Add fun and excitement to a photo by creating the illusion that a smaller, cropped version of the same photo is inside it! A step-by-step tutorial for Photoshop 2021 or later.
Written by Steve Patterson.
In this tutorial, I show you how to create a fun
Picture in Picture effect with Photoshop by taking a single photo and creating the illusion that a second, cropped version of the same photo is inside it. We’ll crop the second image around our main subject, and add a border and drop shadow to make it stand out. And to further enhance the effect, we’ll leave the second photo in color but convert the rest of the original image surrounding it to black and white.
For best results, you’ll want to be using Photoshop 2021 or later.
Here’s an example of what the
Picture in Picture effect will look like when we’re done:
Picture in Picture effect.
Let’s get started!
Step 1: Open your image
Start by opening your image. I’ll use this image from Adobe Stock:
The original photo.
Step 2: Make a copy of the Background layer
The Layers panel.
Make a copy of the image by dragging the Background layer down onto the Add New Layer icon:
Dragging the Background layer onto the Add New Layer icon.
A copy appears above the original:
Background copy layer appears.
Step 3: Rename the copy
The copy will be used to create the second, smaller photo inside the larger one. So double-click on the name
Background copy and rename the layer
Small. Press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard to accept it:
Renaming the layer.
Step 4: Turn the
Small layer off
We don’t need the
Small layer just yet, so turn the layer off by clicking its visibility icon:
Small layer’s visibility icon.
Step 5: Select the Background layer
Before creating the smaller version of the photo, we’ll convert the original photo to black and white. Click on the Background layer to select it:
Selecting the Background layer.
Step 6: Add a Black & White adjustment layer
Then click the New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel:
Clicking the New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon.
And choose a Black & White adjustment layer from the list:
Black & White.
The adjustment layer appears between the Background layer and the
Small layer. This means it will affect only the Background layer below it, not the
Small layer above it:
The adjustment layer is added above the Background layer.
And the image is instantly converted to black and white:
The result after adding the Black & White adjustment layer.
Step 7: Click the Auto button
The controls for the Black & White adjustment layer appear in Photoshop’s Properties panel. You could fine-tune the black and white conversion by dragging the individual color sliders (Reds, Yellows, Greens, and so on) to adjust the brightness of different parts of the image based on their original color:
The color sliders in the Properties panel.
But since the effect is really just for the background and most of it will be hidden by the smaller photo, clicking the Auto button should give you a result that’s good enough:
Clicking the Auto button.
Step 8: Select and turn on the
Now we’ll create the smaller, full color photo inside the original.
Back in the Layers panel, click on the
Small layer to select it:
Then click the layer’s visibility icon to turn it back on:
Turning on the
The color version of the image reappears:
The result after turning on the
Step 9: Select the Rectangle Tool
Selecting the Rectangle Tool from the toolbar.
Step 10: Set the Tool Mode to Shape
In the Options Bar, make sure the Tool Mode is set to Shape, not Path or Pixels:
Setting the Tool Mode to Shape.
Step 11: Set the shape’s color to black
Set the shape’s color to black if it’s not set to black already. The color doesn’t really matter, but black is easy to see as we’re drawing the shape.
Click the Fill color swatch:
Clicking the Fill color swatch in the Options Bar.
Then click the Color Picker icon in the upper right of the dialog box:
Opening the Color Picker.
And choose black from the Color Picker by setting the R, G and B values to 0. Then click OK to close it:
Choosing black from the Color Picker.
Step 12: Turn off the stroke around the shape
By default, Photoshop adds a 1 pixel stroke around shapes, which we don’t want. So click the Stroke color swatch:
Clicking the Stroke color swatch in the Options Bar.
Then click the No Color icon in the upper left. Press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to close the dialog box:
Choosing No Color for the stroke.
Step 13: Draw a shape around your main subject
Drag out a rectangular shape around your main subject(s). The shape will become the smaller version of the image, so make sure to surround everything that should appear inside it.
