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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.
So normally I teach the High Pass filter as a sharpening technique. You can use it to sharpen an image. But there is actually a kind of a neat twist to it. You can actually use it to smooth out skin as well. Now this is kind of an extreme a portrait here where it's really harsh light, direct sunlight, afternoon sun, so it's hitting every pore in line in the face there. So it's really harsh shadows there. So what we are going to try to do is deemphasize that area of the image here and put the focus back on the eyes. Whereas if I were to sharpen the image, I'm actually going to make the pore issue worse, right, because a pore is nothing more than a dark pixel next to a light pixel in Photoshop's idea.
So let's go ahead and our High Pass sharpening technique, but in reverse. So to begin, we are going to go ahead and duplicate this layer, Command+J, Ctrl+J, we'll go to Filter > Other > High Pass and again we are going to choose somewhere between 2 and 3. I'll just go with 2 for now. We'll go ahead and click OK. As a reminder everything that's not an edge becomes gray; everything that is an edge gets darker on one half and lighter on the other. Go ahead and click OK. So you are increasing the contrast of those edge pixels. I'm going to go ahead and change the blend mode to Overlay and all those gray pixels go away. So here is before and there is after and you can see that, yes, her eyes look sharper, but so does everything else in the image.
So what I'm going to do is invert this layer. I'm going to do Command+I or Ctrl+I and you will see by running the High Pass on a duplicate layer and setting it to Overlay when you invert it, you actually get the opposite. You get a softening effect as opposed to a sharpening effect. That's pretty cool. So I've totally deemphasized or brought down the harshness of these pores. Now of course we want to bring back the sharpness of the eyes, so we want to add a layer mask to this layer. I'm going to go ahead and name this layer smooth or Smoother, and we'll add a layer mask here. I'm going to click the Layer Mask button to create a layer mask on the Smooth layer. I'll go ahead and type B for the Brush tool and I want to paint with black where I don't want the smoothing to occur, I paint with black on layer mask that's the active thing in the Layers panel here.
So if I press B like I have and X for exchange, so that black is my foreground color and I'm going to paint with 50%, just type 5 for 50%. I want going to bring back the sharpness of the eyes by painting that in gradually and including the eyelashes a little bit, because we don't want that detail to get smoothed out. We want that to be the sharpest part of the image. So I'm just going to paint in over that area there. If I want to bring back some other details, like maybe the edge of the nose, just paint over that little bit and the lips, a nice lot of detail there, so I'll bring some of that back and if I want to bring some of the crispness of the hair back, I can bring that back too just by painting throughout the highlights of the hair. Hold down Spacebar to drag that over and go ahead and drag through the hair a little bit. Again, with a nice soft brush, 50%.
So here is before and there is after and what you are doing is your eyes are going to her eyes and that's what you're focusing on. If you Shift-click on the mask, you can see I can turn the mask off and I can see the eyes getting soft again. So I'll Shift-click to bring that back. Now you can double this up, if you actually want to increase the sharpness of the eyes to make the contrast between the smooth skin and the sharp eyes even greater. We'll just go back to the original background layer, Command+J again, Ctrl+J. This time I'm going to call this the Sharpen layer by double-clicking on the name. And again we'll go to Filter > High Pass, it's the last filter we ran.
We are just going to use the same setting. So I'll just hit it again. Change blend mode to Overlay again to make the gray stuff go away. Now I'm making the problem the same as it was when we first started, so obviously we want to add a layer mask to this layer. By default the layer mask is filled with white, when you click the Layer Mask button. I want to undo that. I want the opposite; I want a layer mask filled with black which means hide all the sharpening, because I want to just paint in the sharpening where I want it specifically. So I'm going to hold down the Option key or Alt on the Windows to add a layer mask filled with black that hides all of this sharpening of that layer.
So I go back to my Brush tool, maybe start with 50% Opacity brush, just press 5, if you don't have that already and now I'm going to paint with white, X for exchange. I want to paint with white over her eyes to bring back the increased sharpness, and I might hit that up twice right in the center of the eye just by clicking a couple of times. Coming over the eyebrows a little bit and maybe I want to bring the eyebrow over here a little bit sharper, and maybe once across the lips and then again you can selectively paint in the sharpen where you want it in the hair. And I'm just leaving in the skin alone so I don't accidentally dramatically increase the sharpness of those pores.
So here is without the sharpening of the eyes, turn the layer back on, you can see it's getting a nice little bump there and just making the eyes pop a little bit more. I'll drag my mouse through the two eyes in the Layers panel of these two new layers. So here is before where we started and here is after. So I was successfully able to draw more attention to the area that I want the viewer to look at the most and just deemphasize some of the harsher light or the harsher contrast in the image in the face there.
So that's just using the High Pass on a duplicate layer set to Overlay, but if you invert the High Pass layer, you actually get a smoothing effect instead of sharpening effect. Pretty cool!
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