Blending mode “Multiplication”

In the last lesson, we learned that each of the layer blending modes, with the exception of the “Normal” and “Damping” modes, belongs to one of five groups (dimming, lightening, contrasting, comparing, and component modes), and each group is responsible for the result of applying the mode or for a certain effect.

The first group, the dimming mode group, consists of the “Darken”, “Multiply” (Multiply), “Base Burn” (Color Burn), and “Linear Dimmer” (Linear Burn) modes. Each of these modes, to a certain extent, darkens the image — the “Blackout” mode — to the least extent, while the “Blackout base” and “Linear dimmer” modes – to the greatest.

However, one mode is noticeably different from the other dimming modes – and this is the Multiply mode. It is one of the most important and widely used modes of Photoshop, both when processing photos and creating incredible special effects. This blending mode is unique in that it alone is named for the mathematical operation that actually occurs in the program when we select this mode. Photoshop takes the colors of the layer to which the blend mode “Multiply” is applied, and multiplies them by the colors of the underlying layer, and then divides it by 255 to get the desired result.

Of course, you don’t have to be good at math to apply blending modes. Most people draw an analogy with the work of the overhead projector when they talk about the operation of the “Multiplication” overlay mode. Imagine that you have slides with photos, and you hold two slides in front of you one above one so that the light falls through them. Since the light has to go through two slides and not one, the resulting image will become darker.

Let’s look at a simple example of how the “Multiply” blend mode works. I created a new document with a fairly simple pattern using two layers. I filled the entire background layer with blue, and on the overlying layer I added a horizontal black and white gradient fill and three squares. I filled the left square with black, the right one with white, and the central square with 50% gray (in other words, that shade of gray, which is located exactly between the black and white colors):

A document with a simple pattern consisting of two layers.

If we look at the layers panel, we will see two layers separately – a background layer (Background), filled with blue color, and an upper layer with a gradient fill and squares. Notice that the layer named “Gradient and Squares” currently has the blend mode set to Normal (Normal):

Both layers are reflected on the layers panel, the “Normal” blending mode is selected at the top one.

At present, we see that the gradient fill and the squares cover the blue background of the back layer, because the “Gradient and squares” layer is set to the “Normal” blend mode. This was supposed to be seen initially. When we change the blending mode to “Multiply”, the picture will change. The white areas on the layer will completely disappear from view, while everything else will become darker. The only exception is black areas – they will remain black, since it is impossible to darken black. Thus, all white will disappear, all black will remain black, and everything else will become darker.

Let’s see what happens with our picture when I change the blend mode of the “Gradient and Squares” layer from “Normal” to “Multiplication”. Based on what I said earlier, the white square on the right along with the white part of the gradient fill should completely disappear. The black square on the left to the right along with the black part of the gradient fill should remain black. The gray square and the rest of the gradient fill should blend with the blue under them and become darker. So, let’s begin. First, I will change the blend mode of the “Gradient and Squares” layer to “Multiply”:

Change the blending mode of the “Gradient and Squares” layer to “Multiply”

And now, if we look at our drawing, we will be able to make sure that everything has changed as we expected. The white square and the white part of the gradient fill are no longer visible, the black square and the black part of the gradient fill have not changed, and the gray square, like the rest of the gradient, mixed with the blue color under them and became darker:

Document after changing the blending mode of the “Gradient and Squares” layer to “Multiplication”

Using the multiplication mode in real life

In the process of retouching and restoring photos, one of the most frequently used tasks for the “Multiply” overlay mode is to give clarity to images that faded and faded over time. Below is an old photograph that we could help. Clear shadows faded and acquired a light gray tint, which reduced not only the overall contrast of the image, but also lost small details:

Antique photo faded with time

I’m going to add an adjustment layer to the photo document by clicking on the New Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the layers panel and selecting Levels from the list of adjustment layers that have appeared:

Click on the “New adjustment layer” icon and select “Levels” from the list that appears

When the Levels dialog box appears, I just click OK in the upper right corner of the window to close it, since there is no need to make any changes. All we need is the adjustment layer itself:

Click OK to exit the Levels dialog box.

Now we can see on the layers panel that my original faded image is located on the Background layer, and the “Levels” adjustment layer is added above it. By default, the blend mode is set to Normal (Normal):

The layers panel shows that the “Levels” adjustment layer with the “Normal” blend mode is located above the original image, which in turn is placed on the background layer

Until now, nothing has changed in our snapshot, since all I did was just add a correction layer, without changing anything in its settings in the dialog box. My image still looks faded, as it was before adding a new layer. But let’s see what happens when I change the blending mode of the “Levels” adjustment layer to “Multiply”:

Change the blending mode of the “Levels” adjustment layer to “Multiplication”

Just adding the “Levels” adjustment layer and changing its blending mode from “Normal” to “Multiplication”, I made the shadows in the image clearer and darker, enhanced the overall image contrast and restored the details:

After setting the “Multiply” blend mode on the adjustment layer, the shadows and details in the old photo became clearer.

If I want to make the image even darker, I simply duplicate the “Levels” adjustment layer (by pressing the key combination Ctrl + J / Command + J). As a result, I will have two “Levels” adjustment layers with the selected “Multiply” blend mode, which will be located above the background layer on the layers panel:

The layers panel shows that the “Layers” layer and its copy are set to the “Multiply” blend mode.

Unfortunately, this action caused the entire image to become too dark:

After creating a copy of the “Levels” adjustment layer, the entire image became too dark.

To achieve the required degree of darkening, all that is required is to lower the opacity of the new adjustment layer. I will reduce the layer opacity to 50%:

The layers panel still reflects two “Levels” adjustment layers with the “Multiplication” blend mode.

But how does the image look after reducing the opacity of the second adjustment layer in order to take a picture a little lighter:

Shadows and details in the image are now fully restored.

You can use the same technique to darken the overexposed photo and restore details on it. Just add the “Levels” adjustment layer and change its blending mode to “Multiply”. If you need to enhance the blackout effect, create a copy of the adjustment layer. To achieve the desired degree of dimming, reduce the opacity of the adjustment layer.

Until now, we have studied how the “Multiply” blend mode works, which belongs to the group of dimming modes when editing images to sharpen faded images. I also mentioned that this mode can be used to work with overexposed photos. But these are just two examples of how useful and significant this mode is and why it is among the top five blending modes you need to know when learning Photoshop.

The only drawback that has remained in our photo, despite the strengthening of the shadows – is that it does not seem to be expressive enough in terms of light. The whole image is now darker than it was originally, and you can lighten it a bit by adding highlights. This task brings us to the need to study the second blend mode, which you need to know – “Screen” (Screen). We will cover it in the next lesson!

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