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Photo Hack: Photo Explosions



In the first Phlib Photo Hack Tutorial we're going to show you how to make your own photo explosion. Some people call it a photo mosaic or a photo collage but it isn't quite that; A photo explosion is when you take a single photograph and splice it up into a number of separate photographs, as in the picture above.

"Can't I just print my photo really big and cut it up with scissors?"

Yep. But that'll cost you way more money and you might cut yourself. This is the cheapo version of doing exactly the same thing, but in cyberspace before getting those 6x4" photos printed.

So we're going to need to use some software to do this. Now, there are loads of suitable 'vector graphics editors' (like Illustrator and Xara) and 'raster graphics editors' (like Photoshop and GIMP) but we're going to demonstrate how to do photo explosions using Inkscape:

"Inkscape is a vector graphics editor for Mac or Windows. It's pretty intuitive and easy to use, but most importantly.... it's free!" Download the appropriate version here.

Once you've downloaded Inscape you then have to draw a template that represents the photo explosion that you want to produce. Because this is a bit of a fiddle we've done this stage for you.

Download the appropriate template below:

  • Mac: Right click the image and 'Download linked file'
  • PC: Right click the image and 'Save Link As...'










Once you've opened your template file in Inkscape you should see something like this:

We first want to import your photo onto the correct 'layer':

  • Open the Layers window: Layer > Layers
  • Make ClipPhotoHere the current layer: Click on ClipPhotoHere in the Layers window
  • Now import the photo that you'd like to explode: File > Import > [Find Your Photo] > Open (select embed if you get the option)


We now want to put the image behind the mask, resize it for composition and then select it along with the mask:

  • Put your photo behind the photo mask (grey rectangles): Object > Lower To Bottom
  • Using the arrow tool, click on your photo and resize it by dragging the arrows until it's in a good place behind the photo mask. DO NOT ACCIDENTALLY MOVE THE MASK.
  • Now select both your photo and the mask: Use arrow tool to click on the mask and then HOLD THE SHIFT button on the keyboard while you click on the photo.


This is how we do the photo explosion:

  • 'Clip' the mask to the photo: Object > Clip > Set


Boom! Now we want to select each part of the resulting explosion before we can save it:

  • You might first want to lock the ClipPhotoHere layer: Click the lock next to the ClipPhotoHere layer in the Layers window
  • Unlock the (invisible) ExportRectangles layer: Click the lock next to the ExportRectangles layer in the Layers window
  • Using the arrow tool, hold the mouse button down and drag a box around the top left photo.


And now we can save it:

  • Export the image: File > Export Bitmap
  • In the Export Bitmap window click the Selection tab
  • Now make sure it's a high enough quality to print: Set the Bitmap size to 300dpi
  • Set a suitable filename and file location.
  • Press the Export button at the bottom


Repeat the last stage with each of the photo segments before sending all the resulting images to your favourite printer people.


"Well done, have a cup of tea!"

  • Debbie Stone says...

    Yay!!! I managed to do my first photo explosion! Took a bit of concentration to follow the steps but after the first one, it’s very easy :-) Thanks!!

    On March 13, 2011

  • Anne says...

    Excellent. Looking forward to using this.

    On February 22, 2011

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