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The agony of flattening layers with blend modes

Advocate ,
Apr 15, 2011

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I need to flatten a series of layers within a group, which have different blend modes.  I've tried merging group, that resorts all layers to 'normal mode', I have also tried merge visible which does the same as 'merging group', convert to smart object, same results.  I don't want to go the route of flatten image, it has worked to a degree, my photoshop file is organized how I want it and I want to strictly take the group or select those layers and merge them while keeping the blend mode in tact.


've searched for answers and none of the answers were anything I haven't tried.  Is there not a script, filter that can solve this dilemma it's quite common as you may or may not be aware of.

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The agony of flattening layers with blend modes

Advocate ,
Apr 15, 2011

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I need to flatten a series of layers within a group, which have different blend modes.  I've tried merging group, that resorts all layers to 'normal mode', I have also tried merge visible which does the same as 'merging group', convert to smart object, same results.  I don't want to go the route of flatten image, it has worked to a degree, my photoshop file is organized how I want it and I want to strictly take the group or select those layers and merge them while keeping the blend mode in tact.


've searched for answers and none of the answers were anything I haven't tried.  Is there not a script, filter that can solve this dilemma it's quite common as you may or may not be aware of.

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Apr 15, 2011 0
LEGEND ,
Apr 15, 2011

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Without looking at your composition, here's a very general response, intended to give you another idea to try...

1.  Make only the layers you want to merge together visible.  Click the visibility "eyeball" off on all the others.

2.  Layer - Merge Visible.

You mentioned Merge Visible, but I'm not sure if you've done step 1 first.

-Noel

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Apr 15, 2011 0
LEGEND ,
Apr 15, 2011

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Assuming my answer isn't leading you to a solution, put up a picture of your Layers panel and describe specifically what you want the result to be.

-Noel

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Apr 15, 2011 0
Advocate ,
Apr 15, 2011

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The layers I want to merge are in a group, within a much larger composition.  Turning off all the other groups/layers in the composition would cause a bit of a mess and some confusion. The alternative route I could go is to merge the layers that are visible and hide those I don't want to merge, but I already tried that and the layers with the blended modes did not merge as I have in the original composition.

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Apr 15, 2011 0
Explorer ,
Apr 16, 2011

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StrongBeaver wrote:

I need to flatten a series of layers within a group, which have different blend modes.  I've tried merging group, that resorts all layers to 'normal mode', I have also tried merge visible which does the same as 'merging group', convert to smart object, same results.  I don't want to go the route of flatten image, it has worked to a degree, my photoshop file is organized how I want it and I want to strictly take the group or select those layers and merge them while keeping the blend mode in tact.

There is (I think only one) special case, where this is possible: when the bottommost layer of the layer group (you want to merge) is set to normal blending and if all the remaining layers in your layer group just affect the group's bottommost layer, i.e. because they are clipped to it via clipping mask and/or they don't have (non-transparent) pixels outside its (non-transparent) pixels.  [it=bottommost layer]

You should then be able to merge all selected layers with CTRL+E (without change in the composite image).

But generally speaking:

If you merge multiple layers with different blend modes into a single layer which can - very obviously - have just one blend mode and if - despite that fact - you expect this single layer to still reproduce the same effect as your multiple layers with different blend modes, I fear this is not possible. At least not with a simple merging operation.

Why?

It's easily understandable. Let's say your background image is a landscape and the layer group you want to merge includes a person (normal blending) and the shadow it casts (multiply). If you set the merged layer to normal, you lose the shadow effect. If you set the merged layer to multiply, the person will be multiplied into the background landscape. Either way it does not quite work, right?

Depending on your specific layer architecture there can be individual solutions however, but it's difficult to generalize. You would have to post the .psd file.

Sometimes - especially if you don't need to further move the aforementioned layers - it is helpful to copy-merge ("stamp" selected layers via CTRL+ALT+E) all layers below your layer group, then do the same but this time include your layer group when stamping, and finally difference blend the 2 resulting layers, remove all black (i.e. same) pixels and you are now left with your merged layer group (including some background if layers were not fully opaque). But I fear that's as good as it get's if you need a one-size-fits-all type of general solution.

