Photoshop Friday! Easy 3-panel Storyboard

Hi There! Happy Friday!

I’m in lovely, balmy San Francisco, teaching a class at Shutterfly. At least, since I actually wrote this in Raleigh on Thursday, presumably it’s balmy. And presumably I’m loving it. ;)

Today we’ll be talking about how to create an easy 3-panel storyboard for your favorite photos. This can come in really handy to frame up the photos you’re taking for your Photo-a-day for May. :) You can either print these onto matte photo paper and frame them, or place them on a digital page, or slip a sheet of digital patterned paper behind them - anything goes. :) Here’s what I ended up with:


A traditional photo storyboard has three vertical photos side-by-side on a white background. But you can feel free to switch this up with any number of photos, or a tall storyboard.

We’ll be using my very favorite method for cropping photos - we use clipping masks rather than the crop tool, so that we can change our minds about the size of our photo and what’s showing. I never use my Crop tool anymore. :) 

Create the Storyboard and Masks


1. Create a new blank document, and create a document that is a wide rectangle. I chose 10 inches wide x 6 inches tall for mine.


10 inches wide

6 inches tall

300 pixels/inch

white background 

2.  Open and edit the three photos you’d like to use.

3. On your new blank document, create a new layer (Ctrl-Shift-N)

4. Select your Rectangular Marquee tool.

5. You can draw a freehand rectangle, or set a fixed size. I want to set a fixed size of 3 x4 for my photos. In the Options Bar, set the Mode to Fixed Size, and type in a  width of 3 and a height of 4, tabbing out between them.

6. Click down in your document to create a 3x4 inch rectangular selection.

7. Type “d” to return your foreground and background to their defaults.

8. Go to Edit > Fill.

9. In the Fill dialog box, choose Use: Foreground. Make sure the Preserve Transparency checkbox is unchecked. Click OK.

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10. Select the Move tool and move your first black rectangle to the left side of your document.

11. With your Move tool selected, hold down Alt while you drag on the black rectangle. This copies the rectangle. Drag the rectangle copy next to the first rectangle.

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12. Repeat step 11 for the third rectangle.  

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Align Masks 

Next we’ll align these rectangles.

1. With your Move tool selected, shift-click on each of the rectangles in turn to select them all. You should see all three rectangle layers highlighted in the Layers palette.

2.  In the Options Bar, go to Align > Top Edges.

3. In the Options Bar, go to Distribute > Horizontal Centers. This evens out the space between the rectangles.

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4. With all the rectangles still selected, you can refine their position on the canvas, either by dragging or by using your arrow keys. Leave more space at the bottom than at the top for visual interest.

Placing and Masking the Photos 

Now we’re ready to place our photos on!

1. Let’s rename the layers in the Layers palette. Double-click on the name of the layer to change it.

I renamed mine (from the top down):

Right Mask

Center Mask

Left Mask

2. Now click on the Left Mask layer in the Layers palette.

3. Switch over to the photo you’d like to have on the left side of your storyboard.

4. With your Move tool selected, click and drag it down onto the thumbnail of your storyboard document in the Photo Bin.

5. Click and drag your photo to position it over the top of the left-hand rectangle. We’ll be using the rectangle as a clipping mask to help us define the shape of our photo. I use this method INSTEAD OF the crop tool pretty much all the time now.

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6. in the Layers palette, hold down your Alt key while you hover over the line in between the photo layer and the Left Mask layer. You’ll see your cursor turn into a little double-overlapping-circle (my friend Liv calls it a snowman, hehe). When you see the cursor change, click down to create the clipping mask.

7. Now with the Move tool still selected, you’ll simply resize your photo until it fits inside of the mask. (You may need to zoom out of your document to see the edges of your photo and the transform handles for resizing.)

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8. When you’re happy with your resize/repositioning of the photo, double-click to commit the change, and we’re ready for the center photo.

9. Click on the center black rectangle with the Move tool.

10. Repeat steps 3-7.

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11. Click on the right black rectangle with the Move tool.

12. Repeat steps 3-7.

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Now you can add some text to the bottom of the storyboard.

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Print and frame, or use on a simple digital page. :) Here it is a bit larger:

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 Have a super, phabulous Photoshop Phriday and a great weekend!