Mastering Graphic Overlays: PicMonkey’s Secret Weapon

What do you call clip art that’s specially designed for image editing, and features crisp, delicious clarity at any size? A vector, Victor! PicMonkey’s free vectors (called graphics around these parts) are the unsung heroes of our photo editing and design tools. We see these graphic overlays as the building blocks of great images—easily customizable, endlessly versatile, and straight-up cool.

Here’s how to add graphic overlays to a picture:

You can add graphics to pictures, use them while concocting a design from a blank canvas, or put them to work with our designer-crafted templates—no matter how your masterpiece begins, the graphic-application process is the same.

  1. From the PicMonkey Editor, click the Graphics tab on the left (the butterfly icon).

  2. Scroll through our wide selection of graphics until you find one that you love.

  3. Click the graphic to add it to your picture or design.

  4. Drag the graphic into place and use the corner handles to change its size.

  5. Use the Graphic palette to adjust its color, fade, etc.

Today, we’re caroling the praises of our graphics. By the end of this post, you will have mastered the following graphic-related skills:

  • Layer

  • Resize

  • Use as text backgrounds

  • Fade

  • Use blend modes

Head to the Graphics tab to play along at home, and we’ll lead you to vector victory! Vectory.

Even you, Victor.

Layer graphics

Adding multiple graphics to your image is as simple as double-clicking the ones you want. Drag them around your canvas to find the right spot for them, and change colors at will.

You aren’t stuck with just one graphic per image: they layer easily to give you the look you want. You can go hog-wild and layer ’em like Russian nesting dolls, or you can layer two or three at a time for a subtler look.

Oops! Did you accidentally cover up your favorite graphic with a newer one? Use the Layers palette to send graphics forward or backward. You can also change which graphic is on top by right-clicking the one you want and selecting Bring to front, or right-clicking the one you want in the wayyy back and selecting Send to back. And if you want more of that fav graphic you just finished customizing, right-click and choose Duplicate graphic.

Pro tip: Some of our graphics are specifically intended to be layered—like our snowman graphics in the Winterland theme. Check it out and build your own virtual snobro.

Resizing graphics

One of the greatest things about vector-based graphics is that they’re infinitely magnifiable. That means you can resize them as big as you want (or shrink them down until they’re barely visible) and they’ll maintain their high quality.

So let’s say you pick a graphic, and awww, it’s cute and tiny! But you have bigger dreams—dreams of a graphic so big, it blocks out the sun. Make those dreams come true by clicking and dragging the corners of your graphic until it’s as gigantor-huge as you like.

Use graphics as a text background

PicMonkey has a bevy of graphics we call “labels.” These guys look spectacular with text on top; all you have to do is pick your favorite label, then go to the Text tab and add your message.

Pro tip: Many of our graphics have two colors. One simple way to make your graphic look like it was designed just for your image is to match one of its colors to a color from your background, with the eyedropper.

Fade graphic overlays

Fade: it’s more than a hairstyle. The Fade slider lets you adjust the transparency of a graphic, starting with opaque and heading all the way to invisible.

Much like eating a Reese’s, there’s no wrong way to use the Fade slider. However, our favorite method du jour is to use them as text backgrounds that simultaneously showcase your words and let your image show through. Here’s how it works:

  1. Add a simple graphic (ike a shape from Geometric) on top of a photo or design.

  2. Play with the Fade slider until your graphic is still visible, but your background image shows through.

  3. Add your text on top of your graphic. Magnifique!

Blend modes and graphic overlays

Last but certainly not least, blend modes. Blend modes are governed by a magical color math that changes the hue of an object (graphics or text) based on its original color and that of the background.

We call it “magical color math” because using blend modes is often a pretty unpredictable venture. In some cases, you’d need a math major to truly understand it. But have you ever gone out to eat with a math major? They always try to calculate the tip between fifteen people, and it always goes breathtakingly, catastrophically wrong. So even if you don’t fully grok blend modes, at least you can calculate tips.

Play around with Blend Modes! They can turn your graphic a color you didn’t know you wanted, affect its transparency in interesting ways, and tons of other outcomes that haven’t been discovered yet because you haven’t tried them on your original project. You know like how every snowflake is different, but actually that’s a misconception and some are the same? But it doesn’t matter, because they fill you with wonder and joy anyway? That’s blend modes.

Get even more graphic details (and peep some gorgeous designs) in our video tutorial!

Get a PicMonkey membership and bring your image creation ideas to life.

Elisa Chavez is a content writer here at PicMonkey, where she hopes to change the world one dinosaur selfie at a time. She is also a nationally ranked slam poet, champion shopper, and doting dog mama.