How to make beautiful calendars with iPhoto

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For an incredibly meaningful gift, look no further than a wall calendar hand-crafted in iPhoto. Apple’s calendars are nice and big (13 by 10.4 inches), beautiful, and affordable—$20 for a gift that lasts 12 months! Each one is wire-bound, with lots of room for pictures above the date grid. You can customize each month with text and titles, import holidays and events from iCal, and plop photos into individual date squares. It’s printed on gloriously thick matte stock, and even the packaging is a treat—it arrives inside a classy white envelope.

While you’ll pay a little less for a calendar from,, or—or more for one from—they’re not as big, and the quality isn’t as good. Plus, you’d have to upload photos to those sites and use their design system, which has fewer customization options. Here’s how to create a calendar gift your recipient will never forget.

Choose your photos

If you use iPhoto to manage photos, create an album of 25 to 30 photos and then, if you’d like, reorder them by dragging their thumbnails inside the album. (Contrary to the stories you might’ve read, there’s zero reason to switch to another app now—just hang tight until Apple releases Photos in 2015.)

If you use another app to manage photos, export the ones you want to use into a folder and fire up iPhoto—this will consume a little extra hard drive space, but the calendar’s worth it. In iPhoto, choose File > Import to Library and navigate to the folder you created. iPhoto will grab all the photos in the folder, no need to select them individually. Choose File > New Album to create an album of the photos you just imported, which you can drag to reorder.

Create the calendar

Click the Share button in iPhoto’s toolbar and choose Calendar. Pick a theme from the carousel—the Big Date theme is tough to beat—and click Create. In the resulting dialog box, tell iPhoto what period you want the calendar to cover, and then click OK. Additional months beyond 12 are $1.50 each.

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Turn on “Show national holidays” to include the dates your country’s government has deemed important. Use the checkboxes to optionally include iCal info (handy for vacations) and Birthdays from the Contacts app.

iPhoto flows your photos into the calendar by sequence or date, and plops you into All Pages view, where you can drag to rearrange the pages (don’t worry, the months stay in order), though it’s best to save that task for last. To edit the photos on a page, double-click it to enter Single Page view. You can override iPhoto’s choices by clicking Photos in the toolbar. This opens the Photos panel, containing thumbnails of the pictures you started with. (To place all the photos onto the calendar pages yourself, click Clear Placed Photos—you’ll see gray placeholders instead). If you don’t see the photo you want in the Photos panel, locate it in your library, drag it onto your calendar project’s icon in the Source list, and then return to your calendar project.

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The numbers on the thumbnails indicate the page it’s used on; click the arrow to the number’s right to see that page. iPhoto counts each calendar page as two, starting with the first month and excluding the front and back covers, so a one-year calendar has 24 pages.

Tweak the look

To replace a photo, drag it from the Photos panel onto the empty frame or existing photo. To change zoom level, click the photo on the page and use the resulting zoom slider. Drag to reposition the photo inside the frame (your cursor turns into a tiny hand).

Change the number of photos per page by clicking Layout in the toolbar. Pick a number of photos from the Layout menu—up to seven in some themes—and then click a design thumbnail to apply it. The Background thumbnails at the top of the Layout panel let you pick a color for any empty space the page contains (say, if you chose a layout that has a caption area at the bottom).

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The Zoom slider shown here zooms in and out of photos, whereas the Zoom slider in the toolbar zooms in and out of pages. The white arrows (circled) move you between pages. 

Mark special dates

Next, add photos to the date squares by dragging a thumbnail from the Photos panel onto the date itself (awesome for anniversaries and birthdays!). Double-click the photo in the calendar and use the resulting panel’s slider to enlarge the picture within the square and then drag to reposition it. To add a caption, choose a location from the panel’s “Photo caption” menu and enter some text. The photo fills the entire date square—hiding the date itself—so captions live outside the square: above it (circled), below it, or to its left or right.

calendar 4

Once you add a photo to a date square, it’s hard to get rid of: click the date it lives on and press Delete, or drag the photo from the date square into the Photos panel.

For even more fun, click a date square and add your own text—great for planned vacations! Format the text by selecting it and clicking Options in the toolbar. You get font, style, size, color, horizontal and vertical alignment settings, as well as a Change Everywhere button that changes all your project’s text in one fell swoop, including the title on the cover page.

Final edits and placing an order

You can also edit photos in Single Page view: click Options in the toolbar and choose from three color effects: B&W, Sepia, and Antique—this doesn’t change the original photo in your library, just the one in your calendar. For more editing power, right-click the photo and choose Edit Photo, but this does change the original photo (nondestructively, of course).

When you’re finished, click the All Pages button and drag to reorder pages within the calendar. When everything is just right, click Buy Calendar in the toolbar, complete the transaction, and then tap your toes until the postman delivers your masterpiece. To get a calendar by Christmas 2014, order by December 12 with standard shipping or December 17 with express shipping. Until next time, may the creative force be with you all!

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For the best results, alternate between single-picture pages and multipicture pages. founder Lesa Snider is the author of the best-selling Photoshop: The Missing Manual books, coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, author of The Skinny Book ebook series, a founding creativeLIVE instructor, and regular columnist for Photoshop User and Photo Elements Techniques magazines.

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