In previous posts, I discussed the use of Photoshop’s some blending modes for image adjustments: darken/lighten and multiply/screen. Today I am comparing four more blending modes: Color Burn vs Linear Burn and Color Dodge vs Linear Dodge (Add).
Starting with the darkening modes, Photoshop’s Blending Modes list itself hints at what to expect, because the first four choices are ordered by increasing intensity. The last mode, Darker Color, is new to Photoshop CS3, and deserves a post of its own. Just as Multiply had a stronger effect than Darken, so does Color Burn and Linear Burn. (My original discussion of how to interpret these blending examples is here.)
Both blends quickly add a lot of contrast in the darker regions, and Linear Burn is significantly darker at every step. But reading the Color Burn example from top to bottom, the most important difference between Color Burn and Linear Burn is evident: even when blending 100% black to a base of 100% white, the highlight (white) is protected.
Reducing the opacity slider for each example to 50% (fill opacity remaining at 100%) further illustrates how Color Burn interacts somewhat less dramatically than Linear Burn in the brighter half of the greyscale ramp.
These two blending modes have an additional feature compared to the Multiply and Darken modes: the fill opacity has a different control than the regular opacity. In this example, the opacity is 100%, but fill opacity is reduced to 50%. In both modes, fill opacity has the effect of exaggerating the blend at the dark end of the greyscale ramp, but the entire blend has changed in subtle ways.
Color Dodge vs Linear Dodge (Add)
Just as Multiply is the counterpart to Screen, Color Burn is the opposite of Color Dodge, and Linear Burn to Linear Dodge (Add). The same observations apply to the comparable blending examples.
- Color Dodge protects the extreme blacks in the base layer (top bar) where Linear Dodge does not.
- Linear Dodge has a stronger effect in the darker regions of the image.
- Fill opacity has a different effect than regular opacity across the entire image, most dramatically in further increasing contrast at the lightest end of the greyscale ramp.
I made my introductory image, the brood mares and foals at Reed Thomas Quarterhorses, on a hazy blue sky afternoon in Mount Pleasant. If I were shooting a landscape, I would have considered a split neutral density filter or at least a polarizer to manage the background colors as I wanted them. But Cowboy Dean was driving the horses around the pasture to get them to run straight at me, not a time for tripods or fancy filters. To adjust the background in Photoshop, I
- duplicated the background layer [Control/Command J]
- set the new layer’s blending mode to Color Burn [Alt/Option + Shift B]
- set the new layer’s fill opacity to 30% [Shift 3]
- masked the new layer with a gradient to restrict the new layer blend to the sky and mountains
With the keyboard shortcuts, I can make this adjustment in about 10 seconds. I can’t argue with that time investment – once the blending modes become familiar tools.
You can download the file I made with the greyscale bars to make your own comparisons. I started a new thread in the Team-PS Flickr pool on these blending modes. I’m also going to pop all the examples in the pool for side-by-side comparisons. I’d love to see any examples you come up with. Mount up and let the blending begin!