Blending Modes [ part two ]
By Kitten

Hey everyone! Hopefully you’re staying cool and social distancing. Sorry not to have continued this last month, but as we all know, July wasn’t the best month, and I was pretty busy.

So last time we talked, I went over the Normal and Darken blending modes. Let’s get into everyone’s favorite… Lighten blending modes!

First things first, What is Lighten Blending? These modes will in a sense make colors brighter. Anything black that’s in the blend layer will become invisible whereas anything that is brighter than black is going to have some darkening effect on the pixels below it.

Let’s begin.

This blending mode basically takes a look at the base color and blend color, and will keep whichever one of the two is the lightest. If the blend and base colors are the same.. then there won’t be any changes applied. Similar to Darken, this blending mode looks at the three RGB (Red, Green, Blue) channels separately when blending the pixels.
On the supplied images you’ll see that the blending layer (top) has more black in it, so once ‘Lighten’ is selected, as you see the black disappears.

This blending mode is one of the more popular in PS. You’re always going to have a brighter resulting color. Black will have no change, similar to Lighten, it will just disappear leaving the brighter pixels visible.
This blending mode has many different levels of brightening depending on the luminosity values of your blend layer. With this effect, it makes Screen a great blending mode for brightening images or creating highlights.

Color Dodge
With Color Dodge this blending mode blends differently when Fill is adjusted compared to when Opacity is adjusted

This gives you a brighter effect than Screen by decreasing the contrast between the base and blend colors. The effect results in saturated mid-tones and blown highlights. You get a similar effect when you use the Dodge Tool to bright up an image (I use the dodge tool to brighten the ‘whites’ of the eyes).

Linear Dodge (Add)
This blending mode produces similar, but stronger results than Screen or Color Dodge. It looks at the color information in each channel (RGB) and brightens the base color to reflect the blend color by increasing the brightness. Black will again have no effect and will disappear.
It will blend differently when Fill is adjusted, compared to when Opacity is adjusted.

this image shows the difference from the previous with the fill at 100% and now at 52%

Lighter Color
Similar to Lighten, this blending mode does not blend pixels. It only compares the base and blend colors, keeping the brightest of the two. The difference is that where Lighten looks at each RGB channel to come up with a final blend, Lighter Color looks at the composite of all the RGB channels.

So there you have it. The Lighten Blending Modes. Next time we’ll move into Contrast.

As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to hit me up. If there’s anything you’d like to see explained further in photoshop or tutorials let me know. Stay cool, mask up, stay healthy!

Blending Modes [ part one ]

Composed by Kitten

Happy June fellow designers!

It’s so exciting to see the amount of designers there are out there, be they just starting or have been at this game for a while. Watching the latest event on ReVo, Nailed It!, it was fun to see everyone’s different interpretation on one image… some of them being a little above and beyond (looking at you Rutger).

Something I’ve always believed in, is helping others learn and learning myself. I enjoy learning new skills or ways to work with images to create a specific look. Recently, I was talking to our bloginista, Rivers, about the whole growing as we go. One thing I always suggest for designers is to have an “inspiration” folder, something that you can save work you’ve seen, be it avatars, commercial work, graphics from deviant art or other design communities etc. It helps in pushing us to step out of our comfort zones sometimes and try something new.

Now enough with the rambling! Let’s talk some basics of photoshop. Blending modes!

One thing that I’ve seen over the years (and have been one of those that have done it) is that there are times when we don’t really understand what the blending options are and how they’re utilized. Instead, to achieve effects we’ll use the opacity slider which just lowers the transperancy of the layer.

With each blend mode, they have specific functions and uses. I’m going to be doing a series covering these different effects.

This first in the series is going to cover our Normal Blending Modes and Darken Blending Modes.

“Normal Blending Modes”

First we have NORMAL and DISSOLVE. As you know with NORMAL the image is as is, no changes. When you select DISSOLVE, at first it’s exactly like NORMAL, but play with the opacity slider, lowering it and you’ll see that this blend mode is slowing, in a word, dissolving. It’s a neat effect for when you want a “speckled” look. I’ve used it to “dirty” up avs.

“Darken Blending Modes”

Next group is the Darken Blending Modes. Basically what these blending options do to your image is make the colors darker; your white will become invisible and anything that is a darker color to white will have some darkening effect to the image below.

