How are you liking the Masking features in Lightroom? Since being introduced last October, we’ve now seen additional features such as being able to invert masks. How does this work in practice? And how would you use Duplicate and Invert Mask not just Invert Mask? Let’s give it a go…
First, we’ll create a mask on this photo using the Select Subject. Remember, a subject doesn’t have to be a person; in our example, we’ve used a yellow rose. It could be a boat, an animal – usually the main focus of the photo.
Select the Masking tool by clicking the last icon in the Tool Strip beneath the Histogram. (We’ll use Lightroom Classic for this example. You’ll find the Masking tool in the right panel bar on Lightroom for desktop and tablet, or in the Edit toolbar on iPhone/Android, so you can follow along.)
Click on Select Subject as the new mask type. Lightroom uses AI (artificial intelligence) to determine what it thinks is the subject – and usually does a good job.
We like to use the Color Overlay on B&W overlay mode, as it’s really easy to see the selection. To display it, enable Show Overlay at the bottom of the Masks panel. Click the … button to the right for variations on the type of overlay. Click the colored square if you’d prefer a different color, but we like red on B&W, as it’s very easy to see.
Lightroom has done a good job here. If it hasn’t on your photo, you can use the Brush tool to add to the mask if it missed some parts of the subject, or subtract from the mask if it included some of the background. To do so, click on the mask in the Masks panel to show the Add/Subtract buttons, and then select the Brush and paint on the photo to tidy up the selection.
Now, we want to use Invert Mask so we can make a change to the background. Right-click on the mask in the Masks panel, or click the … button to the right of the mask. In that menu, select Invert [mask name]. As we haven’t changed the name of the mask, the command will actually read Invert “Mask 1”.
Turn off the Overlay mask (untick the Show Overlay), and make adjustments to the background using the sliders in the right panel group. We wanted to just reduce the saturation of the background and reduce its exposure a little, giving prominence to the yellow rose. (If you see blue marks like these, they’re just the clipping warnings, press J to hide them.)
Previously we would have needed to either use quite a number of brush strokes to select the background, or drop into Photoshop for a faster selection. For this example it’s much quicker in Lightroom.
Duplicate and Invert Mask
Sometimes the end result you want can be similar, but you want to make adjustments to the subject as well. For example, we might want to change the color of the rose from yellow to pink.
So, as in the first example, we used Select Subject. This time we adjusted the color of the rose using the Hue slider and also dropped the Saturation slightly to get the shade of pink we want.
Next, we want a mask with just the background, to reduce the saturation of the green, as we did in the last photo. To do so, right-click on the mask in the Masks panel, or click the … button to the right of the mask. This time select Duplicate and Invert Mask.
You can see there are now two masks listed in the Masks panel. The original mask that we called Rose, and now a second mask called Rose Inverted. When you float over each mask, the selected area is highlighted using the overlay, to help you identify the different masks.
When you use Duplicate and Invert Mask, all the slider settings you made on the initial mask are automatically cleared. This is as you’ll want to apply different adjustments to the copy. Now we can make our adjustments to the background, reducing the saturation and exposure, as we did in our first example.
So, how are you finding the new Masking tools?
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chuck guedelhoefer says
Your explanation as usual was brief, clear and concise. Great job the mask tools are a great addition to LRC and I especially like the invert direct improvement. The old way was not as efficient. So far the subject selection AI has been spot on for the most part. And as you suggest it is easily adjusted with the brush if the AI misses some parts. The fact that the one click invert follows makes it very convient to go directly to the invert with your brush tweaks.
Paul McFarlane says
Thanks for the feedback, Chuck. We thought having a worked example was the best way of explaining the new feature!
Jan Wagner says
Thank you for explaining this. I do almost all of my photo editing with Lightroom Classic and Topaz plug-ins (DeNoise AI to get rid of low-light noise, and Gigapixel AI to get rid of jagged edges on heavily cropped photos).
Tom Lewis says
What an outstanding explaination of the use of the new masking techniques.
I love the new tools and find I am using them more and more; even going back to previous work and re-developing the photos.
Keep up the great work.
Paul McFarlane says
Thanks for the feedback, Tom. We thought a worked example helps to explain the steps.
Like you, I’m surprised how much I use the Masking in Lightroom now, saves quite a number of trips to Photoshop!