TUTORIAL – PHOTOSHOP CS5 TEMPLATE – 3 Image Canvas 30″x15″ (Triptych)
This is a step by step Photoshop CS5 tutorial showing how to create a 3 image canvas using shape masks and smart objects. It is an adaptation on a method demonstrated by Kevin Kubota at the Digital Photography Bootcamp in Sisters, Oregon, in November 2010.

Here is an image of what we are going to create with this tutorial…

photoshop template triptych

Step 1.
Open Photoshop and create a new file (File/New or Command+N). Copy the settings from this snapshot…

Step 2.
At the bottom of the layer palette click on the “Create new fill or adjustment layer” button and select Solid Color. In the dialog box set the color to white by either clicking in the far top left corner of the color window or entering ‘ffffff’ in the hex color field right at the bottom (you can also enter 255,255,255 in the R,G,B boxes if you want).

Step 3.
Now we’re going to add some guides to make it easier to lay out the images and masks in our canvas. Make sure you have your rulers on (Command+R). If you click and hold on the left ruler, and then drag out into the image window a guide will appear, drag it out till it lines up with the 1.5″ mark across the top ruler. You can also go to the ‘View’ menu and select ‘New Guide’ and add the guides by filling in the dialog box. Create vertical guides at 1.5″, 9.5″, 11″, 19″, 20.5″ and 28.5″.
Also add horizontal guides at 1.5″ and 13.5″.
Your template should now look like this…

Step 4.
Now we’re going to create the shape masks that will act as windows for our three images, but before we do that there are a couple of things we need to check.

First make sure your foreground and background colors are set to black and white (if they are not, in your tools toolbar click on the little black and white squares above the foreground/background color swatches, and the little arrow to swap the foreground to background color)

Now on the “Tools’ toolbar click on the ‘Rectangle’ tool and make sure it is set to “Shape Layers”. Draw your rectangle using the guides as.. well guides… so that the rectangle fills the left hand guide window.

Step 5.
You will now have a new layer, double click the layer name and rename it to “Image Left”

Step 6.
Click on the “Create New Group” Button. Rename the Group to “Image Left”.

and drag the “Image Left” layer onto the group layer.

Step 7.
Repeat Step 4 twice to create 2 more shape layers and rename them to “Image Middle” and “Image Right” respectively.

Step 8.
Repeat Step 6 to create corresponding Group Layers
Your layer palette should now look like this:

And your template should look like this:

Step 9.
Ok so now we have the basic structure of the template set up we can now go about placing some images into it. For this template we are going to use smart objects so that we can easily adjust sizes and replace images later.
So to do that go to the ‘File’ menu and click on “Place” and find an image you want to use for this template. A portrait format image is best and as large an image as you have too, the bigger the better (I use full size jpegs from raw from my 5DMKII which are 21 megapixels). When the image comes in it will be in the middle so drag it over to the left frame and re-size it using the corner grips as required. Once you have it where you want it click enter or on the check mark at the top of your photoshop workspace. Remember the rectangle mask will “crop” the image in a minute so for now just get it positioned using the guides to show you what will show through the mask.
Like this…

Step 10.
Now in the layers palette drag the new image layer down into the “Image Left” group above the mask.

Step 11.
With the image placed above the mask (and in the group) right click on the image and select “Create Clipping Mask” from the pop-up menu…

The image should now be behind the mask and also cropped by it.

Step 12. (optional)
For the images I am using for this tutorial a white border doesn’t work so well so here is how to change it. Click on the little white thumbnail to the left of the “Color Fill 1″ layer. Now in the dialog box you can select any color you like.

Step 13.
Repeat Steps 9, 10 and 11 two more times each in order to add the other two images…

Step 14. (optional)
The images I chose already had a sloppy border on them, but I decided I didn’t want the for this template so now that I have them images behind a mask I just selected the image layers and using the Move tool I stretched them a little bigger so that the sloppy border got cropped by the mask. Now I am going to add a thin white edge highlight called a stroke. Select the mask layer called “Image Left”

and then go to the Layer menu and under “Layer Style” select “Stroke”

Use the setting in the snapshot below, and click on the “Color” thumbnail (the little black rectangle next to the word “Color”) and change it to white.

To create the same stroke on the other two masks select the mask layer “Image Left” in the layer palette and right click and select “Copy Layer Style”

Then select the mask layer “Image Middle”, right click and select “Paste Layer Style’. Repeat for the mask “Image Right”

So that’s it you’re done and hopefully your template now looks something like this…

I hope you found this tutorial useful and don’t be shy, comment below or email me any comments or questions.

Good Luck