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Advanced Layers in Adobe Photoshop

Lesson 4 of 7

Blending Options: Blend if

Ben Willmore

Advanced Layers in Adobe Photoshop

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

4. Blending Options: Blend if

Lesson Info

Blending Options: Blend if

Now let's actually go to something simpler than that, something I use more frequently, and what I'm going to do is take these two layers and I'm going to choose load file, send to Photoshop Layers, that's gonna stack these. And what I'd like to do is remove the background on the fire works. Now we used these fireworks in a previous lesson, one that covered blending modes if you've happened to have watched that one or owned that one. But, here I actually want to delete the background where as in that lesson we just made it some how disappear even though it was still contained within the layer. Here's what I'm gonna do. With the top layer active, I'll go to the bottom of my Layers panel, I'll click on FX and I'll choose Blending Options. That'll cause this to open. Just so you know, there's more than one way of getting to this, so if you've ever seen this and you got to it in a different way, it was the same screen. There's only one screen that looks like that. Other ways you can get to ...

it would be to go to the Layer menu, you choose Layer Style and there's blending options, that would get you to it. Or I think you can double click on the Layer, not on the name but out here on the empty space and that will get you to it as well. So you might use one of those other techniques and you might just be wondering, is it the same thing you're using? Yes it is if it looks like this. And now I wanna use an area that I call the Blend if sliders and that's because it has the heading above of Blend if. Now it's set to Blend if Gray and that means, think of this like a black and white or gray scale picture, ignore the colors. And then there are two sets of sliders. There's one called This Layer and anytime you see This Layer, it's referring to whatever layer was active at the time you brought this up. And then it says Underlying Layer and that refers to whatever's underneath the layer that is currently active. I wish it wouldn't say Underlying Layer though, it should say Underlying image because it might be 10 or 12 or 100 layers that are under there and it just means collectively whatever all that stuff looks like. It's not just looking at one layer that's under it. Now let's see what this does. If I bring in the upper left slider, it's looking at this layer and if you look at that upper left slider, it's pointing at black at the moment, and as I bring it in it will hide anything that is to the left of that slider. That means it'll hide anything in that brightness range within this layer. So the sky is either black or close to it so when I just brought it in the tiniest amount the sky started to disappear. Then if I continue to bring it in, I get more and more of the dark areas disappear. If you look at the fireworks, you'll notice there's darker firework remnants. It might be the smoke from fireworks behind the really bright stuff. If I bring it in far enough, I should eventually be able to get that stuff to start disappearing. All it's doing is hiding the brightness range that is to the left of the slider. The problem with it is it's either on or it's off. There's no fade out, no soft transition. We can get a soft transition. If you look at this slider you'll notice there's a line down the middle of it and that's to indicate it's actually two sliders that are magnetically stuck together. They just move together like that. You can split them apart. The way to split them apart is to hold down the Option key, Alt in Windows. I have it held down right now. Then grab either end and pull away from the other. See how that just split it? So now when it's set up that way, here's what's happening. Anything on the far left over here would be hidden. Anything to the right of the two sliders collectively over here will be fully visible. Anything in this zone in between them is where things are gonna fade out. So it'll be completely hidden right at this shade and then it'll be hidden less and less and less and less until it's not hidden at all when it gets to here. So that causes it to fade out. It's just that usually those two things are stuck together. So how do I end up using that? Well, when it comes to this image, I pull this in until I notice the sky disappear. Then if I were to zoom up on the picture, I would notice there was a hard transition, an abrupt one where the background stops disappearing. So I hold down the Option key and I split the slider and I pull this out until it looks like a nice gradual transition that looks natural. So then there are another set of sliders down here. It's called Underlying Layer. Instead of making things disappear, which is what the top one does, Underlying Layer makes things show up. So if I were to pull this in, the dark parts of what's underneath would suddenly start showing up instead of the contents of this layer. Or if I pulled in the opposite side it would be the bright parts of what's underneath. So let me see if I bring in the bright parts of what's underneath if eventually these bright parts of the tower that might be in this position. It might start coming through. Well, there it's starting to break through, yep. So let's use this on a few images and try to get a better feel for it. I'm gonna combine two other images by choosing Tools, Photoshop, Load into Photoshop Layers. And so I'm gonna put the one on top, there we go. So what we have here is just some clouds and then we have this which is found in Barcelona, Spain. I would like to have this on top of those clouds instead of the ones it came with. So with the top layer active, I'll go to the Letters FX, choose Blending Options. If I want the background to disappear, that's the bright areas so that means I grab the upper right slider 'cause we're thinking about this layer and we're thinking about making the bright areas disappear. Now anything to