Quick-Tip: How to Create Double Exposure Photographs in Photoshop

Quick-Tip: How to Create Double Exposure Photographs in Photoshop
Quick-Tip: How to Create Double Exposure Photographs in Photoshop

Double-exposure photography is becoming increasingly popular and can even be found as a built-in feature in some digital cameras. Creating your own effect in Photoshop is a simple process but it doesn't always look great. In this tutorial, you'll learn how to easily create your own double-exposure photos and some great tricks to get perfect results every time.

Step 1

Start by opening the photo you’ll use as a background into Photoshop. This is usually a landscape/cityscape. Place the second image by dragging and dropping the file into your canvas or by going to File > Place. The transform tool will automatically be activated. Set the blending mode of the layer to screen then transform and position the image. Press Enter to apply the transformation.

Image from ShutterStock

Step 2

If you’ll be converting the image to B&W, add a Black & White adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Black & White) then adjust the settings any way you like. This will make the next steps easier by helping you focus on the tonal settings without interference from the colors. You can always delete this layer and readjust the B&W settings later.

Black & White Adjustment

Step 3

We have a double-exposure image but chances are that you’ll need to do some tweaking. We want to make the girls face brighter and the other areas darker. So to do this, add a new Curves adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves). Position this layer above your 2nd layer. Hold the Alt/Option key then click between the curves adjustment layer and the layer below. This will clip the curves adjustment so that it only affects the one layer below.

Step 4

With the curves adjustment layer selected, go into the Properties panel (Window > Properties), and click on the on-image adjustment tool. With this tool, you can drag anywhere in your photo to  brighten or darken an area. For our photo, we dragged up over the skin to make it more visible and down on the hair to make it darker.

Here’s the before and after of this adjustment.


Step 5

You can also do the same with the background layer. Add a curves adjustment layer above the background layer then make any adjustments that you need.

A neat trick you can do is to darken the whites in the background layer. This makes the brightest areas of your background layer darker so that it does not compete with your foreground layer. To do this, simply drag the top-right curves point downwards. Here’s the before and after results. The difference is subtle but it helps make your foreground stand out more.

Step 6

Oftentimes, you’ll find yourself repositioning your layers If you need to reposition or transform your background layer, right-click on it then choose “Convert to Smart Object”. This will allow you to move and scale your layer nondestructively.

Step 7

We’re done! Make any readjustments you need to the black & white adjustment layer. You can also delete it and try running some Photoshop actions to create a film or retro/vintage effect. Here are some actions that work great with double exposures:

Final Results

Here are the final results creating using a variety of methods.

[gigabox-gallery ids="7851,7850,7849,7848,7847,7845,7846,7844,7843" columns="3" ]

Download the PSD

[vc_column width="1/1" el_position="first last"] [vc_cta_button title="Download" href="https://downloads.photoshoptutorials.ws/Double Exposure Photo.zip" color="btn" size="btn-large" icon="none" target="_self" position="cta_align_right" call_text="Double Exposure Photo.zip | 4.95 MB" width="1/1" el_position="first last"] [/vc_column]

Create Dot Grid Art in 1 Click

Turn any photo into a dot grid artwork with these Photoshop actions. You'll get great results with dots that change size. They get larger in brighter areas and smaller in darker areas. Free download available.

26 comments on “Quick-Tip: How to Create Double Exposure Photographs in Photoshop”

  1. I always like double exposure and am really glad they are so easy to do in Photoshop!

  2. When I bring my images in they look great. Background image is dark and has contrast and the above image is nicely back lit and punchy. However as soon as I make the layer 'screen' it desaturates a lot and no amount of curve linking bring back the punch. The only way is to switch it back to 'normal' in layer properties or sometimes overlay works better. Please help! Thanks

  3. Hi - great tutorial. Just a question on step 2 the first sentence - can you please tell me how it ends? "then set the..."I'm new at this. Thanks for your help.

  4. It is not double exposure if it is not done in the camera since there is no actual "exposure" happening. This is called a digital imaging manipulation.

    1. Or a method for creating a double exposure "effect". I agree that the heading is misleading.

  5. Thanks!! This is the best double-exposure tutorial! I went through countless tuts and none of them use the drag up/down tool. Yours made the most sense and the easiest to do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *