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Using Blurring, Sharpening, Dodging, Burning and Sponging in Pixelmator

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Read Time: 3 min
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What You'll Be Creating

Pixelmator is an easy-to-use, fast, and powerful image editing app for the Mac. In this tutorial, I will show you how you can make an image stand out more by using, blurring, sharpening, burning, dodging and sponging. Let's get started!

Tutorial Assets

The following photo was used in this tutorial. Feel free to follow along using any photo you like, preferably a landscape photo.

1. The Burn Tool

Step 1

We’ll start with the Burn Tool from the Tools Palette. The term burning comes from the film-photography era and is used to darken areas in a photo. Lets take a look at the Tool Options bar

Here we find the familiar button to open the brushes palette. This means that we can use any brush we want. Most of the time you’ll want to use a standard round brush with a relatively soft edge. Next to the brushes-button we can select if we want the burn tool to only affect the Highlights, Midtones or the Shadows of the parts we paint over. 

Step 2

Duplicate the original layer. Select a round soft brush, set the Range of the Burn Tool to Midtones and paint over the shadow areas in your image to make them a little darker. 

2. The Dodge Tool

Step 1

The Dodge Tool is also a tool from the film-based photography world. It does the opposite of the Burn Tool. It makes areas in our images brighter. As you see, it has the same settings on the tool options bar. Note that the brush you’ve selected for the burn tool doesn’t automatically follows when you select the Dodge Tool. So make sure your brush is the correct one before continuing dodging.

Step 2

Let’s use the same brush as with the Burn Tool. A large soft brush and this time we select Highlights as the range and an Exposure of around 60%. Lets paint over the buildings to make the highlights there more brighter. 

3. The Sponge Tool

Step 1

The Sponge Tool either desaturates or saturates the area you paint over. Especially the desaturation part is interesting if you want to quickly turn parts of an image to black and white, while leaving other parts saturated.

Step 2

Choose a large enough soft brush and choose the Saturate mode. Use a low Flow, which also here can be seen as the strength of the tool. Start painting over the water, making it look more bright and colourful. The same for the sky with a little less flow. Also lets paint over large areas of the rocks especially the trees, to make them look a little bit more green. You might find it necessary to change the brush size in order to cover some areas in more detail.

4. The Blur tool

Step 1

The Blur Tool lets us blur areas in our image. Also here we have to choose a brush from the brushes palette. And we have the Strength option.

Step 2

Make sure that you view your image in 100% zoom, otherwise you don’t really see what you are doing and you might end up applying to much blur. Let’s brush over the sky with a low Strength and over the sea to create a little bit more depth of view. 

5. The Sharpen Tool

Step 1

The Sharpen Tool does off course the opposite of the Blur Tool, and sharpens areas we paint over. The Tool Options bar looks the same. We have to choose a brush and adjust the strength.

Step 2

Choose a low strength. This way you don't oversharpen areas. It's much easier to paint over the same area several times in order to increase the sharpening. Paint over the buildings to make them sharper and over the cliffs in the foreground. 


We've used the Blur, Sharpening, Dodging, Burning and Sponge Tool in order to make our photo stand out more. I hope you found this a useful tutorial and that you'll be able to apply the techniques shown in your own projects. 

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