Photoshop’s describes Vivid Light blending mode as combining the effects of Color Dodge and Color Burn modes like this:
Vivid Light: Burns or dodges the colors by increasing or decreasing the contrast, depending on the blend color. If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened by decreasing the contrast. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened by increasing the contrast.
In reality, however, Vivid Light brightens images similar to Color Dodge mode, but doesn’t darken quite as much as Color Burn. In this diagram below, I created two layers, one with a light grey box, one with a dark grey box, and set the former to Color Dodge and the latter to Color Burn. You can see that the Color Dodge layer lightens the image dramatically and the Color Burn layer darkens the image dramatically. But in the second sample, I took the two boxes, put them on the same layer, and set it to Vivid Light. The light box does result in a lighter image comparable to Color Dodge, but the dark box has significantly less contrast as compared to Color Burn. The thing to remember from all of this is that Vivid Light mode will take the blend layer and make the lighter areas a lot brighter than it will make the dark areas darker.
(Download sample .psd file)
For my practical application, I’ll use Vivid Light mode to overlay text on top of other images. Because Vivid Light doesn’t really “show” the blend layer, but just uses the blend layer to affect the colors of the base layer, the text will look more like it’s “part” of the picture, as opposed to being a slightly transparent layer on top of a picture.
I’ll start with a picture that I took at a 9-11 memorial in New York days after the tragedy. Someone had created hundreds of paper cranes and strung them together:
Because the image is so cluttered, I decide to use it as more of a background and try to find another image to use as the main focus. I find this flag on Comstock’s site, and put a slight blue gradient on the bottom to fade out the flagpole.
I set the flag layer over the cranes layer and set it to Hard Light. (Recall that Hard Light preserves the shadows/highlights of the top layer.) I like how the sky ends up tinting the cranes blue, and decide to keep it that way.
It took me a little bit more time to figure out what text I wanted to add to the image. I first added “we will never forget” to the bottom of the image. The dark grey, once set to Vivid Light, would “burn into” the bottom part of the image. Then I added “9-11” in a lighter grey and rotated it to follow the angle of the flag. Set to Vivid Light, this would lighten that part of the image. Finally, I thought the “we will never forget” text at the bottom was a too subtle to be the main text, so I added a much lighter “remember” in the middle.
With these three layers set to Vivid Light, I had my final composition:
(Sorry — no sample download file because of the restrictions on the stock image I used.)