HOW TO RETOUCH: Pt. 6 Dodging & Burning Skin – Photoshop Tutorial

Here in part 6 of our 12-part series, we will talk about dodging and burning and how to use it to bring in that selective contrast that we talked about way back in part 1 of this series. I’ll show you my two favorite techniques for non-destructive dodging and burning and how I like to duplicate and blur my dodge and burn layers to blend the effect into the image and get a great effect.

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1. Quick & Dirty Dodge & Burn Technique

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The fastest and easiest way to start dodging and burning is to create a new layer and go Edit>Fill and choose to fill with a 50% Gray. Set this layer to the blend mode Soft Light and grab the Burn tool (O) and set the Exposure of the Burn tool to 50% up in the control bar and paint over areas in the image that are darker and pump the shadows a little. When you want to boost the highlights simply hold down your Alt/Opt key and it will temporarily switch to the Dodge tool and you can paint and pump up the highlight areas.

2. Setting Up Adjustment Layers for Dodging & Burning

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To begin my dodge and burn process, I create two Curves Adjustment layer by going Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Curves and set the bottom adjustment layer to the blend mode of Multiply and fill the mask for that layer with black and set the top Curves Adjustment layer to the blend mode Screen and fill that mask with black as well.

3. Setting the Brush Tool

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Next, grab the Brush tool (B) and set the opacity of this tool to 10% up in the control bar and set your foreground color to white.

4. Burning

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I like to begin by burning first. Select the Curves layer that we set to Multiply and click on the mask. Use your Brush tool and gently paint over the shadowy areas to intensify them as you wish.

5. Dodging

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After you finish thickening the shadows and darkening what you want darkened, the next step is to pump the highlights and accentuate them. I like to be pretty active with the brush tip size here. Large highlights should be soft and smooth, but smaller highlights often have a somewhat sharp edge so I change the size and hardness of my brush tip to match what I am trying to do.

6. Smoothing the Dodging and Burning

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Once you have finished painting in the masks for your dodge and burn layers, go ahead and duplicate each Adjustment layer once. I then click on the mask for each of these two duplicated layers (one at a time) and then go Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and blur the mask by between 40-75px. Select the other mask and apply that same Gaussian blur to that mask too. Reduce the opacity of both of these newer dodge and burn Adjustment layers until everything blends together nicely. PRO TIP: Reduce the opacity of the original dodge/burn Adjustment layers if the effect is still too strong.

Be sure to watch the entire video above to get all the goods and learn even more! You also will be able to watch me actually do each step along the way and pick up little tips and tricks as you watch. Thanks!