Photoshop’s Linear Light

    Corrie Haffly
    Corrie Haffly
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    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:

    (Download sample. psd file)

    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.

    (Download sample. psd file)

    Frequently Asked Questions about Photoshop’s Linear Light

    What is the Linear Light blend mode in Photoshop?

    The Linear Light blend mode in Photoshop is a powerful tool that can enhance the contrast and color of an image. It works by increasing or decreasing the brightness of the colors in your image based on the brightness of the colors in the blend layer. If the blend color is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened, and if it’s darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened. This blend mode is particularly useful for adding depth and dimension to flat images.

    How does the Linear Light blend mode differ from other blend modes in Photoshop?

    Unlike other blend modes in Photoshop, the Linear Light blend mode does not simply overlay colors. Instead, it uses a combination of the Linear Dodge blend mode and the Linear Burn blend mode to create a more dramatic effect. This makes it a great tool for enhancing contrast and color in your images.

    When should I use the Linear Light blend mode in Photoshop?

    The Linear Light blend mode is best used when you want to add depth and dimension to your images. It’s particularly effective for enhancing contrast and color in flat images. However, it’s a powerful tool, so it’s important to use it sparingly to avoid over-saturating your images.

    How can I use the Linear Light blend mode to enhance my images?

    To use the Linear Light blend mode, simply select it from the blend mode dropdown menu in the Layers panel. Then, adjust the opacity of the blend layer to control the intensity of the effect. You can also experiment with different blend colors to achieve different effects.

    Can I use the Linear Light blend mode with other blend modes?

    Yes, you can combine the Linear Light blend mode with other blend modes to create even more dramatic effects. For example, you could use the Linear Light blend mode to enhance the contrast and color of your image, and then use the Overlay blend mode to add a soft light effect.

    What are some common mistakes to avoid when using the Linear Light blend mode?

    One common mistake is using the Linear Light blend mode too heavily, which can result in over-saturated images. It’s also important to remember that the Linear Light blend mode works best with images that have a good range of tones. If your image is too dark or too light, the Linear Light blend mode may not have the desired effect.

    Can I use the Linear Light blend mode in other Adobe applications?

    Yes, the Linear Light blend mode is available in several other Adobe applications, including Illustrator and After Effects. However, the effect may vary slightly depending on the application.

    How can I achieve a more subtle effect with the Linear Light blend mode?

    To achieve a more subtle effect with the Linear Light blend mode, try reducing the opacity of the blend layer. This will lessen the intensity of the effect, resulting in a more subtle enhancement of contrast and color.

    Can I use the Linear Light blend mode to create a vintage effect?

    Yes, the Linear Light blend mode can be used to create a variety of effects, including a vintage or retro look. Simply adjust the blend color and opacity to achieve the desired effect.

    What are some other ways I can use the Linear Light blend mode in my designs?

    In addition to enhancing contrast and color, the Linear Light blend mode can be used to add texture to your designs, create a soft light effect, or even create a double exposure effect. The possibilities are endless, so don’t be afraid to experiment!