Advanced Brush Settings in Lightroom and Photoshop

In Photography by Diana K66 Comments

Here’s a video that was really fun for me to create. Mainly because the brush tool is such a major part of my workflow. Sure, the sliders, toning controls, and techie stuff are important. But if you only let me have one tool, it would be a brush. That’s where I get my “look” from and it’s something I use all the time.

Anyway, in this video I talk about two advanced, but little known settings in Lightroom (and Photoshop’s Camera Raw): Flow and Density. Between these two settings you can really get creative in the way you brush on your photos. Enjoy!

Here are the files to follow along –Ā Ā Ā  Elowah-Falls



    1. Gilly

      Thanks Matt, you”re a great teacher and so generous to share these tips with all of us.

    2. John

      Just watched now…………… Am VERY glad I did. I use brushes in all of my work…….. you just made the lower section of the panel more productive for me ……..THANK YOU

  1. Frank Wickstrom

    Great Video. Answered a lot of questions I had on brush usage.

  2. Malka

    Tlhank you for demonstrating clearly such an amazing time saver. One can be much more precise than with other masking and toninig options.

  3. Bob Hare

    Two more arrows in my post-processing quiver! Thanks for that Matt. A very clear explanation of flow and density. I can’t wait to improve some of my old images.

  4. Cathy Church

    Is there a comparable technique in On1PhotoRaw2018? I am just now taking your On1 course but jumped into this video because I do a LOT of my adjusting with curves and a history brush in PS. This video shows me a better way in PS, but want to see how much I can use On1 instead.

  5. Karl

    Thanks Matt, this is a great help. Each time I watch one of your videos I despise LR just a little bit less!

  6. Jack Smith

    Thank you so much. Your step by step and samples of the differences was very helpful. Now I have a clear understanding.
    Your fan in Naples, FL.

  7. lee kivi

    Thanks Matt for another enlightening tutorial, always find them interesting and so useful.

  8. Paul Beiser

    Great tip on how to use Density! I’ve always left it at 100% and just used flow but I like your model of how to use Density. Thanks!

  9. Kenny Wright

    Thank you so much Matt. Now I have a better understanding.

    Kenny, Clearwater, Fl.

  10. Michael

    Thank you Matt! Now on instead creating a lot of New brush adjustments, I will just use one or two and manipulate with Density and Flow.

  11. Carol R.

    Excellent tutorial. I feel more comfortable about using the Adjustment Brush.

  12. Gilles Benoit

    Great tutorial, as always, thanks Matt.
    However I seem to be missing something, I cannot get “erase” to work.
    Any suggestions?


  13. Jean

    Thanks for the info…Very informative. I have used PS/LR for years but never knew this . I was wondering if you could address the …”Color” box at the bottom of the adjustment box.. Thanks Jean

  14. Barb Henry

    I appreciate you so much Matt. Your little tricks as you call them make big steps in my abilities. You have a delightful normal way of presenting that helps a lot. Seriously thank you.

  15. Tomas Blasco

    Great and very clear tutorial.
    The function of all the sliders are clear now for me.

  16. Tushar Shah

    This is great Matt. Very clear and concise. You are very good teacher. I have learned so many things from your tutorials.

  17. Vincent Spratling

    Thanks Matt for tutorials. Your step by step of the differences was very helpful and when you are explaining your presentation is very clear.

  18. Wendy Whyte

    Great tutorial Matt, learn something every time I watch your videos.

  19. Dennis Zito

    Hey Matt,

    Now after 10 yrs with Lightroom and ACR … I finally got it!! šŸ™‚ One question. If you are just planning on doing Density, should you keep the flow at 100%. Do you ever run across a situation where you do both Flow and Opacity. Most of the time I use Flow to build up usually set to 5 or 10 and then slowly build up, but leave my density to 50% … Am I counteracting my flow settings?



    1. Matt K

      Hey Dennis – in a way it is counteracting because density at 50% means it’ll never build up to whatever you have your sliders set to. But at the end of the day, if the photo looks good then nothing else matters šŸ™‚

  20. Lou Berry

    Am I the only one without a “Play” button when sent to the link? MacBook Pro…
    PS Not a Facebook user, and never will be ;-(

  21. Robert Ma

    Thank you for the clear explanation. Now I felt more comfortable to use the adjustment brush.


    Thank you Matt. I learned something, and I’ve been working with LR since it first came out.

  23. Frank Birinyi

    I think you might have over-simplified the math a bit. With Flow set to 50%, you give the impression that with only two swipes, you achieve 100% of your settings. Later you change the Flow to 25% and suggest that with 4 swipes, you will achieve 100% of your settings.

    I may be wrong, but I think if you look at your video closely (around the 6 minute mark) or just try it yourself, you will find that it actually takes a few more than the 2 or 4 swipes to get to 100% (with flow set at 50% and 25%, respectively). Of course this has no real impact on one’s workflow, since one just swipes until they reach the desired effect.

    I’m sorry I’m such a math nerd.

    I’m running Classic 7.1

  24. Christine Morgan

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for that, a really clear explanation which helps a lot.


  25. Debra Brash

    This was excellent. I really never understood the density until now and can see the usefulness.

  26. Mike Foxworthy

    Master Matt, thank you so much for this tutorial. You have a gift teaching the complexities of editing software. I cannot wait to use these tools on past and current photos.

  27. Dennis Zito

    Hi Matt,

    Hey Great tutorial and info! I do have a question. I thought that once you set the Density you couldn’t change after painting because the pin was set to that Density, and you had to establish a new pin. So, just to make sure … you can actually change the density of the brush using the same pin?



  28. Cheryl Blodgett

    Matt. Great video. I had no idea these advanced settings even existed. Thank you so much for enlightening me. I am going to but my new knowledge to work right now!

  29. Jacques Archambault

    I had a littole problem with the explanation, as flow strokes did not quite work as described. Maybe I did not follow correctly. Here is the understanding I gathered on the topic.
    Flow is the rate of building up the paint, 100% being all of it in one shot. Opacity sets the final density- like using semi-transparent ink; at 50% opacity, when it’a all in, it is still 50% tranparent.

  30. joel shlian

    Great tutorial. Density tips very helpful. How do I actually UPDATE to Classic 7.2 ? I don’t want to download the whole application – just the update. If I go to Help>Updates in Lightroom Classic 7.1
    it goes to Version 4.4 of CC and asks “install now”.

    1. Matt K

      Hi Joel. You don’t get a choice. When you go to Help > Updates it should walk you through the process. If it doesn’t you can always open your Creative Cloud Updater application and try there. If that doesn’t work, you’d have to contact adobe.

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