How To Mask In Premiere Pro - 6 EASY Steps

Learn masking in Premiere Pro in under 2 minutes with our beginner-friendly tutorial! Discover the transformative power of Premiere Pro masks; bring your vision to life by highlighting, blurring, or adding special effects with ease!

October 2, 2023
How To Mask In Premiere Pro - 6 EASY Steps
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Masking In Premiere Pro

Masking in Adobe Premiere Pro is a pivotal skill that allows video editors to create dynamic effects, finely tune details, or replace elements within a frame. Whether it's for compositing a new background, highlighting a product in a commercial, or even adding an artistic touch to a personal project, mastering masking can drastically elevate your editing prowess. This comprehensive tutorial will guide you, step-by-step, through the intricacies of creating and refining masks in Premiere Pro. From setting up your first simple mask, through refining its edges for a seamless fit, to exploring advanced uses and applications, we will cover it all. Even if you're a beginner, we'll make this journey easy to understand, so by the end, you'll be fully equipped to utilize this essential tool to its full potential. So, without further ado, let's immerse ourselves in the world of masking in Premiere Pro.

Adobe Premiere Pro Masking Tutorial - How to do masking in premiere pro?

If you want to highlight, obscure, or apply effects to specific areas of your footage, using the Ellipse or Rectangle shape tools to create masks is an effective approach. Let's go through each step in meticulous detail to make sure you get the hang of it:

  1. Select Your Clip: Firstly, you need to identify which part of your footage you want to work with. To do this, open Premiere Pro and locate the Timeline panel - this is usually at the bottom of the screen. This panel displays all the clips you've imported into your project. Find the specific clip you wish to mask and click on it. It will become highlighted, indicating it's selected.
  2. Choose an Effect: Next, you'll decide what effect you want to apply within the masked area of your clip. To make this selection, you need to go to the Effects panel, which is typically located on the right-hand side of your screen. In this panel, you'll find a vast array of video and audio effects to choose from. For instance, if you'd like to use the Mosaic effect, follow this path: click on Video Effects, then Stylize, and finally Mosaic.
  3. Apply the Effect to Your Clip: Now it's time to apply your chosen effect to the selected clip. To do this, click and hold on the effect in the Effects panel and then drag it onto the clip in your Timeline panel. Release your mouse button to apply the effect. Alternatively, you can double-click on the effect in the Effects panel while your clip is selected in the Timeline, which will also apply the effect.
  4. Open Effect Controls: Once the effect has been applied, you'll want to see and control its properties. Look for the Effect Controls panel. This is typically located at the top left of your screen. When you select your clip (that now has the effect applied), this panel will show the properties of your effect. Click the drop-down arrow next to the effect's name to reveal more detailed controls.
  5. Create Your Mask: Here comes the crucial part - creating your mask. In the Effect Controls panel, you'll see an option to create either an Ellipse mask or a Rectangle mask. Click on the shape that best fits your needs. Once you do this, you'll notice a shape corresponding to your selection appearing in the preview panel (typically in the top right corner), indicating that your mask has been created.
  6. Adjust Your Mask: Once you have created the mask, you might notice that it doesn't perfectly fit the area you want to mask. But don't worry, adjusting it is simple. In the Effect Controls panel, you'll find various options to tweak your mask's properties. For example, you can adjust the mask's position, feather, opacity, and expansion. Simply click and drag the number next to each option to change its value, or click on the number and type in a specific value. You can also directly click and drag the points on the mask in the preview panel to resize or reshape it.

Masking with Shapes in Premiere Pro

Masking is a pivotal technique in video editing, allowing you to apply effects to specific parts of your frame. Premiere Pro offers a range of tools to make this process intuitive and effective. One of the primary methods is using shapes like the Ellipse or Rectangle.

Ellipse and Rectangle Tools: These are your go-to tools when you want to mask out a specific geometric area in your footage. Whether you're looking to highlight a face or blur out a license plate, these tools are straightforward. Simply select your desired shape tool, draw over the area you wish to mask, and apply your effect. The masked area will then be the only section affected by the effect.

