Easy Photo Collages
Sunday, November 26th, 2006 by Reed Hoffmann
I recently went to a friend's wedding and took along a little point-and-shoot I could carry in my pocket. When it was all over I had a nice set of photos, and wanted to share them with the family. Rather than send a bunch of small prints, I wanted to give them one large print to commemorate the day. My favorite way of doing this is by using the Free Transform tool in Photoshop, and this can be done with either full-blown Photoshop or Photoshop Elements (I used version 4).
First things first. I shot the photos with a little 6-megapixel Panasonic Lumix camera, with in-camera flash, using Auto ISO. It did a nice job, but the photos won’t hold up to make big prints from them. However, I can use several of them on one large sheet of paper to make a nice collage.
I’ve got several large format printers, but for this I chose the Epson R1800, which will print up to 13-inches wide, letting me use Super B paper, 19-inches by 13-inches. In Photoshop I start by creating a new document, choosing File – New or Control (Windows) or Command (Mac) – N. Set the size for 19-inches by 13-inches (or a bit less) and I chose a resolution of 160 PPI, which is all that’s needed for high quality inkjet prints.
Next step is to open the photos you plan to use, crop and tone them as needed (removing red-eye on these), and sketch out a bit of a layout for how you’d like them to appear on that sheet of Super B paper. The key to the layout is to have one photo that is larger than the others. That photo will anchor the layout and give it purpose. Also, think about adding some type to the page.
Select that first photo by doing a Select – All (Control/Command-A), then choose the move tool (V key) and grab the photo and drag it onto the blank document. Now comes the fun part. Photoshop (both CS and Elements) has something called a “Free Transform” tool that will let you re-size an image whenever you want. With the photo still selected, type Control/Command – T to invoke that. Now you can grab any of the handles around the image to re-size it. Tip – hold down the Shift key when re-sizing to keep the aspect ratio the same. Otherwise you’ll make everyone short and squat or tall and thin (which might not be bad!). When you’ve got the image the way you want it, type Control/Command – Return to apply that change.
As you do this process to the rest of the photos, you’ll notice that each photo is on its own layer (providing you’ve got Window – Layers turned on). To go back and move an earlier image, be sure to click on its layer to make it active. This way you can move any of the photos individually without affecting the others.
Doing a poster like this, I like adding some text as well. To do that simply select the Type tool, click where you want the type to be, and start typing. If you want to change size, color, font or anything else, do a Control/Command – A to select the text and make the change. To change only part of the text, simply select that part. Again, to apply the text, finish with a Control/Command – Return. Double-click that text layer to move it or make it active later to edit it further.
For the final step I’ll often add a small border to the poster. The easy way to do that is to drag a selection (I prefer using the Rectangular Marquee Tool), then choose Edit – Stroke to put a line on that selection. When drawing the selection, be sure you have the “Background” layer chosen.
That’s it! All that’s left is to make the print and send it to the family. When you’re finished you can save it as a “PSD,” which will save it with the layers intact (and create a large file) or as a JPEG, which will “Flatten” it. Flattening means you can’t go back and re-edit those layers, but makes for a much smaller document.
For more tips and tricks on editing photos, see the “Brain Food” section on our website, at https://education.bluepixel.net/bp/site/elearn.