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Masking Options in Luminar

The use of masks allow you to hide or obscure parts of an image. Masks are useful so you can combine the contents or results of one layer with your primary image. Layer Masks allow you to use powerful painting tools to control their results. The more you work on combining multiple images, the more you’ll use masks. 

Luminar offers 4 types of masks:

  • Brush. The Brush is one of the easiest ways to mask an image.  You can use brush strokes to add or subtract from the mask.
  • Radial Mask. The use of a Radial Gradient Mask is a quick, easy way to highlight an area of your photo with an elliptical shape.
  • Gradient Mask. The Gradient Mask Tool is useful for creating a gradual blend between two states or layers.
  • Luminosity. A Luminosity Mask is a fast and easy way to create a new mask based on the brightness of image pixels.

Creating a Layer Mask

If you’d like to use a mask on a layer, the first step is to add one.   This approach is most useful when you want to globally mask parts of an image layer or to blend several filters at once. This mask can be edited using the Brush, Radial Mask, or Gradient Mask tools.

To add a mask:

  1. Open a photo within Luminar 2108.
  2. Select the desired layer. By default, layers and adjustment layers have no mask.
  3. Click the Edit Mask button.
  4. Choose one of the four mask types
  • Brush
  • Radial Mask
  • Gradient Mask
  • Luminosity

These tools offer several controls, we’ll explore them next.

Painting a Mask

Once you’ve added a mask, you can now add or subtract using a variety of tools. You can freely switch between the Brush, Radial Mask, and Gradient Mask tools while working.  Once you’ve chosen one of these tools, a new toolbar appears.  Let’s explore the essential controls.

Global Mask Controls

Once you start to edit a mask, you’ll see global mask controls.  These make it easier to visualize a mask or edit its contents. These controls are found in the toolbar.

  • Fill. This option attaches a mask filled with white that reveals all details of the filter.  Use the Brush tool to paint with black and subtract from the mask.
  • Invert. Inverts any mask that you’ve created so that its opacity and transparency values are reversed.
  • Clear. This option hides the results of the filter entirely. Use the paint brush or gradient tools to add details back to the image.
  • Copy. Copies the current mask to the clipboard. To use this, create a new layer and paste it into the new layer.
  • Paste. Pastes the current mask stored on the clipboard for use on another layer.
  • Show Mask/Hide Mask. This controls the visibility of the mask. It makes it easy to view the mask as a rubylith (red) overlay. You may also continue drawing while the layer mask is shown, for even more precision. Just click the eyeball icon.
  • Density (Only for Brush Tool). Controls the transparency of pixels outside of a mask so the overall the mask fades into the background better.
  • Feather (Only for Brush Tool). Blurs the edges of a mask to more naturally fade the mask adjustments into the image.

Mask Tool Controls

The next controls affect how you can add or subtract from your mask.  Luminar 2018 offers three tools that you can use to paint a mask.

  • Brush. Use a paintbrush to add or subtract from your mask.
  • Radial Mask. Creates an elliptical shape to blend between affected and unaffected areas.
  • Gradient Mask. Creates a linear blend between affected and unaffected areas.

Using a Brush Mask


The Brush can be used in either Paint mode or Erase mode to add to or subtract from areas of the mask. Clicking on the Paint option will add white areas to the mask.  These areas will be preserve the current layer.  Brushing with Erase mode is handy for “trimming” overspray of the mask and making your selection more accurate.

To control a brush, click the Brush Settings dropdown menu (it’s next to the Erase option). In this window, you can configure all the paint brush settings such as Size, Opacity and Softness. In the center of the grid there are various presets for quick selection. If you have a pen tablet attached, you can also configure Pen Pressure, Radius and Opacity levels.

Here’s how to use the Masking Brush tool.

1. Open an image in Luminar 2018.

2. Click the Add Layer button (+ symbol) or choose Layers > Add New Adjustment Layer. Let’s add an obvious effect so its easy to view. 

