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Brush Essentials

Lesson 2 from: Dramatically Improved Masking In Lightroom Classic

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

2. Brush Essentials

This tool is so useful that you may end up using it on almost every image you adjust. You will later see how it can become dramatically more powerful when combined with Lightroom Classic's other masking tools.
Next Lesson: Isolating the Sky

Lesson Info

Brush Essentials

let's start off using the brush tool in lightroom. Classic. That's where we can do all of our masking manually by just painting on the image, but there's more to it than just painting. So let's dive in and get started on this image. I've adjusted it already using the develop module in lightroom. So let's head over to the develop module. You can see the sliders, I've moved them around to optimize the image in general, but I'm not really happy with the end result. And so I'm going to come up here to the new masking icon when I click on it, it's going to give me a list of various choices I could use to isolate an area in this image. And let's start off by using the brush. When I click on the brush over here on the right side of my screen, I have options for my brush notice I have my feather turned all the way up just for now, which is going to give me a soft edge. Then I have both flow and density at 100. And that means when I paint, I'm gonna get the full force of whatever adjustment I'd...

like. But I don't need to dial in an adjustment in here yet. I can just paint on the image. And if I do, I'm going to get an overlay because there's a checkbox right here called overlay. And that means when I paint instead of seeing a change to my image, like it's seeing it brightened or darkened. I'm just going to see a colored overlay. Uh So I'm gonna come over here and the first thing I wanna do is this area right in here is just looking to dull. I'd like it to look more similar to the area on top of the head. So I'm gonna go over here to the right side and just make sure auto mask has turned off and that will mean that I can just blatantly paint without it. Trying to do anything to change my paint stroke. And I'm going to come in here and start painting as I do. You see that colored overlay appear now that colored overlay? You can change the color of it very easily over on the right side of my screen just to the right of that checkbox called show overlay is the color being used and if I click on it, I can choose any color I want, I'm gonna choose green because I just find it's not as common for me to have green found in my image compared to read. And I'll close that you could also in their control how much you can see through that area now that I've isolated the area that I wanted to work with. I have the adjustment sliders in here. I can use to change things in the moment I move one of these sliders, that green overlay should disappear and I should start seeing the change happen to the image if I want to get rid of it before moving any of the sliders. All I'd have to do is turn off this checkbox and if you hover over this, you'll see that it has a keyboard shortcut listed on the far right of the little tool tip, it's the letter O for overlay. So oftentimes I just bumped the letter O on my keyboard if I don't want to see it now, what I wanna do is brighten that area and I'm gonna brighten it, starting from the absolute brightest areas, which would be the white slider and I'll just watch the images, I bring that up and I'm gonna bring it up enough until I think that that area of the picture looks a lot more like the top of the head and therefore my eye isn't pulled just to the top of the head, but I want to make other changes like I want to come into this area and also get it to pop out in a slightly different way. I don't want to apply the exact same adjustment though to that area. So what I'm gonna do is come up here and say I want to create a new mask and therefore I can have a completely different set of adjustments attached to it. I'll hit the plus sign and again, I have to tell it what tool I'd like to use. We're gonna use our brush tool in now to change the size of my brush, I have a trackpad attached to my computer, just like what you have on a laptop. If you want to change the size of your brush, use two fingers on the trackpad of a laptop and move them up or down. If on the other hand, you use a mouse. If you have a scroll wheel, the scroll wheel on your mouse will also change the size. If you add the shift key to that, you'll be instead changing how soft the edge of the brushes. And if you don't have either of those options, then you can use your keyboard and use the square looking bracket keys that are near the upper right of your keyboard. So I'm just going to dial in the size by moving two fingers at the same time up and down on my trackpad and I'm going to paint this in right where I think we need this to pop out a little bit. And what I want to do in this case is I'm going to bring down a setting called contrast contrast is how big of a difference there is between bright and dark and if I bring it down here we're gonna get those areas to look a little bit more similar to each other. And even after bringing it all the way down, I wish it was a little bit brighter so I could either bring up exposure or whites. They're both going to do a good amount of it and so there we go next, I want to start working on the eyes for that. I'm going to use a separate adjustment and therefore up here, I'm going to say create a new mask and of course I'm going to use my brush then I want to zoom up on my picture. There are many different ways of zooming. One of them is to press and hold the space bar, which should give you a zoom icon, then click on your picture and it'll zoom in or zoom out. Now it's determined by whatever on the left side of your screen up here you've used last. And so when I click like that to zoom in, you noticed that it went between the