Pinspiration | Big Titles

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Happy Saturday scrappers! I was perusing around Pinterest today looking for ideas. I stumbled upon a lovely layout (will show you below) with a big title. That got my scrappy gears moving in my brain. So, I thought I would share that inspiration with you.

So often we allow the photos or a great paper to be the focal point of our layout. We plop a title on at the very end of it all (if we do at all). Personally, I struggle with coming up with a great title. Really, as I scrap mostly my son, I feel like slapping “Isaiah” on every page. lol. I searched “scrapbook big title” on Pinterest & was inspired! Here are some great examples of making the title your focal point. Making a statement with a big title.

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The Pin | Original Source

I really like the idea of the large number that signifies something. It works at the title as well as a great backdrop. The choice of alpha allows for the large number to blend perfectly to the layout & not over power it. Who doesn’t have a number that is significant to them. A person’s age, an anniversary, or a reunion. The next time you are scrapping a memory that has a significant number marker, think about making that your focal point. Scrap it with a big title!

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The Pin | Original Source

This really is the focal point of the layout. I really like how the paper is cut around the title. I feel like when it is time for me to go to the beach, I want to yell it to everyone. Just go around yelling, “BEACH!” lol. This large titled layout really brings all the pretty and fun beach photos together. Your eyes are drawn to the large title to start with. At the same time, it is bringing your eyes to the photos around it. This would make a great title page to a vacation book too!

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Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Here’s a Little Clip!

Today’s tutorial is brought to you by a comment made by Glee on one of my layouts. She asked me what to do with paper clips. So I used the same clip, from Blue Heart ScrapsBe Mindful February Buffet kit. This layout also uses a terrific template from Heartstrings Scrap Art‘s Winter Freeze 3 collection.

When you want to use a paper clip on a layout, you need to first think what it’s going to clip together. I like to clip several items together with mine, as you can see in the images above and below. I also like to leave a little bit of a gap at the bottom of the paperclip so it looks like it really is holding those things together. Once I’ve positioned my clip where and how I want it, I copy (CTRL/CMD>J) the clip layer so I have two of them. The “why” will become clear as we go along.

And…………..then I turn the visibility of the layer off.

I add a Layer Mask to the BOTTOM clip layer. (I forgot to select the correct layer for the screenshot below, so don’t do that!) If you’ve never used a layer mask I strongly recommend you start! They’re fantastic tools because if you remove something you didn’t want to remove, you can just paint it back. So make sure your bottom clip layer is selected, then click on the icon shown below.

This is what you’ll see in the Layers panel. Make sure you’re working on the MASK part of the layer – the blue outline has to be around the blank page. If you accidentally work on the thumbnail part of the layer, you won’t be able to paint back what you remove.

Then select the Eraser tool, and ensure white is the foreground colour. (White conceals, black reveals.) Carefully erase the part of the paperclip that will be behind/under your paper or photo.

If you’re having a hard time figuring out what to remove from your image, get a paper clip and a piece of paper, then put the paperclip on the paper somewhere. Put the paper flat on your desk and you can see what is hidden and what is not.

When you’ve removed the parts of your clip that will be hidden by your paper/photo, Simplify the layer. To do that you can right-click on the layer then select Simplify Layer. (No WSNH tip for that.) I know you’re wondering why all these steps are necessary, and it’s all about control. The Layer Mask is very forgiving, the Eraser tool isn’t. Simplifying the layer afterwards makes those changes permanent once you’re committed to them.

I like these shaped paper clips, both digital and real. There are lots of ways you can use them! Here I’ve tucked one of the free wire ends under the photo and the other under both the paper and the photo.

Now we can add a shadow to the BOTTOM clip layer that we’ve been working with. If you just go with a drop shadow style, you’ll have a shadow that runs over onto the paper and it’ll look odd. I don’t know who else has my problem, but those sorts of inconsistencies just jump out at me! So let’s avoid it. Create a new layer UNDER the visible clip. CTRL/CMD>click on the piece of paper icon to do that quickly. Then Select the outline of the clip by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the clip’s layer thumbnail. Then you’ll have those little marching ants. Using the Fill tool (paint bucket) fill the selected area ON THAT NEW LAYER with your shadow colour. I used black.

Once you have that shadow layer filled, you can shift the shadow to the angle where your layout’s light source is coming from. But then you’ll notice that shadow doesn’t actually touch the paper where it should. Use the Smudge tool to bring the shadow up to the paper. Just drop the cursor onto the black area near the edge, click-and-drag the tool to the edge of the paper.

