I just love creating collages! It challenges me to be more creative and keeps me mentally alert which is good for my aging brain! :D
Recently, I had wanted to show off the many bright cheery faces of this lovely flower, Torenia Fournieri that shines endlessly in our garden. What better way was there than to merge all their lovely colors collectively in one big picture, where I can just sit back and admire! And I created just that – a collage of 9 photos on another large photo (with torenias too) as my background!
In this photo collage tutorial, I’ll be using this image as my example to show you how it was created using Adobe Photoshop CS2. Do not be deterred by its length, I’m just being my long-winded and meticulous self! ;) In short, picture montage is all about adding a few or many pictures into a larger image, position them creatively and decorate with blending effects, and that’s it! Just try this easy technique below for a start and it’ll lead you to more creative adventures of your own!
Start off by drawing a rough sketch of how you want your collage to be, giving thought to the target size and where each photo is to be placed. This will be your guide and make your task easier as you have 9 photos to paste, almost two handfuls! Also check that all photos have the same resolution to ward off any problems later. If you’re using Microsoft Office Picture Manager to view them, go to File > Properties to check their resolution. Here, I gathered all the 9 images that I wanted as well as the photo to be used as the background. I’ve chosen this over a plain background to give it a more natural garden setting. Tip – never work on original photos, make copies of all the photos selected! In this case, I’ve placed all the 9 images together with the background photo in a single folder in my pc. I find this method eases the process tremendously.
Using Microsoft Office Picture Manager, do all the necessary adjustments as you’d want for the end result to each of the 9 images selected. In this example, each image with original size of 1600 x 1200 pixels was edited by resizing, then tightly cropped to 300 x 300 pixels for just the flower’s image. Bearing in mind that the 9 cropped images will fill a minimum area of 900 x 900 pixels, the background photo measuring 1600 x 1200 pixels was left unedited to allow freer choice of positioning the 9 images on it later on. Anyway, it’s easy to crop off excess pixels later in Photoshop.
You can now proceed to create the collage using Adobe Photoshop CS2. Open your background photo – Choose File > Open and browse to choose the photo that you want. In the Layers Palette, double click on the Background layer and rename it Collage. This will unlock the background layer to allow blending options later on. (Tips – you can show your Layers Palette by tapping F7 or go to Windows > Layers if yours is not opened yet. If you prefer to create a new blank image instead of using another photo as the background, go to File > New – to create one. Specify image size as desired on a transparent background. Resolution should be the same as that of images to be pasted. In the Layers Palette, double click the words Layer 1 and rename it Collage.)
Open all images to be added to the collage. Go to File > Open – to browse and select all the nine images altogether. Click Open and all the 9 images will be opened one on top of the other as in a stack. This is why I suggested in Step 1 to place all the images in the same folder. Next activate the collage image window and place it in such a way that you’re able to see some portion of the stacked images behind it to facilitate the next step.
Now start to drag the images to be added to the collage image one at a time. Use the Move tool on the left tool bar (or Tap V) and click anywhere on the top image in the stack. Holding the shift key while dragging the image with the Move tool to the collage image window and releasing it before the shift key will center the added image onto the collage. Observe that as the 1st image is added to the collage, a new layer named Layer 1 is produced in the Layers Palette. Close the window of the 1st image. Continue to drag the next image in the same manner until all images have been added, not forgetting to close each image window after its addition. At the end of it all, you’ll observe that there are 9 corresponding layers plus the collage layer in the Layers Palette. (Tip – it’s advisable at this point to save the collage as a PSD format as layers – go to File > Save as. This is a precautionary measure just in case there’s a power failure and all efforts wasted! You can delete this file later when replaced by a final save at Step 11.)
Now, you will need to use the Move tool to position the images one at a time as desired in the collage, using your rough sketch in Step 1 as guide. Always make sure to select the correct layer in the Layers Palette by clicking on that layer before you make any changes. (Tip – if you’ve forgotten to do this which is quite habitual for me – just hold down Ctrl key and Z to undo the mistake or go to Edit > Step Backward.) In this case, you’ll be working from Layer 9 downwards since the images you’ve added earlier are stacked up centrally on the collage and their corresponding layers on the Layers Palette would thus be Layer 9 downwards to Layer 1.
