One of the easiest ways to expand your knowledge of photographic editing is to get comfortable with layer-based editing and composition. There are a number of programs that use layer-based editing, the most popular of these being Photoshop, GIMP, and Pixelmator, and they will help you learn how to edit photos better.

Using Photoshop layers

This article shows you how to blend an image with a basic texture in Photoshop CS6. It’s a pretty simple process once you get the hang of it. First, in Photoshop, open the image of your choice.

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Next, duplicate the layer you’re presently working with by clicking Layer > Duplicate Layer.

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This step is important if you want to make any changes to the main image and makes it easier to make adjustments throughout the process without having to start from the beginning.

Then open the image you want to blend. In this case, I’ve chosen a texture with a dark brown tint and some randomly placed scratches. There are many places online, like http://www.texturemate.com/, where you can find a wide variety of textures for your use. Or, if you’re feeling creative, you can make your own.

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Most likely, the size of the first image is going to be different than the size of the chosen texture. To check and change image size go to Image on the upper toolbar, and select Image Size. This is what you’ll see.

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You can do a number of things here, but I find the quickest way is to adjust the resolution. I’ve set the resolution at 72, which is a relatively small image size.

Next, you’ll want to use your select tool to select the area of the texture you want to blend with the initial image. Since I’m using the whole texture, I will select all of it. Then, in the upper tool bar, select Edit > Copy.

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Now that the template is on the clipboard, you’ll return to the first image, and paste the layer. This layer becomes your blend layer and the original image is your base layer.

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After you’ve pasted the blend layer, your screen will appear like this.

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If you look over to the right sidebar, you’ll notice a new layer has been added to your set. The layer you just pasted is called “Layer 1,” and this is the layer you will be working with.

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If you look closely at the screen above, you’ll see a box with the word “Normal” at the top of the Layers Palette. This is where you’ll locate your blending methods. Each method will change the overall appearance of the image and can be daunting to the inexperienced. Keep in mind that this is just a general overview, and not an in-depth description of blending modes.

Some photo editing tips:

Normal is what you see when you’ve first pasted the layer. It’s simply one layer stacked on top of the other, and unless you adjust the opacity (which we’ll get to in just a moment), you won’t be able to see your base image through the blend image.

Dissolve is the next option on the palette, and like Normal, it won’t show any of the background layer unless you’re on an opacity less than 100%. Dissolve eliminates various pixels throughout the image, thus “dissolving” it.

Darken chooses the darker color between the base image and blend image and shows those pixels only.

Lighten does the opposite.

Multiply calculates the RGB (red/green/blue) channels of the two images and multiplies them, resulting in darker hues. Screen is the opposite of multiply, and the result is lighter.

Overlay is a combination of Multiply and Screen, but the emphasis is more on the base image than the blend.

Difference subtracts the RGB channel of the blend image from that of the base to produce the result, which varies.

Color Burn and Color Dodge are like the tools by the same name. Color Burn darkens the base image; Color Dodge lightens it. The only areas not affected are places in which the image is pure white.

Soft light makes the blend image the source of light.

Hard light operates like Overlay by blending Multiply and Screen to often dramatic effects. These terms, as you’ll discover, are spot-on descriptive. You’ll probably have Vivid

Light, Pin Light, and Linear Light as options, these also manipulate the blend image into a light source.

Lastly, and these are probably the easiest to understand, the palette holds Hue, Saturation, Color, and Luminosity.

Hue uses the colors of the blend image and the saturation and luminance from the base. Saturation uses the colors in the blend image and the hues and luminance from the base. Color uses the saturation and hues from the blend, but the luminance from the base.

Luminosity uses the colors from the base image, but the luminance from the blend image.

Got it? OK, we can move on.

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By default, my Blend Mode is set to Normal, but I have adjusted the opacity of my texture layer (blend layer) to 50%. Opacity refers to how see-through a layer is. Thus, 100% opacity would be completely solid and 0% opacity would be invisible. At 50% opacity, we can easily see the texture as well as the base image.

Now, since this result is boring as is and not quite what I’m going for, I’m going to revert the opacity to 84%.

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Then, I’m going to select a new blend mode. I’ve chosen Hue in this case.

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 If you want to see what the image looked like before you added the blend image, click the eyeball icon to the left of the layer of your choice, and it will make the icon disappear and your chosen layer invisible.

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What happens if you don’t like the result and want to start over? Easy. Right click the blend layer in the layer palette, select “delete layer,” and you’re back to square one. Layer-based editing makes it easy to erase changes that you don’t like, and that’s only one advantage.

About The Author

Joey Phoenix

Joey is a Boston-based freelance writer and photographer passionate about cultural development and fascinated by people. Her website is: http://joeyphoenix.com

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