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5 Tips for Using Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush Tool

Do you shy away from using the brush tool because you are not sure what or where it is?  Are you using the Pretty Presets Graduated Filters and Brushes but not sure if you are using them to their fullest potential?  The 5 simple tips in this post will make sure you are getting the most out of the brush tool.

Why/When to Use the Brush Tool

Technically, Adjustment Brush is the official name.

I use the adjustment brush tool whenever I want to make a correction to a small portion of my image.  For example, maybe I want to lighten a face or an object or correct whiten teeth.  These would be really obvious times to use the brush tool.

1. Brush Shortcut

The shortcut for opening the brush tool is K.  You can type "K" from within ANY of Lightroom's modules and you will be taken directly to the brush tool.  The dialog box for the brush tool and the graduated filter look exactly the same.  AND they both look very similar to the basic panel.  Don't get confused which one you are in!

2. Changing the Brush Size

You can use the scroll wheel on your mouse or the right and left bracket keys to change the size of your brush (right bracket="[" and left bracket="]").  Of course there is a slider for this in the brush panel, but I find both these methods A LOT faster than using the slider.

3. The A and B Brushes

This is something that most people either don't know about or get confused about.  The A and B brushes just allow you to have two types of brushes PRESET inside the brush tool.  For me, the most obvious two brush types to have set here are a soft edge brush and a hard edge brush.  Or maybe, you sometimes like a brush that is set to 100% opacity (Lightroom calls this "flow" to be tricky) and one that is set to 30% opacity.  Maybe you have other types of brushes that you use all the time.  This is your chance to set them up once and never do it again!

4. Erase Tool

I think it is pretty obvious what the erase tool does—we've been using an eraser since grade school.

BUT, did you know that you can use the erase tool without ever clicking on the word "erase" in the Adjustment Brush Panel?  All you have to do is hold down the Option key (MAC) or Alt Key (PC) to change the brush you are using into the Erase brush.  You can adjust the eraser brush using all the same shortcuts for size, etc. I listed above.

5. Auto Mask

Checking the auto-mask box will help you target certain tones/areas of your image and keep the brush from spilling over into areas of your image that you don't want to affect.  It is good for skies and even sometimes faces and skin.

The key to using this tool is to keep the "+" inside the brush tool on the tones that you are trying to affect.

I sometimes have problems with this creating weird texture on edges of places I have brushed—mostly faces.  So after using it check your image at 100% to make sure that nothing like that has happened to you.  If it has, just uncheck the "auto mask" box and run your brush lightly over those areas again.


  • Just like the Graduated Filter tool, you can adjust the settings you used on any brush FOREVER.
  • To delete a brush you have added to your image, make sure it is highlighted (has the black circle in the center) and hit the delete key.
  • You can layer changes with the adjustment brush, just make sure that you click "new" each time you want to start a new brush.

Hope this helps you take the Adjustment Brush tool to a whole new level.  View the Perfect Portrait: Retouch & Makeup Brush Collection here.

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