Lightroom Presets

Presets – Darkening Brush Presets

Since Lightroom 2 came out, I’ve realized a whole new area for presets has emerged – Adjustment Brush presets. If you haven’t seen it yet, go to the Adjustment Brush tool in LR 2 and click on the Effect list. There’s a few defaults at the top but you may notice one called Soften Skin which is actually a custom preset. Well, it got me thinking about brush presets I use a lot so I’ve started coming up with some. This week, I’m releasing my darkening brush presets. In a nutshell, they adjust the exposure to a negative number (-1/3, -1/2, -2/3, and -1 stop). I realize I could have gone further but then the list gets rather long and, frankly, I rarely find myself darkening something by more then 1 stop with the brush (I use it more for subtle changes). It won’t stop here though. I’ve got more that I’ll release in the coming weeks but I thought this was a good start.

Anyway, these are a little different to install from the regular Develop presets so here’s the instructions.
1) Navigate to your Lightroom presets folder. The easiest way to do this is to go to Lightroom’s preferences by clicking the Lightroom menu and choosing Preferences (PC: Edit > Preferences). Then choose the Presets tab and click the “Show Lightroom Presets Folder” button to open the Lightroom Folder.
2) Now go into the Lightroom Folder. Then go into the Local Adjustment Presets folder. You’ll know you’re in the right folder because you should see the file “Soften Skin.lrtemplate” there too.
3) Unzip the file you downloaded from the bottom of this post.
4) Copy and paste the “.lrtemplate” files into the Local Adjustment Presets folder.
5) Restart Lightroom

Now when you go to your Adjustment Brush you should see the presets in the Effect list near Soften Skin. Pretty neat huh? If you’ve got any comments or ideas for some other ones, let me know in the comments area. Have a great day!

• Click here to download the Darkening Brush presets.



  1. David Hailes 21 February, 2011 at 00:40 Reply

    The darkening brushes are brilliant – its great to have a coach who is also a genius…….well……sort of. I would be convinced if you could come up with some brushes that defocus backgounds (reduce depth of field) to varying degrees. I use some soft focus brushes but they require multiple applications which is a real pain. I presume it would then be possible to get a natural result by using the feathering function. Thanks again.

  2. Lisa Hunt 17 October, 2009 at 13:19 Reply

    Hi Matt, been reading for what seems like forever but never commented, the adjustment brushes are really just amazing and while I may not have anything technical to add I can say thanks

  3. Jack Booth 21 September, 2009 at 17:29 Reply


    Great darkening-brush presets. I have a question which probably will get a no for an answer. If I’ve selected a regular preset, such as one to simulate Fuji 160 slide film, can I use the erase function to keep it out of the darkest shadows, rather than trying to use the adjustment brush to lighten shadows (not easy given that there’s no choice for fill light or blacks)? Or, approaching it from another direction, can a preset be applied selectively with the adjustment brush, thus keeping the effect out of the shadows? Yeah, I know, automation can only go so far. Thanks again.

  4. Patrick 6 August, 2009 at 00:53 Reply

    Any chance of doing a reverse brush preset? Instead of exposure to a negative number, what about exposure to a positive number when we might need to icrease exposure to certain area on the face?

  5. Hank 14 December, 2008 at 23:26 Reply

    Hello Matt,

    I just bought your book “Layers” and found very useful. I am just beginning to learn Photoshop 6.0. If possible can you please tell me how I can create a steel ball like a pinball with both the upper and lower reflections on the ball? I find it very difficult to produce a white curve using the pen tool. Thanks.


  6. Caroline 13 October, 2008 at 01:55 Reply

    Matt – I’ve come to love your presets so much – it’s brought my pictures to a whole new art form. Now instead of doing the regular post production adjustments (WB, exposures, blacks, so forth), I jump over to the pre-sets and just can’t help but have fun with my pictures.

    Thanks for sharing your work – it’s awesome and much appreciated/valued!

  7. Gregg Wolin 12 October, 2008 at 22:14 Reply

    Hi Matt –

    Sorry I missed In-N-Out in Vegas. Just after midnight, my wife called to tell me that our 2 labradoodles ate a bottle of Advil PM. I ended up rushing back to Arizona. Anyhoo…

    I am a big Mpix fan and have been trying to figure out why they don’t have (or seem to comprehend) the utility of an LR export plugin. I emailed the guy who wrote the zenfolio (and other) export plugins and his response was “what’s Mpix”? I posted the question / request in the user forum at Mpix and a number of people concurred that it was a great idea.

    It seems like Mpix would bend over backwards to give LR (i.e. Adobe) users a simple way to upload photos to their site, doesn’t it? Am I missing something? Is the technology so new that nobody has gotten around to it? Am I mental?

    Any ideas?


  8. Dean Fey 28 September, 2008 at 22:01 Reply

    Hey Matt: I have been following you and Scott Whathisname for awhile. Thanks for the great tip on the presets and the presets. I am having a lot of fun with LR2. Now I really am painting with light.

    Dean Fey

  9. Patrick Hochner 21 September, 2008 at 05:47 Reply

    I installed these four new brush presets and they are pretty useful. Thanks.

    I do have one problem though — none of these user brush presets, including the soften skin appear in either of the new display setting of the brush panel. The six basic effects plus color do appear.

    The brush presets are, however, listed int he effect ull down menu.

    Is this normal or am I missing something?

  10. Mary D 20 September, 2008 at 16:51 Reply

    My computer crashed, and I lost my presets. My computer had been backed up, but i’m not even sure where to go look for the presets. If I can’t locate the presets i’d installed from what you’ve taught us, do you have your presets listed in one place or do I need to go through each lesson again?
    thanks for your help. You are a GREAT teacher!


