Blend Modes: the 10 best blends for photographers (and how to use them)

Blend Modes: the 10 best blends for photographers (and how to use them)

Start using your Blend Modes


In truth, it has to be said that some Photoshop Blend Modes are more useful than others to photographers. Although many of the modes have some interesting, if obscure, applications, some of the others have little or no practical effect. 
Below is a selection of applied Blend Modes, and the difference in the degree of effect each one has.

Each of the images is split into two halves. The left-hand side of each image shows the effect of the applied Blending Mode, with the original background on the right.

Colour Blend Mode

Colour mode uses the luminosity values of the Base layer and the Hue or colour of the Blend layer. Colour mode is probably most useful for sophisticated colour effects.


Difference Blend Mode

The Difference mode can create some weird and really unexpected effects. This mode is only really suitable for creating unusual and striking effects.


Screen Blend Mode

The Screen Blending Mode will lighten an image overall. As the Screen mode doesn’t affect blacks in the image, it still keeps punch in the image.


Overlay Blend Mode

The Overlay mode increases the contrast, making shadows darker and highlights brighter. This mode has no effect on any areas of the image that are 50% grey.


Multiply Blend Mode

The Multiply mode takes the colours on both the Base and the Blend layers and multiplies them. This mode darkens images but has no effect on whites. It’s great for beefing up skies or texture in light stonework.

Although Blending Modes can be effective, in their pure form they can be a bit harsh. This is where the Opacity and Fill properties of the Layers palette come into their own.

If the effect of a layer that has a Blending Mode applied is too strong, you can easily cut back its effect by reducing the Opacity. Think of the Layer Opacity as a ‘volume control’ for the effect of a Blending Mode layer. For instance, if a Multiply mode makes areas of the image too dark, just reduce Opacity.

Opacity Blend Mode: 100%


Screen 100%
We’ve used a Duplicate layer but at 100% Opacity the effect is too strong.

Opacity Blend Mode: 50%


Screen 50%
By reducing layer Opacity to around 50%, the effect is subtler.

PAGE 1: What is a Blend Mode?
PAGE 2: Start using your Blend Modes
PAGE 3: Get to know the Blend Mode menu
PAGE 4: The 10 best blends for photographers 1-5
PAGE 5: The 10 best blends for photographers 6-10


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