How to Superimpose/Overlay Pictures for Creative Photo Projects
As a photographer, you’re probably always looking for interesting experimentation techniques to try out. Well, superimposing and overlaying photos using your smartphone is one that might be worth exploring for some very cool visual effects.
This is something that you can do on any iPhone, or right on your desktop if you’re already using one of the major photo editing platforms like Adobe Photoshop or Capture One.
In other words, it’s easy to do, fun, and the resulting creations might just be worth showing off to the world.
Below we’re going to cover a few key apps for superimposing pictures through your phone and several desktop methods that can be achieved through Photoshop.
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How to Superimpose Photos on iPhone
Unfortunately, the iPhone’s native camera app doesn’t allow photo overlaying, but a number of third party apps do let you change a photo background or superimpose new images quickly and easily.
We’ll give you an overview of three great options below.
1. Superimpose X
The Superimpose X app is one of the best iOS installs you can download if you want to superimpose photos through your iPhone.
To use this handy tool, all you need is a working iPhone with some images saved onto it. Then, just get the app and you’re good to go.
Unfortunately, Superimpose X isn’t free to download, but its $4.99 one-time purchase price tag is pretty reasonable for all the dozens of niche tools it offers.
Superimpose X is surprisingly versatile once you open it up. There are dozens of functions to choose from and it does a bit more than just overly photos on top of each other.
Fortunately, the app offers up a detailed how-to tutorial right after being opened for the first time. The main point is that overlaying is something it does well and quite easily.
Once you have Superimpose X downloaded and running, you’ll need to select your pictures for foreground and background. Remember, the key thing to keep in mind here is that the images should be able to merge effectively and without crowding over each other in a way that ruins the visual appeal.
In Superimpose X you can select your images by tapping “Photos” on the upper left side of the app interface on your phone screen. From there you can pick out your background image first.
Once you’ve selected the background photo, you can now add the foreground by tapping “Transform” and then tapping “Blend”.
Next, tap “Add Layer” and then “Photo Layer”. Then select your foreground photo from your archives and the app will superimpose it over top of your background.
For images that are slightly smaller than the background image, you can also tap “Fit to Base” to resize them so both are of equal size.
As a final step, you should use the Superimpose X app’s opacity slider to adjust the translucence of your foreground image (or whichever) in order to make the merge smoother.
Voila, you’ve just merged two photos to create a new digitally edited composition.
Superimpose X offers many more variations of photo merging manipulation and can also be used to join multiple images into patterns or complex compositions. One section of the app that allows you to play with these aspects is called Blending Modes.
In Blending Modes you can merge multiple images to create complex patterns and dual-image superimpositions that take merging to another level.
To access this feature, tap “Transform” at the bottom of the main app interface. You’ll find the blend mode next to the Opacity option.
You can change the blend mode from its default of “Normal” to other options like Overlay, Darken, Multiply, and Lighten.
Each of these offers slightly different superimposing options. For example, Overlay keeps the darkest parts of a foreground image while merging the lighter parts with the background image.
Multiply merges the luminosity and contrast of different images into layers for merging. As for the Darken and Lighten modes, they blend the bright and dark parts of superimposed images to merge them together.
There are also a bunch of other features in Blending Mode. All of these can be experimented with in real time with any photos you select to create or undo effects for any photos you’re trying to merge.
Superimpose X also comes with a great masking feature. This lets you cut out parts of a foreground image so that part of the background shows through.
The app comes with a “Magic Brush Tool” option that lets you do this very selectively for even more dynamic merging effects.
There are also “Lasso” and “Magic Wand” tools (similar to Photoshop)for automatically cutting the edges of an object in an image when masking.
With these tools, you can cut out a “mask” from any one image and copy it for pasting to any other image as a merge.
Finally, because overlaying images also might mean having to make the final product look more realistic, we should mention the color correction tools of Superimpose X.
After merging images together, you can tap the “Filter” icon at the bottom of the app interface and with this you can adjust exposure to blend the different contrast levels of superimposed photos.
This same tool also lets you apply specific color filters to even out differences in colors between merged images.
There’s also a “Light Wrap” feature in the “Layers” area of Superimpose X that lets you automatically make the background and foreground image colors match.
2. Enlight Photofox
Photofox is another mobile phone option for superimposing and merging images. It’s not as robust or versatile as the Superimpose X app, but it gets the basic job done quickly and easily for social media sharing or saving for later use.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed Photofox on your iPhone, just open it up and scroll through its QuickArt sections until you see the “Double Exposure” option.
