In this tutorial, I’ll show you three easy ways to blend two images together in Photoshop! We’ll start with the most basic way to blend images, and that’s by using the Opacity option in the Layers panel. Then we’ll look at how to get more interesting and creative results using Photoshop’s layer blend modes. And finally, we’ll learn how to blend two images seamlessly together using a layer mask. I’ll also include a quick tip in each of the three sections to help speed up your workflow and get the best results.
How to blend two images In Photoshop
For this tutorial, I’m using Photoshop CC but everything is compatible with Photoshop CS6.
Method 1: The Layer Opacity Option
The first way we’ll look at for blending two images together is by using Photoshop’s layer opacity option. Here’s the first image I’ll be using:
Layers panel, we see both images on their own separate layers. The beach photo is on the Background layer, and the portrait is on “Layer 1” above it:
Related: How to move images into the same Photoshop document
The Opacity Value
The Opacity option is found in the upper right of the Layers panel. By default, it’s set to 100%, which means that the currently-selected layer (“Layer 1”) is completely blocking the layer below it from view:
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Lowering the opacity of the top layer to 75%.
This means that we’re now blending 75% of the image on the top layer with 25% of the image on the bottom layer. And here we see that the woman is starting to blend in with the beach photo:
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Setting the Opacity value to 30 percent.
At 30% opacity, we’re seeing just 30% of the top image and 70% of the bottom image, creating a nice blending effect. You’ll want to adjust the opacity value as needed for your images:
image that I have open:
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The Layers panel again showing each image on a separate layer.
The Blend Mode Option
Blend modes in Photoshop are different ways that layers can interact with each other. The Blend Mode option is found in the upper left of the Layers panel, directly across from the Opacity option. By default, a layer’s blend mode is set to Normal. “Normal” just means that the layer is not blending at all with the layers below it:
Essential Blend Modes tutorial. Three of the most popular and useful blend modes you’ll want to try are Multiply, Screen and Overlay. The Multiply blend mode creates a darkening effect, Screen creates a brightening effect, and Overlay blends the two layers to increase the overall contrast:
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Changing the blend mode to Soft Light.
Like the Overlay blend mode, Soft Light blends the two images together in a way that boosts the overall contrast. The difference is that Soft Light produces a more subtle and natural looking effect:
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Changing the blend mode to Divide.
Divide is one of the lesser-known and rarely-used blend modes in Photoshop. But with these two images, the effect actually looks pretty cool:
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Leaving the blend mode set to Divide and lowering the opacity to 50%.
And here’s the result:
Quick Tip: How to cycle through blend modes from the keyboard
Here’s another quick tip to help speed up your workflow and make working with blend modes easier. You can cycle through Photoshop’s various blend modes directly from your keyboard. Press the letter V to quickly select the Move Tool. Then, press and hold your Shift key and use the plus ( + ) and minus ( – ) keys to move up or down through the list. This lets you quickly try out the different blend modes to find the one that works best.
Method 3: Using A Layer Mask
The third way we’ll look at for blending two images in Photoshop, and by far the most popular way, is by using a layer mask. Unlike the layer opacity option or the blend modes which blend entire images as a whole, layer masks let us control exactly where the two images blend together. There’s lots that we can do with layer masks, more than we could cover in a single tutorial. So here, we’ll just learn the basics.
Here’s the first image I’ll be using:
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Each photo is on a separate layer.
Adding a layer mask
To add a layer mask, first make sure the top layer is selected. Then, click the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel:
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The new layer mask thumbnail.
How a layer mask works
Layer masks control the transparency of a layer, just like we saw with the Opacity option in the Layers panel. But while the Opacity option affects the transparency of the entire layer as a whole, a layer mask lets us add different levels of transparency to different parts of the layer. In other words, we can use a layer mask to show some areas while hiding others, making layer masks perfect for blending images.
They work by using black and white. Any part of the layer where the layer mask is filled with white remains visible. And any part of the layer where the mask is filled with black is hidden. Let’s see how we can quickly blend our two images together by drawing a black-to-white gradient on the layer mask.
Selecting the Gradient Tool
Select the Gradient Tool from the Toolbar:
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Clicking the arrow beside the gradient swatch.
In the Gradient Picker, choose the Black, White gradient by double-clicking on its thumbnail (third from the left, top row):
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Clicking the thumbnail to select the layer mask.
Then, click on the image and drag out a black-to-white gradient. Remember that black will hide that part of the layer, and white will show it. In my case, I want to keep the left side of the photo (the part with the girl) visible, so the left side of the mask will need to be white. I want the right side to be hidden, which means the right side of the mask needs to be black. Since the gradient will start with black and end with white, I’ll click on the right side of the image and drag horizontally over to the left. Press and hold your Shift key as you drag to move straight across:
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The two photos are now blending together.
Viewing the layer mask
If we look at the layer mask thumbnail in the Layers panel, we see where the gradient was drawn. The black area on the right is where the top image is hidden in the document, allowing the photo on the Background layer to show through. And the white area on the left is where the top image remains visible:
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The dark to light gradient in the middle is what allows the two images to blend seamlessly together..
Quick Tip: How to toggle a layer mask on and off
Here’s a quick tip for working with layer masks. You can toggle a layer mask on and off by pressing and holding your Shift key and clicking the layer mask thumbnail in the Layers panel. Click the thumbnail once to temporarily disable the mask and view the entire layer. A red “X” will appear in the thumbnail, letting you know that the mask is disabled. Hold Shift and click the thumbnail again to turn the layer mask back on:
Layer Masks and Gradients tutorial. Use our Layers Learning Guide to learn more about Photoshop layers, or visit our Photoshop Basics section for more tutorials! And don’t forget, all of our Photoshop tutorials are now available to download as PDFs!