The following tutorial will show you how to combine images to create a very simple montage/collage using Photoshop 7. We are going to create this collage:

I don’t know how to use any other imaging program, but I am assuming that the principles are similar and you can parlay these into the program you use. If you have Photoshop 7 and want to work along with me, then save the butterfly image at the end of this post to your hard drive and follow along.

Photoshop uses Layers to build images. A layer is a component of an image that you apply on top of or under another component. Imagine placing several pieces of transparent plastic on top of each other. The images of all the plastic layers will show through. The idea is similar in Photoshop.

When you open the Photoshop application, you want your screen to look like this:

Notice the Toolbox on the left and the Layers Palette on the right. If you don’t see them on your screen, then click Windows on the top menu bar and click Tools and then click Layers.

We are going to be using only a few tools on the Tool Bar: The Move Tool, Lasso Tool, the Type Tool, and the Set Color Tool:

1) The Canvas. First, we want to create the file where we will build our image. Click File on the top left of the menu bar and then click New (File<New). A dialog box will open. Leave the name Untitled for now. In the Preset Sizes box, click 4×6. The Width and Height will appear the boxes immediately below. Change the Resolution from 300 to 72. (72 is the best resolution for posting images on the web.) Set the Mode to RGB. Set the Contents to White. Then Click OK.

If your canvas is not in the middle of the screen, click the Move Tool (the top right icon in the tool box that looks like a pointer and a cross). Then click the canvas and drag it to the center of your screen.

It is important to frequently save your image as you build it for obvious reasons. Click File<Save As. Select a directory on your computer where you want to save the file. Give it a name. I named this one “Lemurian Butterflies”. In the Format Box, make sure you are saving it as a Photoshop File (.PSD). (Note: You will keep this as a Photoshop File while you work on it as this will retain the Layers. When you are finished will will merge all the layers and save it as a JPG file)

2) Layer 1—Textured Paper effect.

In this image, we want to create the image of textured paper. Look at the Layers Palette on the right. On the bottom of the box you will see a several little icons. The second icon from the right is a little square with a corner turned up. This is the Create New Layer button. See the icon circled in red below:

Click the Create New Layer icon. You will see in the palette above that Layer 1 has been created. Click Layer 1. (Whenever you want to work on a particular layer, you need to highlight that layer in the Layers Palette.)

Look over to the Toolbox on the left side of your screen. We want to set the color for our textured paper effect. Click the large white box on the Set Foreground/Background Color Tool. A color palette will open up. On the rainbow slider in the middle of the palette, move the slider to the yellowish-orange area on the slider. Then in the large colored area to the left of the slider, click a place on the palette in the beige range. In the image below, I’ve selected a beige area near the top of the palette (the tiny circle).

Click OK. You will see that the White box in the Set Color Tool has turned that Color. This is called the Foreground Color. (The black box behind it is the Background Color)

Now, making sure that Layer 1 is still highlighted in the Layers Palette, click Edit from the menu bar at the top and then click Fill (Edit>Fill). Make sure the Content Use Box says Foreground. Leave the Blending Mode at Normal and the Opacity at 100%. Click Ok. Layer 1 should be the beige color.

Next, with Layer 1 still highlighted, click Filter from the menu bar at the top, then Texture, then Texturizer. (Edit>Texture>Texturizer). In the Texture Box, change the texture to Sandstone. Click Ok. You should have something that looks like a piece of rough paper.


Save your file now (File>Save)


3) Layer 2. We are going make a selection from another image file and place it onto the new canvas. Click the Create New Layer icon to create Layer 2 where we will place a new image.


Click File<Open. Select your image and open it.. In this case I have opened an image of a yellow butterfly. Click the butterfly image to highlight it. If you want to make the image a little bigger on your screen click the Zoom tool on the toolbar. If necessary, use your cursor to drag the borders of the image wider so you can see the whole image.


Click the Lasso icon in the Tool Box. Place the tail of the lasso on any part of the edge of the butterfly and drag the lasso around the outline of the butterfly. When you bring the lasso around to where you started, touch it to the point where you started outlining. The line should turn into “marching ants” This means you have completed the selection. If you make a mistake and want to start over, go to Select on the menu bar and click DeSelect and then start over. Your screen should look something like this:



This selection process is the most difficult part of combining images into a montage/collage. You will need to practice your “lassoing”. There are a number of shortcuts to selecting images, depending of the nature of the images, but lassoing can be used in most instances.


