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Blog . Blending Modes Demystified

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Blending Modes Demystified

12/10/13  |  Posted by Leah Yochman  |  Posted in Digital Creativity

If you ever wonder how the blend modes function in Adobe Photoshop, this tutorial will shine some light on the possibilities! Today I will be selecting a few and explaining them as well as showing you how they work in a piece I have made from my own photos.

There are 26 blending modes total, the ones I will talk about are:

  • Darken
  • Overlay
  • Soft Light
  • Vivid Light
  • Pin Light
  • Hue

Darken

If the pixels are darker in the layer selected than the pixels in the layers below, they are kept in the image. It takes any pixels that are lighter and replaces them with tones from the layers beneath it. Basically, this mode keeps the darker tones and replaces the lighter ones with tones from your other layers.

Overlay

This mode is a combination of Screen and Multiply because it affects the lighter and darker pixels by applying them half-strength to the layer. It turns all of the mid-tones transparent. In this mode the layer selected is transformed by the layers below.

Soft Light

This mode is similar to Overlay, but it has a more natural/soft effect resulting in semi-transparent lights and darks.

Vivid Light

This mode is a combo of Color Dodge and Color Burn. It uses both at half-strength, making the brights brighter and the darks darker.

Pin Light

This mode is a combo using Lighten on pixels that are lighter and Darken on pixels that are dark at half-strength. If the pixels on the active layer are darker or lighter than the pixels on the layers below, they will remain visible. If they are not darker or lighter they will disappear. This mode removes all of the mid-tones while it can also result in large noise areas within the image.

Hue

This mode keeps all the colors from the active layer selected and blends the saturation and luminance from the layers below. The result is an image from the layers below and only the colors from the top layer.

I used all of these blending modes in my example piece, and took a screen shot to show how the layers interact with each other once the blending modes are selected.

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