Don’t worry if it’s overlapping the paper. It MUST touch the paper with no gap. Light can’t leak under wire , right?

Once you’ve got a good connection between your shadow and your paper edge (don’t neglect the other parts of the clip where some of it is hidden), you can carefully Erase the overlap. (Use a Layer mask if you’re unsteady.)

To soften the edges of your shadow layer, use Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Look at the other shadows on your layout so you can make the clip’s shadow look natural. Remember that paper clips sit tight to the paper/photo, so the edges will be sharper than for other less-weighty items.

You want your shadow to look as real as possible. When you’ve got the Blur right, decrease the Opacity of the layer until it looks right.

Now, we could just call that good, but I think you know me better than that! I could get really technical here and start talking about Dodging and Burning, but I have a workaround that’s super-simple and that’s what you’re getting instead.

Now it’s time to turn on the second paperclip layer, the one we didn’t remove parts from. Then we’re going to add a Bevel style to it. Click on the Styles button down at the bottom right then select Bevel.

From the Bevel styles menu, I chose Simple Inner. The default settings will work very well, so no tweaking required. Can you see the way it makes the wire look round instead of flat?

The next thing is to add a shadow layer to this clip too. Make all the same lighting angle and Blur adjustment to it as you did for the first one. Here’s a WSNH tip: you can duplicate the degree of blur from your last action by simply clicking CTRL/CMD>F. After you’ve gotten those steps done, decrease the Opacity of BOTH the paperclip layer AND the shadow layer so that they’re barely visible.

Don’t be concerned that it seems really obvious when you’re zoomed right in tight. Nobody will see it that up-close but you.

See, here I’ve pulled out the zoom and there’s really just a hint of the wire showing through the papers.

Here’s my finished layout. I’m very pleased with it!

I hope you’ll give this one a try, unless you like your paperclips resting on top of your papers. There’s nothing wrong with that – paperclips and other things (dust!) can be scattered over other things. But now you can USE that paperclip to hold your goodies together!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements 15)

SKETCHIER!

If you’ve been reading these tutorials from the beginning you might remember one on turning a photo into a sketch. It had a lot of steps and might have been a little daunting for the novice Elements user. So I think you’re going to love this one for its total simplicity. It’s one of the black-and-white Guided Edits in PSE 15 called Line Drawing. (It might also be there in 14, but when I tried to find out which version it debuted in, I wasn’t successful.) And the possibilities with it are endless!

The best photos for this technique are ones with sharp focus and lots of detail. I played with it using a close-up photo of my dog and loved it. For this example though, I used a stock photo from Pixabay. Then select Guided>Black & White>Line Drawing.

Take a look at the different items I’ve highlighted in the image below. They’re the controls for this Guided Edit and they’re all really useful.

In the upper left corner of the workspace, you can choose the way you view the changes. Your choices are After Only, Before Only, Before & After – Horizontal and Before & After Vertical. Below I’m showing you Before & After Horizontal, where you can watch the transformation as it happens. You also have the option of zooming in on specific areas of the photo.

The Pencil Sketch Effect button takes all the work out of the process. One click is all it takes. If you click more than once, the sketch effect becomes more minimalist; give it a try and see if you like it. You can always CTRL/CMD>Z back to the initial step if you don’t.

Here’s what my example looks like after 2 clicks.

The next step is optional. Clicking on the Adjust Layer Opacity button adds back a hint of colour without losing the sketchy effect. Multiple clicks on this button however don’t produce additional effects. As you’ll see below, you can still make adjustments to this step later.

Adjusting Levels is where the REAL magic happens. My copy of Elements has a glitch in it such that the Levels button in this Edit doesn’t work. But I know that CTRL/CMD>L will bring up the Levels interface. If you’ve never used the Levels adjustment menu you’re in for a treat.

Levels adjustments can be made on all the different channels (RGB, Red Green and Blue) but for this purpose RGB – the default – is the only one we need worry about. I played with the sliders so you could see the way each adjustment changes the image. Looking at the histogram – that black bit in the Input Levels box – you can see the way the curve bends as you move the sliders. For this adjustment, moving the right little wedge to the left lightens the image.

On the other hand, moving the left wedge to the right darkens the lines on the image and seems to sharpen it too.

The trick is to adjust them so that the image pleases you. Watch what’s happening as you move the sliders and you’ll know when you see what you like.

My final settings for this image are shown below. I moved the left Input Levels slider to the right and the right Output Levels to the left.

