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!

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 (Photoshop Elements)

Ahead of the CURVE

Happy New Year, GingerScrappers! I hope you’re all recovered from the holidays and ready to get back to work… at scrapping your memories, of course!

This tutorial was inspired by a comment left by Glee on the layout shown below. Can you guess what she mentioned? Yes, it was that curved, diminishing title.

I haven’t quite decided what the right side of this two-page spread will look like, but I know I won’t be using the same template, just a similar basic arrangement. I created two circles, overlapping but not concentric, with the photo smaller than the paper layer.

Using the alpha that came with the kit my papers and doodled fram

e are from (GingerBread Ladies Winter Fun) I started to add in my title. The letters must be resized to fit into the space between the edge of the paper and the edge of the photo. Having the doodled, glittery frame there might help… or not. The letters also must be tilted to follow the curve of the paper, with the axis of the letter perpendicular to the edge.

I added in each letter and made the same adjustments.

I was eyeballing the gap between the top and bottom of each letter and the edges of the paper and photo.

If you’re not confident in your ability to eyeball the gaps, I have a way to make it easier. Select the edge of the paper circle by clicking on the layer thumbnail in the Layers Panel.

Then click on Select>Modify>Contract… which will move your marching ants toward the centre of the paper circle.

I randomly picked the number 15 for my amount of shift.

There you can see how that 15 pixel shift has moved the edge inward.

Before you go any further, create a new blank layer over top of your paper layer so the outline will be separated from your paper. You don’t want to leave it active at the end so make it stand alone. Then click Edit>Stroke>10>(choose a contrasting colour like red)>Inside and leave the other adjustments at the default settings.

Now there’s a nice obvious line to follow that will help you offset your letters enough to make them prominent.

If you zoom in you can use this guideline to help position your letters.

I like the doodled, glittery circular frame, but it’s making lining up the bottoms of the letters more difficult. I might have to turn the visibility off.

Wait!! Maybe we should have a second guideline to make it easier.

You guessed it!

Click on the photo layer thumbnail, then Select>Modify>Expand>15 and commit the operation. Add your stroke to the outside this time.

And now there are two guidelines with the same distance from the edges of the photo and paper circles.

Once I had my title in the space and positioned just so, I moved the doodled, glittery frame on TOP of the letters, which helped to anchor them to the photo.

In this example, the letters gradually get bigger from beginning to end, whereas in my original layout they gradually got smaller. With the two guidelines deleted, the tops of the letters look sharply positioned. Easy peasy!

I’ll be looking for YOUR curved titles in the gallery!

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!

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?


Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

More Fun with Fonts – Die-Cut!

Recently I had an image that kept popping up on my Facebook (one of course I can’t find again now that I want to…) showing this great die-cut paper title where the centres of the letters were cut out and the edges were tack-sharp. If I recall correctly, it was an ACTUAL paper title, not a digital version. But since we’re all about the digital here, I set out to find a way to replicate it. Before I get into that, I wanted to share something that I discovered accidentally, since it didn’t work in PSE 12. Did you know that in PSE 15 you can go directly to the font you want to use (if you know what it’s called) just by clicking on the font box as shown below and starting to type the name. I’ve been using Lumberjack Regular for the captions on my screenshots for these tutorials since I made the switch to 15 and this discovery is such a time-saver!


First I opened a new file on my workspace. It can be any size you want – I like BIG – because you can resize it later. The colour used for the font doesn’t matter – you can always change it. This technique works best with a chunky san serif font (did you use those tags when you set up Main Type?). The font shown below is called Haettenschweiler Regular. I’m not sure about that capital “R” so let’s see what happens…

I think those of you who read my tutorials regularly could predict my next instruction. Simplify the type! Just make sure you don’t have any spelling boo-boos because once it’s simplified you can’f fix it.

Now you want to Select your text by clicking on the Layer thumbnail in the Layers panel. There are the magic marching ants.

There are some adjustments you can make to that selection by clicking on the Select tab along the top of the screen, then choosing an option from the dropdown menu. In this case, you’re going to select Modify>Contract. What this does is move the marching ants toward the centre of the selected area. Expand would move the selection outward.

This is where you’ll need to experiment a little. Enter a number in the box and click OK to see what your altered text looks like. If you’re not happy, Undo (CTRL/CMD>Z) it and try again until you find the one you like.

Here’s what it looks like Contracted by 45 pixels, and it’s NOT what I wanted. See how the marching ants overlap each other on the “R”? I changed the number I put in the box and carried on. I still didn’t like what I was seeing. For the sake of a learning experience, let’s keep going.

To remove the area outlined by the marching ants, you can click on Edit>Cut or use the WSNH (Work Smart Not Hard) shortcut CTRL/CMD>X.

