Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Uniquely YOURS

Life at my house has been a tad bit hectic lately so today’s tutorial will be a quick-and-easy one. I don’t know about you but I just love Connie Prince‘s collections. She often includes some absolutely fabulous clustered word art titles, and she ALWAYS includes at least one alpha set. Her new collection, My Lucky Stars, is no exception. There are six clustered titles in the bundle… but what if none of the included titles really works for your layout? Well, it’s not difficult to make your own. I don’t know how Connie does it, but I’ll show you how Jan does!

I start with a new project workspace of roughly the size of the area I want to cover with my title cluster.

I like to start by placing one of the larger elements I plan to use into my space and moving it around a smidge. That will form the base for placement of everything else.

Then I usually add in my alpha. I’ve already decided what my title will say, and copied the various letters into my layout folder. As you can see, my title for this layout is “Sisters”. Make sure your letters are in the correct order! Then resize them all as a group. Guestimate how much space they’re going to take on your canvas.

Getting the size right isn’t always immediate. I adjusted mine a couple of times before I used the Distribute tool. This is similar to the Align tool. It simply moves everything between two spaces as I’ve shown you below and distributes them based on what parameter you choose. I went with Distribute>Middle. You could choose the right edge or the left edge depending on the look you’re after.

As you can see below, I didn’t get the size right even after I resized a couple of times. So I resized, moved the last S over to the right edge again and Redistributed until I had enough space to read what my title says.

There were a couple of letters that I needed to nudge individually because the algorithm the software uses to determine the middle of a letter doesn’t account for skinny letters like I or wide letters like W.

Once I had the letters arranged the way I wanted them, I added more of my elements onto the workspace. Layer them in a way that makes sense to you and for your layout. I usually have some idea of how I plan to use the things I’ve chosen, but sometimes I get a happy little surprise.

I moved the letters and string up a bit so all five points of the star were visible. I tucked the bow in behind the I and a little on top of the first S.

I knew from the beginning that I’d be using one of the Celtic knots from the kit, but wasn’t sure where I was putting it. I decided it looked really nice behind everything else, so that’s where it went. And since I was creating this layout on March 17th, I had to include a shamrock.

Then came time to shadow everything. All the items in this type of cluster should be shadowed separately so they look right where they overlap once you move them onto your layout. I started with the first S in Sisters and used a shadow style for paper. Then I made some minor adjustments so it looked the way I wanted it. Can you see it in the screenshot? To use the same settings on all the letters I right-clicked on the first S layer in the Layers panel and selected Copy Layer Style.

Then I selected all of the other alpha layers. (If they’re on on top of the next, click on the first layer, hold down the shift key and then click on the last layer. If they’re staggered throughout the Layers panel, hold down the CTRL/CMD key and click on each one separately.) Right-click brings the layers menu back up and this time I chose Paste Layer Style.

Now all the letters are shadowed and have definition and dimension.

I made custom shadows for the string and the bow, bringing the shadow in close where the object touches what’s underneath it and pulling it away where things could be lifted off the paper.

The last step is to link all the layers together so when I move the title cluster onto my layout, everything goes, and it all stays where I’ve put it. To link the layers, select them all as you did for shadowing multiple layers in one click. Click on the little link icon to the left of any one of the selected layers in the Layers panel and the links will turn yellow. That’s how you know the layers are linked together and will move together when the time comes.

Once you’ve added your title cluster to your layout, look at it at several different magnifications to see if you need to add a drop shadow to the whole shebang. I found that mine looked better with an added shadow. The finished layout is built on a template called My Lucky Charm from Heartstrings Scrap Art.

That’s how Jan does it. Nothing to it!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)


Have you ever seen a photo where it looks like there’s a soap bubble floating in front of the focal point? I’m so excited to show you how to get that effect (or maybe a crystal ball, magnifying glass or snow globe), and you’re going to love how easy it is! Don’t be intimidated by the number of images attached to this tutorial – half of them are just the “after” shot so you can see the change you just made. The first step is to choose your photo. It should have a strong focal point, like the butterfly in mine. This works with landscapes really well too.

