How to dodge and burn in photoshop tutorial, add depth + dimension to photos

How to Dodge and Burn in Photoshop Tutorial
to Add Depth and Dimension Hey, it’s Colin Smith here and welcome to
this week’s episode. This week I’m going to show you how to use Dodging and Burning to
add depth and dimension to objects. All right, I just finished recording a two
and a half hour premium tutorial on dodging and burning, so I thought, why not for this
week’s episode, why not just do something on dodging and burning, and show you the basics,
since it’s kind of fresh in my mind. So what we’re going to do is take a photograph
and I’m going to show you how to use dodging and burning, non-destructively, to bring back
details in a photograph. But more importantly than that, I’m going to show you how dodging
and burning, like shadows and highlights, to add dimension and add shading, so your
photographs don’t look so flat. So we’re going to take a photograph that was
shot in the middle of the day, a terrible time to shoot. Everything is very flat and
just kind of dead, and then, we’re going to add shadows; we’re going to add highlights
to bring out the curvature and the shape of the objects. Now this works for anything.
We’re going to use this ship in the example, but this will work for people. It will work
for landscapes. It will work for all kinds of different things, and if you want to see
that, check out that premium tutorial that I just did. All right, let’s have a look at non-destructive
dodging and burning. I actually just finished doing a two and a half training title which
covers everything, from landscape to people, to bodies, faces, all that stuff. I’ll put
a link in there and you can check that out. That’s more of a comprehensive video, but
what I’m going to show you here is just kind of the basics of adding some three dimensional
depth by using dodging and burning here inside of Photoshop. So what I’ve got as I’m going
to create a new layer, but I’m going to hold down the Option key and click on the New Layer
icon, and this gives me a new layer with an option. And what I’m going to do with the
Option is I’m going to change it to Overlay Mode. Now, when I do that, this option comes
here, available for 50% gray, so I’m going to turn that on and click OK, and that’s giving
me my first dodging and burning layer. So I’m actually going to duplicate this and I’m
going to call this bottom one “big,” and then, I’m going to call this one “detail.” And,
you know, I have different ways of working, but for this one, I’m just going to do a real
basic kind of a workflow. So what I’m going to do is I’m just going
to lighten and darken different parts of this photograph to bring out a 3-dimensional depth,
so what I’m going to do with the big is I’m going to do the overall kind of adjustments
just to kind of set the mood for this image here, and then, for the detail, I’m going
to go in and add some depth to certain areas and just kind of paint those. I’m going to
do this pretty quickly that I think you’re going to get a good gist of how this works
because I don’t want to spend hours painting this one. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to start
by hitting the D key to reset the foreground and background colors, and I want a black
color there, and I’m going to grab the Brush Tool, so B will get you to the Brush Tool
there. And then, what I’m going to do–let me just get that centered–is I want to set
this to a 30% opacity. You can do that by just hitting the 3. If you’re working with
a mouse, maybe you’ll drop it down to 20, and I’m going to turn pressure sensitivity
on for Opacity with my pen. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to start with a big brush
and I said 20, you may do it 15 with a mouse, and that just really depends. So what I’m
going to do is I’m going to kind of set some shadows around the edges here because the
dark areas tend to draw your eye in, so I’m just kind of framing, almost adding a vignette
kind of an effect. And I’m just going to kind of gently go over this whole thing, just kind
of darkening down these different areas. And let’s just go across there and I’m going
to try a little bit more in the sky. It looks like we don’t have a ton of detail on the
sky there. Unfortunately, I kind of blew out those clouds a little bit, but let’s see if
we can get something back by dodging and burning in there. And the other thing you can do is,
if you feel like you really want to try and recover this, just go on to here, and what
we’re going to do is go Filter, and we’re going to the Camera Raw Filter. And let’s
open this in Camera Raw real quick, and then, we’re going to bring back the highlights.
Okay, so we’re able to recover a little bit of detail there. That’s not bad, it’s all
the way up. And let’s _[00:04:06] also about the shadow. So what I’m doing is I’m reducing