Adjusting Your Masks to Perfection

Once you've created your mask, it's not set in stone. Premiere Pro offers a suite of tools to fine-tune your masks, ensuring they fit your footage perfectly.

Adding Vertex Points: Sometimes, after creating a mask, you might realize you need more detail. By selecting the Pen tool and clicking along the edge of your mask, you can add new vertex points. These points give you more control, allowing you to adjust the mask's shape with precision.

Removing Vertex Points: On the flip side, if your mask feels too complex, you can simplify it. With the Pen tool selected, hover over a vertex point you wish to remove. Your cursor will change, indicating the removal mode. A simple click, and the point disappears, adjusting your mask accordingly.

Refining the Mask's Shape and Size: Using the Selection tool (usually represented by an arrow icon), you can adjust the overall shape, size, and rotation of your mask. Clicking on the mask highlights it, showing small squares (handles) at each vertex point. Dragging these points lets you reshape the mask. For resizing, drag the corner handles. If you need to rotate the mask, hover outside a corner handle until your cursor changes, then drag to rotate.

Masking Irregular Shapes- How do you mask a clip in Premiere?

We explained how you can create circular/elliptical shaped masks, but what if you want to create a more irregular shaped mask? Use the pen tool!

Creating free-form shapes in Adobe Premiere Pro expands the possibilities of masking beyond simple geometric forms. With the Pen tool, you can create custom masks that precisely fit around complex objects in your footage. This is particularly useful when the area you need to mask isn't a perfect circle or rectangle. Let's delve into the step-by-step process, breaking down each detail to help you understand this method:

  1. Select the Pen Tool: The first step in creating a free-form shape is to select the Pen tool. You can find this in the Effect Controls panel, typically situated in the upper left part of the screen when a clip is selected in the Timeline panel. Once in the Effect Controls panel, locate and click on the Pen tool icon, which resembles an old-fashioned fountain pen.
  2. Draw Your Mask: After selecting the Pen tool, you'll move your cursor to the Program Monitor (usually in the upper right part of your screen). Here, you'll see your selected clip displayed. To create the mask, simply click to start drawing directly on the clip. Each click will create a new vertex point.
  3. Create Different Shapes: With the Pen tool, you have the flexibility to draw both straight lines and curved segments. To draw a straight line, simply click at your starting point, then click at your ending point without dragging the mouse. Your first segment might not be visible until you click a second vertex point. To create a curved segment or a smooth curve, click and drag your mouse, which will create Bezier path segments giving you more control over the shape of the mask.
  4. Draw Straight Path Segments: As you continue to click around your object, you'll create a path made of straight-line segments connected by vertex points. This creates a linear mask. A linear mask is essentially a polygon joined by hard angles, and its control points are also known as corner points. To make perfect 0°, 45°, or 90° angles, hold down the Shift key on your keyboard as you click to create each new point.
  5. Close the Path: Once you've outlined the entire area you want to mask, you'll need to close the path. To do this, simply move your cursor over the first vertex point you made (you'll notice it slightly enlarges), and then Alt+click (for Windows) or Option+click (for macOS) on it. Your cursor will change to indicate that you're about to close the path, and clicking will complete the mask.

Creating free-form shapes with the Pen tool might require a bit more practice compared to using the Ellipse or Rectangle tools, but it offers a greater level of precision and flexibility. With a bit of patience and practice, you'll soon be able to create custom masks that enhance your video projects in Adobe Premiere Pro.

