Photoshop Blending Modes – What They Do and How to Use Them

Layers and the blending of layers is the defining characteristics of Photoshop. Stacking different layers on top of each other and blending them together gives you all the power to create whichever look you want. But if you are only relying on layer masks to blend your layers, you are missing a very important aspect of Photoshop: Blending modes.

Blending modes allow you to combine layers in much more complex and powerful ways than just changing their opacity. This opens the door to many very advanced techniques. In the featured videos in this article, you will learn how to unlock those techniques.

Blending Modes Explained

The first video explains each of the blending modes based on an example image. If you’d like to know the principle behind each mode, this is a good way to start.

Practical Applications

In this video, Jimmy McIntyre shows you some practical applications, using specific blending modes to create particular effects in an images. Jimmy restricts his demonstration to just 5 blending modes that he uses often. This is much more of a practical approach that helps you get more familiar with the important modes from a photographer’s standpoint. Note that it is still very useful to understand the basic principles before applying blending modes. This avoids confusion and frustration.

Compositing Using the Luminosity Mode

One very specific usage is shown by Glyn Dewis in this video. Glyn uses the Luminosity blending mode to blend different image parts taken from different photos very quickly. The Luminosity mode ignores the original colors of the layer and only blends in the brightness information. This is an extremely quick way to make those colors match in many situations.

Changing Colors Using the Hue Mode

Another use for blending modes is color manipulation. If you paint over an image with a specific color and use “Hue” as the blending mode, the color of the upper layer is going to be blended with the textures of the lower layer which allows you to change those colors without affecting textures.

Final Tip

The best way to get your head around blending modes is to look at practical applications. Don’t try to learn the math behind the concept. Check out what other people do with blending modes and figure out what they basically do. Then experiment by trying different blending modes when you are trying to achieve a specific effect.

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