So, once you’ve got that image looking the way you want it to, maybe like a lithograph from an old book… click on that Next arrow at the lower right of the workspace.

Now you have a choice. Remember from our other Guided Edits? You can save it or you can work on it some more. I picked In Expert so I could play with it just a bit more.

As you can see, there are two layers there when you move to Expert. There’s no limit to the things you can do once you get to this point. The Opacity of the sketch layer is 82% when you first open up your project in Expert.

Just as an example, I put the Opacity of the sketch layer to 100% and that hint of colour (really obvious when you look at the sky) is GONE. I don’t think it looks as interesting, do you? But you could use this to make personalized colouring books… think of the options1

So then I lowered the Opacity to 60%, which keeps the sketchy detail but lets more of the colour come through. You could also lighten up the coloured layer underneath in spots so only the sketchy bits are visible in that area. If you plan to do that, right-click on the photo layer and select Layer from Background, so you can add a transparent layer underneath it.

When you’re totally happy with how it looks, you can merge the layers together and save it with a funky name. Of course, that step is optional, but if you use it for something you’ll have to be sure to link the layers so they move together.

Whaddya think? Are you going to give it a try?

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements 15)

Fun with FONTS & FOTOS 

I don’t know about where YOU are, but where I am, winter is in full fury. We got nearly a foot of snow in the last few days, most of it falling at the same time I was on a 52-passenger bus on my way home from a meeting 200 miles from home. So I’ve been living vicariously through my daughter, who just returned from a week in Hawaii. She took some amazing photos!

Let’s play with another Guided Edit, from the Fun Edits tab. This one is called Photo Text.

The interface for this edit is quite simple and easy to follow. Click on the Text Tool button and choose a font. Pick something with some presence – a chunky one that will let all the awesomeness of your photo shine. I started with Konga Pro Regular. Don’t worry about the font colour, it’s not going to matter. You can play with the size to maximize the area of the photo your text covers.

And you can use more than one font, as the software shows in the sample on the menu screen. Don’t click to accept the changes until you’ve got all of your text done though. Move your cursor to where you want the new font to take over, use the font selection menu to choose the new one and type out your text. And don’t worry if your text doesn’t fit onto your photo perfectly either, because you can resize it later. The second font I chose for this example is called LD Zoot Suit, from Lettering Delights.

If your text lines overlap, once you’ve got the words you want, you can double-click on the text and adjust the leading – the gap between the lines – so that they’re just touching. Or, because it’s YOUR project, they don’t have to touch… it’s all up to you!

Once you’ve committed your text, the software automatically clips your photo to it. You can move the text around and resize it to reveal the areas of your photo that you want visible.

The image above has the “Fit” option selected, since it’s the default. Depending on your font and the width of the words you used, you might find the “Fill” option works well for you. I didn’t like it, so I undid it.

Then there’s the Background Color option. You can choose Black…

white…

or Clear (transparent). Which one works will depend on what you plan to do with your text later.

I shifted my text around to show more of the sand and the sea, less of the sky. The clouds on the horizon weren’t defined enough for my taste.

Now for the fun part! There are some more options that change the appearance of your text in some very interesting ways. With one click you can add both a stroke and a bevel! There are three preset adjustments; this one is the Small version.

And the Medium. Looks a little like a marshmallow.

Large is even more puffy and defined. While I was playing around with this technique it occurred to me that this would be a way to make a super-simple alpha set to match a favourite kit, simply by typing out the alphabet to fill up a paper from that kit, then fiddling with the adjustments.

But wait!! There’s more tweaking we can do! By clicking on that Advanced button at the bottom of the interface, this menu opens up. Each aspect can be adjusted to suit the look you’re going for. You can change the angle of the light source, make the Bevel higher or flatter (and sharper), you can adjust the Drop Shadow, the width of the Stroke and even add an Inner or Outer Glow. It’s so much fun to experiment!

I decided a white Stroke would look better. Right?!

All that’s left is to decide what to do with your finished text. You can save it, share it or move it to the Expert editor to drop onto your layout. The power is in your hands!

With this Guided Edit you can do as much or as little as you like with your text. Of course, you COULD do it all the old-fashioned, multi-step way, but why?

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

The ART of ILLUSION

Last week I promised you a technique to really rock the January Inspiration challenge, and I hope you agree that this is it! Ivonne, the brilliance behind Craft-tastrophic, gave us this photo as the platform around which to build our layouts.

