Adobe Unveils Redesigned Masking and Selective Adjustment Tools for Camera Raw and Lightroom

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by Jeremy Gray

published on Tuesday, September 28, 2021 at 3:15 p.m. EDT

The Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) team has announcement a “completely redesigned and redesigned way of masking selective adjustments in Adobe Camera RAW, Lightroom, and Lightroom Classic which we now collectively call masking.” The new masking tools will be available in ACR, Lightroom (desktop and mobile), and Lightroom Classic on October 26.

Adobe’s Josh Bury writes: “Selectively adjusting certain areas of a photo differently from others is a technique almost as old as photography itself.” Early versions of Photoshop included dodging and engraving tools, as well as the ability to make selections, use masks, edit with layers, and use layer masks. Lightroom 2 introduced the brush, linear gradient, and radial gradient tools in 2008. The upcoming change to Selective Adjustments and Masking is the biggest change since then.

“The new Masks panel, shown here in Lightroom Classic, with a number of mask groups, each made up of multiple masking tools.” Caption and image credit: Adobe

The new masking changes required an overhaul of the core masking engine in ACR and Lightroom. Adobe previously added AI-based selection tools to Photoshop, including Select Subject and Sky Replacement. These tools turned out to be popular, so Adobe wondered how they could be added to ACR and Lightroom.

It turns out that the old image processing engine in ACR and LR was incompatible with these AI-based tools. ACR and LR’s old masking engine worked exclusively with vector masks. This type of masking is more efficient with memory because the adjustments are saved as mathematical expressions. However, AI-based masks require bitmap or image-based support. “In essence, the new AI-based masks create a grayscale image, where the lighter values ​​represent different levels of selection and pure black does not represent any selection made in that area. A fairly common example of these grayscale bitmap masks can be found in Photoshop layer masks. ‘

The main codebase had to be reworked to make the masking engine in ACR and LR work with bitmap masks. This work, along with direct discussions with tens of thousands of Adobe users over the past year and a half, has resulted in a new masking engine, redesigned user experience, and improved functionality. The new masking engine in ACR and LR can now work in harmony with vector and bitmap masks.

“The new Select Subject tool automatically creates an accurate mask of the protruding subject with one click and works on people, animals and inanimate objects. »Caption and image credit: Adobe

While changing how masking works at a fundamental level in ACR and LR, the team also overhauled how users access and work with different masking tools on desktop and mobile. “For a year and a half, the Design Research team brought together user experience designers, engineers and a wide range of customers to build and test prototypes that guided the process of creating the new masking experience,” writes Bury. The team identified four key areas to address with new masking features: more control and flexibility, improved workflow and organization of selections, consistency across devices, and better support across the board. application.

Control and flexibility are essential. After all, masks are used to create precise selections, so users should keep high control over masks. Adobe has created Mask Groups, which allow users to combine any mask tool with any other mask tool. You can mix and match tools including brush, gradient, luminance, color gamut, and AI powered tools. You can also subtract any mask from other masks and invert any mask. For example, consider the image below. You can use Sky Replacement to select the sky and Select Subject to select the person in the photo. You can then reverse the two selections, allowing you to change the foreground and background of the image without adjusting the sky or the person. The options are essentially limitless in how you can combine different masks and tools. Additionally, based on customer feedback, beach masks can now be used globally rather than exclusively in a gradient.

Image credit: Adobe

With all the masking tools, it can become difficult to keep track of what’s going on. To resolve this issue, Adobe has created a new masking panel to help you organize your workspace. On the desktop, you can place the masking panel anywhere, dock it, or collapse it. You can now also name each mask, making it easier to keep track of your different masks. Additionally, new visualizations are added from Photoshop including default color overlay, color over black and white overlay, image on black, image on white and more.

Many users are working on the same image on multiple devices, including mobile devices. The new masking engine works “just as well” on desktop as it does on mobile. Beach masks, including color beach masks, which were previously not available on mobile, have been added. You can also edit and refine masks in ACR, Lightroom on desktop and mobile, and Lightroom Classic.

“The Luminance Range Mask tool now provides fade control, allowing you to control how quickly the selection moves from the selected tonal range to the unselected range. »Caption and image credit: Adobe

To ensure that users will be able to understand all of the different masking tools available in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom applications, new built-in help and support tools have been added. In Lightroom, a new interactive tutorial walks the user through all the masking tools step by step.

The new updates will be available to all users on October 26. Stay tuned to Imaging Resource for more as we approach Adobe MAX, which will take place online from October 26-28.


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