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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 here's an image that I want to sharpen. I'm going to go ahead and zoom up to Actual Pixels, Command+1. It's a good idea to always sharpen at the Actual Pixels view. And what we want to do is we want to sharpen the image but limit or hopefully eliminate the haloing that can occur when you sharpen an image. By haloing you get these little pockets of white, these little highlights that look unnatural. So remember when you sharpen an image you are actually increasing the contrast of edge pixels. An edge is defined as a light pixel next to a dark pixel. When you sharpen it, the dark half is getting darker and the light half is getting lighter.
Let's go ahead and begin by duplicating our layer. We typically sharpen on a duplicate. Command+Option+J or Ctrl+ Alt+J to give it a name. We'll call it Sharpen. We'll use one of our sharpen filters. We can go to Filter > Sharpen and then typically we use Smart Sharpen or Unsharp Mask. This time I'll use Smart Sharpen. If you are going to use Smart Sharpen, you want to change it from Gaussian Blur, the default, to Lens Blur. This gives you a better sharpening effect to compensate for softening caused by the lens. If you change it to Gaussian Blur, you are actually using the exact same math that Unsharp Mask is using. So let's change to Lens Blur.
And I'm going to use some values here that kind of exaggerate the haloing effect. That's okay. I just want to prove my point here and show you a way to manage this. I might use lower numbers in real life but for now I go to 150, Radius of 1.2. I'm going to go ahead and click OK. And the image does look sharper, if I turn that layer off, there is before and there is after turning on. But you can these really aggressive halos. Now there is another technique that requires you to use two different layers to control or split the edges of a sharpening effect. Here we have one layer.
We'll change it to Darken and that gives us just the dark edge of the sharpening effect. If I duplicate this layer, Command+J or Ctrl+J, and change it to Lighten, now I have the light half of that edge sharpening effect. And I can control each one separately by lowering their Opacity. Okay, I'm going to go ahead and delete this Lighten layer because I can now do this with one layer. I'm going to change the blend mode back to Normal. The Darken and Lighten technique using multiple layers is fine, it's great, but when you graduate up and you understand the Advanced Blending options, you realize you can do this with one single layer. Instead of using a blend mode, we are going to double click on the thumbnail here and we are going to use the Advanced Blending options.
You will see here I have got a black slider and a white slider. This is the black half of the edge, the dark half of the edge, this is the light half of the edge. The sliders effectively let you split the edges of a sharpening effect. Watch what happens when I move the white slider to the left. You will see I'm able to fine-tune and control just how much halo is actually introduced as a result of the sharpening. So I can just take it down to right about there where I want some highlight enhancement, just not as severe. Then hold down the Option key or the Alt key on Windows and drag to the left to create a little slight transition zone, just splitting the sliders.
If you want to downplay the black slider a little bit, you can as well to deemphasize some of the black edge enhancement, hold down the Alt key or Option key to split the edges there as well. And you have independent control over each half of the edge enhancement when you do a sharpen effect. Pretty darn cool, single layer, just using your friend the Advanced Blending sliders.
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