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Photoshop for Beginners: Essential Training

Lesson 35 of 49

The Burn and Dodge Tools

Mark Wallace

Photoshop for Beginners: Essential Training

Mark Wallace

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Lesson Info

35. The Burn and Dodge Tools
These tools are used to darken and lighten areas of an image. Mark explains how to use these tools and when to use more modern tools instead.


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Introducing Photoshop


The Class Materials


How To Open Files


Using The Home Screen


Exploring The Interface


Getting Additional Help


Understanding Workspaces


Lesson Info

The Burn and Dodge Tools

let's talk about film developing back in the days when you had a dark room. What you would do is you would have this thing called a magnifier and then you would shoot through your negative down to the Prince and then based on that you would have either more or less light so you would have an exposure, it was darker or brighter based on the amount of light that would hit that print that photo paper. So what you would do is you would um use your hands to sort of manipulate the light so you would let more light through but block it from other areas that's called burning in letting more light in. Or you could use a little tool that looks sort of like a spoon to sort of block the light. And so that would keep the light from hitting the photo and that would dodge or keep it would lighten an area in the image. So it's an old darkroom thing. Those tools showed up in the very first version of Photoshop there called the burning dodge tools. Let me show you how they work now. Again, these are leg...

acy tools. What we're gonna do is we're gonna go open, you might have this in your recent files here. The concha uh file. So I'm just gonna click this from my recent files and open that. Remember this is the adobe camera interface? We don't have to worry about quite yet. And so just go down here and click open if you don't see that in your recent files. Issues file. Open, navigate two years. Class files and open concha dot D. N. G. Okay so what we want to do is again I'm going to double click the magnifying glass. Use my hand to bring this over so we can see her face. And then I'm gonna unlock the background layer and then use command or control J to create a copy so that we can non destructively edit. And then I'm going to say burn and dodge. Now when we go over here to our toolbar you can see a little hand and a little dodgy little spoon looking tool. Those are directly from the old light. Uh those little dark room days when you use your hands and you use that little tool. That's why they look like that. And so the burn tool. I'm gonna get that and notice we have some options up here in the options bar and you can say what do you want to burn the highlights of the mid tones or the shadows? And so it's the dark areas in the image of dark tones, The grays, the middle gray areas or the whites, The bright areas. That's what those are. So what we wanna do is we wanna retouch some shadows on conchas face. We're gonna choose mid tones so they're not the darkest areas, they're not the brightest areas, the areas that are sort of in the middle as far as luminosity. The other thing we can do here is we can say what kind of exposure, how dark do you want this? How bright do you want this? So we're gonna take this to about 30%. I'm gonna take it actually up to about 50%. So you can see what this is doing. The other thing we have here, we have uh this little tool here to turn on and off the pen tablet. I want that to be turned on or you can make this into an airbrush tool. So if you have a tablet, you can use some extra features to really control how this works. So what I'm gonna do here is if you click or if you touch and drag on the screen, this is going to darken the areas that you're painting on. So it's gonna just darken it. So if I paint this right here, notice it darkens this area. I'm just gonna paint and it's darkening the whole thing. I'm way over doing this so you can see what's happening, but it's just darkening that area. Okay? And the more you paint, the darker it gets that is dodging. I mean that's burning. So that's like what you do in a dark room where you just let lots of light hit the photo paper. So I'm gonna undo that it's a little too much for my taste And we'll take this exposure down to maybe something realistic like 12 or 13, maybe 16%, maybe I just want to darken her cheek to bring out these shadows. So I'm just gonna lightly paint on this. There we go. It's a little bit too much. It looks like she's been hit. So maybe I can undo that control Z take this exposure down even more, maybe that 9%. And then really lightly bring that in, bring this in. And so I'm just gonna really lightly go in here and do this a little by little by little by little. Okay, that's the burn tool. Now, there are techniques that you will learn is when you start doing some advanced compositing advanced retouching that you might need to use burn and dodge on some adjustment layers and masks and things like that. That's where we normally use them now. But it just sort of darkens things. And then the other thing we can do here, if we choose the dodge tool, it's the exact opposite. It's gonna lighten, it's gonna lift the values and again, you have the same options. You can choose the mid tones, the shadows and the highlights. You can say how much do you really want this to do that? And so you want to keep that sort of low, maybe not, let's say 20%. You can turn on all these different options if you have a tablet and now watch, I'm gonna go in here and do the opposite. Just gonna paint and see how that just gets lighter and lighter and lighter and lighter. If you do it too much it's gonna get overexposed. You don't want to do that, but you can take this and you can lighten and darken different areas in an image using burn and dodge. Now um you will use these tools in uh some more advanced techniques when you're using different layers and adjustment layers and uh some some more advanced things that we'll get to in the future. But um there are better ways to darken enlightened areas in an image using some filters that we're just about to get to their radio filters, their adjustment brushes and things that you can do in adobe camera raw and the adobe camera raw filter. There are much more modern way to do these types of adjustments. And so that's what we're gonna cover coming up in the future sessions.

Class Description


  • Navigate and customize the Photoshop interface.
  • Edit images using non-destructive techniques.
  • Use layers and layer masks to create composite images.
  • Retouch portraits using advanced retouching techniques.
  • Develop scenic photos using tonal and color correction techniques.


The perfect workshop series for Adobe Photoshop beginners. This class assumes that you are new to Photoshop and want to learn how to retouch and adjust your images.

This workshop is a comprehensive overview ofAdobe Photoshop. By the end of this workshop you’ll have the skills you need to edit your images using Photoshop.

These sessions are jam packed with hands-on activities which allow you to learn by doing. Sample files are included with the workshop so you can follow along with hands-on exercises.

The sessions begin with a solid foundation and add new techniques and principles until you have mastered your post-production workflow.

By the end of this workshop you’ll have a clear understanding of the Adobe Photoshop interface, and the most commonly used tools. You’ll be able to edit scenic and portrait photos. You’ll have a solid understanding of color correction and skin retouching.

This workshop has everything you need to master Adobe Photoshop.


  • Photographers with little or no experience with Photoshop.
  • Photographers with limited or no experience with Lightroom or other post-production software.
  • Portrait photographers who want to know how to do basic skin retouching.
  • Scenic photographers who want to know how to do basic color and tonal corrections.
  • Photographers who want to know how to do basic compositing.


Adobe Photoshop 2021
Adobe Bridge 2021
Adobe Creative Cloud (all apps)


Mark Wallace is a photographer based in the United States. Best known for his web-based video series Digital Photography One on One and Exploring Photography sponsored by Adorama.

Millions of people have watched Mark’s videos on YouTube, and the numbers continue to grow. Mark has a strong social media following on Facebook and Twitter, where he spends time interacting with viewers and workshop attendees.

In 2014, Mark left the United States to embark on a 2-year worldwide adventure. He visited 28 countries and captured thousands of unique photographs across the globe.

In 2016 Mark decided to give up planes, trains, and automobiles and is now exploring the world on his motorcycle.

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Class Materials

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Mark did a great job at explaining things and going over them multiple times throughout the lessons. My only issue was that sometimes it went a little faster than I could keep up and I needed to rewind it a bit and start again. But from someone who has never worked in photoshop before I 100% recommend this class to anyone trying to learn.