How to make a photo mosaic in Photoshop.
Follow these helpful steps to create a cool photo mosaic of your own.
What is a photo mosaic?
A photo mosaic is a striking variation of a photo collage where you place multiple photos next to each other to create a bigger, often more impactful design. Just like the colorful pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, each mosaic tile is comprised of unique, individual photos that when combined, turns your whole photo set into a single, beautiful visual.
Read on to learn not just how to create your very own photo mosaic, but also to discover some best practices that will make the process fast and fun.
Before you begin: Mosaic-making tips and more.
Making a photo mosaic is both an art and a science. You want creativity, color, and high design— but you also want precision, coherence, and an image that makes sense. To help strike that balance — while also making the process easier — keep these tips in mind:
- Choose a simple source image. The more intricate the source image (or the photo you’re trying to recreate with individual pictures,) the more difficult it is to fill in with smaller images, and the more complicated the resulting mosaic will look. Look for source images with large blocks of color, pronounced shadow, and few details. That way, you can easily fill in shadows, lights, colors, and textures with your images.
- Follow the rule of 150. Make sure you have enough photos to fill in your mosaic. If you don’t have enough images, you won’t be able to size them down enough to create the bigger picture. With too many, you might lose sight of the larger composition. Aim for about 150 pictures for your mosaic, providing the diversity of colors and pixels that a compelling photo mosaic requires.
- Resize your images. Mosaic images must all be the same size, so you’ll need to resize them before you start. Although you can crop and resize photos in Adobe Photoshop, if you're dealing with a lot of mosaic images it’s faster and easier to batch resize them in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.
- Let the colors speak for themselves. Avoid using an auto-colorization tool to create a smoother overall image. While it might look better from a distance, you’ll end up washing out or oversaturating the individual images — and those smaller photos are part of the photo mosaic fun. Let the colors in your images work for the broader composition without forcing it.
5 steps to a photo mosaic in Photoshop.
1. Select and prepare your photos.
Use as many images as you like, but 144 is a good number because it will get you closest to a perfect square. Consider using duplicate photos. In fact, using the same photos repeatedly helps make the pattern in your mosaic less obvious.
Make any adjustments to your photos now, like cropping or color correcting, and then put those soon-to-be mosaic images into a folder.
2. Create a contact sheet.
A contact sheet lets photographers look at all their pictures on one or two pages so that they can make the best selection. Use the contact sheet feature in Photoshop to fit all your images into a single canvas. Go to the File menu, click on Automate, and then select Contact Sheet II.
Choose the folder where you placed your prepared images. Specify the details of the contact sheet. For example, uncheck the checkbox under Use Filename As Caption to label thumbnails using their source image filenames and use the menu to specify caption font and font size. Make sure to uncheck the Flatten All Layers box so each photo lands on a separate layer.
3. Arrange the "tiles” and define a pattern.
Now that all your photos are in Photoshop, you can arrange the images or “tiles” however you like on your canvas. This is also the time to play with specifying any color progression that you want displayed.
Next, take those tiles and define your pattern. Go to the Edit menu, select Define Pattern, name your pattern, and click OK.
4. Create a pattern fill layer.
With the named mosaic pattern now ready, you can work on how the bigger picture will look. Return to your source image, click on the “Create new fill or adjustment layer” icon, and select “Pattern” from the dropdown menu. Set the scale at which you want your images to appear and click OK. Change the blend mode to “Overlay” to see the tiles overlay the source image while preserving its highlights and shadows.
5. Make your final adjustments.
Adjustments are a matter of personal preference. For example, you can improve the look of your final image by using Brightness/Contrast to switch focus from the mosaics to the main subject or make changes to the Hue and Saturation and more, all in the Adjustments window in Photoshop.
When you’re done, just save it, print it, frame it, and hang what’s sure to be an amazing conversation piece on the wall.
Turn up the volume on your photo art.
Photo mosaics are a fun and unique way to use original photography, but there’s so many more cool ideas you can play with using your entire camera roll in Adobe Photoshop. Take a moment to check out these tips and tricks to get some creative inspiration today.