contrast and I’m going to click OK, and I like that when I’m dodging and burning because,
now, I can start to add my contrast here. See, I can paint in this contrast, so a low
contrast image is great to work with, so I’m just kind of darken up around the edges here
a little bit, maybe, undo that, make the brush a little bit bigger. There we go. And I’m
just kind of gently going over the area, kind of creating this, so I want the light to come
down here. This is where I want the eye to be led, so I’m going to hit the X key, which
means I’m going to paint with white now, and I’m just going to gently just paint on white
just up there, just kind of toning this a little bit. There we go, so almost looks like
a flood light is just kind of going here. It’s almost like I’ve lit this scene. Now this is why I’m doing the dodging and
burning on the same layer. You might be wondering why I’m not dodging on one layer and burning
on another, and let me just go to the Normal Mode and you can see what’s happening here.
The reason for this is if I did this and I made it very, very dark on one layer–let
me hit the X key, I’ve just kind of darkened those edges a little bit–and I do this and
then I try to, you know, fix it by dodging it or lightening it on another layer. And
you’re putting these different grays, so it could be really hard, but when I’m doing the
overall thing, and we go back to Overlay Mode, then it’s very easy for me to lighten or darken
to see if it feels like, “Wow, it’s just a little dark there.” I can actually just go
here and just gently paint with the white. Now, what it does is it just changed that
shade of gray for me, and that just kind of work. So this overall dodging and burning
just kind of set the mood and we can look at this before and after. You can kind of
see that I’m bringing the eye into this area, because the eye tends to look at the brighter
areas, not the dark areas. All right, let’s go to the detail. Now I’ll hit Command J,
sometimes I split the detail, and, maybe, I’ll do detail light and I’ll do detail dark. And the reason I’ll do this is because that
way, if I feel I got a little heavy on the shadows, I can adjust it independently than
I can on the highlights, just like there. If I feel like there’s just a little too much,
I can just go here and just wind back the Opacity a little bit. See that? You can just
kind of dial it in. And that’s another reason why I do the details separately, so let’s
just do the darks. And what I’m doing is I’m just going to add some shadow. So, right now,
I’m just thinking about where’s the light coming from, you know, there’s not a lot of
light, really, that’s really been cast in here, so, you know, in this case, when I’m
not looking at strong shadow, I’m kind of seeing shadows that looks like the lights
kind of coming straight down this way because it’s a very, you know, middle of the day thing. I’m actually going to enhance this a little
bit and start to add a little bit of drama myself, by even adding some of this light
in here. So I’m going to go for shadows on this side, so I’m going to go darker on that
side, and, gently, just kind of blend that in. And so, what I’m doing is I’m going at
a time of the day where it’s very dark. I mean, I’m sorry, it’s not very dark. It’s
just very bright and everything is kind of blown out, so it’s a lacking in that some
of that contrast and detail, and I’m going to go here just to kind of take these areas
that are blown out. So, I’m actually going to add back in some of this detail that we’re
losing here, just by this time of the day. It’s a boring time of the day to shoot, but
we can make up for it. We’re going to add some drama here, so let’s get some shadow
under here, and we’re going to shadow this side, so we’re actually going to make it look
like more like the lights coming from the left hand side; same in here, let’s give it
a little shadow in here. And, notice, as I’m painting in there, it’s
giving it a little depth, and that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for this
3-dimensional depth, and I’m just going to go there and leave it there, and, maybe, a
little bit on this side. We could kind of drop it down, a little shadow here, and just
kind of drop some of these into shadow. And I’ll grab this dunce, let me just drop that
down pretty small brush, and I’m using the left and the right bracket keys to make the
brush smaller and larger. And I’m just kind of darkening down this side a little bit,
adding a little shadow there, just kind of faking a little bit. I’m actually relighting
the scene, so to speak. And, once again, if you want a lot more detail about this, you
know, I spent two and a half hours creating a premium video, and feel free to check that
out if you like. I’ll put a link to the trailer as well so that you could check that out. All right, so what I’m doing is I’m adding
the shadows on this side, here, and see how it’s just kind of starting to give a little
