Using the Sponge Tool in Photoshop
Just as a carpenter has a hammer, a drill, saws, and many other tools, designers also have many different tools of the trade. Photoshop is out tool bag, and within it are many different tools for getting the job done. Some tools are great for some tasks, while other tools are good for other tasks. One tool that isn’t as well known is the Sponge Tool. Using the Sponge Tool in Photoshop can be really handy, especially if you want to selectively brighten colors.
This first image is of some leaves in the the Fall, and they appear to be dull or dying. To add a little vibrance to the image, we can brighten them up a bit by using the sponge tool.
The sponge tool is found when you click and hold down the dodge tool, and it is in a submenu under that tool. Set the mode to Saturate, and put it somewhere between 40% and 50%.
Make sure to duplicate you original image, and that you are working on a copy, so that if you mess up and need to start over, you always have the original to work from. Then, you simply go over the areas that you want to brighten up. If I am covering a large area, then I will make my brush larger and I also set it to be a soft brush, so that it appears to be more natural. You want to pass over the area with smooth and even strokes, in order to get an even amount of saturation. Each pass over the same area will brighten that area by 50%, so you have to adjust the percentage to taste. You may find that 20-30% works for your image. That part of the tutorial will have to be left up to you. Side note: (You may not want to brighten dead leaves, but this is just an example for illustration purposes).
Another good use for this is to add color depth and brightness to your subject’s eyes, if you are shooting a portrait. Many people use the dodge tool for this, but in some cases, you get a wider range of color when using the sponge tool. It all depends on the photo. I have two models here, and the comparisons for each.
I used a soft brush, set to a small size, and set to about 50%, and I made the brush the size of the iris of the subject’s eye. Then, I clicked and observed, clicked and observed, and repeated this until I reached a level of saturation that I was pleased with. Here are the results:These results overall were pretty good. In some instances, the dodge tool brightens the overall eye, but if the color it muddy, then then eye will simply be a brighter tint of muddy. With the sponge tool, the color is brighter, and it saturated all of the colors found in the eye and makes them pop, but sometimes it doesn’t give it the “shine” that we are looking for. In the first instance, when the eye was too dark, no matter whether I had the shadows, midtones or highlights selected, the dodge tool just couldn’t help the darker eye. It ended up blowing out the highlights before you could notice a difference. When I combined the two, I got the best of both worlds, and created eyes that were bright and full of color at the same time.