Opacity and blending modes

About opacity and blending options in layers

A layer’s opacity determines the degree to which it obscures or reveals the layer beneath it. A layer with 1% opacity is nearly transparent, while a layer with 100% opacity is opaque. Transparent areas remain transparent regardless of the opacity setting.

You use layer blending modes to determine how a layer blends with the pixels in layers beneath it. Using blending modes, you can create various special effects.

A layer’s opacity and blending mode interact with the opacity and blending mode of painting tools. For example, a layer uses Dissolve mode at 50% opacity. You paint on this layer with the Paintbrush tool set to Normal mode at 100% opacity. The paint appears in Dissolve mode at 50% opacity. Similarly, if a layer uses Normal mode at 100% opacity, and you use the Eraser tool at 50% opacity, only 50% of the paint disappears from the layer as you erase.

Blending layers

A. Bamboo layer and Borders layer B. Bamboo layer with 100% opacity and Color Burn mode C. Bamboo layer with 50% opacity and Color Burn mode 

Specify the opacity of a layer

  1. Select the layer in the Layers panel.
  2. In the Layers panel, enter a value between 0 and 100 for Opacity, or click the arrow at the right of the Opacity box and drag the Opacity slider that appears.

Specify a blending mode for a layer

  1. Select a layer that you have added, in the Layers panel.
  2. Choose an option from the Blending Mode menu.

    (Windows) Immediately after you choose a blending mode, you can press the up or down arrows on your keyboard to try other blending mode options in the menu.

Select all opaque areas in a layer

You can quickly select all the opaque areas in a layer. This procedure is useful when you want to exclude transparent areas from a selection.

  1. In the Layers panel, Ctrl-click (Command-click in Mac OS) the layer thumbnail:
  2. To add the pixels to an existing selection, press Ctrl+Shift (Command+Shift in Mac OS) and click the layer thumbnail in the Layers panel.
  3. To remove the pixels from an existing selection, press Ctrl+Alt (Command+Option in Mac OS) and click the layer thumbnail in the Layers panel.
  4. To load the intersection of the pixels and an existing selection, press Ctrl+Alt+Shift (Command+Option+Shift in Mac OS) and click the layer thumbnail in the Layers panel.

Customize the transparency grid

The checkerboard grid identifies transparency in a layer. You can change the appearance of this grid; however, do not change it to solid white because you’ll eliminate the visual distinction between opaque (white) and transparent (checkerboard).

  1. In Windows, choose Edit > Preferences > Transparency. In Mac, choose Photoshop Elements > Preferences > Transparency.
  2. Choose a pattern size from the Grid Size menu.
  3. Choose a pattern color from the Grid Colors menu. To choose a custom color instead, click one of the two boxes below the Grid Colors menu and select a color from the Color Picker.
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