7 tips and tricks for using blend modes like a pro

Blend mode tips: 02 Add texture with Blend modes

Blend modes offer the quickest and easiest way to combine images creatively. Discover our 7 best tips for using them to create professional-looking images.

7 tips and tricks for using blend modes like a pro

Blend mode tips: 01 Experiment with Blend modes

Blend modes use mathematical algorithms to combine the pixels on the active layer with all the layers below it.

Most work by multiplying, subtracting or dividing colour and brightness values.

Some Blend modes are more useful than others, and many have a companion that creates the opposite effect.

For example, Multiply darkens the tones in an image, while Screen lightens them.

SEE MORE: 27 incredible photo effects you can create from just one Photoshop menu

Overlay calculates both Multiply and Screen in one go, darkening the darker tones and lightening the lighter ones.

Knowing exactly what each Blend mode does isn’t really necessary because their effects depend so heavily on the images you’re applying them to.

The best approach is to experiment until you find one that works with your images in the way that you want.

Blend mode tips: 02 Add texture with Blend modes

Blend mode tips: 02 Add texture with Blend modes

Interesting textures such as rough paper, rusty metal or walls covered in peeling paint can be used to add depth and character to photos if they are blended creatively.

Load the image you want to texture, then load the texture image and cut and paste it into the main image at the top of the layer stack. Set the Blend mode to Multiply.

  SEE MORE: Composite picture techniques: how to make convincing shadows

If the result is too dark, use a clipped Levels or Curves adjustment layer to brighten the texture.

Try other Blend modes, too, such as Overlay or Linear Burn.

To quickly cycle through them, place the mouse on the menu and press Shift and + or —.

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Blend mode tips: 03 Colour grade an image with blur

Blend mode tips: 03 Colour grade an image with blur

If you cut out an element from one image and place it in another – to replace the background in a portrait, for instance – the composite may suffer from variations in the lighting or white balance of the combined images.

To create more convincing blends, create a colour grading layer.

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Duplicate the background, move it to the top of the layer stack and select Filter>Blur>Average. This creates an averaged colour for the background.

Clip the layer to the cut-out layer and set the Blend mode to Overlay. Lower the opacity until it looks right.

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