Hard Mix


The Hard Mix blending mode, which first appeared in Photoshop CS, reduces an image to just eight pure colors. You can use this mode in a self-blend to posterize an image. To control the degree of posterization, try adjusting the fill opacity, or try applying some Gaussian blur and make it the base for radical image transformations. It also has a surprising use in sharpening—just combine it with some blur and reduce the fill opacity.

If you're ever near Albuquerque, New Mexico, look out for the annual balloon fiesta. I took this shot very early, before the sun had appeared over the hills.


The Hard Mix blending mode works as expected when it's used in a self-blend with the opacity set at 100% It produces an image with pure blocks of colors In an image like these balloons, the posterization works well in the patterned fabric, but where there is a subtler change of tone, such as where the sky turns darker, the posterization appears coarse Turning the fill opacity's percentage down a little can help in these situations

As you reduce the fill opacity, the posterization effect becomes less apparent; the image still appears saturated, but graduated tones look more natural


Windows: Alt+Shift+L Mac: Option+Shift+L

Reducing the Hard Mix layer's fill opacity results in a more natural-looking appearance.




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Hard Mix


As you reduce the fill opacity percentage, an unexpected opportunity makes itself apparent If you apply a little blur to the blend layer and make its blending mode Hard Mix, a surprisingly effective sharpening occurs For the sharpening to work, you only need a small opacity value—here, it is just 6% Compare these two enlargements In the first image I have simply self-blended, but in the second I have self-blended with a layer that has a Gaussian blur radius of just 3 pixels There is already a noticeable sharpening effect

With a Hard Mix self-blend applied, the image begins to degrade seriously where the sky begins to darken.

With a Hard Mix self-blend applied, the image begins to degrade seriously where the sky begins to darken.

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