Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Memory-Keeping with Not-So-Great Photos

I don’t know about you, but I’m seriously lousy at getting good selfies. Maybe I’m too critical, or maybe I just don’t look good in photos. But when the only photos I have of an event I really want to scrap about are those nasty selfies, what’s a woman to do? Such was the day I went to the beach on the Wild Atlantic Way… the ONLY day out of the whole two weeks I was in Ireland this time when it rained. It was also the only chance I would have to walk on the beach at Kilkee, where my 3x great-grandparents were born. So I went ahead to walk on the beach (although I didn’t walk the cliffs – I AM a bit of a chicken) and took the nasty selfies, then scrapped them into a minimalist layout for the January Color Challenge.

When I say it was raining, I’m not talking about the soft, misty rain Ireland is usually known for; it was more like a prairie downpour. My hair was plastered to my head and my jacket was soaked through. (And I was freezing… in July!)

If I was going to do something with these photos that I could live with, I was going to have to think a bit. I made a copy of my photo so I’d be playing with it and not the original.

Then I did something I’d never done before… I checked out the possibilities in the Effects menu. I played with each of the options to see what they do, and some of them will be given more attention in upcoming tuts. Imagine my surprise when I found an even quicker-with-fewer-steps sketch effect than we’ve looked at in other tuts.

Just one click and I had a sketch!

The effect produced another new layer.

The details are pretty blown-out, so I thought about how to find them again. (Although I wasn’t really upset that the crowsfeet are gone!)

I used the Levels adjustment (Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Levels or CTRL/CMD>L) to darken the outlines. With Levels, pushing the Input Levels dark value slider to the right as shown and the Output Levels light value slider just slightly to the left allowed some colour to leak back in, but also brought the details and textures back. The raindrops on my glasses are more obvious now.

I wanted a tiny bit more sketchiness so I duplicated the sketch layer (right-click on the layer then select Duplicate Layer or CTRL/CMD>J) then played with the Levels again. Can you see the difference in the histograms between the two images?

Just for fun, I played with some Blend Modes too. Some of them give really interesting results… There are no limits on creativity here!

I chose Pin Light. The only difference it makes is to brighten the image up a bit. And maybe sharpen the sketch effect a smidge.

Lowering the Opacity of that layer lets a bit more colour show through without losing the total sketch effect.

But naturally, I have to play a bit more.

I tried all the Modes then settled on Overlay.

That’s more like it! Some of the gray is gone,, the details are sharper and there’s a hint of colour.

After I Merged all the layers, this is what I ended up with.

And my final layout looks like this… The blended photo in the background is simply clipped to a mask then the mask’s Opacity was lowered a bit to blend the background a bit more.

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Any Way You Slice It

After last week’s tutorial went out and I posted my Possibilities layout there were several comments about the photo treatment I used. Well, I actually stole it from a paper layout I saw in an old issue of Creating Keepsakes. Sort of. The digital version is a lot less labour-intensive and creates no mess or destruction. No glue either. So I thought that might make a suitable topic for today’s tutorial!

I started out by adding a new blank layer above my photo layer. That can be done simply by clicking on the little piece-of-paper icon at the top of the Layers Panel. Then I activated the Rectangular Marquee tool. (CTRL/CMD>M)

Next I pulled out a narrow rectangular selection along the left edge of my photo, including the parts of the photo I wanted to keep and excluding the part I didn’t – who wants to look at a roof?

Then I added a narrow white stroke around the selected area.

Then I dragged out another rectangular selection from my photo. See that little dialog box with numbers in it? That’s a great tool! It tells you the dimensions of whatever shape you’ve dragged out, therefore allowing you to keep the width or length of your selection identical. (Or you can just CTRL/CMD>J it and make an identical copy that you can then adjust to whatever dimensions you want…)

These are the settings I used for all my strokes: 5 pixels in width, centered over the selection, white and 100% visible.

I made a bunch of copies of my second rectangle and moved them over, which let me really WSNH (Work Smart, Not Hard) by skipping a lot of steps. I left the width the same but stretched or shrunk heights as I went. Once I had the whole photo “sliced” up, I Merged the frames.

