Montage tutorial

ivoryhut PRO 4:16pm, 17 April 2008
A few people have asked me how I do the montages I use for my before and after shots. My initial reaction was deep embarrassment, because I mostly just slapped those things together in a hurry. Then I thought, that's going to be a slew of screenshots. That was followed by genuine concern for all the poor souls I'm likely to bore to death. But then I realized it'll actually force me to be more methodical in my process, which is a small miracle in itself. So I decided to do it.

Materials needed:

Photoshop CS2 or CS3
At least two photos
A name (so you can sign your montage)

First things first. Open both photos in Photoshop and have them there waiting for you to get ready. You can skip this and just open the photos as you need them, but I find that keeping them all open makes things a lot easier.

So here we are at the beginning.

00 start

Now, go to File, then New, and create a new document. This is a photo of my husband's aunt that was taken during our trip to Trinidad last year, so I'll call this document Tanti Shyra (Tanti means Aunt). My default size is 8 x 10 because I create some montages for printing. However, for before and after postings, I use 6.5 x 10.

It bugs me though, because I like round numbers.

01 create new document

Make sure the background is white. What you will get is just a document that looks like a plain sheet of paper. The next step is show the grid, because I'll be darned if I have to rely on my eyes to figure out where the center is or if the photos are aligned properly.

You can do that by either going to View, then Show, then Grid. Or just by hitting Control + ' (the apostrophe sign) on your PC. (It's Cmd + ' on the Mac.) While you're there, you can go ahead and make sure that Snap is checked. It makes it a little easier to position stuff later, because Photoshop will snap your photo to the nearest grid line.

02 show grid

If you want to put a border around the montage (I do this because sometimes it looks weird when the entire montage just blends into a plain white background), hit Control + A (Cmd + A on the Mac) to select the entire area. Then go to Edit, then Stroke. I like to pick a size of 2 px, and you can go with black or gray or any other color you want.

03 create border around montage

Okay, now that we've prepped our montage area, it's time to get busy. By the way, you can create an action for the above steps so that it's an easy one-step thing next time.

Grab the move tool. It's this one right here:

04 pick move tool

Now, click on the window with the first photo you want to add to the montage. Drag the image to your montage, and let go. Now you have a copy of the image on a layer in your montage. Don't worry if it's off-center or too big. We'll fix that shortly.

05 move first photo to montage

See? Mine was all the way at the top. Now, make sure you highlight the layer that has the moved photo.

06 pick layer with moved photo

Go to Edit, then Free Transform. (Alternatively, you can just hit Control + T to do the same thing. Again, that'll be Cmd + T on the Mac.)

07 free transform

Now you're ready to position and resize the photo. Here's the important thing to remember: make sure you hold down the Shift key while you are resizing with your mouse, and use the corner handles to resize. That way, your photo will always maintain its proportions. Please don't end up with elongated aunts or digitally squashed nephews.

This is where the grid is really helpful. I usually leave an extra block on the sides, because for some reason, leaving the same number of blocks all around doesn't look right. The top always looks like it has more space. (I'm so good at this technical jargon, aren't I?) For this, I left three blocks on each side, and two on top.

When you're done, hit Enter to accept the changes. If you decide you need to change it some more, simply go back to that layer, hit Free Transform, and change away. Don't forget to keep that Shift key pressed and resize using the corner handles, okay?

08 resize and position photo

Much better now. And my husband's aunt doesn't look distorted at all. Now, simply do the same thing with the second photo. Pick the Move tool, go to the photo, and click and drag it into the montage. Then highlight the layer with the photo you just moved, hit Control + T (or Cmd + T) to activate Free Transform, and resize and position while pressing down the Shift key. Then hit Enter when you're done.

09 do the same for next photo

(Ack! I cropped the screenshot too close on the right side. Please try to ignore it. Because I can't.)

Now all we have to do is sign it, put a title, and we're done. To add a signature, click on the Text tool.

