Last updated on October 3, 2022
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Introducing local adjustments

DxO PhotoLab local adjustment technology takes your photo editing to the next level by letting you target specific parts of the image, either to highlight a detail or to perform precise touch-ups. Whether it’s to brighten the sky, bring out a backlit subject, or enhance the colors or sharpness of a specific detail, the possibilities are endless.

DxO PhotoLab comes with a wide range of local adjustments in the form of automatic masks, Control Points, Control Lines, Graduated Filters, brushes and an Eraser tool, which you can also combine with different settings on the same image.

Accessing local adjustments

In the Customize tab, once you have used the right-hand palette tools to apply general corrections to your image, you can move on to more specific corrections by clicking on the Local Adjustments button in the upper toolbar. Right-click on the image to open the radial menu.

The radial menu

Radial menu

As its name implies, the radial menu is a circular palette that displays the different types of local adjustment masks available; going clockwise and starting bottom-right the tools are arranged as follows:

Note: The selected mask is shown in blue on the radial menu.

To open the radial menu, right-click anywhere on the image at any time. You cannot move the radial menu with the mouse, but you can display it wherever you want by right-clicking in the desired area.

If you open the radial menu while using a mask tool, you can go back to the active mask by hitting the Escape key on your keyboard. If you press the Escape key a second time, you will exit local adjustments.

The Local Adjustments palette

Integrated into the Basic Tools palette, the Local adjustments sub-palette lets you manage and view your local masks and corrections, either together or individually, and also to alter their overall appearance with an opacity setting or mask inversion.

Each time you create Local adjustment masks by using the brush, graduated filter, automatic mask, or control points/lines, the masks will appear in the sub-palette as part of a list. Regardless of the order, the resulting image is the same.

Mask list

When you move the mouse over the mask list, the line you’re hovering over lights up in the sub-palette, and you will see the mask by itself in the image, whether it is active or not, as the other masks are temporarily hidden. This way you can check which mask in the list corresponds to that used in your image, and which mask to concentrate on for fine-tuning.

Opacity slider

After you make your local adjustments, you can fine-tune the intensity and effect of the corrections with the Opacity slider, which is set to 100 by default. This way, if you find your corrections are a bit too strong, you don’t have to fumble around in the Equalizer to figure out which setting(s) to change or reduce, or (worse) start again from scratch.

Setting the Opacity slider on the Graduated Filter applied to the sky: 100 (top) and 0 (bottom).

Mask selectivity sliders

Example of brightness and color tolerance reduction (bottom right, with the black and white mask).

You can use the Mask Selectivity sliders with Control Points or Control Lines, which allow you to adjust the tolerance range of the color that a Control Point or Control Line covers. This will allow you to include variations of hue and brightness level in your correction (such as in order to take into account variations in skin tones; see example below).

Show/Hide mask

You can enable/disable the display of the blue mask and/or corrections in the following ways:

Inverting the mask

Inverting a graduated filter

The Invert mask button lets you invert a local adjustment and the rest of the image with just a single click. For example, if you make an area darker with the Brush, by clicking on Invert mask the area will return to its original brightness, and the rest of the image will become darker. Another example: if you draw a graduated filter from the top of the image to the bottom, and click Reverse Mask, the graduated filter will be applied from the bottom of the image upwards.

Renaming a mask

Renaming of masks in the list of the Local Adjustments sub-palette.

By default, the masks in the list of the Local adjustments sub-palette are named after the tool used. You can rename a mask whatever you like to help recall, at a glance, what type of correction it is and/or where in the image you have used it, in relation to your workflow for example, etc.

Simply click on the mask name in the list, and enter the new name. There is no need to confirm using the Enter key. To change another name, simply go to the next mask in the list.

On a PC, you can right-click and select Rename from the context menu (you can also press the F2 key).

Changing the name does not change the order of the masks in the list.

Duplicating a mask

Duplicating a mask

Duplicating a mask is a quick way to add a mask that uses the same corrections. There are two ways to do this:

The duplicated mask will be superimposed on the original mask; to move it, click on the disk and drag it with the mouse. You can duplicate a mask as many times as you like; PhotoLab keeps the name of the original mask (which you can change if you wish).