Then I moved back to the photo layer and, still using the Rectangular Marquee, I started selecting the areas of the photo I didn’t want to keep. Then I Cut those areas away. (CTRL/CMD>X)

All that was left was to apply a hint of a drop shadow on the frame layer to give the whole thing a little dimension. The shadow settings I used were Angle: 90°, Size: 16 pixels, Distance: 0 pixels and Opacity: 18% with the colour being black. I didn’t add a shadow to the photo itself.

It’s really that easy!

Tutorial Tuesday (Inspiration)

What’s Your Super Power (Word)?

Happy New Year! Are you ready for 2019? I know lots of you, like me, were happy to see 2018 to the door. When I was thinking about topics for this week’s tutorial, I had a few ideas, but my thoughts kept returning to just one. If you’re into social media, I know your Facebook and Instagram feeds have been flooded with chatter about New Year’s resolutions. And if you’re like me, resolutions are just wishes! Experts say it takes three months of repetition for a change to become a habit; how many of us actually stick to those diet plans, those vows to exercise more, that vague promise to ‘be more organized’, for that long? <insert laugh track here> Resolutions are things we have to DO. And I don’t like being told what to do. <wink>

What works better for me is to choose a ‘power word’ for the upcoming year, a word for me to strive to BE. If you’ve seen the annual challenge by the maven of scrapbooking, Ali Edwards, called One Little Word, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Choosing that one little word is harder than it sounds. Like making resolutions, it requires a certain amount of introspection and soul-searching. The first time I chose a power word was at the beginning of 2010. I was going through a very difficult chapter in my life then and had no idea how it would come out in the end. But I’d been through tough times before and I knew I’d come through this one too. So the word I chose was PERSEVERE. Yes, it’s an action, something I had to do, but it was also a state of mind and a state of being. Guess what… I PERSEVERED and came out the other side in much better shape than I expected. This time last year I was in a great mood with a new grandchild on the way and a trip to Ireland to find my roots in the offing. My power word was ANTICIPATE… and ANTICIPATE I surely did! By the end of the year, it had morphed into ENDURE after my husband’s accident in September. Thankfully things are 90% back to normal, and I’m entering into 2019 on a more optimistic footing. I know this year will bring challenges… after all, it’s LIFE, and that’s a challenge all by itself. But with my rose-coloured glasses firmly in place, I’m choosing POSSIBILITY as my power word this year. I usually tend to look at the glass as being half empty, but I’m making a conscious affirmation to look at the POSSIBILITY that things will go well.

Now, how do YOU go about choosing a power word for the year? If you’ve already made some resolutions, you can use them as a framework. Do you see a theme? Is there an impending event in the future that you’re already aware of, either with excitement or dread? Are things going well for you, or are you really struggling right now? There are a number of online resources designed to help choose a power word. One that I particularly like is found at Heidi‘s blog Happiness is Homemade. She has a list of options, and one of them is sure to resonate with you. Another resource is on Jess‘s blog, Cultivate What Matters.

When you go to scrap your power word, the only constraint is your imagination. You could  choose a grungy, moody art journal style if that’s how you’re feeling, you could find a photo or a few that represent the theme, you could put it into a word cloud. You could create an acrostic with it and embellish the meaning using synonyms. So many options!!

I scrapped my guiding word today, with ADB Designs‘ gorgeous Coming to America bundle. My photo was taken in October when my husband, my son and I made a previously-planned-therefore-not-going-to-be-postponed-even-for-a-knee-injury trip to British Columbia. It’s the view from Tower Ranch Hillside Park in Kelowna, a spectacular vista I’ve fallen in love with. To me it’s the visual representation of POSSIBILITY – the sky really IS the limit!

Next week we’ll get back to the nuts-and-bolts of digital scrapbooking. Thank you for indulging my navel-gazing!

