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Photoshop Basics: The Dodge Tool

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If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!

In this tutorial, learn to use the Dodge Tool to brighten specific areas of a photo.

* This tutorial is part of the Photoshop Basics Collection

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What is the Dodge Tool?

In Photoshop, there is a wide range of useful tools that even some of the more advanced designers aren’t using to their full potential. Possibly one of the most underutilized tools in the Photoshop arsenal is the Dodge tool. Dodge is part of a pair of tools that accomplish similar but opposite tasks. Its companion tool is the Burn tool. Here is an overview of Dodge and how you can use it to create stunning depth and rich texture in photos.

The Art of Lightening Pixels

Essentially, Dodge lightens selected pixels, while Burn darkens selected pixels. The importance of this is that while there are other ways to make adjustments to the overall brightness or hue of a photo, they generally apply the changes universally, which can give your photo a somewhat flat feel. By using Burn and Dodge, you can create contours, shadows and depth, giving your photo an almost three-dimensional feel. With Dodge, you can also highlight certain areas of your photo where you want your viewer’s eye to be drawn.

Paint with Light

Photography is sometimes referred to as “painting with light” because master painters like Caravaggio used light in their paintings to create stunning richness, texture and depth. Master photographers follow in these footsteps, but they literally use light rather than a paintbrush to create texture and depth. Not all photos are shot in a studio, and setting up lighting just right takes a great deal of time. Thanks to the Dodge tool, this is no longer necessary. With Dodge, you can create a pinpoint of light on exactly the right area of your subject to create highlights and lowlights, richness and depth.

Make Your Black-and-Whites Pop

While Burn and Dodge can be used on color photos to create richness and depth, the place where they possibly shine the most is on black and white photos. Many black and white photos lack true, rich contrast and are instead a somewhat bland series of grays. Dodge allows you to brighten whites into crisp, bold pops of vibrant color. When applied to black and white photos, Burn and Dodge can turn the blandest and most boring photo into a stunning, vibrant work of art.

Dodge is also a great tool for lightening up faces cast in shadows, applying subtle highlights that make the subject stand out from the background. Want to create a brilliant beam of sunshine to accentuate your toddler’s fine blonde hair? Dodge can do that! Do you want to create a subtle “spotlight” that shines directly on that gorgeous engagement ring? Dodge can take care of that, too!

For more great tips, tools and tricks using Dodge for Photoshop, please check out our tutorial video. We have a comprehensive library of instructional videos to help you get the most out of Photoshop.

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