Blending Modes for Photoshop Shapes Tutorial, how to use the vector layers with darken / difference etc > Photoshop shapes and blending modes such as difference and darken etc tutorial

Custom shapes and Photoshop ® Blending modes

As layer

Tutorial by: Andrew Buckle

Works with: Photoshop, Elements

Other tutorials: Tutorial links

Videos: Video tutorials

Select the CSH tool and set the option to 'layer' and then add the layer with the current design (or select another). You can then go to the layer panel and select the blending mode as well as the opacity - set them to darken and difference and the result will modify how the artwork interacts with the underlying layer. You can modify this at any point as well as change the color and the stroke of the vector. You can repeat this with new vectors to build all kinds of images. Some modes are better than others and work well with some color, with other colors you will see no change at all such as trying to use the lighter color with a light image. Below you can see the same vector (splat frame) added over and over as layers and with blend including difference and darken and lighten and so on. (the original source artwork can be found in the Photoshop shapes collection)


edges covering difference


As Pixels

You can do the same as above with the pixel option for the vector CSH artworks but the big difference is that you have to change the mode each and every time you add the artwork and the results is destructive so you can only undo to change the result. Once advantage of the pixel mode is that you can use the fade to retrospectively change the mode. The image below uses saturation mode to combine a face shape with a Poser Pro 11 rendered desert scene (using the new Superfly render). You can use them to create all kinds of unusual color effects in PS as well as use them for more practical reasons


face in the desert


Modes available





color burn

linear burn

darker color



color dodge

linear dodge (add)

lighter color


soft light

hard light

vivid light

linear light

pin light

hard mix