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Working in Camera Raw

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, including the Whites and Blacks sliders.org_star.jpg 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!


A We studied this photo and decided 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 adjust_brush_icon.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 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


    B We clicked the Adjustment Brush tool, zeroed out the sliders, checked Mask, then drew strokes on the broad areas of the face in the preview, being careful to avoid the key facial features.

    • The brush size is represented by the solid circle in the pointer; the feather value is represented by the black-and-white dashed circle.
  5. Uncheck Mask, then use the sliders to apply adjustments to the masked areas (A, next page).


    Click to view larger image

    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.

    • To show or hide all the pins, press V or check or uncheck Overlay.
    • To display the mask for an existing pin temporarily, with your mouse or stylus, roll over the pin.
  6. To apply different adjustment settings to another area of the photo, click New, then repeat steps 2–5 B–C (and A–E, next page).


    B To sharpen the eyelashes, we clicked New, showed the mask, then covered the lashes using a small brush.


    Click to view larger image

    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.


    A To darken the eyebrows, we clicked New, checked Mask, then masked those areas.


    Click to view larger image

    B We hid the mask, then chose a higher Contrast value to define the hairs more crisply against the skin, and lowered Highlights, Whites, and Blacks values for a darkening effect.


    Click to view larger image

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


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


    Click to view larger image

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

    If you want to duplicate a pin and its mask, hold down Ctrl-Alt/Cmd-Option and drag the pin (you don’t have to click it first). Or click a pin, right-click it and choose Duplicate from the context menu, then drag the new pin.

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

To edit an Adjustment Brush tool correction:

  1. Choose the Adjustment Brush tool adjust_brush_icon.jpg (K).
  2. Check Mask (Y) and Overlay (V).
  3. Click a pin. A black dot appears in the center of the pin.
  4. Do any of the following:

    To add areas to the mask, drag with the brush in the image preview.A–B


    A After using the Adjustment Brush tool in this photo, we clicked an existing pin, and checked Mask to display the mask associated with that pin (we changed our mask color to yellow).


    B We dragged with the Adjustment Brush tool to add an area to the mask for the currently selected pin (note the brush cursor on the right side of the photo).

    To move the mask to a different area of the photo, drag its pin.

    To adjust the correction for the current pin, uncheck Mask (Y), then move the sliders.

To remove Adjustment Brush tool edits:

  1. Choose the Adjustment Brush tool adjust_brush_icon.jpg (K).
  2. Check Mask (Y) and Overlay (V).
  3. Do either 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. A


    A We clicked an existing Adjustment Brush pin, and checked Mask to display the mask associated with that pin. Next, we clicked the Erase button, then dragged with the brush to remove an area from the selected mask.

    To remove a pin and its adjustments, click the pin, then press Backspace/Delete; or right-click a selected pin, then choose Delete from the context menu; B or hold down Alt/Option and click a selected or unselected pin (note the scissors pointer).


    Click to view larger image

    B To remove a selected Adjustment Brush pin, we right-clicked it and chose Delete from the context menu.

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

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