Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
The Smart Brush tool is the most direct way to apply an adjustment to just a selected area of an image. This tool both selects an area and applies an adjustment to that selection all in one step. Elements 8 comes with a collection of adjustments that work with this tool and they cover the gamut from practical photo adjustments to fun graphic adjustments. Before I show you this, I'd like to close my Effects panel over here so there is more room for the panels that I want to use. So I'm going to click the panel menu icon at the right of the Effects panel and choose Close.
And now I have just my Layers panel open. I'll select the Smart Brush tool from the toolbar by clicking on it right here. And I want to be sure to get the Smart Brush tool, not the Detail Smart Brush tool for this particular lesson. When I select that tool, the Options bar changes to show me the options for the Smart Brush tool. One of those options is this menu that has a small thumbnail on it. I'm going to click the arrow on the right of that menu and here I see some of the adjustments that are available in Elements 8. I'm going to click this menu currently labeled All Purpose to see a list of categories of adjustments that are available, everything from Black and White conversions to Color adjustments, Lighting adjustments, some Special Effects, and more.
I'm going to choose Color adjustments, and then in this drop-down menu with thumbnails I can see all of the Color adjustments that are available. What these adjustments do is to change the color of a selected area, but to keep its photographic quality by allowing the tonality to show through. So for example, let's say that I want to change the color of this cloak to green. I'll choose Going Green here and then I'll click in a blank area of the Options bar to close that menu. Now I'll come into this image and I'll just click-and-drag and as I do, the Smart Brush tool selects the cloak on the basis of its color and tone and what the tool detects is edges.
And it colors it using the Green adjustment retaining the photographic quality. So it doesn't look just like a solid color graphic. Notice that by mistake I selected a little more than the cloak. I've also selected these cards over here and they been turned to green as well. I can fix that by using an option in the Smart Brush Tool Options bar up here. I'm going to click on the minus icon and then I'm going to come back down into the image and I'm going to click-and- drag over the area that I don't want to include in the adjustment and that subtracts that area from the selection and from the green adjustment.
Now take a look at the Layers panel. Notice that the Smart Brush tool has created a new layer. This layer is a fill layer very similar to an adjustment layer, which I covered earlier. It has two thumbnails. The one on the left representing the adjustment, the green tint. And the one on the right, a layer mask that automatically comes with this adjustment that defines the area to which the adjustment is being applied. The black in this layer mask is hiding the adjustment and the white is revealing the adjustment just in the area of the cloak. One of the nice things about making an adjustment with this Smart Brush tool is that I can come back later and change my mind and change that adjustment.
So for example, let's say that I was working here on the Background layer and I decided that green wasn't really the color that I want for the cloak. It's too similar to the background. All I have to do is click again on that Going Green 1 layer, and that brings back the selection that the Smart Brush tool made. And with the Smart Brush tool selected in the toolbar I can go up to the Options bar, click on the arrow to the right of this menu, and I could choose a different option, either a different adjustment or from the Color menu I could just go down and choose a different color.
I'll choose this pink. And then I'll click in a blank area of the Options bar to close that menu. And as you can see that automatically changed the adjustment to the pink color adjustment. Another thing that I can do with the Smart Brush tool is to control the edge of the selection that it makes, either making that edge softer or maybe contracting it or expanding it. I can do all of that by making sure I still have the Smart Brush tool selected, and then going to its Options bar and clicking the Refine Edge button. That opens the Refine Mask dialog box here.
The first thing I'll do here is decide how I want to preview the settings that I make. Right now I have the regular marching ants preview selected, but if I click the red icon I can see the selection without the marching ants and instead with this red overlay. Then I can use the sliders here to smooth the edge a little. Maybe to blur it slightly so that it's a little softer, and I can contract and expand that edge. I'll take this way over so that you can see where the red overlay is infringing on the pink cloak.
I'm going to actually reset these in this case by holding down the Alt key on the keyboard, which changes the Cancel button to a Reset button, and clicking that button. And then I'll click OK and I'll click back in the Options bar to close that menu. I can have more than one adjustment on the same image. To do that I first have to go to the Layers panel and click on the layer other than the layer that contains the current adjustment. So I'll click on this Background layer, and then with the Smart Brush tool still selected, I'll come back up to the Options bar, I'll click the arrow to the right of that menu and I'm going to choose a different color.
Or I could choose a completely different kind of adjustment. But I'm just going to choose the Chocoholic color and then click in the Options bar to close the menu. I'll use this adjustment flavor to change the color of this hat, coming in and dragging over the hat, and it immediately changes from blue to brown. And in the Layers panel you can see that there is now another adjustment style layer, the Chocoholic 1 layer. It comes with its own layer mask and its own adjustment icon. One of the nice things about Smart Brush adjustments is that many of them, but not all, remain editable so that I can modify the adjustment at any time.
For example, let's say that I decide I want to change the color of the hat, but I didn't see the color that I want in the Color menu up here. I can just go over to the Chocoholic layer and double-click the left-hand icon on that layer, the one that represents the adjustment. That opens the Adjustments panel with controls for that adjustment. This happens to be a Gradient Map adjustment, which I can customize. To customize this Gradient Map I'll click in this Gradient bar and that opens the Gradient Editor. And here, there are some Presets for different color gradients.
I'll choose a different Preset, this purple to orange preset, and I'll click OK. And that immediately changes the color of the hat so the shadow areas are purple and the lighter areas are orange. And then I'll click in the Options bar again to close that menu. Now not all adjustments are editable. So for example, I'm going to apply another adjustment. I'm going to click down on the Background layer and then with the Smart Brush tool still selected, I'll come up to this menu and click the arrow to the right of it again. And then I'm going to click the Category menu that currently says Color and I'm going to choose from the Black and White category.
I'll select that very first adjustment, the Blue Filter adjustment, which will convert the selected area from color to black and white. I'll close this menu and then I'll come into the image and I'm going to click-and-drag over the cloak, converting it to black and white. I got a little bit extra but I'll just leave that for now, because what I want to show you is that this particular adjustment is not editable. Notice that there is now a Blue Filter layer in the Layers panel, and when that layer is selected down here in the Adjustments panel, there's a message that explains that this particular adjustment layer can't be edited.
Your message may have a little different wording than mine but the issue is the same. Some but not all of these adjustments can be changed. So that's a look at the Smart Brush tool, which is a flexible way for you to paint in all kinds of different adjustments. It makes applying an adjustment a one step efficient operation.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
180 Video lessons · 70344 Viewers
64 Video lessons · 92100 Viewers
86 Video lessons · 60338 Viewers
103 Video lessons · 28982 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.