Adobe adds AI-powered masking tools to Lightroom

Adobe Camera Raw will also get tools that let you select with a single click.


Adobe has revealed some new masking upgrades that are coming to Lightroom, Lightroom Classic and Adobe Camera Raw (or ACR, Photoshop's raw photo processing tool). The company calls it the "biggest change to providing control over selectively enhancing photos" since it released Lightroom 2 in 2008.

The Adobe Research team wanted to bring AI-powered selection tools such as Select Subject and Sky Replacement from Photoshop into Lightroom and ACR, but the image processing engine used in the latter two was incompatible. The team had to make some big changes under the hood, which gave it a chance to change how selections are handled in Lightroom.

Until now, ACR, Lightroom and Lightroom Classic have only supported vector-based selections (which are recorded as mathematical expressions), but the AI-powered masks need bitmap (or image-based) support. So, to bring the AI-based tools to those apps, Adobe had to make both approaches work together. It's still able to use vector-based selections for brush, gradients, and range masks to minimize the storage space needed, while the select subject and select sky tools (which can create a mask for a subject or sky with a single click) use bitmaps.

As it figured out how to make those two kinds of selections work together, Adobe developed new features for ACR, Lightroom and Lightroom Classic across desktops, mobile devices, tablets and the web. One such upgrade is mask groups, which will let you combine any mask tools. For instance, you'll be able to use a gradient vector-based tool in concert with an AI-powered feature such as select sky. It'll be possible to separate a mask from another masking tool as well. You'll be able to invert selections and there'll be more options for range masks, such as targeting the entire image.

Mask features in Adobe Lightroom

A new masking panel should help you keep these masks organized. If you're using one of the desktop apps, you can move the panel around. In addition, you can name each mask to help keep track of what you're doing. You'll be able to preview masks in a variety of different ways with the help of overlay visualizations Adobe brought over from Photoshop.

Elsewhere, Adobe wanted to ensure the tools were available across apps and devices. It says the AI-powered tools work just as well on mobile devices as they do on desktop, while it's bringing range masks from ACR and Lightroom Classic to Lightroom's desktop and mobile apps. The company's also promising better in-app support to help you get the most out of all these tools, such as a step-by-step tutorial in Lightroom.

The feature parity means that no matter which device or app you prefer for image editing, you should have access to the same tools. These masking upgrades will be available in ACR, Lightroom and Lightroom Classic starting on October 26th. Adobe says its Research and Design Research teams are working on more AI-powered tools and other improvements it plans to announce in the near future.