Dodge and burn. Smudge tool. Lens flare.
They've got these awful reputations of being pure evil. I see forum threads about these tools, and the standard knee-jerk response is "They're evil! Don't ever use them!" Or "Dodge and burn are for photography, not painting."
Considering dodge/burn and smudge are among my favorite tools in Photoshop, these knee-jerk responses rather annoy me. They're just tools. Like any other. They're neither inherently evil nor good.
Yes, they're often abused by beginners. Yes, they can make a picture look awful. But the same can be said for many other tools. And just because beginners misuse them doesn't mean they're not valuable in their own right. They're very versatile and can do fantastic things. They are great shortcuts that can cut down painting time for effects that would otherwise take insane amounts of time to do.
What really kills me is when these same people who never use dodge and burn then turn around and give advice on how these tools should be used. Eh? If you never use them yourself, and you've never explored them in depth, then how on earth would you know what they can and cannot be used for? And if you tell a beginner never to use them, then how are they supposed to learn to use them correctly?
This is the standard advice I see people giving:
-- Use dodge/burn sparingly.
-- Never use dodge/burn on skin. Use only on metal.
-- Never use smudge to shade.
-- Never use dodge/burn to shade.
-- Never use the lens flare, period.
Well, I've done every single one of the things listed above, and the results have come out fine. Far from ruining the picture, I've often been complimented on the very areas I dodged and burned by people who did not know which tool I used to achieve the effect.
A good rule to go by, IMO, is: Do you know how to achieve the same effect without the tool? If you answer yes, then go ahead and use the tool. And if you answer no, then learn to do it manually first. If you can do it manually, then you understand the reasoning behind the effect. That's what's important. The knowledge in your brain. Not what tool you use with that knowledge.
That's where beginners run into problems. They don't know the reasonings behind what they're doing, and they use dodge/burn blindly. That's when a picture looks awful. But that's no reason to say that a tool is evil. I mean, in the hands of an absolute beginner, even the standard brush tool can wreak merry havoc. Are you going to tell them not to use that?
So anyway, I love dodge and burn. My favorite use of them is for creating textures. A lot of my texture work comes from a combination of normal coloring with the brush tool, plus dodge and burn, plus the eraser tool. I also shade with dodge and burn, although I do alter the base colors accordingly beforehand. And I even like drawing with dodge and burn, especially for doing detail work. I've used it on metal, skin, clouds, rock, vegetation, water, you name it. I've probably used it.
All these things require different opacity, brush, and shadow/highlight settings, obviously. Sometimes you keep them subtle. Sometimes, you go full blast. It depends on the situation. And as long as you understand that situation, there's nothing wrong with using a tool to achieve what you want.
Before you all start flaming me for this, keep in mind, that I said these tools should only be used if you know how to achieve the same effect manually, without the tool. I'm not saying that everyone should go out there and dodge/burn the hell out of their artwork. Far from it. I'm just sick of seeing two of my favorite tools maligned for no better reason than that people were simply told they were bad, bad, bad.