Lightroom Tips

Tip – Adjustment Brush Shortcuts

Hey folks, it’s time for the first Lightroom 2 tip and I’ve got one of my favorites for you. OK, you know when you start painting with the Adjustment Brush it leaves that little dot on your photo. Well if you hover over it, it shows you a red overlay which tells where you’ve painted right? But that’s not the tip. The tip is that you can change the color of that overlay. This comes in especially handy if you’re using the Adjustment Brush on something red or close to it. So next time, try this. Move your cursor over that dot to show the red overlay. Then press Shift – O to cycle through different color overlays. Cool huh?

I hope you have a great weekend. Make sure you leave any little tips that you’ve picked up this week in the comments area. Oh, and for all of you new LR 2 users out there. Get off the computer!!! Spend some time with your friends and family. They miss you this week 🙂



  1. Alister 20 January, 2011 at 12:24 Reply

    Hi there Matt
    I have a problem with the adjustment brush when I use it to paint an area to reduce or increase exposure. It paints in a colour and stays in that colour, it does not change when sliders are used. I can change the colour with O (good tip)
    When I hover over the dot there are two arrows – left and right which also has no effect.
    Have I possibly hit a key which locks it in colour?

  2. Tien 7 June, 2010 at 09:07 Reply

    Hi there!,

    When I have few brush pins and start a new one of pin, just zoom it out of the photo, it automatically deactivate the recent pin I’m working on. It’s really difficult to control the paint if you have several pins. Please advise how to turn this mode off.

    Thanks and have a good day.


  3. Catherine 28 February, 2010 at 18:45 Reply

    I am having trouble with the Adjustment Brush in LR 2. It basically isn’t working. I try to paint over something and it just hangs up everything. I can’t close or reset it. Any suggestions?

  4. Mick Cookson 3 February, 2010 at 13:10 Reply

    Hi Guys,

    When using the adjustment brush on my images in LR2, sometimes I get black speck artifacts in the highlight areas, and white ones in shadow areas. Am I being too heavy handed or does LR2 just do this from time to time?



  5. Ron 11 January, 2010 at 18:30 Reply

    “The editing button seems to disappear, and i can’t find it”

    I was going craaazy trying to figure this out!! Thanks to the comments in this thread, I now see “H” key will make them visible or invisible. Well, I keep hitting H out of habit for the “hand” key, but it was making my buttons disappear. Phew, glad that one’s figured out!

  6. Claire 7 May, 2009 at 10:50 Reply

    Hi everyone,

    I am new to Lightroom 2.0 and am using it on a trial basis. I am addicted already but am getting frustrated with this adjustment brush. I watched Matt Kloskowski’s tutorial on youtube about changing the colour of a bedspread, but I still can’t get it to work for me. All I want to do is change the colour of the grey sky I had in my photo to a nice blue. I followed the instructions exactly but the sky didn’t change colour. Does anyone know why this happened? I am using a Dell Inspirion 6400 laptop and not a MAC. Would this make a difference? I look forward to hearing any replies!

    Many thanks

  7. WinGer 3 February, 2009 at 20:25 Reply

    Hi, i’ve started using LR2 a couple days ago and i’m trying to learn some shortcuts.
    I’ve been trying to use de [ ] (they are at the same place but when you press the keys `+ are written, so for the [] to appear you have to hold ALT) for increasing/decreasing adjusment brush size but it does nothing, in fact when i press ] the expose increase. I’m from Spain so the keyboard is different from US and i think this is way the [ ] keys doesn’t apply to me. Does anyone know what keys do i have to use to increse/decrease adjusment brush size?

    Also, i’ve notice that with the adjustment brush active if you press the number keys the flow change.

    Thanks for your time and help

  8. ariette 11 January, 2009 at 16:05 Reply

    Hey guys
    I got a problem with my lightroom’s adjustment brush. The editing button seems to disappear, and i can’t find it. So everytime i use it i have to make sure i don’t make any errors because i can’t correct them. Any clue why it happen? and how to make it work?

  9. Miquel 22 November, 2008 at 14:00 Reply

    Hi phodoz,
    I was having the same issue: how to erase a single brush; Just found it. You’ll laugh 🙂
    Select the brush, press the delete key 😉
    Matt, thanks a lot for all the killer tips! 🙂

  10. phodoz 25 October, 2008 at 18:01 Reply

    I can’t find a way to turn on and off individual “pins” after I’ve done some editing. I can use H to show and hide the pins.

    But let’s say I create 3 new adjustment brushes and I want to delete one of them altogether. Do I have to hold the option key and repaint the entire area that’s associated with that pin? Effectively ‘erasing” the effects of that mask?

    I tried holding different keys as I clicked on the pins and I’ve looked for documentation about this.

    So, I basically want to selectively turn on and off the effects of pin individually.

    Anybody know?



  11. David Underhill 21 September, 2008 at 17:08 Reply

    Thanks, this was a helpful tutorial — and everyone’s comments about the various shortcuts are helping make up for the slow brushes. Hopefully Adobe will find a way to improve their performance by the next release!

