How to Dodge and Burn in Photoshop

How to Dodge and Burn in Photoshop

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Dodge and Burn, arguably one of the most invaluable tools in Photoshop, involves manipulating areas of an image to either darken or lighten them. This technique serves to enhance your visuals by creating a sense of depth and directing the viewer’s attention. This article, Innovature BPO will help you gain a better understanding of the Dodge and Burn technique in Photoshop and upgrade your skill level in Photo Retouching.

What do Dodge And Burn involve within a darkroom setting?

Burning is a photo editing technique that involves strategically reducing the exposure levels within specific sections of an image.

By meticulously darkening chosen areas, burning enables you to emphasize shadows, enrich contrasts, and accentuate mood and texture. This deliberate manipulation of exposure contributes to a more nuanced and visually captivating result, enhancing the overall depth and drama of your photograph.

Dodging is another powerful method in the realm of photo manipulation. It entails selectively increasing the exposure within designated portions of an image.

By carefully brightening these targeted areas, dodging serves to draw attention, highlight intricate details, and amplify the visual impact. This approach can be particularly beneficial in accentuating the finer points of your composition, imbuing it with a sense of vibrancy and radiance that captures the viewer’s gaze. Whether used individually or in conjunction, Dodge And Burn techniques offer a versatile toolkit for elevating the artistic essence and narrative potency of your photographic creations.

Dodge And Burn is a technique that originated in the black-and-white darkroom. Its primary purpose was to add interest to images that could otherwise appear flat. In many cases, black-and-white photos lacked contrast and appeared lifeless when printed. However, by employing Dodging and Burning, it became possible to enhance these photos, making certain areas more prominent and features stand out.

By applying Dodge And Burn to selected areas of an image, you can lighten or darken them. When we view a photograph, our brains naturally direct our gaze toward lighter areas and away from darker ones. Understanding this subconscious behavior allows us to direct the viewer’s attention. However, there is more to it.

Our eyes also detect differences in tone when passing over areas where the tones are similar. This is how we perceive detail and depth. If the subjects in an image have a similar tone to their background, we tend to overlook them. Similarly, if the entire image consists of very similar tones, our eyes wander across it without anything capturing our attention. By selectively applying Dodge And Burn, we can introduce depth to our photos and create separation between subjects.

In the traditional darkroom, dodging involved decreasing the exposure of a specific area. This was typically done by placing an object between the light source and the photographic paper during the exposure process. As a result, the area would receive less exposure and appear lighter in the final print. On the other hand, burning was the opposite of dodging and involved applying additional exposure to an area that might otherwise appear too light.

The terms “burning” and “dodging” originated from darkroom techniques used in the printing process to control the exposure of selected areas of an image. In modern digital editing with tools like Photoshop, similar techniques are used, but with enhanced precision and control over the process.

When to use Burn and Dodge

When we capture a photograph, we essentially create a two-dimensional image. However, to enhance its aesthetic appeal, it’s crucial to make it appear as three-dimensional as possible. One way to achieve this is by adjusting the brightness and contrast of the image. However, relying solely on the Brightness and Contrast adjustments in Photoshop can often result in an artificial-looking image. This is where the techniques of Dodge And Burn come in handy. They allow us to make subtle yet effective changes that can alter the shape and form of an image.

The two images above are identical, except for the fact that the image on the right has undergone burning and dodging, creating a sense of three-dimensionality in what is, in reality, a two-dimensional image.

You can observe precisely how this was accomplished in the ‘Dodging and Burning‘ Photoshop class.

These techniques can be applied to any image and, as you can see, they are particularly valuable for enhancing the perception of depth. By selectively lightening and darkening specific areas of an image, it is also possible to guide the viewer’s gaze through the composition.

How to Dodge And Burn in Photoshop

Frequently, the need for retouching to eliminate imperfections like pimples does not necessarily demand using the Clone or Healing Brush tools. In reality, numerous flaws like these can be effectively addressed through the techniques of Dodge and Burn in Photoshop. The approach to Dodge and Burn in Photoshop can vary based on your proficiency. Each method carries its unique merits and drawbacks, necessitating your exploration and experimentation to determine the most suitable technique for your preferences.

