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Misunderstood Photoshop: The Apply Image Command

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Photoshop's Apply Image command is a tool for blending two images or layers. You can use it to apply masked borders to images and to create interesting collage effects. It's also one of the quickest ways of creating a mask from an image. Helen Bradley explains the basics of using the Apply Image feature in Photoshop.
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In this series, Helen Bradley discusses some handy Photoshop tools that are often overlooked or misunderstood, either because they’re hidden away or because their use isn’t immediately apparent. Yet these tools provide smart and useful ways to perform various tasks in Photoshop, so they’re worthy of adding to your Photoshop skill list.

In this seventh part of the series, we consider the Apply Image command, which is useful for blending images into each other to create collage effects, for working with layer masks, and for photo editing tasks.

Exploring the Apply Image Feature

The Apply Image command can blend two images together. Before starting to work with it, you need to understand these important rules about using this tool:

  • Both images that you will blend together must be open, and they must be the same size. (Later on, I’ll show you a quick way to resize an image to exactly the size of another image.)
  • The Apply Image dialog always displays the settings you used the last time the dialog was open. If you get unexpected results, check all your settings carefully.
  • When you use Apply Image to blend two images together, the results will be applied permanently to the target image. For this reason, it’s best to work on a copy of your image background layer, rather than on the background layer itself.
  • When blending images, you can choose from the blend modes you’re used to seeing in the Blend Modes list in the Layers palette, as well as two additional blend modes: Add and Subtract.
    • If you choose Add mode, the pixel values in the two images are added together. As the value of black is 0 and that of white is 255, using Add will lighten the resulting image. If the result is too light, you can set a negative Offset value to darken the image—the Offset can be set to any value from -255 to +255, and its default value is 0.
    • The Subtract blend mode subtracts the pixel values from each other, resulting in a much darker image. It also has an Offset setting, and you can lighten the result by using a positive offset value.
  • One other interesting feature of the Apply Image command is that you can blend images that use different color modes, such as RGB with LAB or grayscale.

Now that you know the basics, let’s get started.

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