Our Lightroom Adjustment Brush tutorial series started with an overview of the basics of using the adjustment brush in Lightroom. Today, we’re going to wrap up the series and show you advanced features and tricks of using brushes.
Adjustment Brush Pins
The most important thing you can know about using this local adjustment tool is that Lightroom creates a separate pin for each individual edit you create on a photo. If you’re softening skin in one place and sharpening eyes in another, each edit will be controlled by the pin Lightroom creates for it. When you’ve completed one edit and are ready to move on to the next area, it’s very important to hit the New button at the top right of the Local Adjustment Panel in order to tell Lightroom to create a new pin.
If you forget, you might end up applying skin softening to eyes, or changing the softening you applied to sharpening instead. Neither is good, right?
The photo above shows the 3 pins I used to create spot edits. The one with the black dot in the center is active for editing. I can change the settings or strength of any pin that is active for editing, I can add or remove painted areas, and I can delete the entire edit by hitting the delete or backspace button on my keyboard.
I’m going to say this again, because I forget all the time. Each time you’ve completed editing one area and are ready to move on to the next, click the New button. Change the sliders to suit the new location, and begin painting following the steps for the first tutorial in this series.
You can have many pins on any one image. Are they getting in your way so that you can’t see to paint? Type the letter H to hide the pins. Type H again to turn them back on.
Toggle Adjustment Brush Edits Off and On
Want to see what your photo would look like without adjustment brushes? Click on the “lightswitch” at the bottom of this panel to toggle all adjustment brush strokes off or on. It’s not so easy to turn off one of many brushes, unfortunately – you’d have to delete it, then use the Undo History Panel to undelete it.
Change Multiple Sliders at One Time
If you changed several sliders with one adjustment pin, you can tweak them individually using the sliders, or you can reduce or increase their total strength with one slider. To use this handy shortcut, collapse the arrow at the top right corner of the local adjustment panel. You will now see one slider than controls everything you’ve already dialed in. Click on that arrow again to expand all the sliders. For example, rather than adjusting each of the 4 sliders that goes into this MCP Soften Skin preset from Enlighten for Lightroom 4, I can used this collapsed slider to adjust all for at the same time.
Memorize Brush Options
If you find that you use the same brush options over and over, you can memorize your favorite two sets. For instance, do you like a brush with feathering of 63 and Flow of 72? Click the A button and choose those settings. Now click the B button to dial in the settings of your other favorite brush. Click on A to revert to 63/72. Click on B to go back to your other brush. Those settings will remain until you change them.
What about memorizing groups of sliders? Your favorite edits for eyes, for example. Dial in the settings you like. For eyes, you might increase exposure a little, and increase contrast, clarity and sharpening. Now, click on the drop down menu next to the word Effect. Click on Save Current Settings as a New Preset, and name it. Next time you want to edit eyes, click on this drop down menu and select your newly-saved preset.
What’s even better than saving your own presets? Use MCP’s specialty adjustment brush presets that come with Enlighten for Lightroom 4. We’ve programed them with our own secret forumlas to give you 30 photo perfecting effects, from skin softening to detail finding and color burning. Using them is as simple as selecting one from the Effect menu and painting the edit where you need it.
Stack Brush Strokes
In this edit, I used the skin softening brush at full Flow, hit the new button, and painted over parts of the same area with the skin softening brush at 50% flow. This gives me more than 100% skin softening in key areas. It also creates a 4th pin, and beautifully soft skin. No need to go into Photoshop at all!
Before & After Workflow
Let’s put this all together with the steps that I used to edit the Before and After image above. Most of the edit was completed with just a few clicks of the Enlighten for Lightroom 4 presets.
lighten 2/3 stop (Enlighten)
soft & bright (Enlighten)
blue: pop (Enlighten)
blue: deepen (Enlighten)
sharpen: slight (Enlighten)
white balance tweak (my own)
soften skin (Enlighten) – painted once at 100% flow and again at 50% flow over key areas
crisp (Enlighten) – to bring out details of hair
opened shadows in hair – my own settings. See part 1 of this series for details.
detail finder (Enlighten) – to sharpen and brighten eyes
What’s the last step in this process? You need to put away your tool, of course. Either click on the close button or click on the brush icon to turn it off and return to global editing.
Lightroom’s Local Adjustment Brush is a powerful tool that creates the same spot editing power as layer masks – all without ever having to open Photoshop.
How to use the local adjustment brush in Lightroom
With Lightroom 4, you can adjust a wide range of common photo problems, from white balance to blown highlights and noise caused by high ISO photography. The adjustment brush in Lightroom 2 and 3 is powerful too. However, it can’t solve as many problems as the brushes in Lightroom 4 (white balance and noise reductions, in particular).
This adjustment brush can perfect a small area of your image as simply as choosing an effect and painting it on. This two-part tutorial will give you ALL the information you need to use this tool to its full potential. You can use the adjustment independently or in conjunction with the Enlighten Lightroom Preset Brushes. This will even give you the power to adjust the results of our presets after applying them.
