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. Caili says:

    Oh my gosh! Thank you thank you thank you! I have been trying to understand this and you just made it all come together. Thank you!

  2. Angie says:

    So very glad this was useful, thank you so much for coming by!

  3. Hey! Thank you for sharing all of these wonderful actions! I have Elements and was wondering if there is a tutorial on how to install the actions?! Thank you!

  4. Angie says:

    If you are interested in actions for Elements, please check out The Coffee Shop Blog, She has lots of actions for Elements!!

  5. lee says:

    was trying to figure this out forever, thanks

  6. Angie says:

    You are welcome, Lee!

  7. Karen says:

    Thank you! I have a few priceless baby photos that need exactly this touch. I am an amateur, and your tutorial was quite easy to understand. Many, many thanks!!

  8. Angie says:

    You are welcome, Karen! Thanks for visiting!

  9. Kim says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

  10. Angie says:

    You are welcome, Kim! Thanks for visiting!

  11. Melissa says:

    Thank you so much for the free actions and awesome tutorials! I am so glad I found your blog!

  12. Angie says:

    Thank you so very much for visiting, Melissa!

  13. LauraWitty says:

    wow, thank you! LOVE this!!!

  14. Angie says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Laura!

  15. April says:

    Hi Angie,
    Thanks for this excellent tutorial. I have never understood masks and actions so I followed it. Then I posted the picture that I experimented with so that I could see the before and after together.
    I am still a little fuzzy about adding actions to my CS5. I am an amateur of the first order and when I downloaded your creamy light action it opened photoshop. I couldn’t find the action in my regular downloads and wondered if it automatically installed in photoshop or if I have to do that? Thank you so much for sharing your expertise and action with us all.

  16. Angie says:

    Thanks for stopping by, April! Make sure you know where on your computer you are downloading the file to. After that, typically you can just double click on the action (.atn) file once you download it, and it will automatically load in your actions palette. If that doesn’t work, you can hit the little ‘menu’ icon (3 horizontal lines) in the actions palette, select ‘Load Actions’, and browse to the downloaded file. Hope that helps!

  17. brandi says:

    Awesome action! Thanks so much!!!

  18. step says:

    Hi. Really appreciate the tutorial and the action. But is it possible to download it from another source? You need to sign up to the site in order to download the action, and I’m not very keen on that. (Acc was automatically deleted after a period of inactivity, wouldn’t want to sign up again) =x

  19. Angie says:

    Until I have time to figure out a better solution, at this time that is the only way to download the actions. Thanks for understanding!

  20. Jamie M. says:

    Awesome Action! Thanks so much for the tutorial and for sharing- this is just what I needed for several baby pics :)

  21. Angie says:

    Awesome! Thanks for stopping by, Jamie!

  22. Robin D says:


    Love the tutorial, thanks so much for sharing. I have bought several actions from other photographers and I have loved them, but I didn’t learn how to make these same edits for myself. Your tutorial was just what I have been looking for.

    Thanks again,

  23. Nadia says:

    Love it! I would try it with my photos.
    Thank you so much for sharing it.

  24. Aubrey says:

    Do your actions work on PSE? I LOVE this one and love what it does but not sure if it will work. Thank you!

  25. Worapim says:

    Thank you very much. I love it very very much. You made it so easy to follow through. Just one small thing, can you share the color code for Clean, Peachy and Blushed? Thank you again, your tutorial is really awesome.

  26. Vanessa says:

    Hi! I’m Vanessa! I use Lightroom 4 to edit my photos! Is there a way I can get the creamy light effect on my photos as well?

  27. Karen says:

    Really interesting tutorial, I really like the difference in the image and it’s not too much or too fake looking, very natural. I’m going to have to try this.

  28. Carrie says:

    You are amazing!

  29. AWESOME!!! Thank you so very much! This is exactly what I have been looking for & I’m so excited about it! You are excellent at explaining it also. Thank you!

  30. Allison says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for the awesome info and products that you provide…from your tutorials to your album designs. Thank you!! I will favorite and come back to browse soon!

  31. Tiffany G says:

    Umm, AWESOME! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Can’t thank you enough! :)

  32. emily says:

    Wow. I have photos from a vacation to Wales this past summer that are pretty greyed because, well, it’s Wales. I tried out your tutorial and it really made a difference. Thank you so much for sharing it here. I found it on Pinterest :)

  33. Susie says:

    Awesome tips. Awesome actions! New subscriber & I can’t wait to use your actions on some of our portraits. :)

  34. Nicole says:

    Thank you for sharing all of your vast knowledge in such an easy to understand way! I have used this on several photos and so glad to know this technique now. You have a new subscriber!


  35. kimber says:

    Do you think Andee tate does this with her photos. From Crave Photography

    • Angie says:

      Hi Kimber! I obviously have no way of knowing how she processes her images, but of course it’s possible she uses a similar technique sometimes. Love her work!

  36. cat123 says:

    thank you for all these wonderful actions !!!

  37. Bri says:

    These are amazing tips and tricks, and this is EXACTLY the look, and type of tutorial I have been searching for, forever! I am SO excited to have stumbled across your site!
    Thank you so much for sharing these tutorials, I’ve spent my entire afternoon reading them and learning! I can’t wait to test them out, and I’m off now to download this action!!!

  38. Cécile says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing :)


  40. Sarina S says:

    This was so helpful! Thank you soo much for sharing!!

  41. Waw, I did the steps also and what a result!! Thanks for putting it for us into an action, I can’t wait to try it out!

  42. Hello! I’ve come by via Pinterest and I read that whole tutorial word for word. Thank you! It was so interesting. It’s one of my goals this year to learn photoshop so I will definitely give this go. I’ll be sure to let you know.

  43. Allan says:

    Nice tutorial, thanks for make/sharing it! (:

  44. Monica says:

    Brilliant!!!gonna try it right now…..u made it sound so easy….so generous of u…thanks

  45. Victoria says:

    So generous for sharing! the tutorial was very helpful but I can’t download the action.. it says “Sorry the file link that you requested is not valid”.. am I doing something wrong? Thanks so much!!

    • Angie says:

      I’m not sure what the problem is, I just tried it and it’s there. You do have to register with a username and password to be able to download from 4shared, perhaps that is the issue!

  46. Shaival says:

    Hey Angie thanks for the tutorial! I discovered it on Pinterest. Love the effect. I am a small time designer myself and I am into designing greeting cards and few personalized gifts. Please keep posting such classy tutorials. We rarely come across good techniques. I have learnt most of my photoshop by his way.

    • Angie says:

      Hi Shaival! I’m so glad you stumbled across my site! I really appreciate the compliment, and I am glad you found something helpful here!

  47. Alyssa says:

    Beautiful work! Can this also be done in photoshop elements?

  48. Marija says:

    Thank you so much! I’ve already rescued some pictures from being dull and boring using your instructions! Keep up the good work!

  49. Thank you for this excellent tutorial and action!!!

  50. Mai Yer says:

    Hi there, I’m having difficultly downloading the tutorial. I went to the link you posted above, downloading the iLivid download manager, pasted the link above to the iLivid and it says ‘failed.’ Is there something I’m missing?

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