How to Create a Hockney Style Picture Collage Using Photoshop

Here’s a new trick that I’ve been experimenting: The Hockney Style Picture collage.

If you don’t know about Hockney, he is a photographer who is famous for overlapping his polaroid images. He did this manually without the help of any post processing software.

This means that he needs to take several pictures of a building, each emphasizing different object (one picture for the roof, one picture of the door, one picture of the window, etc.) and then combine them altogether.

It’s kind of like building a lego model out of pictures.

But how will they align with each other you say? They don’t.

You see, the art in the Hockney style picture collage is in the imperfection. Although imperfect, our human mind will be able to perceive what object that is in a snap.

And then we’ll begin appreciating the details and the imperfection.

If you’d like do a Hockney style picture collage, you don’t need a polaroid camera and you don’t need to take several pictures of an object.

A picture of object that has patter and an image editing program (Photoshop) will be all you need. Below is my tutorial for creating the picture collage:

  1. Take a picture of something that has a repeating pattern (mine is the Chinese lantern that I found on Chinatown).
  2. Open up PhotoShop and create a blank, white new document with a dimension larger than your picture
  3. Add your picture as a layer there
  4. Add some white border with drop shadow effects so that it looks like a printed photo
  5. Create or duplicate the layers to create several pictures
  6. Start overlaying them and get creative!

If you are using a single photo for the collage, then you might not want to spread them too far with each other. You want to keep the repeating pattern strong by keeping the collage tight.

But this is will not the case if you’re trying to take a “real” hockney collage. Where you spread out the pictures will depend on the relative distance between the elements on the pictures.

Since this is not the case here, we’ll just stick with the previous instruction.

Here is the original image of the Chinese lantern that I took on Singapore:

Original Picture of Repeating Chinese Lantern

Original Picture of Repeating Chinese Lantern

And below is the finished collage picture – the editing was done using Photoshop CS5:

Finished Hockney Style Picture Collage

Finished Hockney Style Picture Collage

Beside the repeating lantern pattern, I picked the photo above because the lantern and the blue sky are really contrasty. That really make the object stands out when put in a collage.

As a side note, this image really present the majesty of the Chinese new year, creating a sense of never ending luck and prosperity. So it has all the ingredients that I need: repeating pattern, color and contract as well as the right mood and feeling!

If you are taking a picture for the collage, make sure to use a small aperture such as f/8 or f/11 to ensure that everything is in sharp focus. When you have some elements out of focus, your collage will have a lot of disjoints and you want to avoid this.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and can get some inspiration.

Good luck playing with the Hockney collage!

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