Deleting a mask

To remove a mask from the list, select it by clicking on it in the list, then click on the Remove Mask button in the bottom right corner of the sub-palette. You can also do this via the right-click context menu.

To delete a mask in the image, activate its disk by clicking on it, then press the Delete (PC and Mac) or Backspace (Mac) key.

Using masks

A local adjustment is simply a retouch or correction that you apply to a specific area or element in the image. The retouching is applied on top of any general corrections, which you do using the preset option or the manual and automatic correction tools in the Customize tab.

When you use the Brush, Graduated Filter, Control points, or Automatic Mask, you create a mask over the part of the image you want to retouch, and then you use the Equalizer to make adjustments to the mask. Excluding Control points masks, you can choose to highlight the retouched areas with a blue mask, which makes it easier to see the parts of the image that will be adjusted.

The interface

The interface is very simple and allows you to focus on parts of the image you want to correct without having to search for tools and settings in a palette (you can use the Local adjustments sub-palette for general management of the correction masks). Activate the interface by clicking on the Local adjustments button on the top toolbar, or on the Tool button on the Local Settings sub-palette; use the radial menu (presented in the previous section) to select the mask.

Common interface features

After you select a mask, the interface will display the following common features:

You can perform the following actions using keyboard shortcuts (the shortcuts are visible in the floating help window at the bottom right):

Equalizer

From left to right, the Light, Color and Detail groups.

The correction settings associated with local adjustments are displayed as vertical sliders in the Equalizer. These sliders are divided into three distinct groups – Light, Color and Detail – arranged vertically on the left hand side of the Equalizer.

Light group (from left to right):

Color Group (from left to right):

The Warmth and Hue sliders take into account the image’s overall white balance. This is indicated by the blue buttons; the other buttons are shown in black. You can check the values (displayed in K for warmth and on a scale of –200 to +200 for hue) by hovering over the boxes.

Detail group (from left to right):

When you make an adjustment, only the specific associated scale is displayed, and the Equalizer will be temporarily invisible. To adjust a setting:

The horizontal line represents the setting’s median value. You can undo all Equalizer settings by clicking on the circular arrow to the right. To undo a specific setting, double click on its corresponding vertical bar.

Finally, if the Equalizer is obstructing your view of the adjustments, you can hide it using the E key (PC) or Shift+E (Mac). Unhide it by pressing the same key or key combination.

Toolbar (Mac)

Local adjustments toolbar (top: brush/auto mask/eraser, center: control point/ line, bottom: graduated filter)

When you activate the local adjustments, a toolbar below the image displays a number of options, depending on the tool selected:

Display without cropping (Mac)

The Display without cropping option in the local adjustments toolbar lets you display the entire cropped image, and to position masks (brush, control point, graduated filter, etc.), or to take samples from outside of the frame with the control line eyedropper.

The out-of-frame areas are indicated by a dark translucent mask.

Comparing the image with and without local adjustments

The Reference Image tool in DxO PhotoLab lets you judge your photo with and without local adjustments. This will show you the impact of the local adjustments on your image and help you decide whether you want to make further adjustments.

To see the image with and without local adjustments:

To deactivate the comparison, go back to the Compare menu and uncheck All Corrections Except Local Adjustments.

The brush

When to use the brush

The brush is a mask that lets you retouch parts of the image by simply painting using your mouse pointer (or graphics tablet, trackpad, etc.).

This universal tool lets you perform a range of tasks, including lightening a backlit subject, enhancing the color of a single flower, or increasing the sharpness of a model’s eyes. The applications are endless, especially since the brush lets you paint continuously (e.g. for lightening an entire silhouette) or subject by subject (e.g. highlighting one eye at a time).

You can also create several brush masks in the image.

Activating the brush

Click on the Local Adjustments button in the upper toolbar, right-click on the image to display the radial menu and select the brush tool.

