Blogging laid Bare #1: Templates

I’ve had more than a few emails since launching Florence Finds asking me how I do certain things, and the most oft enquired about is the image groups I put together. Call them what you will, mood boards, collages, I thought I would give something back to my blogger readers and share a little how-to. Who knows, it might become a little series…

The first thing any of you need to know is there are 100 ways to skin a cat. I use Adobe Photoshop Elements which is a scaled back version of the full Adobe Photoshop CS5 software, but widely considered to be all you need if you’re not manipulating photographic images all day. For blog purposes I use it to create graphics and template images, so it is more than adequate. You can get a copy for around £50 on Amazon by clicking the link above.

Getting back to the cat, there are many different ways you can do this in Photoshop Elements, but this is the way I’m most comfortable with. It’s not necessarily the best way, but it’s a good start.

One thing to note. These instructions are specific to Adobe Photoshop Elements on a Mac.

Let’s get started!

Disco Stairs // London // Gold stripe cake // Hexagon sequin Angel Sanchez gown

1. Open Photoshop Elements and choose File > New > Blank file.

2. Set the width of the new file to your blog width (mine is 600px) and choose a length – if in doubt, go long, you can always crop it and it’s frustrating to have to start again because you can’t fit all your images in.

3. As my blog backdrop is white I like to use white bars to separate the images and give the collage effect. So you can see the white bars, it’s easier to colour in the new blank file as it will form your background and show the images up better. Use your paint pot. Click on the 2 overlapping squares at the bottom of your left hand menu and choose a colour by clicking on the colour chart that comes up. Then press ‘K‘ and your cursor becomes a paint pot. Hover over the new file, click and you get a pink backdrop like mine.

4. Now it’s time to add your images! Go to File > Open and select the images you want to work with.

5. Again there are different ways to do this next step, but I prefer to resize my images before laying them out, so choose Image > Resize > Image size from the menu and make them the correct size for your design.

Tip: I tend to work on even subdivisions of my 600px width, i.e. 200, 300 and 400px.

Choose a width and make sure the ‘constrain proportions‘ box is checked on the bottom left hand of the image size box and the height will be automatically calculated.

6. Once they are all resized, click on a single image and drag it onto your new file… followed by the rest of your images. It’s worth noting that on the bottom right side of my screen you can see the ‘layers’ you are creating. Try to imagine the background as your table top and each image is a separate photograph you are layering on top. You can overlap them to make them fit by rearranging the layers. You do this by clicking on one and dragging it up or down in that right hand side box. Play around to get a feel for it. Don’t worry if you find this confusing, getting your head round layers is a whole new thing! Make sure before you move onto the next step you layer you have clicked onto the top layer in the list.

7. Next make the blank file you’re working with larger so you can see closer up. (Either maximise with the icon at the top of your file, or ‘zoom‘.) Choose your Rectangular Marquee tool (left hand menu again) and in the menu (just below your main menu bar) choose mode: fixed size and width 5px, height 800px.

(Note: 5px represents to bar thickness and 800px in this case is beyond the length of my collaged images – you can adjust these to suit your style.)

Now use your cursor and place it where your top two images meet, where you want your border to start and click. You will see a dotted vertical bar appear. You can use your arrow buttons on the keyboard to nudge it left and right if you haven’t got the position quite right.

8. You’re going to be colouring in the bars you make so choose your paint brush on the left side bar menu, and press ‘D‘ to restore the black and white overlapping squares, then ‘X‘ to switch them and bring the white one to the top. This means that’s the colour brush you will be using. Go to the top menu and choose a square 24px brush from the drop down. Then take it over to your file and click and hold as you drag it over your bar, which will become ‘coloured-in’ in white.

9. You’ll notice, It doesn’t matter if you go outside of the dotted edges of the bar, because the bar acts like a stencil, colour only appears within it. Equally if your cursor slips and your brush is incompletely covering the bar, you will end up with a wobbly line. Move your image up and down to colour-in the whole bar, top to bottom.

