Blending Advanced Photoshop technique - Here Mark Galer explains one of the more sophisticated montage techniques available to Photoshop users that enables selective blending of pixels based on their tonal or colour value.
This montage technique is exceptionally quick due to the fact that it requires no time-consuming selections. The technique can make objects seemingly disappear in amongst cloudcover. The typography below is partially obscured by the clouds although the blue sky and the clouds are on the same layer. The technique is classified by Photoshop as an 'advanced' technique but it is surprisingly simple and opens up a world of montage possibilities. Follow this guide using your own images.
The really convincing aspect of this montage is that the clouds appear soft, feathered and semi-transparent around the type.
General Blending Blending an entire layer can be accessed via the Layers palette and enables the user to combine pixel values of two or more layers by simply reducing the upper layer opacity or by selecting a blend mode via the pulldown menu (see illustration). This blending simply mixes the pixels of the top layer with the pixel values beneath.
Overlay Applying the blend mode Overlay to a texture or pattern layer that sits above a layer containing a 3-dimensional form, will create an image where the form appears to be modelling the texture. The pixels of the texture layer darken where there are shadows on the layer beneath, and lighten where their are highlights on the layer beneath. Try experimenting with the full range of blend modes to get a better understanding of how pixel values are combined from multiple layers to create new pixel values. Combinations of blend modes and layer opacity enable almost limitless possibilities.
Right: An image of raindrops on a car bonnet is montaged with a studio shot of a nude to create the new image.
Prepare to blend Before you start working with advanced or selective blending prepare an image with two layers. Create some type to merge with the clouds (available from the web site or alternatively use another image, e.g. a plane or hot-air balloon). Try experimenting with some layer effects such as bevel and emboss if using typography to give it a 3-dimensional look. The demo illustration above uses the type face Charcoal with faux italic applied from the character palette options. A bevel and emboss layer effect has then been applied. The text has been filled or clipped with another image of storm clouds also available from the web site listed previously.
ABOVE: Double-click a layer to open the Layer Styles dialog box. The layer styles palette in Photoshop opens at the default Blending Options. This rather large palette is divided into sections. The left side allows the user to apply layer styles or effects whilst the right side allows control over these effects and the blending options. Blending Options is further divided into General Blending at the top of the dialog box and Advanced Blending at the bottom. In the Advanced section you will see the blend if option. This is where you tell Photoshop which pixels to blend.
Advanced blending Double-click a layer in the layers palette to open the layer styles dialog box. The advanced blend mode options can now be accessed. These include fill opacity, knockout and the blend if options. If you have created a type layer with a layer effect such as bevel and emboss, lowering the fill opacity leaves the layer effect and removes the typography (this used to be a two step process in previous versions of Photoshop). The knockout option allows the pixels from the background layer or layer directly beneath a layer set to be revealed without having to bring the information to the top of the layer stack.
Blend if The blend if option is the one you will use in this exercise. This option will allow you to select a range of pixels to blend based on their colour or tonal value, e.g. you can choose to blend only the blue pixels or the light pixels on either the layer selected or the underlying layer. In this exercise moving the highlight or shadow slider on the This Layer or Underlying Layer will allow the clouds to appear above the typography and the blue sky to appear behind the typography. If the cloud layer is beneath the typography you should work on the underlying layer. Alternatively you can duplicate the cloud layer by dragging it to the new layer icon in the layers palette and then dragging this copy layer to the top of the layer stack. Using this latter option can give you more versatility later, e.g. the ability to adjust the clouds and blue sky independently. You will need to close the layer style dialog box before you can duplicate the background layer.
Obscured by clouds Duplicate the background clouds layer by either selecting Duplicate layer from the palette options or by dragging the layer in to the New Layers icon at the base of the layers palette.
Click on the background copy and drag it to the top of the layers stack above the type layer (this action will temporarily obscure the type layer).
Double-click the background copy layer. The Blending Options or Layer Options (Photoshop 5 or LE) dialog box will be opened. Dragging the left-hand slider on the This Layer ramp (see above diagram) to a position of 150 allows all of the darker tones, or levels, to be made transparent. The typography on the layer below is now visible in all areas where the pixels are to 150.
The effect at present is abrupt. The type disappears suddenly into the clouds rather than gradually. A more gradual transition can be achieved by fading the effect over a range of pixels rather than selecting a single layer value at which 100% transparency takes place. By holding down the Option/Alt key and dragging the slider it is possible to split the black slider. Drag the right half of the slider to a value of around 210. This action creates the desired effect of the type fading slowly into the cloud cover.
This demonstration is an edited extract from the new book Digital Imaging: Essential Skills published by Focal Press. The tutorial forms also part of the Digital Imaging course for on-campus and online students at RMIT University. For more information see the following web site: www.photoeducationbooks.com