Advanced blending


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Advanced blending determines how one layer will interact with other layers in neat and mysterious ways and it is found in this dialogue ...


advanced blaending dialogue


There are a lot of different effects that can be done in this dialogue including ...


Drop Shadow Inner Shadow Outer Glow Inner Glow Bevel and Emboss
Satin Color Overlay Gradient Overlay Pattern Overlay Stroke


as well as the those two little gray scale lines at the bottom of the dialogue - the Blend If: sliders.

Now if you are like me then you've seen those two little sliders before but had absolutely no idea what the heck they were for or how to use them.

Hopefully by the end of this tutorial we will all have a better understanding of the Blend If: sliders and Advanced Blending.

Blend If:  Sliders


There are two sliders in this area of the Layer Style Box - one is called This Layer and the other is the Underlying Layer.

advanced blending blend if

Each of them has two sliders with one at the dark end and the other one at the light end.  

This is what Adobe has to say about the two sliders ...

"The sliders in the Blending Options dialog box let you control which pixels from the active layer and from the underlying visible layers appear in the final image.

For example, you can drop dark pixels out of the active layer or force bright pixels from the underlying layers to show through. You can also define a range of partially blended pixels to produce a smooth transition between blended and unblended areas.
"

Got it?

How about this ...

Moving the black or white sliders for This Layer will cause areas of the top layer to disappear.

  • The white sliders affect the lightest part of the image.
  • The black sliders affect the darkest part of the image.

Moving the black or white sliders for Underlying Layer will cause areas of the layer below to show through the selected layer (it is punching holes through the active layer).

  • The white sliders affect the lightest part of the image.
  • The black sliders affect the darkest part of the image.

Probably the best way to learn how to use these sliders is to just mess about with them and see what happens - so let's do that ...

Blend If:  Example One


A practical example of using this advanced blending mode is with a product picture on a web page.  

On this site, for instance, I have right and left columns that are a different color from the main body.  If I take an image of a Wacom tablet and put it on the right column it is highly likely the white background of the image will be very distracting and not fit with the color scheme of the column.

Advanced blending to the rescue!

advanced blending intuos advanced blending background
The Image
It can also be a logo
Right and Left Column
Background Color


When the Intuos image is dragged onto the background with the Move Tool, this is the result - the white background of the tablet covers the light blue background.


advanced blending image on background


The goal is to eliminate the white background that came in with the tablet image, keeping the tablet image intact.  It could be done with the Magic Wand but there is a better and more efficient method using the advanced blending mode.

advanced blending layers palette
Now it is time to work with the Blend If sliders in the Layers Palette.

To access the sliders do one of the following ... click the Add A Layer Style button (outlined in red) on the layers palette, or go to Layers > Layer Style > Blending Options or double click to the right of the layer name (Layer 1 in this case).

This will bring up the Layer Styles palette and the Blend If sliders.

In this case I want the light blue background to show through so the light end of This Layer needs to be adjusted.


advanced blending blend if advanced blending image
This Layer light end adjusted
from 255 t0 249
The result - there is still some
white around the image


The next trick is to completely remove the white at the edges of the tablet and this is how to do that ...

You can see the little sliders have a small line between them.  When the ALT key is pressed and the cursor is placed on either side of the line and then moved the sliders split and this is the key to blending - remember what Photoshop says -

"you can also define a range of partially blended pixels to produce a smooth transition between blended and unblended areas."

Here is the final image ...


advanced blending advanced blending
The lightness sliders have
been split using the ALT key
The final image

This is a relatively simple example but it is fun to do and effective.



Blend If:  Example Two


The second example of advanced blending is quite interesting.

We have a nice brick wall here with some text spray painted on it

advanced blending brick wall


Nice picture but the spray paint just doesn't look right, does it?  It needs some texture.

Advanced blending can deal with this quite nicely.  With the Layer Styles dialogue open the Blend If sliders are available.

The top slider (This Layer) does not do much but the other slider (Underlying Layer) makes a big difference.

Here is the image with the dark slider adjusted ...


advanced blending text advanced blending slider
Dark end adjusted Underlying Layer Dark Slider
Blended from 27 to 172


And here is the image with the light slider adjusted ...


advanced blending text advanced blending text slider
Light end adjusted Underlying Layer Light Slider
Blended from 104 to 200


How about this one - I dragged a picture of Tabitha onto the brick wall then adjusted the Underlying Layer dark slider up to 26, split it with the ALT key and took the right half up to 155.


advanced blending tabitha


Doesn't it look like my little sweetie was painted on the wall and then wear and weather started removing the paint?

This effect can also be achieved with the Overlay Blend Mode - this technique just proves there are many different paths ways to achieve a Photoshop outcome.

Blend If:  Images


The advanced blending Blend If sliders work particularly well with portraits or still life images or black and white images - well - pretty much anything.

And - it is surprisingly simple ...!

In every case the steps are ...

  1. Duplicate the Background Layer
  2. Apply a Gaussian Blur to the Background Copy
  3. Open the Layer Styles palette
  4. Change the Layer blend mode
  5. Modify the Blend If: sliders to taste

Step 4 and step 5 are where the really interesting effects happen and there are an enormous number of ways they can be adjusted.

