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How to invert and duplicate masks in Lightroom Classic

The masking features in Adobe Lightroom keep getting better. The latest update is the best so far!

The features in Lightroom Classic have only improved over time. With last year’s addition of AI masks, you can automatically create masks of the sky and subject in your photos. But one problem that always came up was the inability to easily invert that mask to edit the surrounding areas.

Now, with the June 2022 update to Adobe Lightroom Classic, you can invert your mask by selecting an option in the mask menu.

The left shows the masking panel before the June 2022 update. On the right, the update added the ability to both invert and duplicate/invert a mask.

Why invert a mask?

You might be wondering why you would want to invert a mask, instead of creating a new one from scratch. The main reason is simply based on how the AI masking features work.

In the example below, I want to select the background. The AI masking options in Lightroom allow me to mask either the sky or the subject, but there is no option to select everything except the subject. So, the best way to select the background is to first select the subject, and then invert the mask so that it selects the background.

Another reason is simply to save time. If you have created and edited a mask manually (without the use of the AI features) but would like to edit the other parts of the image independent of the original mask area, you can simply duplicate and invert the mask so that you can make adjustments to those areas without having to recreate your mask from scratch.

How to create an inverted mask in Lightroom Classic

Here’s how to create a mask to make selective edits to your photos in Lightroom Classic:

1. Open your image in Lightroom

Start out by choosing an image to edit, and open the Develop module.

2. Access the Masking panel

At the top of the panels on the right, just below the Histogram, is a small toolbar. Click the far-right icon to access the masking options.

Lightroom masking options

3. Apply a mask

Next, choose the type of mask you want to apply. In this example, I’ll choose Select Subject at the top. You can see that Lightroom made a selection based on what is in my image.

Masking in Lightroom Classic
I was able to get a quick selection of the woman when using the Select Subject option in Lightroom Classic.

4. Edit the masked area

Next, use the settings on the right to apply changes to the masked area. Here I added brightness and contrast to make the woman stand out from the background.

5. Invert the mask

I wanted to darken the background even more, and the easiest way to do this is to duplicate and invert the mask. To do this, I hovered over the original mask and clicked the menu drop down. Then I chose the Duplicate and Invert Mask option to create a new mask.

6. Refine the mask

The mask is not perfect, so some manual correction is needed to help it blend better with the subject. To do this, I clicked the Add button and choose the Brush option. Then I reduce the Density of the brush on the right to around 50% and brushed along the edges of the mask where the woman’s head and background meet.

Step 7: Edit the masked background

Finally, with my mask created, I edited the background by making it slightly darker.

I darkened the background of the image to make the subject stand out.

Final result

After editing the mask, I made some global edits to give the image a finished look. Here are the global edits applied to achieve the final result:

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Rafael Jones

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