Contour Collage review: Create stylish graphic shapes and text effects from your photos

The photos are placed within the contour shape, using the photo holder shape and frame specified.

Making a collage out of a pile of photos is fine when it’s prints, scissors and glue, but doing it in Photoshop is not something to look forward to. Thankfully cf/x Software’s Contour Collage is on hand to tackle this onerous task. The first thing is to load a collection of photos to be used for the process. These can be dragged and dropped onto the image bar or loaded from the menu. The more you have, the more variety in the final collage. The centre part of the screen is occupied by the design that is currently being used whereas all the important options are over on the right. These start by defining the canvas size to be used. There’s a number of presets from common paper sizes up to screen aspect ratios for iDevices. The dpi can also be specified.

The main choice of how to use the app comes in the Contour selection. This is a decent collection of preset shapes that can be selected by scrolling through them. The interface could have been a little better here because you can only really see one at a time, with parts of the ones above and below. It makes the selection process a little fiddly. Next to the are the shape templates that the photos themselves are loaded into. There’s also some crop options to determine where the photos are aligned within the shape mask. One of the more important options is the slider for the size of the frame for the photos, and the colour of it. Too large a frame with a drab colour and it makes the entire collage look grim. Too small a frame and the photos all blend into each other. The other options cover randomising the rotation, the order the photos are used in and whether to have a drop shadow behind them. I can’t really see why you’d turn any of these off, but if you want to, you can.

The completed collage can be output in a variety of formats, including ones which support background transparency.

More important is the option to either use a colour background, behind the collage, or to have it transparent so that the graphic can then be easily used in other compositions. The final options cover whether to use all the photos that are in the image bar once, or to use a specific amount, thus duplicating them unless you have an awful lot. For an A4, 300dpi image you’ll need more than 250 images otherwise spaces will appear in the design. The size of the photo and holder can also be adjusted but be aware that making this too large quickly obliterates the more sophisticated collage shapes.

All you need to do at this point is hit the big green button to create the collage. The first time the images are used it takes a few seconds, subsequently it’s much faster. What’s really interesting is that you aren’t limited to the preset shapes. Text, using any system font, can also be used, or you can use a photo as the collage base. For this to work you really need to reduce a photo to just two tones – 100% black and 100% white. The collage covers the black areas and ignores the white. Where the shade is in between it can mean it gets some photos or none. It’s tricky to predict so it’s better to reduce the photo to the basic shades, or create one like that to start with.

The collage can then be tweaked by changing the options and re-running, or output in a variety of formats, including to iPhoto and Aperture.

OUR VERDICT

Surprisingly effective and also fun and easy to use. The interface could be slightly better for accessing the contours and some more post-productions options would be handy, but for creating the collages, using shapes or text, this is a handy little app for a designer in a hurry.

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