Use Photoshop's Photomerge for More Than Panoramas

Montage of diverse people, places, and things

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The Photomerge feature in Photoshop has evolved a lot since it was first introduced in Photoshop CS3. While you may be familiar with it as a powerful tool for creating panoramas, but you may not think to use it when creating a photo collage.

In fact, the Photomerge tool can be useful anytime you need to combine multiple pictures into one file—such as a before and after comparison, or to prepare a photo collage poster like the thumbnail. And the nicest thing about it is how it places all your files into individual layers so they can be further manipulated as desired.

Though Photomerge, on the surface, might appear to be a rather nifty solution, just be aware there is still work to be done. In the case of a collage, you may have to resize and reposition all of the images.

Here's how to use Photomerge in this way:

Step 1: Choose Your Layout

  1. Go to File > Automate > Photomerge…

  2. Under the Layout section, choose Collage. There are other choices here:

  3. Auto: Select this to let Photoshop make the decision for you.

  4. Perspective: If your series of images is a composed of a series of images of a scene, choose this to have Photoshop stitch the images together and keep the result in perspective.

  5. Cylindrical: Choose this to have the result look like it was wrapped around a cylinder.

  6. Spherical: Select this to have the final result look like it had been taken with a Fish Eye lens.

  7. Collage: See below.

  8. Reposition: There are times when you may wish to move the images around. Choose this to align the layers and match the overlapping content without the stretching or skewing this feature normally undertakes.

Step 2: Identify Your Source Files

  1. Under the Source files section, browse for the files you'd like to use, or load the files you have open in Photoshop. Our preference is to place all of the images in a folder. This way they are all in the same place and easily found.

  2. Choose an option for how the Panorama will be created. The options are:

    Blend images together: Finds the optimal borders between the images and creates seams based on those borders, and color matches the images.

  3. Vignette removal: Camera lenses can add flares or improperly shaded the lens resulting in a darkened edge around the image.

  4. Geometric distortion correction: Compensates for barrel, pincushion, or fisheye distortion.

  5. Content-Aware fill transparent areas: Seamlessly fill the transparent areas with similar image content nearby.

Step 3: Create the Merged Files

  1. If there are any images you don't want to include, select them and click Remove.

  2. Uncheck the box labeled Blend images together. If you were creating a panorama, you'd want this box checked, but for simply combining images into one document you should leave it unchecked.

  3. Click OK.

  4. Wait several seconds as Photoshop processes the files, then the Photomerge dialog will appear.

  5. The images will either be stacked in the center of the Photomerge workspace, or in a strip across the top. Use your mouse and/or the arrow keys on your keyboard to position each image as you like it. Use the Navigator on the right side of the screen to zoom in or out if necessary.

  6. When you are satisfied with the positioning, click OK, and wait a few seconds as Photoshop repositions the images within your layers.

  7. At this point, you can further manipulate the image.

Don't worry too much about alignment in the Photomerge dialog box. After the Photomerge is complete you can use the alignment features of the Move tool in Photoshop for more precise alignment.

If you're using this method to create a photo-collage poster with many images, it's a good idea to reduce the pixel dimensions of your starting images before you go into Photomerge, otherwise you will end up with an enormous image that will be slow to process and will push the limits of your computer's resources.

Updated by Tom Green.