Blending layers

Photoshop lets you blend layers like no other program in the business. In fact, Photoshop does such a great job that it takes me an entire chapter — Chapter 13 — to explain these options in detail. I offer this section by way of introduction so that you're at least aware of the basics. If you have bigger questions, Chapter 13 is waiting to tell all.

The Layers palette provides three basic ways to blend pixels between layers (see Figure 12-15). None of these techniques changes as much as a pixel in any layer, so you can always return and reblend the layers at a later date.

4 The Opacity value: Enter a value in the Opacity option box near the top of the Layers palette to change the opacity of the active layer or floating selection. If you reduce the Opacity value to 50 percent, for example, Photoshop makes the pixels on the active layer translucent, so the colors in the active layer mix evenly with the colors in the layers below.

Tip If any tool other than a paint or edit tool is active — including the selection and navigation tools — you can press a number key to change the Opacity value. Press 1 for 10 percent, 2 for 20 percent, up to 0 for 100 percent. Or you can enter a specific Opacity value by pressing two number keys in a row. For example, press 3 and then 7 for 37 percent.

4 The blend mode pop-up menu: Choose an option from the blend mode pop-up menu — open in Figure 12-15 — to mix every pixel in the active layer with the pixels below it, according to one of several mathematical equations. For example, when you choose Multiply, Photoshop really does multiply the brightness values of the pixels and then divides the result by 255, the maximum brightness value. Blend modes use the same math as the brush modes covered in Chapter 5. But you can accomplish a lot more with blend modes, which is why I spend so much time examining them in Chapter 13.

Tip As with Opacity, you can select a blend mode from the keyboard when a selec tion or navigation tool is active. Press Shift+plus to advance incrementally down the list; press Shift+minus to inch back up. You can also press Shift+Alt and a letter key to select a specific mode. For example, Shift+Alt+M selects the Multiply mode. Shift+Alt+N restores the mode to Normal.

Figure 12-15: The blend mode pop-up menu and the Opacity option box enable you to mix layers without making any permanent changes to the pixels.

4 Layer Options: Choose Layer ^ Blending Options or double-click a layer name to display the Layer Style dialog box. The General Blending area of this dialog box provides access to a Blend Mode pop-up menu and an Opacity value, but it also offers a world of unique functions. As discussed in Chapter 13, you can hide one or more color channels, specify which colors are visible in the active layer, and force other colors to show through from the layers behind it. Select an item from the left-hand list to apply a layer style, as discussed in Chapter 14.

Although far short of the whole story, that should be enough to prepare you for anything I throw at you throughout the remainder of this chapter.

Photoshop CS Mastery

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