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Various Dodge & Burn ( DnB ) Retouching Techniques

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  • Various Dodge & Burn ( DnB ) Retouching Techniques

    I thought it might be a good idea if we cataloged the many different ways to dodge and burn in retouching.

    I've seen approaches from "use the dodge/burn brush" to "paint on overlay layer with 50% fill" to "sample the darkest and lightest skintones, desaturate almost but not quite all the way, then paint on an unfilled soft light layer". I recently saw "use the dodge/burn brush on a 50% gray layer set to soft light".

    And I'm sure there are many more ways I haven't seen, including some radically different.

    So list your go-to dnb technique here. Perhaps include the advantages and disadvantages you know of.

    And I'm sure many are using techniques with advantages you didn't know of, and disadvantages you do, so feel free to share that as well.

    Let's make this the definitive thread on retouching with dodge and burn.
    Learn by teaching
    Take responsibility for learning

  • #2
    Re: Various Dodge & Burn ( DnB ) Retouching Techni

    I use linear curves to introduce "shadows" because shadows are more "flat", for example.


    • #3
      Re: Various Dodge & Burn ( DnB ) Retouching Techni

      I use two Curves one set to Multiply and the other set to Screen no adjustments to the curve at all.


      • #4
        Re: Various Dodge & Burn ( DnB ) Retouching Techni

        Curves allow fine-tuning of of RGB (and thus, relative saturation) as 'coefficient' values to achieve authentic, natural results when retouching skin or anything else similarly unforgiving. 50% grey layers are more accessible and less labour-intensive when undertaking simple adjustments – though will ultimately require a clipped curve anyway for proper colour-management – while the 'Dodge' and 'Burn' brushes I tend only to use for refining masks.

        Edit: As you can see from the following (excellent) tutorial, RetouchPro's own Daniel Meadows uses both to great effect;

        Dodging and Burning is a method of lightening and darkening specific areas of an image, regulating local exposure to even out texture and contours. It digitally acheives (and with much more control) an old darkroom technique of witholding light (dodging) to keep an area light, or increasing the...
        Last edited by Profesh; 05-03-2015, 04:08 PM.


        • #5
          Re: Various Dodge & Burn ( DnB ) Retouching Techni

          I don’t have any special techniques to offer, but the following is my overall approach to D&B when working on skin. I use a blank layer set to Soft Light and a small soft brush usually somewhere between 3 and 9 opacity. I use the X key to swap swatches. I don’t use pressure sensitivity, preferring to build up the effect with repeated passes.

          The first thing I tend to do before starting on the D&B is to scribble over some sample areas with a higher opacity brush to assess whether/where the colour is likely to shift as the effect is built up. Sometimes this initial test tells me that working with default Black and White swatches will be fine, but more often than not it results in adjusting the Dodge and Burn swatches. I find the quickest way to do this is just to sample from a highlight or shadow area of the skin to get an appropriate hue value and then adjust the brightness of the swatch. So for example, instead of Dodging with a pure white I might be using something like R255 G247 B244.

          I’m very wary of using “Help” layers except for the purpose of doing a quick initial assessment or occasionally checking progress. When I do set up Help layers, it’s just a Hue/Sat adjustment layer with the saturation down and set to Color bled mode, and another adjustment layer on top, set to Multiply.

          The other thing I avoid is working zoomed in too close. I usually work at 50% - 100% and keep two other windows up, one at a medium zoom and the other zoomed right out. The supplementary windows help me to assess what needs to be done, and how effective my progress is. A ’trick’ that I habitually use (which I think came from Gry Garness - RIP) is to grab the image with the hand tool and ‘jiggle’ it around a bit, which helps in assessing tonal values. Flipping the image horizontally is another good way of getting a fresh eye.

          I think it’s good to build up the D&B gradually and keep moving around the image to keep a fresh overview. Sometimes, when I feel I’ve overdone a local area, I use the Eraser followed by the Fade command to bring it back more subtly. Also I would tend to leave off the D&B layer short of completion, and maybe move up to some work with global colour or tone adjustments and come back later.

          When I send the first round to the client I usually err on the side of the D&B being a wee bit too much. Then they get back to me and tell me it’s a wee bit too much and I back it off and they’re happy.


          • #6
            Re: Various Dodge & Burn ( DnB ) Retouching Techni

            I don't do this stuff as much now, but anyway I've used channel mixer quite a bit with the most neutral adjustments I can get relative to appearance. If I'm going to use one or more layers for a bit adjustment to the implied lighting in a shot, it's usually a custom adjustment. I've used sampled colors in modes like softlight, but their results aren't always predictable for significant adjustments. Sometimes small details spread across a few pixels flatten out too much. I've dealt with various stuff, but the majority of it has involved people. Clothing and anatomical details are easily lost, so I'm extremely cautious with anything that will be used for actual smoothing of smaller stuff.

            Anyway brightness/contrast in newer versions of photoshop would probably work as well as long as color adjustments aren't necessary. I used to use channel mixer channels scaled to adjust brightness of certain things, yet around CS5 or 6 they switched the brightness contrast algorithm to the same thing.

            The other aspect to that is accuracy. I've always told people to try painting a few strokes on a blank document to make sure they have as much control as they think. Otherwise it's easy to be off by a few pixels, and zooming in past 100% too often makes you lose perspective and spend way too long on an image.


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