Creating A Photo Composite with Adobe Stock

In this post we’re going to create a simple photomontage using a trio of images from Adobe Stock and show some of the massive advantages that an integrated library has to offer you as a creative using stock images. You can work along with this tutorial using the images shown if you like, or of course create your own composition; licensing the images would require you to either purchase the images or have an Adobe Stock subscription—you don’t really need to go that far though if you don’t want to as you’ll see the result at the end.

The Scenario

A client has asked for a scene showing a lonely astronaut walking away from a damaged spacecraft through a desolate landscape that resembles Mars, but with a bit of artistic license on the atmosphere, to make it broody and slightly hostile. As I tend not to have too many of those in my Photo Library, I’m going to use stock imagery to build the comp.

Getting Started

Create a new image; I’ve gone for 3200x2500px @ 300ppi, RGB colour mode:001

Create a new library: open the Libraries Panel (Window > Libraries) and from the panel fly-out choose Create New Library… then give it a suitable name. 002If you can’t find a Libraries option in the Window menu, then you’ll be using an out-of-date version of Photoshop—you can get a 30-day trial froth Adobe website: Creative Cloud for Individuals or Creative Cloud for Teams.

Save the File

Before you start, save the image as a .psd to a new folder inside of your Creative Cloud Files folder.

Searching Adobe Stock

At the bottom of the Libraries Panel, click the Adobe Stock icon and you’ll be taken to in your default browser. For my comp I used the following photo and illustration images, which you can get for yourself by searching these numbers and downloading the previews:


  • #51930552 Angry Skies by James Thew
  • #63761831 The Astronaut by Kovalenko Inna
  • #47992733 Crashed Alien Spaceship on Distant World by Angela Harburn

005Hover over the download icon and a menu will appear—you can then select your library and download the preview:003

Note: I sometimes accidentally download the file to the wrong library—this is easily remedied by going to the library, then right-clicking the asset, selecting the Move to option and selecting the correct library.

Working in Photoshop

From your library, drag the angry skies onto the canvas, and resize it as shown below, then hit RETURN to apply the transformation:

006There’s plenty of resolution in there, so don’t worry about that. One of the many fantastic things about Adobe Stock is that you always get the maximum size of the image when it’s licensed; when you place this file you can see the scale percentage in the control strip—if you’re playing along with the same dimensions as stated at the start, you should only be at 59.52% or thereabouts when you drop the image, and less than 90% when it’s scaled up.

Camera Raw Filter

Go to the Filter menu and select Camera Raw Filter… then from the Basic tab, warm the image up a bit with the temperature slider (my value here is +37)  and tune that warmer still with the tint slider (my value here is +57). Switch to the fx tab and dial in some Dehaze—a fantastic new feature of Photoshop and Lightroom for CC2015—and watch the haze magically disappear (my value here is +53). Exit the dialog.007c

Crashed Spacecraft

In the Library, right-click the crashed alien spacecraft image and select Place Linked to add a linked copy; right-click that and select Flip Horizontal then scale/position as shown below; hit RETURN to commit the transformation:007b

Now add a layer mask to this layer, and mask out the background, as shown below; there’s no need to do a perfect job at the moment, just enough to get the concept to the client.008

The Astronaut

Now place the astronaut image at 100% and position as shown. Add a layer mask and paint out the water and using a lower opacity brush, blend between this layer and the other layers; again, don’t be too precious here as you can tighten this up later. 008aOptionally, you could add a curves adjustment layer here, clipped to the astronaut layer and if required, brush out the adjustment in places on the adjustment layer’s mask.008b


Fixing Layer

Select all of your layers and from the flyout menu of the Layers Panel convert the layers to a Smart Object. Use the CMD-J shortcut to duplicate the layer and use Filter > Blur > Average to create a uniform colour based on the contents of the layer, then set the blend mode of this layer to Linear Light (with the Selection Tool active you can use the shortcut SHIFT-ALT-J to do this) then set the layer opacity to around 30% (which can be achieved by tapping 3 on your keyboard if you have the Selection Tool active); this gives the work a nice “movie poster” look, and that’s where variations of this particular trick are often used. If you want, create another duplicate layer and change the blend mode/opacity so you can present options to your client; my version has an additional layer blended using Vivid Light at 40%; I’ve created Layer Comps to quickly switch between these differences.009

Client Sign-off

Visit and sign in (if you’re not already) then navigate to the folder you created for this image and you’ll see the .psd in the folder; click on that to view the file—it’ll take a moment to render. Towards the top-right you’ll see a Share drop-down—click that and choose Send Link.009a

Click the Create Public Link button to share a read-only view of the file:009b

The link will be generated and you can either copy it or use the dialog to email it to others. If you’re not playing along, you can view the file that I’m using here:

Scenario Update

I’ve invited my client to view the file, and she gets an email:010aa

In the browser, she can comment on the file, and also switch between the layer comps, or turn individual layers on and off, as desired.


