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Advanced Blending is the second installment in Deke McClelland's series on making photorealistic compositions in Photoshop. The course explores blending options and shows how to use them to create sophisticated effects and seamless compositions, often without masking. Beginning with the basics of blending layered images, the course sheds light on the formulas behind the Photoshop blend modes and shows how to comp scanned line art, create double-exposure effects, correct skin tones, and work with the luminance sliders.
In this exercise, we're going to finish off our composition by manually enhancing the mask and then applying some blending modifications. Let's start things off by Alt+ Clicking or Option+Clicking on the Layer Mask Thumbnail there in the Layers Panel and I'm going to zoom in on this guy's head and you can see that we have some problems around his face. So I'll grab the Brush Tool which I can get by pressing the B key of course. Right-click inside the Image window, let's take that Hardness value down to 0% and then I'm going to increase the size of my cursor by pressing the Right Bracket key a few times.
Press the X key to make sure my foreground color is Black and then I'll paint along the edges. Made a big huge mistake, I forgot to change the Blend Mode. So I'll press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac. Press Shift+Alt+O or Shift+Option+O in order to switch the Mode to Overlay and then try painting again, and that provides us with much better results of course. Press the X key to switch the foreground color to White and then I'm going to paint along the eyebrow and down here along the jaw as well. You could expand the hair a little bit if you want in places but I wouldn't go too far with that, and that's about all we're going to do with Overlay painting.
We do have some problems with the shoulder details however, so I'm going to Alt+Click or Option+Click to once again switch to the composite image and then I'm going to Shift+Click on the thumbnail to turn the Layer Mask off. Right-click inside the Image window, let's take the Hardness value up to 70%. I want a smaller cursor too, I'm going to take that down to 20 pixels let's say. Press the Enter key a couple of times in order to accept that modification. You may recall from the Fundamentals course that you can paint inside of a layer mask even when it's not visible. So I'm painting with white, I'm just going to paint down this shoulder as I see it to about there, should do the trick and then I'll Shift+Click in the Layer Mask Thumbnail once again to turn it back on.
It looks like it didn't quite get this detail as well as I like. So I'm going to click inside of it again in order to expand the mask and the problem this time is I'm painting with the Overlay Blend Mode. I don't want that, so I'll press Shift+ Alt+N or Shift+Option+N on the Mac in order to turn the Blend Mode off, so I can paint normally. I'm going to Shift+Click on that Layer Mask thumbnail again so I can see the original unmasked image. Paint down the shoulder to about there. Shift+Click in the Layer Mask thumbnail to see what I've done and it actually looks pretty good. All right! I'm going to zoom out by pressing Ctrl+0, Command+0 on the Mac.
Press the M key to switch back to the Rectangular Marquee Tool. This image provides us with a few challenges, even though, I think it's a great photograph. It's a little bit brittle. There is a lot of noise and weird details in the shadows, and currently the shadows are overly dark, and I'd like to bring some life into them. And I'm going to do that by applying the Shadow Highlight command as a Smart Filter, which means I want to convert this layer to a Smart Object but I don't want the Layer mask to be part of that Smart Object. So I'm going to do that thing where I move the layer mask to a different layer, then with normal selected I'll go up to the Layers Panel fly-out menu, choose Convert to Smart Object and then move the layer mask back on to that layer.
Now I'll click on the Layer Thumbnail itself, the Smart Object Thumbnail and I'll go up to Image menu choose Adjustments and choose Shadows/Highlights, and you can see that the default value is bringing out all kinds of noise inside the Shadow details of this image. So with my Show More Options checkbox on, I'm going to take that Shadow Amount value down to 10%, the Tonal Width value of 50% is fine, and I'm going to increase the Radius like crazy to 200 pixels. I'm going to leave the Highlight Amount set to 0%, which means we don't have to worry about any of the other values and now I'll click OK.
Now we need to make sure that this Smart Filter affects the luminance information only. So double-click on the Slider icon to bring up the Blending Options dialog box and switch the Mode from Normal to Luminosity, that way the color goes unmodified, then click OK in order to accept that change. We don't need the Filter Mask so I'm going to right-click on it and choose Delete Filter Mask, and I'm going to do that using a layer effect. So I'll drop down to the fx icon, click on it, choose Color Overlay. By default that's going to turn him entirely red.
I want a sepia color, so I'm going to click on that color swatch and I'm going to change the H, S and B values to 25 apiece like so, that gives us a kind of dull brown, click OK. Change the Blend Mode to the opposite of Luminosity which is Color, so that we are keeping his luminance information and just modifying the hue and saturation, and then I'm going to take the Opacity value down to 50%. All right, he is looking pretty good but because he is noisy and what I mean is if you go ahead and zoom in here you can see a lot of posteration going on inside this color detail, and I want to sort of hide that a little bit.
Now I could have found a better image to work with in the first-place, but oftentimes you're going to find yourself confronted by that perfectly acceptable photograph. In other words, compositionally it's great and so forth, but it's a low fragile in places, and so here's one way to sort of cover that up. I'm going to press Ctrl+0 or Command+ 0 on the Mac to zoom out and the first thing I'm going to do is reduce the Opacity value by pressing 77 in a row so that takes the Opacity value down to 77%. We can see through his shoulders a little bit. I don't want to see through his wristwatch and his elbow to the sides of these bars, so I'm going to create a kind of backing layer, by first Ctrl+Clicking or Command+Clicking on the Layer Mask thumbnail in order to load his outline as a selection.
Then I'll click of a speculator layer to make it active and I'll create a new layer by pressing Ctrl+Shift+N or Command+Shift+N on the Mac. I'll call it back and click OK. Now I'm going to grab my Gradient Tool, which I can get by pressing the G key and notice my options up here, these are all the default settings. I'm creating a Linear Gradient, the Mode is Normal, Opacity 100% and so forth. I have switched the gradient style however to the second one in, which is Foreground to Transparent, and also very important, my Foreground Color is set to Black.
And I'm going to drag from about the top of his arm right here, and while pressing the Shift key I'll end my drag at the bottom of his chin in order to create this backing layer that hides the sides of those blocks. Now I'll press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac in order to accept that modification. Press the F key a couple of times in order to switch to the Full Screen mode and this is the final version of my masked composition. Thanks to our ability to mix layer masking along with a member of the Lighten Blend Mode family here inside Photoshop.
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