Blending Modes Overview
So just what are the blending modes? 2 Words: Really Cool.
Blending Modes are one of my favorite Photoshop tools and I use them all of the
time in graphic design. I would say that I use them much more than the
average Photoshop user; they are just so exciting! Blending modes allow
you to apply light properties to a layer that "bleeds" through to a layer
or layers beneath it. Your options are truly limitless with blending modes
because you can use them in all kinds of different situations and continue to
discover new things with them.
If you just have a blank white background layer and try a blending mode on
your photographic image layer on top, you're not going to see anything.
Try changing that background layer to a bright pink (through color fill methods)
and change the top layer to a Color Burn or Overlay. Can you see the
In Photoshop, the blending modes are located on the layers palette, beginning
with "Normal". They are set in different groups. The least used one
is dissolve (it's just kinda dumb and I think I might have used it once...by
The first "set" are your darken blending modes, followed by lightens, light
mixers, de-saturaters and color sets. Are these the technical names for
the sets? No.
Am I going to technically describe how with blending modes, one layers light
qualities are mixed with the qualities of the layer beneath? No.
This is Photoshop Design; we're concerned with the practical application.
(Maybe after I get my ACE certification I'll cringe at this). But you
still need to know an idea of how they work. Even the Dream Team members
will say that Ben Willmore and maybe Peter Bauer (of Adobe) are the only ones
who truly understand them.
Well your first set of darkens (Darken, Multiply, Linear Burn, Color Burn)
will saturate the dark areas of the layers. These blending modes work well
on layers that are lighter because if they are too dark it's going to blacken
out the image.
The second set (Lighten, Screen, Color Dodge, Linear Dodge) works great when
you've got a dark layer on top that you want to hide the dark pixels with a
lighter layer beneath it. This has often saved the hassle of having to
create a layer mask.
My personal favorites? Overlay does it just about all of the time for
most of my desired effects.
Second most used is definitely Hard Light. These work great when you want
the top layer to look richer with the dark areas below; it brings up the
contrast too and more often than not, just looks really cool and works well.
When working on a graphic design in Photoshop you should experiment with the
blending modes yourself until you personally get a good feel for what they can
do and how they work. When you're working with several different layers,
use blending modes to let the light qualities "bleed" together. It's a
powerful and effective tool (do I keep saying that or what?!)
On all of my
club-style designs I'll use blending modes. Try mixing
some sunset photo's together on say, color burn. They are powerful tools
and using them could become a trademark of yours too! These images all are
using blending modes.
Try mixing two photographs together with some blending modes and you'll be
surprised at what you find. Night photography works well with flashes,
blurs, colors and lines. Try mixing some 'party' pictures together with
I have created a couple hundred designs that specifically focus on the use of
blending modes. You can really get a strong feel for blending modes in the
C-Poster/NUera DVD's. This DVD training is included when you order the
- Orion Williams copyright 2004