Video – The Adjustment Brush Color Swatch

I’ve got another video up that goes over an area I struggled with until recently. That little color swatch in the Adjustment Brush tool (in LR 2 only), always acted kinda weird for me. Then I sat down and had a talk with it and said “Listen here color swatch thingee, we need to have a talk…” – kidding. I did sit down one afternoon and start messing around with it at extreme settings and it was then I figured out what was going on behind the scenes and I’m able to get more predictable results from it.

Well I hope you have a great weekend. The Bucs have a bye week here in Tampa Bay so I guess I’ll actually have to get the lawn mower out and cut the grass this Sunday but I’ll be in front of the TV in spirit :) See ya!

Click here to watch the video. (7MB)

Author: Matt Kloskowski

Matt is the full-time Director of Education for Kelby Media Group and a Tampa-based photographer. He's the Editor-in-Chief of Lightroom Magazine, the lead instructor on the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom LIVE Seminar Tour and author of several best-selling Photoshop books. Matt also hosts the world's top Lightroom blog, LightroomKillerTips.com, where he's built up a massive library of Lightroom videos, presets and tips. In addition to teaching Photoshop, Lightroom and photography seminars around the world, he's an instructor at Photoshop World and one of the full-time staff writers for Photoshop User Magazine.

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70 Comments

  1. Well knock me down with a feather. What you demonstrated Matt would never have occured to me in a thousand years and yes, that swatch thingie has been bugging me for ages as well. In my case, a very very useful short video – many thanks. Now no more :-( but lot’s of :-)

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  2. Matt loved the video. Quick question. With the adjustment brush, is it easiest when doing things to start with the exposure brush, to define your area, and then make other changes.. It seams to me, that is the hardest thing for me.. Any thoughts..

    Thanks

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  3. Hi Matt,
    Great tip-thanks! It definitely makes more sense now. I think if that was the original intent of the adjustment it was a bit obscure to say the least! I have been using the color swatch more as “photo filter” effect to enhance areas or colors but I will now be able to expand my (multi-colored) horizons!
    Thanks again,
    Tom

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  4. Iggy – I usually do increase the exposure setting just to exaggerate whatever I’m painting on so I can see it as I’m painting. Another option is to hit the letter O when painting to turn on the red overlay. That works fine as well. Personal preference I guess.

    Thanks!
    Matt K

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  5. Matt,

    Can you please talk to my wife and let her know that when I sit down in front of my Mac, I am not playing, but trying to learn and improve my skills. She thinks that when I sit here, all I do is play.

    Ok, maybe I do a little bit and maybe I enjoy it a bit too much, but hey, we all want to get better right??

    Christopher

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  6. How cool! I never would have figured that out – now this should speed things up a bit during editing! Thanks Matt!

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  7. That’s really useful again – thanks Matt. My sister was married recently, the bridesmaids’ dresses were a turquoise colour that has been hard to match on screen. I think with a bit of a play this should help.

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  8. Oh cool! A new tool to wear out. I would never have figured that out either.
    Thanks.

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  9. I have been wrestling with this bugger since 2.0 came out and was using exposure to make small adjustments to the outcome of the color brush. You are the guru, Your technique rocks!

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  10. Man o man! I was just sitting at my computer last night trying to figure out what the heck this color swatch thing does!!!
    So thank you once again for helping some of us get a clue without wasting yet another evening in frustration :)
    I would like to use this particular feature to add some color to my sky in some of my outdoor portraiture…I tend to blow out my sky and it would be nice to possibly add a little blue vignetting…it sounds funky and may not be doable. We’ll see :)

    To see what I would like to achieve go here

    http://blog.amywenzel.com/uploads/2008/11/784.jpg

    Amy Wenzel is amazing…I love her editing!

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  11. Very Cool. I never new.

    I don’t change colors like this alot, but I’m glad I know what it’s all about now.
    Gav

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  12. Thanks for pointing this effect out. Since your example (when Sat = -100) painted over a dark area, the color did not come as bright as the color swatch (to be expected, I guess). Now I’ll have to see what effect the Brightness slider has on the color swatch…

    The use of the Sat slider to control the color mixing points out a UI problem. Adobe shouldn’t try to use the same slider to control two different effects, one for the brush in general and another for the color swatch. I think it’d be better for the Lightroom team to add a “color mixing” slider for the color swatch in the adjustment brush.

