Adobe design applications like Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign allow for a great deal of crossover when working on design projects. Each one has its primary function; Photoshop, for example, is primarily for photo editing, but its secondary functions overlap the primary function of other applications. Therefore, designers use the programs interchangeably for projects involving graphic design or animation, to name a few.
Illustrator does have blending modes similar to Photoshop, and you will find that Illustrator has a lot of the same functions as Photoshop. The primary difference between the two applications is that Photoshop is raster-based, while Illustrator is vector-based.
Let’s look at how we can find blending modes in Illustrator and exactly which ones overlap and which might be missing in either application. We’ll also take a look at the functions of the blending modes in Illustrator.
The way blending modes work in Illustrator allows you to vary how the colors blend between two overlapping objects. When you add a blending mode, the effect of that mode is visible on any object that is beneath the layer or group. You can think of it in terms of blend color, base color, and resulting color for visualization.
To find blending modes in Illustrator, follow these easy steps (with content selected):
- Open “Opacity” in the “Properties” menu (right-side)
- Select “Transparency”
- Select “Normal” to open the “Blending Modes” drop-down menu
Illustrator has sixteen blending modes versus Photoshop, which gives access to twenty-nine blending modes.
6 Blending Modes Found in Illustrator
All sixteen of the blending modes on Illustrator can be found in Photoshop. Blending modes work a little differently in Photoshop as they affect the pixels in an image, but the principle is the same and should yield the same result. If the results vary, check the image and ensure it is not in CMYK, as the colors don’t blend the same as RGB or LAB— which is what Photoshop uses.
Normal is the default mode, and it functions by painting the selection with the blend color without affecting the base color. Since normal is the default, you don’t need to change the blending mode in order to use it.
Darken selects the resulting color based on whichever is darker—the base color or the blend color. Anything lighter than the blend color is replaced, but areas darker than the blend color are left unchanged.
Lighten selects the resulting color based on whichever is lighter— the base color or the blend color. Anything darker than the blend color is replaced, but areas lighter than the blend color are left unchanged.
2. Color Burn/Color Dodge
When using color burn, the base color is darkened to resemble the blend color. If the blend color is white, there is no change to the base color. With color dodge, the base color is brightened to resemble the base color. If the blend color is black, there is no change to the base color.
In the screen mode, the inverse of the base and blend colors are multiplied, always resulting in a lighter color. For example, screening with white will result in white, and screening with black results in no change.
With multiply mode, the base color is multiplied by the blend color, always resulting in a darker color. For example, any color multiplied by black will result in black, and multiplying with white results in no change.
Overlay is a sort of combination of multiply and screen. Depending on the base color, it can multiply or screen the colors. Colors and patterns lay over the image. The base color preserves highlight and shadows while the blend color reflects the darkness or lightness of the original color.
4. Soft Light/Hard Light
Soft light functions depending on the blend color, it may darken or lighten the colors— like shining a diffused light on the image.
If the blend color is lighter than 50% grey, it’s lightened (Dodged). If it’s darker than 50% grey, it’s darkened (Burned). Using black or white will result in a darker or lighter color only.
Hard light functions depending on the blend color, it multiplies or screens the colors— like shining a harsh light on the image.
If the blend color is lighter than 50% grey, it’s lightened (Screened) and great for highlights. If it’s darker than 50% grey, it’s darkened (Multiplied) and great for shadows. Using black or white will result in pure black or pure white.
Depending on which has the greater value in brightness, it subtracts the blend color from the base color or vice versa. White inverts the values of the base color, while black produces no change.
Exclusion mode is lower in contrast to the “Difference” mode but is similar in effect. White creates an inversion of base color elements, while black produces no change.
All of these modes are a variation on one another. Hue combines the luminance and saturation of the base color with the hue of the blend color. Saturation combines the luminance and hue of the base color with the saturation of the blend color. Areas with no saturation will be left unchanged.
Color combines the luminance of the base color with the saturation and hue of the blend color. It is best for tinting colorwork and coloring monochrome work, as it preserves gray levels. Luminosity Combines the hue and saturation of the base color with the luminance of the blend color— creating an inverse effect to the “Color” mode.
Photoshop, the raster-based design application, offers more variety with blending modes than its counterpart, Illustrator. Altogether Photoshop has twenty-nine blending modes, thirteen more than Illustrator.
Here are the additional blending modes that Photoshop offers its users:
- Linear Burn
- Linear Dodge
- Vivid Light
- Linear Light
- Pin Light
- Hard Mix
- Lighter Color
- Darker Color
If there is a blending mode you would like that Illustrator doesn’t have, you can open your image in Photoshop and use it there. Remember that Photoshop will save your work as a raster image. You can also try a website like Placeit.net—which already has templates for any kind of design project.
Overall, Illustrator has a decent amount of the same blending modes you will find in Photoshop. If there is a blending mode you prefer to use that is not found in Illustrator, you always have the option of opening your image in Photoshop and using it there.