Creative Halftones: Unlock the Secrets of Photoshop's Hard Mix Blend Mode | Joseph Francis | Skillshare

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Creative Halftones: Unlock the Secrets of Photoshop's Hard Mix Blend Mode

teacher avatar Joseph Francis, Check out my classes!

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

6 Lessons (23m)
    • 1. Think of the Possibilities!

    • 2. What Exactly Is The Hard Mix Blend Mode?

    • 3. Some Tips Before we Begin

    • 4. 1 Standard Halftone, and 1 Strange One

    • 5. Wallpaper Symmetries, Lace and Filigree Halftone

    • 6. A Look Toward After Effects and the Possibilities of Motion

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About This Class


My class is all about making halftones that go beyone the usual ones, and they all rely on a unique use of the unappreciated and rarely used Photoshop feature called the Hard Mix Blend Mode.

Even if you are a longtime Photoshop experienced in making digital halftones user this class may surprise you!

Meet Your Teacher

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Joseph Francis

Check out my classes!


I started in New York at what is now called RGA Digital Studios, but was then called R/Greenberg Associates. I've worked at many of the top motion graphics and title design companies including yU+Co and Imaginary Forces, and with top creative directors including Kyle Cooper (Prologue).

Visit my LinkedIn profile here.

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1. Think of the Possibilities!: in this course, we're gonna make some cool pictures, and they're all going to be based on the hard mix blend mode. What do people usually do when they use a blend mode? Oftentimes they put one picture over another, and they kind of spin the wheel, play blend mode, roulette and see if anything comes up that's worthwhile. And when you do that about the hard mix, blend mode is one of the ones you skip over because it never does anything worthwhile. Let's take a look and see what the description is. I'm looking at the Adobe website right now. Let's see where is at hard mix. Here it is. Let's see if we can puzzle this out, adds the red, green and blue channel values of the blend color to the RGB values of the base color. If the resulting some for a channel is 2 55 or greater, it receives a value of 2 55 if less than 2 55 of value of zero. Therefore, all blended pixels have read green and blue channel values of either zero or 2 55 This changes all pixels to primary additive colors. Red, green or blue, white or black. Now, why would you want to do that? What? What possible value is that? Well, that's one of the things that we are going to explore in this course in which we make a bunch of custom half tones using the hard mix blend mode. So enroll and check it out. It's gonna be a lot of fun, and it's gonna be really easy. 2. What Exactly Is The Hard Mix Blend Mode?: I want to give you a very quick, intuitive feeling for what the hard mix blend mode does. By turning a grad into 1/2 tone made of horizontal stripes, I'm going to start with a grad on top of it. I'm going to place some blurry stripes, which I made really by just taking some contrast e simple stripes and slightly blurring them. It's very important that they have a little bit of gray in them, because what happens is the stripes. They're going to be forced toe either black or white, depending on what the gray level in the lower images. So in this case, if we take the stripes and we turn them too hard mix, you can see that they represent the grad by starting with very thick bars of black and becoming progressively thinner until finally become white stripes. If instead of using a grad, I use a continuous tone photograph like this. When I put the stripes in hard mix blend mode, I get a horizontal stripe, half tone representation of that photograph, and that's the basis on which we're going to build in the next few videos 3. Some Tips Before we Begin: there's a couple of things I wanted to mention before we go too much further. One is that when you put a pattern over an image and apply the hard mix blend mode, it's not always perfect. First time out. So what I usually do is tune it by adjusting levels or curves. For example, with the image that we're looking at now, if I didn't apply levels right out of the box, it would look like this with levels. It looks more like the way I wanted it to look. Same with the stripes on the upper layer. They're not always perfect. Sometimes you have to blur them a little more, sometimes a little less. Sometimes you have to adjust the contrast range, using levels or curves in order to make the combination of the pattern above and the image below look good when the pattern above has the heart makes blood mode applied. So that's one thing. Nothing is if we look at the image of 100% and this particular one is kind of interesting because these remind me of soundtracks. I think there's probably a design idea there, but, um, another thing that I wanted to mention is that you know the whole point of this is that drives everything to pure black and pure white, which is a recipe for Jackie's and the way that you avoid Jackie's. Or at least this isn't the way I do it. If you wanna have nice anti a liest final results is to work at least four times larger, then your final size wants to be. And then when you flatten everything, you can flatten it. You don't have to image size. If you bring everything down to 25% of its working size, then that's a good way to kind of average every little block of black and white squares into gray levels that represent the JAG ease and kind of smooth things out. So that's one way in which I work. 4. 