You’ve taken tons of photos: of the grandchildren; of that special cross-country trip; of your house-move …  You want to capture the essence of the event rather than scrap every detail. The 6x4s you got developed are too big. How can you take advantage of that photo-editing software you’ve got, but are unsure of how to use, to resize your photos?

Once you know how to work your particular program, resizing is very easy – and its worth the effort to learn because once you know what to do it can be repeated quickly. It works well for paper or digital scrapbooking and you don’t end up cutting the original photograph. Just remember to copy the file before you start to alter it, and work on that copy, then your original will be safe.

Firstly, if they are not already digital photographs, you have to get the photos onto the computer to best take advantage of the resizing ability of photo-editing software. There are two simple ways to do this: scan them or take a photo of the photos with a digital camera and upload them.

Let’s get to the instructions …

… which are based on Photoshop Elements, but most photo-editing software will be similar.

There are several options to resize your image.

  1. resize your image – simply make the whole thing larger or smaller
  2. crop to a section of the photograph, thereby removing all that extra sky or foreground, then sizing the cropped image to what you need
  3. create a mask which will let you make identically sized photographs


1. Resize your image:

Open your photo file.

  • Go to Image, resize, image size (alt + ctrl + I)
  • in the ‘Document size’ section select your units (inches, mm, cm, pixels, etc) and enter the width or height you want (‘constrain proportions should be checked to ensure your don’t end up with a misshapen photo)
  • you will want a resolution of 250-300 dpi to get good printing results
  • make sure the boxes at the bottom of the window are checked to ensure styles used scale appropriately and to constrain the proportions of the image


2. Crop the image:

Open your photo file.

  • Select the crop tool (keyboard shortcut ‘c’) 
    • and choose your option:  ‘no restriction’, ie you can determine the size freehand; a photo ratio option (which is usually 3:2 or 2:3); several fixed photo sizes to choose from; or you can enter the size you want in the width/height sections
  • the selected area will be visible and the rest of the photograph will be gray; you can move the ‘window’ around your photo to make the best selection, and if you use the freehand option you can adjust the size and shape with the ‘handles’
  • if you want several photos exactly the same size in a layout I don’t recommend using the freehand option, use one of the fixed ones


3. Use a mask:

A mask is useful to both digital and paper scrappers, for once it is created you can reuse/duplicate it and you will quickly have all your photos the same size.  Make masks of different sizes so you have a handy selection to choose from.

To open a blank canvas …

  • Open your photo-editing software
  • Open a new blank canvas (file, new, blank file)
  • Define the size & resolution of your page (you will want 250-300 dpi to give a good result when you print your page)
  • Choose RGB color mode, unless you want a monochrome grayscale finish
  • Set background color to transparent (I find the checkered background you see is very good for aligning photos and embellishments)
  • You now have a canvas and are ready to start scrapbooking

In PhotoShop each part of your design will be placed on a separate layer and you can adjust how far forward an item is by moving it up and down the layers.


To create a mask …

  • create a new layer in the layers palette
  • select the marquee tool (keyboard shortcut ‘m’)
  • select the size you want

As you select the size you have three options: freehand, fixed ratio and fixed size.

Starting with the last – fixed size:

  • create a new layer
  • enter the width and height you require
  • click on your canvas and the fixed size you’ve defined will appear in outline (with the ‘marching ants’ running round it)
  • select the paint bucket tool (keyboard shortcut ‘k’)
    • fill your shape with color (the last color used will fill the shape)
    • the color helps you see the shape
    • hit escape to remove the marching ants

You now have a mask.

Next we’ll choose the freehand option …

  • create a new layer
  • draw your shape on the new layer while holding down the left button on your mouse
  • fill your shape with color
  • hit escape to remove the marching ants

You now have a mask.

Finally, we’ll use the fixed ratio

  • create a new layer
  • draw your shape on the new layer while holding down the left button on your mouse – the proportions will be held but you choose the size
  • fill your shape with color
  • hit escape to remove the marching ants

You now have a mask.

You can duplicate the mask layer as many times as you require. You will want one mask layer for each image you plan to use.

Note: if you want to have multiple images on your layout that are the same size then choose one of the fixed size options and not the freehand which is harder to control.


To use the mask …

  • each mask must be on a separate layer
  • add the photograph to the layer above the mask layer
  • clip the two layers together by holding the Control + G keys
    • you can still move your image to select the exact part of the photo, and you can grab a corner handle of the image to resize it should you change your mind
  • once I have finalised the portion I want to see, I link the layers together so I don’t move the photo when I mean to move the photo and mask layers together; you can merge the layers at this point instead of linking them, however, I sometimes find I want to change the image and it’s easier to ungroup the layers than to undo the merge, so I leave that till I’ve finished the layout
  •  do this for each image until your layout is complete

 Note: remember to create a new layer each time you use the marquee tool as it will ‘write’ to whichever layer is selected. If you forget, just hit the ‘undo’ button, or ctrl+z, to undo the action.

Why would I want to go to all this bother for a paper scrapbooking page?

One of the main reasons is to make a multi-photo layout easier.

Plan your layout and then size the photos to exactly what you need; print, cut and place on your layout. You still have the originals intact because you never work on the original photograph, but a copy! And it’s available should you want to use it again.

There you have three ways to resize your photos. It’s not as complicated as it sounds so follow the steps and give it a try. Print it out if necessary and check off each step as you go which is what I do with something new. If you’ve any questions contact me or ask the question in the comments to help someone else.