The adjustment brush provides a way to make local adjustments to your images from inside of Lightroom. Whether you want to dodge and burn areas of an image, soften the skin or whiten the teeth of a model, or think outside the box and apply your own unique creative touches to an image, the adjustment brush is the tool for the job.
Along with the adjustments being applied, you have control over the brush itself. In this tutorial, I will show you how to control the adjustment brush and apply as much or as little of an effect as you want.
Use the shortcut K from the Library or Develop module to open the adjustment brush tool. The adjustment brush panel will open where you can adjust the effect sliders. Below the effects, you’ll see the Brush section. The Brush section is where you can define the properties of your brush.
Below is a run-down of all the sliders you can use to change the characteristics of your brush.
As the name implies, the size slider will determine how big your brush is. The bigger the number, the bigger the brush.
The feathering option controls the softness at the edges of the brush. With no feathering, the transition between your effect and the surrounding pixels is a hard edge. With a higher feather value, there is a much softer blending of the pixels between your effect and the surrounding.
Feathering works outwards from the size of your brush. Fortunately, Lightroom provides a preview of your brush when you hover over the Size or Feather slider, which will look like the graphic below. The Size value controls the inner circle, and the Feather value controllers the outer circle. With a Feather value of 0, you will only see one circle for the Size.
Flow controls the rate at which an effect is applied. Think of Flow as water through a hose. The higher the value, the faster the effect will be applied. At 100, the effect will be applied at 100% the normal rate. At a value of 40, the effect will be applied at 40% of normal rate.
Flow and Density can be confusing because sometimes their effects can look very similar. But where Flow controls the rate of application. Density puts a cap on how strong the effect will look on your image controlling the transparency of the effect.
Under the Flow slider, there is a checkbox labelled Auto Mask. With Auto Mask on, Lightroom will confine your brush strokes to areas of similar color. Instead of having to use an impossibly small brush to get very distinct brush strokes on an object, you can start painting inside the object and when you reach an edge and as long as there is enough color separation, Lightroom will not apply the effect to the area outside the object being painted.
At the top of the brush properties section of the Adjustment Brush panel, there are three links: A, B, and Erase. Lightroom allows you to define two separate brushes (A and B) and lets you easily switch between them by clicking on the brush label. I like to have one brush set up as a big, high flow brush and the second brush set up for more intricate detail work instead of constantly messing with the brush sliders.
The Erase brush is your eraser, and you can define separate properties for your eraser, as well.
Adjustment Brush Shortcuts
Finally, I wanted to provide a list or shortcuts that you can use to adjust your brush on the fly. These shortcuts will allow you to change the properties of your brush using your keyboard while you’re using your mouse to apply the effect. Mastering these shortcuts will dramatically increase the speed at which you can apply your local adjustments using the Adjustment Brush.
|K||Access Adjustment Brush|
|[ / ]||Decrease / Increase Brush Size|
|Shift + [ / Shift + ]||Decrease / Increase Feather Size|
|1 – 9||Adjust the Flow|
|O||Turn on brush overlay to see where you’ve applied the effect|
|Shift + O||Change the color of the overlay|
|Alt / Option||Turn your brush in to an eraser|