Happy New Year everybody!
I hope you all had a relaxing holiday season (or at least, had time to unwind now that it’s over) and are ready to dive head-first with me back into the tutorials.
To kick off the new year, I’ll be showing you how to use the Burn tool. It’s pretty straight forward, but if you need a quick refresher, go skim back over the Intro. It’s alright, I’ll wait.
…. You back? Good.
Okay, so using the Burn tool like I said is pretty straightforward, fortunately, this is one of the PHSH tools that’s aptly named. Using this tool will do exactly what the name implies: it’ll burn the picture.
If that sounds scary, I promise it’s really not that hard. You can control the intensity of the burn, so you don’t end up ruining the picture. Which is great, because sometimes, you just may want to go simple and say, darken the picture.
(Don’t mind the red background)
You could mess with the white balance or other picture exposure, but messing with those tends to be much more complicated.
Or, you may want to go for a more extreme manip, like actually making the picture appear to be burned:
Or you may need something in the middle. Regardless, it’s a very straight forward tool to use.
Let’s get started.
Today, we’ll be working with my I.D. pic, simply because I think it looks good burned. Pictures that tend to be darker and have lighter edges usually work better for this effect, but again, it depends how far you’re going.
Alright, so to start, you’re gonna need the un-touched picture.
Once you have this in a Layer, you may want to change the background colour from white, just so it’s easier to see where the edges of the picture are, so you can be more precise.
The colour of the background doesn’t really matter, especially since we can change it once you’re done, but I find it’s easier to work when you can see where the edge of the picture is.
Alright, now that we have the picture, we’ll want to select the Burn tool from the left side Tool Bar. It’s the picture of a hand in a C shape, directly under the Blur/Sharpen/Smudge tool.
You may have to click on the box and manually select Burn from the drop-down menu. I believe the default image may be the Dodge tool, which looks like a lollipop.
Once you have the Burn tool selected, (and the layer you want to use the tool on selected), you’ll notice some options came up at the top of the application, in the same space where the Eraser options are.
The drop-down menu with the circle in it is the brush size, similar to the Eraser, you can make it bigger or smaller by using the sliders. The Hardness slider underneath will determine how hard/feathered the edge of the tool will make. (These are both exactly the same as for the Eraser tool)
For example, if the Hardness is on 5%:
For the burn tool, it works the same:
There’s also the option to change the Range. This will change the area of the picture you’re targeting. You can choose from either the Highlights, Mid-Lights or Shadows. I discovered that if you (for example) only target highlights, there will be a point where the image won’t get any darker. (I presume because it’s gotten rid of all the highlights)
When I was experimenting for the tutorial, as I did this, the picture didn’t get any greyer until after I changed what I was targeting. I recommend you play around with this, as it depends on the picture. I’ve tried changing the targeted areas in the past for other projects, and I saw no difference at all, as if the tool wasn’t working.
And the last option will be the Exposure. Next to the brush size, this is the most important part of using the Burn tool. The Exposure will determine how dark the section will get. I recommend not starting at 100, unless you want the entire picture to go near all black on your first go. I usually start small, and then up the Exposure depending on the look I was going for.
For the picture above with the burned-by-fire look, I used 100% Exposure on the edges. The rest of the picture, to just darken it, I used about 10-20.
Now that you know the options, let’s show you how I did the Soft Burned or just darkened picture, and then the Burned By Fire picture.
So, for the Soft Burn, I kept the Exposure low, about on 10, and I feathered the edge of the brush. Because I rubbed the tool all over the entire picture, I don’t actually think the Hardness made a difference, but since I was being ‘soft’ it just seemed to go.
Okay, so, set the brush size to really big (I used 300-400), and (while keeping the Exposure low) click and drag the brush over the entire picture.
And boom! Soft Burned pic is done. Told you it was easy!
Now for the Burned By Fire picture, it’ll be the same thing. We can actually continue on from this picture, since it’s already burned.
For the Burned By Fire pic:
Now that we’ve got the whole thing looking a little singed, we’ll want to up the Exposure to about 50 and reduce the brush size (I reduced it to 130).
We’re going to just go around the edges of the picture now, similar to when we made a Border. You can leave the Hardness down at 4% for this as well. A lack of hard edge will make it look more realistic of a burn.
Now we’re going to do that again and again, until the border becomes almost black. So, keeping the stats where they are, continue to go around the edges until it becomes blackened.
At this point (it took me about 10 go a-rounds to get it this dark) you should up the Hardness to about 40-50 as well. We’re going to be concentrating now on just getting the edges black, so we’ll need to contain the burn a bit more.
After changing the Hardness, keep going.
Also: don’t worry about making the outline too clean cut straight, it’s okay if it’s a bit of wobbly lines. Again, it adds to the realism of if the picture were burned, and we’ll be erasing the very edge of the photo after anyway. And, as you’re going, make sure to round the edges of the corners slightly.
After a few more go arounds, you may notice that the border isn’t getting any darker any longer. Mine wouldn’t get darker than this:
That’s because we’ve been burning with the Highlights selected. Now we can change to either the Midtones or the Shadows. I like going to Midtones and then to Shadows, just because I like to do them in order. Again, I’m not entirely sure at this point, but since we’re trying to replicate what I did, we gotta do it the same way, right? Right.
Okay, so after selecting Midtones and going around a few more times, mine stopped getting darker again at this point:
At this point, you need to switch to the Shadows, and then keep going until the edges turn all the way black.
Okay, now that we got the edges, I think you can tell, the all over burn job we did at the beginning no longer matches, does it?
No worries, we’re gonna go back over the entire picture now. We had to wait to see how dark the edges were going to get, juuust in case we messed up.
Remember: You can always make the picture more burned, but it’s harder to un-burn it.
Alright, so to go over the entire picture, change the hardness to softer, the brush size to bigger, and the Exposure back down to about 10. And, you may need to switch the Range back to Highlights. If you try to go back over the lighter part of the picture with the Range still on Shadows, it may not work.
You don’t want to make it too much darker, but it has to match the edges. Try to get it to look as realistic as possible.
Now, you could leave it like this, but, for a little extra realism, I like to erase the hard edge of the picture. How often have you seen a burned picture with perfectly intact edges?
Switch from the Burn tool to the Eraser tool, change the size of the brush again (smaller), and keep the hardness semi-low. (50-60-ish)
Now – carefully – erase the very edges of the picture, and make sure to round the corners a bit. Again, this erase job doesn’t have to be perfectly straight.
And boom! That’s everything.
Don’t forget to take out/change the background so you can save the picture by itself, or drag it on over to whatever file you need it in!
This way of burning pictures does take longer (obviously) but depending on the look you’re going for, it’s also a more realistic effect.
You can pretty much use this burned technique on any photo. And of course, you can make the burned/blackened edges bigger or smaller if needed, so you can erase more of the picture for a more burned up effect.
Have fun practicing this technique until next month.
Like the tutorial? Check out more here!