Guide to Creating a Double Exposure Effect in Photoshop

In the world of Photoshop and other photo editing software, it is so easy to create unique, stunning effects that you can’t get with just a camera. With a few techniques and a willingness to experiment, you can take an average photo and transform it into an amazing work of art. A double exposure effect, for example, can be taken to the next level with Photoshop. Here’s a simple technique that will help you merge two photos into a creative and artistic image:

For this tutorial, Manni uses a portrait of a man and a picture of leaves on trees. He moves the portrait over to the leaves image so he has two layers.

Once you have your two layers and your subject is placed where you like, you can:

  • Use the Quick Selection Tool to select your subject.
  • At the bottom of the Layers Panel, click Add layer mask to reveal your background.
  • Right click on the mask and choose Refine Mask, then outline the subject to get a better mask.

refine mask tool

Now, to start adding in effects and merging the two images, bringing the background out on top of the subject, follow these steps:

  • Drag the mask layer down to the leaves (background) layer and delete it from the portrait layer.
  • From the portrait layer, go into the blending modes drop down menu at the top of the Layer Panel and choose Vivid Light.
  • Invert the leaves layer (not the mask) to change the color completely.
  • Unlink the leaves layer from the mask so you can move the layer around (cmd + t/ctrl + t to rotate the image)
  • On the mask layer, paint black around the edges of the subject to clean them up.

mask layer

To adjust the contrast, double tap on the layer to get into the Layer Style menu and move the black slider to the right in Blend If. Then go ahead and continue playing with the colors and effects until you are happy.

Enhancement Tips

  • If you’re going for a more neutral effect, click on the Colorize box under Hue and Saturation.
  • Adjust contrast by adjusting hue, saturation and lightness or with curves.
  • Create a Dodge and Burn layer to enhance features by darkening or lightening them.
  • Use a Gradient Map to experiment with different gradients.
double exposure image

Double Exposure Technique Final Image

You can create completely different looks with the same two photos simply by experimenting. The possibilities are endless!

For further training on double exposures: Trick Photography & Special Effects

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  1. Bojan says:

    Cool tip!

  2. Dan Richards says:

    Excellent article. I went to Corel because it was more user friendly, but still these articles like this for those still using Adobe are well done.

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