Blend mode icon superimposed on a graphic design created using blend modes.


Explore Adobe Photoshop blending modes.

Blending modes control how one layer of a project interacts with the layers under it. Learn how to use them to achieve the right blend of color and light.

What are blend modes in Photoshop?

Blend modes, or blending modes, are mathematical equations that use the RGB (red, green, and blue) color code and luminosity (levels of dark and light) to determine how pixels from a top layer (or blend layer) mix with the pixels in a background layer (or base layer). You can use Photoshop blend modes to create a double exposure effect or to get the exact color scheme you want with instant adjustments to brightness and contrast.

An example image created by applying a blending mode to a whole layer.

Blend entire layers.

Apply a blending mode to a whole layer to change color, light, and contrast across the entire image — or just to create interesting effects.

A photo of a person's face with a blend mode selectively applied.

Apply blend modes selectively.

Create a layer mask by clicking Layer › Layer Mask › Hide All in the top menu. The layer mask will show up as a black thumbnail in the Layers panel next to the Layer. Use the Brush tool to paint with white over areas where you want to reveal blended layer effects. 

How do you use Photoshop blending modes?

Here’s one easy way to mix pixels in one layer with pixels in the layers beneath it.

1. Create a new color layer.

Create a new fill layer by selecting Layer › New Fill Layer, and choosing Solid Color. Choose a name for your layer. Then pick your color. You can also try blending two images.

2. Explore the blending mode options.

The default blending mode is Normal, but you can switch it by clicking the blend mode window near the top of the Layers panel. Expand the dropdown menu and scroll through the options to see how different options look. The best way to figure out which mode to use is to experiment with several until you find the one that works best for your project.

3. Adjust Opacity.

If a blending mode is doing too little or too much to alter the image, move the Opacity slider left to decrease the effect or to the right to increase the effect. The Opacity percentage (how transparent or opaque the layer appears) is noted next to the blend mode window at the top of the Layers panel. (There’s also a Fill slider, but moving that has no effect on most blending modes.)

When should you use blending modes in Photoshop?

Try these ways of using blending modes to get a sense of how they affect the layers in a composite.

An example of a graphic design created by applying a Multiply blending mode.

To create darker shadows.

Try the Multiply blending mode to make your shadows or textures more dramatic. Multiply makes dark pixels darker. 

An illustration of a car with a light flare added to the taillights.

To blend a bright light in a composite.

Add a sun flare or light up a street lamp. Pick an image containing a bright light over a dark background. Create a blend layer with that image and apply the Screen blend mode. The light will appear over the base layer while the darker pixels in the blend layer will remain hidden. Move the blend layer to put the sun flare or bright light in the right spot in the base layer.

A photo of a person edited using the Clear Brush tool.

To adjust how brushstrokes show up.

When you paint with the Brush tool, you can use the blending modes described below or try two additional modes available only when you’re using the Brush tool: Behind (which paints behind pixels you’ve already painted on that layer) or Clear (which is a Brush-specific eraser, so you can erase pixels in the same style as the brush you used to paint them, keeping the look consistent as you undo some brushwork). 

An example of Difference blend mode applied to an image of clouds.

To perfectly align layers.

You can use the Difference blend mode to line up nearly identical layers because the colors will subtract from each other. As you move the blend layer on top of the base layer, areas that are lined up will turn black as the colors align. Just move the blend layer until it’s completely black. Then you can switch back to Normal to make other changes to your two stacked layers.

What do all the different blending modes do in Photoshop?

The blending modes Photoshop offers are divided into six sections. You can find all of them in the dropdown menu near the top of the Layers panel. You can also find them in a dropdown menu in the options bar at the top of the app when you’ve selected a Brush tool or the Gradient tool. The best way to get to know the blend modes is to try them yourself. 

Play with opacity.

  • Normal. Blends based on opacity without applying an algorithm. (Normal blend mode is the default mode.) 100% opacity completely obscures the layers below the blend layer, while 0% completely reveals those pixels.
  • Dissolve. Blends base layer color and blend layer color randomly depending on the opacity level of the blend layer. 

Make it darker.

