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Photoshop is one of the world’s most powerful image editors, and it can be daunting to try to use skillfully. Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced, the second part of the popular and comprehensive series, follows internationally renowned Photoshop guru Deke McClelland as he dives into the workings of Photoshop. He explores such digital-age wonders as the Levels and Curves commands, edge-detection filters, advanced compositing techniques, vector-based text, the Liquify filter, and Camera Raw. Deke also teaches tried-and-true methods for sharpening details, smoothing over wrinkles and imperfections, and enhancing colors without harming the original image. Exercise files accompany the course.
Recommended prerequisite: Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.
The purpose of this exercise is to illustrate how three of the contrast modes, the three over the top ones, Vivid Light, Linear Light, and Hard Mix, all respond differently to Fill than they do to Opacity, and we'll see how that works. But just to give you a sense of how I discovered this information because it's not documented anywhere. It is not out there in the ether at all, but one thing is that Hard Mix can be mollified with the Fill value. So that little bit of wisdom, somehow made its way out there. I latched on to that one and I figured if Hard Mix responds differently to Fill, then others must as well, and I came up with the Fill Opacity Eight as I call them.
But I have been basically scratching my head over why Fill and Opacity are producing different effects because if you look at the math that's been published so far, it doesn't really account for it. And I think I might have figured it out here. I think I might have arrived at something that would explain it. I will turn-off this Texture layer for a moment. By the way, I'm working in this Bright gradient.psd image but I have messed it up a little. So yours, if you are just opening it, it won't look like this. But I'm going to turn-off Texture for a moment. I am going to click on Statue. And of course we were discussing how if you change the Fill Opacity value, like I'll press Shift+F1 to change that Fill Opacity value to 10%. If I change that Fill value to 10, then I'm reducing the Opacity of the interior of the layer but I'm not changing the Opacity of the layer effect.
So what if it's a matter of priority? What if Fill Opacity is applied first, and then the layer effect is calculated afterwards, whereas with Opacity, the layer effect is calculated first and then Opacity is laid on top? If that's the truth, if it's a priority issue, I'll go ahead and press Shift+F4 to return this layer to its previous appearance. That might explain why these blend modes appear the way they do. All right, so let me illustrate. I'm going to go ahead and switch to the Texture layer, turn it back on. It looks terrible. Notice if I take the Opacity value down to 10% just by pressing the 4 key. I'm getting a mix of that horribleness that we just saw a moment ago, where every pixel is either in our case, white, black, yellow, or red, and that's it and the underlying image right here. There is nothing nuance about it.
In fact, I'll go ahead and return the Opacity value to 100%. Let's say I take advantage of that merge all visible layer, streak to a new layer, where you press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E or Command+ Shift+Option+E on the Mac to create that composite layer right there, and we'll just call it, composite like so. Then I'll turn-off the Texture layer for a moment. Now if I reduce the Opacity of this layer to 40%, we get the exact same effect we saw a moment ago. So we are just blending that composite version of all the layers mixed together with the underlying layers. That's kind of strange, but that's what Opacity is doing and it would figure because it's a matter of priority.
In other words, it does the mix first, and then it applies Opacity, whereas Fill changes the Opacity first and then does the blend mode mix. And if that's the case, that explains a lot. So let's go ahead and get rid of that layer. I will just press the Backspace key here on the PC or the Delete key on the Mac. Turn Texture back on, so what's the difference? Again, if I press the 4 key, this is an Opacity of 40%. Let me return it to an Opacity of 100% by pressing 0. This is a Fill Opacity of 40% applied with Hard Mix.
It looks a world different. So this might explain the reason why, because Fill Opacity is applied first and then the Hard Mix blend mode is applied on top of that, and we get this very different effect. So the Fill Opacity Eight are those that it matters, whether the Opacity value is applied last or first and that just happens to be with the over the top effects, that what I'm thinking. I have tried it out and it's true in that all of the other ones like Multiply, when you just go ahead and create a composite image like I did a moment ago, and then set it to a different Opacity value, you are going to get the same effect either way.
So anyway, now again, this is a little bit of propeller head information, it's not the kind of thing that you absolutely need to know, I don't suppose. But to me, it explains a lot and it also goes a long way toward telling me, hey, I can get some decent results out of something like Hard Mix, if I only take the time to set it to a lower Fill value as I have done here. This goes also for something like either Vivid Light, here is Vivid Light set to a Fill value of 40%. I'll go ahead and press the Escape key to make sure that mode is not active anymore. Compare that by the way. I'll go ahead and restore Fill to 100% by pressing Shift +0 and then press 4 for an Opacity of 40%. You can see that once again here we are just blending the composite image with the underlying layers, very different effect once again.
Then just to see and compare, I'll bring up the History palette. This is the result of the Fill Opacity of 40%, and this is the result of a standard opacity or Master Opacity as it's saying here of 40%. So a world of difference. I am going to switch back to the Fill Opacity of 40% and I'm going to press Shift+Plus to advance to Linear Light. And this is the blend mode that I want you to apply to this layer when all is said and done. In fact, I'm going to take the Fill Opacity down to 20% here by pressing Shift+2, and just to give you a sense of the difference, it's so ponderous to do this, but I think it's enlightening.
I am going to go ahead and press Shift+ 0 for a Fill value of 100% and then 2 for an Opacity value, a Master Opacity of 20%. And here is the difference, good, when you do with Fill Opacity; boring, when you do with standard Opacity. So let's stick with Fill Opacity. And those are the settings I'm asking you to apply as we work our way toward the final effect that is on the Texture layer. We want Linear Light, Opacity of 100%, Fill Opacity of 20%, and if you are still interested which I imagine you are, this stuff just fires me up, we are going to move on to Difference and Exclusion in the very next exercise.
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