Saturday, July 25, 2015

Family Tree Photoshop Tutorial and Free Template

A family tree I did for one of my parents (with some info removed here for privacy) The "frames" are from a vintage photo.

If you Google "Family Tree Template," here's a screenshot of what you'll get:

I don't want to disrespect any of those drawings of trees, but they're a bit too juvenile for a grown-up person's wall. 

Martha Stewart, on the other hand, has done some stunning family trees, but nothing with both photos and names/dates. She has a really cool diamond-shaped arrangement with photos, for example, but it's more about d├ęcor than information.

When I made a family tree for one of my parents as a gift, I opted for a style that was suited to the vintage of the photos and the style of the home where it would be hanging. Some of the info has been removed from the screenshot for the sake of privacy, but you get the idea. Sadly, I was also faced with the problem of not having photos for everyone (we lost almost everything in a warehouse fire when I was little and living outside the country), so when lacking a photo, I opted to put the name/date in the frames. I made a 16x20 inch print, so that's the size of the template (but you can resize it). To help remedy the sad state of the internet's family tree photo templates, I am sharing this one with you for free along with a tutorial. The file for the template is large (about 163mb it is a Photoshop .psd file), so be patient when downloading. (a zipped file is still 64mb. Do the regular one if it gives you problems) The template will look like this:

a closer detail...

(Did you notice I left out that decorative thing around the name? sorry, but I left it out in the template because it's from a digital stamp set I bought ages ago.)

And a view of what your Layers palette will look like (tons of folders! one per person)

It looks daunting, but once you know how to do one folder, you know how to do them all. Almost. The "child" folder (where the person whose genealogy you're depicting goes) is slightly different. Here's a look inside that folder

 Click on the folder and you will see four layers. The bottom layer is the type layer. Double click the "T" (not the words next to it, but the "T" itself) and you will see the "Type name here" text get highlighted. You can now type a name in its place.

In the type menu bar, you can change whatever you like (color, size, font). If you hold the cursor anywhere but directly over the type, you can drag the text to recenter it. 

One layer up from the text layer is the frame layer, which you will leave as is, but feel free to toggle the eye on and off to see what it is.

The next layer up is also going to be left as is (see, that's not so bad!). This is the clipping mask layer. You can learn more about clipping masks in my wedding template tutorial, but otherwise, just keep reading.

The top layer in this folder is "photo goes here." Sounds self explanatory, but your photo will not magically resize to fit the window, so here is what you do:

1. Open the photo you want to use (I suggest keeping all the photos black and white or sepia for better continuity)...

2. Select it (command-a for Mac, ctrl-a for PC) and copy it (command-c or ctrl-c)

3. Now move back into the window of the template and make sure that the appropriate "photo goes here" layer is active (just click once on it). See how that layer is highlighted? That means it's active. I know this sounds super basic, but I sometimes get rushed and forget to select the layer, so if you're like me, a reminder is in order.

4. With the "photo goes here" layer active, paste (Mac: command-v or PC: ctrl-v) the photo you just copied onto that layer. 

And don't freak out if it looks like this....

Or if you can't even see it (provided you can see it in the highlighted layer). Your photo is hovering back there, masked by everything else. You will only see whatever is in that rectangle of the frame. A quick way to find your photo (and you will have to do this anyway so...) is to hit "transform" (command-t or ctrl-t). You can see by the outlines of the transform box that the photo is way bigger than what I need:

To transform your photo without distorting it...
hold down "shift", grab one of the corners, and and pull in to resize. You can click anywhere within the outline of your photo and drag around to see how you're doing. See, it's getting closer...

continue the shift corner dragging and moving around until you like how it appears in the window (note: but make sure it's not smaller than the space of the inside frame.) This seems about right:

Now hit return and accept the transformation.
It's magical!

Now you will be more or less repeating those steps for each folder (each folder is labeled with the person it represents). If it makes you feel better to keep things tidy, click the little arrow next to the folder you just completed to hide its contents.

Now work your way up to the next folder...

You will follow the exact same steps as above, but now you have two text layers (a date layer and a name layer).

Note that the frame sizes get slightly smaller with each generation. It was just a matter of fitting things in a way that looked right.

This isn't a super fast process, but trust me, it's a lot faster than building it from scratch. Just a couple more things and we're done:

What about those layers without photos?
Chances are, you won't be missing the exact same photos that I was (unless you're my sister). So what if you want to change something? For example, look at those top two folders (a photo one: maternal grandmother's mother and a date-only one: maternal grandmother's father). 

Let's say you're lucky enough to have photos for both. You will want to get rid of the date-only one and replace it with a photo one. Start by turning off the visibility (the eye) of the layer you're replacing so you can see a blank spot to fill:

Now duplicate the entire maternal grandmother's mother folder (make sure the folder is active and hit command-j for a Mac or ctrl-j for PC). This gives a copy. With your newly copied folder active, you can use the move tool (v) to drag it into the blank spot:

Now you have two "grandmother's mother" layers, one of which you may want to rename to avoid confusion. You can trash the folder you don't need or just leave it invisible.

Final touches...

Maybe you don't like that beige color (too peachy? too band-aid like? Hey, it worked with my parents' color scheme.) You can change it by using the paint bucket tool to pour a new color into the "background color" layer:

Make sure you're happy with how all the text is aligned. Save a layered copy in case you want to change something later. The size is set to 16x20 (at 320 dpi, which is what Costco uses), so it will work great for 8x10, but you may have to do some adjustments to the canvas size (sorry, but I can't bear to continue a tutorial on that right now) and then crop in order to get different aspect ratios.

Maybe at some point I'll do a version that goes back even more, or something really modern, but for now, I hope this will make the world of family tree charts look a little less like it belongs on Dora the Explorer. 

Good luck! Let me know if you try it.

note: This is free, so please do not try to sell or get profit by redistributing the template.
p.s. If you like this tutorial, feel free to show some love by browsing my galleries of prints for sale (they make good gifts) 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Le retour...

Bastille Day is as good a day as any to start posting again. And so, in honor of the French national holiday, a few photos of Paris from my recent "Circular" series. The series is inspired by the circular snapshots made from the 1888 Kodak No. 1 cameras. Rather than replicate the vintage look with sepia, I wanted to do a crisp black and white. The photos are on a square white background because 1. it looks great to have that white space and 2. who has a circular frame? They look extra cool printed high gloss on metal. Check out the full gallery on, where you have loads of size and print material options.

Blatant self promotion? Of course. Unlike so many web sites, I don't run ads all over my page. I had a brief experiment with affiliate links at one point, but decided to abandon even that. However, as my views inch closer to 1 million, I can't help but think what role my lack of "monetization" may have played in the waning number of posts over the years. Hence, my return to posting will no doubt be accompanied by a few invitations for you to visit some of my Paris galleries the next time you're hunting for a gift:

There are other images to check out in the gallery, and more will be added in the future. My favorite is a grid of nine circular photos. Any of prints can be any (sqaure) size, from 5"x5" to 40"x40".