The Capture One Pro October 2023 update has brought a new AI masking (AI Select) tool to compete with Adobe Lightroom’s own AI masking options. So how does it work, is Capture One’s AI masking as good as Lightroom’s and will it really save you time and effort?
The first and most obvious implementation of the new AI masking capability is in the Layers palette with two new buttons labelled ‘Subject’ and ‘Background’. If you use either of these, Capture One will attempt to identify the main subject in an image and mask it (or the background).
This has worked reasonably well on the image of the boat above, but is a little hazy around the edges and has included areas of the backgrounds seen through the boat’s awning. The Background button simply creates an identical but inverted mask.
It’s a good start and will no doubt work better on some images than others, but there’s a bit more to Capture One’s new AI masking than this, and it’s the AI Select tool.
01 Where to find the new AI Select tool
You’ll find the AI masking tool on the top toolbar in the same drop-down menu as the other masking tools. As with the others, if you select it, it will create a new masked layer automatically. This time, though, Capture One will take a few moments to analyze the image to find maskable objects and areas.
02 Selecting objects and areas to mask
From now on you can simply move the mouse pointer over areas of your image and Capture One will show a read overlay over the mask it will create if you click. There’s no option for selecting skies, as such, as there is in Lightroom, but it seems to have identified the sky area pretty well anyway.
03 Adjusting masked areas
With that sky area masked and the adjustment layer created automatically, I can now make a curves adjustment to darken the sky. The mask is pretty good, though there are a couple of awkward edges on the horizon line – but these would be easy enough to fix with a few seconds’ work the regular masking brush.
04 Selecting objects
So let’s say I want to select this whole car. As usual in Capture One, I will need to create a new adjustment layer first – it’s only the first adjustment where a layer is created automatically. Now I can move the mouse pointer over the car to see if Capture One will select it. It does, but I have to try a couple of different areas so that it doesn’t just select a door or a fender. (The Select Subject button also picked up the brown tent on the right side of the frame, so it wasn’t very helpful here.)
05 AI subject masking
You can prompt Capture One to look for and mask specific objects, though, by first drawing a rectangular marquee around them. It will highlight the object with a mask overlay and create a new layer – or apply it to one you’ve created already. The AI Select tool will continue to highlight different areas as you move it around, but don’t get confused by this as the mask has already been created.
06 Modifying the masking
You’ll see from a couple of previous screenshots that the AI mask also included areas of sky seen through the car’s windows. We can fix that! If you hold down the Alt key you can click on areas that you want to subtract from the AI mask, and this works really well here.
07 Enhancing the car
So now with the car selected (but not the sky seen through the windows) I can boost the exposure, saturation and contrast to really bring it out. AI masking does work best on objects with clear, sharp outlines, both here and in Lightroom.
Is the new Capture One AI Select/AI masking any good?
Yes, it really is! In fact I’m very impressed. Right now I would say it’s as good as Adobe’s AI masking, though without the named subject types. The Subject and Background buttons are a start, however, if a little rough and ready. Even with the AI Select tool, some of Capture One’s masking can look a little ragged around the edges, but the results look fine as long as you don’t push the adjustments to extremes – but then the same applies to Lightroom.