In this tutorial, we will show you a non-destructive technique for dodging and burning in Photoshop that is absolutely foolproof. The technique uses the lights and darks of your photograph to determine where to dodge and burn, resulting in a realistic blend with your image.
To start, create a new adjustment layer by going to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves. With this adjustment layer, you can choose to make areas of your image lighter or darker. For dodging, make the image a little bit lighter. Then, choose to make the layer mask black to hide the layer and invert the layer mask by hitting Ctrl or Command I to make it black. Paint white over the area where you want to see the effect, in other words, where you want to dodge on your image.
Next, blend the effect with your photograph by going to Image > Apply Image. In this case, use the default settings with the layer merged, channel RGB, blending mode multiply, opacity 100, and make sure invert is not checked. Hold Alt or Option and take a look at your layer mask. It uses the information of the image itself to define the visibility of this curves adjustment layer, blending it in with your photo.
For burning, create a new adjustment layer by going to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves. Pull the curves down to make the image darker. Invert the layer mask by hitting Ctrl or Command I and use a large soft edge brush to paint white on the layer mask towards the outsides of your image. This will make the layer visible wherever you paint. Blend the effect with your photograph by going to Image > Apply Image. This time, make sure you click the invert option to make this visible in the darker areas.
The best thing about this technique is that you can always adjust your dodge and burn levels afterwards. Double click on the layer to adjust the brightness or darkness based on how everything blends with your image. Because we’ve applied a nice blend with our image, it’s all going to be completely realistic.
You can use this dodge and burn technique on any of your photographs, and it will blend your dodge and burning effects with your image. Here’s our before and after comparison:
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