Special Guest Blogger: Laura Vegas of the CK Dream Team

01/22/2010 at 2:41 pm | Posted in fonts, Get-to-Know, technique | 15 Comments
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Hi, I’m Laura Vegas, a member of CK’s 2010 Dream Team. My favorite technique when creating layouts is making photo collages. I’ve been using photo collages on my layouts for over three years now. I think of my design style as very clean and linear, and collages just seem to fit that style really well. I’m all for some angles and tilted elements. But when it comes to my photos, I like them straight and nicely contained. There are many, many ways to make photo collages; today, I’m going to share with you the three ways that work for me.

Method 1: Create a Collage in Photoshop

“June 09” by Laura Vegas. Supplies: Patterned paper: October Afternoon and Pebbles; Letters: Jillibean Soup; Buttons: Autumn Leaves.

Each month, I enjoy creating a layout with my favorite photos of my daycare kids—just one simple page with many photos. This type of layout is a great example of where photo collages are the perfect answer. My “June ‘09” layout above shows how I was able to use 16 photos on the page, and yet it still looks clean and uncluttered.

I use Photoshop CS2 for my photo collages, but Photoshop Elements works the same way. Start by creating a blank canvas: click on the File menu and then select New. Enter your dimensions according to how large you want your collage to be. I use a regular 8.5″ x 11″ photo printer, so I usually keep my collages no wider than 8″ and no taller than 10.5″. You can certainly go larger if you have a wide-format printer or if you send the collage to be printed at a photo lab.

For today’s example, I’m creating an 8.25″ x 8.25″ collage at 300 dpi (always use 300 dpi for printing). It’s an exception to my rule, but it still fits on my photo paper with borderless printing.

Next, open all the photos you want to include in your collage. I usually sketch it out ahead of time, figuring out how many photos I can fit and about how large they will be. The easiest designs use rows of photos that are similar in size. Mixing sizes involves a little more math, but it adds many fun options. Elaborate designs take some trial and error, but with a little patience and practice they will come more naturally.

Begin cropping the photos, one by one, to the size you want them on the collage. I’m using 2″ x 2″ photos. To easily crop your photos, click on the Image menu, then select Crop. Find the boxes shown in the screenshot above, and simply type in the exact dimensions you want your photo, with 300 dpi.

Click and drag your mouse across your photo, using the crop lines to zoom in on the area of the photo you want to use. Photoshop will keep the dimensions you inserted, and it will only let you crop to that size. If you choose a square size, it will not let you crop to a rectangle shape, so you really can’t mess this up. Continue to adjust to the crop box until you achieve your desired crop, and then click on the green arrow to commit the crop.

Select the Rectangular Marquee Tool, and drag your cursor from one corner of your photo to the opposite corner, selecting the entire photo. Click on the Edit menu, and then select Copy.

Minimize that photo and pull up your blank canvas. Click on the Edit menu, and then select Paste. Your cropped photo will appear on the canvas. Select the Move tool; click on the photo and drag it to where you want it to be. I like to start arranging mine in the corners and edges, so that I can work my way in with the remaining photos—it allows me to get a better feel for spacing.

You will repeat these previous steps for each photo—crop, copy, and paste, arranging them how you like on the canvas as you go along. Each photo you add will become its own “layer.” You can see all the layers in the Layers palette near the right side of the screen. If you want to move a photo, just find its layer in the palette, click on it, and you’ll be able to move that photo (or even delete it, if needed). My photos are never lined up perfectly at first. Once I get some photos on the canvas, then I can get a better feel for the exact placement. I can adjust each photo by choosing its layer and moving it around.

Once your photos are all in place, you need to flatten your layers to one layer so you can print the collage. It’s a good idea to save your collage as a working Photoshop file, just in case you need to change anything. You can always pull a working file back up, and all your layers will still be there for you to adjust and change. Once your image is saved and ready, click on the Image menu, and then select Flatten Layers. Now save it under a new file name.