PS… for Rochelle (roxyrenders): Your comment on my Happy Holidays layout reads: “Wow- what kind of magic did you work on the wordart stamp? It almost seems as if it is glowing!” Simple little tricks! I first duplicated the mask/stamp layer. I applied a fine glitter style to the bottom-most of the two, then decreased the opacity of the layer to about 50% – that’s what creates the glow. Then on the upper layer, I clipped an ivory-and-gold foil brocade patterned paper (from JoCee DesignsDecember bundle) to the mask, then changed the Blend Mode to Hard Light. It’s just that easy!

Tutorial Tuesday (Tutorials!)

Now Where Did I See That Tutorial About…?

If you read the comments GingerScrappers leave here on the Blog you might have seen a brilliant suggestion from Ellen for a “quick tut” to index all the other tuts I’ve written over the last 2+ years. Lemme tell you, “quick” it ain’t! But it IS brilliant, so that’s what I’m bringing you today. Without further ado, here is a chronological linked index to all the tutorials I’ve prepared for you to date, all in one place.

1. Turn a Font into a Sticker

2. Use a Basic Template

3. Titles Revisited: Alphas Plus Fonts

4. One Photo, More than One Photo Spot

5. Making Templates Work for You

6. Simple Photo Blending

7. Extractions… Choose Your Method

8. Brush Basics: Colour

9. Playing with Text

10. Shadow Basics

11. Text Talk: LETTERPRESS!

12. Titles with STYLE(s)

13. Word Art Wizardry

14. For all you former paper scrappers: INKED EDGES!

15. Getting More Mileage from Your Templates… Easily!

16. Reverse Stencilling with Brushes

17. Kustomize Your Kits

18. Sizzling Signatures!

19. Journaling INside the Box

20. Yes! You CAN Warp Shadows in PSE!

21. Heritage Photos Get a Makeover

22. Only the Shadow Knows… Take TWO

23. When is a Square NOT a Square?

24. Creating Clusters… Not Clutter

25. Build-a-Brush Workshop

26. Blend Modes? Say What??

27. Down on the Border (not the Little River Band version)

28. Carol: Objects Inside Other Objects and Going Incognito

29. Tearing Up the Sheets (of Cardstock)

30. Style Savvy!

31. WSNH Tips and Tricks

32. Title Tweaks

33. Get in SHAPE, Girl!

34. Keeping Things in Perspective

35. Can This Photo Be Saved?

36. Behind the MASK

37. Michelle: Finding Font

38. Putting the “OH!” in Your Photos

39. Ellen: Talking about Tools

40. Chalking it Up to Inspiration

41. Becoming an ALPHA Female

42. Over-the-Top TITLES

43. Templates with a Twist

44. How’d You DO That?!! Fontography Demystified

45. A Little Bit Sketchy

46. More Fun with FONTS

47. Dodge and Burn… NOT an Action Movie

48. Reflections

49. The EYEs Have It

50. There’s a Flag on the Play – Out Of Bounds!

51. Abstract Meets Graphic Art

52. Mixing it UP!

53. Revisionist History

54. The TutOR Becomes the TutEE

55. A Few Quick Template and Shadow Tips

56. It’s a PUZZLE!

57. I Feel the Need… the Need for SPEED (Scrapping)!

58. More FUN with FOTOS

59. Turning a POSITIVE into a NEGATIVE

60. Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

61. Scrapping with Heritage Photos

62. You’ve Gotta Know When to FOLD ‘Em

63. More Fun with Fonts – Die-Cut!

64. A(nother) Way with WORDS

65. Playing on Emotion

66. In the RAW!

67. Christmas FONTography

68. Ahead of the CURVE

69. Like Snowflakes… No Two ALIKE


71. More Fun with Photos!

72. Fun with FONTS & FOTOS 

73. First Past the Post(mark)


75. Here’s a Little Clip!

76. The EYES Have It!

77. Facebook Timeline Covers

78. Tiny BUBBLES!

79. Uniquely YOURS

80. DIAMONDS are a Girl’s Best Friend

81. Totally TACKY!

82. UNZIP Me Dahling!

83. Direct Your Own SCRIPT

84. Transforming the Ordinary to the Extraordinary!

85. Making the Most of (inter)National Scrapbooking Day!

86. When SIZE Really DOES Matter…

87. A Road Map for Newbies

88. Throwing the BOOK at Glee

89. Jailbird No More!

90. Alphas Revisited

91. Everything New is Old Again

92. Still MORE Fun with FONTS!! 

93. Where the Boys Are

94. Like a Broken Record

95. Creating ‘Mazing Monograms

96. Vacation Memories Sanitized!

97. Another Way to Have the Photo You REALLY Wanted, Not the One You Got

