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Create a Cinematic Color Grading using Blend-if in Photoshop

In my experience, mastering the capabilities of Photoshop's layer blending features, such as the "Blend If" sliders, has been a game-changer for achieving detailed and dynamic compositions.

These tools offer precise control over the merging of two layers by utilizing their brightness levels, allowing for precise adjustments in how these layers interact based on their luminance.

In a practical demonstration, I use the "Blend If" sliders to infuse a photograph with a cinematic dark Turquoise and Orange color grading, similar to a visual style seen in Hollywood films. This technique involves the creation of two solid color layers.

- I open the image I want to modify in Photoshop.

For tis tutorial, I use a photo I picked from

Original photo:

- I create a new layer at Layer > New > Layer and name it “Dark”.

- Using Paint Bucket Tool, I fill this layer with dark Turquoise color.

- I set the type of this layer to “Color”.

The goal is to have the dark Turquoise influence only the darker portions of the image.

To achieve this,

- I access the Layer Style dialog by double-clicking on the “Dark” layer.

- Within the "Blend If" section, I focus on the "Underlying Layer" slider. By dragging the right-hand slider (White triangle) towards the left, I start limiting the effect to the darker areas. A key technique here is to hold the Alt key while clicking on the slider to split it, enhancing the subtlety of the blend between the dark Turquoise and the underlying layers.

Refining the Highlights

I apply a similar approach to a second layer.

- I create another new layer through Layer > New > Layer and name it “Bright”.

- I fill this layer with Orange color using Paint Bucket Tool, and set its type to Color.

The aim is to ensure the lighter parts of the image embrace the Orange tone while keeping the shadows intact.

- I double click on the Orange layer and under Blend If section, I move the left-hand slider (Black triangle) towards the right on the "Underlying Layer" option and then using the Alt-click method I split the slider, allowing for a smooth transition.

Finishing Touches

The final step in this process involves fine-tuning the opacity of these color layers to achieve the desired effect.

- I click on Opacity drop-down of each layer and lower the opacity.

Note: It is up to you how much you want to lower the opacity of the layers to get the results you want.

This subtle adjustment can significantly impact the overall mood and color balance of the image.

Final result:

Throughout my experience, I've found that using "Blend If" sliders not only elevates the aesthetic quality of my work but also provides a layer of depth and complexity to the images. This method of selective color grading not only enhances the visual narrative of the photographs but also adds a layer of professional polish that distinguishes my work.


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