Skip to main content

Introduction to Layer Tools and Blend Modes

Lesson 26 from: Adobe Photoshop CC Bootcamp

Blake Rudis

Introduction to Layer Tools and Blend Modes

Lesson 26 from: Adobe Photoshop CC Bootcamp

Blake Rudis

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

26. Introduction to Layer Tools and Blend Modes


Class Trailer

Bootcamp Introduction


The Bridge Interface


Setting up Bridge


Overview of Bridge


Practical Application of Bridge


Introduction to Raw Editing


Setting up ACR Preferences & Interface


Global Tools Part 1


Global Tools Part 2


Local Tools


Introduction to the Photoshop Interface


Toolbars, Menus and Windows


Setup and Interface


Adobe Libraries


Saving Files


Introduction to Cropping


Cropping for Composition in ACR


Cropping for Composition in Photoshop


Cropping for the Subject in Post


Cropping for Print


Perspective Cropping in Photoshop


Introduction to Layers


Vector & Raster Layers Basics


Adjustment Layers in Photoshop


Organizing and Managing Layers


Introduction to Layer Tools and Blend Modes


Screen and Multiply and Overlay


Soft Light Blend Mode


Color and Luminosity Blend Modes


Color Burn and Color Dodge Blend Modes


Introduction to Layer Styles


Practical Application: Layer Tools


Introduction to Masks and Brushes


Brush Basics


Custom Brushes


Brush Mask: Vignettes


Brush Mask: Curves Dodge & Burn


Brush Mask: Hue & Saturation


Mask Groups


Clipping Masks


Masking in Adobe Camera Raw


Practical Applications: Masks


Introduction to Selections


Basic Selection Tools


The Pen Tool


Masks from Selections


Selecting Subjects and Masking


Color Range Mask


Luminosity Masks Basics


Introduction to Cleanup Tools


Adobe Camera Raw


Healing and Spot Healing Brush


The Clone Stamp Tool


The Patch Tool


Content Aware Move Tool


Content Aware Fill


Custom Cleanup Selections


Introduction to Shapes and Text


Text Basics


Shape Basics


Adding Text to Pictures


Custom Water Marks


Introduction to Smart Objects


Smart Object Basics


Smart Objects and Filters


Smart Objects and Image Transformation


Smart Objects and Album Layouts


Smart Objects and Composites


Introduction to Image Transforming


ACR and Lens Correction


Photoshop and Lens Correction


The Warp Tool


Perspective Transformations


Introduction to Actions in Photoshop


Introduction to the Actions Panel Interface


Making Your First Action


Modifying Actions After You Record Them


Adding Stops to Actions


Conditional Actions


Actions that Communicate


Introduction to Filters


ACR as a Filter


Helpful Artistic Filters


Helpful Practical Filters


Sharpening with Filters


Rendering Trees


The Oil Paint and Add Noise Filters


Introduction to Editing Video


Timeline for Video


Cropping Video


Adjustment Layers and Video


Building Lookup Tables


Layers, Masking Video & Working with Type


ACR to Edit Video


Animated Gifs


Introduction to Creative Effects


Black, White, and Monochrome


Matte and Cinematic Effects


Gradient Maps and Solid Color Grades




Glow and Haze


Introduction to Natural Retouching


Brightening Teeth


Clean Up with the Clone Stamp Tool


Cleaning and Brightening Eyes


Advanced Clean Up Techniques


Introduction to Portrait Workflow & Bridge Organization


ACR for Portraits Pre-Edits


Portrait Workflow Techniques


Introduction to Landscape Workflow & Bridge Organization


Landscape Workflow Techniques


Introduction to Compositing & Bridge


Composite Workflow Techniques


Landscape Composite Projects


Bonus: Rothko and Workspace


Bonus: Adding Textures to Photos


Bonus: The Mask (Extras)


