How to Create a Picture in Picture Effect in Photoshop
Learn how to create a picture-in-picture effect in Photoshop from a single photo by adding a smaller, cropped version of your image inside the original! A step-by-step tutorial.
In this tutorial, I show you how to create a fun picture-in-picture effect with Photoshop by taking a single photo and creating the illusion that a smaller, cropped version of the same photo is inside it. We’ll crop and rotate the smaller image around our main subject, add a border and drop shadow to make it stand out, and we’ll convert the original photo behind it to black and white.
Here's an example of what the final picture-in-picture effect will look like when we're done:
Let's get started!
Which Photoshop version do I need?
For best results, you'll want to be using Photoshop 2021 or later. Get the latest version of Photoshop here.
Step 1: Open your image
Start by opening your image. I’ll use this image from Adobe Stock:
Step 2: Make a copy of the Background layer
Make a copy of the image by dragging the Background layer down onto the Add New Layer icon:
A copy appears above the original:
Background copylayer appears.
Step 3: Rename the copy
The copy will be used to create the smaller photo inside the larger one. So double-click on the name
Background copy and rename the layer
Small. Press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard to accept it:
Step 4: Turn the
Small layer off
We don’t need the
Small layer just yet, so turn the layer off by clicking its visibility icon:
Smalllayer's visibility icon.
Step 5: Select the Background layer
Before creating the smaller version of the photo, we'll convert the original photo to black and white. Click on the Background layer to select it:
Step 6: Add a Black & White adjustment layer
Then click the New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel:
And choose a Black & White adjustment layer from the list:
Black & White.
The adjustment layer appears between the Background layer and the
Small layer. This means it will affect only the Background layer below it, not the
Small layer above it:
And the image is instantly converted to black and white:
Step 7: Click the Auto button
The controls for the Black & White adjustment layer appear in Photoshop’s Properties panel. You could fine-tune the black and white conversion by dragging the individual color sliders (Reds, Yellows, Greens, and so on) to adjust the brightness of different parts of the image based on their original color:
But since the effect is really just for the background and most of it will be hidden by the smaller photo, clicking the Auto button should give you a result that’s good enough:
Step 8: Select and turn on the
Now we’ll create the smaller, full color photo inside the original.
Back in the Layers panel, click on the
Small layer to select it:
Then click the layer's visibility icon to turn it back on:
The color version of the image reappears:
Step 9: Select the Rectangle Tool
Step 10: Set the Tool Mode to Shape
In the Options Bar, make sure the Tool Mode is set to Shape, not Path or Pixels:
Step 11: Set the shape's color to black
Set the shape’s color to black if it’s not set to black already. The color does not really matter, but black is easy to see as we’re drawing the shape.
Click the Fill color swatch:
Then click the Color Picker icon in the upper right of the dialog box:
And choose black from the Color Picker by setting the R, G and B values to 0. Then click OK to close the Color Picker:
Step 12: Turn off the stroke around the shape
By default, Photoshop adds a 1 pixel black stroke around shapes, which we don’t want. So click the Stroke color swatch:
Then click the No Color icon in the upper left. Press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to close the dialog box:
Step 13: Draw a shape around your main subject
Drag out a rectangular shape around your main subject(s). The shape will become the smaller version of the image, so make sure to surround everything that should appear inside it.
Click in the upper left of your subject to set a starting point for the shape. Then keep your mouse button held down and drag towards the bottom right. As you drag, only an outline of the shape appears:
How to reposition the shape
To reposition the shape as you draw it, keep your mouse held down and press and hold the spacebar on your keyboard. Drag the shape to where you need it, and then release your spacebar and continue dragging out the rest of the shape.
How to complete the shape
Release your mouse button when you’re done to complete the shape, at which point Photoshop fills it with black:
Step 14: Resize the shape if needed
Since the shape is completely blocking the image behind it, it’s hard to see if it was drawn exactly where we need it. So to see the image through the shape, lower the Opacity of the shape layer in the Layers panel to 50 percent. A quick way is to press the number 5 on your keyboard:
5to lower the shape's opacity to 50 percent.
