I am working on a Mac, so the key commands I use may vary slightly on a PC. Keep that in mind if this doesn't work for you.
To create a photo collage, you can either create your own template in photoshop or you can download one already made. Creating your own isn't too difficult, but lately I've been enjoying the freebie templates that are available from Scrapbooks Etc. They are perfect for creating a blog collage like this one:
Or for pulling a digital scrapbook page together quickly. (more on that at the end of this post)
So to start out, download your template (there are dozens on the above link) and then open it in Photoshop. I'm working with Photoshop Elements 6 so your screen may be a little different.
You will see that the template itself is just a flat image without layers. We need to create layers for each shape so that we can clip pictures to them. Not all templates are like this; most that I've paid for come as layered templates already. But creating the layers is easy enough so no biggie.
Using your magic wand tool, click on one of the shapes to select it.
You are now going to create a new layer from your selection. Basically, you are going to cut that shape onto it's own layer, so it will be isolated from the rest of the template.
I do this by pressing shift+Command+J (on a PC it would be shift+Ctrl J)
You have just created a new "layer via cut" See, now you have a second layer with just that shape on it. You want to repeat the process for all the shapes in the template, but make sure you select the bottom layer again before using your wand tool.
See in that last picture, I now have five layers going, with a different shape on each layer.
Next you open up the pictures you want to put in your collage.
You can see that in my project bin, on the bottom, I have the template and four pictures. If you are going to edit the pictures, do that before you add them to your template.
Then with the template up on your screen, drag one of your pictures from the project bin onto the template.
Working in the layers palette (on the bottom right) make sure the picture layer is positioned directly over the layer that has the shape you want to clip it to. I want to put this picture in the top right box, so I made sure the picture was positioned over that box in the layers palette.
Then to clip the picture into the box, I press Cmd G (PC:Ctrl G?)
After you do that, you can see that the picture still has a bounding box around it's parameters. You can drag the corners to shrink or enlarge the photo, as well as moving the picture around inside the box to get it centered just how you like it in the frame.
Repeat the process with the rest of your pictures, making sure that each picture layer is positioned above the shape you want to clip it to in the layers palette.
Next you save. When I'm using the collage for my blog I choose Save To Web and then I don't even have to flatten it first.
I set the quality (I don't know what's recommended, I just usually do medium or high for my blog) and the size I want. I usually choose 550 pixels wide because that is what works for my blog (so it doesn't overlap into the sidebar) It may be different for your blog so experiment a little and see if that's too big or too small. Apply the changes and then save it.
Then log into your blog and upload to the post!
If you are intimidated by choosing pixel sizes, you can also just save as a jpeg and upload to your blog that way. I find that if I use the 'save for web' feature it uploads much faster and I have a lot more control over the finished size on my blog.
So that's how I've been making collages. If that's all you wanted to know, you can stop reading now.
But if you're not bored to tears yet, here are a few more ideas for how to use these templates.
In this photo collage, you can see that I used one photo to cover two photo spaces.
To do this I held down the shift key when I was choosing the shapes on the flat template, and that allowed me to select two separate shapes to copy onto another layer. Does that make sense?
Then when I pressed Cmd J to create a new layer, the layer had both shapes on it. When I clipped my photo on top, it was like one big photo spot. Again, those are layman's terms and probably not 'proper' Photoshop speak. Let me know if it doesn't make sense.
I have also been having a lot of fun using the templates to create digital scrapbook pages. You can download some gorgeous FREE digi kits from Jessica Sprague right here.
I used the Echoes of Asia kit and a template for this page. It's going in the Family Traditions album I'm working on.
I also saw some cute free digital card templates on this blog if you wanted to make your own photo collage Christmas cards. That's a great post with links to several more tutorials on how to do this stuff. It's really not hard once you get going. I have been doing this for the last three years and it's always fun to feel like you are sending something really unique and special. And Grandmas *love* it.
If you want to learn more about digital scrapbooking and clipping masks, there are lots of tutorials at
1. The Coffeeshop Blog
2. Scrapbooks Etc.
3. Write. Click. Scrapbook (thanks so much to Melissa, who commented on my blog last week and turned me on to this site... it's awesome, and apparently she is a contributor because she has a great post on there today)