Get amazing pictures with this versatile Adobe tool
Adobe Photoshop’s blending mode affects the colors of two or more layers that interact. You can use it to create interesting and dynamic effects with just a few clicks. The different types of blending modes and what they do aren’t necessarily clear from the name, but each has a specific function. After you learn the difference, you can get a variety of cool looks in seconds.
Here’s how to use Photoshop’s blending mode to make your images look amazing, along with an overview of how they all work.
The instructions in this article apply to Photoshop CS5 and later.
How to Use Photoshop’s Mix Mode
Photoshop contains 29 different options in six groups, which you can find in the Layers window. Depending on the tool you are using, you can also see the pull-down in the options toolbar near the top of the screen. This is how to apply and experiment with them to achieve various effects.
- Import the image you want to modify into Photoshop.
- Select the New Layer button in the Layers window to create a new layer.
- To use color to blend with the picture, select Edit> Fill.Alternatively, press Shift+F5 on your keyboard.
- Choose Color.
- Choose a color from the Color Picker and select OK.
- Click OK in the Fill window to finish your color choices.
- Now, you will only see the top layer with the color you chose.
- To apply blending mode, select the top layer, then click the drop-down menu in the Layers window, next to Opacity.By default, the blending mode menu will say Normal.
- Choose different options from the menu to see how they affect the underlying image.
- On Adobe CC 2019 and later, you only need to mouse over the mode to get a preview of the changes to be made. In previous versions, you must choose a mode to see its function.
- Experiment with various colors and modes to create the effect you want. You can also influence the intensity of several modes by adjusting the opacity of the layer you are combining.
How to Use Photoshop Blending Mode with Tools
You can do more with Photoshop’s blending mode than just giving colors to an image. You can use the selection tool to localize the effect. You can also use different color blocks on one layer to make a mixture.
Certain tools, such as Brush, Paint Bucket, and Shape, have a special blending mode menu that gives you more control. It’s in the options bar next to Opacity. Select the mode you want to use, and then use this tool normally to see the effect.
Type of Blending Mode in Photoshop
Before you start using the blending mode, you might want to have a basic idea of what they are doing. Here are some terms that will be useful in understanding what each blender does:
- Base color: the color that is already on the layer.
- Blend of color: that you are applying for, for example, with the Brush tool.
- Result color: the final result after the blending mode finishes working on the basic and mixed colors.
As a simple example, if you have a glass of water containing blue food coloring (basic color) and add a few drops of yellow food coloring (mixed colors), the resulting color (from mixing them) is green.
Photoshop’s mixing mode, however, does more than just mix colors together. Here are all the modes and what they do.
Not all tools can use the same blend options. This is a complete list of all available options. Depending on the bitrate of your image, you may also lose access to several blend modes. The mixing mode can also behave differently depending on whether you apply it to the coating or the appliance.
The Normal mode mixed group is the default group. The resulting color will always be a mixed color, a base color, or both, not mixed.
- Normal: The color of the result is the same as the color of the mixture. Normal mode is the default option that doesn’t change anything; if you use green with the Brush tool, the pixels will be green.
- Dissolve: Photoshop randomly selects the color of each pixel based on the layer opacity. For example, if you brush yellow to blue at 50% opacity, half of the pixels will turn yellow, and half will turn blue.
- Behind: Your tool will only affect transparent pixels (e.g., “Blank”).
Clear: Your tool will make the pixels it changes transparent.
Dark Groups always produce colors that are darker than what you started. Usually, none of these blending modes affect black on the base or the mixture of colors or layers.
Dark: Photoshop replaces pixels in the base color with any mixed colors that are darker. The result is a combination of both.
Multiply: Multiply the RGB values of the base color and the blend color and then divide it by 255 to produce the result color. For example, pure red (RGB 255,0,0) and gray 50% (RGB 128,128,128) produce a deep red color with a value of 128,0,0.
Color Burn: Photoshop increases the contrast between the base and combines the colors to darken the base.
Linear Burn: Photoshop reduces the brightness to darken the base color.
Darker Color: Photoshop displays the darker values between the base color and the blend without the different result colors.
The modes in the Lighten group are the opposite of those in the Darken group. They usually do not affect the white on the base or combine colors or layers, and they always make the palette lighter.
- Lighten: Lighten is the opposite of Darken: The resulting color is a lighter primary or blend color.
- Screen: The screen is the opposite of Multiply. Instead of finding the basic and mixed color products, the Screen multiplies the inverse and divides by 255. The color of the result is the opposite of that answer. So using the example of red gray and 50% from above, the screen multiplies 0.255.255 by 128.128.128 and divides it by 255 to get the value 0.128.128. The color of the result is the opposite, light reading with a value of 255,128,128.
- Color Dodge: Photoshop reduces the contrast between the base and blend colors to lighten the base color. Color Dodge is the opposite of Color Burn.
- Linear Dodge (Add): Photoshop adds basic values and blends colors together.
- Lighter Color: Photoshop displays the lighter values between the base color and the blend without the different result colors. Lighter Color is the opposite of Darker Color.
The Contrast Group changes and increases the value of the contrast between the base and blend colors by treating the blend color as a light source. The process is generally a combination of mixing modes Darken and Lighten. This blending mode removes 50% gray area.
- Overlay: Photoshop applies the Screen to illuminate the basic color area and multiplying dark parts.
- Soft Light: Soft Light applies Lighten if the blend color is lighter than 50% gray; it applies Dark if the mix color is darker.
- Hard Light: The result will be a Screen for bright and Multiply mixed color values for a darker one.
- Vivid Light: Photoshop adjusts the basic color contrast (e.g., Color Burn or Color Dodge) depending on whether the blend color is lighter or darker than 50% gray.
- Linear Light: Linear Light performs Linear Burn or Linear Dodge (Add) depending on whether the blend color is lighter or darker than 50% gray.
- Pin Light: If the blend color is lighter than 50% gray, Photoshop replaces the darker pixels. Darker blend colors cause Photoshop to replace lighter pixels.
- Hard Mix: Hard Mix is an extreme blending mode that adds RGB values to basic and mixed colors. For each value, if the number is 255 or greater, it becomes 255. The number is lower than 255 round to 0. The color of the result will be one of the following: white, black, red, green, blue, yellow, magenta, or cyan.
The mixing modes in the Comparative group focus on the difference between the basic and mixed colors.
- Difference: The color of the result is the difference between the basic and mixed color values. It always reduces the less bright.
- Exceptions: Exceptions are similar to Differences, but the color of the result has less contrast than that made by mode.
- Subtract: Photoshop reduces the blend color from the base color, with the negative value rounded to zero.
- Divide: Photoshop divides basic colors by mixed colors.
The mixing mode in the Color group combines the different qualities of the base and blend colors (ie: hue, saturation, and luminosity) to create the result color.
- Color: The resulting color has a mixed color hue with luminosity and base color saturation.
Saturation: The result has a mixed color saturation and basic luminosity and hue.
- Color: The resulting color has a mixed hue and saturation of the color and basic luminosity.
Luminosity: The result has a mixture of color and hue luminosity and basic saturation.
Usage for Photoshop’s Blending Mode
Now that you know where the blending modes are and what they do, here are some suggestions for how you can use them.
- Dissolve: Use with the Brush tool to create a chalk-like effect on a solid background.
- Hard Mix: Used to create monochromatic pop-art styles.
- Contrast: Use the modes in the Contrast group to quickly correct excess or lack of photos.
- Clear: Use this to make stencil effects easily by making transparent shapes.
- Screen: This blend mode is good for combining images or adding textures. For example, you can filter out fog images over city shots to create a different mood.