Adobe Improves the Already Great Adjustment Brush in Lightroom 4

I have been doing a lot of work with the beta version of Lightroom 4 as I prepare to write my next book and at first glance, you might think that there really isn’t much change between versions 3 and 4. But the more that I use version 4, the more I am noticing that Adobe has really taken the time to refine and improve a lot of the existing features. Just the other day, my buddy Scott Kelby wrote about how much better the Develop module is and I totally agree. And today I found another feature that is better than it used to be, the Adjustment Brush.

As soon as you click on the Adjustment Brush it becomes apparent that Adobe has added some new sliders. First off, they have removed the Brightness slider in favor of Highlights and Shadows sliders. This corresponds with changes that have taken place in the Basic panel. Also new for the brush are a temperature and tint brush as well as adjustment sliders for noise and moiré. The addition of these new sliders will add a whole new dimension to localized image adjustments.

As great as those new features are, what I found to be a pleasant surprise was how much the Auto Masking has been improved. It’s nothing that you would see until you actually started using it. I have used this feature in the past and it did a pretty decent job of masking areas where I didn’t want something applied but as the tones would get closer in value, the mask would have a tougher time doing its job and there was usually a lot of spillage that needed to be cleaned up with the Eraser brush. But now the masking appears to be much more intelligent. It seems to recognize edges and keeps things from spilling over.

Here’s an image that I was working on for the book. I wanted to desaturate everything in the image except the one flower in the middle. In LR3, this image would have presented a bit of a problem for the masking because the color hues surrounding the flower are similar if not equal to those in the flower.

This however did not seem to cause any issue with the improved brush masking in LR4. The area around the flower was quickly desaturated and then I turned on the masking for the areas close to the flower and the brush had very little problem working around the edges of the petals. There were only a couple of small areas that required using the eraser brush to fix spillover.

Here’s the final image that only took about 2 minutes to create using the power of the Adjustment Brush and Auto Mask.

If you are a fan of the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom 3, I think that you are going to be pleasantly surprised with how much better it is in version 4. And if you haven’t done so yet, pop on over to the Adobe Labs and pick yourself up a copy of the beta and start playing. I think you will be very pleased.

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