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Apr 16, 2011 0
Participant ,
Apr 16, 2011

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Fact is you can not merge or flatten a group of layers and have the individual layer blend modes stay. Once merged or flattened they no longer individual layers. They have an effect on the individual layers and that effect from each individual layer will be carried over into a merged or flatten layer but that new merged or flatten layer will then have a Normal blend mode. It has to, it can't have anything but one blend mode, a normal blend mode.

I would think this is true also if you took that group and made one Smart Object from them.

So the only way to preserve all the blend modes is to not merge or flatten those layers

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Apr 16, 2011 0
LEGEND ,
Apr 16, 2011

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It occurs to me no one's asked you why you want to merge the layers...  Is the performance bad or something?

Don't I recall that with a group you collapse the whole thing so it doesn't take up a lot of room in your Layers panel?

-Noel

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Apr 16, 2011 0
Explorer ,
Apr 17, 2011

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Noel Carboni wrote:

... why  merge ... ?    


There are lots of reasons.


(1) if you don't need the separate layers anymore, it helps reduce the document structure's complexity

(2) reduced file size

(3) you can apply a clipping mask to the merged layer (but not to a group)

(4) better performance

(5) you can retouch the merged layer differently

(6) you have different possibilities for knockout

(7) [...] etc.

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Apr 17, 2011 0
LEGEND ,
Apr 17, 2011

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Thanks.  Believe me I know all the reasons why *I* might want to merge, but I'm curious why it's important to StrongBeaver.

I tend to keep my compositions as merged as possible, actually.

Since it's not really working out for him, though, I was just wondering why it was so important to do so.  Just idle curiosity.  Maybe he's trying to work around a problem that can be solved another way.

-Noel

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Apr 17, 2011 0
Explorer ,
Apr 17, 2011

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Noel Carboni wrote:

Thanks.  Believe me I know

sorry

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Apr 17, 2011 0
Advocate ,
Apr 17, 2011

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There is (I think only one) special case, where this is possible: when the bottommost layer of the layer group (you want to merge) is set to normal blending and if all the remaining layers in your layer group just affect the group's bottommost layer, i.e. because they are clipped to it via clipping mask and/or they don't have (non-transparent) pixels outside its (non-transparent) pixels.  [it=bottommost layer]

You should then be able to merge all selected layers with CTRL+E (without change in the composite image).

But generally speaking:

If you merge multiple layers with different blend modes into a single layer which can - very obviously - have just one blend mode and if - despite that fact - you expect this single layer to still reproduce the same effect as your multiple layers with different blend modes, I fear this is not possible. At least not with a simple merging operation.

Why?

It's easily understandable. Let's say your background image is a landscape and the layer group you want to merge includes a person (normal blending) and the shadow it casts (multiply). If you set the merged layer to normal, you lose the shadow effect. If you set the merged layer to multiply, the person will be multiplied into the background landscape. Either way it does not quite work, right?

Depending on your specific layer architecture there can be individual solutions however, but it's difficult to generalize. You would have to post the .psd file.

Sometimes - especially if you don't need to further move the aforementioned layers - it is helpful to copy-merge ("stamp" selected layers via CTRL+ALT+E) all layers below your layer group, then do the same but this time include your layer group when stamping, and finally difference blend the 2 resulting layers, remove all black (i.e. same) pixels and you are now left with your merged layer group (including some background if layers were not fully opaque). But I fear that's as good as it get's if you need a one-size-fits-all type of general solution.

It occurs to me no one's asked you why you want to merge the layers...  Is the performance bad or something?

Don't I recall that with a group you collapse the whole thing so it doesn't take up a lot of room in your Layers panel?

-Noel

There are lots of reasons.


(1) if you don't need the separate layers anymore, it helps reduce the document structure's complexity

(2) reduced file size

(3) you can apply a clipping mask to the merged layer (but not to a group)

(4) better performance

(5) you can retouch the merged layer differently

(6) you have different possibilities for knockout

(7) [...] etc.

Thanks.  Believe me I know all the reasons why *I* might want to merge, but I'm curious why it's important to StrongBeaver.

I tend to keep my compositions as merged as possible, actually.

