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This chapter is from the book

Using the Adjustment Brush tool

Unlike corrections that are made in the Camera Raw tabs, which apply to the overall photo, corrections made with the Adjustment Brush tool are “local” (affect specific areas of the photo). You apply a mask in the preview to define which areas are going to be affected by the adjustment, then you apply the correction via the sliders. Use this tool after you have finished your broad, overall corrections, to fix a few specific areas or to accentuate some details. A Awesome feature!


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A We studied this photo and decided on what improvements to make: Smooth the skin, sharpen the eyelashes, darken the eyebrows, and minimize the under-eye circles.

To apply local edits with the Adjustment Brush tool:

  1. After making adjustments in the Basic and Tone Curve tabs, click the Adjustment Brush tool c0057-10.jpg (K). The sliders for the tool display (some are like the sliders in the Basic tab).
  2. Click the + or – button for any slider to “zero out” all the sliders except the one you click.
  3. For the brush settings (the last four sliders), try a Feather value of 50–95 (to allow the edits to fade into surrounding areas), a Flow value of 60 (for the amount of adjustment produced by each stroke), and a Density value of 60 (for the level of transparency in the stroke).
  4. Check Show Mask (Y) (scroll down in the settings area if you don’t see this option), adjust the brush size by pressing [ or ], then draw strokes over areas of the photo that need the same adjustment. A tint covers the areas where you apply strokes, and a pin appears where you started dragging. B

    • The brush size is represented by the solid circle in the pointer; the feather value is represented by the black-and-white dashed circle.

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    B We clicked the Adjustment Brush tool, zeroed out the sliders, checked Show Mask, then drew strokes on the face in the preview, avoiding the key facial features.

  5. Uncheck Show Mask, then use the sliders to apply adjustments to the masked areas (A, next page).

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    A We hid the mask, then chose a higher Tint value to add magenta to the skin tones, higher Exposure and Shadows values to lighten the skin tones, and lower Clarity and Sharpness values to smooth the skin texture. The results are shown at right.

  6. To apply different adjustment settings to other areas of the photo, click New, then repeat steps 2–5 (B–E, next page, and A–C, page 76).

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    C We hid the mask, then chose higher Contrast, Clarity, and Sharpness values to accentuate the masked areas, and a lower Exposure value to darken them.


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    E We hid the mask, then chose a higher Contrast value to define the hairs more crisply against the skin, and lower Highlights and Shadows values for a darkening effect.


    Click to view larger image

    A To minimize the dark circles under the eyes, we clicked New, checked Show Mask, then applied a mask to those areas.


    B We hid the mask, then reduced the Temperature value to cool the redness of the skin tones; increased the Exposure, Highlights, and Shadows values to lighten the skin; and reduced the Clarity and Sharpness values to soften the skin texture.


    Click to view larger image

    C This final image shows the cumulative results of all the local corrections that we applied via the Adjustment Brush tool.

  7. To redisplay the main tabs, press H (Hand tool).

    • To show or hide all the pins, press V or check or uncheck Show Pins. To display the mask for an existing pin temporarily, with the mouse or your stylus, roll over the pin.
    • To edit an adjustment, click a pin (a black dot appears in the center of the pin), then add to the mask and/or move the sliders. To remove areas of a mask, see page 76.

To remove Adjustment Brush tool edits:

  1. With the Adjustment Brush tool c0057-10.jpg selected (K), check Show Mask (Y) and Show Pins (V).
  2. Do either or both of the following:

    To remove adjustments locally, click a pin, click the Erase button (or hold down Alt/Option), then apply strokes where you want to erase the mask.

    To remove a pin and its adjustments, click the pin, then press Backspace/Delete.

    • To remove all Adjustment Brush tool edits and reset the mode to New, click the Clear All button.
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