Make an Artistic Double Exposure Silhouette with Pixlr Editor
Today, we’re going to show you how to make a double exposure silhouette using Pixlr Editor. We’ll start with the basics of the technique and then give you some more advanced tips and tricks.
Double exposure photos are cool. In the days of 35-mm film, these magical-looking images were one of the neatest tricks a photographer could pull off. It wasn’t easy, though. It took a lot of forethought and planning and trial and error in the darkroom to get these otherworldly, surreal photos to line up to perfection.
These days it’s relatively easy to create a double exposure image. But it still takes some skill and a bit of an artistic eye to create a superior one. Luckily, all of us have an artistic eye. We just have to focus it and spend a little time on our work. Double luckily: We all have access to free tools like Pixlr Editor.
Step 1: Start with a silhouette
Just because you can place two images together doesn’t mean they’ll look awesome as a double exposure. In general, you’ll see the most success if your “main photo” is a full silhouette, a near silhouette, or an underexposed portrait. You can go digging one up on the Internet or you can take a portrait you may already have and underexpose it or darken it in various ways. Open your silhouette image in Pixlr Editor. This will be your main image.
Step 2: Add a secondary image
Open your secondary image in Pixlr Editor. (You may want to resize it so it is about the same size as the main image.) Choose “Select all” and then “Copy” from the Edit menu. Paste this secondary image into the main image. You now have one canvas with two layers. Unlock the background layer by double clicking on the lock icon. You will need to be able to edit and/or move around both layers during this process.
Tip: For your secondary image, a nature-oriented photo or one with a pattern should work well. Some great images to try include trees or tree limbs, flowers or foliage, cityscapes, and cloudy skies.
Step 3: Adjust layer settings of secondary image
Select the nature-oriented layer and play around with the layer settings. You have a lot of choices here, but the two best bets for this technique are the “Screen” and “Lighten” blending modes. Experiment with these until you find one that works best. If your images are incredibly compatible, you might only need to adjust the opacity of your images and not even bother with the layer settings. But chances are adjusting these layer settings are going to give you the best results.
Tip: Your silhouette photo doesn’t need a blending mode like screen or lighten. It’s your “base” for this exercise, so leave it underneath your nature-oriented photo with a “Normal” layer setting. You can alter it in other ways, but it probably won’t need a different layer setting.
Step 4: Make any additional adjustments
The real skill here is in being patient and open to experimentation. You might want to adjust the opacity of your main layer. Bumping up the contrast of a layer (Adjustment > Brightness & Contrast) can make a difference. Turn down the saturation of a layer completely if you want to see how a layer looks in black and white (Adjustment > Hue & Saturation). Once you’re done, collapse all of your layers into one (Layer > Flatten image) and take a look. You may find that adjusting the contrast and lightness one more time may be the winning detail. Here’s what my final product looks like:
Getting advanced with this technique
Once you have that basic technique mastered, you’ll want to dig in and try a few other things. Here are some examples of silhouette double exposures I created and what I did to make them different.
MOVE THINGS AROUND
You’re really getting creative here, so don’t be bound by 90-degree angles. Use the “Free Transform” tool in the Edit menu to rotate or resize one of the images. Try rotating one of the layers and see if you can get a neat effect. Move the layers around until you start to see details line up or play off each other. I wasn’t getting any exciting effects with this double exposure image of a guy walking in harsh light and a field of wildflowers until I rotated the secondary image of wildflowers into a full upside-down position. Now, it’s much more intriguing:
COLOR VS. BLACK AND WHITE
The effect works best when the light and dark areas of each of your photos play off each other, which is why black and white photos work great. Try it with your silhouette as a black-and-white photo and with your secondary photo in full color. It might look cooler that way. Or, just knock out all the color by lowering the saturation of each layer. Or, do like I did here and use two images that have similar colors. I saturated the heck out of the main layer to make this blue sky crazy blue:
People will probably look for meaning in your double exposure. So consider your image choices carefully. You’re combining/juxtaposing two images and forcing some sort of relationship onto the resulting photo. It may make sense to take a photo of a glacier and contrast it with an image of burning fire. Or, as I did here, take a picture of a beautiful woman and combine it with a photo of a beautiful Roman goddess to play off of likeness. It’s technically not a silhouette, but it’s an example of how nearly any two photos can be combined as a double exposure.
Of course, not every work of art needs to have meaning attached to it. Looking interesting is usually good enough, and you can make some very interesting double exposure silhouettes using Pixlr Editor.
