April 07, 2020 2 Comments

While Lightroom gets the glory as the software of choice for photographers, Photoshop certainly still holds its own, performing tasks that can only be done in Photoshop. One advantage Photoshop has over Lightroom is the ability to add in overlays. Overlays are an image or texture that is added as an additional layer to your photograph. Overlays can add a completely different look to your image and is a great way to add in snow, light rays, leaves or whatever else is suitable to add a bit of whimsy to the photo.

If you’re new to overlays in Photoshop, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ll walk you through the beginner steps for implementing and editing overlays. You can download winter overlays for free to get you started with a range of overlays that will add the extra wintery touch to your photo. Sometimes we like to add a touch of winter to our photos so we’ll use snow overlays like these ones. Alright, let’s dive in!

How to use overlays:

You can download a variety of overlays to use in Photoshop from hundreds of different site. For this demo, we’ll be using these from Fix the Photo. 

Once you’ve downloaded and unzipped the overlay files, open Photoshop and open the image you’d like to use with the overlay. 

Go to file, open and find the overlay you’d like to use. If you downloaded the overlay from a site, you’ll find that overlay in “downloads.” Once you have selected your overlay, you’ll see it as a new tab in Photoshop. Then, click and drag the image across until your pointer hovers over your base image’s name in the toolbar. Release the image and it should drop into place. 

Alternatively, you can go to File > Place and select your image in your documents. Once you've selected, the overlay will appear over the image. Hit "enter" and it will drop it into place. 

Adding an overlay to Photoshop

Some overlays will have no background at all and some will have a black background. If your overlay has a black background, you can change the blending mode to “lighten” which means only pixels that are lighter then the ones behind it will show up, i.e the black will disappear. 

Go to Edit and select Free Transform (or use the shortcut CMND T).

Right-click on the overlay and you’ll be able to flip it, move it down, drag it to be bigger or smaller. 

Using an overlay on photoshop

Editing your overlay:

Once you have applied your overlay, you may need to erase parts of the overlay. You can use your eraser tool found on your toolbar. In this case, we want to erase some of the snowflakes on the face which are too distracting.

A good method to always use when erasing things on your images is to use a layer mask. This way if you want to bring the item you erased back again, it is as easy as a brush stroke. Whilst you have the layer selected, add a layer mask by clicking the icon down the bottom underneath your layers that looks like a box with a black dot in it. With the layer mask selected, you can use a black brush to erase the items and if you want to bring something back, just paint over it with a white brush.

You can adjust the opacity of the overlay by adjusting the opacity slider. This will make your overlay stand out more or make it blend in more with the photo. 

You may find you need to edit parts of the overlay even more. For example, if your overlay is not bright or intense enough, you can increase the intensity by right-clicking on your layer and selecting “duplicate layer.” This will double the intensity of the overlay. You can adjust the intensity of the duplicated layer by adjusting the “opacity” slider on the left. 

Duplicating a layer in photoshop

If you want to move an element of your overlay, say a distracting snowflake, you can move the element without deleting it from the photo. To do this, use your lasso tool and circle the object you want to move. Right-click the object, and select free transform which allows you to move it around in your photo. 

Free transform in Photoshop

You can continue to play with the layer and its intensity and position by duplicating the layer, flipping it horizontally or vertically or by changing the perspective. This will help intensify the layer while still making it look organic and natural.

Overlays can be a fun way to add a bit of whimsy to your winter images. Let us know if what your favourite overlay techniques are in the comments below! 

2 Responses

Erica | Vallerret Photography Gloves
Erica | Vallerret Photography Gloves

January 11, 2021

That’s awesome to hear. Glad you like them!


December 18, 2020

I really like Photoshop Overlay Edit. Your Edit looks so beautiful it looks so natural. You want to know which of my favorite overlay edits, my favorite overlay edits are Fog, smoke & rain overlays.

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