Collages can be a great way to liven up a blog post and they look amazing on social media. Creating a collage in Lightroom is quick and easy but there’s a bit of preparation work to do first.
The great thing about using Adobe Lightroom is the number of features available to photographers – putting together collages is just one example.
Once you’ve created a Lightroom collage template, you can put them together quickly and easily.
Creating collage templates can seem a little fiddly until you understand how it all works… and then it’s a piece of cake!
This guide will give you a good foundation for making your own Lightroom collage templates.
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How to Create a Lightroom Collage
Organisation and preparation go a long way when putting together your collage in Lightroom for the first time.
Lightroom isn’t perfectly set up for creating collages and a few parts of the process require jumping around a bit. These steps will quickly get you up and running, however.
1. Find your images
Once you have your template, you’ll be able to use any photos you like but to create a collage template in the first place, it’s useful to have some images to hand. This will help you understand how the process works and allow you to test your templates as you go.
The easiest way to prepare your images is to create a new Collection, perhaps entitled “Collage template.” You can learn about how to use Collections here.
If you don’t want to use a Collection, you can browse your photos from the Folders panel.
2. Find the Print module in Lightroom
The Print module in Lightroom doesn’t get much use and you might need to hunt it down. You’ll find it in between “Book” and “Web.”
You can jump to it using the keyboard shortcut Cmd+P (Mac) or Control+P (Windows).
The panel will give you access to your Collections as well as show a list of pre-existing templates listed under Template Browser.
On the right, you’ll find all of the tools for customising your new Lightroom collage template.
3. Create your own template by editing an existing template first
It’s a bit counterintuitive but the easiest way to get set up is to choose one of the existing custom templates, edit it, and save it as your own. This is especially useful when designing collages for standard picture frame sizes.
From within the Template Browser panel on the left, click on any of the templates that begin with the word “Custom.”
4. Prepare the document units, guides, settings, and resolution
Because the Print module isn’t designed with web publishing in mind, setting the dimensions is a bit confusing.
On the right-hand side, open up the Ruler, Grid and Guides panel. Set the Ruler Units to inches (don’t worry if you’re more familiar with centimetres — stick with inches), and set Grid Snap to Cells.
Make sure that Show Guides is ticked, along with Page Grid, Image Cells, and Dimensions.
Further down on the left you’ll find the Print Job panel. In here, make sure that “Print to” is set to JPEG File. Set Print Sharpening to Standard.
For file resolution, type in 100 ppi — this will create a document that has 100 pixels per inch. Without getting too bogged down in the details, it means that if you create a document that’s 10 inches in width, the resulting JPEG file will be 1,000 wide (i.e., 10 x 100).
Setting the resolution to 100 ppi means that your life will be easier when it comes to making calculations, and 100 ppi is enough resolution that your finished JPEG will look great on the vast majority of computer screens.
Set the JPEG Quality to 100. When you come to export your finished collage from Lightroom later on, you don’t need to introduce any compression and this ensures that you don’t lose any image quality.
(See also our guide to the best Lightroom export settings to maximise image quality.)
5. Set your document dimensions
It’s best to design a template for a specific purpose so that you can decide the dimensions in advance.
If you’re not sure, it’s better to make a JPEG that’s too big as you can simply downsize later on before you upload it to the internet. You will lose image quality if you create a small document and try later on to make it bigger.
In our example, let’s assume that we’re creating a collage for Instagram. The dimensions for a portrait post are 1080 pixels wide and 1350 pixels tall. If I create a template that measures 10.8 inches by 13.5 inches, the resulting JPEG will be 1080 pixels by 1350 pixels.
If you want to create something else, you’ll need to do some maths or go for some trial and error! As mentioned, Lightroom’s print module was not designed with collages for web use specifically in mind.
Once you start laying out your cells (see below), you can come always back to these dimensions and make some changes.
Whatever you decide, remember to make it big enough for when you come to export your JPEG file.
6. Add and arrange your cells
The photos that we want to add to our Lightroom collage sit inside Cells. These Cells act as containers for the images and the next step is to start creating and positioning them inside our template.
For the Instagram collage that we’re designing in our example, let’s go for one large landscape orientation image across the top and two smaller portrait images underneath.
I want a large landscape image with a ratio of 3:2 across the top of our template. To add a Cell, go to the Cells panel, and underneath Add to Package, click on 4×6.
This will add a cell that’s too small, but I can now resize this by clicking and dragging. To maintain the 3:2 ratio, make sure that the checkbox next to “Lock to Photo Aspect Ratio” is ticked, or hold Shift when you drag to resize the cell.
Position the cell so that it fills the width of the document and sits flush against the top edge.
