Choco – Digital Collages for the Perfectionist

There are tons of reasons you might need to make a photo collage. Maybe it’s for a work project, a presentation at school or you simply want a good way to cherish some special photos. You can always choose to print out the photos and glue them to a surface, but that’s so old-fashioned (and who even has a glue stick anymore?) If you’re looking for a digital alternative to sticky fingers and glue smudges, Choco is a newer collage making program that is perfect for a variety of uses.

In Choco you have a lot of options to choose from. You can take the easy way, importing your photos automatically into one of the more than 100 existing templates. You can work a bit more, adding images yourself and editing the basic template. For the most ambitious among us, you can even choose to make your own collage, entirely from scratch. I took Choco for a test-drive, so stick with me after the jump to learn more about the program and what kind of collages I was able to produce.

The Easy Way

The easiest way to get started using Choco is to take advantage of the many templates that they have included. Within the templates, there are three different types available. The classic category consists of templates which utilize similar photo shapes and a standardized layout. Shapes in these templates are typically rectangles or added rectangles. For a more exciting collage, you can try the freestyle category. Here, templates are laid out seemingly randomly and utilize a much more diverse array of shapes. Last, the shapes category uses rectangular image shapes to make larger images in the shape of another object, e.g. a cat.

Starting afresh – note the template options on the right.

After your template is selected, the next step is to add images. Start by clicking the plus button in the left border. You should go ahead and add any pictures you want to use at this time. Once your pictures are imported you have two options. First, you can individually add images to the available frames on the template. If that seems like a bit too much work, click the “shuffle” button and Choco will intelligently fill in the frames using your photos of choice.

Adding photos is easy (and works well) just using the shuffle button.

Intermediate – Editing Photos

The “shuffle” option is pretty nice – Choco usually manages to do a pretty great job of matching up image size to the frame’s aspect ratio. Unfortunately, it’s not always perfect. Sometimes its the computer’s fault, sometimes it’s simply that your images don’t match up well with the template of your choosing. There are a few things you can do to make sure that your collage looks as good as it can, without ever having to edit the layout or template itself.

First, you can always adjust the photo. Simply right click and choose “edit inner frame.” This allows you to freely resize, rotate and transform the photo within the frame. It’s an easy enough fix that can get most photos looking good.

Resizing images to fit the frames is a piece of cake.

Another big fix (that’s all the rage these days) is to add some filters to your images. Simply click on your image of choice and click on the water drop icon below the collage. You can choose from several Instagram-esque filters, with options including lomo, cappucino or simply black and white. These effects are easy to add, and used sparingly and within the realm of good taste, they can add some fun effects to your collages.

Filters are an easy way to add some variety to a collage.

Advanced – Creating and Editing Templates

Using the premade templates is all well and good, but what if you can’t find a template you like? Or what if you want to make some heavy modifications to an existing template? Luckily, all this is possible with Choco. I’ll walk you through making a template from scratch, but all these options are applicable to any template you might need to edit.

Get started by clicking the plus sign under the template list. Go ahead and name your template and choose the category it falls into. Once you’ve done that, go ahead and select the size of your collage. You can choose height, width, units and DPI based upon your specifications.

Setting the size of a new template – step 1.

You should also go ahead and choose a background. You can find this option under the shadows menu – simply choose a solid color, linear gradient or a texture. If you choose a texture you can use one of Choco’s provided textures or import any image file of your choosing.

Choosing a background – Celtic or simple linen?

Once your scene is set, you have to add the frames. Frames are image and text objects which you can fill in with the content of your choosing. Simply right click on the background, choose the appropriate object and create it in the size of your choose. To further customize frames, you can use the frame tool to adjust size and color. You can also add drop shadows as needed or use the advanced editor for greater control over shape and placement of the object.

In addition to text and image objects, you can also add sprite items. Sprite items are decorative pieces – things like corner embellishments, pins and stickers. You can choose from Choco’s included objects or import your own custom sprite items.

Adding various images – some sprite item options are shown.

If you’re creating your own template but don’t feel like individually placing each frame, you can take advantage of the tile generator. Simply choose the object type, columns, rows, spacing and margins and Choco will do the work for you in terms of placing frames. Not only can you generate a traditional layout, you can also create asymmetric layouts and layouts that fit to the shape of an image of your choosing. This offers you an incredible selection of layouts to generate at your choosing.

Here I used the tile generator to produce a nice, simple layout.

Final Thoughts

Choco was an interesting program to use. I’ve tried a variety of collage-making programs in the past, and Choco offers you a degree of control that you don’t often find in similar programs. You can control most details of the look of the collage, allowing you to create the best-looking products for whatever your project is.

On the other hand, Choco has some negative aspects. First, it’s pretty slow at times. Templates often take seemingly forever to load, and it gets really laggy when you try to add or edit a lot of objects at once. Another note – you can’t move multiple objects at once. Seriously?

Also, the program is a bit on the pricey side. If you’re planning to make a lot of collages, it might be a good investment, especially if you like to have a lot of control over layouts and plan to invest time into making customized layouts. On the other hand, if you aren’t quite as picky or just want to make a couple of collages, then it’s probably not for you. Either way, you can download the free trial and check it out for yourself before you pay for anything. Unfortunately, all trial collages do come with a watermark.

So really, my recommendation for or against Choco depends on your collage-making situation. If you’re picky or plan on making a lot of collages, Choco is probably worth $18. Otherwise, I’d look into a free or significantly cheaper alternative (or just use a program you already have installed). What do you think about Choco? Would you try it or have you already? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Summary

Use premade templates or create your own in Choco, a stellar photo-collage application.

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  • Hawk

    I’ve been bothered by this for a while: can we get full-resolution screenshots please?

    I don’t like squinting.

  • Chris

    Any chance of getting a list of alternatives?

  • http://vectorgraphicsblog.com alexnjoy

    Alternatives:

    Lightroom 4
    Posterino

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