The controls in the adjustment panels in the Develop module let you affect the color and tone of an entire photo. But sometimes you don’t want to make adjustments globally, to the entire photo. You want to make corrections to a specific area of a photo. For example, you may want to lighten a face to make it stand out in a portrait or enhance the blue sky in a landscape. To make local corrections in Lightroom, you can apply color and tonal adjustments using the Adjustment Brush tool and the Graduated Filter tool.

The Adjustment Brush tool lets you selectively apply Exposure, Clarity, Brightness, and other adjustments to photos by “painting” them onto the photo.

The Graduated Filter tool lets you apply Exposure, Clarity, and other tonal adjustments gradually across a region of a photo. You can make the region as wide or as narrow as you like.

As with all other adjustments applied in the Develop module in Lightroom, local adjustments are nondestructive and are not permanently applied to the photo.

Video tutorial: Adjustment Brush basics

Video: Workflow enhancements in Lightroom CC/Lightroom 6

Video: Workflow enhancements in Lightroom CC/Lightroom 6
Adobe Systems

Apply an adjustment brush or filter effect

  1. Select a photo to edit in the Library module and press D to switch to the Develop module. To switch to a different photo in the Develop module, choose it from the Collections panel or the Filmstrip.

  2. Select the Adjustment Brush tool  or the Graduated Filter tool  in the tool strip of the Develop module.
  3. Choose the type of adjustment you want to make from the Effect pop-up menu, or drag the sliders:

    Temp

    Adjusts the color temperature of an area of the image, making it warmer or cooler. A graduated filter temperature effect can improve images captured in mixed-lighting conditions.

    Tint

    Compensates for a green or magenta color cast

    Exposure

    Sets the overall image brightness. Applying an Exposure local correction can achieve results similar to traditional dodging and burning.

    Highlights

    Recovers detail in overexposed highlight areas of an image

    Shadows

    Recovers detail in underexposed shadow areas of an image

    Whites

    Adjusts the white points in a photo

    Blacks

    Adjusts the black points in a photo

    Contrast

    Adjusts image contrast, mainly affecting midtones

    Saturation

    Adjusts the vividness of the color

    Clarity

    Adds depth to an image by increasing local contrast

    Dehaze

    Reduces or increases existing haze in a photo

    Sharpness

    Enhances edge definition to bring out details in the photo. A negative value blurs details.

    Noise

    Reduces luminance noise, which can become apparent when shadow areas are opened.

    Moiré

    Removes moiré artifacts, or color aliasing

    Defringe

    Removes fringe colors along edges

    Color

    Applies a tint to the area affected by the local correction. Select the hue by clicking the Color swatch. The Color effect is preserved if you convert the photo to black and white.

    Other effects

    Additional effects are available for specific tasks, such as whitening teeth, enhancing irises, or softening skin tones.

    Note: If Burn (Darken), Dodge (Lighten), Iris Enhance, Soften Skin, or Teeth Whitening is not available, choose Lightroom > Preferences (Mac OS) or Edit > Preferences (Windows). In the Presets panel, click Restore Local Adjustment Presets.

  4. Drag the individual effect sliders to increase or decrease the values.
  5. (Adjustment Brush tool only) Specify options for Adjustment Brush A:

    Size

    Specifies the diameter of the brush tip in pixels.

    Feather

    Creates a soft-edged transition between the brushed area and the surrounding pixels. When you use the brush, the distance between the inner and outer circle represents the feather amount.

    Flow

    Controls the rate of application of the adjustment.

    Auto Mask

    Confines brush strokes to areas of similar color.

    Density

    Controls the amount of transparency in the stroke.

  6. Drag in the photo to apply the effect.

    A pin  appears at the initial application point, and the Mask mode changes to Edit. For a Graduated Filter effect, three white guides represent the center, low, and high ranges of the effect.

Modify a Graduated Filter or Radial Filter using brush controls

You can modify Graduated Filter masks using brush controls. Once you've added a mask, to access brush controls, select the Brush option next to New/Edit.

Brush controls in Lightroom

As appropriate, use the + and - (Erase) brushes. Lightroom lets you customize three different filter brushes: A (+), B (+), and Erase (-). You can customize the following settings for these brushes: 

  • Size: The size of the brush
  • Feather: The amount of feathering for the brush
  • Flow: How much paint is applied to the area for every stroke. For example, if the Flow is set to 20%, 20% paint strength is applied for the first stroke. The subsequent stroke brings up the paint strength to 40%. 
  • Density: The maximum opacity that the brush paints. If you have this setting at 40%, for example, the brush will not paint opacity greater than 40%.

Note:

Enable the AutoMask option to paint inside the edges of an area. Lightroom masks the area to ensure that your brushstrokes don’t go beyond it. When you paint, ensure that the core part of the brush is inside the area you want to paint.

Brush settings in Lightroom
Filter brush settings

To reset any changes made to the three brushes: A, B, and Erase and revert them to their default states, click Reset Brushes.

Edit an Adjustment Brush or Graduated Filter/Radial Filter effect

To edit an Adjustment Brush or Graduated Filter effect, you can do any of the following:

  • Press H to hide or show the pin and Graduated Filter guides, or choose a display mode from the Show Edit Pins menu in the toolbar.
  • Press O to hide or show a mask overlay of the Adjustment Brush tool effect, or use the Show Selected Mask Overlay option in the toolbar.
  • Press Shift+O to cycle through a red, green, or white mask overlay of the Adjustment Brush tool effect.
  • Drag the Effect sliders.
  • Press Ctrl+Z (Windows) or Command+Z (Mac OS) to undo your adjustment history.
  • Click Reset to remove all adjustments of the selected tool.
  • Remove an Adjustment Brush effect or a Graduated Filter effect by selecting its pin and pressing Delete.
  • (Adjustment Brush tool) Move the pointer over the pin and drag the double-pointing arrow to the right to increase the effect, or to the left to decrease the effect.
  • (Adjustment Brush tool) To undo part of the adjustment, select the Erase brush option, and paint over the adjustment.
  • (Graduated Filter tool) Drag the pin to move the center point of the effect.
  • (Graduated Filter tool) Position the pointer over the center white line until a curved, double-pointing arrow appears , and then drag to rotate the effect.
  • (Graduated Filter tool) Drag an outer white line toward the edge of the photo to expand the effect at that end of the spectrum. Drag toward the center of the photo to contract the effect at that end of the spectrum.

Work with multiple local adjustments

When applying and working with multiple local adjustments, keep in mind the following:

  • Click any pin to select it. A selected pin has a black center. Non-selected pins are solid white.

  • Press H once to show the selected pin; press H again to hide all pins; press H a third time to show all pins.

  • When the Adjustment Brush tool is selected, only adjustment pins are available to edit. When the Graduated Filter tool is selected, only graduated filter pins are available to edit.

  • The Adjustment Brush tool drawer allows you to specify options for two brushes, A and B. Select a brush by clicking the letter, or switch between brushes by pressing the slash key (/). Brush options “stick” regardless of the effect you choose to apply until you change them.

Create local adjustment effect presets

To create local adjustment effect presets, follow these steps:

  1. Using either the Graduated Filter or Adjustment Brush tool, apply an effect.
  2. Choose Save Current Settings As New Preset from the Effect pop-up menu.
  3. In the New Preset dialog box, type a name in the Preset Name box and click Create.

The preset appears in the Effect pop-up menu.

Note:

Adjustment Brush tool presets do not include brush options.

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