Join Alan Demafiles for an in-depth discussion in this video Blend modes for layers, part of After Effects CC 2018 Essential Training: Motion Graphics.
- [Instructor] After Effects allows one layer's pixels to interact with the layers below it using the color and brightness of the pixels and then combining them mathematically. These are called blending modes. These blending modes can often lighten or darken, or add or subtract contrast to the overall image. They have a wide range of uses in motion graphics, including being able to stylize images, or adding a layer of texture that can easily alter the mood and feel of our imagery. So here in this first example, I've got two instances of this picture of woods. And with blending modes, they are mathematically altering, or adding and subtracting, basically doing some behind-the-scenes wizardry that enables the pixels to interact with each other.
And so if you don't already have it, go ahead, right-click here, and under Columns, enable Modes, and that will get you to the list of modes here. You can see the drop-down list is pretty extensive here. You can also find the blending modes over here under Layer, Blending Mode. And you'll notice that these things are grouped out and separated, and these groups, these guys right here, all the way from Darken to Darker Color, these tend to darken the imagery. The opposite is true here for this next group from Add to Lighter Color, that'll lighten your imagery.
This batch here from Overlay down to Hard Mix provides some kind of contrast, and there's a whole slew of other modes here that I won't get into, but some of these tend to be kind of utilitarian, like Difference and the Stencil and Silhouettes. Let's go ahead and cycle through a couple of these. So here, the first one I want to show is darkening a little bit of this imagery using Multiply. And this blend mode will just basically take what's dark in the image and darken it further. So let's go ahead and turn this off and turn it back on. You'll see that up here, there's not any change in the brightness over here with the lighter areas.
However, everything that's dark or kind of mid-tone will get just a little bit darker. All right, so if we were to look at the opposite of that, you might think, "Oh, okay, the Screen blend mode." And so the Screen blend mode does the opposite. It'll take the lighter values inside of our image and make them just a bit brighter. So it looks like everything in this image is relatively bright, maybe with the exception of this area here. You'll notice that that doesn't change too much, and then, maybe over here a little bit. So if we wanted to add some contrast to this imagery, what we can do is go through and select something like Overlay.
It's a pretty good one. It does a little bit of both the brightening and the darkening of our image, and you'll see here that there is some brightness that does take place, and the darkness over here, our black levels get a little bit darker. So it adds an overall kind of contrast to the composition. So one other use for blending modes is the addition of texture. So here in my woods scene, all I've added is just a solid blue layer here. And what I'll do this time is just select my texture and come over here to Effect and add a bit of Fractal Noise.
Now, Fractal Noise is an effect that generates this almost cloud-like imagery. You can tweak and manipulate it to get all kinds of different looks. Just by adding this, however, I'll show you what happens when we take this texture and then add the Soft Light blend mode. You'll see that it just knocks out a little bit of the fog and the clouds and adds it as a texture to the image below. So once again, without the texture on, and again.
So it looks like we just added a layer of haze. I mean, there's already haze in there, but I'm just now accentuating it and maybe bringing out some of this texture to kind of add to the overall scene. Another way to use blend modes is to take our text, in this example, we're using some black text. And that stands out, and maybe you want to have this integrated a little bit more with the imagery behind it. So in this case, I think the Overlay mode is pretty appropriate.
That black text now becomes a little bit more contrasty and just offsets the text from the background imagery in such a way that it steals a little bit of the pixels in there, and it's not completely standout and so contrasty as with the entirely black text. Okay, one other example of this. We have Stencil Alpha, and I talked about having these blend modes as partly utilitarian. And so this way, we can use our EARTH text, which is just plain white, and you'll see here, I've got some images back here with the dock, the waterside, and the forest, just laid out here.
And what the Stencil Alpha will do is take our text layer or whatever layer we're deeming as our stencil, and it will just basically serve as a means to cut out imagery. So if I say Stencil Alpha, you'll see that everything else outside of the words EARTH is cut out. And so, that's a real handy way to just create some interesting looks, just by adding one text layer on top. Now, this only works because this text layer is on top of everything with this blend mode. If I were to move it down to the bottom, of course, you're not going to see anything, but as I move this layer up one by one, you'll see it starts to cut out all the layers that are underneath it.
So again, just having those images down beneath the text layer, my Stencil Alpha layer is what's going to get cut out. And lastly, we can use blending modes in such a way that we can alter the mood of our images. Right here I've got my forest, and it just cuts to the woods. And right now it's just a standard edit, it's just a cut, and if I stylize it with a little bit of blue, this is just a standard blue layer with Soft Light added, I can add or make use of something as a texture.
In this case, I've got a light flash, something that I just shot with my phone. It's just aiming at a lamp and just waving my hand in front of it, but I can use this as a transitional texture inside my composition. So in order to do that, I'll take my light flash and use the Add mode, and that Add mode's just going to brighten and lighten everything. And as we do, you'll see that it has this jarring, almost creepy feel. So we've taken our woods and what was otherwise kind of pretty neutral and just darkened it up a little bit, added some blue tint by use of this blue layer, and with this light flash now, we've got a creepy scene.
All we're missing is music, dun-dun-dun. How about that? All right, so that is a real quick overview of blending modes. Through this movie, we saw that the use of blending modes, we have the ability to combine the color and brightness of images together to create all kinds of stylized imagery.
- Working with shape layers and paths
- Animating compositions
- Animating type
- Animating 3D layers
- Creating 3D text and geometry
- Rendering your motion graphics
- Following an effective motion graphic workflow