A Masashi Wakui look with GIMP


A Masashi Wakui look with GIMP

A color bloom fit for night urban landscapes

This tutorial explains how to achieve an effect based on the post processing by photographer Masashi Wakui. His primary subjects appear as urban landscape views of Japan where he uses some pretty and aggressive color toning to complement his scenes along with a soft ‘bloom’ effect on the highlights. The results evoke a strong feeling of an almost cyberpunk or futuristic aesthetic (particularly for fans of Bladerunner or Akira!).

![Untitled|640x426](upload://oP6mZN56f6krgCDf3FIyNFhtJJc.jpeg) ![Untitled|640x427](upload://pO9czFxMce451MZztAJ0At7BAL0.jpeg) ![Untitled|640x427](upload://mFBqnb7pU1XWbedodwUumT50rxU.jpeg)

This tutorial started its life in the pixls.us forum, which was inspired by a forum post seeking assistance on replicating the color grading and overall look/feel of Masashi’s photography.


To follow along will require a couple of plugins for GIMP.

The Luminosity Mask filter will be used to target color grading to specific tones. You can find out more about luminosity masks in GIMP at Pat David’s blog post and his follow-up blog post. If you need to install the script, directions can be found (along with the scripts) at the PIXLS.US GIMP scripts git repository.

You will also need the Wavelet decompose plugin. The easiest way to get this plugin is to use the one available in G’MIC. As a bonus you’ll get access to many other incredible filters as well! Once you’ve installed G’MIC the filter can be found under
Details → Split details [wavelets].

We will do some basic toning and then apply Gimp’s wavelet decompose filter to do some magic. Two things will be used from the wavelet decompose results:

  • the residual
  • the coarsest wavelet scale (number 8 in this case)

The basic idea is to use the residual of the the wavelet decompose filter to color the image. What this does is average and blur the colors. The trick strengthens the effect of the surroundings being colored by the lights. The number of wavelet scales to use depends on the pixel size of the picture; the relative size of the coarsest wavelet scale compared to the picture is the defining parameter. The wavelet scale 8 will then produce overemphasised local contrasts, which will accentuate the lights further. This works nicely in pictures with lights as the brightest areas will be around lights. Used on daytime picture this effect will also accentuate brighter areas which will lead to a kind of “glow” effect. I tried this as well and it does look good on some pictures while on others it looks just wrong. Try it!

We will be applying all the following steps to this picture, taken in Akihabara, Tokyo.

![The unaltered photograph|960x590](upload://iN4EkXLYrsoWxVZjhMvIWiFQBPD.jpeg)
The starting image (download full resolution).
  1. Apply the luminosity mask filter to the base picture. We will use this later.

    Filters → Generic → Luminosity Masks

  2. Duplicate the base picture (Ctrl+Shift+D).

    Layer → Duplicate Layer

  3. Tone the shadows of the duplicated picture using the tone curve by lowering the reds in the shadows. If you want your shadows to be less green, slightly raise the blues in the shadows.

    Colors → Curves

    ![The toning curves|372x526](upload://5DLtvyCwT6gD6BUjIENiG7lZ6tO.png)
    ![The photograph with the toning curve applied|900x553](upload://qRe92pFcpm8Vhi8WbeGyoJLVqcX.jpeg)
  4. Apply a layer mask to the duplicated and toned picture. Choose the DD luminosity mask from a channel.

    Layer → Mask → Add Layer Mask

    ![Luminosity Mask Added|293x370](upload://8NBwoSyMaFee2Sk4eBnhUthjX7S.png)
  5. With both layers visible, create a new layer from what is visible. Call this layer the “blended” layer.

    Layer → New from Visible

    ![The photograph after the blended layer|900x553](upload://jzKqq8JyDHpGCi2ugCiHMrYuzgb.jpeg)
  6. Apply the wavelet decompose filter to the “blended” layer and choose 9 as number of detail scales. Set the G’MIC output mode to “New layer(s)” (see below).

    Filters → G’MIC
    Details → Split Details [wavelets]

    ![G'MIC Split Details Wavelet Decompose dialog|900x457](upload://6lQfN0imzq6SwvoqxPEwWysCbPn.png)
    Remember to set G’MIC to output the results on New Layer(s).
  7. Make the blended and blended [residual] layers visible. Then set the mode of the blended [residual] layer to color. This will give you a picture with averaged, blurred colors.