3. With the adjustment layer selected, click the Add Filters button.

4. Apply the Dramatic effect and increase the sliders to a high setting.

5. Create a Layer mask on the adjustment layer by clicking the Edit Mask button

6. Choose Brush from the pop-up list. You now have two options to decide how the initial mask is created.

7. Paint. Clicking with the Paint tool fills the mask with black (hiding all of its results).  As you paint and add strokes they are added in white.  This method allows you to brush and add the results of the Adjustment layer selectively.

8. Erase. Clicking with the Erase tool fills the mask with white (showing all of its results).  As you paint and add strokes they are added in black.  This method allows you to brush and subtract the results of the Adjustment layer selectively.  The erased areas will show through to the image below.

9. Click the Visibility icon (eyeball) to view the Mask.

10. Brush with the Brush tool to add the results to the layer selectively.
11. Continue painting the mask to get the desired results.  Use the toolbar at the top of the window to control the behavior of the Masking Brush tool. Click the Brush Settings drop-down menu to control the shape and dynamics of the brush. You can also click on each property in the top toolbar to edit them individually.  Right-clicking on the canvas will also show you a list of brush presets and controls.
  • Size. Controls the diameter of the brush.  You can also use the keyboard shortcuts [ and ] to make the brush smaller or larger.
  • Softness. Controls how much blending there is between the center of the brush and its edges.  This can create a more gradual blend on any mask.  You can also use the keyboard shortcuts of Shift + [ or ] to make the brush harder or softer.
  • Opacity. This controls the overall opacity in the brush.  A brush at 100% has full impact.  A brush set to 50% will only add or subtract half of its strength.
  • Pen Pressure. If you have a pen tablet attached, you can also configure Pen Pressure, Radius and Opacity levels. This allows you to draw on the tablet and have the force applied to the pen transfer to the size and density of the brush.

12. Click and paint on the canvas to modify the selected mask (layer or adjustment layer).

13. To refine the mask even more, click the Mask Menu to modify the Density and Feathering for the mask.  This can control how the mask applies and help blend its results more.

  • Density. Controls the transparency of pixels outside of a mask so the overall the mask fades into the background better.
  • Feather. Blurs the edges of a mask to more naturally fade the mask adjustments into the image.

14. Toggle the mask visibility off by clicking the Visibility icon (eyeball) in the toolbar.  

15. When satisfied with the mask, click the Done button in the toolbar.


Using a Radial Mask
The use of a Radial Gradient Mask is a quick, easy way to highlight the sun, a face or anything else on your photo.  You can create an ellipse or circular shape that makes its easy to create a gradual blend between two states.  It can be used with an image layer to add ramping transparency.  For an adjustment layer, it’s useful to create a blend between the modified and original state. 
Here’s how to use the Radial Mask tool
1. Create a Layer or Adjustment Layer mask as previously discussed in this chapter.  
2. Click the Edit Mask button on the layer.
3. Select the Radial Mask option from the dropdown.

4. Click and drag to create a circular gradient.  
5. Click the Visibility button in the top toolbar to make it easier to visualize the gradient.
6. The tool offers simple controls to refine the gradient.
  • Drag the middle of the gradient (the dot) to place its center.
  • Drag the inside circle’s radius to affect the size of the gradient.
  • Drag the outside circle’s radius to affect the feathering of the gradient.
  • Drag a handle on the outside circle to adjust the aspect ratio to create an ellipse shape.
  • Drag outside the outer circle to rotate the gradient mask.

7. You can change the mode of the mask if you need to change how a mask is applied by clicking the Invert button. By default the Radial Gradient mask that is created will “protect” the center of the circle/oval and any enhancements will be applied outside of the inner circle. Click this button to invert the mask so that effects will be applied TO the inner circle.

8. You can also adjust properties like Blending modes and Opacity to change the masks impact on the image.


9. When satisfied with the mask, click the Done button.  
10. If using an Adjustment Layer, adjust the Filter controls as needed.  The mask will control how its results are applied.

TIP
You can edit the results of a Radial mask by clicking the Edit Mask button.  This lets you add or subtract from the mask using the Brush tool for greater control over the mask.