depth. You won’t even realize how much depth I’m giving this until I come back in a little
bit and I’m going to do some before and after simulation. You’ll be quite surprised with
what’s happening. I’m darkening these down, adding a little more detail. So something
like this could be, you know, quite difficult to do sometimes, because you’re trying to
figure out where the lights and the shadows should be. Let me make that a little smaller.
What we’re literally doing is we’re literally painting this in. So just think of it as the
light is coming from this side is coming down, so it’s coming from the left, I’d say 45 degrees
is what we’re thinking of, so all the front surface is going to be hit with light, and
in the surfaces that are sheltered are the ones that are going to be in shadows, so that’s
why I’m adding some of those shadows in there. And I’m kind of faking it in a certain way
and I’m actually relighting this scene, but it’s adding more contrast, it’s adding more
drama. It’s taking what would otherwise be a very flat scene, and it’s adding depth.
And these are quite flat surfaces, so it’s a little hard for some of these, you know,
you work on round surfaces, and you could really make some of those path. And, also,
you know, you could get into little details like here. You could get as detailed as you
wanted, you know, I’m not going to get super detailed in this because I want you guys to
get the gist of it on this tutorial here, and you could kind of see what we got there,
so looking good. All right, it’s darkened in here because I’m figuring out a little
shadow can go in there. And one of the other things you can do with
this tool is you can use it to take a very overly complex image, and you can start to
simplify it as well. So when you’ve got a lot going on, you can really cut through a
lot of the confusion by using this dodging and burning like you can just like turn that
back a little bit, and we’re just simplifying, and really guiding the eye into the area of
the photo that matters. So let me go underneath the clouds, sometimes I’ll do this, I’ll paint
the bottom of the clouds here just to kind of add a little more shadow under there, a
little more drama, taking care not to go to the top part of the cloud, just the bottom.
And it’s not too hard because when you’re working in this Overlay Mode, a pure white–look
at this–with black, you’re not going to do anything to it. So you don’t really have to worry, but what
we’re trying to do is just vary the pressure a little bit more towards the bottom and see
how it tends to give us more depth, so it’s not looking flat anymore, and that’s the whole
point of what we’re trying to do here is to get depth. We don’t want it to look flat.
We want this to kind of pop, to have some 3-dimensional contrast. All right, so let’s
have a look; you’ll be surprised. Here we go, detail before, and after. You can see
what we’ve done there. It’s really starting to add some things, and when I first turned
it on and off, and you look at it, it goes “Whoa.” It could look a little fake, but,
then, just turn your eye away and then look again, and then, you’re going to be like,
“Wow,” because remember, your viewers are not looking at the before image there, and
they’re looking at the after image, so they won’t see what it looks like before. So I’m just going in here, just adding a little
bit of detail in some of these cracks. I’m just painting in there. And you can get in
really close if you want, which, you know, in a situation like that, I was totally off
there. So you can just kind of get in there and, you know, brush in here as close and
detailed as you want, like right now, I’m just doing it kind of big and loose. That
kind of gives a little bit more of a _[00:11:45] feel. If you go in and paint, you know, at
100%, you’re going into all the super details that would definitely look a lot more realistic
and less painting, but I kind of like this painting look a little bit. So there’s a bit
of a curve there, so I know that that’s going to pick up a little shadow on the Curves side.
Remember, all the ones that are not facing the sun are going to pick up shadow–darken
those up. See how they were flat before and now it’s adding dimension. So, all right,
so let me do a little bit more on the top there, just kind of taking some of that glare
off, and let’s look in here, smaller brush, I’m going to go super small here, and just
kind of paint some shadow in there, look at that, and just in there; just adding a little
more shadow. All right, almost done. All right, so what we’re going to do after
this though, is we’re actually going to jump in, and then, I’m going to add the highlights.
The highlights will be very quick. So what I’m going to do is actually just hit the X
key and now I’m going to the white brush, and I’m going to go up to the Detail layer
