Overlay layer overlay mode

In previous lessons, we looked at the “Multiply” layer blending mode, which darkens images and is great for sharpening shadows and working with overexposed images. We also looked at the “Screen” layer blending mode, which brightens images and is an indispensable tool when working with underexposed snapshots and images where you need to add brightness to bright areas. Our next step will be to study the third important blend mode, which simultaneously enhances the depth of the dark areas of the image, and adds brightness to the light areas – the blend mode “Overlap”.

At the beginning of our course, we learned that the blend mode “Overlay” is included in the group of contrast modes, along with such modes as “Soft Light” (Soft Light), “Hard Light”, “Bright Light” (Vivid Light), Linear Light, etc. Each of these modes is aimed at enhancing the contrast of the image, but the “Overlap” mode is the most popular and widely used, and you should know it.

Let’s go back to our simple two-layer drawing once more to see how the Overlap mode works. So, we have a background layer, filled with blue, and the overlying layer, on which the horizontal black and white gradient fill and three squares are black, white and gray (50% gray):

Our document with a simple two-layer pattern.

As we have said before, everything looks unchanged, because the upper layer has the Normal layer blend mode (Gradient and Squares) currently set to Normal:

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

Let’s quickly recall the material of past lessons. When we changed the blend mode of the “Gradient and Squares” layer to “Multiplication”, everything became darker. The white areas are no longer visible, the black areas have not changed, and the gray areas are blended with the blue background layer and become darker. When we changed the blending mode to “Screen”, everything became brighter. All black areas on the layer disappeared, all white areas remained unchanged, and all other areas mixed with blue and became lighter.

The blend mode “Overlap” simultaneously enhances the depth of the dark areas of the image, and adds brightness to the light areas, so that the dark areas become darker and the light areas become brighter. Gray areas are no longer visible. This gives the image additional contrast. That is why, when processing photos, this mode is often used to quickly enhance the contrast in faded images. Let’s see what happens when I change the blend mode of the “Gradient and Squares” layer to “Overlap”:

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

Based on what I said earlier, when choosing the “Overlap” blend mode, the 50% gray square and the gradient area in the central part between the white and black edges should completely disappear. All that is darker than our gray shade should become even darker, and all that is lighter – even lighter. Let’s look at our drawing and see what happened:

Document after changing the blend mode of the “Gradient and Squares” layer to “Overlap”

As we expected, the gray square and the gradient fill area in the central part of the gradient disappeared, the left part of the gradient mixed with the blue color underneath and became darker, and the right part of the gradient mixed with the blue color and became lighter.

What is strange we see in the picture? You might have expected that the black and white squares, along with the black and white edges of the gradient, will not change, black will remain black and white will be white, as I said that the “Overlap” mode simultaneously enhances the depth of the dark areas of the image, and adds brightness of bright areas. When we looked at the “Multiply” blend mode, the black areas remained black, and when we studied the Screen mode, the white areas remained white. And then it seemed logical – because it was impossible to make darker black and lighter – white. But not in the case of the “Overlap” mode. The black square and the black edge of the left gradient actually became a bit lighter and turned a dark blue hue, while the white square and white edge of the gradient became a little darker and bluish. Why did this happen?

The reason for the incident – in the so-called “favoritism.” Yes, yes, this word refers not only to family and service relationships. It is also used in the program “Photoshop”. When you selected the blend mode “Overlap”, the program defaults to the underlying layer / layers to the layer to which you applied this mode. In other words, in our case, the program made the layer “Gradient and squares” less important with the selected blend mode “Overlap” and more important the underlying layer with blue fill. That is why the blue color “prevailed” over black and white flowers.