DARKEN – In a more wordy way of describing this mode, it looks at the luminance values for each of the RGB (red, green, blue) channels and it selects either the base color or blend color depending on which is darker. In layman’s terms, it’s basically going to keep the darkest of the 2. If the blend layer and the base layer color are the same there’s gonna be no change (red on red, blue on blue etc). In the example you’ll see that the pink and blue-ish of the layer are still more visible while the yellow strip fades and becomes more green. In this image the red in the pink and blue were the dominate of the RGB spectrum, while the yellow which has green in it was more closer to white.

MULTIPLY – This one if a fan favorite. It …multiplies! (see what I did there?) the luminosity of the base color by the blend color. This always has the effect of darkening the color. White doesn’t make any changes, and black will remain the same. This is actually a good blend mode for darkening an image or creating shadows.

COLOR BURN – So with this blend mode, it’s unique in that it reacts differently when you play around with the opacity slider. It’s going to give you a darker look then what MULTIPLY did by increasing the contrast between base and blend layers. This effect gives you a more saturated mid-tone and it reduces highlights. If you use your burn tool it’s the same effect.

LINEAR BURN – This blend option results in a darker look than what you would get with MULTIPLY, but it’s going to be less saturated than if you used COLOR BURN. It produces the most contrast in darker colors than any of the other blend modes that are in the darker group. This is also a blend mode that you will get different looks playing with your FILL slider as opposed to the OPACITY.

DARKER COLOR – This one is a lot like DARKEN. This one doesn’t blend your pixels as it’s only comparing the base and blend colors, keeping the darkest of the 2 (remember the RGB). As you can see in the example, the reds of the pink and blue are the more dominant while the yellow is less dominate over the pink of the base image. The way this is different than DARKEN is that where DARKEN looks at the RGB channel individually for the final blend, DARKER COLOR is looking at the composite of all the RGB channels.

Hopefully this gives you a little bit more insight regarding these blending modes. Stay tuned for our next in the series, Lighten Blending Modes.

As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Masking Tutorial 101:

Photoshop Basics: Masking (aka the holy grail)

Erasing in photoshop isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes you don’t always get the blend right, you don’t get those ‘whispy tendrils’ in hair, and it can lead to some frustrating times trying to ‘cut things out’. ‘Masking’ is a technique that has many uses, from changing colors, to erasing, to blending images beautifully, with the bonus of being able to undo whatever you happen to do, instantly, without messing up your image or having to go back and cut out or erase things all over again!

So lets get down to it!

Start with two images (can be any image, we’re going to try and put the ship in the background of ole Gannicus here).

First, you want to ensure you’re on the layer at the top that you want to ‘blend in’ and then click on the ‘add layer mask’ button as shown below.

Which adds a layer ‘mask’ to it (its a white box attached to it) like this.

When you have this layer and you click on it, your color palette for your brushes changes to black and white, as shown in the image. This is where the magic happens.

If it isn’t black and white, simply change them.

First thing to remember, is you want to ensure that you’re on that particular portion of the mask while you’re doing your painting (meaning you want to have the mask layer selected and not the actual picture). From there, what you do, is take the BLACK paintbrush, and begin painting over the portion of the image that you want to ‘erase’ bringing out the background (or bottom layer) as shown below. You can see this is in action on the right hand layer palette, as black begins to appear on the masking layer, and your image begins to ‘erase or fade’ into the background. This way, you’re not actually touching the underlying pictures AT ALL. They’re still there. If you happen to go to the layer pallete where you see your mask and RIGHT CLICK on the masking layer, and disable or delete it, your image is still there, completely in tact. You literally cannot mess up your original image, as long as you’re working on the masking layer. You can paint in/paint out as much as you want.

Below is an example of being on the masking layer, and painting over it with the black brush where you see the ship disappearing behind Gannicus.

The beauty of masking, is when you make a mistake, or want to fine tune something. Simply swap your color brushes from the black to white, and use the white to begin painting back over the portions of your image you want to ‘reappear’ as shown below. (Again, ensure you’re active layer is the actual ‘mask’ portion otherwise you’ll find yourself painting black or white on the actual image).

