PS Secrets 24: How To Dodge & Burn in Photoshop Effectively

How To Dodge & Burn Effectively in Photoshop

PS Secrets 24: How To Dodge & Burn in Photoshop Effectively

In this week’s tutorial we will look at one amazing way to dodge and burn with precision in Photoshop, while maintaining a non-destructive workflow and without affecting the colours in our image. We’ll also look at a great way to increase local contrast similar to Nik Color Efex’s Pro Contrast filter, while targeting those changes specifically to our highlights or shadows.

The traditional Dodge and Burn tools found in Photoshop require us to use destructive workflow, while over-saturating the colours in our image. There are many different ways to dodge and burn in Photoshop that offer cleaner results.

The techniques in this tutorial use a mixture of blend modes, the paintbrush, and masks. If we combine a white or black paintbrush with a layer that has a blend mode set to Overlay or Soft Light, we can often dodge and burn very cleanly. Combing this with accurate masks, will give us a beautifully clean result. Don’t worry if this sounds confusing, the video will explain all.


Step-by-Step Guide to Dodging and Burning


1. The first thing we need to do is to add a new layer.


2. We need to set the blend mode for the new layer to Overlay or Softlight.

overlay blend mode


3. Add a Mask to the new layer.


4. Now go to Image>Apply Image

apply image


5. If you want to target the highlights make sure your settings are the same as below:

apply image


6. To make your mask more targetted to highlights use a Levels adjustment by pressing Ctrl+L on a PC or Cmd+L on a Mac then moving the sliders. The brighter areas will be affected the most. 

Levels in photoshop


7. Now, select your brush tool and a white foreground colour. Then paint the area that you want to brighten (Dodge)

how to Dodge & Burn in Photoshop


8. If you want to target the shadows use the same settings as below making sure you tick the box to Invert the image.

apply image


9. To Dodge (brighten) we use the brush tool with a white foreground. To Burn (darken) we use the brush tool with a black foreground. colour.

how to Dodge & Burn in Photoshop

how to Dodge & Burn in Photoshop


More Photoshop Secrets

Click to discover more Photoshop Secrets 

Enter your email below and join our community of more than 100,000 photographers who have also
Subscribed to our newsletter.
Downloaded our FREE Photoshop Course.
Got our FREE Easy Panel for Photoshop.
And, have our FREE Essential Guide To Luminosity Masks E-Book.

To go directly to any of our products, simply click on the image below.

Raya Pro
Art of Photography
Art of Digital Blending
Exposure Blend Like an Expert
Mastering Lumi32
Jimmy’s Big 5 Photos

Shutter Evolve Complete Product Range

PS Secrets 24: How To Dodge & Burn in Photoshop Effectively

20 thoughts on “PS Secrets 24: How To Dodge & Burn in Photoshop Effectively

  1. Hi Jimmy, great video! It’s nice to see you back and I hope the move went smoothly for you.

    This video got me thinking about my own workflow and how destructive it is, unfortunately. The reason for this is mainly the “Nik Collection”. I don’t use it that often except for some noise reduction and contrast adjustments. I noticed that Nik adds a new layer that if needing to go back, the entire layer has to be removed. This further complicates things if you lower the opacity to the filter.

    Is there a way to use the Nik filters non-destructively since it adds that extra base layer? I never gave this much thought until you posted this video.


    1. Hey Brad,
      Thank you for the comment. You make a very valid point. The Nik colllection can really screw up the non-desctructive process. My advice is to do all of these changes at the very beginning of the workflow, or the very end.

      If we insert a Nik layer into the middle of our workflow that’s when things start to get tricky.

      Thanks again

      1. Agree with Jimmy. I generally use Nik filter for pro contrast (and occasionally for the darken/highlight vignette tool) and my usual workflow (if anyone cares) looks something like this…. (this is generalized, obviously, so just the sort of routine things that I generally apply to any image)

        1. Blend original exposures, then group these
        2. Adjust for any under/overexposed with either Curves or a new Stamp Layer and some suitable Masking
        3. Color Tone or Saturation or Desaturations
        4. Nik effects adjustments
        5. Final sharpening (if needed)

      2. Thanks for the reply, Jimmy. That’s what I thought and is what I am currently doing. I was hoping there was some secret way to turn it into an adjustment layer. Keep up the awesome tutorials and photos!

    2. Hi Brad, I overcome this problem by making the layer a SMART layer, you can then put all the NIX filters on this and go back and change them as required. Hope this helps.

  2. I’m just going to use your action right now.. Special thanks for Dodge Highlights. This is really a good guidelines for apprentice and even advanced photographers. Once again thanks so much!

  3. Hi Jimmy, great video! A suggestion for future videos from me would be how to prepare an image for printing. Thanks

  4. Another great video, Mr. McIntyre. Useful content presented clearly and simply. Not easy! RCA

  5. Jimmy any plans on more premium tutorials with Rayapro ? Maybe more workflow difficult compositions as you did before. Extend to b&w maybe and prepare to print as suggested already. Having withdrawal keen to really get a handle on this and see where and when the next Rayapro updates take us.

  6. Hi Jimmy,

    first, I would like to thank you for this, once again, very nice tutorial , concise and helpful.
    As you were asking for suggestions, may I take this opportunity to ask if you would be interested in explaining how you do perspective blending in landscape photography.
    I wanted to use the Transform tool in PhotoShop but I don’t know where to start and how to put the “distant-zoomed-in summit ” photo into the panorama.

    Thank you

  7. Thanks for this information and these tools. But I have a different need….I need to dodge shadows without ruining the colours and I can’t figure out how to do the inverse of what these actions provide. Not an advanced user for sure.

  8. Hi Jimmy, thanks for this and all your tutorials. Since getting Raya Pro my workflow has not only improved, but so have my images.
    I found this tutorial extremely helpful and the actions work a treat, saving me hours dodging and burning, keep up the good work.

  9. Great tutorial, as always! I’ve downloaded Dodge and Burn as well as Sharpening actions, but how can I get these actions into Photoshop? I´m in a great need to use them as soon as possible! I have a special photo that I´d like to challenge Jim. How I send it to you, and if it should be RAW o JPG?
    Again, thanks a lot

  10. Hi Jimmy,

    I seem to be having a problem with the Shadow Contrast in the Actions you provided. I’m using PS-CC 2017. When I run the action, I don’t get the High ByPass sharpening Window, so I can’t make the adjustment for the contrast. I’ve deleted the entire actions and reinstalled them, but I get the same results. Any ideas why just the Shadow Contract action doesn’t work. I have no problem with the Highlight Contrast.

    The video is awesome and I use the dodge and burn all the time now.

    Thanks for all your hard work!


  11. Hi Jimmy, I must be missing something! I’ve replayed your video so many times – I’m using PS CS5 – everytime I try to use this technique it affects the entire image and not just the darks or lights. What am I doing wrong? I’m not a Raya Pro user so just following your examples for PS.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to top