setting called fit And if I do it one more time to here to 25%. Well I don't want that, that just happens to be a weird percentage. I'm gonna go up to 100%. Therefore when I click it kind of going to go between fit and 100. So now assuming the way I want now on occasion you'll find that that little hand icon or the zoom icon will stay there when you're in your brush tool and therefore you can't brush on your image even though you're in the brush tool, if that ever happens to you, if it looks like a hand, just press the space bar once again and it should toggle you out of being stuck in that um hand tool. Now I want to work on this area, but here I don't want a soft edge because there's a more abrupt transition between the I. And its surroundings. So I'm going to change how hard the brushes to do. So I'll hold down the shift key on my keyboard and then use two fingers on my trackpad to drag up or down in the space between those two circles, tells me how soft my edges I'm going to get it down to about that size. Then I'm gonna come in here and paint just where the colorful part of the eye would be. And it's okay if I get a little over spray above because otherwise I need to get a really small brush to get right into that corner and get it to be just right. I can always go over to the right side of my screen and there's a choice right here called a race. Just beware. When you choose a race, the size feathering and flow of your brush has completely different settings, so don't expect them to remain the same. The other thing you can do instead of choosing a race is you can stay over here on the letter A which is where we were before. And if you just hold down the option key on a Mac in windows, it will temporarily switch to a race for just how long you have that key held down when you let go of the option all key, it goes back to whatever other tool you were using before that and that's what I usually do. So I'm gonna hold down the option key and then I got to re inspect my brush because it might have different settings and once I think it's okay now I'm gonna take away, I'm just gonna take away that top part where we have for so that I can create the shape of where the eye is. Alright now let's make an adjustment and hear. What I would like to do is make the eye brighter. I can either go with exposure or whites. Whites thinks about the brightest portion and that's where it concentrates the adjustment and I'm going to crank that up as high as I can get it. I might try some other things. I could make it a little bit more colorful in there by bringing up saturation, but as I do, I notice a hint of purple at the top of the eye. So instead of doing it quite that way to get it to be more yellow, I'll actually adjust my white balance this temperature slider, I'll swing it towards the right and that will make the entirety of the eye more yellow. So even those purplish areas become more yellow and I can also bring up my saturation a little bit and I could explore other settings like possibly clarity. Now if I want to see before and after, there's a couple of things I can do, I have masked these different areas and if I hover over their mask, you're going to see an overlay To show you each one. If you want to work on one again, just click on its name and in fact you can change its name. So let me zoom out here. I'll hit the space bar and click. And this bottom mask here is isolating the bottom part. I'm going to call that his lower chin even though it's not really a chin. And over here, I'm just going to double click on the name and I'm just going to call it lower chin. Then this one here is working on the middle of the face so I can double click on the name and call it middle of face or I might describe what it is doing. So this top one up here, if I double click on it, I'll call it brighten I and so you're welcome to name those or leave them at their default names. It's more useful when you return to an image. If you have names defined then if you look to the right of any one of these, when you hover over it, you're going to find an eyeball icon and three little dots, we'll talk about the three little dots later on, but the eyeball icon will allow you to temporarily disable that adjustment. If I just click and hold on it, I'm going to see what the image looks like. If I removed that adjustment, then I'll let go and you can see the result of it and I can do that to the one above as well in the top one as well. If I want to see all three of these disabled and turn back on, that's what this little light switches for. If I just turn it off now I can see what it looked like before I applied any masks, I'll turn it back on and now you can see that result. Now what's really bugging me is the background. I'm just getting my eye drawn up here because it's so bright and colorful. So let's attempt to isolate that area. I'll create a new mask again, telling it to use the brush and this time I want a little bit of help from Lightroom, I'll get a huge brush and I wanted to isolate this area where it tries not to get over spray onto the lion to do so over here on the right side of my screen, there's a setting called auto mask. And I'm gonna turn it on. You can turn it on with your keyboard as well by typing the letter A for auto mask. And what that's going to do is it's going to look at whatever color is in the center of my brush and when I click it's going to try to only cover up things of that color. And if something is quite a bit different in brightness or color from what's under there, it shouldn't put anything on it. So I'm going to click right here and I'll drag up this way and then I'll drag down here, see if I can get the majority of that background. Now I did get some over spray on the lion. I could have probably used a smaller brush so I wouldn't have so much over spray, but now I want to take away from it so I could click on a race on the right or hold down the option key. Remember on Windows option on the Mac does the same thing as temporarily