As soon as you have activated local adjustments, you can switch from one of the other tools to the Brush with the keyboard shortcut Shift+B.

Using the brush

The brush tool appears as a blue disk with a brush icon. Click on the part of the image you want to retouch. The active disk for the mask and Equalizer will appear. At this point, you can continue to paint and apply adjustments afterwards, or make your adjustments first and then paint on the image.

Of course, you can use multiple adjustment tools from the Equalizer on the same part of the image. For example, you can lighten an object and also increase its sharpness and micro-contrast.

Brush settings (top: PC, bottom: Mac).

When you use the brush, a blue mask will appear where you’ve applied the tool to help guide you as you retouch the image.

Zoom in for more precision or to paint along an edge. When you are not painting, you can activate or deactivate the blue mask display by clicking on the Display Selected Mask checkbox in the toolbar below the image (macOS only).

Creating and managing masks

You can create as many masks as you want, to retouch specific subjects or to paint separate parts of an image. You can also layer your corrections.

To create a new brush mask, deselect your current mask by clicking inside the circle. Then, place the blue disk with the plus sign wherever you like and then click: a new active mask is created, and you can paint to make your adjustments. To move a Brush Mask within the image, click on the disk of the mask in question, which will automatically activate it, and then drag it with the mouse.

If you want to remove a mask, activate it and then hit backspace (Mac) or the Delete key (PC) on your keyboard.

If you accidently go over an outline or want to fix an error, activate the Eraser by pressing Alt (PC) or Option (Mac), then go back over the active mask. The blue mask helps you see where to erase. You can also adjust the size and feathering.

Finally, to switch back to brush mode, release the Alt/Option key.

Automatic mask

The automatic mask tool lets you paint and apply adjustments in specific areas of the image without going beyond edges, defined by a difference in luminosity, contrast, and color.

Aside from this automatic edge-detection capability, you use it in the same way as the brush. You can even go over an edge, as the adjustment will only be applied inside.

When to use the automatic mask.

You can use the tool to change the color of a vehicle to make it stand out from the surrounding environment, for example. The automatic mask is particularly good for objects or specific elements. To change the appearance of a sky, opt for control points or the graduated filter.

Activating the Automatic Mask

After clicking on the Local Adjustments button in the upper tool bar, right-click inside the image, then click on the Auto Mask feature in the radial menu. You can use the automatic mask on an image that already has other local adjustment masks.

When local adjustments are enabled, you can switch from any of the other tools to the Auto Mask using keyboard shortcut Shift+A.

Using the Automatic Mask

Once activated, the automatic mask tool will turn into a brush with a blue circle with a plus sign in the middle.

Click inside the image to place the mask disk containing a brush with an “A” label. The blue border indicates that it is an active mask.

You can apply adjustments using the Equalizer before or after you paint.

You can also apply brush strokes by clicking several times. Even if you brush outside an element in the image, the correction will generally not go beyond its edges. However, if the correction does go beyond the edge (which can occur if certain parts of the element you are retouching blend into the background), use the keyboard shortcut Alt (PC) or Option (Mac) to activate the Eraser.

If the element is textured, the coverage will not be perfect, so use the brush again if this is the case.

The inner circle (dark blue) defines the automatic mask.
The outer circle (light blue) detects the edges.
From left to right: drawing an Auto Mask / Edge detection / Mask displayed / Mask actually active (not displayed)

The outer circle (light blue) detects the edges.

Left to right: Auto Mask outline / Edge detection / Mask display / Effective Mask (not displayed).

You can adjust the size of the brush with the mouse wheel by holding down Ctrl (PC) or Cmd (Mac).

To view the active mask, check Display Selected Mask in the toolbar below the image.

You cannot use the automatic mask brush to apply a feathered effect.

Managing Automatic Masks

To delete an automatic mask, activate it by clicking on the disk and then pressing the Enter key. If you need to create a separate automatic mask, first deselect the active mask by clicking on the disk, then click on the desired location in the image.

Finally, just as with the Brush, you can move the Auto Mask around the image by clicking on the disk to activate it and then dragging it with the mouse.

