These Control Lines can already be found in DxO PhotoLab 6, but they are new to the Nik Collection 6. Control Lines are a special kind of selective masking tool, but what they are and how they work is not at all obvious.
DxO obviously thought of the name as an extension of its regular Control Points, but instead of the circular masking and adjustments of Control Points, Control Lines work more like a linear gradient tool.
But this is a linear gradient tool with a difference. It has an eyedropper which can be moved around to select the tones or areas you want the mask to be applied to. You can think of it as a ‘Selective Gradient’ tool, if that helps.
So how does it work and is it useful?
Step 01: My start shot
I’m trying it out on this shot of a bit of modernist architecture against a bright sky, where I want to darken the sky, but not the building – a classic problem when applying digital graduated filters.
Step 02: The regular Graduated Neutral Density effect
So here you can see the problem. I’m using Color Efex Pro’s Graduated Neutral Density filter, one of my favorite tools, but no matter how much I adjust the Blend and Vertical Shift sliders, the top of the building is being darkened along with the sky.
Step 03: The new Control Line mask tool
But in the Nik Collection 6, this filter has some new masking options at the bottom. If I select the Control Line button and just click roughly in the middle of the image, it adds a Control Line mask to the filter. The trouble is, it seems to have knocked out the filter effect – but that’s because of the default position of the eyedropper, which is over the building at the moment.
Step 04: The Control Line eyedropper
What I need to do now, then, is drag the eyedropper to an area of the sky that I want to darken, and in this instance dragging it to a patch of blue gives the most dramatic effect. Control Lines do indeed work just like Control Points but with two key differences. First, they apply a linear gradient rather than a circular mask. Second, you can move the eyedropper relative to the mask – it’s not fixed in the center.
Are Control Lines useful?
They genuinely are. The most obvious use for me is handling bright skies in outdoor shots, but I’m sure there will be plenty of other uses too. Once you figure out how they work, using them quickly becomes second nature. And a selective linear gradient tool is such a great idea!
You can see pricing for the DxO Nik Collection 6 below, along with other DxO software. There’s a 30-day free trial too, which gives you plenty of time to try the Nik Collection 6 out for yourself.
DxO software downloads and pricing*
DxO PhotoLab 7 Elite: regular price $229/£209
DxO ViewPoint 4: regular price $99/£89
DxO FilmPack 7: regular price $139/£129
DxO PureRAW 3: regular price $129/£115
DxO Nik Collection 6: regular price $149/£135
• 30 day trials are available for each product and bundle deals are available.
*Check for the latest offers at the DxO store