How to use Nik U Point Technology
Nik U Point what I can hear you screaming. But don’t let the name put you off (obviously dreamed up in a marketing team somewhere). The Nik U Point technology, or Nik Control Points as most people call them, is at the heart of what makes the Nik Collection such great tools. Learn to use them well and you will improve the quality of your photo editing with the Nik Collection.
I’ve included a video below which will help (I hope) demystify the Nik U Point technology, but I do recommend reading the rest of this article as well. Start with the video and then read the article. After that, if you still have questions, why not email me. I might already have covered your questions in another article or video or may write one to help you.
What are Nik Control Points?
The Nik U Points or Control Points is the tool Nik provides for creating selections. When you’ve created your selection, you can then apply localised adjustments to just that area of a photo. Whilst many editing tools like Lightroom and Photoshop allow you to make selections, it’s the simplicity of the Nik Control Point that’s so good.
The normal approach for creating a selection in most editing tools involved some form of mask. You might create an adjustment layer and then apply a mask. You can then remove or add the layer’s effect to areas of the photo by painting on the mask. But if you decide you want to move the adjustment to another area of the photo, the mask needs to change. With the Nik Control Point you just move the control point.
Creating Selections with Control Points
When you add a Control Point in one of the Nik Collection plugins, the software automatically creates a selection. Behind the scenes it’s generating a mask which updates as you change the size and position of the Control Point. This becomes even more powerful when you change the plugin’s view, so you can see the mask. This makes it very easy to control what’s selected by the Control Point.
When you view the mask, you can see areas of white and black. The white areas show what’s selected by the Control Point and the black areas are those that aren’t. The areas showing grey are still a selection but at a lesser strength. This is Nik’s way of blending your adjustments naturally with the rest of the photo.
Increasing the Nik U Point Precision
Although you can achieve a lot by adding a single Control Point there are times when you need to cover a larger area. Whilst you could enlarge your Control Point, this might extend the selection to areas you don’t want selected. Rather than compromising the selection, try using smaller Control Points but more of them.
By adding smaller Control Points you can increase the precision of your selection. You can then duplicate this Control Point and move it to another area you want to select. If you duplicate the Control Point after applying your adjustment, the duplicate point will also have the same adjustments. This allows you to select a larger area with greater precision.
Grouping and Synching Control Points
Once you’ve created a selection using multiple Control Points you have a choice. Do you want to adjust the Control Points separately? Do you want to synchronise the adjustments but with the potential to adjust individual points? Or, do you want to keep the Control Point adjustments the same for all Control Points.
To synchronise the adjustments across a multiple Control Points, select all the Control Points you want to apply this to. You can do this by either dragging out a selection area with your mouse or by selecting the Control Points from the Control Point list. You will then see all the controls for all the selected Control Points.
Here we’ve selected an area of the photo using four Control Points. Change the adjustment on one Control Point and you change the others. This happens whilst you have these Control Points selected. If you then select just one of the points, any adjustments you make are applied to just that point.
In contrast, when you group a set of Control Points, you’re creating a group that endures. You’ll also notice a single group now replaces all the selected Control Points in the Control Point list. Each time you select this, it’s like reselecting all the Control Points again. Any adjustment you make to the group will always apply to all the included Control Points.
Negative Control Points
It’s also possible to fine tune a selection by adding a second Control Point. This is a great technique if you want to increase the accuracy of a selection.
In this example you can see a selection made with three Control Points. The selection would though spread into other areas of the photo because of the similar tones and colours. To prevent this from happening, we’ve added other Control Points but not adjusted them. These additional Control Points prevent the selection from spilling into other areas of the photo.
It’s U Point but Different
One final point to highlight is the inconsistency of the U Point technology across the Nik Collection. There seems to be variations in the Control Points and even some of their features, depending which application you’re using. If you watched the video at the start of the article you’ll have seen the Control Points in Nik Viveza work differently to Nik Color Efex Pro. Consequently, you need to change your approach to suit each. Be sure to watch the video to understand this.
I hope this article and video has given you a good grounding in the Nik U Point technology and how you can use Control Points. Whilst the technology is easy, it takes a little practice and thought to achieve the best results. A further factor is achieving great results with the Nik Collection is understanding which plugins to apply when.