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In Photoshop CS5 Essential Training, author Michael Ninness demonstrates how to produce the highest quality images with fantastic detail in the shortest amount of time, using a combination of Photoshop CS5, Adobe Bridge, and Camera Raw. This course shows the most efficient ways to perform common editing tasks, including noise reduction, shadow and highlight detail recovery, retouching, and combining multiple images. Along the way, Michael shares the secrets of non-destructive editing, utilizing and mastering Adobe Bridge, Camera Raw, layers, adjustment layers, blending modes, layer masks, and much more. Exercise files are included with the course.
One of the most common techniques that people want to accomplish when they're working with multiple layers in a Photoshop document is how do you blend more than one layer together. It not only just means by changing the opacity between two layers but actually controlling where you see different parts of the image. So, in this particular file, I've got two layers, a White layer and a Pink layer. I'll turn off the White layer here, so you can see the Pink layer behind at the pink flower. Now what I want to do is see a part of the pink flower blending into the white flower. Now the best way to do that is to use a layer mask.
So, on the White layer I've got that chosen. I'm going to go to the bottom of the Layers panel, and there's an Add Layer Mask button. And that adds a layer mask filled with white on that particular layer. Now white means reveal all, all right? Everything where there's a white on this particular layer mask show me the area of the image where I see white in that thumbnail. If I want to hide a portion of that white flower and start seeing the pink flower underneath it, then I need to put some black pixels on the layer mask. Now, if I get my Brush tool, type a B for the Brush tool and pick a really big brush, I'll hold down Ctrl+Option on the Mac or Alt+Right-click on Windows and start clicking and dragging to the right to make the brush pretty big.
And if I start painting with black on this layer, you can see I can just paint in exactly where I want that pink flower to show up. And if I take a look at the layer mask, everywhere there is gray-- in this case because my Opacity value is set to 56%. Everywhere where there is a gray, I'm going to start seeing the pink flower below. I can make the brush a little bit smaller by using my left bracket as well, a different technique. I'll type 0 to get my opacity back to 100%, and then I can paint in somewhere else where I want that pink flower to show. So, here I'm just getting a natural blend between the two layers simply by painting with black, white or gray on the layer mask.
If I want to bring some of the white flower back, I'll press X to exchange the foreground and background colors and I'll paint with the opposite color back over where I had previously painted with black. Now what you might want to do instead is actually have this gradual blend between the two in a nice smooth fashion. Of course, that would be using a gradient. So, I'm going to press the G key in my keyboard to switch to the Gradient tool. And the default gradient is from the foreground color to the background color, which happens to be white to black. And you can see I get a little preview of what that gradient looks like.
So, I'm going to start clicking and dragging with the Gradient tool. I still have my layer mask selected over here in the Layers panel. I'm going to go ahead and click and drag to drag out a gradient. Now, the default gradient replaces everything that's on the layer mask already. So, all that painting that I've done is replaced with this smooth from white to black gradient and gray in between. Everywhere there is black on that layer mask thumbnail, I'm hiding the Daisy flower. Everywhere it's white, I'm revealing the Daisy flower. So, where I see black here that's where I'm going to see the pink flower behind that other layer.
Now where you drag actually makes a difference. So, where you click is where the gradient begins and where you let go is where the gradient ends. And then it does gray transition between the two clicks. If I drag really far from left to right, let's say, you can see I get a much smoother transition between black and white or between opaque and transparent. Everytime you drag with the default gradient, you are replacing the previous gradient. You can go at an angle as well. If I do a really short drag, you'll see I get a very sharp transition between the two.
If I drag further, I get a smoother blend. So, you really need to just decide where you want these two images to blend together. If I want to go from here to here, you can see that now I don't want those two yellow centers to be seen at the same time. So, I'm just going to click and drag and kind of do something like that. Now if you want to be a little bit more creative and actually build up the gradient layer mask, you can change the type of gradient you use. Instead of from white to black, you can click up here on the little up the little ramp up here and go from foreground to transparent. So, I'm going to go ahead and click that second gradient option there.
And what this does is instead of replacing the current gradient on the layer mask, it's going to add it to the layer mask. So, I can actually build up multiple strokes here. I'm going to switch my colors from white to black to black and white. I'm going to press X to exchange my foreground and background colors. And now you can see, as I click and drag multiple times, I'm actually getting this custom blend between the two by just doing multiple drags and if you kind of take a look at the thumbnail over here in the layer mask, you're actually seeing this custom mask being built. If you ever want to see the mask by itself in a large view here, hold down the Option or Alt key and click on the layer mask itself.
And then you'll see what that mask looks like in full size there, instead of just relying on just a little tiny thumbnail there. Option+Click or Alt+Click to bring the image back. It's a way to temporarily view that layer mask in isolation just by Option+Clicking or Alt+ Clicking on the thumbnail itself. So, there you have it, a basic technique of blending multiple layers together just by throwing on a layer mask on the given layer and then using the Gradient tool to really dial in where you want that blend to happen between those two layers.
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