Mastering Graphic Overlays: PicMonkey’s Secret Weapon

Mastering Graphic Overlays: PicMonkey’s Secret Weapon
September 29, 2017 Elisa Chavez

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 overlays 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 graphic overlays 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 overlay-application process is the same.

  1. From the PicMonkey Editor, click the Overlays tab on the left (the butterfly icon).
  2. Scroll through our wide selection of overlays until you find one that you love.
  3. Click the overlay to add it to your picture or design.
  4. Drag the overlay into place and use the corner handles to change its size.
  5. Use the Overlay palette to adjust its color, fade, etc.

Graphic overlays by PicMonkey, used to superheroic effect.
Today, we’re caroling the praises of our overlays. By the end of this post, you will have mastered the following overlay-related skills:

  • Layer
  • Resize
  • Use as text backgrounds
  • Fade
  • Use blend modes

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

Even you, Victor.

Layer overlays
PicMonkey's graphic overlays can be layered, reshuffled, and reordered to your heart's content.

Adding multiple overlays 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 overlay 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 overlay with a newer one? Use the Layers palette to send overlays forward or backward. You can also change which overlay 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 overlay you just finished customizing, right-click and choose Duplicate overlay.

The regal queen of the snowpeople, created using PicMonkey's free graphic overlays. Build your own snowbro in PicMonkey!Pro tip: Some of our overlays are specifically intended to be layered—like our snowman overlays in the Winterland theme. Check it out and build your own virtual snobro.

Resizing overlays

PicMonkey's graphic overlays start small, but scale infinitely to whatever size you desire.
One of the greatest things about vector-based overlays 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 an overlay, and awww, it’s cute and tiny! But you have bigger dreams—dreams of an overlay so big, it blocks out the sun. Make those dreams come true by clicking and dragging the corners of your overlay until it’s as gigantor-huge as you like.

Use overlays as a text background
This "Happiness" graphic, ringed with roses, was created from PicMonkey's graphic overlays.

PicMonkey has a bevy of overlays 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 overlays have two colors. One simple way to make your overlay 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 an overlay, 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 overlay (ike a shape from Geometric) on top of a photo or design.
  2. Play with the Fade slider until your overlay is still visible, but your background image shows through.
  3. Add your text on top of your overlay. Magnifique!

Blend modes and graphic overlays

Use PicMonkey's blend modes to shed new light (and colors) on our 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 (overlays 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 overlay 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 overlay details (and peep some gorgeous designs) in our video tutorial!

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Elisa Chavez
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.