Then click and drag any of the handles around the shape to resize it as needed:
Resetting the shape’s opacity back to 100 percent
When you're done resizing the shape, reset the shape layer’s opacity in the Layers panel back to 100 percent by pressing the number 0 on your keyboard. The shape will once again block the image from view:
Step 15: Drag the
Small layer above the shape
Next, we'll place the image on the
Small layer into the shape. In the Layers panel, the shape currently sits above the image:
We need the image to be above the shape. So click on the
Small layer and drag it above the shape layer. When a blue highlight bar appears above the shape layer:
Release your mouse button to drop the
Small layer into place:
And in the document, the photo now blocks the shape from view:
Step 16: Create a clipping mask
To place the image into the shape, click on the Layers panel menu icon:
And choose Create Clipping Mask:
Photoshop clips the image on the
Small layer to the shape layer below it:
And the full color image now appears only within the boundaries of the shape, while the black and white version on the Background layer reappears around it:
Smalllayer to the shape layer.
Step 17: Select the shape layer
To help the smaller image stand out, add a white border and a drop shadow. We'll start with the border.
In the Layers panel, select the shape layer:
Step 18: Add a white stroke around the shape
Then click the layer effects icon (the “fx” icon) at the bottom:
And choose Stroke from the list:
The stroke color
In the Layer Style dialog box, change the stroke color by clicking the color swatch:
And in the Color Picker, choose white by setting the R, G and B values to 255. Then click OK to close the Color Picker:
The stroke position
Back in the Layer Style dialog box, make sure the stroke's Position is set to Inside to keep the corners of the border nice and sharp:
The stroke size
Then drag the Size slider to set the width of the border. The size you need will depend on your image. I’ll set mine to 40 pixels:
And here’s the effect with the border around the smaller photo:
Step 19: Add a drop shadow
To add a shadow behind the photo, click on the Drop Shadow option in the effects column along the left of the Layer Style dialog box:
The shadow's angle and distance
Then click and drag inside the image to set the shadow’s Angle and Distance. Here I’m dragging down and to the right so the light source for the shadow appears to be coming from the upper left:
Or you can enter specific Angle and Distance values in the dialog box. I’ll set the Angle to 135 degrees and the Distance to 50 pixels. You may need a smaller or larger Distance value depending on your image:
The shadow size
The Size value controls the softness or feathering of the shadow edges. I'll set it to 15 pixels:
The shadow opacity
And you can adjust the intensity of the shadow (how light or dark it appears) by dragging the Opacity slider. But I’ll leave it at the default value of 35 percent:
Click OK when you’re done to close the Layer Style dialog box. And here’s the effect with the border and shadow added to the smaller photo. Only one more thing left to do:
Step 20: Rotate the shape
Finally, you can add more excitement to the effect by rotating the shape around your subject.
In the Layers panel, make sure the shape layer is active:
And with the Rectangle Tool still active in the toolbar, hover your mouse cursor just outside one of the shape’s handles. The cursor will change into a Rotate icon (a curved line with an arrow on both ends):
Then click and drag to rotate the shape. The image inside the shape will remain fixed in place. Only the shape itself, along with its border and drop shadow, will rotate, making it look like the photo was taken on an angle:
Step 21: Make any final adjustments to the shape's size
Check to make sure that the rotated shape is not cutting off parts of your subject, and resize the shape again if needed by dragging the handles.
When you're done, hide the outline and handles around the shape by pressing Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard.
And here, after extending the bottom of the shape to avoid cutting off part of the woman's thumb, is my final picture-in-picture effect:
Where to go next...
And there we have it! TFor similar effects, check out my step-by-step tutorials on how to turn a single photo in a collage, how to create a polaroid collage, or how to add a classic photo border to your images. And don't forget, all of my tutorials are available to download as PDFs!