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Photoshop Blending Mode Cheatsheet

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Photoshop Blending Mode Cheatsheet

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I get a confused about what blending mode does what in Photoshop, so I’m creating a cheatsheet. I’m creating this cheatsheet not just for our readers, but for me as well. I’ll keep adding to this blog post as I learn more about blending modes.

For the blending modes to work, you have to have a top layer and a bottom layer. In the following demonstrations, I use a stock image for each of the top layers. If you want to use these images, you will need to purchase a subscription from the provider mentioned. There is a list of stock image providers on our Stock Photography Resources page.

In this blog post, I’ll explain what kind of effect the Multiply, Screen, Overlay, and Soft Light blending modes can have on an image.

Multiply blending mode completely removes pure white (#ffffff) from the top layer

The top layer will be a stock image of grass on a pure white background from Adobe Stock:

Grass Stock Image from Adobe Stock

Grass Stock Image on White Background from Adobe Stock

The bottom layer will be an image of me and my lawyer, Michael Warner. In my hand is the Mr. Technique®® Registered Trademark Certificate.

When I set the blending mode of the top grass layer to Multiply, all of the white is removed from the image.

Photoshop Multiply Blending Mode Example

Screen blending mode completely removes pure black (#000000) from the top layer

I’m going to use the same image of Michael and myself for the bottom layer, but I’ll use this stock image of smoke on a black background from BigStockPhoto.

Smoke Stock Image from BigStockPhoto

Smoke Stock Image on Black Background from BigStockPhoto

When I change the layer blending mode of the top layer to Screen, all of the pure black is removed from the image. I reduced the opacity of the smoke layer, so you can still see our faces in the image.

Photoshop Screen Blending Mode Example

Pure white is unaffected by the Screen blending mode, so if I wanted to add a grunge white border to an image, I could just use a stock image of a black and white grunge frame from Shutterstock or create one from scratch:

Grunge Stock Image from Shutterstock

Grunge Frame Stock Image from Shutterstock

If the grunge frame image is the top layer and the blending mode is set to Screen, the black part will disappear and you are left with a white grunge border like this:

Mr. Technique<sup>®</sup> Registered Trademark (Grunge Border)

If I inverted the grunge frame image’s colors, I could use the Multiply blending mode on it to add a black grunge border to the bottom layer.

Overlay and Soft Light blending modes add contrast to an image

The Overlay blending mode brightens the layer below it if the top layer’s color is lighter than 50% gray and darkens the layer below it if the top layer’s color is darker than 50% gray. The Overlay and Soft Light blending modes are similar in that they can brighten and darken an image at the same time. The only difference is that the Overlay blending mode creates a stronger effect.

To demonstrate the Overlay and Soft Light blending modes, I’ll use this stock image of a black and white grunge background from Adobe Stock.

Grunge Background Stock Image from Adobe Stock

Grunge Background Stock Image from Adobe Stock

I’ll use the same image of me holding the Mr. Technique® Registered Trademark Certificate as the bottom layer. A texture is added to the bottom layer by changing the blending mode of the grunge background layer to Overlay or Soft Light. Here are the results:

Photoshop Overlay Layer Blending Mode Example

Overlay blending mode applied to the top layer

Photoshop Soft Light Layer Blending Mode Example

Soft Light blending mode applied to the top layer

I’ll continue adding to this blog post, so feel free to bookmark this or share it on social media. If this blog post has helped you or if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below.

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