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by Wendi E. M. Scarth.


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High Contrast 
Dodge And Burning


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High Contrast Black & White Conversion Using The Dodge & Burn Tools

High Contrast Dodge & Burning GIMP

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This GIMP (GNU) tutorial explains how to create a High Contrast Black and White image using the Dodge and Burn Tools. To work along, you are welcome to download the Start Image I am working with HereUnzip the file and open the image onto GIMP’s workspace.

The Dodge or Burn Tool uses the current brush to lighten or darken an image’s Highlights, Midtones and Shadows. The Tool’s Mode will determine which type of pixels are affected (either Highlights, Midtones or Shadows), and the Exposure setting determines the Burn or Dodge Tool’s intensity.

Repairing photographs is not a precise science. Undoubtedly, you will require considerable patience and lots of time. Additionally, individual photographs have different needs, and require different filters and commands. This type of photo editing cannot be rushed. For a good result, it’s important to give yourself plenty of time, and to take a break as soon as you feel eyestrain. In addition, remember save your work (
as a XCF File) regularly.

An important point to bear in mind is there is no right, or wrong way, of editing/improving photographs. My lesson demonstrates the steps I took for my image, and the exact steps may not be appropriate for your image. Therefore, for personal results, it’s important to experiment with GIMP’s photo enhancing filters and commands.

You can quickly Undo a step at any time by pressing Ctrl then Z. Alternatively, click a previous Undo History snapshot - Windows then Dockable Dialogues then click Undo History. In addition, to Zoom in (or Zoom out) of your image; from the top menu choose View then select a Zoom Tool from
the subsequent drop-down list.

Sharpen Images
Remove Colour
Understand The Levels Editor
Lighten Images Using Adjustment Curves
Darken Images Using Adjustment Curves
Launch GIMP & Organise Its Workspace & Palettes

Open your choice of Start Image onto GIMP’s workspace - File then Open - Ctrl then O. (To convert your image into Monochrome, from the top menu, choose Colours and then choose Desaturate).
Remove Colour Tutorial.

Duplicate Your Image
It’s important to preserve your original image: therefore, Duplicate your image; Ctrl then D - (Image then Duplicate). Now, close the original image, and work on the Duplicated image.

Ensure the Layers and the Undo History Palettes are visible, and then drag them into position over your workspace - (Windows then Dockable Dialogues - then click Layers and Undo History).

Now, from the left-side Toolbox, activate the Dodge/Burn Tool.

And set the following Shadows
Burn Tool settings into the left-side Options Box.

Burn Tool

You can quickly change the Brush’s Size by tapping your Keyboard’s Square Bracket Keys.

The Burn Tool darkens either Highlights, Midtones or Shadows, and it is important to build up the effect gradually. If you utilise the default Exposure, and paint over your photograph - the result will be much too dark. Therefore, always set the Exposure to a minimum, and no higher than 6%. The amount of Exposure depends on your photograph, around 4.4% is perfect for the image I am working with.

Tutorial Continued
Now, working with an Exposure of around 4.4%, (and the Range still set to Shadows), left-click over the bridge (as shown below), and slowly drag your cursor over the image. This darkens the area slightly.

Now, gradually work around the photograph, slowly building the darkening effect. This process cannot be rushed, however, it is not a difficult technique to master. Continue moving around the image, until it has been evenly darkened. Remember, at present, you are altering just the dark areas of your photograph.

Midtones Tip
Your image may benefit from changing the Burn Tool’s Range from Shadows to Midtones, and carefully darkening your image’s Midtones.

When you are happy with the amount of Burning, (darkening), you are ready for the next step.

Don’t be tempted to increase the Exposure. It’s important to darken your image gradually.

From the left-side Toolbox, activate the Dodge/Burn Tool.

And this time, set the following Highlights
Dodge Tool settings into the left-side Options Box.

Dodge Tool

You can quickly change the Brush’s Size by tapping your Keyboard’s Square Bracket Keys.

The Dodge Tool brightens your photograph’s highlights, and has the same principles as the Burn Tool. Therefore, always set a low Exposure, and increase the effect gradually. You are looking to lighten the foreground rocks, water and bridge - or naturally highlighted areas of your photograph. Remember to take your time and build the effect slowly.

Midtones Tip
Occasionally, depending on your image, it can be beneficial to lighten the Midtones. To lighten the Midtones, change the Dodge Tool’s Range from Highlights to Midtones, and with an Exposure of around 4%, carefully apply the Dodge Tool over, for example, the foreground rocks and water.

After you have successfully Dodged and Burned (lightened and darkened) your photograph, you are ready for the next step.

From the top menu, choose Filters then choose Enhance and then choose Unsharp Mask. And from the subsequent Unsharp Mask dialogue box, enter the following settings, or experiment, and then click OK.

Congratulations, you have successfully enhanced your image’s Highlights and Shadows using the Dodge and Burn Tools,
and your work is ready to save.

Now you are familiar with this technique, you can have lots of fun Dodging and Burning your favourite images.

Wendi E. M. Scarth. 
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