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Tearing A Photo To Reveal Another In Photoshop

Written by Steve Patterson. In this Photoshop Effects tutorial, we’re going to look at another movie poster-type of effect. We’re going to learn how to create the illusion that a piece of a photo is torn away to reveal another photo underneath it. I saw this effect used in a poster for a tv show on the FX Network, and when I realized how easy it would be to do something similar in Photoshop, well, here we are.

To create the effect, we’ll be colorizing one photo and converting the second one to black and white, then adding some noise, enhancing shadows and highlights, and using a few layer masks to blend it all together.

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I’m going to use this same photo from one of our other recent tutorials, Create An Optical Illusion By Filling A Photo With More Photos, because it works perfectly for the effect we’re going for here:

A photo of a woman.
The first photo.

I’m also going to be using this photo, or more specifically, the guy from this photo:

A photo of a tough looking guy.
The second photo.

And here’s the final effect we’ll be working towards:

The final result.
The final result.

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Crop The Main Photo Around The Person’s Face

I’m going to start by working on the photo of the woman, which is going to be the photo that ends up with a piece torn out of it, and the first thing I’m going to do is crop the photo so that all I’m left with is the area around her head. I’ll use the Crop Tool for this, so I’ll grab my Crop Tool from the Tools palette:

Selecting the Crop Tool from Photoshop's Tools palette.
Select the Crop Tool.

I could also press C to quickly access it with the keyboard shortcut. Then I’m simply going to click and drag out a selection around the woman’s head, making sure her face ends up in the center of my selection:

Using the Crop Tool to drag a selection around the woman's face.
Drag out a selection with the Crop Tool.

When I’m happy with my selection, I’ll press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to accept it, and Photoshop will crop the image for me:

The image is now cropped.
The image is now cropped.

Step 2: Duplicate The Background Layer

Next, we need to duplicate the Background layer because we’re going to be filling the original Background layer with black in a moment, so press Ctrl+J (Win) / Command+J (Mac) to duplicate it. We can now see our duplicate above the original in the Layers palette, which Photoshop has named “Layer 1″:

The Layers palette in Photoshop showing the Background layer and the duplicate above it.
Press “Ctrl+J” (Win) / “Command+J” (Mac) to duplicate the Background layer.

Step 3: Add More Canvas Space And Fill It With Black

Click on the Background layer in the Layers palette to select it. We’re going to add more canvas space to the left and right of the image, and we’re going to use the Crop Tool to do it. But first, press the letter D on your keyboard to quickly reset your Foreground and Background colors if needed, so black becomes your Foreground color (white becomes your Background color), and then press X on your keyboard to swap them, so black becomes your Background color. Select the Crop Tool once again. Then with the Background layer selected in the Layers palette, drag out a selection with the Crop Tool around the entire image.

When you release your mouse button, you’ll see little square handles appear around the image, one in each corner, and one on the top, bottom, left and right. Hold down Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) and drag out either of the side handles to add more canvas space. Add an extra inch or so on either side (holding down the Alt/Option key moves both side handles at once as you drag):

Dragging the side handles to add more canvas space.
Hold down “Alt” (Win) / “Option” (Mac) to drag out either of the side handles to add more canvas space.

Press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) when you’re done, and Photoshop will add your additional canvas space and will also fill it with black, since black is our Background color:

The canvas space has been added on the sides of the image.
The canvas space now added on the sides and filled with black.

Step 4: Fill The Entire Background Layer With Black

Photoshop has filled the extra canvas space with black for us, and everything looks fine in our image, but if we look at our Background layer thumbnail in the Layers palette, we can see that only the extra canvas space has been filled with black. The photo itself is still there:

Photoshop's Layers palette.
The Background layer’s thumbnail in the Layers palette still shows the original image. Only the extra space on the sides has been filled with black.

To fix that and fill the entire Background layer with black, press Alt+Backspace (Win) / Option+Delete (Mac), which fills the layer with the current background color (black in our case). Again, nothing looks different in the image itself, but the Background layer thumbnail in the Layers palette is now showing solid black:

The Layers palette in Photoshop now showing the Background layer filled entirely with black.
The Background layer’s thumbnail now shows the entire layer filled with black.

Step 5: Add A Layer Mask On “Layer 1″

Click on “Layer 1″ in the Layers palette to select it. Then click on the Add A Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette:

Clicking on the 'Add A Layer Mask' icon.
Click the “Add A Layer Mask” icon.

This adds a layer mask to “Layer 1″, and it also adds a layer mask thumbnail on the layer in the Layers palette:

A layer mask thumbanil has been added to the Layers palette.
A layer mask thumbnail has now been added to “Layer 1″ in the Layers palette.

The layer mask itself, rather then the contents of the layer, is now selected, and we know that by the white highlight border around the layer mask thumbnail.

