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Photoshop tips #002 using overlay mode part 2

Photoshop painting tutorial overlay mode part 2. Using color with overlay blending mode for your digital painting. In part 1, I explained how to use overlay mode with gray-scale or black and white range (Photoshop tip 001 using overlay mode), now we are going discuss the use of colors.
To me, overlay mode is extremely useful tool to create color scheme once you have your value established in your digital painting. If you’ve read my blog and watched my video tutorials for a while, you will know that I usually work in monochromatic (and/or gray-scale) first in most of my digital paintings. Like many professional digital artists and painters, you begin with drawing, establish shapes, create light and shadow (value), apply color paint, then figure out edges. Similar process also applies in oil painting. Only occasionally I start of with colors right away.
Other than establishing color scheme, overlay mode also very useful when you try to add more colors (hues) to your painting. Though the process can be unpredictable for many beginners, and often novices. But once you understand its function, you will be able to predict the outcome.

In the post you will also need to know HSB mode in color window if you don’t already know that. I use that the most. Personally, I think it is more useful than color wheel, more rational, and better precision. H = hue, S = saturation, B = brightness.
Photoshop color window hsb

1) Any color (Hue) is fine, but it’s the brightness (value) that matters. If you have a painting that you already worked out its lighting (value) and you want to maintain the value, it is safe to set the brightness range between 50% to 80%. If you go lower than 55% (darker), it will shift the overall value to very dark, except for the bright area. Assuming saturation stay the same, it is safer to go brighter though beyond 80% brightness will also light the shadow area up. On the color window in HSB mode (I use the most), along the B bar, it is more predictable to stay from the mid section toward the brighter area, but don’t go too far right. Below are images demonstrate how brightness (B) level effect overlay mode with blue hue and 85% saturation on all A, B, and C.

Photoshop tip using overlay mode brightness

Photoshop tip using overlay mode

A) I painted with 50% brightness.
B) I painted with 20% brightness.
C) I painted with 80% brightness.

As seen above, B turns out way too dark, but A and C we can still work with depending on your preference.
Personally, I prefer 50% to 70% brightness when using overlay mode layer.
I recommend to try it out yourself and play around with it to get the better idea.

2) Saturation level of your color also effect overlay mode, but it will not alter your value range. Depending on how color rich you want your image to be. If you want it extremely colorful, set your saturation high. I prefer mid range color and usually set it around 55% to 70% saturation on the bar. Below are images demonstrate how brightness saturation (S) effect overlay mode with blue hue and 65% brightness on all A, B, and C.

Photoshop tip using overlay mode color

Photoshop tip using overlay mode saturation

A) I painted with 20% saturation.
B) I painted with 55% saturation.
C) I painted with 95% saturation.

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As shown above, all do not effect your established value range. Though A seems as if nothing changes. B would be my choice because the saturation looks more natural. C is a little much, but could work in extreme case or stylize art form.

3) Color overlays color on top of overlay, try to avoid it if not necessary. Get the right color in the first place. If you really need to, it is better to de-saturate the area (dull the color down or totally gray it out) first, then apply paint on overlay mode on top. Personally, I will just paint on top with a solid color of choice on normal mode layer with 70 opacity brush. I get the accurate result that way.

4) Again, overlay blending mode can be found on Layers window when you make a new layer. And you can also find it the brush mode in the little scroll down box right below the main menu.

5) More tip from the master painter, "I learned to paint with gouache, which is a flat opaque watercolor. It was nice to learn with that because most people start with oil, and they smudge it around and never really learn structure. You can't blend gouache, so you have to find the edges of your forms and put a real value change there.
So in digital terms, leave the airbrush and smudge tools alone and use a flat brush. I think the give-away for digital is the slickness. Finding the edge of forms is the first step to good shape design. Hope this helps!
 ~Craig Mullins


manit said…
gr8 stuff xia.really helpful.thanks.
idrawgirls said…
@manit no problem, glad you find it helpful.
pokepetter said…
Hi. I though it would be appropriate to show this picture I did:

There's only one hue, but gives the illusion of more. Also if you study the old masters you'll often see the palette with these earthtone colors. They were the cheapest ones and they had to show a full range of colors with only oranges.

Personally I prefer to start in color right away and rather build up what I need along the way. That way it's much easier to get subtle variations and transitions.

Helpful article. Thank you.
Rene said…
This was a very clear and (I also have to say it) helpful tutorial. I finally understand how overlay works, what to do and what not to.
Thanks a lot.