Graduated Filter or Radial Filter Using Brush Controls

Graduated Filter or Radial Filter Using Brush Controls

By Douglas Wade


In Lightroom, you have many options to modify your images. Some of the best tools are in the Develop Module. For example, moving the sliders in the Basic panel is a great way to apply global control to your image.



However, if you want local control, you can use the Local Tools, such as the Graduated Filter, Radial Filter, and others.



Of those six tools; Crop Tool, Cloning and Healing, Red Eye Reduction, Graduated Filter, Radial Filter, and Adjustment Brush, I want to talk about the Graduated Filter and Radial Filter. These two tools have one unique subtool, the “Brush” to remove a local part of the mask.



The Graduated Filter tool creates a gradient (banding) across the image.

You can control the banding of the gradient using the Effect choices shown below. In this example, only Exposure is active and is set to -2.81. Any of the choices may be set prior to or after the Graduated Filter area is set (when the is Pin is active ).


Operating the Graduated Filter


The Graduated Filter is placed on the picture by clicking on the image and a placeholder pin is automatically created for you. The Graduated Filter pin is not fixed; it can be dragged into another position using the mouse or pen. In the following example, the mask pin is placed inside the image, and the graduated filter (between the white lines) is placed. The graduated filter can be rotated and stretched or condensed. The starting of the filter produces 100% of the effects and the end produces 0% of the effects.



Once the filter is in place, any of the sliders can be moved. In this example, I moved the exposure only, and to the left to darken the sky. The Graduated Filter includes a feather so it can be blended into the scene.


The Graduated Filter can also be removed from the picture by selecting it and pressing the delete key, or right-click with the mouse on the pin and choose delete.


The Graduated Filter is really a mask and that mask can be seen using the “O” key to toggle on and off the visible mask. Tap the “O” key to Show/Hide Mask Overlay. Add the Shift key to cycle the mask overlay colors (red, green and white). The mask is seen by default with a ruby color (this is old school, for masking mechanically, they used Rubylith or a red color film). Notice that the mask is affecting the building. This is what the Brush tool can eliminate. Use the brush tool to remove the mask from the area of the image where desired.


Select Erase and adjust the Size, Feather, and Flow for control.


When the eraser is being used the cursor become a circle inside a circle with a minus tool.


Inversely, you can use the same tool with the plus (Brush: A, B) to add more effect to the mask (make the red darker.) I used the eraser to eliminate some of the Graduated Filter mask in the sky as it illustrated the point better than making the edits on the building. Displaying the mask overlay can make it much easier to see the areas that are included/excluded from the adjustment in order to make refinements to the mask.


Lightroom lets you customize three different filter brushes: A, B, and Erase. You can customize the following settings:

  • Size: The size of the brush seen as a cursor
  • Feather: The amount of feathering for the brush
  • Flow: How much “effect” is applied to the area for every stroke. For example, if the Flow is set to 25%, 25% effect strength is applied for the first stroke. The subsequent stroke brings up the effect strength to 50%.
  • Density: The maximum opacity that the brush paints. If you have this setting at 40%, for example, the brush will not “paint” opacity greater than 40%.

If you enable the Auto Mask option to “paint” inside the edges of an area, Lightroom will mask the area to ensure that your brushstrokes won’t go beyond it. When you paint, ensure that the core part of the brush is inside the area you want to paint.


This process is the same when using the Radial Filter. I used the eraser on the building in full strength to show the effect.


I often use Graduated Filters to control the edges of my image. In other words, one for the top, bottom, left and right side, each with a different effect to create a specialized vignette. I use the Radial Tool to create an off-center vignette or to highlight a subject when desired.


Lightroom is being updated regularly and new functions added to the tools. Older versions of Lightroom may not have all of the features described above.  Adobe CC allows you to stay up to date on the latest releases.