Filters, Masks, Blend Modes, and More in Photoshop Elements 15

Last month we looked at the different types of layers and how they are used in Photoshop Elements.  If you missed the previous article or want to review the basics, you can find it here.  This month we’ll dive a little deeper and look at filters, masks, blend modes, and more. I will walk through the process while creating a layout.

First: The Foundation

I am creating an art journal style layout, so I started with a background paper that already has a lot of elements built-in.  Art journal style can be described as artsy, busy, layered, full and complex.  The Master of Scrap Free Spirit gallery has some great examples.






The are many cool filters available in Photoshop Elements 15.  I knew I wanted the photo to take up a large area and I liked it on an angle.  I decided to apply an Artistic Filter to the photo.  Go to Filter> Artistic.  The artistic filter window opens.  Click on the “Artistic” box, now you can scroll through the various options using your arrows on the keyboard or click each one with your mouse.  I decided to use the Dry Brush Filter.  I set the Brush Size, Brush Detail, and Texture to the settings that work best for the photo then I clicked OK.





Add a Mask

I wanted to remove the background of the photo.  First I duplicated the photo.  There are several ways to duplicate a layer.   Use Ctrl + J OR Right click on the layer and choose Duplicate Layer OR Left click on the photo and drag it to Create a new layer icon.   Note: I duplicate the layer in case I change my mind later, it’s easy to just delete the layer and go back to the original and start over.

When you click Add layer Mask the default is set to white.  You can add a black mask instead by holding the Alt key + Add layer mask.  When using masks remember white reveals, black conceals.  You may be wondering why you would choose black over white.  I use black masks a lot but the main factor is how much of the photo you want to conceal or reveal.  If there is a small area you want to reveal then a black mask conceals the majority of the photo and you can use a white brush to reveal the area you want to see.





When you add masks there are now 2 thumbnails, the photo thumbnail and the mask thumbnail.  The blue box around the mask thumbnail indicates it is active.  I’m using the black mask so I’ll use the brush tool with white paint to reveal the area.  The foreground color (upper left color on the swatch) is the active color.  Toggle between black and white using the x key.  If you reveal too much, use black to conceal it.  You can easily change the brush size by using the bracket keys.  Left bracket to decrease the size and right bracket to increase.  You can also decrease the brush opacity for smooth transitions.  You can also delete the mask by selecting the mask thumbnail then right-click and select Delete Layer Mask.





Another Thing About Masks

Another thing to notice when working with masks is the layers below are affected also.  In the image below I’ve done a side by side comparison showing the difference between one background paper or another.  Notice in image A the handwriting and other elements of the background paper show through to the photo.  Image B uses an artsy background paper so some of the colors come through but it looks very different.  This has nothing to do with the opacity. The opacity is set at 100%.  It’s a characteristic of the masked layer.  I often try several different backgrounds before deciding which looks best.





Link Layers

Linked layers retain their relationship until they’re unlinked. You can move, resize or angle them without having to select each layer.  To link layers, select each layer while holding the Ctrl key if they’re not contiguous or hold Shift & select the top and bottom layer if they are contiguous then right click and select Link Layers.  This comes in handy when using alphas or other items that need to stay together.




Blend Modes

Blend modes affect how colors will blend when they overlap with the layers beneath them.  The Blend Modes that darken are Darken, Multiply, Color Burn, Linear Burn, and Darker Color.  Blend Modes that Lighten are Lighten, Screen, Color Dodge, Linear Dodge and Lighter Color.  Lighting Blend Modes are Overlay, Soft Light, Hard Light, Vivid Light, Linear Light, Pin Light and Dark Mix.  Difference and Exclusion Blend Modes invert.  Color Model Blend Modes are Hue, Saturation, Color, and Luminosity.  As you can see, there are too many to try to cover in this lesson.  Blend Modes apply not only to Layers but to the Brush and Pencil tools as well.  Normal is the default Blend Mode for Layers.  This Mode menu is located in the second row of icons in the Layers Palette.  Once you click on the drop-down button you can scroll through the various modes using the up/down arrows.





Blend Modes can be used to combine photos or add cool effects to a photo or layout.  In the image below I’ve included examples of how the layout can look different simply by adding a paper under the original background layer and applying various blend modes.  I dropped the opacity on the original paper layer to 90% then applied Color, Exclusion and Saturation Blend Modes to the original paper layer.  This is just a quick example of how blend modes can change the look of a layout quickly and easily.




Compare the above examples with the original layout below.  I still like the original best but I just wanted to do a quick comparison of the blend modes.





Here are a couple more ideas for using blend modes:  In this article, Katherine shares an idea for using blend modes with digital paint to add impact. And check out this article by Lisa showing us how to blend text on wood grain to give a more realistic effect. Wow, think of all the possibilities!


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