Account | Register

Using the adjustment brush in Lightroom

This has been transcribed below so you can read through it also.  You can find our Lightroom 3 brushes and Lightroom 4 brushes here.  Enjoy!


Hi! This is Elizabeth from elizabethhalford.com on behalf of Pretty Presets for Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw and today we are going to be talking about using brushes in Lightroom. 

So this is a photo that is completely unedited, it is straight out of the camera and is RAW. The first thing I’m going do is deal with the background of this image and the areas surrounding this little girl whose name is Serenity. When you click this little button- the adjustment brush, and when you click this dropdown, these are the default things right here that you can play with and these down here are the brushes that I’ve downloaded from Pretty Presets so they have their own adjustment brush presets much like the normal presets that you can click on to edit your photos. There are also presets here that you can brush onto your photos in the areas where you want them.

I’m going to edit this photo using the Pretty Preset brushes and I’ll do one of the other ones in the old fashioned way before I used the presets. So the first thing I’m going do is use this edgy and bright brush here. You can see that as soon as I click that the sliders here on these different options like exposure, brightness, contrast etc., they pop into the right positions that Laura from Pretty Presets has set them to be at because she has found that this combination of settings create an edgy and bright result that you can paint onto your photo. 

And down here you have the different options for your brush, this is the size. If you’re using a mouse that has a scrolling wheel on it you can scroll up and down to change the size of your brush which is really quite easy, very handy. You can also use the bracket keys, left and right. Much like you would do in Photoshop when you use brushes if you’re familiar with using brushes in Photoshop. And then you can choose the feather it out a bit and that makes the area around it more feathery and light and less effecting in the areas that you’re painting.

And then we have flow. What this does is it controls the rate of the application of the adjustment so it kind of helps you control how fast or slow the effect takes place as your painting. That’s something you’ll want to experiment with to see where you’re comfortable. 

The density slider, it controls the amount of transparency in each stroke so that would mean you could sort of use your mouse and your brush like you would a paint brush. You can do it in strokes with a ‘click, click, click’ or you can do it in a strokey pattern the same way you would do it with a brush. It’s kind of the difference between whacking all the paint on the canvas in one go and very precisely applying it with different types of brush strokes. So if you want a lower density brush that you can ‘stroke, stroke, stroke’ onto the area or if you want 100% density brush you can just paint it all in one go. That is a matter of preference. Again, I would recommend experimenting with that to see how that works best for you. 

Then we have the auto mask button and what that does is it confines your brush strokes to areas of similar colour. That’s a good thing to be using if for example we are painting on her skin when we get to the point where we might be softening her skin. If you use the auto mask that will help the brush to not trail off into any areas other than her skin or other than the areas that are the same colours as her skin. This wouldn’t be a good thing to be using if say we are painting in this area because we have purples, browns, greens and that would confuse the auto mask and we wouldn’t get the brush strokes in the areas we would want them to be necessarily. We have edgy and bright I’ve got 100% density a bit feathery round the edges and let’s go.

So we are going start painting it on, I’m going to hold down the mouse and start painting it, being careful around the edges where I don’t want to go. Something that you can do is click this to show the area where you’re painting. This will help, you won’t be able to see the adjustment as its taking place but you will be able to make sure you don’t paint on the areas you don’t want it to be and because you can use your own wheel on your mouse to make this bigger and smaller and in a heartbeat you can just go in and adjust away! 

I can see because I have the mask overlay showing, I can see that I have some of it on her braid so I’m going to click erase, so I can go and erase… some on her arm..

I’m going to move the mask overlay and we can see that we’ve really popped the background right away. Because we’ve shot this photo in RAW and there was no JPEG compression this photo was quite flat and lifeless because I didn’t shoot in JPEG. So if you remember from any lesson you’ve heard against RAW vs. JPEG you might remember that it’s necessary to go in and adjust you photo the way that you want it because part of the JPEG compression is taking care of contrast and sharpness and things like that, so it’s really important to always process your RAW files before you share them or so anything with them and this is what we are doing now. 

This adjustment brush is working really nicely on this RAW image and gain we are going to go before and after with our backspace key. And you can see that before I started this video I used the healing brush here to just remove these four dots upon the scene. Go before and after and its looking really nice. The next thing I’m going to do is go in and use the soft the skin brush. 

Before starting a new brush, click new. That was editing the brush I was already using. So you can see this little dot right here and when you hover over it, it will show you the area that you’ve painted on the photo that this dot represents. So as we keep going we will go back to that dot. You will see what I mean a bit more in a moment. So our new brush is going to besoften skin. I’m going to zoom in just a bit on her face. And this is a good time to use the auto mask which means the brush wont accidently fall over onto her hair. It might even miss off her lips because they are quite a different colour than her skin. So you can brush and brush and not really worry too much about the edge of the brush going over into areas that you’re not meaning to effect. Now the way that this works is that it pays attention to where you have the cross hairs of your brush. You can see the little plus sign in the middle of your brush. Whenever I have that, that’s the area that it is going to be painting and it will be missing of anything else. So if that cross hair was to accidently skip over onto her white shirt here, then it would think I was wanting to apply this effect also onto that area, which I’m not so be careful of that. 

