Creating Abstract Art From Photos Using Affinity Photo

by Sep 27, 2023Photo Editing Tutorials

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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Creating Abstract Art From Photos Using Affinity Photo

A subscriber recently asked me how to copy an effect to produce abstract art from photos, using Affinity Photo. When I looked at his examples, they appeared to use double or multiple exposures. Some also used textures blended into the image. While the double exposure effect can be created in the camera, the Texture blending must be done in an image editor like Affinity Photo.

In this tutorial, I’ll walk you through the steps to produce an abstract art effect using multiple exposures, in Affinity Photo. You can also use the same technique to blend texture images into your photos.

Selecting the Photo

The first and crucial step is to select a suitable image. From my experiments, images with a lot of fine, repetitive detail like the one below, tend to work well.

starting photo to be used for the abstract art effect

I’ve also seen good examples of this type of image created using urban scenes with modern glass buildings.

Turning this image into an abstract art photo involves blending it with a second exposure. Whilst this could be a different photo, it’s also possible to use a copy of the same image. In this tutorial, we’ll blend duplicate copies of the image to create the artistic abstract effect.

Creating the Multiple Exposures

To produce the multiple exposure effect with this image, we first need to open it in Affinity Photo.

Having opened the image in the Photo Persona, duplicate the background layer. You can do this in the Layers Studio Panel by right-clicking on the background layer. Then, in the pop-up menu, select the duplicate option.

You should now have two identical image layers in the Layers Studio Panel. You can see this illustrated in the screenshot below.

Affinity Photo Stuido Panel showing image with duplicate layer

Our next step is resizing the top image layer we’ve just created. We’ll do this using the Affinity Photo Move Tool.

You will find the Move Tool in the Affinity Photo Tools Palette on the left side of the interface. It shows a small black mouse pointer with a white outline. When you select this, you will see a blue box appear around the image.

In the Layers Studio Panel, click the duplicate background layer you created. This ensures that it is selected for the next step in the process.

Resizing the Duplicate Exposure

Click on one of the white dots at the image corners. These are grab handles or resizing handles. When you click and drag these, it will resize the image. We use this technique to make the top duplicate image layer much larger than the original image.

To make it easier to resize the image with the Move Tool, use the Navigator Studio Panel to reduce the image magnification. You can do this using the slider at the top of the panel. You can see this in the following screenshot.

Resizing the image layer with the Move Tool in Affinity Photo

When you click and drag on the resizing handles, you will see the blue box expand beyond the edge of the visible canvas area. What’s happening is that you are resizing the image layer, but only part of that image layer is visible. The Affinity Photo document canvas is restricting the visible area.

You can also reposition the visible part of the image layer by clicking and dragging it with the Move Tool. In the screenshot above, you can see that I have positioned the leaves of the duplicate layer in the visible area.

If you look at the image now, you will see that the top layer is hiding the layer below it. We need the main image to be visible through this top layer. To do that, we will reduce the Opacity of the top layer. Setting an Opacity of somewhere below 50% usually produces a good effect. You can see an example below.

Abstract Art effect created by the duplicate layer

Here, the Opacity of the layer was set to 30%.

Using Blend Modes

Whilst blending a second exposure into the photo has created an abstract art effect, we can take this further using the Blend Modes feature.

Duplicate the top layer that was resized, to produce a third layer in the image. As before, right-click on the layer you want to copy in the Layers Studio Panel. Then, in the pop-up menu, select the Duplicate option.

You should now see a third layer on top of the other two. The visible area will be the same as the larger layer it was copied from. It will also have the same low Opacity setting.

Now, click on the image using the Move Tool and drag to reposition the new layer. This will move the visible area of the layer to create a new effect. Often, you don’t need to move the layer far to produce an interesting effect.

We will now change the Blend Mode for the new layer from Normal to Overlay. You can do this using the dropdown at the top of the Layers Studio Panel.

Changing the Blend Mode of the new duplicate image layer

After you change the Blend Mode to Overlay, you can refine the effect by changing a layer’s opacity.

You can repeat this step of duplicating layers multiple times if you wish. Each time, move the layer so that a different image area is visible. I recommend trying out Soft Light, Color Burn and Multiply blend modes to create various effects. These Blend Modes can add depth, contrast, and richness to your designs. Remember that the outcome will vary depending on the colours and layers you work with.

Use Masks to Control the Abstract Art Effect

Using masks is part of creating a powerful abstract art effect with your photo. You can apply masks to each layer in the image to control where that Layer’s effect is visible. The only layer I wouldn’t use a mask with is the background layer.

To add a layer mask to one of the layers, click the layer in the Layers Studio Panel to ensure it is selected. You can then click the layer mask icon at the bottom of the panel, as shown below.

Adding a Layer Mask to the Layer in the Affinity Photo Studio Panel

After adding a layer mask to the layer, we can paint on it using the Brush Tool set to black.

Select the Brush Tool in the Tools Palette and set the Hardness to 0%. This gives the Brush a soft edge which will help to blend the effect as we paint. I recommend painting using an Opacity of around 50%.

Whilst the regular round brush can work fine for this effect, you may like to use some of the more creative Brushes in Affinity Photo. If you’re unsure how to select and control these, see my guide to using Affinity Photo Brushes.

Click on the layer mask in the Layers Studio Panel to ensure it is selected. You can then paint over the image in areas where you want to reveal more of the background photo.

Absract art effect created using multiple exposures in Affinity Photo

Here, you can see the abstract art effect created by two layers, one of which has a mask attached to hide part of the layer. I’ve also shown the mask, which was created using one of the Affinity Photo Pointillist brushes.

The Abstract Art Photo Video

Now that you understand how the abstract art effect is created, watch the following video for further ideas. This uses more Blend Modes and a regular brush to reveal the tree trunks in the original photo.

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel

You can also watch this video on my YouTube channel. I publish a new video every week, often based on subscribers’ requests and feedback. Subscribe to my YouTube channel now and be sure not to miss future videos.

As mentioned at the end of the video, you can also create abstract art photos using the Double Exposure filter in the Nik Collection. The Double Exposure filter is found in Nik Analog Efex, and you can read how to do it in my Double Exposure Tutorial.

More Affinity Photo Tutorials

You’ll find more high quality, free tutorials on my Affinity Photo Tutorials page.

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