  • Darken. Compares the pixels of the blend layer with the pixels of the base layer and selects the darker pixels for a darkening effect.
  • Multiply. Literally multiplies the base layer color by the blend layer color and divides by 255 to create a darker image. (In the RGB color space, 255 represents the maximum concentration of color.) Blacks and whites stay the same, but brushstrokes or shapes in other colors produce progressively darker colors.
  • Color Burn. Burns (darkens) the color of the base layer and increases the contrast before blending with the blend layer. Blending with white produces no change.
  • Linear Burn. Darkens the base layer color by decreasing the brightness. White pixels don’t change.

Make it lighter.

  • Lighten. Selects the lightest color on either layer to replace pixels darker than the blend color without changing pixels lighter than the blend color.
  • Screen. Multiplies the inverse of the blend and base colors to create a lighter color. Black and white don’t change.
  • Color Dodge. Dodges (brightens) the base color to reflect the blend color by decreasing contrast between the two. Blending with black has no effect.
  • Linear Dodge (Add). Brightens the base color to reflect the blend color by increasing the brightness. Blending with black has no effect.
An example of Linear Dodge (Add) blend mode applied to a photo of a person's face.

Play with contrast.

  • Overlay. Places patterns or colors on the existing pixels while preserving the highlights and shadows of the base color. In Overlay blend mode, the blend color mixes with the base color to reflect the lightness or darkness of the original color.
  • Soft Light. Makes lights lighter and darks darker. Painting on the blend layer with pure black or white produces a distinctly darker or lighter area but does not result in pure black or white.
  • Hard Light. Makes a light blend color lighten the image, which is useful for adding highlights and shadows. If the blend color is dark, the image is darkened, as if it were multiplied, which is useful for adding shadows. Painting with pure black or white results in pure black or white.
  • Vivid Light. Burns (darkens) or dodges (lightens) the colors by increasing or decreasing the contrast, depending on the blend color. Lighter blend colors lighten the image by decreasing contrast. Darker blend colors darken the image by increasing the contrast.
  • Linear Light. Burns or dodges the colors by decreasing or increasing the brightness, depending on the blend color. Lighter blend colors increase the brightness while dark ones decrease it.
  • Pin Light. Uses the blend color as a light source. If the blend color is lighter than 50% gray, pixels darker than it are replaced by the base color. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, pixels lighter than it are replaced by the base color. You can tint a photo by adding a color fill layer and blending it in Pin Light mode and playing with the opacity.
  • Hard Mix. Switches red, green, and blue channels all the way on or all the way off, so all pixels are replaced by the additive primary colors (red, green, or blue), white, or black.
An example of Pin Light blend mode applied to a photo of a person's face.

Subtract color.

  • Difference. Subtracts either the blend color from the base color or the base color from the blend color, depending on which has the greater brightness value. Blending with white produces the opposite of the base color; blending with black produces no change.
  • Exclusion. Creates less contrast than the Difference mode. Blending with white inverts the base color values. Blending with black produces no change.
  • Subtract. Subtracts the blend color from the base color.
  • Divide. Divides the RGB number of the blend layer color from that of the base color layer to arrive at a new, darker color.

Add color.

  • Hue. Combines the hue of the blend layer color with the luminance and saturation of the base layer color.
  • Saturation. Blends the saturation of the blend layer color with the luminance and hue of the base layer color.
  • Color. Useful for coloring monochrome images and tinting color images, this mode combines the luminance of the base color with the hue and saturation of the blend color. This preserves the gray levels.
  • Luminosity. Creates a result color with the hue and saturation of the base color and the luminance, or lightness, of the blend color. This mode creates the inverse effect of Color mode.
An example of Luminosity blend mode applied to a photo of a person's face.
Adobe Photoshop

Do more with Adobe Photoshop.

Learn how to use blend modes with Photoshop tutorials.

Watch these short video tutorials to get tips on how and when to use certain blend modes. 

A composite photo created using blend modes.

Create photo composites with blend modes.

Learn about four popular blend modes to use when compositing images.


Try popular blend modes

A photo of a plant with adjusted color and tone.

Adjust color and tone with blend modes.

Find out how to use blend modes and adjustment layers to make targeted edits to light and color.


Make color and tonal edits

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