  11. Matt Kloskowski 19 September, 2008 at 13:56 Reply

    Thanks guys. I already have a teeth whitening and eye whitening brush but the lipstick brush is a great idea. I really appreciate it. Maybe I’ll try to round up a group of retouching brushes next week. I wish there was a way to categorize them in the list. My list is already getting pretty big.

    Take care,
    Matt K

  12. Nas 18 September, 2008 at 17:58 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    Do you know of a way to fade a preset once applying it similar to the way Photoshop lets you fade your previous step from the edit menu? I’m really liking a lot of your presets but some of them I only want to use at 50% strength but I can’t find a way to do that.


  13. Jim B 18 September, 2008 at 16:27 Reply

    I too found the soften skin in Pictures/Lightroom/lightroom setting. when I placed them there they finally appeared in the drop dialog box under Brush Effects, but not in the folder you suggested. Soften Skin was in that folder when I first opened it but it did not show on the drop dialog box. Now everything seems to be okay.

    Thanks for all the great tips!

  14. Mike Lancaster 18 September, 2008 at 12:15 Reply

    I used the development brush’s saturation and brightness sliders to create a “teeth whitening” preset. It saves a lot of time, and seems to work well across the board. I’m still tweaking it though. Thanks for the inspiration, Matt.

  15. Matt Kloskowski 18 September, 2008 at 10:19 Reply

    Hi everyone: To those with brush lag issues, I’ve mentioned here that I’m having the same issue. Mine is not horrible and, to me, LR’s brush is way better then anything I can do in Photoshop so I’ll put up with the lag until they release a .1 update of some sort.

    Cashaw: Check out the Lightroom learning center and watch the video on the Adjustment brush to see where it’s located.

    Cheryl: Sorry about that. I’ve check on 3 computers (2 macs and 1 PC) and the folder is exactly where I said it was. I’m not sure what the cause of yours being different could be. Honestly, it’s just as frustrating for me as well since it’s becoming difficult for me to count on folders being where they “should” be. If anyone has an idea why (do you have your presets being stored with the catalog?) I’m all ears.

    Thanks again to everyone who contributes with comments.
    Matt K

  16. Cheryl 17 September, 2008 at 20:36 Reply

    I didn’t find the Adjustment Brush folder where you said it was…but I found it (on my iMac) under my Pictures/Lightroom Settings/Local Adjustment Presets file.

    BTW, thanks for all the cool (free) stuff — like these recent Adjustment Brush presets. Very generous of you!

  17. frank "cooksfriend" severa 17 September, 2008 at 13:29 Reply

    Matt you not only make our work fun but easy too, thanks again for all. Any new books coming out??


  18. Julianne 16 September, 2008 at 19:40 Reply

    Earl – you’re not alone, the same thing is happening to me (along with general lag issues, freezing up and all the other stuff that plenty of folk seem to be reporting).

  19. Tom 16 September, 2008 at 19:04 Reply


    At some point, could you please comment on monitor calibration? Is it necessary for lightroom using a 24in MAC dispaly with the built in calibration tools in the system preferences? I just received several prints back from mpix and they dont look as good as they did on my monitor


  20. Cashaw 16 September, 2008 at 18:32 Reply

    I am completely lost. Where is this brush? Is it in the Develop Module? I followed the instructions for copying and placement, but there was not skin softner brush. A little help please.

  21. Brent 16 September, 2008 at 16:01 Reply

    I really like the new brushes and other minor dodge/burn edits you can do in LR2. However, I find it frustrating that the “soften skin” brush actually darkens and gives a grey hue to the edited area. For this reason, I just don’t use it.

    @Andrew – actually you can do this now. Just desaturate the whole picture, then use the brush with saturation effect > 0 to paint the color back in. Here a subtle example:

  22. Seim Effects 16 September, 2008 at 15:04 Reply

    Thanks Matt, gonna experiment with them. I must say that though I love the idea of brushes in LR, they seem so laggy and clunky compared to PS. I sometimes find myself just going to PS because it’s so much smoother. Still I’m sure it will only get better…


  23. Jamin 16 September, 2008 at 14:58 Reply

    I found a great, two part “Color Pop” preset:

    Make a Develop Preset that moves all the color saturation sliders to the left, and a brush preset (set to 100% or more saturation) that paints the color saturation back in… Two clicks, and you can’t paint your heart out!

  24. Lynnea Kleinschmidt 16 September, 2008 at 14:09 Reply

    I thought I was following your instructions, but the brushes are showing up in “Exposure” and not in “Effects.” What did I do wrong?


  25. Earl 16 September, 2008 at 13:42 Reply

    I must be missing something. When I use the adjustment brush it continues to paint even after I release the mouse button. Consequently I end up with a streak of adjustment right off the frame when I move back to the tool pallet.

    Is this a lag issue? Do I need to stop all movement until everything renders? Will this all be a moot point when my Wacom arrives (tomorrow, I hope?)

  26. Dan Gerges 16 September, 2008 at 13:07 Reply

    I kept looking for the Effects switch – right there in plain sight! Had no idea. Thanks Matt! Is there no end to the genious of LR 2?

  27. Andrew Kraker 16 September, 2008 at 13:01 Reply

    Very cool. I had no idea that you could have brush presets.
    Suggestions for other brushes:
    Improved Soften Skin- The current one doesent seem to do a very good job.
    Selective coloring brush- Take a desaturated picture and color in specific colors. ex. you want to do a black and white but make someones green eyes colored. if there is any other green in the scene like grass, you wouldnt be able to use the green adjustment slider.

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