Project Description

Learn all about Exposure’s overlays in this video. We’ll show you techniques for applying borders, textures, and light effects, and how to move and rotate them to work with your image. Additionally, we share helpful tips for importing your own texture images in Exposure.

Photo: Ben Davidson, Michael Gillman, Stephen Dempsey


Exposure enables you to creatively apply borders, light effects, and textures to your image using the Overlays panel. It’s a great way to enhance your images, and Exposure gives you a lot of freedom in how you apply them. You can also import your own.

Let’s start with the border overlay on this B&W image. Exposure’s border overlays apply realistic film frames or print edges to your image. Borders affect the image edges, leaving the middle untouched. The ten categories cover everything from antique frames, brushed paper, and Polaroid. From the Grunge Category, I’ll apply Grunge 24 to my B&W image.

The arrow controls on the right enable me to randomly choose a similar border, to horizontally flip the applied border, or to vertically flip the applied border. I’ll vertically flip it. The black/white control lets me invert it. I like that effect, so I’ll go with it. I’ll use the Zoom slider to resize the border so that it moves further out to the sides, so less of it is touching my image.

Because this border replicates the look you would get from printing a photo, we recommend leaving the Opacity slider at full strength. For some of Exposure’s selections that simulate damaged borders, lowering the opacity can be effective.

If you’ve ever wanted to apply realistic sun flares, light leaks, or other cool looking light effects to your image, then you’ll love Exposure’s varied light effect overlays.

The four categories cover a variety of different looks, including lens flare, streaks of gold or white light, prismatic dust, rainbows, and more.The hand icon on an overlay indicates that it is the fully moveable version of that overlay. The fixed version of the overlay remains as an option to ensure that images edited using overlays in older versions of Exposure are compatible with newer versions of Exposure. When applying a light effect for the first time, we recommend you use the newer fully moveable ones for maximum placement flexibility.

I want to simulate backlit sunlight in the upper left corner of this portrait shot, so I’ll apply the fully moveable Corner 9 light leak in the top left. It adds oranges and pinks that perfectly color my image, reinforcing the color of her dress and complimenting the cooler blue tones.

Because I chose a fully moveable overlay, Exposure gives me complete control over where I place it. I can use the same placement and inversion controls that I used for my B&W image, as well as the Zoom and Opacity slider.

I’ll reduce the opacity and increase the zoom so that I get a more diffused pink light, with less orange. I can also use the Move Freely alignment option to move and rotate the effect in my image. This 360-degree freedom is especially useful for placing fully moveable light effects.

I’ll rotate the light effect and then reposition it to the middle left of my image, so the diffused pink light is illuminating the water, the glass, and her umbrella. This kind of flexibility works really well with sun rays, too, if you need to align them with any trees, leading lines, or other objects in your image.

As you move overlays around your image, you can use the Protect Location tool to indicate the portion of your image that you don’t want to overlay to touch. This affects all overlays, not just light effects. I’ll remove the pink light from the water.

Textures are where you’ll apply effects over your entire image. Effects like dust, print media, and scratches lend an evocative, weathered look to your image that can be effective with the right subject matter. Some textures are also good for lifting shadows in your image.

In this mysterious looking shot of a lone figure walking toward the fog in the distance, applying Crushed Jade 7 lifts the shadows and gives them an orange tone that fits the moody autumnal feel of the shot. It also accentuates the grain, which gives the fog in the distance more punch and makes the shot look more like it was taken using analog film. I’ll bump up the opacity a little bit, to bring more of that look out in the image.

I can have a lot of fun with Exposure’s blend modes on this one, and get dramatically different effects, each of which would make a successful image:
Opacity applies the texture across the entire image, lifting the blacks around the edges and providing consistent coloring and texture across the image.

Screen (Lighter) brightens the image a little more, especially in the sky.

Overlay darkens the sides and centers the effect in the image. This draws our eyes to the haze in the distance.

The other two modes are Multiply, which darkens images. This works well for creating shadows and removing light colors while retaining dark colors. And Hard light, which is similar to the Overlay mode, but produces more intense results. It combines the Multiply and Screen modes, but unlike Overlay mode, it uses the values of the texture layer, instead of the base image.

If you’ve taken some images that you think would make great overlays, or have purchased any texture packs, you can import them directly into Exposure.

Exposure can import JPEG, PNG, and TIFF format images as overlays. If your overlay has transparent pixels, use TIFF or PNG so it will work well in the Opacity blend mode. Choose a high resolution image, at least 4,000 x 3,000.

I’ll add a detail from a photo of a weathered concrete wall I shot as a custom texture. I’ll select the overlay category that I want to add it to, then click the preview.

In the selection menu, I’ll click Import, and then navigate to my source folder. The Import Overlays dialog shows me how my new overlay will look. I’ll rename the file and select the category and default blend mode I want to apply. I’ll add it to the My Textures category and set the default blend mode to Screen (Lighter). Auto rotate to match image orientation is helpful when importing borders and textures. Finally, I click Import to add it.

Here it is applied to that same shot of the lone figure on the train tracks. With the opacity dialed down to a minimal amount, the texture does a nice job of lifting some of the shadows, especially at the corners.