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Using blending modes and adjustment layers in Photoshop

Besides using an adjustment layer and a mask, one of the most overlooked options is the ability to use blending modes. Changing the blending mode for an adjustment layer completely changes how it’s applied. Sometimes you get very creative results, sometimes unexpected results. But what I find is that by understanding blending modes, you can further refine the adjustment layer and often unlock incredible results. Let’s take a look at another example with this recoloring. Now I’ve opened up a slightly different version with the adjustment layer here and you see it’s applying to the entire image.

Using blending modes and adjustment layers from Photoshop: Advanced Adjustment Layer and Blend Modes by Richard Harrington

Now previously, we went to great efforts to remove it from things like the logo. But instead of just applying this globally, one of the other things that’s often overlooked about adjustment layers is that they have blending modes. Blending modes change how layers interact. So in this case, a mode like darken does just that, it makes it quite a bit darker. Or lighten is going to apply a lightning effect. In this case, the blue was used to lighten the red resulting in a very interesting and believable purple.

Sometimes blending modes are quite attractive because they not only apply the change but make it more gentle. You’ll notice here, for example, that the blue is masked out and not really affecting the silver chrome very much. Now if I choose a mode to colorize something, one of my favorites is the hue mode. Now it may seem a little strange to use a hue blending mode on a hue saturation adjustment layer but it, in fact, does a wonderful job. You’ll notice here that, for example, there is no need to mask.

So if we take a look at just the channel itself, when I turn that on, one of the things you’re going to notice is that it does indeed cover the logo up on the front. And you see that I’m looking at the mask here on its own. Well, it’s very easy, if needed to touch this up using my paint brush tool. So I can just paint over areas to refine that as needed and get a pretty good idea of what’s happening. However, by changing the mode here, let’s just turn that mask off, you’ll notice that the hue saturation adjustment layer just does a more believable job.

And for areas here like the logo, it doesn’t actually shift the color. In normal mode, you see that the blue is really affecting the chrome. It’s a very strong colorization effect. But by using the hue mode, it’s only gonna apply the hue shift to the areas that were mode intense. Leaving things like the chrome that were less saturated, less affected. And this just really makes it quite a bit better and easier to get great results.

Now you can still double click on that layer to select it or load it up here. And by taking advantage of other options, you’ll notice how quick and easy it is to cycle through different color combinations and still in just about every case, the method that you pick is going to look believable. So if I wanted to go with a four screen and I played with the saturation and the intensity while in hue mode, you’ll still notice that is is colorizing.

So the saturation properties have a much less effect and the lightness property of the layer also, while having some effect if I take it all the way down, has very little effect. That’s because since this is in hue mode really, it’s the hue slider that’s doing all the heavy lifting. And what I also like about this is it does a great job of preserving the same relative luminosity and intensity of the color by using the hue blending mode, you don’t have to really affect the saturation property here very much unless you take it all the way down.

And the same with the lightness property. These values really are ignored, aligning to isolate the color change to just the actual hue which gives it a much more photo realistic look.

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