Tutorial: Create Your Own Photoshop Frame & Text Overlays

Cathy ZielskeTutorials137 Comments

Last week I posted another riveting installment of “This Day in Zielske History,” and one reader asked, “Hey Cathy, could you show us how you make those overlays? And I say, blog reader, yes!

Here’s a video tutorial using Photoshop CS3, and below you’ll find a printable PDF with the corresponding step-by-step instructions. For those of you using Photoshop Elements, you should be able to achieve the same results. There’s nothing in CS3 on this particular tutorial that you can’t replicate in PSE.

Photoshop Frame & Overlay Tutorial from Cathy Zielske on Vimeo.

Download CZTutorialOverlays

Note: PC users may have to right-click the above link and then “Save Target As.”

I will check comments throughout the day to see about any questions you may have. Good luck in building your own overlays.

Cathy ZielskeTutorial: Create Your Own Photoshop Frame & Text Overlays

137 Comments on “Tutorial: Create Your Own Photoshop Frame & Text Overlays”

  1. #3

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I am loving your Photoshop tutorials! You make photoshop so less scary! Thank you!

    The one about photo grids a while back was excellent. I’ve gone a little grid crazy! Now I have something else cool to get crazy about!

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  2. #4
    Susan Kopp

    Thanks so much for sharing this information. I have been taking notes furiously so that I can try this later. The grid was a huge success and I love doing it. Thanks again!

  3. #8

    You are really awesome! I’ve spent hundreds on scrapbooking digi classes to learn how to scrap digi and techniques to use. BUT, it’s the simple techniques (like you just taught on your blog today) that I’ll remember the most! THANK YOU!

  4. #11

    Fantastic! Your tutorial was so easy to follow! I just made my first overlay. Is it possible to save the overlay to use on future photos, or do you just make a new on each time?

    Thanks again!

  5. #12
    Laura Y

    Thanks SO much for the notes. I know this take extra time, but we sure do appreciate it. PS – My microblog book is getting nice and thick!

    Laura (styled)

  6. #13

    Thanks Cathy for another cool tutorial! I really like the look of this technique and look forward to using it.

  7. #15

    Possibly a stupid question follows:
    When I am finished creating my masterpiece a la Cathy Z., what is the best way to save? I use Aperture on a Mac. I have been doing a “save as” and keeping it in PSE. I would like to store it in Aperture, if I could. Do I need to compress the layers? Can you feel my frustration? If you could point me in the right direction, I don’t mind doing the research. AAAAAAAAAHHH! I just don’t know where to start. Will you be my genie and grant me this wish?
    Okay, now on to creating a thank you card for my daughter’s 6th bday on Sunday! This ties in so nicely with Ali’s Tuesday Tutorial!

  8. #16

    Thank you for such an awesome tutorial. I’m new to digital and learning so much. I have wondered often how many of these techniques are accomplished and feel when I watch the videos I am being let in on the secret to a magic trick…………..Thank You!!! Where can the fonts you used be located? They are very cool. Thanks for the video and look forward to more magic tricks from you!

  9. #17
    Rachel Briggs

    Hey Cathy! Thanks for the tutorial. This is my newest “thing” on my photos. I have one quick question though. I am really into the rounded corners lately. How do you make that outline with rounded corners? (and it not be all crappy looking and pixelized). It would be greatly appreciated and save me hours of frustration. By the way I use PSE.


  10. #19
    Katherine V B, Fairfield, CA


    Thank you so much (I can’t express how thankful I am!) for putting up this great tutorial. You know how sometimes you just see something so cool and think to yourself, “WOW! That is sooo cool. I wish I knew how to do that.” and then you walk away and say, well, I don’t. WHAT A BUMMER.

    Well, no more. Now, I KNOW HOW TO DO THAT! Your video was great. So easy to understand and follow along. I’m going to try this out TODAY.

    Love your blog. Love your sense of humor. Love your real-ness.

