Creaticity: The trick to adding text to a print layout in Lightroom

Lightroom's Print module makes it easy to design gorgeous print templates, but adding custom text to a print layout is tricky. Oddly enough, Lightroom's Identity Plate feature is the easiest way to get it done, though formatting text can be challenging. In this column you'll learn how to create a new identity plate for use in a print layout, how to create a multi-line identity plate, and how to design your own plate in image editing software.

Designing a text-based identity plate in Lightroom

Lightroom's main identity plate is visible at the upper-left of the interface, though the one we're designing here is intended specifically for print. The easiest place to create and format the identity plate is in the Print module; that way you can see exactly how the text looks atop the print.

Once you've selected some photos, click the Print button at the upper right and then pick a template from the Template Browser panel at left. If this is your first foray into the Print module, it's important to understand how these templates work: If you pick a template that includes the word "custom" in its name, meaning its layout style is a "custom package," as noted in the Layout panel, you can drag and drop photos from the photo bin at the bottom of the interface into the black-outlined photo slots in your print layout. After you've added a photo to the layout, you can click the photo and drag it around within its frame.

To populate other template styles, such as "single image/contact sheet" or "picture package," you must activate your photos in the photo bin--they'll then appear in the template (otherwise it's empty). For example, if your template has three slots, activate three photos in the photo bin by Command- or Shift-clicking them; if you deactivate a photo in the bin, that slot is emptied in the template. To rearrange the order of photos in the print template, you must drag to rearrange them in the photo bin.

When you're ready to add custom text, trot over to the right side of the interface and scroll down until you see the Page panel. Turn on the Identity Plate checkbox and, to create horizontal text, click the angle field to its right and choose "No rotation" from the resulting menu. Next, click inside the identity plate preview area and from the resulting menu, choose Edit.

In the identity plate editor that appears, you're given precious few options. To add a single line of text, click inside the box and type away. Format the text by highlighting it and then use the editor's font family, style, size, and color controls. To add a second line of text, press and hold the Option key on your keyboard and then tap the Return key once to add one line or twice to add two lines (this trick only works on Macs) and then type your text. You can't see the text as you're typing it, because there's no scroll bar in the identity plate editor (!), but the text is there. To see all your text, click OK to close the editor--your text will then appear on your print layout.

Formatting text you can't see

To edit the text and its formatting, reopen the editor by double-clicking the text box in your print layout. Since you can't see the second line of text in the editor, here's the trick to formatting it: type the second line first, format it to your liking, use the Option-Return key trick mentioned above to add a line, and then use your keyboard's up arrow key to get back to the first line in order to type and format that first line. It's weird but it works.

To control the overall size of the new identity plate, use the Page panel's Scale slider. However, to change font size of individual lines of text, you have to reopen the identity plate editor and tweak the font size--it'll be impossible to highlight the second line of text in order to resize it, so you may need to start over. Nevertheless, after several (possibly frustrating) moments of experimentation, you'll get the text formatted just right.

It's easier with help

For more control, and the ability to see the identity plate as you're creating it (!), use an image editor such as Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or Pixelmator. Simply create a new document at the size and resolution of your Lightroom print, style your text, and then crop the document down to the size of the text (Photoshop's Image > Trim command is handy for this).

Choose File > Save As and pick PNG from the resulting dialog's format menu so your text stays crisp. To create a transparent identity plate, turn off the visibility of any colored background layer before saving the file as a PNG. Over in Lightroom, open the identity plate editor as described earlier, turn on the "Use a graphical style identity plate" radio button, and then follow the onscreen instructions to import your new graphic.

As you can see, it takes a little effort to add custom text to your Lightroom prints but it can be worth it and the results make great gifts! Until next time, may the creative force be with you all! founder Lesa Snider is the author of the best-selling Photoshop: The Missing Manual books, coauthor ofiPhoto: The Missing Manual, author ofThe Skinny Bookebook series, a founding creativeLIVE instructor, and regular columnist for Photoshop User and Photo Elements Techniques magazines.


Lesa Snider

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