Soft Hard

Each of the Exclusion, Pin Light, and Hard Mix blending modes can be used on its own to distort or degrade an image. Here, they're used together in a perhaps unlikely combination. Exclusion and Pin Light distort the image contrast and cause color shifts, then Hard Mix is used to moderate the effect and to restore at least a semblance of a natural appearance.

Balancing contrast

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 either the pulldown blending mode menu in the Layers palette or the shortcut Alt/Opt-Shift-X, change the duplicate layer's blending mode to Exclusion and rename it "Exclusion "

3 Using the shortcut Ctrl/Cmd-J, duplicate the original image layer again, and drag the new layer to the top of the layer stack

4 Change the new layer's blending mode to Pin Light using either the pull-down menu again or the shortcut Alt/Opt -Shift-Z and rename it "Pin Light"

Exclusion often creates a lower-contrast negative effect with some posterization. Notice the rim around the edge of the shadows.

5 With the Pin Light layer selected, apply some blur using Filters Blur > Gaussian Blur—a small radius, 10-20, is enough to form a slight halo around the details

6 Using the shortcut Ctrl/Cmd-J, duplicate the original image layer again, and drag the new layer to the top of the layer stack

7 Change the new layer's blending mode to Hard Mix using Alt/Opt-Shift-L and rename it "Hard Mix "

8 Reduce the Hard Mix layer's opacity If you reduce the layer opacity, the image will become darker and lose contrast Generally, it's better to choose the fill opacity if you want to retain Hard Mix's high-contrast output The exact percentage can vary widely depending on the image

The blurred Pin Light makes the image positive again and enhances the halo or rim around the darker details.

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