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Dodging and Burning is a technique used to lighten or darken areas of the image. Based on a traditional darkroom technique photographers lighten an area on the print (dodging) or darken areas on a print (burning) by increasing exposure.

We can still use this method In the digital age with photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop. By darkening down or lightening up areas we can enhance to look and feel of our photographs.

Using the Photoshop History brush for performing this task but it is a method which is often over looked by many photographers. I first came across this method a few years ago after obtaining a copy of a book titled, “Digital Masters: B&W Printing” by George Dewolfe. He describes using the History brush to paint directly onto a pixel based layer. Certain tones within the image can be targeted by alternating the blending mode of the history brush.

Photoshop Dodge and Burn Panel

Photoshop Dodge and Burn PanelApplying dodging and burning to an image has to be done in a subtle way, you simply cannot go in with all guns blazing and expect to arrive at a masterpiece within seconds. A certain thought process has to be implemented to achieve the look you are after, the key to any dodging and burning technique is to do it slowly and gradually build up the effect.

The main reason for developing the Dodge and Burn panel was because when using the history brush, I found it difficult remembering which blend mode to use to target a specific area within the image.

The panel itself is divided into sections allowng for an easy approach to targeting the area of interest. The panel has been designed with black and white editing in mind and although it can be used with colour images.

Darken Highlights
Selecting this option will darken extreme highlights in the image, this can be useful to calm down areas which may be slightly overexposed.

Darken Shadows
Selecting this option will darken small areas of extreme shadows.

Lighten Highlights
Selecting this option will lighten small areas of extreme whites.

Lighten Local Area
Selecting this option will lighten all tones in the painted area.

Darken Local Area
Selecting this option will darken all tones in the painted area.

Increase Contrast
Selecting this option will increase contrast in areas that contain both light and dark tones. By darkening the dark tones and lightening the adjacent light tones will increase the overall contrast in the specific area.

Duplicate Current Layer
Selecting this option will duplicate the current layer. Before starting to edit the image, it might be a good idea to use this option to create a duplicate of your original background layer. Doing this will give you the ability to go back to the beginning should you need to.

Merge Visible
Using the history brush requires the use of the previous history state and also can only be performed on to a pixel based layer. If for example you decide to convert a colour image inside of Photoshop with say the Black and White adjustment layer, you will need to create a pixel based layer before you can use any of the history brush tools in the panel. This also applies to any non based pixel layers placed at the top of the working layer stack

Selecting this option will merge visible stamp all layers into a single layer. Unlike the Flatten layer option in Photoshop, using this option will keep all your existing layers intact thus giving you an exit strategy should you need it.

Set New History Status
Selecting this option will create a New History State. Use this this option if the panel becomes disconnected form the current images history state. One example of a disconnection is if you were to crop the image. Failing to set a new history state will result in the mouse cursor turning to a No Entry sign should you try to use one of the history brush options.

This Dodge and Burn panel uses the new brush management system available in Photoshop CC 2018 and will NOT work on previous versions.

System Requirements

  • Photoshop CC 2018 and above
  • Windows or Mac Operating System