photoshop creative

Paint with blend modes

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
February 23, 2016

Learn a simple painting technique that can bring the best out of your brushes!


1. Shade the canvas


A digital canvas is a critical part of replicating traditional painting. Create a more convincing effect by setting the colours to default black and white, and then rendering clouds on a separate layer (Filter>Render> Clouds) and setting the blend mode to Soft Light.

2. Add water strokes


For the water area, begin layering in multiple strokes from a custom watercolour brush set. Experiment with different tones of blue and sea green, always paying attention to how the blend mode of each layer impacts the visual colour on canvas.

3. Build up the sky


In a similar manner as before, now build up the sky brush strokes. Always keep in mind that the opacity setting can have a substantial impact on the way a blend mode renders pixels in relation to the pixels beneath it, so adjust as needed.

4. Add the details


When you are working with detailed areas, like the rigging of the boat, always keep in mind the basic blend modes and how they will work. Screen will create lighter pixels, while Multiply will create darker ones. Use this to your advantage when painting.

5. Use two blend modes


If you can’t quite get the right final effect with a blend mode on a single layer, try using two! This painted reflection actually uses Overlay at 70% Opacity on one layer, then 50% Opacity and a gradient mask on the next to get just the right appearance.

  • suruha

    Very nice! Was the boat a photo to begin with? If so, how did you get the ‘effect’ on the boat, please? It looks wonderful! Thank you!

  • Wow! It’s a photoshop work ! Really unbelievable. Thanks for sharing a inspiring work.