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A Better Way to Dodge and Burn in Photoshop

In Photoshop we are given a dodge and burn tool in the Tool Menu. Unfortunately the results are usually crude and look heavy handed. Here is a better way. It simply involves adding an overlay layer of 50% gray. (Note: PS CS and above now use Highlights, Midtones, and Shadows which can be independently dodged or burned which makes this tutorial rather out dated.)

1_ Find and open a photograph that could use some dodging and burning.

2_ Go to the Window pull down menu. Choose Show Layers.

3_ In the Layer Menu Box click on the small triangular shaped arrow in the upper right. Select New Layer. Click OK. You will now have a new layer called Layer 1above your original image layer. Click on this layer to highlight it (making it the layer you will be working on).

4_ In the upper left on the Layer Menu Box there is a small triangular shaped down arrow. Click on this and select Overlay. With the layer still highlighted, go to Edit and then Fill. In the Fill menu use the down arrow to select 50% gray.

5_ Now make sure the Color Swatch Boxes in the bottom of the Tool Menu Box have white and black selected. The white will be used for dodging and the black for burning in.

6_ Lastly select the Airbrush tool from the Tool Menu Box. Then select a large blurred edge brush size. (Window, Show Brushes in PS 5.5 or older. In PS 6 it is located above your image.) I would suggest a setting of about 15% opacity to start with. More if you need it.

7_ Using the Airbrush with the white swatch selected will artfully dodge your print. Using the black you will burn in where needed.

8_ When finished, use the Layer Menu Box and select Flatten. Your image can now be saved as a tiff or JPEG.

This method will produce wonderfully professional results with practice. I have these directions saved as an "action." More on that in another lesson.




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