Layer Blending Modes Part one

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Think of Photoshop layers as stacking pieces of transparent papers one on top of another to create the final image. In addition to your “normal” layers there are also special layers that can interact with the layers below. This is useful to create photo montage, light adjustment, color corrections and anything else you can think of, but first you will need to understand how they work.

Blending modes are separated in 5 different categories,

Darkening (use to darken or fix overexposed photos)

Lighting (use to lighten or fix underexposed photos)

Contrasting (is a combination of both Darkening and Lighting sets)

Comparing (use to align and compare photos)

Coloring (use to fix hue and saturation)


The first two modes are not categorized – 

Normal blending is selected by default, it does not have any special feature and should work just as expected.

Dissolve mode will only work where there are semi transparent pixels, all semi transparent pixels are turn into solid pixel noise, the density of the noise is depending how the level of transparency. The following sample shows the word “Dissolve” with blurred applied(semi transparent edge) two different times. The sample on the top is on a Normal blending layer and the bottom sample is in Dissolve blending layer.

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The first set of the blending mode deals with “DARK” pixels. It is helpful to correct and darken any parts of your photos.

Darken – Compares the Darken layer to the base layer and keeps the darker pixels of the two. In the sample below, since the plants in the foreground are the only things that are darker than the Base layer, only the flowers are kept and the rest of the pixels become transparent. If you shoot your subject against a bright background, you can quickly lay it on top of a different background.

Multiply – Combine the blending layer with the base layer by “multiplying” the color information which gives you a darker final image. This is great for fixing overexposed photos and the most commonly used mode of this set. Duplicate the layer and set the top layer to Multiply and you will end up with a darker, better exposed photo assuming you used a photo that was overexposed such as the example below.

Color Burn – The blending layer uses the brightness information to increase the contrast of the base layer, the darker the pixel the higher the contrast. The sample shows three shades of gray, the darker the gray shade, the darker and higher contrast the final image becomes. White does not affect the image. You can use paint brush and paint over a small section with different shades of gray to achieve the feel you want.

Linear Burn – The blending layer uses the brightness information to increase the darkness of the base layer, the darker the blending layer the darker the result. The sample shows three shades of gray, the darker the gray the darker the final image becomes, the contrast remains the same. White does not affect the image. You can use paint brush and paint over a small section with different shades of gray to achieve the feel you want.

Darker Color –


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The following sets will help brighten and fix underexposed photos. It has the exact opposite function as the last set.

Lighten – This is opposite of Darken, it compares the Lighten layer to the bottom visible layers and keep the lighter pixel. Darker colors are omitted.

Screen – This is opposite of Multiply, it multiplies the inverse information to create a lighter final image. It is perfect fixing underexposed photos and the most used mode of the brighten sets. The sample below shows the blending layer and base layer is the exact same photo while blending layer is set to Screen, the final image is brighter and better exposed.

Color Dodge – The blending layer uses the brightness information to brighten and increase the contrast of the base layer, the brighter the pixel the higher the contrast . The sample shows three shades of gray, the lighter the gray the brighter and higher contrast the result becomes. Black do not affect the image.

Linear Dodge (Add) – The blending layer uses the brightness information to increase the brightness of the base layer, the lighter the blending layer, the brighter the result. The sample shows three shades of gray, the lighter the gray the lighter the final result, contrast appears to decrease. Black do not affect the image.

Lighter Color

Continue to part Two of this tutorial...

This is part of my tutorial set. Please visit the TUTORIAL PAGE for a list of all the tutorials.

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