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User Interface Overview

Working with Luminar, you’ll access controls from three primary areas.  The Top Toolbar contains general-purpose and frequently used functions of the software.  The Side Panel is located to the right of the main image display; all adjustment tools, layers and the histogram can be found here. The Side Toolbar contains useful tools to edit your images. You can also save time with the Preset Panel which offers one-click presets at the bottom of the screen.

Top Toolbar

As you work with an image, the Top Toolbar contains many commands that you’ll frequently use.  These are grouped logically for easier use.

Open Button

The first button controls how files are opened, processed, and exported.  Clicking the Open button reveals two choices.

  • Open Images. The first choice is used to load new images for processing. The shortcut is Ctrl+O.
  • Batch Processing. The second choice opens up the Batch Processing dialog box. This is a way to process multiple images at one time. The shortcut is Ctrl+B.

Zoom Buttons

These next three buttons are used for changing your view of the image size in the canvas. If you go from left to right the buttons do the following.

  • Magnification Level.  The first menu controls the zoom level.  Click the dropdown menu to choose from a preset.
  • Zoom Out.  This option reduces the  view size of the displayed image. You can see the current zoom level in the magnification level field.
  • Zoom In. This option increases the  view size of the displayed image. 
  • To see the Original Size press Ctrl + 1 to view a 100% magnification showing the pixels in actual size. To Fit to Screen press Ctrl + 0 and the image will size itself to the canvas.

Comparison Buttons

These buttons allow you to compare the original image with the original default image, so you can easily compare how your enhancements changes the original image. 

  • Quick Preview. The eyeball icon can quickly toggle between the original image and the enhanced version. This allows you to quickly compare the current image with the original. This is the fastest and most convenient mode of comparison.
  • Compare Button. This button activates a comparison where the image is divided by a vertical strip (“curtain”). The original image (Before) is displayed on the left, and the current result (After) is on the right. This vertical strip can be dragged left or right, so you can view the differences in the picture.

Undo/History Buttons 

The next two buttons control the Undo command as well as let you view an image’s History.  These two buttons give you complete control over reverting to an earlier state of an image.

  • Undo. The Undo Button (curving left arrow) cancels the last action (for example, changing a slider). This is useful to go back to an earlier step.
  • History Panel. The History panel will quickly become an essential part of your workflow. It’s here that Luminar keeps a list of what you have done to the image since you opened it. These are multiple undos and an easy way to go back in time.  Simply click on an early History State to revert the photo to that stage of editing.
  • History states are also saved with an image when you store it in the native Luminar (.lmnr) file format.  This allows for a nondestructive editing workflow and let’s you revert to an earlier version of the image.  


To change the language used in Luminar just click the File menu and choose Language. You can now easily switch which language is used for the user interface and dialog boxes.

Tools Menu

The Tools menu holds specialty tools that help you modify an image or layer.  These tools will be explored in-depth later in this guide.

  • Crop Tool.The Crop tool allows you to hide parts of an image to change its composition or to prepare it for display at a certain size or aspect ratio (such as a 5X7 print). The Crop tool also makes it easy to align (straighten) the horizon in an image if it’s not horizontal. You’ll learn more about cropping in the chapter “Crop & Transform a Photo.”
  • Free Transform Tool (Ctrl + T). This tool makes it easy to transform a layer. Once active you can drag a handle at the side of the image to resize the width or height. Click the Lock icon in the info area if you want to force the image to maintain its original shape. You can also enter a specific size in pixels by clicking on a number.
  • Clone & Stamp Tool (Ctrl + J). The Clone & Stamp tool lets you sample pixels from one part of the image (just hold down the Option key and click on the source pixels). You can then click and paint in another part of the image to add those pixels into a new area. You’ll learn more in the chapter “Removing an Object.”
  • Erase Tool (Ctrl + E). The Erase tool is similar to the Clone & Stamp tool. The key difference is that you don’t need to choose where to sample pixels from. Simply click and paint on an unwanted object and pixels surrounding it will blend and try to remove the object from the image. You’ll also learn more about erasing in the chapter “Removing an Object.”

View Preset Panel/Side Panel Buttons

The next two buttons affect which controls are visible.  You can choose to hide options like the Preset Panel and Side Panel to make a larger preview image.

  • Show/Hide Preset Panel. The Preset Panel on the bottom of the Luminar 2018 interface is where you’ll find all of your presets.  These include those created by the Luminar team as well as your own custom presets.  To hide the Preset Panel, just click the button to toggle visibility or use the Tab key to hide both the Side and Preset Panels.
  • Show/Hide Side Panel. The Side Panel on the right side of the Luminar 2018 interface is where you’ll find the Histogram, Layers, and Filters controls.  This area is a fixed width and is always displayed on the right.  To hide the Side Panel, just click the button to toggle visibility or use the Tab key to hide both the Side and Preset Panels.

Share Image Button

The last button in the top Toolbar is used to share an image from the application to other applications. The same image can also be shared with other editing software from Skylum (and others) or uploaded directly to social networks and other online services.

  • Export to Image.  Creates a new file in a common image format.
  • Services.  Choose to send to system applications.

Side Toolbar

The Side panel gives you access to three important sets of controls.  The Histogram is a useful tool for judging exposure and details. Layers lets you work with multiple objects to create a composite image or to isolate effects or textures to their own place.  The Filters section gives you precise control over each filter you’ve added to a layer.

Histogram /Layers / Info Buttons

At the top of the side panel are three buttons that provide advanced controls over your images.  If you are just getting started with Luminar 2018, you might leave these three options deactivated.  However, as you grow comfortable with editing tasks or are looking for the most flexibility  and control, be sure to explore them.

