Tips for creating with blending modes

This tutorial will focus on the blending of flatter items such as assorted ephemera, papers, transfers, paint and non-embellished overlays

Blending is applied via the blending mode drop down menu which is found in the layers window in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements (in the image below it's the drop down menu that's currently unselected and shows 'normal' as its default.

By using a blending mode on one layer, it reacts with the layer underneath it so you need to be working with at least two layers. There is so much you can do with blending modes and some of the options I never actually use, you'll find your favourites too I'm sure!

To apply a mode simply have the layer active that you want to apply the mode to, and pick one of the selections from the drop down menu.

The effects of each mode will vary depending on the colours in your layers. I've listed the modes that I use on a regular basis when Art Journaling and Scrapbooking below, and I've put a brief note next to them (in my language, no technical blurbs here!) of how each of them generally make a difference to my layer after use (but like I said, depending on your colours, this could change somewhat!).

  1. Darken - Darkens the colours of your layer, tends to pick up texture from the layer below, great when working with transfers and often elimanates neutral colours.
  2. Multiply - Intensifies the colour of the layer (deeper and darker) another great mode for blending transfers and similar elements into papers.
  3. Screen - Produces a 'washed out' and gone through the laundry faded paper type of effect!
  4. Overlay - Hard to explain this one, use it carefully if your layers have yellows or oranges
  5. Soft Light - A subtle mode for light blending or adding a little texture.
  6. Hard Light - A more intense mode for blending, makes whites brighter.

You might find that you still don't have the look you'd hope for, you might have to dabble around a bit more after changing the blend mode on your top most layer:

  1. Try reducing the opacity of your layer.
  2. Duplicate the top layer and try reducing its opacity, or apply a different blend mode altogether to your duplicated layer.
  3. Experiment with adjusting the 'levels' of your layer slightly to help you achieve your desired results after amending the blending mode.

To adjust the levels:

  1. Image> Adjustments> Levels
  2. Inside the Input Levels window try one of two things, by dragging the White node that's on the right hand side, towards the left hand side you'll see an increase in lighting in your layer (be careful with it though, it's very easy to flood the layer with too much light and ruin it). By Dragging the Grey or Black nodes towards the right hand side you'll see your layer getting darker.

These adjustments really help to tweak shadows and highlights (brightness and contrast) within your layer in a smart way.

I prepared a page for this post, I layered paint, word art, borders, you name it! I also cut pieces of paper to add interest to my background then played with the blending modes on these layers to make everything blend together nicely into the background and to bring the texture through from the background paper!

Digital Art Journaling Page using supplies by Captivated Visions

I am a self taught Photoshop user, so I encourage you to just click, play and observe. It's quite addicting once you get stuck in and give yourself permission to experiment. tutorials in the series and try out some of the blending tips that I referred to!

Don't hesitate to leave a comment, and of course any other questions you might have!