Bonus: The Color Range Mask in ACR


Lesson Info

Introduction to Layer Tools and Blend Modes

In this lesson we're gonna be talking about layer tools. Now, layer tools are, they're kind of a supplement to the actual layer. So in the last lesson we talked about layers, and if you notice I didn't touch any of the things that you probably were like, why didn't you do anything with opacity or anything like that? Well those are all layer tools. So I'm trying to build this in a way that you're learning these things in kind of baby steps along the way. So now we're gonna talk about layer tools. Layers in themselves, they're multi-talented. So each layer has many different things that that layer can do, without just being a layer that can be either opaque or transparent. That layer has endless possibilities in how it interacts with everything that's going on below that layer in your Layers palette. And we always want to think about layers in terms of what's happening below this layer. That's how I like to look at it anyway. The best way to grasp this is that a layer is like a cell phon...

e, okay? So, phones at their root, and if you talk to my dad, it should be a device that just makes a phone call, right? So at the root, a phone makes phone calls. At their root, a layer is simple too. It's just a layer, but when you add all these apps that phones have into them, those layers can do so many different things. So in terms of just understanding how these layers tools are what they are, and how they interact, I want you to think about them in terms of their own individual app, so to speak, okay? So, our first app is gonna be opacity and fill. And, opacity and fill, you can find them in Photoshop in the upper right-hand corner of the Layers palette. And you're gonna see two things there. One of them is opacity and one of them is fill. Opacity, think about opacity as the overall calculation just for the opaqueness of that entire layer. The fill is the calculation of the content of that layer. So fill, this is one of those ones that a lot of times we don't find ourselves doing anything with, but what I'm gonna tell you about fill is that it, if that layer doesn't have any calculations going on that need the fill, acts like opacity. But there are certain blend modes and there are certain types of layers that we're gonna be using throughout this course that when fill comes into play, it will do things differently than what opacity does. So if you've ever, and you've probably realized that. You're probably like, well I moved fill and it does the same thing that opacity does, so why am I even bothering with this fill thing? Well when we start talking about these blend modes here in a little bit, you're gonna see exactly why fill is important. Because fill is the calculation for the content in the layer. Opacity is the overall calculation for the opaqueness of what's happening. So this would be the calculation, all the math that's happening, because what we're getting into is blend modes. There's a ton of math in blend modes, but we don't have to worry about that. Remember we repeat patterns. So, that's the calculation for the blend mode and this would be, how much of that and how intense is that calculation? For another way of looking at it. Now we have blend modes, that's app number two, and we're gonna spend a lot of time on blend modes and blend modes alone, because next to curves, like every time I think of a thing that I really love in Photoshop I'm like, that's the most powerful thing, that's the most powerful thing, so now we have blend modes. Next to curves with blend modes we have a lot of power. And, these apps, they control various calculations for the selected layer and how it interacts with the layers that are below it, or the entire layer stack. Now you see here, in this PDF that you're gonna get with this course, consult with the A lot of the stuff that I gather from blend modes, if I'm ever like, what does the multiply blend mode do? I don't just go to the internet and type multiply blend mode. I've got a bookmark for that website because that website is from Adobe that tells me exactly what multiply does. Now it's written in a version next to code, but when you start breaking it down and deducing what it does, it can really be helpful to get it straight from them. So blend modes, as we see here are found in this little drop-down box that is in Photoshop, in that same Layers palette. So we saw that Layers palette, and we did a lot of stuff with layers in the last lesson, but we didn't even touch on any of these things, and there's a reason for that. Because these blend modes, they're broken down into categories. You see that there's a little line here. That little line isn't just a clever way of them putting a line so that you could get a break between different blend modes and have some type of separation. They've actually put these blend modes into these groups in a very important way. That these blend modes at the top are gonna do something that's gonna make something darker or do something that interacts with dark areas in your images. And with these blend modes, we have Darken. This is basically, I'm gonna cover all of these blend modes in this PowerPoint so that you have these available to you. You can print them out, they're written in more of layman's terms rather than the code that you would see somewhere else. Just know that when we get into our presentation on the actual practical application of things, we aren't really going to be touching too much on all of the blend modes, because we'd be here for probably four or five hours, okay? So I've selected a group of them that's really important for you to know. But the Darken