During Images population images are inserted into the collage by adding smart object image layer with layer mask. Insertion starts directly above the required Photoshop background layer and additional images are inserted on top of the previous inserted image.
These alpha channels make it possible to use Photoshop's automation features to facilitate image placement, sizing and masking. My automation processes require image alpha channels that map image collage placement locations and they must be named sequentially "Image 1". "Image 2" ... "Image n". These are used to provide placement guides while a collage is interactively populated and to mask image layers so only that area of the layer will show. Think of these alpha channels as a cropping mask. Templates will be populated with images using the Photoshop File Place feature. Place supports all supported Photoshop image file types RAW, PSD, Jpeg Tiff etc. Used in an interactive mode, "Place" will put the user into a place file dialog window where they can select which image is to be placed. After selecting an image, the user clicks the "Place" button. Photoshop then places the image file into a layer in the collage being populated. User interaction continues in the place transform dialog where the user can position the image over the collage area the alpha channel maps to and they can size the part of the image they want in the collage. This transform will resample the Photoshop smart object layer to the required DPI. Image place into collages should be transformed so they cover the area the alpha channel maps to, whatever its shape is. Image files will be placed into collages in order of image 1, image 2, ... image n. Each populated image is a Photoshop smart object layer with a layer mask. This makes it possible for users to re-transform image, tweak cropping and framing after the automation process is run without losing image quality. The placement area size and shape is defined by the alpha channels "Image 1", "Image 2", ... "Image n". These channels may overlap. In fact the Photo-board type photo collage templates is where small images are placed on a large image. The alpha channel "Image 1" defines the large image area. It will be the same size as the photo collage or slightly smaller to leave a border. The rest of the image alpha channels will overlay parts of Image 1. Individual images layers may overlap. Higher image numbers are on top of lower image numbers in the Photoshop layer stack. In fact, all that is needed for a Photo-board type collage template is the background layer and the required Image alpha channels.
Rules for photo collage templates that have pre made mats are identical to photo-board type template rules. These pre made mats type template PSD files will always have at least one layer above the background layer for the pre made mat, where photo-board type template may or may not have any layers above the background layer.
The image alpha channels map the areas the inserted image will occupy in the collage. For example, alpha channels for pre made mat type collages match the image openings in the pre made mats. Image alpha channels can be any size and shape..
I believe that many existing Photoshop templates could easily be edited and by just adding my required "Image N" alpha channels, they would comply with my rules and be useable with my tools.
Photo collage template PSD files can be stored anywhere on your system. I store mine in "C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop Templates\Collage\". This is not an Adobe directory. It is one I created for the storage of my photo collage templates.
Photo collages template need not have frames. If you want to add frames, my custom framing actions can be used to frame a collage. Examples and Documentation plus Downloads.
The problem with actions is they cannot contain logic. For example logic to find out things like how may images it should insert into a photo collage template. Collage populating actions can only be created to insert a set number of images into a collage. So I created a serious of actions to work on templates that contain 1, 2, 3, ...9. So only collages containing 1 through 9 images were supported by my toolkit.
To be able to handle a collage template with any number of images would require the use of Photoshop scripting. Scripting is hard work and in this case its even harder for some things that are easy to do. Actions can not be done with Photoshop scripting. However actions can use scripts to do things actions can not do on their own. Scripts can play actions to do things they can not do. `
Still scripting is hard so I first created a script to populate a one image collage template. Since I was scripting, I thought it would be easy to also have the script size and position inserted images and even batch populate the collage template by saving the populated collage into a destination folder. Then remove all the layers added to the collage template and then move onto the next image in a source image folder. I named this script Batch One Image Collage.
It proved to be much harder then anticipated to program this script. Turned out it was hard to come up with a way to find out the bounds of the image.
Once I had programmed that script it was easy to program a script that could automatically populate collage templates that contain one or more image alpha channels. Named that script Batch Multi Image Collage. While I could now automatically populate any collage template, I am not able to determine the shape of an image alpha channel to see if an image may need some rotation to work better with the current image alpha channel.
While programming these scripts, I added some options for things like stamping filenames onto the inserted images or collage. File saving options and pull-down menu for things like fonts and layer styles.
These four scripts: InteractivePopulateCollage, BatchOneImageCollage, BatchMultiImageCollage and TestCollageTemplate have obsoleted the need for my old toolkit actions. So I removed my old actions from the package though the TestCollageTemplate script can be used to test photo collage template youíre currently making. IMO photo collage templates are so easy to create this script is not needed. However, you can also use this script in an action to interactively populate a photo collage template without a menu. The actionís first step would be Open photo collage template to be populated. followed by menu file>scripts>TestCollageTemplate followed by select previous document and finally close no save. Look at the Baseball Card action in the JJmack's Photo Collage Toolkit Scripts action set.
In a production environment, being able to populate collages without user intervention should be very productive. Auto Populating Collage is also easier and faster then doing it interactively. The resulting Collage PSD files can still be tweaked. The first script ("BatchOneImageCollage.jsx") can automate the population of Photo Collages templates that only have one image placed into them for example, a special frame, a baseball card or a magazine cover type of collage may have. This script has options that can be use to have the script stamp the image file name on the image or on the Collage. The second script can populate any Photo Collage Template. Its file name stamp option will only stamp file names onto the image within the collage.
I was asked by a user to provide a script that would populate a template and not save the populated collage. To just end the script and leave the collage open in Photoshop. So they could continue to work on the populated collage. I created a script named PopulateCollageTemplate to do that.
Images are placed into collages from folders by the batching scripts in filename sort order. To allow you to control the order of image placement, you can prefix the Image Name you want stamped into the collage with a prefix sequence number followed by a "#" character. File Systems file name may be up to 255 characters in length and can not contain the special characters <>:"/\|?* So I could do something like this for file name (Sequence number,Collage Title,Image annotation#Image Name) in the future. You should also not expect a long name stamp to fit with the collage. As of now I just strip off everything up to and including the "#" before stamping the remaining part of the file name into the collage. This is also true in the interactive script. So right now you can use the prefix area anyway you want. However that may change in the future. The Collages templates themselves are populated in the order of the alpha channels "Image 1, Image 2, ..., Image "n" with the lower image number layers below higher number layers in the layers stack.