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The blend modes in Photoshop offer incredible creative options for designers and photographers wanting to enhance images. In Photoshop Blend Mode Magic, Michael Ninness shows Photoshop users how to access and apply blend modes efficiently to achieve an aesthetic vision. He explains the building blocks of layer blending and demonstrates how blend modes can be used for color correction, sharpening, blending images together, adding dramatic glow, applying custom edge treatments, and many other creative effects. Michael also introduces advanced blending options for more experienced Photoshop users. Most of all, he demystifies this essential feature in plain, easy-to-understand terms and inspires photographers to use blend modes in ways they may have never considered before. Exercise files accompany the course.
In this image we want to figure out if there is a way to recapture some detail in the way over-saturated reds here. If I zoom in and take look at this head of the parrot, you'll see that all I see is a big sea of red. I don't see a lot of feather detail there. I mean there's some but it's really hard to make out. So let's try to figure this out. One thing you might think to do is maybe try the Saturation slider and see if desaturating the red will bring some of the detail back. So let's go try that. We'll go to our Adjustments panel.
And we'll use our Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and we'll choose the Reds and we'll desaturate them and yeah, that kind of works but I have to go really far before I started seeing the detail, the feathers there. And by that time I have lost all the red in the head. So I don't think that's a very viable option. I am going to go ahead and delete that layer and try something different. I'm going to encourage you to learn something called the channel walk. Now the channel walk is a way to view the component parts of this particular image or any image by viewing each channel separately as a grayscale image.
Now I know a lot of you are freaked out about the Channels panel. Layers are hard enough, but if you go over the Channels panel and take a look at it, you'll see that there are three channels, each channel representing a color of light, Red, Green and Blue. Well, it turns out these channels are just simply grayscale images. The lighter the tone in the channel, the brighter that color it's representing. So if you look at the Red channel by clicking on the word Red in the Channels panel, you'll see that in the head area it's really bright, because we are looking at the Red channel and of course the head is red. Again, if I zoom in and take a look at the area where there is no details because it's all blown out.
It has all been over-saturated with red; it didn't capture any detail in the Red channel. I'll go back to Fit to Window, Command+0. If I click on the Green channel, look at that. What do you see? You see some detail. That's kind of cool. We are going to have to remember that. If we click on the Blue channel, and ugh. We see a lot of garbage. That's where a lot of the garbage in a digital file is. If you see any noise or artifacts, a lot of times it's in the Blue channel. Not always, but most of the time. Anytime there are defects in a particular image, you might look in the Blue channel to see if they are there.
So we were doing the channel walk here. We clicked on the names of channels to see each grayscale image represented by itself. Now we'll look over here and see that there are keyboard shortcuts to cycle through the different Channel views even when you are in your Layers panel. So I'm going to click back in the RGB channel, go back over layers and we are going to do the channel walk from the comfort of our Layers panel. So Command or Ctrl, 3 is Red, 4 is Green and 5 is Blue and then Command+2 or Ctrl+2 takes you back to the composite RGB channel.
So there you have it. You just learned how to do the channel walk and it's a really effective way to verify and view a particular image. To see if there is any detail in a channel that you might borrow or might steal and in this case when we saw the Green channel here, look at that nice tasty detail of feathers in the Green channel. Great! So we are going to go back to the Composite channel, Command+2, Ctrl+2. If only we could make that Green channel a layer that we could then blend using a blend mode. Well, if I go the Channels panel and choose the Green channel, there is no Blend Mode menu here on the Channels panel. That's only in the Layers panel.
So we'll go back to the Layers panel and we'll go back to the Composite channel, Command+2, Ctrl+2. Turns out you can basically convert a channel into a layer if you use the Channel Mixer adjustment layer. So we have got our Adjustments panel open, there is the Channel Mixer adjustment layer. I'm going to go ahead and turn that on. Creates a new layer for me and we want to turn on the Monochrome checkbox. That's going to give us a grayscale image. Now by default it's trying to do a little mix of all three channels to create this custom grayscale layer. We found out by doing the channel walk that all the details in the Green channel. So I'm going to zero out the Red channel.
