A Beginner's Guide to Photoshop Blending Modes

Want to get better at Photoshop quickly? Master Photoshop blending modes to improve your photo editing skills immediately. 

This great video from Serge Ramelli shows you how to get started with using blending modes for composite work. Working through several quick examples, Ramelli demonstrates the power of blending modes with examples of the Multiply, Screen, and Overlay modes. It's amazing how easily he is able to composite skies and light rays into a scene with just a couple of clicks.

There are 27 blending modes that Photoshop offers. While I'm sure that each has its merits, in my experience, there are only a handful that you need to learn. Most of my landscape and cityscape photography editing work involves some combination of the Multiply, Screen, Overlay, and Soft Light modes. 

I use Overlay and Soft Light for dodging and burning and with the High Pass filter for sharpening. Multiply and Screen come in handy for sky replacements and masking around high contrast areas involving black and white colors. I'm not a portrait photographer, but those of you who are will no doubt tout the necessity of the Linear Light blending mode for frequency separation.

What blending modes do you use in your editing workflows and why? 

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5 Comments

Stop calling yourself a photographer. What you do IS NOT photography.

I disagree. What is the difference of what Serge is doing as compared to someone like Ansel Adams. He used dodging and burning as well as manipulation in developing and the zone system.

Aneesh Kothari's picture

I respectfully disagree, Mark. It sounds like you may have a pretty narrow definition of the word but in my view the beauty of photography is that you can take it as far and in any direction as your creativity allows.

If you think as an image with numbers on the range [0, 1] then the math of Blend Modes is really simple.

Have a look here:

http://www.simplefilter.de/en/basics/mixmods.html

Aneesh Kothari's picture

Very interesting - thanks for sharing!