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How to use the Burn and Sponge Tool in Photoshop?

  • Last Updated : 03 Sep, 2021
Geek Week

Adobe Photoshop is a raster-based image editing software. It is developed by Adobe.Inc and available for both macOS and Windows operating systems. You can use Photoshop to create or edit images, posters, banners, logos, invitation cards, and various types of graphic designing work. It provides various tools for designing and editing and the Burn and Sponge Tools are one of them. Sometimes even with high definition camera, some images come very flat and look dull. In such a condition, we can use the burn and sponge tool to add some depth to the pixels and makes them look more realistic. In this article, we will learn about the use of burn and sponge tools. 

Burn Tool

The burn tool as the name says burns i.e it darkens the pixels wherever it is applied. It is called a burn tool because it produces an effect similar to burning where everything turns brownish or blackish. It is very useful in adding some depths and making minor adjustments. It can make the image more attractive by adding shadows to the parts of the image and by intensifying the contrast in the image. Thus, the burn tool can be used to create some creative art. It is generally used by digital artists and photographers for adding some depth to their work to make the subject more eye-catching and attractive and realistic in nature. The burn tool looks like this:

How to use the burn tool?

Now let’s understand how to use the burn tool. Here to use the burn tool, we have used the image of the flower:



As you can see, from the image, the petals of the flower are a little bit flat and have very little depth. So, we are going to use the burn tool to add depth to the petals of the flower using the following steps:

Step 1: Open the image in Photoshop as shown below:

Step 2: Choose the burn tool from the toolbar as shown below:

Step 3: The cursor will change to the brush, now paint over the places on the image which you want to burn (here we will burn some of the petals of the flowers).

Step 4: You will get a result like somewhat shown below(if you apply the burn tool only on the center):



Note:

  • Here we have made the exposure to 50%(Exposure property of the burn tool is discussed later in the article). You may get a different result for different exposures.
  • Here I have used a soft round brush, you may get a different result for different brushes used.
  • Here I have used the burn tool just at the petals lying in the center, not on the whole image.
  • Use the burn tool very wisely, because sometimes it can make the image look dull and destroyed if it is not used properly.

So the final result is:

 Left – After using the burn tool, Right – Original Image

As you can see after applying the burn tool on the petals, it looks much more attractive and realistic as we see the depth in the image. So this is how the burn tool works. 

Options of Burn Tool

Now having understood the basic functioning of the burn tool, now we will discuss the properties of the burn tool. So, when we use the burn tool, we can see a properties bar below the menu bar as shown below:

Now let us discuss each option one by one:

1. Brush Preset Picker: This option helps us to pick the type of brush we want to choose.

2. Range: This is one of the most important features of the burn tool. The range property tells the tool on which type of pixels should it act. There are three ranges: Highlight, Shadows, and Mid-tones.  

  • Highlight: This option works on the light pixels.
  • Shadows: This option works on the dark pixels of the shadows.
  • Mid-tones: This option works on the mid-tones of the images. By default, the mid-tones are selected.

3. Exposure: This option sets the amount of exposure in the strokes. The range differs from 0-100%



4. Protect Tones: This option when checked protects the tones of the image.

5. Pen pressure Size: This option is only valid for the users using the Graphics tablet, where they can change the size of the brush by applying the pressure.

Sponge Tool

The sponge tool in Photoshop works on color saturation. It can either saturate a color or desaturate a color. This means by using the sponge tool, we can either increase the color intensity of some pixels or decrease the color intensity of some pixels. Thus, to understand the working of the sponge tool, we have to first understand the two modes given in the properties bar below the menu bar when we use the sponge tool as shown below:

In the above image, you can see the two modes:

  • Saturate Mode: This enhances the intensity of the color of the pixels.
  • De-saturate Mode: This decreases the intensity of the color of the pixels.

 The Sponge tool looks like this:

Options of Sponge Tool

Now, let’s understand the working of the sponge tool using the sample image shown below:

Step 1: Open the image in Photoshop as shown below:



Step 2: Select the sponge tool from the Photoshop toolbar as shown below:

Step 3: Now select the saturate mode if you want to increase the color intensity / desaturate mode if you want to decrease the color intensity. (Note: here we have done both for your understanding) and paint over the parts of the image wherever you want to change.

Step 4: Here are the results:

(i) With desaturate mode over the whole flower  

(ii) With the saturated mode over the whole flower

So this is how the sponge tool works.



Options of Sponge Tool

Now we will understand the properties of the Sponge tool. When we select the sponge tool from Photoshop, we see a properties bar below the menu bar as shown below:

Let’s understand them one by one:

1. Brush Preset Picker: This option helps us to pick the type of brush we want to choose.

2. Mode: This is the most important property of the sponge tool. As we have discussed earlier, there are two modes in the Sponge tool – Desaturate and Saturate.

  • Desaturate: This mode de-intensify the color of the image. (i.e it decreases the intensity of the color on which it is applied).
  • Saturate: This mode intensifies the color of the image.

3. Flow: This option determines the amount of saturation/desaturation that will happen when we use the sponge tool. It has a value range between (0-100%).

4. Vibrance – This option if kept checked preserves the vibrance of the image while you are using the sponge tool. It is advised to keep it checked while using the sponge tool.

5. Pen pressure Size – This option is only valid for the users using the Graphics tablet, where they can change the size of the brush by applying the pressure.

Thus, we have discussed the basic property of the sponge tool. The sponge tool is one of the most rarely used tools by professionals because the same effect of saturation and de-saturation can be done more easily using the saturation bar in the hue part. Although it is rarely used, but it can be used to create some great effects.

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