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Overlay and the contrast modes

From: Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Advanced

Video: Overlay and the contrast modes

In this movie, I will demonstrate the next group of blend modes, which are the so-called contrast modes, that I've color-coded in green inside of this diagram, beginning with Overlay, and ending with Hard Mix. Each one of them brightens the highlights, and darkens the shadows, meaning that they all increase the contrast of the image, and in each case, gray is treated as a neutral color, meaning that 50% gray turns invisible. Now, the good news is they are all based on modes we've seen so far. Overlay, Soft Light, and Hard Light are combinations of Screen and Multiply.

Overlay and the contrast modes

In this movie, I will demonstrate the next group of blend modes, which are the so-called contrast modes, that I've color-coded in green inside of this diagram, beginning with Overlay, and ending with Hard Mix. Each one of them brightens the highlights, and darkens the shadows, meaning that they all increase the contrast of the image, and in each case, gray is treated as a neutral color, meaning that 50% gray turns invisible. Now, the good news is they are all based on modes we've seen so far. Overlay, Soft Light, and Hard Light are combinations of Screen and Multiply.

So Photoshop screens the brightest stuff, and multiplies the darkest stuff. Vivid Light is a combination of Color Dodge and Color Burn working together. Linear Light is a combination of the two linear modes, and then Pin Light is a combination of Lighten and Darken. Hard Mix, as we'll see, is its own thing. All right, so let's switch to this composition featuring this model masked against a blue sky background. I also have this layer called sunlight. I will go ahead and turn it on, and select it, and notice that it contains a few clouds as well. Now, I want to clip it inside of the model layer, so I will press the Alt key, or the Option key on the Mac, and click the horizontal line below sunlight, and we end up with this effect here.

Now, the idea behind the contrast modes, generally speaking, is that you want to wrap the luminance levels of the active layer around the contours of the layers below. So in other words, we are going to paint the model with the colors inside the sunlight layer. So I will start things off by clicking on Normal in order to bring up the blend mode pop-up menu, and I will select the when in doubt blend mode; so just as Screen is the most practical lighten mode, and Multiply is the most practical darken mode, Overlay is your most practical contrast mode. And you can see that we are wrapping the clouds from the sunlight layer onto the model's skin over here on the left arm.

Now, what's interesting about this mode -- where Overlay is unique is that it makes its decisions based on the contents of the underlying layers. So wherever we have bright colors in the underlying layers, Overlay uses the active layer to further brighten the composition. Wherever we have dark colors, 50% gray or darker, in the underlying layers, then Photoshop goes ahead and uses the active layer in order to darken the composition. And we will see why that makes a difference in just a moment. If Overlay is too over the top for you, then I will press the Escape key, so that the blend mode option is no longer active here on the PC, then you can reduce the Opacity of the layer obviously, but if you want to soften the effect, go for something more organic, then press Shift+Plus in order to advance to the Soft Light mode, and you can see that the details from the active layer are much less obvious.

However, Soft Light and the others are making their decisions based on the active layer. So where the active layer is 50% gray or lighter, then Photoshop is brightening the composition. Where the active layer is 50% gray or darker, Photoshop is darkening the composition. Now, if you want something stronger than Overlay, then you press Shift+Plus to advance to Hard Light, and we get this absolutely stunning effect here. So it may come as a surprise that Hard Light and Overlay are actually the same blend mode; however, they examine the image differently.

Hard Light applies the same equations in the background, but it does so based on the luminance levels of the active layer. So let me show you what I mean. I will go up to the Image menu, and choose the Duplicate command, and I will call it Mode comparison, and then click OK. And I am going to swap the sunlight and model layers for each other. So I will grab that model layer there; the top one. Drag it on top, grab the layer mask; drag it and drop it on the sunlight layer. Go ahead and clip the model inside the sunlight layer, click in the sunlight layer, and press Shift+Alt+N, or Shift+Option+N on the Mac, in order to restore it to the Normal mode. Then I will click on this model layer, which is called Normal, because that's the mode she's set to, and I will change her to Overlay by selecting Overlay from the blend mode pop-up menu. And you can see, now, this is how that composition looks when the sunlight layer is on top set to Hard Light, and this is how things look when the model layer is on top set to overlay.

That is to say, we get an identical effect. Now, this may seem a little bit academic, but it can make a big difference when it comes to deciding the order and blending options that you assign to your layers. All right, I will switch back to my image in progress here, and I will go ahead and advance to the next mode, which is Vivid Light. It's that combination of Color Dodge and Color Burn working together, and we get this over the top, fantastically saturated effect. If you want something with even more contrast, without necessarily the garish saturation, then press Shift+Plus in order to advance to Linear Light. Now, what I am going to tell you is the best contrast modes for working inside Photoshop on a regular basis are Shift+Alt+O, or Shift+Option+O on the Mac, for Overlay; Shift+Alt+H, or Shift+Option+H on the Mac, for hard light; and then Shift+Alt+J, or Shift+Option+J on the Mac, for Linear Light.

