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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.
One of the quickest techniques of working with blend modes is to run a blend mode or apply a blend mode to a duplicate of a layer, so we call that a self blend. But there is a downside to that. You're actually increasing your file size. Um, not unnecessarily. So if we take a look at this file size here, down at the bottom of the window it says 900K for the document. This is a really low-resolution file. So the file size isn't all that big. If I duplicate the layer, Command+J or Ctrl+J on Windows, you'll see I've effectively doubled the file size because I've added twice as much information to the file. If I duplicate the layer again, Command+J, Ctrl+J, I'm now three times roughly where I started from. So instead of 900K, I'm at 2.7 megabytes roughly.
I am going to revert this file. Revert. There is a different way to do the same effect as applying the blend mode to a duplicate layer. And that is to use an adjustment layer instead. I'm going to open up my Adjustments panel here. And will choose a Curves or Levels adjustment layer, it doesn't actually matter for the technique that we're going to use, to lighten the foreground and darken the background of this particular image. We'll go ahead and choose Levels. But I'm not going to do anything to these sliders. I'm going to leave them alone. It turns out that when you create an adjustment layer, you sucked up all the tonality of the image, up into this layer.
It's now a mask instead of pixels. And if you take a look at the file size down here in the bottom left-hand corner, the file size has not changed at all yet. It's still 900K because I haven't done any pixel adjustments or added any pixel information to this image by painting a layer mask let's say. If I change my blend mode to Screen, I get the exact same result as duplicating the actual layer, the pixel layer and changing it to Screen. I'm just applying the blend mode to the adjustment layer instead. It's one of the reasons why I really like adjustment layers. In addition to the fact that they are non-destructive, where I can turn it on or off, I can change its blend mode, I can change its Opacity and I can mask it off if I need to.
All without changing the file size unless I paint a layer mask, which we're going to do right now. I'm going to press G for the Gradient tool on my keyboard, and again I want to create a Gradient from foreground to background, so I'll just click at the top of this rock and drag straight up, and let go. Now in this case I have done a Gradient on the foreground, on the area that just protected, and that's okay. A layer mask can be reversed anytime you want it to just by using the Invert command, Command+I or Ctrl+I. And now I've masked out the background so it's not getting brighter and the foreground looks a lot better than it did.
So now to change the background and make it a little bit darker we're going to duplicate this adjustment layer, Command+J, Ctrl+J on Windows. And now it's been duplicated here. We're going to change the blend mode from Screen to Multiply to darken that sky, and again the layer mask needs to be inverted because the wrong area's been protected, so I'm going to do Command+I or Ctrl+I on the layer mask for that top layer. And now I get the separation of Tonal correction, the foreground is separate from the background. I can turn these layers on and off to kind of see the difference here. Just like a normal layer, if the effect is too strong, like for instance, I think the darkening is too much on this layer, I can just press the V key on my keyboard to switch to the Move tool and I can lower the Opacity of this particular layer, I'll make it 50% by pressing the number 5, and then I can see before and after.
Now you will see that the file size has increased a touch but only slightly because I have a layer mask which is only a single channel of information as opposed to duplicating an entire layer of pixels which is an RGB collection of pixels, so that would be three channels of information on that layer because I only have a layer mask there. The file size increase is only a small size here. So there you have it, using adjustment layers and blend modes together to do Tonal correction the benefit there is that it's much more flexible and you don't have the file size increase as much as if you were just to duplicate the entire layer.
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