Masking tool

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The controls in the Adjustment panels in the Develop module let you affect the color and tone of an entire photo. But sometimes, you don't want to make adjustments globally to the entire photo. You want to make corrections to a specific area of a photo. For example, you may want to lighten a face to make it stand out in a portrait or enhance the blue sky in a landscape. To make local corrections in Lightroom Classic, you can apply color and tonal adjustments using the Masking tool.

As with all other adjustments applied in the Develop module in Lightroom Classic, adjustments made using the Masking tool are non-destructive and are not permanently applied to the photo. 

Video tutorial: Introducing the new and improved Masking features

Video tutorial - Advanced techniques with the new and improved Masking features

Create mask

There are multiple options within Lightroom Classic to add a mask to your image. You can use Select Subject and Select Sky to automatically add a mask or use Brush, Linear GradientRadial Gradient, or Range Masks to add a mask manually.

  1. Open a photo to edit in the Develop module. 

  2. Select Masking from the tool strip of the Develop module.

    Masking

  3. Use one of the following tools to make a selection:

    Brush

    Click and drag the Brush tool over the areas you want to edit. Adjust the Brush SizeFeatherFlow, and Density using the given slider

    Size Specifies the diameter of the brush tip in pixels.

    Feather Creates a soft-edged transition between the brushed area and the surrounding pixels. When you use the brush, the distance between the inner and outer circle represents the feather amount.

    Flow Controls the rate of application of the adjustment.

    Density Controls the amount of transparency in the stroke.

    You can also select Auto Mask to confine the brush strokes to areas of similar color.

    Brush mask
    Mask created using the Brush tool

    Linear Gradient

    Click and drag the tool in the area you want to edit. This is useful to adjust a large portion of the photo with a gradually fading pattern that creates soft transitions.

    Linear Gradient
    Mask created using Linear Gradient tool

    Radial Gradient

    Click and drag the tool in the area you want to edit. This tool helps you make local adjustments inside or outside an oval shape. Use the Feather slider to determine how soft you want the adjustments to be.

    Radial Gradient
    Mask created using Radial Gradient tool

    Color Range

    Use this tool to sample color within the mask area. Do any of the following:

    • To sample a single color within the mask area, click Color Range Selector at the required location on your photo.
    • For more accurate color selection, do any of the following:
      • Click+drag an area around the colors in the photo that you want to adjust.
      • Shift+click to add multiple color samples. You can add up to five color samples by holding Shift while clicking on the image.
    • To remove an existing color sample within the color range mask, Option(Mac)/Alt(Win)+click the sample that you want to remove.
    • Adjust the Refine slider to narrow or broaden the range of selected colors.
    Color Range
    Mask created using Color Range tool

    Luminance Range

    Select a point or area in the photo using this tool. All areas with the selected range of brightness will become a selection. This way, you can make precise adjustments to just those levels of brightness in a photo. To select a luminance range within the mask area, do any of the following:

    • Adjust the Luminance Range slider to define the endpoints of the selected luminance range.
    • Click+drag an area on the photo you want to adjust. It is recommended to select a small area to narrow down on a specific luminance range.

    Select the Show Luminance Mask check box to view the luminance information of the photo in black and white representation. The part in red color shows the actual area masked by the Luminance Range Mask.

    Luminance range
    Mask created using Luminance range tool

    Depth Range

    Use this tool to select areas based on their distance from the camera. This tool is enabled only for photos containing depth information. To select a depth range within the mask area, do any of the following:

    • Adjust the Depth Range slider to define the endpoints of the selected depth range.
    • Click+drag an area on the photo you want to adjust. It is recommended to choose a smaller area using the Depth Range Selector tool to narrow down on a specific depth range. 

    Select the Show Depth Mask check box to view the depth of the image in black and white representation. The part of the photo in white represents the foreground, while the part of the photo in black represents the background. The red color shows the actual area masked by the Depth Range Mask.

    Depth range
    Mask created using Depth Range tool

  4. You can further refine the mask using the Masks panel. Click the mask in the Masks panel and select Add to further add areas to the selection or Subtract to erase areas of the selection. You can use any of the masking tools to do this.

  5. After refining the mask area, you can now make selective adjustments from the Effect menu to create precise photographic edits. For more information, see Adjustment Sliders.

Select Subject

Select Subject allows you to automatically select the subject in the photo and apply specific edits.