    ![The fully colored photograph|899x553](upload://wqAimU63GP9HrTbiDAdAvMMKn9W.jpeg)
  8. Turn the opacity of the blended [residual] down to 70%, or any other value to your taste, to bring back some color detail.

    ![The partially colored photograph|899x553](upload://l7B3polZqeAJ4eUSnjmDFTEti7F.jpeg)
  9. Turn on the blended [scale #8] layer, set the mode to grain merge, and see how the lights start shining. Adjust opacity to taste.

    ![The augmented contrast layer|899x553](upload://2B4fjFqigLjvRiH9rDy7uIqn3DM.jpeg)
  10. Optional: Turn the wavelet scale 3 (or any other) on to sharpen the picture and blend to taste.

  11. Make sure the following layers are visible:

    • blended
    • residual
    • wavelet scale 8
    • Any other wavelet scale you want to use for sharpening
  12. Make a new layer from visible

    Layer → New from Visible

  13. Raise and slightly crush the shadows using the tone curve.

    ![Raise the shadow curve|372x526](upload://3WONes9wz48YLn08ATRghu6BUcp.png)
  14. Optional: Adjust saturation to taste. If there are predominantly white lights and the colors come mainly from other objects, the residual will be washed out, as is the case with this picture.

    I noticed that the reds and yellows were very dominant compared to greens and blues. So using the Hue-Saturation dialog I raised the master saturation by +70 and lowered the yellow saturation by -50 and lowered the red saturation by -40 all using an overlap of _60_.

The final result:

![The final image!|960x590](upload://qzlsI0r0byyqSrK5nTr9HFdn0Oh.jpeg)
The final result. (Click to compare to original.)
Download the full size result.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://pixls.us/articles/a-masashi-wakui-look-with-gimp/

thanks for putting this together. It’s great and gets me 90% of the way there.


I tried your setup and the result is very beautifull! Great Thanks for sharing this! Congratulations

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Nice tutorial. One think, where I see a difference to Masashi Wakui images is, that Masashi Wakuis images have a blueish sky/black.

Well if you look at all his pictures he has all kinds off colors.
Anyway this is just one technique to get a similar effect. He does very different things actually.

Here’s a snippet from some photoshop forum where the man himself explained his procedure (found by my brother in law and translated from japanese…):

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By playing with some G’MIC filters, I’ve found that the RGB mixer makes some interesting results.
I wrote a small script in script-fu, using this RGB mixer filter alone to give a feel to night street images which -to me- is not that far from the Wakui style.
The script: wakui.scm (1.8 KB)

Some before/after examples (images CC0 Public Domain from Pixabay)


If you haven’t already, consider posting to /r/postprocessing on reddit. Someone asks how to do this weekly and now they’d have a way to do so with open source

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I posted it there when this first went live, and there was a nice response to it. :slight_smile:

Reposting gives you all that sweet sweet karma though :wink:

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This effect also available by breathing on the lens front element. :wink:

Nah, it’s slightly different.


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Neat result though!

I’ve never used reddit.

@patdavid, thanks.

@CarVac, that’s because you didn’t have japanese food before the shot. :wink:

@sguyader, I somehow overlooked your post and only noticed it now, nice results you are showing. I’ll have to try your script.

script wakui.scm updated for GMIC-v2.0.0pre →


I tried with photo I found on pixabay, here is the result. Nice result so far, but what I don’t understand in the part 4 of the tutorial is that what do you do after adding mask layer? I create mask layer but I see no difference after doing it, therefor I decided to use blend mode as hardmix to blend the two layer together. It give darker appearance.

What did you use exactly? The G’MIC filter? The Gimp script?

In this tutorial, what’s the point of using a luminance mask in steps 1–5 when you can just use the curves tool to only decrease the reds in the shadows? The curves tool can only control value, and not luminance, but I still don’t see much of a difference between the two methods.

You are right, you could do it with just the curve.

That is basically a personal preference and the way I did it at the time of writing the tutorial…:slight_smile:
What I liked to do at that time is to set a general tone on the duplicated layer and then afterwards look if I want this tone applied only to deepest shadows, or all the shadows using luminosity masks.

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