Join Seán Duggan for an in-depth discussion in this video Compositing elements with blend modes, part of Photoshop: Creative Video Compositing (2014).
Blending modes are one of the most useful Photoshop features for creative effects as well as for compositing. Certain tonal values, namely black, white and middle gray, act as neutral colors for some blending modes. Meaning that they're not visible when a particular blending mode is applied to that layer. When the tones in a layer are right, this can be used to quickly blend elements together without the need for a precise mask. So in this movie what I'm going to do is take you through a quick tour of the Blend Modes menu with a focus on those blending modes that work best for compositing purposes.
I'm not going to talk about what every single blend mode does because I want to just cut to the chase and show you the best blending modes that are the most useful for compositing. So I have a file here that's just a photograph of this book by the side of the river. And this circle that I've prepared that is divided into regions of black, white, and middle gray. Now that middle gray is specifically 50% gray. And that's important because you'll notice that as a menu choice in certain areas of Photoshop, it'll actually say 50% gray, and the reason it does is because certain blend modes take advantage of that.
If you're curious about the RGB values it's 128, 128, 128. That's 50% gray. So let's just take a look at the Blend Mode menu here. The first thing to notice is that it is divided into these distinct sections here. And that the main sections we're going to be looking at are the ones headed by the dark and blend mode, the light and blend mode and the overlay blend mode. Let's take a look at the darken blend modes first, with these the overall effect will always be darker than what you started out, and I'm going to just choose mutliply so we can take a look at that.
So you can see that it's ending up much darker than we started. Importantly, in terms of the colors and neutral colors, notice that the white does not show at all. That's because white is the neutral color for the multiply or the dark and blending modes. If I choose darken, we see that white doesn't show up at all. So the result you're going to get in terms of the blend is really going to vary depending on how the two colors on the two layers are blending. Now what a blending mode is, is it's a calculation.
Photoshop is comparing the color and tonal values on the active layer with the corresponding color and tonal values of pixels on the underlying layer or layers. It runs a calculation on 'em, and it changes the display of the active layer to whatever the result of that calculation is. So the important thing to remember about the multiply blending modes is that white is the neutral color. White does not show up. So if you have something that is photographed against white, you can easily drop out the background without having to make a selection. Let's move on to the lighten blend mode, and I'm just going to start off with screen.
And with screen, the effect is always typically lighter than what you started out with. And in terms of neutral colors, the important thing to realize here is that black does not show up at all, just totally disappears. So with the screen blending mode, anything that is against a black background That black background will just disappear and you don't have to do anything in terms of making a mask or a selection. In some cases, the light and blend mode will also work depending upon what you are doing. What the light and blend does is it compares the pixels on the active layer with the pixels underneath and it displays whatever is lighter.
That's why the book is showing up here. But here, the grey value takes precedence over the darker areas of the river. Let's move on to the overlay blending modes. The overlay blending modes are a contrast enhancing blending mode. They punch the contrast on each of the colors there. So you can see that the black area is getting more contrasty but darker, and the light area is getting more contrasty but lighter. In terms of neutral colors, middle gray, 50% gray, does not show when you're using the overlay blending modes.
So soft light is sort of a kinder gentler version of overlay. Hard light is, in some cases exactly the same as overlay, but, in other cases much more extreme. In this case it's not really doing anything to black or white. But, 50% gray disappears. And vivid light and linear light are all similar to hard light, they're all very extreme. The most useful blending modes, I find, for compositing are overlay and soft light, screen and lighten, and darken and multiply.
Blending modes are one of the easiest ways to let Photoshop do the heavy lifting for you when it comes to combining different elements. Plus, you can also use them to create some pretty interesting effects. Once you understand how black, white, or middle gray can be used with blend modes for compositing effects, you can create photos or videos shot against those backgrounds that can be easily composited into your projects.
- What is video compositing?
- Using layer masks
- Applying movement and transformations with keyframes
- Using Smart Objects to perform nondestructive edits
- Animating a layer mask and layer effects
- Using blend modes to create composites
- Creating custom transitions
- Shooting video for composites