Create a double exposure effect in Photoshop

The intro to the popular TV series “The Real Detective” made many people start talking about the effect of double exposure. I did this lesson to maximize the similarity with the original effect. I hope you will like it!

I recently noticed that the effect of double exposure has gained incredible popularity on the Internet. This technique is no longer new, but it began to be actively discussed from the first days after the film was released. The essence of the technique is as follows – if you took a photo and, without rewinding the film, took another shot, you will get double exposure. Two shots in one. Many digital cameras allow you to simulate this effect.

Final result:

We have used this approach in Photoshop for years, when two shots are combined using the blending mode Screen (Screen) or Light replacement (Lighten) This creates a simulation of two projectors overlapping each other. Of course, it’s not necessary to know about this story to create such effects.

Returning to the show, its intro effect was applied to the video, but it was this that revived the popularity of double exposure. (Again, I repeat, it is no longer new, but it has become very popular). I have seen many lessons on this topic, some good and some useless. I want to offer you my method of working with this technique. I used the original art of “Real Detective” for inspiration and recreated it in detail with other images, but with the same style.

I took two images from Adobe Stock. You can use your own versions or download photos with watermarks on the links at the beginning of the lesson.

I started with two photos. I needed a close-up of a man in a suit, with a loose tie and a strong chin, the most conveying atmosphere of the “Real Detective”.

For the second photo I needed something industrial, with long vertical buildings, so I chose this image. I also knew that I could play with the smoke.

Step 1

The first thing to do is to remove the background in the photo with a man. Use the tool Fast selection (Quick selection). If you do not know how to use this tool, here is my lesson (

Highlight the background around the man, use the button. Alt, to remove selections from unwanted zones.

Step 2

Click the button Refine edge (Refine edge) at the top of the working window.

Check the box next to the item Smart radius (Smart Radius), set the parameter Radius (Radius) at 2-4 pixels.

I also set the parameter Smooth out (Smooth) 4 pixels (optional).

Go brush Refine radius (Refine Selection) around the hair.

For string Conclusion (Output) select New layer with layer mask (New Layer with Layer Mask).

Click OK.

Step 3

Now you should have a man on a new transparent layer with a mask of this layer. If something did not work out, go back to step 2 and make sure you did not miss anything.

Step 4

Place both images on the same document, to do this, open the tab with the image 2.

Drag the plant on the tab with a man, a document opens with his photo.

Without releasing the left mouse button, drag the photo of the plant in the middle and release. The image should appear on a new layer.

The result should look like this.

It’s time to combine two images into one

Step 5

Move the cursor over the dividing line between the layers.

Press and hold Alt. You will see an arrow pointing down. Click to “crop” the layer to the shape of the layer below it.

Step 6. Trimming

For the art that we create, you only need the top of the shoulders. Let’s cut the document to the desired size. Choose a tool Frame (Cropping Tool).

Drag the clipping zone.

Make sure the tick Remove clipped pixels (Delete Cropped Pixels) at the top of the working window is removed. This will save the pixels, allowing us to tweak everything later.

Click Enter, applying the changes.

Step 7. Work with color

Now there is a lot of color in our photo. The final result should not look like this. However, there is no need to completely discolor the image, I have a better idea.

Choose a new base color similar to the one I chose – # e2d6b2. You can choose a color at your discretion or change it later.

Create a new layer, place it under all the others and fill it with the main color. (Alt + Backspace). Now instead of a void, we have a background.

Duplicate the layer by clicking (Ctrl + J).

Drag the duplicate by placing it above all others. At the moment you will just see the fill. Change the blending mode to Chromaticity (Color). Now the image will get the desired shade, while maintaining the light.

Step 8. Mixing and masking layers

We now turn to the interesting.

Select a layer with an industrial photo (layer 1). Change its blending mode to Light replacement (Lighten) (Additional information for geeks: This mode simulates two projectors aimed at one screen. One shows the top picture, the second one – the bottom one).

You can already begin to see this cool effect.

We got a real double exposure, which can be seen in the camera. If this is all you wanted, you can stop. All subsequent steps will give the work a style of “Real Detective”.

Step 9

Since the top layer (layer 1) is a clipping mask, we can freely move it, and the image will remain inside the face. I drew a photo so that a puff of smoke showed on the right.

Noticed that the silhouette of the head is still visible on the right side? Let’s fix it.

Step 10

Click (Ctrl + L), to open a window Levels (Levels).

