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Contact Sheets in Photoshop CS5

Back when Adobe’s Creative Suite 4 was launched, many people bemoaned the fact that an old favorite plug-in, Picture Package (Contact Sheet II) and its associated Web Gallery counterpart, had been retired. Well, not completely gone, because even in the latest version of CS5 you can still get the old plugins from Adobe, as explained in this post from John Nack.

However, while these plug-ins are euphemistically called “optional,” the smart thinkers will be reading between the lines and considering them “on their way out.” What’s a hard working creative supposed to do for contact sheets? The functions have been moved and enhanced, but you have to know where to look. And, “where to look” is in the Output workspace of Bridge CS5 (CS4 works similarly, if you’re still using that version).

In this tip, we’ll look at the Contact Sheet feature. If you want to see the best way to produce a flexible Picture Package, look to my previous tip on the subject.

In Bridge, select the images you want to want to include in your contact sheet. Then, at the top of the Bridge window, select “Output” to change to the Output Workspace.

ContactSheet01

Once in the Output Workspace, note several changes that have occurred:

  • The “Content” panel has moved to the bottom and has become a filmstrip.
  • The “Preview” panel is now front and center, containing all the images you have currently selected.
  • The “Output” panel now occupies the entire right side panel

ContactSheet02

With this, we have what we need to create a contact sheet. Let’s start at the top of the Output panel, and work our way down. At the top, we see this:

ContactSheet03

With this panel, we select whether we are going to direct our output to a PDF (for printing, email, etc) or to a web gallery. For now, we will pick “PDF” and then click the dropdown list to choose the template. We’ll pick “5*8 Contact Sheet,” but notice the other options available (and note that you can save your own as well):

ContactSheet04

Now that we’ve selected the 5×8 contact sheet, let’s go ahead and click the “Refresh Preview” button, which will give us our first output preview:

ContactSheet05

Once you click “Refresh Preview,” a NEW panel opens, called the “Output Preview” panel. Note that the original Preview panel is still there, but now there are two tabbed panels. Within the Output Preview panel, is a rendering of our PDF contact sheet, first try:

ContactSheet06

Clicking on the Output Preview zooms in, Alt/Option clicking zooms out. Looking at the right side panel, we have an accordion panel with all sorts of options for customization of this PDF. The options in a quick summary are:

  • Document: Set your paper size, background color, and image quality. You can also set a password for security in opening the PDF.
  • Layout: The parameters are set for our 5 x 8 thumbnails, but you can customize the number of rows and columns, margins and gutters, and set whether to auto rotate for best fit.
  • Overlays: For our 5 x 8 preset, the overlays are configured to display the file name and file extension. You can control the text font and color, and you can add page numbering as well.
  • Header and Footer: allow you to add text per page, with options for text font, size and color.
  • Playback: In the section, you can choose to create a PDF that will open in full screen, and can play as a slideshow (not particularly useful for contact sheets).
  • Watermark: You can add a text or graphical watermark to appear on each image.

As you make changes, you can click the “Refresh Preview” button to see the results. Once you’ve set the options to taste, you can save the preset (as we mentioned above) by clicking the icon next to the preset name:

ContactSheet07

After you’ve created the settings you desire, simply click “Save…” at the bottom of the panel and you’ll be prompted to name your file and choose the location to save it. You can also check the box at the bottom to “View PDF After Save.” Once you’ve saved out the PDF, you can distribute it as desired:

ContactSheet08

The Bridge Output workspace is where all the heavy output lifting gets done in Creative Suite 4 and 5. Get to know this panel, as you can bet that Adobe will continue to add new features and functions here in the future. Next time here on TipSquirrel, we’ll look at creating a Web Contact Sheet, and after that, you’ll never fret over the old “optional” plug-ins again.


PeachPit (Pearson Education)

About Michael Hoffman (224 Articles)
Mike has been a photographer, artist, educator, and technophile for most of his life. Early in his career, he created technical illustrations and photographs for electronic equipment manufacturers, and taught classes in computer aided drafting and 3D modeling software. When digital cameras became widely available in the late 1990s, the move was a natural one, and has led to a happy combination of technology, software, photography and art. Mike is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop and Acrobat, and is well versed in Lightroom and Photoshop Elements, as well as Illustrator and InDesign. He has also contributed his time and efforts to the excellent work being done by Operation Photo Rescue, in restoring photographs damaged by natural disasters. As an active member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, he continues his quest for excellence in art, excellence in design, and excellence in education.

60 Comments on Contact Sheets in Photoshop CS5

  1. This is very good info. Thanks for sharing

  2. Brilliant… after years of using contact sheets in photoshop I was somewhat peeved to find it missing from the automate menu. Checked Adobe’s help page… not much help there. But John Nack’s tip was immediately helpful, visual, and to-the-point waffle-less!

