Troubleshooting Lightroom Brushes

lightroom Apr 19, 2021

Having difficulties making the most of your Lightroom brushes? Look no further; you are at the right place. In our latest blog - vlog post, we want to help you troubleshoot your Lightroom brush presets. We will look at the most common issues from the installation process to using the local adjustment presets, including brushes, graduated filters and radial filters.


  1. Installation - Error Message
  2. Installation - Develop Presets vs Local Adjustment Presets
  3. Installation - Wrong Location
  4. Installation - Software Preparation (Photos in Lightroom)
  5. Installation - Application Restart
  6. Use - The Presets Are Not Showing 
  7. Use - Presets Are Not Working - Are the sliders moving?
  8. Use - Presets Are Not Working - Flow & Density
  9. Use - Presets Are Not Working - Auto Mask
  10. Use - On/Off Button

1. Error Message

If you have an error message in Lightroom during the installation/import of your brush presets, you are probably following the wrong installation steps. The installation is a simple copy-paste process and is not done directly into the application. Therefore you shouldn't get any error message. You will have no problem installing your brushes into Lightroom if you are following our step-by-step instructions.

2. Develop Presets vs Local Adjustment Presets

Photo editing in Lightroom involves several kinds of presets. The most common is the Development Presets, Local Adjustment (Adjustment Brush...) Presets and Colour Profiles (Presets). 

  • Development Presets - A Lightroom preset is a configuration of settings designed to achieve a certain look or style of your photo. You install the presets into your Lightroom, and then when you click on a particular preset while in the develop module, the pre-determined (pre-set) settings will apply to that photo.
  • Local Adjustment Presets - Local adjustment tools in Lightroom include the Graduated Filter, Radial Filter and Adjustment Brush. The local adjustment presets are also a configuration of settings designed to achieve a certain look or style of your photo. However, the difference is that it does get applied only locally with the use of the local adjustment tools. You copy your local adjustment presets into the Lightroom's "Local Adjustment Presets" folder and then use them during the editing.
  • Colour Profiles (Presets) - Lightroom profiles are ways to convert your camera’s raw information to the colours and tones we see when we open the image file. Think of it as a base layer. You will find all of your profiles under the ‘Basic’ tab in the ‘Develop’ module. Adding a profile doesn’t shift any of the image adjustment tools in your software in the way a regular preset does. To import a profile, open the ‘Profile Browser’ instead, and click on the + sign next to ‘Profile Browser’, then go to ‘Import Profiles’ and select your downloaded profile .xmp file.

3. Wrong Location

Following the point above, photographers often look for their local adjustment presets in the same location as their development presets (Left "Preset" toolbar in Develop Module). However, these presets are stored in their own toolbar on the right side of the screen, and they only appear when the tool is selected - Graduated Filter (M), Radial Filter (Shift+M) and Adjustment Brush (K). To find them, simply bring up one of the local adjustment tools and click on the drop-down list next to "Effect" on the top of the toolbar.

4. Software Preparation

Some older versions of Lightroom do not allow you to import any presets before at least one photo is imported into the application. Import at least one photo by going into the Library module and clicking on the "Import" button.

5. Application Restart

As trivial as it sounds in 2021, Lightroom does require a restart after completing some importing tasks. This includes your new local adjustment presets. After the installation, close and re-open the application, and the brushes should appear in their dedicated location.

6. The Presets Are Not Showing

Unless there is an application error, we haven't had any customer who wouldn't see their adjustment presets if copied to the correct location. To make sure that you haven't missed anything, check the text above and find out the location of the presets and other installation steps.

7. Presets Are Not Working - Are the sliders moving?

There could be multiple reasons why your local adjustment presets aren't working. The first part of the troubleshooting would be to make sure that the adjustment sliders are moving when selecting different presets. Click on a few presets and see if the adjustment sliders move and change.

  • If the sliders do not move or change, then the preset files could be damaged, and you will have to re-install them.
  • If the adjustment sliders do move, then move to the following point.

8. Presets Are Not Working - Flow & Density

The next step involves the Flow and Density sliders. To explain how the sliders can affect your adjustment brush, we have to understand what both of them do.

  • Flow - The Flow setting will control the speed at which the adjustment is applied with each brush stroke.
  • Density - The Density slider determines the maximum amount of the adjustment that can be applied.

So if the Flow and Density value are on 0, then the brushing effect will not show. You can find both of the sliders at the bottom of the adjustment brush toolbar, and they have a setup value between 0 and 100. For the effect to show, you will need to set them up between 40 - 100 (80 being the most common).

9. Presets Are Not Working - Auto Mask

Lightroom has a tool called Automask that is located inside the Adjustment Brush toolbar. It's intended to help photographers by making their retouching jobs easier, automatically creating a virtual mask that limits adjustments to an automatically selected area. Most photographers don't use this tool. However, if you do, it's important to know that the location and the area of the brush will be affected when this tool is ON.

10. On/Off Button

Most of the tools in the Develop module have an "ON/OFF" button. The button looks like a little black and white switch at the bottom of each tool. This button is designed to allow photographers to toggle between their adjustments and see the before/after look after each tool used during the editing. Remember to have it on when editing/viewing the local adjustment tools.

Free Guide to Lightroom

Lightroom is not a difficult program to learn for beginners, and even with limited experience, you can drastically improve the look of a photo with the most basic Lightroom adjustments. Get our free Complete Guide to Lightroom (Here) and speed up the learning process to start pushing your skills forward today.

The End

That's it for today, but if you ever struggle, make sure to contact us directly, and we will do our best to help.

P.s.: Check out our new Lightroom Brush Bundle here...

#StaySafe - Jakub Bors
@CleverPhotographer | @BorsPhotography

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