Merge Layer Blend Modes
Discover how to blend and merge layers in Photoshop without changing the appearance of the composition
If you’ve ever worked with more than one blend mode over multiple layers, then chances are you’ll be familiar with how different effects can be made depending on which blend modes are chosen and where the layer lies. However, when merging those layers into a complete, single layer, a problem can arise if it consists of different blend modes. For example, if the top layer is set to Screen mode and this is merged with the underlying layer that’s set to Overlay, Photoshop will default to Overlay for the new merged layer. The image will then change appearance because the Screen mode has been lost. In this tutorial, we’ll demonstrate techniques to get around the issue of losing a blend mode when merging a layered composition.
1 Layer up two images
Open up a background image into Photoshop. As this is the background layer, its blend mode can be left as Normal. Insert a second image with File>Place Embedded and hit Enter
2 Blend two layers
Resize the placed image and hit Enter once in position. Open the list of blend modes for this second layer by clicking Normal in the Layers palette. Set the mode to Screen to blend the images together
3 Achieve stronger contrast
Screen mode will lighten the image and create a dreamy feel. Blend modes such as Overlay or Multiple darken the image and add contrast. Press the Up and Down keys to cycle through the modes
4 Add more images
Place a third image over the top of the other layers. Setting it to Overlay will create a high-contrast effect. Try placing the third layer between the Screen layer and the background for a different effect
5 Rasterize and recompose
Ctrl/right-click over both placed images and select Rasterize Layer. This will enable the use of masking to remove areas of high contrast with the Eraser and Brush tools.
6 A long shortcut
There are three methods to merge layers with different blend modes without affecting the composition. Click the top layer, and press Cmd/Ctrl+Opt/Alt+Shift+E to merge all layers into a fourth one.
7 Merge Visible
The second method is to go to the Layer menu>Merge Visible, to reduce the three layers into a single layer. This can be restricting when it comes re-editing the composition, as the original layers are merged.
8 Smart objects
Another method is to unlock the background layer, then Shift-click on all layers and go to Layer>Smart Objects>Convert to Smart Object. This method will reduce them all to one layer.