advanced photoshop

Tool focus preview: Dodge, Burn and Sponge tools

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Magazine previews, by Julie Bassett

Learn how to improve an image using these vital tools

Dodging and burning is a hugely underrated aspect of the retouch workflow; it can transform the mediocre into the magical without the addition of any other Photoshop work. Such is the power of lightening or darkening certain areas of the image to better balance its tones, turning a restless eye that fails to settle or is guided out of frame edge into a relaxed eye content to draw in the subject matter without distraction. There’s no concrete formula for this, but once you’ve had a play with the Dodge and Burn tools that Photoshop has to offer you’ll begin to see how the eye is guided by the relative lightness of tones – half closing your eyes and squinting can often help the process.

The lightness of specific areas is more impactful with black-and-white imagery, where light and white tones really draw the viewer’s eye in the absence of colour. A bright area at the image’s edge, for example, is likely to draw the eye away from the centre area and possibly out of the frame, which is certainly something that you’d want to avoid. It’s for this reason that many people darken or burn the edges and corners of imagery to try and keep the eye focused inside the image parameters.

Read more in Advanced Photoshop issue 95, which is on sale from 19 April 2012 via

Tool focus preview: Dodge, Burn and Sponge tools