Step 1. Click on the adjustment brush icon to turn it on.
The Basic Panel will slide down, and the Adjustments Panel will appear. When the panel opens, you will find the following adjustments available in Lightroom 4:
Here’s what each slider does:
Temp & Tint – white balance adjustments.
Exposure – increase to brighten, decrease to darken.
Contrast – increase (move to right) to add contrast. Decrease to reduce contrast.
Highlights – move to right to brighten highlights, move to left to darken them (good for blown out areas).
Shadows – move to right to brighten shadows, move to left to darken them.
Clarity – increase (move to right) to add crispness, decrease to soften area.
Saturation – increase by sliding to the right. Desaturate by sliding to the left.
Sharpness – paint on sharpness or blur. Positive numbers increase sharpness.
Noise – move to right to decrease noise in an area. Move to left to reduce global noise reduction – in other words, protect an area from the noise reduction you applied to the entire image in the Detail Panel below.
Moire – removes digital feedback created by small patterns. Move slider to left to keep moire.
Defringe – remove chromatic aberration by moving to right. Protect from improper chromatic aberration removal by moving to the left.
Color – apply a light color tint to an area.
Step 2. Choose the settings that you would like to apply to a specific area.
Want to increase the exposure? Move that slider to the right – it doesn’t matter how much, because you can adjust it after the fact. Dial in as many adjustments as you’d like. You can increase exposure and contrast at the same time, for example.
Step 3. Configure your brush options.
Select its size first. Yes, you can dial in a size in pixels using the brush size slider. It’s much easier, however, to hover the brush over the area that you want to paint and use the ] key to make your brush larger and [ to make it smaller. You can also use the scroll wheel on your mouse to change the brush’s size, if you have one.
Next, set the feathering amount. Feathering controls how hard or soft the edges of your brush are. A brush with 0 feathering is on the left side of this screen shot, and 100 feathering is on the right. Softer feathers usually give more natural results. When brushing with a feathered brush, your brush tip will have two circles – the space between the outer and inner circles is the area that will be feathered.
Now set the Flow of your brush. Use Flow to reduce how much paint comes out of your brush with one stroke. If you’ve chosen to increase exposure by 1 stop, for example, setting the flow to 50 will increase your exposure by 1/2 stop with the first stroke. The second stroke will bring your total exposure to 1 stop.
AutoMask – turn on if you’d like the brush to read the edges of what you’re painting to prevent “painting outside the lines.” This feature works very well – sometimes too well. If you find that your coverage is spotty, like the photo below, you might need to turn off Auto Mask, especially if you aren’t near any important edges.
Density controls the total strength of the brush on any area. For instance, if you want to use the same brush to increase exposure on a face by 1 stop but make sure that the hair’s exposure doesn’t increase by more than a half stop, adjust the Density to 50 after painting the face, but before the hair. (I don’t use this one much, honestly.)
Step 4. Start brushing. Click and drag over the areas of your photo that you want to adjust. If your effect is subtle and you’re not sure whether you painted the right area, type O to display a red overlay over the areas you’ve painted. After you finish laying the brush stroke, type O again to turn off the Red Overlay. Need to erase something? Click on the word erase, configure your settings just like you configured the brush, and erase the areas you shouldn’t have painted – your brush will have a “-” in the center to indicate that you are in erase mode. Click on A to return to your paintbrush.
Step 5. Adjust Your Edits. Let’s say you increased both Exposure and Contrast with this brushstoke. You can go back and tweak those two sliders. Add even more exposure and reduce contrast. Or, increase Clarity to add it to the adjustment. You can use any available local sliders to adjust this brushstroke.
The screen shot below shows one step of my edit on the image from the before and after above. My goal was to lighten and bring out detail from the shadows of her hair. The red overlay shows you where I painted, my slider settings are on the right, and my brush options below that. I used two brush strokes to build up coverage gradually.
This photo shows you a zoomed in before and after of the edit above only. Curious about the other settings I used? I completed this edit using MCP’s Enlighten for Lightroom 4.
lighten 2/3 stop
soft & bright
soften skin brush
These are the basics of your first edit with Lightroom’s adjustment brush. Come back for our next installment to learn about:
How to Order, Download and Unzip Our Photoshop Actions, Lightroom Presets and Textures
Whether you are trying to order, download or unzip our products, here’s what you need to know to make it quick and “hopefully” painless.
In this tutorial, we will show you how to order, download and unzip products from our site – both the FREE and the purchased ones! Check out all our products right here in the store. Downloading and unzipping are processes that some do every day, however, for those less computer savvy, the process can be not-so-intuitive.
So, let’s break it down and make it easy for you. And check out the video at the end of this tutorial if you need a little more help.
Step 1. Find the product(s) you want and add them to your cart.
