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5 Must-Knows For Photoshop Blend Modes

Every layer in Photoshop starts off in a “Normal” position. But if you dare to cycle through the different blend modes that are available, you can achieve spectacular effects for the ultimate experience in seamless blending.

Here are five great uses for those Photoshop blend modes we all love!

1. Add Textures to Your Photos

That smooth airbrushed effect is great for retouching portraits, but sometimes you want to add a little grit or dirt to your work. You can easily add textures to any photos by setting the texture to special blend modes. To keep the texture light, set the layer to the Multiply mode. For a more intense effect, set the blend mode to Linear Burn.

2. Blend Fire Easily

The best way to take photos of fire is by taking them against a black background. Black allows the beautiful warm colors from the fire to really pop out against the contrasted color. But when you move onto incorporating that fire into your photo manipulations, you might find it difficult to remove all the black from the photo. What’s the solution? As long as your fire has a black background you can actually blend the fire easily by setting the mode to Screen. This mode helps blend those pesky black areas by making them transparent. The fire in your photo still stays in place, and now you’ve got a great versatile photo to work with.

3. Create Cool Color Effects

Quickly turn a colored photo to black and white, or any other wicked color combination with the use of Photoshop’s blend modes. To see this in action, grab the Paint Bucket Tool (G) and fill a new layer above any photo with your favorite color. Cut that layer up into blocks to try out each blend mode on its own new layer. Starting on Normal, cycle through all the different blend modes using the Up and Down Arrow Keys to see how the color applies to the photo with each new change. Adjust the Opacity of the layer to easily vary the intensity of this effect.

4. Color Traditional Art Sketches

Photoshop is intimidating for every beginner. So if you’re more comfortable with drawing with pencil and paper you can still work traditionally then color your work in Photoshop. To do this without eliminating any white from your traditional sketch, simply draw your sketch then color it by setting new layers to these possible blend modes: Darken, Multiply, Color Burn, Overlay, Soft Light, and Hard Light. Not only will you be able to see your sketch in full color, but your sketches will have great texture too!

5. Paint Light and Shadow

Digital artists love to use Photoshop for its incredible versatility in creating beautiful digital paintings. Like traditional artists, many use a selection of different color swatches to determine what colors they would ultimately like to use. But even with swatches it can be really hard to figure out the proper colors for shadow and light.

Want to know a great secret for cheating this process? First pick the base colors you would like to use for your painting. To create the perfect shadow color for that base, use the Eyedropper Tool (E) to select the base color, and then set a new layer to Multiply or Linear Burn for an intense shadow that perfectly suits your base. For anytime that you’d like to add highlights, here’s another trick that is super fast and easy. Set your color to white and add a new layer set to Overlay. Paint the white over areas where you’d to see more light and you’ll definitely be pleased with the instant results.

So now are you convinced that blend modes make your life so much easier. Be sure to try them all out so that you can get used to which ones work best for the effects you want. Do you have a favorite blend mode you always use? Let us know in the comments below!

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