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.
Before You Start
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.