It’s much easier than you might think, so give it a go and share what you make with us on Twitter or in our Pixlr on Flickr group. We’re always excited to see what people are making with Pixlr apps.
We’re always adding new sticker packs to Pixlr Express, and today we added a brand-new set of stickers: tattoos. This is the fifth set of stickers added in the last month or so; we’ll keep adding more.
These new stickers take the place of the very fun and successful Illamasqua expansion pack, which today ends its limited time run. We’ve had a great time seeing what people made with the Alex Box designed Illamasqua stickers. If you were one of the folks who tweeted your #illamasquarade creations in the past few weeks — thank you! Everyone at Pixlr got a huge kick out of the things you made.
What’s next on the sticker front? Check back with this blog or follow us on Twitter to be updated whenever we add new stuff. Or, show us what you create with these new stickers via Twitter or our Pixlr on Flickr group. We choose a Pic of the Day every day and promote it here and on our Facebook pages. We’d love to add some quality tattoo-riddled images into the mix.
Kicking It Auld School with Antique Pixlr Express Stickers
If you’re a fan of the many stickers available in Pixlr Express, you’ll be happy to hear we have introduced a new sticker pack today: Antique. These are a collection of Victorian-era or otherwise old-time one-color stickers that you can use to fancify your photos. Make everything new old again, or just add a touch of old-world charm to your pics. You’ll find them in the web and phone versions of Pixlr Express.
New for Pixlr Express: Gorgeous Illamasqua Expansion Pack
We’re extremely excited to announce the availability of a new Pixlr Express Expansion Pack. It’s created by the innovative designer Alex Box for Illamasqua Makeup.
If you’re not familiar with Illamasqua, they are a cult British beauty brand dedicated to self-expression through make-up art. It’s make-up that goes way beyond the superficial to take a very unique and artistic approach.
These super hip, ultra-cool, expertly designed Illamasqua stickers, overlays, and borders are only available in Pixlr Express for a limited time. You’ll find the Illamasqua Expansion Pack in Pixlr Express for iOS, Android, and the web. Just click on the Illamasqua logo to unlock the content, dig up a favorite portrait (or snap a new selfie), and show us your most artistic face. You won’t have a hard time with this challenge; these effects are tailor-made to make you look fabulous.
We want to fawn over your look
Share what you make on Twitter with the hashtag #illamasquarade. You just might find a reply from @pixlr. We might even show you something we made just for you.
If your image has a complex background and you are hoping to cut out a particular element of the image, you’ll want to use the Lasso tool. With this tool, you’ll be tracing around the object you want to cut out manually. A great example of this type of use is cutting out a person completely from an image and pasting their likeness into an entirely different image. This is very doable, but it requires some skill and effort. You’re going to need to take your time the first few times you tackle this process, but once you get the hang of it, it should become second nature.
Two lasso tool options
The *freehand* lasso tool can be used to draw around an area with your mouse. It can be difficult to do this with precision using a mouse. It’s much easier to do if you’re using a pen-and-tablet device (although of course most people do not use those). You may instead want to use the *polygonal* lasso tool. With the polygonal tool, click and click again and keep laying down straight lines, with Pixlr connecting your points along the way. In this way, you’ll be able to have finer control over what you’re cutting out. Your ultimate goal is to draw a point-by-point area that closes in on itself at the end — you end up where you started and have your area selected.
Make a mistake? You can add to your path by holding down the Shift key. You’ll see a small plus sign near your cursor, which means you can add to the selection with a few clicks. At this point, you can even switch to the freehand tool to carefully add to your selection. Place your pointer somewhere inside your selection and draw outside of the selection to choose the areas you want to add, ending your dragging back inside your selection at your starting point. You’ll see that your selection has expanded to include the area you drew. This is great for capturing detail that may have been hard to capture with your first pass. You may even want to zoom in to do this kind of detail work.
Similarly, you can remove part of your path by holding down the Alt or Option key. You’ll see a minus sign, and you can remove areas in much the same way by drawing inside and outside of the selection area. Again, I recommend using the freehand tool to do this kind of work. And again, draw your path and end up where you started, and you’ll see that area has now been removed from the selection area.
Step by step with the polygonal lasso tool
Select the lasso tool from the toolbar. Check your tool options and make sure you have selected the polygonal lasso tool if that is what you are planning to use.
Click on a starting point in your image. Move your mouse along the path that you want to draw. Keep clicking as you go to keep laying down the path, drawing your way carefully around the object you will be cutting out.
