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Learn Photography

Photoshop Elements >

Blend Photographs

With a Pattern

You can use a pattern to remove pixels from a photograph.

This photograph will have millions of holes in it.

Then, place a second photograph underneath the photograph with holes.

You'll see the underneath photograph through the holes.

Photograph with holes 

Second photograph


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Picnic Table Pine Needles

The above photographs were blended below.

Holes were cut in the picnic-table layer.

The pine-needles layer is seen through the holes.

Picnic table with holes

Pine needles

Blended Photographs

Why Not Use Opacity?

If you lower the opacity of the picnic-table-with-holes layer, you'll see the pine-needles layer.

But, you're looking through a semi-transparent, picnic-table-with-holes, layer.

When you use the method below, you'll see both photographs with their original intensity.


You may see the affects created by the dither effect.

The pixels of one photograph—next to the pixels of a second photograph—may combine visually to create a color that isn't present.


Do the following.

Make the Pattern

1) Go to File > New > Blank File.

The New window will open.


2) Enter 2 pixels for the width and the height.

3) Make sure Transparent is selected in Background Contents.

4) Click OK.

5) Press Ctrl + 0 (zero).

Even after the above command, the image will be small.

6) Make sure the Foreground color is black.

If you haven't already, go to Foreground & Background Colors.

7) Select the Pencil tool in from the Brush tool family.


8) Click:

• In the upper-left corner.

• In the lower-right corner.


9) Go to Edit > Define Pattern.

10) Enter a name for the pattern.

11) Click OK.

Cut Holes in a Photograph

12) Open a photograph.

13) Create a Background copy layer.

If you haven't already done so, go to Create a Background Copy Layer.

14) Create a blank layer.

15) Rename the layer as Pattern.


Background copy


16) Go to Edit > Fill Layer.

The Fill Layer window will open.

17) Select Pattern in the Use menu.


18) Select the pattern you created from the Custom Pattern palette.


19) Click OK.

20) Zoom in until you can see the black boxes.

21) Select the Magic Wand tool.


22) In options bar/Tool Options, make sure:

• Tolerance is set to 1.

• Contiguous is deselected.

• Sample All Layers is deselected.


23) Click one of the black boxes.

The black boxes will be selected.

24) Save the selection.

You're probably going to be experimenting with different photographs.

If you save the selection, you won't have to make it over-and-over.

Do the following.

a) Go to Select > Save Selection.

b) Enter a name for the selection.

c) Click OK.

25) Make sure the Background copy layer is active (highlighted).


Background copy


26) Press Ctrl + x.

Where there's a black-box pixel, a pixel of the photograph will be removed.

There are now millions of holes in the photograph.

27) Rename the Background copy layer as First photograph with holes.


First photograph with holes


28) Deselect the eye icon of the Pattern layer.

The black boxes will disappear.

Move a Second Photograph

29) Open a second photograph.

For convenience, the second photograph should be the same size as the first photograph.

That is, made with the same camera at the same quality settings.

30) Make a Background copy.

31) Select the Move tool.

32) Move the second photograph to the first photograph.

Do the following.

a) Press and hold Shift.

b) Click and hold on the second photograph image in the work area.

c) Drag it down to the thumbnail of the first photograph in the project bin/photo bin.

d) Release the mouse button and the Shift key.

The moved photograph will appear in the layer stack of the First photograph with holes.

Usually, Photoshop Elements will name it as Layer 1.

Layer 1


First photograph with holes


33) Rename Layer 1, the moved photograph, as Second photograph.

Second photograph


First photograph with holes



34) Drag the Second photograph layer below the First-photograph-with-holes layer.

You now are looking at:

• Half of the pixels of the first photograph.

• Half of the pixels of the second photograph.


First photograph with holes

Second photograph



35) Make sure the Pattern layer is active (highlighted).


First photograph with holes

Second photograph


36) Create a Levels adjustment layer.

The Levels window will open in the Adjustments panel.



First photograph with holes

Second photograph


37) Adjust the Levels.

This will adjust the Levels of the blended photographs.

Levels x 2

It may be advantageous to adjust the Levels of each layer independently.

Do the following.

a) If you made a Levels adjustment layer already, delete it.

b) Make sure the First-photograph-with-holes layer is active (highlighted).

c) Create a Levels adjustment layer.

d) Press Ctrl + g (PSE 15: Ctrl + Alt + g) to group it with the layer below, First photograph with holes.

If you haven't already done so, go to Grouping.

e) Make sure the Second-photograph layer is active (highlighted).

f) Create a Levels adjustment layer.

g) Press Ctrl + g (PSE 15: Ctrl + Alt + g) to group it with the layer below, Second photograph.

h) Adjust the Levels.


↓ Levels

First photograph with holes

↓ Levels

Second photograph



Make the Holes Larger

You can make the holes any size.

The pattern below is 8 pixels by pixels.

Each black square was made from sixteen pixels.

The red grid was added so you can see the pixels.



You can lower the opacity of the First-photograph-with-holes layer.

The Opacity box is at the top of the layers stack, to the right of the Blending Mode box.

It probably has 100% inside.


Blending Modes

You can change the blending modes of the photograph layers.

Screen will lighten the layer.

Multiply will darken it.

Overlay will increase the contrast of the layer.

Try the other blending modes, as well.

Blending mode?

At the top of the layers stack, look for the unlabeled Blending Mode box.

It's to the left of the Opacity box.


If you're new to blending modes, go to Blending Modes.

Only Blend Part of the Photographs

You may want to blend only a portion of the photographs.

Erase Tool

Use the Erase tool to erase parts of the First-photograph-with-holes layer.

Layer Mask

Or, create a layer mask in the First-photograph-with-holes layer.

Do the following.

a) Make sure First-photograph-with-holes layer is active (highlighted).

b) Create a layer mask.

c) Using the Brush tool, paint with black or shades of gray on the mask where you don't want the photograph to appear.

By default, the mask is white, allowing 100% of the photograph to be visible.

Black paint will block 100% the photograph.

Shades of gray will block less, depending on the shade.

Variation #1

You can press Ctrl + i, to make the mask black.

100% of the photograph will be blocked.

Then, paint with white and shades of gray to make portions of the photograph visible.

Variation #2

You can draw a gradient on the layer mask with the Gradient tool.

What If?

What if:

• You used just one photograph, and blended a color layer of the photograph with a black-and-white layer of the same photograph?

First photograph with holes

Same photograph as above, but black-and-white


• You used just one photograph, and used a filter only on the First-photograph-with-holes layer?

First photograph with holes, with a filter applied

Same photograph as above, with no filter


• The layer under the First-photograph-with-holes layer was a Solid Color adjustment layer, a painting, graphics, or ?

First photograph with holes

Color Fill 1


• You erased part of the Second-photograph layer, allowing a third photograph to be blended in?


First photograph with holes

Second photograph (partially erased)

Third photograph