Step 6: Paint With Black On The Mask To Blend The Edges Of The Image In With The Background

We want the edges around our image to blend in with the black background, and we’re going to accomplish that by painting around the edges with black on our layer mask. We need the Brush Tool to paint with, so either select it from the Tools palette or press B on your keyboard:

Selecting the Brush Tool from the Tools palette.
Select the Brush Tool.

We want to paint with black, so press X on your keyboard to swap your Foreground and Background colors again, which makes black your Foreground color. Then, with a large soft-edge brush, paint along the edges of the photo to blend them in with the background. Because we’re painting on the layer mask, not the actual layer, anywhere we paint with black will hide the image. It looks like we’re painting directly on the image itself because we’re painting with black and the background is black, but if the background was a different color, you’d see that we’re really just hiding the image as we paint on the layer mask.

You can change the size of your brush with the left and right bracket keys on your keyboard (the left bracket key makes the brush smaller and the right one makes it larger), and to make sure your brush has a soft edge, hold down your Shift key and press the left bracket key a few times (pressing the right bracket key while holding Shift makes the brush harder). Then paint around the edges to blend them in with the black background.

Here’s my image after painting around the edges:

The image after painting around the edges with black.
The image after painting around the edges with black to blend them in with the background.

Step 7: Colorize The Image

With “Layer 1″ still selected, hold down Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) and click on the New Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette:

Clicking the 'New Adjustment Layer' icon.
Hold down “Alt” (Win) / “Option” (Mac) and click on the “New Adjustment Layer” icon.

Then select Hue/Saturation from the list that appears:

Selecting a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.
Select “Hue/Saturation” from the list.

By holding down Alt/Option. this tells Photoshop to bring up the New Layer dialog box before adding the adjustment layer. Click inside the checkbox to the left of the Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask option to select it. By selecting this option, the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer is going to affect only the layer directly below it (“Layer 1″) and will have no effect on any other layers. This isn’t so important at the moment, but it will be once we drag our second photo into the image. Click OK to exit out of the dialog box, and the “Hue/Saturation” dialog box will appear.

Select the Colorize option in the bottom right corner of the dialog box, then drag the Hue slider to select the color for your image, keeping an eye on your image as you drag. I’m going to set my Hue to a value of about 38:

Dragging the Hue slider to select the color for my image.
Drag the “Hue” slider to set the color you want to colorize your image with, keeping an eye on your image as you drag.

Click OK when you’re happy with the color you’ve chosen to exit out of the dialog box. Here’s my image after colorizing it:

The image after colorizing it with the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.
The image after colorizing it with the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.

Step 8: Add Some Dramatic Lighting With A Curves Adjustment Layer

Right now the woman’s face looks a little too bright for the effect we’re going for. Let’s add some dramatic lighting to her face, using a Curves adjustment layer and the layer mask it comes with. Don’t worry if you’ve never used Curves before or if it seems too advanced for your current Photoshop skill level.

All I’m going to do is add the adjustment layer. I’m not going to actually do anything with it, other than change its blend mode, which I’ll do in a moment. First, I need to add it though, and I want to add it between “Layer 1″ and my Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, so I’m going to click on “Layer 1″ in the Layers palette to select it.

Then, I’m going to click on the New Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette once again:

Clicking the 'New Adjustment Layer' icon.
Click on “Layer 1″ to select it, then click the “New Adjustment Layer” icon once again.

This time, I’m going to choose “Curves” from the list:

Selecting 'Curves' from the list.
Select the “Curves” adjustment layer.

When the Curves dialog box appears, I’m simply going to click OK to exit out of it, since I don’t need to change any of the settings. All I need to do is change the blend mode of the Curves adjustment layer from “Normal” to Multiply in the top left corner of the Layers palette:

Changing the blend mode of the Curves adjustment layer to 'Multiply'.
Change the blend mode of the Curves adjustment layer from “Normal” to “Multiply” to darken the image.

And that’s going to darken my image for me:

The image after adding a Curves adjustment layer set to the 'Multiply' blend mode.
The image after adding a Curves adjustment layer above it set to the “Multiply” blend mode.

Her face is a lot darker now, but let’s use the layer mask the adjustment layer came with to bring back some of the original brightness and give us some dramatic lighting. Select your Gradient Tool from the Tools palette, or press G on your keyboard to quickly select it:

Selecting the Gradient Tool from the Tools palette.
Select the Gradient Tool.

Then, in the Options Bar at the top of the screen, look in the gradient preview thumbnail and make sure you have the Foreground to Background gradient selected (it will be black on the left and white on the right), and click on the Reflected Gradient option:

Selecting the Gradient Tool from the Tools palette.
Make sure the “Foreground to Background” (black to white) gradient is selected in the Options Bar, and click on the “Reflected Gradient” option.

