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1 - Introduction

No, No, Not Blending Modes

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Blending modes don't have to be like a trip to see Dr. Christian Zell, the dentist played by Sir Laurence Olivier in The Marathon Man.

Most articles about blending modes have brief descriptions of each blending mode.

That's not enough.

You'll understand blending modes after reading this article and doing one of the tutorials.

And, blending modes are worth the effort.

Where Are They?

The blending mode menu is at the top of the Layers panel.

When you select a layer (highlighted), the blending mode menu is for that layer.

In the Layers panel below, a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer is active (highlighted).

The layer's blending mode, Normal, is at the top of the Layers panel.

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When you create a layer, the layer's blending mode defaults to Normal.

Open a photograph, and click the blending mode menu box.

You can scroll through the blending modes with your mouse wheel or the arrow keys on your keyboard.

Key Concept

You have two layers.

The blending mode of the top layer is Normal.

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The top layer is a clown.

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The bottom layer is a restaurant.

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As mentioned, the blending mode of the clown layer is Normal.

Normal means:

Don't interact with the layer below.

Let's say you change the blending mode for the top layer from Normal to Color.

The two layers interact.

That's the key concept:

When you change the blending mode of the top layer, the two layers interact.

They blend.

Again, let's say you change the blending mode of the Clown layer from Normal to Color.

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The two layers interact.

They blend.

The clown layer contributes its color.

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The YUMMY layer contributes its luminosity (black-and-white).

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Look below.

The color you see is from the clown layer.

The restaurant you see is the luminosity from the YUMMY layer.

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Review #1

q + q = q
Color Only   Luminosity Only   New Photograph

Review #2

Here's another way to look at what happens.

Before

The blending mode of the Clown layer is Normal.

The two layers don't interact.

  Color Luminosity
q On On
q On On

After

Below, the blending mode of the Clown layer was changed to Color.

The two layers interact—blend.

    Color Luminosity
Blending Layer q On Off
Base Layer q Off On

Rules

The Color blending mode uses a simple rule.

Color from the blending (top) layer.

Luminosity from the base (bottom) layer.

Some of the other blending modes have more complicated rules.

Blending & Base Layers

In subsequent sections:

• The top layer is called the blending layer.

• The bottom layer is called the base layer.

Blending Layer
Base Layer

Maybe Go Here First

The Lighten and Darken blending modes are often used with the Healing Brush tool and the Clone Stamp tool.

You may want to use those blending modes with the Clone Stamp tool before reading further.

Go to Lighten & Darken Blending Modes.

Onward

There are two categories of blending modes.