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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.
All right in this video we're going to combine all three kinds of blending in Photoshop to do a composite result here. We want to do a nice Glow effect here. We are going to go ahead and duplicate the layer, Command+J, Ctrl+J, and we're going to go ahead and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. We're going to go for the dramatic high contrast glow effect. So I'll use the Radius of 10. Click OK and we're going to change the blend mode to Overlay. Okay it looks great. We get a nice glow on the highlights. The colors are popping. They're saturated and really vibrant now.
But I have a problem. I take a look at the inside of that flower. Let's go turn off the top layer and there's before and there's the after. What are you noticing? There's a lot of detail that I've lost in the shadow areas. So I can try to play with the Opacity. I'll get my Move tool and type in number for the layer opacity. Maybe I'll try 80%. 50%. Now while lowering the layer opacity it does bring some of that detail in the shadows, I'm losing the strength of the highlight glow. So I really want to maintain both. I want the shadow detail to stay but I want the full strength of the highlight glow. So I'm going to take that back to say 90%. And I might even want 95%. I'll type 95 very quickly on the keyboard and that changes that to 95%.
So I guess I could get a layer mask on this layer and start painting with my Brush tool with black around those areas, but that's just too much manual labor. I'm going to undo that. Command+Z, Ctrl+Z. It turns out that every single layer inside Photoshop has a build-in layer mask waiting for you to tap into. It's a layer mask based on its tonal values. The way you get there is the advanced blending options. You double click on the image thumbnail and that brings up the Layer Style dialog box and it's set to the Blending Options, specifically the Advanced Blending and Blend if sliders.
That's what we're looking for here. This is a feature that's been here since Photoshop 3. It's just buried. A lot of people don't realize it's there. Double click on the thumbnail and now you have two sets of sliders. One for this layer, meaning the active layer, and the layer underneath it. We want to affect the current layer so we're going to use the This Layer slider and this basically says hey, between 0 and 255 or black and white, you have the ability to hide the pixels based on their tonal value. So I'm going to bring that black slider over to the right. Pretty soon you'll see the amoebas coming.
They're eating away the image, punching a hole through those images. I'm going to go ahead and click OK. I'm going to turn off the Background layer. So you can get a better idea visually what's going on here. You can actually see that we are literally punching a hole in this top layer wherever there are dark pixels. So we'll double click on this thumbnail again to reopen the Layer Style dialog box. But here's the problem. I have got a very, very sharp edge here and a hard transition. That's either opaque or transparent. I don't really have any blend in between. We want to create a transition zone. So I'm going to hold down the Option key on the Mac or the Alt key on a Windows and we can split the slider if we Option drag or Alt drag. You see what it's doing. It's creating a gradient or a blend between opaque and transparency. So I'm going to take this to say 70, this left slider and we'll take the right slider over to 120, let's say, and I'm just making these numbers up as I go.
This is now saying, hey Photoshop any pixel on this layer that has a tonal value of 0-70 and I want you to just to go away, pretend you don't even exist, you're transparent. Everything that's 121 and higher, I want it to be 100% opaque and then everything in between I want you to do a blend from transparent to opaque. So I get nice soft transition zone. I'm going to go ahead and click OK. We'll turn that bottom layer back on and that will turn the top layer off. There is before, there is after and I've achieved my goal. I want highlight glow here. Nice beautiful detail there and nice glow in the highlights to get the nice saturated color and the reds there. But I've preserved my detail in the shadows and that's all thanks to the advanced blending sliders.
One last note about the advanced blending sliders. They're non-destructive. They're virtual. If I save this layered Photoshop document and open it next week, if I double click on the thumbnail of that layer, you'll see those sliders are remembered. So you can always go back and further tweak it to your heart's content. What a great feature. It's just a little buried.
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