Photography • How-To How to Combine Images in Photoshop

Mix multiple images for unlimited possibilities.

A photo composite is the blending of two or more images into something entirely new. You can combine images to tell a story, create surrealist art, or bring friends and family into one picture. I’ll show you how I use different selection techniques to design a composite in Adobe Photoshop.

Headshot of Lidia Lukianova

Hi, I’m Lidia Lukianova. I’m an artist and designer at Adobe. My favorite projects include illustration, identity, lettering, and animation.

Before You Start

I provided the sample images I found on Adobe Stock if you’d like to try them, or practice with your own. For this project, I’ll use some of the techniques I showed in How to be a Selection Wiz.

Step 1: Pick your Pics

Scroll through your camera roll to find two or more of your favorite shots. Then start a new document in Photoshop; I chose the Portrait, 5 x 7 preset in the Photo category of the New Document window. Drag the images to the open document, hold the Shift key as you use the handles to resize the image, then press Enter or Return to place it. Repeat this process to add each image.

Blue sky is in the background, Nautilus shell and red flower, both on white backgrounds, display in front

Step 2: Remove the Background

Click the eye icon to hide every layer except for the flower. Choose the Magic Wand and the Add to selection option, then click to select the white background, including the areas between the petals. Right-click and choose Select Inverse, and then add a layer mask to separate the flower from the background.

Red flower with marching ants selection, Magic Wand tool & options display upper left, Layers panel shows mask on layer

Step 3: Fine-Tune the Details

The Magic Wand does a good job, but if it doesn’t quite get everything, you can click the layer mask thumbnail and use the Brush tool along the edges to refine the selection. Paint on the canvas with black to hide, or white to reveal, depending on what you need to fix.

Red flower on transparent background, Brush tool set to black, mask on flower layer shows hidden background in black

Step 4: Draw a Selection

Now you can show the shell layer and hide the flower. For objects with a distinct shape, the Object Selection tool works well. To use it, drag across the shell, release the mouse, then add a layer mask. Refine the edges using the same methods as in the previous step.

Nautilus shell on transparent background, More tools and Object Selection tool icons display upper left, mask on shell layer

Step 5: Arrange the Pieces

Show both the flower and shell layers, and then select the Move tool. You can move each layer by dragging it, or hover just outside a corner handle and drag to rotate it. To change a shape so it fits together with the other layer, select Transform Warp and drag the handles. Before you use Warp, Photoshop prompts you to convert each layer with a mask; right-click the layer and choose Convert to Smart Object.

Red flower is above nautilus shell, Move tool icon is upper left, Warp tool is upper right, Warp tool boundary around shell

Step 6: Give it Dimension

To create the illusion of depth, set one image to appear as if it overlaps another. One way to do this is to add a mask to the flower layer and then paint with black to hide part of the flower in front of the shell.

Closeup of shell with flower, Brush icon is upper left and set to black, Layers panel shows mask on flower with hidden petal

Step 7: Blend the Effect

For a natural lighting effect, select the shell layer and choose the Burn tool, then brush along the edges to add shadows.

Up to this point, you’ve edited the flower and shell separately. Now, you’ll make changes that will affect the flower and shell—and eventually the sky—together. Shift-click to select the flower and shell layers, then right-click and choose Merge Layers. Double-click the layer name if you’d like to rename it. A Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer helps the colors stand out. Add an adjustment layer and move it above the composite in the Layers panel. Then right-click and choose Create Clipping Mask to apply the changes to the image. Show the sky layer to see how the new background changes the look of the image.

Shell and flowers on blue sky, Burn tool is upper left set to Shadows & 50%; Brightness (3)/Contrast (43) adjustment added

Step 8: Boost the Colors

A Levels adjustment layer increases the intensity of the blue in the sky and the contrast between the sky and the clouds. I used the Levels settings shown below and clipped the adjustment to the sky layer. Try different backgrounds to see the impact they have.

Levels adjustment (151, 1.38, and 255) added to entire image, sky is a rich blue color, flowers are vivid red

Tell Your Story

What’s your favorite kind of composite? Combine images and experiment with backgrounds, then tag @AdobeCreate on Instagram to share the inspiration.

Nautilus shell with red flower against a blue sky displays in light wood frame next to glass vase with branches and books

Note: Project files included with this tutorial are for practice purposes only.

You may also like