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Non Destructive Dodging and Burning

Non Destructive Dodging and BurningDestructive editing. Do the very words make you shudder? For many, the main rule of editing is to avoid destruction at all costs. So today, we’re going to talk about dodging and burning the non-destructive way.

For beginners, dodging and burning are tools in Photoshop and other editing programs which darken (burn) or lighten (dodge) desired areas. The problem with the tools is that they can’t be used on transparent layers and must be used on the actual image. This has a few problems:

  • It destroys pixels
  • You can’t create a transparent layer and dodge/burn on it, your work can’t be masked for easy ‘undoing’
  • Although you can’t do it on a transparent layer, you can duplicate the layer, add a mask and dodge/burn that layer but this increases the file size

The way I solve all these problems is use a Photoshop action that either creates separate transparent layers with masks or one transparent layer with mask that you can paint white to dodge and black to burn. My personal favourite is actually a free one from MCP Actions called ‘Touch of Light/Touch of Darkness’. This creates two transparent layers with masks. One for dodging, one for burning. So dodge and burn your heart out!

Image: Edited solely with a non-destructive dodge/burn method

Edited solely with a non-destructive dodge/burn method

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Elizabeth Halford
Elizabeth Halford

is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

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