by Julieanne Kost

 Comments (4)

Created

November 11, 2010

The fourth group of Blend modes have a neutral color of 50% gray. This means that 50% gray as a blend color will have no effect on the result color.  All of the light modes (except for Hard Mix) lighten when using colors brighter than 50% gray and darken when using colors darker than 50% gray. This happens on a channel-by-channel basis so they can actually both lighten and darken at once.

• Overlay – Multiplies or screens a scaled version of the blend color into the base color based on whether the lower color is darker or lighter than 50% gray. Colors darker than 50% are multiplied, colors lighter are screened. Patterns or colors overlay the existing pixels while preserving the highlights and shadows of the base color. The base color is not replaced but is mixed with the blend color to reflect the lightness or darkness of the original color.

• Soft Light mode – Darkens or lightens the colors, depending on the blend color.  If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened as if it were dodged. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened as if it were burned in. Painting with pure black or white produces a distinctly darker or lighter area but does not result in pure black or white. It uses gamma adjustment s to darken or lighten. The effect is similar to shining a diffused spotlight on the image.

• Hard Light – Multiplies or screens the colors, depending on the blend color. If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened, as if it were screened. This is useful for adding highlights to an image. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened, as if it were multiplied. This is useful for adding shadows to an image. Painting with pure black or white results in pure black or white. The effect is similar to shining a harsh spotlight on the image.

• Vivid Light – Burns or dodges the colors by increasing or decreasing the contrast, depending on the blend color. If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened by decreasing the contrast. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened by increasing the contrast. Vivid Light uses color burn and color dodge to darken or lighten.

• Linear Light – Burns or dodges the colors by decreasing or increasing the brightness, depending on the blend color. If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened by increasing the brightness. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened by decreasing the brightness. Linear Light uses linear burn and linear dodge to darken or lighten.

• Pin Light – Replaces the colors, depending on the blend color. If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, pixels darker than the blend color are replaced, and pixels lighter than the blend color do not change. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, pixels lighter than the blend color are replaced, and pixels darker than the blend color do not change. Pin Light uses darken or lighten modes to darken or lighten. This is useful for adding special effects to an image.

• Hard Mix – Lighter colors lighten the result. Darker colors darken the result.  Lowering the fill opacity creates less posterization/thresholding.

The first illustration

The first image illustrates the leaf layer with it's blend mode set to Overlay. The second illustration shows the result of Soft Light, then Hard Light and Vivid Light.

The first illustration

The first image illustrates the leaf layer with it's blend mode set to Linear Light, then Pin Light and finally Hard Mix

One common use of the Soft Light blend mode is to dodge and burn. Instead of using the dodge and burn tools, you can achieve more natural and flexible effects by adding a new (blank) layer on top of the image that you want to dodge or burn. Set the blend mode for the layer to Soft Light. Then, paint with a brush with white in the areas that you want to dodge, or black in the areas that you want to burn. I would try setting the opacity of the paint brush to 5-10% and painting multiple strokes to slowly build up the dodge or burn, this will help to achieve more subtle effects. This is also a good way to remove harsh shadows from portraits as can be seen in the illustration above. A common use of the Overlay blend mode is to add a texture over an image. In the illustration below a scan of fiber-textured paper was placed on a layer above the landscape and set to Overlay. For a less dramatic effect, try setting the blend mode of the texture to Soft Light.

COMMENTS

  • By Randy Jay Braun - 12:28 PM on November 22, 2010  

    This is fantastic to use the soft light blend mode on an empty layer to dodge and burn. Works wonderfully!

  • By PECourtejoie - 2:20 PM on January 9, 2011  

    I believe that the first paragraph should be edited: it is Hard Mix that does not have a neutral color, not Overlay.
    Thanks for the wonderful explanations and examples our Pixel Lady!

    • By Julieanne Kost - 10:32 AM on January 10, 2011  

      You are so correct! Thank you for pointing this out to me. I have corrected it above.

  • By Marc Weisberg - 6:44 PM on July 14, 2013  

    Julieanne, Soft light is just a fabulous way to subtly dodge & burn. Thank you so much for the super easy and very flexible way to D&B. My retouching life will never be the same. #timesaver.