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  • Writer's pictureCarl Mckie

Using Lightroom’s spray can

Updated: Sep 3, 2022

The spray can or painter tool in Lightroom is more useful than people realise. Available to keyword multiple images, star rate or assign labels quickly and easily. What it doesn’t actually do is paint, not in the normal sense of the word, but it paints assets, such as the afore mentioned.

Found on the tool bar under the viewing area (if the tool bar is hidden hit the “T” key to bring it back), if the paint can is not visible the small drop down arrow at the right hand end of the tool bar will bring a fly out menu up and the paint can, once ticked on this menu will appear on the tool bar. (Fig 1)

Once active the paint can has several options-(fig 2), including keyword, rating, metadata, flagging, image rotation and the ability to add to target collection. Some of these tasks are probably just as easy to undertake through other tools or shortcuts, but as with many things in Lightroom there are numerous ways of doing most things and it is handy to know that if you are already in the paint tool you can jump straight into the next task without having to put it down and pick up a new tool.

Once you have activated the tool, using it couldn’t be easier. Next to the can is a menu box with the list of jobs that can be undertaken –select the job -click an image to apply the job you have selected to that individual image, click and hold (hold the mouse button down ) while moving over a number of images will apply the job to those images. If you make a mistake hold the ALT or Option key down and click again, this will remove the key word, label, rotation or whatever job you had just applied (to the image or multiple images ,if applied to multiple images)

Key wording is first on the list and in my opinion the most useful. Next to the job menu box is a type dialogue box, this is where you can type a keyword in, once typed here any image you click (spray) will have that keyword or phrase added to it. Now by the side of the type dialogue box you will notice an eye dropper, hold the shift key and click on this and it will bring up a box containing key words from your key word sets, (fig 3) along with the ability to select the set you want to allocate keywords from—nice!

Select the label from the menu and a selection of the colour labels appear next to the can icon, select the colour you wish to assign and click the image to apply it, or click and hold to apply to multiple files.

Flags, options for flag, un flag and rejected, no different than the P U X shortcut keys, handy if you are already in the spray can tool. Again holding the Alt Option key removes the flag

Rating, allows you to select the number of stars and apply to selected images, although I personally find the number keys 1 through to5 quicker than this tool it is again handy to know you can do it this way

The metadata option works by using any metadata presets that you have created in the metadata tab, again not something I find that useful as I apply a metadata preset to all images on import, and assume that most people would do it this way, but if you use more than one preset or have missed a batch of images it is straight forward to apply here

Settings , this gives you access to all the presets you may have loaded into Lightroom as well as the ones that come bundled in with it, applying them is simply selecting the preset and click on the image( or click and hold over several images) to apply, and again holding the Alt or Option key removes the preset

Rotation can be useful, but you can also have rotation handles in the tool bar or on the image frames themselves, so another way of doing a job that is only really handy if you are already in the tool itself. Options in the menu are rotate right, left, flip horizontal or vertical

Finally the target collection-no more or less useful than the “B” key shortcut normally utilised for this job, may be a little quicker if you are selecting groups of images – dose what it says and adds the selected image to (by default) the quick collection, or whichever collection you have assigned as the target collection ( done by right clicking on the collection and selecting set as target collection option)


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