A Definitive Guide Through Image Overlay Blend Modes

Image and video overlay modes are used every day in many videos, professional and amateur, but also on Instagram, Facebook, and many other platforms. Using overlays is pretty simple, you put it on top of a background and it’s done! There are always ways to improve the outcome though – today, we will show you how to do so with just a few clicks, using an overlay blend mode. You could use the overlays we presented you with a few months ago, in our Free Horror Video Overlays article, or scroll down and download brand new Free Overlays that we used in this tutorial article .

Overlay Blend Modes Guide Cover Image

You could also use some of our Free Background Video Loops and get creative! Sometimes, zooming in or just changing the blend mode can make an overlay out of a different kind of footage. Let’s start presenting these image blend modes!

sunglasses sunset holding free image
Visit unsplash.com if you need free backgrounds to practice overlay blend modes on 🙂

Basic: Source Alpha Blend Mode

Source Alpha image blend mode is also the default mode of every video you put. It is not used very often with these overlays. However, if you want to use an overlay as a background, this is exactly what you need! In other words, source alpha just puts whichever layer you put on top as a priority.  It will show this layer over others with other blend modes.

Source Alpha Blend Mode rainbow Sparks overlay

Extra Tip: You should use this blend mode for your base footage – experimenting with overlays with different blend modes over it may result in cool visual effects!

Add & Subtract Blend Mode

Simply put, add just “adds” your overlay to the base image, and ends up usually lightening it in the parts that the overlay itself is bright at. In our example, you can see the Film Scratch overlay (Scroll down for the download link) that was added over the base image. The scratches are now white, and they apply as an overlay to this image.

Subtract is basically the very opposite. It applies the overlay in a way that it subtracts the bright elements – it would make the white scratches appear black!

Add Blend Mode Vegas Pro 14

Extra Tip: Add can be used for fast double exposure for some scenes – “Add” some bright scenes over dark ones and see the magic happen!

Multiply/Mask Blend Mode

This overlay mode allows you to create easy masks using overlays. In our example you can see how we created a mask using an overlay called Interlocking Bars, that you can download at the bottom of this page!

Mask Overlay Multiply Interlocking Bars

Extra Tip: You can use this method to create masks in Vegas Pro – just make sure the scene is bright/dark enough!

Screen Blend Mode

Screen is one of the most useful, and also most common ways to use overlays. It places the overlay on top of the background and blends with it as if it was a screen.

Screen Overlay Blend Mode Couple Beach

Overlay Blend Mode

This mode blends the overlay with the background footage, and is the default overlay mode. Use this when you are unsure of what to use – in case exposure is too high, you can always switch to Screen!

Overlay Mode Colorful Background

Extra Tip: This mode creates a lot of contrast, so be careful when using it on overly-exposed scenes.

Hard Light Blend Mode

As the name suggests, with this mode you put the layer under hard light. Usually, this mode will make the image very dark and contrasted, as you can see in the example in which we used Rainbow Sparks overlay. You can download it below, with the other ones!

Hard Light Overlay Blend Mode Sparks

Extra Tip: While rarely used, this blend mode is sometimes a spot on. For example, when you want to create backgrounds that resemble space, just like in our GIF above!

Darken/Lighten Blend Modes

This simple mode allows you to place the overlay layer on top of the background in order to darken it, or lighten it. In our example we used “Lighten“, and created a white effect, using the same Interlocking Bars overlay that we used in Mask/Multiply section.

Lighten blend mode preview vegas 14

Extra Tip: Be creative with overlays. They can be used in many different ways, and changing blend modes can change a lot: turn an overlay into a transition with Lighten, for example.

Dodge & Burn Blend Modes

These two “aggressive” blend modes, that sometimes sacrifice footage quality, give us a lot in return. They can create really pretty colors, just look at the gifs below!

dodge blend mode vegas pro 14

Extra Tip: Dodge blend mode is often used with text – try it yourself, and see how to get beautiful see-through text with just one click!

burn blend mode dark colorful red

Extra Tip: Though being very situational, both of these modes work pretty well on low-contrast backgrounds. Try them all though, and pick!

Difference/Difference Squared Blend Modes

Difference is probably the least used mode here – it basically inverts the scene colors. Below you can see two examples of this effect. In the first part of the GIF, once white scratches became dark, and in the second part, the Interlocking Bars overlay inverted the background. Experiment with this one, but be careful, as the invert effect is very strong and may sometimes disturb the viewers!

difference squared blend mode invert

Extra Tip: You should consider using Difference/Difference Squared on the background instead of the overlay and get surprised.

overlay image blurred city lights
Even this image could be used as an overlay – try dodge, screen, or overlay blend mode!

Now that we presented you with all of the overlay modes, it is time we give out the Free Overlays!  Get creative and find imaginative ways to use them. They can all be used in more than one way, for sure. We showed you some of these ways – it’s your turn now! 🙂

Here are all of these overlays for you! Take them right here:

We hope you enjoyed learning about image overlay blend modes with us! Go ahead and try them right away! QuinceMedia is always there if you need any assistance, be it with overlay use on your newest video, or anything concerning 3D animation – we excel at that! Contact us using our Contact Form.

Have a nice day!

Djordje Komljenovic

Author Bio

Djordje Komljenovic is a professional 3d animation and motion graphics designer for over past 20 years. He is owner and creative director at Quince Creative agency. Previously, he was working-force of a few of major television stations in here Serbia - hired as motion graphics producer.

Free Stuff & More Every Week!

Related Stuff