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Localized Adjustments and Hand-Coloring with the Adjustment Brush Tool In Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2

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Martin Evening talks about the Adjustment Brush, including initial Adjustment brush options and hand-coloring in Color mode.
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Localized adjustments

Let’s now take a look at the true stars of Lightroom 2: the Adjustment brush and Graduated Filter tools. These are not just tools for dodging and burning, because you have a total of seven effects to choose from, not to mention dual brush settings and an Auto Mask option. Just like the Spot Removal and Remove Redeye tools, the Adjustment brush and Graduated Filter tools are completely nondestructive. There is no need for Lightroom to create an edit copy of the master image first (if that is what you want to achieve, then you can always use the Edit in Photoshop command discussed in Chapter 9). The unique thing about these tools is that when localized adjustments are applied to an image, the adjustments are saved as instruction edits that automatically update as you make further adjustments to the tool and other Develop module settings. You can even synchronize localized adjustment work across multiple images using the Sync Settings command.

Initial Adjustment brush options

When you first start working with the Adjustment brush, the panel options will look like those in Figure 6.67 or 6.68. To begin with, you will be in New mode, ready to create a fresh set of brush strokes, but first you need to choose a paint effect: Exposure, Brightness, Contrast Saturation, Clarity, Sharpness, or Color. In Figure 6.67, I clicked the Exposure button, which meant I could set an Exposure setting to paint with, such as a positive value to lighten or a negative value to darken (these are your basic dodge and burn tool settings). In Button mode, you can select one paint effect at a time and use the Amount slider to adjust the effect setting. To switch to the Effect Slider mode, click on the switch that’s circled in Figure 6.68. In this mode you can use any combination of the available slider adjustments for the Adjustment brush effect and save them as a custom setting that can be accessed via the Effect menu (also circled in Figure 6.68).

Below this are the Brush settings, where you have three sliders. The Size slider controls the overall size of the brush cursor (Figure 6.69), or you can use the box-close_key.gif and box-open_key.gif to make the cursor circles bigger or smaller. The reason for the two circles is to show the hardness of the brush. The inner circle represents the core brush size, while the outer circle represents the feathering radius. As you adjust the Feather slider, the outer circle expands or contracts to indicate the hardness or softness of the brush. Or, you can use alt-open-brac.gif to make the brush edge harder or alt-open-brac.gif to make the edge softer. The Flow slider is kind of like an airbrush control: by selecting a low Flow setting you can apply a series of brush strokes that successively build to create a stronger effect. You will notice that as you brush back and forth with the Adjustment brush, the paint effect gains opacity (if you are using a pressure-sensitive tablet such as a Wacom™, the flow of the brush strokes is automatically linked to the pen pressure that is applied). The Density slider at the bottom limits what the maximum brush opacity can be. At 100% Density, the flow of the brush strokes builds to maximum opacity, but if you reduce the Density, this limits the maximum opacity for the brush. In fact, if you reduce the Density and paint, this allows you to erase the paint strokes back to a desired Density setting. When Density is set to zero, the brush acts like an eraser. The A and B buttons enable you to create two separate brush settings so that you can easily switch between two different brushes as you work.

We are now ready to start painting with the Adjustment brush (box-k.gif). Where you first click adds a pin marker to the image. This is just like any other overlay, and you can hide it using the box-h.gif key (or use the View arrow.jpg Tool Overlay options discussed earlier to govern the show/hide behavior for these overlays). The pin overlay is therefore like a marker for the brush strokes you are about to add and can later be used as a reference marker when you need to locate and edit a particular group of brush strokes. The important thing to understand here is that you click once and start painting away on an area of the picture to form a collection of brush strokes (identified by the marker). When you edit the brush strokes, you can adjust the parameter settings for the group as a whole. So you can come back later and say “Let’s make this series of brush strokes a little stronger,” or “Let’s try making the Exposure darker and add some more saturation too.” Consequently, when you use the Adjustment brush you should work with this in mind and create new brush stroke groups whenever you need to shift the focus of your retouching from one part of the photograph to another. Therefore, always click the New button in the Adjustment brush’s panel when you need to create a new (separate) group of brush strokes.

Hand-coloring in Color mode

The Color effect allows you to brush with color on your photographs and can be likened to working with the Brush tool in Photoshop with the Color blend mode. There are lots of potential uses for this tool: you could use it to make someone’s hair a different shade of color or change the eye color, or you might want to cool an area of the picture such as in the Graduated Filter example later, where I used a blue Color Graduated Filter to make the sky bluer. In the example shown here, I started with an image that had been converted to black and white by desaturating the colors. The main thing to point out here is that I used the Adjustment brush in Color mode with Auto Mask selected. Although the previewed image was in black and white, it did not matter which black and white conversion method was used, since Lightroom always references the underlying color data when calculating the Auto Mask. The Auto Mask feature was therefore able to do a good job of detecting the mask edges based on the underlying colors of the flower heads, stems, and leaves.

  1. This photograph was converted to monochrome by desaturating all the Saturation sliders in the HSL panel (you could also drag the Basic panel Saturation slider to zero, or convert to grayscale). I selected the Tint effect and clicked on the main color swatch to open the color picker shown here and selected a green color to paint with.
  2. With Auto Mask checked, I brushed along the stems and leaves, switching between a broad brush A and smaller brush B. I also used the Edit sliders to modify the color and increase the saturation.
  3. I pressed arrow_enter.gif to OK these brush strokes and started a new set of paint strokes. This time I selected a yellow color and began painting the flower petals, again with the Auto Mask option selected.
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