Couple of Ways and Tips to Place One Image Next to Another in Photoshop

Couple of Ways and Tips to Place One Image Next to Another in Photoshop

This is one of a must know, basic how to's in Photoshop. Although it seems an easy task which every Photoshop user already have under fingertips, in reality I am receiving lot of emails with same or similar question: How to place one image next to another in Photoshop? How to place two images in Photoshop so one is on the left and another on the right side? There a lot of tutorials on internet how to accomplish this task and again people keep asking same question. In this tutorial I will provide several solutions for every situation and include download links to get free actions and automated PSD templates which will make this task painless with only effort to select images to place. Lets start with manual methods.

Place images using Place command

If someone ask me to place two images one next to another in Photoshop, I will ask him what is output size? You should know output size although it is relative and can be changed at any time from Image > Image Size. Actual process is easy: create new document in size you need then place two images using File > Place command. There are and other ways to place images in Photoshop document from Adobe Bridge: select image then go to File > Place > In Photoshop or even to Place multiple files from Mini Bridge in Photoshop document but I will keep it simple and cover some more important details. Since images will be placed as Smart Objects you can resize them later if needed without any penalty or in other words without loss in quality of images. I will assume that you have checked option Place or Drag Raster Images as Smart Objects in Preferences > General. Here are more details and solutions for situations you may come across:

Step 1 Create new document
In first step you will create new document from File > New (Ctrl/Cmd + N). Type desired dimensions, Resolution, choose Color Mode, Color Profile, Bit Depth... and click OK.
Create blank new document in Photoshop

Step 2 Place images using Place command
Next step is to place two images using File > Place command. You can drag handles to resize images immediately after placing them or leave that for later.
Use Place command to import images in Photoshop

After placing each image move it to side you want: left or right and confirm on check-mark in Options bar or press Enter on your keyboard.
Scale and move image after placing it in Photoshop

Step 3 Mask or clip placed images if needed
Now what if images need some changes like when you want to show only one part of image and to hide the rest?  There are many different situations you can come across. For any situation that can not be solved by rearranging layers in layer stack you can use either pixel or vector mask or to create shape or pixel layer below and to clip image using clipping mask.

Step 3.1 Create pixel or vector mask
I will suggest you to first set up guides which will help you to create perfect and desired layer/vector mask. After dragging guides or creating them from View > New Guide ensure that options View > Snap and Snap to > Guides are turned on. To create pixel layer mask first ensure layer with image which needs mask is selected or active. Grab your Rectangular Marquee Tool and draw selection over area you want to be visible after creating mask. Guides and Snap option will help you in this task.
Drag with Rectangular Marquee Tool to create selection

After making selection click on Add layer mask button at the bottom of Layers panel. Now you have layer mask which hides everything that was outside of selection and reveals everything what was inside selected area.
Create layer mask from selection in Photoshop

What if you want to resize or move image without resizing and moving layer mask which is exactly as you want it? Click on chain icon to disappear in between Smart Object thumbnail (placed image) and layer mask.
Unlink image layer and layer mask in Photoshop

Now that you have unlinked Smart Object and layer mask, select Smart Object by clicking on its thumbnail and move it using Move Tool or press Ctrl/Cmd + T to enter free transform mode (Edit > Free Transform) to resize image.

In case you want to create vector mask do the following (one of ways to accomplish this task): select layer in Layers panel which needs vector mask then grab Rectangle Tool (U) from toolbox (or any other shape tool). Set drawing mode in Options bar to Path. Ensure that for Path options in Options bar you have Combine Shapes option checked.
Path options before drawing path for vector mask

Drag across area you want to be visible after creating vector mask. After drawing path Ctrl/Cmd + click on Add layer mask button at the bottom of Layers panel.
Create vector mask in Photoshop

What if you want to resize or move image independently of vector mask? Unlink vector mask and Smart Object with placed image by clicking on chain icon in between to disappear.

Step 3.2 Create clipping mask
This is very similar technique to pixel and vector layer masks with difference that layer with image and layer with pixels or vector shape which serves as mask are unlinked by default and you do not need to think about unlinking them before sizing and moving image. When using clipping mask layer with content which serves as mask is beneath image and image will be visible only inside shape vector outlines or only where pixels exist on that layer. Here are steps to create clipping mask:

First select layer with image in Layers panel then Ctrl/Cmd + click on Create a new layer (page icon) at the bottom of Layers panel. This will create new blank layer just beneath layer with image.
Create blank layer below selected layer

Now you can hide layer with image which is above so you can see what are you doing on layer which will serve for mask. With new blank layer selected you can grab Rectangular or any other Marquee Tool to draw selection then to fill it with color using Paint Bucket Tool or Edit > Fill command. You can also paint using Brush Tool and so on...
Fill selection using Paint Bucket Tool

After adding pixels on layer beneath image first deselect all if you have any selection active (Ctrl/Cmd + D), and show layer with image if its hidden. Ensure that layer with image is selected in Layers panel then press Ctrl/Cmd + Alt/Opt + G (or Layer > Create Clipping Mask) to create clipping mask.
Create clipping mask in Photoshop

If you want to clip image to vector object then after creating blank new layer beneath image grab any of shape tools and set drawing option to Shape. Path options in Options bar should be set to New Layer or Combine Shapes. Click and drag to draw shape. Blank layer will be automatically converted to Shape Layer by the way.
Options to set in Options bar to draw shape layer in Photoshop

After drawing your shape select layer with image and create clipping mask from Layer > Create Clipping Mask.
Images clipped to pixel and vector layers in Photoshop

Automate task using actions

Task to place two images side by side (also and multiple images) can be automated using actions. Instead of teaching you how to record flexible actions independent of size and resolution I will provide you link to ready made actions which you can use for personal and commercial projects free of charge. Here is link to download page (look at the bottom in description section below cover image) and use Page Layouts Test > Layout 2 to place two (2) images side by side. There is and user guide along with actions and for your information all you need to do is to play action, set document size and to choose images. After Photoshop place chosen image you will be able to scale and move it around as you want.
Page Layouts Photoshop Actions

Automate task using PSD templates + actions

This is very similar way to automation with actions only with difference that you have PSD template which can be resized (you can see it visually immediately without waiting action to draw placeholders). After resizing template you must play action to automate placement of images or you can do that manually by converting image layers to Smart Objects and then using Replace Contents command. There are and other options but lets keep it simple, main point is that you have ready-made resizable template with ability to automate image placements. Do not worry about title on Graphic River and preview below on screenshot because templates serves perfectly for any two images placed one next to another. Here is link to download page.

Automate task using Variables

Automation can be done and using Variables in Photoshop. This is best option in case you want to arrange lot of images from once in one or multiple documents, or in case you want to arrange only 2 images side by side but you have hundreds and thousands of images. Using Variables you can select 1000 images for example and in few minutes to have 500 documents with two images side by side (it works and with 5, 10, 20...). Here is link to download page and please read user guide which is very detailed and explains everything you will ever want to know about how to use provided free templates.
Unlimited Grid Layouts Templates

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