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The Blending sliders are one of those hidden Photoshop features that you are not going to find unless you know about them. By the end of this lesson you will know where to find those sliders and you'll also know how handy the Blending sliders can be to limit the tones that an adjustment will affect. In this image, for example, I would like to apply an adjustment that just brightens up and adds contrast to the white part of the waves. I really don't want my adjustment to affect the sky or the beach or the dark parts of the ocean out here. I'm going to use Blending sliders to do that. I'm going to start by adding a Levels adjustment layer to the image, I'll do that from the Adjustments panel and I'll use one of the Levels Presets, I'll click the arrow to the left of Levels Presets and I'm going to chose Increase Contrast 3.
In a later movie, I'll cover the Levels Adjustments panel in detail, but for now I just want you to tweak this preset a bit to make the image even lighter because I don't think that preset made it light enough. So to do that click on this gray slider right here and drag to the left, and just do that to taste until, you think that the white froth is pretty light and looks like the kind of thing you might see on a real beach. Now before I use the Blending sliders, I already know that I don't want this adjustment to affect the sky up here because that made the sky too light. So, as I have shown you, how to do in other movies I'm just going to mask off that area with black pixels, so I'll go to the Toolbox and I'll get my Brush tool, I'll make sure I have black as my foreground color by pressing the X key on the keyboard. I have the layer mask selected on that Levels adjustment layer and I can come in and make my brush a little bit bigger by pressing the Right Bracket key.
I also want to make sure that the brush is soft, so I'll press the Shift key as I click the Left Bracket key, and then I'm just going to come and drag over the sky here, and that protects the sky from this Levels adjustments. Now to get on to the real subject of the lesson which is how to use the Blending sliders to limit where this adjustment is applying in the rest of the photo. To access the Blending sliders, I have to go in to the Layers Styles dialog box. Now that's not very intuitive but that's where they are located.
So to get there, I'm going to go down to the Layers panel and I'm going to double click on that Levels adjustments layer. And that opens Layers Styles dialog box with settings that will affect this particular layer. Notice that Blending options is highlighted over here and because of that I can see various Blending options in the center part of the Layer Style dialog box. The options I'm interested in are those right here, in this section labeled Blend If. You will notice that there are two gradients here. These are scales that have all the possible grayscale values in the image, from black on the left with a graycales value of 0 to white on the right with a grayscale value of 255.
Now what I want to do is to limit this adjustment to just the brightest whites in this image. And so I'm going to use this black slider here on the top gradient, the gradient labeled This Layer. Before I do that, I'm going to move the Layer Style dialog box over to the right, so that you can see better what's happening in the image and then I'm going to take that black slider and I'm going to move it to the right. Notice in the image that as I do that, the dark areas of the sea and of the beach and the waves are turning dark and that's because Photoshop is protecting them from the adjustments on the Levels adjustment layer and allowing us to see through to the Image layer below. But if I just drag the black slider as a whole, the transitions between the masked portions and the unmasked portions are too sharp and it really doesn't look good.
So I'm going to split this slider apart to soften that transition. First of all, I'll drag this slider over to the right, a little bit more, maybe I'll go around there and then I'm going to hold down the Option key on my keyboard that's is the Alt key on a PC and drag the left part of that slider over to the left and I'll keep going until I have removed all those sharp transitions. So what's happening now is that the lightening effect of my adjustment layer is applying only to pixels whose grayscale value is larger that the grayscale value at this point which is 173. In other words, just to these brighter pixels represented by this part of the tonal range and my adjustment is not being applied at all to parts of the image whose grayscale value is darker over to the left of this point on grayscale.
In other words, less that the grayscale value of 70, this area over here and in between my adjustment is being partially applied. To get a better sense of what that has done, I'll move my Layer Style dialog box back into the scene and I'm going to uncheck Preview and you can see how, the adjustment was affecting the entire image down here before I did this and now with the changes to the Blending sliders the adjustment is affecting just the brightest whites. Now notice that, there are some other sliders here, I'm not going to use them in this case but I'll mention to you, what they do. If I were to drag the white slider on this top gradient over to the left it would hide the light parts of the adjustment so that the underlying image which showed through the light part-- in other words, the white froth and only the darker areas-- would be adjusted.
If I come down to this slider on the Underlying layer gradient, the black slider and drag that one to the right, it will cause the dark parts of the original image to show through the adjustment and if I go to the white slider on the Underlying layer gradient and I drag that one to the left, that will cause the light parts of the original image to show through the adjustment. So when working with adjustment layers I primarily work in the top gradient. I'm going to click OK to close the Layer Style dialog box and I'm done adjusting this image. To give you a before and after view I'll go to the bottom of the Adjustments panel and I'll click the eye icon. This is how the image looked when I started and this is how it looks now, and I think it's much improved.
So don't forget about the Blending sliders, just because they are hidden away in the Layer Style dialog box. They really are a good way to fine-tune the areas that are affected by an adjustment layer.
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