Beginner’s Guide to Blending Modes in Photoshop CC

Today we are going to discuss Blending Modes in Photoshop. Blending modes are a fun thing to play with. But, sometimes this is all that we’re doing is playing around with the modes. Let’s step back a bit and understand what the different blending modes can do, though.

Why Do We Want Blending Modes?

Using blend modes gives you the opportunity to blend layers differently with other layers. These blending modes have different effects as they are put together with other layers. They do need more than one layer to before trying it out. If all you’ve got is a single layer, it won’t show you anything.

It is sometimes an experimental process, especially as you are beginning to work with these different modes. But, as you understand what each mode does you will become more familiar with what it is that you’re looking for and know what you want to achieve that desired effect.

Blending Modes

There are 27 blending modes inside Photoshop that can be accessed through the layers panel. But, if you use the gradient tool, you will see that there is another one added – this one is the “Behind” blend mode. And, if you are going to use the brush tool, you get still one more – “Clear”. So, all in all, there are really 29 blend modes you can use in Photoshop.

These modes can be accessed in multiple ways. You can go to your layers panel and up at the top you will see a fly down menu that starts with the word “Normal”. Right beside it is the opacity slider. If you click on “Normal” you will find the blend modes and you can scroll through them to get started seeing what each one does and their effects.

Here are a couple of images I’ve used to show how each blend mode works.two pictures used for blending modes in photoshop

I’ve put the face on top with the green as a background.

Normal: This is your default mode. This mode is going to edit your pixels to give you the exact color you are painting with. This blend mode does not blend the colors with another layer. Instead, use the opacity slider to give you a different look to your picture.

Normal blend modes photoshop

Dissolve: This mode also edits the same color you have painted on. Changing the opacity will be the only things that changes the blend of this mode. However, this blend mode randomizes the pixel placement so that it looks like a bunch of dots scattered around.

Dissolve blend mode photoshop

Behind: This mode is accessible with the gradient tool and the brush tool. You can access it at the top of the screen when either one of those tools are selected.

Clear: This blend mode’s effects are similar to using the eraser tool. As you paint, it clears out the pixels. So, without using the eraser tool you can use this tool to clear things up.

Darken: This mode scans and looks at your image, taking only the information about the darker colors and using them in your image. It will not take the lighter color information for use in the image. It will replace all the lighter color information, but keep the darker color information.

darken blend mode photoshop

Multiply: This mode takes a look at the color information on each layer and channel. Then it multiplies the base color by the blend color. You are left with a result of a darker color. If you are blending it with black the result will always be black. If you are blending with white, the result will not change at all. If you are painting on the image with the multiply mode with any other color, the strokes will get successively darker, like coloring with a marker on paper.

multiply blend mode photoshop

Color Burn: This mode looks again at the layers and the colors on each channel. It will brighten your image, increasing the contrast between the colors. If you use white it will give no result.

color burn blend mode photoshop

Linear Burn: This mode is similar to the Color Burn mode. But the result is that it decreases the brightness of the image. Just like Color Burn, white gives no result.

linear burn blend mode photoshop

Darker Color: This blend mode compares the two layers of the base and blend and keeps the darker of the two. Very similar to the Darken blend mode.

darker color blend mode photoshop

Lighten: This mode is similar to the Darken blend mode. But, the Lighten blend mode takes the lighter color information and replaces the darker pixels with lighter pixels.

lighten blend mode photoshop

Screen: Screen mode is similar to the Multiply blend mode. But, your result is a lighter and brighter effect.

screen blend mode photoshop

Color Dodge: Color Dodge is a blend mode that has a different effect when the fill slider is adjusted. This blend mode gives you an even brighter result than the Screen blend mode when used. It decreases the difference in contrast between the colors, giving a very saturated result with the midtones and exaggerated highlights.

color dodge blend mode photoshop

Linear Dodge (Add): This blend mode is similar again to Screen and Color Dodge. It brightens the base color and increases the brightness of the blend color. There is no change effect when black is used.

This is also another blend mode that can use the Fill slider to change the effect of the blending.

linear dodge add blend mode photoshop

Lighter Color: The LIghter Color blend mode does not blend the pixels. This mode compares the base and blend modes and then keeps the brighter of the two. It looks at the full picture of the RGB scale rather than looking at each individual pixel to come up with a final result.

lighter color blend mode photoshop

Overlay: With this mode the layers are effected by the Screen and Multiply modes both. Each mode effects the image at half strength. For example: the Screen mode is at half strength for anything lighter than 50% gray and Multiply mode is at half strength for anything darker than 50% gray.

So, basically this shifts the mid-tones to either darker or lighter, depending on how dark or light they started out at.

This is a fairly popular blend mode that gives good results.

overlay blend mode photoshop

Soft Light: Similar to the Overlay blend mode, soft light doesn’t give quite as harsh of a result as the Overlay blend mode.

soft light blend mode photoshop

Hard Light: The Hard Light blending mode is similar to Overlay and not the Soft Light. Often the Hard Light blend mode is a little too harsh and you may have to decrease the opacity to get the result you are looking for.

Hard light blend mode photoshop

Vivid Light: This blend mode is another mode that you can use the Fill slider to get different effects for your blend. This is similar to Linear Dodge blend mode, but it uses the Overlay and Soft Light blend modes in the same way that the Linear Dodge used the Screen and Color Dodge blend modes.

This blend mode can also sometimes be too harsh on your image and you may want to bring down the opacity of the blending.

vivid light blend mode photoshop

Linear Light: Linear Light is another in the list of blend modes that has access to using the Fill slider. This blend mode uses Linear Dodge on lighter colors and Linear Burn on the darker colors.

linear light blend mode photoshop

Pin Light: This blend mode completely ignores the mid-tones and only adjust the lighter and darker colors.

Pin light blend mode photoshop

Hard Mix: By using this blend mode you will get some very extreme results. The results turn out to be only either black, white, or the six primary colors of, red, green, blue, cyan, magenta or yellow.

hard light blend mode photoshop

Difference: This blend mode is another blend mode that uses the Fill differently from the Opacity. This mode uses the difference of the base and blend pixels as the result.

White will take the colors and invert them. Dark grays apply a slightly darker effect. But, black has no change to the image.

difference blend mode photoshop

Exclusion: Similar to the Difference blend mode with the added effect that blending with 50% gray produces 50% gray.

exclusion blend mode photoshop

Subtract: This blending mode is extremely dramatic. It takes the pixels and darkens them drastically by subtracting the brightness from them. All the light areas are darkened and the dark areas barely change.

subtract blend mode photoshop

Divide: This blend mode has the opposite effect as the Subtract blend mode. But with Divide white has no effect and the blend values get brighter.

divide blend mode photoshop

Hue: The Hue blend mode takes the luminance and saturation of the base color or the bottom layer and blends it with the hue of the blend color or the top layer.

hue blend mode photoshop

Saturation: Similar to the Hue blend mode, the Saturation blend mode preserves the luminosity and hue of the base color and blends it with the saturation of the blend layer.

saturation blend mode photoshop

Color: The Color blend mode is similar to Hue and Saturation blend modes. It preserves the luminosity of the base layer and uses the hue and saturation of the blend layer.

color blend mode photoshop

Luminosity: Luminosity blend mode preserves the hue and saturation of the base color and then uses the luminosity of the blend layer.

luminosity blend mode photoshop

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