Use Photoshop Gradient Masks to Combine Photos

Imagine you are combining two images and adding a text on top. There is more than one way to achieve this in Photoshop. The quickest and easiest way is hereby explained.

Starting image 1 - Lower Layer

Starting image 2 - Top Layer

Our objective is to create the smoothest possible fades between two images. So for that we are going to use a soft gradient transition.

  1. Open both images as layers in Photoshop. Adjust and transform as necessary.
  2.  Drag the image you want on the top of your collage to the top of the Layers panel and then add a layer mask to it. In this example, we want the marathon statue on top, so drag it to the top of your Layers panel. Then add a layer mask to it by clicking the circle-within-a-square button at the bottom of the panel. The layer mask thumbnail appears in the Layers panel, but your document doesn’t change yet because the mask is white.

  3. Press G to grab the Gradient tool and choose a black-to-white, linear gradient. In the Options bar, click the down-pointing triangle next to the gradient picker (the second menu from the left). Choose the black-to-white gradient from the pop-up list (third from left in the top row) and, in the row of gradient types, click the linear gradient button.

  4. Mouse over to your image, click once where you want the fade to begin, drag slightly downward and to the left for one or two inches, and then let go of your mouse. As you drag, Photoshop draws a line that represents the width of the fade: The shorter the line (the distance you drag), the narrower the fade and the harsher the transition; the longer the line, the wider the gradient and the softer the fade. As soon as you release your mouse, Photoshop plops the gradient into the layer mask, which effectively fades your images together. If you’re not happy with the gradient, just keep clicking and dragging until you get it right; Photoshop updates the mask automatically. Try dragging different distances and at different angles. If you want to empty the mask and start over, click the mask’s thumbnail in your Layers panel and select the whole thing by pressing Cmd+A (Ctrl+A on a PC); then press Delete (Backspace) and you’re back to square one.

Not bad, eh? This technique is a great example of how easy and super quick it is to use your own imagery in conjunction with other photos. Just think of the possibilities: A wedding photo faded into a bouquet of flowers, piano keys faded into a sheet of music, etc.