The Better Burn And Dodge Tool

In this post we will go over a more controlled way to burn and dodge your images. Simply stated burning selectively darkens areas in your image and dodging selectively lightens areas in your image. It is very easy to over do these techniques and realize while working you’ve gone too far and the end result looks bad. The burn and dodge tools in the tool menu are not too sophisticated and editing your errors is a mess… going back and forth in the history palette would make anyone crazy.

This technique uses a very soft brush and black and white paint. The work is all done in a layer above your image and is incredibly editable.

This is the image we will be using for this demo.

Burning and dodging  can be used in a corrective fashion as well as a tool to enhance and bring focus to the subject in the image. The biggest mistake is trying to lighten or darken areas in an image where there’s no detail…all you will get is mush.

Step 1. Create a new layer above your background layer.

Step 2. Go to the edit drop down menu and click on FILL. Then select 50% gray to fill the empty layer. Then go to the blending mode drop down menu in the layers palette and select the overlay option.

This is what you’ll see.

Step 3. Select a very soft brush the size is up to you and the areas you’re working on. Hit the letter “D” to reset your foreground colors to black and white. Press the letter”X” to reverse the colors depending on weather you want to lighten or darken an area. You’ll be using black paint to darken areas and white paint to lighten areas. Set your brush opacity to 30% to 50% so the effect can build up slowly.

As you paint this is what you’ll see…

Step 4. This optional. If you like your work and feel you need to soften some of the transitions go to filter and select Gaussian Blur and adjust the blur amount to your liking.

 Here’s the results.

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