  3. Conor Richardson // August 7, 2010 at 1:59 am //

    pheeeeeeew! thanks, I am completely computer illiterate! Even I was able to follow these steps!!

  4. Graham Lindsay // August 16, 2010 at 2:02 am //

    Just added TipSquirrel to my list of sites to check daily. Thanks for great plain English with relevant images.

  5. Sue Strange // September 13, 2010 at 2:45 pm //

    I have tried to produce these contact sheets, previously using Photoshop, but with my new CS5 and Bridge I keep getting the error message that i have insufficient disc space, but i have 80% left? Sue

  6. thankk youu
    you are more clear than the adobe help page!

    xoxox

  7. Hmmm, that’s a tough one to call. How much system memory do you have? And, do you have a scratch disk set up (In Photoshop, Edit > Preferences > Performance > Scratch Disk). How big are your files that you are generating into the contact sheet?

  8. Great tips..thanks. however on my OUTPUT panel the WATERMARK bar is greyed out & I cannot type anything there. Am I misunderstanding something ? Please help

  9. Photo Shopper // October 19, 2010 at 5:33 pm //

    Except its no longer preserves layers, the whole thing is flattened. Sometimes I need to add the contact sheet to another document and would like to be able to access the text to modify it.

  10. The title says how to create a contact sheet in Photoshop CS5 but the info is for Bridge. How do you imagine Photoshop is the same app as Bridge? I want to create a contact sheet from images currently open in Photoshop since I gathered them together from many different folders on different drives. This doesn’t help me.

  11. Thank you for making it so easy to follow your directions. i pulled some info earlier and was totally confused. Thanks and keep doing what you are doing it really helps us non-school artists.

  12. Saved my life today
    thank you very much

  13. Is there any way to preview the next contact sheet page?
    Or are you just restricted to previewing the first page only?

  14. Is there are way of getting rid of the file name from beneath the image??

  15. Charlie,

    Simply look under the “Overlays” tab in the right hand “Output” pane, and find the option for “Filename” and “Extension.” If you clear the check box, the file name will not print.

    mh++

  16. Antran, as far as I can tell, the preview is for the first page only… it is, after all, a preview – a quick means of checking to ensure you have the settings right before generating the PDF. I believe you must generate the full PDF in order to see anything beyond the first page.

    mh++

  17. Where is the option to save the Contact sheets as JPEGs? I need to print them at a lab and they only accept JPEGs. Thanks!

  18. Victor, you can’t save as JPEG directly. The Output module allows saving only as PDF or Web Gallery. However, with Adobe Acrobat, you can save out a PDF’s pages as JPEG (1 image per page), which would certainly work in your case. Note that this doesn’t work with Acrobat Reader, only the full Acrobat.

    I’m very surprised your lab can’t accept PDF, as that is a very widely accepted and common format. Even Office Depot and Office Max will take a PDF 🙂

    mh++

  19. Julian Bell // January 3, 2011 at 8:54 pm //

    How do you download PICTURE PACKAGE.

  20. Julian, see the link to John Nack’s article in the first paragraph of this post. Nack’s article has instructions and links to all the old plug ins.

    mh++

  21. THANK YOU! My Visual translation teacher was like….”Um, Well it WAS on CS4…” but now us Communication Design majors can use it for the new CS5 on our lab computers. Yah!

  22. Very easy-to-follow instructions, thanks so much! The screenshots are a great help too.

  23. Ulises Santamaria // February 7, 2011 at 7:07 pm //

    Hello there
    Thank you very much for your tutorial.
    I have a situation and would like to know how to solve it, hope you know the answer.
    I already know how to manage my contact sheet on Adobe Bridge, but having the file name and the extension is not enough for me, what I really need to be below each one of my pictures is the camera meta data. I just started to get into photography in a more professional basis, therefore, if I can keep track of the information related to each photo that will allow me to have a good reference on the conditions in which that photo was taken. So my question is: how can I add the camera meta data into my contact sheet?
    Thank you very much

  24. Ulises, thanks for your comments. Unfortunately, Bridge doesn’t have the capability you are seeking; it seems to me that only the filename and extension are available as text overlays within the Output module.

    Hopefully, Bridge will catch up with Lightroom, which already has the capability to configure customized captions for each thumbnail in a contact sheet, using any combination of metadata and custom text. Until then, it’s Bridge with just filenames, or moving to another program like Lightroom to get what you want. Sorry I don’t have better news!

    mh++

  25. Pamela Sandstrom // February 11, 2011 at 10:25 pm //

    Your advice really helped solve my need to print PDFs (or EPS files) as one-per-page contact sheets with the filenames and extensions. No one had a clue, but someone suggested “contact sheet” and I found this forum right off. One problem (using CS4) that stumped me for a long time, however, was actually getting my files to display and print one per page. Finally, I found the simple solution: change Column and Row settings to 1. After that, the routine was easy. Thanks so much!

