If you look for a free online photo collage maker then you will run into a lot of dead ends. You will find that many of the so called ‘free” online collage makers are not free. Some do not allow you to download your collage to your computer. Some collages can only be viewed online. Some have extreme functional limitations. For example, PosterMyWall only allows you to upload pictures from Facebook. Bloggif offers a very buggy and very limited collage maker.
Big Huge Labs has a couple of very specialized collage makers. Hockneyizer is fun but limited in functionality . Mosaic Maker, at Big Huge Labs, can handle square tiles! You have many output options. You can control the number of rows from 1-36 and the number of columns from 1-36 for a total of 36 pictures. You have a lot of shadowing options with the tiles as well. You can also fiddle with the spacing of the borders and the color of the border. Mosaic Maker is probably the best tool online for making a collage with square graphics.
However, if you do go for the 36 picture limit as I did for a poster, then you will find that the site does tend to crash and burn more often than not. I figure you can actually make a 36 picture mosaic after about three or four false starts. I would assume traffic levels affect the reliability of the site. You will not run into this reliability problem with the big three collage makers.
Another online collage maker with limited functionality is 16pics. This online collage maker is free and has no watermark but as the name suggests, you can only make collages of 16 pictures and one template! However, multiple templates are supported when using a browser with HTML 5 support such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari or IE9. You cannot upload photos from your computer but you can upload photos from Picasa, Facebook and Photobucket. Definitely aimed at the Facebook crowd that wants to make a quick collage for social network purposes but useless for someone like myself who uses collages as visual advanced organizers for instruction. The output is a puny 625 x 625 pixels but that’s just fine for online sharing. I do think the big pro of 16pics is the seamless and easy way you can make collages. The collage making process was lightning fast and the interface is great. I think for someone who wants to make a quick collage of an event and post it on Facebook then this site is perfect.
Also some sites advertise themselves as collage makers when they are really online graphic programs.
A collage maker, as opposed to an all purpose graphics program, has templates. With a collage maker you just drag and dump your pictures into the cells of the template as opposed to carefully aligning and resizing your photos into a graphic program’s table. The collage maker should do the aligning and resizing for you! If you are doing the aligning and resizing then you are not working with a collage maker! You can make a collage with just about any graphics program and even Word but you will spend ten times more time aligning and resizing the photos than with a specialized collage maker and in the end the results may not be very professional looking.
Some sites are switch and bait sites and you find out they are actually selling a collage maker that you can download for a fee. The only thing free is the “free” trial period. Even this “free” trial period comes with limited functionality and other problems. I did try to make a collage with a free 15 day trial of Picture Collage Maker (PCM) and I ended up deleting the program from my computer within one day! The output options are absolutely pathetic! 800 × 600, pixels, is the highest quality jpeg you can turn out! Even this output option has quirky limitations. The program automatically downloads a PCM file! Good luck opening this file with any program but PCM. The PCM file only downloads to the “My Pictures” folder. I was really, really disappointed with the collage template options. PCM has losts of cutesy templates but if you want serious looking templates then you are out of luck. I even looked at extra templates you can download from the PCM site and just more cutesy junk. PCM is clearly aimed at the housewife market versus someone like me who wants to make professional looking collages he can use in his presentations at work. The PCM watermark with the trial version is horrible and makes anything you create with the trial period totally unusable but I suppose that is their call.
I also downloaded the 30 day trial version Collage Maker. Don’t waste your time with Collage Maker! The trial version of Collage Maker is even more useless than the already useless trial version of PCM! The trial version of Collage Maker has no collage templates! Incredible! Without the templates the program is not a collage maker but a third rate graphics program! Maybe the full blown version has templates. Who knows? Creating such a totally sucky trial version kind of defeats the purpose of a trial version! I am not going to spend money with no idea what templates the program has! The templates are basically why you mess with a collage maker and not Photoshop. In the end there are really only three choices if you are looking for a fully functional, truly free, truly online, collage maker and that’s Kizoa, Photo Collage and Photovisi.