1 Standard Halftone, and 1 Strange One: Let's try to take this image and turn it into a standard half tone. I'm gonna make a new image. Let's make it, um, 40 by 40. And when I work in 16 bits, um, let's take this image and we will turn half of it. Black, black and white, actually, let's try to get that right in the middle. Here's that there. Is that Okay, Invert that now. Invert what's left. Okay, now we have a checkerboard at it. Define pattern pattern number two, and let's come over here. Make a new layer at it. Phil Pattern. What pattern? Pattern Number two. Okay, there's that checkerboard now, Right click Convert to Smart Object Filter, Blur, galaxy and Blur. That looks pretty good. And take the whole thing and hard mix. That's what we're here for. Okay, so there was a color image and it made a color half tone. Um, we can try for the fun of it. Well, actually, let some let's use the black and white adjustment layer and play with a black and white conversion of this image, and so we could make some creative decisions right there about where we want it to be. That looks pretty good to me. Um, we can try blurring it more. So you blurt too much. It becomes middle, gray and middle gray when you put middle grade fuel hard mix. It either goes pure black or pure white at the halfway point. So you get basically the same thing as threshold at 1 27 gray. So that's the ideas. You want to have some, um, tones in this half tone and you can see that we have control over all kinds of things. Like you could, for example, say levels and then holding down Ault or option on a Mac. I believe you could adjust the Black Point and the White Point and the Grey Point. And so there's another area where control can be exerted over the quality of the half tone . Um, I think that looks pretty good. I'm gonna say I'm going to select those two things, and I'm gonna say, merge down layers. So there's the half tone. It knocked it out off hard mix. But if I put it back into hard makes, you could see there it is again. Um, so one of the things that weaken dio that this is what a simple half tone looks like. There's the image, by the way, that we after the black and white conversion. Um, and here is what the half tone pattern looks like now. One of the things is kind of interesting is you can filter. Oh, I don't know. Um, let's say liquefy and we can reduce this so we can see it. There we go. I take the liquefy filter and push that to their I'm just gonna pushing things around. No. One of the things that's interesting is that I am pushing around the the half tone screen. I'm not pushing around the photograph, so there is a kind of a crazy example of 1/2 tone screen. Some of it's gotten a little stretched, but let's see what happens. There's that, and when we go back to hard mix, you can see that the photograph has not been altered. But the half tone screen has been altered quite a bit, so there is a kind of a crazy half tone. There's another possible creative application for this hard mix blend mode 5. Wallpaper Symmetries, Lace and Filigree Halftone: I'm gonna try something a little different now on them and try using the wallpaper symmetries that Photoshopped provides for making patterns. First, I'm gonna make a small image. Maybe I'll make it, um, 64 by 64 just kind of experimenting. And I'm gonna make sure that the background is transparent on this image. There it ISS. Now I blow it up, I'm gonna draw in it and let's see brush. And I'm just gonna make some stuff up. There's a line. There's another one. I didn't really mean to make the double line, but I'm gonna leave it, and I have no idea what this is going to do. It is kind of an experiment, but I'm going to define that as a pattern pattern. Five. Okay, Now, if we come over to this image, we make a new layer and another new layer in the first new layer at it. Fill with white and in the second new layer and it Phil with a pattern. And the pattern is going to be one of these script patterns. Symmetry, Phil, I'm gonna go with symmetry, Phil, and that kicks into this whole other thing, which is the's what it was called the wallpaper symmetries, and you can look those up on, you know, on the Internet. They're the basis on which a lot of, um, Islamic artists made other kinds of patterns. So there these different, um, ways of repeating things and you can choose from Among I think there are 17 different symmetries, and there are different ways that you can cause them to be filled as well. And you can slide your sub pattern along, do various things. I'm not really that in control of what I'm doing right now, other than to say that I'm just kind of making things look interesting. If you do color randomness, what it does is it shows you all of the different, um, sections that this thing is made of which I don't want to do. I guess it's not doing it because it's black and white, so I guess we're not seeing it. But, um, so I'm reasonably happy with that, I guess. And what I'm looking for is a lot of thin lines and thick lines, a lot of black areas in white areas of approximately equal size. I don't want anything to black or anything to white. I'm gonna go with that. And it's filling that upper layer and there it iss um, if I go to full size, it's that big. Um, maybe a little too small for our purposes, but I'm gonna give it a try. Um, flatten emerged down, and now I suppose I should make that up. Smart object. And after it's a smart object, I will galaxy and blur it same as before. Filter, blur, galaxy and blur. And suppose that could be okay. And we go to hard mix and okay, there's a really small pattern, but there it is in full color. And this is how that half tone pattern