Word Search Puzzle


Summer is the time when lots of family reunions take place. Here's a fun little project you can put together for your reunion. A Word Search puzzle.

You know those blocks of letters that contain hidden words. Sometimes called Seek-and-Find.

You can put the type on a photo that has some meaning to your family and also hide words within the puzzle such as peoples names or street names or names of cities that have some significance to your family.

And maybe include words that describe your family. Words like "love". Or in some cases words like "bicker" ;^)


Since people will be circling the letters, you just need to print it out on some inexpensive paper from your home printer or copy center.

Oh, and don't forget to print out the list of hidden words that people need to find. You can either do it right on the photo or on a separate sheet.


Sometimes people get hung up with getting the letters to line up. In this tutorial you'll learn a secret tip that makes it easy.

I made this in an older version of Photoshop Elements but if you're using PSE 11, the main difference is if it says to go to the Options Bar at the top of your screen...

Well, you do the opposite and go to the Tool Options panel at the bottom of your screen.

Let's get started creating the Word Search puzzle...

STEP 1 - Show Grid.

Go up to the View Menu and choose Grid.

The non-printing grid will become visible. This might look slightly different from what mine looks like below but it doesn't matter, we're just going to use it to line things up.

STEP 2 - Type The First Column.

Of course you have to have your hidden words words worked into the Word Search puzzle at this point.

Click once with the Horizontal Type tool in the approximate area that you want the puzzle to start. Probably somewhere in the upper-left of your photo.

Now it's going to seem that you're typing the first horizontal row of letters. But it will actually become the first vertical column of letters. That's where the secret tip comes in.

So type the letters that you want to be in the first column on the left of your puzzle.

STEP 3 - Change Letters From Horizontal To Vertical.

Make sure that the Horizontal Text tool is still active. Go up to the Options Bar at the top of your window and click on the "Change The Text Orientation" icon.

Your type will change to a vertical orientation.

STEP 4 - Type Your Next Column Of Letters.

With the Horizontal Type tool active, click once to set your cursor and type the letters that you want in the next column.

STEP 5 - Change Letters From Horizontal To Vertical.

Make sure that the Horizontal Text tool is still active. Go up to the Options Bar at the top of your window and click on the "Change The Text Orientation" icon.

Now that group of letters will be vertical.

STEP 6 - Make Sure That Snap To Grid Is Active.

We want our type layers to "snap" to the grid. That means that when we move a layer close to a grid line it will snap to it. Very similar to the way a piece of metal will attach to a magnet when it gets close enough.

Make sure that Snap To is active by going up to the View Menu and choosing Snap to>Grid.

STEP 7 - Line Up The First Column Of Type To The Grid.

Notice in your Layers Panel that each group of letters is on a separate layer.

Click on the layer for the first column to make it the active layer. You can tell that it's the active layer because it's highlighted in a different color.

In my example below, that color is a lighter gray but in other versions of Photoshop Elements it might be blue.

Go to the Toolbox and click on the Move Tool to make it the active tool.

Click-and-drag your first column of type to about where you want it to be in relationship to your photo underneath it. You can easily move it later so don't stress about getting it in the perfect spot.

As you slowly move it into position, you should notice the "snap to" effect to the grid.

Notice in the screen shot below that I have my cursor on the second letter down. That's just so it's not covering up the top letter because I want to see where that top letter is in relationship to the grid.

I'm going to get the top of my top letter to snap to the heavy blue grid line that is closest to the area that I want to place it.

I'm also going to let it snap to the center of one of the vertical grid lines.

STEP 8 - Line Up The Next Column Of Type.

Go to the Layers Panel again and this time make the next column of type the active layer by clicking on it.

Place your cursor on the second letter down so that you can clearly see the top letter. Click-and-drag the type so that the top letter snaps to the same grid line as the previous group of letters.

Now the first two columns of your word search puzzle are aligned top-and-bottom.

Notice in the screen shot below that I let the type snap to the center of the next vertical grid line to the right of the vertical line that the previous column snapped to.

Because I did that, there will be less space between the letters left and right than there is between the letters top and bottom.

If I move it to the right until it snaps again, there will then be more space between the sides of the letters than there is between the top and bottom of the letters.

I decided to go with more. Just make sure whichever amount of space you use between the first two columns, that you keep it consistent for all additional columns of type that you add.

So in my example, for the next column, I will snap to the space between the vertical grid lines. Next column centered on grid line... keep repeating that pattern as shown below:

STEP 9 - Complete The Puzzle.

Repeat Steps 4, 5, and 8 for each additional column of type that you want to add to your puzzle.

Here is my completed puzzle, notice in the Layers panel that there is a separate layer for each column of type.

STEP 10 - Hide Grid.

Go up to the View Menu and click on Grid to uncheck it.

STEP 11 - Reposition Puzzle (Optional).

Now you can move the word search block of letters as a group to anywhere on your photo.

Go to the Layers Panel and click once on the top layer to make it active. Then hold down the Shift Key and click once on the layer right above the Background Layer.

With all of the text layers active you can use the Move Tool to click-and-drag and position the puzzle wherever you want over your photo.

Release the Mouse button when it's positioned to your liking.

That completes this tutorial on how to create a word search puzzle with Photoshop Elements.

I hope you enjoyed it! - Rick

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