January 29, 2010

Dodge and Burn: Improper Tools

Filed under: Uncategorized — emineepich @ 8:11 pm
Tags: ,

For several versions of Photoshop, there have been a set of three tools with similar effects; The Dodge, Burn, and Sponge tools. The Sponge tool can saturate or desaturate the colors of an image. The Dodge and Burn brighten and darken an image, respectively.

Used on a photograph, the latter two can add contrast to bring out focal points and important object. They are sometimes used by digital artists in order to shade and render drawings. However, it should be noted that Dodge and Burn have distinct disadvantages when used in this manner.

When used on most colors (except for those on the grayscale), the Dodge and Burn can distort colors, adding extra saturation where there shouldn’t be. For example, when used on a light skin tone, they can turn it into an unwanted orange hue that can require further color correction in order to adjust. With the Burn this effect is especially prominent.

Brush Tools

Even with the strength of the effect lowered, when used repeatedly the overlap can grow extremely dark or extremely bright, making blending difficult.

Instead of using Dodge and Burn, I recommend using the standard brush tool when shading or rendering. Though it does require the user to color pick their own shadows and highlights, the end effect is much easier to blend and requires less color correction.


The Dodge and Burn are a useful set of tools within Photoshop’s arsenal, but they are suited for other means besides shading and rendering.

-Emily Pich



  1. wow this post was really helpful to me actually! I love photoshop and want to learn more tricks and stuff, so thanks for this one!! 🙂

    Comment by Alison — February 3, 2010 @ 11:55 pm | Reply

  2. For years I’ve been using this tool sparingly and never really knew it’s purpose but now I do! Thanks this was really helpful!

    Comment by maiq09 — February 5, 2010 @ 4:34 am | Reply

  3. There are also plenty of other techniques for shading depending on what look you are trying to achieve. Another common technique is to put a new layer on top, set it to multiply, and using gray scale colors to add shadows and highlights.

    Comment by tranasaurus — February 5, 2010 @ 9:35 pm | Reply

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