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8 - More Top-Transforms-Lower

Blending Modes

Here are descriptions of the most used Top-Transforms-Lower blending modes.

They're arranged in the following categories.

Darken & Lighten

Burning & Dodging

Tonal Contrast

Lighting Contrast

Comparison

Note

The following RGB values are used below.

• Black is 0,0,0.

• 50% gray is 128,128,128.

• White is 255,255,255.

Remember—a lighter color has larger RGB values.

To learn about RGB values, go to RGB Color.

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(0,0,0) (128,128,128) (255,255,255)

Category: Darken & Lighten

Darken Blending Mode

The RGB values of the blending layer pixels are compared to the RGB values of the corresponding pixels in the base layer.

The pixels that are darker in either of the two layers are selected and displayed.

That is:

• Pixels that are lighter in the blending layer, than in the base layer, are darkened.

• Pixels that are darker already, in the blending layer, than in the base layer, remain the same.

No part of the photograph becomes lighter.

Here's an example.

You can see how the blacks from the two layers are used to make the result layer.

Blending Layer Pixels
       
Base Layer Pixels
       
Photograph Looks Like This

Used For

The Darken blending mode isn't used to darken a photograph overall.

Use the Multiply blending mode for that.

You can use the Darken blending mode with the Clone Stamp tool.

Let's say you have spots to be cloned.

They're lighter than the surrounding area.

The spots need to be darkened to match the darker surrounding area.

Set the Clone Stamp tool to the Darken blending mode.

The Clone Stamp tool will only affect pixels lighter than the area that you sample.

The chart below describes when you need to use the Darken and Lighten blending modes.

To Be Cloned

The Background

To Be Sampled

Example

Use this

Blending Mode

Why?
Lighter spots Is darker than the spots Airplane lights on a night sky Darken

The spots, lighter than the back-ground, will be darkened.

The darker back-ground won't change.

Darker spots Is lighter than the spots Mole on a face Lighten

The spots, darker than the back-ground, will be lightened.

The lighter back-ground won't be affected.

Lighten Blending Mode

This blending mode is the opposite of Darken.

The RGB values of the blending layer pixels are compared to the RGB values of the corresponding pixels in the base layer.

The pixels that are lighter in either of the two layers are selected and displayed.

That is:

• Pixels that are darker in the blending layer, than in the base layer, are lightened.

• Pixels that are lighter already, in the blending layer, than in the base layer, remain the same.

No part of the photograph becomes darker.

Blending Layer Pixels
       
Base Layer Pixels
       
Photograph Looks Like This

Used For

The Lighten blending mode isn't used to lighten a photograph overall.

Use the Screen blending mode for that.

You can use Lighten with the Clone Stamp tool.

Multiply Blending Mode

This blending mode was described in detail in the last section.

Go to Multiply Blending Mode.

Screen Blending Mode

This blending mode is the opposite of Multiply.

With the Screen blending mode, the inverse of the blending layer pixels RGB values are multiplied by the inverse of the base layer RGB values.

The math is (1 - blending layer RGB pixel value) x (1 - base layer RGB pixels value) ÷ 255.

No part of the photograph becomes lighter.

The contrast of a photograph is increased.

Here's a schematic of the blending layer and the base layer.

What the Screen blending mode does is described between the two layers.

Blending Layer Pixels
       
Base Layer Pixels
       
Photograph Looks Like This

Black pixels (0,0,0) in the blending layer or in the base layer create no change.

White (255,255,255) pixels in the blending layer result in  white.

Step Wedges

Step wedges can help you understand what a blending mode is doing.

The top step wedge is the original photograph, and the middle step wedge is with the Screen blending mode.

Compare the Screen step wedge with the Multiply step wedge.

Normal q
Screen q

Multiply

(Opposite of Screen)

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  (0,0,0) (128,128,128) (255,255,255)

Go to Step Wedge- The Understanding Tool.

Used For

You can use the Screen blending mode to lighten an underexposed photograph.

You can add more than one Screen layer to lighten more, and you can adjust the opacity to fine-tune the change.

Category: Burning & Dodging

Burning means that an area is darkened.

Dodging means an area is lightened.

