Photoshop Blending Modes: Dissolve

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    Photoshop has what it calls “Blending Modes.” In the Layers palette, these options show up in the drop-down that is usually set to “Normal.” You can also set the blending mode (and access more options) by going to the Layer Style dialog box.

    Many amateur Photoshop users — myself included — might go years without ever changing the blending mode. But when you discover what each one does and how it works, you will be excited to try using blending modes to achieve different effects.

    In my next several posts, I’ll go over each blending mode — with more detail, hopefully, than Photoshop Help gives — and provide an example for how you might use the blending mode in “real life.” (This will be a challenge for me, too, because frankly, I haven’t used probably 1/3 of the modes in a practical application before! So, as usual, I welcome all constructive comments, especially those of you who have found other cool ways to use the blending mode of the day.)

    (And a note for those who care: I’m using Photoshop 7.)

    Just a quick intro to blending modes for those of you who haven’t tried using them before:

    1. Blending modes need two or more layers for any effect to work — you need at least two layers to “blend” together.

    2. A layer with a blending mode specified will “blend” with all other colors from layers underneath it. We call those original layer colors the “base colors.” The colors on the top layer (with the blending mode selected) is called the “blend colors.” The result — what you see as a result of the “blending” — is called the “result color.”

    And finally: Dissolve Mode

    According to Photoshop Help: Dissolve Mode “edits or paints each pixel to make it the result color. However, the result color is a random replacement of the pixels with the base color or the blend color, depending on the opacity at any pixel location.”

    Say what?

    Worded in a way that makes more sense to me, and maybe you, too:

    The result of Dissolve Mode looks “speckled,” kind of like when a PowerPoint slide, or movie scene, “dissolves” into another (hence the name!). Dissolve Mode only produces this result when there are partially transparent pixels by taking the partially transparent pixels and randomly choosing some to display at 100% opacity for a speckled effect. (The higher the original opacity, the more “solid” the result is.)

    This is where an example comes in handy. Let’s start with a picture of a bouquet of flowers that I got for Valentine’s Day:

    Now, I’ll add a custom shape layer and set the blending mode to “Dissolve”:

    Hmmm, doesn’t look much different from the “Normal” mode! That’s because this layer doesn’t have any partially transparent pixels. When I set the opacity to 60%, the Dissolve blend does its magic:

    Note that Photoshop takes those 60% pixels and displays them, randomly, either at 0% or 100%.

    If I change the opacity to 20%, the resulting image shows less speckles from the pawprint layer:

    (Download the .psd file for this example.)

    I hope that made sense. Now for a practical example — how about for a “sponge-painted” effect, or a paint-on-concrete effect?


    (download example)

    1. Get a background image. I took a picture of our sidewalk.

    2. Type your great text in its own text layer.

    3. Set the opacity to something less than 100%. (I set mine to 60%.)

    4. Change the blending mode to “Dissolve.”

    5. To give the text a bit of perspective, I had to first rasterize the text layer (right-click on the layer in the Layer Palette and choose “Rasterize”). Then I went to Edit > Transform > Perspective and shrank the top a little bit.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Photoshop Blending Modes: Dissolve

    What is the main difference between Dissolve and other blending modes in Photoshop?

    Dissolve is a unique blending mode in Photoshop that works differently from other blending modes. Unlike other modes that blend pixels based on their color or brightness values, Dissolve randomly replaces or removes pixels based on the opacity level of the upper layer. This results in a speckled or noise-like effect, which can be used to create interesting textures or effects in your image.

    How can I control the intensity of the Dissolve effect?

    The intensity of the Dissolve effect can be controlled by adjusting the opacity of the layer. The lower the opacity, the more transparent the layer becomes, and the more the dissolve effect is visible. Conversely, the higher the opacity, the less visible the dissolve effect is. You can adjust the opacity in the Layers panel.

    Can I use Dissolve mode with layer masks?

    Yes, you can use Dissolve mode with layer masks. When a layer mask is applied, the dissolve effect will only be visible in the areas where the mask is white. This can be used to create interesting effects by selectively applying the dissolve effect to certain parts of your image.

    Why is my Dissolve effect not visible?

    The Dissolve effect may not be visible if the opacity of your layer is set to 100%. Because Dissolve works by randomly replacing or removing pixels based on the opacity level, the effect will not be visible if the layer is fully opaque. Try reducing the opacity of your layer to see the dissolve effect.

    Can I use Dissolve mode with adjustment layers?

    Yes, you can use Dissolve mode with adjustment layers. However, keep in mind that the dissolve effect will be applied to the entire image, not just the areas affected by the adjustment. This can result in a more intense or dramatic effect.

    How can I use Dissolve mode to create a textured effect?

    Dissolve mode can be used to create a textured effect by applying it to a layer with a texture pattern. The dissolve effect will randomly replace or remove pixels from the texture, creating a unique and interesting effect.

    Can I use Dissolve mode with gradients?

    Yes, you can use Dissolve mode with gradients. When applied to a gradient, the dissolve effect will create a speckled or noise-like effect, which can add an interesting texture to your gradient.

    Can I use Dissolve mode with brushes?

    Yes, you can use Dissolve mode with brushes. When painting with a brush in Dissolve mode, the brush strokes will have a speckled or noise-like effect, which can be used to create interesting textures or effects.

    Can I use Dissolve mode with text?

    Yes, you can use Dissolve mode with text. When applied to text, the dissolve effect will create a speckled or noise-like effect, which can add an interesting texture to your text.

    Can I use Dissolve mode with shapes?

    Yes, you can use Dissolve mode with shapes. When applied to a shape, the dissolve effect will create a speckled or noise-like effect, which can add an interesting texture to your shape.