How to Create Polaroid Style Collage/Effect in Photoshop
In this post I will explain you how to create a very cool Polaroid style collage in Photoshop using, basically, two shapes and one layer effect. It is extremely simple and flexible technique, you just need an idea how to do get started.
Steps to create collageThere are a couple of ways to achieve exactly the same result. I decided to present you technique with clipping mask because it is more flexible and you can continue exploring and playing around with the final effect.
This effect works well with images where a person (subject) holds something in its hand either in front or above.
Step 1 Open an image and flatten it if needed
The very first step is to open any image in Photoshop and to flatten image in case you have layered file.
Step 2 Draw square
There are many possible variations, I will simply present effect with the square as a base. Grab Rectangle Tool (U) and click once in the image area. My document is 960px wide and I will type 200px for Width and Height.
Step 3 Duplicate shape and scale it
In this step we will duplicate our first shape and scale it down. Press Ctrl/Cmd + J (duplicate) then Ctrl/Cmd + T (Edit > Free Transform Path) to enter Free Transform mode.
I will use percentages when scaling. With default Reference point location set to center I will click on chain icon which is in between W and H values in the Options bar then I will change the value to 90%.
The next thing is to change Reference point location to top and to click on the chain icon to uncheck: Maintain aspect ratio (that is what is doing chain icon when active). Now I can lower percentage of H (Height) to 80% and shape will be locked at the top edge while reducing its height (it will be scaled with a fixed top edge in other words). Press Enter/Return when you are done to confirm and we can continue.
Step 4 Clip base image to second shape
In this step I will select the Background layer with the image and press Ctrl/Cmd + A to select all then I will copy content using Ctrl/Cmd + C.
Now deselect everything using Ctrl/Cmd + D then select second shape layer and paste copied image: Ctrl/Cmd + V. Follow this operation with Ctrl/Cmd + Alt/Opt + G to create clipping mask and to clip the image to second, smaller shape.
Step 5 Assign color to the layers
In this step I will skip renaming layers what is a good habit. What I want to suggest you is to colorize layers and assign Green for layer with image ( you can pick any colors), Blue for second shape and Red for the first shape. The reason for this is because you can easily filter layers by color.
Step 6 Duplicate layers
Select 3 layers above the Background and duplicate them as many times as you think will be enough. In this case I found that 15 times to press Ctrl/Cmd + J is enough. This is not exact number for every situation, it has just come out that works with this particular image.
Step 7 Move and rotate shape layers
In this step you should start selecting 2 shape layers below the image and start moving and rotating them. So, select both shape layers and press Ctrl/Cmd + T to enter Free Transform mode then drag and rotate. Feel free to move layers in Layer's stack when you need to overlap things differently. Just do not forget to move all 3 layers including layer with the image. You can use my final effect as a map or just use your imagination and creativity.
Step 7 Isolate (mask) part of the hand (in this case)
With this particular photo I need to isolate part of the hand for the final look and feel. It is an easy task and all I need to do is to copy Background layer as we did in step 4 (copy/paste) and to paste it on top of Layers stack. The next thing is to drag with the Quick Selection Tool (W) and to click Add layer mask at the bottom of the Layers panel.
Step 8 Add Drop Shadow effect
Here comes handy color assigned to the layers. In essence, we want to add Drop Shadow effect to the bottom shape and then to copy/paste effect to all other bottom shapes (color Red). Use filter options at the top of the Layers panel to isolate layers based on Color. You can also experiment with other effects applied to both vector shapes and to try different things. It's all about experimenting and getting new ideas.
Step 9 Use Filter Forge to make the composition more interesting
I decided to use Filter Forge plugin to decorate background and make a composition more interesting. Filter Forge is my friend for a couple of years and it does have filters for almost every effect that you may want to apply. Here is the link to download full functional trial. There are filters for painterly, sketchy, drawing and so on effects. You cannot fail with this guy, it is matter what you prefer. Duplicate Background layer, then go to Filter menu to run Filter Forge and the fun can begin. You can make several copies and to apply several different filters, then to start showing/hiding layers for live preview.
Here is my final effect with several Filter Forge filters applied.
Watercolor Painting filter.
Oil Painting filter.
Picasso Redux filter.
Pen on Watercolor filter.