One of the most powerful aspects of Adobe Photoshop is its ability to combine images to form imaginative composites.
Create a textured look with blend modes.
Layer Blend Modes are a quick way to blend 2 images together. One of the many situations in which Blend Modes are useful is to add a textured look to an image. To start, open this photograph from the downloadable practice files for this tutorial or a photo of your own. The first step is to add another image, an image of a texture. go to the File menu, and choose Place Embedded... Navigate to an image of a texture. Like this one from the practice files for this tutorial. And click Place. This is just a photo that I snapped of a wall. It's a good idea to capture images like this when you happen to see them, so that you have a collection of textures to work with in Photoshop. To finish placing the texture image, I'll go up to the Options bar and click the Checkmark. Take a look at the Layers panel. Because we use the Place Embedded method of adding an image, Photoshop automatically made a new layer for the textured photo. Make sure that new Texture2 layer is selected, and then to apply a layer Blend Mode, go to this drop-down menu at the top of the Layers panel. Here you'll find a list of many Blend Modes to choose from. Each Blend Mode is a different formula for blending the colors on the selected layer with the colors on any layers below. The results depend on the images you're using. So rather than try to predict what will happen if you choose a particular Blend Mode, the easiest thing to do is just try them out on the images you are using. One way to do that is to just click on a Blend Mode in this menu to apply it. For example, we could click on the Overlay Blend Mode to see how it looks on this image. Photoshop is just blending the colors and tones in the Texture2 layer with those on the Background layer just below. Or we could try another one. Let's try Soft Light, which is similar to Overlay but more subtle. And you could go through clicking each Blend Mode in the Blend Mode menu, to test it out on your image combo. But here's a bonus tip: there's a quicker way to try out different Blend Modes and that's to cycle through them using this shortcut. Go to the Tools panel, and select the Move tool. Then hold down the Shift key as you press the plus key which is at the top of your keyboard. And each time you press and release the plus key, the next Blend Mode down in the menu is applied. And if you look at the Layers panel, you'll see the names on the layer Blend Mode changing as I do this. And if you want to move the other way up the menu, hold the Shift key and press the minus key on your keyboard. On this pair of images, I liked the look of the Overlay Blend Mode. So, I'll go back to the Blend Mode menu, and I'll choose Overlay. If the result is too strong for your taste, you can lower the opacity of the texture layer, using the Opacity slider, which is just to the right of the Blend Mode menu. With the Texture2 layer still selected in the Layers panel, I'll drag the Opacity slider to the left, by hovering over its name and dragging. When you're happy with the blended result, go to the File menu, choose Save As..., and be sure to save your working file in the Photoshop or PSD format. Adding texture to a photo isn't the only thing the Blend Modes are useful for. Layer Blend Modes are also a simple way to blend the content of any 2 images together. To practice that, let's go up to the File menu, choose Open..., and navigate to another photo from the practice files. This one of some tangled yarn. I'll click Open, and then I'll add another photo to this one, by going to the File menu, choosing Place Embedded..., navigating to a second photo, like this one from the practice files, and then I'll click Place. And then I'll go up to the Options bar and click the Checkmark. Let's apply a layer Blend Mode to the top layer. With the Move tool still selected in the Tools panel, I'll go up to the layer Blend Mode menu, and I'll try choosing an option from here, or as I already showed you, you can hold down the Shift key and click the plus key on the keyboard, to cycle through different Blend Modes to get a different look with every Blend Mode. I liked Lighten Blend Mode on this pair of images, so I'll go back to the Blend Mode menu and I'll choose Lighten. You can get some really interesting blends of content on multiple images this way. So, practice with some layer Blend Modes on images of your own. In the next video, you'll learn about another way to blend images together and that's using a layer mask. So, stay tuned.
What you learned: To add texture to an image
- Start with two layers. The image with the texture you want to add should be on the top layer and the main image should be the bottom layer.
- In the Layers panel, make sure the top layer (texture) is selected.
- At the top left of the Layers panel, change the blend mode in the drop-down menu from Normal to Overlay. This changes the way the colors in the texture layer interact with the colors on the layer below. Try out some other blend modes to find the one that looks best with your images.
- At the top of the Layers panel, experiment with decreasing the Opacity slider to change the look of the texture on the image.
Use a layer mask to add an object to an image.
