Blend an image of smoke with a dark photograph.
Side of white marble building showcasing Shakespeare at Night poster of lit nighttime alley with smoke effects on right side

What you'll need

This sample file has Adobe Stock images you can use to practice what you learn in this tutorial. If you want to use the sample file beyond this tutorial, you can purchase a license on Adobe Stock. Check out the ReadMe file in the folder for the terms that apply to your use of this sample file.

Add two images as separate layers to a Photoshop document. Feel free to use our practice files, or use your own. For this composition, we added a photo of smoke with a black background as the top layer and will blend it with the photo of a dark alley on the bottom layer.

Left: Smoke with black background layer, Bottom: Dark alleyway layer, Right: Layers panel is open with smoke layer selected

When you set a blend mode, Photoshop mixes pixels from the selected layer with the layer below it. The way the pixels are mixed differs depending on the mode you choose. Select the smoke layer and mouse over blend modes in the Layers panel to preview the effects and find the one you like.

Darken, lighten, hard light, and exclusion blending modes previewed to illustrate different smoke effects.

We like the Lighten blend mode for this composition because it hides the black background of the smoke layer to blend it into the scene. To fine-tune the effect, we lowered the opacity of the smoke layer.

Lighten blend mode at 75% opacity is used. Smoke is heaviest at bottom, fades toward middle and upper right of composition.

The outer edge of the smoke looked a bit too sharp in some areas of the composition, so we added a layer mask to the smoke layer and used a soft-edged brush to paint with black to blend it into the scene.

Layer mask at 50% opacity is added, and black soft-edge brush is used to soften outer edge of smoke.

In the end, the two images blended well to create the look for the play banner we designed.

Composite image of lit nighttime alleyway with smoke edges softened

Now you can combine image layers to make new scenes for a variety of projects.

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07/15/2021

Adobe Stock contributors: Alexander MarushinArturpeshkov

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