Using Advanced Blending Options in Photoshop


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I was toying around with a section of the Layer Style palette a few days ago when I stumbled upon a neat little area that offers some granular control over blending modes. If you're familiar with blending modes and how they work in Photoshop, you may enjoy what I have to share below. The section I found amplifies the traditional blend mode feature that's located in the Layers panel and adds additional capabilities, such as splitting the chosen blend mode between the red, green and blue channels as well as adjusting the opacity of the blend mode itself, the fill opacity and the levels of each channel color. The feature is sort of "out there" in that it may not be useful for everyone due to its fine detail, but if you are one of those users who loves digging into the nitty-gritty of photo editing applications, you may get something out of it.

Okay, the way this works is like how working with any blending mode works. I'll need at least two layers. For this demonstration, I'll use a random photograph of a motorcycle as the bottom layer and a brick wall texture/pattern as the top layer. Both of these layers can be anything. It really depends on what you want to blend together.

To open the Layer Style palette, I'll double-click on the top brick wall layer. That will open the palette. By default, the Blending Options section should be showing. If you're following along and this section isn't showing, then simply click the appropriate title in the left column.


Let's take a look at the few of the areas located in this section. To choose a blending mode, all I have to do is click on the Blend Mode drop-down and run through the list of what's available. A new feature in the more recent versions of Photoshop allows us to simply roll over each option to see a preview of what that each one does.

To adjust the opacity of that blending mode, all I'd push the Opacity slider to the left and right.

Now, I'm going to jump down to the bottom section to discuss what I began writing this post for. Let's say that you only want to blend the top layer into the bottom layer if the colors in the bottom layer are red. Well, to do that, I'd click the Blend-If drop-down and select Red from the list of Gray, Red, Green and Blue. Doing this would essentially mask out any other colors but red. I'd only see the top layer texture over the red areas of the layer below.

Do you see the two black to white tone ranges in the screenshot above? This is where we can adjust what's blended into the layer below or the layer above. Take a look at this. If I do choose to only blend into the reds, the colors of those two scales will change.


If I'd like to remove the darker reds from the possible blending, I can click on the left controller and drag to the right. The same is true if I want to remove the lighter reds, just in reverse. I can also adjust the top layer as well as the bottom layer when it comes to this. Talk about granular control of blending layers together!

If I wanted to go even farther than I have already, I can hold down the Alt key on my keyboard and then click on one of those scale controllers to split it in half. The controller, not the scale itself. Take a look at this.


Do you see the way the slider handle was split in half? Now it's capturing a range of reds as oppose to just one piece of red on the scale of lightness/darkness. How cool is that? When I'm finished tweaking the blending of this top layer, I can click on the OK button to accept the changes. I set the blending mode to Linear Burn for this example. Let's see what the result it.


If you look closely, you can see the outlines of the bricks. Now, if I was using a very colorful photograph for this tutorial and if I wanted to block out certain colors from the blending, I could have used those Red, Green and Blue options and the results would have been much more readily visible. My goal was to merely introduce you to this feature though and I think I succeeded in doing that. If you have any questions about what I covered in this post, please let me know down below. Thanks for reading!
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