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Most Useful Photoshop Elements 12 Blend Modes

With a whopping 27 blend modes, Photoshop Elements 12 provides a lot of ways for your layers to interact with one another. And while it may be useful to know the mathematical calculations involved with the blend mode algorithms, it’s infinitely more useful to know how they can make your images look better or make your image editing more productive.

Here are a few of the most beneficial blend modes in action.

Multiply

Multiply is probably the most widely used blend mode of the lot. In laymen’s terms, this blend mode darkens your image. Use it for old or antique photographs that have faded over time, as shown in this photo, by following these steps:

image0.jpg

  1. Open an image and convert your background to a layer by simply double-clicking Background in your Layers panel and then clicking OK.

  2. Do one of the following:

    • Duplicate your layer by choosing Duplicate Layer from the Layers Panel menu and clicking OK.

    • Create an adjustment layer by choosing the Adjustment Layers icon (second from left; it looks like a black and white ball) at the top of Layers panel and selecting Levels. Close the Levels dialog box by clicking the X in the top-left corner.

    You’ll probably prefer the second method because if you have an adjustment layer, you automatically get a layer mask along with it. You can then paint with black on the layer mask at varying degrees of opacity if you want to lessen the effect of the blend mode.

  3. On your adjustment layer or duplicate layer, choose the Multiply blend mode.

    You should see an improvement in the contrast of the image, as shown in this photo.

    image1.jpg
  4. If the Multiply blend mode causes the image to be too dark, adjust the opacity percentage lower, as shown in this photo.

    image2.jpg
  5. Save the image. If you want to retain the layers for future editing, save the file in a format that retains layers, such a PSD or TIFF.

Another great use for the Multiply blend mode is for dropping out the white areas of an image and making them transparent, as shown in this photo. For example, if you want to add a logo that has a white background, or a scanned sheet of paper with writing on it over an image, an easy way to get just the dark areas to be visible is by setting that layer blend mode to Multiply. The Darken blend mode usually works as well.

image3.jpg

Screen

The Screen blend mode is the opposite of Multiply. Although Multiply did a good job of darkening the midtones and shadows in the previous photo to improve the contrast, it did nothing for the highlight area. To get some brighter highlights, you need another adjustment layer.

  1. Open the image you corrected with the Multiply blend mode.

  2. Create an adjustment layer by choosing the Adjustment Layers icon at the top of Layers panel and selecting Levels. Close the Levels dialog box by clicking the X in the top-right corner.

  3. On your adjustment layer, choose the Screen blend mode.

    You should see another improvement in the contrast of the image, specifically with brighter highlights, as shown in this photo. Note that the Multiply blend mode percentage is set back to 100% after applying the Screen blend mode. There’s no right or wrong, so be sure and play with your opacity percentages to your liking.

    image4.jpg
  4. If the Screen blend mode causes the image to be too light, adjust the opacity percentage lower.

  5. Save the image. If you want to retain the layers for future editing, save the file in a format that retains layers, such a PSD or TIFF.

Just as Multiply and Darken drop out light areas, Screen and Lighten drop out dark areas, as shown in this photo.

image5.jpg

Overlay

The Overlay blend mode can also quickly improve the contrast of an image, as shown in this photo. Follow the same steps as those for the Screen blend mode but set the adjustment layer blend mode to Overlay. If one adjustment layer doesn’t quite do the job, feel free to add another.

image6.jpg

Color

The Color blend mode is great for enhancing images. This blend mode works wonders if you want to add color to a grayscale image while retaining all the underlying tonal qualities. As shown in this photo, painting color with the Normal blend mode results in an unrealistic, total opaque coverage, whereas painting with the Color blend mode enables all the shadows, midtones, and highlights to be retained. Follow these steps to add color by using the Color blend mode:

image7.jpg

  1. Open your image.

    Make sure your image is in RGB mode, not Grayscale.

  2. Create a new layer by clicking the New Layer icon at the top of the Layers panel.

  3. Select the Brush tool from the Tools panel, select a color, and paint your desired elements on your new layer, as shown in the photo.

  4. Adjust the opacity of the new layer as desired to blend the color with the image.

  5. Save the image. If you want to retain the layers for future editing, save the file in a format that retains layers, such a PSD or TIFF.

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