The first step is to select a circular area of your photo around that focal point. I included the cluster of phlox the butterfly is perched on in mine. You can just draw a circle shape with the Elliptical Marquee tool, but it’ll make subsequent steps more difficult, so I recommend using the Fixed Size setting and a number you can remember easily. I chose 3.75 inches. I nudged it over so it included the parts I wanted in my bubble.

Leaving the marching ants active then CTRL/CMD>J will copy just what’s in the circle and put it on its own layer. (I learned several new things in the development of this tutorial!) Or, if you like the long way, right-click then choose Duplicate Layer, and add it to your current project.

This step should be familiar to long-time readers. Select the outside of your circle layer by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the layer thumbnail. Then go to Filter>Distort>Spherize.

You don’t have to change any of the defaults Elements has already put into the pop-up menu. Leave it at Normal and 100% then click OK.

Now you can see a bit of a bubble there. But it can be SO much better!

Create a new layer on top of your circle layer. Just click on the icon that looks like a piece of paper with a corner turned back.

Now you’re going to use the Rectangular Marquee tool, Fixed Size and the same dimensions you used for your circle.

Move the square selection over on top of your circle so the edges are touching the circle.

Now use the Paint Bucket tool to fill your square with black. Yes, black. Really.

Now it looks like this, and you’re sure you’ve made a mess of it. You haven’t. It’s all good!

Next you’re going to use another cool tool, Filter>Render>Lens Flare.

This is what happens when you click through. Change the Lens Type to 105mm Prime. Then click OK.

You can move that flare anywhere inside the square that you want. Take the direction of the light in your photo as your cue. Click on the + sign in the middle of the flare and holding down the left mouse button, move it to where you want it. Putting it in the corner like I’ve shown below works well.

We’re getting to the really good part soon.

You want that bright spot to be near the middle and the image itself more like a sphere. There’s another filter that does all that for you. Filter>Distort>Polar Coordinates.

The pop-up menu looks like this. Leave it set to Rectangular to Polar and click OK.

I promise you’re still on the right track. It looks quite ugly, but you’re going to do another couple of easy tweaks and it’s going to be perfect!

Remember when we were working with custom shadows on their own layers and I showed you the Smudge tool? Well, we’re going to use that to “fix” this flare.

Use a fairly big Smudge brush and gently push it left to right over the harsh line. See how it makes a nice curve?

Do you also remember playing with Blend Modes? I know it was a long time ago, but I hope you’ve been experimenting with them. Right now you’re going to change the Blend Mode on the black square to Linear Dodge.

The black square is still there, but it doesn’t look like a square any more. Can you see the depth it’s adding?

Again, Select the outside of your circle layer. CTRL/CMD>click on the layer thumbnail, but make sure you’re working on the black square layer.

You need to Invert your selection so the selected part is what’s outside the circle. You can either Select>Inverse or you can CTRL/CMD>SHIFT>I.

Now you’re going to cut away all the stuff outside the circle. Edit>Cut or CTRL/CMD>X will do that.

You’re almost there!

If you’re only wanting the image too look like it’s inside a **soap bubble you can skip the next few steps. But if you want a crystal ball look, or a snow globe or magnifying glass look, make a copy of the Lens Flare layer. CTRL/CMD>J or right-click>Duplicate>Layer then add it to your project.

This layer needs to be paler and softer, because it’s going to be your shadow. (Bubbles don’t really cast shadows, that’s why you can skip this part for bubbles.) Decrease the Opacity to somewhere between 40 and 50%.

Change the Blend Mode to Soft Light.

Almost there!

Now to make the second Lens Flare layer into a shadow. To do that Image>Transform>Skew.

Now you can grab one of the handles on the bounding box and shift it around. You can see the bounding box in the image below. You can move each one until the shape looks right to you. And you can rotate it too.

Hit that layer with a Gaussian Blur filter to make it soft and shadowy.

You want the edges to be soft, but not totally indistinct. A Radius of 7 or so is good. If your shadow isn’t visible in the preview box, click your cursor along the edge somewhere.

Once again, you need to Select the circle.

Then hit it again with the Filter>Distort>Spherize tool. That pushes the part inside the selection away and back so it looks like you’re seeing it through the crystal ball.

Same settings as before.

