Join Tim Grey for an in-depth discussion in this video Painting adjustments into an image, part of Lightroom 5: 02 Optimizing Your Photos.
Lightroom provides a variety of ways to effect a specific area of the photo. For example, we have the graduated filter so that we can apply an adjustment that effects one side of the image, gradually tapering off to the other side. We also have the radial filter adjustment, which allows us to apply an adjustment that affects either the center of the image or the outer portions of the image based on an elliptical shape that we define. But to really exercise greater flexibility with our adjustments, we can utilize the adjustment brush so that we can literally paint an adjustment into any area of the photo that we'd like.
Let's take a look at how we can use utilize the adjustment brush to apply a targeted adjustment to an image. I'll start by choosing the adjustment brush from the toolbar below the histogram. That will bring up a set of controls related to the adjustment brush. In other words, these are the adjustments that we can apply in a targeted way. When we're working with the adjustment brush, we can choose between the A brush, the B brush, and the Erase brush. The A brush is softened by default. It has a feathering value that is greater than zero so that we'll have a somewhat soft edge.
The B brush has a value of zero for feather, but we can adjust the settings for both A and B independently. What that really means is that we essentially can switch between the two brushes just for convenience sake, so instead of having to change the size and feather setting on a stroke by stroke basis, we could simply switch between the two brushes as needed. And of course, we can also erase areas from the mask once we've started defining that mask. I'll start off with the A brush, and just a moderate size with a fair degree of feathering, and I'll also apply an exaggerated adjustment.
You can see my exposure is set to minus 3.1. That will apply a relatively strong darkening adjustment. And the way we apply that darkening adjustment to the image is to simply paint within the photo. So I can paint in the areas where I want that adjustment to take effect. In other words, I'm quite literally painting the adjustment into the image. I can then fine tune the effect of my adjustment so, for example, maybe I didn't want to darken the sky quite that much, and maybe I want to increase the contrast and maybe increase clarity.
You can see that those adjustments are all effecting only the area of the sky that I painted in. I can then continue painting into additional areas of the image. In other words, I'm able to paint and adjust back and forth. I can switch between painting to define the area being affected, and adjusting, changing the appearance of that particular area of the photo. Of course, this does call for some degree of precision, especially in situations where we had a somewhat clearly defined subject, and we want to paint only a portion of the photo.
At any time, we can view a mask overlay to help give us a little bit better sense of exactly where in the image we're applying our adjustment. Simply turn on the show selected mask overlay check box, and we'll see a reddish pink overlay in the areas being affected by our adjustment. I'll go ahead and turn off that checkbox so that we can see the adjustment itself within the image. And you can probably notice that my painting along the edge of the building here is far from perfect. I could certainly adjust the size of the brush as needed, and perhaps reduce the feathering a little bit so that I have a tighter adjustment transition along the edge of that brush, and then I can paint a little more carefully in those areas of the photo.
But you can see that's still not giving me quite the best result. I'll go ahead and continue painting though, trying to get the best result possible. But in the process, you can see I'm actually painting into the building a little bit. In other words, I've not done a very good job defining this mask, but this is where the erase brush options comes into play. I can choose erase and then come out into the image and paint in the areas where I did not intend to apply the adjustment. So I'm erasing portions of that mask, essentially redefining which area of the image I want effected by this particular adjustment.
I can also add additional adjustments if I'd like. I'll go ahead and click the new option, and then I could for example paint into a different area of the photo. If at any time I'm not happy with one of my adjustments, I can simply erase one of my edit pens. So you can see my original edit pin for the sky and then the new edit pin for this area of the building. I can click on an edit pin in order to activate it, so, for example, after clicking on the edit pin for the sky, I can come back to my adjustments and fine tune the appearance of the sky.
But in this case, I think I'd actually like to delete this additional edit pin for a portion of the building, and so I'll click on that edit pin and then press the Delete key on the keyboard in order to remove that adjustment. But actually, in this case, I think I also need to remove the edit pin for the sky because I simply didn't do a very good job there. I'll click on the edit pin button and then press the Delete key, and that adjustment is gone as well. And that brings us to, perhaps the most powerful capability for the adjustment brush tool, and that is the auto mask option.
I'll go ahead and turn on the auto mask check box, and now when I work within the image, I'm able to have the mask automatically reflect the shape of the area that I'm trying to paint. I'll go ahead and continue with an exaggerated adjustment. I'm going to increase the feathering just a little bit, and I'll also increase the size a little. And now I can paint within the sky, but specifically, I'm going to start off painting along the edge between the sky and the building so that I can define very well with the help of that auto mask option, the transition between building and sky.
When I'm painting to define the edge utilizing auto mask, it's critically important that the cross hair at the center of my brush remain in the area that I want to adjust. In other words, within the sky. The circle that defines the boundary of the brush needs to overlap the edge between the sky and building in this case. The area tha I want to adjust versus the area that I don't want to adjust. I can then click and hold my mouse and drag across this boundary. Once again, keeping the crosshair in the sky but keeping the circle overlapping the boundary between the area that I want to adjust and the area that I don't want to adjust.
This will allow me to have Lightroom do most of the work. In terms of defining the separation between the area I want to adjust and the area I don't want to adjust. Once I'm happy with that overall transition edge, then I can turn off the Auto Mask option and paint in the rest of the area that I want to effect. I'll go ahead and reduce the brush size. In this case, I can just simply press the left square bracket key to reduce the brush size or the right square bracket key to increase the brush size. I'll then paint in these areas that are relatively close to the building using a small brush.
And then once I have a safe boundary there, I can increase the size of the brush using the right square bracket key and paint in additional areas of the photo. When I think I have the entire sky defined, then its a good idea to turn on the show selected mask overlay check box so that I can see that colored overlay over the sky and get a better sense of the quality of my result. Overall, it looks pretty good, but I do have a few areas of the building probably where it's reflecting some of the sky and those areas are being effected. So, I'm going to choose my erase option for the brush.
I'll leave automask option turned off. And using a relatively small brush with a relatively small degree of feathering, I'm going to paint in those areas of the building where I'm seeing that red overlay. Essentially, I just want to erase that red overlay so that those areas of the photo are not being affected by my adjustment. That looks to be pretty good. Obviously, I would want to paint very carefully along those edges making sure that I have a good definition of the area that I want to apply my adjustment to. I'll go ahead now and turn off that show selected mask over the check box, and now I can return to my adjustments and apply a more appropriate adjustment.
In this case, I think I'd like to exaggerate the sky just a little bit with a bit of saturation and a bit of clarity, maybe a little bit of contrast as well, and you can see that those adjustments are only affecting the sky and not effecting the building, so whether we just need to paint a general adjustment in portions of the image or we need to exercise a bit of precision, the adjustment brush provides great flexibility. The auto mask option can be especially valuable, but just having the ability to paint an adjustment into specific areas of the photo and then fine tuning the overall adjustments for that area gives us great power and flexibility for our photographs
This course was created by Tim Grey. We're honored to host this training in our library. Watch more courses in this series here.
- Evaluating images
- Adjusting white balance
- Working with Clarity
- Fine-tuning with the Tone Curve
- Painting adjustments into an image
- Applying noise reduction
- Correcting perspective
- Converting to black and white
- Duplicating adjustments
- Stitching panoramas