How To Make Better Selections Using Nik Control Points

by Jul 4, 2023Photo Editing Tutorials

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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How To Make Better Selections Using Nik Control Points

In this article, we look at how to use Nik Control Points to create better selections when editing photography. Control Points, and now Control Lines in the Nik Collection 6, provide photographers with a way to selectively edit areas of a photo. These tools are based on the innovative U-Point Technology that makes creating selections easy. But this also comes with its own challenges, and you need to understand how U-Point works to get the best results.

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Understanding U-Point Technology and Control Points

Before we get into how to create better selections with Control Points, we need to look at the U-Point Technology behind them.

The idea of U-Point Technology is that you point it at the thing you want to select. The technology then selects that area. What it doesn’t do is make a perfect selection of objects like you might see with some of the latest AI tools. That’s because a perfect selection doesn’t necessarily lead to the best, most natural looking adjustments. This is important to understand because U-Point technology was designed to help you produce better photography. It isn’t designed for making precise selections, although we will look at ways to potentially improve its precision shortly.

We can best understand what U-Point technology does by looking at a simple Control Point in Nik Viveza. You can see this added to an image in the screenshot below.

Making a selection with a Control Point using Nik Viveza

In image 1, you can see a Control Point has been added to select the pier. The Control Point appears as a circle to indicate the area it’s affecting. Then in image 2, you can see the Control Point’s mask. This shows what’s selected in white, whilst the black areas aren’t selected.

What’s happening, is that the software is sampling the area at the centre of the control point where you see the central pin. It uses this sample to identify the colour and luminance of that point. The information is then used to select similar pixels in the image. This makes creating a selection as simple as placing the centre of the Control Point over the area you want to select.

Now if you compare the two images further you will notice a couple of important points:

  1. The edge of the Control Point in image 1 doesn’t mark the edge of the selection in image 2.
  2. The Control Point is selecting more than just the pier.

Let’s look at why this happens in more detail.

Control Point Diffusion

The first point to look at is the spread of the selection and why it extends further than the edge of the Control Point. This is caused by the edge of the selection being feathered. The idea is that the feathering helps to blend your adjustments with the surrounding areas of the image. In the past, we haven’t been able to adjust this spread, but in the Nik Collection 6, DxO introduced the new Diffusion control. We will look at that in a moment but first, let’s quickly look at how to add a Control Point.

To add a new Control Point to the image, we click the New Control Point icon (1) in the Selective Adjustments section. You can click the point in the image that you want to select using your mouse. This then adds the new Control Point.

Selective Adjustment panel in Nik Viveza 6

Having added a new Control Point to the image, it appears in the Selective Adjustments list (2). You can then view the black and white mask (indicating what’s being selected) by clicking the Mask View icon (3) to the right of the Control Point in the list.

Each Control Point you add to an image has its own Diffusion slider. You can see this indicated further down the panel. By default, this is set to 100% which applies the maximum feathering to the edge of the Control Point. But if we reduce the Diffusion slider, the edge of the Control Point becomes more defined as shown below.

Comparing the effect of the Diffusion slider on the Control Point

Here the image on the left shows the effect of the Diffusion Slider at 100%, whilst the image on the right shows it at 0%. Next, let’s look at how to control what’s being selected by the Control Point.

Refining What’s Selected by the Control Point

We said earlier that what’s selected by a Control Point is determined by the sample point at its centre. Previously, we haven’t been able to control this other than to reposition the centre of the Control Point. Now however each Control Point has its own Luminance and Chrominance slider to adjust the sensitivity.

When you select a Control Point in the Selective Adjustments list, you can adjust its sensitivity to both light and colour. You do this using the Luminance and Chrominance sliders found below the list as indicated in the previous screenshot above. You can also see this in the screenshot below where the Luminance and Chrominance sliders are indicated.

Luminance and Chrominance sliders relating to a Control Point

Here you can see Control Point 1 is selected in the list. Then below this are the two sliders set to 50%, which is their default value.

The Luminance slider adjusts the Control Point’s sensitivity to light, whilst the Chrominance slider adjusts the sensitivity to colour. When you move the slider to the right, pixels need to be a closer match to the sample point to be selected. Move the slider left and the match doesn’t need to be as close, so selecting more pixels.

Here’s the effect the Luminance slider has on the selection made by the Control Point.

Comparing the Effect of the Luminance slider on the Control Point selection

Image 1 on the left shows the selection with the Luminance slider set to 0% whilst image 2 shows it at 100%.

By using the Luminance and Chrominance sliders, together with the Diffusion slider, you can manipulate the the Control Point’s selection. Despite this, we can still see unwanted areas of the sky and beach are being selected.

Using Control Points to Protect Areas

Something that’s often overlooked by Nik users is that you can limit the spread of a Control Points selection by adding more Control Points. Look at the following example.

Protecting an area from selection using a Control Point

Here image 1 shows the refined selection targeting part of the pier. Despite using the Diffusion, Luminance and Chrominance sliders, part of the sky and beach is still selected. Then in image 2, we see two additional Control Points added to the sky. These are limiting the spread of the first Control Point which now doesn’t select the sky. We could then continue to add Control Points to protect the beach.

When you add multiple Control Points that share a common purpose, like protecting areas of an image, it’s a good idea to also group them. To understand how to do this and how grouping Control Points affects the way they work, watch the following video. It also explains and demonstrates everything we’ve discussed in this article and more.

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Now that you understand some of the finer points about making selections with Nik Control Points, read my article about the new Control Lines in the Nik Collection 6.

More Nik Tutorials

You’ll find more high quality, free tutorials on my Nik Collection Tutorials page.

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