How Do I Make a Collage in Photoshop?

By David Weedmark

Adobe Photoshop CC is the perfect medium for creating a collage. All you need is a series of photos or illustrations that fit into some kind of theme, and an appetite for creativity. The key to a visually appealing collage is to select portions of images, rather than full, rectangular photos, so you can arrange them in layers on top of each other.

Step 1

Launch Photoshop and create a new file large enough to accommodate your collage. If Photoshop is already open, press "Ctrl-N." If you want a transparent background, remember to select "Transparent" from the Background Contents menu before clicking "OK." Open the images you want to use in your collage. A fast way to do this is to right-click all the files in File Explorer, select "Open With," then click "Photoshop."

Step 2

Select an image that will cover most, if not all of your canvas, to be your background. Use the "Duplicate Layer" option under the Layers panel and select the collage file as its destination. Alternatively, press "Ctrl-A" and "Ctrl-C" to copy the entire image, then press "Ctrl-V" in the collage window to paste it. Resize the image if needed by selecting "Transform" from the Edit menu and clicking "Scale."

Step 3

Select the next image for your collage. Use the Magnetic Lasso Tool, Lasso Tool, Magic Wand Tool or Quick Selection Tool from the toolbox to select the part of the image you want included in the collage. Avoid straight lines or using the background of an image whenever possible. Copy the selection by pressing "Ctrl-C."

Step 4

Paste the copied selection into your collage by pressing "Ctrl-V." Select the "Move Tool" from the Toolbox to drag the image into position. Use the "Eraser Tool" to remove any remaining background from the copied image. Note that every image you paste into the collage appears in its own layer.

Step 5

Rotate an image in the collage by selecting "Transform" from the Edit menu and selecting "Rotate." Experiment with the other Transform options. You can flip images horizontally or vertically, or distort them in any way you wish to make your collage visually interesting.

Step 6

Add a customized pattern to your collage by opening an image that contains a lot of similar colors. Wildflowers, for example, can go well with a nature theme. A photo of patterned fabric, like a tie or dress can also work if the pattern fits into your theme. Select the "Color Select" option under the Layers menu and click on the pattern. Drag the "Fuzziness" and "Range" sliders to specify how much of the pattern you want to capture. Click "OK," then copy and paste the selected pattern into the collage.

Step 7

Repeat a pattern several times if desired by pressing "Ctrl-V" again. Use the Transform options under the Edit menu to vary the pattern. Select one pattern layer, for example, and flip it horizontally. Select another layer and rotate or distort it. Drag the pattern layers in the Layers panel the pattern appears above some images, but below others.

Step 8

Double-click the name of each layer in the Layers panel to give it a name you will remember easily. This makes it easier to quickly find a layer if you want to move its position or edit it. If you forget what a layer is, click the "Eye" icon to hide it while looking at the canvas, then click it again to make it reappear.

Step 9

Add layer effects to layers to make some images stand out. Select "Layer Style" from the Layers menu and then click the style you want. A Drop Shadow added to an image, for example, will make it appear that it is actually above the layers below it, giving your collage some texture.

Step 10

Repeat key images two or three times to make them stand out from the collage. To do this, just drag the layer in the Layer's panel onto the "New Layer" button at the bottom of the panel. Drag the new layer to a different position using the Move Tool. Vary the layer position of the repeated images by dragging them up or down in the Layers panel.

Step 11

Add some personal touches to your collage before calling it a day. If you select the "Custom Shape Tool" from the Toolbox, you'll find some shapes in the Shape menu located in the Options bar, which can be inserted between layers. Another option is to draw freehand with the Brush Tool, or add a few words or a quote with the Horizontal Text Tool.

Tips & Warnings

  • Save a copy of your finished file as a PSD in addition to any other formats you want. This gives you the option to open it later to make any changes if needed.
  • If the files you're working with are large and your computer is low on memory, open one image at a time and close each image file after you've put it into the collage.