In the last lesson, we looked at the “Chroma” blend mode, which blends the color (i.e., color tone and saturation) of one layer with the underlying layer or layers without changing the degree of brightness of the image. This mode is especially indispensable when coloring black and white photographs. It is also often used to replace the color of the eyes or hair of a person. The blend mode “Color” allows us to add or change colors in the image without affecting the brightness of the image.
Our fifth and final important blending mode for processing photos is called Luminosity. As well as the blending mode “Color” (Color), it is included in the group of component modes along with the “Color tone” (Hue), “Saturation” modes and is the direct opposite of the “Color” mode. While the blend mode “Color” mixes the colors of the layer and does not take the brightness value into account, the blend mode “Brightness” mixes the brightness values and does not take into account the color information.
When processing photos, changing the blending mode to “Brightness” is often the final step. For example, very often in the process of image editing, the Levels or Curves adjustment layers are used to enhance the contrast of images, and in many cases this is quite sufficient. The problem that you may encounter when using this processing technique is that the “Levels” and “Curves” layers affect not only the brightness of the image, but also the color. Increasing the contrast of the image, you also increase the saturation of the image, especially in red and blue colors, and sometimes you can even see the color shift. Too much color saturation can lead to the loss of individual details in the image. By changing the blending mode of the “Levels” and “Curves” layers to “Brightness”, we can easily avoid this drawback, because the color information will no longer be affected.
Using the “Brightness” blend mode in real life
Below is a picture of a festive table set in red, orange and yellow tones:
I’m going to enhance the contrast of the image using the “Curves” adjustment layer and the traditional S-shaped curve. To do this, I click on the icon “New adjustment layer” (New Adjustment Layer) at the bottom of the layers panel and select from the list of adjustment layers that appear “Curves” (Curves):
When you open the dialog box of the “Curves” layer, a large 4×4 grid of cells appears with an inside diagonal line running from the bottom left to the top right. In order to change the shape of the diagonal line to a traditional S-shaped curve, I click on the line near the upper right corner and add a marker, then I move the marker up a little by pressing the up arrow key several times on the keyboard. After that I’ll click on the line near the bottom left corner and add another marker, I’ll move it down a little by pressing the down arrow key several times. As a result of such actions, the diagonal line changes to a curve resembling the letter S, also known as the S-shaped curve:
Next, I click OK to exit the dialog box. The S-shaped curve added brightness to the highlights in the image and increased the depth of the shadows, which led to an increase in contrast. This is what we can see now in the picture. Please note that the colors in the image have also become richer, since the “Curves” adjustment layer has affected not only shadows and highlights, but also the color saturation:
In order for the “Curves” adjustment layer to affect only the degree of contrast and not affect colors, all we need to do is change the blending mode of the adjustment layer with “Normal” (Normal) to “Brightness” (Luminosity):
Since the blend mode is now set to Brightness, the Curves adjustment layer no longer affects the color. The contrast of the image is still enhanced, but the color saturation is the same:
Perhaps the images presented in the lesson do not see much of a difference when changing the blending mode, so try switching between blending modes from “Normal” to “Brightness” yourself, and the difference will be easier to see, especially if the image contains many red and blue hues.
Often the blending mode “Brightness” is also used to enhance the sharpness of images. To make the photo sharper, many use the classic filter of the program Photoshop “Contour Sharpness” (Unsharp Mask), and this of course is a perfectly acceptable option. The only problem that may arise in this case is that the “Contour Sharpness” filter adds sharpness to both degrees of brightness and color, which sometimes leads to the appearance of noticeable halos around people and objects in the picture. To reduce the likelihood of ghosting when using this filter, we can use the “Brightness” blend mode along with the Photoshop “Fade” command so that the effect is only on the brightness of the image, and not on the color.
After applying the “Contour Sharpness” filter, go to the menu section “Editing” (Edit) at the top of the screen and select “Loosen: Contour Sharpness” (Fade Unsharp Mask):
After opening the command dialog box “Let loose” change the parameter “Mode” (short for “Blend Mode”) at the bottom of the window on “Brightness”:
This step will change the blending mode of the “Contour Sharpness” filter that you just applied to “Brightness”, with the result that the filter will make the image sharper only within the brightness and not affect the color. Perform this operation every time you apply the “Contour Sharpness” filter, and the result will be much better!
And here we are done! Despite the fact that the program Photoshop presented up to twenty-five different blend modes, depending on the version you are working with, we were able to identify five blend modes that you need to know. The “Multiplication” mode darkens the image, the “Screen” mode brightens the image. The “Overlap” mode simultaneously darkens and brightens the image, making it more contrast, the “Color” mode allows you to add or change colors in the image without affecting the brightness of the image, and, finally, the “Brightness” mode allows you to work with the image brightness without affecting on the color palette. Having studied only five blend modes, you will save a huge amount of time and can easily process, restore and retouch photos.