How To Create A Multiple Exposure Effect In Post - Digital Photography School
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How To Create A Multiple Exposure Effect In Post

Using this technique you can create a stippled effect common to impressionist painters by blending multiple layers of a single image.

To do this technique, you will need to use a photo editor that supports layers. I use Photoshop Elements but you can also use Gimp, which is free, and many other photo editors.

Don’t let the layers thing scare you away, ok? In fact, if you are leery of layers trying this technique should, ironically, make it all become clear.

Pick an image to start. I particularly like this effect on flowers and foliage but it works for other subjects too. Here is the image I will use to start.

Red Flowers Original

Follow these steps:
1. Duplicate the background layer (Layer>Duplicate Layer)
Duplicate Background Layer


2. Reduce the opacity of the new layer to 30%
Reduce Layer Opacity


3. Use the move tool (usually an arrow) and move the layer slightly in any direction
Move Tool


4. Duplicate the background layer again (it’s on the bottom of the layer list)
5. Drag the new layer to the top of the layers list
Layer List 1Layer List 2


6. Reduce the opacity of the new layer to 30%
7. Use the move tool to move the layer slightly in a different direction
8. Repeat steps 4-7 any number of times
9. When you are happy with the result, use the crop tool to crop the edges of the image where you can see the borders of the moved layers.
Crop Tool
Here’s a little video that shows me performing these steps.

And the final image:

Red Flowers with Multiple Exposure Effect

There are many different ways you can accomplish a particular effect in photoshop (or your photo editor of choice). I try to use the simplest methods I can find to keep it simple.

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Anne McKinnell is a photographer, writer and nomad. She lives in an RV and travels around North America photographing beautiful places and writing about travel, photography, and how changing your life is not as scary as it seems. You can read about her adventures on her blog and be sure to check out her free photography eBooks.

  • Kam

    That looks really awful. Maybe it would look better if you masked out the clear stuff and only duplicated the out of focus areas.

  • Melka

    Should we put some glasses on to view a 3D effect ?

  • http://www.jwhite.com James White

    original image looks 100x better, lol

  • David Whitman

    Thanks Anne for helping me understand the use of layers. I use Elements 9 and have a couple books on it but your video was a lot of help. I can use double o r more exposures in my Nikon D90 but I’ve wanted to layer 2 different photos with the top being more transparent to see what effects I can get. I like the impressionism effect as well.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/joetuna/ tomservo51

    These skills, like understanding layers, are great to learn but I don’t understand why you’d want a picture like that.

  • http://annemckinnell.com Anne McKinnell

    Thank you for your comments, even those who didn’t like the effect. I appreciate your comments anyway. Not all types of effect suits everyone’s tastes and that’s ok.

    Here’s another image I made using the same technique. I like the implied movement in the image – but again, it’s not for everyone.

    [eimg url='http://annemckinnell.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/gorge_20101027__MG_3450.jpg' title='gorge_20101027__MG_3450.jpg']

  • Debbie

    Can I do this with PS Elements?

  • Christiane Delbecque

    thank you very much, very nice, i go to start my pic with this méthod
    bests regards

  • Christo Thomas

    Thanks for the tutorial this is awesome.

Some older comments

  • Debbie

    March 16, 2013 08:56 am

    Can I do this with PS Elements?

  • Anne McKinnell

    January 9, 2013 06:13 am

    Thank you for your comments, even those who didn't like the effect. I appreciate your comments anyway. Not all types of effect suits everyone's tastes and that's ok.

    Here's another image I made using the same technique. I like the implied movement in the image - but again, it's not for everyone.

    [eimg url='http://annemckinnell.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/gorge_20101027__MG_3450.jpg' title='gorge_20101027__MG_3450.jpg']

  • tomservo51

    December 30, 2012 09:34 am

    These skills, like understanding layers, are great to learn but I don't understand why you'd want a picture like that.

  • David Whitman

    December 25, 2012 08:29 am

    Thanks Anne for helping me understand the use of layers. I use Elements 9 and have a couple books on it but your video was a lot of help. I can use double o r more exposures in my Nikon D90 but I've wanted to layer 2 different photos with the top being more transparent to see what effects I can get. I like the impressionism effect as well.

  • James White

    December 24, 2012 09:07 am

    original image looks 100x better, lol

  • Melka

    December 24, 2012 03:41 am

    Should we put some glasses on to view a 3D effect ?

  • Kam

    December 23, 2012 02:06 pm

    That looks really awful. Maybe it would look better if you masked out the clear stuff and only duplicated the out of focus areas.

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