10. Now go back to step 7 and repeat it, but click the two arrows between width and height on the small menu, to make a horizontal bar. Position and colour-in as per steps 7-8 above. Again you will notice here that the bar extends across my images on both sides, which don’t meet up all the way across like the vertical image edges did. Instead, just drag your paint brush to the middle of the image and stop at the vertical line, then click back to the rectangular marque and place the bar in the next position again.

11. Lastly crop your image with the ‘crop‘ tool in the left hand side bar. Just drag it from the top corner to the opposite corner and crop your image to the desired size, getting rid of any unwanted bits. Click the green cross to complete the crop.

12. To save your file choose File > Save for web and change the quality to something higher than 70 and click ok. Name your file and it’s ready for uploading to your blog!

13. One final word, Cmd-Z (on a Mac) is your friend. Press them and the last thing you did will be undone, so mistakes are ok!

Don’t forget to credit your images in your usual style. 😉

I hope some of my blogging friends will find this helpful, do spread the word on twitter or link to the post if you know someone who could use it. If any of you are interested in hearing more, just drop me a comment below!


PS See below in the gallery for a more detailed screenshot illustration of every stage, step by step. Any questions, just shout!

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17 thoughts on “Blogging laid Bare #1: Templates

  1. Before commenting on this fab post can I just say I NEED some disco stairs in my life!

    Having no idea of what it’s like to manage a website / blog, I found this very interesting. More behind the scenes type posts like this please 😀 x

  2. I usually use Powerpoint to do this. It’s already got a white background which gives you the white bars so all you have to do is resize your pictures until you like the arrangement then save the slide as a jpeg. If there’s extra white space you can crop it after too. Might be easier for anyone who hasn’t got Elements or like me has sadly lapsed Photoshop skills!

    • Thanks Linsey, I don’t have elements or a mac, so your comment is very helpful! I’ll have a go at creating a photo collage soon, there are so many things about blogging/computers/creating websites that I don’t know about, so my blog often looks a bit shoddy!

      • I’d like to chip in that you can also use photoscape a free photoeditIng software to create these kinds of collages

  3. Okay, so I’m sure this wasn’t the most fun post to put together, but it’s one of my favourite posts, from any blog, ever! Sending you a HUGE thank you and hug for taking the time to show us how it’s done! I’ve always wondered how to do it, but have been a bit too nervous to ask anyone for fear of looking silly, so thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this! Off to see about that Photoshop Elements now!:)

  4. Ha! Rebecca this is so funny – I literally emailed Gemma this morning about how she put together the ones for the fashion post (namely the one with the bolero and dress) and lo and behold you have answered my question!

    Bet this was a pain in the arse to put together but THANK YOU so much for taking the time to do it!

    Can we request a series pretty please?


  5. Thanks for these technical tips Rebecca, they’re really useful! I’ve been wondering how you did it and I think was even one of the many who’ve asked you. One question, how do you put your lovely text on top of them? They always add a nice touch.

    I’d also be interested in a series as I’ve not managed to learn much so far and you seem to do things so nicely you’d be great to learn from 🙂

    Laura x

  6. Hi everyone 🙂

    So glad a few of you will find this useful – I actually didn’t mind putting it together, as I quite like teaching.

    Consider a series in the making, I’ll have to see what to address next 😉

    Any requests?


    • Hi Rebecca!
      This is a wonderful series! I was wondering if you and Michelle would be addressing the topic of how to build a blog audience?

  7. Very useful! I really want to use photoshop on my blog but had a play and found it way too complicated (even with the online tutorials!) so this might be perfect for me. Although i’m a pc laptop not a mac but hopefully i can work it out! x

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  9. Rebecca – just been thinking about possible posts on this subject…

    Any chance of a how to find someone to design your blog / how to know what layout to go for / themes / hosting and all that jazz?

    I’ve tried reading a lot and it’s making my head hurt… I know you will be able to explain it in an totally effortless way!

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  11. Just wanted to say thank you for this very clear tutorial – the instructions make so much sense that I even managed to translate them to PSE 5.0 (running on a 10+ year old Windows laptop) and put together my own little collage ( Thanks!

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