10 pick text tool

Now, click on the spot where you want your signature to begin. This adds a new layer to your montage, which will contain your signature.

11 click where signature goes

11 photoshop creates text layer

Now start typing. To insert the copyright symbol, hit Alt + 0169. Use the numbers on the side of the keyboard, not the ones above the letters. This should insert the symbol for you.

14 type signature

You can customize the font, font color (I use gray), and font size using the settings that are at the top of the Photoshop window (below the main menu bar).

12 customize font, size, and color

If you want to move the signature to a different spot, just highlight the layer with the signature, go to the Move tool, and move it around until you're happy with its placement.

Now for the title. Once again, go to the Text tool. This time, go to the settings (the area where you can change font color, etc.) and select the Centered option. On that line, find the center (really easy to do with the grid lines as a guide). Click on that, and start typing in your title.

11a type title

What I usually like to do after this is to go back to the settings and adjust the spacing between the letters (also known as tracking) by clicking on this icon on the right, where the cursor is.

16 adjust title font spacing

That brings up a window with all sorts of settings. Feel free to play around with them. For short titles, I'll increase tracking to around 400.

17 tracking setting

Now the title looks more spaced out. Yes, I said spaced out. Like, cool, man. Look at the pretty colors. (Am I mixing up decades here? I can't tell.)

18 expanded title

And that's it! If you're happy with the final result, just hit Control + ' to hide the grid lines (I'm not repeating the whole Cmd for Mac thing after this). Or go to View, then Show, then uncheck Grid.

(If you decide that you want a light border around the inside photos, just select their respective layers one at a time, and go to Edit, then Stroke, and add a 1 px stroke to the photos.)

19 final product

You can save this as a .psd file so you can change the signature or title layers later on. But don't forget to save it as a .jpg file so you can upload it to Flickr and show everyone your newest creation!

One last note: As much as I enjoy using this technique for the PW Before and Afters, my favorite use for it can be found here. It's a wonderful gift idea for friends and relatives, and a trick I learned from Scott Kelby. And if you happen to make it to the end of the post, do listen to my little niece cracking up on the phone. I guarantee you, no matter how horrible your day may be, it'll make you smile and forget about all the laundry you still have to do.
planetwren PRO 9 years ago
thank you thank you! Super helpful!
Jen Ne Sais Quoi 9 years ago
Great tutorial!

I love doing those kind of collages that you linked to. But I’m a nut for square things, so I make mine 10x10 or 12x12.

Here’s one of my little guy…

The Many Faces of Griffin

And one I’m working on for a client…

The Many Faces of Riley

They are so much fun to do. I love fiddling around in PS.
miz_booshay PRO 9 years ago
THANK YOU!!! I am going to try this!

I am so excited that you took the time to explain it so well!!!
azjakes 9 years ago
Your the best! Thanks.
ivoryhut PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by ivoryhut (member) 9 years ago
Jen, that was the same thing I saw Scott Kelby do in his CS3 Power Tour that I attempted in my blog! I left a link up there at the end of the tutorial. But I was working with old, fuzzy photos (well, circa 2001) taken with a rinky-dink camera, and the photos I had are nowhere as cool as yours.

I love how you did yours.

Miz Boo, I can only imagine how gorgeous your collages will be with those awesome shots of yours.

Azjakes, you're welcome. Can you please come over and convince the boys in my house that I'm the best? :)
EGRantz 9 years ago
Thank you so much ivoryhut! I really appreciate you taking the time to show us how to do this.

Sadly, I only have PSE 6.0 and PS 7.0, but I will play with it tonight at home and try to figure it out.

Thanks again!!!!
You are the BOMB, dot com.

Thank you!
amie harrison 9 years ago
Holy Cow! Thank you for taking the time to post this. I cant wait to try it out.
OMG! Thank you! I was just thinking about this style of montage today! Thank you so much!

You rock!
mnsnofish 9 years ago
First: I am newer to photography and PS Elements so I really appreciate the tutorials - THANK YOU ALL!!!