    Keep doing what you’re doing.

  11. #20

    Monika, hmmmm. I haven’t really used Aperture. Does it allow you to save as different file formats? jpg? tiff? etc?

    I’m sorry, i don’t have the answer on this. i just save all my work in PS or PSE, but they all get saved as either .psd files or jpg files or tiff files.

  12. #24
    Carol (Clayton) in SLC

    Cathy, this PDF didn’t print for me. Once again, it just printed as blank pages. πŸ™

  13. #26
    Bobbi-Jo G.

    This was educational and seriously entertaining (is that an oxymoron?). You’re hilarious, an thank you – I’ve ALWAYS wanted to learn how to do this!

  14. #27

    Rachel, i haven’t figured that out yet. I always make my rounded corner stuff in InDesign.

    Does anyone out there know how to do it in PS?

    I googled it once. I swear there are ways you can cheat the program into doing it.

    Well, i do know ONE way. You use the pen tool and draw a path…. but man, it’s not easy because of drawing rules and lining stuff up.

  15. #29

    Thank you Cathy, I have tried to draw a simple square or rectangle in PSE before, and I knew it had something to do with the rectangular marquee, but then I was stuck. It’s simple little things like this that make such a difference and now I can use that skill for so many things. Thanks again!

  16. #30

    Thanks so much for this…I’ve got to go try it right now, been wanting to know how to do this for awhile. You’re the best!

  17. #31

    Love your blog. I just bought the Photoshop CS3 I’m excited to try it out & start my 1st layout. My question is where do you print your photos – would it be from home or you have it sent out. I was looking into buying a printer, but I’m not sure which to buy. What would you recommend. I

  18. #32
    Tamie Spears

    I make my rounded corner box to size (or bigger) in InDesign, export it as an EPS file and then open it in Photoshop. Then you select just the outline of the box and copy/paste it onto a new layer over your photo in Photoshop. Since it’s on its own layer, you can move it around, change the color, delete a part of it, whatever. If you generally use 4×6 photos, make yourself a template to use over and over again. Do it when you first open the exported file in PhotoShop. If you don’t have InDesign, you can also create it in Illustrator or Freehand and then export to Photoshop. Make sense?

  19. #35

    Thank you so much for the tutorial! I agree with the other viewer – you make this so much less scary πŸ™‚
    I can’t wait to try this out tonight.

  20. #36
    Tamie Spears

    I also use the same basic plan for placing type on top of a photo. The text controls are so much nicer in InDesign, so I’ll set all my type, export to PS and bring it in on top of my photo. Flatten layers, save as jpeg and upload to Shutterfly for prints. Love it.

  21. #37

    THANK YOU!! I have been trying to learn this technique for YEARS (okay maybe 1 year) and I have finally learned how to do this from you! You are GREAT!! I made an overlay in about 10 minutes and I am so happy. This will definitely be used way to much in the near future.

  22. #39
    Anilu Magloire

    OK. It’s official. You are my PS guru. I had been wondering how on earth those photo frames were created and here comes CZ and shows me!!!

    Thank you!

    Please keep ’em comin’.

  23. #40
    Anilu Magloire

    Oh, by the way, did you create those lines in your “Great Girl” layout the same way?

    Please do share… I absolutely love how those look on the picture.


  24. #41

    Cathy, I loved your tutorial! I’m new to digital scrapbooking. I’ve taken classes but they didn’t dent my brain. I need easy, simple. Would you consider doing a class on BPS which involves taking those pictures in your folder and the digital kit(s) you want to use and showing the steps you go through to make them into a page?! That includes any PS techniques that would help the pictures on the page. Thanks!

  25. #43

    I can’t wait to get home to try this ~ thank you for putting this together!!!!! You’re the bestest!

  26. #44
    Karen in Brookville

    Outstanding, outstanding, outstanding. The shortcut tips are great too. Thanks for putting this information up there. I am loving it!