Using The Pen Tool To Create Curves (Bezier Paths)

Drawing curved Bezier path segments with the Pen tool in Adobe Premiere Pro can seem daunting at first, but once you understand the process, it offers an impressive level of precision for your custom masks. Bezier paths allow you to create smooth curves in your mask path, which is especially useful when you want to mask around curved objects in your video footage. Let's dive into this process in-depth:

  1. Activate the Pen Tool: First, we'll need to pick the Pen tool. It's located in the Effect Controls panel like mentioned earlier, which you can usually find in the upper left part of your screen when you've selected a clip in the timeline. Look for an icon that resembles an old-school fountain pen.
  2. Start the Curve: With the Pen tool selected, go to your clip displayed in the Program Monitor, generally on the upper right of your screen. Decide where your curve should start, click, and keep the mouse button pressed. A point, known as a vertex, will appear and the Pen tool icon will morph into an arrowhead.
  3. Form the Curve: Now, still holding your mouse button, drag your mouse in the direction you want your curve to go. This action draws lines from the vertex, known as direction lines, and the way you drag will dictate the shape and size of your curve. When you're happy with your curve's shape, release the mouse button.
  4. Finish the Curve: Next, think about where your curve should end, and move your Pen tool to this point. What you do next depends on the type of curve you're looking to create:
  5. For a C-Shaped Curve: Drag your mouse in the opposite direction to where you dragged the last time, then release your mouse button. This will form a curve that looks like a "C".
  6. For an S-Shaped Curve: Drag your mouse in the same direction as you did before, then release your mouse button. This will create a curve that looks like an "S".
  7. Keep Going: Keep repeating the above steps until you've completed the curved shape you want for your mask.
  8. Adjust the Shape: After your shape is complete, you can adjust it as necessary. Hover your cursor over a vertex point and press the Alt key (on Windows) or the Option key (on macOS). Your cursor will change to an upside-down "V". Click and release to turn that vertex into a Bezier point, which gives you more control over the curve's shape.

Adjusting Pre-Existing Masks

let's dive into the process of adjusting pre-existing masks in Adobe Premiere Pro. This ability allows you to fine-tune the masks you've created and achieve the exact results you're aiming for in your video projects.

Adding Vertex Points

After you've created a mask, you may find that you want to add more detail or adjust its shape. Adding vertex points gives you the flexibility to do so:

  1. Select the Pen tool from the Effect Controls panel.
  2. Click anywhere along the edge of your mask where you want to add a new point. A new vertex point will appear at that location.

Removing Vertex Points

Sometimes, you might want to simplify your mask by removing unnecessary points:

  1. Again, you'll need the Pen tool selected in the Effect Controls panel.
  2. Hover the Pen tool over the vertex point you want to remove. Your cursor will change into a Pen tool with a small minus sign.
  3. Click on the vertex point. It will disappear, and your mask will adjust to the change.

Adjusting the Other Shape Properties

To perfect your mask, you'll likely need to adjust its overall shape, size, and rotation:

  1. Select the Selection tool (the arrow icon) from the Tools panel.
  2. Click on your mask in the Program Monitor to select it. You'll see it highlighted with small squares, known as handles, at each vertex point.
  3. To adjust the shape, click and drag any of the vertex points. Your mask will adjust as you move the points.
  4. To adjust the size, click on one of the corner handles (squares) and drag it inward to reduce size or outward to increase size. The entire mask will scale based on the point you're dragging.
  5. To adjust the rotation, move your cursor just outside of one of the corner handles until it changes into a curved, two-sided arrow. Click and drag to rotate your mask.

Mask Parameters

You can also edit your mask to make it look more realistic or fitting with the rest of the scene.

Adjusting Feather, Opacity, and Expansion‍

  • Feather: This control is used to blur or soften the edges of the mask. A higher feather value will make the mask edges softer and more blended with the background, while a lower value will make the edges sharper. The feather value can be adjusted by moving the slider or manually entering a value in the field next to 'Feather.' You can also adjust the feather by holding Ctrl (or Command on a Mac) and dragging the small circle located around your mask boundary in the program monitor.
  • Opacity: This control affects the transparency of the masked area. A higher opacity value (up to 100%) will make the mask fully opaque, while a lower value will make it more transparent. Move the slider or manually enter a value in the field next to 'Opacity' to adjust this. This adjustment affects the entire clip, so if you want to adjust only the mask's opacity, you would have to use a color correction effect like Lumetri Color.
  • Expansion: This control allows you to expand or contract the mask's size. Positive values will expand the mask, while negative values will contract it. Adjust the expansion by moving the slider or entering a value manually in the field next to 'Expansion.'