**Now, to get the look of a soap bubble, you’ve ignored the last eleven images. To get a bubble edge you need to create a new blank layer. Select the outside of your circle again by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the layer thumbnail. On that new layer, add a 1 pixel white stroke outside the circle. Then hit it with the Gaussian Blur  filter at a Radius of about 4.

And you’re done! There are lots of steps and the first time you do this you’ll feel like you’ll never get the hang of it, but I’ve written this tutorial from memory so it IS possible. Thanks to Chuckie Delano for the excellent video tutorial I used as a basis for this.

Tutorial Tuesday (Facebook Timeline Covers)

Here we are into March already! Time is flying, and as I get older, the faster it goes. (Retirement can’t get here soon enough though.) This week I thought we could talk about one of the new GingerScraps monthly challenges. This one, the Facebook Timeline Cover challenge, was suggested by one of our wonderful members and Ginger thought it was brilliant. In some ways it’s like the Signature challenge, not a full-sized layout, and with some specific limitations. I’m an inherently lazy person, so I decided I would make myself a little template to make it easier. And now I’m sharing it with you! (Of course, if you’re not on Facebook it’s essentially useless to you and you’ve probably already quit reading…) You can grab the template HERE and as you can see in the image below there are two layers. One is the photo spot and one is the background, which includes a stroke outline, if you like that sort of thing. I measured everything for you so you can just fill ‘er up!

Here’s a caveat for you. This template works really nicely on the desktop/laptop version of Facebook, but on your phone or tablet the photo will be centered on the background. Isn’t it great then that I’ve made the photo spot moveable? It’s on its own layer! You can see in the image below that the paper layer is on top of that stroked layer. I’m going to move it up my stack later.

I chose KristmessHappy Go Lucky kit – I LOVE it! I decided I wanted a frame around my photo and it looks great! It will hang off the template at the bottom and that’s okay. When you’ve got your Timeline Cover finished you can crop that bit off using the Crop tool. (CTRL/CMD>C) You might also notice I’ve thrown a scatter on there underneath the photo layer.

This month’s challenge was to create a Cover that reflects March to us. Some people might be already deep into spring, some might have a birthday (both my daughters are March babies), some might be into basketball and March Madness, and some might have special holidays to commemorate. For me, March is always about St Paddy’s Day. My very Irish grandfather lived for that day each year (it was the only day Grandma didn’t limit his pints) and he actually died on March 17 the year I turned 4. So my Timeline Cover is all about that. I added a few Irish elements then moved the stroked layer right on top of the paper layer so I could apply a glitter-gloss stroke to it. I used that dark green from Miss Mis DesignsMarch Buffet Sunshine and Rain style pack. I made the stroke a little wider first though.

Don’t forget to shadow your elements. The dimension and realism they provide will really elevate your cover.

After I put my finished cover up on my Facebook profile, I noticed there were a couple of tiny little tweaks needed to give it a perfect fit, so I adjusted your template to be just right for all of you.

Have some fun with this one! Make sure you keep a plain copy for next month and the month after that!




Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

The EYES Have It!

A number of notable thinkers through history have said the eyes are the windows to the soul, or some variation of that. That might be true, but when we’re talking about photographs, portraits in particular, the eyes are the focal point to which all attention is drawn. Am I right? I did some photo editing for Terri in South Africa over the weekend and one of the things I did was to bring the eyes of her subjects out of the shadows. She wondered if I could use her photos as the basis for a tutorial, but the adjustments I made to them were a little too complicated for this forum. But I thought a quick, easy little tutorial on brightening eyes might be in order. Let’s look at this really cute photo I found on Pixabay.

Yeah, she’s as cute as a bug’s ear. But think how much cuter she’ll be with brighter eyes! Zoom in on your photo so the eyes almost fill your workspace. We’re going to use the Dodge and Burn Tools again. The Dodge Tool looks like a lollipop, or that plastic wand the eye doctor uses at the beginning of an eye exam when he asks you to cover one eye. Dodging selectively lightens an area on a photo. We’ll start there. Select the Dodge Tool as shown, then make adjustments to the settings. It will automatically go to the software’s preset default, or if you’ve used it, to the last settings you used. Because I used this tool on Terri‘s photos, the brush size is huge. Not gonna work now! For this part your settings are: Dodge>Range=Highlights>Exposure=20>Brush=15 to 20 or whatever size will fit between the outside of the iris and the edge of the pupil. Brush your Dodge Tool over the iris of each eye, concentrating on the area right under the pupil. Don’t go overboard, you want the colour to remain, just lighten and brighten.

