Photoshop Layer Blending Made Easy

Photoshop’s layer blending options give you the ability to quickly do “knock out” effects with text or shapes. You’ve seen these before. For example, you might have seen a montage of a child’s images showing through letters of their name or their graduation date. This can also serve as a great way to add a quote over top of a bridal or senior photo. Fortunately, the technique only takes seconds. Here’s all you need to do.

Step 1. Open your image in Photoshop.

Step 2. Create a layer on top of your image. In this example, it is simply a white rectangle, although it could be any color or pattern.

Step 3. Change the color to black, and create a text or shape layer on top of both the image and the first layer. In this example, I’ve added some text. Although any font will do, fonts with big, bold strokes look the best because they allow more of the background to show through.

Step 4. With the text (or shape) layer selected, right click (Windows) or Ctrl-click (Mac) and select “Blending Options” from the menu. Change the Knockout to Shallow, and set the Fill Opacity to 0%. Select OK.

Step 5. Here’s the final result. The background image shows through the white rectangle layer. I changed the opacity of the white rectangle to 80% to show some of the original image through it also.

This image shows the same result using the same steps, only this time I made the rectangle cover the entire image, then used the Blending option on the heart shape instead of a text layer.

While there are lots of other controls you can use in Blending Options, if you only know this simple technique, it can be used to add many variations to your images. If you’re interested in what all the other Blending Options do, visit the Adobe Photoshop Help page here.

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