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Photoshop is the tool of choice for most creative professionals and has quickly become household name synonymous with computer art and image manipulation. In Photoshop CS3 One-on-One: Beyond the Basics, internationally renowned Photoshop guru Deke McClelland teaches such digital-age wonders as masking, filters, layers, blend modes, Liquify, Vanishing Point, and vector-based type. Along the way, Deke also teaches tried-and-true methods for sharpening details, smoothing over wrinkles and imperfections, trimming away jowls and fat, and wrapping one image around the surface of another. Plus, the training teaches how to construct and organize the elements in a composition so you can edit them easily in the future. Exercise files accompany the tutorial.
Ready for more Photoshop CS3 training with Deke? Check out Photoshop CS3 One-on-One: Advanced Techniques.
Note: Photoshop CS3 One-on-One: The Essentials is a recommended prerequisite to Photoshop CS3 One-on-One: Beyond the Basics.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.
In this exercise I'm going to introduce you to the blend modes that are available to you inside Photoshop. I have the Statue layer active here inside the Sky & statue.psd document that's found inside the 15 Blend Modes folder. You may recall in the previous exercise I applied the Outer Glow layer style, and I also applied a Fill value of 80%. Now what that means, just to recap, is that I'm seeing 80% statue mixed with 20% background, so a fairly simple mix of layers inside Photoshop.
You might think of this as being sort of a mathematical equation: 80% statue plus 20% background gives you the result that you see onscreen. Well, all that's going on with blend modes is that they're more complicated mathematical equations. So if you click on the word Normal here inside the Layers palette, you'll see a list of 25 blend modes in all that are available to you inside of Photoshop CS3, and every one of these named blend modes such as, for example, Overlay, Soft Light, Hard Light and so on, every single one of them represents a mathematical equation, a unique equation as it turns out as well.
Now in a way, these labels make things easier because you don't have to look at the complicated math that's going on in the background. In another way though, they make things more complicated, because you have no idea what Overlay means, or Soft Light, or Hard Light. I mean, what do these labels do? Well the good news is that many of these blend mode equations are related to each other, and Photoshop goes ahead and organizes the blend modes in this list according to their relationship. So we've already seen the Normal blend mode. Right below it is this variant called Dissolve, that I'll explain in just a moment.
But first I want to show you the organization. After Dissolve we have a second group of blend modes. Every one of these uses the current layer to darken the layers below it. So we have Darken, Multiply, Color Burn, and Linear Burn, and they're related by their ability to burn things in, to darken for example the face into the layers below. The next group are the lightening blend modes, so they would lighten, they would blend the layers together in order to create a lighter effect.
Then we have the contrast modes that lighten and darken the image in order to create a higher contrast effect. Next we have the complement modes that use one layer to invert the colors in the layers below. And then finally we have the somewhat messy group- things got a little messier thanks to the addition of Lighter Color and Darker Color inside of Photoshop CS3- but they're basically composite modes, which use hue, saturation, and luminosity in order to calculate color mixes inside of the image. We're going to look at every single one of these modes throughout this chapter, but let's start things off with Dissolve. So we've seen Normal, we can see it right there. There's no special math associated with the Normal mode.
We're just seeing a pixel mixed with the pixel directly below it according to the Opacity and Fill values here. Dissolve creates a dithered noise effect, like what we're seeing onscreen right now. Notice, by the way, on the Windows side that the blend mode is sticky. So if you want to be able to take advantage of other keyboard shortcuts you're going to have to press the Escape key in order to unstick that mode. Alright so I'll zoom in on the image quite a bit here so that we can see this dither pattern that's applied when we choose the Dissolve mode. So instead of seeing any sort of interaction between the pixels on the statue layer and the pixels on the layer below, we just see 80% of the face layer pixels and we don't see the other 20%. And it's a random sort of variation between the two, so we get this dither pattern right here. I'll just zoom back out. Not too useful, as it turns out, so I'm going to go ahead and restore the Normal mode by going back to the Layers palette and choosing Normal from the list.
A better way to use the Dissolve mode is over soft transitions, like this Outer Glow effect for example. I'm going to modify the Outer Glow by finding it inside of the list, it's right here below the Statue layer, and if you can't see it then you have to click this down-pointing arrowhead here to expand the layer. Then I'll double-click on Outer Glow in order to bring up the Layer Style dialog box, and notice that you have a blend mode associated with each and every layer effect that you assign inside Photoshop. By default, the blend mode for a glow is set to Screen.
You can, however, change it to Dissolve, and watch the glow in the background here when I choose Dissolve. Notice that it turns into this dithered noise effect. It's no longer a smooth glow effect. Instead, it's this sort of choppy pixel effect. Now back in the old days, this was kind of a cool thing to do, especially with GIF graphics that you were creating for the web. Nowadays, I would go so far as to say that you're going to get very little use out of Dissolve. So you know, if you find a use for it, great. If you don't, don't worry about it.
I'm just going to go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Cmd+Z in order to restore that soft glow effect that we were seeing before. So now we've seen the difference between Normal and its immediate neighbor, Dissolve. In future exercises we're going to take a look at the other groups: the darken modes, lighten modes, the contrast modes, and so on. But first, in the next exercise we'll take a look at how you can change the blend modes from the keyboard.
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