Photo Manipulation Techniques

Photo manipulation is a popular form of Graphic Design. It is used mostly by photographers and people just wanting to mess around. In this tutorial I will teach you some of the best techniques to photo manipulation.

Photo Manipulation Techniques


Masking is an essential part of photo manipulation. It is so important because a lot of photo manipulation is trial and error. Masking provides a good way to get rid of things without permanently erasing them. The way masking works is you hit the quick mask button. Then anything you want gone you paint over with the black paint brush. Easy enough, right?


Textures are a huge part of photo manipulations. They can completely change a picture. You can download textures from many different texture websites. Textures are very helpful when making a dark piece. I will demonstrate how to use these effectively. First get a picture of someone’s face. This is the Picture I will be using:

Now I want you to apply a texture of a bumpy/jagged rock or rocks. Set it on hard light or vivid light (whichever looks best for you). Add some color changes and a bit more and you have this:

Now with some color changes and more contrast and more black, it could turn out to be a really nice photo manipulation. Leave this picture you have open!

Gradient Maps:

Gradient maps can help your coloring on Photo manipulations a lot. They can be used to help blend things in and to make the colors in things the same. So you should have the same picture from the section Textures open. Okay now looking at you textures picture. You might think…”My textures don’t really blend in well with my face.” So I am going to show you how to blend those in better using gradient maps.

Looking at my face I decided I want a green looking face, kind of like the hulk only darker. So I want you to decide what you want your face to look like (mainly color wise). So to make my textures blend in more I start off by going to Image> Adjustments> Gradient Map. Since I want a green picture I am going to pick a green/yellow gradient map. Then I am going to set it on soft light. After I put the opacity down a bit. Then I added a black and white gradient map. I did this because I wanted to make the picture a bit darker. I left the black and white gradient map on normal and set it on around 50% opacity. It will get rid of a bit of the color but that’s what the green and yellow gradient maps were for (they were to add color so it didn’t look really bland when we added the black and white one). Here is my picture after adding gradient maps.


Brightness/Contrast is a super important technique in photo manipulation. You can alter the complete mood of photos with brightness and contrast. I will demonstrate how. First get a picture of anything in the world you want. ANYTHING! For this example I will be using this picture:

Now go to Image> Apply Image and apply your image on a new layer. Then go to Image> Adjustments> Brightness/Contrast. Then mess around with the settings. I tend to make the lower the brightness and raise the contrast. But see what is best for your picture. After applying Brightness/Contrast this is what my picture looks like:

Do you see the changes? I sure do. I completely changed the mood of the picture with Brightness/Contrast. So as you can tell this is a very important and helpful piece of Photo manipulation.


Shadow/Highlight is made to do a couple things. It is made to brighten pictures. It is also made to darken pictures. With Shadow/Highlight you can bring out the shadows more or you can bring out the highlights. This is important because it can change the mood and time of day in your picture. I will demonstrate with you how helpful this is. First get any picture you want of the outside world (not just meaning nature, also cities or anything you want). This is the picture I will be using:

Now go to Image> Adjustments> Shadow/Highlight. Then mess around with the settings and see what you come up with. After I applied my settings my picture looks like this:

As you can see there is a drastic change in both pictures. It is a very helpful and important part of photo manipulation.


Stocks are very important to photo manipulation. If you don’t have the right stocks your photo manipulation could go down the drain. Usually good finding stocks go by 2 things:

They aren’t very grainy.
They are at the correct angle and have close to the same lighting.

I’m sure there are more but those are the two most important for me. I hate stocks that are grainy they really annoy me. Also if you have stocks. And one is from an Arial view and one is from a close-up view, they aren’t going to go together, and they won’t look like they fit right. So finding stocks is a very important thing to do, and it could effect you entire Photo manipulation.


Shadows are a critical thing in photo manipulations. Pay extra attention to shadows! If one shadow is going to the east and the other is going towards the west, then they obviously won’t look right. If you do have a stock with a bad shadow and you can’t find a different one, mask it out. That way it is gone and it won’t affect the shadows. People will tend to notice something wrong/out of place quicker than they will notice something not being there.

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