How to Make a Photoshop Collage in 9 Simple Steps

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How to Make a Photoshop Collage in 9 Simple Steps

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We all aim to tell a story through one single image. For many occasions, though, a well-assembled collage is an excellent way to pull the viewer in for a full experience. Consider this method for sharing photos from an event, a real estate shoot, or even a family photo session!

Collage4

Collages are easy to put together in Photoshop, so let’s walk through the steps. Note that I am working on a Mac with Photoshop CS3, so your system may have slight variations in the key commands needed.

Photo selection is crucial. You want to select a mix of scales that will span the entire event. That means you pick some wide shots that show the entire scene, and some detail photos that show lots of texture and personality. Without one or the other the story will not be complete, and won’t carry the same emotion that it could.

Step 1. Open the selected images in Photoshop

Open all selected photos in Photoshop. You’ll want to pick a minimum of three, but avoid getting cluttered with too many also. Typically, I limit my photo selection to no more than eight. Keep in mind that the more photos you select, the tougher it will be to see details of each one.

Step 2. Create a new file

Create a new file (File -> New). Be sure to make it a bit larger than the size you want in the end. I always make it 20×30″ at 150ppi.

Collage1

Step 3. Add your images one at a time

Go to one of the open photos and, using the marquee tool, select all (or press command+A). Press Command+C to copy. Click into the new document and press Command+V to paste. This will bring the photo into the new document on its own layer. Depending on the size and resolution of the photo you brought in, you may need to adjust the size. To do this, press Command+T to transform. Use the corner node and, while pressing Shift, adjust the scale of the photo until it is small enough to comfortably move around on the new document canvas.

Note: if you convert the image layer to a Smart Object first it will maintain integrity of the image quality as you size up and down.

Step 4. Create your layout

After you have added all images that you want in the collage, it’s time to lay out the photos! This is where you will shift the photos around until you feel they tell your story best. You’ll discover a style of your own after doing several collages. I generally like to either have symmetry in layouts, or make it look like an interlocking puzzle. That being said, each story has slightly different needs.

Collage2

Step 5. Add image spacing

When you have the layout figured out and the photos are all sized as they should be, you can create a thin white border between images to give a bit of visual space. This step is optional, and the amount of white space you put between photos is a personal preference.

To do this, select the image layer that you want to move then use the arrow keys to shift it in the direction you want. Using the arrow keys rather than shifting with the mouse will help keep track of distance so that the spacing in between photos is even.

Alternatively you can butt them up against one another and using a Layer Style (select Stroke > Inner) add a white or black border around each image. See screen capture below.

Screen Shot 2015 02 06 at 3 01 27 PM

Step 6. Merge all layers

Once you have your collage laid out and the photos are spaced as you want them, you are ready to merge all layers. To do this, press Command+Shift+E.

Step 7. Crop the final image

Once your collage is merged into one layer, crop any extra white space around edges so that it’s even. This outside white border is typically very narrow on my collages, so I don’t bother measuring. Be sure that it looks even all around.

Collage3

Step 8. Resize for online usage

To make sure your collage fits your social media needs, you may want to resize it once complete. I recommend saving your original flattened collage as a JPEG for possible future re-use.

To resize your collage and bring it down to social media friendly dimensions, press Opt+Command+I. Sizing varies per social media platforms, but I typically save it at 1000 pixels on the short edge and 150ppi.

Step 9. Add a watermark if desired

If you want to put a watermark on your masterpiece, now is the time. Bring in your watermark and be sure to merge all layers once more to save as a JPEG. You are now ready to share it with the world.

Collage4

Have you made any collages? Have any additional tips? Please share in the comments below.

Read more from our Post Production category

Natalia Robert , founder and lead photographer of Full Circle Images, brings her background as an architectural designer forward to produce luxurious images that create a sense of warmth and culture. Natalia is based in San Diego, California, USA. She has had the honor of shooting with AirBnB for 3 years and counting, as well as with various publications, TEDxSanDiego, and countless small businesses to convey stories through strong imagery. Today, her furry co-pilot, Daisy, inspires a daily sense of wanderlust while serving as a reminder of how valuable it is to maintain a sense of HOME.

  • Michael O

    Photoshop 101.

  • Fred Rugel

    Can’t beat Microsoft AutoCollage…

  • jjmacks

    How can one add 50 photos in 9 steps. Your step 3 requires many steps for each image. 50 time many equals hundreds of steps. That is why I wrote Photoshop scripts to automate the process of populating collages. With a script only one step is required. Filling in the scripts dialog.
    Automaticly Populate a 911 Photo Collage Template
    http://www.mouseprints.net/old/dpr/Populate911_720p.mp4

    http://www.mouseprints.net/old/dpr/PhotoCollageToolkit.html

  • Natalia Robert

    Thanks for bringing that up! AutoCollage is a great way to quickly allow a software to put together a collage for you. It’s much more hands-off and automated. This can be a great tool sometimes, but having 100% control and manually putting together a collage is sometimes preferred.

  • Natalia Robert

    Yes, absolutely. The PS techniques are very basic, and that aspect of this article is most definitely geared towards a beginner.
    I do want to point out, though, that beyond the actual PS technique, I hope this article helps show how a collage can be used for creating a story from your photo sessions! I often create custom collages to recap a great client session.

  • Natalia Robert

    Yes, that is one way of looking at it. However, this article does talk about creating a story with a single collage, and to that end, I would recommend limiting your number of photos included so that people can connect with each image. Also, creating your own collage is a great way of having full control over the arrangement, sizing, and selection!

  • Michael O

    I often make collages.

    Usually like above, to tell a story in a couple of images, mainly for social media use to be honest.

    I do hope DPS, if they’re pushing Photosop tutorials, then they have specific sections for behinner, medium and advanced users.

    Myself being a 20+ year vet, I know there’s always room to learn something new, but it would be nice before delving into a tutorial as to what it whom it’s aimed at.

  • Kathleen Moore

    Thanks for the tutorial — most appreciated!

  • Maca Marijana

    Nice, thank you. I usually use Picasa for my collages – very easy and very fast. All the other editing I do in PS though.

  • Guest

    You’re very welcome! I hope this article gives you another option to play with when putting together your collages.

  • Natalia Robert

    You’re very welcome! I hope this article has given you another easy option for putting together your collages.

  • Natalia Robert

    You’re very welcome, Kathleen!

  • Tony Soprano

    Good tutorial

    but if for any reason you do not have Photoshop, you can always use the online editor. Recommend http://ams-collage.com/ to create photo collage

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  • Jens Carl Klitgaard

    How to make collage in Picasa in 2 steps: Choose photos. Select “Make collage” :o)
    Different settings for collage-look (sorry for the Danish text in screendump, but i hope you get the point)

  • Gaurav Agarwal

    First of all, thank you Natalia for the excellent tutorial.

    I think using Photoshop for making simple collages like the one above is an overkill. It would be far far easier to do the same using TurboCollage software from http://www.TurboCollage.com

    Here I have put together a collage and it actually took me less than 2 minutes. The fun part is that TurboCollage is smart enough to place photos such that they are not cropped! If you want you can go full manual and design just as you wish.

    Here is a tutorial that describes making such a collage:
    http://www.turbocollage.com/howto-make-photo-mosaic.html#intelligent-photo-mosaic-layout

    Here are some sample photos made in TurboCollage:
    http://www.turbocollage.com/sample-collages.html

    TurboCollage comes with an impressive list of tutorials & guides:
    http://www.turbocollage.com/turbocollage-tutorials.html

    (disclosure: I work for the company that makes TurboCollage)

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