By Corrie Haffly

Extremely Exclusive Exclusion Mode

By Corrie Haffly

This is one mode that I have never, ever used. I’m probably not the best person to post something on it, but since I’m covering all the other blend modes I couldn’t exactly skip it. So I went to Photoshop help, as it was extremely descriptive with Difference mode, and found…

Exclusion Mode: Creates an effect similar to but lower in contrast than the Difference mode. Blending with white inverts the base color values. Blending with black produces no change.

“Similar to but lower in contrast.” Yep, that’s the best it gets with the explanation for how it works.

I came up with an example graphic to show just how “similar” these two modes are. I have two blue rectangles, overlaid with two additional layers of white/purple/black gradients. One gradient is set to Exclusion mode while the other is set to Difference mode. The overlapping part is the “result” of the blends.

Stunning similarities, aren’t there? Sorry, did I just drip some sarcasm on your keyboard? From what I can tell, blending with pure white and black in Difference Mode or Exclusion Mode produces the same result — but the middle values are quite different.

Just to confuse us even more, I created another example graphic:

Again, pure white and pure black act the same as they would in Difference Mode by kind of “inverting” the color (subtracting the color values from white, which is 255-255-255). The middle values are kind of similar as well, with a slight tint related with the blending color.

So. Where does that leave us? Honestly, the only example of a practical application that I could fall back on was the same one as my last blog, using pure white and black shapes to create a “cutout” effect. While experimenting with Exclusion Mode did result in some interesting, weird, digital-image effects, there wasn’t anything that seemed especially useful to pass on.

I’m sorry if I disappointed you — this mode was a little too exclusive for me. So as always, I welcome you to post your own experiments or links to examples of cool uses of exclusion mode!

(Download sample psd file)

  • Maybe it is just these examples – but the results with a gradient using this ‘Exclusion Mode’ are much more pleasing than the ‘Difference Mode’. The latter turned you ‘one colour’ (purple) gradient into a rainbow of brown, red, green then blue, whereas the ‘Exclusion’ goes from tan to blue (background) without any deviation – this has to be useful for design work, if not for photo-type work

  • johnbeardy

    Outcome = Base + Blend – ( 2 * Base * Blend)

  • steffen

    I recently used the exclusion mode with great luck on a few window-lit portraits, I wanted a very soft look on them so I duplicated the base layer and set the duplicate to exclusion (I ran through the list and found that exclusion gave pretty nice results). The exclusion layer lightened up the shadow areas pretty well, but some areas had to be masked out, especcially the bright ones. Areas that were blown out (pure white) on the original ended up with some weird psychedelic colors.
    I’m affraid I can’t post the images, but I just wanted to say that I liked it a lot and you should really experiment with it.

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