Printing Multiple Images

There are often times when you would like to print several photographs on one sheet of paper. Maybe you need a number of copies in smaller sizes than the paper you have; perhaps you would like to minimise paper wastage by making the best use of the available space on the paper. Most image editors support this facility, although some hide it away so it's difficult to find.

 

There are often times when you would like to print several photographs on one sheet of paper. Maybe you need a number of copies in smaller sizes than the paper you have; perhaps you would like to minimise paper wastage by making the best use of the available space on the paper. Most image editors support this facility, although some hide it away so it's difficult to find.

The bundled software provided with many printers may include a wizard-based layout and printing application that enables you to select photos and organise them on a sheet of paper. The main problem with such applications is their lack of adjustability. If you plan to use them, make sure your images have been edited beforehand and saved at high resolution (300 pixels per inch for maximum quality).

Index Prints
Back when we used film, photolabs usually provided an index print showing thumbnails of each picture taken on one or two sheets of paper. These index prints are still handy in the digital age when you want to locate pictures you've taken. But, instead of being stuck with a single film, you can now create index prints covering any folder of shots on your computer.

While there are plenty of software applications for producing index prints, Adobe's Photoshop Elements provides the widest - and most flexible - range of options. Most are based on the application's cataloguing system.

Once the relevant folder has been opened, you simply select the images to include in the index print and select File > Print and then choose Contact Sheet from drop-down menu 2. Make sure the items in the top menu are set correctly (printer, media type and size, orientation, enhancements. Then use section 3 to set up the contact sheet, selecting the number of columns (which dictates how many thumbnails will fit on the page) and the data to add (date, caption, filename).

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Photoshop Elements displays thumbnails of the images in a folder as they are catalogued.

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Setting up an index print in Photoshop Elements.

The best feature this software offers is the ability to customise contact sheets. You can set between one and nine columns and the size of the thumbnails will change accordingly. For folders containing large numbers of image files - and, therefore, requiring multi-page index prints - you can also number pages automatically.

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A contact sheet printed in landscape format with larger index images and more image data.

Multi-Image Prints
Epson's Easy Photo Print is one of the better examples of bundled software that supports multi-image printing, since it provides good image previewing and selection facilities plus a plenty of options for making multiple prints. The illustrations on these pages show how it can be used.

Photoshop Elements also supports multi-image printing through its Picture Package function, which is located in the same dropdown menu as the Contact Sheet setting. The first step is to select the images you wish to print. Then click on Done.

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Picture selection for a multi-print layout is straightforward and the thumbnails are large enough to make it clear which files have been selected. File names below each thumbnail provide further confirmation.

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The next step is to match the paper size and type in the software to the paper you're printing on.

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Finally, choose a layout for printing your pictures at the desired size and click on the green Print button.

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Selecting pictures for multi-image printing in Photoshop Elements.

This opens the printing dialog box, allowing you to select Picture Package in dropdown menu 3. A short list of layout options is available in section 3 of the dialog box and you can swap pictures by dragging the thumbnail images from the left hand column onto the displayed pictures. You can also choose from a list of frames - or leave the page set with no frame.

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Picture Package options showing the dropdown list of frames with the Classic Oval frame selected.

Separating Photos
Regardless of which software you use to create your multiple prints, you will need a sharp blade or paper cutter (‘guillotine') to separate the individual photos. Take great care when cutting along the boundaries between pictures to ensure you don't cut into adjacent shots.

Some applications allow you to insert borders around individual pictures. This can make it easier when separating them, particularly when the borders are white and you can determine their width.

Collages
Collages provide a useful way to print a large collection of snapshots covering a single event or theme. Most software applications that provide it give you minimal control over how the images are laid out. However, in many cases this won't matter as the overall impression conveyed by the collage is more important than being able to see all the details in each snapshot.

One factor to bear in mind is that the more snapshots you include in a collage, the smaller they will be in the print. So, if you want to keep the recipients happy, be prepared to keep the number of pictures below 20 for an A4 page.

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Although you can create collages with lots of image files, best results are obtained if you use fewer than 20 images.

Google's Picasa (a free download from www.picasa.com) is one of the easiest applications to use. It also provides a wide range of highly automated templates that allow you to simply select the photos and arrange them as a ‘Picture Pile', Mosaic, Frame Mosaic, Grid, Contact sheet or Multiple Exposure (which overlays pictures on each other).

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Picasa's Mosaic option shown, with other arrangements provided by this software.
More sophisticated applications such as Photoshop Elements also provide templates for creating collages and offer greater flexibility for placing images on the page. However, this can also make creating collages more complex so you need to read the instructions carefully before embarking on a project - or be prepared for a fair bit of experimentation.

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Photoshop Elements provides more options for arranging and adjusting pictures on the page - but is also more complex to use.

Adding Text
Although simpler applications may allow you to add text to pictures, they seldom provide much flexibility when it comes to font styles, text sizes and colours and where the text is positioned on the image. For such facilities you need a more sophisticated image editor. For our examples we've used Adobe's Photoshop Elements.

You can add text to any image file - and also to collages and package prints and this facility is great for creating greeting cards and labelling collages, as shown in the examples on this page. The first step is to select the text tool from the application's toolbar.

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The Type tool (which is usually shown with a letter icon), lets you decide the direction of the text flow and whether the text is added as a mask (which creates type that flows along a path) or simply as a separate layer.

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Use the top toolbar (circled) to sent the font style, size and colour and apply text effects.

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Text effects support text shaping (arcs, bulges, flags and shape effects like fisheye, squeeze and twist).

If you would like to add a title to a photo before printing it, simply make the Canvas Size about 1.5 centimetres larger than the picture and insert the text below it. You can shift the text layer with the Move Tool (indicated by a cross with arrowed points) in your image editor.

USEFUL URLs
http://www.peachpit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=601348 and http://www.facebook.com/notes/digital-photography-school/multiple-image-printing-in-photoshop-cs4/10150172173135611 for articles on multi-image printing in Photoshop.

http://www.photo-freeware.net/multiple-image-printing-wizard.php for a freeware application designed for multi-image printing.
http://www.apple.com/aperture/features/#printing for information on printing.
This is an excerpt from Printing Digital Photos Pocket Guide 6th Edition.
Click here for more details on this and other titles in the Pocket Guide series.

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