Lighten and Darken with Dodge and Burn Tools - dummies

Lighten and Darken with Dodge and Burn Tools

By Barbara Obermeier, Ted Padova

With the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop Elements 10, you can specify the size and softness of your tool by simply selecting from one of the many brush tips. You can also limit the correction to various tonal ranges in your image — shadows, midtones, or highlights. Finally, you can adjust the amount of correction that’s applied by specifying an exposure percentage.

Use these tools only on small areas, such as the girl’s face shown, and in moderation. You can even make a selection prior to dodging and burning to ensure that the adjustment is applied only to your specific area.

Also, keep in mind that you can’t add detail that isn’t there to begin with. If you try to lighten extremely dark shadows that contain little detail, you get gray areas. If you try to darken overly light highlights, you just end up with white blobs.


Follow these steps to dodge or burn an image:

  1. In Full Photo Edit mode, choose either the Dodge (to lighten) or Burn (to darken) tool from the Tools panel.

    Press Shift+O to cycle through the Dodge, Burn, and Sponge tools.

  2. Select a brush from the Brush Preset Picker drop-down panel and also adjust the brush size, if necessary.

    Larger, softer brushes spread the dodging or burning effect over a larger area, making blending with the surrounding area easier.

  3. From the Range pop-up list, select Shadows, Midtones, or Highlights.

    Select Shadows to darken or lighten the darker areas of your image. Select Midtones to adjust the tones of average darkness. Select Highlights to make the light areas lighter or darker.

    In this image, the original image had mostly dark areas, so the shadows have been dodged.


  4. Choose the amount of correction you want to apply with each stroke by adjusting the Exposure setting on the Options bar.

    Start with a lower percentage to better control the amount of darkening or lightening. Exposure is similar to the opacity setting that you use with the regular Brush tool. A setting of 10 percent was used.

  5. Paint over the areas you want to lighten or darken.

    If you don’t like the results, press Ctrl+Z (Command+Z on the Macintosh) to undo.