Join Chris Orwig for an in-depth discussion in this video Creative layer blending project, part of Photo Tools Weekly.
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- Hey, thanks for joining me in another episode of Photo Tools Weekly. Sometimes in photography when you wanna create an image which conveys a mood, or a feeling, or illustrates an idea or a concept, a single frame just isn't enough. Well here in this week's episode we're gonna explore how we can blend multiple layers together in order to create an image using Photoshop and layer blending. Now if you haven't ever done anything like this it is a ton of fun and it can help you to develop your skills and also be expressive in a unique way.
Alright, well if you are ready let's dive in. The image that we'll be working with is a portrait that I captured of my friend Christy. While I shooting these images we were talking about strength and identity and the passage of time. I wanna create an image which reflects some of that. So here I have one portrait and then another one, they're pretty straightforward. And I had this idea of what would happen if I were to bring in some texture? This is a texture that I created from a few different photographs that I had. And I also wanna bring in some text, I have some text, which is I will stand strong in who I am, which is something that she had said as we were hanging out.
So what I wanna do is start to think about well OK, how can I begin to blend all of these things together? Sometimes it's about starting with one photograph, like in this case, the one with eye contact, that's the one that I want. And I think, OK, have some texture, why don't we change the layer blending mode to something like Soft Light and that will bring in some of the texture that we have. Yet it just sort of feels like the texture's a little bit lost. Sometimes what you can do though if that happens is just flip flop things, put the texture underneath the image and on the image above apply the blending mode there, and now all of a sudden, at least for me, it has a different look.
Compare the two. So here's with it above, it's just sort of wishy-washy. Here's with it below, ah, now we're getting somewhere, now it has some sort of mood or feeling to it. Alright, so this is all about having an image on a blending mode of Soft Light on top of a texture. And just to illustrate I'll put that on Normal. The bottom layer there's no blending that's happening, just 'cause it's at the bottom of the layer stack. Next we'll turn on the visibility for Portrait 1 and here I'll try a blending mode as well, the Soft Light blending mode is one I just like to have fun with.
And I'm gonna move this off to the side a little bit. This is Christy into the future sort of. I need to mask away some of the edges, so we'll add a layer mask, grab a brush, and I'll paint with black here. I'm just gonna tap the right bracket key to make my brush really big. And I have a soft edge brush, no Hardness there, 'cause I just wanna blend in some of this. And you can see how I'm doing that here. OK, well that is the blending, at least for this first part of the project.
I wanna bring in another version of this one. So I'll duplicate that layer, just drag it down to the new layer icon. And this one I wanna have facing the opposite direction over here on the other side of the frame. To do that what you can do is press Command + T on a Mac, Control + T on Windows, that gives you access to Free Transform, then right-click or Control + click and choose Flip Horizontal. Now we have the photograph going the other way and I'm also gonna make it a little smaller too, I'm just grabbing those Free Transform handles there, and then press Enter or Return.
Again, here we'd wanna do some custom masking. So with the brush we can mask away certain parts of the image as we feel like it's sort of relevant. So I'm digging the direction that this project's going and I think it's starting to have some mood and emotion, but I'm wanting a little bit more of Portrait 2 right here. She's a little bit lost there. So duplicate that one, Command + J on a Mac, Control + J on Windows. And I'm gonna bring this to the top of my layer stack for a moment and take my blending mode back to Normal.
So with this by itself why not add a mask. And with this mask what we can do is invert it, press Command + I on a Mac, Control + I on Windows, grab our brush and paint with white to bring some of it in. And here I'm painting, my Opacity is low, so I'm just painting in some of it. And what this is doing is just give me a little definition, I'm gonna lower the Opacity even a little bit more, but you can see how I'm starting to have a little bit more of the subject come through. I don't want that much of it, so I'm gonna drop the Opacity back, but I do want a little bit more read on that area, so I'm gonna do this, or another option, as we saw earlier you can always try a blending mode.
