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Texture Recipe – Blending Modes – Tools of the Trade

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Layers and blending modes were one of the first things that hooked me on photoshop, the fact that you can adjust, tweak and undo with a simple click was fascinating.  The tip to remember is that blending modes react slightly differently with each image and the order of the layers.

If you would like to try out the blending modes using the same texture and image, to get a feel for it yourself, then please feel free to download the free rose photo and texture Perchance at the end of the post.

For this explanation I took a simple shot of a rose image and placed a texture in the layer above, then swapped the blending modes within the layer palette so you can see how the different options provide a variety of ways to control the mixing, blending and general interaction of the layer content.

First up Blending Mode : Normal.

As expected the image normally appears but adjust the opacity and you are off to a great start.

Blending Mode : Dissolve.

Creates what looks like random dots, not a blend mode I use very often (if at all).  Note: There is no effect if the top layer is at 100% opacity. You have to reduce the opacity to see the effect.

Darken Modes

Blending Mode : Darken.

Looks at the color information in each channel and selects the base or blend color—whichever is darker—as the result color. Pixels lighter than the blend color are replaced, and pixels darker than the blend color do not change.

Blending Mode : Multiply.

Multiplies the color of the bottom layer with the top layer producing an overall darker result.  Note: There is no image change when the top
layer is white.  Great for building up detail and density in light areas.

Blending Mode : Color Burn

Darkens or ‘burns’ the image using the contents of the top layer.  Again there is no image change if the top layer is white but it is great for making tonal and color adjustments that are dependent on the tone of the blend color.

Linear Burn
Looks at the color information in each channel and darkens the base color to reflect the blend color by decreasing the brightness. Blending with white produces no change.

Similar to the Color Burn mode but produces a stronger darkening effect. As before there is no image change when the top layer is white. (Hint : to get around wanting to colour burn with white make the white colour off-white) One difference between Linear Burn and Color Burn is that the Color Burn Blend mode increases the contrast of the base color.

Blending Mode : Darker Color.

This mode is similar to the Darken mode, except it works on all channels so when you blend two layers together, only the darker pixels on the blend layer will remain visible.

Lighten Modes

Blending Mode : Lighten.

Checks out the color information in each channel and selects the base or blend color, whichever is lighter, as the result color. Pixels darker  are replaced and pixels lighter than the blend color do not change.

Blending Mode : Screen.

The result of this mode is always a lighter color.

Blending Mode : Color Dodge.

Looks at the color information in each channel and brightens the base color  by decreasing contrast between the two. Blending with black makes no change.

Blending Mode : Linear Dodge (Add).

Again looks at the color information in each channel and brightens the base color by, this time increasing the brightness. Also blending with black makes no change.

Blending Mode : Lighter Color.

Compares the total of all channel values for the blend and base color and displays the higher value color.

Contrast Modes

Blending Mode: Overlay.

Patterns or colors overlay the existing pixels while retaining the highlights and shadows of the base color. The base color is not replaced, but mixed with the blend color to reflect the lightness or darkness of the original color. Used for High Pass sharpening, glow effects, and tonal and color adjustments.

Blending Mode : Soft Light.

Darkens or lightens the colors, depending on the blend color. If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened as if it were dodged.  If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened as if it were burned in. Painting with pure black or white produces a distinctly darker or lighter area, but does not result in pure black or white.

Blending Mode : Hard Light.

Sometimes it feels as if you are repeating yourself but there are slight differences in each mode.  Hard light, like Soft light, multiplies or screens the colors, depending on the blend color. But if the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened, as if it were screened. This is useful for adding highlights to an image. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened, as if it were multiplied. This is useful for adding shadows to an image.

Blending Mode : Vivid Light.

Burns or dodges the colors by increasing or decreasing the contrast, depending on the blend color.
Blending Mode : Linear Light.

Burns or dodges the colors by decreasing or increasing the brightness, depending on the blend color.

Blending Mode : Pin Light.

Again replaces the colors, depending on the blend color.  This is useful for adding special effects to an image.

Blending Mode : Hard Mix.

Adds the red, green and blue channel values of the blend color to the RGB values of the base color.  This changes all pixels to primary  colors (red, green, or blue), white, or black.

Note: For CMYK images, Hard Mix changes all pixels to the primary subtractive colors (cyan, yellow, or magenta), white, or black.

Remaining Modes (comparative, composite)

Blending Mode : Difference.

Difference for me is always an interesting one.  It takes the color information in each channel and subtracts either the blend color from the base color or the base color from the blend color, depending on which has the greater brightness value. Blending with white inverts the base color values and blending with black produces no change. Reducing the opacity helps in most circumstances with this mode.

Blending Mode : Exclusion.
Creates an effect similar to but lower in contrast than the Difference mode. Blending with white inverts the base color values whilst blending with black produces no change.
Blending Mode : Subtract.

Looks at the color information in each channel and subtracts the blend color from the base color.

Blending Mode : Divide.

Again looks at the color information in each channel and this time divides the blend color from the base color.

Blending Mode : Hue.

Used for changing hues in an image while maintaining the tonal and saturation values of the original image.

Blending Mode : Saturation.

Creates a result color with the luminance and hue of the base color and the saturation of the blend color. In essence you can reduce the colour.

Blending Mode : Color.

This preserves the gray levels in the image and is useful for coloring monochrome images and for tinting color images.

Blending Mode : Luminosity.

This mode creates the inverse effect of Color mode.

The best way to learn all the modes is to do!  Have a go, I have put the rose image and the texture Perchance from our pack “Sometimes I Dream” to download below.

Download Free Rose Image and Texture

 

 

But thats just one texture, on one image, now imagine several textures and multiple layers with different blending modes and there must be an almost limitless amount of recipes for cooking up textures!

What’s your favourite blending mode?

Never be afraid to experiment, it’s all a question of the style or mood you are trying to create and what the finished image is trying to portray.  Please feel free to share your images over in our Flickr group Texture Recipes  we would love to see them!

For more technical details check out Adobe help.

 

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  1. I have just found your site (blog) brilliant!! I will be here for ever there is so much to learn – thank you for sharing.

    I did click on the adobe help link but it isn’t working.

    Thank you so much!!

  2. Amisha March says:

    Thanks Mary and I’ll have a look at the link!

  3. Kathy Roberson says:

    This is awesome – Thank you!

  4. Amisha March says:

    Kathy…thank you :)

  5. Thank you, the tutorial was really good, and the differences made by adjusting the blending modes were really beautiful. Thank you.

  6. Sissy Morrison says:

    I just came across your blog. OMG where have you been all my life. I am a photoshop addict and you really share some great tips!

  7. Amisha March says:

    Sissy Thank you!!! I am a photoshop addict too :D

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