Photoshop Top 40, Feature #26: Dodge and Burn

Just three features ago, I demonstrated the Liquify filter, which I described as “one of Photoshop’s great destructive retouching tools” (see Feature #29: Liquify). The words one of implied that more were on the way, as they are, starting this week with two tools that recently rose like twin Pheonix from the ashes, dodge and burn.

Like Liquify, D&B permanently modify pixels in the interest of making those pixels look better than when they started. Both are brushes. The dodge tool brushes in brightness; the burn tool brushes in darkness.

The interesting thing about these tools is that they used to pretty well suck in Photoshop CS3 and earlier. Dodge acted a lot like painting white with the brush tool set to Overlay; burn acted a lot like painting black again set to Overlay. While the effects were not identical, they were so similar that many experts recommended you avoid D&B altogether and instead paint on an independent layer, set to Overlay, in the interest of working nondestructively.

In CS4, that changes. D&B are now much better at preserving native highlights and shadows. And both produce effects that are entirely unlike Overlay painting. Which is why they make the Photoshop Top 40 list today.

With their help, I was able to take this undeniably metrosexual but ultimately low-contrast dude (from SePp of microstock image vendor Folotlia):

And transform him into this deliciously Halloweeny cyborg:

Oh, sure, there’s a lot more going on here than dodging and burning. But D&B were the sturdy little rockets that got the effect off the ground.

(For a list of all Photoshop Top 40 videos thus far, click this link.)

In case you didn’t already know, Photoshop Top 40 is available as a downloadable podcast from iTunes. Click here to subscribe. dekePod subscribers get the videos automatically.

Next entry:Martini Hour 037, In Which Colleen Welcomes One and All to the Eyecandy Sound Lounge

Previous entry:Martini Hour 036, In Which Deke Christens This Week’s Caller Daffodil


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  • where can download this pic?

    where can download this pic?

  • \“Intense Young Dude\” from

    “Intense Young Dude” from

    The images are always identified in the videos. The example images are not available from Deke at this site.

  • That’s image #15773197


  • Is it possible?

    Deke.. far be it from a mere student like me to point out an error that The Master has made. But I think at about 6:07 into this video, you were thinking backwards when you said the dodge tool will give you too much saturation and the burn tool will desaturate.

    No matter! You are the best and I really appreciate your work!

    Joe Azzarelli

  • Working faster with the Dodge and Burn Tool

    Hello Deke,

    First of all let me tell you that I like your courses and tutorials very much. You are simply the best!

    I would like to bring to your attention a faster method to applying the dodge and burn tools over images that have their shadows imbalanced.

    On your series “Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals” you give an example of attacking shadows and highlights manually using the dodge and burn tools [the picture of Hannah].

    Instead I tried selecting shadows and highlights using the “color range” command and applying these tools, and what wonder.  It took me no more than 2 mins to get to this result [on Hannah’s picture]:

    Keep up the good work,


    Moses Shohet.


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