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Create a Film-Poster Style Composite in Photoshop CS5

Check out our Photoshop: Retouching & Image Adjustment course!

In this article, I'm going to show one of many possible techniques for blending photos together to create a collage. We're going to be working with two images here, but of course you can easily extend these techniques to as many layers of images as you like. Let's get started. 


Step 1 - Assemble Your Images

I'm going to be working with two images here, as I mentioned:

A stock photo of a lonely Western road...

stock photo


...and a snapshot of my cat Daphne, looking winsome:

cat


What I want to do is composite Daphne over the Western background, somewhat in the vein of a film poster, and blend the two together smoothly to make a seamless collage.


Step 2 - Mask the Foreground Subject

Depending on your source image, it may not be necessary to isolate your foreground subject from its background. But in my case it is, because I want to see just Daphne's head and chest, not the stuff behind her.

So, I'm going to use the Magnetic Lasso tool and draw a loose outline around her. As I do, the Magnetic Lasso selection will snap to her edges.

Using the Magnetic Lasso tool


We don't have to worry about being too precise, as we're going to feather this selection heavily—which we'll do next.


Step 3 - Feather the Foreground Mask

With the selection still active, click the 'Refine Edge' button in the Options bar to open the Refine Edge dialog. In that dialog, set the Feather high (how high will depend on the resolution of your image) so that you create a very soft blurred edge for the selection.

feathering


Before moving on, save your selection by choosing Select > Save Selection... and saving the selection into a new channel - that way, you can recall it and refine it further if necessary at any time.


Step 4 - Copy the Foreground Image into the Background

Next, with the foreground image still selected, copy it, and then bring the background image forward and paste the masked image into it.

put it in the background


As you can see, Daphne's already somewhat blended into the background with an attractive halo because of her highly feathered edge. But she's obviously a cropped photo, and I'd like to blend her more smoothly into the landscape anyway. We'll do that next.


Step 5 - Create a Foreground Layer Mask

First, use the Move tool to reposition your foreground image to where you want it (I've moved her higher and more centered).

reposition the cat


Next select the foreground layer in the Layers palette and click the 'Add Layer Mask' button.

Add layer mask


You'll see a Layer Mask (the white rectangle) added next to the layer's image in the palette.

The layer mask


Next, click on the Layer Mask thumbnail to make sure it's selected and grab the Gradient tool from the Tool palette. Make sure you have a plain black-to-white linear gradient selected in the Options bar, then drag with the gradient in your foreground image from bottom to top. You may have to try this several times to get the right blend; the positions where you start and end will affect the final composite significantly. Here's what I ended up with:

the final composite


As you can see, a gradient in the Layer Mask for a layer will blend that layer into the background, based on the grayscale values in the gradient. The darker the gradient, the more transparent the image.

As I mentioned, there are many ways to collage images seamlessly in Photoshop. As always, I encourage you to experiment with your own versions of this technique as well as exploring others. 

Check out our Photoshop: Retouching & Image Adjustment course!

Richard Lainhart

Richard Lainhart | Articles by this author

Richard Lainhart is an award-winning composer, filmmaker, and author. His compositions have been performed in the US, Europe Asia, and Australia, and recordings of his music have appeared on the Periodic Music, Vacant Lot, XI Records, Airglow Music, Tobira Records, Infrequency, VICMOD, and ExOvo labels. His animations and short films have been shown in festivals in the US, Europe, and Asia, and online at ResFest, The New Venue, The Bitscreen, and Streaming Cinema 2.0. He has authored over a dozen technical manuals for music and video hardware and software, served as Contributing Editor for Interactivity and 3D Design Magazines, and contributed to books on digital media production published by IDG, Peachpit Press, McGraw Hill, and Miller Freeman Books. Previously an Adobe Certified Expert in After Effects and Premiere, a demo artist for Adobe Systems, and co-founder of the official New York City After Effects User Group, he was, from 2000-2009, Technical Director for Total Training Productions, an innovative digital media training company based in New York and California.

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