Kizoa has some very obvious disadvantages including the extremely low number of free collage templates. If you pay then you can get a lot more templates but mostly they are very cutesy, personal event driven themes and not the sort of templates you would use for a collage for work related presentation purposes. The pixel output is the lowest of the three and too low for a collage poster that you could put on the wall. You can get larger pixel output for a fee but how big the output will be is not specified before paying! Kizoa does have the best template creation tools! You have dozens of different cells for your photos that you can use to make your own unique template and these are called labels. Kizoa also has dozens of online stickers called elements organized along different themes. The Kioza 800 x 600 output would be more than enough for any sort of situation in which the poster will be displayed on a computer screen but not printed. If you were making a collage for PowerPoint, not your wall, and wanted to make something original, then Kizoa would ok. Kioza also works very well with Facebook and you can add pictures from your Facebook account to your collage without any trouble. Still even for a Facebook only collage, the lack of many free templates is a fatal weakness. Overall, Kizoa is the weakest of the three programs reviewed.
Photo Collage has slightly less templates than Photovisi and ten times more than Kizoa. The maximum pixel output is respectable at 1280 x 1024 and more than enough for a decent sized poster. The templates tend to be more professional and less cutesy than Photovisi and this is a plus for someone like me who uses collages for presentation purposes rather than for personal purposes. Photo Collage does not have a watermark and this can be a big deal in some situations. The one big advantage is that you can make a template with unlimited photos! This option is not available in Photovisi. I consider this unlimited option to be a type of template creation. You can theoretically add an infinite number of cells/labels to the template you create in Kizoa but given the low pixel output, why bother? Anything above ten cells in Kizoa will be practically impossible to see even on a computer screen due to the low pixel output. The user interface is a little quirky. Putting pictures in the cell you want to is very easy in Photovisi compared to Photo Collage. In Photo Collage photos are uploaded backwards. The first photo uploaded in Photo Collage will be the last picture in your collage. There is no way to reorganize photos once they are in the template even if pictures are not in the cell you want the picture to be.
You don’t have to register to use Photovisi! I wonder how many hundreds if not thousands of users only use Photovisi because of this one feature. Signing up for a program you know nothing about is a little like a blind date. The experience could go very wrong or very right.
What is needed is a system that allows a user with a certain IP address to use the online program fox X amount of times before having to register.
I will admit to having used Photovisi for dozens of collages and having not used Kizoa and Photo Collage for months because Kizoa and Photo Collage asked me to sign up and that is a big turn off for me and I am not alone. I don’t like signing up because it’s often a waste of time and I wonder who I am sharing my data with. Mostly I am just lazy. Ironically, Photovisi uniquely creates a watermark and is the only one of the three reviewed that does that so I guess this is to make up for the lack of signing up.
Photovisi and Photo Collage are in a dead heat! Photovisi is a wee bit more reliable. Photo Collage is a little glictchy but nothing you cannot fix by just going through the poster process again and this doesn’t happen often. You can probably make twenty collages on twenty different days and nothing goes wrong. Once every twenty times you do have to remake the collage in Photo Collage. Photovisi is more reliable than Photo Collage. I have used Photovisi dozens of times and it always works. The user interface of Photovisi is slightly better than that of Photo Collage but only marginally.
However, the ability to make a photo collage with an unlimited amount of pictures in Photo Collage could be really handy if you wanted to make a really big collage with tons of pictures. Photovisi has one template that can handle 60 photos but what if you wanted a hundred photos? Ironically, Photovisi has the output capability to make giant, giant posters that could support a hundred pictures not Photo Collage. If Photo Collage added a 1600 x 1200 output option like Photvisi then Photo Collage could rebrand itself as the giant poster maker as opposed to Photovisi. Conversely, Photovisi could add an unlimited photo option but frankly Photovisi is better known than Photo Collage and doesn’t need the edge yet.
