Beginner Cat Photo Skills

Make Your Own Digital Cat Portrait

Remember how I shared about my discovering a photograph of Dash Kitten and how I added a touch of magic by using layers to transport Dash to fantastical new worlds?

I want you to try your own with a digital cat portrait to create something that would make the perfect gift. You can do this, it’s fun.

There is an exciting and different world to explore beyond your lovely cat portrait. All it takes is a layer and a touch of magical skill for you to discover and create images of the highest quality. So, let me give you a quick guide to what a layer is, then show you an easy how-to you can use with every cat photograph or pet portrait.


The digital download image of Dash allowed me to do something friend Sylvia Rzeminski (Bode’s mom) has suggested I do a long time ago. She said I should create a piece of feline art as a tribute to Dash after his sudden death. I struggled with his loss for a long time but finally feel ready to take my love for Dash and his memory to new places.

If you enjoy learning with a video try this to start with.

What is a Layer?

Let me give you an idea of what a layer is. Think of an onion, it is made up of lots of small layers of texture. Photo editing uses layers in the same way. Each layer can add something different and it is these layers that you will be using to make changes to your images.

The short video above on overlays covers a lot of the same territory. It is useful if you are a visual learner more than an instruction reader. Layers have lots of uses by experts, but for your skill builder you will just add one.

Layers in photo editing software are like the collages you make as a kid in school. All those separate pieces of paper ‘layered’ on top of each other create a new and different image. The only difference is that instead of cutting things out you use virtual layers in the software.

Each software will be slightly different but you will find ‘Layers‘ in your top menu, and the layers you create appear on the right side of your work area just like in my sample photos and the video. Software manufacturers may be competitive but they know that people using software have basic expectations about things like workspace layout and terms used so these stay fairly constant across applications.

A Ghostly Egyptian Cat
  1. Each layer holds a different part of your image. You add backgrounds, or effect like snowflakes, on top of a layer that holds your original photograph.
  2. You can change the arrangement of your layers by clicking and dragging them up and down. The order matters because what is on a higher layer can cover things on a lower layer. You can move or delete a layer if you don’t like the result then try again.
  3. The cool thing is you can edit each layer separately. You can change the colour or transparency of a single element without affecting the photo to increase or reduce it’s effect.
  4. You can use more than one layer once you get the idea of how it all fits together.

Layers basically give you more control over your editing and make it easier to fix mistakes or try different things without ruining your whole image.

Where Your Layers Are

Create A Layer

This can be done in two bite sized tasks. The first sets up the image you have chosen, and the second ‘cat art’ layer, launches you into a world of fun with a contrasting image that can be a texture, clock face, stars, bubbles, snow or anything you like.

  1. Import your cat photograph and make sure it is a good size for what you want to do. The resizing option can often be found in ‘document settings’. You can change the size and resolution later if you wish but start with an image that is not too small (if you can).
  2. If you are unsure take a look in your Help menu along the top of your application.
  3. Then import your chosen background and make sure it is a similar size to your original photo. My image of Dash is 900 pixels across the top and I adjusted the bubble layer to match.
  4. Copy your background using Ctrl/Cmd C then add it to your original image Ctrl/Cmd V. Don’t panic if your cat photograph disappears!
Cat Portrait with Layer Partly Removed

Create Your First Cat Art

In ‘create a layer’ you set up your image. Now in this section you start adding the adjustments that make your photograph into something different.

  1. Look at the top of your two layers. You will see the words Opacity and Normal. Opacity allows you to show more or less of a background or an layer from of your original image. Normal changes the character of the layer (you can see this really well in the short video).
  2. Click on the background layer, the layer you want to see ‘behind’ your cat portrait.
  3. Click on Opacity and slide this down to around 50%. See if you like it. If not, adjust the slider until you are happy with the result.
  4. Then select your eraser (aka rubber) from the tools that sit on the left of most photo programs. Adjust the size of your brush and carefully rub away the background layer from your cat’s fair and body in small amounts. Not the whole image, only the cat portrait. (See the sample above).
  5. Finally, SAVE your image under a new name so you preserve the original for future use.

Conclusion and Encouragement

If you want to try this easy technique, start with the copy of a single digital downloaded image (not the original) and give yoursef permission to play with no expectations.

Your cat could be like Dash in the slideshow, surrounded by flowers, or a ghostly imge from Egypt or placed in a favourite part of a garden you love. Or, they could be like the the extra shots in the slideshow, surrounded by stars!

Let me know how you might try this easy technique in the comments.

A Gallery of Cat Image Treatments Using Single layers

  • Cat with Spring flowers in meadow.
    Dash in the Elysian Fields
  • Cream Coloured cat with an Egyptian background.
    A Ghostly Egyptian Cat
  • Cat in front of a pile of books
    Read Across America
  • Portait of a honey coloured cat looking at the camera in front of a ghostly clock
    Dash Back in Time
  • Cat with starry background
    EXTRA Toulouse with starry background
  • Black cat with a starry background
    EXTRA Taz with a night sky background

Cat Portrait Recomendations

10 thoughts on “Make Your Own Digital Cat Portrait”

  1. Yup…that’s how I make the art for my mementos…some have dozens of layers, some only a few…sometimes I even merge the layers together.

  2. Fabulous tutorial on how to use layers effectively! Excellent job! I love these photos with layers. Such a great idea. I’m now thinking of different layers and ideas for Henry with layers. Thanks for this one, Marjorie! I’m sharing with all my pet parents.

  3. So cool! Thank you, Marjorie, for this really helpful tutorial — you did an amazing job of explaining about layers!

  4. Fun photos and a fun lesson too. That’s one of the best explanations of layers that’s I’ve seen. Thanks for joining Angel Brian’s Thankful Thursday Blog Hop.


Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You cannot copy content of this page or use it to teach AI in any way © Marjorie Dawson © Dash Kitten
Verified by ExactMetrics