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Clipping adj. layers in various blending modes

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  • Clipping adj. layers in various blending modes

    Hi to you all,
    this is my first post in the forum, but I've found RP tuts some time ago and they've always been really inspiring (expecially those from byRo!)

    Stop flattering here is my problem...

    I'm playing with adjustment layers (curves) in different blending modes, which is ok. I use to clip them, which is also ok, let's say this as an example (think at the following one as a text version of the photoshop layers palette):

    3. Curve layer [SOFTLIGHT]
    2. Curve layer [LUMINOSITY]
    1. Background picture [a photography, whatsoever]

    So a "straight" curve layer in luminosity blending mode (a "null" adjustment layer) which has on the top of it another "straight" curve layer in softlight blending mode *clipped*. Straight means that there's no point in the curves -- the softhlight one acts as a duplicate of the background picture and add contrast, while the clipping with the luminosity adj. layer restricts its effect only to the luminosity and leave the original color alone. I hope my english skills late at night are good enough to let you follow me

    So, I use to play with these tricks, but I'd like to push it a little bit further, and here comes the problem.

    I would like to, let's say, keep the effect of the previous example, but restrict the "luminosity of the softlight layer" only to its "darkening" part (if you're used to Dan Margulis books, this is a pretty frequent technique).
    What I'm trying to emulate is an impossible (at least AFAIK, in CS2) "double clipping", that would be:

    4. Curve layer [SOFTLIGHT]
    3. Curve layer [DARKEN]
    2. Curve layer [LUMINOSITY]
    1. Background picture [a photography, whatsoever]

    So I tell to myself, that's easy, the workaround is: let's put all the adj. layers stuff into a layer group, and set its blending mode to [DARKEN] and voilà!
    No luck, it doesn't work. I've also played with layer's advanced blending options (blend clipped layers as group, etc.) and again nothing.
    I can always quit using adj. layers and blend background picture copies, but I find this... less "elegant", and also less file-size savy!

    By the way, this could be accomplished by blending a background copy with a softlight adj. layer, setting the blending mode of the result to darken and clipping this to a straight curve adj. layer in luminosity, all on the top of the original background photo.

    Well, maybe with few pictures I could have been more clear. I promise you I'll write a tutorial about it obviously when I'll find out how to do this my way!

    TIA for your help and cheers from Italy,


  • #2
    Davide, welcome to RP! If I followed you correctly, would the following help:
    After you create your 1st Curve layer, do Ctrl + Alt + ~, followed by Ctrl+Shift+I. Then with the selection active, add your 2nd curves layer. The highlights will be masked and only the darkening will occur when you change the blend mode to Soft Light. If this is not what you meqant, then then best way to communicate your problem would be to attach some screen shots of your palettes.


    • #3
      Davide, welcome to RetouchPRO (and thanks for the nice words ).

      I read through your post a few times and I can't say I really understand too much - a couple of screen shots would really help out.

      It's very rare to see Clipping masks being used around here, actually I only remember ever seeing them mentioned a couple of times. I can't speak for all, but I personally don't use them - just use a lot of masks.

      While I was thinking, mistermonday has already replied, so I'll just second what he said and advise you do search in the Forum for "Luminosity mask" - seems that this is what you need here.


      • #4
        I thought a bit more, seems I understood something now.
        While the method works, it doesn't seem very practicable - which is probably why nobody uses it.
        (Interesting idea though - might come in useful sometime.)

        I attached a screenshot of what seems to answer your question.

        To do the same sort of operation, however, I would probably convert to LAB mode to preserve the Luminosity.
        Then make a Shadow mask (inverted Luminosity mask) and adjust only the Luminosity channel.

        Attached Files


        • #5
          Hi and thanks for your answers!
          When I'll get off work I'll try to post few screenshots to illustrate my usual crazy workflow

          While is not so common, I've found that adj. layers are incredibly helpful when used with different blending modes to fix color/contrast issues in photographs. I try to avoid selections when possible, even those created from channels (lum. mask and so on - when working with hires files, size becomes an issue), that's the why of my personal research! Anyway, stick around and I'll post some better illustrated description.

          Thanks again!



          • #6
            Originally posted by undavide
            While is not so common, I've found that adj. layers are incredibly helpful when used with different blending modes to fix color/contrast issues in photographs.
            The use of blended adj. layers is common (and fundamental) what is not common is the use of clipping masks to control these layers.

            Originally posted by undavide
            I try to avoid selections when possible, even those created from channels (lum. mask and so on - when working with hires files, size becomes an issue)
            OK, that explains some things.

            Here's a good way to do the luminosity mask trick without a mask.
            Open up the Blending options of the adjustment layer you want to "mask".
            At the bottom of the options you'll find "Blend if" . This is an extremely powerful (usually overlooked) little tool. (Look around for tutorials, if you need help - just ask)

            So, converting to LAB first, all your problems are solved in one layer (see attachment):
            1) Affects only luminosity (L channel);
            2) Levels (curve) affects the darker regions;
            3) Blending mode of the adjustment layer is still free to be set to whatever you wish.

