Preview Layer Blend Modes on the Fly in Photoshop
Choosing layer blend modes is now easier than ever with blend mode live previews, a new feature in Photoshop CC 2019! Preview the effects of blend modes before you select them!
With so many layer blend modes to choose from in Photoshop, finding the one you need can be a challenge. Or at least, it was a challenge in previous versions of Photoshop. But with CC 2019, we can now preview the effects of blend modes on our image before selecting them. And this makes choosing the right blend mode for the job easier than ever.
Of course, you can still cycle through blend modes from your keyboard, just like we could in previous versions. But by the end of this tutorial, I think you'll agree that the live preview feature in CC 2019 is the new best way to experiment and try out different blend modes in Photoshop! You'll need the latest version of Photoshop to follow along. And if you're already an Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber, make sure that your copy of Photoshop is up to date. Let's get started!
Blending images in Photoshop
For this quick lesson, I'll blend a texture with an image using layer blend modes. I'll use this image that I downloaded from Adobe Stock:
And if we look in the Layers panel, we see that I also have a texture sitting on a layer above it. I'll turn the texture on by clicking its visibility icon:
And here we see the texture, also from Adobe Stock:
Where are the blend modes in Photoshop CC 2019?
In Photoshop CC 2019, the Blend Mode option is found in the same place it has always been, in the upper left of the Layers panel:
And while CC 2019 does not give us any new blend modes, it does make finding the one we need a whole lot easier. Which is great since Photoshop includes 27 blend modes to choose from (if you include the Normal blend mode at the top):
How to cycle through blend modes from your keyboard
Before Photoshop CC 2019 came along, the easiest way to try out different blend mode was to cycle through them from your keyboard. And you can still do that in CC 2019. First, make sure you have a tool selected in the Toolbar that does not include its own blend modes. The Move Tool works great:
Then, to cycle through the blend modes from your keyboard, press and hold your Shift key, and press the plus key ( + ) to move down through the list. Or press the minus key ( - ) to move back up:
How to preview blend modes in Photoshop CC 2019
While that's one way to work, in Photoshop CC 2019, there's now an even faster way to test out layer blend modes. And that's by previewing the blend modes on the fly.
Step 1: Open the Blend Mode menu in the Layers panel
Just click on the Blend Mode option in the Layers panel to bring up the menu:
Step 2: Hover your cursor over a blend mode
Then, simply hover your mouse cursor over a blend mode in the list. There's no need to select it. Just hover over it:
Step 3: View the blend mode preview in the document
And just by hovering over its name, Photoshop now shows you a live preview of what that blend mode will look like in your document. As you make your way down the list, hovering over each blend mode, the preview will instantly update. This makes it super easy to find the effect you're looking for:
Previewing the Darken group of blend modes
For example, I can try out the different Darkening modes, starting with Darken and ending with Darker Color, just by hovering over each one in the group. Here's a preview of what the Multiply blend mode will give us. Again, I'm just hovering over its name. I'm not actually selecting it:
Previewing the Lighten blend modes
If those are too dark, I can preview the blend modes in the Lighten group, starting with Lighten and ending with Lighter Color. And here's a preview of what the Screen blend mode would look like. In this case, I think it's too bright, but that's okay because we haven't actually selected anything. We're just previewing the results:
Previewing the Contrast blend modes
For a higher contrast effect, I can hover over the blend modes from the Contrast group, which include Overlay and Soft Light, all the way down to Hard Mix. And here's a preview of what the Hard Light blend mode will give us:
Step 4: Select the blend mode you need
You can preview the other blend modes as well, again just by hovering your cursor over their name. Once you've found the effect you like best, click on the blend mode to select it. In my case, I'll go with Multiply:
Step 5: Lower the intensity of the blend mode (optional)
Finally, if the effect of the blend mode is too strong, you can reduce it by lowering the Opacity value, found directly beside the Blend Mode option. I'll lower mine to 60%:
And here, thanks to the new blend mode previews, is my final result with the texture now blended in with the image:
And there we have it! That's how to preview layer blend modes on the fly, a brand new feature in Photoshop CC 2019! Check out our Photoshop Basics section for more tutorials. And don't forget, all of our Photoshop tutorials are now availabel to download as PDFs!