In Elements or Photoshop, the Contact Sheet function can
help you quickly make thumbnail sized index print cover
photos for your CDs and DVDs.
Photos © 2003, Howard Millard, All Rights Reserved
Do you backup your digital
photos onto CD or DVD discs? Whether your digital pictures are JPEG
or raw files from a digital camera, scans from prints, negatives, or
slides, or corrected and enhanced versions saved in your image-editing
software's format, the best way to keep them safe is to copy them
to CD or DVD. But then how do you keep track of them? What pictures
are on which CD?
Here's a fast, easy
way to make a cover for each and every disc. Once printed out on your
ink jet printer, the cover fits neatly inside the clear plastic case
for each disc. This cover will literally show you what's inside
on the disc--by creating a mini Contact Sheet of thumbnail sized
prints of all your photos on that CD or DVD. You can do it with Adobe
Photoshop 5.5, 6, and 7 as well as Elements. Many other image organizing
software programs, such as ACDSee, offer this functionality as well.
#2. This directory dialog box shows all the stuff you've
got on your computer. Navigate through it to find the CD
that you want to create a cover for, then click on the CD
icon to highlight it. Next, at the bottom of the dialog
box, click Choose (Mac) or OK (Win).
First, put the disc you want to label in your computer's CD/DVD
drive and open your image-editing software. In Elements, choose File>Print
Layouts>Contact Sheet. In Photoshop, select File>Automate>Contact
Sheet (in Versions 6 and 7, Contact Sheet II). In the Contact Sheet dialog
box that appears (#1), under Source Folder at the top, click on the Choose
button if you're using a Mac. In Windows, click the Browse button.
This brings up a directory dialog box, #2, which shows all the stuff you've
got on your computer. Navigate through it to find the CD or DVD that you
want to create a cover for, and then click on the CD icon to highlight
it. Next, at the bottom of the dialog box, click Choose (Mac) or OK (Win).
Once you've selected the number of thumbnails you
want per page and the type size, Contact Sheet will automatically
generate your CD cover in less than a minute. Then just
print it, trim it, and slide it into the disc's
plastic case. Here, I made a cover with 16 thumbnails
per page of shots from the Florida Keys.
Now you're back to the Contact Sheet dialog, #1, again. Here's
where you decide just how you want the CD cover to look. At the third
line from the top, click the "Include All Subfolders" check
box to include everything that is on your disc. Next, set the size to
4.75" for both width and height, so the printout will slide easily
into the plastic CD case. I set the resolution to 200 ppi. You can experiment
with lower resolutions to see if they still give you enough detail. If
you have extremely large files, or an older computer, lower resolution
can make the process faster. Leave the Mode set to RGB color, and check
the Flatten All Layers box. There's no point in keeping layers for
these thumbnail pages, which you'll only print once.
Now, move down in the Contact Sheet dialog box to the Thumbnails section.
Here's where you decide how many images will be on each page, and
how large or small you want them to be. Select the "Place: across
first" option to position the thumbnails in standard order, from
left to right across the page. Now look at the small box in the middle
of the right-hand side of the Contact Sheet dialog. It's a graphic
preview of what your finished page will look like.
If you select 4 columns and 4 rows, as shown here, you'll see 16
small gray blocks representing your thumbnail pictures (4x4 =16). If you
choose 5x5 rows, there will be 25 thumbnails per page, but they'll
be smaller. You need to experiment and print out a few different configurations
to decide which will work best for you. Furthermore, the size of each
image will vary depending on the font you choose, as described next.
#4. When you make the thumbnails larger, such as the 9 per
page shown here, even long file names are printed completely
with 6 point type.
Choose Your Font
Finally, at the bottom of the Contact Sheet dialog box, check the "Use
Filename As Caption" box. Then select a font style from the "Font:"
drop-down menu, here I choose Helvetica. For Font Size, try 6 or 8 point,
the smallest you can comfortably read, in order to see all of any long
file names--like those applied by your digital camera--and to
keep the thumbnails as large as possible. If you choose too large a font
size, the last part of long file names will probably be cut off, and the
pictures will be smaller.
Now it's time to let the software do the hard work. Once you've
finalized your selections, click the OK button at the upper right. Photoshop
or Elements will process all the information and save a copy of your disc's
pictures in a file labeled Contact Sheet I, II, and so on. How many pages
will depend on how many photos you have on the disc and how big you want
each thumbnail to appear. This takes less than a minute for one or two
thumbnail pages from average size files from consumer digital cameras.
#5. To make it easy to cut out the exact size print to fit
the CD jewel case, I use Edit>Stroke to put a black line
around the edges.
With Contact Sheet set for
16 thumbnails per page, #3, part of some of the longer file names are
cut off, even at the smallest 6 point font size. Configured for 9 images
per sheet, #4, complete file names are printed with 6 point type.
To make it easy to cut out the exact size print to fit the CD jewel case,
I use Elements or Photoshop to put a black line around the edges. With
the newly Created Contact Sheet open, choose Select>All. You'll
see the "marching ants" dotted selection line running around
the border of the CD cover. Next, choose, Edit>Stroke to bring up the
Stroke dialog box shown in #5. Choose 2 pixels for the width of the stroke,
and whatever color you like--I use black. Set the Location to inside,
and the Blending mode to normal, opacity to 100 percent. Click OK and
the software will stroke (draw a line along) the selection. Now, you have
a thin black line around the edges of your CD cover, making it easy to
trim it to the right size with a pair of scissors or a paper cutter.
#6. To save paper when I have more than one Contact Sheet
page, I create a new 8.5x11" blank document and, using
the Move tool, drag two 4.75x4.75" Contact Sheets
onto one 8.5x11" page, so I can print 2 covers at
With multiple pages, you can slide one page under the other inside the
cover of the jewel box case. To save paper when I have more than one Contact
Sheet page, I create a new 8.5x11 blank document and, using the Move tool,
drag two 4.75x4.75" Contact Sheets (made following the steps mentioned)
onto one 8.5x11" page, #6.
Here's another option, especially if you have discs with lots of
photos on them. Use the Contact Sheet function to print thumbnails on
standard 8.5x11" sheets and keep these in a 3-ring binder, keyed
with a number and/or title to each CD. When you have lots of photos on
one CD, this is an easier way to see everything at once. But you have
to be organized. On the other hand, with multiple pages that fit inside
the CD case, as shown here, it's harder to misplace an index print.
So, now when you have a request from Aunt Maud for that picture you took
at the picnic two summers ago, you'll be able to find it in a flash.
Plus, you'll sleep much better knowing that you have taken control
of your digital photo files.