Hard Mix Highlights

Hidden away in Photoshop's Layer Styles are a pair of Blend If sliders. These control how much of the image comes from the current layer and how much from below. Simply by dragging the slider, you can exclude some tones from the composite image. Here's a recipe that has a blurred Hard Mix layer to transform the picture, and then takes advantage of Blend If to restore the original image's shadow tones.

Emphasizing shapes

Notice how the Hard Mix layer's halo emphasizes the shape of the bridge

1 In the Layers palette, duplicate the original image layer by dragging the background layer onto the "Create a new layer" icon, or use Ctrl/Cmd-J

2 Choose Image > Adjustments > Desaturate (or Ctrl/Cmd-Shift-U) to desaturate the new layer and name it "Desaturated "

3 In the Layers palette, use Ctrl/Cmd-J to duplicate the Desaturated layer

4 Using the pull-down blending mode menu in the Layers palette or the shortcut Alt/Opt-Shift-L, change the new layer's blending mode to Hard Mix and rename it "Hard Mix"

5 Invert the Hard Mix layer using Ctrl/Cmd-I.

6 Add a lot of blur to the Hard Mix layer using Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur The objective is to sharpen the image so much that halos flow round the details, rather like wood grain or a viscous liquid A radius of 30 is a good starting point

7 In the Layers palette, double-click the Hard Mix layer's thumbnail and bring up the Layer Styles dialog box

8 Find the Blend If section and drag the white triangle on the This Layer slider Bright tones in the Hard Mix layer will be hidden if they lie to the right of the white triangle, so you should quickly see the darker areas of the original picture begin to appear through the Hard Mix layer

9 To make the transition smoother, hold Alt/ Option and drag one side of the white triangle so that the triangle splits Then adjust the two halves independently, and click OK

10 In the Layers palette, use Ctrl/Cmd-J to make a duplicate of the original image layer Drag the new layer to the top of the layer stack n Using the pull-down blending mode menu in the Layers palette or the shortcut Alt/Opt-Shift-M, change the new layer's blending mode to Multiply and rename it "Multiply " Reduce its opacity to below 50% or whatever value is needed to colorize the picture

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Uneven skies look great when halos form around the clouds

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Channel blending

Adding Linear Dodge

By using the Blend If slider, the man's vest and the background show through from the original image, while his face appears from the Hard Mix layer

The Blend If slider can control the visibility of individual channels Here, I wanted the red tiles of the original image to show through, while the other channels come from the Hard Mix layer

In this example, the original image was underexposed and the top layer was set to Linear Dodge to show some color

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