    Dave

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  13. Hey Matt,

    Thanks again for sorting this out.

    The other mystery, I’m having problems with is how to choose a pure white or black with the color picker?

    Cheers,
    Glenn

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  14. Thanks a lot for the tip, Matt! I’ve got a question about picking a specific color when using this tool. Is it somehow possible to directly pick a color that is present in the photo itself? I’ve tried to figure out how to do that because I sometimes want to replace one color with another one that is actually already visible and present in the photo (as you can do in Photoshop). So far I’ve only been able to pick a color from the swatch itself, not from the photo…
    Kind wishes,
    Patrick DS

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  15. Thanks Matt, I’ve been using this and getting really bad results – and now I know why! Great tip.

    Thanks
    Christine

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  16. Matt:
    Thanks to you, I now have a tool that actually works. And it’s not me who was screwing up. Who wudda thunk it?????

    Thanks for all your work.
    Larry

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  17. Matt, what version of LR are you running? Your adjustment brush panel has separate sliders for exposure, saturation, etc. My LR 2.1 panel just shows + and – for each adjustment. I can only get to see one slider, for the item I am currently adjusting. Is it a difference between the Mac and a PC?

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  18. Very useful demonstration. The color swatch does not work on white surfaces (a yellow swatch does not paint white to yellow). It needs some tonality to start with. Is this correct?

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  19. OK, I see that I’m the only one who cannot open an m4v file. What program do I need to watch this? Sorry for the dumb question.

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  20. Great video Matt. I have had trouble getting the exposure correct but will do it like you did cranking it up so I can see what I am doing then adjusting from there. The colour thing is something I would never have thought of. That feature is going to be fun to play with. Now I can make our cat’s eyes red for the demon he is sometimes. We love him just the same.
    Have a nice weekend

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  21. Thanks Matt,
    That was a great help. I too did not understand it until now. Great Job!

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  22. Fantastic video, Matt. I’ve been wondering what the color swatch is for since I first updated to Lightroom 2. This makes a lot of sense.

    You wouldn’t happen to know why the adjustment brush is a little sluggish, though, would you?

    Cheers!

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  23. Thanks heaps Matt,

    I love your style of teaching. The brush also works a treat with hand colouring monochrome images, & works like painting on a blank layer set to colour blend mode in Photoshop. I hadn’t used it in the way you demonstrated though so thank you.
    By the way my brush tool is fast & responsive if that helps in the feedback department!
    Many thanks,
    Ben from Blue Tulip Imaging

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  24. Very useful video. I had been using the color swatch for quite some time to correct skin tones. I shoot sports and one of the gyms has very bright lights but very yellow walls. The use of the saturation slider had never occurred to me before. Thanks very much!

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  25. Hi Matt
    Thanks for everything you do and share with us. I have a little suggestion- lens correction inside LR. Same way dxo does it. Have profiles for lenses and cameras and be able to correct distortion, barrel etc. inside LR. Wouldn’t that be great? I know you can say magic word to Someone Big at Adobe and we will have it for Christmas :)
    Thanks again
    Iggy the 2nd

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  26. hey matt love all the work you do on the site and elsewhere just keep up the good work man ….ron spears dade city florida

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  27. Nice job on the video. I was also trying to figure out what I was doing wrong with the color picker. I was trying to remove a slight color cast in a select part of an image without having to go into Photoshop. I got as far as figuring out that I needed to adjust the saturation, but I went the wrong way. I should have over saturated as you have discovered.

    What have I been using the color picker for ?

    I have been using it with the gradient tool. It does some neat color changes with skies.

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  28. Sorry, but same problem as Tracy, both in Firefox3 and IE7. Who has the solution. Why not used your default video format on this site?