You’ll get a notification of comments wherever the Creative Cloud app is installed—on your computer, on your tablet, on  your phone—so you’ll know straight away when there’s been activity, and the notification will take you to the full comment in the browser.010a

This is so much better than sending variations as JPEGs in the mail: finalVersion.jpg, finalVersionR1.jpg… theFinishedFileNoMoreRevisionsReallyMeanItThisTime.jpg—I’m sure you know that story.010

Licensing the Images

Probably the most powerful aspect of Adobe Stock is the ability top license assets directly inside the applications—you don’t need to revisit the website, transact, download new assets and then start over, you can do it all in one place. To illustrate this sequence I’ve added this video to my Youtube channel:

Wrapping Up

With the licensed images now placed you can focus on tightening up the work and getting it delivered, as the watermarked assets have been seamlessly replaced by the licensed versions there’s little or no reworking to do—you can just continue as if you’d been using the final assets in the first place. This exciting new way of working with stock resources trims away lots of time from a project, and it’s easy to present versions using different preview images and layer comps make it simple to view those changes, even for others connected to your workflow but not directly involved—all they need is a browser!




Happy Birthday, Design Jungle!

One year go today, the Design Jungle blog started! As I’m off to work in the Middle East for the week, I’m going to celebrate by giving us all the week off—I don’t have to write this week, and you don’t have to learn anything new! Yay!

In the meantime, I’ve added a few videos to my YouTube channel recently, showing how to use our completely free mobile apps:




Photoshop Mix:

and as a memory-gift here’s a much simpler link to get to the blog:

Happy Birthday, Design Jungle—and thanks for the support over the first year, to all of you lovely people!

InDesign Paragraph Shading

Quite often we need to highlight a paragraph, like this:

Hey! I’m a highlighted paragraph.

If you’ve ever had to in some way highlight a paragraph in InDesign, in the main flow of the body text then you’ve probably used one of the methods described below.


  1. Drawn a frame and positioned it behind the text (the most common approach)
  2. Drawn a frame and anchored it to the text (much more obscure, much more effort)
  3. Threaded your text and applied an object style to that one text box in the thread
  4. Used a Paragraph Rule ( I like to call this one Michael Murphy Method after my stateside colleague, who is the author of InDesign CS4 Styles—still a must-read for serious layout artists)
  5. Used a single-cell table (obscure but I’d give credit for creative thinking)


There are a number of drawbacks to consider here.

  • Firstly, in all of the above cases it’s a fiddleynudgely operation. I have just made up that word to describe the ridiculous amount of effort that is taken to create such a thing, move it to the back and then spend many seconds/minutes getting it in the right position—draw, stack, left-arrow, right-arrow, up-arrow, down-arrow
  • It’s inflexible. If the copy changes size or position, then you’re having to select it and revisit fiddleynudgely territory
  • In EPUB or HTML methods 1, 2 and 3 won’t work as intended plus they don’t work from a document structure perspective, either—and if that isn’t important to you right now, then start looking into it!
  • The Michael Murphy Method is a great trick—you create a rule as deep as the paragraph and then offset and indent it’s position in relation to the text. Works great in print/PDF/EPUB3 fixed layout but not reflowable EPUB.step1
  • The single-cell table is a lot of effort, and is structurally unsound (but other than that, ok-ish).
  • The threaded solution can be workable, especially if used in conjunction with frame breaks, but it’s a lot of effort!

Paragraph Shading

Introduced in InDesign CC2015, paragraph shading is an attribute of Paragraph Styles that is perfect for dealing with highlighted paragraphs in the main flow of the document text. Now to highlight a paragraph, simply create a style and turn on the shading option.



There are a few options:

  • Colour and Tint: chose your colour and then set a tint value if desired
  • Offsets: moves the sides of the box away from the edges of the text. Positive numbers move the edges outside, negative numbers do the opposite
  • Edges: these options set the relationship to the characters—think h and y with the ascender and descender; baseline is the natural baseline of the text, leading is whatever the paragraph’s leading value is.
  • Width: either the column width or longest line width
  • Clip to Frame: keeps the shading within the frame; this option is very useful if your text frame has rounded corners

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