Normal and Dissolve

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This chapter looks at blending modes in detail, so that when you reach the chapter on using blending modes for individual recipes (see page 62), you will have some contextual understanding of their effects. The first blending mode in this section is Normal, Photoshop's default blending mode. Dissolve offers more creative possibilities, which enables you to create grainy, mottled effects with your images.

Original image.




Windows: Alt+Shift+N Mac: Option+Shift+N


Windows: Alt+Shift+I Mac: Option+Shift+I

Photoshop's default blend mode is Normal, and although useful when creating basic montages, as a "creative" blending mode it has little to offer However, as the illustration below shows, it can be used to reduce the contrast when you blend an image with an inverted copy of itself With the inverted blending layer set to 100% opacity, only the negative of the image is visible However, reducing the opacity first brings down the negative's contrast, resulting in a totally gray screen at 50% opacity, after which lowering the opacity further progressively restores a low-contrast version of the original image

When you set the blending mode to Dissolve, Photoshop randomly selects the blending layer's pixels or those from the base layer, the proportion of each depending on the blend layer's opacity The result, governed by the blending layer image, is usually like stippling an image and creates a grainy, mottled effect that can be used in all sorts of ways to degrade an image or add noise

Layers .

Normal ■ t * Opacity: SOW iJ


£ 5J5 y Fill: 10Q5C *



Sackground Q

Here, a duplicate copy of the target image was inverted, resulting in a document with a negative and positive version of the image As the opacity percentage of the inverted layer approaches 50%, the image becomes increasingly gray

With the Dissolve blending mode opacity set to 50%, the image appears half red and half blue.

The most effective way to see the Dissolve blending mode in action is to create a very simple two-layer image Create a new document and fill it with red Then select Layer > New Fill Layer to create a blue layer above the background red layer Next, switch the blue layer's blend mode to Dissolve At first you'll notice no difference The resulting color is blue because the blend layer is at 100% opacity, so Dissolve outputs a random selection consisting of 100% of the blend layer (blue) and none of the base (red) But reduce the opacity to go% and roughly a tenth of the pixels now appear red; reduce the opacity to 50% and the image appears half red and half blue The Dissolve layer has been desaturated

Self-blends and changing the opacity

Using Dissolve

If I use Dissolve to create a simple self-blend—blending a layer with a copy of itself—I know that I will see no change in the image It obviously makes no difference which layer's color Photoshop displays

For the blend to have an effect, I need to change the blend layer in some way—blurring it, offsetting it by a few pixels, or removing the color, for example Straightaway, the base layer starts to show through like a stippling or dropout effect

More of the base layer shows through as I reduce the blend layer's opacity

In this detail from a picture of the U S Arizona flags, I desaturated the Dissolve blend layer At go% opacity, the colored stars and stripes are barely visible Reducing the opacity means more color shows through Notice too how it appears completely random

Layers l_n.;r,n ■ ■■■■!.

Dissolve ■ i 1 Opacity: lOQSt

Lock: □ J ^ y Fill: 2WX ►

This detail of the Arizona flag is desaturated at 90% opacity, making the stars and stripes barely visible.

This detail of the Arizona flag is desaturated at 90% opacity, making the stars and stripes barely visible.

Dissolve can be used in many ways, but especially when you want to degrade an image The picture becomes like a big mosaic that's missing lots of its small tiles with background tiles showing through This isn't limited to making the picture look old or damaged and a lot depends on the image What's useful to note is that, unlike applying a filter, with a blending mode you can always fine-tune the result afterward

One technique is to use the Move tool to offset the Dissolve layer by a few pixels When a picture has strong colors and lots of contrast, setting the layer's opacity at a middle value ensures that both base and blend layers contribute to the blended image With the example of the flag shown here, it's a little like looking through frosted glass

Use the Move tool to offset the blend layer by just a few pixels.

Here, a Gaussian blur amount of 10 softened the colors.

Applying Gaussian blur is another possibility This tends to soften the contrast and colors, but is only one of many things you can try The combination of offset with blur produces an effect that looks like steam on frosted glass, as described above

With both offset and Gaussian blur applied to the Dissolve layer and then combined with the base layer, a "steam-on-frosted-glass" effect is achieved.

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