Local Adjustment Layers versus Masks

I haven’t been able to find an explanation about what a layer is in the Local Adjustment module versus a mask.

I can create a new mask without creating a new layer by simply selecting a new type of mask or else disable any any active mask and then start a drawing a new one. I don’t know if every different mask is also automatically a new layer.

Sometimes I’ve clicked on the layer icon to create a new layer if it seems quicker than to disable an active mask so I can start a new mask region of the same type that was last active (or I make a new layer when I don’t want to think about what needs to be done to start a fresh mask region).

But what’s the difference between a Local Adjustment mask vs a layer? What can be done with a layer that’s different than what can be done with a mask?


PhotoLab does not have the concept of a “layer” (which, of itself, implies a prescribed order of things).

The term “mask” in PL refers to an area to which local adjustment setting(s) can be applied. A mask can be defined by any of the tools that you see when you right-click whilst in Local Adjustment mode.

Hope that helps (?) - - John M

PS. I just now noticed this part of your post: …

Where do you see a “layer icon” … I suspect you’re misinterpreting something (?)

I suspect he is referring to the new mask icon which looks like a stack of layers.


There is no layers icon and no layers in PhotoLab. I believe you are referring to the New Mask icon. It allows you to create a new mask of the same type you are already using. We often need to create multiple masks of the same type for different areas of our images and for different purposes. When you click on the icon, which admittedly does look like layers, you will see the word’s New Mask displayed in the center. The subject of masks versus layers can be confusing. In ON1 for instance they call their local adjustment masking feature Layers, but I don’t think it implemented in quite the same way as true layers would be. Hope that helps.


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Thanks all. I started with PhotoLab a couple weeks ago when I discovered and tried it in the last hour of the Black Friday 1/2 price sale (very thankful for that sale). I had seen it mentioned before in reviews of raw processors.

I’ve used it for a number of photos now and am very impressed with how quickly it makes good quality images. Really enjoying the Local Adjustment – especially when using a stylus. But I can tell PL is undergoing some changes and has rough spots. For instance, I’m disappointed that the HSL has so few colors to select for adjustment (and the Green seems practically useless for green in nature shots – have to use only yellow for leaves and grass). Thankful, though, I can use the Local Adjustment Control Point to select any color – but would be nice to be able to broaden or maybe reduce the size of the color range to be included together with the color selected.

Anyway, yes, I thought the icon that looks like layers was for layers – for a new mask on a new layer.

Even though I understood that you can place another mask overlapping the same region of a different mask, I think that because of the way the ‘new mask’ icon looked, and then adding to that this following line I’ve quoted from the DxO Help, the idea of having ‘layers’ got into my head and lingered.

“You can layer several graduated filters in the same area with a new adjustment each time.”
(I understood what that’s saying right off, but it also put the word "layers’ in my head. Maybe the word ‘overlap’ might avoid the potential for confusion?)

So thanks for helping me get rid of the notion that mask layers might be something to use.

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Regarding the HSL limitations in PhotoLab, the following feature request thread is gathering a lot of votes to address these concerns. If you haven’t already, please consider adding your vote! :cowboy_hat_face:

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