Gift Idea #25 – Family Collage

idea numbers25There are lots of options in using family photos to make a collage. Most of them fall into two categories. The first one is a wall collage. This is when you take your photos (usually framed but they can be unframed) and arrange them on a wall in your house. Here are some examples to get your creative juices going. I really like the ones that include some vinyl lettering.

Family Collage Ideas

Family Wall Collage Ideas

The second style of photo collage is to put together the photos so they fit into frame. This can be done digitally or the traditional way with glue and scissors. If you have some experience with a photo editor like Photoshop the digital way can be lots of fun. Or there is software designed just to help you put together your own collage.

Collage Maker

But there are services available to have your collage put together for you. I found a couple of them.

Custom Photo Collages

Family History Collage

Sometimes though it feel good to work with physical photos and paper instead of the digital ones. For the truly hands on approach here are some directions on how to make a collage in the original way.

How to Collage


Europe 1952 – Adding Memorabilia

One of the great things about doing this project was all the stuff that I had to work with. One of the challenging things about this project was all the stuff I had to work with. My mom is a saver and I think she saved everything she got on this trip. I have no idea how she got it all home. She didn’t have that much luggage. Even though sometimes it was a pain to figure out how to include most of the documents, brochures etc. that she saved, it adds to the flavor and the interest of the book. Some of the things I had to work with were:

How I dealt with the above items I covered in earlier posts. Follow the links above.

  • Documents

Some where scanned and others were transcribed and reformatted to fit the page.

  • Brochures
  • Maps
  • Menus
  • Letters
  • Business Cards
  • Receipts

I scanned these and cropped them to size before placing them in the document.

  • Postcards
  • Ticket Stubs

Some of the postcards and tickets stubs had interesting edges that I didn’t want to crop off. So after scanning I opened them in Adobe Photoshop, deleted the background so that it was transparent. Then when placed in the document the deckled or torn edges were preserved.

  • Booklets
  • Books
  • Medallions

Since these items were thicker I wanted to keep the dimension. So I also opened these images in Adobe Photoshop and deleted the background to make it transparent. I really like how you can tell they are books and not just a single sheet of paper. It was fun to have the medallion that my mom got from visiting the Pope. This same process works great for objects of any shape.

When placing the memorabilia on the page it is usually good to gather them near each other on the page and not spread them out across the page. Overlapping another piece of memorabilia or a photo can also help. The overlapping visually connects the items together and brings some order to a layout that might otherwise get too busy.


Europe 1952 – Passport Stamps


I’ve always loved passport stamps and dreamed of having a passport full of interesting stamps. So I wanted to find a way to include all the stamps from my mother’s passport into the book about her trip. But just scanning the pages and including them that way seemed like an ugly solution. After some thought I decided to figure out a way to include just the image of the stamp on each chapter heading page.

scan of passport page

After scanning the pages of her passport I  cropped each stamp into a separate image from the rest on the page. Some of the stamps overlap which just gave me more stuff that I erased from the image. All of these work was done in Adobe Photoshop.

cropped to single passport stamp

Now I started playing around with a way to separate the inked image from the background. With a simple white background it is easy to use the magic wand tool to select and then remove the background. But as you can see passport paper isn’t plain. The tool that helped the most was the background eraser tool. I hadn’t used this before so it was good to learn about it. But I still ended up doing some clean-up by hand.

cleaned up passport stamp

The last step I did was to make the image black and white before I placed it on the chapter heading page. To give it more of the effect of being stamped on the page I changed the transparency to multiply. There is probably a better way to clean-up these images but I got it done and I was happy with the effect. I like having the passport stamps for each country on that country’s chapter heading page.

What ways have you found to include things like passport stamps in your projects?


Europe 1952: Maps

Among the many items that my mom saved from her trip to Europe in 1952 was a large map. I decided I wanted to use it at the beginning of each chapter. The map was challenging to scan because it was so big. So I scanned sections of it and then used Adobe Photoshop‘s photomerge to stitch together the section of the map for each country. If you’ve never used photomerge it is a very handy tool for doing things like panorama shots.

photomerged map

After I had a map section for each country I added a brown route line to mark the roads they traveled in that country. I did this also in Photoshop using the brush tool. To bring more focus to the country I added a grey mask that partially block out the neighboring countries, by adjusting the transparency of this layer.

map with route

map with surrounding countries grayed out

Once I brought the map image into Adobe InDesign, I added text boxes to label the cities they stayed in along with other relevant information and arrows to make it easier to tell the location of the city on the map. Arrows are easy to make in InDesign, just go to the stroke palette and select the style of arrow point you would like for the beginning or end of the line you made with the pen tool.

map with labels

I think the maps were effective in communicating a lot of the information at the beginning of each chapter in a visual way. How have you used maps in your projects?

