Photo collages are a great way to tell stories and keep memories, and this a good time of the year to try out some. Instead of presenting greetings cards to your friends you can present them a collage of photos you took at Jessie’s house party or the vacation you went away with your buddies. You can present grandma a collage of photos of last year’s family reunion. You can also make a collage poster for your Christmas or new year party, and birthday parties next year. Today, we look at 4 free desktop software and one online that lets you make digital collages on your computer. Some of these tools have multiple features and can do lots of other things (eg. Picasa, Photoscape), but we all concentrate ourselves to only the collage making function.
Google Picasa is the one I personally use for all my collage making jobs. It has four different layouts – Picture pile, Mosaic, Framed Mosaic and Grid. In the Picture Pile mode, all the pictures are oriented randomly on the sheet and you can move, resize and turn them in whatever direction you desire. It’s like working with a physical set of pictures on your dinner table. You can add normal borders or polaroid style borders or go without borders. Shadows can be applied to add depth.
The Mosaic mode automatically fits all pictures into the canvas snugly against each other. You can adjust spacing between the pictures and the background color. The Framed Mosaic is similar to Mosaic mode but with a prominent center picture. You can shuffle the pictures around, add new pictures and remove others.
The Grid mode arranges pictures in regular rows and columns of the same size. This, however, results in clipping. Clipping also occurs in the Framed Mosaic mode.
There are two ways you can use Photoscape to make collages. In the ‘Page’ method, you choose a template and then drag pictures one at a time into the empty slots. You can then resize the pictures, move them to show a specific area through the frame and add countless different frames for style. All pictures appear with a white border and there is no way to get rid of them, unfortunately. There are more than one hundred templates on offer.
In the Combine method, photos are arranged in grids. You can choose number of columns, borders, add rounded corners and so on, but what’s missing is the critical drag-and-arrange. The collage is pretty much computer generated and you are not allowed to reorder the sequence. Very limited options but can be useful.
Fotowall is an open source software that lets you make collages and word clouds. There are no templates or grid layouts to choose from. You add photos to the canvas and arrange their position by hand, individually. There is a random arrangement function but it usually produces a mess. But it does have a cool feature called “Force field”. When turned on, pictures arrange themselves as if they are acted upon by forces of attraction and repulsion. This tends to produce better results. You can freeze the photos while they are in motion by turning of “Force field”.
You can resize photos, flip them left/right or top/bottom, rotate them and also give them a perspective, as in three-dimension. You can add reflection and choose from a handful of very subtle borders with and without transparency. The background can be either white, black or a greyish gradient. No custom colors or fancy borders, which is good because most collages are ruined by painful backgrounds and obnoxious borders. If you have good taste, it’s possible to produce stunning results with Fotowall. Users who are looking for automated collage making should look at Shape Collage.
Shape Collage is fully automated and can handle hundreds of images at ease, unlike other programs such as Google Picasa which is likely to grind to a halt. One peculiar feature of this software is that you can create collage of any shape. You can choose from several different shapes and also define your own shapes by using the provided drawing tool.
Although Shape Collage provides many customization options such as spacing between the photos, border width, average angle of the photos etc. you cannot choose which photos goes where. If you are not satisfied with the result, you have to reshuffle the pictures and hope that it’s better this time. But the real pain is you have to create a new collage just to see how the new arrangement looks.
Lack of manual control is this software’s biggest disappointment. The other one is the watermark on the lower-right corner of the canvas.
Photovisi is an online collage maker that has about a hundred different templates for grouping pictures ranging from only a couple up to a dozen or more. You choose a template, load pictures from your computer and once the photos are loaded you can crop, resize, rotate and reposition them on the canvas. You can add background images and even text on your collage. The final collage can be downloaded as 1024x768 or 1600x12000 JPG image.
Quick Comparison Table
|Templates||Autocollage||Manual collage||Resize/rotate/crop pictures|
|Google Picasa||Yes. 3||Yes||Yes||Only in ‘Picture pile’|
|Photoscape||Yes. 100+||Yes||No||Crop, resize only|
|Shape Collage||Yes. User defined shape||Yes||Yes. Limited||No|
|Control on aspect ratio of photos||Image editing, adjustment||Embellishments||Output format|
|Google Picasa||Only in ‘Picture pile’||Yes||Borders, shadows||JPG|
|Photoscape||No. Photos get cropped||Yes||Large number of borders, shadows, rounded corners||JPG, PNG, GIF, BMP, TIFF|
|Fotowall||Yes. No cropping||Small number of filters. No adjustments||A few set of transparent borders, reflection||JPG, PNG, BMP, TIFF, SVG (buggy)|
|Shape Collage||No. Photos may be cropped depending on shape of canvas||No||Borders, shadows||JPG, PNG|