I want to make the Green Channel 100% and then I'm going to zero out the Blue channel. Look at that. It's almost as if we are looking at the Green channel, but we are in the Layers panel right now. We are just getting this illusion by using an adjustment layer, the Channel Mixer adjustment layer. Now we can use one of these random blend modes in the contrast group called Pin Light to blend this grayscale layer back down to the colored layer underneath. Now at first it doesn't look all that great, but we're just going to control this little bit by lowering the Opacity of the Pin Light layer.
So I have got my Move tool selected, I pressed V to select that tool and I'm going to try a low Opacity, maybe 40% to do a blend of that adjustment layer back down to the composite image and that actually looks pretty darn good. Here is before, there is after. So I effectively stole the detail from one channel and pushed it into the others by using that Channel Mixer adjustment layer to create a custom grayscale conversion borrowing heavily from the Green channel, then setting that adjustment layer's blend mode to Pin Light.
As a matter of fact, if we actually go click on the RGB image here again, the Background layer and go look in our Channels panel and then click on the Red channel again. Hey! Look at that. Remember what it looked like before? It was all white and blown out. Now we have actually pushed detail back into the Red channel. How cool is that? So let's go see this in a different image. Here is poppy image that we'll do the same thing to with a slight variation. We'll go ahead and create that adjustment layer, but we need to do the channel walk first, right? Command+3, Ctrl+3. That just kind of verifies what we already knew.
There wasn't much detail on the Red channels. Very blown out. There was some, but not a lot. Command+4. Well, that's the Green channel and there is detail here in this portion of the image but a large portion of the image doesn't have any detail at all in the Green channel. It's all black. Command+5 takes you to the Blue channel. Ctrl+5 takes you to the Blue channel on Windows. You can see I have actually got a detail in areas I care about with a combination of the Green channels and the Blue channels. So that's useful information. Doing the channel walk taught us something.
Let's go back to the Composite channel, Command+2. Let's get our Channel Mixer adjustment layer again. I'll go ahead and grab one of those. That adds it to the Layers panel here. We are going to turn on the Monochrome again. We do want to zero out Red, like we did last time. I'm going to hit the Tab key to go to the Green field. And you know what? I'm just going to try maybe 50 Green, hit the Tab key again, and 50 Blue to see if that gives me a good combination of detail. Not quite. It looks like I need a little less Green, so I'm going to take that down to say 25.
I'll just type that number in manually and then I'm going to pump up Blue to 75. So just when you think you learn a rule in Photoshop, I remember I was saying the Blue channel has a lot of garbage in it. Well, every once in a while that's not true. That's why doing the channel walk is very helpful. You can kind of see what your image is actually made up of. Great! So I have got a new custom black and white conversion using the Channel Mixer layer made up of 25% Green detail and 75% Blue detail. Use that same blend mode that we used before, Pin Light, to push that grayscale version back into its component RGB color version underneath. Again, by the default or at the beginning that doesn't look very good, so we want to lower the Opacity. I'm going to get my Move tool, press V, and I'll try 30% again.
Here is before, here is after. We were able to pump that detail back into the rest of the channels by borrowing a hybrid custom channel, if you will, by using that Channel Mixer adjustment layer. And then one final touch. I don't like how vibrant the Red is so I'm actually going to use one more adjustment layer. I'll select the Background layer first and we'll chose Vibrance and we'll just take that Vibrance down a little bit and get it back to the original Vibrance there or we can take it up depending on what you want to accomplish there. So either way, it's up to you. But here is where we started.
I'm just going to drag through the eyeballs there. There is before and there is after. So that's how you steal detail from one channel and push it back into the other channels using a Channel Mixer adjustment layer and setting it's resulting blend mode to Pin Light and then just lowering the Opacity until you get the results you like.
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