Nik Software – Control Points

CP’s make Nik products stand out above the rest

CP’s are the key to making Selective Adjustments

& making them in seconds

without manually creating masks & layers


Color Me Flamingo

A Nik Software Selective Adjustment via CP’s example

Control Points are an integral part of every Nik Software product. They are the key to Nik’s patented UPoint Technology. With U Point powered Control Points, there is no need to ever create complex selections, masks, or layers. With simple click and drag functionality, photographers can work directly on the image to control virtually any aspect of their photographic edits.

This post will explain control points.

I’d guess that at least 50% of the users of Nik products do not fully understand what CP’s are and how they work.

Misconceptions abound! Even some experienced beta testers seem to get confused occasionally.

If you don’t understand CP’s you are losing much of the advantage and value of Nik products.

This post applies to all Nik products.

PLEASEclick images to enlarge them to a readable size to get the most from this post

What exactly is a control point?
Here’s an illustration (image credit – Nik; annotation – blame me)

The Anatomy of a Nik Control Point

Long story made short –

  1. The magic begins when you add a control point (see bottom box)
  2. The next thing that’s apparent to you is that a control point appears on the screen where you clicked to place it (not that black dot used for illustration at the bottom – see the top box)
  3. In between 1 & 2 UPOINT did the “HOW” part noted above
  4. “Magic” takes place as you adjust your control point
  5. #3 & #4 all take place under the sheets – but if you don’t understand what the HOW does, you’re not going to make effective use of the technology

Geez! That was the short version? Yeah, sorry. 😉
What does a CP look like?
Here’s a CP from Viveza.


Another CP anatomy lesson –

Item #1 is the actual “CP”.

It defines the exact spot where the UPOINT pixel characteristic analysis shown earlier is done.

You can drag this to change its position – with the image zoomed to facilitate precise placement when important.

Go back and read the “fine print” about HOW UPOINT analyzes & uses the pixel data at the location of this point – very, very important to understand

Items 2-4 illustrate the three different types of controls available in a CP.

#2 is a slider – controls the “effective radius” of the CP (details to follow)

#3 is a slider – each of the 4 shown here control a different adjustment type – Br (brightness), Co, Sa, St.

The available adjustment types differ from program to program!  For example one of SEP2’s is “Amplify Black” whereas Viveza has “Saturation” among others & CEP4 has only one – Opacity.

However, they all work the same.

Typical adjustment range of -100 to +100 but may vary depending on the adjustment type

#4 is an arrow – appears in programs where the CP has a large number of adjustment sliders (the #3 type control). It allows you to expand or collapse the list (compare the upper & lower example images)

Accessing Control Points
Location varies from program to program, but easy to find.

In Viveza, it’s all about control points. They’re the whole reason for the program – the only controls available.

In HEP & SEP2, they are in the right sidebar in the section titled Selective Adjustments (right below  Global Adjusments)

In CEP4 they are included with each of the 55 filters (see the Anatomy of a CEP Filter)

Different locations, different adjustment types – BUT identical in function when added to an image –

“….no need to ever create complex selections, masks, or layers. With simple click and drag functionality, photographers can work directly on the image to control virtually any aspect of their photographic edits.”

Once found, click to select & then move your cursor to the image and click to drop.

In a busy image with lots of details, colors & tones you may want/need to zoom in and drag the control point to exactly where it’s needed

In some cases the old “a miss is as good as a mile” applies; it’s not like horseshoes where being close counts

The Nitty-Gritty
Lets start with where most users go astray.

They don’t know the HOW of UPOINT (did you read it & re-read it?).
As  a result, they stumble across the CP’s “effective radius” and immediately assume that everything within that radius is affected – and affected equally. WRONG!!

To make it as simple as possible –

  • What is the Hue, Saturation & Luminosity of the pixel under the CP? (i.e., what color is it?)
  • This is what will be adjusted – nothing else
  • Also, the effective radius circle is “feathered”; it is not a hard on/off boundary

An example of the Nitty-Gritty
About the example image –

  • The center 3×3 grid is made up of pure red (255/0/0), green (0/255/0), and blue (0/0/255) (the funky purplish blue is a color management flaw; it’s blue, really)
  • The background colors are the ROYGBIV rainbow colors – forwards & backwards
  • ROY-G-BIV: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet
  • A CEP4 CP is in the center of the image. CEP4 has only one adjustment, opacity, & is the simplest type of CP (compare with the Viveza CP with its 10 adjustments shown earlier)

Why such a stylized image? Because it makes “what a CP does & doesn’t affect” obvious. The mix of details & colors in a “real image” tends to mask what’s really happening.