Using a Gradient Mask
The Gradient Mask Tool is useful for creating a gradual blend between two states.  It can be used with an image layer to add ramping transparency.  For an Adjustment Layer, it’s useful to create a blend between the modified and original state. The Gradient Mask is a favorite tool of landscape photographers that allows you to enhance images smoothly with effects applied to the Gradient.
1. Create a Layer or Adjustment Layer mask as previously discussed in this chapter.  
2. Apply an effect or preset to the adjustment layer.


3. Click the Edit Mask button on the layer.
4. Select the Gradient Mask option from the dropdown.
5. Click and drag to create a linear gradient.  
6. Click the Visibility button in the top toolbar to make it easier to visualize the gradient.

7. The tool offers simple controls to refine the gradient.
  • Drag the top bar or bottom bar to expand or contract the gradient.
  • Drag the middle dot to position the gradient.
  • Drag the bottom bar to move the end of the gradient
  • Click and drag just outside the center point to rotate the gradient mask.
  • Drag a handle on the outside circle to adjust the aspect ratio to create an ellipse shape.
  • Drag the inside handle to rotate the gradient mask.


8. When satisfied with the mask, click the Done button.  You can also switch to the Brush tool for further edits to the mask.
9. If using an Adjustment Layer, adjust the Filter controls as needed.  The mask will control how its results are applied. If using an image layer, you can control the opacity and blending mode of the layer.
TIP
You can edit the results of a Linear mask by clicking the Edit Mask button.  This lets you add or subtract from the mask using the Brush tool for greater control over the mask.
Luminosity Masks

A Luminosity Mask is a fast and easy way to create a new mask based on the brightness of image pixels. When selected, the command will fill the active layer with a mask based on the brightness of image pixels. The transparency for the layer is directly related to the brightness of the pixels.

This command works very well to mask an overlaid image such as a cloud or texture layer. You can also mask a copy of a layer to enhance only part of an image. For example, if the sky and clouds are bright, you can create an exact mask only for that area of the image and then enhance them.

Here's how to create a Luminosity Mask:

  1. Open a photo within Luminar 2018.
  2. Make any adjustments needed with the Develop filter.
  3. Apply and adjustment layer to stylize the image.
  4. In the Layers controls click the + button and choose the Add New Image Layer option. Navigate to the original image and choose to place the original photo to layer it on top of itself. This can be useful to blend back key details.
  5. Click the Edit Mask button on the layer.
  6. Select the Luminosity Mask option from the dropdown. A new mask is created based upon the brightness of the image.
  7. If the mask is showing unwanted areas, you can click on the Edit Mask button and choose Brush.
  8. Now you can use the Mask menu to invert the mask or use the Brush tool to add or subtract from the mask.
  9. You can also re-run the Create Luminosity Mask multiple times to generate different masks each time.
  10. Use the layer’s blending mode and opacity sliders to blend the layer to taste.
TIP
When editing a mask, you can press the Backspace hotkey to reset a gradient/radial mask to its default setting.
Masking Options

Here are some extra techniques you can use when masking a layer or adjustment layer.

  • While masking or erasing, right-clicking the mouse causes a context window of parameter settings of the brush, and includes additional controls for pen pressure sensitivity.
  • For handy reference, in the Layers panel on the upper right side of the Side Panel, you’ll see a thumbnail image of the current mask.
  • To quickly switch between Paint and Erase modes, use a shortcut key X.
  • To quickly change the Diameter of the brush, use the shortcut keys [ and ]. This is very convenient and greatly speeds up brush work.
  • To quickly change the Softness of the brush, use the shortcut keys Shift + [ and Shift + ].
  • If you hold down the space bar in Painting mode you can switch to Move the image mode. This is very convenient when zoomed in for detailed brush strokes.
Creating a Filter Mask

Another way to apply a mask is directly to a filter. This workflow allows you to isolate the results of a specific area. Perhaps it’s to enhance just the sky or to add details to a specific area of an image. The use of the Gradient Mask and Radial Mask mode can be helpful to smoothly blend a filter.

To create a Filter Mask:

  1. Select an individual filter in the Filters area.
  2. Click the Filer Mask button (the paintbrush icon).
  3. Choose from one of the four types of masks: Brush, Radial, Gradient, or Luminosity.
  4. Use the techniques covered in this chapter to edit the mask.
  5. When satisfied with the mask, click the Done button.

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