05. Using Masks, Burn & Dodge

This photography class covers the fundamentals of masks and will help you understand and become confident using them. Karl talks you through how, when and why you should be using masks, burning and dodging when retouching images – arguably the two most fundamental and important parts of a photographers workflow in Photoshop.

Working on a wedding image, Karl demonstrates exactly how to use masks, explains why they’re useful and how they can speed up your workflow.

Working with multiple layers, he demonstrates how to use the Transform tool, Move tool, Burn and Dodge tools and various Brush tools. He also shows you useful alternatives to the Burn and Dodge tools, which he uses in upcoming classes in this course.

In this Photoshop class we cover the following:

  • Photoshop techniques for photographers
  • Useful Photoshop tools
  • How to use masks in Photoshop
  • How to use the Burn and Dodge tools in Photoshop
  • Bit Depth
  • Working with Photoshop layers
  • Highlights, shadows and midtones: How to create three dimensionality in an image

If you’re unfamiliar with some of the tools mentioned in this course, watch our Photoshop Interface and Tools class.

If you have any questions about this course please post them in the comments section below 🙂


  1. Hi Emma/Karl,
    I am trying to retouch a photo, I would love if you guys can point out the improvements needed. How can I send you the jpeg image? Thx

    1. Hi Yogendra, unfortunately we don’t offer the service to submit your images for review otherwise we would be swamped with these requests and unable to work. Our forum will be up and running soon and members will be able to submit images there and discuss techniques with each other. We will also be doing members critiques and select suitable images to critique on our live talk shows. Thank you.

  2. The statement you made of changing the way you edit by thinking of the pixels when you edit made a big difference in my editing…thank you so much!!!

  3. Great training! This is where it juts got very confusing. So many steps for something so simple,I will watch it over and over. Lol

  4. Still going thru the videos but wanted to ask – while retouching an image how do you know what to dodge from what to burn…

    I know experience tells but pretty sure there’s a trick there 🙂

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Souhayel, often it’s a case of accentuating what is already there but your knowledge on this gets easier as you understand what makes good lighting so it is something that grows with experience.

  5. Amazing Karl!! This helped me so much understand Dodge and Burn and how I haven’t used it correctly until now :)) 😀

  6. In the video you were able to move the cat picture around using the move tool but when I try it, I cannot move the cat picture around. Why is this? What can I do to fix it?

    1. Hi Jesse, after you cut it out did you put it on a new layer (Layer via cut or Layer via copy command?) Then select the move tool and you will be able to move it around. Or alternatively hold the ‘command’ key down ontop of the cat once you’ve completed your selection and then the scissors will appear showing that you can cut and move it.

  7. Hi Karl,

    I suspect I maybe missing something obvious but have downloaded the files to work along with ( to my desktop) and tried to open them in photoshop . However have been given the error message saying it is “..not the right type of document”. Apologies in advance I know I am probably doing something obvious wrong , but your help would be appreciated

    1. Hi Jonathan, you need to have photoshop open and in the ‘actions’ palette from the menu choose ‘load actions’ then navigate to the actions that you downloaded and choose ‘load’ or ‘open’. Then you may have to restart photoshop but then they will be there in your ‘actions’ palette list.

  8. This was definitely great to watch. I learned quite a few new things! Karl has a great way of teaching and explaining which made it so much easier to understand.

  9. Please advise how to get the green screen – you mentioned backward slash key, is this in combination with a command/alt/control or other key?

  10. It’s at 14.30 into the tutorial. I have changed the colour from red to green, but this is perplexing!
    Thanks so much, Sue

    1. Hi Sue, are you saying you have figured out how to change the mask colour? If not you press the ‘control’ key (on a mac) while clicking or holding on the layer mask icon on the layers palette, you should then see the mask options dialouge to change the mask colour to whatever colour you prefer. The backward slash key turns the ‘show mask’ colour on and off.

  11. This is very enlightening to use a word! I like how much more flexibility the adjustment layers and masks work for dodging and burning. I’ll be looking forward to the part where it’s used in practice on e.g. a portrait. 😊

  12. Hi Karl

    Do you have any videos that deal with cutting out images on to a new background and creating shadows for objects on the background image?

    I can’t seem to find any videos that deal with this.

    Many thanks

    1. Hi George, there is a significant tutorial on cutting images out in this particular course including creating new layers from those selections. Creating a shadow for an object is fairly simple. Once you have cut it out let me know what type of shadow you want to create and I will give you instructions.

  13. Hi Karl

    Do you have any videos that deal with cutting out images on to a new background and creating shadows for objects on the background image?

    Many thanks

  14. Karl:
    I love your course and am excited about the growth I am going to experience as a photographer. Thank You for all the work, time and expense you have committed to creating this course. This is truly what I need.

    I currently have a headshot photo of a lady with beautiful bronze skin but my lighting, (Broncolor Beauty Box w/Nikon SB5000 Speed Light) has put a ball of bright light on the tip of her nose, forehead and cheeks. To fix that should I use the burn tool, the Healing Brush, or a different tool? Also, did I most likely have the light too low, not being raised to a 45 degree angle above her?


    1. Hi Owen, the reason for the ball of light on the nose may be that the softbox was too small and/or too far away meaning shiny reflections overexpose. However this is a relatively easy fix in photoshop as you will discover in other parts of this course.

  15. Hi Karl

    You mentioned in this video you cover the feathering and cutting out of the cats fur later. Which session shows how to feather around a difficult object like the cats fur?

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi George, I think it’s in chapter 8 but don’t miss out the chapters inbetween or you might miss something relevant.

  16. Hi Karl,

    Sorry to tell there’s something I cannot get working properly in Photoshop. Like in your example of the wedding couple and cat, I just cannot manage getting two files opened as layers within the same project – instead, any file I try to open within an existing photo, gets opened under its own separate tab and not appearing in the Layers list at all. I can then switch between these two “separate projects” each under its own tab to view them, each with their own Layers list, but not stack or fuse them to combine into a single photo.

    Is there something fundamentally wrong with some of my initial settings of Photoshop CC, and how can I correct them?

    Thanks for the advice,


    1. Hi Hannu, as shown in the video you will need to ‘drag’ the layer from one image and ‘drop’ it ontop of the other image and then you will see both layers.

  17. Thank you, it’s right there in the video indeed. I even hastily tried to use other file formats at first, which made matters more complicated, but with two TIFF files it does work just fine. Back to basics… ; )


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