Most Important Tools

When it comes to Photoshop, we all know that the possibilities are endless, it allows you to create basically anything you want. But with all this freedom and tools, it is hard sometimes to know where to start from. Considering that this is my first Photoshop related article, I will start straight away with the most important tool for creating landscapes from scratch, the one you should master and understand the best.

-Dodge and Burn-

When I started to create my first landscape, I wasn’t aware of how useful this tool is, and because of that, I was creating my own brushes and layers to achieve something that I could have easily done with the Dodge tool for example. Even so, the results, believe me, are not the same. So I was basically making my work harder, ending up with dozens of layers and groups, which sometimes is very exhausting, especially when you can get rid of them by using the Dodge and Burn tools.

This is my first ever Photoshop artwork and now that I’m looking at it I would change so many things, but for the sake of this example I will just tell you what differences, major ones, would be if I was to use the Dodge & Burn.

First of all, please excuse the clouds and the moon which are nothing more than brushes, yes, I know, I was too lazy to cut real ones out from a photo so I decided to go for brushes. I have to admit though, sometimes this is the only thing that works for me so … Anyway, if you look at the top of the mountains, the edges to be more specific, you can see that they don’t feel real, ( like a huge moon would ) this is because despite my beginner skills, my layers and brushes didn’t do much. I remember that I was trying to make like a gradient lighting on the mountain, it made sense to have a stronger light where the massive moon is and then get slowly, slowly darker to the trees, but as you can see, I failed. This is because it is exhausting to constantly change layers, pressure and opacity without seeing many changes, so I decided to stop there.

The most amazing thing about Dodge & Burn is the control you have over it, you can change the exposure for Highlights, Midtones and Shadows, allowing you this way to make the image very realistic, way, way better than this one. Let me show you my best example of Dodge and Burn:

Here we have three different images only for the mountains but you can’t really tell because all the tones match and blend not only together but with the rest of the image as well. The only thing that might not look natural is on the right side, the small river and the trees, but this is intentional, I always want to put one or more elements to break the fluency of the image, to give the viewer a hint like “Hey, something’s fishy” you know? Even though I specified on Instagram that this is a composition and this place in fact doesn’t actually exists, I still had people asking when I will post Photoshop work and why I switched to photography. I need to work on my hints, I guess.

Well, the church and the small houses are from different images as well, the trees, the tree because it’s only one multiplied, is actually a PNG file and the river is from a different image. The snow is nothing more than a plain white solid colour filter on which I applied a couple of brush strokes and Voila! The Dodge and Burn allowed me to blend everything, thanks to it I have this moody effect and the light matches everywhere. You really don’t want an image that is dark and let’s say somewhere on the left you have a bright house, no. You want the image to look as if you where there and you took it with your own camera, you need to understand where the light is coming from so that it looks real. Best way to do this sometimes is to decide on your composition and “time of the day” and look for something similar online as a reference. Or better, if you are using a sky in your image look at the light, it will help you a lot in terms of lighting and shadows.

The easiest way to understand the tools? When you are using the Dodge Tool you are increasing the Exposure of that specific area, brightens and calms hard shadows while the Burn Tool does exactly the opposite, having this way the opportunity to get complex details and tones in your shadows.

Hope you enjoyed my first Photoshop article and please don’t hesitate to contact me on social media or email me if you have something particular in mind you would like me to talk about.