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Overview of blending modes

From: After Effects Apprentice 04: Layer Control

Video: Overview of blending modes

In the next few movies we're going to play around with blending modes, sometimes referred to as blend modes or transfer modes. They are the secret sauce to make a motion graphics composite look much more rich and interesting than a typical opacity mix between the layers. If you have the Exercise Files that come with this lesson, go ahead and click Close All from the top of the Comp panel and open the comp 06-Blending Modes*starter. If you don't have access to these files, create a comp with two simple layers.

Overview of blending modes

In the next few movies we're going to play around with blending modes, sometimes referred to as blend modes or transfer modes. They are the secret sauce to make a motion graphics composite look much more rich and interesting than a typical opacity mix between the layers. If you have the Exercise Files that come with this lesson, go ahead and click Close All from the top of the Comp panel and open the comp 06-Blending Modes*starter. If you don't have access to these files, create a comp with two simple layers.

One that's colorful and one that has lot of grayscale values in it. Stack the grayscale image on top of the color image. Now first let's compare what a typical Opacity blend looks like. I'm going to click on this Muybridge sequence layer that's on top, press T to reveal Opacity, and scrub its value. You'll see that we have some intermediate mixes and values, which are kind of okay, kind of interesting, but maybe a bit washed out and it doesn't really have a punch to it. What I'm going to do is I am going to save a snapshot of what this Opacity blend looks like so that I can compare it to what blending modes look like. There we go.

There is a few different ways of revealing the blending modes column. One is to click on the Toggle Switches/Modes Switch down at the bottom of the Timeline panel. Another way is to right-click on a header and say also reveal Modes. I will drag it over here, so it is closer to my layer names and drag it wider so I can see these names. The other is use the shortcut key F4. It toggles between seeing the Modes panel and seeing the Switches panel. Underneath the Mode header you'll see a long list of blending modes.

They are broken roughly into categories. This first one, other than Normal, which means do opacity fade, you'll almost never use. The next section tends to a darken the composite. The section after that tends to brighten the composite. The section after that does have more complex and richer interactions. I call these the intensifier or enriching modes, and then you get into this more unusual mathematical based ones. Difference, Exclusion, Subtract, Divide, Add in After Effects CS5. One that replace a property like use the Hue from the layer on top, but the Saturation and Luminance from layers underneath etc and finally some special one concerning Alpha channels.

We'll discuss these last few in other lessons. Now if you're a scientific type person our book, Creating Motion Graphics, has an entire chapter devoted to blending modes that goes through the math behind each one of these modes and very scientifically looks at how they operate. However, if you are a right brain type a person, it is perfectly okay just to start picking modes and see what they look like. I am going to start with Multiply. It is from this darkening group. Watch what happens to composite when I do so. I am going to turn up the opacity.

What Multiply does is take the layer on top and wherever that layer is black it darkens the composite underneath, and wherever the layer is light it doesn't darken it nearly as much. If it was completely white, it wouldn't darken it at all. I am going to compare my snapshot. This is what an Opacity fade looks like and this is what it looks like using Multiply mode. Far more interesting. I will drag a little bit wider so you could see the name better. The other modes inside the section have related effects.

For example, the Color Burn has to be richer, has more saturation and more color, and then there is other modes like Linear Burn. But Multiply is a real good starting point when you got a grayscale image on top of a color image. Now let's go look at the section after that that brighten layers. For example, Add mode does substantially the opposite of Multiply. Basically, the color values of the pixel of the layer on top are added to the color values of the pixels underneath. The result always being a brighter image. Where the layer on top is white or near white, the result is pretty well blown out or very close to white.

Where the result underneath is black or near black, such as these dark areas in between the grids, well, you know, adding 0 to number has no effect. It basically lets the original color go through unaffected. Again, if I want to compare snapshot I can click on this button or use the shortcut key F5. That's Opacity blend and that's an Add blend. Far more punch, very interesting. Other modes in that group have similar but different looks. Screen is a less intense version of Add. You see we see a bit of the muscle tone that was missing with that Add mode, and just like we had Burn modes underneath the darkening section, we've got the Dodge modes underneath the Add section, and they create a more intense composite just like the Burn modes did previously.

