Creative genius Neil Duerden has been wowing the design community with his effects-heavy work. Here’s how he uses Photoshop’s Multiply blend mode to add depth.

Dynamic depth in Photoshop


For this tutorial, we’re going to be primarily using Adobe Photoshop to create an image that layers a stack of simple effects. The result is a more complex final image that shows considerable depth in its composition.

This style of image is simpler than you’d think to create, but can demand a lot from your system.

You will be switching between Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Corel Painter as well, and throwing a few hand-rendered elements in just for good measure, and to bring out the hands-on creative in you.

A central element of this tutorial is the use of the Multiply function in Photoshop. Part of the darken family of blending modes, at its most basic it compares the blend layer’s pixels with the base layer on a channel-by-channel basis, but rather than simply choosing the darker of the two, it multiplies the base colour by the blend colour.

A multiple of black will always be black, and anything multiplied by white is unchanged. Otherwise, the net result is always a darker underlying image.

Become a mixologist

Multiply can seem odd at first glance. The concept of mixing paints – red and blue, for example – is simple to grasp. Multiplying is similar to the leap between addition and multiplication in mathematics.

To understand it, here’s a mini tutorial. Try creating a document that has two layers in Photoshop. Fill both layers with the same mid-range colour. A light grey works best here.

Next, switch the top layer’s blending mode to Multiply, and you’ll see the mode in operation, with the blend colour a much darker grey.

The key for this tutorial, though, is to focus on experimentation, especially with blending modes such as Multiply and Photoshop’s layer effects, and having a great starting image. While there is a lot you can follow directly along with – and the file is included on the cover CD so you can do just that – an image such as this is heavy on creative fun.

Part of creating a complex image such as this is to be a magpie when it comes to images. From the base mono image through to hand-drawn elements, cutouts and scanned elements, our image is alive with points of interest and texture.


Step 1
First, you need to obtain a mono shot that has good deal of contrast. The shot can have a background or be on an infinity screen, though bear in mind that each type will give a different feeling to the final piece. Your main task here is to find a shot you like, as you will be staring at it for some time.


Step 2
Mask off the subject as tightly as possible, by creating a duplicate layer and adding a layer mask set to reveal all. Next, select the mask itself and draw around the image you wish to keep.

You can use feather-edge brushes to allow for semitransparent edges. Alternatively, you can use masking software like onOne Software’s Mask Pro 4, which makes this bit a lot easier.