Then, with my Gradient Tool, I’m going to click somewhere in the middle of the woman’s nose and drag my mouse over to the right edge of her face:

The image after adding some dramatic lighting with the Gradient Tool.
The lighting is now more dramatic on her face.

I also want to bring back all of the original brightness in her eyes, so I’m going to switch back to my Brush Tool, and with black still as my Foreground color, I’m going to use a much smaller brush (again, you can change the size of the brush on the fly with the left and right bracket keys) and paint over her eyes:

Painting with black over her eyes to bring back the original brightness.
Painting with black over her eyes to bring back the original brightness.

Here’s my image after brightening up her eyes:

The image after restoring the brightness in the woman's eyes.
The image after restoring the brightness in the woman’s eyes.

Step 9: Select The Area To “Tear Out” Of The Image With The Lasso Tool

Grab your Lasso Tool from the Tools palette, or press L to quickly select it:

Selecting the Lasso Tool from the Tools palette.
Select the Lasso Tool.

Then drag out a selection around the area you want to “tear out” of the image. I’m going to select an area from the top of the image to the bottom through the center of the woman’s face. Try to make your selection rough and jagged as you’re dragging to create the “torn” look:

Dragging a rough selection through the image.
Photoshop Effects: Drag a seletion through the image which will become the area that is “torn out” of it.

Step 10: Select The Layer Mask On “Layer 1″ And Fill The Selection With Black

We’re going to fill our selection with black, and we’re going to do that on the layer mask of “Layer 1″ so that we hide the woman’s face in the area inside the selection. To do that, first click on the layer mask thumbnail on “Layer 1″ in the Layers palette to select it:

Clicking on the layer mask thumbnail on 'Layer 1'.
Click the layer mask thumbnail on “Layer 1″ to select the layer mask.

Then use the keyboard shortcut Alt+Backspace (Win) / Option+Delete (Mac) to fill the selection with black. The part of the woman’s face that was inside the selection is now hidden from view, revealing the black background behind it:

The image after filling the selection with black.
After filling the selection with black on the layer mask, the area inside the selection is now hidden from view, revealing the black background behind it.

Press Ctrl+D (Win) / Command+D (Mac) to clear the selection.

Step 11: Apply The “Spatter” Filter To Enhance The Jagged Lines

Let’s make our torn edges look a little more torn using the “Spatter” filter. Go up to the Filter menu at the top of the screen, choose Brush Strokes, and then choose Spatter. This brings up the “Filter Gallery” dialog box set to the “Spatter” options on the right. You may want to experiment with the settings on your own, keeping an eye on the preview window on the left of the dialog box, but I’m going to set my Spray Radius to 10 and my Smoothness all the way to 15:

Photoshop's Filter Gallery set to the 'Spatter' options.
Go to Filter > Brush Strokes > Spatter.

Click OK to exit out of the dialog box. My torn edges through the center of the image now look a bit more torn:

The image after applying the Spatter filter.
The image after applying the “Spatter” filter to enhance the torn edges effect.

Step 12: Drag The Second Image Into The Document

It’s time to add our second image into the document. We want the image to appear behind our main image, which means we need to be placed on a layer below the main image in the Layers palette, so click on the Background layer in the Layers palette to select it. The second image will then be placed between the Background layer and “Layer 1″ when we drag it into the document, which is what we’re going to do next. With both images open in their own document window on the screen, grab your Move Tool from the Tools palette or press V on your keyboard to select it:

Selecting the Move Tool from the Tools palette.
Select the Move Tool.

Then, with the Move Tool selected, click anywhere inside the second image and drag it over and into the main document:

Dragging the second image into the main document with the Move Tool.
Photoshop Effects: Click inside the second photo and drag it into the main document.

Close out of the second image’s document window after you’ve dragged it into the main document.

If we look in the Layers palette of the main document now, we can see that the second image has been placed on its own layer between the Background layer and the main image layer (“Layer 1″), and has named the new layer “Layer 2″:

The Layers palette showing the second image on its own layer between the Background layer and 'Layer 1'.
The second image is now on its own layer, named “Layer 2″, between the Background layer and “Layer 1″.

Step 13: Resize And Reposition The Image With The Free Transform Command

Press Ctrl+T (Win) / Command+T (Mac) to bring up Photoshop’s Free Transform handles around the second image and drag any of the corner handles to resize the image as needed. If you can’t see the corner handles because the image extends beyond the viewable area of the document, press Ctrl+0 (Win) / Command+0 (Mac) to fit everything on the screen. Hold down Shift as you’re dragging to constrain the image proportions. Also, click anywhere inside the image and drag it around the screen with your mouse to move it into position. In my case, I want the guy in the photo to appear inside the area I just “tore out” of the main photo, so I’m going to make the image smaller by dragging the corner handles and then I’ll click inside the image and move it where I want it:

Moving and resizing the image with Free Transform.
Move and resize the second image as needed with the Free Transform command.