Darkroom burning and dodging involved changing the exposure in parts of a photograph.

Likewise, the blending modes below change the exposure (brightness), but they may use contrast instead.

Color Burn Blending Mode

The blending layer colors are used to darken the base layer colors, by using an increase in contrast.

Linear Burn Blending Mode

The blending layer colors are used to darken the base layer colors, by using brightness.

The Linear Burn blending mode is a combination of the Multiply and Color Burn blending modes.

Therefore, it has a stronger effect than either of them used alone.

Color Dodge Blending Mode

The blending layer colors are used to lighten the colors of the base layer, by using contrast.

Linear Dodge Blending Mode

The blending layer colors are used to lighten the colors of the base layer, by using brightness.

The Linear Dodge blending mode is a combination of the Screen and Color Dodge blending modes.

Therefore, it has a stronger effect than either of them used alone.

Category: Tonal Contrast

These blending modes increase contrast.

The base layer is darkened and lightened, to increase contrast, according to the brightness of the blending layer.

Blend layer pixels that are 50% gray (RGB value of 127,127,127), don't change the corresponding base layer pixels.

If blending layer pixels have values darker than 50% gray, the corresponding base layer pixels are multiplied.

If blending layer pixels have values lighter than 50% gray, the corresponding base layer pixels are screened.

Soft Light Blending Mode

The increase in contrast is low.

Overlay Blending Mode

The increase in contrast is moderate.

The base layer is not replaced, but its color, shadows and highlights, are blended with the blending layer.

Used For

Use the Overlay blending mode to blend gradients and textures into photographs.

Also, you can use Overlay for burning and dodging.

Go to Overlay Layer.

Hard Light Blending Mode

The Hard Light blending mode increases the contrast greatly.

Used For

Use this blending mode to add highlights and shadows.

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Original

q

With Hard Light

Selections

You can add shadows and highlights to portions of a photograph.

1) The blending modes of the Background copy and Background layers should be set to Normal.

2) Create a mask in the Background copy layer.

If you haven't already, go to Make a Mask in a Layer.

3) Set the Background copy layer blending mode to Hard Light.

4) Select the area where you want a shadow or highlight.

Here, the glass block was selected.

5) Invert the selection so that the area surrounding the glass block is selected.

6) Brush across the photograph using the Brush tool, making sure the foreground color is set to black.

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In the Background copy layer, you can see where the mask is starting to be created on the right side of the selection.

The Hard Light effect is blocked by the mask.

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With Hard Light

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With Hard Light Only on the Glass Block

Opacity

You can reduce the Hard Light effect by reducing the opacity of the Levels adjustment layer.

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Original

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With Hard Light Only on the Glass Block

And Opacity Reduced to 50%

Category: Lighting Contrast

These blending modes increase contrast.

The base layer is darkened and lightened, to increase contrast, according to the contrast or brightness of the blending layer.

Blend layer pixels that are 50% gray (RGB value of 127,127,127), don't change the corresponding base layer pixels.

If blending layer pixels have values darker than 50% gray, the corresponding base layer pixels are multiplied.

If blending layer pixels have values lighter than 50% gray, the corresponding base layer pixels are screened.

The Pin Light blending mode is an exception.

It uses Darken and Lighten.

Vivid Light Blending Mode

The Vivid Light blending mode uses contrast, via Color Dodge and Color Burn.

Linear Light Blending Mode

The Linear Light blending mode uses brightness, via Linear Dodge and Linear Burn.

Pin Light Blending Mode

The Pin Light blending mode uses Lighten and Darken.

This blending mode is uses for adding special effects.

Category: Comparison,

The Difference & Exclusion

Blending Modes

The blending layer subtracts the RGB values of its pixels from the RGB values of corresponding pixels in the base layer.

As the RGB values of each of the layers become closer in value, the image becomes darker.

Where the RGB values are the same, the image is black.

Used For

You can use the Difference blending mode when you're registering two layers with the same image.

If they're in register, the image turns completely black.

Exclusion Blending Mode

The Exclusion blending is similar, but as the RGB values become closer, the image turns gray instead of black.

The next section has summaries of the blending modes and more.