In ACR Tutorials, Tutorial Tuesday, Written Tutorials

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to paint light onto a photo in Adobe Camera RAW. | Find more free tutorials at

How to Paint Light onto a Photo in Adobe Camera RAW (ACR)

I love experimenting with different creative techniques on my images. In this tutorial I’ll show you step-by-step how to use the Adjustment Brush to paint light onto a photo in Adobe Camera RAW.

Step 1.  Open your image in ACR

If you shoot in RAW format, attempting to open your image should pull it into Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) automatically.

JPEG shooters, you can open an image into ACR by going to Filter > Camera RAW Filter in Photoshop CC.

If you’re working in an earlier version of Photoshop, you can go to File > Open As instead. When the ‘Open As’ box pops up, find the image you wish to open and click it once to select it. Then, find the drop down menu at the bottom of the panel and change the File Type from ‘JPEG’ to ‘Camera Raw’ and hit ‘Open’.

Step 2. Select the Adjustment Brush

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to paint light onto a photo in Adobe Camera RAW | Find more free tutorials at

You can find the Adjustment Brush along the top bar of the ACR panel or simply hit the ‘K’ button on your keyboard.

Step 3. Adjust your Settings and Start Painting

Once the Adjustment Brush is selected, you’ll notice that the sliders in the panel on the right will change. You can adjust these sliders to create the effect you want and then paint it onto your photo.

Sunlight Effect Settings:

• I increased my Exposure to +3.30. (The specific amount you use will vary by image. For some images the number I chose may too bright, for others it may not be bright enough. Feel free to adjust as needed.)

• Next, I increased the Temperature to +36. (This will make the light that you are painting in more of a golden color. Again, adjust this slider to your preference. You can even slide the Tint slider over a bit to add magenta coloring to the light if you want.)

Brush Settings:

Once you are satisfied with your settings, you can begin to paint onto your image. I used a brush Size of 22, Feather to 100, and Flow at 10. (Use whichever settings you feel would work well for your photo. Feel free to experiment and see what you like best.)

To apply, I swept the brush over the top portion of my image, adding a few extra sweeps at the very top to make the light slightly stronger there.


In the photo above, I have selected the ‘Show Mask’ box at the bottom of my panel in order to see where the brush strokes were applied on the photo.


Once you have painted the light onto your image, you can tweak the settings in the panel on the right if you’d like to change or alter the effect.

To erase any adjustment from your image, simply select the Erase button at the top of the panel on the right. Then, change the size, flow, and feathering of your brush as needed for the kind of erasing you want to do. I always make sure to keep my eraser’s feathering set to 100 so that it’s a very subtle edge.

Other Painting Possibilities:

The possibilities are pretty endless when it comes to using this Adjustment Brush. Below are some additional options you might enjoy trying.

If applying more than one painting effect on a photo, be sure you select the ‘New’ button at the top of the right hand panel as shown in the image above. This will let the program know you are creating a new brush adjustment and not just adding to the first.
Sharpen Brush – Increase the Sharpness slider to your liking and then paint over eyes or other features that need some sharpening.
Eye Enhancing Brush – Increase the exposure slightly, increase Saturation and maybe even add a little sharpness. Then, paint over eyes to give them a bit of a boost.
Skin Smoothing Brush – Lower the Clarity slider and paint onto skin to give a softer appearance.
Teeth Whitening Brush – Lower the Temperature slider and lower the saturation slider. Then, then paint over teeth to remove any yellow coloring.

There are so many different combinations and effects you can create with these brushes! Have fun playing!

Related Posts:

Dehazing an Image in Adobe Camera RAW
How to Reduce Noise or Grain in Adobe Camera RAW
How to Use the White Balance Tool in Adobe Camera RAW

Looking to dive into the world of Photoshop editing?

If you’d like to learn to edit in Photoshop, I’d love to invite you to join me for my online course, The Photoshop Fanatic. It’s an easy-to-follow, go-at-your-own-pace course that teaches Photoshop from the very beginning. It begins with a walk-through explanation of the various tools, layers, and filters in the program. You’ll learn what they are, how to use them, and then we’ll build on that knowledge, working our way up to achieving full, in-depth edits with ease.

To see if The Photoshop Fanatic Course is right for you, click here to read more about it.


In this tutorial, I'll show you how to paint light into a photo in Adobe Camera RAW. | Find more free tutorials at
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