A collage is a composition of elements. Traditionally a collage is made of different materials. Photoshop enables the designer to generate digital collages using its system of layers. This tutorial describes how you can take an image and insert elements as you would in a collage. 

Image by Carlos Landa

Image by Carlos Landa

Click on this link to view some architectural collages: Architectural Collages

C.1. Make a copy of one of your model images and open the image in Photoshop.

C.2. Save the image as a a Photoshop file. When you choose Save under the File menu, you will be asked to name your file. The native file format is a psd file. Like other software applications Photoshop has layers. If you save in the psd format, your layers will be preserved. If you save as an image file format (like jpg or gif), the file will compress the layers into one layer. We need to preserve the layers so save it in the psd format. 

C.3. The layers allow you to isolate objects and areas of the image. When you open an image file like a photograph of a model, everything in the file is in the Background. In this exercise you will be inserting objects in the front of the model and behind the model. The model will need to be on a layer between. So that you can move objects between layers, the Background layer will be changed to a layer. This will allow you to move it to the front or back if needed. Right-click on the background layer and select Layer from Background. 

C.4. Next you will need to delete the background surrounding your model. One way to do this is by using the Magic Wand tool. 1.) Click on the Magic Want tool. 2.) Click within an area that you wish to delete (a dashed highlight line will appear). 3.) Press Delete. Do this for all areas surrounding your model including the sky, ground or any holes in the model. The image below shows the sky deleted as well as one hole in the model. Deleted areas are shown with white and gray checks. The ground has been selected with the Magic Wand. The Magic Wand works best when there is sufficient contrast between regions. If you feel that the Magic Wand is not identify regions well, you may need to use the Lasso tool as described in the next few steps.

C.5. If you need to undo previous steps, 1.) click on the History tool, 2.) Choose the step you wish to undo, and 3.) click on the garbage can. Note that pressing Ctrl and the plus or minus symbol allows you to zoom in or out.Open on of your images in Photoshop.

C.6. If the Magic Wand tool is not clearly distinguishing between the model and areas to be deleted, you may find that the Lasso tools are helpful.  If you are trying to capture areas with straight edges use the Polygonal Lasso tool. Click on points to define the area to be deleted and press Delete.  


The dashed line indicates the area to be deleted.

Image by Jeramey Jannene. 

Image by Jeramey Jannene. 

The white and gray checks show the areas of sky that have been deleted.


C.7. The Magic Wand may leave small specks or areas that need to be removed. 1.) Use the Erase tool to clean up the deleted areas. 2.) The size of the erase pointer can be edited and the brush type can be modified. 3.) Select the areas on the screen to be erased.

C.8. Once the areas surrounding the model are deleted, a new background can be added. Create a new layer to serve as the background. The default name will be Layer 1.


You can edit the layer name if you like by right-clicking on the name and selecting Layer Properties. The layer that is a highlit with a blue-gray color is the current layer. 

The layer at the bottom of the list is the back layer. You can move layers to the front or back by dragging them to the top of the list.






C.9. The background can be a color that you make in Photoshop or you can insert an image. For either type of background, it is important to know where the horizon is located. The horizon can be found by extending edges of the model until they meet at the vanishing point or points. It is not necessary to actually draw these lines. The idea would be to draw the sky and ground with this line in mind, or to place the horizon of an image along the same line.



C.10. To add a background make your new layer current by clicking on it. 

C.11. To make a solid background, first choose a color for your sky.  

C.12. Use the Magic Wand, Polygonal Lasso Tool or regular Lasso Tool to outline the area of your sky. The color can pass behind the model so you do not need to follow the profile of the model. You just need to respect the horizon line. In the image below the green arrow points to the area that could be filled with color. 

C.13. Use the Brush Tool to fill in the sky.


C.14. Repeat for the ground plane by making a new layer, choosing a color, defining the region to be filled and filling it with the brush tool. 

C.15. If you would like to bring in an image as the background, there are a few additional steps you will need to take. First, find a background image. The image needs to be relatively large. The search term below is "background", but you could try others. Finding the right image can be tricky because you need to find an image that corresponds with your model image. You may want to search for one that has both sky and ground and that has roughly the same position of the horizon as your model image. The light direction and intensity of the sky needs to match the direction and intensity of the model image.  If the model includes the horizon, then the sky image should also because the effect of atmosphere changes from the top of the sky to the horizon. It goes from clear to hazy. Clouds can give the effect of perspective depending on their shape.  