I tend to be pretty literal in my adaptation of this kind of challenge, so my goal was to find some photos of balloons, a girl in a pink dress and the Paris skyline. There were also some requirements in addition – the girl had to have an outstretched hand to attach the balloons to, the photos had to be lit roughly equally and the light source had to come from the same direction. Now, those last two can be fudged sometimes, the former by tweaking the exposure and the latter simply by flipping the photo horizontally, but lucky for me the photos I found at Pixabay ticked all my boxes without any major fuss.

Early in my tutorial authoring “career” I showed y’all two different ways to extract an image from its background. I used both of them for the final result. The first I used on two photos of hot air balloons (you can see them below in the Layers panel); it’s the Magic Wand method, quick and easy, and especially suited for images with few finicky details. The second, using a Layer Mask and the Eraser tool, was used for the photo of my girl in her pink dress. The screenshot below is a refresher on adding and using a Layer Mask. Remember, black reveals, white conceals. If you make a boo-boo, click on the X key to toggle between hiding and uncovering to undo whatever needs fixing.

Zoom in as much as necessary to keep your edges clean and to avoid removing something you’ll miss later.

I like to work my way around the edge of my image all the way, making a good-sized gap between the superfluous background and my detail so that later I can increase the size of my eraser to enormous and quickly remove the rest of the background.

Here are the three images I’ve extracted to add onto the Paris skyline.

I plopped my extracted images onto my Paris skyline photo and moved them around, adjusted their sizes as needed and positioned them where they’d make the most sense. Once I had the balloons positioned so the shadows in the original images were in the right direction and the perspective looked good, then I had to make the balloons look like the girl is holding them. So I made some “strings” on a new layer.

With the Pen tool I drew two perfectly straight lines from the baskets of the hot air balloons to the girl’s hand. To draw a straight line, all you have to do is decide your starting point then click there. Holding down the Shift key move your cursor to the end point and click again. That’s it, that’s all! I used a 5 pixel pen tip and a light gray colour for the strings. Then I made some little tails inside her palm just for an added touch of the possible.

To turn those straight lines into something resembling string, I used the Texturizer FilterFilter>Texture>Texturizer

The defaults in this tool are Brick, Burlap, Canvas and Sandstone. The one most likely to look like string is Canvas, so that’s what I used. Adjustments you can make inside the Texturizer menu are Scaling – how big your texture will look, Relief – how “high” it will lift off the image, and the Light source. You also get a preview without the background there so you can actually gauge what’s happening in real time. You’re going for a realistic look here.

I moved on to look at the girl. I wanted her to look like she really was standing on the roof. And she didn’t…

I created a custom shadow on its own layer, which we’ve covered a number of other times in other tutorials. She won’t cast a shadow anywhere but where she touches the roof, so I used the Smudge tool to achieve that.

There, now she looks like she’d touching the stone. But it still isn’t quite right. Her skirt should also cast a bit of a shadow, so I Smudged my shadow layer there too. All that was left was to adjust the Opacity and Blend Mode and I was thrilled with how it looked.

My finished layout was created with Heartstrings Scrap Art‘s The Bigger Picture 3 Winter’s Frost template B and her Time Traveler kit.

You know you’re only limited by the boundaries of your imagination!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Like Snowflakes… No Two ALIKE

Hey GingerScrappers! Are you ready for another technique (or two)? This week’s tutorial shows two ways of using the Custom Shape tool and reviews customising shadows in Elements. The inspiration for it came from comments in the Gallery on two of my layouts, each with a paper snowflake. I used templates for both of them but that doesn’t mean I can’t show you how the effects were achieved. For the examples I used the January Buffet collection from Just So Scrappy called Bundle Up. I started with a 12×12 page on my workspace. For the first part of the tutorial the background paper is a darker blue one with white spots and the gray stripe for the snowflake.

After I moved the blue spotted paper onto the page, I chose the Custom Shape tool, the one that looks like an amoeba. I also chose a light colour to create my shape so my tired old eyes could see it.

There are a number of options in the tool menu. I selected the Nature folder from the drop-down default shapes, chose a hefty snowflake from the folder and set it to Defined Proportions. This makes sure that my shape is as tall as it is wide. Symmetry is important in a snowflake!

There are two ways to Simplify shape layers. Don’t forget this step. It’s what gives you the upper hand over the snowflake. You can do it right from the Shape tool menu or you can right-click on the layer and select Simplify Layer as shown.

Then you’re going to clip a paper to the shape. The keyboard shortcut is CTRL/CMD>G for versions below 14 and CTRL/CMD>ALT>G in versions above 14.

