Join Tim Grey for an in-depth discussion in this video Playing with blend modes, part of Photoshop: Creative Effects and Filters (2012).
Blend modes are a rather interesting feature in Photoshop. They allow you to take multiple Image layers and blend them in a variety of different ways. And the effects can be rather interesting in many cases. Let's take a look at how we can experiment around with blend modes, and possibly find some ways to utilize them as an interesting interpretation of our photos. I'm going to start off by creating a copy of my Background Image layer. In large part, because blend modes require that we have more than one image layer to work with, because they're creating blending between those layers.
So I'll drag the thumbnail for my Background Image layer down to the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel. That will create my background copy, and I could then change the blend mode if I wanted to. But most of the blend modes require some level of difference between the pixels that you're blending into the underlying image. So what we would be doing is taking the pixel values for the Background Copy layer, and combining them in some way with the underlying background image layer. Now certain of the blend modes will create a different effect even if the pixel values are identical. For example, I could switch to the Overlay blend mode and that will give me a little bit more contrast because it's one of the contrast blend modes. And there are certainly other examples, but let's take a look at some other possibilities.
I'll set the blend mode back to the default of normal, and then I'll invert my Background Copy layer by choosing Image > Adjustments and then Invert from the menu. That creates an inverted version of the image, so yellow becomes blue for example, and black becomes white. But if I change the blend mode, then I can get some interesting results. I'll start off with the darken blend mode, but let's take a look at the various effects. In some cases, the effect will not be all that interesting. In some cases, it will be entirely black.
But you'll also get some creative interpretations of your photo. Some things that you might have never thought of achieving on your own, and that's part of the fun of working with these various blend modes, is that you can create results in a variety of ways that are sort of difficult to anticipate. This is certainly an interesting result for example, I'll go ahead and cycle through the rest of the blend modes here, and we'll see a variety of different possibilities. Some very interesting and some not so much. We can take things a step further by also flipping the image or otherwise changing the arrangement of pixels. Again keep in mind that blend modes operate based on differences between pixel values.
They're using math to compare the value of one pixel with another on individual layers, and that can create some interesting results. So the more difference, the more change there is within the pixels, the more interesting the effects might be. I'll go ahead and switch the blend mode back to Normal, and then I'll go to the Edit menu and choose Transform followed by Flip Horizontal. And that causes the image to be flipped of course, so now my pine cone on the upper layer, is on the left, whereas on the lower layer it's on the right. Let's go ahead and cycle through the various blend modes, and see he interesting sorts of textures and patterns, we can get as a result of this change.
So obviously these have been just a few of the various options. The key is to keep in mind that the more you change the individual pixels on the duplicate layer you've created, or the more different the pixel layers you're using. For example, you could blend completely different images in a layer document, and then use blend modes and other adjustments in order to create interesting results. The point is that the more difference there is between pixel values, the more interesting the results are likely to be. And so I encourage you to play around with inverting the image, applying adjustments to one of the layers. Flipping or otherwise rotating one of the layers, just all sorts of different ways for changing the contents of the layers you're working with, and then experimenting around with different blend modes.
I think you'll be surprised at the wide variety of unanticipated results, you'll be able to achieve.
- Working with the Filter Gallery
- Creating a black-and-white effect
- Applying a vignette
- Adding motion blur
- Creating a painterly effect with Find Edges
- Smearing with Liquify
- Mapping the image with Trace Contour