Control Point

Control point technology is now available in DxO PhotoLab.

This is a local adjustment tool with a special function: when the user clicks on the image to set a control point, the tool will take brightness, contrast and color characteristics of the pixels where the control point is placed into account, in order to apply the correction across pixels with the same characteristics within a user-defined radius.

For example, if you place a control point on a bright red mug with a contrasting background and adjust the area so that it includes the mug, the corrections will only be applied to the mug, and not to the background.

If the image contains another red object and you don’t include it in the defined area, the second object will remain unchanged. However, if you include it within the defined area, it will be affected by the same changes that are applied to the red mug. If you apply another control point mask to the object, any adjustments you make will not affect the first control point mask.

When to use control points

Control points let you make selective adjustments to areas defined by the control point’s radius of action, without affecting portions of the image that are either outside the radius of action or within the radius of action but concerning pixels with different characteristics from those covered by the control point.

You can also use Control points and Control lines in the same mask.

This also applies to Protection Control points and lines.

Activating Control points

As with the other local adjustment tools, first click on the Local Adjustments button in the upper toolbar, then right-click in the image to display the radial menu. Click on the “Control Point” icon.

If you are already working with local adjustment tools, right-click in the image to display the radial menu, then select Control Point. You can apply as many control point masks as you want. You can also use them in an image that already has other types of local adjustment masks. 

Once you have activated local adjustments, you can switch from one of the other tools to Control Points using the keyboard shortcut Shift+C.

Using Control points

After you activate a control point mask, the mouse pointer changes to crosshairs when you roll over the image. Click inside an area or on a part of the image that you want to correct. The control point mask is represented by a disk with a plus sign in the middle and a larger surrounding circle. As with the other tools, the blue border indicates an active mask.

Control points can be interconnected, allowing you to apply the same correction to several places in the image. To do this with the active mask, click on the image as many times as you want. Secondary control points are represented by a simple crosshair icon and a circle indicating the area where changes will be applied (you can adjust the size for each secondary control point separately). Apply the desired adjustment using the Equalizer. The effect will be applied to all control point masks belonging to the same mask — that is, to the first control point and to all its secondary control points.

Note that you will need to create a new control point mask each time you want to apply a different adjustment.

Adjust the area covered by the control points by clicking on the outside circle with the mouse and then using the Equalizer to apply the settings you want.

Moving control points

Click on the central disk to drag a control point to wherever you want.

Displaying the mask in grayscale

To better visualize the corrections and settings made with the active control point, you can activate a grayscale mask by hitting M (PC) or Shift+M (Mac).

Once you’ve activated the mask, the content of the active control point is displayed in monochrome. The areas and elements most affected by the correction are white, the unaffected areas are black and the variations in gray indicate the areas more or less affected. This lets you see and control the applied control point corrections with much greater precision.

Protecting part of an image

You can apply a protective Control Point, which prevents another Control Point from applying its correction to a portion of the image. In the toolbar below the image, click on the Control Point icon with the “–” (minus) sign, then click to place the protective Control Point where you want it. Make your corrections with the Equalizer: they will not be applied to the protected area.

You can also combine one or more protective Control points with a Control line.

Control Line

Control Lines use the same principles as Control Points, and to some extent, the same principles as the Graduated Filter, with the advantage of covering the entire width of the image. Pixel analysis is not done with a Control Point, but with an eyedropper that you move around the mask to select the portions of the image to be corrected.

A good example is correcting a blue sky with clouds. If you are using Control Points, you will need to place several of them and make sure they overlap and are grouped together to ensure a consistent correction. With the Control Line, you simply draw it over the entire sky and then, with the reference dropper, click on the blue sky so that the correction is applied evenly to that portion of the image.

Activating a Control line

First, click the Local adjustments button, in the top toolbar, and then right-click in the image to show the radial menu. Click on the Control Line icon.

If you are working with local adjustments, right-click on the image to display the radial menu, then select Control Line. You can apply as many Control Lines as you like, and combine them with other local adjustment masks, except for the Eraser.

