In this tutorial, Joanne West shows how to edit an image using the dynamic sliders and  masking technique in Topaz Clarity.

by Joanne West

This is one of my favorite structures in Mariposa County, CA, an area abound with beautiful old barns. I have photographed this red barn in every way possible: front, back and side-to-side. This particular image is being used for the tutorial because it adds some complexity with the fence. I wanted to make the barn “p0p” while keeping the background and foreground in its original state. Easier said than done unless you are using Topaz Clarity!


Red Barn Before - original 2After:

Red Barn After - clarity finished 2

Step 1

Open original image in your host program. I use Photoshop Elements, but no edits were made with PSE; I simply used Clarity for this tutorial.

Step 1 PSE window with originalStep 2

Select Topaz Clarity from the Filter/Topaz Labs drop-down list on the Menu bar. The Topaz Clarity window with the original image is displayed (press ‘Reset All’ if needed). There are presets in the left-hand sidebar, but for this tutorial I only used the Navigator tab on the right-hand column.

Step 2 Clarity window initialStep 3

Make adjustments in the CLARITY group of Dynamic and Tone Level sliders as shown to the entire image:

Step 3a Dynamics Sliders with settings

Step 3b Tone Level sliders with settingsAfter Adjustments

Step 3c image with slider effectsAt this point I wanted greenery in the foreground, the fence and the background trees to be more subtle so that the barn would stand out better. I decided to use the Mask tool to bring those items to their original state.

Step 4

Open the Masks selection in the CLARITY group:

Step 4a Mask sliders initiallySelect Edge Aware from the Brush drop-down list:

Step 4b Edge Aware drop-down listThe sliders were set as follows:

Step 4c Mask sliders with settingsThe brush was initially set to a large size of 0.25 with the hardness set to 0.30 so that I could sweep most of the background and foreground without worrying too much about the edge of the barn.  However, I eventually changed the brush size to work on the fence in the foreground

Step 4d Image with 1st brush sweep effectStep 5

Change the brush size to 0.07 to brush over fence without interfering with the barn

Step 4d Image with 1st brush sweep effectStep 6

Click Ok to save edits and return to PSE. Save the image with another name to preserve original.

Final Image: 

Red Barn After - clarity finished 2

About the Photographer: 

After 30+ years in the Corporate IT world near Silicon Valley, Jo and her husband, Carl, moved to a more rural setting allowing her time to indulge in her passion for photography. She made the transition from film to a Canon DSLR and hasn’t stopped shooting since. Yosemite National Park and the barns and backroads of Mariposa and Placer Counties in California have supplied endless hours of shooting and post-processing. Jo and Carl share their house with 2 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels who provide wonderful mug-shots when Jo is not on the road looking for other photographic opportunities. Visit Jo’s website here:

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