How to blend images in Photoshop

Blending images in Photoshop is an effective way to create a collage effect image that can add a professional touch to any project. When thinking of blending images, you might think of movie posters or professional billboards, but this is not the only goal of a blended photo. Other uses allow editors to place one image inside of another to give the appearance of being seen through another item like a window or pair of binoculars.


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Getting Started
The first step to creating any sort of blended image is to have both individual images saved and opened in one workspace within Photoshop. Once both are open in their own project spaces, you’ll simply use the move tool to select and grab one photo, moving it into the work space of the other image. Once you do this, the images will overlap with no transparency. This is the goal of this step, and is no cause for concern. We’ll start the blend from this point. You can confirm that both images are present by looking at your “Layers” palette, where both should be listed.
 
Resize and Reposition
More likely than not you will need to resize or reposition at least one of the photos in your project before you can begin to blend them. The type of resizing that needs to be done will depend on the type of blend your end project will have.
 
In most cases you will want the images to be the same width, but may need to align photos in landscape mode with photos in portrait mode. This can be done by using the “Free Transform” command. Once you enable this tool (Ctrl-T), you’ll need to press Ctrl-O in order to get everything visible within the same screen. You’ll want to pay close attention to image proportion, so you’ll want to make sure you’re holding the shift key while you resize your images in order to avoid accidental distortion. When you’re happy with your image size and proportions, you’ll want to click “Enter” to accept the overlay selections.
 
A Note on Background Layers
Many users will experience difficulty blending their images when the need to move the background image arises. Photoshop treats background layers differently than new layers, and will restrict movement or alteration of background layers as a result. The easiest way to navigate this is to rename your background layer. This can be accomplished by holding the ALT key and clicking directly on the word “Background”. This command will automatically prompt Photoshop to rename the layer, generally assigning it the title “Layer 0”. This layer will now be able to be moved and altered.
 
Depth of Field Blending
Once the layers are in one document and have been resized appropriately, you will find that there are a variety of ways to create a blended image. By and large the most popular way to create a blended, or composite, image is by using depth of field blending.  To use this method you’ll simply go to your palette tool and select the layers of the image you wish to blend. If you wish to align the layers this can be easily done by using the “Auto-Align Layers” command.
 
Once all of your layers are selected, you’ll want to use the drop menu to find and select Edit --- Auto Blend Layers. The program will then prompt you to select your blend objective. Popular choices include:

  • Panorama Images- This objective blends overlapping layers into a single panoramic image.

  • Stacked Images- This objective chooses the best details of each layer and blends them into a smooth image in a corresponding area. This option works best when you chose to align your layers in the previous step.

From this point you’ll be able to adjust colors and apply other effects to achieve your end product. Once you are happy with the blend simply click “OK” to save the changes.
 
Layer Masks
Most newer versions of Photoshop allow a user to blend photos even if the background colors on the images aren’t similar. This is done in the final stages of image blending wherein the user chooses a layer mask. The icon to select a layer mask is found at the bottom of the layers palette. Once you’ve added a layer mask to your individual layers you’ll need to select a gradient, found on the tools palette.
 
You’ll want to pull the gradient from one image into the next in order to create the overlay blend that you’re seeking. Once this is done you’ll want to merge your two layers into a single layer. This is best done in the layers palette by ensuring layer 1 remains selected, and pressing Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E.
 
At this stage your images are blended. You may wish to move forward and add additional effects to correct color discrepancies if needed.
 
Opacity
At some point during your blend you will likely want to adjust the opacity of your overlay. In general terms, the opacity relates to the level of obscurity to the background layer. For example, a layer with 1% opacity will appear almost completely transparent whereas a layer with 100% opacity will be completely obscured. You are able to select your opacity, as well as a blending mode, from the layers panel menu. 

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