3 Easy Options For Using Dodge and Burn In Photoshop


Dodge and burn are one of the most commonly used tools in Photoshop. They lighten or darken specific areas of an image, which can help you emphasize or conceal certain parts of the scene you’re editing. It doesn’t matter what genre of photography you shoot –dodge and burn are equally helpful in post-processing portraits, landscapes, various products and abstract images.

There are many ways to use dodge and burn within Photoshop – we’re going to cover the 3 most common ones! You should try them out and see what works best for you.

Photo by Olha Zaika

1. Dodge And Burn Tools

These tools are quite straightforward and easy to use, but if you’re not an experienced photographer, there’s one thing you have to learn before using these tools. No matter what kind of editing you plan to do, you should stick to non-destructive editing. This means that you should make edits to a photo in a separate layer so both the edited image and the original one are saved. In this way, you can easily go back to the original image if needed.

To begin editing with dodge & burn, you should create a duplicate layer of your background. Once you’ve done that, you have to pick the tool (either dodge or burn) and select what you want to alter – mid-tones, shadows or highlights. You should pick the proper brush size and work on the desired areas of your image until you’re happy with the result.

Feel free to experiment with blending modes as well (the ones in the duplicate layer of your background) – there are 27 of them to choose from!

Blending modes in Photoshop – Photo by Dave

2. 50% Gray Layer

This method is a bit more complicated – it involves using black and white brushes on a 50% gray layer to achieve the effect you want.

In order to do this, you need to create a new layer, fill it with 50% gray, set the blending mode to overlay and then duplicate the layer so that you have two separate layers – one for dodging and one for burning. Of course, you can do both processes on the same layer, but in that case, it will be harder to alter them in a precise way.

Once you have created these layers, you just need to grab a white brush to do dodging and a black brush to do burning. This method can be very useful in case you have to do very complicated dodging and burning and you need a lot of control over every stroke you make.

Using 50% gray layer – Photo by Gabriel Silverio

3. Curves

The last method deals with using curves and it’s not overly complicated, even though it can be a little tricky if you’re not familiar with the curves adjustment in Photoshop. Stick to the first method if you’re still a newbie when it comes to photo editing.

If you want to lighten the parts of your image with this method, you need to bring the midpoint of the curves up (under RGB), invert the layer mask color to black and use the brush on the areas you want to dodge. To do the opposite, you should stick to the same procedure but you have to bring the midpoint of the curves down instead of up.

You should also make sure not to bring the midpoints far away from the center because the effect will be too harsh and your edited image will look rather unnatural. It’s best to keep both dodging and burning very subtle. You can easily make your alterations even more subtle by reducing the opacity of the layer (or layers) with dodging and burning.

Using curves – Photo by Gabriel Silverio

To learn more about dodge and burn tools, check out the links below!

Further Reading:

  1. Dodging And Burning In Photoshop And How It Can Enhance Your Photos
  2. 7 Expert Editing Tricks For Portraits
  3. Simple Dodge & Burn In Photoshop
  4. The Ultimate Guide To The Dodge & Burn Technique
  5. Mastering Dodge And Burn In Photography
  6. Popular Tools In Photoshop: Dodge And Burn

About Author

Jasenka is a photographer with a background in web design. You can find out more about her on her website, see some of her newest images at 500px or get to know her better here.

The Curves method seems much more complicated than the previous techniques that you discussed. Is there a reason to use the Curves method? Is there an advantage that you don’t have with the other two ways? Thanks in advance.

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