We want to add two more cells to go underneath: one on the left and one on the right.
From the various Cell options, none fits our required dimensions. Click on the down arrow next to 2 x 2.5 and type in “6.3” and “5.4” and hit Add.
Position this cell in the bottom left-hand corner.
We want to create an identical cell alongside it. Hold Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) to click and drag a duplicate cell to the bottom right-hand corner.
We now have our three Cells, all the right size and laid out where we want them.
If you create more Cells and there isn’t enough space in your template, Lightroom will add a second page. To remove a Cell, simply click on it and hit Delete.
To delete the new page that Lightroom has created, click on the X in the top left-hand corner.
If you make a mistake at any point, remember that you can Undo by hitting Cmd+Z (Mac) or Control+Z (Windows).
7. Save your Lightroom collage template
Our Lightroom collage template is ready to be filled with photos. But before we do that, let’s save the template.
At the top of the Template Browser on the left, click the plus symbol. In the dialogue box, give your new template a name and click Create.
By default, Lightroom will save your collage template to a folder called User Templates, keeping them separate from the default templates.
8. Add your images
Photos can be added to the collage template by dragging them from the Filmstrip panel at the bottom of Lightroom. Make sure to choose a landscape image for the largest cell, and portrait images for the two smaller cells.
You’ll notice that the ratio of the two smaller cells (6:7) is not the same as the ratio of your photos (3:2). You can reposition your photos within a Cell in order to get the best crop by holding Control (Windows) or Command (Mac) while dragging your image.
If you’re not happy with the crop, you’ll need to rethink your entire layout, unfortunately. Making compromises when it comes to designing collages is often something you just have to accept!
9. Add a border
Instagram collages look best with a white border around each of the photos – this gives them a little bit of space to breathe.
To add a border, go to the Image Settings panel on the right and tick the checkbox next to Photo Border.
You can also add an Inner Stroke but this will cover up part of your photograph. However, keep in mind that you can set the color of the Inner Stroke while Photo Border is determined by the template’s background color (see below).
If you want to get rid of some of the distractions and get a better idea of how your finished result will look, switch off Image Cells and Dimensions in the Rulers, Grids & Guides panel.
10. Add a watermark and change your background color
Watermarks aren’t as popular as they used to be but Lightroom gives you the option inside the Page panel on the right.
You can choose to use an Identity Plate or Watermarking, and each will allow slightly different results. You can add your logo to the entire document, or you can have it appear on each individual photograph within your collage.
From this panel, you can also change the background color. Simply put a tick in the checkbox and click on the color panel to pick your desired color.
11. Export your collage as a JPEG
Once you’ve finished tweaking the layout of your Lightroom collage and inserting your photos, you’re ready to create your JPEG. In the bottom right-hand corner, select Print to File.
Once it’s exported, you can copy it to your phone to post to Instagram or upload it to your blog.
If you want to save your newly created collage in Lightroom so that you can come back to it and make changes later on, click on Create Saved Print.
In the dialogue, give your design a name and choose the Lightroom Collection where you’d like it to be saved.
This doesn’t create a JPEG; instead, it makes something similar to a Collection that sits inside another Collection. You’ll see it in your list of Lightroom Collections with the number of images that the saved print contains.
When viewed in the Print module, this Collection (with a symbol of a printer next to it) retains all of the settings that were used to create it, allowing you to return to it at any point.
12. Create more Lightroom collage templates!
Now that you’re familiar with the basics of how to create a collage, you can start creating more sophisticated versions for a variety of different purposes.
There are a few key points to remember when you start each template:
- Create a document that, when exported, is big enough for your intended purpose — or bigger.
- If you need a JPEG that’s 1000 pixels wide, create a document with 100 ppi that is 10 inches in width — or wider! You can always make it smaller later.
- Consider the aspect ratio of your images when drawing up your template. DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are generally 3:2, while Micro Four Thirds and smartphones tend to be 4:3
- Expect to have to crop some photos, however! Creating complex collages that fit together perfectly is tricky, and you will make life easier for yourself if you acknowledge that some parts will be cropped as a result of adding a photo to a Cell that has different proportions.
- If you need to reposition an image inside a cell, hold Control (Windows) or Command (Mac) before clicking and dragging your image.
- Don’t forget to save your Lightroom collage designs by creating new templates. There’s nothing worse than spending an hour creating a new template to then click on another template in the list and lose all of your work.
Hopefully, this guide shows that, while creating collage templates in Lightroom can be a bit fiddly, it’s not difficult to create collages that look really smart once you know how the various settings fit together.
If there’s something that doesn’t quite make sense or if you have a question about how to create a collage in Lightroom, please get in touch in the comments below. And feel free to share your own collages!