Getting To Know Blend Modes

Getting To Know Blend Modes

Blend modes. What are they and how do I use them?

Anyone who uses Premiere Pro, After Effects or Photoshop regularly will have seen blend modes available in the ‘Opacity’ settings or ‘Mode’ column. But what exactly are they and what does each of them do?

Well, you’re about to find out… finally!

Note. We haven’t covered every single blend mode available but have picked specific ones that you are likely to use in most scenarios.

A comprehensive list of the blend modes can also be found on Adobe’s website. A description of how they directly translate to Premiere Pro can be seen here too. We have taken some of our learnings and lingo from this list.

The blend mode menu is subdivided into six distinct groups in Premiere Pro and two more subsequent groups in After Effects. We will focus on the six common groups for now. These groups are categorised as:

Your Guide to NDI
  • Normal.
  • Subtractive.
  • Additive.
  • Complex.
  • Difference.
  • HSL.

Normal Category

“The result colour of a pixel is not affected by the colour of the underlying pixel unless opacity is less than 100% for the source layer.”

This is the simplest of the blend modes and essentially you are mixing the colour of an image by changing the opacity of the top image above and underlying one.

Normal Blend Modes
© Adobe. Normal Blend Modes

Normal

“The result colour is the source colour. This mode ignores the underlying colour. Normal is the default mode.”

Dissolve

“The result colour for each pixel is either the source colour or the underlying colour. The probability that the result colour is the source colour depends on the opacity of the source. If the opacity of the source is 100%, then the result colour is the source colour. If opacity of the source is 0%, then the result colour is the underlying colour.”

Subtractive Category

“These blend modes tend to darken colours, some by mixing colours in much the same way as mixing coloured pigments in paint.”

The Subtractive category uses the luminosity and colour values of both images to create the resulting image. This is why you will usually see an overall darkening of the image when using one of these modes.

Subtractive Blend Modes
© Adobe. Subtractive Blend Modes

Darken

“Looks at the colour information in each channel and selects the base or blend colour — whichever is darker — as the result colour. Pixels lighter than the blend colour are replaced, and pixels darker than the blend colour do not change.”

Multiply

“Looks at the colour information in each channel and multiplies the base colour by the blend colour. The result colour is always a darker colour. Multiplying any colour with black produces black. Multiplying any colour with white leaves the colour unchanged. When you’re painting with a colour other than black or white, successive strokes with a painting tool produce progressively darker colours. The effect is similar to drawing on the image with multiple marking pens.”

Colour Burn

“Looks at the colour information in each channel and darkens the base colour to reflect the blend colour by increasing the contrast between the two. Blending with white produces no change.”

Linear Burn

“Looks at the colour information in each channel and darkens the base colour to reflect the blend colour by decreasing the brightness. Blending with white produces no change.”

Darker Color

“Compares the total of all channel values for the blend and base colour and displays the lower value colour. Darker Colour does not produce a third colour, which can result from the Darken blend, because it chooses the lowest channel values from both the base and the blend colour to create the result colour.”


Additive Category

“These blend modes tend to lighten colours, some by mixing colours in much the same way as mixing projected light.”

These blend modes use the luminosity values as a comparison to determine which layer’s information to output. Usually this will mean that the resultant image will have a lightening effect.

Additive Blend Modes
© Adobe. Additive Blend Modes

Lighten

“Looks at the colour information in each channel and selects the base or blend colour — whichever is lighter — as the result colour. Pixels darker than the blend colour are replaced, and pixels lighter than the blend colour do not change.”

Screen

“Looks at each channel’s colour information and multiplies the inverse of the blend and base colours. The result colour is always a lighter colour. Screening with black leaves the colour unchanged. Screening with white produces white. The effect is similar to projecting multiple photographic slides on top of each other.”

Color Dodge

“Looks at the colour information in each channel and brightens the base colour to reflect the blend colour by decreasing contrast between the two. Blending with black produces no change.”

Linear dodge (add)

“Looks at the colour information in each channel and brightens the base colour to reflect the blend colour by increasing the brightness. Blending with black produces no change.”

Lighter colour

“Compares the total of all channel values for the blend and base colour and displays the higher value colour. Lighter Colour does not produce a third colour, which can result from the Lighten blend, because it chooses the highest channel values from both the base and blend colour to create the result colour.”


Complex Category

“These blend modes perform different operations on the source and underlying colours depending on whether one of the colours is lighter than 50% grey.”

The Complex Category will have drastically different results on your image depending on what footage or image you use it with. The reason being it uses the grey colour information in your image to decide on what should be output.

