Blending Modes [ part one ]

Composed by Kitten

Happy June fellow designers!

It’s so exciting to see the amount of designers there are out there, be they just starting or have been at this game for a while. Watching the latest event on ReVo, Nailed It!, it was fun to see everyone’s different interpretation on one image‚Ķ some of them being a little above and beyond (looking at you Rutger).


Something I’ve always believed in, is helping others learn and learning myself. I enjoy learning new skills or ways to work with images to create a specific look. Recently, I was talking to our bloginista, Rivers, about the whole growing as we go. One thing I always suggest for designers is to have an “inspiration” folder, something that you can save work you’ve seen, be it avatars, commercial work, graphics from deviant art or other design communities etc. It helps in pushing us to step out of our comfort zones sometimes and try something new.

Now enough with the rambling! Let’s talk some basics of photoshop. Blending modes!


One thing that I’ve seen over the years (and have been one of those that have done it) is that there are times when we don’t really understand what the blending options are and how they’re utilized. Instead, to achieve effects we’ll use the opacity slider which just lowers the transperancy of the layer.

With each blend mode, they have specific functions and uses. I’m going to be doing a series covering these different effects.

This first in the series is going to cover our Normal Blending Modes and Darken Blending Modes.

“Normal Blending Modes”

First we have NORMAL and DISSOLVE. As you know with NORMAL the image is as is, no changes. When you select DISSOLVE, at first it’s exactly like NORMAL, but play with the opacity slider, lowering it and you’ll see that this blend mode is slowing, in a word, dissolving. It’s a neat effect for when you want a “speckled” look. I’ve used it to “dirty” up avs.

“Darken Blending Modes”

Next group is the Darken Blending Modes. Basically what these blending options do to your image is make the colors darker; your white will become invisible and anything that is a darker color to white will have some darkening effect to the image below.

DARKEN – In a more wordy way of describing this mode, it looks at the luminance values for each of the RGB (red, green, blue) channels and it selects either the base color or blend color depending on which is darker. In layman’s terms, it’s basically going to keep the darkest of the 2. If the blend layer and the base layer color are the same there’s gonna be no change (red on red, blue on blue etc). In the example you’ll see that the pink and blue-ish of the layer are still more visible while the yellow strip fades and becomes more green. In this image the red in the pink and blue were the dominate of the RGB spectrum, while the yellow which has green in it was more closer to white.


MULTIPLY – This one if a fan favorite. It ‚Ķmultiplies! (see what I did there?) the luminosity of the base color by the blend color. This always has the effect of darkening the color. White doesn’t make any changes, and black will remain the same. This is actually a good blend mode for darkening an image or creating shadows.

COLOR BURN – So with this blend mode, it’s unique in that it reacts differently when you play around with the opacity slider. It’s going to give you a darker look then what MULTIPLY did by increasing the contrast between base and blend layers. This effect gives you a more saturated mid-tone and it reduces highlights. If you use your burn tool it’s the same effect.

LINEAR BURN – This blend option results in a darker look than what you would get with MULTIPLY, but it’s going to be less saturated than if you used COLOR BURN. It produces the most contrast in darker colors than any of the other blend modes that are in the darker group. This is also a blend mode that you will get different looks playing with your FILL slider as opposed to the OPACITY.

DARKER COLOR – This one is a lot like DARKEN. This one doesn’t blend your pixels as it’s only comparing the base and blend colors, keeping the darkest of the 2 (remember the RGB). As you can see in the example, the reds of the pink and blue are the more dominant while the yellow is less dominate over the pink of the base image. The way this is different than DARKEN is that where DARKEN looks at the RGB channel individually for the final blend, DARKER COLOR is looking at the composite of all the RGB channels.

Hopefully this gives you a little bit more insight regarding these blending modes. Stay tuned for our next in the series, Lighten Blending Modes.

As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!