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Basic Collage Tutorial with Free PC Software

The program I’m going to use for this tutorial:

Paint.NET – Free Software for Digital Photo Editing

It’s a good, lightweight alternative to Photoshop and it’s free. I’m not personally familiar with other alternative programs, but they should function more or less the same, and the collage creation process should not be all that different. This paint program is for windows, for Mac you can try Pinta, Pixelmator, Acorn, or Photoshop express.

Here’s a video going over the basics if you prefer, but continue scrolling for written instructions. I’ve also included some general tips related to DDG collages at the end.

To start off, go to “File” in the upper left corner and select “New”.












A window will appear where you can set the size of your collage. This is going to vary based on how many images you want to use and how big they are, I like 2000×2000 pixels for a simple collage. Leave the resolution on the default setting.











Now you’re going to want to go back to the “File” menu and select open this time, and then navigate to whatever folder you keep your style images in and open one of those. From the toolbar on the left, choose “rectangle select” in the upper left, and drag your mouse over style image so the entire thing is highlighted. Then press Ctrl and C on your keyboard or select “Copy” from the edit menu on the top left, next to “File”.









Now go back to your blank collage by selecting the thumbnail image at the top of the screen and create a layer for the image by selecting the leftmost button of the layer pane at the bottom right of the screen. Layers will keep your individual images separate in case you need to move or resize a single image in your collage. Once you’ve created that new layer, press Ctrl and V (or go to the edit menu on the top left and select ‘paste”) to paste your style image into the collage. The image will be pasted onto whichever layer is selected in the layer pane, so make sure to create a new layer for each image.





On the lefthand tool bar, the upper right tool is the “move selection” tool, and this will allow you to move and resize your image. Highlight an image with the “rectangle select tool”, manipulate the image with the “move selection” tool.










Repositioning each individual image is just a matter of selecting the layer of each image and using the highlight and move selection tool. The order of the layers can be changed with the two arrow buttons on the bottom right, or dragging the layer with your mouse. This will allow for one image to overlap another.






Once you’re comfortable with the basics, you will need to position your images. Here’s an example collage I made earlier:








My first attempt at this one was producing blocky sections in dreams, so I just tweaked it slightly to make the images line up a little. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does help. I’ve circled the areas where I tried to align the images to some degree. As you can see, it really doesn’t need to match up all that well.








If your dreams are coming out too blocky and you can’t line up the edges because… they just don’t line up, the solution is to add more images so the generator will have more to work with. Here’s another example, and as you can see I made almost no attempt to position layers well. However, there’s enough different styles that the generator puts them where they need to go.

This is also a good example of the types of images you want to include in your collage. This one was made for a city scene with a lot of buildings and street signs, so I included the bottom left and right images to help fill in those shapes. The fractals in the upper right corner are sort of a “filler” section – they help smooth out the image so there are no blocky sections where it drastically changes from one color to another.





It can also be helpful to position each image where you want it to appear in the dream. For example, put sky elements at the top of the collage. This isn’t necessary, but it can be helpful. This one of Ben’s will always give you a colorful sky with city lights below it.











You can also use positioning to sort of force DDG to style something the way you want it. This one didn’t turn out exactly the way I wanted it to, but it is a good example. I just used the source image as a background and pasted style images over it. The “woman” on the left kept getting jumbled up with the signs, so I left her uncovered (it was worse before).

Overall, making collages is mostly about image selection. Use styles you’re familiar with and if it doesn’t turn out how you want it, you can always move the images around or paste another image on top of problem areas.