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As we've seen in some of the previous tutorials, the use of blend modes on the Layers panel is really, really powerful. It's an excellent way to get one layer to blend with the layer underneath it. Let's take a look for a moment at the two layers that we have in this document. I have the leaves and I have the mountain. I am going to turn off the mountain layer for a moment. Now, it looks like that the leaves are against a white background, but in fact they're not; it's transparency. And if I choose the Photoshop > Preferences, and we go to Transparency & Gamut, if I turn back on the Grid Size, you can see that in fact the area between the leaves here is all transparent.
So that's just something to keep in mind as we take a look at the different blend modes in Photoshop. Let's go ahead and toggle on the visibility of the mountain layer. Since it's the leaves that I want to blend with the mountain, I will make sure that I have the leaves layer selected. Photoshop has over 25 different blend modes that you can choose from, but there are three key blend modes that we're going to focus on right now. The first one is going to be the Multiply blend mode, the next one is going to be the Screen blend mode, and then we'll talk about the Overlay or Soft Light blend mode.
So these are going to be the most common ones that you work with every day. When we look at the different groupings of the blend modes, they're grouped in categories. So this first category at the top, you notice it starts with Darken. All of these blend modes up here, these first five in this category, they will all take the darker pixel of the two layers. So for example, when I select Darken, all of the darker values are taken. If we look here in the mountains, the mountains were darker than the leaves, so I see the darker mountains when I use this blend mode.
If we change to Multiply, Photoshop is actually taking the leaves and multiplying them with the layer underneath. It almost looks like you're putting one negative on top of another and then projecting them. One of the things that you should know about the Multiply blend mode, as well as all of the other blend modes that are nested with it, is that they have a neutral color. Their neutral color is white, and what I mean by that is that white just disappears. Let's go back to the Normal blend mode, and you can see that there's a white border going around the leaves image.
As soon as I set the blend mode to Multiply, that white border disappears, and we can see the sky and the mountain and the grass behind it. All right! Let's move down to the Screen blend mode. This whole group of blend modes will always take the lighter value of the two layers. So when I select Screen, we get a much lighter image. Screen and all of the blend modes that are grouped with it also have a neutral color, and that is black. So you'll notice that the black border around the image has disappeared. We can no longer see that black border; instead, we see the mountains beneath it.
One way that you can think about the Screen blend mode is that it's like projecting two images on the same screen. When you project two images from two different projectors, the resulting image will always get lighter. All right! Let's move down to this third grouping here. And Overlay is a really good example, but you'll probably use Soft Light more, because it's a little bit less intense. But all of the blend modes in this grouping, they always make your image more contrasty. So they will take the Histogram and from 0-128--those are the darker values-- they will always take the darker values of the two if they're less than 128, but from value 128-255--those are our lighter values--they're going to take the lighter of the two values.
So basically, everything is going to appear with more contrast because the darker values will get darker, and the lighter values will get lighter. This grouping also has a neutral value, and that would be 50% gray. So in certain situations, it's important to know what the neutral color of the blend modes is. Other times, you might just want to see how two layers blend together. So instead of moving from each one of these blend modes to the next, there's a keyboard shortcut. Let's go back to the Normal blend mode for a moment, and then because I have the Move tool selected, I will use the Shift key, plus the Plus, and we can move down through the blend modes.
So just tapping the Plus key will take me down through each one of these in turn. If I tap the Minus key, it would take me back up through the different blend modes. But this is a quick way to cycle through all of the different blend modes, just to see how the two images would blend together. Two other blend modes that I will just point out here. When we get towards the bottom, there's a blend mode that will allow you to simply use the color of the top layer and blend that with the bottom layer. So here it looks a little odd in this instance, but you'll remember, when we did the project on hand coloring, using a fill layer set to the Color blend mode gave us the ability to hand-color on top of a black-and-white image.
If I move down to the Luminosity blend mode, now I get a grayscale version of the top layer blending with the layer underneath. And we saw this example when I added the filter, the Grain filter, and there was no way to get rid of the color noise, so I set the filter's blend mode to Luminosity. Now I did mention that I had the Move tool selected, as I use that keyboard shortcut, the Shift+Plus and Minus to move down through the blend modes. I wanted to just show you what would happen if I had, for example, the paintbrush selected.
So I just tap the B key to get the brush. Now, if I use Shift+Plus or Shift+Minus, you will notice that the blend mode on the Layers panel does not change, but instead, the blend mode for the Brush. So let's create a new layer-- I will click the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel--and see what happens when we paint with the brush set to Multiply. I will go ahead and select a color other than black and white, and then I will click and drag. Now this paint stroke is not being multiplied with the layers underneath it, but if I paint again on top of this, you can see where I've painted over the same area, each individual brushstroke is being multiplied with the brushstrokes underneath it.
So it's just good to know that you can apply your blend modes on the Layers panel, but you can also apply them to your tools. And if you ever use the keyboard shortcut Shift+Plus or Shift+Minus, and your blend modes aren't changing on the Layers panel, it's probably because you have a painting tool selected. So remember to put back the Painting tool into the Normal mode if that's not what you intended, select your Move tool, and now you can quickly move through the blend modes using the Shift+Plus or Shift+Minus.
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