on the alpha light, and then, I’m just going to paint some highlights in here gently. And
this is really going to make a big difference. The highlights, actually, in a lot of ways,
make more difference than the shadows, but I like to set the shadows first to set that
foundation. So let’s just go up here and we’re just going to paint up on the side there.
We go, look at that, see how those highlights just really make this pop. I’m just going
in, just on the edges of the guns here. There we go. And this can just really give it an
incredible amount of life, and I’m just going to go at the very top part there, so it’s
just kind of implied that that light is kind of more on the top, see that? And see how
it’s adding that dimension, all that depth that was getting lost before? On this side here, we want this to be brighter
than the other side, because this side is facing directly into the light, so it really
would brighten that up and same with those upward pointing surfaces there. Some of those
can get a little bit more, outside of the dish, and the top there, definitely. All right,
let’s go in the other side of these canisters. Let’s light these up a little bit. Let’s do
this one here, the side facing the light, and, see, by increasing that light, it’s also
increasing that contrast and that dimension, and just a little bit on top here. And let’s
do this side here which will be facing the light would be possibly picking up a little
bit of light. And this is an area here where we could do some dodging and burning to really
start, maybe, use a harder edge brush, and you could use this to separate the background.
We’re not going to worry about it too much here, but see how you could really separate
this from the wood. And that’s another thing that you want to do with this kind of dodging
and burning there. Just use it to separate different parts of the photograph and see
how that really pops now, compared to how it did before. And let’s just give it a, you know, couple
of more little things, and then, we’re going to finish this up; just a little bit on that
side there. That’s kind of very saturated. I don’t like that being so saturated. What
it could do is get back to here and grab the Sponge Tool, so if we look under here, a dodge,
burn, and sponge. Notice I’m not using the dodge and burn tools by the way. I’m painting
here because I prefer these. I’m just using the brushes. But what I’m going to do with
the sponge is I want to desaturate. I’m going to turn my flow down very low, like about
11% and see how that looks. I’m just going to go gentle. There we go. What I’m trying
to do is just desaturate it a little bit because it’s just too bright, too colorful. And I
just feel like it was just looking artificial and just distracting a little bit from the
overall image. If you look at the detail there, I’d gotten too close to the edge there, so
if I want to fix something, by the way, what I do is go to a 50% gray, so I just go to
Brightness and I change that to 50%. That will give me a pure 50% gray. I go up to 100%
with a brush, of course. Let me go up to 100% with that brush. And at 50% gray, and if I
paint on it, the 50% gray will actually erase the strokes and just go back to how it was,
see that? So if you want to undo something, 50% gray on any of these layers will actually
almost work like an eraser, so there’s just a little extra tip for you. All right, so we’ve kind of done a little
bit of work there, and let’s have a look, just very quickly, if we look at this, here’s
our before image and here’s our after image, so you can see, you know, it’s dramatically
different just by doing this basid dodging and burning, so let me just show you, first,
well, here’s our overall dodging and burning, and here’s our detail. Let me show you the
detail by itself, so there’s the highlights by themselves, shadows by themselves, and
let’s do the overall with the shadows, and our overall with the highlights. So there
we go, so you can feel free to adjust any of these with the Opacity if you want to reduce
the effects of those, but that’s a basic of dodging and burning. So thanks for watching, I hope you learned
a little bit about dodging and burning here. For more information, check out the premium
training we’ve got on that. And don’t forget, hit that Subscribe button, subscribe to us,
and then, you’ll get a new episode, at least once a week. I’m thinking of even adding a
few extras. And hit that Like button, and don’t forget, add a comment, let’s get some
discussion going. I’m getting very close to doing my first Q and A session, so I’m going
to grab questions and answers from the comments, and we’re going to be doing that, maybe, in
the week or so. So if I do that, I’ll call your name out on the episode, and, also, maybe
I’ll give away a few prizes. We’ll see. So, anyway, thanks for watching. Until next
time, I’ll see you at the CAFE.