  27. #45
    juli Elgin

    Thank you so much for posting the tutorial. I have owned Photoshop Elements for well as long as I have had a Mac which has been since 2000. I never could figure anything out on there. My boys both want me to get CS4 (they use CS2 in school) but I can’t rationalize that until I learn how to use Elements. I followed your tutorial and all I can say is “WOW” . I made a cute little frame and can’t wait to try other things in Elements. If you are looking for blog post ideas more Photoshop tutorials would certainly be appreciated. Thanks so much for sharing your awesome skills with us.


  28. #47

    Jennifer, either or, really. You can do the above tutorial, and send it to any printing service, or print at home. I use shutterfly.

    And i love HP printers.

  29. #48

    Anilu, i did not, but you totally could. I did that layout in InDesign.

    I’m going to try and start using PS more for scrapbook stuff.

  30. #51
    Diane M.

    Thanks for the great tutorial; can’t wait to try out this technique. Thanks for the text tip too. Just wondering, what is the equivalent for the option key for PC? Thanks again

  31. #52

    Thanks so much Cathy, I love it and seriously much easier than I thought (or maybe it was the way you explainedit !) What I particularly like is that it makes my less-than-stellar everyday photos look much sharper. Thanks again.

  32. #53
    ria ria bo bia!

    Ummmm… I have a macbook… what “photoshop” should I get? So I can try this tutorial??? And end up feeling like a rockstar… maybe…

  33. #54

    That was excellent! Thank you soo much for being generous with your time! Have you ever thought of teaching? LOL!

  34. #56
    kim in Cambridge, UK

    Hey Cathy Z!
    Thank you so much for the tutorial. I read your blog when you put up the first Day in Zielske history – (Cole & the chicken) and thought the overlay was fantastic then. Imagine my delight when I see that you’re gonna do a tutorial! Wow!

    I just bought PSE7, and have been struggling to find my way around it. Between you and Jessica Sprague, my prayers are being answered!

    I love the overlay. And I can’t believe I learned how, via a video from a lady in faraway Minnesota! Isn’t technology wonderful?

  35. #57

    Thanks Rachel Briggs and Karen for the rounded corner q/a. πŸ™‚
    I was on my way to ask the same questions.

    Thanks so much Cathy for sharing with us!!!

  36. #58

    Thank you for the wonderful tutorial. I was going to try to figure out how to make an overlay by myself but I don’t think I would have thought of the grid which is very helpful. I also loved the tips for resizing the font and spacing. And the removal of the border out of the “f”. BTW — I love your blog fillers!

  37. #59
    Jen Seidel

    Cathy, I swear you must have been reading my incredibly confused mind these past few days! I’ve been frantically searching for tutorials on how to do this exact thing! OMG! Thank you soooooooo much! It worked perfectly, well, i had to search for the grid changing step but besides that PERFECT! Thank you again!! LOVES!!!!
    -jen s.

  38. #60

    You can download a free trial of Photoshop Elements, which is a much more affordable program than the full PS. However, they may also have a free trial of the full PS at the Adobe website!

  39. #62

    Cathy this tutorial is awesome! Same goes for the one you did on Ali’s blog. i too would love to see a class at BPS on using Photoshop. I have a related question because I’m a technologically challenged. i wish i could morph into one of you girls that know so much. Anyway, I am doing the little month scrapbook from March 2008. You provided a 4 photo mini layout grid for that album but I can’t figure out how to import more than one photo into the grid since it is not set up as layers. I told you I’m a complete dummy when it comes to this. Could you let me know how to do that? I would be eternally grateful! I love your sense of humor! That “Tom Cruise” video was hilarious!!!!! So were the Ali outtakes. Thanks so much for your tutorials, they are lifesavers!

  40. #64

    Hi Cathy – I think in PSE you can choose a rounded corner rectangle marquee and it will give you rounded corners…. in just the same way that you did for the one here.

