Creamy Light – Adding Creamy Brightness in Photoshop {Plus a FREE Action!}


Ever since I read Tony Kuyper’s wonderful in-depth tutorials on luminosity masks, I’ve been intrigued by the concept.  Luminosity masks in Photoshop allow you to target a specific tonal range for adjustments – just the highlights or just the shadows, for instance (or any tonal range for that matter).  Click around his site and blog, and look at the rollovers of his landscapes!  It’s so amazing what you can do with these masks!  Anyways, I just wanted to give you a little history if you are interested in further reading like my nerdy-self is.  :)


My free Kick it Up action/tutorial uses a luminosity mask to apply the adjustment to just the shadows while leaving the highlights alone.


For the style in this tutorial, I wanted to create a light, creamy look without losing too much contrast.  To accomplish this, we are going to use a luminosity mask to make the brights brighter with a Solid Color layer applied to just the highlights.  Then we are going to add a bit of depth to just the shadows.  Finally we will punch up the color a bit.  Here we go!!


Here is our Before:


1.  Create a luminosity selection – Select the highlights of the image by going to the Channels palette and clicking the dotted circle.  Alternately, you can use the shortcut Cmd/ctrl + alt + shift + 2 (some versions use the tilde (~) instead of a 2).



Your image will have the highlights selected, indicated by marching ants:



2.  With the highlights selected, create a new Solid Color adjustment layer.


3.  Choose a color.  For this example, I chose #FFF4E5 (a bright, creamy color).


Because we had the highlights selected, Photoshop will automatically create a mask based on our luminosity selection for us.  Here is what the mask looks like up close – remember with masking: white reveals, black conceals.  So the solid color we chose will only show through the brighter areas of our mask:


This is what our Layers palette looks like:



4.  I then reduced the opacity of the Solid Color layer to 70%.  Here is what the image looks like now.  You can see because of the mask, the adjustment affected mostly the skin and background and left the darker areas mostly unchanged:

5.  Next we are going to select the shadows so we can add some depth.  Create a luminosity selection again as in Step 1 (Cmd/Ctrl + Alt + Shift + 2).  This will select the highlights.  To select the shadows, we need the inverse.  So now hit Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + i for the inverse.

6.  With the shadows selected, we are going to add some depth with a Soft Light layer.  Create a new adjustment layer (I chose Curves, but the type of adjustment layer is irrelevant since we are only using it to change the blending mode), and change the blending mode to Soft Light.  I reduced the opacity of the layer to 50% for this image.  We’ve punched up the darks a tad!

Now faces look a little scary when I do this, but I want to show you what we’ve done!  Here is a close-up of the mask that was created when we just selected the shadows.  Using this mask, we are able to target only the darker tones in the image (hair, eyelashes, etc.) in order to add some depth with our Soft Light layer.

Here’s what the Layers palette looks like:

7.  Next, we are going to add back in some of the color that the Solid Color layer took away.  Simply create a new Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and increase the saturation.  For this image, I set the Saturation to +25.

Here is my final image (rollover for before):

That’s it!!  Play around with the opacity and color of the Solid Color layer and with the settings of the Soft Light and Hue/Saturation layer.

I’ve made these steps into an action (at the bottom of this tutorial), and I’ve included several different color options for the Solid Color layer.  I’ve named them Creamy (the color from this tutorial), Clean (white), Blushed (a light pink), and Peachy (you guessed it – light peach!). But play with the colors as you wish, those are just there to give you a starting point!

When the action runs, by default the Creamy layer is selected for color.  But you can turn the eyeball on or off for each solid color layer – choose one color or combine them at different opacities.  Increase the opacity of the Depth layer, or turn it off entirely.  It’s your choice!  The layers are all completely adjustable.

Here are some other plays with this action…

With only the ‘Clean’ layer turned on for color:

With just the ‘Blushed’ layer turned on for color:

With Peachy at 56%, Clean at 21%, and Depth turned up to 100%:

The link to Polished Picture’s free Creamy Light action is here.  I would love love love to see your plays with this method!  If you feel so inclined, please post them on the Facebook page!  Thanks for coming by!

