Understanding Blend Modes in Premiere

 
 
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Whether you are new to editing videos or have been editing for years, opacity blend modes in Premiere Pro can be one of the trickier functions of the program.

When we talk about blending, we mean superimposing a clip on top of another in a timeline. The blend modes feature is found in the effects control panel under the opacity section.

In this article, we will break down everything we (and the internet) know about blend modes and reveal what they are, how they are categorized, and what each of them do.

 

To start, here are some of the terms that Adobe uses so that we can explain the all of the modes properly:

Source color: The color of the layer that to which the blend mode is applied.

Underlying color: The color of the composited layers that’s below the source layer in the timeline.

Result color: This is the result of the blend mode applied (duh) and the final color of the composite.


For example, the source color is this purple solid at 50% opacity, the underlying color is the picture of the manhattan skyline, and whatever blend mode we choose will determine what the result color is.

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Now that we’ve covered what blending is and how it affects the coloring of each layer, we will move onto the more in depth analysis of each mode. All of the blend modes fall into six main categories: Normal, Subtractive, Additive, Complex, Difference, and HSL. Anything quoted below is from the Adobe support page. Because these concepts are pretty complex, we’re going to let them explain a good amount below.



Normal Modes

Includes: Normal & Dissolve

The normal blending modes simply blend the image and color of the top video with your bottom video.

Normal: “The result color is the source color. This mode ignores the underlying color. Normal is the default mode.”

Dissolve: “The result color for each pixel is either the source color or the underlying color. The probability that the result color is the source color depends on the opacity of the source. If the opacity of the source is 100%, then the result color is the source color. If opacity of the source is 0%, then the result color is the underlying color.”

 

Subtractive Modes

Includes: Darken, Multiply, Color Burn, Linear Burn, Darker Color

Subtractive blend modes tend to darken the result color by taking into account luminosity values and color information from the source and underlying layers.

Darken: “Looks at the color information in each channel and selects the base or blend color — whichever is darker — as the result color. Pixels lighter than the blend color are replaced, and pixels darker than the blend color do not change.”

Multiply: “Looks at the color information in each channel and multiplies the base color by the blend color. The result color is always a darker color. Multiplying any color with black produces black. Multiplying any color with white leaves the color unchanged. When you’re painting with a color other than black or white, successive strokes with a painting tool produce progressively darker colors. The effect is similar to drawing on the image with multiple marking pens.”

Color Burn: “Looks at the color information in each channel and darkens the base color to reflect the blend color by increasing the contrast between the two. Blending with white produces no change.”

Linear burn: “Looks at the color information in each channel and darkens the base color to reflect the blend color by decreasing the brightness. Blending with white produces no change.”

Darker Color: “Compares the total of all channel values for the blend and base color and displays the lower value color. Darker Color does not produce a third color, which can result from the Darken blend, because it chooses the lowest channel values from both the base and the blend color to create the result color.”

 

Additive Modes

Includes: Lighten, Screen, Color Dodge, Linear Dodge (Add), Lighter Color

The additive blend modes lighten the result color by comparing luminosity values of the layers.

Lighten: “Looks at the color information in each channel and selects the base or blend color — whichever is lighter — as the result color. Pixels darker than the blend color are replaced, and pixels lighter than the blend color do not change.”

Screen: “Looks at each channel’s color information and multiplies the inverse of the blend and base colors. The result color is always a lighter color. Screening with black leaves the color unchanged. Screening with white produces white. The effect is similar to projecting multiple photographic slides on top of each other.”

Color Dodge: “Looks at the color information in each channel and brightens the base color to reflect the blend color by decreasing contrast between the two. Blending with black produces no change.”

Linear Dodge (Add): “Looks at the color information in each channel and brightens the base color to reflect the blend color by increasing the brightness. Blending with black produces no change.”

Lighter Color: “Compares the total of all channel values for the blend and base color and displays the higher value color. Lighter Color does not produce a third color, which can result from the Lighten blend, because it chooses the highest channel values from both the base and blend color to create the result color.”

 

Complex Modes

Includes: Overlay, Soft Light, Hard Light, Vivid Light, Linear Light, Pin Light, Hard Mix.

The complex category will give different results depending on the footage you use. It reads the information a decides which layers information to output depending which is lighter than 50% gray.

Overlay: “Multiplies or screens the colors, depending on the base color. Patterns or colors overlay the existing pixels while preserving the highlights and shadows of the base color. The base color is not replaced, but mixed with the blend color to reflect the lightness or darkness of the original color.”

Soft Light: “Darkens or lightens the colors, depending on the blend color. The effect is similar to shining a diffused spotlight on the image. If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened as if it were dodged. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened as if it were burned in. Painting with pure black or white produces a distinctly darker or lighter area, but does not result in pure black or white.”

Hard Light: “Multiplies or screens the colors, depending on the blend color. The effect is similar to shining a harsh spotlight on the image. If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened, as if it were screened. This is useful for adding highlights to an image. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened, as if it were multiplied. This is useful for adding shadows to an image. Painting with pure black or white results in pure black or white.”

Vivid Light: “Burns or dodges the colors by increasing or decreasing the contrast, depending on the blend color. If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, the image is lightened by decreasing the contrast. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, the image is darkened by increasing the contrast.”

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.”

Pin Light: “Replaces the colors, depending on the blend color. If the blend color (light source) is lighter than 50% gray, pixels darker than the blend color are replaced, and pixels lighter than the blend color do not change. If the blend color is darker than 50% gray, pixels lighter than the blend color are replaced, and pixels darker than the blend color do not change. This is useful for adding special effects to an image.”

Hard Mix: “Adds the red, green, and blue channel values of the blend color to the RGB values of the base color. If the resulting sum for a channel is 255 or greater, it receives a value of 255; if less than 255, a value of 0. Therefore, all blended pixels have red, green, and blue channel values of either 0 or 255. This changes all pixels to primary additive colors (red, green, or blue), white, or black.”

 

Difference Modes

Includes: Difference, Exclusion, Subtract, Divide.

Difference modes create colors not originally there based on the differences between values in the source and underlying colors.

Difference: “Looks at the color information in each channel and subtracts either the blend color from the base color or the base color from the blend color, depending on which has the greater brightness value. Blending with white inverts the base color values; blending with black produces no change.”

Exclusion: “Creates an effect similar to but lower in contrast than the Difference mode. Blending with white inverts the base color values. Blending with black produces no change.”

Subtract: “Looks at the color information in each channel and subtracts the blend color from the base color. In 8- and 16-bit images, any resulting negative values are clipped to zero.”

Divide: “Looks at the color information in each channel and divides the blend color from the base color.”

 

HSL Modes

Includes: Hue, Saturation, Color, Luminosity.

The HSL blend modes transfer the selected component (the Hue, Saturation, Color, or Luminance) from the underlying layer to the final image.

Hue: “Creates a result color with the luminance and saturation of the base color and the hue of the blend color.”

Saturation: “Creates a result color with the luminance and hue of the base color and the saturation of the blend color. Painting with this mode in an area with no (0) saturation (gray) causes no change.”

Color: “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.”

Luminosity: “Creates a result color with the hue and saturation of the base color and the luminance of the blend color. This mode creates the inverse effect of Color mode.”

 

If you’re like me and all of this information is difficult to comprehend after reading it once, just remember that using blend modes will yield a different result depending on the footage you’re using, so play around with a couple before settling on one!

 
 
blogblogMorgan McKeever