The Blend If Sliders are one of the most powerful tools in Photoshop. Why is it that so few people know how to best utilize this tool to improve their images? In this article I break down everything you need to know about making the most of the Blend If Sliders in Photoshop.

The Blend If tool allows you to blend colours and adjustments into an image based off of its luminance range. Blend If lets you pick which luminance ranges your adjustment can appear, making it appear much more realistically within your photo.

Video Tutorial

What is Blend If?

The Blend If Sliders in Photoshop are a tool that alters the visibility of an adjustment based on its luminance range. Since this tool blends adjustments based off of its brightness values, it makes for an exceptional way to make brush strokes or images blend together flawlessly.

Depending on the luminance slider you use, it changes how your layer blends into the image. By using the “This Layer” slider, you only affect what brightness levels will be visible on the selected layer. By using the “Underlying Layer” slider, you chose what areas of the underlying layer are altered from the adjustment above.

My favourite way to utilize this tool is when adding varying skin tones to a subject, or blending a new sky into my image. No cutting out or complicated layer masks required!

If you are uncertain about Luminance and what it is, click here to learn more! I will be talking about it a lot in this article…



How Do I Access The Blend If Sliders?

The Blend If tool can be accessed very easily. Just double click on the desired layer to open up the Layer Style dialogue box. In the opening window under “Blending Options” you will notice two grey sliders in the bottom middle of the window. Those are your Blend If sliders, all your blending adjustments will take place here!

The Key Things To Know

Next lets break down the Blend If Sliders in simple terms:

  • “This Layer” Slider: This slider will make changes to ONLY the current layer you have selected. By adjusting this slider, you dictate what luminance range the current layer will be visible. In the example in the video above, I show this simply by using a black and white gradient. As a drag up the base point from the dark range, the darks of my gradients are no longer visible. The same thing happens to our whites when we bring down our highlights base point.
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Gradient before Blend If Adjustments

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Gradient after Blend If adjustments. Red Arrows show changes, green arrows show effect.

  • “Underlying Layer” Slider: This slider dictates what luminance range of the underlying layer will be altered by the above adjustment. In the gradient example, as I lift the base point of my dark range, the shadows of my runners image begin to appear. This is because those dark areas are now outside of my base points. Any luminance value outside of these points becomes completely invisible.
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Gradient adjusted with Blend If “Underlying Layer” Slider. Dark areas of underlying image begin to appear.

blend if sliders photoshop

Gradient adjusted with Blend If “Underlying Layer” Slider. Now bright areas of underlying image begin to appear.

  • Blending Channels: Besides the word “Blend If” there is a drop down menu that contains 4 options. Grey, Red, Green and Blue. These represent the colour channels for our image. If we are wanting to only adjust a specific colour channel can select that channel here. The Grey channel adjusts the luminance values of all the RGB channels. I find just sticking within the Grey channel does just the trick 99.8% of the time.



Feathering Your Blend If Range

This is a really important step to make your adjustments blend as best as possible! When you move a base point, it creates a hard stop at a specific luminance range. This can be fine in certain situations but often this leaves hard and unflattering edges to your adjustment blend. Leaving harsh edges is not a very good way to blend something if you ask me!

Luckily for us we can add a feather to out base points. By holding Option(MAC) or ALT(PC) + Clicking on any base point, you will notice it splits in two. This means you have successfully created a feather! The distance between each half of the base point shows how far the feather reaches within the luminance range. This is vital when wanting to make your adjustment blend naturally.

Blend If and Adjusting Skin Tones

One example this tool is extremely effective is with adjusting skin tone. In the video tutorial above, I wanted to be able to create a realistic highlight around the edge of the model. Simple adjustment layers such as the exposure or brightness adjustments just won’t do the trick. By sampling natural tones already found on her skin, I selected 3 colours to create this highlight. At first, these 3 colours look extremely rough. With a little help from our blend if sliders, we were able to blend the tones in a realistic manner to create a beautiful artificial highlight.

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Blend If To Combine Images

In the second example in the tutorial, I show how we can use the blend if tool to easily replace the sky in our image. The sky typically will sit within the highlights of your luminance range while the foreground typically sits within the shadows of your luminance range. That means if we can show through the darks range, we can blend in a new sky with ease!

To blend the two images together I adjusted the blend if sliders of my cloud image. By utilizing the underlying layer slider, I was able to tell Photoshop that I wanted to see the dark trees; while the bright sky remained. With a quick move of the slider my sky was blended in and completely convincing. No fancy cutting out tricks required!

Just remember if you are replacing your sky, be sure to add the required reflections to make it all look convincing. The reflection can be added with the same techniques!

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So now you have a better understanding of the Blend If sliders in Photoshop. Go start experimenting with this tool and see what types of amazing things you can create!

If you have any questions about the Blend If sliders that was not covered in this article, don’t hesitate leaving a comment below!

Happy Editing! 🙂

-Brendan


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