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Combining Multiple Images in Adobe Photoshop Elements 7

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Learn to combine multiple photos to create that great shot that you didn’t actually get.

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Combining multiple photographs in one file

In this project, you’ll combine three photos into one. You’ll apply a clipping mask to one image to blend it into the background photo. Then, you’ll add a selection from another image and learn how to remove the fringe that is often visible surrounding such a selection. Your final work file will contain all the original pixel information from all three source images, so that you can go back and make adjustments to your composition at any time.

Arranging the image layers

In this first exercise, you’ll combine two images to act as a background to which you’ll add foreground figures later. You’ll blend an image of an airplane into the sky in a photograph of King Ludwig’s castle in Bavaria—the masterpiece that inspired the design of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle.

  1. In the Organizer, click the Find box next to the Lesson 10 keyword tag in the Keyword Tags palette.
  2. In the Photo Browser, Ctrl-click to select the images 10_04_a.jpg and 10_04_b.jpg: photos of a castle and an airplane. Click the Editor button at the top right corner of the Organizer window and choose Full Edit from the menu.
  3. In the Editor, choose Window > Images > Tile to see both image windows.
  4. Click the title bar of the image 10_04_b.jpg—the image of the airplane—to make it the active window. Select the Move tool (move-tool.jpg). Hold down the Shift key and drag the airplane onto the image of the castle (10_04_a.jpg). Release the mouse button when you see a selection outline around the castle photo, and then release the Shift key.
  5. Close the image 10_04_b.jpg (the one you just copied from).
  6. In the Layers palette, select Layer 1 (the airplane). Choose Image > Resize > Scale. In the tool options bar, make sure Constrain Proportions is selected, and then type 50% in the W (width) field. The image is scaled proportionally. Click the Commit button in the lower right corner of the bounding box.
  7. With the Move tool, drag the airplane on Layer 1 right into the upper right corner of the image. Drag the lower left handle of the bounding box to reduce the size of the airplane image further, as shown in the illustration below.
  8. Release the mouse button, and then click the Commit button in the corner of the bounding box to accept the changes.

Creating a gradient clipping mask

A clipping mask allows part of an image to show while hiding the rest by making it transparent.

In the next steps you’ll create a gradient that fades from fully opaque to fully transparent, and then use this gradient as a clipping mask to blend the castle and aircraft layers together.

  1. In the Layers palette, click the New Layer button (new-leyer-button.jpg) to create a new blank layer, named Layer 2.
  2. In the toolbox, select the Gradient tool (gradient-tool.jpg) and click the Default Foreground And Background Colors button beside the foreground and background color swatches, or press the D key on your keyboard.
  3. In the tool options bar, click the arrow to open the gradient selection menu. Locate the Foreground to Transparent thumbnail (the name of the swatch appears in a tooltip when you roll the cursor over it). Double-click the Foreground To Transparent gradient swatch.
  4. Make sure that the other settings in the tool options bar are as set up as you see in the illustration. Click the Radial Gradient (radial_gradient.gif) button. Set the Mode to Normal, the Opacity to 100%, disable Reverse, and activate Transparency.
  5. Make sure that Layer 2 is still selected in the Layers palette. Drag a short line downwards from the center of the airplane with the Gradient tool, and then release the mouse button.

The circular gradient appears on layer 2, fading from opaque black in the center and gradually becoming transparent towards the edges. You’ll use this gradient as a clipping mask for the image of the airplane in Layer 1, making the airplane visible while the sky that surrounds it blends smoothly into the sky of the background image.

Applying the clipping mask to a layer

Now that you have your gradient layer, it’s time to put it to work.

  1. In the Layers palette, drag Layer 2—the layer with the new gradient—into the position below Layer 1.
  2. Select Layer 1, now the top layer, and then choose Layer > Group With Previous.

    This action defines Layer 2 as the clipping mask for Layer 1. In the Layers palette, Layer 1 is now indented and shows a tiny arrow beside its thumbnail, pointing down to Layer 2. In the image window, the image of the airplane image now blends nicely with the castle photo.

  3. Choose File > Save As. In the Save As dialog box, name the file 10_04_Work and save it to your My CIB Work folder, in Photoshop (PSD) format with the Layers option activated. If Save in Version Set with Original is selected, disable it before you click Save. If the Photoshop Elements Format Options dialog box appears, keep Maximize Compatibility selected and click OK.

Creating a clean edge with defringing

Defringing removes the annoying halo of color that often surrounds a selection pasted into another image. In this exercise you’ll composite an image of a family so that they appear to be standing in front of the fence in the castle picture by selecting and deleting the background and using the Defringe feature to blend the selection halo into the background.

  1. Switch to the Organizer, select the file 10_04_c.jpg, the picture of the family, and open it in Full Edit mode.
  2. With the image 10_04_c.jpg selected as the active window in the edit pane, choose Select > All. Choose Edit > Copy, and then File > Close. Select the Background layer of the image 10_04_Work.psd, and then choose Edit > Paste. The image of the family is placed on a new layer, named Layer 3, just above the background layer.
  3. With Layer 3 still selected in the Layers palette, choose Image > Resize > Scale.
  4. In the tool options bar, make sure Constrain Proportions is selected, and then type 80% in the W (width) field. Click the Commit button near the lower right corner of the bounding box to accept the changes.
  5. If necessary, scroll to see the lower left corner of the image in the document window. Select the Move tool and drag the image in Layer 3 to position it flush with the lower left corner of the castle image.
  6. Select the Magic Wand tool (wand_tool.jpg). In the tool options bar, set the Tolerance to 25, activate Anti-alias, and disable Contiguous and All Layers. Click on the pink-colored background of the family image with the Magic Wand tool. If necessary, hold down the Shift key and click to select any unselected pink areas in the background.
  7. Press the Delete key to delete the pink background. Press Ctrl+D, or choose Select > Deselect to clear the selection.
  8. Zoom in to the area between the man’s right hand and his sweater in the lower left corner of the image. A pinkish fringe or halo is clearly visible here.
  9. Choose Enhance > Adjust Color > Defringe Layer. In the Defringe dialog box, enter 1 pixel for the width and click OK. The fringe is eliminated.
  10. Double-click the Hand tool in the toolbox, or click the Fit Screen button in the tool options bar, to fit the whole image in the edit window.
  11. Make sure that Layer 3 is still selected in the Layers palette. Select the Move tool in the toolbox and drag the top right handle of the selection rectangle to enlarge the image of the family so that they become more the focus of the composition. Click the Commit button near the lower right corner of the selection rectangle to accept the changes.
  12. Choose File > Save, and then close the document and return to the Organizer.

Congratulations, you’ve completed the last exercise in this lesson. You’ve learned how to create a stunning composite panorama, how to merge multiple photos into the perfect group shot, how to remove obstructions from a view, and how to compose several photos into a single image by arranging layers and using a gradient layer as a clipping mask. Take a moment to work through the lesson review on the next page before you move on to the next chapter, “Advanced Editing Techniques.”

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