The Color Blend Mode in Photoshop takes the “grey levels” of the base color and colors them with the blend color:

Color Blend Mode: Creates a result color with the luminance of the base color and the hue and saturation of the blend color. This preserves the gray levels in the image and is useful for coloring monochrome images and for tinting color images.

As an example, here’s a layer that is half red, half blue:

Set to Color Mode and placed over another image, you get this:

Color Mode is pretty close to Hue Mode, so let’s look at Hue Mode again to get rid of any confusion. Hue Mode keeps the brightness and satuation of the base color but applies the hue of the blend layer. Color Mode keeps the brightness of the base color and applies both the hue and saturation of the blend color.

So here’s how the scenario changes when the blue/red layer is set to Hue Mode instead:

As you can see, there’s more “grey” in this picture; the blue and reds are desaturated in the areas where the original image didn’t have much saturation.

Does that make more sense?

And following Photoshop’s practical application advice, here is a sepia-toned cherry blossom:

(Download sample .psd file.)

Corrie is the lead designer and developer for PixelMill and their in-house brand, jgtemplates. This would-be triathlete has a mathematics degree but wishes she had double-majored in computer science and art instead. Maybe next time...

Free Guide:

How to Choose the Right Charting Library for Your Application

How do you make sure that the charting library you choose has everything you need? Sign up to receive this detailed guide from FusionCharts, which explores all the factors you need to consider before making the decision.

  • charmedlover

    I just have a general question. Has anyone actually used the color blending mode? I just find it un-practical in almost every situation people have said to use it.

    The flower at the end I think looked much more alive originally. It now looks like an anti-depresent commerical.

    Personally I think that Adbobe is wasting my harddisk space for some of these blending modes, brushes, shapes, and other useless stuff that I’ve never seen used professionally. (May be wrong though)

  • Anonymous

    i use color blending mode for web site interfaces

  • Farooqaaa

    Good Tutorial I like it :)

  • controltheweb

    Color blend mode is terrifically flexible.

    As noted here (

    “If we used a Hue/Saturation layer or a Curves layer, we’d almost certainly apply it at 100-percent opacity, so if we needed to make the effect stronger, we’d have to tunnel into the dialog boxes. Color Fill layers, on the other hand, always use fairly low opacities, so we have an immediately available adjustment to make them weaker or stronger using the layer opacity—we only need to open the dialog box to adjust the actual color.”

  • Anonymous

    Color blend mode is very useful for manual red-eye correction.

Special Offer
Free course!

Git into it! Bonus course Introduction to Git is yours when you take up a free 14 day SitePoint Premium trial.