  12. Ingmar Zahorsky 1 September, 2008 at 18:29 Reply

    Thanks a lot that was very useful.
    I was looking for a way to edit the entire layer I painted and reduce the opacity. Your tip hinted me the right way. When I clicked the dot in the middle and moved the amount slider in the brush settings the opacity decreased. 🙂

  13. Paul Wright 17 August, 2008 at 07:29 Reply


    I’m running XP64, dual-core 3ghz, 8GbRAM and find the brushes appallingly slow. It has to be a bug. If I do too much brushwork on one image LR2 freezes or crashes. Honestly, it’s still quicker to make brush adjustments in PS CS3 using a layer mask.

    The gradient is very handy, it’s getting plenty of use, but a big feature request for Version 2.1 would be the ability to erase / brush back unwanted areas of a gradient.


  14. Jonny Westcott 11 August, 2008 at 04:49 Reply

    Re the speed issues that people are having, is this just a mac problem? I have a dual core 3ghz Windows XP64 and have no such problems at all – in fact there are no noticeable delays when using these tools..

    Anyone else? I would be interested to hear as I’m in the market for a new laptop and was considering both platforms.

    Also, maybe missing something but is there any way to usefully name the different adjustment ‘layers’?


  15. 10 August, 2008 at 23:57 Reply

    I have a quad 3gz macpro with 9gb ram – adjustment brushes are really slow. I love LR2 sooo much, but have been using the adjustment brushes a lot – and the speed is brutally slow.

  16. pat flanakin 6 August, 2008 at 08:51 Reply


    I saw that you stated that you feel there is a price to be paid for the adjustment brush type of control in terms of processor speed, etc….

    I have a feeling the issue is mainly centered around how the history states are collected and the automask feature since more thinking is involved for the program.

    I would simply say “hogwash,” to considering slow speed for the adjustment brush a price to pay for that type of control.

    What are wedding photographers that have built an entire workflow around Lightroom supposed to do now that LR 2 has come out with such a fantastic new tool that isn’t efficient enough to go through a 100 photos in a couple hours? I would venture to believe a couple 100 photos under the current circumstances would take a couple days!

    I know that Adobe will step up to the plate when Mac Pros with 16GB of memory are sluggish with the adjustment brush.

    Nothing should be seen as a “price to pay” in terms of this program. If they figured you had to have a Mac Pro with 16GB of RAM to run it, then the specifications for hardware should say so.

    This is a bug, not a “price to pay.” Frankly I would expect more honesty from the NAPP guys, not appeasing to Adobe.

  17. John Ferreira 5 August, 2008 at 11:48 Reply

    Matt, perhaps you can help with another question. In LR2, what is the difference between exporting to a JPEG and printing to a JPEG? When whould I use one vs. the other? Thanks

  18. Christian Rosenvold 5 August, 2008 at 10:19 Reply

    Dear Matt. I’m a big fan of you, Dave and Scott. I always watch Photoshop user TV and I think it’s a great podcast, very inspirational and learning. I have wondered for ages; what software do you use as your screen recorder? Please answer me as I would love to get a better one than my current.

  19. Bob Spree 5 August, 2008 at 10:08 Reply

    Hi Matt

    Forgive me if this has been mentioned before, but I accidentally discovered this on LR2.

    If you display all the clipped areas so that these areas show in red and then select the Adjustment Brush you can selectively paint out the clipped areas.
    It’s Magic.
    Bob Spree

  20. Andreas 5 August, 2008 at 03:53 Reply

    I have a question about DNG format and lr2, is all changes (retouching, graduated filters etc) saved in the dng file or is there some kinde of sidecar file for these changes to the photo?

  21. Ole Martin 5 August, 2008 at 02:41 Reply

    I found no way to contact you, so i will ask you here:
    in C:Program FilesAdobeAdobe Photoshop Lightroom 2Resourcesen
    i created a file called TranslatedStrings.txt , and in that file i typed “$$$/locale_metric/AgWatermark/font=Barbara Hand” ..
    (this makes it possible to use a custom font on copyright tag when exporting images)
    but, i think its to small, do you know how to make watermark font bigger?
    Please answer this(and please tell me on my email if you answer me) 😉

  22. Terry 4 August, 2008 at 21:57 Reply

    Hey Matt
    Thanks for the tip, and all the other tips over the last couple of years, here is a link to another site with a tutorial on the adjustments brush and a few of the cool things you can do with it, looks like its going to be a much used tool

  23. Tripp 4 August, 2008 at 21:25 Reply

    Do you know if Adobe is going to address the abysmally slow speed of LR2? Even changing modules can take several seconds on my 2.2 Ghz Macbook Pro (2GB RAM)! This has got to be some sort of bug, right? You said your GM version had no problems, other than the adjustment brush being a little slow.

    Patiently waiting for LR 2.1…

  24. Chris Flemming 4 August, 2008 at 15:19 Reply

    I’ve been following the comments about HDR images, and have cooked up my own routine using Lightroom and Photomatix Pro. I’d like to see what you and the rest of the gang think about it. Basically, I’m taking a single RAW image and using virtual copies to export a series of photos with different exposure values. The results seem pretty good to me.

