a bit.

  2. Hi Angie,
    What an incredibly fantastic website you have put together. It is so clear and so professional. I have learned so much from you. Thank you!!! I sure appreciate your work!

  3. Lori says:

    LOVE LOVE your actions!!!! I can’t wait to try them ou!

  4. Sheila says:

    I’ve spent several hours looking over your site the last day.
    I think it can be addicting! hehe….In a good way :)
    I love the fact that you explain how you get to the final result of an action.
    Your tutorial’s are very well explained and that is very hard to find nowadays. It seems as though everyone who teaches Photoshop assumes that we ALL know everything about layers and such. Layers were the hardest thing for me to grasp the concept of. To someone else that may sound silly but I guess that’s why we are all different. We learn at different paces.
    Thanks so much for putting together a site that teaches in a way that we can understand. I look forward to visiting your site on a regular basis.

    • Angie says:

      Thank you so much, Sheila! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the comments, and I am so glad that you found something helpful here. :) Thank you for letting me know, and thanks for visiting!

  5. Rab says:

    I love you action specially this one. I would love if this will work in Photoshop element 12.

  6. Mehedi Hasan says:

    A nice photoshop Action!!!!! ……………

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