Hard Mix Magic

Df all the blending modes, my favorites for radically transforming images are Hard Mix and Dissolve. Hard Mix reduces a picture to just eight colors, while Dissolve produces a speckling effect as you reduce the layer's opacity. This recipe is a gentle mix of these two fascinating modes.

Color and contrast

When you set the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to Dissolve, the resulting image isn't really a blend, but a mix of pixels randomly selected from either the adjusted or the underlying image

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Above Hard Mix reduces the picture to just eight colors.

Above right Reduce the layer's main opacity, not the fill opacity, to about 50%.

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 Using the pull-down blending mode menu, change the new layer's blending mode to Hard Mix (alternatively, use Alt/Opt-Shift-L). Rename the new layer "Hard Mix " At this point the image should be very high-contrast and contain just eight colors

3 Reduce the Hard Mix layer's opacity to 50%.

4 Co to the Layers palette, and create a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer Check the Colorize box and adjust the Hue and Saturation sliders until you like what you see.

Original image.

Above right Reduce the layer's main opacity, not the fill opacity, to about 50%.

5 Again, in the Layers palette, set the adjustment layer's blending mode to Dissolve (Alt/Opt-Shift-I). Initially, you shouldn't see any change.

6 Reduce the Dissolve adjustment layer's opacity to about 50%; this produces Dissolve's typical grainy effect The resulting picture contains pixels randomly selected from the underlying image and from the image after the application of the Hue/ Saturation layer

7 If, in some cases, you find the effect looks a little harsh, you can add some blur to the Hard Mix layer ro or 20% should do the trick

Because the big wheel's spokes and fine details are obscured by blurring the Hard Mix layer, the blur step was skipped for this image.

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Because the big wheel's spokes and fine details are obscured by blurring the Hard Mix layer, the blur step was skipped for this image.

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Original image.

Hard Mix is such a brutal "all or nothing" blending mode that it can easily posterize areas with little detail With the Hard Mix layer's fill opacity set at roo%, the sky became separated into two tones. You can address this by reducing the layer's fill opacity

Detailed images

Saturated color

Still life

These soldiers were photographed on a wet, October day in southern England This recipe works best where the picture contains a lot of detail

Using an adjustment layer, and not changing its settings, has the same effect as a self-blend and lets you make Hue/Saturation adjustments, too Here, I matched this midday scene to the car shot, far left

This recipe also works well with still-life shots

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