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  • D&B Curves vs. Soft Light Layer

    Hi everyone! As I advance in Photoshop it becomes more and more apparent that there are a million different ways to do the same thing! What I'm curious about is the reasons why people pick particular methods of pixel level dodge and burn. Who uses curves, why? And who uses a soft light layer, and why? I've used both methods and I'm still trying to figure out what works best for me. If it's just a matter of preference, I would still like to know why this is your preference. Also, if there was a previous thread about this please feel free to point me there. Thanks!

  • #2
    Re: D&B Curves vs. Soft Light Layer

    Once you know what you're doing, and don't do any backtracking, you'll realize curves are the way to go, as you automatically create color correction masks.

    Backtracking (using both curves at the same spot) reduces image quality.

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    • #3
      Re: D&B Curves vs. Soft Light Layer

      This is a pretty good explanation
      http://nataliataffarel.tumblr.com/post/4551849530/dnb

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      • #4
        Re: D&B Curves vs. Soft Light Layer

        For what it's worth, in the context of skin retouching, I use a blank layer set to Soft Light, which allows you to switch from Dodge to Burn by hitting the X key. If I think there are going to be colour shift issues, I do a quick test and adjust the Foreground/Background swatches accordingly. For example, if dodging is going to push the skin colour towards magenta, I'll add a touch of green (the complementary of magenta) to the Background/White swatch. This may sound fiddly but it literally takes seconds.
        If I suspect there are going to be more subtle/unpredictable colour shifts, or if I don't trust my judgement at this stage, then I just go ahead and do all the dodging and burning with complete disregard to colour (usually with a desaturating help layer), and then make any local colour adjustments later in my workflow. This is my habitual way of working and I don't believe its any better or worse than the other methods - it just works for me.

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        • #5
          Re: D&B Curves vs. Soft Light Layer

          @ AKMac

          Yes, but you can make a mask from the soft light layer using subtract and divide blending modes and a neutral gray layer, then selecting the RGB channel. It's not automatic like when you DNB with curves but, it does work.

          Now, as for the color correction, I agree with everything and would like to add this.
          You can also make DNB groups that have a mask and put color corrections and curves in the group.

          I'd also add that you have to add color correction for each color "group", so for the blue shirt, for the red skin etc and roughly mask it. The DBN mask itself that defines the group will keep it precise.

          Important: alt + [ and alt + ] will let you move thru the layer stack ,a and since you use your bracket keys to adjust the brush it is much easier than hitting x in softlight.

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          • #6
            Re: D&B Curves vs. Soft Light Layer

            I prefer to use curves as it gives me more flexibility. I can adjust how much this layer will darken or lighten. The another reason is I can work only with shadows or midtones which is impossible for soft light layer. Curves work amazing for any purpose. Also I create clipped Hue/Saturation Layers to my Curves and adjust it in case of color shift.
            I use 50% gray or empty layer with soft light mode only when my d&b work is light and quick (like some corrections etc)

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            • #7
              Re: D&B Curves vs. Soft Light Layer

              I used to use the curves with a hue/sat adj clipped to it, however im using a soft light layer more and more now. Similarly to AKMac, I use a soft light layer but instead painting using black and white, I colour pick a highlight and shadow area, desaturate and lighten or darken them them slightly. This avoids and saturation shifts you normally get when using b&w.

              Also I can then do local colour corrections on the same layer by highlighting the appropriate channel, clicking on the eye of the RGB composite channel and then painting on the soft light layer.

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              • #8
                Re: D&B Curves vs. Soft Light Layer

                Originally posted by rl-retouch View Post
                .....but instead painting using black and white, I colour pick a highlight and shadow area, desaturate and lighten or darken them them slightly. This avoids and saturation shifts you normally get when using b&w.
                I've been meaning to try this. It seems to make a lot of good sense.

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                • #9
                  Re: D&B Curves vs. Soft Light Layer

                  Originally posted by AKMac View Post
                  I've been meaning to try this. It seems to make a lot of good sense.
                  It also takes a lot of good time.

                  Try my way.