  1. Frank Hernandez April 7, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Great explanation as to the reasons and rationals of dodging and burning. I learned a lot. Thank you.

  2. Argadeux April 7, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    Very good, thanks as always for this great tips.

  3. AMaeTV April 7, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    Nice work there Colin!

  4. Martin Turner April 7, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    Your mouse cursor is very small with the screen size you use;strongly urge you to use "Pin Point" or the like on your Mac so your cursor is better seen for the visually-challenged (as I am). Check out videos from Scott Davenport or Nicole S Young as their videos are far easier to follow. You may even get more followers if you do so …

  5. Charles Pearson April 9, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Great little tutorial Colin. I really like your presentation style. Many thanks.

  6. Jim Hagler April 9, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    An excellent tutorial my friend, thanks

  7. Charles Pearson April 16, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    Thanks again Colin. I've just purchased the premium tutorial and judging on the first two segments it's brilliant. Hugely informative and easy to follow.

  8. Wolfgang Herkner April 24, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    great tutorial, Colin ! thank you !

  9. Jose Diaz H June 2, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Gracias por compartir! 🙂

  10. Stefan Johansson July 15, 2016 at 7:14 am

    Really great tutorial, thanks!

  11. S Sing August 4, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    where's the link to the 2,5 hour premium tutorial?

  12. Dessa Bailey August 18, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Thanks Colin:-)

  13. Danish October 30, 2016 at 3:16 am

    i do not see a camera raw filter in the filters menu

  14. Lorenzo Gerace October 31, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    Once you have finished it looks faker than fake, almost like a shot from an anime movie…

  15. Gabi C November 3, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    I think this is one of the coolest things you can do to a photo to look great. But I have a question: instead of painting with black/white on a grey layer why not just increase/decrease exposure in various areas of the picture? Is not the same? I am new to photoshop, sorry…

  16. AlexoRules99 November 5, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Hi ! I'm looking for a similar tutorial but for landscapes.  Would you have one already created? Thanks!  and amazing work by the way!

  17. Anees Haris November 23, 2016 at 3:50 am

    Great sir . very helpful

  18. RICK.GRAPHICS January 11, 2017 at 5:32 pm


  19. Raul Chavez Huerta February 2, 2017 at 9:39 pm


  20. Stephania Campos March 21, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Great tutorial! Love that look.

  21. Nick B July 5, 2017 at 10:16 am

    just want I wanted to learn. Thank you

  22. Amitabh Mukherjee July 21, 2017 at 5:55 am


  23. Matthew Livingston October 15, 2017 at 12:57 am

    o nice!!!! a free tutorial!! the only free one i could find on youtube!!!

  24. Bruce Fairman April 20, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    Good stuff. Thanks.

  25. Keith McDonald April 21, 2018 at 8:50 pm

    Another great video! I can see how this will help a lot of my work. Thank you.

  26. arte guia360 April 27, 2018 at 11:43 pm

    great!! I´m learning so much with your tutorials. Do you have one specially for editing 360 degrees pictures??? hug from Brazil

  27. Richard Rogers May 31, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    nice style but a little long to explain the technique. Also didn't explain why you are not using the dodge and burn tools?

  28. Love My Dress August 2, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Excellent, thank you. I learned so much from this.

  29. Goerge Matei September 7, 2018 at 4:23 pm

    A premium tutorial ? ;)) with 50% gray layer ? ;)))) gooooood :))) impressive technique :))))

  30. Publicity TrikinDave September 10, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    Have never understood why people insist on using a 50% fill for this; the key, for me, is that it does nothing – if it does nothing -why bother?
    Otherwise, I find these tutorials pretty amazing.

  31. Tony Sponick October 7, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    The direction of the light is incorrect. It would appear that the light is coming from behind the ship as opposed to the top left.

  32. Soumen Ray October 22, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    Very nice…….

  33. violinshin111 December 14, 2018 at 8:23 pm

    i like the techniques a lot but the video is painfully slow

  34. Mike Hermes February 15, 2019 at 8:18 am

    Nice video but you literally mentioned your 2.5 hour special video three times in the first 1 minute and 20 seconds. Now I understand promotion but it is a bit much

  35. sathishkumar May 17, 2019 at 10:29 am

    sharing is caring, thanks bro it was really helpfull

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