Now let’s give our paper snowflake a custom shadow. You might recall a previous tutorial on this subject, so this will be a review. The full set of steps is described in the second technique. (After I made all my screenshots I decided I should reverse the order of the two techniques and didn’t want to go back and redo it all… Sorry!)

The steps are: New Layer below the cutout, Select the shape by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the shape layer thumbnail and filling the selected area with your shadow colour with the Paint Bucket tool. Then you want to move the shadow layer over and down in the direction your light source is coming from.

To really customise it and make your paper snowflake look 3-D, use the Smudge tool to gently move the shadows around. Think about how much light will get underneath the paper and nudge the shadow closer where the paper will lay flatter, farther away where it might lift.

If you’re working on a darker background and it’s too hard to see what you’re doing, turn the background layer(s) visibility off.

Aha! A typo!! That should say Gaussian BLUR! It’s found in the Filters menu. It softens the edges of your shadow to make it look more realistic. Change the Blend Mode to Linear Burn and decrease the Opacity until it looks like a nice shadowy bit.

There it is! A paper snowflake sitting pretty on your background paper.

But let’s add some pizazz! For this step I used a wrinkled fabric brush I picked up free from Brusheezy. The brushes in this set have a maximum size of 2500×2500 pixels so I had to make my paper snowflake and its shadow small enough to completely cover it with the brush. To make sure the brush only covers the snowflake, I Selected the edges of it (CTRL/CMD>click on the layer thumbnail) then created a New Layer on TOP of the snowflake layer. I ALWAYS put my brushes on their own layer so I can play with them without affecting anything else.

I used the same colour as my shadow. It looks a bit too dark and opaque, but I’m going to change that.

As you can see in the screenshot below, you CAN use two different Blend Modes on one brush. I used Color Burn when I put the brush on the layer and then Multiply afterward. The effect is subtle but pleasing.

Then I pulled down the Opacity of the brush layer so the stripes show through again but the wrinkles are still there. The only flaw is that this technique does change the colour of the paper somewhat.

See? Now it’s so much more interesting to look at than a plain paper cutout!

Now let’s flip this around. Start with the gray striped paper.

Follow the shape-creation steps as before. I used the same snowflake shape.

As mentioned above, do use the Tool options. They make life so much easier. Play around with them to see how they change things.

Look familiar? Only for a few more minutes!

Simplify the shape layer.

Now drop the blue spotted paper on top of the gray striped paper and the shape layers.

Select your shape. Make sure you’re on the BLUE paper layer.

Cut the shape out of your paper. Instead of having a paper snowflake on top of your blue paper, you’ll have a snowflake-shaped hole in it.

And it’ll be the colour of your shape until you delete that layer or turn it off.

Here we are again. It looks a lot like the first one right now.

Select the blue paper layer by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the layer thumbnail, just like before.

Create a new layer underneath the blue paper. Fill it with the Paint Bucket and your shadow colour.

Move it over and down in the direction your light is coming from.

There it is! In this iteration it’s easy to see so you can start Smudging it to make your 3-D effect.

“Lift” the paper where it might curl a bit, anchor it down where it should rest close to the background. Once you’ve done this shadow technique a few times, it becomes very quick and easy. Trust me! I almost never use shadow styles any more.

Here are your detailed instructions for the Gaussian Blur filter.

Clicking on the edge of the shadow somewhere gives you a preview in the adjustment box so you can see how much the edges soften. Don’t go crazy.

Pull down the Opacity

change the Blend Mode to Linear Burn and BOOM! You’re done!

Almost exactly the same steps, but such different looks!!

Next week I think I’m going to show you some photo manipulation tricks that you can use for the Inspiration Challenge. Stay tuned!

Tutorial Tuesday (Digital Scrapbooking)

Christmas FONTography

Wow… less than a week until Christmas and Kwanzaa! And only 1 more day of Chanukah. I know there are lots of you who find yourselves right where I am… too much to do and not enough time to do it. So I know you’ll forgive me for scrimping a bit on this week’s tutorial, and I know you’ll understand when I tell you that I’m taking next Tuesday off. Sort of. It’s my turn to work Christmas in the pediatric ICU and on the 25th and 26th, that’s where I’ll be.

Okay, now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about those holiday layouts we’re all going to be creating over the next couple of weeks. I’d like to share some amazing Christmas/winter/elegant fonts that would be fabulous for titles or journaling. I checked out a few online earlier today and found some real gems!

The next few images are all from 1001fonts.com. There are some dingbats in there too – that could come in handy someday… you never know! They are all free, but please consider making a donation to the fontographer if you like their work.

