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  • Ed Dozier

ON1 Photo Raw 2023 Masking Tutorial

Sometimes, you take a photograph that can’t be repaired with simple ‘global’ adjustments. This is why many photo editors offer ‘masks’.

Photo needs only half of it adjusted

In the shot above, I’d like it better if the left-half was less bluish and also slightly brighter. No camera adjustment can do that for me, since I want to leave the right-half of the photo alone. Notice that the border between the blue water and green trees is quite complicated, which can be very difficult to mask.

The ON1 Photo Raw 2023 has many masking features, including some with artificial intelligence assistance. Unfortunately, AI can’t solve everything.

I’d like to show some masking features that ON1 has, where you can help the editor to do a better job.

You will need ‘Local’ edits (masks)

As shown above, you need to select ‘Local’ in the Editor to begin the job of masking.

Click ‘Add Adjustment’ to add a mask

To add a mask, click the “Add Adjustment”.

Click on the ‘Refine’ tool

You might think that you’d want ‘Mask’ now, but I’ll show you a little trick that does most of the mask-painting for you. Click ‘Refine’ instead.

Size the brush and help the AI do a better job

After you adjust the desired size (diameter) of the masking ‘refine’ brush, give ON1 a little help by describing what kind of object is going to get masked. For this example photo, I’ll be masking branches.

Draw loop/border around your object: left mouse button

I’m actually interested in altering the left side of the photo, but it’s easier for me to select the trees/branch area. After the sunlit trees are selected, I can flip the mask to select everything except the object that I masked. Just draw a complete border around the object to mask, and ON1 will fill in the interior for you after you release the mouse button.

Make the mask visible and red color

It’s generally easier to see what’s going on if you make the mask visible, which you can do under the ‘Mask’ menu, as shown. Note that you can later show/hide the mask easily by the ‘Control+M’ key combination.

Help refine the mask edges even more: Levels

By using the ‘Levels’ slider, you can further refine the edges of the mask. You’ll probably want to toggle the mask visibility on and off (‘Control+M’) to judge the best setting combination on the (3) Levels slider knobs. You won’t be able to see the Levels slider until you click on the little black-and-white ‘mask’ icon.

Click the Adjustment ‘mask’ icon

If you want to adjust the ‘other’ part of the photo that isn’t being masked, you’ll need to invert the mask. To see the hidden masking options, click the little mask icon next to ‘Adjustment’.

Click ‘Invert’ to flip the mask selection

Since the goal of this demonstration is to select the non-masked portion (left side) of the photograph, click the ‘Invert’ button now. You should see the little mask icon image switch the white portion from the right side to the left side. The areas shown in white will be the ones to receive the edit adjustments. You may have heard the phrase "White reveals, black conceals", which means that whatever is showing as white in the mask icon will receive edit adjustments, and black areas will be unaffected.

Make the adjustments

With the mask set up to now allow editing the left side of the photo, go ahead and make the editing adjustment(s). Here, I have adjusted both the mid-tones and the color temperature.

Left side of photo color is now warmer and brighter


ON1 Photo Raw 2023 provides some nice masking tools, but sometimes they need a little help to get the mask just right.

There are several other masking tools than what was shown in this article, but this should be enough to enable you to accomplish most of what is needed to succeed with selective editing.

By using AI-assisted masking, you can take your photographs to the next level of sophistication without a huge amount of effort or time.



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