Dodge and Burn Photoshop Tutorial

In this tutorial I’ll show how to use Dodge and Burn tool to either lighten and darken the image in Photoshop. You’ll learn how to use this technique effectively to enhance the photos as well as how you can use it for retouching as well.

Tutorial Resources

Dodge and Burn tool are usually used to create more contrast in the image. Basically, this tool lightens and darken the areas of the image. There are many ways to create more contrast to the image but using these tools gives more control over the specific areas of the image. Using these tools you can brighten or darken the shadows, midtones and highlights areas of the image even with different settings. If you are not familiar with this tool then you can read our basics tutorial to get used to it.

Step 1

Open up the model in Photoshop by selecting File > Open and open the image. Here is the image which I am using for this tutorial :


Remember that you can use any image that has good light and contrast. So feel free to choose your image.

Step 2

Now we’ll do the dodge and burn tool non-destructively without harming the original image. Create a new layer and name it ‘Dodge and Burn’. Fill this layer with 50% gray color with blend mode changed to Overlay. You can see the settings below:


Activate the Dodge Tool (O). Set the Range to Midtones and Exposure about 9-10%. Now start lighting up the brighten areas in the image. Try to lighten up the highlights parts of the image like the face, body, shoulder and hair but remember on those areas which needed to be brighten.

Similarly, switch to Burn Tool (O). Start darkening the parts of the image which darkens or which needed to be. Don’t overdo it because we’ll enhance the effect using an adjustment layer in next couple of steps. Here you can see how I did it in Normal Mode:


Here you can see the results in Overlay Mode:


Instead of using this tool you can also use Brush Tool (B) for lightening and darken the photo. All you’ve to do is to paint with white and black color on the 50% gray filled layer. For the subtle effect, you can lower the opacity and flow of brush. It depends on you both techniques will give the best results but if you are beginner then I recommend using Dodge and Burn Tool first.

Step 3

The tools work best for refining shade and light of the image but when combined with Filter and Adjustment layer it can give more decent results. Let’s see how you can enhance the effect further.
Create a Black/White adjustment layer by clicking on the third icon at the bottom of layer panel or go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Black/White. You can also use Gradient Map adjustment layer with black/white color.

Choose the High Contrast Red Filter preset from the presets drop down list.


Change the blending mode of this layer to Soft Light and lower the opacity to 59%. Here you can see the results with increased contrast and if you need more contrast then just simply increase the opacity of Black/White adjustment layer. Feel free to choose different presets.


Step 4

Duplicate the model layer by pressing CTRL + J then move this layer to top of all layers. Convert this layer Smart Objects. Now go to Filter > Other > High Pass and set the Radius to 8 pixels. This will add more sharpness to the image. The Radius value is not fixed to use you can increase it if you need more sharpness.


Change the blending mode of this layer to Overlay. Results with more sharpness:


Here you can see how the layer panel is arrange:


Step 5

Make a Color Lookup adjustment layer and choose Bleach Pass filter. This will increase the contrast of whole image. You can also use Curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast and all you need to increase brightness by making a S-Curve shape.


Lower the opacity to 60% as I don’t want too much brightness. Here you can see the results:


Step 6

I like the brightness on the head and face but on the body, it’s too much. On the layer mask of Color Lookup I erased the effect on the body and keep the effect on the face and hair.

Use a soft-medium black brush for masking the results. Here you can see the image for reference:




Step 7

Finally, I merged all the layer into single layer by pressing Alt + CTRL + SHIFT + E. I applied a Paint Daubs filter to image to add more sharpness. You can go to Filter > Filter Gallery > Paint Daubs to apply this filter with the following given values:


Here is the final effect:



With Dodge and Burn tool, you can either lighten up underexposed areas of an image or darken overexposed areas. Those days are gone when these techniques applied in the darkroom to lighten and darken the image. In photo editing, this technique can help you a lot in many ways. Thanks for following the tutorial and I hope you enjoyed the tutorial. If you have any thought on tutorial then do let me know.



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