Think of the Ls in Linear Lights being backwards. Next I will press Shift+Plus to advance the Pin Light. As I say, that is the same as Lighten and Darken working together, and so what Photoshop is doing is looking at the channels independently, and evaluating whether the bright pixels of the active layer are the brightest, or the bright pixels on the underlying layer are brightest, and doing the same thing with the darker pixels as well. And so we end up creating these pretty high contrast effects on a channel by channel basis here.

Notice, in the case of green channel, we are keeping these bright rays of light up in the model's hair, but we are losing the clouds down on her blouse, whereas if I switch to the blue channel, we are getting the clouds back in the blouse, but we are losing a lot of the highlights in the hair. And then Photoshop just goes ahead and throws all the channels together to create the composite effect. The last of the Contrast modes is the least impressive. This is Hard Mix, by the way, and what it's doing is finding the brightest or darkest pixels on a channel by channel basis, but it's calculating a threshold as well, meaning that it's just keeping black or white in the red channel, the green channel, and finally, in the blue channel.

The reason we are keeping all these grays in the background is because that sunlight layer is clipped inside the model. As a result, you end up with just a handful of colors, in this case, black, white, yellow, and red, but you might also end up seeing green, cyan, blue, and magenta as well. Now, in case you are thinking there is never a time in a million years where I'm going to use that mode, I'll show you how to mitigate Hard Mix in order to achieve pretty great effects in a future movie. For now, though, I'll go ahead and press Shift+Alt+H, or Shift+Option+H on the Mac, in order to restore the Hard Light mode, which for this image provides me with my favorite effect, and that's how you go about applying the contrast modes. Remember, start with Overlay. If that's too much, try out Soft Light.

If Overlay is not enough, skip ahead to Hard Light, and if that's still not enough, give Linear Light a try.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Advanced
Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Advanced