Since it's not really working out for him, though, I was just wondering why it was so important to do so.  Just idle curiosity.  Maybe he's trying to work around a problem that can be solved another way.

-Noel

I want to merge the group with different blend modes to export as a single image.  If I apply a layer that has a 'normal' blend mode at the bottom of the group that does not solve the problem, what occurs is all the layers are flattened in their 'normal' blend mode which is not the goal.  The goal is to take the group, merge the layers with their different blend modes in tact and export.  There is no performance issue, if their was I would be able to solve.

This would be an excellent script for photoshop, why this hasn't been developed to select you group with different blend modes and flatten keeping all original blend modes.  I've tried many avenues to solve this dilemma, and none work. You can if you want, fire off solutions and I'll look them over if  done or not, but I can guarentee that I've tried many angles.

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Apr 17, 2011 0
LEGEND ,
Apr 17, 2011

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StrongBeaver wrote:

I want to merge the group with different blend modes to export as a single image.


You seem to have somewhat of a misunderstanding of what's going on with Photoshop layer processing.

  • If what you see in Photoshop is what you want in your image, then Layer - Flatten, or just saving as a flat format (e.g., JPEG) will give you exactly what you see.

  • If what you see in Photoshop with all the layers in place is not the way you want the final image to look, then you've used layers or blending modes or something improperly and more work needs to be done.

What you see with layers in place is what you get when flattened.  It's as simple as that.

-Noel

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Apr 17, 2011 0
Advocate ,
Apr 17, 2011

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You seem to have somewhat of a misunderstanding of what's going on with Photoshop layer processing.

  • If what you see in Photoshop is what you want in your image, then Layer - Flatten, or just saving as a flat format (e.g., JPEG) will give you exactly what you see.

  • If what you see in Photoshop with all the layers in place is not the way you want the final image to look, then you've used layers or blending modes or something improperly and more work needs to be done.

What you see with layers in place is what you get when flattened.  It's as simple as that.


I know how photoshop layering works, it's make common sense.  No need for a manual recap.

Your reply makes a 360° back to what was mentioned by you in a earlier post.

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Apr 17, 2011 2
LEGEND ,
Apr 17, 2011

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Fair enough.  Clearly I'm not understanding what you're trying to do then.  I apologize for that.  I'm not sure anyone else is getting it either.

You, in turn, haven't provided the clarifying info that's been requested.  For example, I don't see a picture of your layers anywhere here.

Please then try, using different terms, again explaining what you're trying to do and why it's not working for you, because you just haven't gotten it across to people who know how things work.

Are you trying to export just SOME of the layers to be used with other documents?  If so, just copy the whole set to another document and save it.

Try to step back from what you think you want to do and describe why you want to do it.  What is your goal?

-Noel

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Apr 17, 2011 0
Advocate ,
Apr 17, 2011

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what I do not understand is why the original poster, Strongbeaver, can not accept that no matter how many layer you have, in groups or individually, with different blend modes on those layers, in groups and individually, when you flatten or merge those layers they can no longer retain the different blend modes. They are all combined into one flatten or merged layer. They are no long individual layers.

Yes the blend mode adjustments for each layer is carried over into, applied to, the final image. But that final flatten or merged image must now have a Normal blend mode. It is now one (1) Layer and you can not have multiple blend modes in one layer.

Where did I ever say, that I didn't understand !?!?!?! It is clearly visible, technicalities aside that when the layers are merged that the composition resorts to 'normal' mode.

Fair enough.  Clearly I'm not understanding what you're trying to do then.  I apologize for that.  I'm not sure anyone else is getting it either.

You, in turn, haven't provided the clarifying info that's been requested.  For example, I don't see a picture of your layers anywhere here.

Please then try, using different terms, again explaining what you're trying to do and why it's not working for you, because you just haven't gotten it across to people who know how things work.

Are you trying to export just SOME of the layers to be used with other documents?  If so, just copy the whole set to another document and save it.

Try to step back from what you think you want to do and describe why you want to do it.  What is your goal?