blend mode, if the selected layer is darker than the underlying layer, the data is replaced with darker information. So, you'll see how, if you have a dark layer on the top, anything that's underlying, it's gonna interact with the underlying layers that are in that stack. So if the Darken blend mode is selected, the underlying layer data is replaced with that dark information. So if that layer on top has any white information in it, it will just drop out or get lighter, only the dark information is really what's gonna be displayed for you. Multiply multiplies the selected layer by the underlying layers. Black stays, white goes away. That's a really cool one to know, especially when we start to get into textures and grunge layers. This will, you have this as your calculation and then you have this as your, okay what happens when I do this. Black stays, white goes away with the Multiply blend mode, and we'll see this in a practical application here. Now, black and white are not the only values. Any values in between will get a tapered effect, so don't just think that it's this or that. If there's any values in between like gray values in between, if those grays are closer to the dark areas, they will stay as well. Just not as much as something like black would. So if you put a gradient over something, you'll see how that transition happens. The Color Burn, it uses the color data in the selected layer to burn the underlying layers, leaving a color cast and increased contrast. So, when we think about things in terms of photography when we dodge and burn, what do we do? When we're dodging, we're making things brighter. When we burn, we're making things darker, which ultimately will make things have an increased contrast. The clever thing about this blend mode is it also carries whatever color information is with that, and you'll see how this works when we get into the practical application, because it's one of my favorite tools. Linear burn is similar to color burn, but with a decreased brightness along with that. So, not quite as powerful as say the increased contrast that we get from color burn. Darker Color, it compares all the channels and shows the darker value through. So, if the representation that you have on the top has dark colors in it, it will show whatever is darker than what's below. Lighten, these blend modes here are now ares that if you look at what happens up here, these are all pretty much the same, just reversed. So whatever Darken is, Lighten is the opposite. Whatever Multiply is, Screen is the opposite. Whatever Color Burn is, Color Dodge is the opposite, and vice versa, same thing goes for Linear dodge and Linear Burn, and Lighter Color and Darker Color. So you're gonna see a lot of similarities between what is written about these blend modes, will be very similar, but things are just flip flopped a little bit. Lighten, if the selected layer is lighter then the underlying layer data is replaced with the lighter information. Very much what we talked about with Darken, but now it's the reverse. So when you're looking at these layers and you want to see how they interact with one another, the typical way to do it is just randomly go through all the blend modes and see what looks good, right? That's typically what we do. But what this is gonna do is this is gonna give you some information on what's happening when you do that. Why does that blend mode do what it does? And why does it look so good when I do it? And ultimately what we want is we want predictable results for you so you're not just haphazardly randomly going through and selecting random blend modes. Screen, we talked about Multiply. Multiply is the inverse of the selected layer by the inverse of the underlying layers. So when we talk about inversions now and now we're talking about, don't let that carry too hard with you. Just go, white stays, black goes away, and anything that's gray in between will have some type of variance or some type of spread or feather amongst the image. What we're gonna be looking at is really gonna be black and white layers, and you'll see how that is really powerful when we do things that we call like a grunge layer. Color Dodge uses the color data in the selected layer to dodge the underlying layers, leaving a color cast with decreased contrast. Very similar to what we would do when we are dodging our images, when we're dodging our images with white, or maybe in the Dodge Tool, we're just reducing the contrast a little bit there. Decreasing the contrast. The clever thing about this one, it carries the color along with it. So, I don't know if you put two and two together, like I do a lot of times, we get some really cool color dodging, color burning, color grading that also comes with dodging and burning along the way, and you'll see that in our practical application. Linear Dodge, similar to Color Dodge, but with increased brightness. And then Lighter Color compares all the channels, shows the lighter value through. Here, we have an interesting selection. These are all basically what we call contrast blend modes, and a lot of these work hand in hand with other blend modes that you don't even realize it's happening at the exact same time. Like Linear Light is a combination of Linear Dodge and Linear Burn happening on one blend mode as opposed to being separated into two different blend modes. So, Overlay is a combination of Screen, Overlay is a combination of screen and Multiply. So what it's gonna do is it's gonna make your brights brighter, darks darker with the Overlay, and it's gonna be very powerful in that when it does it. Soft Light doesn't really grab any of the other blend modes that we have here, but what it does do is