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  29. To Jaap and Tracy,
    Here is what I do….save the file on your PC. Then rename it from xxx.m4v to xxx.mpg. I can then play it with VLC Media Player, a free player I downloaded off the internet. (Other players may work….I just haven’t tried them.) Just google VLC and you will find it.

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  30. @Bettty: thanx, works in VLC, not in WindowsMediaPlayer. Hopefully next time streaming video on this site.

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  31. Matt,

    I hit that color swatch the other night and it drove me crazy. Thanks for clearing things up. I played with that thing for a long time and never figured it out.

    Willy

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  32. @ Betty R: you need to enable the white toggle switch, which is located underneath the adjustment brush, see the panel with [Mask] [New] [Edit], well it sits directly under the Edit button and is white in a small oblong box.

    I’d also recommend that everyone should buy one of these guys books, you will get far more out of your software, and don’t forget these videos are all gratis and they have to pay the bills! ;-)

    @ Matt I use it for selective colouring.

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  33. A real KILLER video tip with a huge KAPOWski factor – Great job Matt

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  34. Paul Wood,
    Thank you so much for your help! I can now see all my adjustment sliders!!

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  35. Matt-

    Sometimes I use it in the gradient tool feature in lightroom 2. I usually make a full gradient by pulling the gradient lines to the bottom of the image I’m working on (so there is no gradient). Then toggle the color picker to the color I want. Then you can also use the slider in the color picker to get the right where you want it, also works as a cheap color balance or temprature changer.

    Scott M

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  36. Thank you VERY much. Would have never figured this out on my own and pretty much gave up on the feature.

    Your simple and objective presentation created a whole new use for me within LR.

    I am very appreciative for all that you do. Keep up the good work.

    SAS/Dallas

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  37. I wished that they added Color Temperature to the list of things that you can change with the adjustment brush. I just did a wedding with lots of flash+tungsten mixes and it would have helped a lot. As it is, I had to go to PS almost every time. The color swatch is not easily adjustable, like a slider control is.

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  38. Hey Matt,
    Thanks for explaining. I would never have figured that out. By the way, I recognize the room from the Santa Clarita PFRE workshop!
    Larry

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  39. Hi Matt,

    Great video. Thanks. I also had the same issue as yourself. I couldnt figure out how the color saturation was affecting the image, and decided to work from grayscale, and then as soon as i took the saturation down to -100 it started to work.
    I never quite understand why one would want to blend 2 colors?

    Here is an example picture that i did. I set a cross processing preset filter on the image itself, and then changed the color of the leaf the girl is holding to a pink-ish color. I actually wanted a more deep/burgundy red, but couldnt quite get that effect to work.

    http://flickr.com/photos/eemouk/2942866008/

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  40. Matt, Thanks for the great tip. And Yes, this works similarly with the gradient tool, which is very useful for bluer skies and greener grass!

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  41. Matt, Thanks for the video. This has been one of the tools that was totally unclear until today. You have made it look so easy and helpful.

    Thanks for your effort on this blog. Love it and check it weekly with anticipation.

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  42. Hi,

    What do I need to load in order to view videos? PC user (no wisecracks).

    Thanks.

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  43. Excellent video! I had ignored the colour swatch as I didn’t understand what it did. Now looking forward to tweaking the colours next batch of photos I upload!

    Many thanks for an excellent tip.

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  44. Hey Matt great tutorial on the color swatch. Speaking of the adjusment brush, I feel like I’ve been having problems with it. I’m not sure if it me, the program or some little glitch like the brush in Photoshop-if you have CAPSLOCK enabled and only get the crosshair. But at time in the program when I use the Adj Brush, my brush marker disappears and I can’t see my masking, as well as it seems the brush just keeps applying the brush stroke on top of my previous stroke without having to hit new. Any help on this matter from either you or any of the subscribers to this blog who have any knowledge on this matter woud be greatly appreciated. Although while at times this seems useful by not having to hit new to apply a new brush, it is extrememyannoying overall.

    Thanks a Bunch, keep of up the good work and best of luck,

    Jason Miller

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  45. Thanks for the great video.

    Is there a way to select an exact color with the color picker (e.g. #869C80)?

