PI6 Merge Magic

The new PI6 Patch gave us a wonderful bonus, 6 brand new Merge methods! They are: Overlay, Hard Light, Soft Light, Colorize, Lighten and Darken.

This means that in addition to the usual Merge choices for the Fill tools, Fill dialog box and Object Properties box, you have even more options for blending fills or objects with the base image.

If you're wondering, "Hey, just what the heck is a Merge method anyway?" you're probably not alone. Simply put, Merge affects how a fill or object is applied to the underlying colors in the base image. There is a complex interaction between the colors of the fill or object and the colors in the base image (or underlying objects). So the effect resulting from a certain Merge method will be different depending on what colors are underneath. 

Not clear? Here's an example of 3 blue and white butterfly objects. The exact same Difference Merge method was used for all 3. However, note that the colors showing in the butterflies are different depending on where they are placed in the base image.

butterflies with Difference Merge method

I have never yet seen any official documentation of exactly how each of the Merge methods work. Mostly I have learned how to use Merge by experimenting. Carol Brooksbank has written an excellent introduction to Merge methods tutorial.

Getting back to the new Merge methods which are only available after you install the PI6 patch, this tutorial shows how to use several of them to create striking image effects. I'll be using this Hemera PhotoObject.

The object will be pasted into several different sky backgrounds. Let's start with this one, which I love because it looks like a Maxfield Parrish sky.

sky from PI Photo Gallery

If you simply paste the object into the sky, it just sits there covering up the clouds. Not very impressive.

object pasted into sky

To blend the object in, artistically, right click on the object and choose Properties. When the Object Properties dialog box opens, from the General tab, click the down arrow for Merge and select Overlay.

select overlay Merge method

Click OK to close the Object Properties box. Now take a look at the object. A very subtle but exciting change takes place, as the base image shows through the object, without distorting the object's colors or detail.

To take advantage of the woman's outstretched hand and add further drama to the image, I added a Creative Lighting Lens Flare effect, dragging the starburst so that she seems to be reaching for it.

add lens flare

In the next example, I've used the another cloud scene, shown below.

another sky photo

This time I've pasted the woman object into the photo and, via the Object Properties box, I've edited the Merge method to Hard Light. This Merge method seems to add a glaring kind of light that is less translucent and more harsh than Overlay, but which still clearly allows the lights and darks of the base image to show through the object.

Hard Light Merge method

And here's a different kind of effect with another of the new Merge methods. I used the blue sky with clouds, shown below.

blue sky with clouds

After pasting the object into the image, I edited the Merge method to Soft Light. This results in a highly translucent, ethereal effect on the image.

Soft Light Merge method

You are going to love experimenting with the new Merge methods. But don't forget about the older Merge types, which also yield lovely and surreal effects. Here is the same image shown above with the Luminosity Only Merge applied. The colors in the object are replaced by the luminosity of the base image.

Luminosity Only Merge method 

And one last version using the Inverse of Multiply Merge method.

Inverse of Multiply Merge method

Exeriment with Merge methods when you want to achieve a really eye popping effect. It's a great way to combine two similar shapes with startling detail. For example, below I've taken a 2D circle filled with the rainbow fill from the Fill Gallery. 


And used the Overlay Merge method to blend the circle with the eye, erasing here and there with the Object Eraser as needed.

rainbow eye

This tutorial uploaded 2/08/01

Do not duplicate, translate, copy, archive, appropriate or redistribute this document.


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