Let’s see what happens if I change the order of the layers on the panel so that the “Gradient and Squares” layer is on the bottom, and the blue fill layer is above it. At the moment, Photoshop does not allow us to move the background layer, so I will rename it first. To do this, I will press and hold the Alt / Option key and double-click the layer name “Background” (Background) on the layers panel, and the layer will be renamed “Layer 0” (Layer 0). Since now the layer is not called “Background”, I can move it freely. What I will do is by moving the blue fill layer over the “Gradient and Squares” layer. Also, I’m going to change the blend mode of the “Gradient and Squares” layer back to “Normal”, and set the “Overlap” blending mode for the blue filled layer:

The blue fill layer is now located above the Gradient and Squares layer and has the blend mode set to Overlay. In the Gradient and Squares layer, in turn, the blend mode is set to Normal.

This time, since the blend mode “Overlap” is selected for the layer with a blue fill, the program preferred the underlying layer “Gradient and Squares”. This means that the black and white areas on the “Gradient and Squares” layer should remain unchanged. Let’s see if this is true:

The black and white areas on the “Gradient and Squares” layer should remain unchanged, as the program made the blue fill layer less important.

Indeed, everything changed as we expected. The black areas remained black, and the white areas white, while the gray areas disappeared from view. By changing the order of the layers and applying the “Overlap” blend mode, we further enhanced the contrast in the figure. As we can see, the blend mode remains the same, but since we learned that the program always makes the layer that is below the layer with the Overlap blend mode more important, we were able to make the contrast stronger.

Most likely, in most cases when applying the “Overlap” overlay mode, you will not have to deal with the notion of “favoritism”, but knowing about it will not hurt.

Using the overlap mode in real life

Let’s look at how you can easily apply the blend mode “Overlap” to enhance the contrast in the image. Below is another old photograph that has faded with time — neither clear shadows nor bright highlights are visible:

An old photograph that has faded with time and lost brightness

As with the “Multiply” blend mode, and the “Screen” blend mode, I’ll first be going to add a “Levels” adjustment layer by clicking the New Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the layers panel and selecting from List of Levels Adjustment Layers:

Add a “Levels” adjustment layer to the image.

Again, we don’t need to make any changes in the Levels dialog box that appears, so I’ll just click OK to close it. The program acts in its sole discretion and places the “Levels” adjustment layer above the background layer. As you know, by default, Photoshop for all new layers sets the blend mode to Normal, so I will change the blending mode of the Adjustment Layer Layers to Overlap:

Change the blend mode of the adjustment layer to “Overlap”

And now, if we look at the image, we will see that by simply adding the “Levels” adjustment layer and changing its blending mode to “Overlap”, we have significantly increased the contrast of the image. Dark areas have become even darker, and light areas are brighter:

After changing the blend mode of the adjustment layer to “Overlap”, the image contrast increased

I think we can further enhance the contrast of the image, and do it by simply creating a copy of the adjustment layer. Press the key combination Ctrl + J / Command + J, resulting in a copy of the “Levels” adjustment layer. She, like the original adjustment layer, has the blend mode set to “Overlap”:

The layers panel contains a copy of the “Levels” adjustment layer, which also has the “Overlay” blending mode set.

And now, if we again look at the image, we will see that it has become even more contrast. In fact, with the second adjustment layer, the image looks too contrasty. Some of the details in the picture in the brightest and darkest places are lost:

After duplicating the adjustment layer, the image looks too contrasting.

To achieve the desired degree of contrast, I just need to reduce the opacity of the copy of the adjustment layer. In my case, I will reduce the opacity to 60%:

Reduce the opacity of the “Levels” adjustment layer copy

And this is how a photo with the necessary degree of contrast looks after reducing the layer opacity:

The end result after the restoration of shadows and highlights in the image using the overlay mode “Overlap”

We learned how to easily restore the shadows and highlights on the image and enhance the contrast of the image, just using the “Levels” adjustment layer (or two layers) and the “Overlap” blending mode. The third blend mode that you need to know when processing, retouching and restoring photos, we studied. In the next lesson we will look at the fourth blend mode, which does not affect either shadows or glare, nor the degree of contrast, but this is no less important – the “Color” mode!

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