Create a double-exposure eagle with Affinity Photo and Unsplash

You may have noticed that Affinity Photo 1.7 has a cool new stock-image supplier in the Stock Panel, Unsplash. So we thought we would do a series of photo composition tutorials showing you how to get the best out of this new feature. First up—how to use Unsplash images to create a double-exposure composition.

1. Setting up your document

Open Affinity Photo and go to File > New to set up your blank canvas. We want our finished piece to be high resolution in landscape orientation, so choose the document dimensions 5120px x 3620px in the New Document dialog.

2. Using the Stock Panel

The Stock Panel is located in the panels on the right-hand side of the workspace. To access Unsplash images from here, make sure Unsplash is selected from the drop-down menu. Next, read the linked Terms and Conditions for using Unsplash and when you’ve finished, check the I understand checkbox. Now you are ready to search over 1,000,000 free (do-whatever-you-want) high-resolution photos from Unsplash within Affinity Photo.

The main image we will be using in this tutorial is an eagle, and ideally we want it on a white background, so search for eagle, white background in the Stock Panel search box.

As you can see from the below screenshot, the eagle we are going to use is the eighth image to come up in our search and is by Kyran Aldworth. Drag this image onto your page, resize to fit and flip it horizontally by going to the Arrange menu on the top toolbar and choosing Flip Horizontal.

Crediting the photographer

Every time you use an Unsplash image from the Affinity Photo Stock Panel, you will be told who took the image in the following ways:

  • When you drag an Unsplash image from the Stock Panel onto your canvas, a pop-up will appear giving you details of the image and the photographer.
  • When an Unsplash image is on your canvas, and has been added via the Stock Panel, you will be able to access information about the image from the top Context Toolbar via the Open Stock URL and Photo by… buttons. These buttons will take you directly to the image hosted on and to the photographer’s page, which will show you their other Unsplash images.
Kyran Aldworth’s Unsplash page
  • Unsplash recommends crediting a photographer by using the following text ‘Photo by ‘photographers name’ on Unsplash.

“Crediting isn’t required, but is appreciated and allows photographers to gain exposure.”

3. Using the Selection Brush Tool

Next we are going to cut-out the eagle using the Selection Brush Tool.

With the eagle layer selected, choose the Selection Brush Tool (W), and then proceed to paint the sections we want to show using the brush. As you paint with this tool you can see the image begins to fill out with the sections you have highlighted. Once you are happy with the areas you have selected, click on the Refine Selection button on the context toolbar and you’ll be given some further options in a new dialog.

The selection will already be refined, but you can add feathering or smoothing to your selection to potentially improve the accuracy and appearance of your image. When you are happy with the settings, change the drop down Output box to New Layer. This will copy our selection to a new layer, leaving the original completely unedited. We would always recommend renaming each new layer as they are created to improve workflow.

Duplicate this new layer so you have a copy for later.

4. Creating a Mask

Now we need to create a mask layer. To do this:

  1. Draw a black rectangle using the Rectangle Tool (U).

  2. Clip this rectangle to one of the cut-out eagle layers to create black silhouette.

  3. Right-click this layer and choose Rasterise – this will become our mask layer.

  4. Duplicate this mask layer so you have two copies.

5. Adding a Black & White Adjustment to our background layer

At this point, we want to add a Black & White Adjustment to our original Unsplash image, which is currently the last layer in the stack.

To add an Adjustment layer, go the Adjustments Panel and choose Black & White. The Black & White Adjustment dialog will appear, but simply close this as we will use the default settings.

When applying this adjustment, I have noticed some discolouration on the background of the eagle image. To combat this, use a basic paint brush and the colour picker to paint out the discolouration.

Now, select the background layer and the Black & White Adjustment layer in the Layers Panel, right-click and select Group.

6. Add more images to blend

Repeat step 2, but this time search Unsplash for ‘mountains’ in the Stock Panel.

The image that we have used in this example appeared at number 24 in our search and is an image of Augstmatthorn, Oberried am Brienzersee, Switzerland. This image was taken by Etienne Bösiger.

Photo by Etienne Bösiger on Unsplash.

When you’ve placed the image on your page, flip it horizontally and then clip this image to your first mask layer. Position and resize this image to how you would like within the mask. Now select the top-level parent layer of this mask layer and change the layer opacity to 50% and change the Blend Mode to Screen.

The next image we are going to add is of Mont Saint-Rigaud, Monsols, France and has been taken by Clément M. This image came up as the 10th result for ‘forest’ on Unsplash in the Affinity Photo Stock Panel.

Photo by Clément M on Unsplash.

Drag this image onto your page clip this image to your empty mask layer and position and resize this image as you see fit. Select the top-level parent layer of your mask layer and change the layer opacity to 50% and apply a Hard Light Blend Mode.

6. Adding detail

For this step we are looking to bring out some finer details on our image. To do this, move your last cut-out layer to the top of the layer stack and apply a default Black & White Adjustment layer. Clip this Adjustment layer to the cut-out layer.

Now, with the cut-out layer selected, select the Erase Tool (E) and choose ‘Grunge 1’ from the Texture category in the Brushes Panel as your nib. Erase the body of the bird, but keep the wing and the facial features, such as the eye and the beak. For the best results, vary the opacity and the hardness of the brush nib by adjusting the brush settings on the context toolbar. When you’ve finished, apply a Darken Blend Mode to this layer.

7. Finishing touches

Finally, crop your image for a better composition using the Crop Tool.

And that’s it! As you can see you can have lots of fun creating new compositions in Affinity Photo using the Unsplash image library available from the Stock panel. For more inspiration, why not check out the other tutorials in this series?