Welcome back, and this time we’re digging a little deeper into using layers and where we left off in the issue of the week, where I introduce the wonder and magic of Layer Blend Mode. But this time we’re going to look at the big brother (or big cousin or maybe Uncle, I dunno) of these blend modes, which are the “Blend If” sliders.
It’s definitely a more advanced feature – but not because it’s hard to use (it’s simple), but because you probably wouldn’t even think about using them until you’re a little more advanced in your Photoshop skills. but I think it’s worth introducing them to you right now, because (a) they are really funny (b) It opens up a whole new world of creative exploration, and (C) You are ready.
So, let’s open up a background image and dig in, and we’ll build on top of it. The image you see here is from Adobe Stock’s free collection of stock images – I searched for “Sad Woman” and it came up because all fine art collages/montages contain a lot of sad people, so I don’t want Tha Photoshop blending (I’m just kidding, of course) strayed too far from a dark, gloomy place.
Now let’s open a second image – the one we want to merge with our original background image, and this is another image from Adobe Stock’s free archive.
To get this image onto our sad lady image, all we need to do is tell Photoshop how much of this image we want to copy (the answer is: that’s all, so select the menu above and select “All Select “) , and then press Command-C (PC: Ctrl-C) to copy all this leafy image into memory.
Now switch to the sad woman image and press Command-V (PC: Ctrl-V) to paste the leafy image above the sad woman, which will probably make her even more sad (or know, because covered with leaves and all Is) . At this point, with leaves on your layer and Layer Blend Mode set to Normal, as you learned last week, whatever is on this top layer(s) just covers whatever is on the layer below it. is going to do (sad lady) that’s how it should work, right? Correct.
If you prefer, you can quickly create the first step of this fine art collage by switching your layer blend mode from Normal to Overlay, and now the layer above it blends in with the layer below it, as seen here Is. You can try other blend modes and see how they look by pressing Shift-+ several times to toggle through all the different blend modes, and stop at the one you like best (“Blend Mode” Lighter Colors” and “Try Exclusions” which are both kind of interesting. The only downside to using these blend modes is — they’re just what they are — and by that, I mean if you’re a particular person. If you don’t like the way it looks, you can’t change it – you can just try a different one and hope you like it better. In addition to lowering the layer’s opacity, you’ve changed the blend mode. Given that (which lowers its intensity), you have no control over how blending happens – it just happens. That’s why we like the Blend If sliders, and in the next step, we’re going to use them. Lets start.
OK, now set your blend mode back to Normal because it’s time to open the “Blend If” slider’s genie. Once your blend mode is set to Normal (and all you see is a Leaves layer), go to the Layers panel and double-click on the thumbnail (leaf layer) of the top layer directly, and it will bring up the blending options. The window you see here. What we’re interested in here are the two “mix if” sliders at the bottom of the panel. That is why we have come here.
Do you see little sliders at the bottom of each of the two ramps? We use this to control the blending of layers, but if you only hold one, let’s say you drag the top left one a little to the right, it’s usually between two images on these layers. Looks harsh with rough blending (as seen below). You don’t have this nice smooth look with layer blend mode, but there is a way around it.
Drag that slider back to the left, and it’s time to uncover the hidden secret that Blend makes if sliders work smoothly and will help you fall in love with them, and that is: if you’re on a Mac. Holding the Option key (Alt-key on PC), and then you drag the slider, it splits the little arrow nub in two and now when you drag 1/2 of that slider the blending is nice and smooth As seen here.
Now, while holding down the Option key (Alt-key on PC), try splitting them in two by dragging the other sliders, and see how they affect your image. There’s no right or wrong here – it’s art, so wherever you choose to stop is exactly the right place. Move one, move four, there are no rules – just experiment and see what you like best. When you’re done, click OK, and we’ll try to add another image in the next step.
Okay, let’s find another image — this time, it’s some hands showing their palms, which I thought would take the creepy factor up a notch. Remember to select all first, then copy and paste these hands on our sad lady with the montage of leaves, and once it’s there, double-click on its thumbnail in the Layers panel so that we move with the slider To start messing around with Blend.
At this point, we’re just experimenting – dragging the sliders and seeing what we like best. Still, you can start by choosing a layer blend mode, as I did here, by choosing the Multiply mode, which I thought looked great, and then double-clicking on the thumbnail and from that point on to the sliders. Start messing around. Here, when I switched the blend mode to Multiply (which you can do here in the Blending Options window near the top), then I split the top right slider and dragged it almost all the way to the left. OK, this looks very disturbing.
Now that I see it, I can go and try a few different blend modes for that leaf layer, so in the Layers panel, click the Leaves layer and then use the Shift-+ shortcut to blend the individual ones Try it. OK, I think I like the Exclusion Layer Blend Mode better, but you can choose any you like or leave it set to Normal.
Okay, final image to add to our montage: some dirty, rusty floor textures. Do a complete copy and paste routine to add this to the top of your sad lady, leaves, creepy palms document.
Let’s start by trying out the overlay layer blend mode (it’s my go-to when I’m adding a texture. If it looks too intense, I try soft light mode instead). The overlay looks really cool here, but we can control the blending using Blend if there are sliders.
Double-click on the layer thumbnail for the texture layer, and start messing around with the Blend If sliders and see what looks good (in this case, I split the top right nub and left the 1/2 nub almost all the way) pulled to the left)
Here’s our final image – of course, you can add more photos and continue with the process. You’re just a creepy clown image or a big beetle away from taking a really dark turn with this one. Laugh out loud!! Anyway, you’ve opened the door to a whole new world of blending (and of course, it’s not just for making montages – it’s a great way to learn how they work).
I hope you found this helpful, and next Tuesday, we will continue our journey of learning Photoshop.
see you then. I