This is the sort of cool effect you’ll see in high-end magazines and on poster designs. Spreading one image across multiple image frames creates a stunning collage effect that you can add to your own layouts or upload to social media.

You can achieve the effect directly in Adobe InDesign—here we show you how!


1. The One-Image/Multi-Frames Effect


This effect is beloved by professional designers for adding interest and creativity to photos.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

Once you know the basics of creating the effect, you can build up the design to create incredibly intricate collage effects.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

First, let’s start out simple…

Step 1

Open up Adobe InDesign and create a New Document.

Set the Page Size to A3, Portrait orientation. Deselect Facing Pages. Keep everything else set to its default values and click OK.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

Step 2

Expand the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and double-click on the default Layer 1 name to open the Layer Options panel.

Rename the layer Guides and click OK.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

Create a new layer so that it sits above Guides, and rename it Images. Lock the Images layer and stay on the Guides layer for now.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

Step 3

You now need to choose a suitable photo for your design. Any high-resolution photo will do, but try and look for interesting details in the image—generally, portraits and close-up shots will work better for this effect than landscapes, which tend to lack strong detail.

I’ve gone for this image of a flamingo.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect flamingo

Take a look at the photo—is it more portrait or landscape, or even square? My photo is square, so I make a mental note of that, and head back to my InDesign document.

Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and drag to create a shape that’s either roughly portrait or landscape to match your photo (it doesn’t need to match the exact dimensions or proportions). I hold down Shift to create mine, to create a perfect square shape.

Center the shape on the page.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

Step 4

Now it’s time to think about the kind of shape effect you want to create. Let’s start here with a basic example, using squares to create a ‘windowpane’ effect.

Return to the Layers panel and lock the Guides layer. Unlock the Images layer above.

Take the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) and, holding Shift, drag onto the page to create a square, and sit it inside the a corner of the rectangle guide.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

Go to File > Place, navigate to your chosen photo, and click Open.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

Double-click inside the image frame to directly select the photo and, holding down Shift, resize the image until it matches the proportions of the guide shape.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

Step 5

Select the image frame and Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

Place the pasted frame somewhere inside the guide shape, like in the top-right corner as I’ve done here. You can either resize the image frame to meet the edge of the first image frame, choose to leave a little gap between the frames or even overlap.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

Whatever you go for, the guide shape is your constant. So, double-click inside the pasted image frame to select the photo and pull it into the same position as the guide shape sitting below.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

You’ll start to see that the images are beginning to look correct, gradually making up a whole image.

Step 6

Repeat the process of copying and pasting image frames, and resizing the pasted frame if needed…

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

…then grabbing the image inside the frame and adjusting its position so it sits within the guide shape.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

Once you have filled the whole area of the guide shape with image frames, you should see your whole image has taken shape.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effectcollage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect


 2. Creating Advanced Designs


Step 1

Once you’ve experimented with the effect using simple shapes you can start to get more creative. Circular image frames are accessible from InDesign’s Tools panel (Ellipse Frame Tool), and look great when layered over each other in a venn diagram style.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

To recreate this design, as before create a square shape on the Guides layer below.

Use the Ellipse Tool to create a circular image frame which has the diameter of one quarter of the guide shape. Place in the corner of the shape and File > Place.

Repeat the process described above, copying and pasting circular image frames until you’ve filled the area of the guide shape.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

To add an overlapping effect to the circles, go to Object > Effects > Transparency and set the Mode to Multiply.

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

You can build up this collage effect to create designs that are simple and striking…

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

…or intricate and ornate. The only limitation is your imagination!

collage effect multiple frames single image indesign effect

In this tutorial you’ve learned how to create a collage-style effect in Adobe InDesign using multiple frames to assemble a single image. Awesome work!

Want free InDesign templates? Of course you do! Find a range of ready-to-edit templates for book covers, business cards and more on our Templates page.

Head over to our Inspiration page to browse stunning examples of professional design in magazines, books, stationery and packaging. Learn more about working with photos in InDesign or pick up top tips for improving your InDesign layouts instantly.