PI6 Photo Collage

Collages are a charming way to showcase a collection of photos of your child, pet, vacation or even your business. It is a much more interesting way of displaying photos than just showing rows of images. 


Click to view collage full size

Photo collages work best if you pick images that you love, that harmonize well with one another and are of various sizes. Throw in some text and little "keepsake" objects to dress up your collage, too.

What I hope to do here is to give you some ideas about how to make collages. I'm using a series of photos of my kids at different ages. Since your collage will be different, depending on what images you use, think of this tutorial as suggestions about how to make the most of your own photos. Throughout, I'll be showing different ways to make selections from photos so that they will blend into a collage. Different techniques for making and softening selections and changing their stacking order are offered for your consideration.

Before you begin making the collage, scan, resize and edit the  brightness/contrast, focus, etc. as needed for somewhere between 5 and 9 photos. If you crop the photos, make sure you leave plenty of room around the areas from which you'll be selecting. You want to leave some space around the selections for a soft edge, which helps with the blending.

Make a new True Color file 800 X 600 pixels to hold the photos in the collage. This may seem large, but you may not use all of the space up, but if you do, you can always resize the finished collage as needed. It's my perspective that it's always better to work bigger than to work smaller.

Open up one of your photos, and figure out which part of it you want to use. From the EasyPalette's Mask Library, drag a mask that compliments the shape of the feature of interest in the photo. Below, you can see that I'm using Rays 04. Note that you don't have to use Mask Mode to create a mask from the Mask Library selections. Note also in the screen show below, I've centered it over the kids in the middle. You can move and resize these masks with the Transform tool.

drag mask onto image

Notice that I left some room between the mask/selection area and the edges of the image. The masks in the Mask Library have soft edges which extend out of the boundaries of the visible selection. Right click on the mask and choose Convert to Object. Drag the new object onto the large collage image. Don't merge this or any other objects with the base image -- you want to be able to move things around later to get the best arrangement.

Open up the next photo for the collage. Drag another mask from the Mask Library onto the image. Reposition and resize the mask as necessary. I'm using Square 02 here. I used the Transform tool to make the selection taller so it would stretch to include the children. I made the mask somewhat less wide to fit the narrow photo.

resize mask as needed

Right click, Convert to Object, then drag to the large collage image. 

It was too big, compared to the first object, so I used the Transform tool to resize it. I've positioned it just to the left of the first object. You can see that some of the first photo shows through where they overlap.

second object added

For the next photo, I'm going to use a JPG mask that I made. You can get it here, use one of your own, or just continue using Mask Library masks. Open the grayscale JPG up in the work space.

To use the JPG as a mask, first click on the blue title bar of the photo to make it active. Choose Edit, Mask Mode (or hit Ctrl+K, or click the Mask icon in the status bar) to enter Mask Mode. Your photo will be covered with a transparent red mask. Copy the JPG grayscale JPG into your Clipboard, then paste it into the masked photo. Just as before, position this JPG mask and resize it with the Transform tool as necessary. I made this JPG mask a little taller and a little less wide.

mask mode, then put grayscale JPG on top

To get out of Mask Mode, choose Edit and deselect Mask Mode (or hit Ctrl+K, or click the Mask icon again). The red mask will disappear and you'll be left with just a selection area the shape of the JPG mask. Right click on it and Convert to Object. Drag the new object onto the large collage image. Resize it with the Transform tool if you need to. I've resized this object and put it in the lower right corner. I right clicked and chose Arrange, Send to Back so that this object is behind the first one.

add new object to collage

For the next image, I wanted to make an elliptical selection. Choose the Standard selection tool. From the Shape dropdown menu, choose Ellipse. Draw an elliptical selection around the feature of interest. 

make an elliptical selection

Right click on the selection, Soften. When the Soften dialog box opens, soften by 10-20 pixels, depending on how large the image is. Right click, Convert to Object. Drag the object onto the collage image. Resize, change the stacking order, and otherwise edit it until you like the way it looks.

drag elliptical object onto collage

Open another photo up in the work space. Here's another way to make a selection for a collage. Select the Path Drawing tool, any color, Mode=Selection. Click Shape and select Custom Shape. When the Custom Shape dialog box opens, pick one of the shapes that compliments the photo. I chose Stars. Draw a path shaped selection over the photo, positioning it as needed with the Selection tool. 

draw Custom path shape in Selection mode

Copy into the Clipboard, then paste into the Collage image. Remember that you can move the object around, change its stacking order or resize it with the Transform tool if necessary.  

I've dragged this new object over to the lower left corner and sent it behind the other objects.

add new object to collage

Continue to make selections from all of the photos, using any of the methods discussed above. You could even draw a freehand selection with the Lasso, if you wish to do so. Here's another object I've added, made from the Circle 01 mask from the Mask Library. Eventually I flipped this object horizontally because it "fit" the whole collage better. Keep working until all of your photos are arranged on the large collage.

add another object

In a few places, where an object overlapping another was a bit dark, I used Edit, Fadeout to fade from a light gray to white. The fill type will vary depending on what part of the object you're trying to fade. Often a Fadeout is just enough to lighten the dark places of an image so that it blends into the one behind it better. For example:

Fadeout dialog box

Work until you have a nicely balanced arrangement of photos in your collage. Don't be surprised if some just don't "fit" -- in that case discard it or replace it with another one. If you are feeling particularly brave, experiment with various Merge methods by right clicking and choosing Properties to get the Object Properties box. From the General tab, choose Merge methods from the Merge dropdown list. You may also edit transparency from the Object Properties box.

When you're finished with the photo editing, add some eye-catching text and a few dingbats or small pieces of clip art to add a little extra polish. I used the Poptics Three font. You can also fill the background with a seamless texture tile if you like. Be sure to hit the space bar to deactivate all objects before filling the base image. Then right click, Merge All and save your collage in the Image Optimizer. I saved my finished collage as a 95% Standard Optimized JPG.

This tutorial uploaded 6/01/01

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