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Creating Custom Book Pages in Photoshop
 

(Updates, 5/30/09)

Several of the Venice Camera Club members have used different websites on the internet to place photos on pages of a virtual book and then have it printed, bound, and turned into a real book which becomes a great way to remember a special trip or event.

I think everyone has been very happy with the quality of all their books. Each website provides you a variety of page layouts into which you can drag and drop photos and add text. It's fairly quick and easy, but after you're done a few books you might wish for more layouts and/or more control over the sizing of the images and exactly how they overlap.

The solution is to design your own pages in Photoshop and upload each individual completed page as a full-page bleed picture.

The secret is knowing the exact size used for a full-page bleed picture in the book you are creating. The book-building website I just tried, Blurb.com, provides this information for each of their book sizes along with the trim area (the area along the edges of each page that is going to get cut off after the book is bound). Because there is always going to be some variance in the trimming, you also have to leave a safe-area inside of this. Be sure to place any text, frames, etc. a little inside this safe area so it doesn't end up too near the edge of a page.

Here's a really good website that shows you how all this works and even gives you templates for all the book sizes on the Blurb.com website (it's because of this website I tried Blurb, thank you Robin.) ...

The Art of Engineering

Be sure to read her Blog on Want to make a Blurb Book? as well as the ones on How to use the free Blurb templates and Putting a photo across the gutter of a spread

Once you've read (and understood) all of her articles, you might be interested in the these examples showing how I just made my first Blurb book. (Note: They'll make a LOT more sense if you read Robin's articles first.)

I started with Robin's template and added three other hidden layers ...

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Screen Shot

Screen Shot

You'll see their use as we go through these screen captures. Decide on the color and/or pattern you want for all the page backgrounds. Select the bottom layer and fill it with this color/pattern. Save the template under a new name ... it will be the starting point for all the pages (spreads) in your book and you want to be sure and have a spare copy in case you accidently over-write it (and we all do). Note: You can find a link to my templates at the bottom of this page.

Tip: If you're going to create your own templates (as opposed to using one of mine or Robin's) you might want to move the zero point of the horizontal rule to the exact center of the two-page spread (the middle guide of the five guides in the center of the spread) ... this makes it easier to add additional guides, lines, and clipping boxes. With zero in the center you only have to do the math once and then use positive numbers on the right hand page and negative numbers on the left hand page. (You move the zero point my clicking and dragging from the upper left hand corner where the two rulers meet ... a little tricky, but you'll get the hang of it.)

First let's assume we want a full page picture on the left-hand page of the spread ... this is where the page masks are used. Select the layer with the page mask (the LH Page Mask in this case) so it is active ... you can also make it visible by clicking on its eyeball (in this example I forgot to, we'll see what happens when you do that). Next I did a "File>Place" to insert the image I wanted on the left hand page. As you see it automatically has a transform box around it, and most important it has a big X across the entire image. This X reminds you it is a "Smart Object" ... this is very important ... if you import the image any other way, before doing anything else right-click on its layer and choose "Convert to Smart Object". Two big advantages of "Smart Objects" in this application are that you never loose image quality, even in future edit sessions, and that they are easy to replace if you want to re-use the page layout for another spread. (Note the X on the image below is very faint, because the screen capture was reduced down from a 2560 pixel screen, but it should be very clear when you do it ... always remember if the X isn't there, you've lost your "Smart Object" and you need to go back a few steps.)

Screen Shot

Screen Shot

Normally for a full page image I would just move the image so it was even with the top of the spread and holding SHIFT, would extend a bottom corner so it was even with the bottom of the spread as shown below. (Oops, now I notice the image below looks just like the one above, but if you look REAL close in the image above, you'll see a bit of page background above and below the image.)

Screen Shot

However, for this image I'll like to crop off some of the bare ground at the top and that stone square thing on the bottom right. To do this I just pushed the image off the top of the page and increased the size of the image so the stone thing moved off the bottom of the page. By looking at the big X in the screen shot below you can see where the corners of the original image have ended up.

Screen Shot

I pressed Enter/Return to complete the transform and then double-clicked on the image name in the layers pallet so I could give the layer a short name I would recognize latter ("Lady" in this case). I usually don't rename layers in Photoshop, but I've found that it's very important to when creating these spreads. It makes your life much easier later when you're trying to fine-turn a page, or re-use the page layout again ... you know which image is which when you go to replace them (or course then you have to rename them again on the new layout). You could use names like "left hand page, bottom right" that show their placement, but since I'm always moving images around I recommend against this.

Screen Shot

Screen Shot

I also turned on the "Rule of Third's" by clicking on its eyeball. Below you see the red lines which break the page into thirds. I like making it a layer instead of guides because it is easy to turn on and off; too many guides get confusing, are too easy to grab by mistake, and things align to them when you don't want them too. The problem is you have to be sure the layer is hidden when you create the final page ... my solution to this is simple, my macro that clips and saves pages always selects this layer and turns it off (which works even if the layer is already hidden.)

Screen Shot

Screen Shot

Now that I know where each third of my page is, I can move the image around (Move Tool, the image is the active layer) until I'm happy with its placement. You see below that I've placed her near the intersection of the red lines ...

Screen Shot

Screen Shot

Next I right-click on the layer and choose "Create Clipping Mask". This is where it's important that LH Page Mask is the layer just below your image and that it is visible.

Screen Shot

Screen Shot

Since I forgot to make it visible, my whole image disappeared (you see it has a "dim" eyeball next to it) ...

Screen Shot

Screen Shot

Not a problem, just turn on the eyeball for the LH Page Mask and your image re-appears cropped to fit exactly on the page. You can still select the image layer and reposition or resize (all you see is what will print on the page) ...

Screen Shot

Screen Shot

Next let's add a full page image to the right-hand page and see how easy the whole process is. Make the AH Page Mask layer active and use "File > Place" to insert the image ...

Screen Shot

Screen Shot

Position and resize the image ...

Screen Shot

Press Enter/Return to complete the transform. This time I remembered to turn on the Page Mask eyeball first (and you see the black mask below the image):

Screen Shot

Screen Shot

I renamed the image layer and then right-clicked and choose "Create Clipping Mask" ...

Screen Shot

Screen Shot

That revealed all of the left-hand page, but we still need to use the Move Tool to position the image where we want it on the right-hand page ...

Screen Shot

Screen Shot

The next several screen shots show the movement of the image into the placement I want ...

Screen Shot

Screen Shot

Screen Shot

Finally I turn the Rule of Third's back on to see if there is anything else I can learn from it that I might want to change ...

Screen Shot

Screen Shot

I can either hide the Rule of Third's layer or rely on my macro to turn it off when I create individual pages. (I create all my individual pages at the very end, after I'm happy with all my spreads.)

I'm sure that was more than you wanted to know, but hopefully you'll find some useful tips that help you when you try to do it yourself.

Click for Part 2, moving page layouts to other pages or Part 3, using a custom size clipping mask.

Note: I discovered that Blurb made slight changes to their book size ... I just posted new Templates for 10x8 landscape books (start by changing the page color and/or texture). See the ReadMe file included in the ZIP file for a description of each one. I'll also post any templates that people send me. (When I do, I'll add links here and change the "Updates" date at the top of this page.)

-Wren                    


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