Applying an Edge Burn using Photoshop Elements Part 2

Now we are ready to do our edge burns. This should be the last thing you do to your picture, after you have made any local changes within the image. So do all of your retouching first. It is the finishing touch to make your image pop.

To begin, we want to create a “Levels” adjustment layer. Adjustment layers are another example of “non-destructive” editing. We can always come back to this layer and adjust the levels, even days later after we have saved the image.

We only want to make the picture darker at this point, so drag the middle slider to the right until the image darkens appreciably. Click OK.

You will now have three layers. The top layer will be the Levels Adjustment Layer. If you look, there is a representation of the histogram on the left and a mask on the right. So we have created a mask without having the “add mask tool”! Way cool!

Within this mask, we will proceed just like we did in PS CS2. Make sure the mask is selected, that the (A) foreground color is black, and (B) use the gradient tool, (C) set to radial gradient, and (D) then mouse click and drag from the center of the image.

Your Level Adjustment Layers mask will now look like this.

And the edges of your image will have darkened. You can adjust the strength of the edge burn at any time by double clicking on the histogram icon and moving the middle slider in the levels dialog box back and forth.

Sometimes you find that this process has darkened a particular area a little too much. In this case it made the top of the tower a little too dark. We can locally correct this by returning the Level Adjustment mask. Click on the mask to make sure it is active. (A) Make sure the foreground color is still set black. (B) Choose the Brush tool. (C) Choose a brush that has very soft edges, and is fairly large, and then (D) paint over the area that needs to be lightened. You control how fast this change occurs by changing the Opacity Slider located to the right of the Brush Size slider (C) to a lower number. This will give you more control.

Let’s talk about why this working. When the mask is all white, it is applying the Levels Adjustment to the entire image represented by the layer below it. When we paint an area of the mask with black, we make that area of the mask transparent so that the prior state of the image returns or shows through in that area. In other words, we allow the area beneath the black part of the mask, the part before we applied the Levels Adjustment, to return or peek through. Because in our case the “before” state was lighter than the darkened “after” (after we applied the Levels Adjustment,) we made the image in that area get lighter.

Note that in the case of our gradient, areas of the gradient go from light gray on the outer edges to black in the middle. The areas of the mask that are black are completely transparent so the “before” state shows completely through, while the areas of gray get progressive less transparent as they get lighter and lighter. That allows us to create a “feathered” effect to our edge burn and not have a clear, definitive line where the edge burn begins and ends.

Now knowing how the mask is working, what if an area in the middle of your image needs to be darker? How could we manipulate the mask so that more of the “after” state, in this case the darker state, becomes more visible? In other words, suppose there is an area in the middle of the tower in our image, that would really look better if it were a little darker, how would we make that happen?

If you said paint with white in the mask, you were correct. By making an area of the mask white, we remove the transparency, so that the “after” state, the one that is darker, covers up the “before” state which was lighter.

Now that we’re done, let’s see how we did.



Notice how there is no clear line where the edge burn begins and ends. Also see how the tower is the same in each picture, because we painted in the mask with black to return the top of the tower to the “before” state so that it wasn’t included in the edge burn. The ideal effect should not be apparent to the casual viewer’s eye, unless they have the before image with which to compare it.

Now try it on some of your images.

Back to Part 1

by Michael Fulks

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.