Let’s say you have two images that are both decent, but each one isn’t exactly what you were hoping for. Maybe it’s of your kids and no matter how many times you say cheese someone blinks at the wrong time.
Or maybe you want to add a killer sunset to your family barn pic. This guide will show you how to merge photos in photoshop.
How to Merge Photos in Photoshop: Starting With Layers
Cramming everything onto one layer gets messy and confusing. For the love of your sanity, don’t do that to yourself. Creating more layers makes blending and merging things easier and more organized. And it’s not like paper-you’re not killing trees for adding layers.
1. Import the first image. (You can do this by selecting import, or dragging the image icon into your Photoshop canvas.)
2. Adjust the image to the size you like. Hold SHIFT while dragging a corner to keep scaling proportionally.
3. Hit the check mark near the top right, or, simply use the “ENTER” hotkey. (We recommend option 2.)
3. Click add layer. This button is down on the bottom right.
Now would be a great time to start labeling your layers, too. Things like “Family” or “Sunset” are ten times better than Layer 1-900x.
4. Now add the second image (again, rename it, so it’s not just JPG0429whatever. You won’t remember that.)
5. Repeat until you have everything you want in Photoshop.
6. Depending on the blend or merge you’re trying to make, you may have to rasterize layer. This is done by right-clicking on the layer (not the thumbnail) and selecting rasterize layer.
For more help on working with layers, we have The Complete Guide to Layering in Photoshop.
So What Types of Layer Merges Can I Now Make?
People often gloss over this, but there are two types of merges you can make in Photoshop. One is quite simple, and the other is where things get a little more complex. All depends on what you are trying to do.
Simple Version – For Making Two Layers One
Select both layers (SHIFT+CLICK)
Right-click, select “MERGE LAYERS”.
All those layers are now one, simple, compacted layer.
More Complex Version – For Making Alterations and Stylistic Enhancements
This is where you can start to align, and blend layers.
1. Select both layers you would like to merge through alignment or blending.
2. Click “EDIT.”
3. Click either “Auto-Align” or “Auto-Blend Layers”
This will reposition the layers so that they’ll be ready to produce a modified image.
What Type of Algninment Do I Select?
As you probably noticed, six alignment options come up when you select “Auto-Align.”
For just merging two images to get a better, more intended shot, we recommend selecting “AUTO” or “REPOSITION.” These two features make it so that the two photos are basically on top of each other, ready for further edits.
Reposition will only move the images around. The Auto option will have photoshop combine the photos using the cylindrical or perspective option, depending on which one produces a better outcome.
If you’re interested in what each feature does exactly, here’s a reference for what that:
Perspective: One layer will remain still as the source image and the others will be bent and modified around it.
Collage: Shapes within the layers will not be distorted. So, those people who are squares shall stay squares.
Spherical: This is a great pick for those wide shots. Photoshop will designate one photo as the main reference image and bend the others around it.
Cylindrical: This is most often your best choice for working with panorama shots. This feature will help take care of that hour-glass or bow-tie effect some merging features create.
For a more in-depth look at all Photoshop’s alignments, when to use them, and how to adjust their nuts and bolts, we recommend Adobe’s Align and Distribute Layers article.
What Do I Do After Combining Photos?
Now the canvas image is looking good through a combined alignment, you might be wondering how to make some extra touch-ups or modifications. Like, maybe Aunt Carla in one photo is totally looking off into space, but in the next, she is dead-on-smiling at the camera. Luckily, you’re on track to fix that.
1. Select the image layer that has the bad shot–the one where Aunt Carla is being a space cadet.
2. Click on that eraser tool that’s off on the left toolbox panel.
3. Go to town. (Erase the Aunt Carla in the bad image.)
4. You’ll notice the better version of Aunt Carla is still visible.
CAUTION: You might erase and then only see white. If this happens, it’s because you did that simple merge earlier. That feature makes two layers one, remember. To fix this, make sure you have multiple layers and are only selecting the one you want to erase from.
How to Merge Photos in Photoshop Through Blending
Merging layers through a blend is a great way to add an overlay to images. This is if you want to make some more creative choices, like giving your family photo a glow or ocean look. Below are some steps to walk you through this.
1. Make sure you have your base photo (say family photo) as one layer and your sunset or glowy overlay image as another.
2. We recommend having the overlay image above your base photo. (Higher on the layer stack.)
3. Right-click that top image, and select blending options.
4. A box will show up with tons of modification options. These are at your discretion, depending on the type of aesthetic and composition you are trying to create.
For just doing an overlay, we recommend opening the drop-down box and selecting the “OVERLAY” feature.
For navigating all the other little gizmos and buttons, like what all the other blending modes do, check out Photoshop’s Blending Modes reference.
5. Scale your opacity to what you like.
6. Now all your friends and family will ask how you got the ocean to wash over your image!
Important Photoshop Merging Note
Be careful of the eraser tool. Making sure that you’re not erasing the image itself will save you troubles down the road. To protect yourself from this, we recommend adding a mask. For a full walkthrough on how to work masks, we recommend Adobe’s Composite Images by Selecting and Masking guide.
Ready For More Photoshop Power?
Now that you’ve learned all about how to merge photos in photoshop, you might be ready to try your hand at a few more advanced techniques such as some Graphic Design or advanced Photo Effects. Whatever it may be, we’ve got you covered.