Inverting the Mask

Inverting the mask will switch the masked and unmasked areas. This is useful when you want to apply effects to the area outside your original mask. To do this, simply tick the 'Inverted' box in the mask settings under the "Effects Control" panel.

Tracking the Mask

In case you have a moving subject, Premiere Pro offers an automatic mask tracking feature. Once you create a mask, you'll see a "Tracker" section under the mask options. There, you can click on "Play" to automatically track the mask throughout the clip. The mask will adjust its position frame by frame to follow the subject.

Adding Effects

After creating and adjusting your mask, you can add effects to the masked area. To do so, find the "Effects" panel, choose an effect, and drag it onto your clip in the timeline. The effect will be applied to the masked area.

How do I mask an adjustment layer in Premiere Pro?

Masking an adjustment layer in Premiere Pro is almost identical to masking a clip, but instead of applying the mask directly to a clip, you apply it to an adjustment layer. Here's how:

  1. Create an Adjustment Layer: Go to the "Project" panel, click on the "New Item" button (it looks like a piece of paper with a folded corner), and select "Adjustment Layer". Drag and drop this adjustment layer onto a track above your video clip in the timeline.
  2. Apply Effects to the Adjustment Layer: Any effects you want to apply to your clip should be added to this adjustment layer. You can find effects in the "Effects" panel and drag them onto your adjustment layer.
  3. Effect Controls: With the adjustment layer selected, go to the "Effect Controls" panel.
  4. Opacity: In the Effect Controls panel, you will see the "Opacity" option. Expand it.
  5. Pen Tool: Use the Pen Tool under the Opacity section to draw your desired mask on the adjustment layer in the Program

Tips For Masking

TO finish off this article, here are some tips and tricks you can use when masking anything in Premiere Pro. We came up with this list by masking for over 7 year on both Premiere Pro & After Effects.

Layer Masks

Layering masks can create dynamic effects that are impossible with a single mask. Use different masks to isolate different parts of a clip, adjust each layer separately, then blend them together. This will provide more control over your editing.

Mask Tracking with Effects

When you add an effect to a clip, use a mask to limit the effect to a specific area. The groundbreaking part is, you can also move the mask along with the effect. This is especially useful for clips where the subject is moving.

Auto-Resize Mask

Instead of manually adjusting the mask size for each frame in a sequence, you can use expressions to auto-resize masks based on the motion or transformation of an object in your frame. This requires some knowledge of scripting, but it can save a lot of time and create impressive results.

Masking with Adjustment Layers

Use adjustment layers as masks to apply effects to multiple layers simultaneously. This could be a game-changer if you're working on a complex project with many clips.

Color-Based Masking

Create masks based on color selection within your clip. It's like the green screen effect, but you can choose any color within the clip, not just green. This opens up possibilities for interesting color-based effects.

Blend Modes and Masks

Combining different blend modes with masks can create unexpected and striking effects. Experiment with different blend modes to see how they interact with your masks.

Mask Stacking

You can create a complex mask by stacking simpler masks on top of each other. This can make it easier to create detailed and intricate shapes.

Mask Morphing

By keyframing mask paths, you can create the effect of one mask shape morphing into another. This can be a unique way to transition between clips or reveal new elements in your video.

Data-Driven Masks

Create masks driven by data from your video, such as motion vectors or depth maps. This can create complex, dynamic masks that would be impossible to animate manually.

3D Masks

If you're working with 3D footage, use 3D masks to isolate parts of the 3D space instead of just 2D areas of the screen.