tutorial: creating hexagon shaped photos

i love this layout that i made for the two peas in a bucket "storyteller" series in january.  the challenge was to create a layout that was inspired by an info graphic.  my favorite part of info graphics is the uniformity and cohesiveness.  so for my layout, i decided to use hexagons as my design element with layers of text and embellishments.  varying the shape of photos from the typical square or rectangle can make a very bold and drastic statement.  i think the hexagons are super "eye-catching" and are just plain fun!

today, i thought i would share how easy it is to mask your photos into shapes.  you could really pick any shape that you have in your photo editing program.  for this tutorial, i will show you how to create hexagon shaped photos....but totally play around with all of the shapes!  it's kind of addictive!

1. start by opening up photoshop or photoshop elements.  file-> new -> blank file to create a canvas.  i'm printing mine on an 8.5x11 piece of photo paper so i created my canvas that size.  

2. select the "polygon" tool from the "rectangle tool" on your tool bar (it's the little blue rectangle).  right click on the small white arrow in the bottom right hand of the rectangle tool to bring up the additional shape options.  select the "polygon tool".

3.  with your cursor on your canvas, click and draw a hexagon shape.  you can hold down "shift" while drawing your shape to keep it proportional (as pictured above).  

4. open your photos.  drag, drop and resize your photos to the size of your hexagon shape.  "command-g" (mac) or "control-g" (pc) to mask your photo into your shape.  repeat for the remaining photos.

i love to play around with the placement of my photos.  instead of always having the photo "centered", i like to move them around and try to get interesting angles of my subject.  play around and see what you like best!  :)

5. after you are satisfied with how your pictures look, merge the layers and save the file to your computer.  print and trim your hexagon shaped photos.

before you close out your file completely, you will want to save it as a .png file so you can open it in your silhouette cameo software.  if you don't have a silhouette, you could easily trace your hexagon photos onto your patterned paper and trim the shapes.

6. "undo" your previous action to merge your layers and delete each of the photos within the hexagon shape (don't worry....your file is already saved!).  merge your layers again and save as a .png file (select this option from the "format" drop down menu as pictured above).  

**note: you could do this step as soon as you create your hexagon shapes before masking your photos.  just follow the above steps of merging and saving**

**also note: the hexagon shapes will need to be "black" in order to be traced in your Silhouette software.**

7. open the .png file in your silhouette cameo software.
8. use the "select trace area" (pictured in the upper right hand corner above) to trace your shapes.

9. when tracing shapes, i always uncheck the "high pass filter" and move the "threshold" toggle up to 100% to get a good clean outline around my shape.  i'm not sure what this does, but it seems to give me the cleanest cut lines.

10. after you have highlighted your shapes, select "trace & detach" or "trace" to create your cut lines.

to duplicate and resize your shapes you will have to select "release compound path" from the object options.  simply go to the "object" menu up on your top tool bar and select "release compound path". this will enable you to move, resize and duplicate each individual shape.

for my layout, i wanted hexagons cut from a few different patterned papers, so i sectioned my 12x12 canvas in the silhouette software into 6x6 boxes.  i made sure to place my hexagons to be cut within each of these 6x6 boxes.  then i trimmed my patterned paper into 6x6 squares and placed 4 6x6 squares onto my cutting mat to create a 12x12 cutting surface (does that even make any sense???).

i also created an outline of some of the hexagons to make an open hexagon shape.  i felt like the outlined shapes lightened up my busy layout a little.

when you are finished with your photos and shapes, you'll be all ready to put your layout together!!
here's a look at my layout again....

i hope you found this tutorial helpful!  i know it seems a little long and slightly complicated, but i promise it's super easy once you get going!  have fun masking your photos into different shapes!  let me know if you have any questions or if you are just plain confused!!  



  1. You are so cool & talented!!!! Love this.

  2. Thank you for the tutorial. Love the layout and would like to try this myself.

  3. Definitely going to try this! Thanks so much for sharing this tutorial. Your layout is beautiful! :)