To make the 9 images stand out, you need to add some nice effects. In this example, I have applied the Stroke style (24px for size and a dark green color) which is the easiest way to add a border and applied an inner glow effect to each image. In the Layers palette, click on Layer 1. Then, select the Add a layer style button found at the bottom of palette and choose Stroke. In the Layer Style window, make your desired choices in stroke size and color. Next, click on the words Inner Glow on the left side to bring up its options to select your color and size of glow. See that Preview is selected to enable viewing of effects simultaneously on image itself. Hit the OK button when done. Repeat this application to the rest of the Layers 2 to 9 one by one.
A final check to see whether the images are positioned as desired in the collage. Otherwise, reposition them. In the Layers Palette, click once on the layer that you want to adjust, to target the layer. Reposition with the Move tool. Here, I have used both the Move tool and Free transform as I needed to nudge minutely some of the images. First, target the layer as usually required, then go to Edit > Free Transform and an option bar will emerge at the top of the screen. You’ll need to increase or decrease the number of px at X or Y as desired to enable repositioning. Then click the check sign (or Enter key) to commit transform or click the circle with slash (or Esc key) to cancel transform. Tip – once the image is nudged as desired, the rest of the images in that single file (horizontally and vertically) can be easily repositioned with the Move tool alone.
Now to trim off the sides of the collage to present a uniform margin all round. Select the Collage layer in the Layers Palette to target the layer. Using the Crop Tool from the left tool bar, drag over the part of the image you want to keep to create a marquee. You can then adjust the cropping marquee by dragging any side handle or constrain the proportions by holding down Shift as you drag a corner handle. The latter assists in checking whether both the side margins are relatively even or not, thereby enabling further trimming to maintain uniformity on all four sides eventually. To complete the crop, press Enter or double-click inside the cropping marquee or click the Commit button in the options bar. To cancel the cropping operation, press Esc or click the Cancel button in the options bar.
Hmm…collage still doesn’t look catchy enough! So, back to the drawing board! To create focus and a lovelier composition for the 9 images, I needed to soften and blur the surrounding edges and provide a thin frame that won’t drown the center images. Thus, I applied an inner glow to the Collage layer. As usual, click that layer in the Layers Palette to initiate action. Select the Add a layer style button found at the bottom of palette and choose Inner Glow. In the Layer Style window, play around with your selection and see their effects simultaneously on collage itself when Preview is selected. Here, I just did the simplest by increasing the size of glow to 150 px and click OK.
Enclose the collage with a simple frame that enhances the whole image, yet not reducing at all the beauty within! Select the Create a new layer button at the bottom of Layers Palette and notice a new layer named Layer 10 is produced. Click on this layer and drag to stack below the Collage layer. Now, you need to make this layer visible by increasing the canvas size. Go to Image > Canvas Size and in the window, enter the amount of increase in width and height size according to unit measurement that you desire, then click OK. You can now see the border added to the collage and if you’re not satisfied with the size, just press Ctrl+Z to undo and start again. In this example, I’ve added 20 x 20 pixels. Now you’d want to color the layer – Choose the color you desire and use the Paint Bucket Tool (or tap G). (Tip – if you want to use a color from the collage, use the Eyedropper Tool to extract the color). Here, I applied a slightly lighter green shade as compared with the stroke color of the 9 images.
Finally, you can now save the finished collage in either jpeg or psd format or both. To save, choose File > Save as, and then proceed as guided. I would normally save in both formats, making sure that the photoshop format is saved as layers, just in case I’d want to make any more changes!
WOO HOO! THAT’S IT, ALL DONE AT LONG LAST! THE FINAL OUTCOME…
Were you bored to tears…or benefitted from this Photoshop tutorial?
Truly hope that this very basic and easy photo montage tutorial had helped someone, anyone!
Go…enjoy your own creation and let your creative juices flow! :D
Sharing here is another collage of 9 images, just to encourage you to try your own style! Once you know the basics, it’s really easy! For this collage of the Blue Moon Butterfly, a new blank canvas as in Step 3 above was used as background and filled with green paint after the final positioning of the 9 added images.
Last edited: 2008-06-21