Find the product you want: Lightroom Presets, Photoshop Actions, Textures, etc. MOST IMPORTANTLY, check and make sure you have the software required to use the items. Every product will indicate if you need Photoshop, Elements, or Lightroom (and also which versions numbers of the software are compatible). As long as you have the right software, where you see the box with a 0, change it to a 1 and click the red “add to cart” button. THESE DIRECTIONS ARE THE SAME for free items and ones that cost money.
If you have a problem adding to cart, you may have a caching issue. Please delete your browser cache or worst case, try from a different browser. Once you have everything in your cart that you want, make sure you are logged in (or create an account if you do not have one). Double check the quantity for each product. If you were not logged in and added to your cart, and already had something from a prior session, it may still be there. This happens to me on Amazon all the time.
Next, checkout. Again, same process for both free and paid items until you get to this step. Choose your payment method:
Step 2. Download the product from MCP Actions onto your computer
Once you have purchased your product from MCP, or ordered your freebie, you have to get that product onto your computer, right? Moving the product from our website to your computer is called downloading. You have 3 ways to download products from our website.
First way: Immediately after completing the order or purchase transaction, you internet browser will be directed to a page where you can click a link to take you directly to My Downloadable Products.
Once you are in the My Downloadable Products section, you can click on the word download next to the product you’d like to download.
Second way: After completing your transaction, you will receive a receipt at the email address you entered when creating a MCP account. Next to each product is a link that says “Download.” Click on it and your products will be downloaded immediately onto your computer.
Third way: Go directly to our website, MCPActions.com, and login to your account.
Next, click on My Downloadable Products from the menu on the left of the page.
Step 3. Unzip the Product
The product is on your computer now. Now it’s time to locate the files. Start by looking in folders called Downloads or My Downloads. On my Mac, that looks like this.
On my PC running Windows Vista, it looks like this. Odds are, your computer won’t look exactly like mine. But they will be similar.
If you don’t see your MCP products in this folder, that means that your browser or computer has stored them somewhere else. Unfortunately, we can’t help you determine where they would be, because this is a user specific setting – ask other people who have access to your computer if they know where your downloads go. Try typing command+shift+j on your mac, or control+j on your pc – sometimes, these commands will show you your downloads.
Once you locate the file you downloaded from us, it will be in a zip folder. Zipped folders are compressed to take up less space, and they can have multiple files zipped up in side of them. Zip folders are usually easy to identify because of the zipper on their icon or thumbnail and their name, which often ends in “.zip”. They look like this:
To unzip or open one of these files, you either double click on it or right click and select Open, Extract, Unzip, or something to that effect. Go ahead and try both options – you won’t hurt anything. Your files will now appear in their own folder. In some cases, your unzipping utility will automatically put them somewhere else on your computer, like My Documents. If this happens, we won’t know the location of your files – someone using your computer has made this choice in the past.
If you don’t know where your files went once unzipped, you can always search for them using the search box in Finder on Macs or Windows Explorer on PCs.
After this zip file is unzipped and located, you will see something like this inside:
Our products contain the product files (actions, presets or textures), plus instructions for installing and using them. Look first for the instructions – they are PDFs. Most of our products contain multiple PDFs – one or more that tell you how to use the product once installed, and one that tells you how to use the products after you’ve installed them. We’ve put lots of time into making these documents as complete and easy to understand as possible – give them a try if you have any questions about your product.
One note on Classes and Workshops purchased at MCP. Inside your download for these classes, you might only find one file explaining how to join the class. Don’t worry that you are missing anything else!
Glitches in the process (AKA Troubleshooting)
Our computers like to trip us up every once in a while. Have you noticed? Here are a few glitches that can occur during the download or unzipping process:
Overzealous firewalls can block the download from completing or even starting. You will need to temporarily disable your firewall, following the instructions that came with it, to download in this case.
Sometimes, an overzealous spouse or computer nerd will delete the unzipping utility from your computer. Lucky for you, you can find replacements on the internet. WinZip, for instance, works on both PCs and Macs, and there is a free trial version. No need to purchase unless you think you will need to unzip other things in the future. Another solution for Mac users is to use Terminal to unzip files. Watch this You Tube video for an easy-to-follow tutorial.
Now, every once is a while, people will try to open their zip files with Photoshop or any other software, rather than unzipping it first. This won’t work, and it could possibly fool your computer into thinking that the file isn’t a zip file. The file name might end in .zip, but the icon could look like a Photoshop document, or a music file, or something else. If this is the case, you need to associate the file with zip files by right clicking on it and selecting “Open With.” (Mac users, before you tell me that you can’t right click on your Mac, try this: hold down your control button (not your command button) and left click. That is how you right click on older Macs.) In the Open With menu, find your unzipping utility and click on it.
If you are having trouble with downloading and unzipping, make sure to read the information above in addition to watching this video. If you’ve had trouble downloading or unzipping our files, don’t feel bad – it happens to all of us! Just work through these steps and you will download and unzip like a pro soon.