And I don’t like it at all. Not even a little. The cutout area isn’t smooth and doesn’t follow the contours of the font the way I want it to.

So there are a couple of ways to resolve that issue. One is to use a different font. This one below is called Segoe UI Black and it will work much better. Other default font possibilities are Arial Black, Bauhaus 93 Regular, Britannic Bold Regular, Copperplate Gothic Bold Regular, Ebrima Bold, Konga Pro Regular and Poplar Standard Black.

The second way to resolve the issue is to use a stroke, rather than cutting out the middle. Create a new layer above the font layer to put your stroke on. That gives you a lot more flexibility. Go bold, with a BIG stroke and have it centred on or inside the edge of the font. If you put it on the outside you might end up with a similar look to the failed one above.

I know this image is difficult to see. It wasn’t when I was working on the screenshots. Honest!

Here it is with a patterned paper clipped to it. Nice, crisp, sharp edges. If you want, you can move the letters around and have them overlap a bit. Just remember to merge the layers so they’re moving as one.

There are more ways to play with this. If you want to add a glittery layer or appliqué your die-cut letters onto another paper, you would use the same steps as for creating the outline, only you’d create the new layer UNDER the font layer. Add a stroke of an appropriate size to the outlines. Then you can apply a glitter style to the stroke!

It occurred to me that some of you may not know how to load the awesome layer styles designers like Aimee Harrison, Magical Scraps GaloreMiss Mis and Just So Scrappy/Ooh La La Scraps create. So here’s a quick little tut-within-a-tut. After you’ve unzipped the style files, you can rename them if you like. I’ve done that so I can find them more easily. Then copy those files into the Adobe folder on your computer. Program Files>Adobe>Photoshop Elements #>Presets>Styles. That puts them all in one place. Then in PSE, click on the Styles tab down at the bottom of the Layers panel. Once that panel opens, look at the upper right corner of the panel where there’s an icon that shows a stack of 4 little parallel lines with a tiny arrow to the left of them. Click on that icon. It opens a menu as shown below.

Click on Load Styles and PSE will open up that folder you just filled up with presets. Then you can select the style collection you want to load. Easy peasy!

Okay, so now I’ve created a stroke underneath my title and hit it with a white glittery style.

Looks good, but a little blah. So maybe a Bevel? There’s a fast way to find the Simple Emboss bevel style and that’s to click on the More tab down there next to the Styles tab. Inside the Favorites menu there, PSE has very kindly put a shortcut to the Simple Emboss. A quick double click and there’s a nice bevel on my die-cut.

Don’t neglect a drop shadow for your newly beveled diecut!

Here’s what my finished title looks like on the layout. I used a lovely kit from our November guest designer Day Dreams ‘N Designs called A Snowy Adventure and a template from Dagi’s TEMPtations (her store closes soon).

I hope you give this one a try!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

You’ve Gotta Know When to FOLD ‘Em

Are you ready for some football? Oh wait, that’s NEXT week…

I have a neat little visual trick for you to add to your digi-scrapping arsenal. Have you ever wanted to know how others get those cool folded papers they use? In 20 minutes you’ll be doing it yourself!

I’m showing this technique against a background of other papers but you can totally do it with a transparent background if you like. The papers below are the ones I’ve pulled onto a template (credits to follow) and if you look closely you can see that I’ve eliminated the shadow from the top, blue sponged paper by Clearing the Layer Style. It’s not an essential step so if you’re working with a paper within a template, don’t worry about it.

The first step is to select the Polygon Shape tool. Then when the tool options menu opens, tell it you want 3 sides. Use one of the colours from the paper, or white for your fill colour.

Don’t be concerned that PSE wants it to be an equilateral triangle, because you’re in control and you can bend it to your will. To make an isosceles or scalene triangle (yeah, I remember a bit of 10th grade geometry – some days I scare myself!) go to Image>Transform Shape>Skew.

“Grab” one of the handles on the bounding box and pull it in the direction you want it to go, and adjust the shape to make a right triangle. That will ensure you’ve got a little smidge of the underlying paper visible later.

Once you have your triangle the shape you want – mine is a narrow wedge – don’t forget to Simplify it.

Now move that triangle over so that one of the long edges is flush with the paper edge. (I turned visibility for the papers underneath off so these steps will be easier to follow.)

For this part of the process, you want to bottom edge of the triangle to extend past the bottom edge of the paper.

Now Select the edges of the triangle by clicking on the Layer Thumbnail to get those marching ants.

Look to see that you’re on the layer with the paper you’re folding and not any of the others. Then Cut the triangle from the paper using the CTRL/CMD>X keyboard shortcut.