  • Histogram – While color correcting or adjusting exposure, the histogram can be a great help. This graph illustrates how the pixels in the image are distributed across brightness levels.  More on the Histogram in the next section.
  • Layers – In Luminar, a layer can contain image, transparency, and filter information. This allows you to combine (or composite) multiple images into a new image as well as make complex adjustments with maximum flexibility.  By isolating discrete elements to their own layers, it is easier to control options such as transparency and blending. For most users, it’s a good idea to leave your Layers panel open while you work; this is where most of the action takes place. The Layers panel is like the steering wheel of a car. We’ll explore layers in depth in the chapter “Working with Layers.
  • Info – The Info Bar provides basic information about the file and can help you better understand your image, as well as its resolution. 

While color correcting or adjusting exposure, the histogram can be a great help. A histogram is a graphical representation of the tonal values of your image. This graph illustrates how the pixels in the image are distributed across brightness levels. In other words, it shows the amount of tones of particular brightness found in your photograph ranging from black (0% brightness) to white (100% brightness). Ideally, well balanced images will have tonal values across the entire range of the histogram.

To read a histogram, start at the left edge, which shows the shadow regions. The middle shows the midtones (where most adjustments to an image are made), and to the right are the highlights.  
The histogram is able to display Red, Green, Blue channels separately or, by default, shows all of them at once.  Click on the Histogram to switch between seeing a composite Histogram or just viewing details about the Red, Green, and Blue channels (which can be useful for spotting tint issues and color casts). You can also see a grayscale average for luminance.

Additionally, clicking the two small triangles in the upper left  and upper right corners will show hot and cold pixels respectively.  These are pixels that have shifted or exposed to become absolutely black or white pixels.  

Cold Pixels – To enable or disable the display mode of absolutely black pixels, click the triangle on the left and the histogram is clipped on the left side. Absolutely black pixels will be displayed in bright blue in the image.  Cold pixels (in blue) indicate areas where black has achieved maximum concentration (a zero value).
Hot Pixels –  Clicking the triangle on the upper right will show where your image is completely white, where the histogram is clipped on the right side. Absolutely white pixels are displayed in red.
In both cases this can be problematic (especially for printing) as there is too much ink coverage for cold pixels and no details at all in the hot pixels.  These indicators are a sign that you should adjust the exposure of the image. You may want to leave the Histogram panel open as you work, because it is an easy way to learn to read the graphical details of a digital image.
The use of the Develop and RAW Develop filters are an excellent way to take control of the Black and White points as well as the Shadows and Highlights of an image.  Pressing the J key will also toggle the clipping indicators On and Off if you want to see the pixels underneath.

Layers are a powerful way to “build up” your images, with different enhancements and use of blending modes on each layer. Using layers, you can apply corrections or enhancements on different layers, and experiment until you achieve exactly the look you’d like for your image.

  • To create a new layer. Click on the + button in the Layers Toolbar header.  A small pop-up menu will appear giving you the option of creating a layer using one of two options. Use an Adjustment Layer to create a layer to which you can apply a preset or any other adjustment in the Filters panel. The Add Image option will show a standard Open File dialog, allowing you to create a new layer with a texture file or another image that you’ve chosen.
  • To remove the layer. Select the layer and click - in the Layers Toolbar title.
  • To change the blending mode of the layer. Set the Layer Blending mode in the drop-down list under the word Layers or in the fly-out menu indicated by the Gear icon underneath the + icon. You cannot set the blending mode for the first layer because it is not mixed with anything — it is the baseline image. More on blending modes in the chapter “Working with Layers.” 
  • Layer Transparency Setting. Click on the drop-down menu with percentages near the word Opacity. Drag the slider to customize the opacity for the selected layer.  Opacity controls how opaque a layer is (and is the opposite of transparency).
  • Access Advanced Settings and Functions of a Layer. Click on the Gear icon below the + icon. A context menu appears with additional features to apply to the layer.
  • To Change the Order of Layers. All the layers except the first are movable. Click on the layer and drag to move the selected layer to the new location.  Changing the stacking order or layers can affect the order of operation (how images are developed) which can change its appearance.
  • Show / Hide the Layer. Click on the eyeball on the left side of a layer to toggle between visible and hidden.


The Info Bar provides basic information about a photo.  Some of this information is always visible and the rest can be toggled on or off. When the Info button is activated, this information is displayed from left to right:

  • ISO. The ISO of the image when captured.
  • Focal Length. The focal length for the lens used when shooting.
  • Aperture. The ƒ-stop for the images.

Additional information is always shown about your image.

  • Resolution. The current resolution of the image in pixels.
  • Bit Depth. Luminar supports working in 8-bits per channel for JPEG and 16-bits per channel for RAW files.

Filters are how you can adjust the exposure, color, contrast, and style of your image in Luminar 2018.  The proper use of filters can significantly improve your image.  Each filter is designed to solve specific problems or enhance an image in a particular way. The Filters section of the side panel shows any filters you have applied.  

Filters can be stacked in any order to change their order of operations.  You can also add masks to filters to control their results.  Filters can also have other properties like their blending mode and visibility adjusted. 

Workspace Switcher

Luminar offers workspaces to streamline your approach to editing. Each workspace is a customized group of filters designed for a particular style of editing.  Luminar offers pre-built workspaces that have been designed for particular tasks. You’ll find that using Luminar’s purpose-built workspaces offer uniquely tailored tools which achieve great results quickly.

Preset Panel

The Preset Panel contains all of the one-click Presets available in Luminar 2018. These presets can be applied to any open image or to a new Adjustment layer.  To apply a preset, simply click on its thumbnail.  To adjust the intensity of the effect, use the Amount slider to blend the adjustment. We’ll explore presets in depth in the next chapter.

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