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How can I use the new Invert Mask?

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…


Invert Masks

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?

For extensive information on Lightroom Classic, see Adobe Lightroom Classic – The Missing FAQ.

If you have the Photography Plan, then as well as Classic you have access to the Lightroom cloud ecosystem including the mobile apps and web interface. For more information on these apps, see Adobe Lightroom – Edit Like a Pro.

Note: purchase of these books includes the first year’s Classic or cloud-based Premium Membership (depending on the book purchased), giving access to download the latest eBook (each time Adobe updates the software), email assistance for the applicable Lightroom version if you hit a problem, and other bonuses.

We also have a special bundle offer for the two books. This includes Premium Membership for the first year as described above for the whole Lightroom family!

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