May 08, 2010

Video: New blending modes in Photoshop CS5

Digital artist Calvin Hollywood has been experimenting with two of the more obscure new features in Photoshop CS5, the Subtract and Divide blending modes. Here he shows how to use them to produce a pair of creative effects:

Posted by John Nack at 7:02 AM on May 08, 2010


  • Danny Smythe — 10:55 AM on May 08, 2010

    I think the original idea of these modes is to create a gray Layer above your target Layer, and then switch to either Subtract, or Divide, and adjust the Opacity.
    Also, the Subtract mode is a better alternative to the Difference mode.

  • David — 2:26 PM on May 08, 2010

    I frequently use the “Divide” blend mode in CS4. You get the same results by inverting a layer and use the Color Dodge blend mode. I use it to compare an image to another with an element removed. It is useful for extraction/masking. I’ll have to put up a tutorial one of these days.
    The subtract blend mode is an inverted Linear Burn.

  • ValkyrieStudio — 3:46 PM on May 08, 2010

    Interesting! I take back any comments I may have made questioning the merits of these modes.
    As you said though, they are kept pretty hush-hush, considering they’re part of one of PS’s most important features. Is there a particular reason why?
    [It’s just a matter of having the nice problem of too many features to talk about quickly/easily! There’s plenty I still haven’t discussed here. –J.]

  • David Stevenson — 8:43 PM on May 08, 2010

    Somewhat underwhelming video – any of you have any concrete uses for these new blend modes?

  • Chris Cox — 10:33 PM on May 08, 2010

    The divide and subtract blend modes are mostly intended for calibrated imaging (microscopy, astronomy, etc.). You can also use them for HDR toning tricks (or experimentation).
    And they complete the basic math set needed for some advanced compositing.
    Creative uses: those are just bonuses.

  • Calvin — 1:18 AM on May 09, 2010

    Hi all
    That you John for posting this video.
    I will show more tutorials about the new blendmodes soon.
    There are much more stuff what you can do with them.
    lg Calvin

  • Joseph Francis — 10:27 PM on May 09, 2010

    3D compositors using Photoshop may find the divide blend mode useful for turning pre-multiplied rgb cg images into unpremultiplied ones by dividing the rgb of the image by the alpha. More here:

  • Chris Cox — 8:44 AM on May 10, 2010

    While true that you can use divide to remove premultiplied opacity… that shouldn’t be necessary in Photoshop because Photoshop is always using straight/unmultiplied color.
    And the example shown in that URL should composite correctly without the divide, unless it was exported to some other application that incorrectly assumed premultiplied color in an unmultiplied file format.
    Yes, the layer order in Photoshop is “divide by this” and “subtract this” – otherwise several calculation pipelines would be difficult to impossible to achieve.

  • christoph pfaffenbichler — 5:35 AM on May 11, 2010

    Why does he duplicate the layer – would not a blank Adjustment Layer do as well?

  • christoph pfaffenbichler — 11:16 PM on May 11, 2010

    Sorry, what a stupid question of me.
    I had watched the movie inattentively …

  • SmashingPhotoshop — 10:11 AM on May 12, 2010

    It actually made the buildings look more 3d and pop in only a few simple moves I like it.

  • Joseph Francis — 7:45 PM on May 25, 2010

    It shouldn’t be necessary in Photoshop, but I work in a wider world than that and Photoshop is a tool within a wider context.
    What if I want to ‘unpremultiply’ some images to be used as textures and transparency maps on cards in Maya? Now it’s easier for me to use Photoshop to accomplish that without having to settle for gray matte lines around the sprite edge.
    …and I believe Photoshop has always had a ‘divide’ blend mode. It involved faking out ‘Linear burn,’ or something like that.

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