The Magical, Neglected Photoshop Tool
Helen Yancy, M.Photog,M.Artist,MEI,Cr. Hon.M.Photog, F-ASP, Hon.F-ASP, EA-ASP, Hon. EA-ASP,
I suspect you have had, on occasion, an area of detail in bright areas that is almost gone, and you have tried the Burn tool, just to find it created either a dirty looking color – or worse – turned the pixels red! Or, you have an area where the shadows appear to have blocked up all the detail and you tried the Dodge tool with less than happy results – reddish pixels, milky half-tones and shadow areas with a completely unnatural appearance.
The History Brush in your Photoshop tool box is an amazing solution that is not used very often because it’s not understood. Using it can add that detail to the wedding gown and pick up the lights in that dark area of the hair – or anyplace that needs a boost of light. Unlike the Dodge and Burn tools, when used in the correct mode it will only have an effect on the almost indiscernible lights and/or darks and bring them up in a pleasant and natural way without creating that milky or dirty appearance.
The History Brush will often come up with the “NO” circle with the diagonal line across it, so it’s thought that it can’t work – and it can’t when that happens. It simply means that the History source must be changed. Making use of Snapshots will be very advantageous for changing the History source, so every time you make a global change to your image – such as cropping, levels, curves, or any other adjustment, create a snapshot. That way, even if you lose some of your history steps as you progress with your image you will have a snapshot you can use.
The little square box just to the left side of each History step, and also left of each Snapshot is where you place your History source. Click on that box and you will see the check mark, designating that your History brush will work from that step. For example, if you have used any of the Adjustments such as Hue/Saturation, Levels, Curves, etc. you don’t want to use your History brush to pull back color or density from before those adjustments, so you want that source to be in the snapshot or step in the History palette list to be at or after that global change.
Use your History Brush in Screen Mode to lighten and brighten detail in dark areas, and watch beautiful highlights emerge from hair, brighten a face in a group that didn’t catch enough light, even brighten up foliage in a background that needs a lift without becoming milky.
Use your History Brush in Multiply mode for that face that caught too much light, add dimension to flat lighting by brushing over areas that need just a bit more dimension, and magically bring out details on that wedding gown!
When I use the History brush I use it at 20% to 30% opacity, because I would rather under-use than over-use, and then have to fix it. However, if you do too much – put your History Brush back in Normal mode and take it back a bit, in whatever percentage it takes.
Enjoy this amazing tool, and email me if you have questions.