it lightens the light pixels, it darkens the dark pixels. Anything that is gray stays the same. If that color is pure black, it will make the underlying layers darker. If it's pure white it'll make the underlying layers lighter, but will never make anything pure black or pure white. It's basically like a stunted version of Overlay. It's not quite as powerful as Overlay. It's a softer version of Overlay. It's a really awesome thing to do when we're doing dodging and burning, and I'll show that also in our practical application. Hard Light is a combination of Linear Dodge, and Linear Burn. It results in a more contrast rich version of Overlay and is heavily weighted on the selected layer. So what that means is that Hard Light, when you select Hard Light when you first do it, it's not gonna look good at all because it's basically, it looks like Overlay but on turbo charge. Everything is just all over the place, and that's where the other apps come in handy, like apps that I call them, but opacity and fill. That first app that we talked about, or the first layer tool that we talked about. And then Vivid Light is a combination of Color Burn and Color Dodge. It increases or decreases the contrast based on the selected layer. It's a lot easier to look at these in layman's terms, in terms that I can understand. Some of the things that they talk about on the forum, it'll tell you the calculations that are happening, and the math that's happening while all this is going on. And it's a crazy amount of math that is going on. When you're taking, it basically looks at luminance values. So the luminance of a pixel is gonna be from zero to 255. The math that's happening is whatever, so you have a 128, which would be gray. They would take 128 minus the one of this divided by this, and this is the outcome. So, that's all math. We don't need to know the inverted square root of 255. We just need to know that whatever happens with these blend modes, we can repeat these patterns. And once we know what opacity or fill to use, we get some really awesome control over our images. The next one is Linear Light, and Linear Light uses Linear Dodge and Linear Burn, like Hard Light, but its emphasis is placed on the underlying layer's data. So, as before when we have Vivid Light the weight is placed on the selected layer whereas Linear Light the weight is basically placed on the lower layer. Linear Light is really great for things like sharpening, because of the way it can drop out the 50% grays and really give you accentuated detail on your light and dark areas. So, if you ever see me do any sharpening with something like a high pass, I'm gonna prefer to go to something like Linear Light. It works really fast and really hard, but we can taper it down with things like fill and opacity to get a really beautiful, beautiful sharpen on our images. Pin Light removes all the midtones and places an emphasis on the Lighten and Darken blend modes. Notice how this area here is using a lot of what's going on up here. So we're taking out some of the mystery of, why do we have this random list? It's not a random list. They've done a lot of research to develop this list. Some of this list you'll see transfer into other programs, but some of these blend modes that I'll get into when we talk about there is eight blend modes that are very special that some programs don't treat the same way that Photoshop does, and that's really important to understand. Because without this one little thing, they're practically useless. Hard Mix uses Linear Light blend mode to calculate the color channels. The result is a harsh eight colors of R, G, B, C, M, Y, and K. It can be very useful for many applications if used in conjunction with the fill adjustment. So Hard Mix, up until about I'd say eight months ago, I thought it was just a trash blend mode, and now I'm using it more and more all the time, because it's got some really awesome power in it. Because, yes it does limit the calculation to eight colors, but when you use fill with it, that eight as you drop the fill goes from eight to 16 to 32, and then you can do some really wild things with it that we'll also show throughout this course. And then there's the other blend modes as I call them. Difference looks at the color information in all the channels and subtracts either the selected layer from the underlying layer, or vice versa, depending on which has a greater brightness value. Again a lot of these ones that we see here with Difference and Exclusion, and Subtract and Divide, a lot of these we use in something called Apply Image and they're a little bit more on the advanced side. For the most part, these don't really find their way too much into my workflow when it comes to me working on my landscape images or doing any of my color grading. So, the Exclusion is similar to Difference in effect but it will reduce the contrast, it has a reduced contrast effect. Subtract looks at all the channels and subtracts the selected layer from the underlying layers, and then Divide looks at the channel data and divides the selected layer from the underlying layer. Again a lot of stuff that's happening here, but these are unpredictable for me. Especially when I'm working in my color grading and doing things that I typically use blend modes for. These are very unpredictable, and not easy for me to reproduce from image to image, so I tend to just kind of shy away from them unless I'm doing things with Apply Image. These ones are the color blend modes, and these interact with one another based on HSL, or hue, saturation, and luminance. And they're all basically dependent upon those three variables of any pixel. Any pixel is gonna have a hue data, it's gonna