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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.
If you are only going to watch one video in this course, this is the video. There are three blend modes that you must absolutely memorize inside Photoshop. Of all the blend modes that there are, this is a big long list here, there's only three that you really need to memorize. If you memorize these three you will be well on your way to understanding the rest of them. Let's begin with the first one you got to know and that's Screen. The Screen blend mode is a great blend mode. It ignores Black. Any black or dark pixel just gets ignored. It tends to make things lighter. So light pixels get lighter, dark pixels are ignored. It's like aiming two slide projectors under the same screen. Dark pixels just cancels themselves out; the bright pixels get brighter.
Multiply is the opposite of Screen. It's the next blend mode you need to know. It ignores white instead of ignoring black. It makes things darker. If you have any bright pixels Multiply blend mode just ignores them. It's like sandwiching two 35 mm slides together, if you guys are familiar with slides. The last blend mode, the third one, you must learn is Overlay and this is a combination of Screen and Multiply. So it ignores gray, 50% gray to be precise, and it makes things lighter or darker thus increasing contrast. Some people call it the Contrast blend mode. It's like painting with light and gives you, in some cases, better dodging and burning.
So let's kind of play with these for a second just to kind of get our minds wrapped around these. You'll see I have a layer here in my Layers panel called squares. I'll just turn that on and off so you can see that is a separate layer. It's a 100% black square, a 50% gray square and a 100% white square. Let's change the blend mode of the squares layer to Screen. Before I let go, I want you to try to visualize what's going to happen to those squares. Can you think about it? Okay,so what's going to happen is the black square is going to disappear, because Screen ignores Black. The white square, nothing happens because the way blend mode work, it takes the top pixel, compares it with the pixels underneath it and then does the blend.
In this case, the white pixel, which is on the very top here, it's as bright as it can be, so there's no change. You'll see the 50% gray pixels made everything underneath it lighter, just like we said Screen would do. Let's change the blend mode one more time to Multiply. And again before I let go, try to visualize what's going to happen. What do you think is going to happen to that black square? What's going to happen to that white square? Well let's check it out. Let's choose Multiply now and just like I said opposite of Screen, Multiply ignores white, all the white pixels go away.
The black square, nothing happens to it because it's already as dark as it can be. It's at the top. Nothing below it can be darker. And then that gray square in the middle made everything underneath it darker. Last blend mode to take a look at, the Overlay blend mode. Remember we said it's a combination of both Screen and Multiply. So what do you think is going to happen here? Let's take a look. The gray square is what disappears. Overlay ignores gray and it makes things lighter or darker, increasing contrast. So that dark square made everything underneath it darker, the white square nothing could get brighter than white, so there's no change there.
So those are the three blend modes that you have to memorize, Screen, Multiply and Overlay. I kind of use a little pneumonic device to help me remember that. I think I SMO (Screen, Multiply and Overlay). Why did I want you to learn these three? Here's why. If you take a look at the Blend Mode list in the Layers panel here, you'll see that these blend modes are actually not random. They are not organized randomly. They are actually grouped logically. And if you take a look at this first group here underneath the Normal group, I call this the Darken group. Why? Because it begins with Darken. What does this blend mode group do? Well it makes stuff darker. It ignores white and makes stuff darker. We know that because that's the name of the group. We learned one blend mode in that group, Multiply.
If you know Multiply, you know what the other blend modes in this group do at a high level. Yes, there are some little variants between each blend mode within the group, but by and large every blend mode in this group ignores white and makes stuff darker. The second blend mode group, the Lighten blend mode group, what do you think that does? It makes stuff lighter. How do we know that? Because it begins with the word Lighten. The Lighten blend modes ignore black; they make things lighter. Again we have learned one within the group, Screen. If we know Screen, we know pretty much what all of the blend modes in this group do. Everything in this group tends to make things lighter and they look more black to some degree.
That last group begins with Overlay. We call it the Contrast group. How do we know? Because I just told you. It's not as self evident as the other two we have just talked about. But everything in this blend mode group ignores 50% gray and it increases contrast. It also increases saturation if you are working with colors as well. But by and large it's known as the Contrast group. It ignores 50% gray and makes things lighter or darker. So there you have it. You have learned one from each group, which means you know about 80% of your blend modes now. You don't have to actually memorize right now every single difference between these. Just stay at the high level and if you know one from each group, you will be well on your way to understanding the majority of your blend modes.
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