How to Use the Masking Tool in Adobe Lightroom Classic

Learning how to use the masking tool in Lightroom is an important editing trick that all photographers should know about!

The Adjustment panels in the Develop module of Adobe Lightroom let you affect the color and tone of an entire photo. Often though, we only want to make corrections to a specific area, as opposed to global adjustments that affect the entire photo. For example, to really make your subject stand out in a portrait, you might choose to lighten their face; or enhance the color of a moody sky in a landscape.

To make local corrections in Lightroom Classic, you can apply color and tonal adjustments with the Masking tool. Adjustments made using the Masking tool are non-destructive and are not permanently applied to the photo, just like the other panels in the Develop module.

How the Masking Tool Works

The Masking tool lets you select a specific area of a photo and then apply adjustments only to that area. The Masking tool works by "masking" or hiding the area of the photo that you don't want to adjust. For example, if you want to adjust the color of a person's shirt without affecting the rest of the photo, you would use the Masking tool to mask or hide everything in the photo except for the person's shirt. Then, you could apply a color adjustment only to the person's shirt.

To use the Masking tool, select an adjustment from one of the Adjustment panels (such as Exposure or White Balance) and then click on the Masking button (the button with the circle inside of a square). A new window will open with two panes: one pane for your photo and one pane for your masks. In the pane for your masks, there are three colors: white, black, and gray.

  • White: Adjustments will be applied to areas that are masked with white.
  • Black: Adjustments will not be applied to areas that are masked with black.
  • Gray: Adjustments will be partially applied to areas that are masked with gray. The degree to which an adjustment is applied depends on how light or dark the gray is.

To mask an area of your photo, simply paint over that area with one of these three colors using a brush tool. The brush tool has several different settings that you can adjust, such as size, hardness, and opacity.

New: AI-Powered Masks

In the month of October, Adobe is releasing version 12.0 of Lightroom. With this update comes brand new AI-powered masking. This new tool is a game changer because it actually has the capability to automatically select people, objects, and backgrounds within your photo, with just one tap.

The Mask Amount Slider can also be used to make several adjustments and change settings simultaneously to your image. This new version of Lightroom is available now.


Learning How to Use The Masking tool in Adobe Lightroom Classic and the new AI-powered masks is a powerful skill that lets you make local adjustments to specific areas of your photos. By "masking" or hiding areas of your photos, you can selectively apply adjustments without affecting other parts of your photos. The AI capability drastically speeds up the masking process, too. And the best part is that the Masking tool is non-destructive, so you can experiment with different settings without worrying about permanently damaging your photos.

Have you upgraded your Lightroom yet? Let us know in the comments below what you think of the new masking tool! We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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