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11. Opacity and Blend Modes


Photoshop Top 40

with Deke McClelland

Video: 11. Opacity and Blend Modes

(Music playing) Deke's Photoshop? Deke's Photoshop? Top 40! Feature #11 is a block of the most powerful features inside of Photoshop. That is opacity and blend modes. And I am talking about these functions that are located right here at the top of the Layers palette. There is the opacity value. There is the fill value, which is a close cousin as we'll see. There is the blend mode pop-up menu, which permits access to 25 different blend modes as you'll see right here.
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Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop Top 40
7h 13m Intermediate Dec 21, 2009

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There's nothing people love more than lists, and Photoshop Top 40 offers a great one, highlighting the best features in Photoshop. Deke McClelland counts down to #1, detailing one great feature after another in this popular digital imaging application. The videos cover tools, commands, and concepts, emphasizing what's really important in Photoshop.

Topics include:
  • Assembling multiple pieces of artwork with layer comps
  • Creating a black-and-white image from a color photograph
  • Merging multiple channels to create an alpha channel with calculations
  • Selecting images with the Pen tool
  • Masking images using the Brush tool
Design Photography
Deke McClelland

11. Opacity and Blend Modes

(Music playing) Deke's Photoshop? Deke's Photoshop? Top 40! Feature #11 is a block of the most powerful features inside of Photoshop. That is opacity and blend modes. And I am talking about these functions that are located right here at the top of the Layers palette. There is the opacity value. There is the fill value, which is a close cousin as we'll see. There is the blend mode pop-up menu, which permits access to 25 different blend modes as you'll see right here.

Now I am not going to be showing you how every single one of the blend modes work, because not every one of them is essential information. I'll just be showing you the best. The ones you really need to know. So I have a composition here that ultimately hinges on two images. One is called wrestlers. It's this Wrestlers layer, which is this couple that doesn't seem to be getting along at all from Ron Chapple Stock. And below it we've a layer of parchment back here on the Background layer. And that comes to us from Jumping Sack. And I want to be able to blend these layers together, and that's the fantastic thing about opacity and blend modes working together inside of Photoshop is that you can blend layers together entirely parametrically.

That is nondestructively. You're not harming a single pixel in the image. You are making no permanent changes. You could always get back to your normal opaque image if you want. We are going to start things off with a Wrestlers layer selected. I am going to change the opacity value to something completely arbitrary. Like let's say 25%, and what we're doing is we were creating a kind of image cocktail that involves in this case 25% wrestlers, mixed along with 100% - 25%, so 75% of the parchment in the background.

And that is all that's going on in the case of the opacity value, and you can combine that with blend modes if you like. I'm a going ahead and restore an opacity value of 100%, and I am going to show you the blend modes instead. Now as I was saying I am not going to show you every single blend mode. You don't need to know about every single blend mode. What you need to know is the blend mode groups. We are starting things off with Normal, which is just saying that ultimately any translucency hinges entirely on the opacity value right there. Then you can skip Dissolve that's just going to create a random pixel spray inside of the translucent areas.

You can then drop down to these darkening modes right there that start with Darken and end with Darker Color and then we have the lightning modes going from Lighten to Lighter Color. We have the Contrast modes. I will show you what all of this means in a moment, from Overlay down to Hard Mix. We have the Inversion modes Difference and Exclusion. And then we have HSL modes down here Hue, Saturation, Color and Luminosity. Now if you want to use one image to darken another, you should start with Multiply. There is only really two items here inside of the Darken list that you need worry about.

One is called Multiply any the other is Linear Burn. So I'll show you Multiply first. You end up getting this effect. It's as if you've printed both of the images on separate transparencies. That is the wrestlers and the parchment, and then layer the two transparencies on top of light table. So the light has to shine through both transparencies meaning that one image is darkening the other. It's also analogous to a tattooing effect if you like. It's great for shadows, anything dark inside of Photoshop. If that's not dark enough then move on to the other one here that's any good in my opinion, which is Linear Burn.

