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Adobe Photoshop Basics
Lesson 8c: Dodge, Burn, and Sponge Tools

Dodge Tool, Burn Tool, Sponge ToolNext we have the tools with odd names: dodge, burn, and sponge. These tools get their names from traditional photography where, in the darkroom, light could be blocked out (dodged) in order to make portions of an image lighter, or light could be passed through a small concentrated hole to darken (burn) an area. (Continued below...)

Adobe Photoshop Basics
Read This First!
Course Outline
Retouching Tools Intro
Blur, Sharpen, Smudge
• Dodge, Burn, Sponge
Clone Stamp, History Brushes
• Ex: 1&2 3 4&5 6&7 8 9 10

Interactive Classroom
Visit the forum to post your questions and comments.
-Get Help with Lesson 8

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These tools are known as the toning tools and that should help you remember the keyboard shortcut of O. As usual, you can toggle between the three by pressing Shift-O.

  • Dodge - Lightens pixels where you paint.
  • Burn - Darkens pixels where you paint.
  • Sponge - Saturates or desaturates the pixels where you paint.

The dodge and burn tools work best on grayscale images. On color image the dodge tool will wash out color and details, the burn tool will just turn the area black or sunburned-looking. In a grayscale image, these tools are used to lighten shadows or overexposed areas and to darken underexposed areas. They have a unique option for "range" with choices of highlights, midtones, and shadows.

  • When set to highlights, only the lightest areas are affected.
  • When set to shadows, only the darkest areas are affected.
  • When set to midtones, only the middle tones are affected.

They also have an exposure option which controls how intense the effect is. Generally you want to use both of these tools with a fairly low exposure. You will probably rarely bring it over 25%.

In grayscale images, one example where the dodge tool is useful would be for removing dark shadows from under a person's eyes. An example where the burn tool would be useful would be to reduce the shine on a persons face from light reflecting off it. In addition to working with grayscale images, dodge and burn can also be useful for adding highlights and shadows on cartoon-style drawings and artwork.

The sponge tool allows you to adjust the color saturation where you paint. It has two modes: desaturate and saturate. The pressure option controls how strong the effect is applied.

  • Desaturate mode dulls the colors, turning them gray.
  • Saturate mode intensifies the color, making them brighter.

If you have an image that was converted from CMYK mode to RGB mode, you will generally find the colors are somewhat dull and washed out. You can use the sponge tool in saturate mode to brighten them up. Conversely, when you're working on an image in RGB mode that is eventually going to be converted to CMYK, you can watch for out-of-gamut colors and use the sponge tool in desaturate mode to bring those colors back into the CMYK gamut. In desaturate mode, the sponge tool is also useful for toning down colors in the background of an image when you want to make a foreground object stand out, or for giving a color photo a vintage, colorized appearance.

Next > Clone Stamp Tool, History Brushes

Related Video
Adobe Photoshop Dodge Tool
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