From there you can do this with as many images as you like, in any order that you like. You can overlay images one on top of the other before ever applying the ‘mask’ and you can do it to anything. Font. Styles. Colorings. Layer on top of Layer, Etc. You can change your brush sizes and blow up the images to get in there for fine details, or use a softer brush (protip: softer brushes overlay things nicely around hair and models).

There’s a myriad of things you can do, but once you do it once, on an image, and see it in action, then the rest will come naturally with something to experiment with. You might still want to ‘erase’ or ‘cut out’, and there ARE times that call for that, but hopefully this will bring about some new thoughts, tips and tricks, and make that blending easier!

Masking in Action:

Below is a video of a quick two minute tutorial on masking*, showing the color changing on a car. Some of the language He uses involves hot key commands and shows a couple of little pro-tips and tricks for cleaning up your mask, but its exactly the same concept.

*credit to @Tutvid on youtube for the Breakdown Video.

New Tricks!

Tutorial by Kitten

A trick! A tip!

With photoshop, we all love our filters. Go to any design event where there’s parameters put in place and one is telling the designer they cannot use any filters, and you’re gonna hear bitching and moaning.

Photoshop is always updating, and with the most recent updates, some of our filters from the older versions don’t work on the newer version. One in particular, EdgesFX, was a cool filter that allowed you to create an edging within the avatar. You could choose different colors and work with that, but the most popular was a white thin line to give an almost pop/ethereal look.

Sadly, the newer version of PS doesn’t accept it as the filter hasn’t been updated. Well here is a tip/trick for those interested in recreating that look:

Once your av is set for the filtering process, you’re going to combine all the layers into one layer (create a new blank layer on top, have that layer selected and on your keyboard press together alt+ctrl+shift and E). You’ll see this combines them all to that one layer but leaves you the individual layers below (that gives you a chance if you don’t like the end result to delete the combined and work on the other layers).

Duplicate that combined layer (you can right click and select ‘duplicate image’ or on your keyboard ctrl+j). This creates of course a duplicate of the combined image and this is what you’ll be working on for this effect.

Go to Filter—>Stylize—>Find Edges and select. Your image is gonna look all funky, don’t worry!

Now you’re going to want to do this no matter if the image is already b&w or not. Image—>Adjustments—>Desaturate.

Next again go to Image—>Adjustments—>Invert. That will as you can see, invert the image so the lines are white.

The last step is to go to your layers window and set the image to ‘soft light’ or ‘overlay’ depending on how much you want the lines to “pop” and adjust the opacity in the range of 20 – 30%.

And there you have it! Just complete all your filtering/colorings and font after with the other combined layer, keeping our duplicated/edges one on top!

If there’s any other tricks or tips you’d like to learn, I have tutorials posted on DCD and will continue contributing to Evolution Theory!

Design 101

Composed by Rivers with Kitten, Rutger and Addiction

Design is a huge element in our community and there are so many people branching out and trying to get started. I only started about a year ago so I still consider myself a new designer. I have definitely been taught some amazing tricks by some amazing friends but starting out was hard. Anybody else beat their heads against the wall erasing? Anybody? No? How about ghost people? No? Don’t lie. I know what you did.

In the last few months I’ve been brave enough to start asking people how they did what they did. Some people have been cool enough to screen share with me and give me step by steps and some had tutorials that they sent me. I got over the fear of asking ‘stupid questions’ (for the record, I totally just asked kitten a stupid question YESTERDAY) and I got over the fear of having my work critiqued (anybody ever have Addiction put their av on his big screen? fml) and I started really paying attention to artists that have a style that speaks to me (Rutger is always hearing me gush on his work!). What I realized in getting ‘brave’ and talking to people in the design community is that I should have done this a LONG time ago. I could have saved myself so much frustration. I could be further along than I am. I realized also that the resources out there for new designers are ABUNDANT. Don’t know how to use them? Its cool – there are so many people that are willing to help.

I get the fear but I wanted to help break the ice for new designers because as much as I get the fear – I really get the pain of trying to navigate that software blindly and the thrill and frustration of finally being told or shown something that you needed to know months ago. So my idea here was to get together with some of my favorite designers, each with very different styles and approaches, and to ask them a few questions geared towards beginners for advice to help those getting started go on and start!

Here. We. Go!

[1] What is the most essential skill that people new to design should master when starting out?