  26. Dianna Seerey // February 21, 2011 at 5:58 pm //

    GREAT TUTORIAL!
    Is there a way to grayscale/B&W the contact sheet vice color other than saving PDF and taking into PS CS5 and doing it that way?
    thx
    😀

  27. Dianna,

    I don’t know of any way to get a grayscale contact sheet if your images are in color. Sorry about that!

    mh++

  28. Radboud Kuypers // March 14, 2011 at 10:02 am //

    Thank you so much; this is very useful information! I tried and it worked just the way I wanted.

  29. Anthony Ilardi // May 5, 2011 at 2:05 am //

    I have just “upgraded” from CS2. WIth CS2 and Contact Sheet II, I can increase the size of a 35mm contact so that each image is about 1.5 in. x 2.25 in. With the CS5 PDF method, the images are the scanned size, i.e., the original negative size (24mm x 36mm). Is there a way to increase the size of each image on the contact sheet? If not, this PDF method is much less useful and flexible than Contact Sheet II.

  30. Sandy Selesky // May 5, 2011 at 4:35 pm //

    Why did Adobe do away with Contact Sheet II from Tools menu that was so easy to use in CS3?? Why is everything always made so much more complicated? But anyway, thanks SO much for this information. I had no idea where to turn in terms of how to make a contact heet in CS5 when I saw no option for it anymore under Tools. I haven’t tried this yet but hopefully I won’t have problems doing it with your detailed instructions. Greatly appreciated!!

  31. Anthony, I glossed over this a little bit in this tutorial, but in the “Layout” tab, you can make tweaks to the outside margins and to the horizontal and vertical spacing between the thumbnails. You’ll have to use a little math, since the dimensions are for the spacing and not for the thumbnails themselves, but with a little trial and error your should be able to come up with a size that suits you. Keep in mind that you’re not limited to the 5×8 format, you can have as many rows and columns (within reason) as you’d like, so by adjusting the margins you should be able to create thumbnails the size you desire.

    mh++

  32. Sandy,

    The Contact Sheet II, as well as several other plug-ins, were removed back in CS4, as explained by John Nack in this article. While removing an old PS feature is a tough call, the idea was to migrate the users towards the Bridge Output module, which is presumably a more portable and extensible platform. Not my call 🙂 but I have decided to go with the flow and use the newer features.

  33. Jennifer Remias // May 17, 2011 at 4:05 am //

    Thank you!! This is exactly what I was looking for after the frustration of not finding the Contact Sheet II no longer available.

  34. Sarah Welcome // May 25, 2011 at 3:52 pm //

    One thousand thank you’s! This is so helpful.

  35. Thank you SOOOOOOO much awesome instructions, easy to follow!FANTASTIC!

  36. I have been having trouble producing the pdf outputs I need. I get an error message at the end of the conversion process that says that some t of the files were not converted because they are an unsupported file format. I cannot determine anything about the files that is in any way different from any other files. Can anyone shed any light on this. It’s areal problem and I have to get it corrected asap. Thanks

  37. Steve,

    This might take a little troubleshoting. In order to really dig in, I’d want to see the file details on one file that would not convert, and another that would. Is this a consistent error (same files, every time)? Feel free to contact me directly, mike (at) hoffmanartdesign (dot) com and we’ll get to the bottom of it.

    mh++

  38. I used to use the old contact sheets to create fast page layout for albums. with the unflattened contact sheet you could select each image individually, make it larger, move it around save as psd, then maybe later add color, text etc to create page. should I just go back to using old versions of bridge for this process?

  39. dy,

    Check the link in the first paragraph of this article; you can still get the old plug-ins. Just be aware that they may not be available for future versions of Photoshop. Adobe first made them “optional” with CS4, and my guess is that they (the old plug-ins including Contact Sheet II) will become unsupported.

    Ideally we’ll see a little more flexibility and power in the new Bridge tools; I think that is the future for this feature.

    mh++

  40. thanks so much for this it’s fantastic! Just one question, I can only put in a text watermark & don’t seem to have an option for a graphics watermark…am I missing something?

  41. Great easy to follow article. One point you could add is a link to Adobe’s Help page which allows you to download the old “optional” plugins

    http://help.adobe.com/en_US/photoshop/cs/using/WS42C3020A-DAD1-4f92-8014-012263F3A51D.html

    The reason I mention it is I regularly get asked for the old contact sheets as Layered Photoshop Files and not the nice new PDF file from the output in Bridge.

