How to Make a Collage in Photoshop

A back to basic article for those who are here looking for photoshop tutorials for beginners. Specifically, we will talked about making a collage in photoshop, which will be useful for anyone looking to make a nice calender design, a personalised birthday or a scrapebook for your holidays.

A picture says more than a thousand words, a collage can tell a whole story. The collage above was created with Photoshop CS, but the following tutorial will work with every image editing program that supports layers. As we are creating a photo collage for use on a website, we need to create a new document with the following settings (feel free to adjust them for your own needs)

Size: 600 x 600px

Resolution :72px / inch

Color Mode: RGB

Add a new layer and fill it with your chosen background color, I used #3A2019. Save as a PSD file. Make sure that the rulers are visible, if not go to View>Rulers and ‘tick’ them. Now it is time to create the grid that will ‘hold’ the images. Move your cursor over one of the rulers and drag and drop the line to the following positions: 200 and 400, both vertical and horizontal. You should now have a 3 by 3 grid that divides your image in 9 equal sections. Now do the same again, positioning a guideline 5px before and after each of the guidelines you have created previously. Add guidelines that are 10px distance from each of the image sides. Don’t worry if you get some wrong, you can always reposition them by choosing the ‘Move Tool’ and readjusting them by dragging and dropping. If you followed these steps, you should now have an image that looks like the one below.

You see now that you have created 9 cells, or spaces, for your images. The next screenshot shows you the dimensions for each cell, if you chose a different document size, or number of cells, you can find out the respective values with help of the rulers. If you followed this tutorial step by step, here another screenshot that gives you the values. Note the values down on a piece of paper.

Now you can save and close your PSD file and start to prepare your images by resizing them. Here a few tips on how to best prepare your images for being included in the collage.

  • Most importantly make sure that all your images are at the same resolution as your PSD file, in the case here that would be 72px / in.
  • Either resize the images directly by going to Image > Image Size and type in the dimensions and resolution in the appropriate fields. Click OK and save the image under a different name.
  • Or, if you would like to use only a portion, or detail, of your start image, create a new file with the correct dimensions and resolution and copy and paste your image into it. A new layer is automatically created and you can move it around with the ‘Move Tool’ until you are happy with the result. Go to Layer > Flatten Image and save with a different name.

For our example collage you will need 9 different images with the appropriate dimensions. Before I go into, how to combine images and grid, here some tips for a successful image selection and also some adjustment tips.

  • A collage tells a story or shows different aspects of the same theme, therefor it is a good idea to choose images that have something in common, either theme, color scheme or both.
  • Avoid using images that are too busy, contain too many colors or are too different from each other, you want to illustrate a concept coherently and not leave a ‘jumpy’ or ‘busy’ impression.
  • If necessary use the ‘Match Color’ command under Image > Adjustments to achieve a more even look and feel between all your images.
  • Combine details, macros and overall views. Don’t use all the time the same perspective, as this can make your collage looking flat. If you look at the example in this tutorial, I have combined macro views of coffee beans, a close-up portrait, details and overviews to tell my ‘coffee story’.
  • And last, but not least, don’t be afraid to break the rules and start to think out of the box.

So, by now you should have 9 images adjusted and in the right dimensions. Open your PSD file and your images in Photoshop. Adding them, one by one, to the grid is as easy as ‘select all’, ‘copy’ and ‘paste’ for each image. Every time you paste a new image into the PSD file, a new layer is created automatically. You can then use the ‘Move Tool’ to drag every image in its place. The screenshot below shows you how my collage looked half way through. BTW, you don’t need to add the dimensions in each field, that is just done to illustrate this tutorial better.

After you have added all your images into the collage, go to View > Extras and remove the hook beside it. This makes the guidelines disappear and you can check the image and see if you are happy with its look. In case you want to change the grid color, simply click on the layer you have created in the beginning and fill with a different color, gradient, or even a background texture, until you are happy with the end result. Save for a last time as a PSD file and save it also under a different name, just to be sure. Close your finished PSD project and work now only on the second copy. This way you can always go back in case something goes wrong.

Preparing your collage for the web

The trick to display images on the web successfully, is to find the right balance between quality and size. First go to Layer > Rasterize > All Layers. This is especially important, if you have added a title, or other text, to it. Next go to Layer > Flatten Image. And, as the last step go to File > Save for Web, the preview window will show you how the saved image will look like with different settings. I normally go for ‘JPG High’, but your mileage may vary. If you are happy with the preview click ‘Save’ and you are done. Congratulations, you have now created your first photo collage.

As you were patient and have read so far, here three bonus cheat sheets with different cell arrangements, to give you some more ideas on how to arrange images in a collage. All three are based on a 600 x 600px document size. Have fun creating your own image collages in Photoshop!

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13 Comments | Write a Comment

  1. hds says:

    Nice tut,but if you have illustrator I think it’s easier to create stroked grid in illustrator,customize it and then copy/paste it in the top layer of ps document with all the photos and then just simply resize/crop all the photos to fit into their frames.

  2. Braveena says:

    Thanks! It was very useful

  3. Alouise says:

    thanks so much for this, just what i was looking for!

  4. Kristen S says:

    Thanks so much! This is exactly what I was looking for. One question, if my blog is less that 600×600 px, can I save one of your templates to a smaller size?

  5. lad says:

    thx look like good.
    ^_^

  6. Dzinepress says:

    another helping one. thanks

  7. sneha says:

    Great post and easy to understand of making collage in photoshop

  8. Mahin says:

    this is very good tutorial in photoshop collage.

  9. Alessandro says:

    It’s more than a collage, it’s a well designed, yet simple, showroom

  10. It’s great post.It’s look like good. It’s useful for Photoshop.

  11. marionjoy says:

    another fantastic and easy to follow tutorial.. thanks

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