98. Fontography with Alphas

99. Expanding Your Repertoire

100. Sketchy Simplified

101. It’s Fall, Y’All!

102. Making a Stylish Sandwich

103. Clusters… Have Them Your Way, the Easy Way!

104. Driven to Distraction

105. Are YOU Ready for Digital Scrapbooking Day?

106. Don’t Lose Your Cool… or Your Stash!

107. 8 ball, Corner Pocket!

108. One Hand in my Pocket… and the other one’s holding a Journal Card!

109. Shaving Shadows

110. Cuttin’ It Out – Old-School

111. Let’s All Give Thanks… for AWESOME Photos!

112. Gentle(wo)men, Start Your Ovens!

113. The EYE-lets Have It!

114. Save Me! (methods for saving layouts for gallery posting)

115. What’s Your Super Power (Word)?

116. Any Way You Slice It (quick way to duplicate a multi-strip photo)

117. Memory-Keeping with Not-So-Great Photos

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

The EYE-lets Have It!

I’m still working my way through years worth of scrapbooking magazines trying to figure out why I kept them in the first place. While I’m at it I’ve been looking for more paper-scrapping techniques I can translate into digital ones, and finding some solid inspiration. Today I want to show you how I’ve used an eyelet from the GingerBread Ladies‘ collab It Comes with Spring  to secure my photo and frame to my paper stack… just like I would have when I paper-scrapped. (This collection was the Free-with-Purchase gift in March 2016.) The rest of the layout is created with Connie Prince‘s Snowflake Kisses , LDrag DesignsJolly Holidays alphas and Aprilisa‘s Picture Perfect 177 templates from the December Buffet for the Buffet Challenge.

Once I had my eyelet in position and resized to fit within the edges of my paper frame, I clicked on the Elliptical Marquee tool.

I set the tool’s settings to Fixed Size, then experimented with the dimensions until I got a circle the correct size. Both dimensions for width and height must be the same. 50 pixels by 50 pixels works.

I made sure the frame’s layer was my active layer and clicked just inside the edge of the eyelet to make my circular selection.

Then I used the arrow keys to nudge it into place with the hole in the eyelet in the center. Once I had it positioned properly, I used the Edit>Cut command (CTRL/CMD>X) to create a hole in the frame paper.

There! Now I can see the corner of the photo. On to the next step.

I repeated the same steps, only moving my active layer to the photo layer.

I cut the corner of the photo off…

but, because I’m using a template, the photo clipping mask is still there.

Oh wait!! There’s a Work Smart Not Hard lesson here! If I make the CLIPPING MASK layer the active layer, I can cut BOTH layers with one click.

I kept repeating the layer>select>cut steps for each paper layer until I could see my background paper.

You’ll notice as you go along that the drop shadow from each paper layer is visible, but there’s no shadow on the actual eyelet. I used the default drop shadow styles to apply a narrow shadow with the light source coming from the same direction as the template’s layers.

I could leave it with just a single eyelet, but that doesn’t work for me. So I Copied the eyelet layer (CTRL/CMD>J) and nudged it over, then followed all the same steps as before to make a nice hole all the way to the background paper.

Then I did it all one more time to create 3 eyelets lined up along the top edge of my frame. To quote my friend Sandy, 3 is an esthetically pleasing number.

For balance and symmetry, I decided to put another 3-eyelet set in the diagonally opposite corner.

In this corner, there are different papers in the stack under the frame, so I had to pay attention to the paper I could see in the hole. It’s really not that time consuming to copy and cut three more eyelets.

There it is! The background paper!

I have a feeling the eyelets in the lower right corner won’t be visible on my finished layout, but I’ll know they’re there!

If you can think of a paper-scrapping technique you’d like me to translate, please let me know!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Gentle(wo)men, Start Your Ovens!

