How to Change the Mood of Your Photos: Use Layers and Blending Options

Have you ever wondered how you can change the mood of your photos without having to go through a tedious workflow? Sometimes the tutorials are so long that I get lost along the way.

I know I have gotten lost several times trying to follow these tutorials. I have gone through the long route just to be able to achieve a certain mood in my photos.

I usually do the standard changes in levels, curves, dodge, burn, and all sorts of photo manipulations. Well, these are great to use especially if what you want to achieve are subtle changes in your photos. However, if you want to make some more obvious change in mood, I discovered that there is an easier way, a way that will not make you lose your way at all. And this is what I am going to share with you in this photo essay and photo gallery. I guarantee, you will enjoy using this in many of your photos.

my original photo with dark background
my original photo with dark background

What software to use

I used Photoshop CS3 for doing these changes but you can use other software as long as they have layers and blending options. I am assuming here that you are at least familiar with some of the basics of using Photoshop.

For this tutorial, I will use the photo to the right. I love this photo because it is dramatic. However, I want to show how far I can change its mood by using layers and blending options. I can change the drama and make it funky or serene or some other different mood.

First Things First

First thing I need to do so I can use this photo for blending, is to change its background to something lighter. It's hard to blend if the background of the photo is dark.

To change the background of the photo, I just opened my photo in Photoshop, then clicked the foreground color icon and changed it to a light color. Then I clicked on the "paint bucket tool" and put my cursor on my photo's background, clicked it, and voila, I get this new photo background now! Isn't it neat?

photo with light background "background layer"
photo with light background "background layer"

Now we can begin this mood change tutorial. If you are using a photo with a light background, then you can of course skip that section above.

How to Use Layers and Blending Options

  • First thing to do is, open a photo that you would like to transform.
  • Then open another photo that you would like to blend with the first photo.
  • With your second photo open, click on "select" "all" on the tool bar.
  • Click on "edit", "copy"
  • Next, go to your 1st photo, click on "edit", "paste".

Now you have two layers. Your first photo should be your "background" photo and your second photo will be your "layer 1" photo.

grass photo for blending "layer 1"
grass photo for blending "layer 1"

Now the fun begins after you have the two photos in layers.

  • Right click on layer 1 (the grass photo here) and then click on "blending options". This will bring you to various blend modes starting with "normal"
  • Use the slider and change the opacity of "normal" and you will notice that your first image or "background" will start appearing. Stop sliding when you find the opacity that looks right to you. Now you have blended your two photos and they look totally different.

Isn't this cool?

The result of blending the two photos using "normal" blending mode and reduced opacity
The result of blending the two photos using "normal" blending mode and reduced opacity
  • Save this newly blended photo under a different file name once you are happy with it.
  • Now try the other blend modes. Check what happens if you use "dissolve" or "colordodge" or "overlay", etc. I'm sure you will discover some mood that you will like your photo to display.
  • Check out what happened to my photo as I applied this simple technique of just changing the blending modes.

"Dissolve" blending mode gives the photo a grainy appearance
"Dissolve" blending mode gives the photo a grainy appearance
"colordodge" blending mode gives the photo a washed out effect
"colordodge" blending mode gives the photo a washed out effect
"Difference" blending mode gives the photo a totally different color and look
"Difference" blending mode gives the photo a totally different color and look
using "hardlight" blending mode creates this cool effect
using "hardlight" blending mode creates this cool effect
"overlay" blending mode makes the photo more serene
"overlay" blending mode makes the photo more serene
"screen" blending mode creates a watercolor like painting effect
"screen" blending mode creates a watercolor like painting effect

So, isn't this exciting? These are just a few examples of what you can do with just blending two layers of photos and changing the blending mode. The possibilities of creating new mood, new artwork are endless. All it takes is just a few clicks and your creativity.

So why don't you go ahead and play around with your photos. You will never know what you will come up with.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and take a look at my other tutorials.

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Comments 30 comments

ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

This is awesome. I would love to learn more! :D


raakachi profile image

raakachi 5 years ago from Madurai / Tamilnadu / India

Fine! useful tips you have given. I am also using photoshop cs5,which is good for superb blending.


Green Lotus profile image

Green Lotus 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

OMG! I have been suffering with the polygon tool for ages to achieve what you have demonstrated in a few simple steps. If I could rate this higher than Up, useful and awesome I would!! Thanks and bookmarked.


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 5 years ago from India

Jill - you've done it again! You make everything sound so simple and easy! Thanks for the useful tips - now if only I had your eye for the artistic :)


France Travel Inf profile image

France Travel Inf 5 years ago

Great tutorial! I can't wait to get home and give it a try. I have an older version of photoshop so I hope I can at least do some of this!! Thanks!


mega1 profile image

mega1 5 years ago

thanks a lot! I couldn't follow your steps exactly becuz I use PhotoImpact Pro - but you gave me some great ideas! great hub


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Michele,

Thanks so much for being the first to visit and leave a wonderful comment! Sure, I'll try to publish more photo tutorials.

