Blend layers and channels

You can use the blending effects associated with layers to combine channels within and between images into new images. You can use either the Apply Image command (on single and composite channels) or the Calculations command (on single channels). These commands offer two additional blending modes not available in the Layers panel—Add and Subtract. Although it’s possible to create new combinations of channels by copying channels to layers in the Layers panel, you may find it quicker to use the calculation commands to blend channel information.

The calculation commands perform mathematical operations on the corresponding pixels of two channels (the pixels with identical locations in the image) and then combine the results in a single channel. Two concepts are fundamental to understanding how the calculation commands work:

  • Each pixel in a channel has a brightness value. The Calculations and Apply Image commands manipulate these values to produce the resulting composite pixels.

  • These commands overlay the pixels in two or more channels. Thus, the images used for calculations must have the same pixel dimensions.

Blend channels with the Apply Image command

The Apply Image command lets you blend one image’s layer and channel (the source) with a layer and channel of the active image (the destination).

  1. Open the source and destination images, and select the desired layer and channel in the destination image. The pixel dimensions of the images must match for image names to appear in the Apply Image dialog box.

    Note:

    If the color modes of the two images differ (for example, one image is RGB and the other is CMYK), you can apply a single channel (but not the source’s composite) to the destination layer’s composite channel.

  2. Choose Image > Apply Image.
  3. Choose the source image, layer, and channel you want to combine with the destination. To use all layers in the source image, select Merged For Layer.
  4. To preview the results in the image window, select Preview.
  5. To use the negative of the channel contents in the calculation, select Invert.
  6. For Blending, choose a blending option.

    For information on the Add and Subtract options, see Add and Subtract blending modes. For information on other blending options, see Blending mode descriptions.

  7. Enter an Opacity value to specify the effect’s strength.
  8. To apply the results only to opaque areas in the result layer, select Preserve Transparency.
  9. If you want to apply the blending through a mask, select Mask. Then choose the image and layer containing the mask. For Channel, you can choose any color or alpha channel to use as the mask. You can also use a mask based on the active selection or the boundaries of the chosen layer (Transparency). Select Invert to reverse the masked and unmasked areas of the channel.

Blend channels with the Calculations command

The Calculations command lets you blend two individual channels from one or more source images. You can then apply the results to a new image or to a new channel or selection in the active image. You cannot apply the Calculations command to composite channels.

  1. Open the source image or images.

    Note:

    If you are using more than one source image, the images must have the same pixel dimensions.

  2. Choose Image > Calculations.
  3. To preview the results in the image window, select Preview.
  4. Choose the first source image, layer, and channel. To use all the layers in the source image, choose Merged For Layer.
  5. To use the negative of the channel contents in the calculation, select Invert. For Channel, choose Gray if you want to duplicate the effect of converting the image to grayscale.
  6. Choose the second source image, layer, and channel, and specify options.
  7. For Blending, choose a blending mode.

    For information on the Add and Subtract options, see Add and Subtract blending modes . For information on other blending options, see Blending mode descriptions.

  8. Enter an Opacity value to specify the effect’s strength.
  9. If you want to apply the blending through a mask, select Mask. Then choose the image and layer containing the mask. For Channel, you can choose any color or alpha channel to use as the mask. You can also use a mask based on the active selection or the boundaries of the chosen layer (Transparency). Select Invert to reverse the masked and unmasked areas of the channel.
  10. For Result, specify whether to place the blending results in a new document or in a new channel or selection in the active image.

Add and Subtract blending modes

The Add and Subtract blending modes are available only for the Apply Image and Calculations commands.

Add

Adds the pixel values in two channels. This is a good way to combine non-overlapping images in two channels.

Because higher pixel values represent lighter colors, adding channels with overlapping pixels lightens the image. Black areas in both channels remain black (0 + 0 = 0). White in either channel results in white (255 + any value = 255 or greater).

Add mode divides the sum of the pixel values by the Scale amount, and then adds the Offset value to the sum. For example, to find the average of the pixels in two channels, add them, divide by 2, and enter no Offset value.

The Scale factor may be any number between 1.000 and 2.000. Entering a higher Scale value darkens the image.

The Offset value lets you lighten or darken the pixels in the destination channel by any brightness value between +255 and –255. Negative values darken the image; positive values lighten the image.

Subtract

Subtracts the pixel values in the source channel from the corresponding pixels in the target channel. As with Add mode, the result is then divided by the Scale factor and added to the Offset value.

The Scale factor may be any number between 1.000 and 2.000. The Offset value lets you lighten or darken the pixels in the destination channel by any brightness value between +255 and –255.

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