Two of My Favorite Blend Modes Explained!

The most common questions I receive about Photoshop always deal with Blend Modes.  They are extremely helpful, but I gotta be honest, when I first started using them I just cycled through them till I found something that looked good.  While that is a fine approach, my workflow was hardly predictable, and I’d spend more time looking at blend modes than editing my images.  Years ago I found Adobes Help site that gave me a list of all the blend modes, what they did, and how to use them.  I suggest you look at them too!

Today’s tutorial is not about all of the blend modes, but two very distinct ones, Color and Luminosity.  While they both do opposites to your image, they are related in many ways.  Let’s take a Curves Adjustment for example.  Modify a curve set to RGB, with a blend mode of Normal, and your result will be a tweak to the Tone and Color of all the underlying data.  However, if you switch that blend mode to Color, it will strip the tonal data from it and if you decide to go with Luminosity, it will remove the Color data.

With these blend modes, you can protect the tones or colors in your image and have more predictable results every time you use them.  Here is what Adobe says about the Color and Luminosity Blend Modes:

By description, they are the exact opposite, but these descriptions don’t do us a favor regarding understanding them either.  In layman’s terms:

  1. The Color Blend Mode will apply the selected layers colors to the underlying layers but allow the tones of those layers to show through.
  2. The Luminosity Blend Mode will use the selected layers tones to the underlying layers without altering the underlying layers colors.

With me?  If not, no worries.  In today’s free tutorial I will show you how I use these two blend modes with Gradient Maps and Curves adjustment layers.  By the time you are done watching it, you will have it down pat, or your money back 🙂

Blake Rudis

f.64 Academy and f.64 Elite are the brainchildren of Blake Rudis. While he is a landscape photographer he is most passionate about post-processing images in Photoshop and mentoring others.


For Blake, it is less about the art and more about the process. He dives deep into difficult topics and makes them easy to understand through his outside the box thinking.


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