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The third part of the popular and comprehensive series Photoshop CS6 One-on-One follows industry pro Deke McClelland as he plunges into the inner workings of Adobe Photoshop. He shows how to adjust your color, interface, and performance settings to get the best out of your images and the most out of Photoshop, and explores the power of Smart Objects, Shadows/Highlights, and Curves for making subtle, nondestructive adjustments. The course dives into Camera Raw to experiment with the editing toolset there, and returns to Photoshop to discuss toning, blur, and blend modes. Deke also teaches tried-and-true methods for sharpening details and reducing noise, as well as creating quick and accurate selections with Quick Mask, Color Range, and Refine Edge commands.
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.
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