personal

My process for creating capsule layouts

November 13, 2017

I often get asked how I create my clothing layouts, so I thought I’d do a little breakdown here.  Be warned:  my methods are very low-fi, and anyone with real design experience would tell you that I’m not doing it The Right Way.  But for the most part, it’s been pretty streamlined for me, and it’s easy for anyone with no Photoshop experience.

I enjoy making these layouts for capsule planning, packing lists, and outfit ideas, and many of the ones I make I don’t even share here–as a visual-dependent organizer, I just find it really helpful.

Here’s the gist of it:  I use Word.  It’s easy for me to manipulate text boxes and photos on a page, because I’ve been familiar with the program for a long time, and it doesn’t have too many buttons or options.  The final image quality is limited, but ultimately, it serves my purpose, because I personally don’t like the look of something super huge on a computer screen.  Please know that I’m not trying to sell you on this process, it’s purely what works for me, if you’re interested.  (The version of Word that I have is 15.19.1, but I imagine navigating around is pretty similar on other versions.)

I. GATHER PRODUCT PHOTOS

I have a “flat lay” product photo for almost everything in my closet, and I usually make a point to save one out as soon as I order something, directly from the retailer, because they don’t always keep photos available after something gets sold out.  I look for photos with a light background if possible, but if it’s a dark background, or a lifestyle-type background, that’s not the end of the world.

What if the retailer only has model photos? 

  1. I do a simple Google Image search to see if any other sites have that piece in a a “flat lay” format.  If Googling is too broad, I might narrow in on other places that might have it.  Sometimes secondary retailers like Need Supply Co. or Garmentory will have alternate photos.  Who What Wear often has popular pieces from Everlane and Levi’s as a flat lay.
  2. If that doesn’t work, then I try to find the next closest thing.  I might do a more general Google Image search (i.e: “pink cropped sweatshirt”), or I might check out a handful of places to see if they have something that looks the same.  Polyvore, H&M, Topshop, Madewell, and Mango are all good resources for white or light background photos.  Note:  I try to be as transparent as possible online when crediting sources, but if this is just for personal use, it doesn’t really matter if it’s exactly the same.
  3. If there’s nothing even close to what I’m looking for out there, I will snap my own photo.  I have a big white poster board that I lay on my floor as a background, and I take photos in natural light in my living room.

I try to crop all my photos tightly around the clothing item before getting into the arrangement, because it’s just cleaner, and allows me to be more precise when I get into the layout.

II.  “REMOVE” BACKGROUNDS

I have “remove” in quotes because I’m rarely working with actual alpha channels.  My goal is to get the background pure white, so it be seamlessly placed on a white Word doc.  My simplest process for removing a background is if the background of the photo is already light.  I just bring the photo into Word and adjust the contrast and brightness to bring it up to white.  (There’s a screenshot down in section III of this).

If this messes with what the piece of clothing looks like too much–or if the photo has a darker or lifestyle background, I will usually go about cutting out the background in Photoshop and saving out a new file to bring into Word.  This video was super helpful to me, so rather than try to paraphrase it, I’ll just leave this link here.

I know many bloggers use the background eraser tool in Photoshop, but I’ve had much more precise luck with the pen tool.  It might be more tedious at first, but it looks much cleaner for an unskilled hand.

III.  ARRANGE LAYOUT IN WORD

As mentioned, doing this in Word will cause some image quality loss, so you’ll want to start with a big template.  I usually choose “Tabloid” or “Tabloid Oversize.”  File > Page Setup… > Tabloid Oversize

Page Setup allows for a bigger canvas.

To bring in a photo, click Insert > Picture > Picture from File or Photo Browser (wherever you keep your photos).  To make sure you can move your photo around as you like, you will have to format the text wrapping as “through.”  Select the photo, click Picture Format > Arrange > Wrap Text > Through.

Do this so you can move your photos around the page freely.

Now that you have your first piece, it’s easy to just copy and paste it (Command C, Command V), Control-click the duplicate, and select Change Photo to add another photo with the same text wrapping.  Continue doing this until you have all the photos you want.

Adding text boxes works the same way.  Click Insert > Text Box > Text Box.    Type your desired text inside–and format as you normally would with fonts, sizing, alignment.  And then make sure you select the text box, and click Shape Format > Arrange > Wrap Text > Through so you can move it around wherever you’d like on the page.

Sometimes I’ll add grid lines (via Insert Shapes) to help guide me and make everything neater, but most of the time, I’m just eyeballing it.  I try to size like clothing similarly in nice lines, and I usually go through a few drafts before I save out, so keeping it loose works really well for me while I’m doing this part.

Editing photos in Word is limited, but really simple.  You can adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, and temperature all through Format Picture > Picture.  (You can find this sidebar easily by double-clicking the photo you want to edit).

I will brighten this photo by a couple more percentages to get the background pure white.

And I don’t worry about using the edge of the Word doc as a drop-dead border.  I crop the whole image to my tastes after the fact.

IV.  SAVE OUT A JPEG

I’ve never had much luck saving out a Jpeg directly from a Word doc, so I usually save out as a PDF first, crop, duplicate that, and then save that out as a Jpeg.  This is the clunkiest part of my work flow, because I end up with PDF files I don’t need, so I try to be good about deleting those as I go along.

If your PDFs cut off parts of your doc, you might need to remind Word of your page set-up.

Click Page Setup, check that it’s set to Tabloid, Tabloid Oversize, or whatever you chose > Okay.

And here’s a full breakdown for saving out if you need it:

File > Print > PDF > Save as PDF

Open your PDF.

Tools > Rectangular Selection

Drag and drop the selection you want to crop.

Tools > Crop

File > Duplicate

Make sure you have your “copy” selected.

File > Save

Edit your title and select JPEG from the Format drop-down menu.  Slide quality slider to max, and save it out!

Hope this helps anyone who’s curious.  Let me know if I can clarify anything that doesn’t make sense!

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6 Comments

  • Reply Krystal November 13, 2017 at 10:32 AM

    Wow, thanks for sharing! I’ve never thought of using Word for something like this. I’ve used Photoshop in the past, but I like using Canva for layouts so I can access files anywhere. I didn’t know it was okay to use the photos right from the websites! I’ve been going through the trouble of photographing and digitally removing the background from each item, which is cumbersome.

    • Reply Lo November 16, 2017 at 9:43 AM

      I had a friend years ago who used Word for blogging, so I should probably credit her with the idea (Thanks, Lizzy!) and I was shocked when I heard that. I’ve never tried Canva, so I’ll have to check that out. Thanks!

  • Reply Shaine November 13, 2017 at 10:29 PM

    This is such a helpful tips! Thanks for sharing!

    xx shaine

    • Reply Lo November 16, 2017 at 9:42 AM

      Thanks!

  • Reply Shelbi November 14, 2017 at 9:13 PM

    Cool, I’ll save this for when I have time to figure it out. I’ve been wanting to try for a while now.

    • Reply Lo November 16, 2017 at 9:41 AM

      It’s kind of fun to play around with, even if you don’t use it to post anything! Good luck!

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