How to use Photoshop to turn your contact sheets into a book

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Photoshop has a great automated feature that generates contact sheet pages. We have a new layout in BookSmart that works perfectly with it. Here’s how to create contact sheets in Photoshop and turn them into a polished book:

Start by gathering your images on your computer in a new folder called Contact Sheets. Before we go further in Photoshop, keep in mind that this will work with the current version of BookSmart. (It’s the one that’s downloadable right now.)

Choose your trim size. In this case, I’ve started a 13×11 Large Format Landscape book. Next, create your cover and intro pages as you normally would.

Then select the BookSmart layout – the second page available under Picture Layouts (see image below). This layout is available in all book sizes in the most current version of BookSmart.

02specific page How to use Photoshop to turn your contact sheets into a book

Next, find the image container size in your particular trim size by selecting the page in BookSmart, so Photoshop creates contact sheets that fit your pages. Select the image container and get the size of the container in the rollover dialogue box. (See image below.) In 13×11 size books, the image container is 11.9×10.1 inches. That is the size I’ll specify in Photoshop as the contact sheet size.

03container rollover How to use Photoshop to turn your contact sheets into a book

This page layout is available in the same location in all of our trim sizes. It’s good for contact sheet books because the image container is inset 1/4 inch from the trimmed page edge, which allows you to fill the page with images without having to worry about anything getting trimmed off. This also gives you instant consistency, page after page.

Let’s now jump into Photoshop and automatically build our contact sheets! Get to Contact Sheet II by going to: File/Automate/Contact Sheet II. (See image below.)

01photoshop pull How to use Photoshop to turn your contact sheets into a book

Up pops an easy dialogue to configure the details of your contact sheets. Let’s walk through this step by step: First, point Contact Sheet in Photoshop to the folder of images you created earlier. Next, select the document size by matching the image container size from BookSmart. In my case, I have sized my sheet to the 11.9×10.1 information from BookSmart. Set your resolution to 300 pixels per inch. Color mode can be kept at RGB.

Now you can select the number of images you want on each contact sheet page. In my case, I went with 4 columns and 3 rows (see thumbnail of the page configuration below). You can use Auto-Spacing, but I prefer to set my space between my images at 1 inch. Feel free to test out the number of images and spacing a couple times to get the look you’re going for. My images below are square, but if you have horizontal and vertical images, Contact Sheet will mix them within your pages.

Lastly, set your font size, because Contact Sheet II will automatically generate your file name below each image. This can be very handy if you’re planning to give this book to a client or need to talk about a specific image on a particular page number.

04contact sheet dialoge How to use Photoshop to turn your contact sheets into a book

As soon as you click OK, Photoshop will start automatically making your pages of contact sheets. Once that’s done, you’ll have a series of pages open on your screen that need to be named and saved in a folder. Keep the automatically generated numerical naming convention on the end of your file name if you want to have these pages in numerical order: Page_001, Page_002, Page_003, etc.

Now comes the fun part. Get back into BookSmart and get the newly generated contact pages into your book. You can drag and drop all your pages at once into your book by just highlighting the specific layout page listed above, and BookSmart will autoflow all your contact sheets into the book in order. Or you can place your contact sheets into BookSmart’s Image Library via Get Images and go to your folder labeled Contact Sheets. Select them and they’ll appear in your Image Library in Booksmart. From there you can drag them into your layout one by one, or use the Autoflow feature to place them into your book.

Below is a detail of my contact sheet in a two-page spread in BookSmart:

01contact in app How to use Photoshop to turn your contact sheets into a book

Below (click for larger image) is a closer look of my contact sheet that shows the 12-image grid and file name below each image:

05finished contact spread How to use Photoshop to turn your contact sheets into a book

Between Photoshop’s automated contact sheet feature and BookSmart’s new layout, it’s now incredibly easy to design your own contact sheet books. Use them for archiving, as proof books to help clients choose images, or for any other purpose across a range of projects.

Happy proof booking,

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  1. I go a few steps further. Utilizing an Photoshop action, I collapse the layers and generate JPEGs from the Photoshop files that result when one utilizes Photoshop’s ContactSheets batch program. Then I add a 20% white border to the ContactSheets and auto flow these JPEGs into Blurb. Because I use the same basic Blurb layout for all my proofsheet Blurb books, when making a new Blurb book of proofs, all I have to do is delete all the images in the old book and autoflow in the the new Photoshop ContactSheets. Ready to press the purchase button after that. Clients love it.

      April 8, 2008 – 10:02 am   Permalink
  2. Just downloaded the 1.9.4 version for my Mac and installed it without a problem. At a glance it seems to have some great new features. I think some prior downloaders just ran into traffic trying to get the file. It’s 2am PST and only took about 3.5min to download and install. Happy installing Blurbians!

      April 9, 2008 – 1:57 am   Permalink
  3. Will you be adding a page-turning electronic version of your book? I am looking for one that would incorporate your layout and design features and could be printed or viewable on-line. Thanks!

      April 9, 2008 – 4:39 am   Permalink
  4. Shwag? Really? I’ll be there!

    “Come to Kate O’Brien’s on Monday, April 21 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and join us for a few drinks. We’ll be hanging out with Flickr, Moo, and other friends of Blurb before the Web 2.0 Expo officially kicks into gear. The pints are on us and we’ll hook you up with some shwag. Bring a Blurb book and score a free Blurb t-shirt.”

    By Mark Smith
      April 9, 2008 – 5:15 am   Permalink
  5. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this tutorial. I have been wanting to use blurb for proof books, and now I know how. Woohoo!

    By Sandy
      April 9, 2008 – 9:13 am   Permalink
  6. Will there be an update to Blurb to be able to add an even heavier page and maybe a lamination process to it? I know the expense will be greater, but so will the product. I print all of my wedding albums exclusively through Blurb and have had great success so far, i would just love to take it to the next level with your company. Thanks a bunch!

      December 10, 2008 – 8:28 am   Permalink
  7. Is there a template page layout for Panoramic prints, that could span across 2 pages?
    how can i do it. if it is not available.. thanks to all burbarians.

      January 28, 2009 – 6:24 am   Permalink
  8. Hi there. Can contact sheets also be done in CS4? I looked under the help menu but could not find anything. Anyone have any info about this?

      July 12, 2010 – 1:40 pm   Permalink
  9. Hi Beth,
    The best place to get info on that would be to post your question on the Blurb Forums or contacting our Customer Support team. If anyone else has some thoughts on how to help Beth, please chime in.

      July 13, 2010 – 2:55 pm   Permalink

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