Dodge and Burn using Undo Brush tool

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This process for dodging and burning in Affinity Photo is based upon some details in a book by George DeWolfe published in 2009 which dealt with producing black and white prints which used the History brush in Photoshop. The process has been tried on black and white images but I feel sure that it would work on colour as well. I would be really pleased to receive comments and constructive criticism as I expect there are other ways of  using the Undo brush to dodge and burn.


Firstly it is essential that the top layer in the stack is a pixel layer so I included such a layer in the process. The other advantage of this layer is that if you are not satisfied with the end result it can be deleted and replaced with a fresh pixel layer. When your processing has reached the dodge and burn stage then proceed as follows:-


To the layer stack add a Pixel Layer and then take Snapshot

Select the Snapshot by clicking on the camera next to the name

Select the Undo Brush tool, set the opacity to about 15%, leave the flow at 100%, adjust brush size and reduce hardness until you have a really soft brush. If you use a tablet make sure that the setting for pressure sensitivity is switched on. The last thing to do is to set the Blend Mode dependant on your requirements as follows:-

Multiply - darkens a local area

Screen - lightens a local area

Colour Dodge - lightens small areas of extreme, bright white

Colour  Burn - darkens small areas of extreme shadows

Difference - darkens extreme highlights


Once you are set up the only thing which needs to be changed between the various dodging and burning needs is the Blend Mode. The effect is best built up gradually by a series of strokes - PLEASE NOTE  that the effect does not show until the mouse button is released or the pen lifted from the tablet at the end of each stroke.


Please excuse my way of presentation - I hope you will find this useful - enjoy.





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One week ago this method was put up for comment and, despite 78 views, there has not ben a single comment good, bad or indifferent. Oh well, that's how the cookie crumbles.

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Thank you for your process of burning/dodging in Affinity Photo (AP). Sometimes forum members like myself don’t view the forums often. But when we do, and when we see something valuable, we tend to ask many questions and probe the topic a bit.

I hope you will indulge my questions. I’m just trying to understand what you’re saying, as I have not used the Un-Do Brush (History Brush in Photoshop) in either software. FYI, I’ve left Photoshop a while ago, and am picking up with AP. My primary focus will be on B&W burning/dodging.
Regarding your burning/dodging workflow in AP:

1.    Let’s say I’m in the middle of my developing a B&W image, and want to burn/dodge. Have you found any difference between inserting a blank pixel layer or inserting a merge visible layer? Have you found the effects of burn/dodge to be the same on the merged visible layer, as opposed to the blank pixel layer? Are they the same same when viewing burn/dodge real-time?

2.    What is the purpose of taking a Snapshot at the beginning of the blank pixel layer? Must the Un-Do Brush refer to this Snapshot layer? Can it be done any other way?

3.    I’m curious as to why you set your Un-Do Brush at 15% opacity and leave the flow at 100%. Have you found it to be different if you set a 100% opacity and flow at 15%? Or are they the same thing…?

4.    You give some good blend modes.

  1.  Did you mean any difference between the “local” area of your Multiply and Screen blends and “small” areas of your Color Dodge/Burn. In other words was there any difference between “local? and ”small?” Or are they the same, if the brush strokes were over the exact same areas?
  2. Have you applied the Color Dodge/Burn to B&W images? Or did you apply only to color images? What effect did you experience,  if applied to B&W images?
  3.  How did you develop the blend modes as applied to areas needing burn/dodge? Trial and error? Or were there others who suggested these uses?

Thanks in advance for your considerations.

Wei Chong

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At last, an interested B&W photographer, so thanks Wei Chong. As I mentioned at the beginning of my posting, the methodology was taken from a book by George deWolfe, however, I will try to answer your questions as best as I am able. The idea behind this process is to use pixels from the underlying image not from some grey layer which you may care to use in the usual dodge/burn. Therefore, I think it is best to leave D/B to as late as possible in post processing and, as the results of the process are so easy to see you might find trial and error more helpful than all the words.


The snapshot gives the base image from which you are going to paint to lighten or darken parts of your image using the Un-Do-Brush.


Dodging and burning is a subtle process and needs to done gradually hence the opacity needs to be quite low. The figure of 15% is just a suggestion and you are able to experiment to find the opacity which best suits your wok flow. Do not confuse opacity with flow, they are not the same thing.


I am only interested in processing black&white images but I recognise that I am in the minority hence I felt it necessary to point out that this method of dodging and burning applies equally as well to colour images.


I hope I have answered your questions but not in the order you asked them. To re-iterate, the process was copied from a process developed for Photoshop and adjusted for Affinity Photo and the best way to appreciate what can be done is to experiment using an image in Affinity Photo. Practice makes perfect and, remember, if you are not happy with the result you can always delete the top pixel layer and start again. I will be interested to learn how you get on.






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