Photo Frame

Photo Frame

This photo frame template tutorial will lead you through the steps necessary to create a really effective way to present your images both on-screen and in print.

The nice thing about the template is that it is a versatile and can be used over and over again with different images, text and colors.

That's useful because we're coming up to the time of the year when there are many family get togethers with lots of pictures being taken - and what better way to remember those important family memories than presenting the pictures - well - awesomly (is that even a word?).

The photo frame technique is not difficult but does require some understanding of layers and how to work with them - by the end of the tutorial there will probably be 15 to 20 steps altogether.

Just so you have an idea where this is going, here are the steps ...

  1. Define the document size.
  2. Choose a color and fill.
  3. Add a new layer.
  4. Select the marquee selection tool.
  5. Draw a rectangle and fill with 50% gray.
  6. Add a layer style to the selection.
  7. Copy and paste the selection.
  8. Move copy, copy, paste and move again.
  9. Align the selections.
  10. Add a text layer if desired.
  11. Open the Photos you will be adding in Elements.
  12. Drag the first Photo into the first frame,  clip and align.
  13. Drag the second Photo into the second frame, clip and align.
  14. Drag the third Photo into the third frame, clip and align.

Define The Documant Size

The document size you select will depend on the final presentation.  A few of the choices are ...
  • Landscape or Portrait.
  • Print or Screen
  • Will there be text on the photo frame?
Whatever ther choice, the document size will always start with File > New > Blank File.

Here's the one I'll be using for this tutorial ...

photo frame new document

Click OK when you've got the size you want and when the document opens in Elements select a color for the document and use the Paint Bucket to change the color - you know it's hard to beat black as a background color.

Two steps done ...

Add A New Layer

Add a new raster layer to the document - either go to Layers > New > Layer or press the Alt key and click th enew layer icon in the Layers palette.  Give the new layer a descriptive name - in my expample it's called Left Image.

photo frame background

Here's a screen shot of the new layer being named in the new layer dialogue and how the Layers Palette looks after adding the new layer.

Now we can create a box for the left image with a rectangular selection.

Left Image

photo frame left image
Grab the rectangular selection tool and draw a selection on the left third of the background on the Left Image layer and fill the selection with 50% gray.

(Edit > Fill Layer > Use 50% Gray and click OK.)

This just makes it easy to locate where the left image will go.

Remove the selection - either Ctrl-D or Cmd-D or Select > Deselect.

Now we can add some Layer Styles to the Left Image photo holder.

Layer Styles

photo frame layer styles
Layer Styles tend to help one layer stand out from another in one of four different ways.  In this project it seems best to add a stroke and perhaps a bevel.

To add Layer Styles to our new Left Image layer click on Layer > Layer Style > Style Settings to bring up this diialogue.

The Layer Styles that you choose will only apply to the 50% Gray selection from the previous step.

As you can see, I've chosen Bevel  (24 pixels in a Down Direction) and a 6 Pixel white stroke at 100% opacity.

You can mess with different setting - these are not the recommended ones, they're just the ones I've chosen.

If Preview is clicked then you can see the effect on the layer right away.

This is how the Left Image holder looks after the Layer Styles have been added.

photo frame layer styles

Wow - we're all the way to step 6.  It's probably a good idea to save your work at this point - save the document as a Photoshop (.psd) file so the layers are saved intact.  Saving this way means you can open the photo frame document at any time and add different pictures.

Duplicate and Move

photo frame duplicate layer
To create and exact copy of the layer with all of the Layer Styles included then right click on the Left Image Layer and scroll down to Duplicate Layer.

A New Layer dialogue will appear with the name Left Image Copy as the name.  Change the name to Center Image and click OK

An exact copy of the Left Image layer will be created. 

Make sure the new layer is highlighted, grab the Move tool, press and hold the Shift Key, click on the 50% Gray portion of the new layer and drag to the right. 

When you feel the layer is positioned more or less in the center of the document lift your pen (or release the left mouse button) and then take your finger off of the Shift Key.

The Middle Image holder will now be in place.

Holding the Shift Key down while you drag to the right keeps the two image holders aligned perfectly.

