How to Create a Digital Collage with PicMonkey!

Today, I’ll be showing you how to make a graphic’s background transparent so it can be layered with other graphics.  This is a quick workaround when you need to edit a graphic and may not have the more expensive software on your computer.  We’ll be using free online software called PicMonkey to do the job.

This post is a companion to two earlier posts that  showed you how to make simple edits (e.g., rotate, mirror image), and simple edits to photos (e.g., recolor, add text, change to black & white) using PicMonkey.

– See more at: http://thegraphicsfairy.com/make-a-transparent-background-using-picmonkey/#sthash.VKQuFoYF.dpuf

Today, I’ll be showing you how to create a digital collage with PicMonkey. This is a workaround if you do not have the more high powered graphics software on your computer.  We’ll be using free online software called PicMonkey.

This post is a companion to earlier posts that  showed you how to use PicMonkey to make simple edits (e.g., rotate, mirror image), simple edits to photos (e.g., recolor, add text, change to black & white), and how to make an image’s background transparent.

Today, I’ll be showing you how to make a graphic’s background transparent so it can be layered with other graphics.  This is a quick workaround when you need to edit a graphic and may not have the more expensive software on your computer.  We’ll be using free online software called PicMonkey to do the job.

This post is a companion to two earlier posts that  showed you how to make simple edits (e.g., rotate, mirror image), and simple edits to photos (e.g., recolor, add text, change to black & white) using PicMonkey.

– See more at: http://thegraphicsfairy.com/make-a-transparent-background-using-picmonkey/#sthash.VKQuFoYF.dpuf

Today, I’ll be showing you how to make a graphic’s background transparent so it can be layered with other graphics.  This is a quick workaround when you need to edit a graphic and may not have the more expensive software on your computer.  We’ll be using free online software called PicMonkey to do the job.

This post is a companion to two earlier posts that  showed you how to make simple edits (e.g., rotate, mirror image), and simple edits to photos (e.g., recolor, add text, change to black & white) using PicMonkey.

– See more at: http://thegraphicsfairy.com/make-a-transparent-background-using-picmonkey/#sthash.VKQuFoYF.dpuf

Today, I’ll be showing you how to make a graphic’s background transparent so it can be layered with other graphics.  This is a quick workaround when you need to edit a graphic and may not have the more expensive software on your computer.  We’ll be using free online software called PicMonkey to do the job.

This post is a companion to two earlier posts that  showed you how to make simple edits (e.g., rotate, mirror image), and simple edits to photos (e.g., recolor, add text, change to black & white) using PicMonkey.

– See more at: http://thegraphicsfairy.com/make-a-transparent-background-using-picmonkey/#sthash.VKQuFoYF.dpuf

How to Create a Digital Collage with PicMonkey   //  The Graphics Fairy

Essentially what we’ll be doing in the steps is creating a new blank canvas in PicMonkey, adding multiple images using the Overlays menu, and working with the images until we get something we like.

Download and Save the Images. First, download the images you want to work with and save them to your computer.  I start every collage with a folder on my computer with images I think I want to use.   For images that will sit on top of another, I create .png files so they’re ready to layer.  If you want to follow along without creating your own transparent images or cutting images from their sources (i.e., removing the stamp from a postcard, making the bird cage transparent), I’ve edited & saved the images here for you to complete this image.  Here is the sheet music, swallow, soap label, bird cage image, and three stamps-dark red, brown, and light red used in this collage.

***Check Your File Types.  You must know what image file types you’re working with. I generally use .png files for digital collages, as they can have transparent backgrounds and they’re great for layering.  I occasionally use .jpg files for backgrounds.  NOTE:  .png files are harder to come by…they aren’t your typical free image since they require extra time and special software to create.  This site mainly offers .jpg and .pdf image files that may need to be converted to .png files.   You may be able to create your own transparent images (.png files) with basic shapes using free software and my tutorial here.   If you’re creating .png files and you don’t have advanced software like PhotoShop, pick images with simple shapes that will be easier to convert — silhouettes, photos, labels, flowers, butterflies.  You’ll need patience & a steady hand as you’ll basically be erasing portions of your images with a mouse.***

