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Compositing Images in Photoshop

Compositing images, or, blending two images together is a popular task in Photoshop. This tutorial will show you how to do this in an efficient way with a Wacom Pen Tablet.

Compositing in one of the most frequently used features in Photoshop, and using a Wacom Pen Tablet makes this popular activity simple, and gives artists more control over the final image. Using the pressure-sensitive features of your pen give you much more control when blending images. Using a Pen Tablet helps create professional image blends for business and design.

Step 1: Start—What you Need.

A. Collect your Images: Start with two images that you want to blend together, or combine in some way. For beginners, it’s best to choose a solid background image, and an image you want to include in the foreground. For example, in the Corey Barker video [link], Corey uses one image of a violin with a solid white background, which he wishes to combine with an image of musical notes.

Step 2: Extracting the Image

A. Extract: With both images open first you’ll need to extract the image you wish to insert. Photoshop has a great tool for extracting images, called the Magic Wand tool. Use the Magic Wand to select your foreground image. B. Drag: Now, using the Move tool, drag that image over into your background image. Adding the SHIFT key as you drag will center the extracted image with the other image. C. Position: Now position the image where you want it to be in your final design. The moment both images are in the same area, you have successfully composited images. You could stop here—but taking it to the next level will give your composition a professional touch.

Step 3: Layering Images

Using a layer mask and pressure-sensitive pen will allow you to make the composite much more subtle in its gradations and more pleasing to the eye. A. Select the Layer Panel: The Layer Panel is on the right of your Photoshop screen. Layering is like piling layers of images on top of each other. Once they’re all assembled, you have a finished, composited piece with two images that won’t simply look like smashed-together images, but a professional blend of images.

How do I use layers to blend two images together?

  • Locate Layer Mask: In the bottom row of the Layers Panel, the third icon over is the Layer Mask feature. It looks like a gray box with a white circle in the middle of it. Click on Layer Mask icon. In the Layers Panel, you’ll see an option to Invert the layer mask.
  • Click Layer Mask: Click this option and Photoshop fills the entire layer in with black, hiding whatever is on that layer.
  • Use the Brush Tool: Choose good-sized brush with a nice, soft edge.
  • Choose Transfer and set Opacity and Flow Jitter to pen pressure: This enables your pen to be used as a brush, and gives you much more control over revealing the image through the layer mask. In the Corey Barker video, you will see how easy it is to vary the pressure with your Wacom Pen Tablet—and create a beautiful images simply by pressing harder or softer.
  • Use Varying Degrees: Now you can introduce the image in varying degrees. You are actually painting up from black with white.
  • Paint Pressure on the Layer Mask: Make sure you're painting on the layer mask itself, and very lightly touch your pen to the tablet—or, press harder on the tablet to “show” more of the image. You'll start to see your image emerge from the background.
  • Editing your Layer Mask: If you do overdo an area, you can simply press “x,” on the keyboard to change from painting with white to painting with black. Now you're doing opposite of what you did before, taking away parts of the image. A simple way to remember which color does what, is to think of it as “white reveals” and “black conceals”.

Step 4: Check your Design

One of the beautiful things about Photoshop is that you can select the layer mask to get a solid idea of what you've done. A. Select the Layer Mask: Simply hold down the OPTION key on Mac or ALT key on Windows and select the layer mask to see the results of your masking with a pressure-sensitive pen. You’re basically painting the image back in, based on how hard or how soft you press your pen to the tablet.

Step 5: Combining Images Experimentation

Compositing really improves with experimentation. Feel free to try different methods, or different configurations of brushes. Discover for yourself what works best for you. Much of your success depends upon the images you’re working with, but knowing where these features are, and knowing how to take advantage of them will open up a whole new world of creative possibilities for you.