History Brush Dodge & Burn

The George DeWolfe Method

history brush dodge and burn george dewolfe method

History Brush Dodge & Burn

The George DeWolfe Method

I first discovered using the Photoshop History Brush to Dodge and Burn many years ago after acquiring a book called "Digital Photography Fine Print Workshop" written by George DeWolfe.

In July 2011, he wrote an article on the Luminous Landscape website about the technique and how he sets up the history brush in Photoshop using various blend modes to control the overall effect.

Having studied all the options and blend modes that he uses, it dawned on me that rather than trying to remember all of them and keep referring to handwritten cheat sheets, it would make more sense to code them directly into a Photoshop Plugin.

This is something I did around 2020 which did work well, it was a cumbersome workflow because it relied on having extra brush tool presets installed on the computer and wasn't all that seamless with how Photoshop worked.

As of 2022, things in the Photoshop world suddenly came on leaps and bounds as Adobe started to improve its new UXP plugin technology which opened the doors for developers to communicate more with Photoshop.

Although a slow process, the code has finally been completely rewritten from scratch which has allowed version 2.0 to be released.

What Is Dodging And Burning?

For those not familiar with the process, Dodging and Burning is a technique originating in the black-and-white darkroom. Primarily it was needed to add interest to an image that might otherwise look “flat”. Typically, many black-and-white photographs would lack contrast and appear lifeless when printed. By Dodging and Burning it was possible to enhance the photos to make areas more prominent and features stand out.

By applying Dodging and Burning to selected areas of an image, you can lighten or darken them.  When we view a photograph, our brains work by subconsciously directing our eyes more toward light areas and away from the dark. Understanding this helps to direct our viewers’ attention unconsciously.


Using the History brush with Photoshop is all about making and controlling history snapshots. A snapshot is as it says, it's a snapshot taken at a given time recording the given state of the Photoshop document.

For example, let's say we have three layers, background, layer 1 and a curves adjustment layer. If we then take a snapshot at this point then this is the current state that the snapshot refers to. If a fourth layer is then added, we then have to create a new snapshot because the previous one knows nothing about the newly created layer.

history brush snapshot

In the beginning, it can sound daunting but the more you work with snapshots, the more it becomes second nature.

Single Tool

To some, the concept of using a single tool for both dodging and burning is a difficult one but the more you become accustomed to the technique, the more you find it very intuitive and will probably use it more and more in your editing workflow.

Controlling both dodging and burning is easily done using the History Brush panel as they are segregated into their own "Dodge and Burn" containers.

dodge burn photoshop

Automatic Blend Modes

To control the different effects, different blend modes are automatically applied to the history brush depending on which mode you choose. For example, to lighten the highlights, the blend mode for the brush is changed to Color Dodge.

The following indicates the different blend modes the history brush dodge and burn panel uses.

  • Multiply – darkens a local area.
  • Screen – lightens a local area.
  • Color Dodge – lightens small highlights.
  • Color Burn – darkens small shadows.
  • Difference – darkens highlights.
  • Soft Light – increases contrast.

Built In Videos

The plugin incorporates a built-in custom video player where you can watch any product videos which have been recorded.

To access the videos, press the small icon in the upper right-hand corner of the plugin.


  • Adobe Photoshop Version 24 and newer
  • Windows 10 and newer
  • Mac and Mac M1 chipset
photoshop plugin video tutorials

History Dodge & Burn 2.0

History Brush Dodge & Burn

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