I am trying to get the following done in photoshop. I have 2 images both on 2 different layers. I have one on top of it and I am using the brush tool to sort of merge it with the bottom layer like shown in the examples but it doesn't seem to work in my case. What are these effects called? I would greatly appreciate any help with this.

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  • This is one of the most creative and understandable jobs called Double Exposure!
    – Bijutoha
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 5:42

3 Answers 3


An easier way than masks: using blends.

Here's how I would go about creating the first one:

  1. Grab yourself a picture of a cityscape. Make it greyscale if it isn't already.

enter image description here

  1. Next, grab yourself a picture of a bearded hipster with glasses. Convert to black and white or greyscale and up the brightness and contrast. I've also painted some white over some parts of the background to really only have the face in black.

enter image description here

  1. Put the picture of the bearded hipster on top of the cityscape. Now comes the magic touch: change the layer blend mode to Lighten. This ensures you only keep the light parts of your layer, so the black disappears and the cityscape comes true through there.

enter image description here

  1. Create a new layer with a color fill, or a nice gradient. Change this layer's blend mode to Color or Screen. Or play around with the blend modes until you find one you like.

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  1. Enjoy your hipster poster to the max!

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Pictures taken from

  • Ha! I was going to ask what you searched to get such a similar bearded dude. I got my answer at the end though . Commented May 24, 2016 at 11:25
  • I think my exact search terms were 'bearded hipster glasses'
    – PieBie
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 11:26

The effect is commonly referred to (but wrongly named) as double exposure but this is merely just clipping an image based on a selection.

How this is done

Make a selection of your person with the Pen Tool (P) or however you're most comfortable selecting things.

Make a Layer Mask, Go to Layer -> Layer Mask -> Reveal Selection.


Paste a graphic image over the person layer.

CMD/CTRL + left click the thumbnail of the person mask to load the selection and create a layer mask for the graphic image.

graphic over person layer

Duplicate the person layer CMD/CTRL + J and place that layer on top. Set the blending mode the Screen.

Add an adjustment layer Curves or Levels and adjusted the image to add more contrast. Add a black and white adjustment layer.

Make sure there is a clipping mask between the adjustment layers and person layer.

adjustment clipping mask

Start brushing the layer mask of the second person layer with black to erase some of the details.

Add a gradient map.


end result

Note: It is better to use an image with more detail and contrast. My image of someones back wasn't the best example...

  • Good tutorial of the actual effect, but I think we need to stress that this is not anything like a true double exposure in film...in fact, one uses very different means to obtain this effect vs. emulating an actual film double exposure. This effect is done via masking (which is actually also a real effect that can be achieved on film in limited ways) while for emulating a true film double exposure, you'd be using additive layer effects (instead of masking). To be clear, however, this effect did not originate from traditional film double exposures and is actually very much a digital...
    – DA01
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 19:18
  • 3
    @DA01 You may be right that the effect didn't originate from film but this effect has been done in photography. I cannot remember the photographer but I do remember this type of photography being done before their were digital artists. I understand the process is completely different but I disagree with you on how this effect is named. I think calling this effect "double exposure" is more relevant/understandable to more people than calling it "masking an image from a selection."
    – AndrewH
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 19:29
  • 1
    To be fair this question asked what this effect was called. Answering with double exposure is just fine. Even without the comprehensive steps given above the OP could have searched the term double exposure and found a wealth of tutorials. I can see both sides as this is not where the effect originated from and is a digital trend however, it is commonly known as double exposure.
    – Jenna
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 19:39
  • 2
    @Jenna yep, one could argue the answer is that this is commonly--but inaccurately--called 'double exposure'. :)
    – DA01
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 19:45
  • 2
    @DA01 Incorrect, this is Double Exposure, AndrewH (and most tutorials) simply don't perform it as a Double Exposure. This is for two reasons: 1) the digital medium allows better control of results with masking. 2) most people don't know enough about photoshop to do it in a more accurate method if they wanted to. But it can absolutely be done as a double exposure.
    – Ryan
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 19:57

This is accurately called Double Exposure though it is most likely that some liberties were taken to fine tune and adjust it in the digital medium. But this spawns from Double Exposure.

What is Double Exposure?

Double Exposure is when you expose a shot on a frame of film, then instead of advancing the roll of film, you exposure it again. As a result the Lighter areas eventually get blown out and are all white while the darker areas will show layers of the exposure.

Some modern DSLR and Mirrorless can approximate this in Camera but I've never owned one that has the feature. A list from 2014 found the following models, there might be more now:

Current models that do include the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 1D X, and 70D; most Nikon DSLRs; Fujifilm’s X-Pro1 and X100s; and the Olympus OM-D E-M5, among others. With some, combining exposures works only with RAW captures.

Source: http://www.popphoto.com/how-to/2014/04/how-to-shoot-camera-double-exposure-photo

How do I accurately do Double Exposure in Photoshop?

Double Exposure is most accurately done using the Apply Image command found under the Image Menu.

I've stacked two images from Unsplash onto a document:

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Then go to Image → Apply Image. There are always multiple ways to do things but to keep this as true to Film as possible these settings should do it:

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Notice where the building was is now entirely blown out (white) while the rest is a mixture. Not the best photos for this mind you but hopefully this makes sense. Doing it this way is purely additive.

You could get the exact same result without destroying your layers by simply changing the top layer to Linear Dodge (Add) - dodge of course being applying additional exposure.

Film is great, but how do I do it with good results?

Use Luminosity Masks. Copy the RGB channel, then do select the duplicate channel. Now intersect it with itself and create a new channel, and again, and again, and again, etc. You've now got a set of Luminosity Masks. Select the one you like, I used this one:

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And then apply it to your top layer:

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You can then Invert or adjust the Density or whatever else you want to fine tune the results.

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One might even argue doing it this way is the most accurate since on film Double Exposure you can do it in camera on the same negative but can also develop two negatives on to the same piece of photo paper for different amounts of time.

Ultimately though, this is digital - do whatever is going to get you the results you're after :)

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