The inspiration for today’s tutorial came from a Facebook post by one of my coworkers. She had spent the day making and decorating sugar cookies. (The photo above isn’t hers, it’s from The Girl Creative‘s blog.) As I was looking at her cookies, it occurred to me that I could probably make digital sugar cookies (bonus – NO calories!) and so I gave it a shot. It worked well, so I’m going to share the recipe with y’all. I started with a 6 inch by 6 inch square blank canvas. (P.S. Don’t be thrown by the number of screenshots in this tut. I’ve included practically every step, although we’re using a lot of techniques I’ve already shown you.)

I looked through all of the Custom Shape tool‘s menu – it’s the one that looks like an amoeba. The menu has a lot of options for shapes, most of them geometrical. But that won’t make this technique easy, so I only looked at the amoeba menu.

If you click on the triangle along the right side of the box I’ve circled below, the amoeba Custom Shape menu opens. I chose to look at them all to find the one that would work best, so I went with All Elements Shapes then scrolled until I found the one named Nuclear.

Because snowflakes in nature are perfectly symmetrical, I changed the settings for this tool from the default, which is Unconstrained, to Defined Proportions. If you’re into Working Smart Not Hard, you can also Simplify the shape by selecting that in the settings.

Getting these shapes in the exact spot you want them isn’t easy. But you can click-and-drag out your shape then move it to where it needs to be. Once it has been Simplified, you can easily resize it too.

If you didn’t Simplify in the Shapes menu, do it now. Right-click on the layer in the Layers panel and select Simplify Layer.

Not looking much like a cookie cutter now, is it? We’ll have to fill in those open areas using the Paint Bucket tool.

There we go! I could go ahead and just use this shape, which is more like a flower than a snowflake, but would still totally work. But if you know me at all, you’ll know I’m going to do more.

There are two ways to do this next step. I’m going to use the Elliptical Marquee tool. The other way would be to use the Custom Shapes tool and choose the Circle.

Because symmetry is still important at this point, I changed the settings to Fixed Ratio. This is handy for making perfect circles, but also can be set to make perfect ellipses too.

It’s possible to perform this on the same layer as the original shape, but I choose to put the outline on its own layer.

So I added a blank layer above the shape and made my Stroke outline here.

The stroke can be any size. Once I’d made my circle I filled it in with the Paint Bucket.

This is my cookie cutter. It needs a little adjustment – look closely and you’ll see the circle isn’t centered on the nucleus shape. I need to fix that!

Now that both layers were aligned properly, I Merged the layers into one shape. (CTRL/CMD>E)

Then I Duplicated the shape layer and set it aside for later. Right-click on the layer then select Duplicate Layer, or CTRL/CMD>J.

I didn’t need to see that duplicate layer at this stage, so I closed the eye and made it invisible.

To turn the shape into a cookie, I applied a Style. I used this creamy acrylic one from Miss Mis‘s Hustle and Heart layer styles set. Another option for this step would be to use a chipboard Style, such as one of Just So Scrappy‘s Cabin Fever chipboards (included in the GingerBread Ladies December 2017 Challenge Reward collab of the same name). That would allow you to condense this step and the next 9 into just a SINGLE WSNH step!

The only problem with this is that the cookie is too shiny. The colour looks good, and there’s a nice dimension to it, but I changed the Style settings, essentially turning everything off and shifting the light source. To adjust a Layer Style, rignt-click on the fx symbol on the layer in the Layers panel and this menu will open up.

Now it still has some dimension but the shine is gone. I’m still working on the bottom, original layer.

I picked a nice, toasty golden brown to “bake” my cookie.

Then I opened a new layer above the base layer, and selected a brush from one of the presets that came with my software. It’s called Pastel Light 118 pixels and I used it with the default settings that opened with the brush menu.

I picked a spot on the edge of the cookie, then clicked and dragged the brush all the way around the shape.

Remember this from when I showed you how to do digital inked edges? Same technique exactly. I CTRL/CMD>clicked on the layer thumbnail of the cookie layer while working on my brush layer. That selected the edges and the inside of the cookie.