Drag the white slider, removing the shadows. You may also need to move the mid-tone slider, as I did.

The purpose of this step is to make the overlapping zones invisible, for an accurate result you will need to play around with the levels for a while. This is part of the magic that overlay modes give.

Step 11. Masking the effect

Now that we have adjusted the layers, it is possible to return part of the lower half of the face and smoothly mix it with the shape of the top.

(Layer 1 is still active). Click on the icon Add layer mask (Add Layer Mask). It is located at the bottom of the panel. Layers (Layers panel).

Select a soft black brush and paint over the area of ​​the layer mask to hide layer 1 and show the lower part of the face. When you draw black on the mask, you remove the unnecessary details of the plant and allow the face to appear. Use white to hide the face and show the plant.

If you want to go beyond the face and expand the plant, do the following.

You may notice that we have a mask for the head layer (we created it with the tool Refine edge (Refine edge)). If you select this mask and paint its part in white, you can expand the boundaries and show part of the plant.

Use white to show smoke, black to hide it and clean up areas you have gone too far.

Step 12. Stretch the effect.

Already, the work looks quite good, but the plant needs a little tweak. Let’s drag the top of the image to better fit the shape of the head.

Select a plant layer (not a mask).

Click (Ctrl + T) for Free transformation (Free Transform).

Hold key Shift and pull the corner to proportionally resize.

Squeeze a little photo. Chimneys should coincide with the edges of the head. You can also move a layer by clicking and dragging a zone inside the rectangle.

When you are satisfied with the result, click Enter, applying all changes.

Paint over part of the mask, cleaning up and improving the look you want. We are almost done with the overall effect. Now I want to repeat the vintage effect of the film, adding a few flowers.

Step 13. Add a shade to the shadows.

I noticed that in the original intro the shadows have a reddish tint.

Create a new layer, fill it with red.

Change Blend mode (Blending mode) on Chromaticity (Color).

Almost done.

Select the red layer, click on the “fx“at the bottom of the layers panel. In the list that opens, select Overlay options (Blending options).

Now we need a section Extra options (Advanced Blending Mode). See the sliders Overlay if (Blend If)?

Drag the white slider to the left, hiding the effect of the layer in the bright areas of the photo. However, we will need to separate this triangular slider.

Press and hold Alt, then pull off one of the slider halves.

Play around with the slider values ​​until you get a red tint just for the shadows.

Cut down Opacity (Opacity) at my discretion, I chose 56%.

Step 14. Add Grain

Let’s add some grain to give a “cinematic” look.

Create a new layer, but hey! Hold key Alt before clicking on the icon New layer (New Layer). This will open the parameters window.

Select Mode (Mode) Overlap (Overlay).

The line below will appear. “Fill in the neutral color of the” Overlap “mode(gray 50%) “ (Fill with Overlay-neutral color 50% gray). Tick ​​off this item, click OK.

Now you will not see anything, but the new layer will be filled with 50% gray and will have an overlay mode – Overlap (Overlay). Ideal settings for adding grain (this effect cannot be applied to the empty layer, so we performed this step).

Go to menu Filter> Noise> Add Noise (Choose> Filter> Noise> Add noise).

Select items According to Gauss (Gaussian) and Monochrome (Monochromatic).

I have installed amount (Amount) by 37% (approximately). Everything will depend on the resolution of your work and the desired effect.

Click OK to apply noise. You can change the opacity if the effect seems too strong.

Step 15. Final touches

I added a small inscription to give the effect of the opening titles of the series.

(Font Avenir Next Condensed – Ulta Light).

I decided to make the color not so saturated, so I reduced the opacity of the red fill layer.

The final image should have more contrast.

Create a new adjustment layer – Levels (Levels) right above two layers with photos. We need the effect of this layer to be reflected only in the photos and not affect the background.

“Cut” the selection on the bottom layer by clicking on the small icon at the bottom of the levels panel, as shown in the figure.

You should get something like this.

Adjust the position of the middle slider to get a contrast in the mid tones and give a complete look. Also get a more grainy effect.

For the final effect, let’s brighten up the overall color a bit. Select the layer with the main color, click (Ctrl + L), to open a window Levels (Levels). Move the white slider slightly to the left.

This is what a completed job looks like.

I know you have done a lot of work! This is a really deep lesson, affecting a large number of techniques that can be used to style your work.

I got this image using the same techniques, but this time a softer theme.

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