photoshop creative

How can you create water effects with blend modes?

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Q&A, by Mark White
August 25, 2016

Every Thursday we put your Photoshop questions to our panel of experts!


Switching the blend mode of water can just screen out darker shades or multiply them. Duplicate your water layer, reduce the Opacities, then apply different blend modes to get the best of both lighter and darker shades of your water.

Think of blend modes more like mixing tools and less like a final filter. You’ll have more possibilities if you mix them into your picture along the way. There are loads of fantastic colour effects that can play off the Soft Light, Hard Light, Saturation, Multiply and Color Burn modes. Try out combinations and see what clicks.

Subtlety is often key with blend modes. Hard Mix, for example, reduces an image to eight colours and Color Burn produces a saturated, very dark finished picture. Reduce the opacities of your blend mode layers to toggle the severity of the effect. Some modes like Screen and Multiply will act more like contrast effects when you do this, but you can create some nice results in others. For example, insert a grey layer, set to Color, and reduce the Opacity to 80%. This will create a monochrome effect, with just a few shades of hue. Remember that some blend modes are just subtle versions of others. Soft Light, for example, is similar to Overlay, and Screen is a less harsh version of Lighten.