Understanding and Using Blending Modes in Photoshop

On this video tutorial, Aaron Nace from Phlearn explains the different blending modes in Photoshop and when and how to use each of them.

Photoshop has no less than 27 blending modes and each has its own particular use or benefit in certain situations.

The most basic blend mode is Normal and it is the first of the first group of blend modes in Photoshop (there are 6 groups). Of course, the simple way is just to move between blend modes (after you have a picture with to layers one on top of another). But this takes time and if you want to do something specific it is much better to know in advance what blend mode to use.

So let’s go over the groups one by one. The first groups include normal and dissolve (which is one of the least used blend modes in Photoshop – see here for more info). In the second groups we have darken, multiply, linear burn and darker color – these make the bright areas invisible and the dark areas visible.

In the next group, you will find the opposite with lighten, screen, color dodge, linear dodge, and lighter color. These make the black areas invisible and the light areas visible. Nace suggests that he typically uses only the first two of the two groups we mentioned although you can use any of them and if they are too strong you can reduce the opacity to reduce the “power of the effect.

On the forth group you can find overlay, soft light, hard light, vivid light, linear light, pin light and finally hard mix. The first two (again) are possibly the most useful and they will take the color and blend it with the rest of the image at different levels (the first two will do this the least).

The fifth group is used more for special effects and it includes differences, exclusion, subtract and divide. These can create some crazy color effects but they are not very common (unless you are trying to shoot more psychedelic images).

The sixth and last group includes hue, saturation, color, and luminosity and it can be quite useful. The hue gives everything the color of the top layer, the saturation takes all the colors and bringing up the saturation, the color blend mode is similar to colorize and luminosity shows the differences between hue and saturation.

Now you don’t really have to memorize all of these, you can play with the just so you know what each of them can do and of course, see a preview when you are actually working on an image.

You can find many more Photoshop video tutorials on LensVid’s Photoshop section (you can also find a lot more Phlearn videos on our special Phlearn subsection).

Iddo Genuth
Iddo Genuth is the founder and chief editor of LensVid.com. He has been a technology reporter working for international publications since the late 1990's and covering photography since 2009. Iddo is also a co-founder of a production company specializing in commercial food and product visual content.

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