The effect will be subtle. But if you look back and forth between this image and the one above, you can definitely see it. Now switch to the Burn Tool, the one that looks like a hand with the fingers and thumb making a circle. Burning selectively darkens an area of a photo. Your settings for this step should be Burn>Range=Shadows>Exposure=20>Brush size 10-15. You want the brush to overlap your dodged area, but only a little. Then brush the Burn Tool over the outer edge of each iris, with a little extra attention to the area just below the upper eyelid.

See the change? The eyes are so much brighter, but not bash-you-over-the-head-brighter. They still look natural and real. You could stop here and have made a great improvement to the way people perceive your photo.

So let’s amp up the brightness factor by adding to the catch-lights already there. Again we’ll use the Dodge Tool. (It seems like a LOT of steps but it really is an intuitive technique after you’ve done it a few times.) The settings I used are Dodge>Range=Highlights>Exposure=60>Brush=5. Then just hit the catch-lights with that tiny brush to brighten them some. The brush needs to be very small; catch-lights that are too big and prominent make the person look like they’re under the influence… not their best look!

Wowsers! It looks so good!!

Again, you could stop here. Or you can switch back to the Burn Tool and using the same settings on Shadows, plump up those eyelashes a bit. I lined her upper eyelid then brushed over each lash to add some weight to it.

And when I was done, she looked like this. Now her eyes are much more noticeable and magnetic. It literally took me longer to do the screenshots than it did to brighten her eyes. I could have gone on to eliminate the freckles (why?? I LOVE freckles!) and even out her skin but I don’t think she needs it.

Will you try this one on one of your almost-perfect portraits?

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)


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)

First Past the Post(mark)

I unpacked the January Challenge Reward collab Snail Mail earlier today and was thrilled to see some postmarks included in the elements. They’re from this month’s featured designer, Neverland Scraps. A few years ago I made my own postmark that had my hometown and birth date on it for a layout I was doing. Postmarks can be nice additions to a variety of different layouts, but what if the ones in this kit don’t exactly work for you? Let me show you how to make your own.

I started by choosing a dark gray colour to work with. The ink used for postmarks in the old days when letters were hand-canceled (I worked for the post office back then) was more of a blue-black than a true black, and it often looked more gray than anything else, as the ink pad aged.

I opened a 12×12 canvas on my workspace so I could have lots of room to manoeuver. Then I pulled out a large circle using the Elliptical Marquee tool with the Tool Option on Fixed Ratio 1:1.

Then I applied a 20 pixel stroke to the inside of my circle.


So here’s where I confess that I changed my technique part way through the screenshots. When getting ready to put your text onto your postmark, choose Text on Selection, the one with the marching ants around the T, and as you can see, I used Orator Std Medium for my sans-serif text. For a refresher on text manipulation see Playing with Text.

The key here is to make sure you get the little tilde shape with your I-beam text cursor ~ when you click on your selected path. To create text that curves up, the cursor line should be mostly on the outside of your circle. Then type out the name of the city/town/village you want your postmark to come from. Don’t worry about where it’s placed on your circle because you’re going to move it and manipulate it anyway,

To move it into place and to make it fit into the circle, you’ll need to resize and rotate. I used the grid to help me position it in the right spot and line it up right.

To get the province/state/country curving downward along the bottom of your postmark, click your tilde/I-beam so that the cursor shows longer on the inside of the circle. Then type out your text.

Then resize, rotate and position it so it’s following the curve at the bottom of the circle.

Here’s a closer look at the grid so you can see how the tops, bottoms or sides of the first and last letters line up.

Then it’s simple to put the date in the centre, just using the regular text tool.

I used the Move Tool Options to align the date both top-to-bottom and side-to-side.

Let’s play with the postmark a bit more. I added a stroke to the circle layer because it looks a little flimsy. I chose another 20 pixel stroke, but I put it Outside.

