The Best Setup for Dodging and Burning Your Images — Non-Destructively

by Hillary Grigonis March 9, 2018

(featured on

Dodging and burning is a photo editing and retouching technique as old as the darkroom itself, but bring the process of lightening and darkening small, specific portions into the digital realm and a traditional tool becomes a modern retouching power tool.

From lightening under eye shadows to reducing the intensity of a wrinkle, dodging and burning can produce dramatic before and after results by adjusting light and dark areas without affecting texture. But, simply grabbing the dodge or burn tool from Photoshop’s toolbox and brushing over the image is a destructive photo editing practice — you can’t go back and adjust without ruining everything you’ve changed since.

Using a few tricks, however, you can turn dodging and burning into a non-destructive edit. Pratik Naik, a high-end retoucher and mentor with over a decade of experience, shares how a few adjustment layers turns dodging and burning into a simple, yet non-destructive technique.

Dramatically improve your photographs. Master Photoshop, finally.


Step 1: Create the dodge layer.

Start by creating a curves adjustment layer — inside the layer panel, click the circle that’s half filled, half empty and select curves from the dropdown menu. Next, lighten that layer by adjusting the curves inside the properties panel. Click the middle of the curve line and bring it up to the next line in the grid. Now, click on the layer mask (the white box next to the layer’s name) and hit command or control and i to fill the mask in with black — you should see the effects from the curves adjustment disappear. To avoid confusion, rename that layer dodge.

Step 2: Create the burn layer.

Repeat the entire process from the first step, only instead of drawing that curve up, pull the curves down from the middle to about one graph line lower. Don’t forget to fill in with the black mask (command or control i) and rename the layer to burn. You can also organize the adjustment layers with a folder.

Step 3: Create a black and white adjustment

(for more on this article click here)

Sign in or Sign up to post response