Make your images pop with blending modes

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! :)

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May 16, 2011

Vwimage

Thankyou, I will definitely try a few of these tips. Great images by the way.

May 16, 2011

Fredvl

Great stuff! thanks for sharing! Layer Masks combined with blending layers is probably the most useful tool available in Photoshop!

May 13, 2011

Ajphotos

thanks for the reminder! i had forgetten about those! beautiful pictures!

May 08, 2011

Littledesire

Great blog, thanks for sharing! Nice port!

April 27, 2011

Dprogers

Thanks that's handy.

April 27, 2011

Afagundes

Very good article, I usually try only to darken the areas so that I dont increase noise and provide the efect I want.

April 27, 2011

Markosloizou

Thank you. Nice work

April 26, 2011

Tamarabauer

My inclination is to do all the major processing first, Markosloizou, and then play with the blending modes and masks afterwards.

April 25, 2011

Markosloizou

should i correct brightness/contrast/saturation etc. before or after the blending process?

April 21, 2011

Haslinda

Very informative. I'm still in the learning process. Thanks for sharing those tips.

April 21, 2011

Airn

Thank you

April 21, 2011

Ncn18

...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...

April 20, 2011

Mommamoon

Great Article - thanks for sharing.

April 19, 2011

lzf

nice pic

April 19, 2011

Scottysally2

Thank you for sharing. Nice images. :)

April 19, 2011

Nero67

Interesting blog!!!

April 19, 2011

Homydesign

Great article!

April 19, 2011

Arim44

Thanks for the info.

April 19, 2011

Joe1971

Thanks for sharing!

April 19, 2011

Mariaam

Thanks for sharing!

April 19, 2011

BCritchley

Great tip, thanks for sharing :-)

April 19, 2011

Sobek85

Great article

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Photo credits: Tamara Bauer.