Use Layer Masks to Fade and Blend Images in Photoshop
This article was written in 2011 and remains one of our most popular posts. If you’re keen to learn more about Photoshop, you may find this more recent article on getting started with Photoshop of great interest.
It doesn’t matter if you are a photographer or a graphic designer, chances are that you have come across the need to fade or blend images in Photoshop. There are many different methods and techniques that will help you to blend images together. One of them is called a layer mask. Even with layer masks there are different techniques for blending one layer with another.
One method is to create a layer mask on a layer, and then use the brush tool to paint over the areas that you want to mask or blend with black. Any positive value other than white will allow you to implement a soft mask. The lightest grey will blend the edge of a mask.
The other method is to use the gradient tool to blend an image in a uniform manner. The key phrase to remember is that black conceals and white reveals. This means that anywhere that you paint on the layer mask with black will fade the image on that layer. If you have faded or blended an image too much, simply switch your brush color to white. White will bring back the image for that layer.
Step 1: Bring Your Image Into Photoshop
Open your image in Photoshop. Depending on your desired orientation, you will set up your file to mask part of the image out. I downloaded an image of a woman doing yoga. You can download it here.
Step 2: Unlock your background layer
Double-click the background layer to unlock it. This will allow you to move it around as you please. When the layer is locked, you can’t move the image on that layer. Photoshop will display a popup message reminding you that a layer is locked.
Step 3: Position Your Image
Position your image layer in the document as you wish. This may mean that you have to crop your image, or move it around. If you move it so that part of it goes off of the canvas that is okay. This part of the image won’t be printed and won’t show up in a flattened file. I moved our yoga image to the left, so that a good portion of the left side goes off of the screen. This opens up space on the right side to place text.
Step 4: Add a New Layer Below Your Image
Create a new layer below your photo. We are going to fill this layer with a solid color, and blend the photo to ease the transition between the photo and the solid color.
Step 5: Sample a Color From Your Image
When using this technique, it is usually a good idea to choose a color from your photo. This technique adds a sense of uniformity to your work. I sampled a darker shade of hot pink from the woman’s pants. I filled the blank layer below our photo with this color by holding option/alt and hitting the delete key.
Step 6: Blend Your Image
In the Layers Panel, make sure the layer with your photo is selected, and click the Layer Mask icon. This will create a blank mask for your photo. You know that a mask is active, when there is a black outline around the layer mask icon. Select the gradient tool, and draw a black to white gradient from the right edge of the photo, to the left. Don’t go past a 4th or 5th of the right portion of the photo. If the mask is too much or not enough, hold command/ctrl and hit the Z key to undo your gradient and try again.
Step 7: Add Some Type
Select your text tool and type out your text. I sampled a yellow color from the leaves in the background, as this will help to further unify our design, and yellow works very well on pink/purple.
Step 8: Create a Crisp Shadow
Duplicate the text layer, and for the bottom text layer, double-click the “T” icon to select all of the text in that layer. Click the foreground color swatch in the Toolbox to bring up the color picker. You automatically get the eyedropper tool when you hover over your file. With the eyedropper tool, select a darker green color for the bottom text layer. Select the move tool and while using your arrow keys, hit the left arrow twice and the down arrow twice. This adds a nice shadow effect to your type, all while using colors found in your photo.
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