Camera Raw version 14 introduces Masking 2. It arrives with a whole new set of masking tools, including Select Subject and Select Sky, along with the new Masking panel to manage and modify them.
The photo below is the original. The opening photo’s adjustments were done with the new selective adjustment tools and their updated masking in Camera Raw. No Photoshop needed.
When masking was added to Camera Raw in 2008 it offered a brush, a radial gradient and a linear gradient tool to create masks. The brush tool could add or subtract from the mask. While each tool had a single mask for each instance of their use, adding or subtracting from these individual masks were the only modifications.
These masking tools made working in RAW selective which had not been available in previous versions.
Select Subject and Select Sky
Masking 2 adds Select Subject and Select Sky to Camera Raw, making these very popular Photoshop-only tools available in Lightroom, Lightroom Classic and Bridge. These one-click tools speed up selection making. They are fast and incredibly accurate.
A new button in the toolbar of Camera Raw is the gateway to all of the masking tools. The icon is between the Healing Brush and the Remove Red-Eye buttons.
Click and hold it to reveal the masking options: Select Subject, Select Sky, Brush, Linear Gradient, Radial Gradient, Color Range and Luminance Range tools. Choose one of them to get to work.
When a masking tool is used, the new masks panel opens. It manages masks in a similar way the Layers panel does in Photoshop. Masks can be renamed, duplicated, moved into a new order, interact with existing masks and make new ones.
Each mask has a 3-dot menu and an eye icon to show and hide it.
There is a lot of power packed into this small space. Here are some tips on what they do.
Mask 3-dot menu
Click this to rename, duplicate, hide, delete, reset adjustments or delete all of the masks. The Intersect Mask With option opens a menu to modify the mask with Select Subject, Select Sky, Brush, Linear Gradient, Radial Gradient, Color Range and Luminance Range tools.
In the screenshots, I interacted the Ground Cover with Select Sky then clicked the Invert button to have only the grasses and fence active.
Panel 3-dot menu
At the bottom of the Masks panel is another 3-dot menu. This one controls how the overlay appears. In the previous version of masking the only control over how the mask looks was to change the color. Now, most of the options from Photoshop’s Select and Mask can be chosen.
The menu controls automatic showing of the overlay, showing and hiding unselected mask pins and showing mask pins and tools. Changing the color overlay settings is in the menu too.
New sidecar file
As with all things Camera RAW, nothing is a permanent change. There is a new wrinkle. The .xmp files that hold all of the changes to a RAW file aren’t capable of holding the masking info. So Adobe has created a new sidecar file with the extension .acr.
At the time of this writing, the .acr files are not hidden like their .xmp cousins are. When browsing in Bridge, the new sidecar file shows up next to its original RAW files
Update the process version
When working with older RAW files, the extra masking options might not be available. This is because the process version is not current. Update it by going to the Calibration tab and choosing Version 5 (current) from the Process dropdown menu. All of the new masking features are now ready to be used.
Masking 2 is a big, big update. It will take a while to understand all of the ways that masks can be made and changed to get the results you want right in Camera Raw. These powerful new masking tools make selective modifications to a RAW file easy. The advantage of making the original RAW file exactly what you want it to be is a huge time saver in Photoshop.
At this time, there doesn’t seem to be a way to export a mask to use as a layer mask in Photoshop. This is not a really big deal since Photoshop has superior masking tools. Having the Camera Raw masks available would be a good starting point.