Photoshop tutorial overlay mode part 2

Photoshop tutorial overlay mode part 2 using color with overlay blending mode for your digital painting. In part 1,  Photoshop tutorial using Overlay mode, I explained how to use overlay mode with gray-scale or black and white range, 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 Photoshop tutorial overlay mode part 2

Photoshop tips using overlay with color

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 tips overlay color brightness Photoshop tutorial overlay mode part 2

Photoshop tutorial overlay color brightness

photoshop tips brightness adjustment Photoshop tutorial overlay mode part 2

photoshop tips brightness adjustment

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 tips overlay color saturation Photoshop tutorial overlay mode part 2

Using color saturation on Overlay

 Photoshop tutorial overlay mode part 2

adjust saturation in Overlay mode

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

free e book mini Photoshop tutorial overlay mode part 2

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

PinExt Photoshop tutorial overlay mode part 2tumblr Photoshop tutorial overlay mode part 2

About Xia Taptara

Xia Taptara (黃曉聲 Huang XiaoShēng), currently a freelance concept artist for games and films, formerly a character concept artist for ArenaNet/NCsoft (GuildWars & Guildwars 2). I also work on various projects for Game of Thrones, Square-Enix, Paizo Publishing, Fantasy Fight Games, Disney Interactive, and many publishers & clients. I use Wacom Tablet Intuos and Photoshop CS2,3,4,5 to do most of my professional art work. I use pencil, pen, and traditional medium in my free time. I founded ( in 2007 to motivate myself to create more and better art. Also I get to draw and paint whatever the hell I want to. Hopefully I can inspired some young soul and old soul alike. *QUESTIONS & COMMENT: PLEASE POST THEM ON THE BLOG. Or CONTACT ME via idrawgirls Facebook page. DO NOT E-MAIL ME. Thank you. ;-)
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  • Nika

    That is a nice tutorial, but I have a question. I’ve been using this technique to color complex pieces, and I’ve noticed that when you add colors in overlay mode, above grayscale shading, the shades appear to be dead. I presume that is because overlay mode uses multiply for darker colors and shades become simply shifted down on brightness, while in real life they should be more saturated as well. I fix it by adding a copy of color layer in saturation blending mode above, and I also make a mask with inverted and more contrasted grayscale shading layer for that layer. Is there an easier way to fix shadows or maybe I’m doing a futile job altogether?

  • Xia Taptara

    If you use overlay and doesn’t get the result you want, try something else. As I said in the tutorial the darker it gets the stronger the effect, if it is light hardly any effect. Focus on your value when paint, disregard of the mode. Go read