Luminar’s layers, filters and workspaces can work together to produce amazing results
Luminar 2018’s preset effects can create great results with almost no effort or know-how, but there’s much more to this innovative photo editing than one-click presets.
Behind the scenes, its powerful layers system makes it possible to combine two or more images using layer masks and blend modes, and with its flexible adjustment layers you can alter and enhance different parts of your pictures independently.
Our walkthrough shows how you can do all this and more. We start with a regular travel shot taken on the banks of the river Rhine and create a fantasy sunset by blending it with another picture taken on a different camera at a different place.
It’s a great chance to show how Image Layers work to create photo montages and how Adjustment Layers can be used to make different parts of the picture work together.
Along the way we’ll also take a look at two very useful features: layer blend modes, and Luminar’s third layer type – the Stamped Layer. Never heard of it? We’ll show you how it works, and exactly why it’s so useful.
And we finish off with a look at Luminar’s workspaces, and how they give you just the Filters you need for a specific kind of photography as we create two different renditions of the same picture.
This is Luminar’s strength – its ability to focus solely on the work you want to do, rather than weighing down the interface with every conceivable tool.
01 Add a new Image Layer
Here’s our start shot. It’s a perfectly nice photo taken during a sunny summer afternoon, but while it’s pleasant enough to look at, the plain blue sky is pretty boring and the whole scene lacks any kind of drama. So we’re going to add in a new sky, and the first step is click the ‘+’ button in the Layers panel and choose Add New Image Layer from the drop-down menu.
02 Check the Image Mapping settings
Once you’ve located and loaded the new picture, it completely covers the image below. Just so you know, if you select the new layer, click the ‘gear’ icon and choose Image Mapping, you’ll see three options: ‘Fill’ (the most useful, and used here), Scale to fit (which may distort the aspect ratio if it’s not the same as the original photo’s) and Fit (which may leave blank edges if the proportions are different).
03 Change the blend mode, add a Gradient Mask
It looks like we face some tricky masking work to combine these two pictures, but if we switch the new layer’s blend mode to Multiply, we can see we still have the dramatic sky, but we can now see the buildings and river below. Changing blend modes is a great ‘cheat’ for combining layers with tricky outlines.
The harbour wall in our sunset shot is still visible the bottom of the picture, however, so we need to click the mask (paintbrush) icon next to the layer and choose ‘Gradient Mask’ to hide it…
04 Adjusting the mask
When you drag out a Gradient Mask you can instantly see the effect as the new layer is visible on one side of the gradient mask and hidden on the other.
You can move the mask up and down, rotate it and drag the lines either side to adjust the smoothness of the transition. We’ve angled this mask slightly to line up with the roofline of the buildings.
05 Cleaning up with the Brush tool
Using Multiply mode has saved use the trouble of making a pixel-perfect mask around the rooftops (which would take hours!) and the Gradient Mask has blended in the new layer smoothly.
There are still areas on the buildings where the sky layer shows through, but those can be cleaned up by clicking the mask icon again, choosing the Brush tool and selecting Erase on the top toolbar. If you choose a low opacity setting, you can erase unwanted areas slowly and progressively.
06 Adding a second adjustment layer
After doing this, though, it’s pretty obvious that the river in our picture now looks way too light and blue to go with the rest of the picture, so the next step is to add new Adjustment Layer in the Layers panel.
Initially, this has no settings, so we click Add Filters and choose the Develop filter. Now we can increase the Temperature, Tint and Contrast values to darken the river and give it a warmer tone.
07 A gradient mask for the water
Of course, this has affected the whole picture, not just the river, so now we need a mask for this layer too. Again, a Gradient Mask is perfect, but this time rotated so that it’s the other way round so that it shields the buildings and the sky from the adjustment we’ve just made. As you can see, you can use the same masking tools on both Image Layers and Adjustment Layers.
08 Create a Stamped Layer
This is looking much more like the image we had in mind, but it’s been achieved with a background layer and two further layers on top, each with its own mask, and while we could add even more Adjustment Layers on top of this, it’s all getting a little complicated and it’s a good time to consolidate our work so far with a new ‘Stamped Layer’. This is a flattened composite, or a kind of single-layer copy of all the ones below.
09 Using the Erase tool
With our new Stamped Layer, we’ve combined all the work we’ve done so far (it’s still there in the layers below if we need to change anything), and we can move forward with some other adjustments.
For example, there are some distracting reflections in the water which we can remove by painting over them with the Erase tool (the drop-down Tools menu on the top toolbar).
10 Landscape workspace
Now we can start experimenting with some different ‘looks’ for our picture with Luminar’s workspaces. The best way to do this is with a new Adjustment Layer to keep this separate from the work done so far.
Initially, this is empty, so we’ll open the Workspace menu and select Landscape. This comes populated with a selection of Filters for landscapes and in the next two steps we’ll use some of these to enhance our picture.
11 Accent AI and Foliage Enhancer
We’ve started by using the Accent AI filter at maximum boost for an intelligent enhancement of all the areas in the image. The Accent AI filter is useful in a whole range of situations for restoring contrast, brightness and colour, and it’s simple for beginners but useful for experts too across a range of genres, not just for landscapes.
Next, we’ve reduced the brightness with the Exposure slider in the Develop filter and shifted the hue of the trees with the Foliage Enhancer filter.
12 Curves and LUT Mapping
Next, we use two more filters in the Landscape workspace. The LUT Mapping filter is especially interesting because it enables you to add LUT (lookup table) files to shift the tones and colours in your picture to new values.
This one is called ‘Smokey’, and since it darkens the picture slightly, we’ve compensated by lifting the shadows subtly with the Curves filter.
13 Black & White workspace
Next, we’ll try the Black & White workspace. For this we’ll create another Adjustment Layer – again, we’re doing this to keep this work separate from what’s gone before.
Now any new Adjustment Layer will apply its ‘look’ to all the layers below, but we don’t want the ‘Landscape’ layer we just created to affect this as we’re trying out an alternative treatment. The solution? Click the ‘eye’ icon next to the layer to hide its effect.
14 B&W Conversion and Split Toning
As you’d expect, the B&W workspace contains filters designed specifically for black and white images. We don’t need them all here, but we have made adjustments to two of them.
In the B&W Conversion panel we’ve selected the red filter effect, and in the Split Toning panel we’ve added an amber tone to the highlights and a subtle blue tone to the shadows. Very quickly, using a different Adjustment Layer and a different workspace, we’ve created a very different looking picture.
That’s been a pretty rapid tour of Luminar’s Image Layers, Adjustment Layers, masks, workspaces and filters, using a single image and a new sky to show just what Luminar is capable of. It’s a lot to take in, but hopefully the steps and insights we’ve shared here will help you try out your own photo montages and enhancements in Luminar and will at least have shown you some of this program’s amazing potential