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A Blog on probably just about anything but mostly Photoshop.
Rating: 11 votes, 5.00 average.

Dodge and Burn Confusion

Posted 12-05-2007 at 01:15 PM by cricket1961

D+B works with shading not texture. There is a big difference. Yes it can work with texture, but I think that one of the reasons that people are confused with the way the technique works is because of the definition given.

D+B, or softlight retouching is used to preserve texture in ways that the stamp tool and /or the healing brush can not possibly achieve. Some will say that if you use the mentioned tools set to lighten or darken only it will achieve the same effect.

It doesn't. Ever.

It only succeeds in flattening out an area that then needs to be "doctored to look right".

Nor is Soft light retouching meant to ever be a quick solution to fixing a file. No matter how good you might become at it. It would still mean that you rushed something and it is not at its best.

I have been using the softlight method for nearly 9 years now, and I still take my time and to get it right. If that means it takes me 4 hours on a file that is acceptable to others then so be it. It will then look above and beyond when I am done.

D+B(softlight to some) should never be described at the same time as the word texture. It is to misleading. More than not, it is a drawing technique. When you draw you are not putting texture onto paper or canvas. You are adding shading to the surface. A surface that already has texture that your shading is meant to bring out.

I get asked all the time why I use a softlight layer with a neutral grey fill. Then I get asked "why I use a grey fill and why not leave it blank. It achieves the same thing". And the final question in the series is always "Well I just use the dodge and burn tools on a duplicate of the pixel layer"

To start, the dodge and burn tools that reside in the toolbar are destructive tools. I know that I will get some arguments about this, but think about it. These tools are used to adjust exposure, not shading. Exposure is meant to be a means to capture/adjust a whole and not a portion. And yes, you have pulldown menus for highlights, midtone, and shadow, but they take a while to get the hang of. I see a lot of people using a midtone dodge brush set to 80 on a highlight area (for example). There is just no way to accurately set what that exposure is truly supposed to be at nearly pixel level retouching. When used right, and for the right problem, the dodge and burn tools are great.

Why do I use softlight for my retouching? As opposed to overlay and hardlight? Softlight takes a little longer to achieve what the others do, and with a lot more pressure and density with the brush. Again, it comes back to the level of control I like to have over my tools. Overlay moves far to fast for me and hardlight is to harsh. These two blend modes, for nearly all corrections, are better left to overall moves with a layer mask(or no mask). or within a selection.

So, that leaves me with why fill the softlight layer with a neutral grey fill? Sometimes I use a brush that has such a small amount of pressure and opacity that it is nearly invisible on a transparent layer. The grey makes it stand out rather easily which is good for workflow. The grey also allows me to see how much I have done to a particular area without having the need to use an eyedropper to measure it. The grey also allows me to fairly easily eliminate a portion that I don't like any more without having a whole in the document.
The grey also allows me to blur or sharpen any of my drawing. Or use any color correction methods on it. The list goes on and on.
But I have yet to come up with one good reason not to use the fill.

One more thing before I sign off on this. I don't really understand why there are so many people out there in the retouching world that insist that D+B(softlight) retouching has to be at a pixel level. It is not necessary to zoom in to whatever view the resolution of the image allows for viewing individual pixels. I rarely if ever go above 150% view. Most of my work is done at 100% or less. The further in you zoom the more work you have to do. Kind of like not seeing the tree for the forest. You loose focus on what you are trying to achieve.
The important thing is to get the hard stuff done at the bigger views and then progressively zoom out and using a larger brush and lower opacity, brush out some more.
Better yet, I keep two instances of an image open all the time. One is focused(set to view) the most I can of an image. While the other one has the zoom factor I need to do my retouching. The larger updates as I go along so I can see what looks strange or where I need to go next.

I hope this clears up some of the way people are thinking about what D+B/ softlight retouching is.
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Comments

  1. Old Comment
    CJ Swartz's Avatar
    Your willingness to share your professional experience and knowledge is appreciated.
    permalink
    Posted 12-05-2007 at 01:42 PM by CJ Swartz CJ Swartz is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Flora's Avatar
    Hi Chris,

    thank you very much for this excellent explanation!!!