Complex Blend Modes
© Adobe. Complex Blend Modes

Overlay

“Multiplies or screens the colours, depending on the base colour. Patterns or colours overlay the existing pixels while preserving the highlights and shadows of the base colour. The base colour is not replaced, but mixed with the blend colour to reflect the lightness or darkness of the original colour. ”

Soft Light

“Darkens or lightens the colours, depending on the blend colour. The effect is similar to shining a diffused spotlight on the image. If the blend colour (light source) is lighter than 50% grey, the image is lightened as if it were dodged. If the blend colour is darker than 50% grey, the image is darkened as if it were burned in. Painting with pure black or white produces a distinctly darker or lighter area, but does not result in pure black or white.”

Hard Light

“Multiplies or screens the colours, depending on the blend colour. The effect is similar to shining a harsh spotlight on the image. If the blend colour (light source) is lighter than 50% grey, the image is lightened, as if it were screened. This is useful for adding highlights to an image. If the blend colour is darker than 50% grey, the image is darkened, as if it were multiplied. This is useful for adding shadows to an image. Painting with pure black or white results in pure black or white.”

Vivid Light

“Burns or dodges the colours by increasing or decreasing the contrast, depending on the blend colour. If the blend colour (light source) is lighter than 50% grey, the image is lightened by decreasing the contrast. If the blend colour is darker than 50% grey, the image is darkened by increasing the contrast. ”

Linear Light

“Burns or dodges the colours by decreasing or increasing the brightness, depending on the blend colour. If the blend colour (light source) is lighter than 50% grey, the image is lightened by increasing the brightness. If the blend colour is darker than 50% grey, the image is darkened by decreasing the brightness.”

Pin Light

“Replaces the colours, depending on the blend colour. If the blend colour (light source) is lighter than 50% grey, pixels darker than the blend colour are replaced, and pixels lighter than the blend colour do not change. If the blend colour is darker than 50% grey, pixels lighter than the blend colour are replaced, and pixels darker than the blend colour do not change. This is useful for adding special effects to an image.”

Hard Mix

“Adds the red, green, and blue channel values of the blend colour to the RGB values of the base colour. If the resulting sum for a channel is 255 or greater, it receives a value of 255; if less than 255, a value of 0. Therefore, all blended pixels have red, green, and blue channel values of either 0 or 255. This changes all pixels to primary additive colours (red, green, or blue), white, or black.”


Difference Category

“These blend modes create colours based on the differences between the values of the source colour and the underlying colour. ”

Essentially, these modes create colours not in the original images that is based on the colour information of each layer.

Difference Blend Modes
© Adobe. Difference Blend Modes

Difference

“Looks at the colour information in each channel and subtracts either the blend colour from the base colour or the base colour from the blend colour, depending on which has the greater brightness value. Blending with white inverts the base colour values; blending with black produces no change.”

Exclusion

“Creates an effect similar to but lower in contrast than the Difference mode. Blending with white inverts the base colour values. Blending with black produces no change.”

Subtract

“Looks at the colour information in each channel and subtracts the blend colour from the base colour. In 8- and 16-bit images, any resulting negative values are clipped to zero.”

Divide

“Looks at the colour information in each channel and divides the blend colour from the base colour.”


HSL Category

“These blend modes transfer one or more of the components of the HSL representation of colour (hue, saturation, and luminosity) from the underlying colour to the result colour.”

Simply put the HSL category transfers the selected value (Hue, Saturation, Colour, or Luminance) from the layer below to the resulting image.

HSL Blend Modes
© Adobe. HSL Blend Modes

Hue

“Creates a result colour with the luminance and saturation of the base colour and the hue of the blend colour. ”

Saturation

“Creates a result colour with the luminance and hue of the base colour and the saturation of the blend colour. Painting with this mode in an area with no (0) saturation (grey) causes no change. ”

Color

“Creates a result colour with the luminance of the base colour and the hue and saturation of the blend colour. This preserves the grey levels in the image and is useful for colouring monochrome images and for tinting colour images.”

Luminosity

“Creates a result colour with the hue and saturation of the base colour and the luminance of the blend colour. This mode creates the inverse effect of Colour mode.”

Hopefully this has given you more of an understanding of blend modes, what they do to your footage and the differences between them all. Our suggestion would always be to play around with them in your timeline or on your image and see how it affects the resulting image.

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Think you know your Premiere Pro Shortcuts? Check out our article on the Most Underrated Premiere Shortcuts here:

Underrated Premiere Shortcuts

And the Most Underrated After Effects Shortcuts:

Underrated After Effects Shortcuts

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