Before digital photography was invented, photographers had to develop their film at a photo lab or do it themselves. When working in a darkroom, you could intentionally hold back light from shining on sections of a print, and this would make those sections appear lighter. This technique is known as "dodging", and since those analog days, the concept has been updated for today's photo editing software.
So what is the Dodge tool, and how can photographers and designers use it to lighten certain areas of an image? Below, we've shared how to dodge image areas in Photoshop, just like you would in a darkroom.
- 1. First, launch Photoshop and open the image that you want to dodge. Remember: when you apply the Dodge tool on a background layer, those edits are permanent, so make sure to create a duplicate layer in the Layers palette and paste your image in there before making any edits.
- 2. Next, select the Dodge tool from the main toolbar (the icon looks like a dark magnifying glass). In the Dodge options bar near the top of the screen, you can choose from a variety of brushes and brush styles. The Range setting also affects how the Dodge tool affects colors in your image, and there are three options for this:
- Shadows: Edit the dark sections
- Highlights: Edit the light sections
- Midtones: Edit the middle range (generally the best option)
- In the same options bar, you can choose the kind of exposure applied to your Dodge tool, which is measured in percent. For subtle dodging, we'd recommend choosing an exposure around 15%, but for more dramatic edits, try an exposure around 50%. Next to the exposure setting, there's an airbrush button that changes your dodging brush into a finer spray.
- On the far-right side of the options bar, there's a setting called Protect Tones. If this is enabled, Photoshop will analyze the original image in comparison with your dodge edits, and then try to prevent colors from changing to different hues. It also reduces clipping when you dodge shadows and highlights.
- When you're happy with the Dodge settings, start drawing on the image that you want to lighten. Until you save the project, it's easy to undo edits that you don't like. We also recommend saving copies of your work periodically, so that you don't run into a situation where you hit "Command+S" and then regret saving certain edits.