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The blend modes in Photoshop offer incredible creative options for designers and photographers wanting to enhance images. In Photoshop Blend Mode Magic, Michael Ninness shows Photoshop users how to access and apply blend modes efficiently to achieve an aesthetic vision. He explains the building blocks of layer blending and demonstrates how blend modes can be used for color correction, sharpening, blending images together, adding dramatic glow, applying custom edge treatments, and many other creative effects. Michael also introduces advanced blending options for more experienced Photoshop users. Most of all, he demystifies this essential feature in plain, easy-to-understand terms and inspires photographers to use blend modes in ways they may have never considered before. Exercise files accompany the course.
In this image, we have a lot of highlights that are very hot. You know, over here on the wall, the red is being blown out a little bit. On the handle of the gas pump, we are losing some detail there and then in the face of the gas pump here where the letters are, it's a little bit blown out there. That's why we want to bring out some of that detail. So one quick way to do that is to do a self-blend with Multiply. By self-blend, I mean duplicate the existing layer, so Command+J or Ctrl+J and change the blend mode to Multiply. That's going to darken the medium to dark grey pixels in the image, leaving the lightest pixels alone. You know, absolute white will stay absolute white.
You can see that this is a little bit way too strong here and that we want to dampen this down a little bit. So I get my Move tool, press V for the Move key. One way to dampen this down is to just lower the overall effect or intensity of this layer by lowering it's opacity. So I'm going to try 80% by just typing the 8 on my keyboard or even 50% by typing the number 5. This is getting a little bit better but I want to now fine-tune it and there is two ways to fine-tune it. I can add a layer mask and start masking out the areas that I don't want to be affected by this layer here or I can use the Advanced Blending sliders to limit it as well. To get to the Advanced Blending sliders, since I have an image layer here, I can just double-click on the image thumbnail in the Layers panel. That brings up the Layer Style dialog box and down at the bottom, we have the Blend if sliders.
And we want to protect our darkest tones in the image. We don't want them to get darker via the Multiply. So I'll move this black slider for this layer over to the right and what that tells Photoshop to do is ignore those pixels. Basically, treat them as if they were transparent. So they are not being added or multiplied with the layer down below. This is 256 levels of shades or levels of black and white here, so I have said Photoshop, any pixel that is on this layer that has a tonal value of 0-80, you go away, you are transparent. I can get some pretty harsh edges if I just slide this to a whole number here. So what we want to do is create a transition zone between opaque and transparent. I'm going to hold down the Option key on the Mac or the Alt key on Windows to split the sliders and that creates a gradation, from opaque to transparent.
So I'll make this from 60 to say 120, and now we are saying that every pixel has a tonal value on this layer of 0 to 60 goes away, everything that's between 60 and 120 gradates to opaque and then everything else is left alone. I can turn the Preview on and off and you can see the before and after. I have used the sliders and we'll go ahead and click OK. And if I turn the bottom layer off, you can actually see where we punched a hole through those dark pixels. For the top layer, I may want to control this just a little bit more and I may want this area up here to not be as affected as much. So I'll add a layer mask to this layer by clicking the Add Layer Mask button at the bottom of the Layers panel.
Let me get my Gradient tool, type a G for Gradient and I want my gradient to be from the foreground color to transparent. I want black to be my foreground color, so I'll press X for exchange and you will see that black now becomes my foreground color and my gradient is now black to transparent. I'm going to go ahead and press in the middle of the image here a little bit and drag up, all the way up to into the highlight area, just to create a nice soft transition there to protect these regions. You can see in the layer mask, anything that's black is protected from this layer.
Anything that's white allows the blend to pass through. So there is before, there is after and if I turn off the layer mask, I'll Shift-click on the layer mask, you can see the effect without the layer mask. You see the red X now, turning off that mask. If I Shift -click again, the mask is now in play and I can see the final composite result. So here again, there is where we started and here is after and you can see we are getting much better detail on the gas pump and we've dampened down the highlights overall.
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