Masks can quickly get confusing in ON1 Photo RAW. It’s not the tools themselves which are confusing, but the fact they can be used in three different places:
- Local adjustments: These are applied to the image as a whole in their own ‘Local’ panel. In other words, they are not associated with any specific layers or filters.
- Layers: When you create a multi-layer image in ON1 Photo RAW it creates a new, layered image file. Each image layer can have its own mask.
- Effects: Every effect filter you apply in ON1 Photo RAW can have its own individual mask. What’s more, you can apply a mask to all these filters collectively. Let’s look at the first two options another time and take a closer look at masking effect filters in ON1 Photo RAW.
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How to mask effects in ON1 Photo RAW
- Add a single filter
This is the easiest way to see how effect filter masks work. I’ll have a look at masking presets a little later on, but for now let’s start with one filter at a time. In the Effects panel, click the Add Filter button and choose a filter. I want to brighten up the car, so I’ll select the Curves filter.
- Make an adjustment, create a mask
So if I raise the center of the curve, the car is brightened, but so is the whole image. Just as you would expect. So how do I fix that? With this small mask button in the Curves filter’s title bar. Clicking this button creates a mask for this filter, ready for me to edit.
- Mask options
As soon as you create a mask, the button changes to a small thumbnail rendition of the mask. At the moment it’s a blank white, so not masking is being applied. You’ll see there are a number of buttons for modifying and working with the mask. I have two options – I can ‘paint out’ the areas where I don’t want the effect applied (the background, here) or I can click the Invert button to mask the whole picture and just paint in the areas I want to adjust.
- Invert the mask, select Paint In
It makes more sense to me to click the Invert button so that the curves adjustment is hidden, then choose the Paint In mode on the top toolbar, to ‘paint’ the curves adjustment over the car.
- Paint over the car
So using the freehand masking brush tool, I’ve painted over the car. As you paint the mask, you’ll see the adjustment appear where you’ve painted. I haven’t been too precise about the mask – it took just a minute at most – because the car’s outlines and tones are pretty forgiving of any ‘overpaint’.
- You can view the mask to clean it up
You can concentrate so much on the outlines of a mask that you miss bits in the middle – but if you click the View button in the mask panel, you’ll see it rendered as a grayscale image, and any holes or missing areas can be seen and fixed very quickly.
- Copy the mask
That’s fine if I just want to apply one filter to the car, but what if I want to apply another, and with the same mask? The first step is to make sure the mask is selected and then click the Copy Mask button.
- Add a new filter
Now I can click the Add Filter button again, and this time I will use the Dynamic Contrast filter, which I think will really bring out the glossy paint, chrome work and details in this car.
- Paste in the mask and adjust
With the new filter selected, I can click its mask button and then click the Paste Mask button to paste in the mask I created for the Curves filter. Now I can make my adjustments to the Dynamic Contrast settings, and they will apply to the same masked area (the car) as the Curves adjustments.
- Masking effects all together: Choose a preset
If you think you will want to apply a bunch of filters with the same basic mask, there is a quicker way to do it. I can demonstrate this with one of ON1 Photo RAW’s Retro presets. I really like the R18 preset for this photo.
- Create a combined effects mask
Each ON1 Photo RAW preset applies a number of different filters, and copying and pasting the same mask between all of them could take a while. So what I can do instead is click the mask button for the whole filter stack, just above the top filter. This creates a new, blank mask that affects the whole filter stack, not just one individual filter. This time, I’ll mask out the background with the mask brush set to Paint Out mode.
- The masked background
Now I’ve done that, you’ll see that the preset has been masked in the background and only applies to the car. You’ll also see that the filter stack mask thumbnail shows the mask I’ve created, just like before. The difference is that this mask applies to all the filters equally.
- Effects vs filter masks
Some presets add a filter with a custom mask already applied. This one has a circular mask for the Color Enhancer filter. This will not override the combined effects mask at the top of the stack (circled). This will always take precedence, so the Color Enhancer mask will only have an effect where the combined effects mask allows that filter (and the rest in the stack) to be visible. The downside with a combined effects mask, then, is that you don’t get to control filter masks individually. The upside is that with this combined effects mask, I can add any filter I like to change the appearance of the car, without having to create a mask every time to shield the background.
- My preferred shot – individual masks
There may be instances where a combined effects mask is the way to go for the sake of speed, but you lose a lot of control. This is my favorite version of this image, and while it started with the R18 preset I used before, I’ve used a Curves filter and a Tone Enhancer filter with different, inverted, foreground/background masks to get just the look I wanted.