We draw with blending modes in Photoshop

In the cycle of lessons Digital painting from A to Z we choose the most important tools for work and learn to get the maximum result from them. In today’s lesson we will learn how to use Layer Modes (Layer Blend Modes) in Adobe Photoshop and find out which one is best for your digital drawings.

Previous articles in the series Digital painting from A to Z:

  1. We get acquainted with the panel of brushes
  2. Drawing a soft or hard brush in Photoshop
  3. How to mix colors with a brush in Photoshop

What are blend modes?

Layer Modes (Layer Blend Modes) allows you to change the color settings in accordance with the selected options. They will help you set up the necessary color settings for amazing results. The blending modes are in the drop-down menu on the panel. Layers (Layers panel). In this menu, you can select any mode you are interested in.

Blending modes

Here is a description of each overlay mode according to Adobe. Note that:

  • Base color – the color of the background layer.
  • Mix color – the color that is applied (i.e., the layer above the background is a translator).
  • Final color – the finished result.

Normal (Normal) – standard blending mode. All your drawings begin with him.

Dissolution (Dissolve) randomly replaces the pixels of the background layer with a blend color, creating a pixel effect.

Replacing dark (Darken) selects the dark shades of the blend color and applies them to the background layer. Used to blend one layer over another.

Multiplication (Multiply) creates a darker image by multiplying the background color of the blend color.

Linear dimmer (Linear Burn) reduces the brightness of the image, darkening it in accordance with the color mixing.

Blackout (Darker Color) combines the colors of the upper and lower layers, as a result showing darker shades.

Lighter (Lighter Color) displays lighter shades after comparing the base color and overlay color.

Light replacement (Lighten) is the opposite of the Replace Dark mode and as a result selects a lighter shade.

Screen (Screen) creates a brightening effect by multiplying the inverted blend color and base color.

Lightening basics (Color Dodge) reduces the contrast between the layers, lightening the base layer.

Linear clarifier (add) (Linear Dodge (Add)) increases the brightness of the primary color, reflecting the color of the mix.

Overlap (Overlay) multiplies or brightens colors depending on the base layer. Very important mode for digital painting.

Soft light (Soft Light) darkens or brightens the image depending on the color.

Hard light (Hard Light) brightens or multiplies the layer depending on the colors.

Bright light (Vivid Light), depending on the colors, increases or decreases the contrast of the image, lightening or darkening it.

Linear light (Linear Light), depending on the colors, increases or decreases the brightness of the image, lightening or darkening it.

Spot light (Pin Light) is used to add special effects to the image, replacing pixels depending on the color of the blend.

Hard mix (Hard Mix) creates an intense color effect by adding RGB mix color values ​​to the RGB values ​​of the base layer.

Depending on which color is lighter, Difference (Difference) takes the blend color from the base layer or vice versa.

An exception (Exclusion) creates an effect similar to Difference, but with lower contrast.

Subtraction (Substract) creates the final result by removing the blend color from the original pattern.

Color tone (Hue) combines the brightness and saturation of the base layer with a hue of blending color.

Saturation (Saturation) combines the brightness and hue of the base layer with the saturation of the blend color.

Chromaticity (Color) creates a monochrome effect, combining the brightness and hue of the base layer with the hue and saturation of the blend color.

Glow (Luminosity) mixes the brightness values ​​of the layers.

Why should I use blending modes?

Photoshop tools are not limited to just one brush. Of course, you can learn how to choose the perfect color every time, but in order to master this one technique you will need years. Digital painting is different from other types of art. It allows you to make significant adjustments in seconds, so do not be afraid to use the help of programs to improve their work.

Many people mistakenly consider these techniques “deceiving”, but you should not limit your artistic outlook. If you start working with digital drawings as well as with photo manipulations, you can see the whole variety of tools at your fingertips.

Draw with blending modes

So what exactly are good for Layer Modes (Layer Blend Modes)? Let’s go through a few common ways to use them.

Coloring black and white base

Many digital artists first create a black and white drawing to determine the light and shadow. When it comes time to color the work, they usually do it with the help of blending modes.

The most commonly used modes for this process are Chromaticity (Color) Color tone (Hue), Multiplication (Multiply), Lineardimmer (Linear Burn) and Overlap (Overlay).

Coloring: we change colors

When working, you may need to quickly change the color already applied.
Try to apply the desired color on the new layer with the blend mode. To choose the most suitable, you have to go through the list and see the result of each mode. However, this technique works best Chromaticity (Color) Colortone (Hue) and Hardshine (Hard Light).

Coloring: creating cool color schemes and shades

Consider this as another Instagram filter applied to your drawing. Create a new layer and fill it with a solid color, and Modeoverlay (Blend Mode) change to one of the following: Replacementdark (Darken), Dottedshine (Pin Light), Difference (Difference), Screen (Screen) or An exception (Exclusion). Install Opacity (Opacity) in the area 0-50% for a stunning effect!

Lighting: add shadows

Want to quickly add shadows to your drawing? Choose a darker shade of your primary color and place it on a new top layer with a blend mode. Multiplication (Multiply). This effect quickly adds drama to any pattern.

Lighting: add light

Sometimes you may notice that the picture turned out a bit dark. You can easily lighten it by playing with Layer blending modes (Layer Blend Modes). Select Overlap (Overlay) and using Brushes (Brush Tool) brighten the necessary areas. Lighter values ​​of warm and cold colors also work well for this technique, giving the drawings an incredible saturation.

But I’m new and can’t remember all this!

Relax and take a deep breath. In the end, you work with the limitless potential of Photoshop, so there are many options for solving your problems. Samples and errors are a significant part of the skill improvement process.

Try it:

If you want to experiment with blending modes, but do not know which one to choose, fill the new top layer with the desired color and select Usual (Normal) mode. Noticed that he remained selected? Now use the keys up and way down, to switch between modes until you find the most suitable.


Using Layer blending modes (Layer Blend Modes) – only one of many tricks used to produce beautiful color effects in Photoshop. Experiment with different colors and take notes for the future. In a very short time, you already have a huge store of knowledge and ideas. Good luck!

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