Using Photoshop’s Contact Sheet tool, you can make a photo mosaic with your choice of images. The various blending modes help you seamlessly add the mosaic to your primary photo to create a unique result. The entire process is honestly a lot easier than you might expect, so let’s get into the steps to see how it’s done!
How To Create A Mosaic In Photoshop
Step 1: Choose And Load The Primary Photo
First, pick out the image you’d like to use as the primary shot. Mosaics work best on simple, well-lit photographs that are clear and bright! As such, I picked out this simple portrait of a woman.
With your image of choice, open it in Photoshop.
Step 2: Organize The Mosaic Photos
Next, you need to pick out the photographs that will fill the mosaic itself. Gather a good collection of them and place the photographs into their own folder. This will make the next step much easier!
The images I used are courtesy of the stock website Pexels. I chose 49 different floral images for my mosaic. Regarding how many images you should have, you’ll need the number to be divisible by itself (more on why later!). 49 images is 7 x 7. 100 images is 10 x 10, 25 images is 5 x 5, and so on.
Step 3: Create A Contact Sheet
To make the mosaic, we must first make the image that the mosaic consists of. We use the Contact Sheet option in Photoshop for this. A Contact Sheet is an arrangement of a batch of photographs on one sheet or document.
Go to File > Automate > Contact Sheet II.
As a result, the following window will appear:
Go to Choose underneath the Source Images tab and select the folder with your images.
Now I am going to go to the Document section of this pop-up menu and make a few more adjustments.
Set the Width to 12 and the Height to 8, as this is the aspect ratio (shape) all of the photographs in the mosaic will have. Because all the pictures in my folder are different aspect ratios, this will unify them all. Set the Resolution to 150 pixels/inch (the default is 300, but that’s too much for this purpose). The Mode should be RGB Color, and the Bit Depth should be set to 8-Bit.
In the Thumbnails section, for Placement, I will select Across First. For Columns and Rows, you need these two numbers to be the same – that is why I told you to pick a number of images divisible by themselves. I did 49, meaning my Columns and Rows will be 7.
Ensure Auto-Spacing is turned off (unchecked) and your Vertical and Horizontal are set to 0 inches. This ensures there is no space between each image.
I checked the Rotate for Best Fit box to crop the images into the correct aspect ratio I set in the Document section. If you don’t want to have your images rotated, just don’t check this box.
In the Use Filename as Caption section, leave this unchecked. You shouldn’t have text in the Contact Sheet.
When done, click OK to get the contact sheet to render! This may take a few moments, so be patient.
The result looks like this:
Step 4: Fill (Some) Of The Photos
In our contact sheet arrangement, notice how some photographs don’t fill their area all the way. The reason I made sure not to select Flatten All Layers is so that I can go in and fix up these gaps!
In the Layers Panel, select each image (one at a time) that isn’t filling the space entirely and use the Transform Tool (Control + T for Windows or Command + T for Mac) to fill the space.
Your final result should show no white gaps like this:
Step 5: Turn The Mosaic Into A Pattern
To utilize our mosaic, you must save it as a Pattern.
Go to Edit > Define Pattern.
Name the Pattern whatever you’d like, and click OK! I named mine Photo Mosaic.
Step 6: Add The Pattern To The Main Image
In Photoshop, go back to your main image. At the very bottom of the Layers Panel, click the Adjustment Icon.
From the pop-up menu, click Pattern.
The Pattern Fill window will appear.
My pattern didn’t automatically appear for me, but for some, it will! If yours doesn’t appear immediately, you can find it easily.
Press the drop-down arrow where you see the trees on my window screen. From this arrow, you can find your pattern.
I left the rest of the settings at their default, leaving me with this:
Step 7: Change The Blend Mode
In the Layers Panel, you’ll see that the mosaic is isolated on its own layer. Select the mosaic layer.
The resulting image will look like this:
(Optional) Step 8: Adjust The Base Image
Notice how there is too much contrast in the eyes and hair in the photograph. I can fix that to make the mosaic blend better. All I have to do is edit the base image.
I will select the base image in my Layers Panel and duplicate it (never work off of the original! Always make a new layer. This saves you if you make a mistake down the line). You can also convert the layer to a smart object if you want.
Because I can tell it’s my shadows and highlights causing the contrast issue, I will adjust them with the Shadow and Highlights slider. I can access this by going to Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights.
The amount you need to change these values depends on your base image, so move the sliders until your photo looks correct.
Use any of the tools available in the Adjustments menu to edit your image to your liking. You can also play with the opacity of the mosaic layer itself to see what works best.
After tweaking my image, my mosaic looks like this:
Step 9: Flatten The Image And Save
When you are completely done with your adjustments, you can flatten the image and save it in any format you’d like. If you ever want to go back to this image and tweak it again, you can save a copy of the file as a PSD, preserving all of the Photoshop layers.
As you can see, Photoshop quickly makes the mosaic pattern for you – making duplicating this cool effect relatively simple as well. In the end, this is my result!