Next I Inverted the selection – moving the chosen area of the layer outside of the cookie. Select>Inverse or CTRL/CMD>SHIFT>I.

Then I simply Cut away the brush that falls outside the cookie. Edit>Cut or CTRL/CMD>X.

Voilà! My cookie is baked to golden perfection!! Now to add the Royal Icing. (Or Royal Frosting, if you prefer.)

Here’s why I had you Duplicate the shape layer. I’m going to flood that top shape with my Royal Icing. But first, I resized the shape so some of the cookie layer is visible. The easiest way is to click on one of the little boxes at the corners of the bounding box then go down to the menu and type in a number less than 100. I chose 92%, which exposes some of the cookie layer but not too much. You can also just move the corner you’ve clicked on inward until it looks right.

I used another Style, this gel blue one from Just So Scrappy‘s Lucky Me. [GingerScraps is lucky to have designers who create layer styles, like Misty (Miss Mis Designs), Katie (Just So Scrappy/Ooh La La Scraps), Aimee Harrison, Marina (Magical Scraps Galore), Lina (LDrag Designs), Jo (JoCee Designs), Natasha (Ponytails Designs) and our lovely guest Karen (Snickerdoodle Designs).]

I made some tweaks to the layer style to make it look more like a flood of Royal Icing.

Then I got to the good part! I changed my foreground colour to pure white (which can be quickly selected by typing “ffffff” into the box at the bottom right of the menu).

Next I chose my Pencil tool from the Toolbox and adjusted the tip size to about 25 pixels.

If you’ve been adding realism to your stickers and overlays, you’ll already know how to draw a line with the Pencil. But if you haven’t read that tut, or you need a refresher, all you have to do is click at the starting point of your line, hold down the SHIFT key and click where you want the line to end.

You can turn on the Grid as shown below to help figure out where to start and stop your lines. View>Grid or CTRL/CMD>’

I used just the Pencil tool, but you could also use Brushes for adding detail to your snowflakes. Don’t worry about precision; if you were making real sugar cookies you’d be doing all the piping freehand, right?

You can make your snowflake as complex as you like. I played around for about 10 minutes, using the Pencil and changing the tip size.

No comment.

Now to turn all those lines and dots into Royal Icing. I applied a basic Style from the presets in Elements to add a Bevel. I experimented with all of them until I got the look I was after. In the end I went with the Simple Sharp Inner bevel.

It looks pretty good as is, with the default settings for the Bevel style menu.

Now, I could have stopped here and called it good. But again, anyone who has read my tutorials before know I had to experiment some more. But I’ve learned to do my experimenting on a copy layer… CTRL/CMD>J

Then I cleared the Layer Style (Bevel) by right-clicking on the layer in the Layers panel and choosing Clear Layer Style.

Then I hit that top copy layer with another of Katie’s Styles from Lucky Me, the gel white.

Then I decreased the Opacity on that layer to 46% (after some waffling).  Now the sharp edges are a little softer, and so are the shadows. Much better!

Once I was happy with my finished product, I Saved my cookie as a .png (which preserves the transparent background). Now I can use the cookie on a layout!

Of course, I didn’t stop there. I went back and deleted the snowflakey layers and started fresh. This time I stayed really basic. I just used one of the preset snowflakes from the Custom Shapes menu! The Styles I used were exactly the same.

If you’ve never saved a creation as a .png, or if you’ve forgotten how to do it, here are the settings I use.

And again… one of the Custom Shapes snowflakes, but with some personality.

Are you hungry now?

Tutorial Tuesday (Photographing Your Memories)

Let’s All Give Thanks… for AWESOME Photos!

Hey y’all! Life’s about to get VERY hectic for a lot of you, am I right?? In the United States, Thanksgiving marks the run-up to Christmas and then the New Year. I know most of you won’t be even thinking about scrapping layouts for the next several days, and that you’ll be making a bunch of new memories at the same time. We’ve played with a lot of techniques for editing our photos to make them worthy of scrapping, but why not skip a step (or ten)? I think it’s time for another discussion about taking better photos. I know we’ve already talked about that before, but a few reminders probably won’t go amiss. Whether your photos are caught with a point-and-shoot, a high-end DSLR or a cell phone, there are some things you can do to get great photos.

