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Thread: Merging layers with different blend modes

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2007

    Merging layers with different blend modes

    I have areas of a painting where several layers, using different blend modes are stacked on top of each other to give me the look I want. Is there a way to combine these layers once I have finished that area of the painting and still maintain the visual appearance of the different blend modes? I tried just merging 2 layers with different blend modes but the resulting new layer looks nothing like I want and the effect of both blend modes is lost. When you export a painting as an image file these layers get combined and preserve the original appearance of the painting. Is there a way to do that within the painting file itself?

    Sorry I should searched the forum before posting. I think the answer to my question, based on another thread, is no, it's not possible. But it sounds like I might be able export each layer and then import them as individual paint layers and then merge them? Is that correct? Or better yet put the layers in a group and then export the contents of the group to an image file. But that doesn't appear to be possible.
    Last edited by jmac; 02-03-2016 at 02:17 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Hi jmac,
    Looks like you’ve managed to both post and answer your own question there!
    But yes, I’ve always found merging layers with different blend modes to be a bit of a “suck it and see” thing too.

    Not being a programmer I’m not sure why it can be so problematic for a program?
    Un-merged the screen shows us exactly what we want, the program “knows” what each and every pixel should look like. So why can’t it remember what it was telling the screen before merging and then reapply that info to the newly created merged layer?

    Although it is of course very easy to get immersed in the painting process it always pays to keep an eye on the layers stack and keep it organised in Groups as you work.
    So though you can’t export just a group’s content (but it would be really great if you could!) you can turn off any unneeded groups in a well organised stack with relative ease and then do a normal ‘Export Image’ to get just the content you want.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Thanks for the reply Mark. Nothing like working on a complex project to force you to learn the ins and outs of managing layers! I've really gone around my elbow to get to my thumb a lot with this but I have become much more familiar with the program.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    The problem is that a blend mode is an 'active effect' that depends on a combination of layers. A blend mode with no layers below does nothing. It doesn't change the actual paint laid down on the canvas (for example, some blend modes 'erase' large areas of paint. Making this permanent involves transforming the entire layer contents).

    I do agree it would be useful, it's caught me out a few times, and it will go on the suggestion list in case one of the programmers has an inspired brainwave

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Hannah, I have absolutely no programming expertise at all so I may be (read "probably am") completely wrong but if you created a group which contained all of the layers required by the blend modes, wouldn't it be possible to export that group as an image file and then import it back into the painting as a flattened version of that group? Or am I missing something...and thanks for passing this on for consideration down the road perhaps.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location author, Digital Tutors instructor
    I think there could be a bake mode which takes dependent layers, bakes them and creates a new baked layer whilst moving those dependent layers into a folder all their own.

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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    New Zealand
    The only way you can ever bake a group of layers with different blend modes in to a single layer (either in the app or for export) without losing colours is if they composite against an opaque layer so that the 'stack' of blended layers ends at a known point. Taking a snapshot of what's visible at any given time is possible, but that forces an opaque background, you can't take a pre-composited snapshot including transparency.

    Sadly, that's just how the mathematics work.
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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Yes Matt, that is what I was clumsily trying to describe. If the bottom layer of the group was a shape mimicking the combined shapes above it and filled with white, effectively masking all layers beneath it. It might be possible then? The flowers in the painting I did of the hummingbirds and trumpet vine in the work in progress thread are like that. Several layers in a group, with two different blend modes and a solid white shape under it all, the exact same shape as the compete flower. The vines are also "masked" with a white fill which allows the transparency of the pencil sketch to interact with the green color on a layer above it set to "tint". That way the background wood grain doesn't show thru. It would just be convenient to be able to merge a group like that once it is complete and retain the appearance you get with the blend modes.

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