Photoshop painting tutorial overlay mode

Photoshop painting tutorial overlay mode with your digital painting. Overlay mode is probably one the few most useful tools in Photoshop for digital painters and artists. It is also one of the easiest one that can easily be very difficult to understand. In this post, I am just going to cover on just using gray scale or black and white range to paint to avoid further confusion. I will try to cover painting in color in the next post. Here are what you need to know.

1) What is “Overlay” blending mode? Here is from Official Photoshop: “Multiplies or screens the colors, depending on the base color. Patterns or colors overlay the existing pixels while preserving the highlights and shadows of the base color. The base color is not replaced but is mixed with the blend color to reflect the lightness or darkness of the original color.” Try to read multiple times, then you might just get it.

2) What and when do I use overlay most? The meaning that official Adobe Photoshop gave above might confuse the hell out of most people. So I am going to just narrow it down for just digital painting purpose. There are two major ways I use overlay for. First, I use it to find value ranges in the drafting or sketching state, after drawing. And at this point, I only paint it in gray-scale (black, white). Second, I use it mostly to establish the color scheme of my painting.

3) What does overlay mode do when painting in gray-scale. If you use white to 60% brightness, it will make your painting lighter. It will be almost just like when you are using screen blend mode. When you use black to 40% brightness, it will darken your image. Again, just like when you are using multiply. This method works on both gray-scale background or any value. Also any color base background. One thing you should be aware of is that if you are using gray-scale at the 50% range to paint, it will barely change your value at all. (include +5% and -5% range) See image below for visual reference.

photoshop tips using overlay Photoshop painting tutorial overlay mode

Photoshop tutorial using overlay mode

Above image was painted over with default round using 80% opacity
4) Overlay blending mode can be found on Layers window when you make a new layer. And you can also find it the brush mode in the little scroll down box right below the main menu.

5) As a painter, do not always rely on “Overlay”. Below is a valuable quote from master painter, Craig Mullins, “/random thought/-if you guys are doing speedies for improvement as painters, lay off the color dodge and overlay. Or, paint it like that if that is the way you want it, like Rembrandt. You might say you have seen a lot of that in my work, and yes, a while ago I did do a lot of it. Not for a while. I even used a lensflare or 2 in 94. Not since it was widely abused. I think the leaf brush is going the same way. If it is easy and effective, it will be abused and become commonplace. But that is for learning I think For getting a real job done quickly and well, anything goes–feel free to disagree! /end random thought/ ”

Continue to Photoshop tutorial Overlay mode part 2

free e book mini Photoshop painting tutorial overlay mode

Here are some step by step I did from Mono to color.

yang guo sketch Photoshop painting tutorial overlay mode

Here is a black and white version before overlay

return of condor heroes 2013 Photoshop painting tutorial overlay mode

Here is the one after I use overlay and paint over the image.

More tutorials you might be interested in
-Value exercise for artists three cubes
-Color vs value compare for artists
-Composition rule of the third

PinExt Photoshop painting tutorial overlay modetumblr Photoshop painting tutorial overlay mode

About Xia Taptara

Xia Taptara (黃曉聲 Huang XiaoShēng), currently a freelance concept artist for games and films, formerly a character concept artist for ArenaNet/NCsoft (GuildWars & Guildwars 2). I also work on various projects for Game of Thrones, Square-Enix, Paizo Publishing, Fantasy Fight Games, Disney Interactive, and many publishers & clients. I use Wacom Tablet Intuos and Photoshop CS2,3,4,5 to do most of my professional art work. I use pencil, pen, and traditional medium in my free time. I founded ( in 2007 to motivate myself to create more and better art. Also I get to draw and paint whatever the hell I want to. Hopefully I can inspired some young soul and old soul alike. *QUESTIONS & COMMENT: PLEASE POST THEM ON THE BLOG. Or CONTACT ME via idrawgirls Facebook page. DO NOT E-MAIL ME. Thank you. ;-)
This entry was posted in Tips and techniques and tagged Overlay mode. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Clipping Path

    I didn’t know much about overlay Mode but thanks that now i get the basic from your tutorial.

  • Photo Retouching

    Very artistic photo.Thanks.

  • Blog Freakz

    Really artistic tutorials I’ve learned a lot from your tutorials

  • Xia Taptara


  • Cartoon coloring

    Good to become browsing your weblog once more, it has been months for me. Well this article that i’ve been waited for so lengthy. I need this post to total my assignment inside the university, and it has exact same subject together with your post. Thanks, excellent share.

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  • advanced photoshop tutorials

    Really smart tutorials i have come across.Now i am going to practice same!!

  • Xia Taptara

    No problem

  • Jear

    So I was really doing things differently, I don’t change my blending mode from normal to overlay that’s why my works look like drawn in pastel… Thanks for this very useful tip!

  • Xia Taptara

    No problem, but overlay isn’t going to solve painting problem. Painting is still about shapes, values and edges. Overlay is just one little tool to help get things done a bit faster and easier.
    I still paint mostly in normal layer. :-)

  • Taka

    You’ve just inspired a young soul, thank you mr. Huang XiaoShēng the book and the tutorials are superb, starting today I’ll be drawing beautiful mountains, clouds and landscapes in general, thank you !