Picture2Life (This section was added August 12, 2012)
Since I wrote this article, a new collage maker has entered the field. Picture2Life has 20 templates. Many of the templates allow the addition of “elements” which are mostly textual and/or iconic graphics. Many of the templates are unique. You can upload pictures from your computer, Twitter, Flickr, Photobucket, ImageShack, MySpace, Friendster, Hi5, FotoLog, Facebook, Blogger, and WordPress. Uniquely for online collage makers, you can add gifs (animated pictures) and also do some standard photo effect editing. The site is a bit buggy and the pictures take a while to upload. Downloading also takes a while. The output of my experiment was a respectable 792 x 504 pixels but there are no download options. The templates are unique and if you love making collages like I do then you will definitely use this site. You do not have to create an account to use this site!
If you do create an account and sign in to use the site then an application is installed! This request to allow installation is after two pop up ads showed. One pop up was for auto insurance and the other for government services. Not the sort of ads that engender trust since those industries generate a lot of spam. The site also wanted my zip code! Picture2Life wanted my email and that’s ok but also my zip code and the site wants to install software? My fox-sense was ringing like crazy. I quit the site when the site wanted to install software. I have been bit by thinly disguised adware sites before and this may or may not be the case with this site but why take chances? If you are a trusting sort then go for it but again you have other safer options.
Picisto (this section was added October 8, 2012)
Picisto is a new entrant to the online collage maker list that was created after I wrote the first draft of this post. You get 38 layouts. You can unlock more layouts with Picisto coins. You cannot save the collage generated but can print the collage or post the collage online. You need to create an account to use the site but can sign in with Facebook so this process is fairly painless. There are also special effects available. Picisto offers some none landscape layouts not available elsewhere but all in all this site is not in the same league as the big three: Kizoa, Photo Collage and Photovisi.
CollageMaker (this section was added January 8, 2013)
You do not have to sign up to use this collage maker. The number of templates is limited. There is a lot of control over text and background compared to other online collage makers. I made a collage without any prior experience with this site in less than ten minutes. So I would have to say the user interface is excellent. You can download the results to your computer or share them to Facebook. If you want to make a cutesy collage quickly then this is a good site to use.
Slidely Collage (this section was added October 29, 2014)
Do you want to turn a video into a collage or vice versa then Slidely Collage is the online site you need to use!
The above isn’t the catch phrase of the company but should be. There are a wide variety of templates. There are two categories of templates: Classic versus Stylish. I will be using the Classic category a lot more since I tend to use collages for instructional purposes. The Stylish category has allows you to make very cutesy collages very quickly and easily. Slidely Collage allows you to capture photos from video and as far as I know this is the only collage maker that has this option! You can easily turn your collage into a video slide show! You can use the music provided or upload your own music. There are a wide variety of upload and download options. Slidely Collage is available as a app for your iPhone as an app named Slidely Capture.
If you have limited time and energy then you might want to skip Kizoa. You do have to sign up to use it, and aside from superior template creation, is inferior to the other two programs reviewed. If a watermark is a big deal then you will chose Photo Collage. If you want a poster with over 60 pictures then you will also pick Photo Collage. If reliability is more important to you than size then Photovisi will attract you. If you are a collage making maniac like me then probably you will do what I do and use both Photo Collage and Photovisi and not Kizoa!
All three sites do have one giant common weakness. The page orientation of all the templates in all three programs is landscape not portrait! If you want to make a collage of magazine covers, book covers, or comic books then you are out of luck! The top of the covers will be cropped off in all three sites. I made the following comic book cover collage with Word and would not have been able to make the collage with any of the programs reviewed: Jimmy Olsen Transformations Collage. The side edges of the Jimmy Olsen covers are slightly uneven relative to each other despite my best efforts to align and resize the comic book covers just right and this would not have happened with a collage maker!
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