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Making Spot Fixes

As you know, any of the adjustment commands can be applied to an entire image (or the active layer) or to a selected area. The latter is how you avoid adjusting areas that are already fine, making sure your fixes go only where you want them. But another way to do that is to use Photoshop’s retouching tools to apply fixes dab by dab, a bit at a time, just where they’re needed.

The Toning Tools

Photoshop is primarily a digital darkroom program, so it makes sense that some of its most useful tools mimic the darkroom techniques that photographers have used for decades to lighten and darken portions of an image or to brighten colors. The Toning tools include the Dodge, Burn, and Sponge tools, each of which can use any of the brush tips available to the painting tools. Dodge and Burn are opposites, like Sharpen and Blur, but instead of affecting the contrast between adjacent pixels, they either lighten or darken the area to which the tool is applied. Sponging changes the color saturation of the area to which you apply it.

Dodge and Burn Tools

Dodging, in the photographer’s darkroom, is accomplished by waving a dodge tool, usually a cardboard circle on a wire, between the projected image from the enlarger and the photographic paper. This blocks some of the light and makes the dodged area lighter when the print is developed. It’s also called “holding back” because you effectively hold back the light from reaching the paper. Photoshop’s Dodge tool, shown in Figure 5.21, looks just like the darkroom version.

Figure 5.21

Figure 5.21 The Toning tools—Dodge, Burn, and Sponge—can use the same range of brush tips as the painting tools.

Burning has the opposite effect of dodging—instead of lightening a small area, it darkens the area. In the darkroom, burning in is accomplished either by using a piece of cardboard with a hole punched out (the opposite of the Dodge tool) or by blocking the enlarger light with your hand so that the light reaches only the area on the print surface to be burned. Photoshop’s Burn tool icon is a hand shaped to pass a small beam of light.

Click the Dodge tool and look at the pop-up menu in the Tool Options bar. As you can see, it gives you three choices:

  • Shadows
  • Midtones
  • Highlights

These options indicate the types of pixels that the tool will affect. If you want to adjust the shadows, such as making them lighter and leaving the lighter pixels untouched, select Shadows. The default option for the Dodge tool is Midtones. This is a good choice when you want to affect the midtone pixels or when you are unsure of how to proceed. Select Highlights when you want to lighten already light-colored areas, leaving the darker areas untouched. Figure 5.22 shows the effects of dodging and burning on a picture shot outdoors in shade on a sunny day.

Figure 5.22

Figure 5.22 I lightened the tree and darkened the overexposed leaves.


Surprisingly enough, sponging is also a darkroom trick. When a picture in the developing tray isn’t turning dark enough or looks underexposed or weak in color, the darkroom technician can often save it by sloshing some fresh, full-strength developing chemical on a sponge and rubbing it directly on the wet print in the tray. The combination of the slight warmth from the friction of the sponge and the infusion of fresh chemical can make the difference between a useless picture and an acceptable one. It’s no substitute for a proper exposure, of course.

Photoshop’s Sponge tool does much the same thing. On a color image, it increases (or reduces, versatile tool that it is) the color saturation in the area to which you apply it. On an image in Grayscale mode, it increases or decreases contrast by moving the grayscale level away from or toward middle gray. When you use the Sponge, you also need to adjust its setting in the Options bar to determine whether it intensifies color (saturates) or fades it (desaturates). The Vibrance check box prevents the Sponge from oversaturating the image by restricting its effects to primary colors that aren’t already highly saturated. Figures 5.23 and 5.24 show before and after views of a woodland scene with the Sponge applied.

Figure 5.23

Figure 5.23 Before using the Sponge, the colors are somewhat dull.

Figure 5.24

Figure 5.24 After using the Sponge, the colors are much brighter.

The toning tools are great for fine-tuning images and creating shadows or highlights. Use them in small doses to enhance the appearance of your images.

The Color Replacement Tool

The Color Replacement tool is one of the most useful tools in Photoshop. It functions like any other paintbrush, except that when you paint over an existing scene, it replaces the predominant color with whatever happens to be the foreground color in the Tools panel. More important, it changes only the color, not the saturation or value. If you had a blue sky with lots of white, fleecy clouds and you wanted an orange sky with the same white clouds, no problem. Choose your shade of orange and apply the brush to the sky. Go ahead and paint right over the clouds. The orange won’t affect them except where they reflect blue from the sky; those areas will now be orange reflections.

Red Eye Tool

Similar to the Color Replacement tool, this tool is designed exclusively for fixing the photo problem known as red eye. You’ve seen it—glowing red “devil” eyes in portraits of people, and blue or green “alien” eyes in pictures of animals. It’s caused by light reflecting off the back of the eye, and it usually happens only with flash photography or in a very bright light. To fix red eye with this brush, click right in the center of each red eye. We discuss this in greater detail in Hour 22, “Repairing Color Photos,” along with special techniques for fixing animals’ green eyes.

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