Non-Layer Blending Modes

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hile this book is primarily about Layer blending modes, Photoshop also has some blending modes that don't apply to layers but that are applied with painting tools, the Edit > Fill, Edit > Stroke commands, or via other specific dialog boxes. It may be that you never use these "non-layer" blending modes, particularly if you use Photoshop as an image-editing tool. However, for those of you who undertake a lot of painting work using Photoshop, they're described here.

The Behind blending mode applies to the Edit > Fill and Edit > Stroke commands and to painting tools such as the Brush and Paint Bucket tools When a painting tool's blend mode is set to Behind, that tool will paint only on the transparent pixels on a layer, as if painting underneath or behind any colored pixels If a pixel is semitransparent, the paint is reduced proportionately Remember, though, the Behind blending mode won't work if the layer's transparent pixels are locked via the Lock Transparency box in the Layer palette

Like the Behind blending mode, the Clear blending mode applies to the Edit > Fill, Edit > Stroke commands and to painting tools such as the Brush and Paint Bucket tools It works in much the same way as the Eraser tool and makes pixels transparent

When the Brush tool's blending mode is set to Clear, it acts just like the Eraser.

I've cut a central square out of a white image, and then used a large brush to paint onto the image. Notice how the blue paint only colors the transparent pixels in the center of the image.

Layers Channels ' Paths



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| Lock: □ J 1$* Q Fill

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Layer 0

When the Brush tool's blending mode is set to Clear, it acts just like the Eraser.


The Add blending mode is accessed via the Image > Apply Image and Image > Calculations dialog boxes In the Apply Image dialog, you can either select all RGB channels, or an individual color channel to be added to the background image In the Calculations dialog box, you have the option of adding the pixel values from two color channels and outputting them to create a new image or a selection mask In both cases, the resulting image will usually be brighter than the individual channels

If you select lmage>Calculations, you'll bring up a dialog box where, in this particular example, the Add blending mode has been selected to output a monochrome image based on two channels.

Unsurprisingly, the Subtract blending mode is the opposite of Add Like Add, it is used only in the Apply Image and Calculations dialog boxes As a blending mode, in general it enables you to subtract one or more color channels from an image in order to create a specific selection mask or to create a new image Naturally enough, the resulting image will usually be darker than the individual channels

Some people use the Subtract blending mode in the Calculations dialog box to convert a color image to black and white Try it if you like, but it's more complicated than using the Channel Mixer, which works in much the same way If the Add or Subtract modes have a common use, it is probably in advanced masking techniques, which are beyond the scope of this book

Pass Through

Pass Through applies only to layer groups and is a layer group's default blending mode When applied to a group, the individual layers' blending modes, adjustment layers, and styles will affect all the layers below the layer group It is possible, however, to set the layer group's blend mode independently, such as Multiply, in which case that blend mode will only apply to the layer group's stack of layers

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BU 100%

BU 100%



Group 1



Hard Mix









Pass Through

Darken Multiply Color Burn Linear Burn

Lighten Screen Color Dodge Linear Dodge

Overlay Soft Light Hard Light Vivid Light Linear Light Pin Light Hard Mis

Difference Exclusion

Saturation Color


Although Pass Through is a layer group's default blending mode, you can apply a specific blend mode that will affect only the layer group. Here, I chose Dissolve and reduced its opacity, resulting in Dissolve's typical grittiness to the image.

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