The Linear Light blending mode is a combination of Linear Burn and Linear Dodge — but similar to Vivid Light, the combination gives slightly different results.
Let’s first look at the Photoshop definition:
Linear Light: Burns or dodges the colors by decreasing or increasing the brightness, depending on the blend color. If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened by increasing the brightness. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened by decreasing the brightness.
I created an example similar to the one in the last blog. The bottom image has two layers, one set to Linear Dodge and the other set to Linear Burn. In the top image, the same rectangles were combined on one layer and set to Linear Light. The lighter color does brighten the base layer considerably – but not as much as Linear Dodge does; the dark color doesn’t darken the base layer as much as Linear Burn does.
I like using Linear Light to overlay text (or line art) on top of an image for a neat watermark effect. I first add text in a medium grey color (#939393):
I set this top layer to Linear Light and get this result:
In a similar example, I’ll take a picture of a duck from a neighborhood park and create an ad layout idea for a fictitious duck club. Again, I start with grey text:
Setting the text layer to Linear Light over my duck photo and adding some ad copy results in this:
There is a subtle difference between the picture above (set to Linear Light) and this picture below. In the picture below, I used a white text layer and then set the opacity at 24%.
While there isn’t a huge difference, the Linear Light version helps the big “duck” text to be a little bit subtler; because it’s actually lightening the base layer colors and not simply overlaying them, it acts more as a background element. I would use the white-text-lower-opacity method for text that I want to stand out a little bit more (text that is actually part of the company name, for example), but use Linear Light for text or objects that I want to act more as a background.