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 grayscale 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.

using overlay painting in photoshop

using overlay painting in photoshop

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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 tutorial using 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

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

Here is a black and white version before overlay

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

Photoshop painting tutorial overlay mode

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About The Author
- 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. Business Inquiry please e-mail me.


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