have saturation data, and it's gonna have that luminance data. So hue will apply the hue of the selected layer while preserving the luminance and saturation, so what you're gonna see is that these things that are red and green, they interchange a lot. What happens here with Saturation, it applies the saturation value from the selected layer while preserving the luminance and the hue. Again, repeating some patterns here. Color applies the selected layer's color and saturation while preserving the luminance. This is a phenomenal blend mode for color grading, because what it does is it allows all the luminance values that are underneath that layer, whatever layer you have selected for color, and lets all those luminance values stay the same. Your darks stay the dark quality that they are, your lights stay the light quality that they are, and it just applies the color to the whole canvas, and it can be really awesome for color grading when used in conjunction with opacity. Luminosity applies the selected layer's luminance while preserving the hue and saturation. Remember back to the last lesson when we looked at the curves adjustment layer. You notice how I was moving that curve and I bumped up the darks of the shadow areas, and I bumped up the brightness of the highlight areas. Well if you notice there, if you really had a keen eye, you notice that a lot of the colors changed as well, right? Because we were working with the RGB values of that curves adjustment layer. Well what this does is it strips out the color from that, and allows that curve to only modify luminance data. So this would be for tone, this would be for color. This would be for tonal adjustments, this would be for color adjustments. So you can use that curve, and basically what it does is it, these blend modes will separate luminance data and color data from your image and allow you to work on them independently. And again it's another three dimensional way of looking at the colors and the data in your image and how they work together. These blend modes are really interesting because these are what I call fill blend modes. These blend modes, remember how I said fill was kind of a trash slider, right? That is until you start using these blend modes. These blend modes are practically useless if you just use opacity. If you just use the opacity slider, you're just gonna see the intensity of the calculation that's happening get reduced. But if you use fill with it, you're reducing the calculation and you also get to reduce the opacity or the intensity of that calculation. So as I was saying with Hard Mix, one of my favorite new blend modes now is Hard Mix. Because I realized that fill is what controls that. There are some programs and plugins out there for Photoshop and outside of Photoshop that do have blend modes in them. But if you see any of these blend modes in there, and they don't have a fill adjustment, they're not gonna help you at all. Because these are practically useless without fill. These are the crazy ones. They're in their own category. They can't really be separated, because as you see these all use these and rely on these blend modes to interact, but these are the blend modes and if you're taking notes, these are the ones that you really want to note down as the ones that fill is going to be responsible for for doing all the calculations on. And as we go through the practical application you'll see how I use that with Color Burn and Color Dodge. The third app that we have there is Layer Styles. So, I'm calling these apps as a clever way to remember that each layer has the application to do all of these different things. And layer styles are typically something that as photographers, we don't really think about using the layer styles of an image, of a layer, when we're working with our layers, because typically layer styles are left for things like drop shadows and bevel and emboss. Things that we would use on shapes and on text, right? But when we use these you'll see that there's two that I really use a lot with a lot of my layers that are really powerful because they allow me to see what's happening with that layer as it interacts with the layers below it. They control a lot of different qualities within how that layer blends or interacts with the layers below. Typically like I said with text and with shapes. This is the area that you could do things like adding the drop shadow to a text to make it look like it's popping of the page. But for this lesson, we're not necessarily gonna focus too much on things like drop shadows, because I mean if we had a layer with a mask on it and we use a drop shadow on it, it's gonna create a drop shadow on our landscape or our portrait image. That's not necessarily what we want. When we talk about these apps so to speak of layer styles, we're mainly gonna be in this blending options area, and looking at Blend If. And this area that once you get control over this is just, it'll change the way you edit forever, and I promise you that. All right so now we'll go ahead, and we'll go ahead and jump into Photoshop and do some practical application with these blend modes.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Photoshop Bootcamp Plug-In
Painted Backgrounds
1 – Intro to Photoshop Bootcamp
6 – Intro to Raw
11 – Interface and Setup
16 – Intro to Cropping and
22 – Intro to
26 – Intro to Layer
43 – Intro to
50 – Intro to Cleanup
58 – Intro to Shapes and
63 – Intro to Smart
69 – Intro to Image
74 – Intro to
81 –
88 – Intro to Editing
96 – Custom
102 – Natural
107 – Intro to Portrait Workflow.pdf
110 – Intro to Landscape
112 – Intro to
115 – Rothko and Interfaces (Bonus Video).zip
33 – Intro to Masks and
106 - Frequency

