How-To: Make a Mood Board in Photoshop

Building BTBB: I spend WAY too much time learning random things online – things I might never use in normal life. To justify my online learning obsessions I have decided to share some of what I have learnt right here. I am no expert – on any of these topics – but I guess maybe that is better (assuming you are not an expert either). 

Let me start by saying that I am a complete newbie to Photoshop. The first time I opened it, I ended up aimlessly clicking around and becoming rather annoyed. It was this annoyance that compelled me to enrol in a Skillshare class by Meg Lewis – Basics of Photoshop: Fundamentals for Beginners.

The class introduces Photoshop basics in a series of short videos covering the Photoshop canvas, editing photos, working with typography, sampling colours and finally putting it all together by making a mood board.

What is a Mood Board?

A mood board is a collage of sorts that contains images, text and patterns around a specific theme. It is a great way to pull ideas together and see them all in one place.

Here are some examples of the mood boards other Skillshare classmates made along with their uses:

Home Office Redesign Mood Board


Use a mood board to plan a home office (or any renovation project)

Holiday Inspiration Mood Board


Use a mood board to make a poster that inspires you – maybe of a dream trip.

Wedding Planning Mood Board


Use a mood board to plan a wedding or other event.

How-To: Make a Mood Board

I realise that you could easily make similar mood boards using one of any number of apps but the idea is to introduce some basic Photoshop functionality by making a mood board.

Below you will find the following resources to help you make your first mood board using Photoshop:

  • A web tutorial
  • Free templates
  • A keyboard shortcut cheat sheet
  • A step-by-step guide

Disclaimer: Please bear in mind that:

  • this is my first project in Photoshop (read: I am only 5 days ahead of you, the complete beginner) and
  • this is my very first attempt at making a web tutorial (read: be prepared for mid-video bloopers and low production value)

My Very First Web Tutorial

Watch the video below to see how I made my mood board:

Free Templates

Now I know some of you might be a little lazy – so instead of making a mood board from scratch you can download a few of my free templates.  Your download will include the following:

  • My Tranquil Upliftment Mood Board (jpeg & psd)
  • Home Office Redesign Mood Board (jpeg & psd)
  • Holiday Inspiration Mood Board (jpeg & psd)
  • Wedding Planning Mood Board (jpeg & psd)

Photoshop Shortcut Cheat Sheet

I want to Keyboard Shortcut
 Zoom in/ out  “cmd” and “+” / “-“
 Toggle rulers on/ off  “cmd” and “R”
 Resize/ move a layer (i.e. transform)  “cmd” and “T”
 Keep fixed proportions when resizing “SHIFT”
 Find a layer on the list by clicking on it  “A”

* if you are using a Windows machine replace “cmd” with “ctrl”

Step-by-Step Guide

1) Find a template
  • I found my mood board template by having a look at Meg Lewis’ Pinterest board (from Skillshare – see above)
  • You can find her board here:
  • Alternatively you can download the free templates I have provided with this tutorial (see “Free Templates” above)
2) Create guides using the template
  • Open your template in Photoshop (>File >Open)
  • Zoom in (“cmd”/”ctrl” and “+”) to get a clear view of the borders between the images on your template file.
  • Grab the ruler (the top ruler for horizontal guides and the left ruler for vertical guides), drag it to the border and drop.
    • Troubleshooting: I cannot see my rulers? Toggle your rulers on/ off by pressing “cmd”/ “ctrl” and “R”.
3) Using guides to create shapes
  • Locate the rectangle tool:
    • Tools are the icons located on the left of the workspace.
    • Troubleshooting: if you cannot see the tool it might be hiding behind its friends – hold any tool down to see what’s hiding.
  • Zoom in (“cmd”/”ctrl” and “+”) to get a clear view of the guides we created in the previous step.
  • Create a rectangle over each image by clicking and dragging across.
  • No need to match it exactly – that is what the guides are for:
    • Press “cmd” / “ctrl” and “T” to transform the shape.
    • Grab the squares that appear on the rectangle’s borders and drag them towards your guides – they will stick to guides.
    • Once you are happy with the positioning, press ENTER/ RETURN to place the shape again.
  • You can change the colour of a placed shaped by:
    • Selecting the shape and the rectangle tool.
    • In the Tool Options bar (top left hand corner) you can edit the shape, including its colour.
4) Adding Circles and Intro to Layer Styles
  • You will notice that our original template is no longer visible – hidden under all the shape layers we have created:
    • Scroll down to you template layer and create a copy by either:
      • dragging the layer down to the “New Layer” icon in the bottom right or
      • by right-clicking and copying it.
    • Now grab the copy and drag it all the way to the top.
    • Change the layer’s opacity to 40%.
    • Now you can see the original template as well as the shapes you just created – as well as the circle in the template.
  • Zoom in (“cmd”/”ctrl” and “+”) to get a clear view of the circle.
  • Locate the rectangle tool, hold it down to see the other tools behind it and select the ellipse tool.
  • Hold down the SHIFT key to draw a perfect circle.
  • Again,  press “cmd” / “ctrl” and “T” to transform the shape.
    • Position it over the template circle.
    • Resize it not forgetting to hold down SHIFT.
    • Press ENTER/ RETURN to place the circle.
  • Double-click the circle to view its style options.
    • Toggle various effects on/ off.
5) Adding Images and Clipping Masks
  • To add an image to the mood board:
    • Click >File >Place and locate the image
  • To create a clipping mask:
    • A clipping mask “clips” the image so that only the portion that overlaps with the shape is shown.
    • Position the image above the rectangle of your choice:
      • Locate the rectangle of your choice in the layer list by pressing “A” on your keyboard and then clicking it – this is called “Direct Select” and is very useful.
      • Place the image layer directly above the rectangle layer.
    • Right click the image layer and select “Create Clipping Mask”.
  • Again, press “cmd” / “ctrl” and “T” to transform the shape.
    • Remember to hold down the SHIFT key when resizing the image to avoid distortion.
 6) Adding Text
  • To add text to a shape:
    • Locate the shape of your choice in the layer list by pressing “A” on your keyboard and then clicking on it on the canvas.
    • Locate the Text Tool and then click on the shape.
  • Alternatively, simply add text as a new layer by:
    • Clicking the “New Layer” button in the bottom right.
    • Locate the Text Tool and then click on the canvas.
  • To change the format of the text:
    • Open the Character Tool
      • Troubleshooting: I cannot see my character tool. This probably means it is not enabled so go to >Window >Character
    • Once open you can change the size and font, make the text all-caps, bold, change colour and so much more.

And here is the final product:


Share the Love

I really hope you enjoyed this post – if you did I would love it if you used my Click-to-Tweet box below to tell your friends about it. And once you have made your first mood board, share it with me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (links in the sidebar).