PS Tutorial: Blending Mode Basics


Sharing a recent tutorial. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions! XOXO Angel

Blending Mode Basics

A simple technique to add continuity and visual appeal to the digital portion of your project is the use of blending modes.

Ahartline_blendmodes_2Just like the name implies, changing the blending mode on a layer literally adjusts the way a layer blends with the layer(s) underneath it. You can find a list of available choices in a drop down box located at the upper left hand side of your layers palette. As you can see they’re arranged in groups all creating similar effects.

To give you an idea of what each one does, we’ll take a look at examples of some of the most commonly used blending modes. Keep in mind many of the actual results will vary based on the layer you’re blending and/or the layer(s) underneath it.

Tip: There are more technical explanations for each mode listed under the Help menu in PS.


The default setting for each layer is Normal.

For example take a look at the solid color fill inside the title letters Splish Splash on this layout. While the color coordinates with the project, I’d really like it to look more watery and let the paper show through. I could adjust the layer transparency but that makes the letter color look much too light. What I really want is to make the color transparent while maintaining its vibrancy.

Changing the blending mode will allow me to do just that.

Some examples:

Ahartline_tutblend_multMultiply produces a darker (yet transparent) color. 

Tip: To make a layer darker, simply duplicate the layer. Change the blending mode of the new layer to multiply and adjust the transparency until as dark as desired.

Ahartline_tutblend_clrburnColor Burn also produces a darker color but with more contrast.

Ahartline_tutblend_screenScreen produces a lighter color.

Tip: To make a layer lighter, simply duplicate the layer. Change the blending mode of the new layer to screen and adjust the transparency until as light as desired.

Ahartline_tutblend_clrdodgeColor Dodge also produces a lighter color but with less contrast.

Ahartline_tutblend_ovrlyOverlay can produce either lighter or darker colors depending on the base (bottom) color. The result then is generally a high contrast color that maintains the highlights and shadows of the bottom color.

Tip: Especially useful for blending b&w textures or filtered layers such as high pass.

Ahartline_tutblend_softltSoft Light works similarly to Overlay but produces a gentler effect similar to using diffused light.

Ahartline_tutblend_hardltHard Light also works similarly to Overlay but produces a higher contrast effect depending on the blending (top) color.

Ahartline_lo_linburnWhen it comes to blending modes, it’s most important to simply try them out until you’re comfortable. Keep in mind you can simply change the mode back to normal if you do not like the result. Also, you can achieve amazing results by combing blending modes with other techniques such as opacity and filters.

For my LO I ended up using a watercolor brush with some built in transparency, then applying Linear Burn to the layer.


And here’s my finished LO:

~splish splash~

Digital Supplies:

Vintage Comfort, What Every Girl Needs: Corduroy, A Breath of Fresh Air & Cherishing Every Moment Alpha by Weeds & Wildflowers

Hand-Cut Scalloped Edge Mattes & Frames by Meredith Fenwick

Waterdrops Overlay by Karen Fisher

1 comment… add one
  • Nancy P says:

    Awesome tutorial – thank you very much for all these details I did not know! I have printed it out so I can remember it all – lol! Thank you!

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