How to create a double exposure effect in Affinity Photo: layer blending secrets

Affinity Photo double exposure
(Image credit: James Paterson)

Watch video: How to create a double exposure effect in Affinity Photo

One of the strongest aspects of Affinity Photo is the number of different options you have for blending photos together. Many of these features are on a par with Affinity’s premium rival, Adobe Photoshop.

Layer blending modes are fun and very easy to get to grips with. They work by combining the pixels on one layer with those on the layers below. So by dropping one image on top of another, then changing the blending mode, we can begin to merge two or more images in all kinds of creative ways. There are 31 blend modes to experiment with (as opposed to Photoshop’s 27), so by combining several images with different blend modes, the possibilities are near-limitless.

A classic approach to layer blending is the double or multiple exposure effect. This mimics the look of old film multiple exposures, where a single frame of film would be exposed twice or more to create a series of overlaid images. In-camera, this would be done by winding the frame back to expose it again.

We can replicate this look with the Screen layer blend mode. This works in a similar way, by combining the brightness values of the pixels on the blend layer with those on the layers below.

As such, bright areas will only stay the same or get brighter, never darker. Once blended, we can go on to fine-tune the positioning of each image that makes up our composite. This way, we have complete control over the effect. The results are unpredictable, fun, and endlessly creative...

Read more:

• Affinity Photo 1.8 review

Step 1: Copy and paste

You can click on the gadget in the top right corner of these screenshots to zoom in on a full size version. (Image credit: James Paterson)

Open the your first image and the one(s) you want to blend it with into Affinity Photo, then make sure you’re in the Photo Persona (top-left icon). Go to an image you want to add, then press Cmd/Ctrl+C to copy it, go to the main image and hit Cmd/Ctrl+V to paste it in place.

Step 2: Blend the layer

(Image credit: James Paterson)

Go to the Layers panel on the right. Click the blend mode dropdown at the top and hover over the different options on the list to see how they blend the two images together. The Screen option is ideal for multiple exposure effects like this, but you may find a different mode that you prefer.

Step 3: Fine-tune placements

(Image credit: James Paterson)

Grab the Move tool from the toolbar and click on the corner of the blue bounding box around the image to resize and reposition the top layer. Do this until the placement works with the layer below. You can right-click during this to choose Transform, if you decide that you want to flip the image.

Step 4: Position another image

(Image credit: James Paterson)

We've copied in another image, then, again, we choose a blend mode (we picked Screen again). Just like before, use the Move tool to experiment with positioning until the layer fits neatly with all of the others. An image with a bright edge, like the skyline here, works well for multiple exposure effects.

Step 5: Combine pictures

(Image credit: James Paterson)

As well as using images of your own, you could also download free photographs, like this, from Once more, this is blended with the Screen blend mode and positioned to fit in with the rest of the photos. Add any other shots you like into the mix.

Step 6: Boost the tones

(Image credit: James Paterson)

Once all the images are blended, fine-tune the positioning until they all work together in harmony. Finally, click the Create Adjustment Layer icon in the Layers panel and choose Curves. Drag the curve line down slightly to darken the image as shown, and make any further tonal adjustments you like.

Quick tip

As well as using blend modes in combination with layers, they also feature in several tools in Affinity Photo. For instance, the Brush tool lets you paint in combination with a blend mode. This means you can, for example, paint a colour set to the Multiply blend mode, so it gradually gets darker and darker, resulting in a colour burning effect. A handy preview of the blending effect shows as you hover the brush cursor over the canvas, this way you can predict how it will look before you start painting.

About N-Photo magazine

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James Paterson

The lead technique writer on Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine and N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine, James is a fantastic general practice photographer with an enviable array of skills across every genre of photography. 

Whether it's flash photography techniques like stroboscopic portraits, astrophotography projects like photographing the Northern Lights, or turning sound into art by making paint dance on a set of speakers, James' tutorials and projects are as creative as they are enjoyable. 

As the editor of Practical Photoshop magazine, he's also a wizard at the dark arts of Photoshop, Lightroom and Affinity, and is capable of some genuine black magic in the digital darkroom, making him one of the leading authorities on photo editing software and techniques.