    I’ve put a whole tutorial on it at this address if you want to go have a look:

  25. S. Meyer 4 August, 2008 at 12:08 Reply

    No time to spend with the family and friends. So much to explore with LR2 and only 5 days to go for the next wedding and until then I have to get some info for enhance the photos 🙂

  26. Susan 4 August, 2008 at 10:18 Reply

    I’d love to watch this, but it doesn’t load into iTunes properly. It takes me to the Killer Tips page, but there is nothing available to download…?

  27. Peter 3 August, 2008 at 12:09 Reply

    Here’s a tip on the Basic Panel-> Tonal Area

    You can use the comma “,” to move up and period “.” key to move down to select between basic panel items and then use plus “+” and minus”-” keys to make adjustments.

    Once you get the hang of it, this allows you to focus on the preview window without moving away and selecting with a mouse or pen.

  28. Jeff Tamagini 2 August, 2008 at 09:06 Reply

    In addition to the left and right bracket keys changing brush size, if you are using a wheel mouse you can actually scroll the middle button to change brush size!!!

  29. MattFan 1 August, 2008 at 17:58 Reply

    Matt, in Photoshopusertv epidode 139 you said that you can’t make a selection using percent., but it’s not true! You simply have to set “percent” in the rulers then when you make a selection it automatically takes che percent. as unit so you can use it in an action!

  30. tsheets 1 August, 2008 at 16:50 Reply

    Yes, that’s it, Kerry. Thanks! It just seems that if they are going to leave it on the screen, there must be some significance. I guess I was looking for a deeper meaning behind it. 🙂

    Thanks again!

  31. tsheets 1 August, 2008 at 14:17 Reply

    I’m probably missing something obvious, but, what does that little pin thing do anyway? I’ve only briefly played with LR2 so far, but, the first time I used the brush tool, the pin really surprised me. I figured it must stick to a spot for a reason, but, I’m not sure what that reason is.

  32. Dave Latour 1 August, 2008 at 14:14 Reply

    Thanks for the tip Matt. I was watching the Kelby Training on Lightroom 2 last night and came to the part where you were showing the dual screens and Lightroom. Can you tell me what the name of that connector you used to do that and does it require a dual video card?

  33. Seim Effects 1 August, 2008 at 12:45 Reply

    Ha that’s cool. The brush tool seems really powerful.

    A few things that are bothering me are that LR2 seems a little crashy, and also a little slow. The brushes are better, but still seem sluggish, and the rendering of images as I sort thru them seems slower. Even on my mac pro. Anyone else having this problem?


  34. Mike Nelson Pedde 1 August, 2008 at 11:19 Reply

    Oops, for some reason the first part of that comment didn’t get posted.

    When brushing, holding down the Alt key will allow you to erase instead of adding to your brush selection. Holding down the Ctrl/Cmd key will put you in AutoMask mode if it’s not selected, or turn it off temporarily if it is. The two keys can be used together.

    Also, to the right of the Effect selection (under Edit) is a little rectangle (two squares side by side) that switch between ‘basic’ and ‘advanced’ mode. By switching to advanced mode more than one effect (Exposure, Brightness, Saturation, etc.) can be added to the same selection. Having done multiple effects, switching back to basic mode will allow proportional adjustment of all of the effects made.

  35. Mike Nelson Pedde 1 August, 2008 at 11:15 Reply

    Also, holding down the spacebar will allow you to move the image around while brushing if you’re zoomed in, or will allow you to zoom in if you’re not.

    And the Ctrl/Cmd and Alt buttons can be used together.

  36. Daniel 1 August, 2008 at 10:00 Reply

    Rob, that’s just what I’ve been trying to work out – thanks so much! It’s a shame the brush tools and adjustments are so horribly horribly slow even on a 4ghz 4gb machine but I’ll take what I can get without having to install PS!

  37. Karen 1 August, 2008 at 09:28 Reply

    Matt.. I just finished watching all three of your Lightroom 2 training courses on and they were exceptional. I feel that the time I invested will save me many more times that as I work with Lightroom 2. As a lifeline professional educator, I can tell you that I think you have a wonderful, clear teaching style. You really seem to anticipate when a technique really needs to be repeated… and when it doesn’t.

    Thanks so much for the excellent training and ongoing tips and training here on your site.

  38. Marco Trovalusci 1 August, 2008 at 07:53 Reply

    Thanks for the tip Matt. Also thanks for the autographed Photoshop Layers book i just received. Great read. Very instructive. Perhaps packing could be improved in future Matt as my copy was damaged at the bottom. Obviously thrown round during transit.

  39. Rob Sylvan 1 August, 2008 at 07:41 Reply

    Along with Matt’s tip … if you just press O you can leave the overlay on while you paint. Press O to turn it off again.

    Press H to hide the pin and press H again to reveal it (sometimes you might want to see under the pin as well without exiting the brush).

    Thanks Matt!

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