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Photoshop Lightroom Reference Guide

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The Painter Tool

Last updated Apr 25, 2008.

Using the Painter tool requires a little bit of imagination. You see, you need to imagine you have a spray paint can that doesn’t use paint. Instead of paint you can load the Painter tool with a color label, flag state, star rating, metadata template, develop preset, rotation setting or one or more keywords. Once loaded with the item you choose you can click and drag over the thumbnails in Grid view to apply that item to your photos. You can even use the Painter to assign photos to a target collection (more on this at the end). This tool can really help speed up an otherwise tedious task and even make it a little more fun.

The Painter tool is the spray can icon in the Grid view Toolbar.

Once you click on the Painter tool icon, or go to Metadata > Enable Painting, the Toolbar will change to reflect the Painter’s options. Click the drop-down menu to choose what you want to apply to your photos.

The options in the Toolbar will change to reflect the selected item, so if you choose Keywords then a keyword entry field will appear, choosing Label will display the color label choices, Metadata will provide a list of all your metadata templates and so on.

The Painter is probably most commonly called in to service for adding keywords to large numbers of photos, so let’s walk through an example of how to do this important task.

Step 1.

Click on the Painter tool icon.

Step 2.

Click the drop-down menu and choose Keywords.

Step 3.

Enter the keyword or keywords you want to “spray” on to your photos. Lightroom will access your existing keyword list as you type and display a listing of all the keywords that match the letters you have entered so far. Just by typing the first 2 letters “br” I can see the keyword I wanted (“brown bear”) and can quickly choose it from the list.

To enter multiple keywords just type a comma after the first keyword and start typing the next keyword. No need to only add one keyword at a time if more than one applies to a given set of photos!

Step 4.

Click and drag the Painter tool over the photos you want to have those keywords. You’ll notice the cursor has changed to the Painter icon when you place it over a photo. As you click and drag Lightroom will display a confirmation message telling you what keywords have been assigned. Also note that the “painted” photos will display a white stroke so you will know which ones have been done.

If you “overspray” and hit a photo you didn’t want to have that keyword (or whatever you have loaded in the Painter at the time) you can move your cursor back over those photos and the cursor will change to an eraser. Just click and drag to remove those same keywords from the affected photos.

Step 5.

When you have finished applying those keywords to all the relevant photos you can click the Done button in the Toolbar to exit the Painter tool (or press the escape key). If you wanted to change keywords and keep working then just clear the old keywords and enter the new ones and start over with the new words. It is kind of fun once you get going and satisfying when you finish.

I did want to briefly mention how to use the Target Collection option on the Painter tool. A target collection is one of your existing collections that you designate as the target. Just right-click an existing collection and choose Set as Target Collection (Note: The Target Collection will display a + symbol after the name in the Collections panel). Once a collection has been assigned you can load Target Collection in the Painter tool and quickly add photos to that collection in just the same way I demonstrated keywords above.

I hope you have as much fun with this tool as I do!