Learning to combine two or more images in Photoshop is a skill you’ll find yourself using constantly. You can add people to group photos, create entirely new compositions, or add two ideas into one image for an advert or other promotional material. While it may take quite a few steps, you can combine two images in Photoshop to make a completely new photo.
Since every two images are different and you won’t necessarily be combining the same pictures I am, remember to adjust the various steps and settings to match your needs. For instance, I will use grass brushes to add to my image, but you may need a different brush to blend your images.
The settings for the various adjustments may need to differ, so use these steps as a general guide and tailor them to your image while adding your own creativity to your project.
How To Combine Images In Photoshop
You can combine pretty much any images together as long as you pay careful attention to the lighting and colors of the photos. The real trick to combining images well is to match the tone, colors, and lighting of both pictures, so keep these elements in mind when you combine your images.
For this example, I will add the image of an elephant on a white background to the landscape image. For this to work, I must remember to scale the elephant to match the background, blend it into the scene, add more grass around the feet, and consider the color differences.
Step 1: Open Both Images In Separate Tabs
To start, you need to open both images in separate tabs in Photoshop. To do this, you can open each file as you usually would by going to File > Open.
Once your images are open, you need to check each size to consider which image you will scale. The key is to place the smaller image onto the larger one, so you can scale the image down. It’s always better to downsize an image to retain quality.
If you were to upscale an image, this would decrease the quality and may cause noticeable pixelation or blur in your combined images. To look at each image size, look at the bottom of the image window. If the dimensions aren’t visible, click on the arrow and select the option.
Since my landscape image is 3100 x 2069 pixels and my elephant is 2436 x 2808 pixels, this means that I must place the elephant onto the landscape image. Which I will show you in the next step.
Step 2: Combine The Images And Scale The Subject
To combine the images, open the tab of the smaller picture and select the Move Tool (V).
With the Move Tool active, click on the background layer in the Layers panel, drag the layer over the tab of the other image you have opened, and let it hover.
Once the layer hovers over the tab, the tab will open. Continue dragging the layer onto the canvas. Hold in Shift and then release the image onto the canvas. Keeping Shift in will place the layer into the center of the canvas.
The image might be incorrectly sized at this point, which is fine.
To scale the image, press Control + T (Win) or Command + T (Mac) to open the Transform Tool. You will notice control points around the new layer.
Click, and drag one of the corner handles down to resize the layer, keeping in mind how small or large you want your subject to appear on the background. You can keep it large for now and resize it later if you need, but make sure it fits on the canvas.
Note: If the aspect ratio of the image changes while resizing, hold in Shift to keep the proportions the same. Then, hold in Alt/Option if you want to resize the image while keeping it centered.
You can then click on the layer and move it around to place it on the canvas wherever you’d like, then press Enter when you are happy with the size and placement. You can resize your subject later on if you find it isn’t working as well on your background.
Step 3: Remove The Background Of The Subject Image
Now, it’s time to remove the background of the image on top. You can do this step before you transfer the image onto the background or at this point. You can use the Select Subject method if the background is simple with only a few colors. Otherwise, you will need to try out one of these 8 best ways to remove the background.
Next, click on the Select Subject button in the Options bar and give Photoshop a few moments to complete the selection.
If you have complex subjects with fur or hair, use one of these other background removal methods and touch up the selection. Otherwise, the Select Subject method will select basic objects well.
Next, remove the background by clicking on the Add a layer mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. This will add a mask to the image layer hiding the background.
You can now see the background behind your subject, making the images look much more cohesive. You can also resize the layer again at this stage if you find it doesn’t look quite right. The subject also still needs to be blended into the background.
Step 4: Blend The Edges Into The Background
Once you have removed the background of your subject, you need to blend the edges into the second image. In this example, I will mainly focus on the elephant’s feet as it looks like the elephant is floating on the grass rather than stepping into it.
I can use the layer mask I have already created to blend the feet better. The aim is to make it look as those the feet are pressed into the grass. If the feet were pressed into the grass, there would be small areas around the bottom of the feet that are hidden by the grass.
To achieve this, ensure the layer mask is active, shown by the white border around the mask block.
Then, select the Brush Tool (B) and set the foreground color to black.
Select a soft round brush and change the brush size as needed.
Zoom into the feet (or edges) by pressing Control + + (Win) or Command + + (Mac) to work with the area better.
Then, carefully brush over the bottoms of the feet. Since I am using black, it will hide the parts of the layer as it did with the background. If you make any errors, change the foreground color to white and brush over the mistakes to reveal those areas again.
Note how I have left the foot in the air as it’s not pressed into the grass.
Repeat this process around the other edges to blend the subject into the background, so the hard edges don’t make the subject stand out too much. Don’t hide too much of the edges, as it will look fake. You can use this technique on any edges that need it.