Go back to the triangle layer and Deselect it (CTRL/CMD>D) then drag it from one lower corner until that same edge you lined up with the paper’s edge is lined up with the new cut edge. Check that the pointy top of the triangle is exactly positioned on the edge of the paper as shown – zoom in as much as you need to. Then hit the green checkmark.

That should give you a little sliver of your paper visible right at the bottom of the image, as shown below. If you want to, you can adjust the shape or size of your triangle to make it happen, but that shouldn’t be necessary.

Of course, this fold needs a proper shadow. Once again, Select the triangle by clicking on the Layer Thumbnail. Create a new layer underneath the triangle by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the New Layer icon – the single sheet of paper at the top left of the Layers panel – to put your shadow on. Then using the Paint Bucket tool, fill the selected area on that new layer with the shadow colour. If you’re using a template, you can right-click on the fx icon on any of the shadowed layers then click on the colour swatch. Copy the colour number from the menu box. Then click on the Foreground colour on the Tools panel and paste the number into the same box. That way all the shadows will be the same colour. Now you’ve got a dark triangle layer underneath your folded paper. Nudge it over so you can see it.

Apply a Gaussian Blur filter to the shadow then tweak the Opacity down to somewhere around 50%, or whatever looks similar to the existing shadows on your template. You can then change the Blend Mode to Linear Burn and your shadow is perfect. You can then Smudge the shadow layer so it’s narrower at the top of the triangle and wider at the bottom, as you’d expect to see if the folded paper isn’t lying directly on top of the paper under it. Another way to accomplish that is to slightly tilt the shadow.

If you’ve Cleared the Layer Style on your paper layer at Step One, add it back now. I almost forgot that step!

Easy-peasy, isn’t it? My layout was created for the November Designer Spotlight challenge using a template from Aprilisa‘s Picture Perfect 155 and Pixelily‘s Daily Stuff kit. This is what it looks like altogether.

Let me know how you like this technique!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Scrapping with Heritage Photos

Whew… I’ve had a frustrating few days. Before I went to bed on Hallowe’en (which should have tipped me off…) I downloaded and installed the Windows 10 Fall Creators update. It’s not like Microsoft really gives us a choice any more – it’s not IF you want to update, it’s WHEN. So I caved. And almost caved in. It changed a bunch of my settings without telling me, the one I was most upset with being my ability to take screenshots of my work for these tuts, and to know where they’re saved. Had to get Microsoft to take over my laptop remotely to get it sorted out. And if that wasn’t enough frustration, it also messed with Photoshop Elements 15, causing it to slow to barely a crawl. I went so far as to remove it from my laptop then reinstall it, hoping that would solve my issue. It didn’t. But strangely enough, at about the (creative) midway point of the layout you’ll see below PSE suddenly started working normally. I’m not sure it’s completely resolved, but I was darned glad when it snapped to! Now, all of that preamble is my apology for the skimpy nature of this week’s tutorial.

You may have noticed that I like to use heritage photos for many of my layouts. As the family historian and keeper of the family tree, I’ve amassed quite a collection of photos of long-dead relatives. And given that we Canadians will pause for several moments of reflection at 11:11 am on Saturday, November 11th to remember those whose sacrifices have allowed us the lives we live, I wanted to do a new layout for Remembrance Day. So that’s what you’re stuck with, me droning on about how to incorporate heritage photos into your layouts.

Let’s start with some tips on scanning that will cut down on your workload. When you’re going to scan old photos, especially the fragile ones that are decades old, make sure your scanner is set to a resolution of at least 300 dots per inch (dpi). If you have a choice to go higher and it’s an extra-special photo, go higher. Make sure the glass on your scanner bed is pristine; I use a Swiffer dry dusting cloth to wipe over the surface before and between scans. I also go over the face of my photos just before I put them face-down on the scanner bed. That will really cut down on the dust. Save your scans into a folder you can find again later.

And next, some simple, light edits. We’ve covered these before, so I’ve just put instructions on each photo.

I’ve never really touched on removing colour cast, but I know we all have those photos that are too warm or too cool and they just don’t look right. A lot of old photos are yellowed like this one; it’s especially true about photos scanned from newspaper or magazine articles. So let’s talk about removing colour cast.

The tool asks you to click on something in the photo that is white, black or gray. It’s not always easy to know what’s what in old photos, so you may have to try a few things. I tried the shadows on his pants (black) and it was WRONG! CTRL/CMD>Z to the rescue!! Nothing is obviously white, so I decided the sky was probably overcast and gray. Yep!!

At this point you should look at your photo’s overall appearance and decide if you need to adjust the brightness or contrast. Those controls can be found in Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Shadows/Contrast and Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Brightness/Contrast. If the image looks well-balanced then move on.

The first photo did need some Spot Healing but it wasn’t as obvious as this one is. In addition to the dust you can see, there are some fairly obvious scratches.