  41. #65

    Thanks so much for this Cathy -love learning how to make the most of PSE etc…. there is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much to learn about these amazing packages and it’s funny to realise a lot of it really is simple πŸ™‚

  42. #66

    Cathy, thank you so much for this great tutorial. I have never done anything in Photoshop, and only have a very old version of Elements, but with your excellent instructions and video, I was able to create the overlay. I’ve always wanted to add text to my photos, but never thought I’d be able to figure it out. You made it so simple, I can’t wait to play around with it some more! Thank you again!

  43. #67

    Awesome way to slip in some keyboard shortcuts! Its easier to remember while I’m watching the effect of the shortcut too!

  44. #69
    Christy Roseveare

    Too funny Cathy. . . I spent 2 hours last night trying to figure out how to do just this thing with photos I have taken for VBS. Now I can do it the right way. As always, I greatly appreciate your sharing your knowledge.

  45. #70

    Clare, shows you how much i knew about photoshop for scrapbooking back then! It’s not in layers? Let me see if i can dig up the file again and give you a better answer!

  46. #71

    Okay, Clare… that is one layer with four “windows” showing the checkerboard background. You can copy and paste photos, (crop them to small squares first) then paste them in. They’ll past onto their own layers, and then you just make sure the photo layers are BEHIND the white windows layer. I know it’s a little weird, but it’ll work.

    Nowadays, i would just mask the images in black squares. Always something new to learn.

  47. #72

    Cathy, thanks for the great tute. I’ve read a couple of references to your photo grid tute, but can’t seem to find it. Do you remember when you did? Would love to look at that one too.

  48. #73

    The penny just dropped, d’uh! The one on Ali’s site, right?
    FYI: you know people would pay money to learn this stuff?

  49. #74

    thank you so much…i recently finished one of jessica sprague’s photoshop classes and learned a ton…but you just taught me something new!!! Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge!!!

  50. #77
    amy j

    This was so great Cathy. I once upon a time worked in Photoshop and Quark (that shows you how far back) every day. I have since apparently purged all my skills other than using PW actions and TW hints and tips on photos. Thanks for reminding me how to do this stuff with that excellent tutorial.

    I’d love to see more! Btw, have any idea what I might have accidentally turned on in PS that makes a file not actually open on the canvas? If I look in layers etc. I can see the photo, but I can’t actually “SEE” the photo to work on it. In other words, the file opens, but the image doesn’t come up to work on. I must have done something…but for the life of me I can figure out what. Thanks in advance if you have any clue what I’m talking about :).

  51. #78
    C@rol Ann

    Cathy, I’m so happy you taught this – LOVE the look!

    Question: in PSE7, I can’t get the words to “track out”. I’m holding ALT and using arrow keys.

    Question: when trying to delete the little rule in my letter “f”, I’ve got the outline layer selected and used my lasso to circle the rule. When I hit delete, nothing happens.

    Question: is it possible to select the outline box and move it just a tad? I can’t do that either.

    Your help is greatly appreciated! Thanks!! A ton!!

  52. #80
    Heidi Marling

    Thanks so much Cathy! You are an inspiration. The video tutes are so much easier to follow than text.

    Has the rounded corners issue been sorted?
    In PSE7 on a pc – use the rectangular marquee tool to draw your shape.
    Go to Select>Modify>Smooth, then enter…how about 50 pxls… to try it out.
    This will round the corners.
    To make it a bit less jaggedy, go to Select>Feather and type in 2 pxls.
    When you stroke the resulting selection it seems to take on the feathering – play with it and adjust as desired.