There, it has a lot more presence! It’s on the same layer as the text in my example.

If I turn the circle layer off, now the postmark has a double outline!

As I mentioned above, I worked for Canada Post for a number of years before I went into nursing. The ink we used to hand-cancel letters and parcels often left a bit of a raised edge, so I’m going to show you how to add a Bevel Style to your postmark to add to the realism.

My example uses a Simple Inner bevel. The image below is before it’s applied.

And after… It looks slightly embossed and gently curved. Now you can shrink your postmark down to something approaching a real one and all that detail will be intact.

To save your postmark to use on your layouts, select Save As (CTRL/CMD>Shift>S), give it a name you’ll remember, then save it as a .png file to preserve the transparency of the background.

But wait!! Let’s say you wanted to have your postmark represent a historic date, like maybe July 4, 1776… then you’d want to use a more vintage font, such as Veteran Typewriter Regular. If you haven’t simplified your text layers, you can easily change your font by selecting the Type tool, double-clicking on the text on your postmark and selecting the new font. Remember, in version 15, you can let the software find the font you want by clicking on the selection bar then typing in a few letters from the font’s name, as I show below.

After I changed all three text layers, I have a nice vintage postmark too!

Now to build me a layout using Snail Mail!

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…


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 11+)

More Fun with Photos!

When I started thinking about what to write about for this week, it occurred to me that we hadn’t gotten back to those Guided Edits that have been getting better and better with each new version of Elements for quite a while. Then I saw a layout in the gallery that set off bells. The photos the layout was built around had that dipped-in-caramel-latte look that lends itself to so many palettes and styles, and I’ve been wanting to know how the scrapper gets that effect for a long time. I’m going to show you how, right now! I pulled a photo from Pixabay to play with and although it’s had some post-processing, it worked beautifully.

First things first. I opened my photo in Elements, then I clicked on the Guided tab shown below.

The Guided Edit I’m going to use is in the Black & White tab and is called High Key.

The interface within the High Key menu looks like this. It has two options, colour and black-and-white. I’m going to show you both of them so you can see what they do.

Clicking on the button more than once enhances the effect. For most intents and purposes though, a single click is all that’s needed. I really like the way the details are softened, but the catchlights in the model’s eyes seem to pop right off the photo.

The second step in this menu is the Add Diffuse Glow button.

It’s a lot softer and slightly blurry, but those catchlights are still pretty awesome. It bothers me though that she looks like she has no nose.

As with the first button, clicking on it multiple times adds more and more “glow”.

I ended up Undo-ing the second glow mask.

When I was happy (or mostly happy) with what I had, I clicked on the Next button at the bottom right corner of the screen and it took me to this menu. [You can see it in the menu images above.] I decided to see what else I could do with my photo so I clicked on In Expert to take me to the interface we’re all so familiar with. Had I been pleased with it as is, I could have Saved it or Saved it As and then renamed it. If I’d clicked on the Done button, the adjusted photo would appear in the Photo Bin.

The Expert mode shows the different layers the High Key script created. Each of those layers can be adjusted, turned on or off, Blend Mode changed, Opacity tweaked… whatever you like. In the example below I turned one of the layers (brightness) off and lowered the Opacity of the background copy layer to 40%. There’s a hint of colour in her hair, eyes and lips, her skin looks flawless and I could use this photo with just about any colour palette and scrapping style out there.

After I saw what the colour script did, I tried out the B&W one.

A single click gave me this.

When I added the Diffuse Glow, her features all but disappeared. So I Undid.

As you can see, even in the B&W mode I was able to pull a little colour into the image. All layers are visible except the Brightness layer in this screenshot, with the opacity of the top layer (gradient mask) at 50%.

I turned visibility for the Brightness layer back on then decreased the Opacity to 35% and the image no longer has that hint of colour. But many of the details are still blown out.

That third layer is the one with the Levels adjustment. If you haven’t played with Levels I HIGHLY recommend it! With a few twitches of the sliders, I was able to find her features again without losing that creamy goodness.

I played with layer Opacity a bit on the Level mask (65%) and loved the result. I can’t wait to use this trick on a layout, almost as much as I can’t wait to see how YOU use it!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)


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!