As you can see, there are a variety of styles and moods here.

I just love the titles some of them have, don’t you? Very descriptive.

I don’t know about you but I may never have enough fonts.

Some of these are already in my collection but I need more!!

The images and fonts below are from another of my favourite font sources, dafont.com. You might notice there are some duplicates, but each site has a nice selection of unique fonts.

Santa’s Sleigh has been one of my collected fonts for years. Do you have a favourite?

Some of these make me think of Christmases when I was a kid.

And of course, there’s gotta be some snow in there. And tinsel! City of Light would be awesome for Chanukah layouts, wouldn’t it?

There are some here I’d be hard pressed to find a use for, but there are so many more that I could definitely make work for me.

I’ve barely scratched the surface here. There are hundreds of free and low-cost festive fonts out there if you have a minute to look for them. I’m going back right now to download some more… instead of wrapping gifts or cleaning my house.

Below are some of the fonts I’ve hoarded over the years, both free and paid-for. They’re not all typical Christmas-y fonts, but would absolutely work. I think Peanut Butter Smoothies would be terrific for story-telling.

 

If you need a refresher on combining fonts, you can find that tutorial here.

I can’t wait to see all the special layouts you’re going to create with your family photos. You can be sure I’m going to be looking for some of these fonts. Guaranteed! Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa… Festivus, Alban Arthan, whatever winter festival you’re celebrating… and a Happy New Year!

GingerBread Girls Inspiration – alannabanana

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Good Monday morning scrappers!! Can you believe that the end of the year is just a few short weeks away? That (if you celebrate) Christmas is just around the corner?! What happened to 2017?! It has flown by!! In thinking of how fast 2017 skipped on by, I got to thinking. We have not had a GingeerBread Girl highlight here on the blog in a while. So we are going to do just that.

For those who are not familiar with the titles around GingerScraps, a GingerBread Girl is a creative team member. Those ladies who work hard to bring all those kits you love to action. Today, we are going to pull a bit of inspiration from:

Alanna aka: alannabanana

Check out her full gallery HERE.

I was stalking the galleries and Alanna’s jumped out to me. She scraps with beautiful composition on everyone I saw. Her cluster work is amazing. I love clustering on layouts. I have to say a number of her layouts have made it to my inspiration board! She also has perfect shadow work; and she really knows how to use her scrap space. Be it a whitespace layout or a page full of digi-scrap goodies. Here are a few of my favorite from her gallery:

 


I told you that her gallery has some amazing inspiration! These are just a drop in the water. Go check out her GALLERY and look around. If you find yourself scraplifting and finding something that speaks to you in inspiration, let us know! Come back and link up your layout. We would love to see it. Happy Scrapping!

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Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements 14+)

In the RAW!

How many of you have high-tech, high-priced camera gear? How many of you actually use all those fancy features that came with your HTHP camera? Show of hands? How many of you are shooting RAW? (NOT naked…) Anybody?

I’m sure there are more than a few people scratching their heads about now. Let me explain. RAW is a file format that records ALL the data collected by the sensor (creating ginormous files, by the way) that allows for a wide range of adjustments in post-processing. The files it generates are huge for a reason – the image compression ratio is much larger than the JPEG format’s files so there’s more that can be fine-tuned once the images are downloaded. (To understand compression ratio, look at a photo you shot with your camera then posted to Facebook. Examine it in its original state zoomed in 200% then do the same with the FB version. It should be obvious… FB compresses images to a significant degree and they look really awful zoomed.) It’s a great tool for pros, but not necessarily useful for the average soccer mom snapping cell phone photos of the little darlings running with the ball. But what if I told you that PSE 14 and above has a photo editor setting that emulates RAW format editing but without the enormous files? I’m going to show you how it works…

First you need to open your image in the Camera Raw editor. Find the image in your photo folder so you know where it is,  then click File>Open in Camera Raw.

The interface looks like this. Don’t be intimidated! It’s really not that hard to follow. If you look at the photo I’m using, you can see the sky is really washed out but there’s no detail visible in the statue’s face. I’m going to fix that.

The default when your image opens is the Basic adjustment panel. It includes a White Balance setting that you can leave as shot, set to Auto or set to Custom. In the image below I’ve selected Auto. If you look closely you can see that the Temperature slider has shifted a bit to the right, or warmer side. So has the Tint slider.

I changed it to Custom just to show you that all the sliders reset and you’d need to adjust all the sliders to achieve the White Balance you want.

