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)

Using the Blend Mode menu

Of course, before you can use Blend Modes effectively, you need to choose them! So it’s worth taking a look at where the options for changing modes are located within Photoshop CS and Elements.

The Blend Mode menu, accessed from the Layers palette, lists all the modes divided into logically grouped categories. You can choose a Blend Mode by selecting it from the pop-up in the Layers palette, or by choosing it from the New Layer dialog when you add a new or duplicate layer.

Once you’ve chosen a Blending Mode and it’s still highlighted, you can scroll to another mode using the up/down arrows.

Get to know your Blend Mode menu1 Normal, Dissolve
These leave colours unchanged, and have no tonal interaction with layers below. Normal mode is used in basic layers in Photoshop.

2 Darkening modes
These Modes darken underlying layers. In this group, White is the neutral colour, so white areas have no effect on the layers beneath.

3 Lightening modes
A layer set to these lightens the underlying layer. Opposite to the Darken group, this Lighten group ignores black on a layer.

4 Contrast modes
This group of modes are broadly Contrast modes, lightening highlights in the underlying layer and darkening shadows. Mid-grey is the neutral tone, and ignored in the blend.

5 Comparative modes
These two modes compare colours between the target and underlying layer, subtracting one from the other.

6 Colour-influencing modes
This group can be described as Influencers. 
They deal primarily with colour on the active layer, and how colours affect underlying layers.

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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