How to create Instagram "across-the-grid" collages (aka. puzzle feed)

How to create Instagram “across-the-grid” collages (a.k.a. the Instagram Puzzle Feed)

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Instagram, oh Instagram. How I love you so. But, if you show me yet another cookie-cutter feed comprised of aspirational photos and very little creativity, I think we’re going to have to end this. Sorry. It’s not you; it’s me. I’m simply craving a little more excitement.

I’ll be the first to admit that I too once went through the white, clean-looking feed phase. And the bright colour phase. And the VSCO filter phase. And the funny quotes phase. Not all in one account, mind you. If I stumbled upon a perfectly planned out feed with on-brand colours, I used to hit follow quicker than you can say #instacrush.

But times have changed. I don’t know about you, but it takes a little more than some pretty flowers and a white background to get my interest these days. I’m not such a cheap date anymore.

Enter, the across-the-grid collage. You might also know of it as the Instagram puzzle feed grid. The perfectly planned feed’s handsome cousin from overseas. This one takes high-maintenance to the next level, but, boy is it nice to look at.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, check out our Instagram feed. Insert shameless plug about following us on Instagram here.

Sure, putting together an across-the-grid Instagram collage takes a leeeetle bit of work. But, it’s surprisingly a lot easier than you’d think. I’ve put it all together in a simple, step-by-step format below.  These instructions require Photoshop, but you could easily swap it for Canva + the Instagrid app.

We’ve put together a simple Instagram puzzle grid template you can download and use in Photoshop alongside the steps below to create your own Instagram collage feed. Or, you can follow the steps we’ve outlined below to set up your own document in Photoshop (or Canva).

Download our free Instagram feed Photoshop template

(Note: You will need Adobe Photoshop installed on your computer to open this)

Step 1: Create a mood board

If you have a good idea of your brand colours and aesthetic already, you can skip this step. If you don’t, then this step is non-negotiable. What you really want to get clear on is your brand imagery, colours and general vibe. Is your brand full of florals or is it clean-cut and neutral? Is beachy or is it earthy? I give you full permission to go wild on Pinterest. Insert shameless plug #2 about following us on Pinterest here.

 

Step 2: Download some stock photos, patterns, brushes and any other graphics that fit your brand

Unsplash is my dirty little secret – shhh, don’t tell anyone. Completely free stock photos that don’t suck. Spoiler alert: you’re about to lose ~4 hours of your evening browsing through their amazing photos.

If you’re after some higher-end, styled stock photos, you can’t go past Styled Stock Society. Their photos are next level and guaranteed to help your brand sparkle.

And, when you’re finished with Unsplash, head over to Creative Market to download other graphics and brushes to jazz up yo’ feed. They’re not free, but they’re reasonably priced.

 

Step 3: Set up a PSD file 3000px wide by 5000px high.

(Skip this step if you’re using the downloadable Instagram grid template)

This will create 15 images in total. If you want to create more in one go, be my guest. Once you’ve set up your PSD file, you’ll need to add grid lines so you can see where each square is.

In Photoshop CC on a Mac, you can do this by going to the View menu > Show > Grid.

Then, go to the Photoshop CC menu > Preferences > Guides, Grids & Slices and enter the settings you see below. This might be slightly different depending on your version of Photoshop and your operating system.

Instagram across-the-grid collage

Step 4: Pick one main image per square and add them all to the PSD

If you’re after a more minimal looking Instagram collage, you could choose one image for every two squares. If you’re after a more crowded look, choose more than one image per square. You get the gist.

 

Step 5: Arrange the images to look cohesive.

You might need to replace some images here if they don’t quite fit in with the others. Resize them, rotate them, change the order. Crop them into different shapes. Erase parts of the image. Whatever fits your brand.

 

Step 6: Decorate!

This is my favourite part. Go nuts! Add illustrations, quotes, borders, handwriting, icons… anything that fits with your brand vibe.

 

Step 7: Slice your image

If you’re not using our downloadable Instagram grid template, you’ll need to create slices in your image. You can do this by selecting the Slice tool. At the top of your screen, change the settings to fixed size, 1000px x 1000px. Then, click in the top left-hand corner of each grid square in your PSD to create a square slice.

