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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 demonstrate the final contrast mode, Hard Mix. So here we are looking at the Pin Light effect. If I move to the next layer comp, you can see the effects of Hard Mix which at first are truly appalling. Now what's happening is that Photoshop is applying the Vivid Light mode. So Hard Mix uses exactly the same formula as Vivid Light and then it goes ahead and reduces the luminance levels to just black and white on a channel by channel basis which is why you end up getting this highly posterized effect, where all the pixels either turn black or they turn white or the they turn one of the primary colors, meaning red, yellow, green, cyan, blue or magenta.
In our case, because we have a very warm image, we're just left with the yellows and the reds. The great news is that this is the classic Fill Opacity Eight mode, the one that responds altogether differently to the Fill value than it does to the Opacity value. So first just so that you can see how this mode compares to Vivid Light, I'll go ahead and switch to the next slide. This is actually the Vivid Light effect. If I click on the full grad layer here inside the Layers panel, you can see that I've assigned the Vivid Light mode. The difference between your standard Vivid Light which looks like this and Hard Mix is the fact that we're thresholding the channels.
In this case, I'm using a levels adjustment layer to reduce the colors to black and white on a channel by channel basis, Hard Mix does it automatically. Anyway, I just wanted you to see that that's how it works. Now let's get a sense of what happens when you reduce the opacity of the effect. In this case we're back to using the Hard Mix mode and I've taken the standard Opacity value down to 50%. So what's happening is Photoshop is taking that composite version of the image and mixing it 50-50 with the underlying leaves.
So this area, for example that was formerly black at 100% opacity, is now turning to darkness, so that we can see some standard leave transitions happening. But at any point where we are transitioning to a different color, you're going to see posterization throughout the composite image which is, I would think, rarely desirable whereas if you reduce that Fill value down to 50% instead, you can see that we get a remarkably different effect that's rich and vivid throughout the composition which well, the color saturation maybe a little bit too much, is not a half bad effect.
Compare that to Vivid Light, set to a Fill Opacity value of 50%, the big difference here is that the grays drop away and become transparent where Vivid Light is concerned and for the matter where any of the other contrast modes are concerned as well, whereas if I switch back to Hard Mix here, you can see that even those leaves in the center of the image are being affected by the mode, which means that you can take the Opacity value very low indeed where this effect is concerned. Here is Hard Mix, set to a standard Opacity value of 25%, we still end up with a drab and posterized composition, whereas if I take Hard Mix down to a Fill value of 25% instead, I have vibrant colors across the entire image.
But even at a very low Fill value of 25 %, Hard Mix typically produces a more pronounced effect than something like Soft Light. Notice here that we do have some darkening on the left hand side, some brightening on the right-hand side, the effect drops off in the center, but we don't have nearly that degree of color saturation. So really, the moral of the story is if you want the most subtle contrast effect possible, then you go with Soft Light, if you want the highest impact effect of them all, plus some intensely saturated colors, then you'll want to go with Hard Mix subject to a reduced Fill value.
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