One of my favorite ways to do dodging and burning in Adobe Photoshop is to use an Overlay blend mode layer. The process is super easy to do, easy to see where you applied the effect, and best of all completely non-destructive. When you fill the layer with 50% gray, you will see no impact on your image. But, once you start to paint those pixels lighter or darker you can achieve the effect of a dodge or burn. When I was first transitioning out of the analog darkroom, I really liked this method because it worked, in my mind at least, much like doing dodging and burning in the analog darkroom.

The technique is fairly simple.

  1. Create a new layer.
  2. Set the blend mode to Overlay and fill with 50% gray.
  3. Set your foreground and background colors back to the default for black and white.
  4. Using a brush tool, paint the areas you want to lighten with white and the areas you want to darken with black.

Some advanced points to consider that I cover in the video:

  • Create separate layers for dodging and burning
  • Set your brush opacity to 50% and use the Fade Brush Tool command to adjust your burns and dodges
  • If you make a mistake, just use a 50% brush and remove your edit