                  Make groups for d and b with a black masks, and put curves inside the groups, then you can then make loose masks at every part that needs adjusting, and can make use of layer blend properties for each of the adjustment layers, making them act more like a gradient map.

                  Why not clipping layer, but a group?

                  Mostly because a group can be collapsed for cleaner layer stack. Second, because you can use any blend mode independent of the curve.

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                  • #10
                    Re: D&B Curves vs. Soft Light Layer

                    Originally posted by skoobey View Post
                    It also takes a lot of good time.
                    It takes a few seconds...Your curves method seems well thought out but too elaborate for me, I don't see any need for that when I can just keep everything controlled on one soft light layer. As ever though its worth trying every method to see what suits.

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                    • #11
                      Re: D&B Curves vs. Soft Light Layer

                      I hate both. I typically use channel mixer set to some combination that I like or just a background copy. They're two of the easiest to control, although I've also used curves. On anything with a mask I don't set the brush mode to normal. I prefer something more like linear dodge with a very dark color and high opacity. It has a much nicer buildup. I keep the boxes set to a really dark swatch and a second that's a bit brighter for a stronger effect. More are stored in the swatch palette. The history brush is used if I need to back off on something. That typically works. If I need something a bit more complex, I group layers like skoobey. It has to be something very specific though.

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                      • #12
                        Re: D&B Curves vs. Soft Light Layer

                        Originally posted by klev View Post
                        I hate both. I typically use channel mixer set to some combination that I like or just a background copy. They're two of the easiest to control, although I've also used curves. On anything with a mask I don't set the brush mode to normal. I prefer something more like linear dodge with a very dark color and high opacity. It has a much nicer buildup. I keep the boxes set to a really dark swatch and a second that's a bit brighter for a stronger effect. More are stored in the swatch palette. The history brush is used if I need to back off on something. That typically works. If I need something a bit more complex, I group layers like skoobey. It has to be something very specific though.
                        Most of us prefer simple methods to get effective results.
                        Last edited by AKMac; 03-01-2014, 03:55 AM.

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                        • #13
                          Re: D&B Curves vs. Soft Light Layer

                          Originally posted by AKMac View Post
                          Most of us prefer simple methods to get effective results.
                          Mine is simple, and it's very repeatable. I have typical starting layer settings macroed. They aren't difficult to adjust. I have swatches saved. I'm not making the workflow overly convoluted as you suggest. If you work at different places on different days, it's easy enough to bring along preference files and any action setup lists on a thumb drive if necessary. I don't bother because I remember them all. It only takes a minute or two to get set up.

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                          • #14
                            Re: D&B Curves vs. Soft Light Layer

                            Originally posted by klev View Post
                            Mine is simple, and it's very repeatable. I have typical starting layer settings macroed. They aren't difficult to adjust. I have swatches saved. I'm not making the workflow overly convoluted as you suggest. If you work at different places on different days, it's easy enough to bring along preference files and any action setup lists on a thumb drive if necessary. I don't bother because I remember them all. It only takes a minute or two to get set up.
                            It sounded complicated and convoluted (to me, anyway). Can you explain your channel mixer technique - it went right over my head.

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                            • #15
                              Re: D&B Curves vs. Soft Light Layer

                              Originally posted by AKMac View Post
                              It sounded complicated and convoluted (to me, anyway). Can you explain your channel mixer technique - it went right over my head.
                              Raise channel contribution of each channel by the same amount, so say
                              R-->R +10% G-->+10% B-->B+10%. Offset slightly if you need a somewhat different hue. The brush set to linear dodge was just so to allow for a brush set to high or 100% opacity while being able to repeatedly adjust the density of the mask. The results are predictable and don't create a lot of extra layers. You'll find it blends well. I like both of those things. If you are using a brush set to linear dodge, it should be a dark shade. It can even be off black. It's convenient, because flow settings suck, and you won't have brush spacing issues this way.

                              I like things that are predictable. This is predictable. I don't use it for everything. It works quite well for smoothing things out, and it's not very cpu intensive.

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