As I highlighted in my blog post about how to Burn & Dodge in Photoshop, the technique is really effective for adding contrast and creative touches to a commercial product and still life image. It also definitely has its place in other types of photography. Today, I wanted to offer my readers yet another free Photoshop action. This one is to set up the proper layers and brushes to start Dodgin’ n Burnin’ in a snap.

What It Executes

This is a fairly simple action. Once you tell it to execute, it creates a new Overlay layer named DB (Dodge and Burn) and fills it with its neutral colour (50% gray for the Overlay blending mode). As the layer is filled with a neutral colour, it currently has no effect whatsoever on your photo. The next thing that the action does is select the Brush tool, puts it at a Size of 175px (a good starting point in my opinion) and a Hardness of 0%. The Opacity and Flow of the brush are at 20 and 50 percent, respectively. Finally, the action makes sure that your foreground and background are pure black and white so that no matter what colours you had before executing the action, you will now paint with #000000 black and #ffffff white. All this is packed into one simple little click. To install the action, just press on that download button and double-click on the acquired file to load the action in Photoshop.

How to Utilize The Action

Once everything is set up, you can start Dodging and Burning right away. By default, your brush will be set on black. With that, you will lower the exposure of your image with every brush stroke. Since the brush’s opacity is at a low 20%, the results will be subtle and controllable. If you want to increase the exposure - or burn - you can simply press X on your keyboard to inverse the foreground and background colours. For best results, I suggest using a Wacom tablet and turning on Pressure for Opacity, Airbrush-style build-up effects and Pressure for Size. That way, if you do a quick and light little pen stroke on your Wacom, the same will be resulted in the photo. I suggest going lightly at a time and keeping your fingers on ⌘ (Control on PCs) and Z to be able to quickly erase the last brush stroke if it wasn’t up to par. The last step I can recommend to enhance your Dodging and Burning is to blur the DB layer a bit. This will help ensuring that the effect keeps looking natural and realist.

Pressure for Opacity, Airbrush-style build-up effects and Pressure for Size and all turned on

This simple Dodge and Burn Photoshop action will quickly set up the base items for the technique. It is really just there to speed up your workflow and take the tediousness out of it. Don’t try to do all the Dodging and Burning on one layer if you feel like its not ideal - you can always do lots of layers with varying degrees of blur onto them.

Do you like the technique? Do you have others that you often use in your retouching? What are they? Let us know below!