The Capture One Magic Brush is Sorcery: One-Click Complex Selections

The Capture One Magic Brush is Sorcery: One-Click Complex Selections

Over the evolution of photo manipulation and editing there are those features that have come about that truly change not only how we do things, but how quickly, and have us reevaluate what we think is possible; things that seem like magic.

Everyone is familiar with that old adage from Arthur C Clarke that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and in the photo-editing realm things like liquify, cloning, layers, skin tone tool, and HDR Merge are a few that debatably, live up to that. Capture One’s Magic Brush is likely to be added to that list, because it alleviates the burden of one of the most arduous processes in editing: masking. Combined with Capture One’s layer functionality and the ability for its selections to be additive and work in tandem with the software’s color and exposure tools, Magic Brush is a powerhouse.

From left to right we have the original raw file, a mask drawn with one click on the water, a gray scale representation of the mask, and then the final image. Note how the feet in the water were not included in the mask, keeping the skin tones natural.

So What Is the Magic Brush?

Capture One’s Magic Brush is a local adjustment brush that quickly and easily masks areas of similar colors on your photo for editing on an adjustment layer. Essentially, you can create an extremely complex mask on any image within a matter of seconds. You can also create a mask of areas with or without color, like black and white, or shadows and highlights (though the Luma Range tool is probably best for this).

That’s the Cliff’s Notes version, but its applications for almost every genre of photography are far greater than can be fit in a sentence.

That selection, which can be made with a single click, can be further refined to be more or less inclusive of similar hues by changing a few sliders, or the brush tool can be used to add or remove areas of the mask if you wish.

The gray scale on the right shows all the intricate parts of sky that are masked, and this was done with a single click. It would be an extremely tedious and labor-intensive endeavor to accomplish this any other way. 

The Magic Brush has the same default shortcut as the regular Brush tool (B), but you can quickly and easily cycle between them using Shift+B, or of course, you can set up a custom shortcut/hotkey for it. Additionally, you can toggle the "M" key to make your mask visible or invisible.

You will notice if you summon the Brush settings via right-clicking, that there are different adjustment options for the Magic Brush. While Size and Opacity are familiar and rather self-explanatory, you will notice two new sliders and a new checkbox, representing Tolerance, Refine Edge, and "Sample Entire Photo", respectfully.

Tolerance: represents and affects the range of colors included in the mask. Low tolerance (slider to the left) will restrict the colors selected to a very narrow range, and high tolerance (slider to the right) expands the range to include more colors.

Refine Edge: Similarly to Refine Mask, this refers to how hard the edges and fall-off are on the mask. A lower value means a harder edge and the higher value is a smoother one.

Sample Entire Photo: This checkbox controls if the Magic Brush selection will be for the entire image or if it will be restricted by edges.

To see the Magic Brush in action, the following short videos are highly recommended and Capture One’s YouTube has a bevy of content to get you up and running quickly


Of course, there is a lot more to Capture One's Magic Brush that can fit in this article, but check out the videos below to get a taste of it in action. We will continue to teach you how to use Capture One from the ground up, right to the edge of the envelope, so check back often.

And if you want to begin learning immediately, there is already a bevy of tutorials on Capture One’s YouTube channel, and you can download Capture One here with a 30-day free trial.

If you're looking for a fast and effective way to learn Capture One, check out "The Complete Capture One Editing Guide", a five-hour video tutorial taught by Capture One brand Ambassador, Quentin Décaillet.

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Hi Kishore...

Thanks for this written overview of the Magic Brush. I appreciate your taking the time to actually write an informative post instead of posting a few introductory sentences with a link to a video. Wading through videos to get what you need is rarely as informative as reading the written word (IMHO).


I picked up that upgrade path discount from 20 to 22 when its released, cant wait to have the new features on board.

Same. I love v20. I didn't see much need to upgrade. However, with the BF deal and the v22 upgrade, I'll be updating soon.

That’s the beauty of paying for the perpetual too, you don’t have to go in each time.

I love this when selecting skin.

It's like magic when it works, but it seems to work mainly for selections of similar contiguous colours. Selecting more complex objects that have many different shades and colours, doesn't seem to work so well.

It could be just your settings. Do you have an example image?

I'll get back to you on that.

As example, I tried to use the Magic Brush to select the ship in the foreground on this image:

(No, it's not a great image, I know that, don't hold that against me please 😁 )

I didn't manage to use Magic Brush to select this object: always parts were not selected, and often the mask "leaked out" to the environment.

Also, in for instance this image (but not just in this one):

I had problems creating masks on the sky or the lighthouse that didn't "leak out" even when tweaking the sensitivity options.

I see. Just tried it. The ship example has mostly whites, grays, and blacks. And, the lighthouse image is black and white. I think the lack of color in both scenarios is the challenge since Magic Brush goes after colors.

Yeah the JPEG uploaded to Flickr is of course not the best for testing this. Especially with the image converted to B&W. It's just that that is one that recently gave me a bit of trouble that I specifically remembered. Nothing I couldn't work around with that lighthouse shot though -- the boat was more troublesome!

And it just so happens that the boat is mostly blacks and whites by itself.

If I have another more colourful example soon I may reply again here. :)

As is the case in quite a few areas now, teh gap between C1 and lightroom is nothing like as stark as it was - the new subject and sky selection in lightroom is phenomenal, it would be interesting to see how well LR selects what you want in your image

(sorry for late reply) Yeah it might be interesting but I don't have LR so I can't try it out for myself. 😁