• There are a lot of Blending Modes, and you will usually only use a small number, so don't try to remember them all, but just get used to the few that are useful. Most of the others have a very specialised use, so don't bother with them until you find that you need to use them. The most important Blending Modes are shown below in bold.
  • Remember that Blending Modes not only apply to Layers, but can also be used with several Tools, such as Brushes, Clone Stamp, Gradients and Fill, which will allow selective effects to be created.


  • UP and DOWN Arrow Keys toggle between different blend modes once one is selected to give a live view of the effect.

Adjusting Blending Modes with the Opacity & Fill Sliders

  • The effects created by Blending Modes usually appear far too strong until the Opacity Slider is used to reduce the effect.
  • The Fill Slider usually has just the same effect as the Opacity Slider, however, with certain Blending Modes the effect is very different and acts like a strength slider. Here the Opacity Slider can be used in combination with it. This makes many more Blending Modes usable and useful. The Blending Modes affected in this way are marked with a * below.
  • See the article Opacity and Fill.

The Blending Modes

Normal Blending Modes

Here the Layers do not interact.

  • Normal - (Ref) The default mode
  • Dissolve - (Ref) Reducing Opacity changes the effect into dots, and the opacity is controlled by how far apart the dots are.

Darken Blending Modes

These darken the image and are just the opposite of the Lighten Blending Modes.

  • Darken - (Ref) Darkens everything brighter than the projected surface.
  • Multiply - (Ref) Everything that is white becomes transparent, and black remains.
  • Colour Burn * - (Ref) Adds colour and darkens, but leaves black and white unaffected. (See Dodge and Burn).
  • Linear Burn * - (Ref) Adds colour and darkens, leaves black unaffected but effects white. (See Dodge and Burn).
  • Darken Colour - (Ref) Just a more extreme version of the Darken Blending Mode.

Lighten Blending Modes

These lighten the image and are just the opposite of the Darken Blending Modes.

  • Lighten - (Ref) Lightens everything brighter than the projected surface.
  • Screen - (Ref) Everything that is black becomes transparent, and white remains. This is so named as it simulates how coloured light combines together when these colours are combined on a monitor screen, so combining red, green and blue creates white. 
  • Colour Dodge * - (Ref) Subtracts colour and lightens, but leaves black and white unaffected. (See Dodge and Burn).
  • Linear Dodge * - (Ref) Subtracts colour and lightens, leaves whites unaffected but affects black. (See Dodge and Burn).
  • Lighter Colour - (Ref) Just a more extreme version of the Darken Blending Mode.

Contrast Blending Modes

These increase the Contrast of the image by darkening the dark parts and lightens the light parts.

  • Overlay - (Ref) Ignores everything that is 50% grey.
  • Soft Light - (Ref) A softer effect than Overlay.
  • Hard Light - (Ref) A more faded effect than Overlay.
  • Vivid Light * - (Ref) Leaves blacks and whites untouched.
  • Linear Light * - (Ref) Effects all tones including black and white.
  • Pin Light - (Ref) Darkens darks and lightens lights.
  • Hard Mix * - (Ref) Converts the layer to just the basic 6 colours (RGB & CMY) plus black and white. The Fill Slider increases the number of colours.

Maths Blending Modes

These work on the mathematics of colour, with the first two as the Inversion Group and the last two as the Cancellation Group.

  • Difference * - (Ref) Calculates the difference between RGB values in each pixel, so checking for perfect registration between two images is completely black.
  • Exclusion - (Ref) The same as Difference but it doesn't invert the mid tones. Can be used for split toning.
  • Subtract - (Ref) Subtracts the difference between RGB values in each pixel.
  • Divide - (Ref) Divides the difference between RGB values in each pixel.

Component Blending Modes

These only affect certain image properties.

  • Hue - (Ref) Changes the Hue (Colour), but does not effect areas in greyscale where there is no colour.
  • Saturation - (Ref) Changes the Saturation of Colours, but does not effect areas in greyscale where there is no colour.
  • Colour - (Ref) Applies Colour throughout the image, in both coloured areas an in greyscale areas without colour.
  • Luminosity - (Ref) Only alters Luminosity (Brightness) without affecting Colour. Good for adjusting the luminosity of individual colours or tone ranges when used a Black and White Adjustment Layer using the Colour Sliders, and Selective Colour Adjustment Layers

Specialised Blending Modes

These only appear in certain modes. (Ref)

  • Pass Through - This is the default Blending Mode for a Group when it is created. It causes effects in that group to apply to layers below it. If this is changed to Normal, then the group becomes totally self contained, so that things like clipping masks may no longer be needed. 01,
  • Add
  • Behind
  • Clear - Only applies to Brushes

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