Blending Modes vs Color Picker
I haven't really gotten the hang of blending modes or the burn/dodge tool. I've tried to use the color picker so that I can work on fundamentals but i'm starting to get interested in those other tools.

I was watching a random CTRL Paint video and Matt mentioned he likes multiply because it gives him a "glaze" feeling. What are some other situations where blending modes let you quickly create an effect that would be difficult to find the right color for if you just selected it?
Do not use the Burn/Dodge tool, as that just makes the program render the effect automatically, usually to an effect that's not desired. That being said the color picker alone isn't the only tool you have/can use to get some nice colors from whatever program you are using. The rule of them regarding that is, essentially, "Use what have to it's fullest capicity, not yours". If I'm saying that right...

So when it comes to blending, using your stock brush and futzing with the brush hardness, opacity and flow (and understanding that they make the brush look more solid/softer, more/less transparent, and blend better/worse respectively) is a safe bet at times (as well as knowing when to turn pressure sensitivity off? I dunno).

As far as blending modes? That tends to come from what you/people know painting themselves, I guess. I, myself, tend to try to simulate many water coloring methods in Photoshop, doing things like using a soft 20% opacity brush and some purple and blues over the entire canvas to create the 'Mystic' look. In the long run I'd say it matters from person to person.

I hope that helps. <.<
It can help a little to know the science behind the blending modes but its not necessary.

The general way I consider blending modes, is to treat them as ways to paint while helping to keep your edges sharp and increase contrast. For example, multiply can be used in order to darken areas but keep the value separation the same, whereas normal mode with low opacity tends to bring values closer together, loosing your contrast and, if you used more than one stroke blur your edges. Screen is the opposite of multiply, giving you a way to brighten things. This brings us to overlay, which acts as a combination of the two, resulting in a tool to allow you to mess with darker values while leaving your lighter ones relatively unchanged.

When it comes to the dodge and burn tools, like soft light layer, I think people find themselves abusing them because it gives a way to introduce saturation variation in their colors. So they start using the tools, and in a few strokes find it looks better for some reason, then go a little crazy with them. Try to aim at using them to establish your colors in a very general sense, but that you understand to some level what color relationship you are aiming at, like this area is going to be desaturated because its a highlight, and this shadow is going to be saturated because of reflected light.

Short aside, a technical note about some layer modes that not many people seem to talk about, is a mode changing depending on whether you pick a color above 50% black or below. For example soft light, if you pick above 50%, it will 'screen or dodge', if below, it will 'multiply or burn'. So if you want to easily manage controlling your contrast around an image but keep your edges, you can use a soft brush on one soft light layer, and use black and white exactly where you want.

Understanding these kinda technical aspects about the modes is mainly to give you more flexibility in how to approach your workflow. If you only use normal mode, you will kinda always have to go big forms, and be really careful painting over your smaller forms, either constantly color picking or painting on a lower flow/opacity in order to keep the value hierarchies and gradients you made. With the layer modes, you can lose those subtle gradients as you go, but bring them back whenever you want by just using a soft brush and a specific layer mode. If you only had normal mode, you would have to paint back in details and sharpen back up edges.

So yeah, I don't think I communicated any of that very well :(. But hopefully the takeaway message is, I find that blending modes help you out by letting you keep contrast edges and detail when you want to make/change those big subtle gradients in big forms. For example, when you paint a head, you could paint an egg, then draw/paint in the features on a low opacity to make sure you keep the overall egg values. Or you could draw the egg shape, draw/paint in the features, then at the end use a layer mode to introduce that overall egg value structure.

Hope that kinda helps!

Thanks so much for your helpful replies!

Imskeptical: I've been playing with the modes a bit and I can see what you mean. Your explanation about the egg was great, very easy to understand.

While using the tools i've run into an awkward usage point i'm not sure how to deal with.

Color selecting: On overlay or multiply layer if I try to select the color and paint with it.. well, a different color comes out. What's the solution to this? It would be a little annoying to keep merging the layer down before i've committed to the color choice. I'm really liking the idea of keeping my values but it's tough to get the color I want

Any tips?
Hmm, not sure i get what you mean. The point of the blending modes is that it automatically changes from the color you picked to give you an effect that you may or may not intend, and its your job to get a reasonably good idea what its going to do.

If you mean what I think you could be meaning, in that if you use a blend layer, and you try to color pick to go back to a color you were using in the first few strokes, yeah it can get kinda messy. Theres 2 things i know about you can try. The first is messing with how your eyedropper selects colors, you press i then use the menu up top. Setting it to current layer allows you to select what you were using. You can also try using blending modes on the brush itself, and just be painting on a single layer. This way you can easily switch back to normal mode to get specific colors that you want after getting what you generally want with the blend mode. But thats also kinda just merging it down.

If i didn't answer sorry :(, hope you find it helpful anyway.


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