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Whenever I want to create a composite image, the first thing I tend to think about is a layer mask. Because a layer mask is what's used typically to blend the two images together. But sometimes you don't even need a layer mask in order to combine two images. Here I have a Clock Tower with a very drab sky, and I also have another image layer that has some nice clouds. I'll turn off the visibility for the Clock Tower layer so that we can see the Clouds layer. I want to combine these two images so that I effectively just replace the sky. And because the sky is the brightest portion of the image, I can use a clever technique in order to hide that sky, and therefore reveal the clouds below.
And that involves advanced blending options for my layers. I'll start off by double clicking on the thumbnail for my Clock Tower layer in order to bring up the layer style dialogue. And I'm going to focus on the advanced blending options, and specifically the options down at the bottom, those two gradients. I'll move the dialog over so that we can see the entire image and I'm going to start off with the this Layer slider. In other words, I'm going to blend layers based on tonal values in the current layer. The layer that I double-clicked on. Specifically, I want to hide the brightest pixels from this layer. And to do that I'll simply drag the slider from the white end of the gradient. And when I drag that inward, eventually we'll start to see pixels disappearing. The brightest pixels will be blended away, they'll be hidden. And if I take that slider in far enough I'll get all of the sky to completely disappear, so that I can now see only the cloudy sky down below. Of course, the transition is a bit harsh, you can even see some evidence of that up at the top of the spire here.
And so, I'd like to smooth out the transition to accomplish that, I'll hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh, and then click on half of that handle. And when I do so, because I was holding the Alt or Option key that handle will be split into two individual sliders. I'll go ahead and drag the left half inward a bit so that we start hiding a part of the building here, the Clock Tower, and then I'll drag the other handle over to the right. And you'll start to see that as I move the handles back and forth, I've created some significant transition between those areas.
I don't need very much transition, so I'll bring those sliders a little bit closer together. I just want to have a little bit of a transition between the areas that are being hidden and the areas that are still here. That looks to be a pretty good result. I can also take things a step further though. What if I'd like to bring in some of those clouds? Bring them in front of that Clock Tower so that the Clock Tower appears to be essentially going up through the clouds. That can be kind of cool or at least a little bit fun. And for that, we're going to use the Underlying Layer option. And when it comes to the Underlying Layer, I'm not hiding pixels but rather revealing or bringing them to the forefront.
And in this situation I want to bring forward the brightest pixels and so I'll once again work with the white slider. This time for the underlying layer and as I drag that slider inward, you'll start to see that the brightest portions of the clouds are coming forward. They're coming in front of my upper layer, the current layer. Of course in this case I really need to make sure that I have some transition, so once again I'll hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh and then click on half of that slider and drag it away. And in this case, I might have those sliders relatively far apart so that I get a really smooth transition.
Between the areas that I am revealing or bringing to the forefront ,and those that I am not, giving it a sort of misty, hazy appearance. So I think that's working pretty well, it's kind of cool in this case. And all of this is made possible by those blending options, so I can hide or reveal pixels based on their luminance values for the current layer. And I can also bring to the forefront, pixels based on their tonal values from the underlying area. Once I'm happy with the result, I can simply click the OK button in order to finalize the effect.
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