the right of this slider in the brightness range will disappear. I'll bring it in until I get it to bring it to maybe about there. Then I want whatever's left to fade out. So I hold down the Option key, Alt in Windows, so I can split the slider and I move it even further until it looks like a nice transition. So now we've gotten that on a new background. But then I could experiment with the Underlying Layer sliders. What if I want some of the clouds that are currently behind this, on the layer underneath, I want them to break through this layer so it looks as if that object is partially in the clouds. Well, I can bring this in to say let the bright parts of what's underneath start to break through. I'll bring it up just until I start seeing some clouds. There on the right side, breakthrough. Then I'm gonna split the slider in half by holding Option and drag to get a soft transition. I'll try to get it pretty nice and soft like that. Then I can fine tune both ends of the sliders. There we go. Let's try another one. In this case, I'm gonna take the bottom layer and put it on top. I'll scale it down so it's about the same height as the image that's underneath. So I just type Command T and I'll scale this guy down. Maybe to about there. I'll move it and then what I'm gonna do is crop the image so we don't have this empty spot at the bottom. So I'll just grab the crop tool, pull this up like that. Press Return or Enter. Now what I'd like to do is make the bright areas of the top layer disappear so I can see what's behind them. In fact, I think I might wanna crop the image some more. Let me grab the crop tool once again and I'm gonna pull in the sides 'cause there's no need to see that extra stuff. Yeah, more like that. Alright, now let's go with the top layer active and choose Blending Options. If I want the bright areas to disappear, that's the upper right 'cause that's this layer and it's the bright stuff. And then I want it to fade out so I hold Option and I split the slider. I get that to spread out as far as I want. Maybe about like that, click OK. I might then grab my Move tool and move the layer that's underneath to get that temple centered more, like that. I can go back to the top layer, go back to FX and Blending Options, and we can play more. What if I want the temple to break through? Well, the temple is darker than what's surrounding the temple so I go to Underlying Layer. So thinking about what's under there. I say let the dark parts break through. Okay, and then maybe split the slider just to make sure there's a gradual transition. It's kinda weirdly different. You could maybe experiment with the top sliders to maybe bring some of it back. Or if I put these back to their default positions. Oh I didn't get them all 'cause there's still stuff hidden. Let me see, what did I forget? Oh, I didn't bring that back. I could have instead changed the order of the layers. I've been working on the layer that's on top. Now I could get a similar effect by saying take the dark stuff that's underneath and let it break through. There's nothing near black so it takes a while. Then from then on I want it to fade out so I hold Option and split it. Okay, that's similar. All sorts of things you could do with it, but they're the blending sliders. Now let me let you know that's it not just when you're attempting to make a composite where you're combining more than one image. Instead, this can be used for other things. Let's say, for instance, here what I'd like to do is my wife here, this is Karen, she's in the Sun. The columns are in the Sun, and I like the warmth that I'm seeing there. But what if I want to make only the dark portion of the image less colorful? So the area behind Karen, that wall that's back there, I want it to be less colorful. I don't wanna make any selections. So let's go over here and do a Hue and Saturation or a Vibrance Adjustment Layer, either one 'cause both of them offer saturation. I'll turn it down, I'll turn it all the way down so it's easy to tell where it's applying. Now when you have an adjustment layer, it thinks that the contents of that layer is whatever the result of the adjustment looks like. So it thinks that that layer contains what you're seeing right now on the screen. So I go to FX and I choose Blending options. And now I can say let's let the bright parts of this layer disappear. If we do, it will reveal the layer that's underneath. So I'll bring this in until the bright stuff shows up then I'll hold down the Option key, Alt in Windows, and I'll split the slider and move it further and see if I can figure out how far I can get away with. It all depends if I want that top portion where the arches are to be colored or not. I think I do want some of that but I don't want so much that the area behind Karen is. So it's kind of a delicate balance there. Click OK and now if I turn this off and on, look at the area behind Karen and you see that it's becoming less colorful. Now in this particular instance when I was in there, it actually wouldn't have mattered if I used the This Layer or Underlying image sliders because what's underneath, I could say let the bright parts, what's underneath, show through. It's the same general result. Then I could split the slider. So you could flip a coin, it wouldn't matter which one. But I do that often if I want an adjustment to only affect the bright or the dark portions.

Class Description


  • Add dimension and shadows using Layer Styles
  • Link multiple layers so they will always be scaled and transformed at the same time
  • Organize complex documents using Groups
  • Quickly remove the background on clouds, lightning, and logos
  • Cause bright or dark areas to disappear using the Blend If sliders


  • Beginner, intermediate, and advanced users of Adobe Photoshop.
  • Those who want to gain confidence in Adobe Photoshop and learn new features to help edit photos.
  • Students who’d like to take ordinary images and make them look extraordinary with some image editing or Photoshop fixes.


Adobe Photoshop 2020 (V21)

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