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5 Tips for Working with the Graduated Filter

Are you getting the most out of the graduated filter tool in Lightroom?  Do you have the Pretty Presets Graduated Filters and Brushes set and are not sure if you are using them to their fullest potential.  These 5 simple tips will allow you to take FULL advantage of this marvelous tool.

1. Graduated Filter Shortcut

The shortcut for getting to the graduated filter is M.  This opens up the graduated filter dialog box.  In Lightroom 4, it looks a little like the basic panel (lots of sliders—many with the same names), so don’t let that confuse you.  You will actually be using a graduated filter.

2. Why Use One

Graduated filters are most commonly used to darken down a sky or to darken or lighten the edges of a photo.  I use graduated filters any time that I want to make an adjustment a large part of my photo at the same time and this part falls to the edge of the photo.

Graduated filters work great for adding color, saturation, or a bit of darkness to a sky.  They work great when I need a more custom vignette than I can get in Lightroom’s Effects panel.  They also work great for darkening distracting bright areas around the edge of a photo.

3. Get Control 

Graduated filters are really easy to use.  It is pretty much all just “click and drag.”  “Click” where you want the effect to start and “drag” until you want the effect to stop.  If you want the graduated filter to drag in a perfectly straight line, add the “shift” key while dragging.   

If you want to rotate the adjustment you’ve just added, place your cursor over the center line of the graduated filter.  A rotation icon will appear that will allow you to rotate the filter.  TIP: Don’t try to rotate the filter while your cursor is close to the pin as it is very hard to control the rotation.

4. Add and Delete

“New” adds a new pin (BTW-“pins” are the white dots that have a black circle in the center when they are selected).  To delete a pin, make sure it is selected and then hit the delete key.

5. Forever and Ever

The changes that you make with graduated filters can be changed and refined over and over.  They can be changed two years from now when you decide that you went a little heavy-handed. You can adjust graduated filters that you make last year when you realize that the effect needs a little more.

Graduated filters are also non-destructive and give you the ability to layer the effects.  THAT’S RIGHT.  You can use more than one.  In the same area even!

If you find yourself using the same settings over and over, you can save them as a preset and save yourself a lot of time. The presets you save will be available the next time you use the graduated filter and whenever you use the brush tool.  There are also great graduated filters and brush sets available here at Pretty Presets that can save you time and give you great looks.

Hope this helps you get the most out of the graduated filter tool in Lightroom.

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