It's been quite awhile since I posted my last tutorial. Let me assure you that as time permits and as I find interesting topics, I'll be adding more tutorials, but the initial rush to get the first ones posted has passed by so new ones may be less frequent, but they will continue.

In my last tutorial I started to describe how to use layers and promised a collage tutorial. So, this one will be about the mechanics of creating a collage using Photoshop. So, Julie Frye - this one's for you and sorry for the hiatus.

Creating a collage in Photoshop.

There are any number of reasons one might create a collage, but for this tutorial I'm going to contrast color and forms and use images where there were some problems with the backgrounds in the picture that would otherwise make then unusable for various reasons.

I started by collecting images of flowers that I wanted in my collage - here's a composite thumbnail of a few of these:


I started by opening each image and using the Quick Selection Tool to select just the flower in each image. You can also use the lasso or Magic Wand tools as described in earlier tutorials. Once I have made a rough selection, I go to the Edit Menu and select "Copy". I then go to the File Menu and select "New...". When I did the copy this put the image on the Clipboard - when I choose New now, Photoshop examines the Clipboard to see how big the item currently there is and sets the default size of the new image to fit this item. So, when the New File dialog appears, the Preset should say Clipboard - Click 'OK' A new file is created - go to the Edit menu and choose 'Paste'.

Now, take a moment to look at this new file. First, it now has two layers. Usually the background layer is white and the flower is pasted to a new layer above that. If you wish the clean up the flower, use the Erasure Tool to clean up the edges. At this point, I minimize this image - on a PC click the minus sign in the upper right, on a Mac, click the yellow ball at the upper left. This will close that file window but keep the file open - on the PC is should appear on your menu bar and on a Mac in the Dock.

Proceed to choose additional images and cut out and paste to new images until you have a collection of images minimized and waiting to be assembled into the collage.

Now, I haven't resized anything yet. Instead of resizing these one at a time, I'm going to now collect them into a single file and resize them all at once.

Go to the File menu and choose New... Make this new file big enough to hold your largest image at least - in my case, I know my camera creates 11"x17" images at 180 dpi, so I know none of the images will be larger than this, so it's a good size to start with. At this point this file is just being used to collect all the images.

I then recover or maximize each of the image files by clicking on the image file in the Dock or Menu bar. When the file re-appears make sure that the upper layer is selected (layer name should be blue). Under the Select Menu choose Select All... Then do a Copy in the Edit Menu. Switch to your big image (use the Window menu to switch between images) and Choose Paste from the Edit Menu. Switch back to the single flower image and close it - don't bother to save it when it asks - you have it already stored in the Collage image now. Go through each flower image and do the same procedure. As you paste them in they will stack up on top of each other in the center of the image. For my example, I am using 14 images.


stacked on top
To the left is a snapshot of my Layers Palette. The image above was taken after adding the image on Layer 10. You can see pieces of the other layers peaking out from beneath.

Now, we are going to resize the whole file - but first, Save this File as CollageFullSize.

Now we can resize the whole image at once. For this example, since it needs to fit on this page, I went to 72 dpi and 770 pixels wide. Be prepared to wait, it took my machine about 30 seconds to scale down this image. Now, do a Save As... as CollageScaled.

Now, each layer has an image, except for the background layer. There are a number of things we can do with each layer to make the collage work better. It's fairly easy to resize each flower and rotate the images. Select the layer in the Layer Palette, that layer's title area will turn pale blue - Layer 11 is selected above. To resize one of the flowers the fastest way is to use the Transform Tool. On a Mac, do Command-T, on a PC, Ctrl-T and you should see a black box appear around the flower with black dots or 'handles' at the corners and center of each side. You can release the keys and move your mouse to any of the handles. As you get near the handles you'll see the cursor change to the Rotate cursor, you can rotate the flower on that layer by choosing this option. If you get to the corners your cursor changes to the resize cursor with a diagonol double headed arrow. It's import to hold the Shift key down while you resize to keep the scaling proportional, otherwise you can distort the blooms - this may or may not be a problem. Try to only scale smaller. After you rotate or scale a flower, click on the lasso tool and a dialog will appear asking you to apply the change. Choose "Yes" and Photoshop will render the change. Using this tool and the move tool, arrange the flowers around the image. Remember you can change the layer order by dragging a layer up or down in the Layers Palette.

Here's what I got in about 5 minutes...

Collage 1

Very pretty! I tried to get flowers 'facing in' when I could.

Note that you could elect to do a drop shadow on a layer or two to make some flowers stand out. Like this...


Now, for one last lesson - let's make this a sign by placing a text overlay on the collage saying, "DAYLILY" Go to the top layer and click it, then choose the Text Tool. I chose Arial Bold for the font. Don't worry about the font size or color. Just type the word DAYLILY. Now, with the text layer selected, choose the Transform Tool again and this time, just go the corner and resize the type to cover most of the image - you don't want to hold the Shift key down. Just get a large word above the image. Now, use the Magic Wand selection tool and choose each of the letters in the word, by either holding down the Shift key and clicking each letter, or uncheck the Contiguous box option and select a letter. When they are all selected, hide the text layer by clicking the eyeball symbol beside that layer. The selection of the type will remain above the image. Now, go to the Edit Menu and choose Copy Merged. Then choose Paste from the Edit Menu. This will create a new layer containing text in the shape of your selection, but you won't be able to see it since it matches the background perfectly. To make mine stand out I did four things. First, I went to the Layers Menu and chose Layer Styles and I applied three effects - a drop shadow, an inner glow and a bevel and emboss. I left all the setting for each at the defaults. I could now clearly see my text, but I felt it could stand out even more so I selected the layer just beneath the text and created a new blank layer. You can do this in the Layers menu - New Layer, or by clicking the small icon to the left of the trash can at the bottom of the Layers Palette. I changed my foreground color to Black and filled that layer totally with black using the Fill Tool. This is what I got...

black background

Certainly colorful letters, but not quite what I wanted, so I kept the black layer selected and went to the top of the Layers Palette and changed the blending mode from Normal to Overlay and set the Opacity to 40%. This is what I got at the end.


Save this file as a Photoshop .psd file and you can make changes, rearrrange again, etc.

To save as a jpg like I did about use the Save for Web option under the File menu. This will keep your original layered .psd file intact and create a single layered jpg file.

By saving the large, pre-scaled down version, you can go back and copy layers from that file to use in other projects as well - no need to spend additonal time re-selecting them from their backgrounds.

To download my .psd files click HERE. It's 6.3 meg. You may have to Control-Click the link and choose Save To Disk...

Tim Fehr - Eau Claire, WI

© 2008 by Tim Fehr - all rights reserved.