Here's the set up to this point with the Layers palette included for reference.

photo frame middle image holder

Duplicate and Move Again

Now do the previous step again to create the Right Image Holder.

What you should have now is the black background with three Image holders on three different layers and each of the Image holders will have the exact same Layer Style - and it'll look like this ...

photo frame three holders

Save this as a Photoshop File (.psd) to keep the layers intact - you do want the layers intact, you really do!

Change The Background

Why - because you may decide that a black  ackground is far too, well, black and something else would be more suitable or desireable.  Here are a few examples of other ideas ...

photo frame green
Light Green Background.
photo frame render clouds
Render > Clouds Background using two shades of blue.
photo frame texture
Black Background with a texture added from the Filter Gallery.
photo frame gradient
Radial Gradient added with two shades of yellow as the Foreground and Background colors.


Sometimes you may want to have some text on your photo frame - this is a good time to add it.

photo frame text layer

Back to the black background with white text added (the font is Starliner BTN, in case you're wondering).

Now its time to add some images to the prepared and saved photo frame.

Choosing Photos

I don't have any adorable little kid pictures so I've decided to use my adorable dog pictures. As you can see they are all involved in their favorite passtime which is never ending games of ball.

Here are the ones I've chosen for my sample photo frame ...

photo frame heaven
photo frame libby
photo frame tabitha

The first thing to do is open up the images you want to use in the photo frame.  In my case all three of my dog pictures and the photo frame are open at the same time ...

photo frame full screen

I added the light blue guidelines from the rulers to assist with centering the image holders.  Its not necessary but it helps.

Now its time to add them into the three image holders ...

Adding Photos

Adding the selected images can be a bit of a problem because of the size of the images relative to the size of the photo frame image holders.

The full size of Heaven's image is 2400 X 3200 pixels and the size of the left image holder is 650 X 1150 pixels - clearly, Heaven is not going to fit in there so some changes need to be made.

Here are the steps to add the first picture ...
  1. Open the Layers palette and select the Left Image layer.

  2. Select the Move Tool and drag the first image onto the photo frame.  This is not going to look good at first but that is easily changed.

    photo frame photo added

  3. The next thing to do is clip the photo you just added to the Left Image layer.  Highlight the layer with the photo on it (it should be right above the Left Image layer) and then select Layer > Create Clipping Mask.  The photo layer will jump to the right and the only visible part of the photo will be through the left image holder.  Problem is that the added image is way to big and only a small portion can be seen.

    photo frame clipping mask

  4. Now its simply a matter of re-sizing the added image.  Highlight the layer with the added photo and click on it with the Move tool (you wmay need to be zoomed way out to see the boundaries of the added image). 

  5. Make sure the Move tool is still selected, check that Constrain Proportions is checked in the Options Bar, place the Move tool pointer over the top left adjustment point and drag this point down and to the right, thereby making the image smaller.  Re-size and move, re-size and move until the first image fits in the image holder - and here it is ...

    photo frame first image added

Now do it all over again two more times once above the middle image layer and once above the right image layer and you're done!

Save the finished work as a Photoshop File (,psd) so the three layers will always be available (kind of like a photo frame template).

photo frame all images added

Additional Modifications

Hand Printing Text

It's not always necessary to use a text layer to put some text on the photo frame.  To add some personality how about using a Wacom pen to print some titles and captions on the frame, like this ...

photo frame hand printing

Change Picture Frame Sizes

 ...and move things around a bit - this is the same basic photo frame with a few modifications.
  1. The Image holders were rotated.
  2. The Image holders were re-sized.
  3. The Image holders were moved around with the Move Tool and new images were added.
  4. The color of the Background layer was changed.
  5. Two rectangular selections were added and then the selections were stroked with Edit > Stroke (Outline) Selection ... just to give the overall picture a nice look.

photo frame harbor shots

This time it was much easier because all of the prepatory work has been done already - all I needed to do was make a few easy changes and add different pictures.

Photo Frame
Page Links

Define The Document

New Layer

Create Left Image Holder

Define Layer Styles

Duplicate and Move

Duplicate and Move Again

Change The Background

Add Text

Choosing and Adding Photos

Additional Modifications

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