Click in the upper left of your main subject to set a starting point for the shape. Then keep your mouse button held down and drag towards the bottom right. As you drag, only an outline of the shape appears:
Drawing a rectangular shape around the main subjects in the photo.
How to move the shape as you draw
To move the shape as you are drawing it, keep your mouse held down and press and hold the spacebar on your keyboard. Drag the shape to where you need it, and then release your spacebar and continue dragging out the rest of the shape.
How to complete the shape
Release your mouse button when you’re done to complete the shape, at which point Photoshop fills it with black:
The shape covers everything that will appear in the smaller photo.
Step 14: Resize the shape if needed
Since the shape is completely blocking the image behind it, it’s hard to see if it was drawn exactly where we need it. So to see the image through the shape, go to the Layers panel and lower the Opacity of the shape layer to 50 percent. A quick way is to press the number 5 on your keyboard:
5 to lower the shape’s opacity to 50 percent.
Then click and drag any of the handles around the shape to resize it as needed:
Resizing the shape by dragging the handles.
How to move the shape after drawing it
If you need to move the shape, you’ll need to switch from the Rectangle Tool to Photoshop’s Path Selection Tool (the black arrow tool). But rather than selecting the Path Selection Tool from the toolbar, press and hold the Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key on your keyboard. This temporarily switches you to the Path Selection Tool for as long as the key is held down.
Click on the shape and drag it into place, and then release the Ctrl / Command key to switch back to the Rectangle Tool:
Hold Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) to move the shape with the Path Selection Tool.
How to draw a standard 4×6 photo shape
What if, instead of a random aspect ratio for your smaller photo, you want a standard aspect ratio, like 4×6? The Rectangle Tool does not have an Aspect Ratio option. It has only Width and Height options. But we can use the Width and Height options to create the aspect ratio we need.
Unlink the Width and Height values in the Options Bar
Let’s say we want a 4×6 ratio, and we want it in landscape mode so the width is larger than the height. Go up to the Options Bar and make sure the Link icon between the Width and Height values is turned off:
Unlinking the Width and Height values in the Options Bar.
Enter the aspect ratio into the Width and Height fields
Then enter the aspect ratio you need into the Width and Height fields. In this case, we want 6 for the width and 4 for the height. But notice that Photoshop automatically converts the values into pixels, which is not what we want:
Entering the aspect ratio converts the values into pixels.
And it resizes the shape to 6 pixels wide and 4 pixels tall, which is barely visible inside the larger image:
The shape is now much too small.
Resize the shape while holding Shift
But if you click on the shape’s handle and begin dragging to resize the shape, and then you press and hold the Shift key on your keyboard and continue dragging with the Shift key held down, you’ll resize the shape while maintaining that 4×6 (or 6×4) aspect ratio. That’s because the Shift key locks the aspect ratio as you drag:
Resizing the shape while holding Shift locks the aspect ratio.
Once you’ve resized the shape, release your mouse button and then release the Shift key:
The shape has been drawn to a standard 4×6 ratio.
Again, you can reposition the shape if needed by holding the Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key on your keyboard to temporarily access the Path Selection Tool and dragging the shape into place. Here I’m moving the shape to center the family inside it. Release the Ctrl / Command key when you’re done to switch back to the Rectangle Tool:
Moving the shape to center the subjects inside it.
And if you need to resize the shape again, and you want to keep that same aspect ratio, hold your Shift key while dragging a handle.
Resetting the shape’s opacity back to 100 percent
Once you have the exact size and placement of the shape, reset the shape layer’s opacity in the Layers panel back to 100 percent by pressing the number 0 on your keyboard:
Press 0 to reset the shape’s opacity to 100 percent.
And the shape is once again blocking the image behind it:
The shape again blocks the image.
Step 15: Drag the
Small layer above the shape
Next, we’ll place the image on the
Small layer into the shape. In the Layers panel, the shape currently sits above the image:
The shape layer is above the image.
We need the image to be above the shape. So click on the
Small layer and drag it above the shape layer. When a blue highlight bar appears above the shape layer:
Dragging the image above the shape layer.
