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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'll see how Overlay and Hard Light are actually variations on the very same blend mode, it's just a matter of which layer is in front, and I'll show you something you can do with that information as well. We've got this portrait shot on top, and then below that this sort of cave wall in the background. All right, I'm going to go ahead and turn the portrait back on, I should know that both of these images come from a Fotolia Image Library, about what you can learn more at fotolia.com/deke. Now I'm going to go ahead and change the blend mode associated with that portrait layer to Overlay, and that'll create an effect much as if we had somehow projected the image of this woman onto this surface.
So the shadow details on her face are burning into the background, the highlights are brightening the background, and so forth. So it's almost a matter of wrapping one texture around another, as we'll see in subsequent exercises. All right, now I'm going to click on the Wall layer and I'm going to change its blend mode Hard Light. Now that's not going to make any difference as you can see here and the reason is that blend modes only work down the stack. If there's nothing below a layer, you can change its blend mode to anything you like.
However, the blend mode is not going to work, because there's nothing to blend with, in the background. But notice now, if I change the order of these two layers, so wall is on top and portrait is underneath, the effect again does not change, and that's because Hard Light and Overlay are commuted versions of each other, that is to say, when Hard Light is on top, you get the same effect as when Overlay is on top. When an Overlay layer is on top, then you're emphasizing the layer below, as we're in this case.
If I was to ask you which layer is the most prominent, I would gather that you would say the cave wall, because it looks as if the cave wall is actually what we're seeing with her projected onto it. Meanwhile, when you set a layer to Hard Light, then it takes precedent over the layer below. So to just give you a sense of what it look like if we went the other way around, if we gave the portrait layer precedent instead, I'll press Shift+Alt+O or Shift+Option+O on the Mac, to change that wall layer to the Overlay mode, you can see that that shifted its appearance onscreen.
I'm now going to select the portrait layer, and I'm going to press Shift+Alt+H or Shift+Option+H on the Mac to change its blend mode to Hard Light, that's not going to change anything, because as before, there's nothing underneath a portrait layer to blend with. However, notice now, if I change the order of these two layers, so she's on top and the wall is on the bottom, we're getting the exact same effect. Once again, because Overlay and Hard Light are commuted versions of each other. When a layer is set to Hard Light it takes precedent just as this portrait shot is now taking precedent inside of the composition.
When the wall is on top and set to the Overlay mode, it gives precedent to the layer below it, which is still portrait, so we end up with the exact same effect. Now one of the reasons I mention this is not just because it's interesting, but also because I think it will help you navigate through these modes and make sense of them when you're applying them on your own. For example, I'm going to grab that portrait layer, move it on top and I'm going to press Shift+Alt+N or Shift+ Option+N on the Mac, in order to restore it to the Normal mode. Now let's say I want to enhance the contrast of this image while enhancing its color as well, you can do that using an empty adjustment layer set to one of the contrast modes.
So for example, if I press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and click that black white icon and choose for example Brightness/Contrast and then I'll just call it dummy, because I'm not going do anything with it, click OK. In other words I'm not going to change either the values, I'll go ahead and collapse the Adjustments panel and then I'll change the blend mode from Normal to Overlay and we end up getting this enhanced contrast effect that ends up benefiting this image quite nicely, because after all it was a pretty low contrast image in the first place.
Now if you feel like there is too much contrast, you can to switch from Overlay to Soft Light and you'll end up achieving a different effects, so here's the original version of the portrait shot and here's a versions subject to essentially setting itself to the Soft Light mode. Now what you'll typically hear from folks is if Overlay isn't enough, then you can bump things up by switching the Hard Light. However, that's not going to make any difference in this case, because it's the same darn blend mode, it just matters which layer is on top.
Well, this dummy layer is essentially a copy of the portrait layer, so they're both the exact same layer, so we're going to get exactly the same effect and that's something to bear in mind when you're working with your own images. So where this sort of approach is concerned, if Overlay isn't quite doing it for you then you want to bump it up all the way to Linear Light, that's going to be your high contrast mode when you're working with an adjustment layer for example, that of course is going to be too much, you're going to see all sorts of clip shadows and blown highlights, so then at this point you would reduce the Fill value, I'm going to press Shift+5 to take that Fill opacity down to 50%, which isn't quite enough, so I'll go ahead and try Shift+2 instead, to take it down quite a bit further.
So we now have Linear Light combined with a Fill value of 20%. If I turn off that dummy layer, you can see that's making a big difference. So this is the original fairly low contrast version of the image, and this is the newly enhanced version. Thanks to the application to an Empty Adjustment Layer of Linear Light and a Fill Opacity of just 20%.
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