Make your images pop with blending modes

posted on 19th of april, 2011

If you're like me, sometimes what comes out of your camera and onto your monitor isn't quite what you had in mind when you took the photo. Sometimes the image might look a bit flat or dull, despite playing with curves or levels in Photoshop.

Have you ever tried the blending modes? They can really add something dynamic to an image. So where do you find blending modes? When you open an image in Photoshop, you'll automatically have a background layer in the Layers palette. You won't see the blending modes until you add another layer - this might be duplicating your background by pressing Ctrl J on your keyboard, or you can add another layer with color or a gradient in it, for example.

Once you have at least two layers, the blending modes will be accessible - look directly under the Layers tab, and you'll see a drop down box with Normal in it. Click on that tiny arrow...there are many variations including Multiply, Overlay, Screen, Color Burn, Luminosity, Darken, Lighten, Hard Light, Soft Light, Linear Burn...and they all give your image a unique effect.

Most of the time, I will use blending modes in conjunction with a mask...so I attach a mask to the duplicate layer, and then I can selectively paint away on the mask to reveal the layer beneath where I really DON'T want the effect to appear.

Multiply, Overlay, Color and Linear Burn and Hard Light will darken your layer...as will some of the other effects. This is handy when you want to bring attention to your subject matter and less focus on the background - see the lamingtons as an example. This image didn't look like this straight out of the camera...I darkened the edges selectively which tends to draw the viewer's eye directly to the subject (our eyes are naturally drawn to the lightest parts of an image.)

You can also use a gradient fill, with two colors, and then one of the blending modes to achieve something like this beach scene on the left. Remember you can always reduce the opacity of the layer if it looks a bit too strong. The original shot had very dark lighting, it was sort of purple and grey...not the best for stock. With a gradient overlay, it made a tremendous difference!

If you need to know more about how layers and blending works, don't forget that Google is your friend - there are lots and lots of tutorials online that will show you everything you need to get started. Good luck and happy experimenting! :)

Comments (22)

Posted by Vwimage on May 16, 2011
Thankyou, I will definitely try a few of these tips. Great images by the way.
Posted by Fredvl on May 16, 2011
Great stuff! thanks for sharing! Layer Masks combined with blending layers is probably the most useful tool available in Photoshop!
Posted by Ajphotos on May 13, 2011
thanks for the reminder! i had forgetten about those! beautiful pictures!
Posted by Littledesire on May 08, 2011
Great blog, thanks for sharing! Nice port!
Posted by Dprogers on April 27, 2011
Thanks that's handy.
Posted by Afagundes on April 27, 2011
Very good article, I usually try only to darken the areas so that I dont increase noise and provide the efect I want.
Posted by Markosloizou on April 27, 2011
Thank you. Nice work
Posted by Tamarabauer on April 26, 2011
My inclination is to do all the major processing first, Markosloizou, and then play with the blending modes and masks afterwards.
Posted by Markosloizou on April 25, 2011
should i correct brightness/contrast/saturation etc. before or after the blending process?
Posted by Haslinda on April 21, 2011
Very informative. I'm still in the learning process. Thanks for sharing those tips.
Posted by Airn on April 21, 2011
Thank you
Posted by Ncn18 on April 21, 2011
...good post !!!...you`re really right...but sometimes I dont wanna spend so much time in a pic...but I think it could be worth...
Posted by Mommamoon on April 20, 2011
Great Article - thanks for sharing.
Posted by lzf on April 19, 2011
nice pic
Posted by Scottysally2 on April 19, 2011
Thank you for sharing. Nice images. :)
Posted by Nero67 on April 19, 2011
Interesting blog!!!
Posted by Homydesign on April 19, 2011
Great article!
Posted by Arim44 on April 19, 2011
Thanks for the info.
Posted by Joe1971 on April 19, 2011
Thanks for sharing!
Posted by Mariaam on April 19, 2011
Thanks for sharing!
Posted by BCritchley on April 19, 2011
Great tip, thanks for sharing :-)
Posted by Sobek85 on April 19, 2011
Great article

Comments (22)

This article has been read 2612 times. 17 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Tamara Bauer.

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I am one of the remote photo editors for Dreamstime. My work background is a mixed bag - I trained as a primary school teacher, have had office/retail experience and for the last few years have settled into photography and image reviewing for Dreamstime.

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