How to use the Affinity Photo Undo Brush Tool

by Mar 16, 2021Photo Editing Tutorials

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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How to use the Affinity Photo Undo Brush Tool

In this tutorial, we are looking at how the Affinity Photo Undo Brush Tool works. We will do this using an example where we selectively edit a landscape photograph. You can use this technique as a possible alternative to using Layer Masks.

Initial Editing in Affinity Photo

Before we can use the Undo Brush Tool, we need to apply some adjustments to an image. That’s because the Undo Brush Tool allows you to paint in a point from your editing history.

We’ll be using a simple landscape photo for this example which you can see below.

Starting image prior to editing in Affinity Photo

After opening the image in Affinity Photo, we will apply some adjustments in the Photo Persona.

The first is to add a Levels Adjustment layer. We can then adjust the Black, White and Gamma points for the image. You can see the adjustment together with the effect on the image below.

Image with Levels Adjustment Applied

Next, let’s create a new consolidated layer by selecting “Layer | Merge Visible” from the Affinity Photo menu. This creates a new layer by consolidating all the other layers in the image. We can then rename the new layer “Color Efex Pro” before adjusting it with Nik Color Efex (this tutorial explains how to add the Nik Collection as a plugin in Affinity Photo).

After that, we can create another new consolidated layer called Nik Viveza. We can then adjustment that layer using Nik Viveza. You can see the result below together with the layers in the Layers Studio Panel.

Image following initial adjustments

If you want to see how the adjustments were applied in the Nik Collection, watch the video later in this tutorial.

Understanding the History Panel

Whilst making these changes, Affinity Photo has been recording them in the history list. If we open the History Studio Panel, we can see the full editing history.

Affinity Photo History Studio Panel

The History Studio Panel lists all the changes to the image with the most recent at the bottom, which is highlighted in blue. Each new change is then added to the bottom of the list. To return to an earlier point in the editing history scroll through the list and then click on a point to select it.

You can also use the position slider at the top of the panel to move through each point in the editing history. As you do this you will see the image preview change to reflect the selected point. This is useful because it allows you to see how the image changes and to better judge if you’ve taken an adjustment too far. What I found when reviewing my changes in this example is that I like the adjusted trees and the field (where the sun is falling) but I prefer the mist in the starting image. This is an ideal situation to use the Affinity Photo Undo Brush Tool so we can merge the two editing points together.

Using the Undo Brush Tool, we can set an undo point to in the editing history. To do this click the small camera icon to the left of the History Studio Panel. After setting the point you can paint that history point into selected areas of the image rather than the entire image. Let’s look at the process in a bit more detail.

Select the Undo Brush Tool

When in the Affinity Photo Person, you’ll find the Undo Brush Tool in the Tools Palette. The icon shows a paintbrush with a curves arrow.

Affinity Photo Undo Brush Tool in the Tools Palette

Click this to select the Undo Brush Tool and you will see the usual brush controls appear in the Context Sensitive Toolbar, along the top of the interface. These allow you to set the size and hardness of the brush along with the Opacity and Flow. For this tutorial, I’ll assume you know how to use these controls.

Setting a Snapshot

The next step in the process is to set the history point. For this example, we’ll set the point to be the final point of editing in the history list after adding all the adjustments.

We can then move the history position to the starting point in the history using the position slider. We then see the image as it was at the start of the editing.

We can then use the Undo Brush Tool to paint over the areas of the image where we want the editing to appear. In this example, the trees and field.

Painting in the history point using the Undo Brush Tool

The downside to this approach is that as you start to paint, the editing history vanishes in the history list. And whilst the Undo Brush Tool continues to work, you lose your control over the history. A less risky approach is to use Snapshots.

Snapshots and the Undo Brush Tool

Instead of setting the Undo Brush history point in the history list, take a snapshot of it in the Snapshot Studio Panel. You can take a snapshot by clicking on the add snapshot icon (1).

Snapshot Studio Panel

You can then set the Undo Brush history point by clicking the camera icon (2).

Finally, restore the Background snapshot. This sets the editing back to the starting image, and adds a step to “Restore the Snapshot” to the end of the history list. This preserves the history but also allows you to paint in the adjusted snapshot using the Undo Brush.

If you want to see how this is done, watch the following video which also includes the Nik Collection editing mentioned earlier.

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You can also watch this video on my YouTube channel. I publish a new video every week, often based on subscribers’ requests and feedback. Subscribe to my YouTube channel now and be sure not to miss future videos.

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Summary

In this tutorial we’ve looked at how to use the Affinity Photo Undo Brush Tool. You can use this as an alternative to more complex layer masks, when making selective adjustments to an image. We’ve also covered a possible problem you might encounter when using the Undo Brush Tool with the History Studio Panel and how you can resolve this with Snapshots.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to watch the video. It contains a lot of additional information.

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