Why Do We Fill With 50 Percent Grey When Dodging and Burning in Photoshop? Are We Doing It Wrong?

Creating a soft light layer and filling it with 50% gray has been a tried and tested Photoshop technique for as long as anyone can remember. However, why do we do this for dodging and burning, and is there a better way of working? This short video asks some surprising questions.

Unmesh Dinda of PiXimperfect is widely regarded as one of the leading authorities when it comes to teaching Photoshop skills, and even he’s a little bit stumped by this question which, it turns out, was posed in the comments of one of his own videos. Intrigued, he decided to dig deeper to try and figure out the logic behind what many of us do as a standard part of our portrait editing workflow.

Dinda provides a link to this tutorial, which is incredibly useful if this technique is new to you. If you’re just starting out when it comes to retouching skin, it’s important to remember that brightening an image will also reduce the saturation, while darkening it will increase the saturation. While small changes to a person’s skin using this dodge and burn technique probably won’t have a noticeable effect, it’s worth keeping in mind that more pronounced changes could require you to then make some further adjustments to the color to keep it looking natural.

Is Dinda onto something? Can you find any difference when using an empty layer? Be sure to check the comments to the video as YouTube user thinkingpixels has come up with an answer, which also discusses the color implications mentioned above.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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