Utilizing the Dodge and Burn tool

The Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop offer a straightforward approach to burning and dodging. To utilize these tools, select the desired tool and adjust the brush, range (Midtones, Shadows, or Highlights), and exposure settings from the options bar. Once you have configured these settings, simply brush over the area you wish to darken or lighten.

This method is particularly useful for beginners in Photoshop due to its simplicity and ease of understanding. However, I generally do not recommend relying solely on this method because there are more precise and effective techniques available for burning and dodging.

One drawback of using these tools is that they operate in a destructive manner, directly modifying the image. To perform nondestructive editing, it is advisable to work on a new or duplicate layer. This approach not only allows for greater control but also enables you to make adjustments later on if needed.

Destructive editing refers to making changes directly to the original file, resulting in permanent modifications. Once you surpass the limit of the History panel, these changes become irreversible.

On the other hand, nondestructive editing involves making alterations without directly modifying the original file. Software like Lightroom and Capture One enable nondestructive editing, while Photoshop allows for both destructive and nondestructive editing. In Photoshop, nondestructive editing methods include utilizing adjustment layers, converting layers to smart objects, nondestructive cropping, and employing masks. These techniques allow for greater flexibility and the ability to revert or modify adjustments without permanently altering the original file.

Applying Dodge and Burn adjustments via curves

This is an approach to burning and dodging because it offers superior precision compared to the Burn and Dodge tools, and it is also non-destructive. However, it does require familiarity with working with layers and masks.

This technique involves creating two new Curves adjustment layers—one for brightening and one for darkening—and applying a mask to each of them. By inverting the masks and using the Brush tool, you can selectively reveal the desired Curves adjustments on the image.

The process is clearly demonstrated in the ‘Burning and Dodging’ Photoshop class.

One advantage of this method is that you can create an action to generate Dodge and Burn layers, saving you time. Alternatively, you can download pre-made Dodge and Burn layers to expedite the process even further. It is also a highly precise retouching method since you have control over the Brush settings, layer opacity, and the ability to modify the Curves adjustments even after they have been created.

Employing selections for Dodge and Burn enhancements

This method enables you to make precise adjustments to specific areas of an image. By utilizing a selection tool, you can easily choose the desired region for editing and create a new adjustment layer. This provides you with the flexibility to modify the adjustment settings to achieve the desired effect. Similarly to the previous method, you can control the opacity of the layer and make adjustments as needed even after its creation.

Utilizing the Soft Light blend mode

The fourth method involves creating a new layer and selecting either the Soft Light or Overlay Blend Mode. To do this, navigate to Layer > New > Layer. In the New Layer dialogue box, choose either Soft Light or Overlay blend mode. Once the new layer is created, you can utilize the Brush tool with white or black to paint over the area you wish to dodge or burn, respectively. However, I personally find this method slower compared to using Curves for dodging and burning.

Soft Light blend mode, which is part of the contrast blend group, darkens or lightens the colors of an image based on the blend color applied with the brush.

Overlay blend mode, also part of the contrast blend group, multiplies or screens the colors (depending on the base color), enhancing the overall contrast of the image.

Useful tips for effectively utilizing the Dodge and Burn Tools

To effectively utilize the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop, it is recommended to begin by creating an editing plan. This can be done by sketching a line drawing of your photo and determining the specific areas you wish to darken or lighten. For each of these areas, consider whether you want to apply the effect to the highlights, shadows, or midtones.

While this approach may initially seem time-consuming, it proves to be immensely helpful in comprehending how to enhance your photo. Alternatively, you can draw directly onto an empty layer within the image, as demonstrated below, to achieve the same effect.

