by Weston Maggio

Get Started Using the Vibrance Brush in Photoshop

There are a number of ways to adjust color in Photoshop, but when Adobe introduced Vibrance a few years back, it quickly became one of my favorites -- especially when it comes to skin tones. You can think of Vibrance as something of an extension of a Hue/Saturation Adjustment. Vibrance enables you to adjust the saturation of an image while protecting colors as you reach full saturation. Further, Vibrance increases the saturation of less saturated colors more so than colors that are already saturated.

The concept of a Vibrance Brush comes from the application of the adjustment. The ideal—as in most flexible—way to apply a Vibrance adjustment is via Adjustment Layers. This method enables you to selectively apply the adjustment using a layer mask. Another, more down-and-dirty method of applying Vibrance is through the Sponge tool. You give up a bit of control with the Sponge tool, but it’s ease of use is great for speedy applications. Let's take a look at both methods.

To apply a Vibrance Adjustment, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Vibrance. Name your layer in the resulting dialog box, and then make your Vibrance Adjustment in the Properties panel. For example, increase the Vibrance by dragging the Vibrance slider to the right. The result appears globally on your image. Using the associated layer mask, you can use the Brush tool to hold back the effects of this Vibrance by painting black . Alternatively, you can hold-back or mask-out the entire adjustment by filling the layer mask with black. Then, with the Brush tool, paint with white to reveal the adjustment only in the area that you want. Essentially painting on the Vibrance adjustment! With a soft edge brush tip whose opacity control is set to opacity, a pressure sensitive pen provides ultra-precise control of the Vibrance adjustment.

For a fast application of Vibrance, consider the Sponge tool. This is what I call a “straight up” tool -- one right from the toolbox. With the Sponge tool selected, set the mode to Saturate, Flow to 10% and check the Vibrance box. Next (and this is optional), check the Pressure Control button to adjust the size of your brush using pen pressure. Finally, select a soft round brush tip from the Brush Presets panel. Check Transfer and set the Jitter control to Pen Pressure. Now you can subtly paint on Vibrance as needed.

Note: When using the Sponge tool, consider working on a duplicate layer. The Sponge tool manipulates pixels in an irreversible manner. Again, this method is designed for fast, one-time adjustments. For ultimate control, I prefer the Adjustment Layer method.

The next time you have an image in front of you that requires a little color adjustment, consider the Vibrance option. Want to see the two above mentioned methods in action? Check out this video to see some examples.

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