  1. Open a photo to edit in the Develop module.

  2. Select Masking > Select Subject from the tool strip of the Develop module.

    Select Subject

  3. Lightroom Classic will analyze the photo and automatically select the subject for you. You can view the selection as an overlay and a mask is created in the Masks panel.

    Select Subject

  4. After refining the mask area, you can now make selective adjustments from the Effect menu to create precise photographic edits. For more information, see Adjustment Sliders.

Select Sky

Select Sky allows you to automatically select the sky in your photo and apply specific edits.

  1. Open a photo to edit in the Develop module.

  2. Select Masking > Select Sky from the tool strip of the Develop module.

    Select Subject

  3. Lightroom Classic will analyze the photo and automatically select the sky for you. You can view the selection as an overlay and a mask is created in the Masks panel.

  4. After refining the mask area, you can now make selective adjustments from the Effect menu to create precise photographic edits. For more information, see Adjustment sliders.

Add to mask

Once you have created a mask, you can further add areas to the selection using any of the masking tools. To add to an existing mask, do the following:

  1. Click Add from the Masking panel.

    Add to mask

  2. Select one of the masking tools to add to the mask with.

    Add to mask

Subtract from mask

Once you have created a mask, you can erase areas of the automatic selection using any of the masking tools. To subtract from an existing mask, do the following:

  1. Click Subtract from the Masking panel.

    Subtract from a mask

  2. Select one of the masking tools to subtract from the mask with.

    Subtract from a mask

Masks panel

Once you have created a mask using one of the masking tools, you can further refine the selection using the Masks panel. 

You can drag and drop the Masks panel to dock or undock it from the panel. You can also right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) on the Masks panel header and select Dock to panel or Undock from panel.

You can also drag and drop a tool selection to move it within a group, to a different group, or to create a new mask. You can also press Option (macOS) or Ctrl (Windows) while dragging to create a copy of the selected tool selection instead of moving it.

The Masks panel contains the list of all the masks and the tool selections that you have made. You can perform the following actions from the masks or tool selection menu.

  1. Do one of the following in the Masks panel.

    • Click the three-dot icon in front of the mask or tool selection.
    • Right-click on the mask or tool selection.
    Masks panel

  2. Select one of the following from the menu:

    Rename Select this option to rename the name of the mask

    Invert Select this option to select everything else except the initial selection you made. This option is only available for tool selection masks

    Intersect Mask with Select this option to create a new component in the existing mask that intersects with the other components of the same mask. You can also access this option from the Masks Panel by pressing Alt (Windows)/Option (macOS)

    Intersect

    Duplicate Select this option to create a copy of the mask

    Hide Select this option to Hide the selected mask

    Delete Select this option to delete the selected mask

Masks overlay

You can also change overlay options from the Masks panel.

Overlay

  1. Select Show Overlay to view the mask on the image.

  2. Select the color of the overlay from the color picker.

  3. Click the three-dot menu to select the overlay mode

    • Color Overlay
    • Color Overlay on B&W  
    • Image on B&W
    • Image on Black
    • Image on White
    • White on Black

Adjustment sliders

Use the following sliders to make the desired adjustments to your selection:

Temp

Adjusts the color temperature of an area of the image, making it warmer or cooler. A graduated filter temperature effect can improve images captured in mixed-lighting conditions.

Tint

Compensates for a green or magenta color cast

Exposure

Sets the overall image brightness. Applying an Exposure local correction can achieve results similar to traditional dodging and burning.

Contrast

Adjusts image contrast, mainly affecting midtones

Highlights

Recovers detail in overexposed highlight areas of an image

Shadows

Recovers detail in underexposed shadow areas of an image

Whites

Adjusts the white points in a photo

Blacks

Adjusts the black points in a photo

Texture

Smoothens or accentuates textured details in your photo. Move the slider to the left to smoothen details; move it to the right to accentuate details. When you adjust the Texture slider, the color or tonality does not change.

Clarity

Adds depth to an image by increasing local contrast

Dehaze

Reduces or increases existing haze in a photo

Hue

Adjusts the hue in a photo. Select Use Fine Adjustment for precise adjustments.

Saturation

Adjusts the vividness of the color

Sharpness

Enhances edge definition to bring out details in the photo. A negative value blurs details.

Noise

Reduces luminance noise, which can become apparent when shadow areas are opened.

Moiré

Removes moiré artifacts, or color aliasing

Defringe

Removes fringe colors along edges

Color

Applies a tint to the area affected by the local correction. Select the hue by clicking the Color swatch. The Color effect is preserved if you convert the photo to black and white.

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