Second: I am working on a laptop. Is there another way to create the copyright symbol? Thanks!
Victoria West Photos 9 years ago
Thank you! Super helpful as I'm basically still lost in CS3!
SabineB 9 years ago
Oh, this is awesome - thank you so much for taking the time to explain this all!
miz_booshay PRO 9 years ago
Dear Ivory. I can't seem to be able to grab the corners so I can make the picture fit (when using the free transform tool)
Any pointers to help me get past this stage?


It was going along well until this part.
ivoryhut PRO 9 years ago
Mnsnofish, your laptop should have a second set of numbers on the right side that are the same as the ones on a regular keyboard. They're likely alternate values (on a Dell, they're written in small blue type on the keys) and typically on the M, J, K, L, U, I, O, 7, 8, 9 keys. You may need to hit the function key (Fn) to activate them. So if you hold down the Alt and Fn keys and then type 0169, it should work.

And if all else fails, you can always find the copyright symbol elsewhere (on a browser, or on a word document) and just copy and paste it onto your text layer.

Miz Boo, I'll send you a private message about those wayward corners.
jennkinNC 9 years ago
Great tutorial ivoryhut!! :)

One thing that I always had a problem with is you need to press shift while clicking on the corner to bring down the size or your photo will get distorted and wonky.
whimsigal PRO 9 years ago

I have Photoshop CS (8.0) and was able to follow these directions. Man, this opens up new worlds for me!!!! I'm SOOOOO excited!!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
kfkirsch1 9 years ago
I figured it out with Elements. Yay me! Thanks so much for this tutorial.
Curli Girlie 9 years ago
I love these! I also just figured how to do it in Elements, yay!

When you do a 10x10 or 12x12 size how do you print them? I would like to make one a print them out for the grandparents.


Jen Ne Sais Quoi 9 years ago
curligirlie- I have a printer that prints up to 13" x 19", so I can do it at home. If you just have a standard printer, then you could send the file to any good lab and have it done for you. I highly recommend Mpix ( I use them for most of the printing for my business, and they haven't disappointed me yet.
amie harrison 9 years ago
Can someone help me?? I hit a snag when i try to grab and drag my photo to the white grid. I set the grid size like the example above, but it only shows at 25%. So when i set the % to 100 it makes the grid way bigger than 6.5 x 10. But if i leave it smaller, when i drag the 4 x 6 pic over, the pic is bigger than the grid and only part of the photo shows. I think i am rambleing. Does this make sense to anyone?
I have worked with it for an hour and cant figure it out...
any help would be appreciated.
whimsigal PRO 9 years ago
I understand what you're saying. But I don't know if I'll be able to explain well enough to help. I'm going to try though.

Leave the grid at whatever % Photoshop gives you. Your grid probably fits right inside the window with no extra around the edges. What you need to do is enlarge that window and your grid will stay in the center and will be surrounded by a gray workspace. You should see the rest of the grabby thingies (oh so technical of me) when you enlarge the window and then you will be able to re-size your image.

I really hope this makes sense. I'm not the best at explaining things so maybe someone else can come along and clear it up if you still have a question!
amie harrison 9 years ago
Thanks whimsigal! That did the trick. This tutorial is awesome!
whimsigal PRO 9 years ago
Adharrision: So glad it helped! You're right that the tutorial is awesome, too!
DKB4b 9 years ago
When doing one like the baby montage how do you size the pictures perfectly the same and space them perfectly apart? How do you determine the "correct" size of each photo so it comes out balanced looking?
court475 9 years ago
Thank you so much for this!! I"m new to PS and I'm really enjoying learning new tricks!
Jen Ne Sais Quoi 9 years ago
DKB4b- When I do the collages I crop each individual photo to the same size, drag them into the larger, blank document and then turn on the grid. This will help you place them evenly. The "correct" size will depend on the size of the document, the number of squares across and down, and how much of a border you want around the outside and in between. I usually drag my calculator out for that part. In the baby example above, I believe I cropped each small picture to 2.5" square, then arranged them on the grid.

