Create Masks for Local Adjustments using Brushes & Gradients
For local adjustments there is a specific tool tab. That's the one which looks like a small paintbrush. If you're in the default workspace, it'll show you the local adjustments tools. So, this is where you have your different layers, essentially, so all the various different layers which we can apply adjustments to. And underneath that is all the tools that work with local adjustments. Now, the general rule is pretty much everything will work with a local adjustment. And there's a couple of exceptions, like the color balance tool, for example, because that's designed, you know, for color grading, it's not like a local adjustment in that respect. The color editor, white balance exposure, high dynamic range, curve, sharpening, clarity, noise reduction, moire, and purple fringing. All possible to apply as local adjustments. So, I'll show you the basics of what's possible. So how to create those masks and all the various different tools that you can use to build them. So in the local adjus...
tments tool itself, you'll see down the bottom here some kind of obvious stuff like plus or minus to make a new layer, or remove an existing layer. There's the brush tools here itself, which also opens up to give you other possibilities like erasing masks and applying a gradient mask. Now generally, all these, again, are much easier to access with keyboard shortcuts. So you can see on the right hand side we've got B for brush, E for erase, G for gradient, and M to show and hide the mask. So just simple toggles to turn the mask on and off. Those cursor tools for picking up brush and gradient and so on, they're also available up on the main cursor tools bar, as well. So you've got exactly the same options there. Generally, though, if you're using the keyboard shortcuts you'll probably never have to access that point. Also, to the left of that you've got the brush settings pallette, which allows you to manipulate different parameters of the brush, which we'll talk about in a second. That's also accessible by right or control clicking any point with the brush and then it will bring those up like so. So, how does drawing a mask work and what actual effect does it have on the image? So if we right click again and we can see all our various different brush settings. So, the first two, if I zoom in, are probably fairly obvious, how big is the brush and how soft or hard is the brush. So, if we give a brush about this size and just do maximum hardness, and then I'm gonna draw a line along here. Press M, remember, to show and hide the masks. So that's at maximum hardness. If we right click again and go all the way back down, and then you can see we have this roll off, or softening, to the edge of the mask. And basically what the point of having those two circles is, the center circle is where the mask is at its maximum, and then the edge of the outer circle is where it's bled off to zero, if you like. So, a really soft brush will have lots of space between those two circles because it's a nice soft roll off. A harder brush will have none, whatsoever. So that's why you see two different circles. And then the third one is opacity. Let's just drop that down to 50 percent and then draw once more and you can see that looks fainter. So 50 percent of the brush. Basically what that means, so 50 percent in this example, is that we get half, whatever adjustment we make will be half the effect. So if we hide those masks for a second, and just grab exposure, for example, and just pull exposure down, you can see how the hard brush looks, the soft brush, and then at 50 percent opacity it's less of a change. And then the last piece of the puzzle is also flow. Flow is basically, it's a movement based setting. Flow at 100 means if I make one pass with the brush, then we lay down to our maximum opacity. So if you think of brushing as almost like painting with a paintbrush, one pass of my brush we will get to the maximum opacity at this point which is 50 percent. If we turn down the flow, it basically means we're going to be building up the mask slowly. As we move the brush back and forth, as such, we gradually build up that mask. It's very much a movement based motion. The lower the flow, the longer it will take, the more brush strokes it will take to build up to whatever opacity level you have. With a very low flow, if we drop that right down, and I brush here, brush back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, gradually it will build up to whatever we've set to opacity. The last checkbox you see here, or the first checkbox, sorry, airbrush mode. So this is a time based adjustment. If I click and hold, then that's like spraying an aerosol can, if you like. If we click and hold, depending again on the flow, is how fast that will build up. If we turn flow up to maximum and I click and hold then that builds up much quicker than if we had flow at a much lower value. Again, the point where it will stop building up is whatever you have set on opacity. If we went up to 100 opacity and then we built up and it would get to 100 points where this one only got to 50 points. Pen pressure, this is if you're using a Wacom tablet, and to be honest, if you're seriously going to get into doing local adjustments, which I hope you do, then it is 100 times easier using a graphics tablet. I started using graphics tablets a long, long time ago because I had this great job