How to composite and blend images in Photoshop

A common occurrence as a designer is to receive a myriad of images and be expected to make something out of them for a client. The images may be related by subject, but they may not look as if they belong together visually. A common task is having to blend multiple images together to create an advertisement such as a brochure, a flyer, or a poster.

Create a new document. Select a common print size, depending on your intended output. Your format may be letter, tabloid, or anything else. if you are creating this for print purposes, set the resolution to 300dpi. The images below will be combined to create a composite image using different methods to blend the images together. Click on each image below to go to its download page.

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Once you have downloaded all of the images, open them all in Photoshop, or place them one at a time using File>Place. Once there, we’ll get started with the first image. Place the stage image with the bright light in the center of the canvas. Make sure that it fills the full width of the canvas. We won’t be blending this image. The layers above it will blend with this one.

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Next, select the concert image with the stage lights pointing downward. Place it at the top edge of the canvas. In the Layers Panel, click the New Layer Mask icon to create a new mask. With black as your foreground color, select the Gradient Tool and draw a gradient on the bottom edge of the image. This will gradually fade away the bottom of the image, blending it in with the other stage image already in our document.

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Next, we will create the foreground of our crowd. Find the image of the crowd with their hands in the air. Choose the Quick Selection Tool and make a loose selection of the crowd. It is okay if it isn’t perfect. Click Refine Edge and choose Smart Radius. Move the slider until the value reaches 100. Then, click on the Decontaminate Colors box and move the slider all the way to the right. For output, choose New Layer With Layer Mask. Click OK.

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Drag the layer with its layer mask onto our working document and place it at the bottom of the image. It is okay if it doesn’t look that good for the moment. We will make some adjustments to our images. This is what our composite looks like so far:

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Next, click the New Adjustment Layer Icon and choose Exposure. Set the Exposure value to -1.93 and set the gamma value to 0.57. Alt/Option-Click between this layer and the layer below to clip the exposure setting to just the image layer below. This will darken the crowd image enough so that it will blend with the rest of the scene.

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Next, open the image of the crowd watching the baseball game. Choose the Quick Selection Tool and make a loose selection of the crowd. Click Refine Edge and choose Smart Radius. Move the slider until the value reaches around 95. Then, click on the Decontaminate Colors box and move the slider all the way to the right. For output, choose New Layer With Layer Mask. Click OK.

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Move the layer with the layer mask over to our working document. Position it around a 4th of the way up from the bottom.  The bottom edge is too sharp, so we need to blend it with the layers below. Select the Brush Tool and choose a large, soft edge brush. Click your brush on the canvas, then hold shift and click on the other side of the canvas at the bottom of our image. This will create a blur on the mask of our image.

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Create a new Exposure Adjustment Layer. Set the Exposure value to -2.40 and the gamma value to 0.57. Clip this adjustment layer to the one below.

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Next, create a New Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Check the Colorize box at the bottom, and set the Hue value to 225, Saturation to 25, and Lightness to -38. This will darken the entire image and our image will start to take shape.

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Select the girl’s silhouette. Center it within the image. Use the Quick Selection Tool to select the background. Click the Layer Mask icon to mask out the background. Next, set the blend mode of the layer to Color Burn.

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Next, create a new layer below and select the Brush Tool. Make sure that it is a large, soft edge round brush. We are going to choose vibrant colors, such as yellow(#f6ff00), magenta(#ff00ea), cyan(#00f0ff), bright green(#36ff00), and bright red(#ff0000). Paint in areas around the canvas, as in the example shown below. Then, set the blend mode to Hue. Hold Alt/Option and click on the mask of the woman’s silhouette and drag it down to this layer to create a copy of the mask on this layer. Hit Command/Ctrl + I to invert the mask.

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Next, bring in the image of the guitar. Position it to the left of the silhouette, roughly half way up the canvas. Use the Quick Selection Tool to select the background around the guitar. Click the Layer Mask Icon to create a mask from this selection. Select a soft edge brush and use black as your foreground color to paint out the harsh edges and blend away different areas around the guitar. When you are finished, set the blend mode to Soft Light, and the opacity of this layer to 30%.

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Next Create a new layer. Command/Ctrl-click on the mask of the silhouette to load it as a selection. Fills it with a color close to cyan. Then go to Filter> Blur> Radial Blur. Choose zoom and bump the value all the way up. Then, hit Command/Ctrl + F to duplicate the blue again. When you are happy with your blur settings, Alt/Option-click the layer mask from the 5 color layer and drag it onto this one to make a copy. Hit Command/Ctrl + I to invert the mask. This will mask out the silhouette, while still having the blurred glow around it.

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The overall effect is nice, but now it is time to add some text. I am going to use Ostrich Sans for the text. There are different weight variations, which is nice for our purposes. You can download it for free from here. Once installed, select the Type Tool and Type out your main headline or title. For the title, I Selected Ostrich Sans Medium as the typeface, set it to 144pt and set the leading to 130pt, which is a little less than normal, but the typeface has a decent amount of built-in leading.

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The type is pretty boring, so let’s add some flair. Double-click the text layer to bring up the layer styles options. Create a 2px stroke on the inside of your text. Set the color to #cb3b8f.

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Create an inner shadow with the same pink as before. Set the distance to 14-15px and the angle to -90°. Lower the opacity to 30-35%

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Select Inner Glow and set the color to white. Set the size to around 4-5px. Lower the opacity to 55-60%.

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Set the Color Overlay to a lighter version of the pink hue that we chose before.

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Select an Outer Glow. Select a bright pink as your color and set the blend mode to screen. Set the size to around 10px. We set the blend mode to Screen so that the glow will show up against the dark background. When you are done, click OK.

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Let’s add some more text, such as the names of the attractions for the event. This time, we will use Ostrich Sans Bold at 60pt type. Use white as the text color. Then double-click the text layer to bring up the Layer Styles options. Select a simple Outer Glow. Choose a light blue, such as #00deff and set the blend mode to Screen. Set the size of the glow to 10px. Repeat this for the rest of the attraction names.

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Next, select the Marquee Tool and draw a square in the bottom right corner of the flyer. Select the Polygonal Lasso Tool and draw a triangular selection in the top left corner. Hold Shift to constrain the Lasso to a 45° angle. Hit Delete to remove this portion of the square. Double-click the layer to bring up the Layer Styles options. Choose Stroke and set the color to cyan (00f6ff) and set the opacity of the stroke to 25%. Make sure the stroke is set on the outside.

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Select the Text Tool and click and drag to draw a text box the height and total width of the black box that we just created. With the text size set to 38pt choose Ostrich Sans Bold and type out your headlines. I chose “when” and “where” as the example headlines, and for the informational text underneath each headline, I chose Ostrich Sans Medium set to the same size. Make the text all white and leave of any effects. You want to make sure this text is as crisp and clear as possible. Align the text to the right.

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Conclusion

We gathered a few images that were unrelated, had different colors, exposures, and really just didn’t go together and composited them into a unified flyer. With layer styles, masks, a little brush, and blend modes, we were able to blend everything together to simulate a crowd at a nightclub. We used a solid silhouette to create an effect that really stands out in the center. With a little effort, you can combined seemingly unrelated images into a nice flyer or poster for your clients.

 

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