Let me know if you need any more help!
awaagen 9 years ago
Thank you all so much. I LOVE this! I was used to using my PS for making stuff like this

and not as much for editing. This stuff is great!
mariaclarab 9 years ago
Thanks... I´m happy it also works with Elements... what I wasn´t able to do was the stroke thing for each of the pictures... don´t know what happens, I select the layer but the it doesn´t select the pic but the complete thing... anyway I´ll post it in a minute!
aussieguera 9 years ago
This is a fantastic tutorial - thanks for taking the time to put it together! I have made a couple of montages for this group, but my method was much more roundabout than yours and the results aren't nearly as good. This looks like a great way to do it.
ivoryhut PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by ivoryhut (member) 9 years ago
DKB4b, here's another tip for you if you want to use squares. When moving photos to the collage, pick the Rectangular Marquee tool. It's the square shape in broken lines below the Move tool (or you can also just hit the letter M on your keyboard). Then hold down the Shift key while you select a square area from the original photo to move to the collage. Holding down the Shift key will make sure that the area you select is a perfect square.

Then go back and pick the Move tool, and move that square selection to your collage. This is where having the grid lines really helps a lot, so you can properly position each photo.

After you compose your collage, if you find you have extra space on any one side of the document, you can always go back and reduce the dimensions. I can walk you through that if you want. It's really fairly simple.
Shelle/Plush 9 years ago
I can't seem to get my pictures small enough to fit on the keeps zooming in where I put the move tool when I release it onto the New Document?
~Isra~ [deleted] Posted 9 years ago. Edited by ~Isra~ (member) 9 years ago
great tutorial!! I was able to do most of it in PSE6 except for when it came to doing the stroke for each picture. You can't do the CTRL + a or it select everything so I tried selecting each picture individually with the selection tool, it kinda worked but there has to be a better way. Also the part for spacing the text for the title I couldn't figure that out. Im not sure if it was just me or elements doesn't have that feature.
Once other thing to do the copy right thing, is there a way to do it on a laptop, mine doesn't have the seperate number pad.

Thanks for the tutorial, I have been trying to figure this out for a while and now I can do it. YAY!!

Here is my 1st montage...

My first photo montage using PSE6
Chrolly 9 years ago
Thanks much for taking the time to share this tutorial...I've been trying to do this in Photoshop 7 and it works fine up to the point where you click and drag the photos into the new file. The picture looks too big for the existing area. Is there some way to reduce the size of my photo so that it fits? I've tried holding shift and using the mouse but that just reduces or expands the entire box and not just the photo inside. Thanks for any help any of you can provide. I'm new to photoshop and am loving these actions!
ivoryhut PRO 9 years ago
Holly and Shelle, I usually downsize a photo's view by hitting Control and the minus sign. (To enlarge the view, hit Control and the plus sign.)

Isra, beautiful montage! You have a cutie there. For the copyright symbol, scroll up and somewhere in the earlier comments, I posted the instructions for laptop users. Sorry I can't re-post it. I'm using a tiny iPod to type this, and my finger is starting to rebel. :)
sleepy jeanne PRO 9 years ago
Oh my, this was sooooo helpful... I could just KISS you!!
Fingers To Toes 9 years ago
WOW I cant wait to try this - I have gotten some awesome pictures of my newphew and I want to put one of these together to give her for mother's day - I want to have it printed - what size is good to do that?
aimeebeedesigns 9 years ago
Thank you so much for this!!

To the laptop users...

