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by Wendi Elizabeth Martha Scarth


Smart Brush Tool
Photoshop Elements


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Colour-pop Images Using The Smart Brush Tool
Suitable for Adobe Photoshop Elements Editor
Skill Level - Intermediate

Smart Brush Photoshop Elements

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This tutorial demonstrates how create a part colour part monochrome “colour-pop” conversion using Photoshop Elements’ Smart Brush Tool. To work along, you are welcome to download the Start Image I am working with HereUnzip the file and open the image onto Elements’ workspace.

Undo Note
You can step backwards at any time by clicking the top menu’s Undo Tool.

Open your Start Image onto Elements’ workspace - Ctrl/Cmd then O.

To centralise your image - snap it to the top menu’s orange horizontal line by dragging it towards it.

Zoom Tool Tip
Zooming into your image using the Zoom Tool will provide better Brush control.

Elements 11, 12, 13, 14 & 15 - Tool Options Palette positioned at the bottom of the workspace. Although the palettes have been redesigned the tools work in more or less the same way.

From the Toolbar, activate the Smart Brush Tool.


Then from the Smart Brush Tool’s Options Bar, click open the Adjustment Presets by clicking the following black arrow.

And from the subsequent drop-down Palette, ensure Show All is active: then scroll down the thumbnails, and locate then double-left-click the Reverse - black and white Preset, as illustrated below.

Smart Brush And Detail Brush Notes
The Smart Brush and Detail Smart Brush Tools apply colour and tonal adjustments to specific areas of a photograph. By selecting a Preset Adjustment, certain effects can be applied using these Tools. Both Tools automatically creates individual Adjustment Layers to which the effect is applied to. When you apply the Smart Brush Tool, it makes a Selection based on your image’s colour and texture, and then the Adjustment is applied to just the Selected area. The Detail Smart Brush Tool can also be used for fine detail adjustments.


Both Brush Tools let you Add and Subtract from the areas being adjusted. Because each Adjustment is applied to its own Layer, you can have more than one Adjustment Preset application. In addition, you can tweak the settings for each Adjustment separately.  When a correction has been made, a Pin appears where you first applied the Adjustment. The pin provides a reference for the specific Adjustment. A new Pin appears when a different Adjustment Preset is applied: this feature makes it easier to modify a specific correction, especially if you apply different Adjustments.

Refine Selection Edge Note
Clicking the Option Bar’s Refine Selection Edge tab brings up the following Refine Mask dialogue box, where (once it has been applied), you can edit the Selection Marquee to suit your photograph’s needs.


Quickly Resize The Brush Size
The Brush Size can be quickly resized by tapping the Outer Bracket Keys - (Caps OFF).

Tutorial Continued
Now, left-click once over the Iris. (When working with your own image, left-click over an area you would like to remain colourised). After left-clicking, the circular area (where you have clicked) will remain colourised; however, the surrounding area (the area outside the circle) will be converted into monochrome - as illustrated below.

A Reverse - black and white Adjustment Layer will then be applied above the Background Layer - as illustrated below.

Now, expand the Selection Marquee so it incorporates just the Iris and Pupil (or an area in your image) by left-clicking and carefully passing your cursor over the Iris and Pupil, as illustrated below. (For better control, apply the Brush one click at a time).

Should the Selection Marquee transcend into (and add colour) to the eyeball or the
eyelashes, (or an incorrect area of your photograph) - as illustrated below.

Change the Brush’s Mode from Add to Selection to Subtract from selection by clicking the Subtract from selection icon highlighted in red below. (Alternatively, press and keep pressed your Alt Key as you apply the Brush).

Then left-click and slowly Contract (shrink) the Selection Marquee so it surrounds just the Iris and Pupil.

Depending on your Start Image, you may to need to work between the Add to Selection and Subtract from Selection Modes until you are happy with the Selection Marquee’s position. If you make an error with the application, step backwards by clicking the top menu’s Undo Arrow and reapply the Brush (IE Selection Marquee).

Applying the Brush one click at a time provides better control.


Mop Up Stray Moving Pixels
If you notice moving Selection Marquee pixels outside of the colourised area, change the Smart Brush Tool’s Mode to Subtract from Selection and remove them.

Add Colour To Different Areas Note
If you would like to add colour to different areas, ensure the Add to selection Mode is active, and carefully paint over (add colour) to additional areas. 

When you are happy with your Colour-popping, from the top menu, choose Select then choose Deselect - Ctrl then D. If you need to edit the Adjustment, then reapply the Selection Marquee by clicking the top menu’s Undo Arrow - and make any final adjustments.

To finish, from the top menu, choose Layer then choose Flatten Image. Congratulations, your Colour-popping Conversion is complete
and is ready to save.

Sharpening Tip
For extra clarity, apply a Sharpening Filter: from the top menu, choose Enhance then select a Sharpening Filter of your choice -
Sharpen Images Tutorial.

Now you are familiar with this technique, you can have lots of fun “colour-popping” photographs.

Wendi E. M. Scarth. 
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