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Essential Compositing Tips & Techniques In Photoshop

Lesson 7 of 9

How To Composite With Group Blending Modes

Jesús Ramirez

Essential Compositing Tips & Techniques In Photoshop

Jesús Ramirez

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Lesson Info

7. How To Composite With Group Blending Modes

Lesson Info

How To Composite With Group Blending Modes

This is a composite that I did after I saw the movie The Jungle Book. It was a personal project, and I did it for fun. I used Adobe stock images to create this composite. And I don't recall the number of layers that went into creating this scene, but it was, including adjustment layers, definitely in the hundreds. And I mean, just creating this for fun even taught me a lot of different tricks and techniques, and one of which that I wanna show you now is how to use group blending modes to help you composite your images. So, we have, let me show you what that scene looks like. Like I said, the original image is hundreds of images, but I just flatten things to make it easier to show you guys, so we can only focus on what I'm trying to teach you, and not all these other layers that have nothing to do with the point that I'm trying to make. So we have the background, we have the shadow that the bear's creating, we have the bear, we have this light source, and we have the foreground. And we ...

this curves adjustment layer that is applying a little of color gray to the image. In the bear group, we have, obviously, the bear, and we have these adjustment layers that apply a color effect to the bear, but unfortunately, they also affect the background. Notice that, as I'm turning them on and off, I'm affecting the background. You might be thinking, well, why don't use use the clipping mask, and sure, we can definitely use the clipping mask. I can enable all the layers, hold Shift, click in the bottom clipping mask, and then hold Shift again, and click on the top one. That selects all of them. Option + Command + G to create a clipping mask. And now, all these layers are affecting the bear, and yeah, that works. But what if you have two bears, so Command + J, Control + J on the PC to duplicate. So now, we have a second bear, and if I move that bear by pressing the V key, clicking and dragging, you'll see this other bear here. Now, we don't have the same color on the bears, but we wanna have the same color. So what do we do? Well, you can, of course, duplicate the layers, so I'm gonna select them all, Shift, and click bottom layer by holding Shift, click on the top one, Command + J to duplicate, and we can bring those layers and clip them to that other bear, Command + Option + J. That works, but again, we have all these layers, and that's not good, especially if we decide to make an adjustment, so we adjust the bear. That adjustment, I know doesn't look good, but that's not the point. If we wanna make that same adjustment to this bear, we would have adjust this layer the same way. So then, that becomes a problem, so obviously, this is not a good solution. So what I'm gonna do is just undo this process here. And you might be thinking, well, what if you have two bears? One set of adjustment layers, and we use layer mask to adjust the bears, so we can definitely so that. We can hold Command, click on the layer thumbnail to load a selection around the active pixels, and I can hold Shift, press Command, press Control on the PC, by the way, and click on the second layer thumbnail to make a selection on both bears, then I can come into the curves adjustment layer, and I can click on the layer mask icon, and now I have a layer mask. You can duplicate a layer mask by holding Option, click and dragging it to the layer that you wanna apply that same layer mask to. And that, of course, works. The problem is that if I decide that I don't want my bear be in that same position, and I wanna move him to another position, maybe like here, then the layer mask does not stay with it, the layer mask is not live with the bear. I would have to go in there and redraw those layer masks. So what I wanna do is I wanna be able to apply all these adjustment layers to these two bears or maybe even a third or fourth bear, but I don't wanna create a layer mask, and I don't wanna create a clipping mask. And one of the best things that you can do to solve a problem like that is take advantage of blending modes. You probably think about blending modes when you wanna blend layers together, and not necessarily when you're trying to mask things out in this way. So if you click on a layer, any layer, you'll notice that the default blending mode is Normal. But when you click on a group, the default blending mode is not Normal, it's Pass Through. So watch what happens when I change the blend mode from Pass Through to Normal. It was a subtle change, you might have not seen it, so let me go back. Go to Pass Through, and I'm gonna create a new curves adjustment layer, and I'm just gonna make an extreme adjustment here, just so you could see what's going on. It looks pretty cool, right? (chuckles) So, we have this extreme adjustment there, and I want this extreme adjustment to only affect the bears. Click on the group, notice the default, Pass Through. But if I change it to Normal, notice now that these adjustment layers only affect the contents of the group. So now, I can have as many bears as I want, and they will take the adjustment layers of that group, and they won't take anything else, only the contents of that group. So you don't have to worry about layer mask and clipping mask and all that. You only just worry about one set of adjustment layers, and they will control everything inside of that group simply by adjusting the blend mode from Pass Through, which is the default, to Normal. So, that should help you guys out if you wanna apply a lot of adjustment layers to a single set of layers.

Class Description

Composites are more than just merging images together. To make a realistic composite, one needs to consider light sources and perspective. By using Adobe® Photoshop® you can create worlds and scenes with your photography that would take extreme budgets to capture in camera. 

In this class you’ll learn:

  • How to use adjustment layers to check the luminance, saturation, and hue of a composite.
  • How to make composites come to life by adding ambient color.
  • How to use familiar tools in unconventional ways to help you create realistic composites

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2015


Arlette Hatcher

A great course full of useful information and helpful tips. I would really recommend this course to anyone interested in compositing in photoshop. Will look for more like it in Creative Live. Thank you.


Jesus is amazing a true guru of PS and an fabulous instructor very clear in his instruction method and details ... been watching him for years and he's improved 10 fold.

Jo Moolenschot

This short course is packed full of incredibly useful tips! I've been working with Photoshop for years and I did not know some of these excellent techniques. I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in refining their compositing techniques, understanding why things work the way they do with compositing or simply refreshing their technical compositing knowledge. Thank you Jesus, much appreciated!