    Ian

  42. THANK YOU!!!!! How can PS eliminate something so many people use??!! Listening Adobe?

  43. hi,

    thanks a lot for such a great tutorial 🙂
    Keep it up!
    I have bookmarked your site 😉

    Again thanks for such a great help….

  44. THANK YOU!!!

    I have been trying to figure this out forever. GREAT tutorial!

  45. Lizan Freijsen // August 14, 2011 at 12:33 pm //

    Thank you for the clear information, step by step I find my way….
    One question: Where can I find the header for adding a title to the contactsheet. In my version of photoshop 5 I have tried all options…nothing gives that possiblity.
    Hope to hear from anyone.
    Thank you!
    Lizan

  46. Is there a way to automatically pull the photos from multiple file folders for the Bridge contact sheet?

  47. Kristina Toddy // August 31, 2011 at 4:59 pm //

    This is great info- but I am wondering if you can tell me if there is a work around for the way I was using contact sheet. To put a layered page of selected images – all drag-able and sized for my album spread. It was so convenient to chose the 3-5 images in bridge that I wanted for a spread- make a 2 column 2 row contact sheet and open in layers in PS…. so easy ], and now I am at a loss for how to make this happen! PLease Help!!! I have a new Mac & CS5 and would rather not run it in 32bit to get the plugin to work. thank you in advance for your help!

  48. Well, Your tutorial helped me create the contact sheet, but I cannot figure out how to print it! there is no print key or tool anywhere in CS5. Please help!! I dont want to save them, just print them out in a high volume portrait studio as proofs.

  49. Sheri, when you’re looking at the preview in Bridge, it is just that – a preview. The PDF file isn’t created until you save it, and the preview only shows the first page (even if there will be multiple pages in the final result). So, you have to save the PDF, then print from either Reader or Acrobat.

    mh++

  50. Kristina, you can’t create a layered file with contact sheets in Bridge. But, you may find my Picture Package using Smart Objects provides the capability you’re looking for – check it out and see.

    mh++

  51. Diane Bryant // October 17, 2011 at 7:39 pm //

    I have a problem that I can’t figure out. I have been using this function on Bridge very heavily for several days and today I somehow did something that caused the Output Menu on the right side to disappear. I read that it can’t be deleated but it appears to be gone. I have quit and restarted my Mac to no avail. Someone please help!

  52. graham kerridge // November 5, 2011 at 11:41 pm //

    It could be that bridge preferences>start-up scripts>adobe output module has come unchecked somehow??

  53. hi, nice post, i would like to share it but this link does not work : https://www.tipsquirrel.com/index.php/2010/07/contact-sheets-in-photoshop-cs5 am i doing it wrong ? thanks

  54. You must use http: rather than https: in the URL.

    mh++

  55. Hi Michael, I have cs5 and I’m using bridge and I’m trying to make a contact sheet I do not have an ‘output’ top right, it goes, essentials, metad ,filmstrip, keywords, preview, etc but no ‘output’, I have tried all of this below:
    “ Select the files or the collection or folder that contains the images you want to include in the contact sheet or presentation. • Choose Window > Workspace > Output.
    If the Output workspace is not listed, select Adobe Output Module in Startup Scripts preferences” and still not working.
    Plus I’ve gone into the icon on the top left where I should also be able to pick pdf and it’s grayed out no matter what I do. I am so frustrated hopping you might have a tip for me, the really weird thing is I have made a pdf contact sheet before and now its not working; Oy! I have a portfolio due for my Masters and I’m pulling my hair out. what am I doing wrong? Any ideas would be great
    thanks!
    Sid

    thanks!
    Sid

  56. Thanks for the guide. When I use bridge to make a contact sheets of CMYK images it outputs them all as RGB, which isn’t what I want… any ideas?

  57. Thank you! So simple but I had no idea where to go until I found your post.

  58. Michael, I have used Bridge (via CS5.1) and all is good until I review PDF file. I select an image from the contact sheet, “save As” to my desktop and discover that all my image metadata has been stripped clean.
    I’m using the option of having some metadata as part of the image caption etc. but once the pdf is created something happens (or I’m missing a tick box somewhere) in the processing of the pdf creation that strips the embedded metadata.
    Any thoughts?

  59. This was SO helpful. I was about to tear my hair out. Thank you!

  60. This was so helpful. I curse Adobe daily for making simple tasks more difficult. Somebody at Adobe is trying to justify their existence by creating kludgey, burdensome workflows in the last ten years for what used to be EASY, and some manager is not paying attention. Bridge is NOT the solution Adobe seems to think it is.

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