Don’t be reluctant to crop those photos. You’re going to save the changes as a copy, right? So that original will look exactly the same. This photo was scanned on an angle, so I used the Crop Tool to remove the deckle edge and to adjust Uncle Maxie’s posture a little. A soldier would never lean in an official photo.

Although the colour in this photo isn’t as ghastly as the other one, I want them to look like they were taken by the same camera so I opted to remove the colour cast here too. The only snag I ran into was that clicking on the phone receiver, which I KNOW to be black, turned everything really blue! The one thing in the photo I knew for a fact was white was the sclera of his eye. So I clicked on it in his left eye and it did what I wanted.

Then I threw a little High Pass filter over it and voilà!

To create my memorial layout, I used a template from Tinci DesignsJump into Fall collection and a Heartstrings Scrap Art collection called Time Traveller. I know my grandmother, who was Maxie’s older sister, would approve.

Some kits perfect for your heritage layouts:

There are so many more!!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

Actually, here in north-central Alberta it’s snowing on my head today….

Last week’s tutorial elicited quite a few comments. Pam mentioned in hers that she liked the sandy look but wanted to know how to make digital raindrops and Lynden Blossom wanted to know what I planned to do with my sandy leaf. So your faithful scribe set out to meet those directives. (Sorry, Jill. There is no tutorial arising from my Color Challenge layout.)

I started with a 12×12 blank, transparent canvas. Then I chose the Elliptical Marquee tool to make my droplets.

Water droplets are spherical when they’re suspended in space and have a domed appearance when they’re on a surface. So I set the Tool Options to Fixed Ratio 1:1 to give me a perfect circle. I clicked-and-dragged out my first droplet and filled it with white using the Paint Bucket.

You can click-and-drag out a random (odd) number of drops of varying sizes using that method, or you can just copy that first one then resize them to suit.


I made 5 round drops to start with. Then, because the photo I used in my layout looked stormy, I thought I’d add some falling drops too. The Custom Shape tool has a raindrop in the default shapes, so it was pretty simple to click-and-drag out a raindrop using white again.

I want to be able to resize and alter the shape a little bit, but there’s a raindrop!

To be able to make changes to the image, I Simplified the layer.

Then I could change the angle on the drop to match the direction the rain would be falling from in the photo. I copied (CTRL/CMD>J)the layer a few times and resized them randomly.

After I had a good (odd) number of droplets, I Merged all the layers together. (CTRL/CMD>E) That way I could apply my next few steps to all of them in one click.

We’ve talked about Styles before in several other tutorials. What they are is a group of adjustments that make the layer take on a different look. Way down at the bottom of the list of Styles in PSE’s defaults is one called Wow Plastic. That’s the one I used. The menu looks like this.

One click on that Wow Plastic Aqua Blue turned them all into this.

I felt the blue was too blue, so I double-clicked on the fx icon on the layer in the Layers panel to get into the adjustment menu. I changed the blue on the shadow layer to one much lighter, and I turned off the Outer Glow setting because it made the drops look like they had a wire ring around them. The Bevel went to the max setting to make them look more spherical.

I also made sure the light source was coming from the same direction so there’s no visual conflict.

Below are my final adjustment settings.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a variety of purchased Styles in my stash – including a water set, but I wanted to make sure everybody could accomplish the look without having to buy anything else.

But OH they’re blue!! So I dropped the Opacity to 75%.

Then it was time to see how they all looked on my layout. So I dropped them onto it and moved it into place.

They still looked too blue and obvious so I dropped the Opacity again to 75% and liked it better.

But alas, they’re not very WET. I didn’t want to mess up what I’d already done, so I Duplicated (CTRL/CMD>J)the layer to give me a throw-away if what I wanted to try didn’t work.

Because the two layers are only 75% Opacity, I can see the underlying layer through the top one. That’s helpful; I went into Enhance>Adjust Color>Adjust Hue/Saturation (CTRL/CMD>U) and played with that.

I took the Saturation down to 0 and increased the Lightness to +20. Now it’s got a stormy gray look to the top layer.

Now it’s looking more like a water droplet on the leaf, but not so much on the photo. Hmm.

There has to be a way…

Back I went to the Styles>Wow Plastic menu and this time I chose the Clear style. I’m still on that copy layer on top of my original droplet layer.

A few tweaks of the Style in the fx menu and NOW I’m happy!! For this adjustment I turned off the INNER Glow. You could follow all of these steps on your blank canvas before moving it to your layout now that I’ve done all the experimentation for you. 😉

You can see my entire layout in the Gallery. For the layout I used Ooh La La ScrapsFalling Slowly collection (sans Styles) and a photo I found on Pixabay. (If you’re not familiar with Pixabay, you need to check it out!)

Happy Hallowe’en!