Photoshop Basics: Dodge & Burn, Part II

Before and After: this 'non-destructive' method for burning and dodging does a beautiful, subtle job. (Copyright 2011 / Marigny Boyd)

Before and After: this 'non-destructive' method for burning and dodging does a beautiful, subtle job. (Copyright 2011 / Marigny Boyd)

In Part I of our tutorial for Photoshop dodging and burning, we looked at the traditional way of accomplishing this basic digital darkroom technique, as well as a tweak that involved the Lab Lightness color space. Today we’ll examine a newer method that involves layers to produce the effect, without actually manipulating the pixels of the original image (and thus, ‘non-destructive’ in its approach).

A DIFFERENT ‘NONDESTRUCTIVE’ APPROACH

This second, newer method is a way to burn and dodge that’s become available in the newer versions of Photoshop now on the market. It involves creating a new layer on top of your original image and doing the work on that layer, thus not actually altering the pixels of the original version. I’ll explain how to do it now:

STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS

Starting with the same image, I would first still run my basic Levels adjustment:

A Levels adjustment is always the first place to begin when toning an image. (Copyright 2011 / Marigny Boyd)

A Levels adjustment is always the first place to begin when toning an image. (Copyright 2011 / Marigny Boyd)

Then, go to Layer>New Layer. When the New Layer dialogue box comes up, change the Mode from ‘Normal’ to  ‘Soft Light’. Check ofF the box for  ‘Fill with Soft-Light-neutral color (50% gray)’. Click the OK button.

Setting up the proper parameters for the burn/dodge layer. (Copyright 2011 / Marigny Boyd)

Setting up the proper parameters for the burn/dodge layer. (Copyright 2011 / Marigny Boyd)

Now select the Brush tool. Check the Brush size and opacity—start with an opacity of 30% or so—and click the foreground/background selector at the bottom of the Tools tab to make white the foreground color.

Make certain that you select the BRUSH tool, not the Burn or Dodge tool, at this point. (Copyright 2011 / Marigny Boyd)

Make certain that you select the BRUSH tool, not the Burn or Dodge tool, at this point. (Copyright 2011 / Marigny Boyd)

You'll be impressed with how cleanly this technique works. (Copyright 2011 / Marigny Boyd)

You'll be impressed with how cleanly this technique works. (Copyright 2011 / Marigny Boyd)

Now you can click and drag the brush around the part of the image you want to lighten. If you have areas that need burning as well, click the Foreground/Background color swatch again to put the black swatch on top. Now, with the same 30% opacity selected as your starting point, click and drag over the parts of the image that are too light. I promise that you’ll be amazed at the results! If you need a bit more burn or dodge, change the opacity—making it 45% or 50%–and click and drag again over the same area.

If you find that the burn or dodge is still insufficient, you can just create another new layer with the same parameters and add another level of burn/dodge to what you’ve already done. The original image is still untouched, down below the layers that you’ve created.

My suggestion for saving this type of file: save out the layered version as a Photoshop file. I usually include the word ‘layers’ in the file name, so I won’t confuse it with a flattened version.

Now create a duplicate of the file by going to ‘Image>Duplicate’. Name the new version something slightly different, flatten this version (‘Layer>Flatten Image’) and let this be your working file to print, email, etc.

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Related articles on the web:

Non-destructive dodge and burn at photoshopessentials.com

Dodge or burn areas at help.adobe.com

Photoshop Dodge and Burn at Youtube.com

Posted in: Photoshop

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

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