An in-depth guide to how to create artistic metallic effects using Photoshop's blending modes. Part one - Metallic Shadows.

Metallic Shadows

Most blending mode techniques involve self-blends (where an image is blended with copies of itself), but here’s one that blends the tones separately.

Use Select > Color Range to copy shadows and midtones into new layers, before applying blending modes. Here, the result is to reverse shadows and midtones, but you can use the same method to select and transform the colour channels.

I feel it works best with images where the focal point is in the highlights, which you don’t reverse, but you can try it on any type of picture.

1. In the Layers palette, duplicate the original image layer by dragging the background layer onto the Create a new layer icon, or use Ctrl/Cmd-J.

2. Using the pull-down blending mode menu in the Layers palette or the shortcut Alt/Opt-Shift-D, change the new layer’s blending mode to Color Dodge and name it “Color Dodge”.

3. Invert the Color Dodge layer with Ctrl/Cmd-I. The image should now appear completely white.

4. Add blur to the Color Dodge layer using Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. A radius of 5 should be enough to make an edge drawing appear.

5. Hide the Color Dodge layer by clicking the eye in the Layers palette.

6. Activate the background layer and use the menu Select > Color Range. Choose Shadows from the drop-down box and click OK.

7. Using Ctrl/Cmd-J, copy the selection into a new layer and rename the new layer “Shadows”.

8. Move the Shadows layer to the top of the layer stack.

9. Invert the Shadows layer using Ctrl/Cmd-I.

10. Using the pull-down blending mode menu in the Layers palette or the shortcut Alt/Opt-Shift-I, change the Shadows layer’s blending mode to Dissolve.

11. Hide the Shadows layer by clicking the eye in the Layers palette.

12. Activate the background layer and Repeat steps 6 to 9, but choose Midtones in the Color Range dialog, and name the new layer “Midtones”. Leave its blending mode set to Normal.
13. Move the Midtones layer to the top of the layer stack.

14. Show the Color Dodge and Shadows layers by clicking the eye in the Layers palette.

SUNNY HIGHLIGHTS

This recipe preserves the highlights, ensuring that the sunlight on the girl’s face remains the central subject of this picture.

SETTINGS
Blending modeOpacityFill
Midtones + inverted Normal100100
Shadows + Dissolve + Inverted Dissolve 80100
Color Dodge + blur 10 Color Dodge 100100

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