Use Adobe Express To Make A Collage

Use Adobe Express To Make A Collage

If you have a subscription to Adobe Cloud – you have free access to Adobe Creative Cloud Express. This used to be called Adobe Spark. I have no idea why they felt the need to change the name, but in any event – you have access to it and if you’re not familiar with it, think of it as CANVA on steroids. You can make all sorts of products using Express from business cards, to social graphics, scrolling web pages and even collages.

I’ve used it VERY successfully to promote my photo workshops. This is an online approach where I create a scrolling web page and then link to it via my social media channels. I haven’t had an unsold seat for a bird photography workshop in a very long time. And this is the exclusive method that I use to market those workshops.

Click here to see an example of the page I created to sell my Bosque workshop…

Lately, I’ve started using it to make collages.

Collages are a great way to show off your work. Since I am old, I am also old fashioned, so I send paper products through the good old fashioned US Mail (or sometimes via UPS/FedEx) to editors, art buyers, gallery curators, etc. showing my work and I regularly get business from this approach.

While hundreds of creatives are bombarding these art buyers with unwanted email spam, I am sending a beautiful, printed piece that arrives by courier and is placed directly into the hands of the person I want to see it.

While there is no guarantee that they will open it, I will bet my last dollar that there’s a better chance they will open my 11×17 print than they will your unsolicited email.

You can make a rough collage in Photoshop but using Adobe Express, you can make one that is much more attractive.

I like making a BIG impression so I make an 11×17″ collage and print it at that size. I place it (and a brief call to action printed on the back of my business card) to buyers and my success rate is somewhere around 10-15% – which is off the charts high compared to other marketing methods I have tried.

I don’t hold myself out to be an expert in using Adobe Express, but I have figured out how to get it to do what I want it to. I am absolutely sure there’s an easier way to do this but here’s how I do it.

  • Put together a folder of between 10 and 20 images (Adobe will let you use up to 32 but I find that to be too crowded.) I want 14 images on my 11×17 poster so I select 15 of my best images (I’ll explain why below) and put them into an easily accessible folder – usually on my desktop.
  • Go to and sign in (if you aren’t already signed into Adobe Cloud.)
  • You’ll see a page that looks something like this:
  • Click the pink/purple PLUS sign that’s at the top left of the page (directly under the Adobe logo) and that will start a new project.
  • You’ll get a menu that looks like this:
  • Select collage in the first menu pane – located about two thirds down the column.
  • You’ll get a screen that looks sort of like this:
  • Next you will want to choose your photos – click on the blue button that says “Upload.”
  • Use the dialog box to navigate to the folder where you put your favorite photos, open it and group select all the images – then click upload (in the bottom right corner of the dialog box.)
  • You should see the photos populate the space on the left side of your screen – and it should look something like this:
  • Click the blue button that says “Next.”
  • Next you will be presented with an option to pick a size. That screen should look like this:
  • Note that you will be presented with several sizes of layout. These are broken down into categories like POPULAR – SOCIAL POST – PRINT – SOCIAL PROFILE – STANDARD – CUSTOM.
  • I choose “Poster” which is 11×17″ – you select whatever size and shape you like – then click the blue button below the choices that says “Next.”
  • Depending on how many images you have, the size of each image, the size of the project and your bandwidth, there will be a few second pause while Adobe works it’s magic.
  • Next, you should see your collage assembled into a rough draft. While in Express, you can adjust the collage. You can adjust the color of the grid, you can add animation (if you are just going to display online – DO NOT click this button unless you plan to use it because in my experience, once it turns on there’s no turning it off – maybe there’s a way to do it but I don’t know how so leave it alone unless you just want to experiment – otherwise you will have to start over to make it stop), you can adjust the background by changing cell size, the space between images, picking suggested layout, etc. Here you can also change your mind on the size of the collage if you don’t like how it’s portrayed – you can resize and shape here, etc. You can also change your design and most importantly you can adjust each image. Simply click the image you want to adjust and you will see the cell where the image resides.
  • Once you have the collage looking the way you like, click DOWNLOAD (not share) and select from PNG, JPG or PDF as the download format. Since I am going to print my collage, I select PDF. Then click the blue button that says “Start download.”
  • Now here’s where I explain why I selected 15 images when I only wanted 14. While I am sure there is an easier way to do this, I came up with this hack and it works for me so I’ll show you what I do. Most of you are smarter than me and will learn a better way to do it. In the meantime, just pick your least favorite image on the collage. In this case, it’s the jay in the bottom left corner of the collage. I’ve placed a red X on the illustration below to show you which image I am removing.
  • I use the Rectangular Marquee tool (press M for the short cut) and draw a selection box around the jay. Then I hit Command – X (Control – X on Windows) and cut the jay out of the collage.
  • Then I go to Photoshop’s Menu and select LAYER > FLATTEN LAYER. This makes the box where the jay was turn white.
  • Then I go to Photoshop’s Menu and select FILE > PLACE EMBEDDED – and I select my logo which resides on my Desktop. I place the logo in the box and resize as needed. Then I center towards the top of the empty white box.
  • Then I go to Photoshop’s Menu and select the Horizontal Type Tool (short cut T) and type out my URL in black text using a complimentary font. In my case, I use Myriad Pro – I start at about 18 points in size and then adjust if necessary. I place my URL at the bottom of the empty white box but you can put it anywhere you like.
  • Then I once again go to Photoshop’s Menu and select LAYER > FLATTEN LAYER.
  • Then I go to Photoshop’s Menu and select File > SAVE AS > Photoshop PDF and save it to my Desktop so I can print it.

This sounds like a lot of work but in practice, it takes less than five minutes once you get the hang of it.

You can use Adobe Express to make just about anything you want. I use it as described here. It’s a great tool and it’s free for Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers. Portions of the tool are free for ANYONE to use, Adobe subscriber or not.


NOTE: Since I built this collage as a teaching product I just selected 15 random images that were set for web display so they have a watermark on them. On the finished product I would send to buyers there is no watermark – this is for illustration purposes only.

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