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Non-destructive Photoshop dodge/burn

Non-destructive dodge and burn layer, Photoshop tutorials by Markus Hartel
Sometimes it is more intuitive to dodge and burn instead of using curves, here I dodged some detail into the smoke and burned the shadows a bit more for drama.
Non-destructive dodge and burn layer, Photoshop tutorials by Markus Hartel
Did it ever bug you that dodging/burning in Photoshop is destructive and can not be changed after you used the tools? I have good news for you – with a little trick it is possible to do your dodging and burning in a separate layer.
Non-destructive dodge and burn layer, Photoshop tutorials by Markus Hartel
First, create a new layer via Layers>New Layer. If you use the “New Layer” icon in the layers palette, press the alt or option key simultaneously.
Non-destructive dodge and burn layer, Photoshop tutorials by Markus Hartel
Name the layer as you wish (I chose dodge/burn for the obvious reasons) and set the Blending Mode to Overlay, this will reveal another option at the bottom “Fill with Overlay-neutral color (50% gray)”. Select that option.
Non-destructive dodge and burn layer, Photoshop tutorials by Markus Hartel
Now you can dodge (lighten) and burn (darken) to your hearts content. You’ll find adjustments for brush size, range (highlights/midtones/shadows) and Exposure right under your menu bar.
Here’s the best part – you won’t need to worry anymore if you screw up, simply go into the dodge/burn layer and paint in your mistakes with the 50% gray color (use the eyedropper to pick it up from an untouched area)
Non-destructive dodge and burn layer, Photoshop tutorials by Markus Hartel
this is how the dodge/burn layer looks by itself. Instead of using the dodge/burn tools, you could paint white or black with different opacities in the d/b layer.

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A collection of New York black-and-white street photography from 2003-2013

About Markus

Markus Hartel is a (street) photographer, graphic designer and educator living and working in New York City.
You can purchase prints, or book a one-on-one street photography workshop directly on this site.

12 Responses to “Non-destructive Photoshop dodge/burn”

  1. Ju. says:

    Beautiful tutorial ! Congratulation ! I use this all the time, thanks 😉

  2. mayra Covarrubias says:

    I really love your work!

  3. protten says:

    Cool. Thanks for that. I always used a dublicated layer of the bg.

  4. Daniel says:

    An excellent tutorial indeed. Straight and to the point. Very helpful! I was just looking for that.

  5. cristiano007 says:

    I was looking for a simple and effective explanation of the famous 50% gray layer D&B, for people who already know it’s so easy than don’t explain anything. But with this wonderful tutorial now I understand the idea and I’m ready to start using it. Big thanks.

  6. Myles says:

    One problem with the 50% gray layer D&B is that you lose the “range” ability that the regular dodge and burn tool allows. You no longer can burn just midtones or dodge shadows etc.
    That’s why for many situations working on a duplicate layer is necessary. Other times the overlay layer is just fine though.

  7. ummmm… you can adjust the opacity of your tool to achieve subtle effects.

  8. Irene S says:

    @Myles – actually you still can use the Highlights/Midtones/Shadows option – just look at the screenshot shown and you will see on the Options Bar that this is available as stated in the tutorial.

  9. TheOneDing says:

    Toight! No more a billion times 🙂

    • TheOneDing says:

      that was supposed to read no more command option z a billion times, but looks like the blog stripped the greater than and less than symbols.

  10. Greenslade Creations says:

    Very useful little tute thanks. I used selections on segments of a house diagram. It means I can have my paint colour under the burn. Then if I need to change the paint colour, the burn doesn’t have to be redone.

  11. Jenifer Jeny says:

    Well creation dude. Loving creative work as you present here. Plenty awesome and stunning looking, like most this types of presentation admittedly. 🙂