So I went back to Auto, then played with the sliders. Adjustments here, listed in order from just below the White Balance, include Temperature, Tint, Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks, Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation. I moved the Shadows slider all the way to the right; see the change?

The adjustments aren’t individually obvious, but when taken altogether, there’s a significant change. With each image, look at where the sliders are to see what I’ve tweaked.

Each of the controls adjusts a different basic aspect of your image. You can adjust the exposure so that over-exposed, blown-out areas aren’t any more, and so that underexposed areas are suddenly quite visible. And look at the definition suddenly showing up in the foliage!

Once you’ve gotten the exposure and and colour more to your liking you can move on to the Detail adjustments. It can’t correct everything though. It’s not going to magically take an out-of-focus photo and make it tack-sharp.

The adjustments in this panel include Sharpening and Noise Reduction, with some options within each. In this panel, it’s helpful to zoom in on the part of the image that you’re trying to improve on so you can gauge the degree of change you want. You don’t want to overdo it!

And then there’s the split-screen preview option. This is really useful for all stages of adjustment. To get the split screen go down to the bottom right corner of the image and click on the box with the “Y” in it. If you click on it once, you get the side-to-side split shown below. Clicking on it a second time will split it top-to-bottom. That might work better for landscapes. Seeing the before and after lets you control your adjustments even more. (And you know I’m ALL about control!)

So after I’d done some Sharpening and some Noise Reduction in split screen, I went back to the Basic menu to see if there were any other nudges I wanted to add.

Once I was happy with the changes I’d made, I clicked on that Open Image button.

That opens up the more comfortable PSE Expert interface. I think the image looks heaps better, but there might still be some things I can tweak a bit more.

The first thing I did was Crop it to make the overall image more appealing. I like to see the Rule of Thirds grid when I’m cropping. It helps me see where the focal point should be… at a point where two of the lines intersect. You can see that one of the vertical lines passes right through Paul Revere’s head and down the centre of his horse.

Now I decided to adjust the Lighting a wee bit more. Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Shadows/Highlights.

One thing you should keep in mind when using this menu is that the default setting is to Lighten Shadows by 35%. Sometimes that’s perfect and sometimes it’s way too much. Or not enough. Watch your image while you’re making these changes so you don’t go too far. I didn’t really want the shadows lightened. I was more interested in bringing back some of the still-blown highlights and some adjustment of the midtone contrast. Did you notice that the steeple on the Old North Church suddenly is more visible? It’s magic, right??

Because this image still looked a little dark in spots but too washed-out in others, I decided to play with the Levels. Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Levels (CTRL/CMD>L)

All I did in this menu was to move the sliders a smidge to the left. That brought out some nice detail in the clouds. Try moving the sliders around in either direction so you can see what happens with them.

And that brings me to another neat feature that has been in PSE since Version 11. It’s called Haze Removal and it’s even more useful than the Noise Reduction options in Camera Raw. So click Enhance>Haze Reduction (CTRL/CMD>ALT>Z) to get into the menu.

Oh look! The steeple is even more in balance with the exposure of the rest of the photo and the clouds look like they mean business. The leaves have some lovely detail that is brought out even more. And I’m thrilled!

Since there was a snowpocalyse this past weekend in areas of North America that haven’t seen snow in decades, I thought it would be a great opportunity, and an obvious one, to show another way these tools are useful. I’m sure most of us (who live in the snow belt) have photos where the snow is gray, or blue, or some other unnatural cast. And Remove Color Cast isn’t always the best way to change that.

I hit the Auto White Balance and the snow looked more white, but not enough. I worked down the list of sliders, moving them a tiny bit at a time.

I wanted the texture of the snow to be more visible so I did some Detail adjustments too.

Then I Opened Image and went into the Enhance>Lighting>Shadows/Highlights menu.

This time I was happy to see the default Lighten Shadows. I just added a little more Contrast.

And then I decided it needed some Leveling, again moving the sliders a bit to the left.

Then I went to Enhance>Haze Removal (CTRL/CMD>ALT>Z) to show you how you can toggle between the Before and After images to decide how much to remove.

And this is where my snow shot ended up. There’s some definite highlights, texture in both the snow and the rock and the icy effect is pretty good!

I think you can really have fun with this. I KNOW you can take some of your ho-hum photos that you’d hoped would be better and make them that way. And great photos make for fantastic scrapbook layouts. So go, give it a whirl! See y’all next Tuesday.

