Sign & Digital Graphics

May '17

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36 • May 2017 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S DIGITAL PRINTING AND FINISHING DIGITAL GRAPHICS Blending Layers Blending effects that will make your images pop Stephen Romaniello is and artist and educator teaching digital art at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, for over 27 years. He is a certified instructor in Adobe Photoshop and the author of numer- ous books and articles on the creative use of digital graphics software. Steve is the founder of GlobalEye Systems, a company that offers training and consulting in digital graphics software and creative imaging. B Y S T E P H E N R O M A N I E L L O The Digital Eye A Matter of Principle The principle behind blend modes is quite simple. An algorithm affects the aligned pixels on two consecutive layers. Applied to the top layer, the algorithm mixes the color of the two layers in unique ways. Opposite colors like reds and greens may cancel each other and produce areas of dark gray or black. Colors that are closer to each other on the color wheel, like reds and yellows, may produce richer, more saturated oranges. With 29 blend modes to choose from in Photoshop, 16 in Illustrator, and 21 in Corel PaintShop Pro you can imagine the many pos- sibilities—no matter what software you're using. Do the Math A blend mode is a mathematical formula. When a blend mode is assigned to a layer the numerical values of each pixel is calculated and applied, depending on the mode, to the aligned pixels on the layer immediately below. Similarly, when a blend mode is assigned to a brush, the foreground color affects the pix- els that the brush touches with the formula. The color mode of an image also affects the results. The same blend mode applied to an RGB, CMYK, or Lab layer may produce different results (see Figure 1 A/B). Opacity or Transparency The level of opacity is the primary factor that controls the strength of the blended effect. With one hundred percentage points of opacity to choose from—from invisible to completely opaque—the strength of the blended layer can be controlled to achieve precise results (see Figure 2). Furthermore, a layer mask can be added to control the precise location and strength of the blend. Universal Blending All types of layers are affected by blend modes including content layers, adjustment layers, fill layers, shape layers and smart objects. The modes are divided into five categories on the Layers panel in Photoshop (see Figure 3). The categories include: Combination, Darken, Lighten, Contrast, Comparative, Component, and Additional. Rather than consume the limited space of this article with descriptions of each blend mode, I'll include two websites. One for Adobe and one for Corel. Each provides accurate descriptions of each blend mode. Blending modes for Adobe: Blending modes for Corel: Of course, you'll learn a lot more by experimenting with S ometimes your image just doesn't have that eye-popping zing that propels it off the printed page. Adjusting color with Levels, Curves or Hue /Saturation may spice up the image but still, the color relationships don't quite cut the mustard. Enter Blend Modes! Imagine that you place two color transparencies on a light table. In your mind's eye you can see their content as the light passes through them. Now, imagine that one of the transparen- cies is placed on top of the other. The colors of both slides mix together and become darker and a bit more saturated. Color Magic Now, imagine that you have a box of special magic gels. Each gel can be independently sandwiched between the two slides to control the color relationship of the superimposed colors. In the parlance of digital art software, these gels are called Blend Modes, and you'll find them in several of the features of image editing and vector graphic software. Blend modes mix the colors of aligned pixels on consecutive layers. They can also be assigned to the painting and editing tools, to fills, strokes and layer styles.

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