Creating a Difference sandwich

Ask your local deli guy, and he'll tell you that everyone has a favorite sandwich. Where blend modes are concerned, my favorite is the Difference sandwich. By applying Difference to both the filtered layer and the cloned original on top, you effectively invert the filter into the original image, and then reinvert the image to create a more subtle and utterly unique effect.

Figure 13-15 and Color Plate 13-4 show a small sampling of the several thousand possible variations on the Difference sandwich theme. In the top rows of both figures, I've vigorously applied a series of standard filters — so vigorously, in fact, that I've pretty well ruined the image. But no fear. By stacking it on top of the original, cloning the original on top of it, and applying the Difference mode to both layers, you can restore much of the original image detail, as shown in the bottom examples of the two figures. (I corrected the colors of the images by adding an adjustment layer on top of the sandwich, but otherwise you see the effects in their raw form.)

Figure 13-15: Three different filtering effects as they appear on their own (top row) and when inserted into a Difference sandwich (bottom row).

Note A few notes about the Difference sandwich. First of all, the effect doesn't work nearly so well if you start reducing the Opacity values. Second, try using the Exclusion mode instead of Difference if you want to lower the contrast. And finally, Difference is one of those few blend modes that produces the same effect regardless of how you order the layers. This means you can filter either the middle layer or the bottom layer in the sandwich and get the same effect. But the top layer must be the original image.

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