• Behind and Clear Modes in Photoshop and PSE

    One of the most useful and versatile tools in the Photoshop/PSE family is the Brush tool. Brushes can be used to add interest to your digital project and create stunning visual effects. With more than 3000 brush sets to choose from at Designer Digitals, finding ways to use them in new and different ways is worth a look.

    In this series of tips, we are exploring brush options that can help expand your design possibilities. In this tip, we'll look at two brush-specific blending options: the Behind Mode and the Clear Mode.

    When you are using a brush, one of the tool options allows you to select a blending mode as you stamp with the brush. All of the usual blending modes are available but there are two extras.

    To find the brush blend modes, begin by loading an ABR brush file into your software. For the sample, I used Artsy Christmas Trees Brushes and Stamps No. 2.

    • Open a digital document.
    • Get the Brush tool and click the Foreground Color Chip at the bottom of the Tools Panel to select a color. This will be the color that the brush will stamp on your document.
    • With the brush tool selected, locate the tool options. In Photoshop, the options will be across the top of the editing window. In Elements, the tool options are at the bottom of the screen. Find the Mode: drop-down. By default, the blending mode is set to Normal. For the first stamp, leave it set to the default.
    • Next, create a new layer by clicking the Create a New Layer icon in the Layers panel. You'll stamp the brush onto this new layer. Select a brush from the Brush Picker in the Options bar. Click once on the document to stamp the first image.
    • Next, click the Foreground Color Chip at the bottom of the Tools Panel to select a different color. Change the blending mode of the brush to Behind.
    • Position the brush overlapping the first image you stamped and click again. You'll notice that the Behind mode applies the color only on the transparent pixels causing the new image to look like it is sitting behind the first image. This is a super quick and easy way to get a layered look with brushes.
    • Now let's look at the Clear brush mode. For the sample, I chose a grunge brush from Katie Pertiet's Defining Grunge Brushes and Stamps No. 1. Change the blend mode of the brush to Clear. This mode causes the brush to function somewhat like an eraser.
    • Position the cursor over the two previously stamped images and click. Using the Clear mode removes the opaque pixels making them transparent and allowing the background to show through. This is a super quick way to create a grunge texture or give a subtle pattern to a stamped image. The Clear mode is especially fun to use over layered paper, allowing a patterned paper to peek through.


    The remaining blend modes function in the same way as the blending modes in the Layers panel. Stamp directly onto textured or patterned paper to experiment with the way the blending modes change the look of the stamp.