When you are satisfied with your selection and you have “marching ants” around the selection, click Edit from the menu bar and then COPY (Edit>Copy). Click your canvas to bring it forward. Click Layer 2. Click Edit, then Paste (Edit>Paste). The selected image should now be on the canvas.



You can close the source image (the yellow butterfly) by clicking the image to bring it forward and then clicking the X. You will be asked if you want to save changes to that image. Click NO or you will ruin your source image. After you close this source file, you should see only your canvas on the screen. Your screen should now look like this:



You can add many more layers if you wish. I’ve used as many as 25 layers in more complicated collages.


Save your file again.



4) Transforming the image. We want to resize and rotate the butterfly image. Making sure Layer 2 is highlighted, click Edit, then Transform, then Scale. (Edit>Transform>Scale). A bounding box will surround the butterfly. Click one of the little boxes on the corners and drag the image to make it larger or smaller. In this case, I have made the butterfly larger. When you are satisfied with the size, hit the Enter key. To rotate the image, go to Edit>Transform>Rotate. Place the cursor near one of the little boxes on the bounding box until you see a curved double arrow. Move your cursor to rotate the image. Again, when satisfied, hit Enter. Finally, if you want to move the image, click the Move Tool in the toolbox and drag the image.


Next we want to create a Drop Shadow effect to give a slight 3-D effect. On the bottom left of the Layers Palette is a little icon that looks like an “F”. This is the “Add a Layer Style” button. See below:



Making sure Layer 2 is highlighted, click the “F” icon. A drop down menu will appear. Click Drop Shadow. A box will open up. In the center of the box are some sliders to adjust the appearance of the drop shadow: distance, spread, size. I have set each one to 5. Leave all the other settings alone. Click OK.


The canvas should now look like this:



Save your file again.



5) Copying a Layer We are going to copy Layer 2 and transform it. Highlight Layer 2. RIGHT click it. You will get a drop down menu. Click Duplicate Layer. A new layer will be created called “Layer 2 Copy”. The duplicated image is directly over the Layer 2 image. Use the Move Tool to move the copy to a different place. Now go to Edit>Transform>Scale and resize the new image smaller. Then Edit>Transform>Rotate and rotate it slightly. Hit Enter. You should have something like this now:


6) Adding Type. Create a new layer by clicking the New Layer icon on the bottom of the Layers Palette. On the Set Foreground Color Tool, click the curved double arrow to make the black square as the foreground color. This will make the Type black. You can make it any color you want by following the steps above for setting color.


Next, click the Type Tool in the toolbox. Select a Font Type and Size (I selected BrushScript at 36). Click on the canvas and type the text. I take “Lemurian Butterflies” Use the Move Tool to position the Type.


Create another New Layer. Click the Type Tool again. Type another line (I typed “fly free”). Use the Move Tool to position that line.


To add any embellishments to the type, such as drop shadow, it must be converted from Type into Image. This is called “Rasterizing”. RIGHT click one of the Type layers and select “Rasterize Layer”. Click the Add Layer Style (the “F” icon) and do a drop shadow.


Do the same for the other Type layer.

It should look like this now:



Save your file again.


7) Saving the image as a JPG. When you are finished building your image, save it once more as a Photoshop file in case you want to work on it again or use elements from it for another creation. BUT, this Photoshop file is enormous. If you use Flickr to store your images, it is too big to upload. You must save it as a JPG. To do this we must “flatten” the image, that is, merge all the layers. Highlight the topmost layer. Click “Layer” from the menu bar. Click Flatten Image near the bottom of the drop down. Now, click Save As. Select JPG in the format box.


We’re done! In this tutorial you have learned to use Photoshop 7 to create a canvas, create layers, use the Move, Lasso, Type, and Set Color tools, as well as learn to employ a drop shadow layer style and use the Texturizer filter. You also learned to use the Transform feature to re-size and rotate a layer. And finally, you learned to prepare the image for uploading by flattening. These very basic tools should allow you to make some simple digital collages.


A caveat: I am not a Photoshop expert. There are functions in Photoshop that I know nothing about. I’m sure there are other ways to combine images into a collage. This is how I do it, minus a few shortcuts. You can make some simple collages, but if you wish to go further, I would recommend that you sign up for a Photoshop class at your local adult school or get a good tutorial book.


But once you get started, it’s addicting! I look forward to seeing your finished products posted here. 🙂

If you want to make this project described here, right click and save this image to your hard drive by right-clicking and save as:


Lori Gloyd (c) 2007