What are Blend Modes in Photoshop?


Easily add color or contrast to your images with the use of Blend Modes.

What do Blend Modes do?

In general, each Blend Mode in Photoshop changes the way a layer interacts with the layer beneath it.

More specifically, there are 5 groups of Blend Modes. Each group is separated by a dark dividing line in the Blend Mode Drop-down menu.

  • Group 1: No change / Dissolve
  • Group 2: Affects the overall darkness of an image
  • Group 3: Affects the overall lightness of an image
  • Group 4: Affects both the lightness and darkness of an image
  • Group 5: Creates inverted effects
  • Group 6: Affects the colors of an image

Using Blend Modes can be an exercise in experimentation, but if you remember the main purpose for each Group of Blend Modes, you’ll have a good starting point.


Where are Blend Modes Located?

Blend Modes are located at the top of the Layers panel in both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.

To access the various Blend Modes available, click on the down-pointing arrow to the right of “Normal.”


Why/When Would I Use a Blend Mode?

Use Blend Modes when you want to change the look of your image, by adding color or contrast. For example, you can use Blend Modes to lighten or darken images, to

View the Results of Each Blend Mode in One Example:

In the image below, you will see that there are 3 layers in the Layers panel:

  • a cluster
  • a patterned paper
  • a solid red paperwhat-are-blend-modes-digital-scrapbooking-karen-schulz-02

I have changed the Blend Mode of the pattern paper, experimenting with every Blend Mode (except Dissolve). Pictured below is the result of each Blend Mode, in the order that they are listed in the Blend Mode drop-down list in Photoshop. Some results are great, some no-so-much. Some look very similar to others, while others are quite opposite and dramatic.

The results you get when using Blend Modes will depend upon the 2 images that you are working with. For example, we would have seen entirely different results if we had been experimenting with a solid paper of a different color. But this example will give you an idea of what to expect when you experiment on your own.





what-are-blend-modes-digital-scrapbooking-karen-schulz-08Practical Example #1: Using Blend Modes with Grayscale Textures

Blend Modes are often used when applying color to gray-scale textures.

This is a grayscale watercolor texture. (Watercolor Overlays 01, #9)


I added a layer of solid color (Hex 73beb9) on a blank layer in the Layers Panel above the texture and changed the Blend Mode of the solid color layer to Overlays. This is the result.


You can get various looks depending on what you are blending. This is the result of blending the gray watercolor texture with a Colorizer.


Practical Example #2: Using Blend Modes with Transparencies

Blend Modes work their magic with all types of file formats. They can help add extra interest to images when using .png files (or transparencies).

Here is a sheet of music, which is provided in png format. (Music Transparencies).


Place the sheet of music on a layer above your background image and experiment with Blend Modes. The 2 best results, using this image are Overlay and Divide, pictured respectively below.

I’m confused! Where do I even begin?

When using textures with your images, the most common Blend Modes to use are Multiply, Screen, Overlay, and Soft Light. That is always a good place to start and, most likely will give you the best results.

What’s next?

When you are comfortable using Blend Modes, try combining multiple textures for even more fun.

The image below contains 5 layers:

  • Artsy texture 05, #6, Screen Mode
  • Colorizers 01, # 1, Screen Mode
  • Colorizers 01, #8, Linear Burn Mode
  • Colorizers 02, #16, Multiply Mode
  • Watercolor Overlays 01, #9, Normal Moe

what are blend modes before karen schulz

What’s the Bottom Line?

Working with Blend Modes is a great way to “stretch your stash” because you can achieve so many different results just by changing the Blend Mode.

Be careful! Working with Blend Modes can become addicting. Not only that, but it’s just plain fun. And I guarantee that once you start using Blend Modes you will amaze yourself with what you can do.


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Comments (18)

  1. Renee

    Love all the different results, and that you reminded me to use those Blend Modes more than I do. Thanks for the great tutorial, Karen!

    November 30, 2020 at 9:11 pm
    • Karen Schulz

      Glad you found it helpful, Renee!

      December 1, 2020 at 12:06 am
  2. Marty S Rowe

    Thank you so much. Everytime I turn around, I learn something new or better! I copied and pasted this to file in my “Tutorials & Classes” for use later and as a reminder if I need a refresher course. Is there a way to download the tutorials without using copy and paste?

    December 5, 2020 at 5:27 pm
    • Karen Schulz

      I’m glad this was helpful for you, Marty. I usually offer a PDF of a tutorial so you can download it that way. I didn’t have time with this post, but thanks for reminding me about it. I’ll get one up tomorrow.

      December 5, 2020 at 9:28 pm
    • Karen Schulz

      Hi Marty! The PDF has been posted.

      December 9, 2020 at 3:16 pm
  3. margy

    Amazing – thank you for all the useful information.

    December 6, 2020 at 3:38 pm
    • Karen Schulz

      You’re welcome, Margy. I’m glad you will find it useful.

      December 6, 2020 at 3:45 pm
  4. Great information! I love all the illustrations! Looking forward to a PDF, it helps a lot while I’m trying it out. Thank you for all the work you do in order to share these tutorials with us!

    December 7, 2020 at 6:55 pm
    • Karen Schulz

      Thanks, Anita! The PDF has been posted.

      December 9, 2020 at 3:14 pm
      • Thank you so much! I imagine you have a million things to do right now, and I really appreciate your taking time to post this!

        December 9, 2020 at 8:04 pm
        • Karen Schulz

          My pleasure, Anita!

          December 14, 2020 at 3:34 pm
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  7. Sharon Weil

    I have been wanting someone to explain blending modes to me for so long – thank you!!

    March 6, 2021 at 1:10 am
    • Karen Schulz

      You’re welcome, Sharon. I’ve glad it was helpful.

      March 18, 2021 at 6:52 pm
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