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Photomontage >

5.5 – Using Photoshop Elements >

Transform a Layer

In this section, layers will be transformed using several methods.

Earlier sections discussed these layer transformations:


Erasing Part of Layer

Changing the Exposure & Contrast of a Layer

Changing the Saturation of a Layer

1 – Mac Students

When you see Ctrl in the tutorial, use the Cmd key instead.

2 – Preparation

Open two photographs and put them together in the same file.


You can download the photographs used below.

1st Photograph – Picnic Table

2nd Photograph – Flowers

Do the following.

1) Open a photograph, the first photograph.


1st Photograph – Picnic Table

2) Open a second photograph.


2nd Photograph – Flowers

3) Select the Move tool.

You're going to move the second photograph to the first photograph.

4) Click the Photo Bin icon in the lower-left corner of your screen.

5) Click and hold on the large image of the second photograph that's in the work area (A).

It's best to click and hold in the lower-left corner of the second photograph.

6) While still holding, move the cursor to the thumbnail of first photograph in the Photo Bin (B).

7) Let go of the mouse button.

8) Press the letter z on your keyboard to select the Zoom tool.


Note #1

Keep the top layer active (darker blue) in most of the transformations below.

If it's not active (darker blue) , click on it.


Note #2

To undo a transformation, click the Undo icon at the bottom of your screen.


3 – Convert to B&W

1) At the top of your screen, go to Enhance > Convert to B&W.


2) Select a style in the lower-left corner of the

3) Click OK.

4) Click the Undo icon at the bottom of your screen.

4 – Blending Modes

At the top top of the layers stack, look for the word Normal.


This is the blending modes menu.

1) Click the tiny black triangle to open the menu.

2) Select Color.


This is the key concept with blending modes:

A blending mode takes something from the top layer—and something from the bottom layer—to make something new.

The Color blending mode:

• Takes the color from the top layer, here, the flowers.

• Takes the luminosity from the bottom layer, here, the picnic table.

Luminosity is the black-and-white part of a photograph, its "structure."


Color Blending Mode

2) Try the other blending modes.

Do the following.

a) Open the the blending mode menu and select Dissolve.

b) Press the down arrow on your keyboard to cycle through the blending modes.

3) To continue trying the other transformations, open the blending mode menu and select Normal.

Note #1

The Dissolve blending mode doesn't do anything until you lower its opacity.

Note #2

What's the difference between Hue and Color?

Hue takes the color from the top layer—and saturation and luminosity from the bottom layer.

Color takes the color and saturation from the top layer—and the luminosity from the bottom layer.

5 – Invert

1) Press Ctrl + i.

The layer turns into a negative.

Blacks are white.

Whites are black.

Colors turn into their complementary (opposite) colors.


2) Click Undo.

6 – Flip

1) At the top of your screen, go to Image > Rotate > Flip Layer Horizontal or Flip Layer Vertical.

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2) Click Undo.


The above two commands flip only the active (darker blue) layer.

The other layers don't flip.

That's probably what you want to do.

If you choose the other commands in the above window, all of the layers change.

7 – Adjust Sharpness

1) Go to Enhance > Adjust Sharpness.


2) Adjust the Amount and the Radius.

Sharpening is the increase in contrast between parts of a photograph, such as along the edge of a flower petal.

Amount increases the contrast along the edge of the flower petal.

Radius moves the sharpening beyond the edge of the flower petal.

The "interior" of the flower petal is sharpened as well as its edge.

3) Click Shadows/Highlights in the Adjust Sharpness window to adjust those parts of your photograph.

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4) Click Undo.

Unsharp Masking

Unsharp Masking is similar the Adjust Sharpness filter above.

Go to Enhance > Unsharp Masking.

Amount and Radius are the same as the Adjust Sharpness filter.

Threshold determines how different pixels have to be—who are next to each other—to be sharpened.

Radius is a quantity.

How many pixels will be sharpened from the edge inward?

Threshold is qualitative.

a) What are the pixels like along the edge?

b) At a value of zero, the pixels can be the same or different.

All are sharpened.

c) At higher values, the pixels have to be more and more similar in order to be sharpened.

Typical Threshold values for a normally-appearing photograph are from 2 to 20.


Adobe: Sharpen Photos

The settings recommended in the above article are for normally-appearing photographs.

You'll probably want to try more extreme values.

8 – Blur

1) At the top of your screen, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian.


2) Enter a Radius value and click OK.


3) Click Undo.

9 – Filters

There are many other filters with which you can experiment.

Go to the Filter menu at the top of your screen.

10 – Drop Shadows

Adding a drop shadow to an element on a photomontage can make it appear to be grounded—not floating.

Do the following.

1) Click on the layer with the element to make it active (darker blue).

2) At the top of your screen, go to Layer > Layer Style > Style Settings.


3) Select Drop Shadow from the menu.

In order to see the drop shadow more easily, increase the size (1) and opacity (3).

Fine tune the above once you have experimented with the two values.

If you increase the distance (2) too much, the drop shadow will be moved far away from the element.

In the Lighting Angle section (4), click, hold, and drag the black radius (red arrow).

This moves the drop shadow around your element.

Jot down all four values.

You'll probably want all of the drop shadows to be the same on every element.

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Without and With a Drop Shadow

11 – Threshold Adjustment Layer

You can convert a layer into a high contrast black-and-white image.

For a little photography history, go to:

The Story Behind Che's Iconic Photo

Alberto Korda

Alberto Korda

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Do the following.

1) Click on the layer you want to make high contrast.

2) At the top of the layers stack, click the third icon.

3) Click Threshold.

4) In the Threshold window, click the tiny white box in the lower-left corner of the window.

The effect of the Threshold adjustment layer is now limited to the layer below.


5) As needed, move the slider.

By default, the slider is at 128.

Half the pixels in the layer below are now white; half are black.

You can change the ratio by moving the slider.

6) Close the Threshold window.

7) Press and hold Ctrl, and click on both the Threshold adjustment layer and the layer below.

8) Press Ctrl + e.

The two layers are merged.

9) Use the Spot Healing Brush tool to fix any defects.

In the example above, there distracting white specks.

You can now edit the high-contrast layer.

Remove Part of the High-contrast Layer

1) Select the Magic Wand selection tool.

2) In Tool Options:

• Sample All Layers is deselected.

• Contiguous is probably deselected.

• Tolerance is at its default value of 32.

3) Select the white areas—or the black areas—in the high-contrast layer.

4) Press Ctrl + x.

The selected areas are removed.

The layer(s) below become visible in the removed areas.

Example #1

Below, the white areas were removed as described above.

In the top layer below, the white areas are now a transparent checkerboard pattern.

A layer filled with red, FF1A00, was placed below the high-contrast layer.


The red layer is now visible through the checkerboard/transparent areas.


Example #2

Below, the white areas were removed as described above.

In the top layer below, the white areas are now a transparent checkerboard pattern.

A photograph was placed under the high-contrast layer.

The opacity of the high-contrast layer was lowered (red oval).


The high-contrast layer is now blended with the landscape below.