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

Amazing course, but don't be fooled into thinking this is a beginner's course for photographers. The problem isn't Blake's explanations; they're top. The problem is the vast scope of this course and the order in which the topics are presented. Take layers for example. When I was first learning Photoshop (back when we learned from books), I found I learned little or nothing from, for example, books that covered layers before they covered how to improve/process photographs. These books taught me how to organize, move, and link layers before they showed me what a layer was actually for. Those books tended to teach me everything there is to know about layers (types of layers, how to organize them, how to move them, how to move them two at a time, how to move them two at a time even if there are other layers between the two you're interested in, useful troubleshooting tips, etc. ) all before I even know (from a photographer's point of view) what it is the things actually do. The examples of organizing, linking, and moving mean everything for graphic designers from Day One, but for photographers not so much. Blake does the same thing as those books. Topics he covers extremely early demand a lot of theoretical imagination for a photographer who doesn't already know quite a bit about what he is talking about. Learning about abstract things first and concrete things later only makes PS that much harder to understand. If you AREN'T a beginner, however, this course is amazing. I thought it would be like an Army Bootcamp, taking you from zero and building you into a fit, competent Photoshop grunt. Now I think it's more like Army Bootcamp for high school varsity jocks. It isn't going to take you from the beginning, but the amount you'll get out of it is nonetheless more than your brain can imagine. I've been using PS for years to improve my photographs, and even to create the odd artistic composite or two. The amount I've learned in the first week is amazing, and every day I learn something -- more like many things -- which I immediately implement to improve my productivity and/or widen the horizons of what I can achieve. If you ARE a photographer who's a Photoshop beginner, I'd take very seriously the advice Blake gives in the introduction: Watch one lesson, and practice the skills and principles you learn in that one lesson for two weeks. THEN watch the next lesson. You can't do that of course without buying the course, so it's up to you to decide whether you'd like to learn Photoshop and master Photoshop all from the same course. Learning it first and mastering it later will cost more money, but I think you'll understand everything better and have a much more enjoyable ride in the process. As for me? I'm going to have to find the money to buy this course. There is simply way too much content in each lesson for me to try to take on all at once, but on the other hand I don't want to miss anything at all that he has to share.

Robert Andrews

Blake Rudis is the absolute best in teaching photoshop. His knowledge and how he presents the instruction is clear and concise - there is NO ONE BETTER. Yes, his classes require some basic skills, and maybe I'd organize the order of (or group) the classes in a different order, but, let me be clear - if anyone is to be successful or famous in the Photoshop world, it should be Blake Rudis. I strongly recommend his teaching. I started photography and post processing in 2018, and because of this class, I'm know what Im doing. The energy you get when you create something beautiful is profound, it makes you bounce out of bed (at 4AM) like a 5 year old, to go create. It's a great ride! Thanks Blake, & Thanks Creative live.

Esther Gambrell

WOW!!! I've been purchasing CL classes for several years now and have watched HOURS of "How-To Photoshop" classes, but this is the first one I've actually purchased because of the AWESOME BONUS content!!! SERIOUSLY??!!?!? A PLUG-IN??? But not only that, Blake is SO easy to understand, and he breaks down concepts in different ways to connect with different people's learning styles. I REALLY appreciated this approach because I am a LEFT-BRAINED creative that has an engineering background, so I really connected to what Blake was saying. THANK YOU FOR THAT! There are TONS of Photoshop courses out there, but I found this one to be the most helpful in they way Blake teaches concepts so that you know WHY you're doing what your doing. I feel like he taught me how to fish with Photoshop to feed me for a lifetime instead of just giving me a fish to feed me for one day. This is the BEST overall PS course out there!!! Thank you!!!!

Student Work