Facebook Pixel How to do Creative Photography Montages with a Contact Sheet Template in Photoshop

How to do Creative Photography Montages with a Contact Sheet Template in Photoshop

Do you like adding borders to your digital photos? Apps and editing programs offer a wide variety of fun and creative ones for you to choose from. The sprockets from film photography have become very popular because of its vintage look. I’ve decided to bring this idea one step further and make creative photography montages with a contact sheet template in Photoshop. Read on to learn how you can too.



Contact Sheet

Contact sheets come from film photography and are made by placing the film negative directly onto the light-sensitive paper and then exposing light onto it. Because of this, the resulting image was a positive image of the film on a 1:1 scale.


Film comes in different formats: 35mm, medium and large. Furthermore, each brand puts the frame number, name and other information on the film. You can use all of these as different styles for your template. See how the same image can look so different just by changing the type of film border.


Each different film will result in a different contact sheet, and you can use any of them for your montage. There are many styles available for sale on stock photography websites, and of course, you can scan an original one to use. However, if you want to create your own, I’ll show you how to easily design a basic 35mm contact sheet in Photoshop.


Digital 35mm contact sheet created in Photoshop

Film rolls of 35mm were available in 12, 24 or 36 frames. Because of this, it’s easier if the size of your document is a multiple of six on the longest side. For now, I’ll make the artboard 24 cm both in height and width so that I can create 36 frames. Later, I can add some extra space if I see it’s too tight.

Open a new document in Photoshop

To begin, turn on your rulers. If they’re not visible by going to Menu -> View -> Rulers. You can change the measurement units by right-clicking on them and then choosing centimeters. Now draw your guides by clicking on the ruler and dragging it to the place you need it. I’ll put them every 4 cm so that I can design six frames per row.

To put your guides on exact co-ordinates, go to Menu -> New Guide. In the New Guide window, choose Horizontal or Vertical, and then enter your exact position number, and press OK. Your guide will then appear in the exact position you want on your artboard. Repeat the process to have exact guidelines.

Use guides to distribute your canvas

Now you know where to draw your film.

From the toolbox, choose the Custom Shape Tool. Then go to the Options bar and open the shapes menu, where you’ll find the 35mm Film shape.

Photoshop Custom Shapes

You can choose the color in the same option bar. I’ll do a dark grey to simulate the original as close as possible, but you can do something more contrasting if you like.

Drag and drop at the start of each guide, and repeat until you fill your contact sheet.

Use the guides to draw your shape

Now determine the canvas size by going to Menu -> Image -> Canvas Size. Make it to your liking. I’ll only add some space on the sides.

You can turn off your guides now by pressing Cmd+; (mac), or Alt+; (windows).

Contact sheet template

To make your template more manageable, merge all your shapes together, and then rasterize them. You can find both commands by right-clicking on the selected layers to open the pop-up menu.

Merge and rasterize

Make a selection of the frames where the image will show to create your collage. Save it by going to Menu -> Selection -> Save Selection. When the pop-up window opens, leave all the settings as they are and just name it. Then click OK. This way, you won’t have to make the selection every time you add an image.

Make the selection and save it

Add the base image by going to the menu File -> Place and adjust to the right size. You can also do Copy and Paste but then your image won’t be a Smart Object and it can lose quality if you modify it many times. To learn more about this, check out Photoshop Smart Objects for Beginners.

Place the base image

Now the image is visible through the contact sheet, but it’s also coming through the sprockets and on the sides. This is where the saved selection from before comes in handy. You now load the selection by going to menu -> Selection -> Load Selection.

Then click the Create a Layer Mask button from the bottom of the Layers panel.

Use layer masks to shape the image

Add other images into the mix, or use the same one in different sizes and places to create your collage. Just repeat the process for each image you want to add and your montage is ready.

Place more images to compose the montage

If you are having any trouble with the visualization of certain images make sure the layers are in the right order.

Check out this Introduction to Photoshop Layers Possibilities and Properties for help if you need it.

Now let your creativity flow and have fun. Share the results of your creative photography montages with us in the comments section!

Additional reading

For more ideas on creative photography montages, check out these tutorials:

How to Make a Joiner Collage for a Retro Style Panorama

4 Concepts for Collages, Diptychs, Album Pages, etc.

How to Make a Photoshop Collage in 9 Simple Steps



Read more from our Post Production category

Ana Mireles
Ana Mireles

is a photographer and artistic researcher. She has been awarded and exhibited in Mexico, Italy, and the Netherlands. Through theory and practice, she explores the cultural aspect of photography, how it helps us relate to each other, the world, and ourselves. She has also a passion for teaching, communication, and social media. You can find more about her and her work at her website or acquire some of her works here.

I need help with...