C.16. The image below would work well with the image of the skyscrapers (shown above) because it looks in an upward direction. First you will need to copy the image to the clipboard. Open the image in Photoshop. Press Ctrl + A and Ctrl + C.  

Image by Elias Malaquias

Image by Elias Malaquias

C.17. Go to the file where you would like to bring the background. Press Ctrl + V. A new layer will be created. Shift the layers as necessary so the new background image is behind (below) the other layers. If the background image is too small or large, you can stretch the image by going to the Edit menu, selecting Transform>Scale. Squares will appear at the corners of your image. Press Shift, and drag them to change the scale. Pressing Shift keeps the proportions of the image the same.

C.18. Find images of entourage (people, animals, and other objects) on the web. Download the images. You can add search terms as necessary. It is recommended that you look for fairly large image files. 

In Photoshop you can increase the size of the image's resolution.by Going to the Image menu and selecting Image Size.

C.19. Open one of the entourage files.

C.20. Create a new layer and make that new layer the current layer.

C.21. Select a color for the filling of the figure. If you would like the silhouettes to remain black, leave the color as the default. To change the color click on the small black box at the bottom left corner of the screen. Select a color and click on Ok. 


C.22. Using the Magic Wand or Lasso Tools outline your entourage figure. The irregular shape of a figure may require that you sketch the profile of the figure using the regular Lasso tool. Hold down the left mouse button and trace the outline of the figure. An illuminated line will appear. If you follow the shape back to the start point, it will close. It is not necessary to trace the entire outline at once. You could do a portion of the figure, just the head, for example.


The tools highlighted below will allow you to include regions inside the perimeter lasso zone. For example, the hole inside the donut.


C.23. Fill in the silhouette using the Brush Tool. You can change the size of the brush by editing Brush Preset Picker. You do not have to do the whole silhouette in one pass. You can do areas of the silhouette. Pressing Ctrl + D allows you to de-select an area.


C.24. Turn off the background layer. The eye symbol to the left of the swatch turns the layer on or off. 



C.25. Type Ctrl + A and then Ctrl + C to select all and copy to the clipboard.

C.26. Go back to your model image.

C.27. Type Ctrl + V to paste a figure into your model. A new layer will be generated for your figure.

C.28. Move the figure using the Move tool. Keep in mind that placing the eyes of a figure on the horizon is a good place to start no matter how large the figure is. See below.  However, if you were to make your figures smaller and set them below the horizon you would be suggesting that the structure is much bigger. The scale figures tell us how big or small the structure is. The model images really have no scale until we see it in context with entourage.


 C.29. Scale the figure as necessary. Keep in mind that holding down the shift key while you stretch will constrain the horizontal and vertical proportions. Other editing tools are available under the Transform submenu.


C.30. Continue placing entourage in your image. You could place the figures on different layers with different colors. You could also alter the opacity settings for the layers so the entourage takes on a ghostlike appearance. 


C.31. Repeat until you have a collection of entourage in your image file.

C.32. Save the file in the native Photoshop format (psd). 

C.33. Also save the file as a jpg image. If you are in the SaveAs window, you can change the file type by selecting JPEG from the Format options. Name the file with your name followed by _Image1 , 2 & 3. Shelley Vignoli would name her jpg files ShelleyVignoli_Image1, ShelleyVignoli_Image2, and ShelleyVignoli_Image3.

C.34. You can include detailed scale figures from images by deleting the around the figure. The process is similar to the way that the sky was deleted around the model image. The image below has been prepared for placement into the scene. The area surrounding the image has been deleted. The image has been graytoned. Also, the layer has been reduced to 80% opacity so some of the image beyond will be visible. 

C.35. Another variation to try is making the model in graytone and adding color in the background and entourage. To to this make a copy of one of your model images and turn the image to grayscale. This will remove all color from the image. Adjust Brightness and Contrast as necessary which you will find in the Adjustments menu shown below.


C.36. Turn the image back to RGB Color. Anything new will now be in color.