The Darken, Multiply, Color Burn, and Linear Burn blending modes can usefully be thought of as a group of blending modes, all of which darken the underlying image, and which have white as their neutral color—in other words, blending with white has no effect.

The Darken blend mode creates an output color by examining each channel in the base and blend layers before selecting the darker of the base or blend color value. As the blend color becomes darker, so the blend's final effect becomes more obvious. Lighter blend colors have less effect, and blending with white has no effect at all.


Windows: Alt+Shift+K Mac: Option+Shift+K

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In a simple self-blend, the base and blend colors are identical, so the picture remains unchanged Now try adding a little Gaussian blur to the blend layer The Darken blending mode results in a darker image, with shadow tones that bleed into lighter areas and with less overall contrast Compare this with the Lighten blending mode, which has exactly the opposite effect—brightening the image and producing soft halos around the highlight areas

A detail with no blur.

Notice the halo around the rock where Lighten uses the lighter color from the blurred layer.

A little blur in the Lighten layer lightens the overall image and causes light tones to bleed into darker areas.

A little blur in the Darken layer darkens the overall image and causes dark tones to bleed into lighter areas.

Inverting a Darken layer

Layer styles

Inverting the Darken blend layer produces strange reversal effects Because Darken looks at each channel individually, you should expect color shifts; but with a little thought, it's possible to predict the reversal's outcome In a negative or inverted image, the highlights are dark, so applying the Darken blending mode to the layer means that these reversed highlights become apparent in the composite image The original shadow tones remain because they are darker than their reversed counterparts in the blend layer, while midtones remain relatively unaffected

An interesting problem occurs when you set a text layer's blending mode to Darken If parts of the underlying image are darker, they show through, rendering invisible some parts of the letters, or indeed entire letters

To make the text more legible, you could always choose another color, or you might want to outline the letters with a stroke of contrasting color, but doing the latter would mean losing the ability to edit the text

A great alternative is to add a layer style to the text layer Click the Layer palette's style icon (at the bottom left of the Layer palette) and select drop shadow, stroke, or any other style. You now have a wide range of ways to outline the text. If you select drop shadow, you can also control the shadow's blending mode independently of the text layer

Layer Style


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When a text layer's blend mode is set to Darken, some letters vanish into the canyon's darker shadows, which is not really the result I'm looking for.


0 Layer Knocks Out Drop Shadow

Outlining the letters using a layer style will make the lettering much more legible. Furthermore, the drop shadow layer style has its own independent blending mode drop-down menu.

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Inner 5wadow... Outer Glow... Inner Glow... Bevel and Emboss... Satin...

Color Overlay... Gradient Overlay... Pattern Overlay... Stroke...

Layer Style

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