What is a Blending Mode?
In this article, we’ll learn about all 16 Adobe Illustrator Blending Modes. You’ll soon know the difference between Darken, Multiply and Color Burn—and Lighten, Screen and Color Dodge. Bookmark this cheat-sheet—don’t be caught scrolling between Blending Modes again. In addition, we’ll have even further colour theory content coming soon.
Normal Blending Mode
Normal is the default Blending Mode in Adobe Illustrator. Firstly, open the Appearance panel. There, you’ll find Opacity. Click Opacity to reveal the Blending Mode panel. Note: You’ll need to select an object first. In this tutorial, we’ll see how various Blending Modes influence this beautiful photograph—credit: Hassle Design—of Hull City Hall. This block of nine colours will illustrate how colour reacts differently to Blending Modes.
Darken Blending Mode
The Darken Blending Mode selects the base colours lighter than the blend colours and replaces them. Darker colours remain the same. Notice the white panel is no longer visible, whereas the black panel remains identical.
Multiply Blending Mode
Multiply, as it’s name suggests, multiplies the blend colour with the base colour. You’ll notice a similar result to Darken. But, spot the difference between the 50% black Darken panel and the 50% Multiply panel—it’s different.
Color Burn Blending Mode
The Color Burn Blending Mode darkens the base colour to reflect the blend colour. 50% black Color Burn appears more colourful than 50% black Multiply and 50% black Darken. The remaining colours appear identical to previous blends.
Lighten Blending Mode
Remember Darken? The Lighten Blending Mode does the complete opposite. White remains white, black disappears.
Screen Blending Mode
The Screen Blending Mode works a little like Multiply—in reverse. The resulting colours are always lighter.
Color Dodge Blending Mode
Color Dodge brightens the base colour to reflect the blend colour—the opposite effect of Color Burn.
Overlay Blending Mode
Overlay Blending Mode is a contrast colour Blending Mode. Consider Overlay a blend of Multiply and Screen, depending on the base colour. This creates high contrast results.
Soft Light Blending Mode
The Soft Light Blending Mode applies a softer effect than Overlay. A 100% black blend colour will result in a softer, but darker, base colour, as above.
Hard Light Blending Mode
The Hard Light Blending Mode applies a much harder effect than Soft Light. Like Soft Light and Overlay, it applies a Multiply or Screen effect to the base colour. The results are difficult to see in this example. It operates in relation to 50% black—50% black is invisible.
Difference Blending Mode
Difference subtracts the base colour from the blend colour, or vice-versa. Notice how the white panel inverts the blue sky—this creates an orange hue.
Exclusion Blending Mode
The Exclusion Blending Mode functions similarly to Difference. The results are largely the same, baring the 50% black panel, which remains 50% black.
Hue Blending Mode
Hue, like it’s namesake, replaces the base colour with the hue of the blend colour. Monochromatic colour remains monochromatic.
Saturation Blending Mode
The Saturation Blending Mode borrows the saturation of the blend colour only. The hue and luminosity of the base colour is left untouched.
Color Blending Mode
The Color Blending Mode borrows the hue and saturation of the blend colour. Only the luminosity and grey levels are left untouched from the base colour.
Luminosity Blending Mode
Our final Blending Mode—Luminosity—borrows the Luminosity of the blend colour while leaving the hue and saturation intact. The effect is minimal with our 100% Brightness and 100% Saturation swatches.