Once you have drawn around the area you want to cut out and reach your starting point, click on that starting point. Pixlr will outline the area you’ve selected with flashing dotted lines.
Copy your selection. At this point, you may want to paste your selection into a blank canvas or into another image that you have waiting. Alternately, you can “invert selection” which will choose the area around your path. In this way, you can cut out the background if you choose.
An example to get you started
As a simple demonstration, let’s cut out this girl walking through the grass at an outdoor wedding and transport her to a wide open road.
I start by choosing the polygonal lasso tool and then work deliberately from point to point, starting at the base of her shoe. I draw up the left side and back down around to the shoe again.
Once I’m back where I started, I see that the area is selected, at which point I copy it to my clipboard.
Here I’ve also pasted it into a new document to show you what that looks like.
But my real goal is to add her to this file of a deserted highway, so I open up that image and paste the selection in.
I bumped up the contrast of her layer and used the burn tool to add a little bit of shadow in there after pasting her in. I could do more to clean this up and make it look a little more professional, but it’s fine for my purposes. You may want to more clean-up with your projects, but as always it depends on your goals and level of skill with some of the more advanced tools.
A few extra tips
Feathering: If you want the “cuts” you’re making to have a very hard outline, turn feathering off completely. If you want a soft, gradual edge, increase the feathering amount. The more you increase the feathering, the more blurred your edges will be. If you’re using very high feathering, your cut-out may take on a “halo” like appearance.
Anti-alias: Choosing the anti-alias option will smooth the jagged edges of your cut-out. Think of anti-aliasing as a piece of fine sandpaper that smooths out the pixels where you’re cutting.
Invert selection: If you’ve drawn a path around your object but want to delete everything outside of your closed path, use the “invert selection” command in the Edit menu to choose the area outside.
Check your contrast: Once the image you’ve cut out has no background around it, it can sometimes look less vibrant. Try increasing the contrast and see how it looks.
Cute Alert! New Kawaii Stickers Dangerous to Easily Melted Hearts
Recently, we added a set of New Stickers that let you put all kinds of silly stuff on faces like hats and glasses and eye patches. This time around, we’ve replaced the old one-tone Kawaii stickers that used to be in Pixlr Express with a dozen full-color, fully cute, expertly designed Kawaii stickers. You’ll find these in Pixlr Express for both the web and your mobile phone, and you don’t even need to update your app to start using them.
So start spreading the Kawaii. And keep spreading the cute.
New sticker alert! Today, we added 10 new stickers to Pixlr Express. You’ll find them in the Accessories sticker pack. A lot of these stickers are items you might want to use to dress up your friends and/or enemies. You’ll find bandages, eyepatches, halos, headphones, horns, and a few other things you can plaster on top of faces, in particular.
We’ll be adding more stickers on a regular basis, so stick around this blog for more updates.
Are You Up for the Android Editors Photo Challenge?
When you run a photo through Pixlr Express or Pixlr-o-matic and take full advantage of those tools to create something worthy of being hung on a wall — of being called “art” — that’s when we smile the widest. We think your smartphone isn’t just a tiny computer with a tiny camera that you carry around with you everywhere; it’s a tool for creating beautiful, arresting, substantial, moving works of art.
If you agree with that sentiment in even a small way, you’re going to love Android Editors. They are a community of Android photographers who continually challenge themselves and each other to create works of art using only their phones. This week, they launched their #AE_Pixlr Editing Challenge. And you are cordially invited to join in.
This is a two-week picture-fest that culminates in a lot of back slapping and personal recognition. We would love to see what our community of Pixlr Express and Pixlr-o-matic users can add to this flowering of creativity. While the Android Editors usually keep the focus on Android apps, they have opened up this challenge to iPhone users, too. They want to see what our community of photo takers can do. It’s a challenge that’s less about which operating system you use and all about what you can do with Pixlr apps.
We’ll be sharing our favorites as the challenge progresses here on this blog, via our Twitter feed, and to our 2.5M+ Facebook Fans. When it’s all said and done, the cream of the crop will be featured on this blog and on the Android Editors site — as well as everywhere else our communities go to get the word out. In short: We’re going to celebrate the best of what our community can do.
Joining us is easy. Just share your photos with the hashtag #AE_Pixlr on a few key platforms so we can uncover them and spotlight them. And don’t hesitate to get our attention by tweeting to us to point out your own submission to the challenge. We want to see and spotlight your work!