Using Layers to Give Photos Magic & Whimsy

001 - header

Glitter is a beautiful creation. It adds sparkle and shine to otherwise dull surfaces and is fairly synonymous with holiday cheer. Can you picture a Christmas-themed item that doesn’t have at least a little glitter?

No, you cannot.

Working with glitter can be an absolute nightmare, though. Eventually, you’ll just find glitter everywhere, making it’s sparkly appearance even weeks after using it in some minor project. So, just in time for the holidays, I took one for the team and busted out my extensive glitter collection to create a rainbow of glitter photographs. Abstract, shiny, and mess-free, these images are the perfect solution for sparkly Christmas cards, elegant name plates for holiday meals, or anything else you can think of in need of a little holiday polish.

The magic doesn’t stop there, though! These glitter photos can make an interesting addition to any other photograph to add a little whimsy & wonderment. In this tutorial, I’ll teach you how to use my stock pack and Photoshop’s layers function to add some enchanting textures to otherwise normal images.

To start the tutorial, download the glitter pack colour of your choice at my Etsy Shop. Each stock pack comes with a sharp & a soft version. For the purposes of this tutorial, the soft version will work best.

01 - Red Soft - 61169w 02 - Orange Soft - 61172w 03 - Yellow Soft - 61154w 04 - Green Soft - 61209w
05 - Blue Soft - 61197w 06 - Indigo Soft - 61148w 07 - Violet Soft - 61220w 08 - Black Soft - 61232w
09 - Silver Soft - 61245w 10 - Gold Soft - 61251w

The colour won’t actually have much impact on the final image, so just choose based on whichever has the most appealing look to you. Keep in mind future projects, as these images are reusable!

Next, open an image of something that needs a little pop of sparkle. I’m using a photo of my dog, Mouse, who is the cutest and fluffiest dog. Let’s make her look as magical as she is in real life!

002 - open glitter and select all

Step 1: Open the soft glitter image and select the entire canvas (Select → All).

003 - copy

Step 2: Copy the image (Edit → Copy).

004 - open base photo and paste

Step 3: Open your photo and paste the glitter photo into the canvas (Edit → Paste).

005 - transform the layer to fit

Step 4: Depending on the size of your photo, you may need to adjust the size of the glitter layer. Using the Free Transform function (Edit → Free Transform) drag the corners of the layer while holding down the shift key to keep the aspect ratio natural. Press the “Enter” key when you’re done.

006 - change blending mode to overlay

Step 5: In order to make the glitter layer see-through, we need to change the blending mode. On the Layers palette, highlight the glitter layer and look in the top left corner for a drop-down menu. Click on it and select “Overlay.” You can also use “Soft Light,” so play around with the various blending modes until you like the result.

007 - open saturation of glitter layer

Step 6: The colour of the glitter causes a colour-cast on the base image. This can be interesting in some photos, but for most, you’ll want to get rid of that. The best way to do so is to desaturate the glitter layer. With the glitter layer highlighted in the Layers palette, open the Hue & Saturation editor (Image → Adjustments → Hue/Saturation).

008 - desaturate glitter layer

Step 7: Enter a value of -100 for the Saturation line. Press “OK.”

009 - open levels of glitter layer

Step 8: Now it’s time to start putting some finishing touches on the photo. We’ll start by adjusting the contrast of the glitter layer. To do so, use the Levels editor (Image → Adjust → Levels).

010 - adjust levels

Step 9: Here you’ll see a histogram of the layer. If you drag the small arrows under the graph, you’ll see how it changes the layer. Play around with the sliders until you achieve a look you like. Press “OK.”

011 - use eraser to adjust contrast

Step 10: The bokeh effect from the glitter layer has created some high-contrast areas in Mouse’s face, which takes away from the photo. Select the glitter layer and select the Eraser tool. Click on the arrow next to the brush and change the Hardness to 0% and select an appropriate Master Diameter for your photo size. Erase the spots you find distracting. Hiding the background layer, you can see where I erased the spots on my image:

012 - erase sensitive areas

013 - flatten and save image

Step 11: Flatten the image (Layer → Flatten Image) and Save (File → Save).

014 - final image

And there you have it! My little fluff-butt looks as magical as she acts, surrounded by glitter and happiness. This technique could easily be applied to add a fairy tale mood to almost any photo, from landscapes to portraits, macros to abstracts.

Happy magic-making!

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