Sometimes that can give you a little fun snap or even both. Perhaps we'll have one on Normal and one on Soft Light. Take a look at this. So here we'll have one on Normal, copy it, next one goes to Soft Light, which is gonna allow us to kind of see through all of that and add a little bit of that contrast. This just helps to make that center image a bit more prominent. So here I'm experimenting with my Opacity on those, so I have a little bit better read. I didn't want her to be so lost in the mix, but I do want the forward and the past, the future and the past self to be a little more subdued.
Now when you get to this point you may wanna modify color and tone with Curves. So here I'll grab a Curves adjustment and I'm gonna darken up some areas. So I create a darkening effect. With this mask we'll invert it, press Command + I to do so, grab your brush and then paint in where you want it to be darker. Is there any areas that you want to kind of paint the way that the light's falling? And so you can have a little bit more control over brightness. And here I'm just gonna darken up a few areas, grab one more Curves adjustment, lot of creative fun here, gonna invert that mask.
Another way to invert the mask is just to go to the Mask tab in the Properties panel. And then what I'm gonna do is bring in a little more light onto the main subject. So all of these layers, really it isn't that you're gonna follow these steps, but it's about this mix, it's about bringing all of this together. Let's take a look at how we've done so far with what we have here. And just by way of a quick review, we have brought in one image, another one on the left, one on the right, little bit more in the center focus, and then some color and tone.
So it really isn't that complicated, it's Soft Light blending, but it is important our layer order, and it's some masking, and then a couple of adjustments. And it allows us to express something that we couldn't have expressed any other way. Last, but not least, I want some copy in there. So I have my text there. I'm gonna, again, use that blending mode we've been using, that Soft Light blending mode. And here with this one I wanna have multiple versions of the text, so I'm just gonna hold down the Option key on a Mac, Alt on Windows, and I'm gonna drag this around, so that I have all of these versions of this copy here.
And with this I'll press Command + T to make a smaller one, and then I'll drag those around too. Right now the text looks kind of weird just sort of everywhere. I don't want that, but what we will do in a second is mask it into specific areas. So once you've copied those everywhere, so it's just an Option + click and drag on a Mac, Alt + click and drag, click in your top layer of the text field, hold down the Shift key, click on the bottom layer, then press Command + G on a Mac, or Control + G on Windows, we'll name this one Text.
And we can begin by dropping our Opacity down, it needs to be more subtle. Then next we can add a layer mask. Once we have that we can grab a brush, and it can be really fun to use a brush which is a little bit funky, so use one which has some texture to it, or something like that. I'm gonna make this brush really big, and perhaps even bigger. What if I use, actually let me see if there's a better brush. Maybe this one here will give me a little more defined edge that I'm looking for. Alright, great. Now I'm gonna paint with black and I'm just gonna paint over this and it's gonna distress the text, so it's not uniform in the way that it's kind of falling out of the frame, but you can see how I'm painting out a lot of the text, so you can't even really see it.
Hopefully you're not gonna read this very much, but you're gonna see these letters, you may pick up on a hint of it. Often in photography it's about not giving everything away, but having some of what you wanna have there. I'll grab a more normal brush and I wanna paint it away from the face, so I'm just gonna make sure I have that text off the face. Didn't really like the text that I was having there. Alright, well I think that is a wrap for this expressive creative layers project. These things are so much fun to do, if you haven't done one you gotta try it.
And if you need some inspiration maybe think of movie posters or poetry or songs or something that will get those creative juices flowing. And really when you think about what we started with it was just kind of straightforward portrait, perhaps like this, and now all of a sudden we have something more. Sometimes it's worth doing these things just for the sake of it, even if it's not something you're gonna really use, but it helps you learn these tools, have some fun, and also create some beautiful things. Alright, well thanks so much for joining me in this episode of Photo Tools Weekly.
I can wait to see you next time, have a wonderful day, bye for now.