where I just made cutting paths all day, cutting out objects eight hours a day, and using a mouse for eight hours a day gets pretty intensive, so for comfort I switched to just holding a pen. For drawing soft of nice smooth shapes and so on, it's much easier to work with a pen and a tablet as opposed to a mouse. Some people do masking with a mouse and that's fine, but I personally find it way faster to work with a tablet. We can activate pen pressure, and what that allows us to do, let's just clear all these scribbles off, and just bring up the flow a bit. So what pen pressure does, is it'll change the mask based on how hard we're touching. So if I touch lightly it'll be smaller, if I press harder it will be bigger, and so on. It's not something that I use a great deal, because I find it quite quickly just to right click and tweak the size. But if you're a little bit more skilled with pressure on the tablet, and of course in our system preferences we can always change how our tip feels as well so that we can make it more sensitive. Smaller, press harder we get bigger. But as I've said, it's not something I personally use, but it's good to know it's there. Auto mask, we come back to, that just allows you to sort of cut round edges, but generally, again, it's not something I use a great deal. Something to be aware of with masking, if your masks are too good and have too hard edges and are really precise, then it looks quite obvious on the image itself. If you do everything a bit more subtle and a bit softer then there'd be no hint that there's ever been sort of some masking going on. The last one, link brush and eraser, link brush and eraser settings, simply means that the adjustments, or settings you have here for the brush, will be exactly the same if I switch to eraser by pressing E on the keyboard. You see it's now a minus in the middle. So B for brush it's plus, E it's minus. That means it'll just share exactly the same settings. That's good if you're creating a mask. Let's turn off pen pressure. If you're creating a mask and you make a mistake, you can just press E and then erase and it'll be exactly the same as it was before. So you have all those different tools which can be used to create masks in sort of a variety of different ways. As well as that, let's just delete those scribbles again, we also have a gradient mask, or G on the keyboard. A gradient mask is simply pretty much the same as putting a gradient filter in front of the lens. You can make very hard gradients, you can make very soft gradients, and that's great for equalizing exposure, and actually all kinds of other things, which I hope you'll see as well. To make a gradient, you just take your gradient brush and you draw the sort of direction that you want to have the gradient in. If you hold your shift key down, it will lock it to a straight line. So it will be perfectly vertical, horizontal, or at a 45 degree angle. The longer you draw the gradient, the smoother it will be. If I turn on the mask so you can see that's like a nice long gradient from top to bottom. If we do a little short pull like that, then we get a much harder gradient. So you can really control the roll off. It's great, you know, in cases like this if we wanted to balance out just half of the image. Once you've drawn the gradient, if you want to finesse it, you can do so. It's good for balancing exposure and all sorts of other uses. Now just because you've drawn it with the gradient mask, it's still perfectly editable. If I took the erase brush, I can still erase parts of the gradient out if I wish to. It's no different to any other mask, it's just a different way of drawing it. Let's delete those scribbles again. The last thing to know, or a basic thing to know, about mask drawing is that... Actually let's just put that gradient mask back on there, so G for gradient. Let's just say brighten that and make a change like so. By default, you'll see here that I'm working on layer one, so that's the gradient and I can turn that on and off, of course, to see the effect that it's having. If you want to rename it, then of course you can do so, and it does make sense to do it because otherwise, you end up with layer one, two, three, four, five, and you've actually got no idea what those various different layers are doing. First good advice, name the layer, and secondly, you can turn it on and off like so. Also what's good to know, is that you'll see if you're on the default workspace in the local adjustments tool tab, all the tools that work are loaded by default and additionally, they have this little brush icon next to it. You see that small brush icon like so. Basically what that means is that this tool will adjust the selected layer. So you see I've got "sky" selected, so if I pull the exposure around it will adjust the sky. Now if I go to my exposure tool tab and grab exposure, this is actually working off the whole image. By default the tools will only work on the background unless you specifically have this little icon here which means adjust selected layer. And that's an option in the, adjust selected layer here, that's an option in the sub-menu of the tool itself. That will happen by default so you can pretty much rest assured when you're in the local adjustments tool tab and you pull some adjustments it will be on your selected layer. If you go to any other tool tab and pull an adjustment, it will be on the background, so the entire image.