Okay. So this brush, right here there is a little toggle switch that you can choose to turn on and off the effect that you use. So it is going to be turning off everything that we’ve done with the brush so far. I think it’s softened her skin up way too much, being that she’s so little, but it’s a good place to start. So, I’m going to make sure that I’m in the edit mode and I’m going to take the clarity up a bit. Because the clarity going all the way down is what has made her skin so soft. Look at the before and after, it’s a lot better. I like my skin brushes to be just one little notch brighter… excellent

Now, I’m going to use the Pretty Presets burn it brush. I’m going to click new and then I’m going to burn it. I’m going to burn the edges a little bit. You can see here how it’s not burning the area of blue and that because I have accidently left my other mask on. So that’s a good visualisation to show you what the auto mask does! And now I’m going to burn the edges. It’s quite dark at first, don’t worry about that. Then now I can go in and customise that myself for my particular photo. It seldom works for any preset, be it a brush preset or a Lightroom preset for an all over edit, that you just do it once and it suddenly is all better. You have to play with it to customize it for your particular photo. So before and after… pretty good! I like burning the edges better than adding a vignette because I can customise it and control where the darkening happens in my image. 

Okay so, now we have three dots on this photo to represent the 3 different areas where we have used the adjustment brush. So you can see if you hover over this, this is the background. Hover over this, it will show you her skin, hover over this and it will show you where you’ve burnt the edges. So if you ever wanted to get rid of one of the edits, you click on it and hit the backspace key to delete. And also if were to go and say later on think ‘oh I want to kind of change that brush I’ve used on her skin’,  if you click on brush on the dot that represents that brush area, then you come up here and it says edit. And now you can change the sliders again to further edit that brush that you’ve done. So it’s never a done deal. You can always go back later on and adjust it some more.

So after you click close this dot will disappear and you can see with the back space key again a before and after photo edited entirely using the adjustment brushes. 

So I’m going to go to this photo here. I have not adjusted this photo at all yet. I’m going to adjust it now, so you can see the process I go through when I start this sort of an edit. And again this photo is RAW and I have not touched it, it is straight out of the camera. The first thing I’m going to do is start working on my subject, Cameron. And I’m going to use acontrast brush and I’m going to add some contrast to his hair. I really love doing this. It really adds a great pop to the hair. I’m going to show the mask and go and erase some of it. I could have done the auto mask but there are so many different colours of brown in his hair, I wasn’t sure how it was going to treat it. But it might be interesting to go and try it now. I’m going to click and delete it and click auto mask and let’s start again and see how it works with the auto mask. Yeah it’s painted very nicely using the auto mask. You can see as I’m painting even though the edge of the brush is on the background, the little shed, it’s not effecting it at all. It’s remaining pretty much to his hair apart from the edge of the shed, which is really no biggie. But ill erase it anyway.

So now that I’ve painted some on, as long as we are in edit here and we haven’t said new, we can continue to change the sliders on this edit. And get it to the way we want it so let’s bring up the clarity a bit. You can bring it all the way up and all the way down, just to get an idea of what its going to do to your area. It really makes highlights stand out especially. It makes hair look more shiny and just like you thought about it a bit. That’s great so far, so that’s his hair done. Love it. 

Click new and now I’m going to go and take a lower clarity and take this up to 7. This is my ideal skin softening brush. I bring the clarity down a bit and the clarity to about 7 and I have that on auto mask. For some reason bringing the clarity down kind of flattens the colour and makes it look darker, and that’s why I brighten it just a tiny bit. The automask has done very well. And now he’s a boy so we really don’t want to go overboard on softening his skin. I am going to go in just a moment and lighten it up so it’s not quite so extreme. Let’s take a look. It’s not that bad actually. I will bring this down to 2 because its brightened up too much I think. Now I’m going to use the healing brush, just for this little dot by the side of his mouth because I’m not sure what that is. It’s a bit harsh around the edge so I’ll bring that back up again. After you’ve chosen an area and if doesn’t end up looking so good, you can just keep moving this around till it looks right. It’s still looking a bit dark… 

Alright! So now let’s go to the eyes and go back to the adjustment brush and make sure you hit new. And I’m going to do a sharpening brush and take of the automask because there’s loads of different colours here on the eye. I’m going to sharpen the eye and I’m going to hit new again. And I'm going to do one thats just a tad bit brighter just to enhance the light right there. And then hit new and do another one and take the brightness down a bit… If he was a girl I would enhance the lash line a bit more...

And because we’ve got all these different dots now representing all these different areas, I’m just going to hit close, so we can do a before and after using the backspace key. And that’s looking good. I’m starting to think his skin was softened a bit too much. So I’m going to find the brush that was his skin and click it and then bring the clarity up just a bit so it’s not so soft. Before and after really love using that contrast brush on the hair. 

Okay, so let’s do another one. Let’s bring the clarity up and the contrast and the sharpness a tiny bit. And start working on this nice rugged barn. I going to keep it off him as much as I can. This shows the areas where I’ve painted and erase the little bit off of him… the auto mask would probably service well here as well. So let’s take a look again at the before and after… that’s great it really made the shed pop. I love it. 

So hit new again, and I’m going to do one more to burn the edges and take the brightness down. It’s way too dark but now that we can see we can take it down a little bit more. That’s great really just draws your eye into the subject and away from the edges. So that was just a quick little edit using the adjustment brush and had I not been talking so much I could have probably done all that in about 3 minutes. So that’s before RAW and after edited using solely the adjustment brush. Excellent and the tiny little bit of healing tool right there. 

Thank you so much for watching and remember to download those brush presets from Pretty Presets to make your brushing even easier. 

You can find our Lightroom 3 brushes and Lightroom 4 brushes here.


Elizabeth Halford is a professional photographer and blogger. She gives real photography advice in real.plain.english. Visit her on Facebook and join a community of photographers just like you!



Posted by

Leave a Comment