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How to use Brushes in ACR

How to use Brushes in ACR

Learning how to use your brush tool in Photoshop ACR is important!  The concept is the same for Lightroom, and we will write up a blog post for Lightroom users.

When you edit in ACR or Lightroom there are no layers like there are in Photoshop. You can't selectively add or subtract a preset from part of an image like you can with masks in Photoshop, so brushes allow you to target a specific area that needs work, without affecting the entire image. 

It is actually really easy once you have done it a few times.

To find the brush option, open up an image into your ACR (Adobe Camera RAW--the RAW processing software included with Photoshop) and look at the top tool palette.  You will see something that looks like a paint brush.  Click it, and on the right hand side you will your options pop up. 


 Lets go over the options in the Brush palette really fast:

  • Temperature - if you need to warm or cool down a portion of your image by adding yellow or blue.
  • Tint - Comes in handy if you have color cast from trees or grass or something else you want to try and get rid of.
  • Exposure - Brighten or darken of a portion of your image.
  • Contrast - Gives more pop to an image by pulling the highlights or shadows further from each other or makes an image less contrasty by making the transition between the highlights and shadows more gentle.
  • Highlights - If you want to bring back the highlights of say a wedding dress, you can use this. Or you can pull highlights up...but we've never done this.  ;)
  • Shadows - This can brighten areas of deep shadow, or it can darken the shadows, to increase depth.
  • Clarity - I love to lower this and brush it on faces...(be careful to avoid the eyes) and also on the background.  It adds a bit of softness to the image.  You can also add a little clarity to things like macro shots or detail shots by raising the clarity.
  • Saturation - If you want to add some color and saturation to say just the sky or background, this is perfect.  Be careful not to go crazy with this though.  On the flipside, you can sometimes get rid of color casts by saturating.
  • Sharpness - If you want to sharpen say just the eyes, use this.
  • Noise reduction - if you want to reduce noise in a specific area of the photo, this can also add a bit of softeness/smoothness, as well.
  • Moire reduction -  Those weird zig-zaggy lines that you get sometimes when shooting patterns got you down?  Remove this with Moire reduction!
  • Defringe - This helps get rid of icky purple, blue, or green fringing (Chromatic Aberration) from areas of your image.  They have a global way to do this in in ACR, but this is more targeted. 
  • Color - This is pretty cool!  If you want to accentuate say a sky or sunset, you choose a color and brush on that area. 

Then you have the size and options of your actual brush.  I always make sure I am feathered at least 50 or more.  The lower you go, the harsher the brush becomes and you will see a "line" where you brushed.  The more it is feathered, the more it blends naturally.  You can also resize your brush easily with the bracket keys.

Using only a few different brushes (and it went really fast), I was able to custom edit this image.  What took the longest, was deciding on the settings for each brush.

A few more tips:  When you want to start a new brush, make sure that you select the word New at the top of the brush options.   Once you've make some edits using your original brush, if you just go in and start changing  the settings before hitting new, you will see it change the settings on the brush that you just used.  So, if you want to raise the exposure on your couple, and then are ready to brush on the background and just lower the exposure, it will lower the exposure on the couple unless you click New.  That will create a new "pin" (almost like a layer) for you. 

If you decide that you don't like how something looks, or you want to decrease maybe the exposure or something, click on the pin and change around the sliders as needed.  You can also click on the pin and choose erase.  That will allow you to either erase just a portion of where you applied the edit, or you can  just choose add, and just slide the sliders around.   Or if the pin is active, you can hold down the option/alt key and that will change your brush from paint to erase.  And if you just HATE your whole brush and want to start over, click that pin and then choose Delete/Backspace.  Poof.  Gone.

If you want to see where a specific pin was applied to, if you click the pin and go over to the panel on the right and choose "show mask" at the bottom, it will show you a white type of cloud.  that is where that that edit is applied too.  So if you see that you accidentally lowered the exposure on his face or raised it on the background, you can choose delete and then brush it off.  You will be able to tell it was erased, because it won't show the "white cloud" where you erased.  You can then unclick Show Mask to hide the white mask. 

and a before and after using only brushes.  

To make things easier, we have tons of amazing brushes for Lightroom and ACR in our Lightroom and ACR preset collections!  You can purchase those brushes and presets HERE!


Comments (14)

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8 years ago
Peter Gardon

Awesome brush work! You have given a totally attractive look to the original photo. Thanks for elaborate the process step by step. Also there are some other software to make a complete change in photos. Those photo editing apps are really nice. I have gone through the process and understand it totally. Will try it. Thanks.

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Simply want to say your article is as surprising. The clarity on your put up is simply cool and i could suppose you're an expert in this subject.

9 years ago
Demon McGill

Though I'm having little knowledge regarding photoshop but a great interest is there to know more about it. Licensed software is there in my system and everyday I'm trying with new tools. So far I got a lot but I can't find the sharpness in my work. Really thankful for your guidance for brush tool! It would help me improve my editing quality. Keep posting.

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