There are 23 different Layer Blend Modes and there are a infinite number of adjustments you can make with the Blend If sliders.  (well - not infinite but a lot)

Street Artist

Here is a good image to try out the advanced blending techniques.


advanced blending original


To demonstrate the versatility of the advanced blending techniques here are three examples.

Example One

advanced blending layer style
Layer Style Palette
  • Gaussian Blur set to 10
  • Layer Blend Mode set to Screen
  • This Layer dark slider moved to 35 and then split by pressing the ALT and the second slider moved to 145.
advanced blending layer The resulting image.  There is more glow to this one especially on the pavement.  This is the result of Screen mode, the blur and the sliders change.

One problem is that Batwoman's face has been burned out.  This was fixed by setting the eraser to opacity with pen pressure and lightly removing the highlights on the face.
advanced blending layer The Background Copy layer by itself. It is easy to see the areas the Blend If: sliders removed from the layer.


Example Two


advanced blending multiply
Layer Style Palette

  • Gaussian Blur set to 15
  • Layer Blend Mode set to Multiply
  • This Layer dark slider moved to 52 and then split by pressing the ALT and the second slider moved to 128.
advanced blending multiply As the dark sliders were moved to 52, split and the second one moved to 128, the street artist started to become sharper while the pavement remained slightly blurred.

This gave the image a slight 3D look which is really unique.
advanced blending layer The Background Copy layer by itself. It is easy to see the areas the Blend If: sliders removed from the layer.


Example Three


advanced blending luminosity
Layer Style Palette
  • Gaussian Blur set to 25
  • Layer Blend Mode set to Luminosity
  • This Layer dark slider moved to 11 and then split by pressing the ALT and the second slider moved to 180.
advanced blending luminosity This example is similar to the previous example but it is a much lighter version.

It also gives a slight 3D look.
advanced blending layer The Background Copy layer by itself. It is easy to see the areas the Blend If: sliders removed from the layer.


Portrait

Here is what you can do with advanced blending with a portrait.  

advanced blending portrait


The preparation of the image is ...
  1. Duplicate the background layer.
  2. Add a Gaussian Blur - for this image it was about 11 pixels.
  3. Try out different Blend Modes.  Multiply was too dark, Overlay was too harsh and Screen made the image very light.

advanced blending screen mode


The image is interesting and a bit flat - well - a lot flat.  It needs some contrast , especially in the hair and in the background.


advanced blending layer styles


The black slider was moved up to 11 (just where the image started to get darker in the darkest areas).  The slider was split at this point by pressing the ALT key and moving the right side of the slider slowly toward the light end, stopping at 190.


advanced blending hand in chin


Changing the dark slider brought back some of the darker areas of the image.  


High Key Images

There is a technique on my site for creating High Key images and it is one of the most visited pages - folks just seem to like those high key black and white images.

The technique is very brush intensive using the dodge tool and it can take some time to get it just right.

A similar effect can be achieved with advanced blending once you know the really easy steps.

So - here are the steps to creating a high key image ...

  1. Open your image in Photoshop.

  2. Duplicate the Background layer.

  3. Give the Background Copy a nice Gaussian Blur.

  4. Change the Background Copy Blend Mode to Screen.

  5. Open the Layer Styles dialogue and do some adjustments to This Layer highlight sliders. Remember to split the sliders with the ALT key.

  6. Make a duplicate of the Background Copy layer - the new layer will be exactly the same with the same Blending Mode - Screen.  Now there are three layers.

  7. Duplicate the Background Copy layer as many times as necessary to get the exact effect you want.

  8. Make the image black and white by either (a)  adding a Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer at the top of the layer stack and move the Saturation slider all the way to the left, or (b)   adding a Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer, putting a check in the Monochrome box and adjusting the sliders to taste.
Here's how it all looks from start to finish ...

advanced blending high key The Original Image
advanced blending high key Background duplicated, a Gaussian Blur added and the Blend Mode changed to Screen.  The Layer Properties was opened and This Layer Highlight slider was split and adjusted according to taste.
advanced blending high key The Background Copy duplicated once.  The Blend Mode and the Advanced Blending will be duplicated on the new layer.
advanced blending high key The Background Copy duplicated again.  The Blend Mode and the Advanced Blending will be duplicated on the new layer.
advanced blending high key A Hue and Saturation Layer added and the Saturation Slider moved to -100.
ab-guy4.jpg The Final Layers Palette.



Thats it - done!


There is a lot you can do with advanced blending using a combination of Blend Modes and the Blend If: sliders - what you need to do is try it out on all kinds of different images.




Page Links

Blend If; Sliders


Example One - replacing a background

Example Two - the brick wall with text.

Tabitha

Blend If:

The steps to using Blend Modes and Blind If with an image.


Street Artist

Three different examples using Blend Modes and the Blend If sliders.


Portrait

Working with a portrait.

High Key

Use advanced blending to create a high key image.









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