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How Blending Modes Work

Lesson 3 from: How to Use Photoshop Blend Modes Like a Pro

Jesús Ramirez

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Lesson Info

3. How Blending Modes Work

Lesson Info

How Blending Modes Work

So, again we're talking about layer blending modes, we're gonna talk about layer blending modes in this class, but it will also apply to the blending modes in the tool bar. One thing that is really important to keep in mind, you don't really have to know this, but I like mentioning it because it's actually, what's happening is that Photoshop performs the algorithm, the operation, one pixel at a time. One pixel at a time with a corresponding pixel directly below it, if you don't know what a pixel is, they're those tiny little squares that make up every image. In Photoshop if you zoom in far enough, you'll see the pixel grid, that's the pixel grid here. So each one of these little squares is a pixel. So Photoshop is performing the operation, the blending mode, on every single pixel individually, with the corresponding pixel below it, so. Again, it's really not that important to master blending modes, but at least it gives you a good idea of what it's doing behind the scenes. This graphic...

does a really good job, I think, of illustrating how blending modes work. And it gives you three terms that I'll be using throughout the class that'll explain how they work. So first, you have the base layer. That is the layer underneath in the example that we used earlier with Venice, and the texture, the Venice layer was the base layer. The blend layer is the layer above, and that's the layer that controls, that the colors are being applied to the layers below based on the blending mode. So that blend layer was the texture layer in that Venice example. And then we have the result. The result is what happens when these two blend, and that's also on top. So, base, blend, and result, and I'll be using those words throughout the rest of the course. Now, who here, when you're using blending modes, you just go to the blending mode drop down, you select one, and you select the next one, and then you select the next one. (laughter) And then you select the next one. (chuckles) One person. And then, you know, until you find the one that you like. Well, my goal for this class is not to tell you what each and every single blending mode does, because that's useless. Are you really gonna remember 27 blending modes if I tell you this is what this one does, this is what that one does, so that's not the way you should learn blending modes. Instead, I would recommend remembering these six groups. You probably never noticed that when you click on the blending mode drop down, there's these little dividers. They're unlabeled dividers. They're actually groups of blending modes. And those are the groups right there. Luckily, for most of them, not all of em, the first blending mode gives you a good idea of what that group does. Normal, darken, lighten. After this the names don't really give you a good idea of what they do, so those are the different groups. So I recommend remembering the groups, because that's gonna be most important when you're working on a photo, and you want to make something darker, you know for sure that you're gonna use one of these blending modes, because the other blending modes don't make things darker, necessarily. So that's a good way of just narrowing down to just a few blending modes, which one is going to work for your project. And actually, before we move on, I just wanna mention, 'cause I know we have a lot of photographers here, and some of you may be working with 32-BIT images, so this is sort of like a little asterisk in the class. If you are working with 32-BIT images, the only blending modes that you can use are the blending modes that you see there. Only 15 of them are available with 32-BIT images, but if you're working with any other kind of photo, you'll have access to the 27 blending modes.

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Double Exposure Template

Ratings and Reviews


CreativeLive has many excellent instructors for whom I have nothing but high praise, and some have classes or segments on blending modes, but Photoshop Week 2017 was the first time that I finally "got" blend modes. Kudos to Jesus Ramirez for covering a lot of ground. In this class, Jesus explained the rationale behind how blend modes are grouped and how each group affects pixels. His methodology - applying each blend mode to the same photo, blended first with a luminance chart, and then with color wheels - was very effective at illustrating the impact of each blend mode - a visual representation of what each blend mode does accompanied by an introductory explanation of the algorthm. He also illustrated how he had used the effect in his own work, provided useful advice, and left room for our own creativity to take flight. This one-hour class has something for beginner to advanced Photoshop users alike. Well done!


wow! Amazing!

George Fargo

I would recommend it for beginners but when it said "like a pro" I assumed it would be more advanced. It covered the groups with mainly one example from each group. What I was looking for was some knowledge of all the modes in a group and the relationships. I know that lighten lightens and so does screen but what is the difference and when to apply each. Same with color dodge and linear dodge, and all the various members of all the groups. Otherwise I am doomed to merely "scroll through and pick one I like".

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