A Picture Inside A Picture

We will learn how to frame a picture inside a picture with this Photoshop Elements tutorial.

This is a very cool effect that is quick and easy to do.

If you don't totally understand Layers or Layer Masks, this is a good technique to use to strengthen your understanding of them.

I will walk you through it step-by-step as we create and use different Layers. Don't worry, it's really easy.

Here's what it looks like when you're done.

And this is what we'll start with:

Here's a video that shows the technique being done:

Let's get started!...

Step 1. -  Make A Selection Of The Area That You Want To Frame.

Move your mouse to the Toolbox and make the Rectangular Marquee tool active by clicking on it from the top-right of the Select section of the Toolbox.

It shares the same space in the Toolbox with the Elliptical Marquee tool so you might see that there instead.

If the Elliptical Marquee tool is there, go ahead and click on it anyway.

Now you'll have to go down to the Tool Options area in the lower-left area of your window and click on the Rectangular Marquee tool from there to choose it.

If you're using a version of PS Elements older than PSE 11, you will not choose the Rectangular Marquee tool from the Tool Options.

Instead you click-and-hold on the Elliptical Marquee tool in the Toolbox until the pop-up menu appears. Then click on the Rectangular Marquee tool to make it active.

Move your cursor over the photo in the live work area and click-and-drag diagonally over the approximate area that you want to be the "picture inside a picture".

Step 2. -  Add An Adjustment Layer.

Now let's add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.

Move your cursor over to the Layers Panel and click on the "Create A New Fill Or Adjustment Layer".

It's the second icon from the left and it looks like a half blue-half white circle.

From the pop-up menu that appears choose Hue/Saturation... by clicking on it.

Step 3. -  Desaturate The Selected Area.

When we clicked on Hue/Saturation... in the last step 3 different things happened.

  1. A new Adjustment Layer was added to the top of the Layers Panel.
  2. The Marching Ants that defined our selection disappeared.
  3. The Hue/Saturation Adjustment Panel appeared.

There are three sliders in the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Panel. They are:

  1. Hue
  2. Saturation
  3. Lightness

The buttons for all three will be in the center of their respective bars at the zero position.

Put your cursor over the button of the middle bar which is the Saturation slider.

Click-and-drag the slider all the way over to the left to completely remove the color (desaturate) the part of the photo that we selected earlier. That area should now be black and white.

At the beginning of this step I said that when we added the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer 3 things occurred.

One of them was that the marching ants that defined our selection went away. Actually the Selection was converted to the Layer Mask for our Adjustment Layer.

If you know how Layer Masks work you know that white reveals and black conceals.

That's why just the rectangle that is white on our Layer Mask is revealing on our photo the desaturation that we did with our Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer.

If you aren't quite sure how Layer Masks work, check this page out and you'll be using Layer Masks like nobodies business:


If we would have just created an Adjustment Layer without first making a selection, the entire Layer Mask would be white by default.

And the saturation adjustment that we made would be revealed on the whole layer as shown below.

Now, just to be super-crystal-clear, the reason that the Layer Mask in the screenshot above is completely white is because we didn't make a selection before we added the Adjustment Layer.

OK, let's go to the next step.

Step 4. -  Invert The Layer Mask.

Right now I have the opposite of what I want.

I want the rectangle to be in color and the rest of the photo to be black-and-white.

I can do that by inverting the Layer Mask.

To do that all you have to do is press Command-I on a Mac or Control-I on a PC.

Or if you like doing things the long way you can go up to the Filter menu and choose Adjustments>Invert.

Notice in the screenshot below that the Layer Mask is inverted and that the selected area of the photo is now the only part that is in color.

Step 5. -  Add A White Frame.

To add a frame, we need to get our selection back. Go up to the Select menu and choose Reselect.

That makes our last selection active which was the rectangle.

Let's make a new layer for our frame. Click on the "Add A New Layer" icon in the Layers Panel.

Go up to the Edit Menu and choose Stroke (Outline) Selection...

The Stroke dialog box appears.

For this photo I'm going to use a 7 pixel stroke. You might need to experiment with the width for what looks best with your photo.

So with the Width field highlighted (if it's not highlighted, double-click inside of it) I'm going to type "7".

For the color of my frame I want white. If your Color field in the Stroke dialog box is a white rectangle you don't need to do anything with it.

But as you can see in the screenshot above my Color field is black. So I click once on that black rectangle and the Color Picker appears.

To change it to white, click anywhere in the big square that's in the Color Picker and continue holding down the mouse button as you drag up to the top-left corner of the square. In fact drag beyond the square to be sure you get all the way into the corner. Then release the mouse button.

You can verify that you have pure white by looking at the RGB color values over to the right of the big square in the Color Picker. All 3 values should be at 255 as shown in the screenshot below.

Once you have it set to white, click OK to accept the change and the Color Picker window will close.

