Puzzle layouts. Over the past few months, I’ve been trying out this new technique when it comes to my Instagram feed. I don’t always stick to it, but when I do, I tend to get the most engagement on my posts. In fact, I recently posted a poll questioning whether or not it was the preferred style or if I should go back to regular posts. Not surprisingly, puzzle layouts won with a 100% vote! During my trials, I’ve received quite a few direct messages inquiring about how I did them. Well, I’m here to tell you that it is a bit of work, but incredibly easy to achieve.
First, you’re going to need image editing software. This post works specifically with Adobe Photoshop C6. While I think that it may work on other versions of Photoshop, I do not know how transferable it is to other applications. You’ll have to check your own software’s functions, but this will give you an idea of where to start.
The first thing you want to do is decide how large you want to your photo be on Instagram and create a new image. Basing a single Instagram post off the idea that it is 600 pixels by 600 pixels, you’ll want to start there. Your Instagram feed is three images wide so you already know you want the width of the image you’re creating to be 1800 pixels wide. I typically like to have my creations four posts high so it would be 2400 pixels in height. I always start with a white background. Note: I’ve tried to use a transparent background at creation but images and text wouldn’t transfer how I wanted them.
Here is where you get to have your first bit of fun by designing the background of the entire image. You can just keep the solid white background or change it up to any color of your choosing. Or you can use brushes decorate the “wallpaper”. I like to use brusheezy.com to find brushes to use. If you need help installing brushes once you’ve downloaded them, I learned how to from the tutorial posted here.
Once the wallpaper of your image is created, you want to turn on the grid lines so you can see where you’ll be pasting images and text. In the tool bar, you’ll find the View option, then Show > Grid. If you’re lucky, you’ll automatically end up with twelve 600 x 600 grids marked off by solid dark lines.
If that doesn’t happen, no worries. All you need to do is tell the program that you want your grids to be 600 pixels wide: Edit > Preferences > Guides, Grids & Slices. Under the Grid option, you simply want to tell it that you want a grid line every 600 pixels as shown below.
And now it’s time to get creative! But, before you do, create a duplicate of your background image. For the time being, you can hide the original background and begin your work on the duplicate.
For each image you want to use, you’ll want to open it in a new window and adjust it as necessary whether it be cropping, editing, or resizing (note that all images should be based off the same 600×600 Instagram ratio). If you want a very large image to overlap into more than one grid, they can be larger than 600. I always like to size my images smaller so that some of the wallpaper will show behind the image. You can still drag the smaller image into two more more grids but have more “white space” in the background this way which I personally think is the whole purpose of a puzzle layout.
To get an image from one window to your white grid, you just use Ctrl+A to select the entire image > Ctrl+C to copy the image > Ctrl+P on the grid image to paste it. You can then drag it around to a suitable position from there.
All you do from there is repeat this process until you have your desired “bigger picture” designed. You can add text, fun images, random brush strokes, anything your creative heart desires! Each step should show up in a new layer so that you can rearrange as necessary if you want an image or text either lay over or under something that you’ve already added. By the end, you should have something wonderful created.
If you’re wondering why I suggested duplicating the background, it’s because at the very end, you can then go down to the main background image and rectangular selection block to add solid background colors (such as behind blocks of text) or to connect pictures from different grids together.
Now that the hardest/longest part is over, all you need to do now is save the image and transfer it to your phone. There are several ways to do this, and you can use whichever method is easier for you. For me, that’s using Dropbox which I have downloaded to both of my computers in as well as my phone and iPad. This way, I can just upload pictures to the Dropbox and easily access them on whichever device I am using.
Obviously, you don’t want the entire picture uploaded at once, so it needs to be divided into individual posts. Luckily, there are a plethora of apps that do just that. I personally use Tile Pic from the Apple Store, but there are several options to choose from. I know that Tile Pic only breaks a picture into 3×3 squares, and this is going to be a 4×3 post so it takes a little bit of wrangling. Luckily with Tile Pic, you can just adjust what part of the picture (and how many squares you want) with the slide of a finger. So, after I crop the bottom 3/4ths of the picture, I just start another project and crop the remaining top row of the picture leaving with twelve individual photos for Instagram.
All you have to do now is upload your photos when you’re ready. Now, this can be a little tricky because you have to make sure that they’re posted in the correct order. Or! You can take the guess work out of it, and download an Instagram feed planning app. I use prevew.app for this. This app allows you to plan out the appearance of your posts before you post them. You can customize them with filters, rearrange non-posted photos until you get them in a preferred order, pre-write all of your captions, and schedule the app to remind you to post the picture at an exact date and time.
The app even loads the picture into Instagram for you and copies your caption into your clipboard so all you have to do is paste it once Instagram is open. It literally makes posting so much faster and easier. There are probably other apps that do this as well, but preview.app is the only one that I have any sort of experience using.
And there you have it! That’s how I create my puzzle layouts for Instagram. There are other resources that you can find through a google search that gives you pre-designed layouts, but I love the concept of designing it myself. That way it’s a touch of my own personality and creativity. Like I mentioned before, it is a little bit of work in the beginning, but it’s pretty simple!
Have you tried a puzzle layout before? Do you like them? Let me know if you’re going to try it!