Create a Super Quick Image Montage for your Lab Book

This is something I do on an almost daily basis – I took two images of cells in culture today, they weren’t particularly pretty but they are just to have a record in my lab book of how they looked today. I needed a quick and easy way to get those images to print at a suitable size to insert in both my paper lab book and my electronic lab book.

In addition, I’m planning to photograph these two culture flasks every day for a week or so to compare growth patterns so I’m going to take a few extra minutes today to set up a template that makes it quicker in the future.

If you just want a very simple quick montage, follow the steps in Bold below. It takes less than a minute from beginning to end! The other steps are there for if you want a few more options.

  1. Open both images in Photoshop. Since they came from the same camera with the same settings they should be the same size but we can check that by going to Image > Image Size and checking the dimensions.
  2. With the first image active, double-click on the Background layer in the Layers Palette to turn it into a regular layer. You can give it a useful name or leave it named Layer 0. This step is optional but you should do it if you plan to make a template or add text labels.
  3. Go to Image > Canvas Size. Uncheck Relative. Set measurement units to Percent and Width to 202. Click the box on the left side of the grid to tell Photoshop to extend the canvas to the right. Click OK. Depending on the size of your images, you might need to zoom out now to see the whole thing. 
  4. Now go to your second image, Select All (Ctrl-A), Copy (Ctrl-C), return to the first image and Paste (Ctrl-V). Rename this new layer if you want to.
  5. With the Move Tool (V) selected, move the new layer all the way to the right (make sure it clicks to the edge, you might need to make sure that Snap To Document Bounds is checked in the View Menu).
  6. Use the Text Tool to add some labels if you want to.
  7. Save your image in .psd format. You can skip this step if you are certain you won’t want to make further changes or create a template.
  8. Now the quick montage is done but it is likely way larger than it needs to be. We need to make it smaller.
    1. Layer > Flatten Image. This reduces the file to a single layer.
    2. Image > Image Size. Ensure Resample is not checked and change the Resolution to 300 – this is best for printing. The width and height should change accordingly but the actual dimensions in pixels won’t change. Now, check Resample and adjust the width to a suitable size for printing (I chose 15cm)
    3. File > Save As… and save it as a .jpg file. If you previously saved a .psd file, use the same name.
  9. For my electronic lab book, I like to make an even smaller file so the document doesn’t get too big.
    1. Image > Image Size and change the resolution to 75 pixels/inch (with Resample checked).
    2. Save this new version with an ‘-s’ on the end of the filename to indicate it is a small version.
  10. And finally, to make the template:
    1. Reopen the .psd version of your montage.
    2. Delete both the layers with the cell images, leaving just the text labels.
    3. Save As… and give your template a new name.
    4. Next time you get two images you can simply open the template and copy each image in.
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