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How to Create a Double Exposure Illustration in Adobe Photoshop

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Double exposures are not just for photographers. Illustrators can also create this fun effect with a few of Photoshop's tools.

So in this quick tip, learn how to create this double exposure bird, using the Pen Tool, Shape Tools, and resources from Envato Market.

1. Create the Bird Silhouette

Step 1

Create a 1950 x 1800 px document in Photoshop at 150 dpi. Copy and paste your animal reference onto the canvas. Here I'll be using this bird stock from Envato Market for my silhouette.

Silhouette Bird Reference

Feel free to use any other animal silhouette for reference; just make sure the silhouette is clearly defined. Control-T to Free Transform the photo, resizing the bird so that it fits better onto the canvas.

Resize Your Reference to Fill the Canvas

Step 2

Select the Pen Tool (P) and set the Pen Tool Mode to Path.

Now begin tracing the bird. Adjust the shape to create the cleanest silhouette possible. When you're finished, Right-Click to Fill Path with a light gray color (#bfbfbf). Then Delete the path and reference layer.

Create a Silhouette with the Pen Tool

2. Color the Bird

Create a New Layer and position it underneath the bird. Fill the layer using the Gradient Tool (G) with a black to dark brown color (#110d0d).

Select the silhouette layer and right-click to go to Blending Options. Create a Gradient Overlay using sunset colors with the following settings:

  • Blend Mode: Normal
  • Opacity: 91%
  • Style: Linear
  • Angle: -65 Degrees
  • Scale: 122%
Fill the Silhouette with a Gradient Overlay

3. Create the Landscape

Step 1

Right-click the bird silhouette and select Rasterize Layer Style. Now begin creating the hills of your landscape. Select the Pen Tool (P) and set the Mode to Shape. Create the foreground shape in a downward slant with a dark brown color (#241512).

Right-click to set the shape as a Clipping Mask to the silhouette; this will help to keep the shape within the outline of the bird. 

Create a Hill with the Pen Tool

Create two more separate shapes for the middle and background land. Set the fill for the middle shape to a medium brown (#452b26) and the background land to a light tan color (#8e665c). Set them both as Clipping Masks to the silhouette. Rename the layers Foreground, Middle, and Background for better organization.

Create A Landscape with the Pen Tool

Step 2

Using the Polygon Tool (U), create a triangle and Fill it with the same dark brown (#241512) from the foreground layer. Then use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to make the triangle taller to represent a tree.

Create Trees with the Polygon Tool

Again, set this shape as a Clipping Mask to the silhouette and position it on top of the foreground hill. Control-T to Free Transform the shape if you need to make it smaller, and position it in place.

Add Trees to your Landscape

Hold Control-J to duplicate the first tree. Create several more duplicates and position them along the hill. Resize them to make them smaller or taller for more variety. When you're finished, select all the trees and the foreground hill shape, and then Right-click to Merge Shapes.

Add More Trees and Merge Shape Layers

Step 3

Follow the same steps with the middle hill. It helps if you keep an extra triangle lying around from the first batch so that you have uniform trees. Also make sure that all the trees match the color of the hill (#452b26) so that they blend seamlessly together.

Create Trees for Middle Hill

Step 4

Let's add a couple more shapes to this scene. Continue to set all the future steps as Clipping Masks to your original silhouette. To show a large sun setting in the distance, use the Ellipse Tool (U) to create a circle behind the background hill. Fill the circle with a pale peach color (#fecfc5) and position it towards the right side of the bird.

Add the Sun with the Ellipse Tool

Next, let's create some easy birds. Use the Ellipse Tool (U) to create a red circle, and then use it again to create a brown circle in front of the red one that is much shorter and wider. Merge the shapes together. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select the front circle and hit Subtract Front Shape under Path Operations.

Create a Bird with the Ellipse Tool

When you're finished, select the shape again and now hit Merge Shape Components, selecting Yes when prompted to turn the shape into a path. Now that you have one wing done, Control-T to Free Transform and rotate the shape to an angle. Then Control-J to create a duplicate and go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal to create the second wing. Position it in place, and Merge the shapes together.

Creating a Bird with Simple Shapes in Photoshop

Duplicate the bird shape several times and resize it to fit into the scene. Scatter the birds around. Make sure the color is set to the same dark brown of the foreground hill. When you're finished, Merge all the bird shapes together.

Add the Birds to the Scene

4. Final Touches

Step 1

Create a New Layer above the birds and set it as a Clipping Mask. Using the Brush Tool (B)paint sunlight coming from the sun using the same peach color with a Soft Round Brush. Set the Blend Mode of the layer to Vivid Light for a powerful effect.

Add Sunlight with Vivid Light and the Brush Tool

Step 2

Create another clipped layer above the sunlight. Select the Brush Tool (B) and use a Hard Round Brush at 100% Hardness to create tiny stars for the sky. Lower the size to 1–5 px and dot the sky with white stars.

Right-click the layer and select Blending Options. Add an Outer Glow with the following settings:

Create Stars with the Brush Tool and Outer Glow

Step 3

The sky could be a little darker. Create a New Layer set as a Clipping Mask to the bird and use the Gradient Tool (G) to create a Linear Gradient that moves downward from black to transparent. Set the Blend Mode to Overlay and adjust the Opacity to 70%.

Add Darkness with the Gradient Tool

Step 4

Last but not least, let's add a few sparkly stars. Create a simple sparkle by using the Line Tool (U) to create a line with a Width of 5 px. Rasterize the shape, and then go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur, and set the angle to -90 degrees and the Distance to 85 px.

Create a Simple Star Sparkle in Photoshop

Create a Duplicate of the line and Rotate it to create a cross. Finish the sparkle off by using the Brush Tool (B) at 0% Hardness to create a soft white dot in the middle.

Merge the layers together and place the sparkle on one of the stars. Duplicate the sparkle twice more, positioning them in the sky and Merging the layers together. When you're finished, set the layer to Vivid Light.

Create a Double Exposure Illustration Tutorial by Melody Nieves


Now your landscape is ready to fly off into the sunset! With a few tools and the perfect silhouette, you can create a beautiful double exposure illustration in Adobe Photoshop.

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial. Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments. For more tutorials like this, check out the ones below:

Final Result Double Exposure Bird Illustration
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