Chapter 10: Using Blending Modes with Layers

A blending mode compares the content of two layers and enacts changes based on the content of both. You can choose from 14 different blending modes using the pop-up menu at the top of the Layers controls.  Understanding blending modes requires a bit of science. To start let’s establish three key terms.

  • Base color. The original color in the image

  • Blend color. The color being applied by the top layer or Adjustment layer.

  • Result color. The color resulting from the blend

To adjust a layer’s Blending Mode is easy.

  1. In the Layers controls click the + button and choose the Add New Image Layer option.

  2. For the top layer, click the Blend pop-up menu in the Layers control area.

  3. Choose from one of the 14 available blending modes.


The default mode performs no additional change to how layer contents interact.


Pixels lighter than blend are replaced; darker ones are not.


Is similar to drawing strokes on the image with markers. The colors of the top layer or blended with the image.

Color Burn

Evaluates each channel; darkens base by increasing contrast.


Evaluates each channel; it then uses base or blend color (whichever is lighter).


Uses a lighter color. It is useful for “knocking” black out of a layer.Overlay
Overlays existing pixels while preserving highlights and shadows of base.


Overlays existing pixels while preserving highlights and shadows of base.

Soft Light

The effect is similar to shining a diffused spotlight on the image.

Hard Light

Effect is similar to shining a harsh spotlight on the image.


Evaluates each channel and subtracts or inverts depending on brightness.


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


Uses luminance and saturation of the base and the hue of the blend.


Preserves gray levels. It’s very useful for coloring and tinting.


Is the inverse effect from the Color mode.

Luminar support.

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Chapter 10: Using Blending Modes with Layers(10)