-Noel

You try to make me look as though I'm not explaining myself, clever but not wise.  I explained in my original post what my goal was, even asking if their was a script or somthing that could complete this task.  As it shows none of those exist, what is shown is a game of cat and mouse only in this version of cat & mouse I the author is made out to be in the wrong, and everyone else who literally is not grasping the concept is confused.  It is not for me to explain myself over and over, it is for you to read the thread to what my goal is.

Until someone, if that is possible comes forward and has a solution. This thread is DOA.

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Apr 17, 2011 0
Explorer ,
Apr 17, 2011

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can you post a screenshot incl. layer panel ?

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Apr 17, 2011 0
Participant ,
Apr 18, 2011

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I am sorry if you feel I have in any way been condescending. That was not my goal or intension.

I too have been made to feel that way on this forum at times by some of the better known posters.

I am trying to look at your question with new eye.

Are you saying that when you flatten or merge a series of layers, whether in a predefined group or individual, that have different blend modes that those blend mode adjustments, the way the image looks, are not being retained in the final merged or flattened image and the image looks different?

Now I must take a look at your original post/question.

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Apr 18, 2011 0
LEGEND ,
Apr 18, 2011

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I've read your thread several times.  You might as well have said, "I am trying to plugh, plover, and xyzzy with Photoshop and it's just not doing it."

Perhaps you don't understand quite how Photoshop layering works.  But that's no problem at all - no one understands all of Photoshop.  That's why people are here to help, and solving complex problems helps us all learn.  Nobody is trying to make you feel bad.

Or you might have a system problem or are seeing a Photoshop bug, but until you provide specifics no one can possibly tell you "it doesn't do that for me", or "yep, that really should work the way you expect it to."

When I don't understand something and fail to be able to help, I figure it's at least partially my fault.  When a whole group of people don't understand, it's time for the person asking to work a little harder.

Your challenge, if you'd really like the help you requested, is to summarize what you're trying to do in a way others can grasp, and to provide the information requested by those who are going out of their way to try to help you.  If you just won't take 5 minutes to post images of your layers panel, etc., to show what you perceive to be failing in pictures, then why should we work any harder to try to help?

-Noel

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Apr 18, 2011 0
Adobe Community Professional ,
Apr 18, 2011

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"I explained in my original post what my goal was"

Well, not really. You described a process and its result. You never actually explained how/why the result was undesirable. In any event; by Post #10:

"The goal is to take the group, merge the layers with their different blend modes in tact and export."

But your language here is stil somewhat ambiguous. Apparently you mean to merge the layers having the various blend modes take effect on the merge. (Obviously, the individual blend modes can't all stay 'in tact' within a single, merged layer.) Plus, Photoshop doesn't really "export" images.

You sound as though you believe you've tried everything. How about this?

Turn off the visibility of all but the desired layers, then choose Image > Duplicate and select "Duplicate Merged Layers Only."

The resulting single-layer image should look exactly the same as the visible layers, (grouped or otherwise), in the original composition, (although it will indeed be assigned the Normal blend mode...there's no mind-reading to be had in the feature set). Save.

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Apr 18, 2011 0
New Here ,
Nov 06, 2011

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I need to create a .pdf file from my file, and using the difference layer mode on my top-most layer is what achieves the final look I need. I am having no luck with any flattening techniques or with saving as alternate file types (that could be later converted to a .pdf file). Any ideas on how to keep what I see on screen in Photoshop? I don't want to just save a screen capture as I would like better quality.

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Nov 06, 2011 0
LEGEND ,
Nov 06, 2011

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Rebecca, are you saying that flattening the document causes the appearance to differ from what you're seeing with all the layers in place?

Is this still true when you look at the document at 100% zoom?  I ask, because Photoshop optimizes its display for speed and some effects look different when zoomed-out.

Always make a final judgment about how a document looks at 100% zoom.

-Noel

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Nov 06, 2011 0
New Here ,
Nov 13, 2019

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This actually helped me! Thanks!!!

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Nov 13, 2019 0
New Here ,
Sep 25, 2020

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I"m having this same issue and my reason is because I'm trying to send to print shop to be printed on a transparent medium. I'm afraid the print shop will flatten without realizing and mess up my blending and textures. 

This is a tough one. 

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Sep 25, 2020 0