(9-3) Review: Blending Modes
One very powerful feature in Photoshop is the blending mode options you have for layers, layer effects, and all the brush tools. Here is a Wikipedia article on Photoshop's blend modes, including the formulas used (if you're interested), and Adobe's help page on blend modes, where each is described in more detail.
When you click on the blend modes drop-down menu for a layer, you'll see the menu at left. If you click on the blend modes for a brush in the options bar, you'll see the drop-down menu at the right. Notice that the various blending modes are divided into sections. Let's briefly describe what each does...
The Lighten Blend Modes all lighten the image in various ways by blending the lighter parts of each layer together. These modes include Lighten, Screen , Color Dodge, Linear Dodge (Add), and Lighter Color.
The Contrast Blend Modes increase the contrast of both light and dark in the layers being blended. These modes include Overlay, Soft Light, Hard Light, Vivid Light, Pin Light, and Hard Mix.
The next set of Blend Modes are Difference, Exclusion, Subtract, and Divide. These modes use various formulas that give you some pretty strange results, and are based on various math algorithms.
The last set of Blend Modes either use the color, saturation, or luminosity of a layer to affect the layer beneath. These include Hue, Saturation, Color, and Luminosity.
Look at the charts on either side that I created for you. They will give you a visual idea of what each blend mode will do. Then you need to play around with them yourself.
Below are three YouTube tutorials that will open your eyes to the power of blending modes, show you how they work, and some very interesting ways to use them.
Shortcuts for cycling through the blend modes: Shift-(plus key) or Shift-(minus key). If you're in a non-brush tool, you'll cycle through the layer blend modes. If you're in a brush tool, you'll cycle through the blend modes for that tool in the options bar.
Below are some fun exercises to try that use blending modes. Click on any to see the full size image.
Page last updated December 21, 2017