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Adjustment Brush Lightroom 4

How to use the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom to make selective adjustments to your images.

| Lightroom


Similar to the Graduated Filter, the Adjustment Brush allows you to make a variety of changes to your images, however instead of applying adjustments to a large part of a shot, changes made by the Adjustment Brush can be much more precise. For example, you may have brightened the whole shot with the exposure slider but have found that part of the image is now a little too bright. If you dialled the exposure back down you'd effect the whole image so instead you can click on the Adjustment Brush tool and make selective changes to the exposure only on the parts of the image that need it.

Adjustment Brush Lightroom 4: Adjustment Brush

Adjustment Brush Options

1 - When 'New' is selected you'll be working on a new adjustment and if you want to add another adjustment alongside the one you've already created (we'll give an example further into the tutorial) you'll have click 'Done' and make sure 'New' is clicked before making any new adjustments otherwise the changes will be applied to the edit applied previously. If 'Edit' is highlighted you know you still have a previous adjustment selected.

There are various presets available via the Effect Menu. Ours is set to Custom but if you click to access the menu various options appear. To select one just hover your mouse over it and click. This will alter the values of the sliders depending on which preset you select.

2 - These sliders are how you apply adjustments to an image. You can use various combinations of adjustments and they can be applied by pulling the sliders or by clicking and editing the number found to the right of the slider. The Color option allows you to apply a colour to the Adjustment Brush or Graduated Filter you've applied. To add a colour, click the colour swatch box to open the colour picker.

3 - These options edit the brush you are using. The A and B options allow you to store two brushes with different settings. These brushes keep the settings you applied until altered even when you close Lightroom and re-open it on another day. When the Erase option is selected you can remove some of the mask you've applied. It's easier to do this if the 'Show Selected Mask Overlay' box is ticked as this shows a pink overlay where the mask was applied.

Adjustment Brush Lightroom 4: mask Overlay
Size is self explanatory and as with all the adjustments it can be altered via the slider, by adding a new value or if you have a mouse with a scroll button, you can use this to move the slider.

Feather adjusts how hard / soft the edge of the brush is. Set the value to 0 and the brush will have a hard edge, making any adjustments you apply rather obvious. If you use a higher value the brush will be come softer and the effect not as strong. When you increase the feather you'll notice two circles appear around your cursor. The inner circle is where the effect is at its fullest and the second ring on the outside is where the effect stops. In between these two points the effect gradually decreases from strong in the middle to weak on the outside, similar to how the graduated filter works.

Adjustment Brush Lightroom 4: Feather

Flow adjusts how quickly the changes are applied. The higher the value the quicker the effect is applied, although it's usually best to go for a lower value and gradually build up the effect by repeatedly painting over the parts of the image you want to edit. Flow and Feather are usually used together to give you more control over the brush you're using.

Adjustment Brush Lightroom 4: Flow

Density controls how strongly the adjustments are applied. You can change how transparent / opaque the mask you're applying is.

Auto Mask stops the adjustment you're applying from spilling over the edge into areas of the image you don't want to be changed. You need to make sure the cross-hair is always positioned over the part of the image you want to change. If you don't and move it so it's over part of the image that doesn't need editing, it will change that part of the shot. This feature works OK most of the time, however there can be obvious fringing on some shots so do check your image closely if you do use it before exporting.

In these two comparison shots we've made the mask visible. In the top shot, the mask has leaked on to the land but when Auto Mask was ticked, the mask stayed over the sky (as shown in the second image). 

Adjustment Brush Lightroom 4: Auto Mask

4 - The switch on the left allows you to toggle the effects you've applied on and off so you can see how they've changed the image, Reset removes all adjustment brushes you've applied at once and Close minimises the window you're using. You can remove individual adjustments by selecting the correct pin and hitting the delete key on your keyboard.

Adjustment Brush Lightroom 4: Landscape

Adjustment Brush In Action

In the shot above the exposure was adjusted with a graduated filter to bring more detail into the sky, however by making these changes some of the rocks and path look a little dark. If we were to re-adjust the exposure and temperature adjustments applied then the whole shot would be altered and we'd be back to square one so instead, we'll make localised changes with the Adjustment Brush.

Adjustment Brush Lightroom 4: PinYou need to select the Adjustment Brush to open up its menu then make any changes to the various adjustments available before using your mouse to click and drag 'paint' over the parts of the image you wish to edit. If you prefer you can 'paint' over the parts of the image you want to change then adjust the sliders after to change the areas you've painted the mask over. You can also continue to edit the adjustments after you've applied them. If you want to 'paint' in a straight line, just hold down Shift on your keyboard.

Adjustment Brush Lightroom 4: PinsPins are placed where adjustments are first started and various pins can be visible when more than one mask is applied. The 'Show Edit Pins' options allow you to toggle the pins on and off.
  • Auto: Shows the pins when your cursor is over the image but they are hidden once your cursor is moved away from the image.
  • Always: Never removed.
  • Selected: Always show just the selected pin only.
  • Never: Don't show any pins.
Auto is useful as it means you can quickly preview your shot without having lots of pins covering the images. 

Take a look at our image before and after adjustments were made with the Adjustment Brush: 

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JackAllTog Avatar
JackAllTog Plus
14 6.4k 58 United Kingdom
14 Mar 2013 10:32AM
Thanks for this, i could make adjustments before but new understood about the option 1 section and controlling the brushes used with new and edit.
NikitaMorris Avatar
14 Mar 2013 4:35PM
We're glad you found it useful Stuart. If you have any particular subjects you'd like covering in the future, let us know.

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