How to Create a Digital Collage with PicMonkey  //  The Graphics Fairy

Create a Blank Canvas in PicMonkey.  Go to PicMonkey and hover over the Design option at the top.  A menu of sub-options will open, click on Custom.  Enter the dimensions of the image you’d like to make (I did 650 x 800) and click the Make It button.
How to Create a Digital Collage with PicMonkey   //  The Graphics Fairy
Add the Background Layer.  Now we’ll add our music sheet background. Go to the Overlays menu (butterfly icon on the left), and click Your Own at the top. Select where you saved the sheet music and click Open.  TIP:  when the image pops up, you may need to pull on the corners to resize it to fit the canvas; the extra extended dot allows you to rotate the image.
How to Create a Digital Collage with PicMonkey   //  The Graphics Fairy
Add More Texture to the Background (OPTIONAL).  I wanted to change the texture of the paper slightly.  So, in the popup Overlay menu, I set the Fade to 35% so some texture can show through. Now to add texture using PicMonkey, select the Texture icon with the cross-hatch marks on the left side. Scroll down until you see Weave option. You can adjust your settings.  I chose the second texture option, set the Blend Mode to Subtract and left Saturation at 100% and Fade at 20%. In the Paint pop-up menu, I set the Brush size to 35, the Hardness to 60, and the Strength to 50.  Hit Apply.
How to Create a Digital Collage with PicMonkey   //  The Graphics Fairy
Add the First Layer.  Now I want to add a bird cage with a transparent background (so it looks like a rubber stamp).  Go to the Overlays menu (butterfly icon on the left), and click Your Own at the top.  Select where you saved the bird cage image and click Open.  Resize, rotate and move the image as needed.
Adjust the Color (OPTIONAL).  I felt the original black image was too dark and wanted to make it a slight brownish tone.  First click on the bird cage image to make sure it’s selected.  In the Overlay pop-up menu, I hit the long rectangle (which then becomes a color-picker) and chose a shade from the image or rainbow in the pop-up menu.  You can also just type in the color code and hit enter (I used 3b3423).  This is the process you’d follow if for example, you wanted to change the bird cage from black to red, or blue or any color you wanted.
How to Create a Digital Collage with PicMonkey   //  The Graphics Fairy
Add Another Layer & Adjust Color.   I added the soap label ephemera as another overlay (Overlays > Your Own > select the image).  After resizing and rotating it, I changed the color slightly again in the Overlay pop-up menu like I did for the bird cage (color 3a1500 to be exact).
Duplicate an Existing Image.  I duplicated the label by clicking on the label to select it, right clicking and selecting Duplicate Overlay.  A second label is now on top of the original.  I rotated the image and put it in the lower right corner.  I adjusted the color again in the Overlay pop-up menu to 4d2700, so it wouldn’t be exactly the same as the other label.
How to Create a Digital Collage with PicMonkey   //  The Graphics Fairy
Keep Adding Layers.  Next I added my three stamps (dark red, brown and red) as more overlays (Overlays > Your Own > Select the image). Resize and rotate as needed.   TIP:  If an overlay is hidden or not in front of the one you’d like, select the image, right click, and you’ll see several options to move the layer up or back relative to the other layers.
The last image I added was the swallow, again through the overlays menu (Overlays > Your Own > Select the image). Resize & rotate.  TIP:  The sets of arrows at the bottom of the Overlay pop-up menu allow you to flip the image. This is how you’d change him from flying in from the right, to swooping in from the left.
Save Image.  When complete, hit the Save button at the top.  Choose a file name and click save to my computer.
How to Create a Digital Collage with PicMonkey   //  The Graphics Fairy
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Why use PicMonkey?  It’s free, web-based, and fairly straightforward.  PicMonkey is best only as a quick workaround for simpler graphics and edits if you don’t have PhotoShop.  If your collage is very intricate or has lots of layers, a graphics editing program like PhotoShop is much more appropriate.
But PicMonkey isn’t really free, right?  I have to sign up, right?  Not for the features used in this tutorial.  There are additional advanced editing options, fonts and graphics available in PicMonkey to subscribers.  Everything covered in this tutorial is done using the standard free version and sign up or sign in isn’t required.
How do I add just one image to another image?  If you don’t have PhotoShop, you can do it in PicMonkey by following a few steps from above (Create a Blank Canvas in PicMonkey, Add the Background Layer, Add the First Layer, Save Image.)  If you want that transparent look, you still need to create a .png file to work with.
Where can I find .png files and files with transparent backgrounds?  This site offers some graphics with transparent backgrounds throughout the archives, but many of the files on the site are in .jpg or .pdf format.  If the shape is simple (photograph, butterfly, basic silhouette), you can try to create your own transparent background image using PicMonkey (instructions here).  Images with simple shapes that are not too intricate (e.g., butterflies, silhouettes) work well with this technique.  Intricate images (e.g., an intricate frame, lots of text) would be difficult to do & would require lots of patience.  If you’re going to be working with more complex graphics, or layering lots of graphics, or doing this often, I’d recommend purchasing a graphics editing program like PhotoShop Elements.  Some readers have had success using sites like Fiverr.com to edit more complex images.
How do you know where to place images?  Know when it’s done? I would say pick images with a common thread or theme (6-8 works well).  Keep playing.  Move things around, rotate images, change colors, and change image sizes, until they feel right.  Moving an image slightly left or right, enlarging it or making it smaller may give a totally different look. Look at collages you like and note the colors and types of images being used.
My collage looks flat.  What else can I do?  You also may want to add texture layers to your collage (see instructions above where I added texture to the sheet music).  You can change the color of an image (see the bird cage step above) and transparency (see the sheet music step that talks about adjusting fade).   Adding shadows and outlines also is great for dimension (available in PhotoShop).  The image below is made by playing around with the paint texture in PicMonkey’s texture menu.

