19 January 2011

How To: Make My Photobook (Part 1)

After posting 2010 - All the Smiles I had a few people ask for tips on how I made my photobook, what applications I used, how much they cost to print etc.

Its ended up being quite the marathon post, so I've broken it up into 2 posts, Post 1 is on creating the collages, and Post 2 on setting the photobook up properly in Snapfish to get a really professional look.

So here's the deal :

Creating the collages

I mostly used Picasa. There are other smarter applications with more functionality (like Photoshop Elements) which I did end up using towards the end. But for a simple photobook you could definitely get away with just using Picasa.

To create free-form collages for the photobook, I always use the Picture Pile format on the Settings page. I'll create a brand new collage from scratch to show how this can be done.

Select the photos in the main library view. To select multiple photos, hold the CTRL key down and click on all the photos you want. Then hit Collage button.

You can only select photos from one folder at a time initially but once you're into editing the Collage you can go back and add more photos from any folder that is stored in Picasa..




Here I have gone back into a separate folder containing backgrounds and selected a background that I want to use for this collage and placed it in with the unarranged photos.


Then I resized and moved this photo to the top of the page to be a border rather than a background.


Next go back to the settings page. Check that you have selected the 'Square: CD Cover' page format and that you have unticked 'Draw Shadows'. I also have no picture borders as a default on my collages.


You can edit the arrangement and size of one photo at a time, or some by CTRL + click on a group. You can also use the Select All button at the top to move or resize all at once.

Once you are happy with the design, click on Create Collage.

Your collage then becomes like any regular photo that you can edit. Here I have gone into Basic Fixes and Edited Text.

At this point, I have just remembered that I downloaded a cool snowflake font thanks to Alicia at A Beautiful Mess sharing her top 10 Favourite Fonts here, so at I'm now thinking I might change the border to text snowflakes.


Just testing out what snowflakes the various letters of the alphabet create.


At this point I went back into the 'Edit Collage' function, deleted the snowflake photo I had at the top, which left me with my snowflake text as a border instead. Then I added another line of text at the bottom.


Once you are FINALLY happy with the collage and have absolutely no more changes to make, you need to Export the Collage (this is so the text shows up on the actual photo file). If you don't, the file saved to your computer will only show photos but no text. Click on File/Export Picture to Folder.


Select a location for your exported file. Use original size.


Here's the final collage file uploaded to the blog.


Layout Inspiration
You might be wondering where I came up with all the ideas for layouts of photobook pages. I got quite a bit of inspiration for designs from one of my favourite bloggers, Kelle at Enjoying the Small Things. She creates annual photobooks for each of her girls with up to 100 pages. I used a lot of her ideas to bring my photobook to life.

See Lainey's photobook here.

See Nella's photobook here. If you look closely, you'll see the page I created above is modelled on Page 8 of this book.

Tips for New Players

VERY IMPORTANT: If you want to use a full-page layout for your photobook like I did, you need to make sure to leave some space around the outside of your collages i.e. don't have photos or text too close to the edge. I nearly came a cropper with this, and had to go back and edit 60-odd pages at the end of the project. I was not best pleased as you can imagine! It's all to do with Snapfish's settings and what they call their 'safe area' for printing the book out. You'll see what I mean in a later step when we actually set up the photobook online.

Here's an example of the before photo that I then had to shrink in Photoshop Elements (couldn't easily do it in Picasa) so I wouldn't end up losing parts of the collage I had created. But I'll know for next time!


This is the original above


And the amended collage. You'll only be able to see the difference between the two if you're viewing this on the blog itself (with a coloured background).

Using backgrounds

There are a number of free websites where you can download backgrounds and all manner of accessories you can use in your collage. One of the ones I used was Shabbyblogs, but there are plenty of others where you can download zip files with a lot of different backgrounds, alphabet letters and numbers etc each with a specific theme. The best example of where I used backgrounds is in these pages.

Den Building - I actually chose to use the background AS a background. When creating a collage you have the option to 'Use an Image' as the background. Just add the background photo to the collage as a normal photo. Then select it as the background by using the 'Use as Image' or 'Set as Background' options. Then delete the original photo from the collage.


Captured: One Cheeky Chappy.  Here I used a background but only as a part of the overall page - so I just placed it on the page as I would another photo. You can crop and edit these backgrounds as much as you want to and save another copy for a different effect. For example, with this 2-page spread, I saved another copy of the dotty file and then cropped right in to the photo in Picasa for a close up of 3 dots.



In the picture below the dots (2 sets) are from the original picture above but cropped in
to various sizes.


Note: I have found one limitation from solely using Picasa (rather than Photoshop) is that it can't recognise the transparent white space that is used in .gif files so you don't get the transparent background you might want when placing a flower or leaf or other icon over top of a photo. This is where you'd need to use Photoshop Elements. But that's a whole other tutorial! 

However, you can just use the background files as a full background behind your collage or as a photo or photos within the collage and edit its size and placement as you would any other picture which is what I did rather than get too fancy schmanzy.

Using Paint effects

I also created a few of my own designs to fit in with a particular page theme - see here the light blue/dark blue stripes on the right hand side.

I did this by using the Paint application (under Start/Programs/Accessories/Paint on most PCs) and creating strips of colour by creating boxes of colour to the dimensions I wanted to fit in the photo and then filled it with the colours for the colour scheme. I then saved these as .bmp or .png files to add as separate photos within the collage. Don't save as .jpg files or they will become pixelated.


Strips of colour created in Paint application


Red, black and white stripes also created in Paint.

OK that's the lowdown on creating the collages. Hopefully you aren't all completely confused by this point, and some of you are still with me. Hopefully.....hopefully?

In How To: Make My Photobook (Part 2) I'll go on to explain how to set your photobook up in Snapfish to get the best results.
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