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Photoshop Tips : How to Enhance Your Photographs Using Layer Blending Modes

19 November 2007

Ever wonder why – no matter what you do – your photos always look dull compared to others? How is it that other people’s photos have this very stylish quality to it? Something about the contrast or the colours?

In this next tutorial, I’m going to introduce you to Layer Blending Modes, a very simple function to help enhance your photographs. And it’s really easy.

Before / After

I will use a photo of my son Sean (left) which was taken against a white wall in my lounge room on a sunny day, and show you the steps to give you the final image (right), which has more vivid colours and contrast.

1) Open up your photo. In the Layers Option Palette, there should only be one layer, “Background”.

Layers Palate

Right click on the “Background” layer and select “Duplicate Layer”.

A Duplicate Layer Dialogue Box should appear. You can name the layer, or just click OK.

2) Now with the new layer selected, click on the Layer Blending Modes drop down menu, shown below. Select “Overlay” and see what this effect has on your image.

Selecting Layer Blending Mode

Also on the same palette, I usually change the “Opacity” to 50%, but that’s up to you and the image.


Layers are REALLY cool, a big, powerful feature of Photoshop. Try experimenting with the other blending modes, and see what effect it has on the image! There are about 23 of them, you can read more about each mode here.

The ones I find I use the most are – Multiply, Screen, Overlay, Soft Light, Hard Light, Vivid Light, Color, Luminosity.

Here are some examples of different Layer Blend Modes. Below, I used two different layers, a photo layer and a coloured layer. The layer with the photograph is set on “Multiply”.

Using Multiply Layer Blending Mode

Below, I used the same two different layers, a photo layer and a coloured layer. This time, the layer with the photograph is set on “Luminosity”, and you can see the slightly different effect this has.

Using Luminosity Layer Blending Mode

Try experimenting with different photos on top of each other, each with a different Blending Mode. Or coloured shapes or gradients (set with a Blending Mode), on top of a photograph. You can get some cool results! Have fun!

Again, since so many people are asking for more Photoshop tips, at this stage I can only point you to some highly recommended books on Amazon!

Recommended Books

I learned all my Photoshop skills over the years I have been working as a graphic designer – so I’ve never actually bought or read a book on Photoshop (except the Adobe Photoshop Manual that came with the software).

However, these books are very popular, and highly recommended by others. They seem to do very detailed step by step tutorials, written in easy to understand language, lots of cool pictures, plus CDROM.

Photoshop CS2 : Essential Skills

Photoshop CS3 : Essential Skills

How to Cheat in Photoshop CS3: The art of creating photorealistic montages

Read Photoshop Tips : How to Select an Object from its Background

Read Photoshop Tips : How To Put An Object On A White Background

Read some of my tips on : How Busy People Take Great Photos.

Read more of my tips on : How To Take A Great Photo.

More next week!