For printing at home, I then copy my collage onto a new 8.5″ x 11″ blank canvas. This way, I can arrange it on my photo paper to maximize space. I added the black lines around my collage so it would be clearer to see here on the blog. Choose the borderless printing option so no sides of your collage get cut off. Once it prints out, just trim the excess photo paper, and you have your collage all ready to add to your layout.

Method 2: Size in Photoshop, Collage by Hand

“Love You” by Laura Vegas, as seen in the October 2009 issue of Creating Keepsakes, page 41.

The other way I use Photoshop for my collages is to crop and print each photo separately for my layouts. First, size each photo to the dimension you want. (On my “Love You” layout, I cropped each small photo to 3″ x 4″.) Then, copy and paste the resized photos onto 8.5″ x 11″ canvases, squeezing as many as you can on each page. You can even turn some sideways because you’ll be trimming them after they print. Once they’re printed, trim them and arrange them into a collage on your background cardstock. The collage ends up looking like a giant photo, even though the layout has many separate photos on it (mine has 16!). This collage method comes in handy when you’re not sure  exactly where to place your photos.

Method 3: Collage by Hand

My last way of making photo collages is the good old-fashioned way: start with a bunch of regular 4″ x 6″ photos.

Then just start trimming and cropping them. I like to trim only 0.25″ or 0.5″ lengths at a time. Don’t get crop happy and end up with photos that are too small. Take your time, trimming off a little here and a little there, arranging them as you go. Once you have them where you like them, adhere them to a white piece of cardstock and then trim that white cardstock around the collage to leave a small, white border.

“Playful You” by Laura Vegas. Supplies: Cardstock: Bazzill Basics Paper; Patterned paper: KI Memories; Journaling spots: Heidi Swapp for Advantus; Stickers: Doodlebug Design; Mesh: Magic Mesh.

On my “Playful You” layout, I actually used the entire piece of white cardstock on my layout. I simply worked some patterned paper and strips of mesh into the collage design.

I hope you’re inspired to make your own photo collages on your layouts. You just might find yourself addicted to them!


P.S. Don’t miss the free don’t download CK is offering as part of Free Font Friday. This week, download CK Mini here. Check back next week for another free font!



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  1. Thank you for the detailed instructions, for those who are not as fluent on the computer! Your collages look beautiful!

  2. Awesome job, Laura!!!

  3. Great tips & love the colors you’ve used in all the LOs 🙂

  4. Yeah Laura! I love this tutorial! I also love your graphic style. Great pics too – such cute kids! Thanks for the blog post! suzy

  5. This is awesome Laura!! Even though you’ve taught me some things in the past about collaging, I did learn some new things today!!! Thank you!
    And gorgeous LOs as always!!

  6. Great tutorial Laura! Thanks! I love your collage LOs. They are all so cute!

  7. Laura love photo collages and your instructions rock!!!!

  8. Has anyone else had trouble downloading the Free Font? I can’t get this week’s font to download and I couldn’t get last week’s to download either. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  9. Laura

    I have been following your blog for three years now. I have
    always love your style. For the most part I always have my
    laptop open while I am designing layouts. I always find the
    perfect ideas for whatever I am missing on my layout.

    CK is so luck to have you design for them.

    Sandi N.

  10. Awesome job Laura! Thanks for the detailed instructions! I just created a photo collage using your tutorial and did 4 pics in 4×4 on an 8-1/2 x 11. It was easy! THANKS!

  11. I love the black in the Teresa Collins collection.

  12. Hi Laura, I loved your collages, that’s something new I can do and is so me. Your instructions are wonderful. I enjoyed getting to know you and your style. I will be visiting your blog every week.

  13. Thank You! This is exactly what I have been trying to do this past two weeks, but I don’t know how to use my photoshop program (embarrassing). I’ll start learning, though, starting with my own photo collage! Horray!

  14. Just arrived via your website. Have tried making these before without much luck. Thank you so much for sharing your steps to make clean collages (without having to pay for someone’s template!). CK is lucky to have you on their team!

  15. Неплохо, но могли сделать и лучше

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