Blend Range

The Blend Range tab in the Layer Properties dialogue of PaintShop Pro is a subtle yet powerful adjustment tool.

What it does is change the ways that pixels on one layer interact with layers on another layer and they work in conjunction with the Blend Modes.

Working together they can create some interesting and amazing effects with both images and text.

This is the portion of the Layer Properties dialogue we will be working with ...

blend range palette

The Blend Ranges can be modified for the three color channels (red, green and blue) as well as the gray channel which deals with the lightness values.  That is the one we will work with.

There are two sliders - This layer and Underlying layer and they are the ones that are moved to create the adjustments.

This Layer - moving the black and/or white sliders for This Layer will cause areas of the layer to disappear.  The White slider will affect the lightest part of the image and the black slider will affect the darkest part of the image.

Moving the sliders on This Layer conceals pixel information.

Underlying Layer - Moving the black an/or white sliders will cause areas of the underlying layer (the one below) to show through the selected layer - these sliders, in effect, punch a hole through the selected layer to varying degrees depending on the settings of the sliders.  The White slider will affect the lightest part of the image and the black slider will affect the darkest part of the image.

Moving the sliders on the Underlying Layer reveals pixel information.

The descriptions of the Blend Range in the PaintShop Pro Help files is very confusing so it is just better to try out the sliders in different situations - so that is what we will do ...

Text Example

Here is an image of a nice brick wall with a a park bench in front of it.  Now I don't know about where you live but in many places a nice clean brick wall like this sometimes ends up with really stupid spray painted grafitti.

blend range brick wall

Now this just doesn't look like grafitti spray painted on a wall, does it.

By opening the Layer Properties dialogue for the Text layer (change it to a Raster Layer by right clicking on the layer and choosing Convert To Raster Layer) and selecting the Blend Ranges tab it is easy to make the text look like it was spray painted and weather worn.

Experimentation showed that the text effect is obtained by changing the light end sliders on the Underlying Layer like this ...

blend range text palette

The upper slider was moved from 255 to 134 and then the lower slider was moved up to 209 and these figures were chosen just by watching the text change.  Here is the image after making the adjustment ...

blend range text wall

Now that looks a bit more natural.

The interesting this is that a very similar result can be achieved by changing the Layer Blend Mode (the drop down Blend Modes) to Overlay.  The advantage of the Blend Range method is that there are an infinite variety of changes that can be made with the Blend Range while you can only change the opacity of the Blend Mode.

So find yourself a brick wall, add some text and give it a go.  It is a nice little tool to add to your Paint Shop Pro tool kit.

Portrait Example

This is where the PaintShop Blend Range adjustment really comes into it own.

Here is an image of a young lady - she looks pretty good as is but we can improve the image.

blend range original image

This is where this image is going - the final image ...

There are a few steps in this technique before we get to modifying the Blend Ranges.

  1. Duplicate the Background Layer

  2. Add a Gaussian Blur to the Copy of Background.  Set the blur so that the image is nicely blurred rather than a glob of blur (if that makes any sense).

  3. Change the Blend Mode of the Copy of Background layer.  The most interesting ones are Multiply (to darken the image), Screen (to lighten the image) and Overlay (to increase the contrast of the image).  For this one I chose Screen.
This is the before and after image once these steps have been completed ...

blend range background blend range blur and screen blend
Original Image Modified Image

Just these simple changes (Gaussian Blur and changing the Blend Mode to Screen) have produced quite a change in the image.  The new image is interesting but perhaps a bit light, especially in the hair.  

This is where the Blend Range dialogue comes to the rescue - open the Layer Properties palette and click on the Blend Ranges tab - this is what will appear.

blend range layer properties tab

The Blend channel is the Grey Channel and This layer was adjusted with the image being previewed.  In this example both the black and white points were adjusted

Moving the white slider evened out the lightness of the face and moving the black slider added some detail back in the hair.  This is how the image looks after the adjustment ...

blend range first adjustment

The image now has a slight dreamy glow which is the result of the Gaussian Blur that was applied in the first step.

If you wanted to completely change the look of this image then the thing to do is to experiment with different Layer Blend Modes, especially Overlay and Multiply. Screen seems to work really well with portraits.