Now there's just one more thing to check in the Stroke dialog box.

Make sure in the Location area of the dialog box that inside is chosen. If it's not just click on the button next to it. That will assure that your corners are nice and square and not rounded.

Now go ahead and click OK to accept the change and the Stroke dialog box will close.

The frame will appear around the selected area.

We are done with our selection so press Command-D on a Mac or Control-D on a PC to deselect. The marching ants will go away.

This completes the basic technique. But what really makes this special is how flexible it is!

Read on to see what I mean...

Step 6. -  Move It Around.

Now if you want you can move the color framed area that we just created to any part of your photo!

To do that you need to select both the Frame layer and the Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer. Click on one of those layers and then hold down the shift key as you click on the other one.

You can tell when both Layers are selected because they will be highlighted. In PSE 11 the highlight color is blue as shown below. Other versions might be a different color.

Once both Layers are selected, make sure that the Move tool is active. Then place your cursor inside of the framed area, click and continue holding down the mouse button as you drag it to a different part of your photo.

I'm going to move mine from the 3 kids in the center to the 3 kids on the left side. Once you have it where you want you can release the mouse button.

Step 7. -  Transform It.

You can also change the size of your frame. With the Move tool selected you should have the bounding box with its 8 handles around it.

Place your cursor over any of the 8 handles until your cursor changes to a line with arrows on both ends. Then click-and-drag in or out to change the size of your framed area.

Just be aware that if you adjust your frame with any of the 4 center handles, your frame width size will be different for the horizontal and vertical sides as shown in the screenshot below.

If you adjust your frame size with any of the 4 corner handles, your frame width will remain consistent but you lose the ability to adjust the width and height independent of each other as shown below.

You can also rotate the frame by placing your cursor outside of the frame close to any of the 4 corner handles.

When your cursor changes to a double-headed curved arrow you can click-and-drag to rotate it. Let go of the mouse button when it looks how you like it.

Click on the green checkmark to commit to the changes and you are done!

Step 8. -  Bring Back Some Color.

You can also bring back a little color to the rest of the photo if you want.

Double-click on the Adjustment Layer in the Layers Panel. The Hue/Saturation Adjustment Panel will appear.

Just click-and-drag the Saturation Slider back towards the right until it looks how you like it. You can see in the screenshot below that I just brought back a hint of color.

And that wraps up this tutorial for how to create a picture inside a picture with Photoshop Elements.

Go from picture inside a picture to Homepage


I value your input! Please leave me a comment in the box below.
Share this page:
Was this page helpful? Here's another way you can share it...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Search This Site:

Sign up for my newsletter
BECAUSE… You get

  • 4 Step-By-Step Videos showing Tips being used 
  • One-Page Printable Cheat Sheets of Tips

Get My Photoshop Elements Books for just $3.99 from Amazon

More Content… follow me:

"Just a note to say I LOVE your site! There seem to be a few PS Elements tutorials sites, but yours is by far the clearest and easiest to understand. Thanks!" - Ellie

"Watching your tutorials even about things that I think I know I ALWAYS learn something new. A big thank you!" - Douglas

"I am thrilled to find such useful and easy-to-understand information for using Photoshop Elements. I can't wait to use your tutorials (especially with my scrapbooking obsession)" - Judy in MS

Good day Rick, "I very appreciate ALL, ALL of your tutos. Very very clear and useful tips, tricks and techniques of how-to in PSE9. A great great work!" - Hoan

"Love your tutorials on YouTube. Very clear and helpful. Thanks a bunch." -

"I love your videos! They have been such a BIG help. I bought the Dummies book, and it's OK, but I do better by watching instead of reading. Kudos to you!" - Cheers, Kathy

"Thank you for this site! I found it through one of your videos on YouTube.
Again, thank you so much!" - Vanessa

"This is really a truly generous and very admirable website!" - Cheers, Jonas

"Hi Rick! First I've got to say thank you for all the information you share. I can't wait to see the "tips and tricks" you are working on because it sounds like those will help things all come together.
I've gone thru several of your tutorials and learn so much. I can't praise you enough for your time and patience." - Vicki.

"Your website is a great service and I thank you!"
 - Kind Regards, April

"A big thanks to you and your website, and the
 information and help I get from it, its much appreciated." - Rob

Rick - "Many thanks for your advice, that I will take. A big thank you as well for you outstandingly good tutorials. You do seem to have an amazing knack of making quite complicated tasks seem easy and straightforward. I am a fan!" - With Best Wishes, Tony

"Much more helpful than PS Elements 9 for Dummies book.... Thanks so much for your site..truly easy to follow." - Karin

Hi Rick. Just wanted to say a big thank you for all of the great information contained in your tutorials. I've stumbled around PS9 for quite a few weeks now and can't believe quite how easily you explain the different aspects. It's way, way more powerful than I imagined and now, for me, usable too. A big, big thank you from the UK. - Guy