If you open up all your shapes (in either CS3 or PSE) you should be able to find the 'copyright' shape. I used this in a small size, and then put my text right next to it, then merged the two layers, and voila, copyright and name together as one. It took a little tweeking to get the font and the copyright symbol the same size but I ended up with the same effect! (No matter how hard I tried I still couldn't get the symbol to come up even with everyones suggestions, so it made me wonder it with some fonts it's just not possible, this was my solution.) HTH!
ivoryhut PRO 9 years ago
Rainbow, you should be safe with 8x10 or 11x14, which are standard print sizes. I typically upload mine to Costco and have them print those sizes for me.

Aimee, have you tried typing out your copyright signature on a word document and then doing a copy and paste onto your Photoshop document? That works for me too. I also created an action for it, so now it's just a one-click thing.
aimeebeedesigns 9 years ago
I have not tried that, nor did I think of it... thanks! I don't know how to create an action though... is that something you could explain to me? Or direct me to a place that will tell me how?
jmichael♡ 9 years ago
wow cant wait to try, thanks :)
Deputy's Wife 9 years ago
Bless You!
:::laura::: [deleted] 9 years ago
Thanks !
I made a montage too! Thanks for the great tutorial.
ginnyf PRO 9 years ago
I made one too! thanks for walking us through it step by step!
These montages are great!!! :O( I have PS 7...
rainjam98801 9 years ago
Thanks for a great tutorial! I'm new to CS3 and that took me about an hour to learn. In my scrapbooking software, it only takes about 5 -10 minutes :-(
Stephanie-C 9 years ago
I haven't tried the montage yet- but I can't wait.
I was just excited to see the tips on how to get the copyright sign from my laptop. Guess the little things in life make me so happy!
JAS Photos 9 years ago
Thank you so much for the montage instructions! They're awesome! Just made my first one and posted it on the group page! Thank you!
Here's one I did yesterday!

Tracy Joy Bag Montage
ivoryhut PRO 9 years ago
Cool montage, Annie! Glad everyone's having fun with it!
DrChickon PRO 9 years ago
Oh, I am SO excited! I am going to do one of these for a current client!
Rose*City Photography 8 years ago
O...M....G.....I have been needing to learn this forEVER...but IH, you just made it way way too easy....THANK YOU! I uploaded my "trial" to my Photostream.....
yay! this is exactly what i was looking for! thanks!
LydiaJo 8 years ago
I am so glad I found this. It helped me with photoshop so much.
Oh my goshhhhh! I have been wanting to know how to do this since I got PS this past fall! I can't believe this has been around since April!!! Thanks so much for taking the time to make it! I will try and post a few of my "montages" to the PW Flickr page.
Wendy * Darling 8 years ago
more fun with milk & cookies!

Jenny Esterbrook 8 years ago
Okay, I am really new to PS...I have CS3 and everything is going great until I try to move my photo I have open (from bridge) and drag it to my montage. Every time I try to drag it over, the pic becomes the background layer, and it doesn't stay on the montage(new doc.) page. I am using the move tool, I did everything step by step up to this point. Any suggestions? It's making me crazy!
agodlife 8 years ago
This tutorial was so awesome. I have been trying to figure out with no success how this was done. Your explaination and screen shots were perfect.Thank you for taking the time to do it.

Now, the only problem I have run into is somehow, I messed up my default grid settings in my CS3 when I had the hairbrained idea to create a rule of three grid. Because of this, I can't measure the placement of my photos.

Can anyone tell me how to get the default settings back for the grid so I can do this alittle easier?

Thanks for your help.

This was great fun! Thanks for the tutorial. How do I get my image to appear bigger when I post?? Mine is so small.....
wijody 8 years ago
Thanks for this! I'm a newbie at PS (just got CS4 and LOVE it) and am so proud of myself for figuring this out (I have a collage in my photostream that I pretty much copied from Jen Ne Sais Quoi above). I'm still a long way from competent with PS, but learning it is a lot of fun!
*rm* 8 years ago
So kind! thank you for taking the time to put this together!!!
K.Young Photography 7 years ago
Excellent tutorial. Thanks for posting it, Ivoryhut.
barb's photography 7 years ago
Thanks for the great tutorial!!
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