 

Step 8: Save your tiles

To save the slices into separate images, go to the File menu > Export > Save for Web. In the window that opens, click Save at the bottom of the screen. Ensure that in the next window that pops up, your export is Images Only and not Images + HTML.

 

Step 9: Upload into your favourite Instagram scheduling tool

I recommend Planoly or Plann for planning and scheduling your feed. The only real difference between the two apps is Planoly allows you to schedule via your computer, but Plann is for your phone only.

How can you make your across-the-grid Instagram collage look amazing?

  • Balance busy images with simple ones and solid blocks of colour.
  • Don’t overthink it! Simple is almost always best.
  • Have fun decorating your image at the end, but don’t go overboard and complicate it too much.
  • Stick to a limited colour palette. Usually, this would be your brand colours.

Good luck! And don’t forget to download the Instagram puzzle grid template below.

  1. Annalisa

    July 19th, 2017 at 6:39 am

    This has been a great read with clear action steps! Thanks Steph, I look forward to putting this into action soon.

  2. Maya Maceka

    August 14th, 2017 at 6:03 am

    Steph, I’m SO glad that I found this post. I have seen a lot of these Instagram collages and tbh, I had no idea how they achieved that “look”. But this really broke everything down for me. And I might even give it a shot myself with your handy PSD template! Thanks chick!

  3. Nikita

    August 14th, 2017 at 8:13 am

    I’ve been looking to get more into Instagram and this has really helped me ! Thank youu

  4. 6 ways to get new Instagram followers in 2017 - Wildbloom Creative

    August 16th, 2017 at 11:44 am

    […] post gives you step-by-step instructions on how you can create your very own Insta-grid collage. Check it out here. It’s simpler than you […]

  5. Shashi

    August 17th, 2017 at 3:51 am

    Many thanks, Steph, for sharing such helpful post. I tried it and I hope it will help my Insta moves. Thanks again!

  6. Lisa Galvin

    December 5th, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Wow, thanks girl! That is amazing.
    Look out Instagram ( I manage 4 accounts!)

  7. Pamela

    January 11th, 2018 at 4:09 am

    Thank you so much! This is going to completely change my Instagram account!

  8. b

    February 5th, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    hi this has been so helpful for me!!! i just have one small dilema! i follow the instructions for this exactly as advised above, yet some images are blurry on my instagram grid- individually all the images are fine, but on the grid some images turn blurry and some are perfectly clear, and im using your method for all my pictures! any idea why its cauing issues for some picures only?

  9. wildbloomcreative

    February 8th, 2018 at 10:29 am

    Ooh, this is strange! It might have something to do with the images you’re using. Make sure you only use high-resolution stock images and you aren’t stretching them bigger than their size 🙂

    Hope that helps!

  10. KERUBO

    February 8th, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    WOW…I APPRECIATE THIS SUPER HELPFUL TIP…APPLIED IT TO MY PAGE…KINDLY CHECK IT OUT SOMETIME. kerubo_designer.

  11. Brittnay

    February 14th, 2018 at 4:57 am

    This is truly amazing! thanx for putting this together with the template. First day using photoshop and although it was difficult to acheive the look my client wanted – i couldnt have done it with you!

  12. Simon Moore

    February 16th, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    Thanks Steph for sharing this, I’ve used this effect on my company instagram page http://www.instagram.com/spmcreative.
    Please let me know any feedback on the design.
    Thanks Simon

  13. wildbloomcreative

    February 22nd, 2018 at 7:17 am

    Looks amazing Simon! Great work!

  14. SiMon moore

    February 24th, 2018 at 7:54 am

    Thanks Steph

  15. Brenda

    February 22nd, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    does this work in AI? or photoshop elements??

  16. wildbloomcreative

    February 23rd, 2018 at 8:03 am

    I’ve only tested it in Photoshop CC, but it should (should!) work in Elements.

  17. Aude

    March 22nd, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    Thanks !

  18. nissh_

    March 26th, 2018 at 6:55 am

    where’s the link to download the template? thanks.

  19. Steph Taylor

    March 26th, 2018 at 6:59 am

    Sorry Niss! We’ve just moved website and we’re having issues integrating our forms. It’ll be back in the next few days 🙂

  20. Danielle

    April 6th, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    Unsplash….oh my goodness… thanks for telling me about this site!

  21. Steph Taylor

    April 7th, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    It’s so addictive! Enjoy 🙂

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