OnOne Software’s Perfect Effects plug-in adds effects to your images as new layers, and these work just like the layers in Photoshop. And, like Photoshop, Perfect Effects offers a variety of blend modes to control how these effects interact with the original image.

If leave the blend mode set to Normal, the image effect layer simply covers up the original image below, but if you experiment with the other Perfect Effects blending modes, you’ll discover a whole new world of creative opportunities!

To show how this works I’m going to start with a super-saturated travel shot taken in Italy, which I want to give a sepia-tinged ‘retro’ feel. At the same time I’ll show how you can create effects manually rather than relying on the Perfect Effects presets.

01 Hide the presets

Perfect Effects blending modes

There are dozens of preset effects to choose from, and they can quickly get confusing. In fact, though, they derive from a much smaller set of effects tools which you can select manually. So to start with, I’ll close the effects library by clicking the left-facing arrow (circled) on its right edge.

02 Choose your effect

Perfect Effects blending modes

Now over on the right you’ll see there are two panels: the Effects Stack and Effects Options. The Effects Stack already has a new, Empty Layer above the original image, ready for you to choose an effect. Underneath, in the Effects Stack, I’ve clicked on the the Effect menu to show the options available. I’m going to choose the first option, Black and White.

03 My black and white effect

Perfect Effects blending modes

To create the effect I want, I’ve chosen ‘Sepia’ from the ‘Toner’ menu, pushed the Toner Strength up to 100, then from the ‘Add Grain’ menu I’ve chosen ‘Fujifilm Neopan 400’ and set the ‘Grain Strength’ below to 30.

04 Hard Light blend mode

Perfect Effects blending modes

Now for the clever part. At the moment, my sepia image covers up the original image below. But if I select that top sepia layer and click the Options button (1), the Blending Options panel is displayed. Now I open the Blending Mode menu at the top of the panel and choose ‘Hard Light’ (2). Now, the sepia layer is blended with the original image rather than covering it completely. Each blending mode has a different effect – Hard Light overlays the colour of the blended layer with the one below as well as increasing the contrast.

I like this image already, but I’m worried it might be just a little bit to dark and contrasty, so I’m going to make one more adjustment…