Creative Printing – Part One

One thing Lightroom does really well is print. Since the first version it has allowed photographers to print images fast. You can send multiple documents to the printer and still continue to work in other areas of Lightroom because of the way it simply queues the jobs and goes to work on them until its done. The speed alone makes it a much more efficient choice than Photoshop, even if you’re only printing one image from time to time.

Another area where Lightroom shines in the print module is the ability to create different layouts which can incorporate a range of sizes, borders, paper types and print instructions. All of which can be saved in a preset making printing a simple two click operation in the Print module.

Take this another step further with multi image layouts and things can get quite creative. Lightroom can add a simple border to an image but it cannot do something like a drop shadow or a “polaroid” style frame around each image. Thats where photoshop has the slight edge, but for me its only a slight edge when you add in the time taken to launch Photoshop, navigate to the Print dialog, set all the options etc. for ONE print.

In this 2 part tutorial I will show you how to create a print template that can set your prints apart from the standard, single line borders.
While my image shows 5 across, the method is practically the same to create a template for 2 or 3 across.

First we need to make some decisions about the dimensions of the finished print. In my example Im going to make an image that is suitable for screen and email. It will have the dimensions of 2000px by 720px. It could easily be a 20inch by 7.2 inch file if I change the resolution from 100ppi to something higher, like 240 or 300. Either way, you’ll need to know that up front.

In Photoshop

File > New.
Enter the dimensions and most importantly the resolution you want the final output to be.

To help me see the shadows and frames I will be creating I am going to add a solid color to my background using a Solid Color Fill layer.

Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color…

Using the Rectangle Tool draw a shape where the image will eventually appear. It doesn’t have to be in exact position right now. Check your options to make sure you are drawing a Shape Layer and not a Path.

Duplicate the Shape Layer and name it Image. Target the first Shape Layer and name that Frame. Double click the thumbnail and change the color to white. Using Edit > Free Transform Path, expand the size of the frame to create a border around the image area.

Highlight both Shape Layers and join them together as a smart object. Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object. This will allow us to make global changes to the frame no matter how many times we duplicate the layer.


Duplicate the Image Smart Object Layer four times for a total of five layers. Now would be a good time to rename the layers.

Move the top layer (Image 5) to the right side of the canvas and up a little. Move the Bottom Layer (Image) to the left side of the canvas.
Select all the Image layers and use the Distribute horizontal centers and Align Top Edges icons in the Options Bar to distribute the layers evenly.

Now we’ll add the drop shadows. Double click on one of the Image Layer smart objects to open it as a new document. Expand the canvas by using the Crop Tool and dragging it beyond the image area.

Duplicate the Frame Layer, rename it Shadow and move it below the Frame layer. Change the color fill of the layer to black and then convert it to a smart object.
The reason we convert it to a smart object is so that when we apply a gaussian blur filter to it we have the ability to come back at a later time and change the amount of blur.

Using Edit > Transform, move and reshape the shadow layer below the Frame layer. In my example I have used the Warp transform to create a curve and also Perspective transform to squeeze the top left and right corners together.

From the Filter menu, select Blur > Gaussian Blur to soften the shadow. Reduce the opacity of the Shadow layer to 50%.

Close the file and save. You should now see all the frames have shadows.

The PSD file is done. Save it with a name of your choosing and import it into Lightroom. We will use the file in the Print Module of Lightroom in Part 2.

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One Response to Creative Printing – Part One
  1. [...] the previous part of this tutorial we made a file in Photoshop that will serve as the base for the print... lightroomtampabay.com/2012/03/creative-printing-part-two