Thursday, May 12, 2016

DIY: Heart Arms Collage

This year my children and I made the Mother's Day present I've been waiting a decade to make. I saw a similar picture ten years ago and wanted to do one myself, and my children are old enough now to make it happen.

Here's the picture we made:

We had loads of fun making the picture, so here's a quick How-To guide if you're wondering what we did:

  1. Layout
    Even though I know how to use PhotoShop and GIMP, my go-to quick-and-dirty photo arranging program is PowerPoint. (I know, right?) I like that I can quickly add shape objects, arrange them, and then snap pictures to the shapes I use as a guide. I also like to show my children how to use PowerPoint to arrange pictures, alter images, and make drawings.

    Anyway, the first thing I did was design what I wanted the final picture to look like. Since I have four children, I wanted the number of contributing images to be divisible by four, so my grid is 6x6 (6 x 6 = 36 = 9 x 4, nine pictures of each child). Here's the grid, made of squares and a heart shape:

    Since there would be nine shots of each child, I made a list of nine smiles they could make so that each child's pictures didn't all look the same. Then I distributed my children and their smiles around the grid (I used colors and labels on the grid squares so I could quickly see if the distribution appeared random but that there weren't two pictures of the same child next to each other):

    NOTE: If you're using a lot of objects/images in PowerPoint, consider using the Selection Pane to keep track of what is selected. Very helpful if you need to move images to the front/back but are having trouble clicking on them because they're buried under another image. Also, you can give the objects names in the Selection Pane to help you know what is what. You can find the Selection Pane here (in PowerPoint 2007 and later): Home Tab | Editing Group | Select drop-down | Selection Pane.
  2. Photo Shoot
    Since this is a DIY project, we grabbed a sheet, some clamps, and a printout of the design and headed to the back yard! (The printout was so the children could see what smile to make and how to position their arm) This photo shows the behind-the-scenes magic of our setup—notice the sheet clamped to the swing set chains:

    You might need to gently guide the arm position of little children, too:

  3. Assemble, Arrange, and Align
    With all the pictures taken, we headed back inside where the children played while I assembled the pictures and arranged them. Although you can crop images in PowerPoint, I used Microsoft's Photo Gallery program (because it's free) to crop each image to a square and apply the auto-correct for colors (our camera is getting old and needs a little help).

    I moved the pictures into PowerPoint, arranged them on the grid, and cropped them a little more so the faces were about the same size and the arms were where the heart shape showed.

    NOTE: Some of the pictures needed to be rotated so the arms matched the heart shape. Once you rotate a picture in PowerPoint, the crop is along the rotated axes so it doesn't align with the grid. There might be an easier way, but to make them align: I rotated the image in PowerPoint, drew a white rectangle behind the image, selected both, did a Copy | Paste as Picture, then cropped the result to a square. Here is an example of some that were rotated, showing the white rectangle, too:

    After the pictures are all in place and rotated appropriately, I fine-tuned the positioning, using the original red grid and heart shape as a guide:

  4. Done!
    The final step was to delete the grid and heart shape, select all the pictures, and save the result as a picture (right-click and choose Save as Picture). Then you can print/frame it and/or share it on social media!

    She likes it!