Normally, when you create a new layer in Pixlr Pro, it covers the one below. But did you know that it’s just one of many ways for the layers to interact with each other? In this quick guide, I’ll show you how to control what happens to the layer below by changing the Blend Mode of the upper layer.

There are 26 blend modes in Pixlr Pro, divided into 6 groups:

NORMALDARKENINGLIGHTENINGCONTRASTCOMPARATIVECOMPOSITE
Normal
Darken
LightenOverlayDifferenceHue
DissolveMultiplyScreenSoft LightExclusionSaturation
Color BurnColor DodgeHard LightSubtractColor
Linear BurnLinear DodgeVivid LightDivideLuminosity
Darker ColorLighter ColorLinear Light
Hard Mix

You can change the Blend Mode anytime by opening the pop-up list and selecting an option. Blend Modes are non-destructive, which means they don’t modify the layer, just the way it looks.

To see how different Blend Modes work, it’s the best to compare them to a layer in Normal mode. Here Layer 1 is a photo that will be affected by the Layer 2. Layer 2 includes shades of gray and various hues, to show how each Blend Mode uses them.

I’ve also prepared a special grid on top that will stay in Normal mode all the time, showing the original shades and hues regardless of what happens below.

All clear? Let’s get started!

Dissolve

Normally, when you change the Opacity of the upper layer, the lower layer gets mixed with it in a soft, subtle way. Dissolve doesn’t use this softness—instead it removes pixels from the upper layer to show some of the lower one. The lower the Opacity, the more pixels it removes.

Darken/Lighten

This mode compares the brightness of each pixel in both layers, showing only the darker (Darken) or lighter one (Lighten). If the pixel has color channels, each channel is compared individually, which leads to a softer result.

Multiply/Screen

This is a similar darkening/lightening mode, except the algorithm used here leads to more gradual results. Instead of being replaced, the pixels of the lower layer are getting darkened/brightened by the value of the upper one.  

Color Burn/Color Dodge

This mode compares the brightness of each pair of overlapping pixels, and it increases the contrast between them by darkening the darker one (Color Burn) or lightening the lighter one (Color Dodge). The higher the initial contrast, the more extreme the result.

Linear Burn/Linear Dodge

This mode darkens (Linear Burn) or brightens (Linear Dodge) each pixel to be as dark/bright the pixel it’s overlapped by.

Darker Color/Lighter Color

This mode works just like a rougher version of Darken/Lighten—it doesn’t care about channels and compares the pixels as a whole, giving a more binary effect.

Overlay

This mode is a mix of Multiply and Screen—if the upper pixel is darker than 50% gray, it darkens the lower pixel. If it’s brighter, it brightens it.

Soft Light

This mode works like a subtler version of Overlay—the same rule, just less darkening and lightening.

Hard Light

This mode works like Overlay, except it’s harsher—the darkening/lightening is less transparent.

Vivid Light

This mode increases the contrast of the pixels if the upper one is darker than 50%, and decreases it if it’s brighter than 50% gray.

Linear Light

This mode works in a similar way to Vivid Light, except it affects brightness, not contrast. If the upper layer is brighter than 50% gray, the pixels below gets brightened and vice versa.

Hard Mix

This mode mixes the channels of both layers, effectively turning all colors to primary and secondary hues (plus black and white).

Difference

This mode compares the pixels to see which one is brighter, and then subtracts the darker one from the brighter, so the end result is the difference between them.

Exclusion

This mode works just like Difference, except it yields lower contrast.

Subtract

This mode subtracts the upper color from the lower one. If the upper one is brighter, this leads to black.

Divide

In this mode the colors from the upper layer get divided from the lower one. The brighter the color, the more extreme the result.

Hue

This mode uses the value and saturation of the lower layer, mixing it with the hue of the upper one.

Saturation

This mode uses value and hue of the lower layer, mixing it with the saturation of the upper one.

Color

This mode uses the value of the lower layer and mixes it with the hue and saturation of the upper one.

Luminosity

This mode is opposite to the Color mode—it uses the hue and saturation of the lower layer, and mixes it with the value of the upper one.

Now you know what Blend Modes are and how to use them in Pixlr Pro.