Europe 1952 – Cover

I hope that you have enjoyed this journey through Europe. I think I will miss these daily posts about my mother travels 60 years ago. For the next few weeks I’ll post on Tuesdays some of the “how to” of putting this book together. Today I’ll start with the cover.

Europe 1952 Front Cover

I wanted this cover to look like a small suitcase that I remember growing up, that my mom used on this trip. It was brown with an alligator texture and it had stickers from different places in Europe all over it. I originally thought I’d take a picture of the suitcase. But getting access to it wasn’t very convenient and when I found that my mom had extra stickers from her trip I decided that replicating it would probably get better results.

Crocodile Texture

The first step was to find an image of an alligator texture. I ended up with a crocodile texture instead that I found at Lee Dyeing Company. It was perfect. They had an alligator texture too but the crocodile was more like the original suitcase.

original scan on left – converted to png on right

The next step was to scan in all the stickers. Then I erased the background and converted them to png files so that the background was transparent. I did this in Photoshop.

Now with the parts and pieces I needed gathered together it was time to make the cover. I used blurb’s template for Adobe InDesign to get the size right for my book. They now have a handy plug-in for InDesign instead of template. It takes into account not only the size of the book and the number of pages but also the type of paper it is printed on. When making the cover it is just one page that includes the front, spine and back cover along with the bleeds for wrapping the cover. The template shows you were these things are on the page. I love the image wrapped cover the blurb offers. I’ve tried the paper back and it looks good but it just isn’t very durable. They also offer a dust jacket option but I’ve never been tempted to try it.

cover with crocodile texture

I placed the crocodile texture first. It was large image but not long enough for this cover so I copied and flipped the image horizontally. Then placed another copy next to that to give me enough image to cover the page horizontally. I copied all three of those and flipped them vertically to finish covering the page. Otherwise I’d risk too low of  resolution and ending up with a poor quality image.

crocodile texture with brown overlay

Now I had my texture but not the desired color. So on another layer I made a box large enough to cover the entire cover and filled it with brown. I used Pantone 7519 PC. Then I changed the transparency in the effects pallet to multiply. That made it so the crocodile texture came through. I was getting rather excited at this stage because how much it was looking like my mother’s suitcase.

cover with stickers added

Next I was ready to place the stickers. This took some trial and error to get a good balance in color and shape. I also kept in mind where I would be putting the text on the front, spine and back. As you can see I used some of the stickers more than once. But since they are on the front and the back I doubt that anyone has noticed on the finished book.

small drop shadow added to the stickers

To add just a bit of depth to the stickers the next step was a drop shadow. I’m not sure that you can see it here. Instead of the default 7 pt. drop shadow these are just 1 pt. in offset on both the x and y axis.

cover with text

The next step was to add the text. The cream color and font (Warnick Pro) are consistent with what I used for the inside of the book. At this point I realized that the cover was too busy. The drop shadow on the text helped make it more readable but it wasn’t enough. So I added a box around the title text on the front and changed the main title to red. I also put a stroke on the box, inspired by several of the stickers. Along with a larger drop shadow.

cover with box around title

This was a big improvement and I thought I was done. But when it came back to it later I decided it was still too busy. How could I fix it? I was not willing to give up on the concept of replicating my mother’s suitcase but I was not happy with all between the stickers and the title both front and back. So I decided to tone down the stickers. I took a black box large enough to fill the cover. I placed it under the text but over the stickers. Then after experimenting the transparencies I figured out that at 36% and using the darken effect I got the stickers toned down so they didn’t compete with the title. Yeah! The design now worked.

finished cover

Next week I’ll go over how I designed the layout for the inside of the book and using master pages in InDesign. What fun covers have you seen or designed yourself? I’d love to hear about them.