And that's going to give you an enhanced effect. Sometimes a higher saturation effect as well. Both of these guys have keyboard shortcuts. In fact all of the blend modes have keyboard shortcuts. They are Shift+Alt on a PC, or Shift+Option on the Mac. It works like this. It's Shift+Alt+M for Multiply. Shift+Option+M on the Mac, and it's Shift+Alt+A for Linear Burn that Shift+Option+A on the Mac. But if you want to memorize those keyboard shortcuts, think of you. You are the master of the art inside of Photoshop.

So you've got master here for Multiply and art here for Linear Burn. All right now let's move on to the Lightning modes, here but before we do I am going to go ahead and turnoff wrestlers for just a moment, and I am going to turn on this adjustment layer. You may recall feature #14 adjustment layers inside of Photoshop. This happens to be an inversion layer. So when I turn it on it goes ahead and inverts the parchment in the background. And that's just making sure that everything that was formerly bright is now dark, so that we can take advantage of the lightning modes here. Turn wrestlers back on. Notice how dark things are.

Let's light them up, by switching to be first and foremost of the lightning mode. So again, you drop down to, you skip Lighten, you go down the Screen and you get this effect right here. It's analogous to taking these two images that is the inverted parchment, putting that on a slide, and then putting wrestlers on a separate slide putting both slides in separate projectors, firing them at the same screen. And you get this lightning effect. So everything is universally lightning, everything below it great for glows any sort of lightning interaction you want.

If that's not light enough you can switch to this option right there, Linear Dodge. Now these crazy guys by the way also have keyboard shortcuts that don't make any sense. And let me demonstrate the keyboard shortcuts like so. I'm going to switch back to Screen where this layer is concerned. Turn it off for just a moment, and then turn on this stars layer. A layer of synthetic stars that I have created using a combination of Add Noise, Gaussian blur levels, and ultimately the Lens Flare filter as well. If I click on the stars layer let's say I wanted to interact with the layers below, and I want to dropout the black sky, keep the light details, then I could start things off with the Screen mode here, which I always recommend you start with Multiply for dark.

You start with Screen for light. Start with Screen, which is Shift+Alt+S or Shift+Option+S on the Mac. It makes perfect sense. If that's not strong enough, then switch over to Linear Dodge using Shift+Alt+W. It doesn't make any darn sense. Shift+Option+W on the Mac. But you can think of it this way. We are applying stars just like in Star Wars. So S for stars, W for wars if you want to think of it that way. All right I am going to turn wrestlers back on. Notice how hot their hands are, where they are interacting there. Very cool.

Now I am going to switch back to the wrestlers layer. Let's try a few of the contrast modes here starting with Overlay. If I choose the Overlay mode, that is your first and foremost mode. So this time you don't switch ahead too. You just grab Overlay there. And you are darkening the darkest detail, and lightening the lightest details. So it's a combination of Multiply and Screen working together, if that's not enough, Multiply then switch ahead to Hard Light like so. And if Hard Light is still not enough, you can switch to Linear Light. Once again you have keyboard shortcuts, and those are going to be Shift+Alt+O or Shift+Option+O for overlay.

Shift+Alt+H or Shift+Option+H for Hard Light make sense so far. And then Shift+Alt+J or Shift+Option+J doesn't make any sense for Linear Light. But J is a backward L, if you want to think of it that way, or of course it could be O happy joy, also works. It doesn't necessarily make any sense, but let's move forward to the Difference mode, which uses one layer to invert another. I am going to go ahead and try out Difference here, and I am going to turn off that stars layer for a moment. That ends up creating a very nice effect right there, with this interaction of complementary colors.

It's going to make a little more sense. So I think in terms of what the Difference mode is doing, if I turn off bright to dark. So we'll turn off that inversion layer right there, and you can see that indeed Photoshop is using the wrestlers layer to invert the background parchment. So bright colors whites inside the wrestlers layer are going to invert the most. And dark colors blacks inside the wrestlers layer are going to invert the least. You are going to get black anytime similar colors intersect each other. That is similar colors between the active layer, and the layer below. If you want gray instead at those color intersections that you'd switchover to Exclusion, we are just going to back off the effect a little bit.