One of the most magical things you can do in Photoshop, is to combine multiple objects to make what's called a composite. To follow along, open this image from the practice files which is a photo of a sculptor's hand. To add in another photo of the sculptor's art, go up to the File menu and choose Place Embedded... Select this image and click Place. Then go up to the Options bar and click the Checkmark. In the Layers panel, that's created a new layer, that contains just the photo of the sculptor's artwork, which is a pencil on a wood background. What we need to do, is cut out or isolate the pencil from the wood. You might be tempted to do that by trying to erase the wood. But that method has a couple of downsides. To give it a try, go over to the Tools panel and select the Eraser tool. Then move into the image and click. And you get this message. Just click OK to dismiss that for now. And then go back to the image and drag to erase part of the wood. The downside of this is that if you were to save and close this image now, and then reopen it, all of the pixels you're erasing would be permanently deleted. So, if you're in a hurry, you may want to use the Eraser tool. But let me show you a more flexible editable method: a layer mask. To create a layer mask, go over to the Layers panel and make sure that the Object layer is selected. Then go down to the bottom of the Layers panel, and click this icon, that looks like a rectangle with a circle inside it. That adds this layer mask to the Object layer. At first, a layer mask is white, like this. And where a layer mask is white it shows everything on the layer to which it's attached. Everything on the Object layer. But let's see what happens if we add black paint to this layer mask. First, double check that the layer mask - not the image thumbnail - is selected. That it has this border around it. Then go over to the Tools panel. And select the Brush tool. Go down to the bottom of the Tools panel and make sure you have black as your foreground color. If you don't, press D on your keyboard. D is for Default Colors. And that sets the default colors of black as the foreground color and white as the background color. Move into the image. Press the right or left bracket keys to size your brush tip, and paint. The black paint on the layer mask hides the image on the object layer. If you paint too far and you paint over the pencil, go back to the Tools panel and click the bent arrow above the Color boxes. And that switches to white as the foreground color. And then go back to the image and paint with white, to show what's on the Object layer, to reveal the pencil again. Here's a little rhyme to help you remember that. When you add paint to a layer mask, black conceals and white reveals. Now go back to the Tools panel and switch to black paint again. And continue to paint on the layer mask hiding the wood switching to white paint, if you make any mistakes and paint over the pencil. To speed this up, I'll just show you how the image will look when you're done hiding the wood. Now don't worry about getting that edge perfect. It actually would take a lot of time to do it with a mouse or a trackpad particularly. The point is to understand how layer masks work. And in the next video, I'll show you another way to do this to get a sharper edge, that involves selecting an object and filling it with black, rather than painting with black and white. So now, let's finish this up by positioning and resizing the pencil. We'll go to the Edit menu and choose Free Transform. Hold down the Shift key, hover over one of the corners and then click, hold and drag in to make the pencil smaller. Then move outside of the corner and when your cursor changes to a curved double pointed arrow, click and drag to rotate the pencil. Then move inside the boundary and drag to position it wherever you want it in the image. And then go up to the Options bar and click the Checkmark. Now when you save this image, be sure to use the Save As... command. And save your working file in the Photoshop, - the PSD format - so that you retain the layers and this layer mask. Because you did use a layer mask to just hide the wood on the Object layer, rather than permanently erase it with the Eraser tool. The Object layer remains intact and you could come back any time, and fine-tune the layer mask with black or white paint, or even delete the layer mask by dragging it to the Trash icon down here, at the bottom of the Layers panel. And that editing flexibility is the real beauty of layer masking.
What you learned: To add an object to an image using a layer mask
- Start with two layers. The image with the object you want to add should be on the top layer
and the main image should be the bottom layer.
- In the Layers panel, make sure the top layer (object you want to add) is selected.
- At the bottom of the Layers panel, click the Add layer mask icon. This adds a white rectangle or thumbnail that is linked to your top layer. This white rectangle is the layer mask. The layer mask determines what part of the linked layer is visible and what part is hidden. White on the mask represents areas that are visible. Black on the mask represents areas that are hidden.
- In the Tools panel, select the Brush tool. With the mask selected (by clicking on the mask thumbnail in the Layers panel), paint with black or white to make areas of the linked layer hidden or visible.
Use a layer mask to replace one background with another.
