Guides to Fine Arts Like Painting, Designing, Architecture, Sculpture, Photography and More

By David Peters




In this tutorial, I'm taking a brief look at opacity and blending modes in Photoshop and how you can create different image effects by using them. I'm not going to look at each of the blending modes - there are 23 of them - but more an overview of how they work.

When you blend layers you are adjusting the way pixels on the different layers combine with each other and this will give us some cool, and remarkable, results. Blending modes are a fabulous way to create multiple-image artwork.

To start out with I'm going to use a Photoshop file that has two layers. One layer is an image of a field and the other layer contains a farm house. When you're playing with this yourself you can just use any Photoshop image that has two different layers, with something on each layer.

I always like to start out with giving my layers a descriptive name. Don't just leave each layer with the default name of Layer 1, Layer 2, Layer 3 and so on. When you're dealing with large projects and possibly images with 20 layers it can become very tiresome when you're trying to figure out what's on each layer.

Step 1 To rename a layer, double-click the layer name in the Layers palette. A bounding box will appear around the words Layer 1 . Type a new name and Press Return or Enter .

Note: Make sure you click directly on the layer name, otherwise you will open the Layer Style dialog box and you won't be able to rename the layer.

Step 2 - Select your Layer Click on the eye icon on the newly-named Stairs layers. The image of stairs appears in the screen and the Yellow Wall is hidden.

Step 3 With the Field layer selected in the Layers palette, click on the arrow beside the opacity field and drag the slider to 40%. Notice that everything on this layer - the field becomes less opaque (more see-through).

Step 4 Lowering the opacity of a layer makes the artwork on that layer more see-through, so that the layers beneath it show through.

Step 5 Drag the opacity slider back to 100% so that you can see the Stairs normally.

Step 6 On the layers palette, click on the down arrow beside the field that says " Normal". By default, layer appear with a blending mode of Normal.

Step 7 From the drop down menu that appears, choose Hard Mix.

You should notice that the image changes quite dramatically.

Take a few minutes to try out different blending modes and see how the image is affect. Below you can see Overlay and Multiply modes.

The Multiply mode is quite probably one of the most frequently used blending modes. It blends layers to create a darker color, except where there are white pixels. The white pixels will disappear.

When you have found a blending mode that creates the effect you are looking for, select the Stairs palette. Click on the "Create a New Layer" button at the bottom of the Layers palette.

You should see that a new empty layer has appeared in the Layers palette, just above the Field layer, but nothing should have changed on the image in the document window. When you add a new layer, by default the layer is empty and transparent. We want to use this new layer to create a border around the image we've been working on. The advantage to drawing on this layer, as opposed to drawing on any of the other layers, is that it can be isolated on its own - turned on or off, transparency adjusted and other adjustments applied to the layer.

Please make sure that the new empty layer is selected and select the Brush tool from the Toolbox, or hit B on the keyboard. On the tool options bar, click on the Brush Preset Picker and select a rough looking brush. (I picked a Dry Brush Light Flow) and set the master diameter to about 100 pixels. On the toolbox, set the foreground color to black by hitting "D" on the keyboard - this sets the foreground and background colors to their default - black and white. Start drawing around the edge of the image to create a rough border.

Rename the layer as "B order". If you need to remember how to do that read back over step 1.

The benefit of drawing on this new blank layer is that if you don't like your work you can turn it off without affecting your entire image. You could also lessen the opacity to see how that looks.

Now that you have the basics of blending down try to play around with your image and add additional layer to your image, perhaps draw some more. Choose different brushes and colors and change the blending modes.

So that's it for our tutorial on blending modes and opacity. Obviously the best way to find out how they work is to experiment and check out all the different effects you can achieve.




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