The Powerful Adjustment Brush in Action!
Crews just finished roofing the main part of the T.A. Moulton barn along Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park. Earlier in the year, volunteers replaced the shake shingles on the two sheds on the same barn. Unless the Park stains the new portions (especially the most recent additions), it will take Mother Nature a year or so to naturally age the bright new panels of rough sawn pine. The image above shows its current state.
Photo purists might frown on modifying the image, and that’s perfectly fine, but if it annoys you and you are willing to spend a few extra minutes in Adobe Lightroom, you can at least reduce the bright glow of the roof. The steps are fairly simple — and the same steps can be used regularly on a variety of images and projects.
The Adjustment Brush is found on the far right of the Tools. (Shortcut Key: K) In my opinion, it is the most powerful and versatile tool of the group and perfect for this project.
Once the Adjustment Brush is selected, a new set of fairly important choices appear near the bottom (under the photo). For each new edit with the Adjustment Brush, an “edit pin” is added to the screen. I prefer “Always”. This allows me to see all of the pins and select the one I might need to adjust. The shortcut to toggle the pins on and off is the H key (think of Hide). Similarly, you can view a mask indicating where the adjustments are made. The default color is red. The shortcut key to toggle it on and off is the O key (mask Overlay) or simply click the check box on or off.
The basic Adjustment Brush panel looks something like the image above. The Up/Down arrows shown in the large oval allow you to pick from one of dozens of adjustments. For this initial step, I chose Exposure. Just to the right is a small triangle. Clicking it will either expand or collapse the additional adjustment options. The illustration above shows it while collapsed. Knowing I would be trying to darken the roof, I put in a negative amount by dragging the slider. The amount entered is really not that important initially.
The three sliders just below the Amount slider control the brush size, feather amount, and flow. Notice I have Auto Mask checked and Density set to 100. Drag the Size slider left or right to change the size, or click the open and closed bracket keys on the keyboard. Hold down the Shift Key while clicking the open or closed bracket keys to increase or decrease the amount of Feather the brush will have (hard or soft edges). Also, you can use your scroll mouse to adjust the brush size including holding down the Shift Key to adjust the Feather amount. The Flow slider imitates how quickly the effect is applied. For this project, a setting near 100 is fine, but you might lower it when darkening skies. Auto Mask helps keep the adjustment inside well defined borders.
With the settings from the previous image, I simply painted over the roof with a mid-sized brush. The image above shows the first click before dragging the cursor around. I used a mouse for this project. A Wacom pressure sensitive tablet might be even better for this kind of editing.
When the Overlay Mask is turned on, you’ll see where you painted. Click O to see it or hide it. The Auto Mask feature allows you to be a bit sloppy. Also, notice the new little circle (edit pin) at the top corner of the barn.
With the Overlay Mask turned off, you can see the results of the -.76 Exposure adjustment.
To darken the roof a little more, I went back to the slider and changed it. The adjustments are dynamic, meaning you can see how the adjustment is affecting the image.
This is the result of the -2.38 adjustment from the previous screen.
To fix the problem of the stroke outside the roof, I needed to erase a couple of areas. The Erase button is just under the main slider.
With the Erase feature turned on, the Overlay Mask comes in handy (O). Notice the minus symbol inside the cursor. With a hard edge and sufficient flow, it is possible to erase parts of the Overlay by clicking and dragging. Adjust the size of the tool by using the left or right bracket keys.
With only a few strokes of the Eraser tool, I was able to fix the problem areas.
For the shake shingle shed portion of the barn, I clicked the word “New” under the Adjustment Brush tool, adjusted the brush variables and then clicked somewhere inside the shed portion of the roof. The first click sets a new pin. The original pin changes to a light gray circle while the new active region’s pin is filled with black. I simply repeated the steps from the main roof. The image above shows the roof just after cleaning up the overflow areas with the Eraser tool.
The image above shows the shed portion of the roof without the red Overlay Mask, and it shows a new third pin. This time, I reduced the brush size to the approximate width of the bright plank. (Look closely at the previous image) To make a delicate line, I clicked once about where the new black pin appears above, then while holding down the Shift key, I clicked at the top of the diagonal board. Lightroom connected the two clicks with a (straight) line. Presto! I clicked again at the top of the barn to set that point, and then again (while holding down the Shift key) just below it. Note: the Eraser tool works equally well if you need to erase along straight sections. Click the H key to hide or show the pins.
For all practical purposes, the adjustments are complete! But to see some more of the power of the Adjustment Brush, let me add a couple more adjustments.
Click the small arrow to show a much longer list of possible adjustments. For this project, I wanted to desaturate the main roof. With that pin selected (click on it), I dragged the Saturation slider down a little. For this portion of the roof, I dragged it to -76. For the shed portion, I clicked that pin and dragged the Saturation slider down to -24. Every image will be different, of course. The important point here is to realize you can adjust any of the settings in any of the three pins by any amount at any time. If you don’t see your pins, hit the H key to toggle them on and off.
But wait, there’s more! Near the bottom of the Adjustment Brush’s expanded menu, click the small Color chip. This brings up a familiar color chart. Click anywhere in the chart to set a color. Once the color is selected, drag the slider to control the saturation. You’ll have to experiment to see how the color affects your pinned selection.
This is the full view of the adjusted roof sections. Scroll up to the top to see the original image.
I have been using the Creative Cloud version of Lightroom for quite a while. The most current version includes the Auto Mask feature and I use it regularly. I am not sure how far back that feature goes, but it would still be possible to do this kind of project in earlier versions by simply using the eraser tool if you go out of bounds. Adobe is gradually adding new features to the CC version of Lightroom that are not included in the boxed versions. They are obviously coaxing people to switch to the Creative Cloud option.
I didn’t mention it above, but it is possible to save “Snapshots” of your work at any time or any stage. Click the plus next to Snapshot (in the left panel) at any time and give the current state a name….like Begin New Roof or Finished Main Roof. You can return to any state at any time and begin again at that point. The Adjustment Brush in Lightroom is very impressive! I am a long time Photoshop user, and quite honestly, I could do this same set of adjustments better and cleaner there. Faster? Maybe. However, all of the adjustments I did to create this image are just “code” applied to the original raw file. The adjustments are non-destructive and they require very little additional memory, unlike a layered Photoshop document.
Lastly, these tutorials can make a project like this look long and drawn out. In real time, this set of adjustments might take three or four minutes.