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128 Responses to Creamy Light – Adding Creamy Brightness in Photoshop {Plus a FREE Action!}

  1. Hi says:

    Simple and very functional thanks.

  2. Kendall says:

    This was the best action for an engagement shoot I just did. Thank you so much for your help!

  3. Sup says:

    Can any 1 help me on how to download this? i’m not able to on my mac..

  4. LeeAnne says:

    Can this be done in PSE 11? I can’t find how to even go to my layers and load a luminosity selection.

  5. Kasey says:

    Um, I love your guts right now… Thank you so much. Amazing for you to share!!
    So happy!!

  6. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for, thank you!!

  7. Bebe says:

    Beautiful! Could you please explain how to copy all this actions to another picture, please? Have a nice day, Bebe

  8. Katie says:

    Wellll…. I’m having trouble with the download. I can only seem to figure out how to add .ATN files?

  9. Chari Ross says:

    Thank you that’s an awesome set of Photoshop actions. By the way, if anyone is stuck on how to install Photoshop actions, check out this guide: How to Use Photoshop Actions
    Cheers and happy Photoshopping!

  10. Steve Okeefe says:

    Wonderful stuff. I’ve tried and tried to create this look and failed! you have nailed just what I was looking for. I used your tutorial to create my own actions and I’m really impressed. Thank you

  11. Whitney says:

    I love this!! Unfortunately I only own Lightroom do you have any suggestions on how to get this affect in Lightroom or where I might find similar Lightroom presets?

  12. Diane Lewis says:

    Thank you for sharing

  13. Layal says:

    thanks for sharing! easy and great!
    btw you can also use another shortcut for step 1…
    cmnd+click any of the channels ;)


  14. mel says:

    I was wondering how do you do this ( (Cmd/Ctrl + Alt + Shift + 2) )on a windows pc, I do not have the cmd key, and i am using cs6.

  15. Thanks for wonderful creation! I’m happy to see your article.

  16. Chari Ross says:

    Great collection of actions! By the way, I hand-pick the best free Photoshop Actions from all over the web, from all different developers, and sort them into categories on my website!

    I’ll be adding some of these Actions to my website, Have a browse through our collection of: Free Photoshop Actions

    Cheers and happy Photoshopping!!

  17. Christine says:

    Very great tutorial! I tried it yesterday and i will use it very often now :)

  18. kim says:

    oooh, I cannot wait to try this! I’ve been wanting to learn how to brighten the skin without increasing the highlights too much and blowing them out. Gonna practice on some older photos. Thank you for this. :)

  19. Hi Angie, Really you are great, thanks a lot.

  20. wow, how easy it i didn’t know it .this is very useful tutorial for me.thank

  21. Lauren says:

    Hi Angie,
    I’m having trouble with the download, can you direct me on were to click to get the action? I keep getting a download for a free media player?

  22. Mónica says:

    Love it! Thanks

  23. Jillian says:

    I’m wondering how to download these… the files I’m directed to are .EXE files and my computer is saying they aren’t supported and my antivirus pops up. Where can I download the .ATN files?

  24. Julie says:

    Thank you so much! The only thing I’m struggling with is that when I select the circle for luminosity selection it’s not highlight the right parts – do you know how I could fix that? Thank you!

  25. Great job !! go ahead for long run. I am a professional photo editor. I benefited from this tutorial too much.

  26. Manuel Acevedo says:

    I love your Photoshop action, but I can’t download it from your dropbox, I guess you got a lot of traffic. May do you have another option to get it?

  27. Robert says:

    Absolutely wonderful Creative article.I am very impressed for your nice article.
    Thanks a lot @Angie.

  28. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you so much for not only providing a download, but the steps as well. I made my own action with some minor tweaks.

    I am nowhere near a professional photographer, but was asked to photograph a wedding (for free, of course) and the “Creamy Light” look will be perfect for those photos. I am truly, truly thankful.

  29. Mehedi Hasan says:

    Nice article, thank you for sharing

  30. Erin H says:

    Wow! I can’t wait to do this for my family photos this Christmas!!! You’re amazing!!!

  31. Anne says:

    Your photos look amazing! Thank you for such a detailed tutorial with so many pictures. After years I still struggle with photoshop, so this was super helpful!

    – Anne | annesmiles

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