Posted by in Design, How-To, Photoshop.

There are many ways to enhance your photos. One such way is to ‘burn’ and ‘dodge’ the photos in Photoshop. In this guide, I will show you how to enhance your photos using Photoshop’s Burn and Dodge Tool.

Now you might ask – what exactly is ‘burning’ and ‘dodging’? To make things simple, ‘burn’ is to darken, while ‘dodge’ is to lighten.

Here’s the before and after:

How to Use Burn and Dodge Tool in Photoshop - Before and After Image Photo reference: Joerg Meinhardt

Step 1: Open the File in Photoshop

Open the image you want to work on in Photoshop.How to Use Burn and Dodge Tool in Photoshop  - Step 1

Step 2: Duplicate Layer

Then duplicate the layer by right-clicking your mouse on your image layer at the bottom right of the Layer Palette.
How to Use Burn and Dodge Tool in Photoshop - Duplicate Layer
Select Duplicate Layer.
How to Use Burn and Dodge Tool - Duplicate Layer

Next, rename this duplicated layer. Since I’ll be using this layer to dodge and burn different areas of my image, I’m going to name the layer “Dodge & Burn”.

How to Use Burn and Dodge Tool - Rename Duplicate Layer

Naming layers is a good way for us to organize our layers and will come in handy when we are trying to differentiate and locate the layers when the file gets bigger.

Click ‘Ok‘ and you are ready to move on to the next step.

Step 3: Select the Dodge Tool

Now, let’s lighten and darken different areas of the image simply by painting over with the Dodge and Burn Tool respectively. You want to use the Dodge Tool on areas you want to lighten and the Burn Tool on areas you want to darken.

Select the Dodge Tool from the Tools Palette or access it with the shortcut tool by pressing the letter O on your keyboard.
How to Use Burn and Dodge Tool - Dodge Tool

Step 4: Adjust the Exposure and Range

A good way to work with the Dodge & Burn Tool is to gradually build up the amount of Exposure. To do that, go to the Option Bar at the top of the screen and lower the Exposure down to somewhere between 5-20%.
This will make the small incremental changes that are harder to detect but with repeated sweeping movements, it will result in a more natural look.
How to Use Burn and Dodge Tool - Exposure

That’s not all, to achieve the best result; you also have to determine the Range. Range determines which pixels will be affected when you use the Dodge Tool to brighten our image. Choose Highlights when you want to lighten highlights, Shadows when you want to darken shadows and Midtones when you want to adjust the pixels in the middle tone.
How to Use Burn and Dodge Tool - Range

Try around these three settings and observe how your image changes to see which Range works best for your image.

Step 5: Paint over Areas that Need to be Lightened

With your Dodge Tool selected, and the Exposure and Range determined, simply paint over areas in your image that needs to be brightened. Paint over a few times with sweeping movements to build up the effect. Alternatively, you can also change your brush size to cover larger or smaller area by clicking on the Brush Preset picker. You can also change your brush size with the shortcut tool by pressing the letter [ to decrease and ] to increase your brush size on your keyboard.
How to Use Burn and Dodge Tool - Paint Brush Size

Here’s how my image looks like after the use of the Dodge Tool on the flowers in the foreground.
How to Use Burn and Dodge Tool - After Dodging

Step 6: Select the Burn Tool

Next, I want to darken the background of my image to make the flower ‘pop’ more using the Burn Tool.
To select the Burn Tool, click and hold down the Dodge Tool from the Tools Palette and then select the Burn Tool. Otherwise, you can toggle between the Dodge Tool, Burn Tool, and Sponge Tool by pressing Shift-O on your keyboard.
How to Use Burn and Dodge Tool - Burn Tool

Remember to also adjust the Range and Exposure.
How to Use Burn and Dodge Tool - Range & Exposure

Step 7: Paint over Areas that Need to be Darkened

With your Burn Tool selected, and the Exposure and Range determined, paint over areas in your image that needs to be darkened. In my case, I had decided to paint over the background of the image to make the flowers ‘pop’ more.
How to Use Burn and Dodge Tool - After burning

And now it’s done. Let me show you the before and after again.
How to Use Burn and Dodge Tool in Photoshop - Before and After Image
I hope you will find this tutorial useful and leave your comments below if you would like to see other tutorials. Good luck and have fun!

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