When you’re happy with the size and position of your image, press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to accept it.

Step 14: Desaturate The Second Image

We want the image that appears behind the main photo to be in black and white, so let’s quickly desaturate it using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+U (Win) / Command+Shift+U (Mac):

The second image now appears in black and white.
Desaturate the second image.

Step 15: Add A Layer Mask To The Second Image

With “Layer 2″ still selected, click on the Add A Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette:

Adding a layer mask to 'Layer 2'.
Click the “Add A Layer Mask” icon.

This adds a layer mask, and a layer mask thumbnail, to “Layer 2″:

The Layers palette showing the layer mask thumbnail on 'Layer 2'.
The layer mask now added to “Layer 2″.

Step 16: Paint With Black Around The Edges Of The Second Image

Select the Brush Tool once again, and with black still as your Foreground color, use a large soft-edge brush and paint around the edges of the second image to hide them, just as we did with the main image.

In my case, I’m going to hide all the edges so that only the are around the guy’s face is left showing:

The image after painting away the edges on the second image.
The image after painting away everything except the area around the guy’s face in the second image.

I’m also going to paint along the edge of where the left “tear edge” of the main photo meets the second image, which will create a nice drop shadow effect on the left side of the guy’s face, giving the image some depth. I’m going to keep the main part of my brush cursor just to the left of the tear edge so that only the soft edge of the brush is extending onto his face as I paint:

Adding a shadow along the left side of the guy's face.
Creating a shadow with the Brush Tool along the left side of the guy’s face.

Here’s my image after painting the shadow along the left side of his face:

The image after painting a shadow along the left side of the guy's face.
The shadow along the left side of the guy’s face adds some depth to the image.

Step 17: Add Some Noise To The Image

Click on the very top layer in the Layers palette, which should be your Hue/Saturation layer, and then click on the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette to add a new layer above all the others:

Clicking the 'New Layer' icon.
Add a new layer at the top of the Layers palette.

Press Ctrl+Backspace (Win) / Command+Delete (Mac) to fill the new layer with white. Then go up to the Filter menu at the top of the screen, choose Noise and then choose Add Noise, which brings up the “Add Noise” dialog box. I’m going to set my Amount to somewhere around 20% to add a little noise to the image, and I’m going to make sure that Ihave the Gaussian and Monochromatic options at the bottom selected:

Photoshop's 'Add Noise' filter dialog box.
Add some noise to the image with the “Add Noise” filter.

Your image will now be filled with black and white noise. Go up to the blend mode option in the top left corner of the Layers palette and change the blend mode for the layer from “Normal” to Color Burn and lower the Opacity value down to about 30%:

Changing the blend mode and opacity values of the noise layer.
Change the blend mode of the noise layer to “Color Burn” and lower the opacity to about 30%.

Here’s my image at this point. We’re almost done:

The image after adding noise.
The image after adding noise.

Step 18: Add Another New Layer And Set Its Blend Mode To “Overlay”

We’re almost done! We’re just going to add a few more highlights and shadows to the image. Click on the New Layer at the bottom of the Layers palette once again, and when the new layer appears at the top of the Layers palette, set its blend mode to Overlay:

Adding another new layer and changing its blend mode to 'Overlay'.
Click on the “New Layer” icon once again, then set the blend mode of the new layer to “Overlay”.

Grab your Brush Tool once again, and up in the Options Bar, lower the opacity of the brush down to about 20%:

Lowering the opacity of the brush down to 20% in the Options Bar.
Lower the opacity of the brush down to about 20% in the Options Bar.

Then with black as your Foreground color, paint along any areas where you want to enhance the shadows in the image. I want to enhance the shadows along the sides of the woman’s face, under her chin, maybe a little around her eyes, and on the side of her mouth, so I’m simply going to paint over those areas with my brush. Since I’ve lowered the opacity of my brush to 20%, I can slowly build up shadows by painting a stroke, releasing my mouse, and then painting another stroke over the same area as needed. If you make a mistake, simply press Ctrl+Z (Win) / “Command+Z” (Mac) to undo the brush stroke and continue painting:

Painting shadows into the image with the Brush Tool.
Use a soft-edge brush set to black to darken shadows in the image.

Then press X on your keyboard to switch your Foreground color to white and paint on the image to enhance any highlight areas. I’m going to lower the size of my brush and click a few times in each of her eyes to really brighten them:

Clicking with the Brush Tool inside the woman's eyes to brighten them further.
Paint over any areas with white to enhance highlights.

I’m going to paint one or two strokes around her nose and chin as well with a larger brush to enhance those highlights a little.

When you’re happy with the highlights and shadows in your image, you’re done!

Here, after enhancing the highlights and shadows, is my final result:

The final result.
The final result.

And there we have it!

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