Overlay and Hard Light

Having looked at groups of modes that either lighten or darken, let's move on to a group of blending modes that both lighten and darken at the same time—known as the Contrast group.

The first two in the group, Overlay and Hard Light, are so similar that it makes sense to look at them together, but you should also bear in mind that much of what applies to Overlay and Hard Light applies to Soft Light too. All three belong to the contrast-increasing group of blending modes. These darken shadows, lighten the highlights, and have mid-gray as their neutral color, so blending with gray has no effect. Overlay and Hard Light both darken shadows by multiplying the image and lighten highlights by screening the image. Soft Light is their softer, more subtle sibling.

Original image.

Overlay

OVERLAY KEYBOARD SHORTCUT

Windows: Alt+Shift+O Mac: Option+Shift+O

Hard Light

HARD LIGHT KEYBOARD SHORTCUT

Windows: Alt+Shift+H Mac: Option+Shift+H

Overlay and its close cousin, Hard Light, are very similar The main difference is that Overlay won't clip the highlights to a pure white or the shadows to a pure black

Hard Light produces much higher-contrast results than Overlay Like Overlay, it darkens shadows, lightens highlights, and has mid-gray as its neutral color si I -a U

A simple Overlay or Hard Light self-blend increases image contrast.

Here, I added just a little Gaussian blur, using a radius of 10.

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Overlay

A simple Overlay or Hard Light self-blend increases image contrast.

Here, I added just a little Gaussian blur, using a radius of 10.

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Overlay_Opaeitv:

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-Overlay + Gradient Fill

Overlay + paint

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Overlay_Opaeitv:

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-Overlay + Gradient Fill

Overlay + paint

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Overlay

Using Overlay and Hard Light

Simple Overlay or Hard Light self-blends can be used to boost contrast However, you can easily increase contrast with a Levels or Curves adjustment layer, which would also let you control each tone individually (and results in a smaller file size)

Try inverting the blend layer, adding blur, maybe desaturating it too or applying other filter effects, text, and shapes, and you'll see how Overlay or Hard Light allows the image to show through

Correcting poorly exposed images with Overlay

If you add text or shapes to an image and change the blending mode to Overlay or Hard Light, the image shows through.

One popular use of Overlay is to create a dodge-and-burn layer:

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Duplicate Layer...

Delete Layer Delete Hidden Layers

New Croup from Layers...

Lock AO Layers in Croup...

Group into New Smart Object

Edit Contents

Layer Properties... Blending Options...

Create Clipping Mask X36G

Link Layers Select Linked Layers

Merge Down Merge Visible Flatten Image

Animation Options Palette Options...

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l Click the arrow in the top right-hand corner of the Layers palette and select New Layer (Ctrl/ Cmd-Shift-N)

Such ideas come together in a quick technique for correcting images whose subject is too dark, maybe due to poor camera metering The advantage of this technique is that, unlike Photoshop CS's Shadow/Highlights adjustment, you can fine-tune this adjustment later The steps are easy enough:

1 Duplicate the image layer

2 Switch the new layer's blending mode to Overlay (Alt/Option-Shift-O).

3 Invert the duplicate layer (Ctrl/Cmd-I).

4 Desaturate the duplicate layer (Ctrl/Cmd-Shift-U)

Layers

5 Apply Gaussian blur to the duplicate layer

6 Select the highlights (Alt-Ctrl—/Option-Cmd— )

7 In the Layer palette, Alt/ Option-click the Add Vector Mask icon

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Unsaturate + invert! + blur + mask

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