Retoucher Daniel Hagar thinks that there is a problem with a widely used retouching technique, and he wants to prove it. When you have already peaked into the field of advanced retouching, especially beauty and portrait retouching, I do not have to tell you that dodge and burn is pretty much the most powerful retouching technique you can learn.

However, people always try to take shortcuts or make their lives easier. I guess that is human nature.

channel mixer in retouching

One technique which is supposed to help you with the dodging and burning is the usage of help layers… but Daniel warns, beware! You can find several actions with help layers and without proper guidance, they might not even be helpful.

In my 1:1 classes, I found that the channel mixer used as a help layer for the dodge and burn technique is one thing that keeps people from achieving those perfect beauty results without knowing it is not the lack of practice, but the wrong visual aid layer they are using.

What to expect from a help layer for dodging and burning:

  • Discard color information ( lets you focus on luminosity only. Less hard on your eyes over time)
  • Add contrast to make flaws more visible
  • Stay true to the original color perception

How The Channel Mixer Is Typically Used:

In case you are using the channel mixer adjustment layer as a help layer for dodging and burning, chances are, you were taught to set it to monochrome, increase the blue channel and then decrease the red channel.

channel mixer in retouching

The Channel Mixer Adjustment layer used as above does not convert colors as we perceive them when messing with the color channels, and obviously makes red skin tones darker and work underneath it. We need more precision when we want help with making decisions on what to brighten and what to darken within the image. Set the Channel Mixer Adjustment layer to the color blending mode and if you need contrast, add a curves layer on top.

For a full breakdown of the techniques that Daniel is explaining, head over to his extremely detailed blog post. Seriously. Retouchers, take a listen.