Dodging and Burning with Blend Modes and Colors

If you have spent any amount of time with me you know that I am always trying to come up with new ways of using Blend Modes.  I have recently started experimenting with the Color Dodge and Color Burn Blend Modes.   At first I thought they were trash at best!  That was before I figured out how to use them effectively.

Color Dodge and Color Burn Example with Fill

The Color Burn and Color Dodge Blend Modes do not use the Opacity slider to control their effect.  These two blend modes use the FILL adjustment to control how much they apply themselves to the image.   You can use Opacity to subdue the effect, but the real magic with these blend modes and their algorithm is tied to Fill.Color Dodge and Color Burn Example with FillColor Dodge and Color Burn Example with Fill

They are beautiful blend modes when you give them a chance, but they do require a bit of finesse to use.  Try these settings for each Blend Mode:

Color Burn

  • Adjustment Layer:  Color Fill (any color)
  • Fill:  15%
  • Opacity: 50%
  • Blend If to protect the shadows

Color Dodge

  • Adjustment Layer:  Color Fill (any color)
  • Fill:  15%
  • Opacity: 50%
  • Blend If to protect the highlights


What colors should you use for your Color Fill Layers?  Any colors really, however, I prefer to use colors that are harmonious.  These colors are typically Complementary Colors on the color wheel or colors that are directly across from one another.  Try using Blue and Yellow, Green and Magenta, or Red and Cyan.

Color Burn Color Dodge Color Wheel Example

In today’s tutorial, I will show you how I use them and hook you up with some actions that do it all for you.  Before you start running those automated techniques, please watch the video so you can understand why the blend modes act the way they do.  Enjoy the tutorial!

Download the Actions


Blake Rudis
f.64 Academy and f.64 Elite are the brainchildren of Blake Rudis. While he is a landscape photographer, he is most passionate about post-processing images in Photoshop and mentoring others.

For Blake, it's all about the art and process synergy. He dives deep into complex topics and makes them easy to understand through his outside-the-box thinking so that you can use these tricks in your workflow today!
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