Step 5: Add Brush Effects If Necessary
Since the grass that the elephant is standing in is long, I can add some more grass around the feet to blend the images better. For this, I will need to find a grass brush to paint over the area with. There are many places to find free brushes online, and I found this 20 Grass Silhouette PS Brushes from Brusheezy.
Once the brush file is on your device, import it into Photoshop by selecting the Brush Tool (B), then opening the Brush Preset Picker, clicking on the Gear icon, and selecting Import Brushes.
Find the brush pack on your device and load it. The new brushes will appear at the bottom of the Brush Preset Picker.
Select the brush you want and set the size.
Then, set the color for the brush by selecting the holding in Alt (Win) or Option (Mac) and clicking on a color in the image that matches what you are adding. This means I will click on a grassy spot near the feet.
Depending on your image, you can adjust a few settings in the Options bar, such as the brush’s blend mode and opacity.
Lastly, add a new layer by clicking on the Add New Layer icon in the Layers panel. This way, you can edit and remove the brush strokes at any point.
You can now add the brush strokes to the image wherever you need them. You can also bring down the fill opacity of the brush layer to blend the brush strokes into the picture.
Step 6: Match The Colors Of The Two Images
Depending on the two images you are using, there will likely be some color differences between them. Whether there is a significant difference or a small one, you can quickly fix this up using the Match Color adjustment.
To do this, select the image thumbnail of the top image, and make sure the mask isn’t selected.
Then, go to Image > Adjustments > Match Color.
Firstly, at the bottom of the Match Color panel, set the Source (which is the tab that your two images are in) and the Layer that you want to be the source for the color matching (this would be your background layer).
Once you set the source and layer, the subject will automatically change to match the background color. In some cases, the effect is too intense.
You can use the sliders under Image Options to adjust the effect based on your image. The most important slider is the Fade option. Drag this slider to the right to reduce the intensity and balance the colors.
You can adjust the other options as needed and then click OK to accept the changes.
Your image should now match the background color a lot more.
Step 7: Add A Curves Adjustment Layer
The Match Color adjustment may flatten the subject too much for some images. In this case, or if you still aren’t happy with how the colors have blended, you can use the Curves Adjustment Layer to correct this.
First, add the adjustment above your subject layer by clicking on the Curves icon in the Adjustments panel.
The Curves properties panel appears, where you can adjust the subject’s shadows, midtones, and highlights to match the background or lift the colors slightly.
First, to ensure the adjustment is only added to the subject layer, click on the clipping mask icon to clip the adjustment to the layer directly below it (which should be your subject layer).
Then, adjust the toggles on the graph to adjust the tonal ranges on the subject. The amount you change the ranges depends on your images.
Your subject should blend better into the background, with the colors lifted more.
Step 8: Add A Solid Color Adjustment layer
Another way you can blend your images, especially for beginners who don’t want to get into technical color grading techniques, is to add a solid color adjustment layer. This layer will change the mood of the photo too, so it’s helpful if you want to warm up or cool down the composite.
To start, add a solid color adjustment layer by clicking on the Adjustment icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Then, select Solid Color from the options.
When the Color Picker appears, select the color you want to add to your image. Choose reds, oranges, or yellows for a warmer tone. Choose blues, greens, and purples for a cooler tone. I chose blue to cool the image down. Click OK.
The entire image will be filled with the new color you have chosen. You now want to blend the color into the picture by adjusting the layer’s blending mode.
Find the drop-down menu next to normal at the top of the Layers panel and select Color from the options. This will keep only the color from the layer and not the luminance or saturation values.
You will now be able to see the image through the color.
However, the effect is too intense and overpowering. You need to blend the color better by dropping the Opacity of the color layer. Use the slider in the Layers panel to reduce the opacity until it looks right on your image.
Now the color has blended in with the image and helped the two images match better.
You can change the color at any stage by double-clicking on the color block in the Layers panel and selecting a new color.
In my case, I don’t like that the entire image has a moody feel, and I want to bring out the warmer colors in the grass. To do this, I can use the layer mask on the color layer along with a soft brush and hide varying opacity levels of the blue color.
Once I’ve selected a soft brush and changed the color to black, as shown previously, I can adjust the brush Opacity in the Options bar.
Now, using the brush and continuously adjusting the brush size and opacity level, I can carefully paint back some of the colors from the image to bring out the warm grass and the browner shades on the elephant.
You can add many more adjustments to your two images to complete the effect, and the amount you need to make depends on your two pictures. Since my images contained flat light, I didn’t need to worry about lighting and shadows.
Once you have added the extra effects you need and adjusted the settings and steps shown above, you will have successfully combined two images in Photoshop.
Knowing how to create composites using two images in Photoshop is a great creative skill for all types of situations.
This technique is also useful when you take a few shots of a scene and find errors in all of them. You can easily add and remove elements to create the best composition for yourself or your clients.