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  46. Nevermind, I found the problem to my query about the Adjmnt Brush problem I had. Apparently I accidentally hit the “H” key and it hid my brush points similar to hitting “Control H” to hide the marching ants in selections in Photoshop. Thought I might pass this along for anyone else who may have this problem.

    Cheers

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  47. @Patrick:
    I’ve also been frustrated by not being able to figure out how to select a color that is in the image itself.
    I stumbled across this tip but haven’t been able to test it yet – I’m at work – http://www.image-space.com/Lightroom_Tips_Tricks/lightroom_beta_two_tips/color_picker_background_sampling/color_picker_background_sampling.html

    It says you hold the left mouse button down and move the cursor outside of the color picker and it will select whatever color in any application you hover over.
    This was a tip for the beta version so hope it still works.

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  48. Don’t you think that SOMETHING’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE: Adobe, the ultimate image processing software company, produces and sells Lightroom, and, as far as I know, doesn’t publish, in paper or electronically, instructions. I assume that if such instructions existed, you, Matt, would know about them and know them cold. They don’t even tell you what this color doodad actually does! Then,its function is so non-intuitive that virtually nobody has it figured out, and it takes considerable time and effort from a primo Photoshop guru (you) to figure out what it does and how! Didn’t the Adobe engineers who made Lightroom discuss this? – of course they did. I realize you make a living on explaining Adobe’s products, but shouldn’t Adobe be more “user friendly”? Do you discuss this with them? Amazing to me…

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  49. Don’t you think that SOMETHING’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE: Adobe, the ultimate image processing software company, produces and sells Lightroom, and, as far as I know, doesn’t publish, in paper or electronically, instructions. I assume that if such instructions existed, you, Matt, would know about them and know them cold. They don’t even tell you what this color doodad actually does! Then,its function is so non-intuitive that virtually nobody has it figured out, and it takes considerable time and effort from a primo Photoshop guru (you) to figure out what it does and how! Didn’t the Adobe engineers who made Lightroom discuss this? – of course they did. I realize you make a living on explaining Adobe’s products, but shouldn’t Adobe be more “user friendly”? Do you discuss this with them? Amazing to me…

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  50. Don’t you think that SOMETHING’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE: Adobe, the ultimate image processing software company, produces and sells Lightroom, and, as far as I know, doesn’t publish, in paper or electronically, instructions. I assume that if such instructions existed, you, Matt, would know about them and know them cold. They don’t even tell you what this color doodad actually does! Then,its function is so non-intuitive that virtually nobody has it figured out, and it takes considerable time and effort from a primo Photoshop guru (you) to figure out what it does and how! Didn’t the Adobe engineers who made Lightroom discuss this? – of course they did. I realize you make a living on explaining Adobe’s products, but shouldn’t Adobe be more “user friendly”? Do you discuss this with them? Amazing to me…

    Post a Reply
  51. Don’t you think that SOMETHING’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE: Adobe, the ultimate image processing software company, produces and sells Lightroom, and, as far as I know, doesn’t publish, in paper or electronically, instructions. I assume that if such instructions existed, you, Matt, would know about them and know them cold. They don’t even tell you what this color doodad actually does! Then,its function is so non-intuitive that virtually nobody has it figured out, and it takes considerable time and effort from a primo Photoshop guru (you) to figure out what it does and how! Didn’t the Adobe engineers who made Lightroom discuss this? – of course they did. I realize you make a living on explaining Adobe’s products, but shouldn’t Adobe be more “user friendly”? Do you discuss this with them? Amazing to me…

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  52. I think this might be the most helpful video you’ve ever made. :) Seriously, what an insight, thank you for simplifying this so much. You rock.

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  53. @swankFoto: thanks a million!…that tip works (in the official release as well)!

    And I’d like to second Paul Barcewicz: I remember the time when software came with a manual, in paper… I’d understand that for all kinds of reasons (printing and shipping costs, ecology etc) a printed version would be replaced by an electronic one (PDF), but right now all we have is a sometimes very limited “Help” web site.

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  54. Sandra I use iTunes for PC there is also a freeware called VLC that works well too.