Using Control lines

After activating the Control line in the radial menu, go to the image. The mouse pointer changes to a “+”, and all you have to do is draw the Control line so that it covers the portion of the image to be corrected. The Control line is located between two dashed lines. The bottom line can be tilted or moved to increase or decrease the size of the area to be corrected.

Select the reference area using the eyedropper near the disk: grab it with the mouse and drag it to wherever you want in the image. Then all you need do is make your corrections with the Equalizer.

Moving the Control Line

You can move a Control line by grabbing its disk. You can move the eyedropper at the same time, even if you have positioned it somewhere else, by pressing the Ctrl (PC) or Cmd (Mac) key.

Displaying the gray mask

To better visualize the corrections and adjustments made with the active Control Line, use a grayscale mask, activated with the M (PC) or Shift+M (Mac) keys, or by checking Show mask, below the image. 

The white areas indicate the maximum level of correction, the uncorrected areas are black, and the gray variations indicate the various intensities of the corrections. This allows you to see the reference areas and corrections applied using the Control Lines with greater precision.

Protecting part of an image

Just like with Control points, you can apply a protective Control line that prevents another Control line from applying a correction to a location in your image. To do this, in the toolbar below the image, click on the Control line icon with the “–” (minus) sign, then draw the line in the image and use the eyedropper to sample the reference area to be protected. Then make your corrections using the Equalizer, they will not be applied to the protected area.

You can also combine one or more protective Control points with a Control line.

Graduated Filter

When to use the Graduated Filter

The graduated filter simulates the effect of an optical graduated filter fitted to a lens. They are especially useful for balancing the exposure of landscape photos and reducing the extreme contrast between a brightly lit sky and dark ground.

 

Activating the Graduated Filter

To activate the Graduated Filter, click the local adjustments button in the top toolbar. Then, right-click in the image to show the radial menu and click on the graduated filter icon.

When local adjustments are enabled, you can switch from any of the other tools to the graduated filter using the Shift+G keyboard shortcut.

Applying the Graduated Filter

Once you’ve activated the graduated filter, the mouse pointer changes to a cross (Mac) or to a gradient icon (PC). Position it at the top of the image, then move the mouse down.

The graduated filter includes the following elements:

To apply corrections, use the sliders on the Equalizer. You can layer several graduated filters in the same area with a new adjustment each time, or simply combine several corrections in the same graduated filter.

Managing the Graduated Filter

Protecting part of the image from the graduated filter effect

When applying a graduated filter to an image, e.g. to darken or enhance the sky, you will not want the effect to apply in equal measure to all other elements, such as buildings, landscapes, statues, etc. below it.

You can use the Eraser to remove the graduated filter effect from these elements.

Once you’ve finished with the eraser, go back to the active graduated filter by right-clicking in the image, then clicking on Graduated Filter in the radial menu.

Eraser

The eraser lets you refine your local adjustments and correct any errors — for example, if you go over the edges of an object with the brush or the automatic mask. You can also delete or add adjustments depending on the type of mask you’ve selected.

Note: To see examples of using the Eraser with other local adjustment tools, refer to the paragraphs (sections) concerned.

Activating the Eraser

There are two ways to activate the eraser:

In the first case, the mouse pointer turns into an eraser. To change its size, use the mouse wheel while holding down Ctrl (PC) or Cmd (Mac). Hold down the Shift key and use the mouse wheel to change the feathering effect.

Using the Eraser

Select a mask by clicking on its disk. To better see where to apply the eraser, activate the blue mask by checking Display Selected Mask in the toolbar below the image.

Apply the eraser to the local adjustments you want to modify or alter. If you erase an adjustment by mistake, temporarily switch to addition mode by clicking while holding down the Alt key (PC) or Option key (Mac). This will allow you to restore the adjustment. If you want to edit it, you can change the settings in the Equalizer.

To erase something in a different mask, deactivate the active mask (click the disk), then activate the other mask (click the disk to turn the edge blue).

Reminder: The Eraser is always available with the Brush and Auto Mask, by pressing the Alt key (PC) or Option (Mac).

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