Moving on to the “effective adjustment” circle.
This will appear if you click & drag the CP WHILE holding down Ctrl

NOTE : between the above image & this one I’ve switched from CEP4 to Viveza. The only CP difference is in the number & type of adjustment sliders.

If you’re a typical CP user (you know who you are ;-)), when asked what will change when this CP is activated, you say “Everything inside the circle.” WRONG!

The correct answer is everything matching the pixel under the CP (which I explained above is pure blue in this case)

Further, since the circle is “feathered” we might see some slight effect outside of the circle.

The affected area mask
Here is the mask. Note that only blue is affected. If you look closely you will see a small spillover into the ROYGBIV blues (hard to see at this resolution; click it) – we’ll see how to fix that later.
The mask display is created by clicking on the box indicated in the following screen capture. Can you imagine doing that in Photoshop? Neither can I. 😉
The real affect.
For this example, using a Viveza CP, I changed Brightness, Contrast & Saturation all to -100%.

In plain-speak – I asked everything affected by this single CP to be made BLACK.

Contrary to popular belief, the adjustment was applied only to elements matching the area under the CP – and NOT everything inside the circle. Convinced?
If you compare this with the original, you’ll see some minor darkening of the ROYGBIV blue due to the spillover. Fixing that comes next.
How to control “spills”
CEP4 control points come in two flavors –

  1. +CP – turns on the adjustment (whatever it is)
  2. -CP – turns off the adjustment
  3. Since the only CEP4 CP adjustment is Opacity, you can convert a + to – or vice versa simply by pulling the opacity slider to the opposite end.

Viveza, HEP & SEP have “neutral” rather than +/- CP’s.
If there is an undesired spill, the solution is to use one or more negative CP’s (-CP’s) or neutral CP’s – placed in the areas where the spill occurred.

This is done easiest if you turn on the mask view and deal with easily seen black vs white

White means the filter is active; black not

Drop the negative/neutral CP’s in the white areas you wish to “turn off”

First lets make the circle bigger to encourage more spill-

Can you see spill inside the red ellipse? If not, it’s a sign that your monitor may need calibrating (I’m serious).


Here’s what we see if we add a neutral CP to the spill (all adjustments at zero vs. the original CP with all set to -100).

I’ve made the circle cover just the upper right quadrant. This way we can see the difference in the corrected & uncorrected (lower left) ROYGBIV blues.


Turning off the mask shows this result –


Same thing except this time changing red, instead of blue, to black – easier to see the spill over.

Multiple Control Points
The fun doesn’t stop with just one. Many images want/need multiple CP’s.
Here’s another example using the above image –

Turn the small pure red squares black (Br=Co=SA = -100) and the green ones white (Br=Co=SA = +100)

While forcing all of the other colors to remain unchanged

I used 6 CP’s with relatively small circles – all to maintain better control of spillage which you can see in the mask below is almost none and hardly noticeable in the final image.

The Real World (Vegas – Real? Gotta be kidding)

Off to SEP2 for a B&W conversion. Use CP’s in SEP2’s Selective Adjustment section to get some selective color – everything “Flamingo”.

CP’s for selective color – here’s the “mask”

and – the final result

Now it’s your turn. This gives you more than enough to move out on your own. A little experimentation and you’ll be a pro.
Here are two more Selective Adjustment via Control Points posts, specific to HEP & SEP2. Reading them, in combination with this one, may provide your AHA! moment.
HDR Efex Pro
Silver Efex Pro 2 (if you only read one – make it this one)
NOTE WELL – I hope that after reading this you understand why CP’s are NOT copied into HEP & SEP presets, nor CEP4 recipes or CEP3 Save Slots. What would be the sense? The points in any given location across a set of different photos are totally different. Why would you copy a preset with CP’s ,created for an image of a wedding party, to an image of the bride – that makes no sense and is the reason why CP’s aren’t copyable. The same applies to Viveza.
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