Did you ever want to replace a blend or distracting image background? In this video, we'll do just that. And we'll learn more about layer masking in the process. We'll start with this photo from the practice files of an art piece by a wood artist. Let's replace its background with a more interesting shot from the artist studio. The first step is to bring in another background image. To do that go up to the File menu, choose Place Embedded..., and navigate to this image and click Place. Go to the Options bar and click the Checkmark. Over in the Layers panel, there's a brand-new layer with the new image. We need to drag that new layer beneath the original Background layer. But we can't do that, because the Background layer is a locked layer. If you just wanted to unlock this layer, you could click this Lock icon. But if you want to unlock the layer and rename it, all in one step, then select the Background layer by clicking on it, and then right click or hold down the Control key and click if you're on a Mac, and choose Layer from Background. And in the New Layer dialog box that appears, type a new name for this layer. I'll call it Pencil and then click OK. Now select the Replace_Background2 layer and click, hold and drag beneath the Pencil layer. You can release your finger from the mouse or trackpad when you see a double line under the Pencil layer. The next thing we're going to do, is make a selection of the background, and at that point you could delete it from the image completely, but that would be a permanent change, and wouldn't leave you very much editing flexibility. To do it a more flexible way, we're going to use a selection with a layer mask. To see what I mean, click on the Pencil layer in the Layers panel. Go over to the Tools panel. And select the Quick Selection tool. Now you could select either the foreground object or the background. So just click and drag over the background to select it. Before we apply a layer mask, we need to have the item that we want to show, not the item that we want to hide selected. So, we need to invert this selection. Go up to the Select menu and choose Inverse. Now go to the Layers panel, and click the Create New Layer Mask icon at the bottom of that panel. That was a real time-saver because Photoshop not only created a layer mask, it also filled in the area that wasn't selected on that layer mask with black. And where a layer mask is black, it hides the content on the layer to which it's attached, the Pencil layer. Where a layer mask is white, it shows the content on that layer. On this mask, the white is showing the pencil and the black is hiding the pencil. So, we can see down through to the new background layer below. If you're happy with that result, you're done. You've achieved your goal of replacing the background image. But here's a bonus option: You can try to fine-tune the mask to make it look even better. To do that, go up to the Select menu and choose Select and Mask... That opens the image with the mask applied, here in the special selected mask workspace. Earlier in this tutorial series, we visited this workspace when we were fine-tuning a selection. Now we're fine-tuning a mask which is very similar. First, let's click on the View menu and choose the way we'll view the image in this workspace. I'm going to choose On Layers which will let us see exactly how the pencil will look against the new background layer as we adjust the mask. I'll click on a blank area to close the View menu, and then I'll go to the Global Refinement section of this dialog box. Here there are sliders that often work well when you're trying to isolate a hard-edged image, like this pencil. Keep your eye on this white halo along the edge of the pencil that we want to remove, as I go to the Shift Edge slider, and I move it to the left. And what I'm doing is contracting the mask so that it's hiding that edge. You also can try dragging the Smooth slider to the right, to smooth out the edge of that mask and I might try dragging the Contrast slider to the right, to make the edge along the pencil a little more contrasty or crisp. When you're done with the sliders, scroll down and make sure the Output to menu is set to Layer Mask, and then click OK. And that modifies the layer mask that we already had applied to the Pencil layer. One last thing: Notice that there's a Link icon between the layer mask thumbnail and the image thumbnail on the Pencil layer. That means that if we were to move the Pencil layer, the layer mask would go with it. Go over to the Tools panel, and get the Move tool, and then click on the pencil and drag it over to the right. Now all that's left to do is to save the image, and you want to be sure to use the Save As... command, and save in the Photoshop - the PSD format - so that you retain your layers and this layer mask, so that you have the flexibility to come back in in the future and fine-tune your layer mask further if you want to.
What you learned: To use a layer mask to hide a background
- Start with two layers. The original image should be on the top layer and a replacement background image should be the bottom layer.
- In the Layers panel, make sure the top layer (original image) is selected.
- In the Tools panel, select the Quick Selection tool and use it to select all the areas in the original image you want to keep in the final output — everything except the background of the original image.
- At the bottom of the Layers panel, click the Add layer mask icon. This adds a layer mask thumbnail linked to the top layer. The layer mask is hiding everything except what you selected. The hidden areas on your top layer allow you to see down through the layer stack to the replacement background on your bottom layer.