Just as you’d do in Superimpose X, open up your phone’s archive of existing images and pick one that you’d like to use as a background. This can be any photo you like, but as we mentioned above, it’s a good idea to pick an image whose composition will complement that of the image you’ll be sandwiching on top of it.
Now you can select a stock scene from within the app to apply over your own photo. You can do this through Photofox’s “Overlay” tool, which lets you adjust and move the image until it fits over your custom background photo.
Once you’re happy with the result, you can share the image to social media or save it to your phone – you can even use Airdrop to wirelessly transfer it to your computer for further editing (see: iPhone photography tips).
We should note that while Enlight Photofox is free to download, using its wider range of editing features to save images into your phone means having to pay a subscription price for the app.
Snapseed is another very popular iPhone-friendly app for photo editing on the go. It offers a bunch of different tools and among them is also an option for superimposing pictures.
What Snapseed offers for doing this is fairly simple and straightforward, but it works wonderfully for overlaying without too much fuss.
Snapseed is also free to download, which is especially useful if you want to do a bit of creative editing without spending extra money.
To get started, download the Snapseed app from the Apple app store and get it running. Once the app is open, you can tap anywhere on its interface to open a photo selection menu and load one of your saved image files.
Once you’ve picked your first photo, simply tap the “Tools” icon and scroll down to the “Double Exposure” option. This is what will let you superimpose two photos together.
In the “Double Exposure” section of the Snapseed app, you can tap the photo icon at the bottom of the screen to select another image that you’ll merge with the first one you opened.
Once it’s loaded, you can move the overlay photo around until it fits with your underlying image in a way you’re happy with.
Another editing option here is changing the size of the overlay image so that it can be adjusted just right. You can change the size of the image by pinching or spreading apart your fingers.
Having fixed the size and fit of your overlay photo so that it merges properly with the underlying image, you can now edit the superimposed photos through the layers (shaped like a spread deck of cards) icon in the app. This mainly lets you subtract image elements and adjust contrast or brightness in the two sandwiched photos.
Another icon, shaped like a droplet, also lets you adjust the opacity of the overlay photo in Snapseed.
You can now save the image to your phone memory or camera roll.
How to Superimpose Photos in Photoshop
Photoshop offers multiple options for superimposing photos through the desktop app. There are three main methods that can be used either individually or together to create extremely versatile photo merge compositions.
The Photoshop platform’s most popular and arguably most flexible tool for doing this is called Layer Masks.
To use this, you simply need to open two different images in Photoshop, drag one so that it fits over the top of the other and in doing so cause them to layer together.
Once this is done, you can select which image you want to be your overlay picture in the layers panel on the lower right of the PS interface.
At the bottom of the same panel, there’s a small rectangle with a hollow circle inside it. This is what lets you create a layer mask between your two merged images.
The layer mask is transparent, but if you open up the Photoshop gradient or brush tools you can reveal or conceal from one image or the other as needed.
To do this, set the dual black/white boxes at the lower left of the Photoshop interface to show either white or black as the foreground box (pressing D or X on your keyboard does this quickly).
Using the gradient or brush tools with black in the foreground causes the underlying image to appear wherever you grade or brush to black. Setting white into the foreground on the other hand will cause elements of the foreground image to emerge.
By doing this and using both the gradient tool and the brush tool in PS, you can merge two images almost any way you’d like in very precise segments.
Moving beyond the Layer Masks tool, there are two other much more broadly applicable merging tools that are also both found in the layers panel.
The first of these is called Blend Modes and it’s right above your photo layer thumbnails in this panel. By selecting one of your layer images and experimenting with applying different Blend Modes to it, you can create excellent photo merging effects.
Right next to Blend Modes, there is a slider for Opacity. This can be applied to a selected photo layer and will make the Blend Mode you’ve also applied to it either less or more transparent depending on how you set the slider.
Both of these options, Blend Modes and Opacity, can also be used together with Layer Masks on a pair or even several layered images to create all kinds of superimposed picture compositions that can be saved as PNGs, JPGs or PSD Photoshop documents.
As you can see, there are plenty of options out there for creating an image overlay effect.
The above is just a selection – there are other apps for both Android and iPhone as well as software platforms like Capture One for PC that also make it quick and easy to superimpose images.
The ones we’ve listed are definitely worth checking out as some of the best and most popular mobile tools for joining two pictures together quickly, easily and flexibly.
If you have other questions about how to superimpose/overlay pictures, leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to help you out.
Stephan Jukic is a technology technology writer and experimental photographer who spends his time living in both Canada and Mexico. He also loves cross-cultural street photo exploration.