Release your mouse button to drop the
Small layer into place:
The image has been moved above the shape.
And in the document, the photo now blocks the shape from view:
The photo is now blocking the shape.
Step 16: Create a clipping mask
To place the image into the shape, click on the Layers panel menu icon:
Clicking the menu icon.
And choose Create Clipping Mask:
Choosing the Create Clipping Mask command.
Photoshop clips the image on the
Small layer to the shape layer below it:
The Layers panel showing the image layer clipped to the shape layer.
And the full color image now appears only within the boundaries of the shape, while the black and white version on the Background layer reappears around it:
The result after clipping the
Small layer to the shape layer.
Step 17: Select the shape layer
To make the smaller image stand out, add a white border and a drop shadow. We’ll start with the border.
In the Layers panel, select the shape layer:
Selecting the shape layer.
Step 18: Add a white stroke around the shape
Then click the layer effects icon (the “fx” icon) at the bottom:
Clicking the layer effects icon.
And choose Stroke from the list:
Adding a Stroke layer effect.
The stroke color
In the Layer Style dialog box, change the stroke color by clicking the color swatch:
Clicking the color swatch.
And in the Color Picker, choose white by setting the R, G and B values to 255. Then click OK to close the Color Picker:
Choosing white from the Color Picker.
The stroke position
Back in the Layer Style dialog box, make sure the stroke’s Position is set to Inside to keep the corners of the border nice and sharp:
Setting the Position to Inside.
The stroke size
Then drag the Size slider to set the width of the border. The size you need will depend on your image. I’ll set mine to 40 pixels:
Use the Size slider to set the border size.
And here’s the effect with the border around the smaller photo:
The effect with the border added.
Step 19: Add a drop shadow
To add a shadow behind the photo, click on the Drop Shadow option in the effects column along the left of the Layer Style dialog box:
Selecting the Drop Shadow effect.
The shadow’s angle and distance
Then click and drag inside the image to set the shadow’s Angle and Distance. Here I’m dragging down and to the right so the light source for the shadow appears to be coming from the upper left:
Dragging the shadow down and to the right.
Or you can enter specific Angle and Distance values in the dialog box. I’ll set the Angle to 135 degrees and the Distance to 50 pixels. You may need a smaller or larger Distance value depending on your image:
Entering specific Angle and Distance values.
The shadow size
The Size value controls the softness or feathering of the shadow edges. I’ll set it to 15 pixels:
Softening the shadow edges by increasing the size.
The shadow opacity
And you can adjust the intensity of the shadow (how light or dark it appears) by dragging the Opacity slider. But I’ll leave it at the default value of 35 percent:
Leaving the Opacity at the default value.
Click OK when you’re done to close the Layer Style dialog box. And here’s the effect with the border and shadow added to the smaller photo. Only one more thing left to do:
The effect with the border and drop shadow added.
Step 20: Rotate the shape
Finally, you can add more excitement to the effect by rotating the shape around your subject.
In the Layers panel, make sure the shape layer is active:
Selecting the shape layer in the Layers panel.
And with the Rectangle Tool still active in the toolbar, hover your mouse cursor just outside one of the shape’s handles. The cursor will change into a Rotate icon (a curved line with an arrow on both ends):
Hover near a handle to get the Rotate icon.
Then click and drag to rotate the shape. The image inside the shape will remain fixed in place. Only the shape itself, along with its border and drop shadow, will rotate, making it look like the photo was taken on an angle:
Rotating the smaller photo around the main subjects.
If you need to resize the shape again after rotating it, make sure to hold Shift as you drag the handles to lock the aspect ratio. And to move the shape if needed, hold Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) to temporarily access the Path Selection Tool, drag the shape into place, and then release the Ctrl / Command key.
To remove the outline from around the shape when you’re done, press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard.
And here, after making a few small adjustments to the size and position of the smaller photo, is my final “Picture in Picture” result:
The final effect.
Where to go next…
And there we have it! That’s how easy it is to create a
Picture in Picture effect with Photoshop!
And don’t forget, all of my tutorials are available to download as PDFs!