Intersecting Masks for Targeted Adjustments


Today’s Question: The method of creating masks in Lightroom Classic and Camera Raw doesn’t seem to be available in Photoshop. Is there any way to use such a mask created in Camera Raw as a Photoshop layer mask? If not, is there a way to create “intersecting” layer masks in Photoshop the way you can in Camera Raw or Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Within Photoshop you can use the same masking features found in Camera Raw or Lightroom Classic by using the Camera Raw filter. You can also make use of layer groups in order to create compound masks based on more than one layer mask.

More Detail: The masks you create in Camera Raw or Lightroom Classic can’t be converted to a layer mask in Photoshop, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options for using intersecting or other compound masks in Photoshop.

To begin with, the exact same features you’ll find in Camera Raw or the Develop module in Lightroom Classic can be used in the context of the Camera Raw filter. If you select an image layer and choose Filter > Camera Raw Filter from the menu. This will bring up the Camera Raw dialog, where you can make use of the masking features to apply a targeted adjustment to the selected layer.

You can also create compound layer masks in Photoshop using layer groups. For example, if you create a selection of the sky in a photo you can add a layer group and then add a layer mask to the group based on the active selection. You could then create, for example, another layer group with a gradient layer mask. If you put the sky layer group into the gradient layer group, any adjustment layers you add to the sky layer group will only affect the sky and only in a gradient fashion, based on the combined shape of the layer masks.

In addition, you can combine various selections (or saved selections) in Photoshop, making use of the options to add, subtract, or intersect those selections. In most cases I prefer to work with layer masks rather than selections when it comes to fine-tuning the result to perfection, but the point is that you do have considerable flexibility.

I covered the topics of masking in Camera Raw as well as selections and layer masks in Photoshop in my comprehensive video course “Photoshop for Photographers”, which you can learn more about here: