Apply local adjustments

The controls in the adjustment panels in the Develop module let you affect the color and tone of an entire photo. But sometimes you don’t want to make adjustments globally, to the entire photo. You want to make corrections to a specific area of a photo. For example, you may want to lighten a face to make it stand out in a portrait or enhance the blue sky in a landscape. To make local corrections in Lightroom, you can apply color and tonal adjustments using the Adjustment Brush tool and the Graduated Filter tool.

The Adjustment Brush tool lets you selectively apply Exposure, Clarity, Brightness, and other adjustments to photos by “painting” them onto the photo.

The Graduated Filter tool lets you apply Exposure, Clarity, Brightness, and other tonal adjustments gradually across a region of a photo. You can make the region as wide or as narrow as you like.

As with all other adjustments applied in the Develop module in Lightroom, local adjustments are nondestructive and are not permanently applied to the photo.

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Apply an Adjustment Brush or Graduated Filter effect

  1. Select the Adjustment Brush tool  or the Graduated Filter tool  in the tool strip of the Develop module.
  2. Choose the type of adjustment you want to make from the Effect pop-up menu:
    Exposure
    Sets the overall image brightness, with a greater effect in the high values.

    Brightness
    Adjusts image brightness, mainly affecting midtones.

    Contrast
    Adjusts image contrast, mainly affecting midtones.

    Saturation
    Changes the vividness or purity of the color.

    Clarity
    Adds depth to an image by increasing local contrast.

    Sharpness
    Enhances edge definition to bring out details in the photo. A negative value blurs details.

    Color
    Applies a tint to the selected area. Select the hue by clicking the Color swatch. The Color effect is preserved if you convert the photo to black and white.

    Other effects
    Additional effects are available for specific tasks, such as whitening teeth, enhancing irises, or softening skin tones.
    Note: If Burn (Darken), Dodge (Lighten), Iris Enhance, Soften Skin, or Teeth Whitening is not available, choose Lightroom > Preferences (Mac OS) or Edit > Preferences (Windows). In the Presets panel, click Restore Local Adjustment Presets.

  3. Drag the individual effect sliders to increase or decrease the values.
  4. (Adjustment Brush tool only) Specify options for Adjustment Brush A:
    Size
    Specifies the diameter of the brush tip in pixels.

    Feather
    Creates a soft-edged transition between the brushed area and the surrounding pixels. When you use the brush, the distance between the inner and outer circle represents the feather amount.

    Flow
    Controls the rate of application of the adjustment.

    Auto Mask
    Confines brush strokes to areas of similar color.

    Density
    Controls the amount of transparency in the stroke.

  5. Drag in the photo to apply the effect.

    A pin  appears at the initial application point, and the Mask mode changes to Edit. For a Graduated Filter effect, three white guides represent the center, low, and high ranges of the effect.

Edit an Adjustment Brush or Graduated Filter effect

 Do any of the following:
  • Press H to hide or show the pin and Graduated Filter guides, or choose a display mode from the Show Edit Pins menu in the toolbar.

  • Press O to hide or show a mask overlay of the Adjustment Brush tool effect, or use the Show Selected Mask Overlay option in the toolbar.

  • Press Shift+O to cycle through a red, green, or white mask overlay of the Adjustment Brush tool effect.

  • Drag the Effect sliders.

  • Press Ctrl+Z (Windows) or Command+Z (Mac OS) to undo your adjustment history.

  • Click Reset to remove all adjustments of the selected tool.

  • Remove an Adjustment Brush effect or a Graduated Filter effect by selecting its pin and pressing Delete.

  • (Adjustment Brush tool) Move the pointer over the pin and drag the double-pointing arrow to the right to increase the effect, or to the left to decrease the effect.

  • (Adjustment Brush tool) To undo part of the adjustment, select the Erase brush option, and paint over the adjustment.

  • (Graduated Filter tool) Drag the pin to move the center point of the effect.

  • (Graduated Filter tool) Position the pointer over the center white line until a curved, double-pointing arrow appears , and then drag to rotate the effect.

  • (Graduated Filter tool) Drag an outer white line toward the edge of the photo to expand the effect at that end of the spectrum. Drag toward the center of the photo to contract the effect at that end of the spectrum.

Work with multiple local adjustments

When applying and working with multiple local adjustments, keep in mind the following:

  • Click any pin to select it. A selected pin has a black center. Non-selected pins are solid white.

  • Press H once to show the selected pin; press H again to hide all pins; press H a third time to show all pins.

  • When the Adjustment Brush tool is selected, only adjustment pins are available to edit. When the Graduated Filter tool is selected, only graduated filter pins are available to edit.

  • The Adjustment Brush tool drawer allows you to specify options for two brushes, A and B. Select a brush by clicking the letter, or switch between brushes by pressing the slash key (/). Brush options “stick” regardless of the effect you choose to apply until you change them.

Create local adjustment effect presets

  1. Using either the Graduated Filter or Adjustment Brush tool, apply an effect.
  2. Choose Save Current Settings As New Preset from the Effect pop-up menu.
  3. In the New Preset dialog box, type a name in the Preset Name box and click Create.

The preset appears in the Effect pop-up menu.

Note: Adjustment Brush tool presets do not include brush options.