Tip 1: Optimize Dodging and Burning with Layer Techniques

To apply the Photoshop Dodge and Burn tools effectively, it is recommended to use a copy of the image layer. These tools directly affect the pixels of the image, making them destructive in nature. If you wish to make adjustments to them in future editing sessions, using them on a separate layer becomes essential. This approach also grants you control over the effect by adjusting the layer’s opacity and blending mode.

The most efficient way to create a new layer for Dodging and Burning is by utilizing the keyboard shortcut Shift + Ctrl + Alt + E (Shift + Option + Command + E for Mac users). Pressing these keys together generates a “Stamp Layer,” which duplicates all the visible layers in the image and flattens them into a new layer. Ensure that you click on a visible layer at the top of the Layers Window before using the keystrokes to ensure their functionality.

Tip 2: Customize Settings Instead of Relying on Defaults

The default strength of the Photoshop Dodge and Burn tools is often too intense. Using them at their default strength can potentially damage your results. It is advisable to begin with an exposure strength between 3% and 5%. This enables you to gradually and naturally build up the Dodging and Burning effect.

In short, take your time and avoid rushing!

Tip 3: Exercise Prudent Precision in Application

It is quite easy to overdo the Photoshop Dodge and Burn tools, resulting in areas of your image becoming completely black or white, depending on the tool used. This can create an unappealing appearance and is often challenging to detect while you are working on the image. The issue may only become noticeable when you revisit the image later.

A useful method to check for loss of detail is to add a threshold layer to the top of your image layers in the Layers Window. You can accomplish this by selecting “Layers > New Adjustment Layer > Threshold…” from the menu. This action will display a black-and-white version of your image, as shown below.

Next, you can adjust the threshold slider in the Properties window. As you move the slider, the display will change to reveal pixels that are lighter or darker than the slider setting. Darker pixels will appear as black, while lighter pixels will be white.

We recommend checking two values: 8 and 249. When you set the threshold slider to 8, observe for large areas that appear darker than this value. If such areas exist, you may have made them too dark or should avoid further darkening. Use the slider value of 249 to identify large white areas. While these values of 8 and 249 may not represent pure black and white, they are dark and light enough to appear as such on a screen or in a print.

Once you finish checking the threshold levels, click on the eye icon to the left of the layer in the Layers Window to toggle its visibility off. You can then continue working on your image until you wish to recheck it again.

Attaining proficiency in utilizing the Dodge and Burn Tools within Photoshop

It is essential to understand that the Photoshop Dodge and Burn Tools function as Brush Tools. The Burn Tool darkens areas of the image, while the Dodge Tool lightens them. When you select either tool, the controls appear in the Context Sensitive toolbar at the top of the screen.

The toolbar provides various settings that may be familiar if you have used other Photoshop Brush Tools. Both the Dodge and Burn tools share the same controls:

  1. Tool Preset: You can configure the Dodge and Burn tools and save the configuration as a Tool Preset for future use.
  2. Brush Size and Hardness: These settings allow you to adjust the size and hardness of the brush tip. For most dodging and burning tasks, a regular soft, round brush works well.
  3. Range: The Range dropdown enables you to target specific tonal ranges with the brush. You can choose from Highlights, Midtones, and Shadows. Painting with the Dodge and Burn tools affects only the selected tonal range.
  4. Exposure: This control determines the strength of the effect. Higher values produce a stronger effect.
  5. Airbrush: Clicking this icon toggles the airbrush effect on and off. When the airbrush effect is on, the adjustment gradually builds up on an area until it reaches the value set by the Exposure slider. While it can help with blending the effect, many prefer to paint with a single brushstroke.
  6. Protect Tones: Enabling this option prevents the Dodge and Burn tools from affecting the saturation of the painted area. Without it, using the Burn tool to darken an area would also increase its saturation. Protecting tones ensures that the Burn tool won’t impact saturation.
  7. Pressure Controls: This option is applicable when using a graphics tablet with a pressure-sensitive pen, allowing you to control the effect based on pen pressure.

This comprehensive article provides a detailed overview of the significance of Dodge and Burn techniques in Photoshop, exploring their importance and showcasing various techniques for achieving desired effects in image editing.

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