124 video lessons · 19372 viewers

Deke McClelland
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 30m 4s
    1. Welcome to One-on-One
      2m 19s
    2. Loading the dekeKeys keyboard shortcuts
      6m 5s
    3. Remapping your Macintosh OS shortcuts
      3m 4s
    4. Adjusting a few general preferences
      4m 3s
    5. Using the visual HUD color picker
      2m 2s
    6. The interface and performance settings
      5m 31s
    7. Adjusting the color settings in Photoshop
      7m 0s
  2. 47m 0s
    1. Smart Objects
      1m 36s
    2. Three ways to place a Smart Object
      3m 6s
    3. Copying and pasting from Adobe Illustrator
      4m 11s
    4. Transforming and warping a vector object
      4m 48s
    5. Blending a Smart Object into a photograph
      3m 10s
    6. Blurring with a nested Smart Filter
      4m 57s
    7. Editing a Smart Object in Illustrator
      3m 20s
    8. Creating "true clones"
      3m 50s
    9. Duplicating a group of clones
      2m 53s
    10. Breaking the Smart Object link
      2m 53s
    11. Styling and blending Smart Objects
      2m 44s
    12. Editing originals; updating clones
      3m 41s
    13. Removing people from a scene with Median
      5m 51s
  3. 29m 59s
    1. Luminance meets sharpening
      1m 2s
    2. Correcting for lens distortion
      4m 39s
    3. Introducing Shadows/Highlights
      3m 54s
    4. Mitigating halos with Radius values
      4m 19s
    5. Enhancing the effects of Midtone Contrast
      3m 18s
    6. Creating a "bounce" with Gaussian Blur
      3m 29s
    7. Sharpening on top of blur
      2m 47s
    8. Masking a group of Smart Filters
      2m 53s
    9. Reducing the density of a layer mask
      3m 38s
  4. 49m 10s
    1. Using Curves
      2m 40s
    2. Introducing the Curves adjustment
      7m 36s
    3. Adding and editing points on a curve
      6m 27s
    4. Winning Curves tips and tricks
      8m 12s
    5. Correcting a challenging image
      6m 33s
    6. Selecting and darkening highlights
      4m 39s
    7. Neutralizing colors and smoothing transitions
      6m 6s
    8. The new automatic Curves function
      6m 57s
  5. 1h 31m
    1. Camera Raw
      2m 11s
    2. Opening and editing multiple images
      8m 1s
    3. Correcting white balance
      4m 8s
    4. The revamped Exposure controls
      8m 8s
    5. Working with archival images
      7m 54s
    6. The Spot Removal and Graduated Filter tools
      6m 4s
    7. Painting edits with the Adjustment Brush
      7m 23s
    8. Tone Curves (and why you don't need them)
      5m 57s
    9. Straighten, crop, and geometric distortions
      5m 17s
    10. Applying manual lens corrections
      5m 14s
    11. Vignette, chromatic aberration, and fringe
      6m 49s
    12. Selective hue, saturation, and luminance
      6m 36s
    13. Working with JPEG and TIFF images
      6m 36s
    14. Camera Raw Smart Objects
      6m 48s
    15. Editing Camera Raw images from Bridge
      4m 24s
  6. 32m 30s
    1. Duotones
      1m 23s
    2. Creating a professional-quality sepia tone
      4m 18s
    3. Introducing the Gradient Map adjustment
      5m 42s
    4. Loading a library of custom gradients
      3m 48s
    5. Creating a custom quadtone
      5m 48s
    6. Colorizing with blend modes and Opacity
      4m 6s
    7. Creating a faux-color, high-key effect
      7m 25s
  7. 1h 6m
    1. Noise vs. Details
      1m 28s
    2. Introducing the Reduce Noise filter
      7m 29s
    3. Correcting a noisy photo
      5m 33s
    4. Smoothing over high-contrast noise
      5m 50s
    5. Protecting details with an edge mask
      4m 52s
    6. Adjusting overly saturated shadows
      3m 35s
    7. Correcting with High Pass and Lens Blur
      3m 45s
    8. Brushing away blur and sharpening
      6m 42s
    9. Creating texture by adding noise
      5m 28s
    10. The Camera Raw Detail panel
      7m 8s
    11. Correcting noise and detail in Camera Raw
      8m 10s
    12. Adding noise grain and vignetting effects
      6m 47s
  8. 44m 30s
    1. Blur Gallery
      1m 36s
    2. Creating depth-of-field effects in post
      5m 29s
    3. Modifying your Field Blur settings
      4m 57s
    4. Editing and exporting a Field Blur mask
      6m 15s
    5. Adding a synthetic light bokeh
      3m 52s
    6. Using the Selection Bleed option
      7m 29s
    7. Creating a radial blur with Iris Blur
      6m 59s
    8. Creating "fake miniatures" with Tilt-Shift
      4m 35s
    9. Combining multiple Blur Gallery effects
      3m 18s
  9. 1h 34m
    1. Blend Modes
      1m 16s
    2. Using the Dissolve mode
      9m 47s
    3. Multiply and the darken modes
      8m 30s
    4. Screen and the lighten modes
      8m 10s
    5. Cleaning up and integrating a bad photo
      6m 38s
    6. Blending inside blend modes
      6m 55s
    7. Overlay and the contrast modes
      6m 53s
    8. A few great uses for the contrast modes
      9m 7s
    9. Difference, Exclusion, Subtract, and Divide
      5m 5s
    10. Capturing the differences between images
      4m 18s
    11. Hue, Saturation, Color, and Luminosity
      4m 45s
    12. Blend mode shortcuts
      6m 21s
    13. The Fill Opacity Eight
      8m 57s
    14. Using the luminance-exclusion slider bars
      8m 8s
  10. 44m 20s
    1. Color Range
      1m 14s
    2. Introducing the Color Range command
      7m 24s
    3. Selecting a complex image with Color Range
      5m 49s
    4. Refining a selection in the Quick Mask mode
      7m 4s
    5. Viewing a mask with or without its image
      4m 24s
    6. Painting directly inside an alpha channel
      5m 39s
    7. Correcting fringes around a masked layer
      8m 5s
    8. Turning a layer into a knockout
      4m 41s
  11. 59m 43s
    1. Refine Edges
      1m 28s
    2. Laying down a base layer mask
      6m 49s
    3. Introducing the Refine Edge/Mask command
      7m 57s
    4. Edge detection and Smart Radius
      4m 42s
    5. Using the Refine Radius tool
      7m 31s
    6. The transformative power of Refine Edge
      3m 37s
    7. Perfecting a mask with overlay painting
      10m 58s
    8. Combining Quick Selection with Refine Mask
      10m 37s
    9. Bolstering and integrating hair
      6m 4s
  12. 1h 18m
    1. The Pen tool
      1m 50s
    2. Pixel-based masking versus the Pen tool
      6m 45s
    3. Drawing a straight-sided path outline
      6m 57s
    4. Moving, deleting, and adding anchor points
      6m 10s
    5. Dragging control handles to modify curves
      5m 27s
    6. Converting a path outline to a vector mask
      5m 36s
    7. Customizing a geometric shape
      5m 53s
    8. How to position points and control handles
      7m 7s
    9. Drawing smooth points with the Pen tool
      8m 7s
    10. Duplicating and scaling a vector mask
      5m 21s
    11. Cusp points and the Rubber Band option
      6m 21s
    12. Setting anchor points in the pasteboard
      6m 8s
    13. Using the Convert Point tool
      6m 43s

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