Tutorial Tuesday (Creativity)

Playing on Emotion

December. The “most wonderful time of the year”, right? But not for everyone. Many people struggle with depression, anxiety and physical illness that make “the holidays” a very difficult time for them. Because of how I earn my living, I see the melancholy side of things all too often… when children in my care die in December I know their families will struggle with so many conflicting emotions for the rest of their lives, and I’ll struggle right along with them. So this week my tutorial will take a lightly different approach than usual and focus on emotion. I’ve found that scrapping the emotions I feel helps me process them better and by processing them better, I live with them better. It’s called catharsis.

Art journaling is a perfect method of scrapping emotion. But before you start thinking that only negative emotions qualify for an art journaling layout, let me assure you that ALL emotions are perfect topics for art journaling. Later I’ll show you what I mean. And I don’t want you to panic thinking art journaling is hard, or that it’s so out of your comfort zone that you could never do it. Because I can promise you, it’s there, it’s in you. You might just need a little nudge to find your inner artist.

The basics of art journaling layouts are pretty straight-forward. They can include photos, but don’t have to. They generally need some grunge, either from the kit you’re using or via the use of brushes. Actually, brushes are perfect for this type of layout (just remember to put them on their own layer!!) and the possibilities with them are endless. Doodles or scribbles look great in the background, or even over your journaling or photo. Word art makes short work of the “journaling” part of it. Hardware such as staples, clips, wire, screws and other hard objects help make your statement. Masks are another great AJ tool. You can clip photos to them to reflect a mood, or clip papers to them to make your background more umm… artsy. Which brings me to an opportunity to belabour the obvious: Bryony van Wyk, the creative genius behind Heartstrings Scrap Art, makes it so easy to create a moody, emotionally-expressive layout with her templates. The layout I’m going to share with you in a bit was created using her December Buffet Thoughts in My Head collection, although I didn’t use a template. It’s filled with paint, grunge, doodles, stamps and other artsy items perfect for this technique. Oh, and glitter is also an amazing addition and can totally reflect a mood depending on its colour.

 

My layout is sad and somber, despite the colour palette. Contrast it to this one by catgoddess that has a very hopeful tone to it. Same kit, very different feel.

Then there’s this one by cinderella that is so encouraging! She used Connie Princes All About Fall Daily Download kit for this beautiful example.

 

There are some great options in the GingerScraps store for art journal layouts, reflecting all sorts of mood. Here are a few I found in just a few minutes.

Aimee Harrison

Aimee has a LOT of artsy word art options.

Pretty as a Peacock Quotes can work for inspirational or self-affirming layouts.

Same for Celebration of You Quotes.

And the Celebration of You Word Bits are terrific additions to any layout. Have a look at her other word art packs… there’s something for everything!

 

Aprilisa Designs

Lisa usually creates some paint-splattered, smeared, grungy papers for each of her collections, and has some torn papers too. Whatever colour palette you might choose, you’ll probably find something in her shop to help you out.

Nature’s Beauty is an example.

Free Spirit Torn Papers. Depending on your mood, these could be super!

She also has some fabulous scatters like these Winter Joy ones.

 

Laurie’s Scraps and Designs

Many of Laurie‘s collections include fantastic grungy elements.

Space Wars Grunge could work for a lot of moods.

Ditto for Girl Power Grunge. Ooh, with Aimee’s Peacock word art… YEAH!

I Am Strong Grunge is feminine but powerful. Laurie is your go-to for grunge!

 

Little Rad Trio

Jennifer has some terrific goodies too!

Every Storm could be used for traditional scrapping, but also has a lot of art journal potential too. That alpha, right?? But then you can also include things like flowers and leaves, or flairs, or string, or any of the more traditional scrapbooking elements, as long as they reflect the emotion you’re trying to convey.

 

Ponytails Designs

Natasha too has some inspiring stuff in her shop.

Like Making Your Way word art.

 

Word Art World

Jennifer is the queen of saying what’s one her mind. And grunge is something else she’s got down pat.

The Journey of a Lifetime might be a travel kit, but this grunge is awesome for emotional expression.

Live Out Loud has some possibilities.

And Dare to Dream has a bit of introspection to it.

 

Now that you’ve got some idea of what to look for, you’re more than halfway there. When you’re creating your layout, play with those blend modes on your brushes and word art to see how they enhance or distract from your mood. When I was working on the layout above, I moved things around a lot before I settled on their final location. I moved layers up and down, tried out blend modes and colour overlays, tweaked shadows and just went with what pleased my eye. I changed my journaling more than once to say what I needed to let out. Now my goal is to find something joyous to build an art journal layout around to balance the sadness this one released. I know it’s there, I just have to find it. What emotion do you need to express?