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thusband

Is there a preferred way to dodge and burn?

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I'm very new with Affinity but so far I like it a lot. So many things to learn but right now it's dodge and burn. I've been watching a bunch of tutorials and there are many ways to dodge and burn. Some are very complicated with multiple layers, settings and tools like Bland Ranges. Others are fairly simple like creating a duplicate layer in Softlight and using a brush and the Colour Chooser at more or less than 50% gray. The simplest way is using the dodge or burn tool on a duplicate layer. Am I missing something by not using one of the very complicated methods? Are some methods better for certain images over others? What's your preferred method?

Many thanks.

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Ask 5 people how to dodge and burn, and you'll probably get 7 different answers. The answer to the question about a preferred way to dodge and burn is that it's the method you prefer.

That having been said, and despite all the possible complications that can be added, I almost always dodge and burn using a single 50% grey layer set to Overlay blend mode. I brush in black and/or white with a low flow soft brush (usually 100% opacity, 1-2% flow, 0% hardness) and build up the effect slowly.

I never use the Dodge and Burn tools because they are, at heart, destructive tools. Sure, you can use them on a duplicate layer. But you still can't go back to fix a mistake (at least, not easily) without undoing lots of work in between. I prefer to do things non-destructively whenever possible, and that's what doing dodge and burn on a separate layer accomplishes.

It's also been stated that the 50% grey fill in the Dodge and Burn layer is superfluous. You could just add an empty pixel layer and do the black and white brush strokes there. That's true, but I find that when it comes time to actually look at the dodge and burn layer, having the 50% grey background lets me see what I've done much more easily.

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I'm with smadell on this one. Using a 50% grey layer is my choice and it's totally non destructive in the sense that if a mistake is made, you simply paint over the grey layer to erase it.


Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.

These are not my own words but I sure like this quote.

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Additionally you can use the gray layer's blend range options for non-destructive adjustment as kind of global fine tuning of your black vs. white brush strokes.


macOS 10.14.6, Macbook Pro Retina 15" + Eizo 24", Affinity in Separated Mode (documents merged)

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3 hours ago, thusband said:

I'm very new with Affinity but so far I like it a lot. So many things to learn but right now it's dodge and burn. I've been watching a bunch of tutorials and there are many ways to dodge and burn. Some are very complicated with multiple layers, settings and tools like Bland Ranges. Others are fairly simple like creating a duplicate layer in Softlight and using a brush and the Colour Chooser at more or less than 50% gray. The simplest way is using the dodge or burn tool on a duplicate layer. Am I missing something by not using one of the very complicated methods? Are some methods better for certain images over others? What's your preferred method?

Many thanks.

Ahoy @thusband

There are so many ways to adjust highlights and shadows in photo editing software. I won't comment much on the advice you got. Just a little background.

Dodge and burn predates computers; it is a technique from darkrooms. Look up Ansel Adams then you will understand how old it is. It was used in Photoshop from version 1 because it was what photographers knew at the time - and what they got in Photoshop as well. Since then many other techniques were invented and with the use of non-destructive layers, blend modes and masking (recommended) things started to get easier and fun.

Personally I use Photoshop and I am not sure how well Photo does what I do in Photoshop, but I also use some destructive techniques often because what really matters is the resulting quality and look. Not destructive vs non-destructive methods. In Photoshop I use LAB mode exclusively for many edits - especially highlights-shadows-contrast edits - and sometimes I have to use destructive editing. But the results are first class with a minimum of work.

And that's why you shouldn't entirely write of dodge and burn. It is still there for quick edits where you don't give a damn about non-destructive or not. Also note the little sponge fella that is also great for quick and dirty edits of saturation. But generally I would recommend non-destructive especially if you are a beginner. 

What is most important to highlight is that it takes ages to master layers and techniques, to find your favorite workflows and tools and to find a balance between fx destructive vs non-destructive. You'll have to look for advice because many techniques are impossible to guess even for experienced users. But also monkey around as much as you can with layers and settings.

But also... I saved enormous amounts of times by purchasing filters for professional use (I am a professional). They are often not too expensive for hobbyists either.


I gave up using Designer for hobby use - a "professional" vector drawing program without actual vector features. Customers waiting for five years in vain is more than any company can ask for.

Maybe if Affinity Designer 2.0 gets real and advanced vector features I can it use. Until then... I am a customer, a potential upgrader and an active observer with an opinion. Currently I am slowly finishing a project I started in Designer.

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7 hours ago, thomaso said:

Additionally you can use the gray layer's blend range options for non-destructive adjustment as kind of global fine tuning of your black vs. white brush strokes.

Right. I'm experimenting with that now. Thanks.

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@Jowday Thanks, good advice. Lots to learn and that's just dodge and burn.

What kind of filters are you referring to? For the camera or can you purchase filters for Affinity like Nik Collection? I have them as I also am using DxO Photolab.

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15 hours ago, thusband said:

ISome are very complicated with multiple layers, settings and tools like Bland Range(sic).

And there's my editing in a nutshell!


AP user, running Win10

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7 hours ago, thusband said:

@Jowday Thanks, good advice. Lots to learn and that's just dodge and burn.

What kind of filters are you referring to? For the camera or can you purchase filters for Affinity like Nik Collection? I have them as I also am using DxO Photolab.

Photoshop filters and many runs in Photo as well I understand. I don’t like The good old Nik so much except the BW filter. I use filters for noise reduction, Advanced contrast and detail enhancement, BW conversions, film simulation, perspective correction and others. There are many more for the artistic audience out there.

Edits with these are destructive - but I open them and pull a few sliders and bingo. Instant succes. And some of them use quite clever algorithms.

Of course I Mix destructive with non destructive layers. But only based on what delivers the best result.


I gave up using Designer for hobby use - a "professional" vector drawing program without actual vector features. Customers waiting for five years in vain is more than any company can ask for.

Maybe if Affinity Designer 2.0 gets real and advanced vector features I can it use. Until then... I am a customer, a potential upgrader and an active observer with an opinion. Currently I am slowly finishing a project I started in Designer.

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