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How to combine multiple images on one canvas in Photoshop Elements.

Today in my class over at Big Picture Classes, I had several people request a tutorial on how to combine multiple images onto one canvas, and then post it to the message board and gallery. I will be using images of layouts in this example, but the process is the same for any digital image or photo (for example, if you want to combine multiple small photos for printing on a 4x6 canvas). Note: click on any image in this tutorial to see it larger.

This tutorial will teach you how to create this type of image.

Combining images onto one canvas.

First we need to combine the images onto one canvas. I do this in Photoshop Elements 7. This is the only program I am familiar with, but I'm sure there are others out there that have similar capabilities. Also, I work on a PC, so the commands I give will be for Windows users. If anyone knows the comparable commands for Mac, please comment and I will add those in. :)

So first you want to create a blank canvas. You do this in the Editor, by going to File>New>Blank File. I am going to be putting 30 layouts on this canvas, so I'm going to make it fairly large: 9x13. 72dpi is fine if all you want is to view it online; 300dpi is the minimum you want for printing. I choose a white background so that my layouts are easy to see.

First create a blank canvas.

Now, in the Organizer, you want to select the files that you are going to use. Like I said, I will be adding images of 30 layouts to my canvas. However, I know from past experience that having that many files open all at once in the Editor will slow down my computer's performance. So to avoid that, I am going to open 10 at a time. To do that, I select the first 10 files I want (hold down Shift or Control key while clicking to select multiple files). Then I go to Editor>Full Edit. (Are your layouts opening in full screen in the Editor? Click the reduce button to stack them, so you can see all of them at once.)

Select your images and open in Full Edit mode in the Editor.

My files are open and stacked, and ready to be dragged onto the new canvas.

Once my selected files have opened in the Editor, I move my canvas to an empty corner of the workspace so that I have plenty of room to work with. Now I'm going to click on my first layout image to activate it. Making sure that the Move tool is active, I drag the image of the layout onto the image of the blank canvas. This will activate the blank canvas file. I have "Show Bounding Box" turned on, so I can see the boxes for resizing my layout. I drag one of the corners in until it's a size I like. (I plan to fit 5 layouts in each row.) Then I click the green check mark to save the new size. I position the layout image in the first spot on the blank canvas by dragging it. And that's it! Now I can close that image's file, and activate the second file by clicking on it. For each file that I have open, I follow the steps as described above: drag to the blank canvas, resize the layout and confirm, move to the desired position, close that file. When I am done with the first 10 files, I like to go ahead and save my progress using File>Save. Save as a .PSD file to keep the individual layers separate. Then I go back to the Organizer for the next 10 layouts I want to use, and repeat, and save, until I've done all 30 layouts.

Use the Move tool and resize handles to move and resize the image
on the new canvas.
Here I have finished adding (& closed) the first 10 layouts.
All 30 layouts are now on the new canvas.

Once all 30 layouts are on the blank canvas (which is now no longer blank), I'm ready to move on to the next step. There is quite a bit of blank space around the right and bottom edges, and I'd like to add a small margin to the top and left edges. So in the tools palette, select the Crop tool. At the top, specify "no restriction" for the aspect ratio. Now, click and drag over your canvas to define a cropping area. I'm leaving a small margin on the right and bottom. To get one at the top and left sides, just extend the cropping boundary out into the workspace a bit. Click on the green check mark to confirm the crop. Save.

You can crop the excess & add margins all in one step.

Next we are going to prepare the file for export. So in the layers palette, right-click on any layer and choose "Flatten Image" from the drop-down list. Now go to File>Save As. In the "File Type" drop-down list, choose .JPG. Make sure the box next to "Include in the Organizer" is checked. Once you have saved it as a jpg, you can close this file in the Editor.

Flatten your image and save it as a JPG.

Now we go back to the Organizer. If you have your files sorted by date (newest first), your new file should be right there at the top. Click on it to select it, then go to File>Export as New File(s). This will bring up the Export New Files dialog box. In the section marked File Type, select JPG. In Size and Quality, choose 1280x960 in the Photo Size dialog box. (Actually, you can use whichever size you like. I just choose this one because it's the largest preset size.) Adjust the Quality slider to #10 (Maximum). This will decrease your file size while still maintaining the best quality. (If you want to go lower on the slider you can.) Choose a location to save your file in, and rename give the new file a name, if you like. Click "Export" and you are done! Your file is now ready to upload.

Export your image as a new file. Adjust the settings to accomodate restrictions
on uploaded file sizes.

Uploading to the BPC gallery.

Uploading your multi-photo canvas to the BPC gallery is the same as uploading any other single-photo image. Sign in, click on "My Account", then "My Galleries", then "My Images", then "+Add Images". Browse to the location of your file and click "Upload." (I keep a folder on my computer called "Upload" and this is where I store all of the files I have prepared for upload.) Once your image is uploaded, you can add it to your class gallery and add a title and description as usual.

Upload your image to the gallery as usual.

Adding a photo inside a message board post.

There are two ways to reference an image from a BPC message board post. This can be an image in the BPC gallery, or anywhere online. In this tutorial, I'll use an image in the BPC gallery as an example.

The easiest way is to link it. First, you want to upload your image to the gallery. Then, either through "My Gallery" in your account, or through your class gallery, navigate to the image you want, but stay in the gallery - don't click on your image. What you want to do is right-click on the thumbnail of your image and select "Copy Shortcut." This will copy the web address for the page that has your image on it. In the message board, you can now start a new post (or edit an existing post). To add a link, just paste the web address from your computer's clipboard into the post (press Ctrl-V on a PC). Or you can type some text (for example "click here to see my layouts"), highlight the text with your cursor, and then click on the hyperlink button at the top of the post editing window (it's the icon that looks like Earth with a little piece of chain). In the pop-up box, hit Ctrl-V to paste the web address into the box marked URL. Click "ok" and and you're done!

Right-click on the thumbnail from the gallery view & choose "Copy Shortcut."
You can either use hyperlinked text or simply paste the web address
directly into the text of your post.

The other way to reference an image is to actually insert that image into the body of your post. Once again, you'll want to start by uploading your image to the gallery. Navigate to the image you want, but this time open up the page that features your image (the page where people can leave comments). Right-click on the image, and once again select "Copy Shortcut". This is going to copy the web address of the actual image. In a new post (or editing an existing post), click on the little yellow icon in the toolbar (it looks like a sun over some mountains). When you hover over this icon, a little box that says "Insert/Edit Image" should pop up. Click on this icon. This will open the "Image Properties" dialog box. With your cursor in the URL field, hit Ctrl-V to paste the address (which should end with .jpg). Don't worry about all those other fields, just click "Ok". Chances are your image will be too big for the post editor. That's ok! You can leave it super-big (the thread will automatically re-format to accomodate the size of your image) or you can play with the resizing handles to make it smaller (which is what I do). Submit your post and you're done!

Right-click on the actual image and select "Copy Shortcut." This won't
work if you're still in the gallery view. You must be on the image's feature page.
Paste the .jpg address into the URL field to insert your image into your post.
Drag the resizing handles to reduce the size of your image. Pay attention to the
shape of your 12x12 layouts, as these handles apparently don't lock the aspect ratio,
 even when you use the corner handles.

I hope this has been helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions, and I will do my best to answer them. See you in class! :)

~Heather H


  1. Heather, I know I left a brief message on the BPC message board, but you really outdid yourself. This really well thought out and very thorough. Thanks a bunch.

    Bea (purpletinkerbell)

  2. Thanks Bea! Glad I could help! :)


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