giving you that a race and that will have different settings in this case I have auto mask turned off and I have a smaller brush so I'm just going to come over here and try to get a lot of that over spray off of my image. Then I might get a softer brush. Remember, you can hold shift and use two fingers or the scroll wheel of your mouse to adjust that or if you don't want to do it that way, then just go over to the right side of your screen and dial in whatever you'd like now that I have that area highlighted, why don't I come over here and I'm going to bring the whites down or I could bring exposure down. Both of those are gonna darken that background and I'd like the background to be a little bit less colorful. So I'll bring saturation down as well. And now my attention is much more on the lion. The only thing is right over here, it doesn't quite look natural. So I'll just get a smaller brush and that's because I had auto mask turned on and I never touched anything when I was in this region, that was that color. So I might want to turn auto mask off. Just type the letter A or turn off the checkbox manually and then I'll manually come over here and paint in that area and I can continue down here if I feel like it might as well do that. So now if you want to see before and after. Remember we have the check box up here, the little light switch, let's turn it off. There's what we started with and here's what we've done using the brush tool here in lightroom. Classic. Now let's switch to a different image and let's just review an image that has already been worked using the brush tool. And so here, if you look at my mask panel, you'll see there's a total of five masks and if we start at the bottom, that would be the most likely the first mask that was made and if I click on it, you can do a few things. If I hover over its thumbnail, we can see which area of the image it's affecting and if you want to see what it's doing to that particular area, I'll just click on the eyeball icon on the right. As long as I click and hold on it it will disable that particular adjustment and then I can let go to see what it's actually doing the image that's working on the very outer area. Also when I click on this it will reload the adjustment and I can fine tune it. But the main thing is I can revisit an existing image that I've worked on in the past and I can always click on its mask and either just review the settings being used or actually change them. And at any time I can edit that mask again just by clicking on it and then I can move over here in paint to add to or I can choose that choice called a race to remove one of the things you should be aware of. Is there's actually two brushes, you can use the a brush in the B brush that's so you could have possibly a large soft edge brush and then very quickly be able to change to a smaller harder edge brush to clean up some edges. That type of thing. But you can store two different brush settings in here and quickly click between them by clicking on these two um letters. Then I can move to the next mask if I click on that one I'll make it active and if I click on this little thumbnail picture, I can see if it's made out of a single tool or there could be a stack of multiple tools that were used to make this mask. But we haven't talked about those other tools yet. So right now we're working on just simple images. If I hover over its thumbnail image here, I can see which area this would affect and if I want to see what it looked like without the adjustment. Again, click on that eyeball and here we can see what is contributing to the image and just like before whenever that mask is active, the settings down here are loaded in so we could modify them or just inspect them going up to the next one. I can click on it and you can see that each one of these is getting progressively further into the middle of the image and I can again click on its eyeball to see before and after. Now, in this particular case, if you were to look at the adjustment sliders that are being applied for the bottom three masks, they're very similar. They might just be slightly lessened versions of each other, but sometimes it's more convenient to create them out of multiple masks because now I can go through and still paint on these particular masks if I need to be more precise than if all these were put together and I wanted to apply less lesser extent, that's what I end up using the flow and the density controls. If you want to know how they work, let's make a brand new mask and we'll just look at the colored overlay. We get when I paint, When I'm working with this. If I come in here and work with a relatively hard edged brush, I'm gonna bring down right now the density, let's bring it down to about 30% and then I'm gonna paint across the image. And that means you're not going to see the full strength of this green overlay. And in fact, let me turn off auto mask. I'll choose undo there and we'll do that new mask over again this time without a mask turned off so you can just see a normal painting, then I'm going to paint across that area second time in a third time and 1/4 time and notice as I do, the green does not become any more dense, we're getting the same amount of green the whole time. If I release the mouse button and I click again, it still doesn't matter. We're still getting that same amount of green. It's only if I were to bring the density higher like this and paint on it again that I'm going to get a more dense coverage of the green, which means I would get a stronger version of the adjustment put in there. And if I then bring the density back down, let's say bring it down this case to a low setting, like 10. Now it doesn't matter where I paint, it's bringing it to an absolute amount wherever I paint I have a density of 10, which means we're only going to get 10% of the adjustment. We have dialed in. That's different than flow. Let's put density all the way at the top and this time let's try to do something