How to Burn and Dodge in Photoshop

Based on the traditional darkroom technique for controlling exposure in particular areas, burning and dodging are used to lighten (Dodge) or darken (Burn) areas of an image.

In this Photoshop class, Karl explains exactly what burning and dodging is, why it’s so valuable and looks at three different methods of burning and dodging. Clearly demonstrating how to use each technique and also explaining the advantages of each, you’ll see how to control exposure to add form and shape to an image simply and easily. Working through two different practical examples, Karl shows just how powerful Burn and Dodge techniques are.

In this class:

  • Burning and dodging in Photoshop
  • How to use the Burn and Dodge tools in Photoshop
  • How to use Curves adjustments layers for burning and dodging
  • How to use selections for burning and dodging
  • Burning and dodging skin
  • Burning and dodging clothes

Other classes that cover how to burn and dodge in Photoshop include Using Masks, Burn and Dodge and Practical Demonstration on Beauty Retouch classes. You’ll also find more advanced classes with further demonstrations by professional retouched Viktor Fejes in our Advanced Photoshop For Photographers course.

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.

Arguably some of the most valuable tools in Photoshop, burning and dodging can be used for any genre of photography. Used for lightening and darkening areas of an image, these techniques can be used to add three-dimensionality to an image.

Key concepts:

Add three-dimensionality to images.

Burn and dodge before and after example

Burn and Dodge can be used to enhance three-dimensionality in two-dimensional images.

Using curves for burning and dodging.

Burn and dodge using curves example

Using curves is one of the most efficient and precise methods of burning and dodging.

Using selections for burning and dodging.

Using selections for burning and dodging

Using selections allows for burning and dodging in very precise areas of an image.

Using the Burn and Dodge tools.

Burn and Dodge tools in Photoshop

Photoshop’s burn and dodge tools are simple and easy to use, but not necessarily the most precise method.

To learn more about some of the other concepts covered in this class, including using masks and making selections, please visit our Post-Production classes. You’ll also find a range of more in-depth demonstrations on how to use these tools in our Photoshop for Photographers course.


  1. Fantastic tutorial, Karl.

    This has been a major step change in my understanding of the concept of what’s actually achievable in post-production.

    Cheers very much!

    1. Hi, come out of ‘Button Mode’ from the actions tab (top right of the tab). Then when you’re back in the default list view, right click the action you want to colour, choose the colour. Then go back into ‘Button Mode’ and it will have that colour.

  2. Hi Karl,

    The Burn and Dodge download only contains a Tiff file, but not the action you talk about in the video on Dodge & Burn. To quickly make the 2 curve-layers needed.

    Anyway, it is super simple to make it myself, i was only wondering if i looked at the right place!

    Kind Regards,

    1. Hi Manny I think I’ve found the problem. We superseded the B&D actions with the Visual Aid Layer action set that also has a B&D action set within it. Try that and let me know how you get on.

  3. Hi Karl,

    Love your Tutorials.

    In the tutorial ‘Dodging & Burning’ you talk about a downloadable action.
    You call it your ‘Burn & Dodge Action, but I can’t seem to find in the section ‘Downloads’

    Kind regards

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