got applied to this image and again because I started with a color image. You can see that it's a color half tone kind of interesting because it's got an exotic pattern to it, which looks a little bit like the pattern in the fan that she's holding. I think maybe you could say And um so another thing weaken dio is we can go back down to the original picture and say black and white and we can play with the black and white conversion so That's kind of pretty because it makes so a lace pattern. And maybe I'LL commit to that. Um, so another thing we could do is, let's say, layer, flatten image again. You know, the nature of this is that it makes jag ease. You can see that there purely black or white and jagged. So if I say image sighs and they go down with us, maybe too small but because the patterns quite delicate. But I'm gonna give it a try and see what happens 25%. So if we do that, there's kind of a lace pattern that has some anti alias ing in it. And you know, it's not just multiplying one thing by another. The size of the pattern and the density of the pattern is actually proportional to the lightness or darkness of the underlying image, which I think makes it kind of an interesting effect. 6. A Look Toward After Effects and the Possibilities of Motion: like to leave you with some ideas that lend themselves to animation because you don't need to limit yourself to photo shop. If you know programs like after effects, you can extend this hard mix blend mode concept there as well and do things that move. This is something that I did by combining a photograph I took with texture that animates. That's really just kind of a bunch of blurry circles that you can produce in after effects . And it because of the way the hard mix blend mode works. It looks a Ziff. They're changing size, depending on whether they go to bright areas or dark areas. But it's all really just coming out of the techniques that we've already seen. There is a number of different grads that you can produce in photo shop. One of them is a linear grad, which goes up and down or left and right. Another one is a radio grad. Another one is a grad, which makes it kind of a soft, blurry circle. And if you use thes grads and you can get some interesting effects and some of them lend themselves again to motion, if you know how to extend these ideas into after effects or some similar program. For example, we could take this linear grad and make a series of doors that seemed to open or close, depending on how bright or dark the area underneath ISS. Let's see how much we might go about doing that. We could make a new layer, and we could say at it, Phil, and we'll fill it with a pattern and the pattern will be Grady int. So now we have there actually little squares. You could think of them as little squares, but you know, because they're the same in this direction, they look like a little Venetian blinds and these air 127 pixels square. So if we just go ahead and make it go, go to the heart mix blend mode. You can see that you have these sort of lines that Varian and with like that and again, they sort of looked like soundtracks or something like that. You could do something interesting along those lines. But what if you want to make him seem like a little doors? Well, the way to do that would be to, um, first of all, we're gonna need to say, um, black and white turning black and white. And we can play with the levels in the black and white conversion Until we get something that we like, we can revisit that later. But the other thing that we really need to do is we need the underlying image to have the same gray level across every little door. So if we use the filter pixel ate mosaic filter on, I already have one in place here. We can set the resolution of it until it, um, makes little doors. And so, like the cell sizes 1 28 Here you can see you have to adjust that until they're in sync with the underlying pattern. There it is, very tiny ones. That's what we came in. That 1 28 is, I believe, the magic number that we're working with. And now we have our little doors. We can take that image and inverted. If we want the doors toe. We want the doors to go the other way. That's the black or white adjustment layer. Actually, this is the only one who invert, invert. There we go. Now the doors air going down When we come back here and we can play with you know, the levels like that, or we can, oh, put a curve or levels adjustment layer there and play with that until we get a level off contrast that we like, move the great point. And what's fun about this is that if this were animated footage, then we could make it. So the little thing seemed to animate as well. Um, and if we look at some of these other grads, like, for example, edit Phil Ah, how about the one that goes blurry dots? So there is that. That's kind of an interesting 19 sixties op art pattern. Could do various things with that. Um, this is an interesting one. It's a grad that goes around in circles. So if we say at it, Phil, with that one, then what we have is little. It's kind of a little hard to perceive, but we have little sort of dials that go around the clock 360 degrees. And the more they open up, the more the brighter it is underneath in the the more they closed down the darker it iss. And if you combine that with an image of little circles, you know, you could make it really look like little dials or something like that. So what I've tried to do is give you the tools with which to do some interesting things. I hope you enjoyed this class. And I look forward to seeing how you apply these ideas in your own work. And, um, I'm really interested in seeing what you guys come up with. Thanks a lot.