            (and no masks! )

            Attached Files


            • #7
              first a couple of thanks to Rô and MisterMonday, and to you all sorry for the bad quality of the attached JPGs (I made'em quickly and compressed'em badly to keep the size as low as possible!)

              So I'll try to illustrate better my thoughts, and again sorry for my little english skills . Anyway, here I go.

              Picture 1 is a well known effect of blending modes: you duplicate the BG, set it to SoftLight and, because of the properties of that particular blending (which lighten where the pixel brightness of the upper layer is higher than 128, and darken where the pixel brightness is lower, boosting the color saturation more or less everywhere) what you see is what you get.
              I make in this post a deliberate excessful use of color/contrast to illustrate better the process...

              Picture 2 is the same effect using Adjustment layers (curve, levels, channel mixer work as well, they need to be created and NOT modified, unless you know exactly what you're doing - that's not showed here) and blending modes. File size savy!

              Picture 3 is how to use only Adj. layers and "layer clipping" to take only what we would consider as the "good" part of that SoftLight move - the luminosity, in this case (don't ask me why, is just an example ). It would be the same if you duplicate the picture 2, convert to lab, take only the L and put it in a Lab converted copy of the original untouched Picture. This way is far quickier than Lab stuff.

              Picture 4 is the same as 3 using not Lab, not Adj. layers, but background copies (the good old way The illustration is pretty clear, I hope.

              Let's playing Photoshop chess game and start adding some spice I've to say that this is only an example, SoftLight and Darken are a random pick between other useful blending combination.

              In Picture 5 we get closer to a more elaborate strategy. We suppose to like a lot the SoftLight darkening effect in the right part of the Maria's face, while we found that the left part is already as bright as we would consider correct (we take this as an example). So we must "extract" only the darkening effect of the SoftLight, which means keep the softlight layer only where it darkens and trash the rest.
              I do this by clipping the softlight adj. layer to a darken straight curve, avoiding selections. By the way, we could find where the darkening occours by using a duplicate merged layer in Difference blending mode, but this would be less easy, involve some blurry mask etc.

              A brief parenthesis: incidentally, the darkening effect of the chosen blending mode occours in the shadows (that's because we've used Softlight, and because of its properties), a well defined part of the picture. In a different situation, we would want to "extract" a blending mode effect in more vague areas, something like "the darkening in the saturated colors". Sliders and mask would be more difficult to use...!

              Finally picture 6 gets rid of the unwanted boost in saturation that SoftLight carries in the picture. The trick is a luminosity Null layer (I use to call "Null" the adj. layers I use only for clipping purposes) which clips the same merged layer we saw in picture 4.

              This would be an impossible "double clipping" (a dangerous Photoshop move! A Luminosity null which would clip a Darkening Null which would clip a SoftLight null ;-), using only Adj. layers, and that's what I'm aimed to. I'd like to avoid merged layers and alpha mask because I'd like to keep the file size as low as possible, I'd prefer to not use advanced blending sliders because this SoftLight*Darken*Luminosity is only a random pick, there would exist some useful combinations that are difficult to tame with them (and with masks as well!)

              Here I'm just trying to find a better (some would say "more elegant"... ) way to accomplish a result that it's possible in a pretty decent way (merging and duplicating). I would have found a lot useful if Photoshop would let me assign a blending mode to a layer group, but, while it's possible, the result isn't as expected, as I wrote before.

              Maybe I'm doing something wrong, I don't know! Any suggestion or comment is greatly appreciated. By the way, I'd be happy if someone would find useful the stuff I've shared, let me know if you discover some intriguing technique!
              Ciao e grazie,

              Attached Files


              • #8
                Your problem is that in order for the effects of an adj layer with a blend mode inside a group to work the group must have its blend mode set to Pass-through.. Any other blend mode needs a layer with data in it in order for the effects to "pass through" to the layers beneath the group.

                Are you really that low on hard drive space/memory that space is that much of a priority??

                I'll see if I can figure anything out and get back to you..


                • #9
                  I think you have to add a copy of the layer, yeah i know you want low memory.. Well I don't think you have any choice here.. If I think of anything else I'll post ..

                  Here's a image of the layers you need to have in order to accomplish what you want..


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by delic
                    Your problem is that in order for the effects of an adj layer with a blend mode inside a group to work the group must have its blend mode set to Pass-through
                    Hi Delic,
                    thanks for the tip. The disk space is not an issue in itself, while I'd prefer to keep the file size as small as possible. The problem is computer performance: even if I'd work with a double G5 full of ram, hires scans (+high bitdepth sometimes) can kill any Mac I've had the possibility to work with. If you scan a panoramic medium format negative with an Imacon, you'll end with a file more or less 9.000x18.000 px, add a dozen of adj layers with masks, keep it 16bit depth, try a lens blur filter and then go out for a coffe, read the newspaper, call friends, then hit the wall with your head until the progress bar is 98%
                    Thanks for your help,



                    • #11
                      lots of laughs, point taken... You point does seem to be a shortcoming..


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