Small change there. Lighter Color. That not nearly as interesting. Again, I tend to use Add or Screen as a starting point. Then I mentioned this next section, the intensifier or enriching modes. Overlay is probably my single favorite blending mode inside After Effects. Put two layers together, put the layer on top in Overlay mode, and you must always get a richer, more saturated, more intense result. I mean I love this, this is beautiful. I'll press F5. That's the Opacity blend.

You can see how dull and uninteresting that is now, compared to releasing F5 and looking at the Overlay mode. Other modes in that section provide different looks. Soft Light tends to be a less intense version of Overlay. Hard Light tends to be a more intense version of Overlay. Then there is other ones too, like Vivid Light, and Pin Light, and Hard Mix give really unusual posterize effects. Pin Light is kind of grayish. Vivid Light can be interesting. Again this is kind of like dodge and burn modes, more saturated.

But I love Overlay. It's my first call when I am using blending modes to put together multiple layers. Now in addition to selecting modes you still have that Opacity command. If you find this result is too intense, you can always knock down that layer on top. Just blend it a little more lightly just to give more of a hint of the composite, something that is less intense all the way down to something like that which is ghosted, but I might go somewhere in here. You also don't need to restrict yourself to one mode.

It's not unusual to take a layer on top, duplicate it, press T to reveal its Opacity as well, and put the layer on top in a different mode like Screen. Then you can start to bounce these modes off of each other. Overlay tends make things a little bit darker, more saturated. Screen tends to make things a bit brighter and now I've got a much more intense composite, where I've got my saturated colors in the dark areas, thanks to Overlay mode, but I have more white and definition in the bright areas thanks to having a copy in Screen mode on top.

But you don't need to go this far. One copy is often enough.

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This video is part of

Image for After Effects Apprentice 04: Layer Control
After Effects Apprentice 04: Layer Control

38 video lessons · 11914 viewers

Chris Meyer and Trish Meyer
Author

 
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  1. 3m 20s
    1. Overview
      1m 20s
    2. Using the exercise files
      2m 0s
  2. 23m 19s
    1. Stacking and sliding layers
      5m 23s
    2. Trimming layers in the Timeline panel
      5m 45s
    3. Trimming in the Layer panel
      3m 31s
    4. Pre-trimming and inserting layers from the Footage panel
      3m 20s
    5. Slip editing
      5m 20s
  3. 12m 13s
    1. Applying sequence layers to footage
      4m 45s
    2. Using sequence layers with objects
      2m 14s
    3. Example: Sequence layers and photographs
      2m 20s
    4. Creating a new composition using sequence layers
      1m 35s
    5. Understanding the importance of layer order
      1m 19s
  4. 17m 20s
    1. Looping footage
      3m 15s
    2. Importing a sequence of still images
      4m 30s
    3. Using Time Stretch vs. altering frame rates
      3m 23s
    4. Frame blending
      6m 12s
  5. 19m 1s
    1. Overview of blending modes
      7m 5s
    2. Combining modes and effects
      4m 45s
    3. Why apply effects to solids?
      7m 11s
  6. 22m 2s
    1. Using the Effects & Presets panel
      5m 3s
    2. Applying presets
      5m 34s
    3. Working with behaviors
      3m 2s
    4. Creating and saving presets
      8m 23s
  7. 7m 55s
    1. Importing Photoshop files with layer styles
      4m 7s
    2. Applying layer styles inside After Effects
      3m 48s
  8. 9m 27s
    1. Using adjustment layers
      3m 17s
    2. Working with adjustment layers and alpha channels
      3m 14s
    3. Applying a filmic glow treatment
      2m 56s
  9. 6m 50s
    1. Quizzler challenges
      1m 16s
    2. Quizzler solution one: Pyrotechnic composite
      3m 7s
    3. Quizzler solution two: Sequenced fades
      2m 27s
  10. 11m 51s
    1. Idea corner one: Adjustment layer shapes
      1m 55s
    2. Idea corner two: Creating a traveling glass bar
      4m 12s
    3. Idea corner three: Creating sequences from filmstrips
      5m 44s
  11. 27m 23s
    1. Looping footage by crossfading
      5m 20s
    2. Working with effect point paths
      5m 12s
    3. Brainstorming
      7m 19s
    4. Working with pixel aspect ratios
      9m 32s

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