Make an easy photo mosaic in Photoshop

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I’ll never forget the first time I saw a real photo mosaic. It was a photo of Marilyn Monroe on the cover of a magazine consisting of hundreds of images. It was one of the coolest things I’d seen at the time and wondered what kind of amazing technology was used to create such an amazing piece of work. I can tell you there is really only one place to get a true mosaic like the one I saw. This is at Picture Mosaics, but you will also pay a couple hundred bucks for it. There is a poor man’s method for producing a photo mosaic. It’s nowhere near the wow factor that a true mosaic is, but it’s still pretty darn cool and easy to do. Some companies out there will charge you for this, I’ll show you how to do it for free.

Mosaic01

Start by copying photos into a new folder called Mosaic. I just copied and pasted images at random and ended up with 550 of them. Be sure the images in this new folder are copies and not originals.

Mosaic02

Next, you want to start an action. To do this, open up the first image in your new Mosaic folder and open the Actions palette. (Windows>Actions) Now click the arrow in the upper right hand area of the palette and select new action. Go ahead and name the action, I named mine re-size.

mosaic2.5

Now go to Image>Image Size and check Resample Image, make the image size 1cm X 1cm at 200ppi and click OK, save the image and close it. Now go back to the Actions Palette and click stop. You’ve just recorded the image size adjustment.

Mosaic03

The next step will be to turn your action in to a droplet. Go to File>Automate>Create Droplet. Click the Choose button and decide where you want to save your droplet, select the re-size action you’ve just created and click OK.

Mosaic04

Now go back to the new folder of copied images you created, select them all and drag them over the Droplet icon. Make sure you are dragging the copies! This will convert each image to a 1cm X 1cm square.

Mosaic05

Now that all the images have been reduced to their smaller size, it’s time to make the mosaic. To do this click File>Automate>Contact Sheet II. I wrote this tutorial years ago using CS3, so if you are using CS5 you make a contact sheet by switching to 32-bit mode. The following link explains how: Contact Sheet in CS5

Mosaic06

Select the images you want to you use by clicking Choose and then enter the measurements you want to use. I used 55cm X 40cm and 200ppi. Now decide how many rows and columns you’ll need. I chose 50 columns and 30 rows and made sure to uncheck Auto Spacing so I could make sure there is no spacing between the images. Since the images are square they will fit together nicely. Check the Flatten All Layers box and click OK.

Mosaic07

Here are the small images put together in the contact sheet. If you didn’t have enough images, simply copy and paste them to fill the canvas, just be sure to Flatten the image after you do by clicking Layer>Flatten Image.

Mosaic09

Now decide what you’d like to use as the main image, but be sure it’s at least the size of your canvas. Now click File>Place and find this image. This will place the image in a new layer above the smaller ones. Set this image layer’s options to Hard Light.

Mosaic10

That’s it! You can play around with the Curves on the bottom layer if you want to adjust the contrast a little. That’s up to you.

There are so many ways to do things in Photoshop. This method is one of the many I may use for a given project. You may have a better way. Always do what works best for you.

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15 Comments

  1. Amy Whitman says:

    This is awesome!! I have always wanted to do something like this! No telling how many wasted hours I spent to no avail. Thanks

    • Tyler says:

      Glad I could help you, Amy!

  2. Catherine says:

    How do you create the contact sheet if you have photoshop CS5?

  3. Tyler says:

    Hey Catherine, follow the link below. I wrote this tutorial using CS3, but you can add a contact sheet in CS5 running in 32-bit mode.

    http://help.adobe.com/en_US/photoshop/cs/using/WS42C3020A-DAD1-4f92-8014-012263F3A51D.html

    I will update the tutorial when I have the chance for CS5 users.

  4. Catherine says:

    I managed to snag a computer with CS3 on it, so I tried it with the contact sheet feature. It worked pretty well, but I still had a slight space between all my rows, even though I set both spacings to 0 and unchecked auto-space. Any thoughts as to why?

  5. Tyler says:

    Hmmm…. let me check on it when I finish with the project I’m working on. Do you have a deadline for this project, or is it personal?

  6. Amber says:

    Hi,

    I am in the same boat as Catherine, getting the spaces still. I am on CS5 but installed the plug in running in 32 bit mode. Any ideas why this is happening?
    Loved the tute though…have always wanted to do this.

  7. Tyler says:

    Amber and Catherine, I’ve been on a deadline for a video I’m shooting that is due on Tuesday EOB. Wednesday, I’ll figure out what may be wrong here and report back. Thanks so much for your patience!

  8. Tyler says:

    I tried this out in CS3 and Power PC droplets are no longer supported in Lion so I’m going to try this tomorrow with CS5 and see if I can figure out why you are having an issue. One thing to try would be when you go to drag all your images over the droplet, don’t drag the original one you already re-sized to create the action. Have you tried this?

  9. Catherine says:

    Hi Tyler, I really appreciate your help here. To answer your question, when I was working in CS5, the droplet tool wasn’t working and I kept getting a message that the action could not be completed because the batch size was too small. So, I ended up resizing all 500 pictures manually (tedious, but made less time-consuming because I opened 200 at a time and then just kept hitting the play button on the recorded action). Honestly, I haven’t touched this project since I last commented. I think I might play around with it some more this afternoon.

  10. chris says:

    This tutorial is ABSOLUTELY AWESOME!!!! It works perfect. I had a little trouble figuring out the droplets but I got around it and my picture turned out absolutely perfect. Thank you Tyler thank you very much.

  11. Tyler says:

    Glad it worked out, Chris. The technology in Photoshop has changed since I wrote this tutorial. Which version of Photoshop did you use, and what did you do to work around issues you had so others know? Thanks, Tyler

  12. Maricha says:

    I get this message when I try to copy my photograph to the droplet: “Droplet couldn’t communicate with Photoshop” what do I do?

    Thank you
    Maricha

  13. Sue says:

    After I made the droplet and tried to drag picutures to the icon on my desktop I get this message:
    The data area passed to a system call is too small

    I am using Photoshop 7 – is that the problem??
    Since I haven’t seen any comments since May I am wondering if you even preview this site anymore?
    Thank you
    Sue

  14. Tyler says:

    Hey Sue, I still preview the site on an almost daily basis. Please make sure your settings are all correct. Is your document size set to CM? I’m using Photoshop 13 today so it would be impossible to truly troubleshoot an issue you are having in Pshop7, but I can try to walk you through it. The other issue is, I wrote this tutorial with Pshop10 so I cannot even know at this point without re-doing a mosaic with the new version if this same technique applies with CS6(13). Due to the fact that this post still gets a lot of traffic I am going to update it to the current version in the coming weeks, but will keep this old version below it. I suggest upgrading your Photoshop from 7 to take advantage of all the great benefits that come from the newer versions, as there are too many to count. It isn’t as expensive to upgrade and you can even just upgrade a couple versions if you want on Ebay and the like. Please let me know how it’s going and I’ll update this tutorial over the Holiday. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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