How to Create a Digital Collage with PicMonkey   //  The Graphics Fairy

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If you’re looking for the original images I used before making any edits:  French sheet music, bird cage, Paris soap label, swallow, deep red stamp, brown stamp, and red stamp.

I hope you enjoy layering your graphics and creating something fun.  Be sure to share your creations on the Reader Submissions Page!

Emily
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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this tutorial! I am looking forward to playing with it.

  2. Riana Lightfoot says:

    I am so thankful for all the fantastic information I receive from you. I enjoy your post and look forward to it.

  3. I love PicMonkey, but really don’t know anything more than very simple techniques and not how to use it in layers like this, so thanks sooooo much for sharing this! I have a question though, I don’t understand how to resize as it’s in pixels… what if you wanted to do a 4X6 or 5X7 how do you know what size that is in pixels???

    • Hi Pendra – If you want to start an image a specific size, when you go to PicMonkey.com, you’ll see the option called “Design” at the top. Hover over it (don’t click), and it will give you typical sizes to choose from, including a 4×6 and 5×7. A 4×6 is 1200×1800 pixels (4inches x 300 pixels = 1200 and 6 inches x 300 pixels = 1800). A 5×7 is 1500×2100 pixels for print quality. (You can also see that if you choose 4×6 and then go in to the “basic edits” menu on the left and scroll down to “resize” and you’ll see the measurements there too)

  4. RonnieSewLoca says:

    I wondered if there are any free sites to create collages to try out before purchasing something I would not enjoy. Thank you for sharing this info! I look forward to exploring my creative side in a new medium.

  5. You can also turn the background clear on some .jpg’s to transparent by using the blend mode drop down. I use that a lot. Not all images are suitable, but strong graphic line drawings work well.

  6. Hello Emily,
    Your tutorial on creating a digital collage is incredible. You obviously have a deep knowledge of our tool and can clearly explain to others how to use it! We love finding PicMonkey fans like you. Would you mind shooting me an email? I have a question for you. Thanks.

  7. I’ve been wondering how to make my images transparent, and for a long time have struggled with creating collages (opening a Word Doc, cut/paste…oh you don’t want to know all the horrible angst). Easy to follow, very clear. Thank you so much!!

    Barb D at Aerie Images ~

  8. Mary Scaletta says:

    I’m so glad I found this post. I was looking at this site recently for exactly this and couldn’t find it. If there isn’t a post already, could you do a post with a round up of all the images that have transparent backgrounds? And honestly, this site would be even greater than it already is if every image offered was offered with an option of a transparent background since you probably have the high-powered tools and know-how that a lot of us don’t have the luxury of having. What an amazing help that would be especially with the more intricate images! (Although I’m asking not knowing if .png images are downloadable.(?)) Thanks for this great tutorial!

    • Karen Watson says:

      Hi Mary, if you do a search for PNG, in my search box, you should be able to find most of them. Even with the best tools, it can be time consuming to remove the backgrounds, since most of the images are on old paper textures that have to be erased by hand. Thanks for the recommendation though! Emily and I are working on a project now, that will have more of these types of images, we hope to be announcing it in the next month or so, but it’s hush/hush for now! ;)

      • Mary Scaletta says:

        Oh, so looking forward to that!!! And thank you for your quick response! Again, this post was so very helpful for a somewhat of a beginner like me!

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