  53. #81

    Just brilliant! Thank-you so much! Like others, I have long wanted to do this and not known how. I did it from the pdf. and your instructions were mega clear. This is what I love about the way you teach – you assume nothing and record all your steps. Can I also make a plea for a class at BPS (or on your own CZDesigns site!) with an added and optional bit in for those of us who bought InDesign because it was in with Photoshop, are not professional designers, but would love to learn how to use it for scrapbooking? I do have a manual but boy, do you have to hunt for what you need in lots of different places in it! This way, you could meet the needs of those who use Photoshop, and those of us who’d also like to learn from you how to use Indesign. No-one else is doing this so you would have a total niche market!

  54. #82

    PS Just tried Heidi’s tip above but in Photoshop CS4 (I imagine CS3 will be similar). You can get a nicely rounded edge after Heidi’s “Select, Modify, Smooth, 50 pixels” by going to “Select, Refine Edges (Alt Cmd R)” and using the following settings: Radius 1.0, Contrast 100%, Smooth 100, Fether 2, Contrast/Edge 0. Hope this is useful.

  55. #84
    Manila condos

    I’ve wanted to know how to use Photoshop to edit my pictures. Thanks for posting this video it’s so much easier for me to learn how to use Photoshop. Thanks a lot.

  56. #86

    Oh CAthy thanks so much for listening to us when we ask for something. I wasn’t sure I should ask you how you did it but I’m glad I did now. You rock!!! Can’t wait ’til the gandkids go home so I can try this. (sound mean doesn’t it?).
    Love ya
    Christina from Australia
    PS can’t wait to start writing about ME!!!!

  57. #88
    Louise D

    Thank you so much. So easy and looks so cool. I love it and lots more of my layouts will now contain cool photos with overlays – I feel like such a digital whizz right now!

  58. #91
    Tracy V

    can’t wait to play with this, Cathy!!!! Thank you so much! Keep the tutorials coming! I think I see the makings for a BPS class, here!!! πŸ˜‰

  59. #93

    You are AWESOME! The video tutorials are so EASY to follow and I feel so cool that I can do this now! Thanks so much for sharing!!
    ~ Lynda

  60. #94

    Cathy I am using PSE 7 and can’t the text to spread out–I have highlighted and it does nothing. Is this a CS thing only??
    Thanks anyways–love the way mine turned out!

  61. #96
    Kelli P.

    Thank you so much for this easy-to-understand tutorial. You are not only so talented as a graphic designer, but your ability to explain your process in a simple way is truly a gift! Thank you for sharing! I can say I learned something new today! One more reason to avoid housework! Yay!

  62. #98

    Thanks so much Cathy! I never would have thought to copy and paste I thought the program was too sophisticated for such an elemetary approach. Sometimes I make things more complicated than i should. I really, really appreciate your reply. You are awesome. I really do hope you offer a photoshop class because your video tutorials are so easy to understand. I love my little album it is so cute!

  63. #99

    so where is the pen tool that they describe to use in the tutorial? does pse 6 not have it??

  64. #101
    Karen Breen-Bondie

    Cathy, I’ve watched tons of youtube tutorials and the quality of yours was so much nicer. What are you using and how do you get it to zoom in/scroll/highlight to your dropdown selections? Whatever it is…it’s brilliant.

  65. #102

    Can’t thank you enough for this very well explained tutorial – now if I could learn to take such a crisp
    photo as yours, I’d be really happy!


  66. #104
    Rhonda P

    CZ is AWESOME! Thanks for the share. I can’t wait to try it out thi weekend. I’m such an impatient person when it comes to learning digital but you make it look easy. Thanks!

  67. #105
    Joan in Kingman

    Very cool! Thanks. I had a picture to add words to and this was perfect for me to know what I was doing! You are the best!

  68. #107
    Jane Simmons

    Thanks for the video. I’ve been looking all over for how to kern text in PSE and I think you’ve shown me an approximation that’ll work for me.