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  55. Great video! When I first noticed that color swatch I used it to fix a weird color cast in my image.

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  56. Hey Matt, Great video!!

    It’s such a coincidence that I was talking with a friend of mine about the same thing demonstrated in this video.

    We’re equally baffle by the sharpness control on the brush adjustment. Why does it have color under it and how does it work.

    Any chance of a video tutorial for that one?

    Thanks again for the great BLOG!!

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  57. Hi Matt,

    Couldn’t find your e-mail so let’s try it this way. Using the brush in Lightroom made me think for another effect.

    I want to make a black and white image and brush a detail back into the original color. It’s like in PS using 2 layers. Top BW and under that the original. Then mask out the part what you want in color.

    So for instance I have a couple with a flower. I ant everything black and white except the flower.

    How do I do that?!?

    I really hope you read my question. It’s often asked over here but I can’t figure t out.

    Stef
    info@stefansegers.nl
    http://www.stefansegers.nl

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  58. Thanks great tip. Only complaint(no it’s not about slow brush), check your adjustments on audio so that yhou do not pick up the lip smacks.

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  59. Please Lightroom development department —
    Please add a skin tone picker similar to the one in Capture One Pro 4. Even Adobe Elements has a skin tone corrector. You would think this would be one of the first tools they would add to a new version. but maybe they’re getting advice from Canon’s R&D department.

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  60. @ Khuram Malik: I just saw a tutorial in which the color swatch was used to blend in a little orange on a woman’s face to simulate the effect of a particular light gel. In this case blending the colors was exactly what was desired.

    @ Stefan Segers: I haven’t tried it yet, but I suppose you could use a desaturation brush and then erase over the part you want in color. But I don’t know how you’d gain control of the “Grayscale Mix” settings that way.

    @ Paul Barcewicz: It’s not much in terms of instructions, but there is http://help.adobe.com/en_US/Lightroom/2.0/

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  61. @Joe

    I totally agree! A color temperature option would be a fantastic update to the brush!

    haha I thought I was the only on who thought that… I was actually really surprised when I saw that they didn’t already have it included.

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  62. @ Joe and Clayton

    So by just using the color swatch option, that’s not really useful as far as correcting the color temperature goes??

    let’s say when I took the photo, I used flash and the indoor lights were all tungsten, but I forgot to use gel, the Color Swatch option wouldn’t help me to correct the color??

    ie. the white shirt is always bluer than the tungsten, so wouldn’t it help if I add the orange/yellow color to the shirt to take away some of the blue tint?

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  63. Hi Matt,

    What if you want to replace the color of an object with black? Maybe this is just too easy, but I’ve looked and looked and don’t see it. Do you use a -100 exposure? Anyway, if there is another way, please let me know. Thanks for your time, and keep up the excellent work.

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  64. I use it for changning temp on mixed lighted walls on interiors for instance.
    Problems accure with the accuracy of the auto function though. If the room is lit by window light and has a wooden floor, the whole room will be allmost totally orange and the auto function starts to fail. I paint big areas and erase back the small ones. Works ok.

    I wouldn´t use this for demanding costumors and nether should any one else.

    I miss recovery as an option on the brush, what say you?

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  65. Thanks Jason Miller for telling me about the adjustment brush. Mine disappeared and I couldn’t find it. Thanks for telling me that H toggles it on and off. Also O toggles the masked area selection view on and off.

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  66. Seriously, I’ve been using LR pretty much since it debuted, and I NEVER REALIZED THE AUTO MASK FUNCTION!!! That makes things so much easier! Holy mole… dude, great discovery! Thanks for sharing :)

    PS. But the brush is sooo sloowww… haha jk ;)

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  67. Thanks very, very much! I have tow greatt books on CS4-5 and none mention the color swatch. Thanks again!

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  68. Very interesting video I never knew that. However there is something I’ve been trying to do with the colour adjustment brush and wonder if it’s possible. Is it possible to choose an exact colour from the photo that you are editing? It would be nice if you could use the dropper but I already know it doesn’t work. Thanks!

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