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In Photoshop CS5: Creative Compositing, Chris Orwig demonstrates how to take photographs to the next creative level by combining images in Photoshop. This course covers multiple compositing scenarios, including portraits and architecture photos, from selecting the images, to blending photos with layer masks and blend modes, and resizing and sharpening the results. Chris also covers tips and tricks design to inspire and increase the drama and interest of photographs. Exercise files are included with this course.
With this photograph, we are going to explore how we can work with multiple layers and blending modes in order to create an effect. We will also modify color and tone a bit, and then finally add some copy in order to finish off this brief project. All right! Well, the original image here is of some interesting lampposts or lights, and you know, I have always been a sucker for lights or lampposts, new or old. As a matter of fact, it's one of the things that my wife jokes with me about quite often. She will see a lamppost and say, oh, you better get out your camera, and I always say, oh, yeah, that's amazing.
And there's just something to me that's intriguing about lights. All right! Well, I have this lights layer and then in this document, in the layer above, I also have a photograph of a subway tunnel in London. And what I want to do is blend these two together. So a lot of times what we will do is we will click in our top layer and then we will change the blending mode. Let's go ahead and choose Soft Light. Now, when we do that, all of a sudden we realize that this isn't really working, because we lose too much of the tunnel, because that background layer is too white, it's too bright.
So let's try something else. In this case, we will go ahead and take this back to a Normal blending mode and now what we all do is reorder our layers. There are two ways to do this. You can either click and drag your layers, so we can go ahead and click and drag this down, or click and drag this up, or you can use a shortcut. Now, if you like shortcuts and if you want to be a power user, this is one of those shortcuts you just have to write down. On a Mac, you can press Command+Bracket key, on Windows it's Ctrl+Bracket key, and the Left Bracket key will move down and the Right Bracket key will move up. All right! Well, now that we have reordered these layers, either by clicking and dragging, or by the shortcut, let's target this top layer.
Next step, let's change the blending mode of this layer, the white layer. Well, now when we do that, all of a sudden it is kind of becoming interesting, except it's too faint, we need more. Well, to get more, simply duplicate your layer. The best way to duplicate is by pressing Command+J or Ctrl+J, or you can always click and drag this to the New Layer icon. That will also duplicate your layer as well. Here we have before and after, a little bit more there with the lights. All right! But this time I kind of lost some of the tunnel.
Well, if you want to bring some of that back, check this out. We can click in the subway layer. Duplicate that one. We will click and drag that to the New Layer icon, and let's put this at the top of the stack. So in this case, we kind of have a sandwich, right, the two subway images here and then the two filler images in the middle. Well, on the top layer what we will do is we will take this layer blending mode to Soft Light, and again what that does is it just brings down the density and gives us more of the tunnel without sacrificing the brightness of the lights.
Now, the whole point here is just to begin to experiment, so that if ever you change your blending mode to Soft Light and it doesn't work, don't give up. Keep working, keep experimenting. All right! Well, the next thing I am going to do is remove all the color. I will click on Hue/ Saturation and simply Desaturate. Now, what I want to do is bring some color back, so I will go back to my Adjustment panel. This time, I am going to create two different Color Balance adjustments. So we will click on the Color Balance icon and what we can do with this is mix color, and for some reason I really like this adjustment, because it's so easy to see the results and it's almost like mixing paint in a way.
Well, here we have this nice and interesting blue. And a lot of times when I see color, I always think I want more, I want to figure out how to add more contrast and more color. And whenever you need more, I always think about duplicating a layer or trying blending modes. Let's do that here. Let's continue with this idea of how we can work with layers by duplicating or blending. So in this case, I will click and drag this to the New Layer icon, or I will press Command+J or Ctrl+J. Let's change the blending mode of this layer.
You can use the shortcut. On a Mac it's Shift+Option+F, on Windows, Shift+Alt+F or you can go ahead and click on this pull-down menu and then simply select Soft Light. All right! Well, then, that's really coming to life. Take a look at that one. Here is before and then after. Next step is to click between your layers and lower the opacity to modify the color, tone, or the contrast, however you want to really dial this in. And in this case I kind of like this muted white and blue look of this photograph.
All right! Well, let's evaluate what we have done and review this a little bit. I will double-click on the Adjustments tab in order to close that panel, so that we can focus in on our layers. Now, what we have done actually wasn't that complicated. We first had a layer, and this layer we changed the blending mode to Soft Light. We duplicated it, another blending mode of Soft Light, same layer, just brought a little more punch into the image. Added a little bit more with these lights here. Then we decided to copy the subway layer, bring it up top, and up top we added another blending mode of Soft Light.
A lot of Soft Light blending here, huh? Then we simply removed color and used Color Balance to bring some back, and finally we duplicated Color Balance and changed that top layer to a blending mode of Soft Light. Well, if you hold down Option or Alt, you can click on the eye icon of your Background layer. Here it is, our overall before and then after. Simply by using multiple layers and blending modes, we came up with this really intriguing effect. All right! Well, the last thing I want to do here is add some copy. So I will press the T key to grab my Type tool.
I will go ahead and click into the image and I am going to type something out, which is a quote by Socrates, "Wisdom begins in wonder." Next, I will press Command+A on a Mac, Ctrl+A on Windows to highlight the entirety of that text field, and then I will go ahead and just decrease the size of this and I will change its alignment. And then select the Move tool and position this somewhere here in the frame. Then I will press Command or Ctrl+T to Free Transform, and I am just going to integrate this into the image here.
I am just doing this for fun, and again, to remind myself that if we want to get good at something, if we want to have the experience that comes from wisdom, what we need to do is to experiment and play. And one of the great ways to do that in Photoshop is with multiple layers and different types of blending modes.
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