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Professional Retouching Tutorial: Dodge and Burn (Part 2)
NOTE: This post was originally posted on August 25th 2010. However, we still to this day have readers who want to master professional photo retouching. This tutorial has helped a lot of people since it was first pubilshed, so we hope that whether this is your first time reading it, or you’re using it as a refresher, it’s helpful for you.

Professional Retouching Tutorial: Dodge and Burn (Part 2)

If you’ve completed the Professional Retouching – Healing tutorial with your chosen image, you’re ready to jump into the next step in your professional workflow, Dodging and Burning. This is an advanced retouching tutorial, so stick with it and keep practicing!

You may know the Dodge and Burn tools (O) alter local exposure, lightening or darkening your image in brush strokes. By using Dodge and Burn we’re going to smooth and perfect skin while leaving texture intact, which is of critical importance in professional work. If you’ve ever followed those blurry skin tutorials on other sites, this is definitely the article for you. Some may have refined their understanding of blurring to a high level, which is fine but it’s like spending years becoming so good at pitching a ball you can hit a batsman right in the face 95% of the time. It’s a skill, sure, but unless you change your technique you won’t make the pro team ;)

Here’s an example of skin retouching using dodge and burn;

Rather than use the standard tools, there is a better, more controlled and less destructive way to dodge and burn by using Curves, and we’re going to use that method in this second part of the tutorial.

• Open your chosen image and start a new Curves Adjustment layer and pull the middle of the RGB curve up as demonstrated below.

• Name the layer ‘Dodge’, click on the white mask tab and press Ctrl+I (Cmd+I on a Mac) to invert it, turning it black.

• Start a second Curves Adjustment Layer and pull the middle of the RGB curve down as demonstrated below.

• Name the layer ‘Burn’, click on the white mask tab and press Ctrl+I (Cmd+I on a Mac) to invert it, turning it black.

Alongside each Curve below I’ve added blocked in red how each layer should look in the Layers palette when you’re finished, named and with a black mask tab.

I’ll reopen the image I began in part one to demonstrate.

Select a soft Brush set to around 1-4% flow, with your foreground colour set to white.


On the black masks you’re going to paint with white, showing the effect beneath gradually.

Click on the Dodge layer’s black mask and paint an area lighter, or click the Burn layer’s black mask to paint an area darker.

Remember the dark area at the side of the mouth from the first part of the tutorial? Simply paint it out with the Dodge layer;

With your Flow set to 1% you won’t see a huge change with every mouse click, it’s a gradual, controlled build-up. Gently stroke your brush across all the problem dark and light patches, switching between Dodge and Burn until you have a beautiful, uniform skin texture.

If you’re having trouble seeing what needs dodging or burning, open a Black & White Adjustment Layer and pull the Reds down far enough to add contrast;

See them now? :)

The rest is just time, a keen eye and practice. Here’s the original side by side with what we can achieve with heal, dodge and burn;

It’s subtle, it takes a lot longer than quick-fix blurring, but remember the bus stop analogy from part one. Good retouching is invisible, cut corners and every waiting traveller, driver and pedestrian on the high street will find out about it.

Professional results take time, but it’s worth it. Web-sized images only tell a small part of the story, but in print, you need to be perfect.

If you have any ideas for future tutorials, please comment below and let us know, I’ll be happy to explain the techniques behind any popular suggestions.


Remember, you can check out Part 1: Healing


About the Author:

Daniel is a professional retoucher with eight years of experience in digital photo-manipulation and retouching. You can follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/dmeadowsretouch

Leave a comment

29 Comments:

  1. BoiteaWeb says:

    Well done, this is very pro. Thx !

  2. Vim says:

    impressive second tutorial Daniel, you made the steps seem easy. Her skin looks smooth and not so blotchy.

  3. I must say really Awesome pic

  4. A great second tutorial and very easy to follow. I will definitely be trying this tutorial and the first one so I can practice retouching different photos of people. This will be handy for me when I have to retouch a photo. Thanks

  5. Great technique, better then just blurring the skin out.

  6. I almost do the jubs as it is suposed to be done. I have a request.. would you explain the background and hair changes? I mean, when you clean up the background do you repaint it? How? And the hair, do you clone it from another place? (this second question is kind of what I do, but I’m not quite sure if it should be done that way or if there’s an easier way to do it)

  7. Hi Pac, I’ll be sure to cover those in a future tutorial :)

  8. Sanjay says:

    A great tutorial. I shall definitely be trying this tutorial and the first one so I can practice retouching different photos of people. This will be handy for me when I have to retouch a image.

  9. Ali says:

    Hi
    nice its perfect

  10. sunjo says:

    Thank you for this tut – very easy to understand and I love that!!

  11. Meerz says:

    Lovely tutorial. Thanks a lot for the insider tips. I’ve discovered D&B recently when I joined DeviantArt, most retouchers there use this technique and I’ve been curious and discouraged at first to learn it because I didn’t manage to get results, but now that I have more tips I’m going to try it again. But I have a question regarding wrinkles and large blemishes and skin imperfections, how do you manage to remove those using the dodge and burn ?! Can you do a video tutorial perhaps on a very small area of damaged skin, so it won’t take a lot of time (:
    Thanks again for these tutorials, my favorite ever!

  12. Hi Meerz, D&B won’t give you much control over colour or texture, I’d recommend cloning carefully and closely to even out any texture issues, then D&B, then correct any global and local colour issues.

    In fact I believe the next tutorial on the list is colour, and after a busy Christmas/New Year (no doubt for Tom also!) and a well-earned break, I’ll get to work on that for you ;)

    Danny

  13. Matos says:

    Thanks for those excelent tips !

  14. Bruno says:

    Awesome tuts, I was never convinced about the “blurry technique”… and that’s why… :)
    Thanks mate, amazing job!

  15. nounou says:

    Awesome!!!
    great job!

  16. James says:

    This was some great tips and works well! I use curves all the time as one off lighting layers, but its good when you find out something new like using them as dodge and burn layers :D

  17. Sou says:

    Well explained, the step by step is really instructive. Thanks you for this new methode, i used to practice “the blur it all technique” before. This is more professional and non destructive for the image !

  18. esco says:

    Daniel, I have a dumb question where is the white mask tab, I`m using CS5 on a mac and I cannot find it anywhere :| . Thanks

    • Tom says:

      Hi Esco, let me try and answer you here. If you’re referring to the mask thumbnail area, it should appear in your layers palette next to your adjustment layer main thumbnail.

      If you’re referring to the actual mask tab then it’s window>masks in your menu.

      If this isn’t what you mean sorry, I wasn’t quite sure about your question. I’m using CS5 on Mac too though so if you let me know I’m sure I’ll be able to help.

  19. Owen says:

    Brillant tut .

  20. akash says:

    Your tutorial is great I am searching this type of tutorial from very long time……ultimately I got it….thanks

  21. Thank you so much for this post. I want to let you know that I posted a link to your blog in CBB Digital Scrapbooking Freebies, under the Page 5 post on Oct. 09, 2012. Thanks again.

  22. Tin says:

    Thank you so much for this post.

  23. anna says:

    hey Daniel, great tutorial! I was wondering if you could do tuts on how to create skin texture where theres none. It would be great to see how pros get this amazing texture. Thanks

  24. Renato says:

    Great tutorial, thank you.

  25. Giulia says:

    great tutorial ! thank you !

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