God bless!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Raakachi,

Thanks very much!

Actually, I learned to do blends just this year and I enjoy playing around with my photos.

God bless!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Green Lotus,

It's so nice to see you! Your comment makes me very happy! Thank you very much!

I just discovered the power of blending this year and I am really having fun creating all sorts of images. I'm happy that you found this useful. Have fun!

God bless!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Shalini,

You always say the nicest things! Thank you very much!

You are so artistic yourself, I'm sure you will be able to use this easily and come up with beautiful images.

God bless!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi France Travel Inf,

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a heartwarming comment. I'm happy that you are excited about trying this. It's just so easy. Email me if you have any difficulty and I'll be glad to help. However, it's really so easy. I'm sure layers and blending is found in older versions of Photoshop.

I'm eager to see what you will come up with. Good luck and enjoy!

God bless!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Mega1,

Thanks for visiting and leaving a beautiful comment.

I'm sorry I am not familiar with PhotoImpact Pro. However, it probably has a blend mode, so you can experiment. Once you have created the layers, it will be easy to experiment with blending. I hope I have been of help. Good luck!

God bless!


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

Hi jill of alltrades,

Thank you so much for sharing this one and I cannot wait to try it out.

I vote up/useful/interesting/up here.

Take care and have a great day.

Eiddwen.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Eiddwen,

It's great to see you again!

Go go go, try it! It's really fun and easy! Once you get the hang of it, I'm sure you cannot stop creating more art works!

Thanks so much for your lovely comment and for the vote up and useful/interesting! I really appreciate it!

Have a great weekend!

God bless!


Lolit 5 years ago

Great tutorial Baby... I miss your hubs and miss writing hubs as well... I must get hubbing again... Well done , awesome pics and lovely edits. I'd be following the next one :)


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain

Great Tutorial I have RT it rated it up and hit useful and interesting. I learned something and this hub was an enjoyable read thank you :)


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Lolit,

It's great to see you!

Thank you so much! Well, I have not been as active in HP as before either. In fact, this is my first hub after I celebrated my 2nd anniversary last May. Anyway, I'm happy to be back and happy to see old and new friends again!

God bless!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Maggs,

It's great to see you here!

Thank you so much for the beautiful comment and the RT, and rate up and useful and interesting. Wow! I really appreciate that!!!

I'm happy that you enjoyed this and learned something too. It's always my pleasure to share whatever I know about the things I enjoy about photography.

God bless you!


sofs profile image

sofs 5 years ago

Hi Jill of alltrades, this is one amazing tutorial and I am bookmarking it for future use.. thanks for sharing this. Voting it up and interesting :)


snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 5 years ago from Canada

I love how you presented this Jill of alltrades, I cannot wait to try this using your easy to follow guide. Your photo of the Montbretia flower is really lovely. I enjoyed seeing the changes you made throughout. I think I am starting to "Get it". Thanks to you! Regards, snakeslane


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Sofs,

What a lovely comment! I'm happy and honored that you are bookmarking it. Do try it soon, it's really easy and fun!

Thank you so much for the up and interesting votes!

God bless!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Snakeslane,

Aw, your comment makes me so happy! Do try it, it's easy and lots of fun!

Thank you very much for your visit and inspiring comment!

God bless!


coffeesnob 5 years ago

I am always amazed at what can be done with photo shop. YOU make it look so easy. As usual great work

Carol


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Carol,

It's so nice to see you!

Thank you very much for always being here for me. I have not been as active in HP lately. The challenge of the Patron of the Arts contest lured me back. Hahaha! So it's so good to reconnect with friends once again!

God bless!


coffeesnob 5 years ago

Jill, Looking for the love button, God bless you and keep you


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Carol,

It's so nice to see you back!

Hahaha, a love button would be great!

Thanks so much my friend!

God bless!


SanneL profile image

SanneL 5 years ago from Sweden

I learned so much from this hub! It make such a difference when someone explains it in such a straightforward and easy to follow tutorial.

I will bookmark for future use. Voted up!

Thank you so much!!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello SanneL,

Wow! What a beautiful thing to say! Thank you so much! I am so happy that you learned something from here! Please tell me once you have made your own layers and blends.

Thanks very much for the vote up!

God bless!


Sherry Hewins profile image

Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

What a useful hub. I especially like the hardlight and overlay modes. Thanks so much for explaining this.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 4 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Sherry,

It's so nice to see you here! I'm happy that you found this useful. I do hope you try it. It's really easy and fun!!!

God bless!

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