  69. #108

    Hi Cathy –
    Thank You!!!
    You have a lovely, calm, relaxed way about you on this tutorial, which I so appreciate!
    Great tips. I love “Stroke”, but I have never used it in this way.
    I use stroke to create a quick border for photos to give them an old fashioned look.
    Then I sometimes will “write” on the bottom border to label and date them.
    Thanks again!
    – Lee
    P.S. Your PDFs are always great. Unfortunately, online PDFs have begun to crash my Safari browser on the PowerBook G4. Grrrrr… But my husbands MacBook Pro handles them just fine.

  70. #110

    This is awesome! So glad I saw it on COTW & took the time to watch. Every little tutorial teaches me something great. And even though you weren’t using PSE, I found it really easy to follow along. THANKS!

  71. #111
    Linda Lum DeBono

    Thanks for the terrific tutorial! Q.: I did everything but when I tried to delete the part of the outline where “life” busts out, it doesn’t delete when I hit delete. I am on the outline layer and I’ve used the lasso. Any help? Thanks.

  72. #116
    Heather H.

    Thank you Cathy. That was awesome! It worked great in PSE. I’ve always wondered how to make just a line around the edge like that without having to draw the lines individually. I didn’t imagine was so stinkin’ easy!

  73. #117
    Jo E

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Cathy! Been wanting to be able to do this for ages. Tried it tonight and it worked a dream on PSE and I learned some techniques like the Lasso tool which up til now I had no idea how to use. Can you do some more of these tutorials, pretty please?!

  74. #118

    Awesome awesome tutorial. I really enjoyed this (and learned a few new things, thank you). What I would like to know is how you do that track out shortcut on a PC? You said “Option key and arrows” for the Mac but sadly I’m on a PC : ( Suggestions?

  75. #121
    Maureen in IL

    I finally had time to sit down and give this a try. I love how simple you make this. As always, Cathy, you ROCK! Between your tutorial and Renee’s class, I can finally work in PSE and accomplish something other than frustration.

  76. #122

    Thank for sharing your talent! I can hardly wait to try this out. I want to make some photo thank you cards…my son had a b-day party a week ago. I’m sort of a newbie to PSE.

  77. #124

    I’m on a MacBook with Leopard OSX and Safari, but can’t view any of your vimeos on your blog. Just wanted to let you know it’s not working for some reason.

    I’ll drop by at a later date to see if it might work then.

    Thanks for sharing so much fun on your blog – our stuff is amazing!

  78. #126

    oh, thankyou, thankyou,thankyou Heidi!! I have been trying to work this out – have pse6, and no rounded rectangle marqee tool that I can see πŸ™ wouldn’t that make life too easy!! but now, with some playing to perfect those jagged edges, I can now make my own overlay WITH ROUNDED CORNERS! I feel like all my Christmases have come at once! did I say thankyou?!

  79. #127

    Hi Cathy!
    Thanks for this cool video! πŸ™‚
    English is not my mother tongue and there’s one word I don’t understand in the video. It’s the name of the key to make the text smaller or bigger. You say “something” and it should be the coma key at the same time I think. I don’t know if it’s because I have an european keyboard, but my coma-key will not make my text bigger or smaller…so if you can write the name of this special key I’m looking for, and maybe describe it πŸ˜‰ I’ll be able to do it like this as well. πŸ™‚
    Thanks a lot!!
    By the way, I loved your grid tutorial as well and have been using it tons since I know about masking!! Thanks for every thing!!!


  80. #130

    I just wanted to thank you SO much for this tutorial! I just came across it during a google search and it is exactly what I was looking for. I’d recently purchased PSE and wanted to know how to make overlays for my photos for Project Life. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  81. #132
    Meg M

    Love, Love, Love! Thanks for posting this, it was so helpful.

    Does anybody know how I save my .psd file into a .jpg format? Is that possible? I’d like to have all my photos in .jpg so I can upload them a little quicker.

  82. #133

    Yes, totally do able. Simply open your PSD file, go to File Save As, and choose JPEG as the format. It will save a copy of your PSD file in JPEG format!

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