similar using flow first, I'm going to get rid of this mask because it's just a little cluttered right now. And let's make a brand new one with our brush. Now let's try the same thing. Using flow. Flow is more like using a can of spray paint where if you go over an area more than once, it's gonna build up. So I'm gonna bring it up here to around 30%. I'm going to paint across an area and then I'm going to paint over the same area again without releasing the mouse button. And if I paint back and forth and back and forth, you'll notice it builds up. And therefore if I paint and just go over the same area, it doesn't matter if I let go of the mouse button or not. It will build up and it can build up more uh it can build up to full strength. Now, you can combine flow and density where you can think of density as what is the maximum amount I'll ever end up with when painting right now, then you can think of flow as being how much of that maximum do I want to put down on the first paint stroke And so much of what you'll see in this image and the previous image I had both flow and density turned up to 100% because I wanted the full strength of the adjustment to apply. But if I was working on a face and I just wanted to change the shading a little bit, I might end up lowering these a little bit. Or if I'm coming back to re edit an image and I want to only put in a medium amount of something. So let's get rid of this mask and continue viewing this image. Now when I look at these little thumbnails, I can tell in that mask number three, I wasn't all that clean with my painting. If you look at the little thumbnail image for it, can you see a little hint of dark color in the upper left and in a few other areas. So I can always make that mask active again in this case, making sure my flow and density are 100 and I don't even need to be able to precisely see because I can see what part of the image that is I'll paint and then when I let go it should update that thumbnail and I could clean up that mask a little bit. I think there's an area up here as well later on. I'll talk about the overlay options and that's when you can get an even better view of what's in your mask. When we go on to the next one, you can again hover over that mask, click on it to make it active to see which area of the image is working on. And then down here you can see what adjustment was being applied. In this case, clarity is being increased a little bit, which will make the detail pop out and the whites were brought up, which is going to brighten that area in a similar way to adjusting exposure. And so if you want to see before and after with that particular one, again, click and hold on the eyeball, you'll see before for as long as you hold your mouse and then let go and you'll see after. Then we have one final one down here where we have this bottom area. If I click on its eyeball before, that used to be really bright, whereas afterwards it's toned down in in order to make that particular mask, I ended up using a trick to show you how the trick works. Let me show the overlay by turning on this check box and then I'm just going to click right here, let go of my mouse button and move over here. Then if I hold down the shift key when I click again it will connect these two dots in a straight line and so therefore I can go across an area like this one very easily if I zoom up on the image, I get lined up exactly with where I wanted it. I click I hold down shift and I go to the other end of that straight line and I hold shift and click again. But in my case I'll choose undo a few times by typing commands, E and then if we want to see what all of these adjustments are doing to the image, remember we have our little light switch like thing up here and so therefore I could turn this off. Let me turn off my overlay first and here's what the image looked like when I was done, optimizing it as a whole. And I started wanting to work on more isolated areas and you can see my wife Karen's down there and I like the amount of contrast there is with her black pants and the surroundings. But my eye explores all everywhere else in the image. Whereas when I turn all these masks back on now my attention really goes down here to where Karen is and I explore the rest of the image just a little bit. So that should give you an idea of how to use the brush tool in Lightroom Classic. Now this is going to become much more powerful when you learn how to use this tool along with the other masking tools that are available, but that's what we're gonna do in future lessons if what we've done here is already familiar, just move on to those videos and we'll progress as things go on. By the time we get to the last few videos, we'll be making some really advanced masks.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Masking Catalog
Masking Practice Images

Ratings and Reviews


I have taken almost every course Ben has done for CL and he is an amazing teacher, Ben always starts easy and moves to more advanced concepts - usually ramping things up over one or even several courses. In this course he takes you from easy to advanced concepts very quickly. I loved this course because I can use it to become a much better photographer ultimately reaching (or trying to reach) the advanced levels Ben presents by the end of the course. It is a terrific course from a real master of the photographic editing skill.

Gary Hook

Once again Ben has hit it out of the park. I truly enjoy his instructional technique. By that I mean he explains the point and then demonstrates it talking about what he did. The visual combined with the instruction is highly effective at enhancing the learning. Short, sharp and to the point on this amazing update to LR. Highly recommend this workshop

Christine Stockwell

Adobe’s new masking engine is a real game-changer and Ben does a fantastic job of showing what can be done and how. Thank you Ben! Now I want to go back through my image archive and reprocess many of them.

Student Work