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

    | Photoshop Tutorials | Tutorials | 11/10/2012 02:00am

    The best blends for photographers: 1-5

    Here we’re going to look at practical applications of Photoshop Blend Modes that you can use to improve your digital photography. We’ll also have a peek under the bonnet of Blend Modes, although you really don’t need to worry about the science!

    Essentially, what we’re doing here is showing you how you can make real use of Blend Modes to rescue, enhance and empower your digital images.

    Remember, each of the recipes here involves other techniques to make the best use of Blend Modes, but we’ll show you which ones to use, where to use them, exactly what to use them for, and what they can do for your images. Dive into that Blend Mode menu and get blending!

    The 10 Best Blend Modes for Photographers: Lighten and Darken

    1 Lighten and Darken
    The Lighten and Darken modes do the same thing, but in opposite directions. Both compare the Base and Blend colours and select either the lighter or the darker of the two.

    The 10 Best Blend Modes for Photographers: Lighten and Darken

    One good application for these blend modes is to use them together to create a soft-focus effect on the image. Blur two layers and apply Darken mode to one and Lighten mode to the other to do this. The Opacity of each layer can be adjusted for the best effect.


    The 10 Best Blend Modes for Photographers: Saturation

    2 Saturation
    The Saturation Blending Mode uses the colour of the Base layer and the saturation values of the Blend layer. Make a selection of areas of colour on a duplicated layer, fill the rest with 50% grey, and you can achieve an isolated colour effect as we’ve done here.

    • Good for isolating areas of colour.
    • Works well for fading and intensifying colour.


    The 10 Best Blend Modes for Photographers: Screen

    3 Screen: adding a border
    Simply by copying and pasting a black-and-white border image and changing the Blending Mode to Screen, your Base image will show through the black area, leaving target layer white areas showing.

    Screen mode produces lighter colours, as it’s from the Lighten set of Blend modes. In your Screen Blend Mode, black is neutral, so the black in the centre of the target layer is invisible. Screen mode multiplies the inverse of the Blend and Base together to calculate the difference.

    • Used for lightening dark images.
    • Adding a creative border.



    The 10 Best Blend Modes for Photographers: Overlay

    4 Overlay: dodging and burning
    The Overlay mode will increase contrast in an image, but it can also be used selectively for easy dodging and burning on black and white images.

    The 10 Best Blend Modes for Photographers: Overlay

    A layer that’s been filled with 50% grey and then set to Overlay blend mode can be painted on with a black brush to burn in dark tones. Switch to a white brush and you can lighten midtones and highlights. The layer’s Opacity will control the depth of effect.


    The 10 Best Blend Modes for Photographers: Screen

    5 Screen: lightening dark areas of an image
    Here we’ve used the Screen mode to add detail, light and tonal clarity to the overly dark foreground in this image. Although this mode has been applied to the entire duplicate layer, the area over the sky has been erased to avoid lightening the already bright sky too much.

    The 10 Best Blend Modes for Photographers: Screen

    You can temper the effect of the Screen Blend Mode simply by reducing the Opacity of the target layer. Remember, the Screen mode has no effect on black areas of the image, so these remain the same, but you can easily see how the Blend Mode has opened up the midtones and highlights in the foreground.

    • Used to brighten under-exposed images.
    • Adds brightness and detail to overly dark areas in an image.

    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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    Posted on Thursday, October 11th, 2012 at 2:00 am under Photoshop Tutorials, Tutorials.

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