without dodge and brun with curves

Editor’s Note:  This is a guest post from Anup Ghimire.

Dodging and burning is one of the most confused and highly underestimated techniques in Photoshop. There are lots of ways you can dodge and burn in Photoshop. Dodging and burning can help your image pop or make your photograph look more distinct and dynamic.

Dodging makes the pixel of your image brighter and burning makes them darker. The technique eventually adds or reduces contrast. With dodge and burn you can precisely control the amount of darkness or brightness on certain parts of the photograph. Today in this article we will walk you through three techniques you can use to dodge and burn in Photoshop.

Dodge & Burn Tool

dodge and brun toolThis is an easy technique to dodge and burn you photograph. You can simply select the tool (O) and brush on the part of the photograph. Pressing O once will select the dodge and whereas Shift+O selects burn. This is a destructive editing. If you decide to go back then you have to depend on either history or undo options, which does not work all the time.

So a more reliable technique is to use nondestructive editing.

1. Create a new layer; fill it with 50% gray.

50 % gray

2. Name it dodge and change the blending mode of the gray layer into the overlay blending mode.

3. Now select Dodge (o) and paint over the pixels you want to make brighter. Repeat the same process for burn. Select burn (Shift + o) now paint over the pixels you want to darken.

new layer filled with gray

Adding a Mask

This technique will perfectly make sense to the ones who are used to masking in Photoshop.

underexposing the image with curves

1. Create an adjustment layer ‘Curves’ (or Levels) and greatly underexpose the photograph.

2. Rename the layer Burn.

3. Select another Curves adjustment layer and greatly overexpose the image.

4. Rename it dodge.

5. Invert both masks on the adjustment layers.  Click on the mask so it is selected and press Command+ I (Ctrl+I).  You can also get the invert option from Image > Adjustment > Invert.

renaming the two curves

6. Both effects are now “removed.” Inverting makes the mask go black, limiting the effect of the adjustment layer.

dodge and brun with curves7. Now, select the brush (B)

8. Choose a foreground color of white and set the opacity of the brush to a low value.

9. Select either adjustment layer, make sure to click on the black mask.

10. Paint over to restore the adjustment.

For dodging you will be painting the brush over the mask of dodge layer, for burning you will be doing that over the mask for the burn layer.


without dodge and brun with curves


with dodge and brun with cuves

Here the difference is quite subtle, for some, the effect may be not vividly visible. So the best option is giving it a try.

High Pass

This is another easy way to apply dodge and burn. Duplicate the layer you want to apply dodge and burn on. Select the duplicated layer, and now apply high pass filter. Filter > Others> High pass filter.

Take the value high until 70 or 100. The values will depend on the image so you have to make a decision on the value you want to use. You can always try different value to see what works best or can play the opacity slider if the effect is more than desired.

applying high pass filter

Once the high pass is applied change the blending mode of the layer into overlay / soft light.


before applying  high pass filter


after applying  high pass filter

Be deliberate, extreme dodging and burning can produce your picture appear more edgy and unnatural. In that case you can always experiment with the opacity of the layer. This is the advantage of non-destructive editing. It will help you to go back later to the original position if you happen to not like your final result.

I hope you understood these techniques. Please feel free to ask question in the comments below. I would be more than happy to explain it further to you.

To see more of Anup’s tutorials, you can find his Youtube Channel here and follow him on Facebook.

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