    I've always used blank layers for my work ... The reason for this is the final file size... but I agree that
    Quote:
    ...Sometimes I use a brush that has such a small amount of pressure and opacity that it is nearly invisible on a transparent layer. The grey makes it stand out rather easily which is good for workflow. The grey also allows me to see how much I have done to a particular area without having the need to use an eyedropper to measure it....
    ... so, I guess, it will be grey for me too from now on ...
    permalink
    Posted 12-12-2007 at 06:26 PM by Flora Flora is offline
  3. Old Comment
    cricket1961's Avatar

    Flora and CJ

    Always glad to help out!
    permalink
    Posted 12-12-2007 at 09:50 PM by cricket1961 cricket1961 is offline
  4. Old Comment
    I second that, great information!
    permalink
    Posted 12-26-2007 at 12:24 PM by abdul10000 abdul10000 is offline
  5. Old Comment
    you have a very easy reading style. Very clear. Do you have any published work? Where can one find it?
    permalink
    Posted 12-30-2007 at 11:07 AM by frommels frommels is offline
  6. Old Comment
    "Better yet, I keep two instances of an image open all the time. One is focused(set to view) the most I can of an image. While the other one has the zoom factor I need to do my retouching. The larger updates as I go along so I can see what looks strange or where I need to go next."

    Genius!!
    Great workflow tip...
    Never thought of that!
    permalink
    Posted 01-04-2008 at 12:35 AM by CaptainHook CaptainHook is offline
  7. Old Comment
    fantastic read, you should write a book.
    permalink
    Posted 01-13-2008 at 06:55 PM by studionewmarket studionewmarket is offline
  8. Old Comment
    seriously Chris, it's DVD time!
    permalink
    Posted 01-29-2008 at 02:31 PM by mrbeagle mrbeagle is offline
  9. Old Comment
    AdamZx3's Avatar
    Very nice write-up. I think the part that helped me the most is working too close. And I never thought about color correcting the gray layer itself (when needed).

    Do you ever soften heavy pores with the D&B layer or is there another technique for rougher skin? (without taking too much of your time )

    Hope the DVD project goes well for you!
    permalink
    Posted 02-19-2008 at 05:58 PM by AdamZx3 AdamZx3 is offline
  10. Old Comment
    Looking forward to your DVD!

    Just wondering, how do you open up a new instance of the file you're working on that updates as you go along?
    permalink
    Posted 03-18-2008 at 09:53 AM by yangez yangez is offline
  11. Old Comment
    cricket1961's Avatar
    Yangez

    In the menu bar go to Window-Arrange-New Window of....

    Chris
    permalink
    Posted 03-18-2008 at 12:55 PM by cricket1961 cricket1961 is offline
  12. Old Comment
    Amazing, thank you!!!
    permalink
    Posted 05-08-2008 at 07:33 AM by 041567970 041567970 is offline
  13. Old Comment
    Ronan's Avatar
    A great explanation of the technic.
    Thank you, very usefull.
    permalink
    Posted 05-28-2008 at 09:09 AM by Ronan Ronan is offline
  14. Old Comment
    crazyfly1's Avatar
    Very nice, I like the suggestion to start at 100% and then move out to work on larger area.
    BTW I work in ovelay because I tend to overdo so at the end I change the blend mode to soft light.
    permalink
    Posted 05-28-2008 at 10:49 PM by crazyfly1 crazyfly1 is offline
  15. Old Comment
    nicobarnao's Avatar
    very good, This clarifies everything to me

    thanks a lot!
    permalink
    Posted 05-12-2009 at 03:52 PM by nicobarnao nicobarnao is offline
  16. Old Comment
    cricket1961's Avatar
    Glad it helped out.
    permalink
    Posted 05-15-2009 at 09:22 PM by cricket1961 cricket1961 is offline
  17. Old Comment
    Hi again Chris

    There is an option in PS that opens the same image twice. I mean,, you can see in 2 windows the same pic. You can have one pic zoomed in and the other fit on screen. As long as you do the adjustments in any of those windows, the other window gets updated with the changes you're applying. So you can edit at full pixels in one window and seeing the whole thing in the other. Not a big thing but who knows... I don't use that way.

    About d&b I have noticed it's d&b doesn't behaves the same painting on a gray layer than applying real d&b over the photo. What do you think about that?
    permalink
    Posted 08-06-2009 at 03:10 PM by Quantum3Studio Quantum3Studio is offline
 

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