How to Use Blending Modes in Photoshop and Affinity Photo

In this video tutorial we are looking at how you can use Blending Modes in both Photoshop and Affinity Photo. Don’t worry if you’ve tried to understand these before and struggled. I have a few examples to share with you to make everything fit into place. You only need to learn how a few of the blending modes work initially. After that the others become much easier.

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If you don’t have the latest version of Affinity Photo you can download a trial from the Affinity Photo website.

Watch the following video to learn the most important blending modes. The first part of the video explains blending modes in Photoshop whilst. After that, we switch to using Affinity Photo. I’ve also included a transcript below the video in case you want to recap.

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Video Transcript

Hello, I’m Robin Whalley.

Welcome to Lenscraft.

In this video we are continuing to look at common tools that appear in different photo editors.

This time it’s the turn of Blending Modes.

In the last video of this series I explained about the advantages of using layers.

If you haven’t seen it, I’ll include a link in the video details below.

One of the advantages I mentioned was that you could use Blending Modes with the layers.

In this video I’ll explain a few of the blending modes and how you can use them.

If you watched the Layers Video, you may recall that we can build up the editing for an image using multiple layers.

How Blending Modes Work

We also said that each of these layers has a Blending Mode which you can see in the Layers Window.

The Blending Mode controls how a layer reacts with other layers below it in the layer stack.

The default blending mode is called Normal but there are lots of other blending modes that you can select.

One of the easiest blending modes to understand is Multiply.

You can see how this works using a simple gradient strip.

We’ve looked at this strip in a previous video where we said there were two systems to represent the tones of black through to white.

In tools like Photoshop, black has a value of 0 and white a value of 255.

In Affinity photo you see the other system where black is 0% and white is 100%.

Another way of writing these percentages is a decimal number.

0% is just 0 and 100% is 1.

Our midtone grey with a value of 50% can also be written as 0.5.

When we set the blending mode of a layer it controls how the layer blends with the layers below it to produce an effect.

Here I have a second copy of the tone strip with the blending mode set to normal.

Watch what happens to this midtone grey area when I set the blending mode to multiply.

You can see that it causes the strip to become darker.

That’s because midtone grey that had a value of 0.5 and when I set the blending mode to multiply, it multiplies the tonal value with the layer below.

If you multiply 0.5 with 0.5 you get a new tonal value of 0.25.

This is a much darker grey and sits midway between 0 and 0.5 on the tone strip.

By using the multiply blending mode we can make the tones in our image darker.

Blending Modes in Photoshop

Let’s have a quick look at how you might use a blending mode like multiply.

One way is to create a copy of your image and then set the blending mode to multiply.

You could then use masks and the opacity setting to control where you want this darkening to take place.

Another very simple technique is to add a new Adjustment layer like a Curves adjustment layer.

Without making any changes to the curve you can set the blending mode and see the same effect on the image.

Again, it’s possible to change the opacity and use masks to control the effect.

So far, we’ve only looked at the multiply blending mode but there are others we can use.

The opposite of multiply blending mode is screen.

This will lighten the image tones and can be a good way to brighten shadow areas.

Here you see the effect of using screen causes all the image to become lighter and some areas have become pure white.

You can control this using a mask or something called the Blend If control which I’ll cover in a future video.

As well as Multiply and Screen, there are two other blending modes that are particularly useful for photo editing.

These are contrast enhancing blending modes which cause an increase in the contrast of your image.

They are Overlay and Soft Light.

The results are similar but Soft Light causes less areas to become pure white.

These blending modes work by making the dark image tones darker and the light image tones lighter.

They determine if an image tone is dark or light by comparing it with a midtone grey.

If a pixel in the image is a midtone grey, then setting the blending mode to either Overlay or Soft Light won’t have any effect.

You can see this using this a layer that I filled with midtone grey.

When the layers blending mode is set to normal, the midtone grey of the layer hides the image.

If I set the blending mode to multiply, then the image becomes darker.

If I set the blending mode to screen the image becomes lighter.

When I set the blending mode to overlay the grey layer vanishes.

That’s because midtone grey has no effect when blended with overlay or soft light.

Blending Modes in Affinity Photo

Now let’s look at Affinity photo.

As in Photoshop, you can see the midtone layer is visible when it has a blending mode of normal.

Set the blending mode to Multiply and it darkens the image.

Setting it to screen lightens the image, just as we saw before.

And again, if we set the blending mode to Overlay or Soft Light the midtone grey layer vanishes.

Blending modes appear in lots of different photo editors and they all work in the same way.

We’ve covered four of the blending modes in this video, or five if you want to include the normal mode.

Once you understand and can use blending modes in editor you can easily transfer this knowledge to another.

In a future video I’m going to look at the Blend If Controls in Photoshop and explain how they also work in Affinity photo.

I’m Robin Whalley.

You’ve been watching Lenscraft.

I’ll see you soon for another video.

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