If you want to understand how a photo was worked on, one great way it to generate a Dodge & Burn mask (or a D&B signature). You can then use this signature to learn quite a bit about the dodge and burn that was done on a photo. You get a better “feel” for the brush strokes. To have a better distinction between the dodge and the burn, you can colorize each mask. This is what it looks like:
Since this is such a powerful tool for showing how you worked your photo, we are going to share the process of creating one. (and you can do similar for healing brush for example) .
Step by step to a colorful mask:
Let’s say that our finished fully-retouched photo looks like this:
Hit ALT and click on a layer mask thumbnail, this will select the mask:
In the picture above, we have the black mask, which we used for burning. The brushstrokes are white. Now, you can now simply highlight everything (CMD + A / CTRL + A) and copy it (CMD + C / CTRL + C). Then open a new screen with CMD + n / CTRL + n. A nice bonus is that the correct size is already in the dialog box. (Photoshop is cleaver this way and it assumes that you will want to paste what you’ve previously copied). Just hit enter to confirm
You can now switch back to your original file, select the next relevant layer (say dodge), show the mask, select all, copy and change the file back to the “signature file”. When you paste, a new layer is automatically created.
The upper layer should be set to “screen” which would mix it with the underlying layer. Now, before we can color the layers, the image mode has to be converted to RGB (as masks only contain grayscale info, the pastes from the previous sections were created as grayscale images).
In the dialog box, we select the option “Don’t merge”, because of course we want to keep the individual levels.
Now for colorizing, you need to create a Hue / Saturation adjustment layer and colorize the top layer (tick when making “coloring” and then adjust the sliders to the desired color.
Sadly, the adjustment layer defaults to coloring all layers so you need to create a clipping mask for it. ALT-click on the dividing line between the layers (or CTRL+ALT+G on the adjustment layer). This will set each color to one layer only.
Here is what the complete Dodge and Burn signature looks like:
Of course, the more masks you have, the more colors you can use. I use the scheme of cold colors for “dodge” and warm to “burn”.
Have fun creating your mask signatures. Show us your masks in the comments, we want to see your colors.