This is what Photoshop’s 27 different layer blending modes do

May 17, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

This is what Photoshop’s 27 different layer blending modes do

May 17, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Most of us will probably only ever use a handful of layer blending modes in Photoshop. Normal, Darken, Multiply, Screen, and maybe Overlay. This mostly down to the fact that what they do is quite obvious. We often ignore many of the other blend modes because when we scroll through them they don’t seem to be of much use at all. But mostly because we don’t understand how they work.

In this video, Unmesh Dinda at PiXimperfect walks us through all 27 of Photoshop’s layer blending modes and exactly how they work. These blend modes don’t just exist for layers, though. They often come up as an option for Photoshop’s various tools like the brush, clone stamp and healing brush tools. So it’s useful to know what they do.

Each of the blending mode types falls into a different category based on what they do. Some darken, some brighten, some alter the contrast, and the rest do other things. Here is a list of all of them, along with the timestamps that each comes up in the video – which is handy because it’s a 42-minute video.

  • 00:28 Normal
  • 00:49 Dissolve
  • 02:07 Darken
  • 04:10 Multiply
  • 05:56 Multiply Vs. Darken
  • 06:20 Color Burn
  • 08:44 Linear Burn
  • 09:18 Linear Burn Vs. Color Burn
  • 09:47 Darker Color
  • 10:27 Lighten
  • 10:53 Screen
  • 11:34 Color Dodge & Linear Dodge
  • 12:56 Lighter Color
  • 13:42 Overlay
  • 15:52 Soft Light
  • 16:50 Hard Light
  • 17:56 Vivid Light And Linear Light
  • 20:05 Pin Light
  • 21:49 Hard Mix
  • 24:54 Difference
  • 28:27 Exclusion
  • 29:27 Subtract
  • 32:49 Divide
  • 34:09 Understanding Hsl
  • 35:25 Hue
  • 37:32 Saturation
  • 38:33 Color
  • 39:12 Luminosity
  • 41:03 The 3 Extra Blend Modes

You’ll notice at the end Unmesh talks about three other blend modes which apply to specific tasks and tools within Photoshop. Two of these are pretty useless for most of us, but the Pass Through blend mode for groups is important to understand, especially if you do a lot of compositing. Unmesh has previously made a more in-depth video about this one.

If you want another explanation of how the different blending modes work in Photoshop, have a look at this one we posted a while ago from Photoshop Training Channel.

Did you know what they all do? Which do you use most often, and which do you never use?

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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