Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video Opacity, history, and blend mode, part of Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
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So far we've managed to establish a composition with three independent layers, but we don't have any interaction between those layers. Specifically, we have these black swirls set against this white background. We really want to drop that white background away and blend the black swirls with their surrounding environment. Well Photoshop offers a few different ways to blend. I'm going to start by selecting the swirls layer to make it active. And then notice we have this Opacity value near the top of the Layers panel. There's a few different ways you can use this option.
For one, you can click this down- pointing arrow head and adjust this slider control right here in order to reduce the Opacity value, which makes the layer progressively translucent, as you can see, all the way down to practically invisible. You can also enter a specific value, if you like. For example, I could enter 57% and press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac and you can scrub the value. Notice when you hover your cursor over the Opacity value, it becomes a little scrub hand and so you can drag either to the left in order to reduce the Opacity or to the right to increase the Opacity.
And if you want to reduce and increase the Opacity even faster, you can press the Shift key and that will change the value in 10% increments. Few different ways to work. However, possibly the most convenient way to change the opacity of a layer is to just press the Number key. So when any of the tools in this top section of the toolbox are selected, you can just tap a Number Key and that value will be reflected. So for example, if I press the 7 Key, I will change the Opacity to 70%.
If I press the 3 Key, I'll change the Opacity value to 30%. I can also dial two numbers in a row. For example, if I press 5, 5, I'll change the Opacity value to 55%. You can enter 0, 1 for 1% opacity, if you want to go that low. You can even press 0, 0 for 0% opacity. If you want to restore the opacity to 100%, then press the 0 key. Now while all this is very well and good, it doesn't really get us the results we are looking for.
I can press the 5 key to reduce the opacity to 50% and that gets rid of some of the white, but not all of it and it gets rid of too much of the black. So I'll go ahead and press 0 to restore the opacity to a 100%. What you might be tempted to do if you have any knowledge of Photoshop, is grab the Magic Wand tool. And you can get the Magic Wand by going to the Quick Selection tool, clicking and holding and then choosing the Magic Wand from the flyout menu. Then you just click in the white area, for example, to select all the whites that are surrounding the swirls.
And then I press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac in order to get rid of those selected pixels. And I'll press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac to deselect the image. Well, that didn't quite do it. We still have a lot of white all over the place. So what I need to do is go up here to the Options Bar and turn off this contiguous check box so that we can select all the whites throughout this layer. Then I'll click again on a white area inside the image, press the Backspace key again in order to delete those selected Pixels and press Ctrl+D or Command+D again.
The problem is that was a massively destructive modification. We just got rid of a ton of pixels and we didn't really do ourselves any good. If I press Ctrl+1 to zoom in and then zoom in even a little farther, you can see that I've missed a lot of light pixels, I have all sorts of halos, there are some jagged edges around my artwork. That's the problem with the Magic Wand tool. We'll explore that tool in more detail when we look at Selections in a later chapter. But this was not the right approach. So I'm going to zoom back out.
Now we have to undo what we've done. And if you go to the Edit menu, you'll see that we have an Undo command, but it's Undo Deselect. All right, so I'll choose that command or press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo that change. Now I'll go back up to the Edit menu and I would hope to see another Undo command, instead I see Redo Deselect. And if I choose that, then I'll just go ahead and deselect the pixels again. So the question is, do I not have multiple undos inside the software? Well, yes, you do, but they're located in a different place.
You go to the Window menu and you choose the History command and then you'll see a list of all of your modifications here inside the History panel. And there's the second time I clicked with the Magic Wand. There is the first time. If I click on this state before I clicked with the Magic Wand tool, then I go ahead and restore all of those white pixels. Now I'll hide the History panel. And I'm going to switch back to my rectangular Marquee tool. So now, selecting the pixels and deleting them isn't the solution, what is? Well what you want to do is apply a blend mode instead.
Notice the word Normal near the top left corner of the Layers panel, that indicates that currently the blend mode is turn off. If you click on the word Normal, you'll see a perhaps overwhelming list of blend modes that you can choose from. We're going to be looking at this blend modes in detail in another course, but for now, I'll tell you that the blend mode we want is Multiply, because Multiply is going to keep the dark stuff, it's going to drop away the light stuff and it's going to do so without harming a single pixel inside the image and we end up getting this effect here which is exactly what I want.
If I press Ctrl+1 or Command+1 again, and then zoom in some more, you can see that we have these nice smooth transitions. Meanwhile, if you take a look at the thumbnail here inside the Layers panel, you'll see that the white pixels still survive. So I'm going to finish things off by pressing the 8 key to reduce the opacity of this layer to 80%, so the black swirls are just slightly translucent. And there you have it, that's how you get better results with a lot less work and without harming a single pixel by blending layers in Photoshop.
- Opening an image from Photoshop, Bridge, or Camera Raw
- Navigating, zooming, panning, and rotating the canvas
- Adding, deleting, and merging layers
- Saving your progress and understanding file formats
- Cropping and straightening
- Adjusting brightness and contrast
- Identifying and correcting a color cast
- Making and editing selections
- Enhancing portraits by retouching skin, teeth, and eyes