Blending Modes? I don't get it. Part 2

October 15, 2014  •  Leave a Comment
Last time I introduced the first two categories of Blending Modes (other than Normal).  These were the Darken and Lighten categories.  If you missed that discussion you may want to refer back to the post from September 30 where I introduced these most common used blending modes.  You may also want to refer back to review how to create the image and use the texture for demonstrating how these work.  Those will, again be used for this discussion.
 
Here I want to introduce you to the rest of the blending modes which are categorized by Contrast, Comparison, and Composite modes.  First we will look at the Contrast modes.
 
In the previous discussion I indicated that the most popular modes were the Darken and Lighten modes.  I may have been remiss in not indicating that the Contrast modes are equally popular.  Two of the modes in this category that seem to be very popular include the Overlay and Soft Light modes.  These, and other contrast modes, blend to the areas of contrast in the layer below.  Go to Photoshop and either open the image below or create it yourself (I explained how to create this image in the last post).  Now add a texture with a wide tonal range (highlights, mid tones, and shadows) to a new layer on top of the original image.  You can use the texture I suggested in the last post or one of your own.  Once the texture layer is added you need to select the Overlay blending mode from the Contrast category.  Notice how only the 50% gray box in the underlying image reveals the texture.  The black and white areas are not affected.  The same is true for the other Contrast modes, just in varying degrees.  Scroll through each of the Contrast blending modes to see the differences.
 
Blending with the Overlay Mode          
Blending with the Overlay ModeBlending with the Overlay Mode
 
Next are the Comparison modes and I rarely use any of the modes in this category.  These are called the Comparison modes because they compare colors to determine the effect.  For example, the Difference mode looks at the difference between the texture layer and the image below.  This is done by subtracting the color in the texture from the color in the image.  When the color in the texture is white it is subtracted from the image, but when the color in the texture is black nothing is subtracted.  Therefore, it's not just the color but tonal range as well.  In Photoshop, select the Difference mode and see how this works.  There are only two modes in this category.  The Difference mode, which I just explained, and the Exclusion mode. The Exclusion mode is the same as the Difference mode but at a lower contrast.
 
Blending with the Difference Mode          
Blending the Difference ModeBlending the Difference Mode
 
Finally, are the Composite modes.  These modes are effective only when the particular type of change you select is the same in both layers.  For example, the Hue mode blends only the area of the texture and the image below where the Hue is the same.  So how about the color mode?  Most people, myself included, don't understand the difference between color and hue.  After all, Wikipedia says they are virtually the same and most individuals use them interchangeably.  So what's the difference in the Hue and Color blend modes.  It seems that the Color blend mode combines the Hue and Luminosity blend modes.  This means that when you select the Color blend mode the texture is blended with the image below only where the Hue and Luminosity (brightness) are the same.  Scroll back and forth between the Hue and Color modes to see the difference.
 
         
Hue Blending Mode vs the Color Blending Mode
Blend with Color ModeBlend with Color Mode

Hue Blend Mode

Blend with Color ModeBlend with Color Mode

Color Blend Mode

 
I'm not sure if the explanation of how these work really helps you to determine which one to use when blending a texture to the layer below.  If you're like me it's all about visually seeing it and it only takes a moment to scroll through the different options.  The only time I really think you need to understand these is when you use them along with a tool, such as the Brush tool.  For example, if you want to paint in a color, and only apply it if the color you're painting is darker than the surface you're painting on, then use one of the Darken modes. 
 
How do you use blending modes?  Hope this was helpful.
 
Happy shooting.

 


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