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Ah, yes! Blend modes can be much like life or taxes; you to make them as simple or as complicated as you like. As an artist with some pretty decent technical abilities, I often end up talking about blend modes only to see people's eyes start to glaze over. So for now I would really like to avoid that and actually keep things as simple as possible. So before I get into each individual nuance of a blend mode, I want to actually show you where you can find blend modes.
So first thing, when would you want to actually use a blend mode? Well, the precise time would be anytime you want to actually blend something into the background. So each blend mode, you can actually change how an object interacts with the layers below it. It's really important to remember "layers below." So let's go ahead and select this Stripes_Circles group here and press Command+3 to open up the Inspector.
So first thing, you notice under Properties in the blending section, sure enough, here is blend mode. So notice this option is set to Pass Through. Well, Pass Through is the default setting for groups when you have many different layers nested within that group. So if I wanted to change how this group of purple circles blended with the layers below, I would select this group and change the blend mode from Pass Through to something like Multiply.
Now you notice what ends up happening is this set of circles is now blending with the layers below. Now I chose Multiply for a reason, because it's the direct inverse of Screen. So it's kind of interesting. Different blend modes are organized into different groups and basically the way its set up is based on lightness or darkness. So as I'm selecting these purple circles, I'm telling them to screen over the layers below.
So notice the bright pixels are popping right through my purple circles, whereas the darker pixels are actually staying masked underneath. See, if I chose Multiply, notice the purple pixels now have turned really, really dark, and they are blending into the background layer. So each group is set up to function slightly differently. So the easiest way to think of the Multiply group, Multiply is great to get rid of white pixels.
And Screen is actually really good to get rid of black pixels. So if you have an element that has all white or all black pixels, it's an easy way to get rid of that element. So here, let's select our Dance type layer here, which is white, and choose Screen. Well, nothing happened. There is reason nothing happened. If we go to Multiply, now those pixels are gone. See, it's Multiply that gets rid of the white pixels, Screen that gets rid of the black pixels.
So obviously this is not what we're trying to do with this individual type layer, so I'll change that back to Normal. One thing I can recommend when you're dealing with actually trying to blend different layers together: don't deal with 100% white or 100% black layers. When you do that, you'll end up with situations like I just illustrated where the white elements are completely gone, or same thing with the black pixels. So let's go ahead and blend in this background circle here.
So if I press the spacebar, I can play my animation and as you can see, it's a video of the dancer dancing around on the stage. Now I want a blend this back into the piano layer below. In order to do that, I'm just going to stop playback here for a second and go to my blend mode. Now if I want the dark area where his pants are to actually get knocked out, what would I choose? I would actually choose Screen.
So let's go to Screen, and now you can see the darker areas are actually getting knocked out. Now, it's not 100% knocked out, because some of the elements from the layer below are actually shining through. But if we press our spacebar, now you notice the circle looks a little bit washed out. Now, the subsequent groups of blend modes function in a similar manner. They just tend to take into account a little bit more from each of the different color channels, whether you're talking about the red channel, the green channel, the blue channel, you get the idea.
These last set of groups here, I like to think of these as composite groups. For example, if I chose Stencil Alpha, notice when I chose that all the layers below are automatically cut out based on the alpha channel of our DANCER layer. Now you notice I can't see the dancer anymore, because it's actually acting as a stencil to only show me this background layer. See, if I move this all the way up to the top of my layer hierarchy, now notice it's cutting absolutely everything out.
So this is actually a neat tricky way of masking a group of layers if you don't want to have to go in and apply a mask to an individual group. You can just go in and change the individual blend mode. So I want you to experiment with your own blend modes to see exactly what you might come up with. I think you will find if you stick to the sections method, you will have a good place to start and can easily refine your blends as soon as you choose different settings within each section.
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