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Using the Adjustment Brush

From: Up and Running with Lightroom 3

Video: Using the Adjustment Brush

In a typical photo-correction workflow, you will do the global edits first, as we did in the last chapter, and then you will make adjustments that effect just part of a photo. Those are called local adjustments. In this chapter, we will look at how and why to apply the most popular of Lightroom's local adjustment tools. First up is the Adjustment Brush tool, which is here in the Tools panel. The adjustment brush is a tool for applying adjustments to specific areas of a photo by painting those adjustments where you want them. That's not only an innovative idea; I think it's a practical one too.

Using the Adjustment Brush

In a typical photo-correction workflow, you will do the global edits first, as we did in the last chapter, and then you will make adjustments that effect just part of a photo. Those are called local adjustments. In this chapter, we will look at how and why to apply the most popular of Lightroom's local adjustment tools. First up is the Adjustment Brush tool, which is here in the Tools panel. The adjustment brush is a tool for applying adjustments to specific areas of a photo by painting those adjustments where you want them. That's not only an innovative idea; I think it's a practical one too.

It's great for dodging and burning and sharpening small areas of a photo. It's also useful for all the little things you do when you're retouching a portrait. Let's see how I can use the Adjustment Brush tool to add some practical and creative effects to this whimsical photo. I will start by clicking the Adjustment Brush tool, and that drops down the Adjustment Brush panel. Over in the Effect area of this panel, I will choose the effects, or adjustments, that I want to paint onto an area of the image. In this case, I am going to paint on the statue.

You can see that these effects are pretty much the same as the global adjustments that we saw in the Basic panel in the last chapter. I would like to brighten the statue, so I'm going to click on the Brightness slider and drag it over to the right. I pretty much have to guess at what level to use, but that's okay because later, after I apply the paint, I can always come in and change the level of brightness. Now I could apply one effect at a time, or I can apply effects in combination. So if I also want to increase midtone contrasts in the statute, I will go down to the Clarity slider and I will drag that all the way over to the right.

Down here, there are some controls for the size of the brush, the softness of the brush, and the strength of the effects that I am going to apply. I don't have a problem with the size of the brush-- I see it's just about the right size now--and I am going to leave Density at its default of 100. I am going to check Auto Mask. What that does is it detects the edge of the object on which I'm going to paint and keeps me from painting over the lines. So now, I am just going to click and drag over this statue, and as I do, you can see that it's getting lighter and there is additional contrast in the midtones.

And this change affects only the statue, not the rest of the image. After I have laid down that paint, notice that there's a black dot here. That black dot is called a pin, and it represents the area that I just painted. So, I will make sure that pin is selected, and then I will come back over to the Adjustment Brush panel. And from here, I can change the levels of either of the effects that I just applied. So, I might drag Brightness down, for example. I can also add one or more entirely new effects that will automatically affect this painted area.

So, watch what happens if I drag the Exposure slider to the left. You can see that area changing. I think that's a little much, so I will put it up here. From here, I can even add creative effects--for example a color tint-- by clicking this box, and that opens a color picker, where I can select a color-- for example this warm gold--and I will click this X to close the color picker. And all those changes are being applied to the area represented by this pin. Now, let's take a look under the hood and see how this is done.

I am going to move my mouse over this pin, and when I do, you see this red translucent overlay. This is the mask that's defining the area that's being affected by the effects that I chose. I can have more than one mask in the same image, and each mask will define a separate area with separate effects. If I move my mouse away from this pin, the mask goes way, so I am going to come down here where it says Show Selected Mask Overlay and check that, and now the mask will stay up. And if I want, I can fix the mask a little, because I see that I miss some areas when I was painting without the mask showing.

And what I'm basically doing now is adding in some additional area to which all of those effects will automatically apply. And let's say I go too far and I paint over here by mistake. I will just hold down the Option key on the Mac, or the Alt key on the PC, and that changes my brush to an eraser, and I can erase away that erroneous part of the mask. And then I will go back down here and uncheck Show Selected Mask Overlay, and the tint, the brightness, the clarity, the exposure, are all being applied to all of the area under that mask.

So, now let's say there's another part of the image that I would like to treat differently with different effects. I will go over to the Adjustment Brush panel, and I will click New. Now, I am going to set the effects for this new brush. It's important that I don't try to set the effects before I click New, or I will just end up changing the effects on the old brush. I don't want to add clarity over the pumpkin where I am going to paint now, so I am going to double-click the Clarity label name, and that will set that effect back to its default. I will bring the Brightness slider down slightly, and I'm going to go to the Saturation slider and drag it to the right to intensify the color under my brush.

And then I will move into the image and I will click and drag, and the color of the orange pumpkin is now more intense, and the pumpkin is a little brighter. And notice that I now have a second pin. That pin represents a separate mask on the pumpkin. As long as I have that pin selected, I can extend that mask to somewhere else in the photo. So, let's say I come and paint over here on this rock, so the rock is becoming a little more saturated and bright too. Now, if I move my mouse over this pin, you can see that this single mask is in two different areas of the photo.

If I want to delete one of the masks so that there are no effects on the corresponding area of the photo, I will just select its pin and press the Delete or Backspace key on my keyboard, and it goes away with its effects in a puff of smoke. If I want to preview all of the effects on the image, I can do that from down here. There is a toggle on the panel, and if I click that, I can see how the image was with no effects and how it is with effects. And finally, there's a Reset button here, and if I click this, I lose all of the effects that I added to the image.

But that's not a problem, because the Adjustment brush, like everything that you do in Lightroom, is simply instructions, and those instructions are saved with the image forever and can be accessed from the History panel, so I can always go to the History panel and bring back all of the effects that I've tried. And now that I'm done with the Adjustment brush, I will click Close to close this dropdown panel. Next, we will take a look at a very similar feature, the Graduated Filter feature, which works almost like the Adjustment brush, as you will see in the next movie.

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Up and Running with Lightroom 3

29 video lessons · 11010 viewers

Jan Kabili
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