Photoshop blending modes enhance photos

by Guest Writer

Special thanks to Michael Szczepanski of for sending in this Photoshop tutorial "Enhance Photos with Blend Modes". Michael has also provied a short video that covers this tutorial!

Michael writes . . .

Two questions I'm often asked is what type of camera I use and what I do for post processing to get that grungy look on my images. The camera I use is a point and shoot 5 Megapixel Panasonic camera, nothing special.

Before and After of Blending Modes

Download Sample ImageAs for editing the pictures, I'm going to show you a simple way to use Photoshop to enhance your shots. Wrangle up a few photos you've taken and open up Photoshop.

If you don't have any photos of your own, feel free to download the one supplied for this tutorial. (At right) As for Photoshop, pick up the free 30 day trial like I'm using here. (Enlargement) Lets get moving.

Duplicate LayerOpen your image in Photoshop then duplicate the layer by right clicking the existing layer and selecting "Duplicate Layer" or by simply pressing Apple + J (Mac) or CTRL+J (Windows).

Now we're going to add a little bit of blur to your image to soften it up which Gaussian blur does a great job of. At the top; select Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

Gaussian blur

Blur settings I usually stick around the range of 3.5, but feel free to play around with larger or smaller values depending on the type of picture and of course the resolution.

Desaturate the layer

The third step is to desaturate the layer.
We can do this by going up to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate or by pressing Apple + SHIFT + U (Mac) or CTRL + SHIFT+ U (Windows).
If you have a blurry black and white photo, you're on the right track.

Desaturate the layer


The last step is where the magic happens.

We want to change the blending mode of the newly created layer by selecting the drop down box on the right hand side just above the layer itself.

Depending on the image, you'll want to try using four different modes that I often switch between; Multiply, Overlay, Soft Light, and Hard Light.

Try them out and find which suites your taste and the photo itself. Some may be too dark while others may be too light.

Blend Options That's it. A quick and easy way to add emotion to your photos using the same technique as many of the photos on If you'd like to intensify the look of this; create another duplicate of your modified layer with the same or a different blend mode and use the eraser to lighten up any areas that are too dark.


Here are a few shots I used this effect on. Click on them to see the full, uncropped version.

Example of blending modes techniques

Example of blending modes techniques

Example of blending modes techniques

More examples can be found in this tutorial on my design blog at

If you'd like some more information about blending modes, see this video.
You can also check out

Hope this technique works out for you. If you have any other means of doing this or a better way, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts and even a link to the images you've created. Cheers!



Thanks to Michael Szczepanski for sending in this Photoshop tutorial. Visit Michael's design portfolio and design blog at

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