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The quickest way to understand Blending modes in Photoshop is to actually learn three specific blend modes, like on the Three You Must Know, and the little acronym I use is SMO: Screen, Multiply, and Overlay. So, if we take a look at the Layers panel, again, we see the word Normal. That's the default Blending mode for any particular layer. If you look at the pop-up list, you'll see there is a bunch of different Blend modes here, a pretty long list. I'm going to encourage you. This whole video is about learning what Screen is, what Overlay is, and what Multiply is, so Screen, Multiply, and Overlay, SMO.
Let's quickly run through these three particular Blend modes, and then towards the end you will see why knowing these three really helps you understand the majority of the rest of the Blend modes. Now very quickly, I might mention to you that if you want to learn about every single Blend mode, the Photoshop Essential Training, of course, that you're watching now only is going to give you kind of a broad overview of what Blending modes are and some different things you can experiment, and use Blending modes for. If you want to learn about a lot more of these Blending modes and actually see specific video tips on each of these particular Blend modes, I encourage you to watch the Photoshop CS4 Blend mode Magic course available now on Online Training Library.
Even though the name of the course has Photoshop CS4 in the title, nothing about Blend modes has really changed in CS5. So, that material will still apply to you if you're using Photoshop CS5. Okay, back to the three that you must know. So, let's turn on the description for screen. I'll turn on the visibility of that layer. Screen Blend mode ignores black pixels, or dark pixels, and makes things lighter. It's like aiming two slide projectors onto the same screen. So, where there is brightness, it will make brightness lighter, and where there is black, it just stays black.
So, it ignores the black pixels. Multiply is the opposite of Screen. So, instead of ignoring black, it ignores white, and that make things darker. If you're familiar with darkroom or photography, back in the old days of using film, it's like sandwiching two 35 mm slides together. It just makes things darker. The Overlay Blend mode is a combination of Screen and Multiply. So, instead of ignoring black or white, it ignores gray, the 50% gray, and it tends to make things lighter or darker, which is also the definition of increasing contrast.
It's like painting with light. It gives you also an effective way to do Dodging and Burning, and we'll talk about that a little bit. So, now that we kind of have overview, or a broad definition of what these things actually do, let's see them in action a little bit. So, I have got the Squares layer. We'll turn that on and off just to kind of see that they are isolated on their own layer, a box square, a middle gray square, and a white square on this blue background here, the background being a separate layer. So, what I am going to do is I'm going to change the Blend mode of the Squares layer to Screen.
So, let's choose that first. There is Screen. Now before I choose Screen and actually commit to that, I want you to try to imagine what's going to happen to these squares. Look at the definition of Screen. It says it ignores black, make things lighter. So, if we choose the Screen Blend mode, what do you think is going to happen? Let's go ahead and do it. So, there you have it. By ignoring black, it means it's as if those black pixels don't even exist. They become transparent. They just cancelled each other out. Now, the way Blending modes work is it works from the top down. So, it looks at the top pixels of the particular layer you're on and compares it with the pixels underneath it, and if the pixel underneath meets the condition of the Blend mode, then something will happen.
So, because the black pixels were on the top layer, and they're already darker than everything underneath it, the black pixels got ignored. Now if you look at the white pixels, the white square, nothing happened there either because the white pixel was already as bright as it could be. It was at the top, so nothing could be brighter than it. So, there was no change underneath the white square. But that little gray square, it made everything underneath it lighter, because there was nothing underneath it that was already as light as it. So, that's how Blending modes work. They do a comparison of the layer you're on with the pixels underneath and cause a difference in Blend, depending on the Blend mode you choose. Okay.
Let's change the Blend mode one more time. Let's change it to Multiply and again, try to guess what's going to happen. If Multiply is the opposite of Screen, what's going to happen to these squares. If we take a look, this time the white square is ignored. Multiply ignores white, and it makes things darker. Now the black square doesn't look any different because, again, it's as black as it could be. It's at the top layer, and that middle gray square made the underlying pixels darker. One more time let's change the Blend mode to Overlay and again try to anticipate what's going to happen.
So, Overlay is a combination of Screen and Multiply. It ignores Gray and makes things lighter or darker, increasing contrast. So, let's go ahead and choose Overlay, and as you hopefully guessed, that middle gray square is the one that disappears. Nothing happens to the white square because it's already as white as it can be since it's at the top, but it makes the underlying area of that black square darker. You're thinking to yourself, "Great. I can change squares. That's relevant and useful in real-world." Well, I am just doing this to teach you the basics. Let's take a look at the list of Blend modes here in the pop-up menu, and you'll see that they're actually not randomly listed.
They are actually organized into groups, and the reason why I wanted you to learn one of each of these three: Screen, Multiply, and Overlay, is that they are representative of three of the main groupings that you see here. You can see, there's the Darken group. There's the Lighten group, and then there's the Contrast group. Now why do I call it the Darken group? Because it starts with the word darken. That's the Darken Blend mode. The Lighten group obviously starts with the word Lighten and then the Contrast, well, it's just what we call it. It doesn't say contrast here. You just have to know that that's what these Blend modes do.
They increase contrast. So, by knowing one Blend mode from each of these groups, you pretty much have a good understanding of what the entire group does. So, in the Darken group, what do these do? They make things darker, and they ignore white. In the Lighten group, they make things lighter, and they ignore black, and then in the Contrast group, they increase contrast and ignore 50% gray. So, by learning Screen, Multiply, and Overlay, you would now actually have a high-level understanding of the majority of the Blend modes available to you in the list, and there are some special ones here at the bottom: Difference, Occlusion, Subtract, Divide and so forth.
But these are the Blend modes that you'll use the most, the Darkening ones, the Lightening ones and the Contrast ones. There you have it. There is your quick introduction to Screen, Multiply, and Overlay, why it pays to actually memorize what these three do. It gives you a high-level understanding of the majority of the other Blend modes available to you. In the subsequent videos in this course, in this particular chapter about Blending modes, you'll see some real- world examples of why you might actually use these particular Blending modes to accomplish specific tasks.
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