Now that we have this nice image - what else can be done with it?

The Next Step

How about a Blend Range Hi Key?  This is how to do it.

At this point the image looks good with the initial adjustments (Gaussian Blur, Screen Blend Mode and modifying the Blend Range).

If you duplicate the Copy of Background image two or three times the image will change dramatically - like this ...

blend range duplicate

If you like what you have then you are done.  The high key effect works the best with a black and white image so add a Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer at the top of the layer stack.

blend range channel mixerWhen the Channel Mixer palette comes up start moving the sliders for Red, and Green around to see what happens (you can try the Blue channel but it contains a lot of noise and in this situation will not produce satisfactory results).  

The rule of thumb for the three channels in the Channel Mixer is that they should always add up to 100%.  The sliders will go from -200 to +200 so there is a lot of leeway here.

When the Channel Mixer opens up the default setting is 100% for the Red Channel and the other two at 0%

With this image the best results were obtained when the Green channel was set at 100% and the other two left at 0%.

This is the image after the Channel Mixer adjustment ...

blend range channel mix

Coming along nicely, don't you think?  Those subtle shadows at the side of the face are really nice but the really dark area in the hairline and near the left ear need some fixing.

This could be done with some Curves adjustment but lightening the dark areas made the whole image lighter so that is not the best solution for this image.

Probably the best solution is to dodge the dark areas with a Soft Light layer and then maybe add in a curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast.

So - add a new raster layer and change its Blend Mode to Soft Light.  

blend range layersJust so you know - here is the layers palette to this point in the tutorial ...

Dodge and Burn

If you don't know what a Soft Light layer will do then you need to check out the tutorial on Dodging and Burning

This is where it really helps to have a graphics tablet - a Bamboo or Intuos.

The Brush Tool was set to change opacity with pen pressure.

This setting makes is easy to seamlessly remove the dark areas in the hair line without those annoying lines you tend to get with a mouse.   The foreground color was set to white and the dark areas were lightly painted.

The goal is not to remove the dark areas all at once - the goal is to slowly lighten the darkest areas making the whole thing look normal.

The pen is also very easy to handle and control in tight places because of the high resolution of the tablets.

Here is the image after dodging those annoying dark areas ...

blend range soft light

While I was at it it just seemed reasonable to remove the dark areas under her eyes as well on the same Soft Light Layer.

The image is coming along nicely but it is a bit flat which begs for the application of a Curves Adjustment.  If Curves are confusing for you then check out the Curves Tutorial.

blend range curves

There are three points on the Curve.

  • The bottom one prevents the dark areas from getting darker.
  • The top one lightened the highlights and increased the contrast.
  • The middle one increased the contrast in the mid tones.

And here's the final image ...

blend range final image

This image has come a long way from the start, hasn't it?  Click for the original ...

What all this proves is that there are no adjustments done in isolation - so far this image has had the following techniques applied ...

  1. Duplicate Background
  2. Gaussian Blur Filter
  3. Change Blend Mode
  4. Blend Range Adjustments
  5. Duplicate Layers
  6. Channel Mixer
  7. Soft Light Burn
  8. Curves
That's a lot for one tutorial, isn't it?  

You up for one more quick example ...

Landscape Example

This will be short - just a couple of images and a description of how the image was modified.

blend range lake blend range lake modified
Original Image Modified Image

The background layer was duplicated and the following adjustments were applied ...

  1. A Gaussian Blur of 10 pixels was applied to the Copy of Background.

  2. Blend Mode changed to Multiply (the image became very dark).

  3. The Layer Properties dialogue was opened for the Copy of Background layer and the Blend Ranges tab was selected.

  4. The adjustments to This Layer are:
    • Dark slider - top slider moved to 161 and the bottom slider moved to 28.
    • White slider - top slider moved to 108 and bottom slider moved to 255.

What these adjustments did was darken the water giving it a cold November look, darken the dark clouds and lighten the light areas of the clouds.

The PaintShop Blend Range in the Layer Properties is both powerful and useful.  Now its time for you to find a couple of images and try it out for yourself!

Page Links

Blend Range
Text Example

Portrait Example

Landscape Example

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