Addiction: This one is tough, but for me, I think its masking. Some still erase. Or completely cut out, but there’s something about learning to put images together smoothly and making a transition that masking really helps. Its the foundation of it all, and its really easy to undo.

Rutger: I know this sounds funnny but I’ve learned to examine my images from all sides of my screen as I am doing them. That way theres no excess shit everyone can see that you haven’t meant to be on the image. I don’t know if thats a skill.

Kitten: Accept criticim. not everyone is going to like your work, and someone is always going to have a “suggestion”. You can either take it for what it is, sometimes it’s great information from people who know what they’re talking about, or it’s bullshit from people who don’t. It’s up to you in how you interpret it, but you need to be able to take it and not freak out. Even some of the greatest artists in the world started out drawing stick figures.

[2] What are resources that every designer needs to have in their arsenal?

Addiction: Textures. Fonts. Styles. You need em all, but don’t have to go crazy. Most I know have thousands of everything but only use a few. That’s ok, it happens.

Rutger: I was lucky enough to acquire the Nix collection when google was still giving it away for free. Also good quality stock and textures. There’s a ton of great artists on Revo, and DCD and TAG that offer up some great ones. Also a resource I guess would be a good design community with the exchange of ideas and resources.

Kitten: A solid folder of stock images or textures. And an understanding of how to use them. Colorings can come at a later time but you’re building your graphics with your images first.

[3] What are the best ways for new designers to expand and improve their skills?

Addiction: Practice, practice, practice. Talk with others. Do tutorials. Get feedback. Be open to constructive criticism. Also – don’t cut yourself off from unfamiliar territory. Don’t turn down design requests. Try everything.

Rutger: I found that doing tutorials helped. Not only teaching new styles and ways of making the image beyond that it proved to help in learning the program itself. Also sometimes I just fuck around with images in PS until I have some kind if blend that I like. Remember if you like it who gives a fuck what anyone else thinks of it.

Kitten: Find designers you like and talk to them about their work. Study their work, do they use a lot of textures? Is there a specific gradient they lean towards? How is their composition differ from this designer? Check out tutorials on design board and deviantart and youtube. Play around in photoshop. If you see someone wearing a design you’re interested in, ask them about it… basically just start a dialogue.

[4] What are the most common mistakes you see from new designers?

Addiction: Erasing/masking. Everyone has their own way and art is subjective, but a lot of times you see a model that’s not cropped or cut out very well, has thick lines around it, and it just looks really off. Also, fonting, but that’s not something relative to new designers, hell I still mess that up too.

Rutger: I think one of the more common mistakes I see is people using bad quality pictures, rather they already are bad quality or were too small and streetched and pixelated. a bad quality model will kill an av

Kitten: Trusting your buddies to give you an honest opinion. I’m sorry honey. But odds are they’re blowing smoke up your ass when they’re gushing over your latest work when you’re first starting out. So you’re gonna be handing out designs with textures that make your model look like a burn victim, the pose is going to be centered in a way that the model doesn’t look sexy but rather like she’s constipated and trying to squat and get it out.. and they’re just really excited and happy for you and it’s the best EVER!!!!!hearts and flowers and rainbows If you’re that friend and you’re reading this. Don’t be that friend. You’re a jerk. Be honest and tell them that they need to get advice from someone that’s not bias.

[5] What key advice would you give to people just getting started?

Addiction: Don’t give up. Its frustrating, and don’t beat yourself up comparing yourself to others. Its for fun and enjoyment. Ask questions. Google. Look stuff up. Don’t be afraid of making something you might think is ‘bad’ its the only way to get better.

Rutger: Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s cool that you’re trying to learn and don’t be afraid to ask someone you don’t know even if you think it’s too easy.

Kitten: Hey look it’s gonna be a repeating thing here… Don’t give up.. don’t be hard on yourself.. we all struggled in the beginning. We all struggle now. There’s shit I see designers do that I’m like “you asshole.. how the fuck did you do that?” but it’s all about keep on learning. No one is the best. No one knows everything. We’re all learning and we’re all here to help. If you have questions, just ask. If the person doesn’t want to answer.. fuck them and ask someone else.

There you have it! A big shout out and thank you to Addiction, Rutger and Kitten for helping me out with this. I hope it was helpful to somebody out there.

I’d love to hear some feedback on other common struggles when designing and other help for those getting started. Reply below!