Grayscale Soft Light Layer
For Dodge and Burn

A grayscale soft light layer dodge and burn with Paint Shop Pro is really easy and very, very effective.

Dodging and burning is a great technique to either darken or lighten an area of an image.  Paint Shop Pro includes dodge and burn tools and they do an acceptable job - but there is a much better way to achieve the same results.

The most effective tools to use is a Wacom tablet which changes size or opacity with pressure - theyre a dream to use!

The technique is exactly the same as it is for a color image and they are used to change local ares of an image rather than the complete image.

Let's do it ...

Using A Soft Light Layer

black and white dodge and burnThis is the image that needs a major grayscale soft light dodge and burn.

These two guys are enjoying a tasty and nutritious snack from a street hot dog vendor.

The burning question is this - will some grayscale soft light dodging and burning give this image some life?

You bet it will ...

As a review - here are the steps  to follow ...

  1. Create a new Soft Light Raster Layer.
  2. Set the Foreground and Background colors to Black and White in the Mixer Palette.
  3. Select the Paint Brush Tool and set the Brush Variance to change Opacity with Pressure (if you are smart Paint Shop Pro user with a tablet).
  4. With this image the foreground color was set to white and dark area of the black jacket were dodged using light pen pressure.  
dodge and burn soft light jacket
Here is the jacket detail with half of the jacket dodged and the other half not yet adjusted.

The difference is not particularly dramatic and that is the nature of dodging and burning - a small change will go a long, long way.

Notice that there are no ugly lines separating the different brush strokes and that is mostly due to using a pen tablet with opacity as the brush dynamic.

Now on to the rest of the image ...

The really neat thing about the grayscale soft light dodge and burn technique is that details that are lost  - things you may not even be aware of - can be restored with a few brush strokes on a soft light layer.

Here is a portion of the image to the left of the guy with the black jacket - the one on the left is obviously the original image and the one on the right has been dodged ...

grayscale soft light original grayscale soft light dodged
Original Dodged

Big difference, right?

The dodged image now has some detail, including:

  • The proprietor of the tasty hot dogs and sausages wearing spiffy shades and hiding behind a glass case.
  • A variety of un-cooked hot dogs and sausages on display.
  • A clock to the right of the proprietor.
  • Detail in the jacket and is that the beginning of a bald spot on the back of his head?
Enough suspense - how do the original image and the corrected image compare after some grayscale soft light dodging and burning?

grayscale soft light original The Original Image
grayscale soft light dodged Grayscale
Soft Light

Dodge and Burn

Well - there certainly is a difference, isn't there?

The new image, however, is kind of flat, kind of lifeless.  Sure - there is more detail but it needs something else ...

Something Else

As you become more proficient with Paint Shop Pro you begin to realize that the different techniques do not live in isolation.

By that I mean the application of the grayscale soft light dodge and burn makes a big difference in local areas of the image (some areas are darker and others are lighter) but an additional adjustment is needed to give this image some pop, some life.  If Paint Shop Pro had a decent Histogram function then we could look at that to decide what more is needed.

Ya - there is a Histogram in Paint Shop but it leaves a lot to be desired (Adobe has great histograms in both Photoshop and Elements).

Here is the Historgram for the adjusted image ...

grayscale soft light histogram

What the histogram is telling us is that most of the pixels in the adjusted image are clumped at the Shadow (left) edge of the image with some in the mid-tone area and a few in the highlight area.  

Unless you are going for a special effect then this histogram is associated with a rather flat and boring image.

(NOTE:  if you want to understand more about Histograms,
and it is a good idea, then visit the Histogram page.)

Luckily we have a whole host of additional adjustments to fix this problem with Levels or Curves being the best choices and these adjustments affect the complete image.

Levels Adjustment Layer

grayscale soft light levels

This is the Levels dialogue for this image.  With a Levels adjustment one is normally looking to move the shadow and highligh sliders in to meet the histogram but with this image the histogram does stretch from the shadows to the highlights.

We want to lighten the image somewhat and moving the highlight (right) slider would insure that some of the image would go to pure white with no detail at all - not good.

The solution is to move the mid-point slider (the middle one) to the left and watch the effect on the image - and here it is ...

grayscale soft light levels The Levels Adjustment
The mid-point slider moved from 128 (middle gray) to 102.
grayscale soft light image The image after adjusting the mid-point slider
grayscale soft light histogram The new histogram

This is an improvement, for sure.

Now - how about trying a Curves Adjsutment on the grayscale soft light image...?

Curves Adjustment Layer

The curves adjsutment layer may be the most powerful of the adjustments available and any Paint Shop Pro'er who wants to create great images needs to understand and use Curves!

Here is the Curves Adjustment Layer dialogue ...

grayscale soft light curves

This is not a tutorial on Curves - that can be found right here - Curves

In the image the shadows are fine while the mid-tones and highlights are not as pronounced as they can be.

To add more life to the highlights and mid-tones a point was placed on the diagonal line half way up and that part of the curve was moved up.  This will lighten things nicely.

To keep the shadows the way they are a second point was placed on the line at the bottom left and then it was pulled down just a bit creating a slight S-curve.

These two small adjustments will make a dramatic difference in the image.

grayscale soft light curves The Curves Adjustment
The adjustment is a slight "S" shape which increases the contrast of an image
grayscale soft light image The modified image
grayscale soft light histogram The Curves Histogram

To me it seems that the image modified with a Curves Adjustment Layer has more life - more pop than any of the other images and that is because it has more contrast.

When you think about it - contrast is what makes an image interesting and using Curves is the best way to add contrast.

Image Comparison

Here are the three images - the dodge and burn image, the levels adjusted image and the curves adjusted image.

grayscale soft light dodged
Soft Light Layer Dodge and Burn
grayscale soft light levels With a Levels Adjustment
grayscale soft light curves With a Curves Adjustment

The best image of the three?  You choose but I think the Curves image has the best contrast.

This simply proves that more than one adjustment is often necessary to produce the best image and that means it is good to know how to use the different tools available in Paint Shop Pro.

There you go - a grayscale soft light adjustment and some additional modifications to give an image some pop.


Dodge and Burn

Dodging and Burning

Dodging and burning are terms used in photography for a technique used during the printing process to manipulate the exposure of a selected area(s) on a photographic print deviating from the rest of the image's exposure.

decreases the exposure for areas of the print that the photographer wishes to be lighter, while burning increases the exposure to areas of the print that should be darker.

Ansel Adams elevated dodging and burning to an art form. Many of his famous prints were manipulated in the darkroom with these two techniques.

Adams wrote a comprehensive book on this very topic called The Print.

(Source - Wikipedia)

A grayscale soft light layer for dodge and burn affects only a small portion of the image and is used to ...
  • Make a dark area lighter
  • Make a light area darker
  • Remove small blemishes
  • Remove bags under the eyes
  • Eliminate skin creases
  • Enhance small details like eyelashes
  • Tone down excessive red on the nose or cheek or chin
  • Control local exposure

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