Now I don't recommend you learn these keyboard shortcuts. But just so you know them it's E for Difference, and it's X for Exclusion. That is Shift+Alt+E or Shift+Option+E, Shift+Alt+X or Shift+Option+E.All right now let's switch down to these guys, Hue, Saturation, Color, Luminosity, the ones you really want to know about are Color and Luminosity. Let me show you, how those work. I am going to turnoff wrestlers for a moment. I'm going to turn on the invert layer, click on it. Now currently I am inverting both the colors and the luminance levels, so we are seeing black change to white, white change to black, and we're also seeing that orange change to its color complement blue.

If you want to modify the color and luminance regions independently of each other, then you apply a blend mode. So let's say I just want to invert the colors. I would choose the Color mode when bright to dark is selected. So these are the original colors, the original orange colors of the parchment. And these are the inverted colors when I turn this layer back on they now appear blue. If you want to keep the orange, and you want to invert the luminance information, then you would switch over here from Color to its opposite Luminosity, and you would get that effect.

So we are just inverting the blacks and whites, we're not changing the colors at all. All right, so what I am going to do at this point is I'm going to assemble the composition, as I wanted to look. I am going to turn off bright to dark. I am going to turn wrestlers back on. I am going to click on the wrestlers layer to make it active, and I am going to change its blend mode to Multiply. So we get this appealing effect right there, where we were blending these paper pushers along with their parchment paper in the background. Now I also have at the top of the stack a couple of more layers. One is a text layer, a lifetime player inside of Photoshop, says works on paper right there.

And above that I have a border that I want to appear around my text, but right now it doesn't appear around my text at all, instead we see an opaque black rectangle, with a Stroke effect. Feature #15, layer effects as you may recall. Problem is I want to see the Stroke, but I don't want see the Fill. If I click on this border layer to make it active, I can change the opacity value, right. I can reduce that opacity so that I can see through the black rectangle, but I'm making both the black rectangle, and the Stroke effect translucent and that's not what I want at all.

I want the Stroke to remain opaque and the fill to become transparent. So I am going to increase that opacity value to 100%, and I am going to switch down to the Fill option right there, and I am going to reduce it to 0%. And notice what I do, I make the fill of the rectangle transparent, and I leave the Stroke alone. So I'm still seeing the effect of the layer effect right there. All right the final thing I wanted to do and this is just a wacky ending for this video, for those of you who are interested in such things. I want to go ahead and use both the Stroke and the text to cut a hole through the wrestlers layer, and reveal the parchment in the background.

Here is how I am going to do that. I am going to Shift+Click on the type layer so that both the border and the text are selected inside Layers palette. I'll go up to the Layer menu and I'll choose Merge Layers, or I can press Ctrl+E, Cmd +E on the Mac to merge those two together. And I am going to rename this layer knockout, because I am going to use it as a knockout layer. In order to make it a knockout layer though I have to double-click on some empty portion of the layer over here. In order to bring up the Layer Style dialog box, and then notice this Knockout option.

If I change it from None to either Shallow or Deep, it doesn't matter which, I don't get anything. No effect happens whatsoever. Let's just go ahead and choose Shallow right here and notice nothing happens. That's because Knockout is designed to work in tandem with Fill opacity. So you have to use the Fill opacity value to determine the degree of the knockout. We want a full lockout, so we would take this Fill opacity value down all the way to 0% and notice we are now using both the text and the Stroke to cut an absolute hole in that wrestlers layer down to the parchment below.

And then I would click OK. So that's a combination incidentally of Fill opacity 0% and Knockout set to Shallow click OK, and we have this final effect right here. Thanks to the unmitigated power of opacity and blend modes working together inside Photoshop

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Photoshop Top 40 .

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Q: Is there a way to batch convert an entire folder of photos from the RBG color mode to the CMYK color mode without having to open and convert each individual image?
A: In the Actions panel in Photoshop, create an action that converts an image from RGB to CMYK. Then link to that action from File > Automate > Batch inside Photoshop.
Next, in the Bridge, select a folder of images. Choose Tools > Photoshop > Batch. Select the action inside the ensuing dialog box.
Or, in Photoshop, select File > Automate > Batch, and select the action and the folder inside the dialog box.
See also: Photoshop CS2 Actions & Automation, Chapter 2 “Action Essentials.”
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