  • Right now, right this minute, make sure your camera battery is fully charged. If they’re replaceable batteries, put fresh ones in your camera NOW!
  • Make sure you have an empty memory card (fully formatted, of course!) in your camera and a couple of spares so you won’t run out of space. If you’re using your phone, you should move some photos from your internal storage to your computer so you’ll have room for the new ones.
  • Think about how your typical holiday events usually evolve. There will be some traditions that are carried out no matter whose house you’re having the celebrations at, so plan ahead to capture those moments. Make a list, if you need to.
  • If you haven’t done it lately, review the manual that came with your camera. Review the settings and modes you’re most likely to use for your shots and remind yourself what each is doing while you’re shooting. I use the metadata from my most successful bokeh and full moon shots to set my camera up ahead of time so I don’t miss the shot.
  • Practice a few creative techniques that you can memorize so that when you’re ready to take photos of the candles on your dinner table or that gloriously brown turkey, you won’t have to fumble.
  • Refamiliarize yourself with your tripod, if you use one. I have two – an aluminum ball-head one that allows infinite adjustments but takes a lot of room and needs to be set up ahead of time and a Platypod Max, which looks like a little travel iron but is actually a very clever and sturdy tripod that can be set up in minutes on any surface. Why use a tripod? It lets you take longer exposures while keeping the images tack-sharp and it lets you be in the photo! Use the built-in timer and get in FRONT of the lens for a change.
  • Keep an eye on the lighting. Natural light from a big window is fantastic, as long as it’s not backlighting your subject. This is especially important for those group shots we all love. You want everyone’s face to be evenly lit, without harsh shadows everywhere. So maybe turn on some lamps so your flash won’t be so startling. Shoot a couple of test shots so you can see what needs to be tweaked.
  • Get in close to your subject! Even more so when that subject is a child. Get down on their level whenever possible so you capture their best smiles. Shooting from above should be reserved for those special-effect shots, not photos of kids having fun. For the most natural photos of people though, you can use a telephoto lens and shoot them from some distance. (As long as the light is right!)
  • Don’t insist on smiles. You know what I mean… those cheesy grins aren’t going to be your favourite images. Rather than having everybody say “cheese” for your group shots, have them say “family” or “money” or “gotcha”. You could go with a made-up phrase, such as “moldy mozzarella”. Another trick is to tell everyone you’re going to shoot on “3”, then count, “1… 2… (shoot) WHOOPS 3!” then shoot a second shot right after that. You’ll get some natural smiles that way.
  • When taking photos of food, again, get in close and vary the angles. Show the flaky texture of that piecrust, the glisten of the done-to-perfection skin on your turkey, the creaminess of your mashed potatoes, the detail of the frosting on your cupcakes.
  • Composition is key for any photo. Remember the rule of thirds, but don’t be a slave to it. Decide what your focal point will be and compose your photo to make it so – use leading lines where possible and don’t forget white space. Crop your photos in the viewfinder – so much less work later! And don’t forget the background. Is there anything growing out of someone’s head? Take a step to one side or the other and recompose.
  • Take LOTS of photos. Take several of each subject from different angles and distances so you have a choice of which one is best. More is definitely better!
  • Last but not least, have FUN!

When we’re all back into scrapping mode, I’ll have some more paper-to-digi techniques for you. This decluttering business is really a good thing!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Cuttin’ It Out – Old-School

Since I’m essentially house-bound while my husband recovers from his knee injury, I’ve started a decluttering project – something my daughter would say is LONG past due. (She calls me Queen of the Hoarders, which may be a slight exaggeration. Slight…) I’ll never be a minimalist, but a girl’s gotta start somewhere right? So as I was flipping through some back issues of Canadian Scrapbooker (to see why they hadn’t already been recycled), I found some paper layouts that I thought could make interesting digital techniques. The paper scrapper (Erin Morehouse of Beaconsfield, Québec) who created the layout shown below used a Silhouette Cameo to die-cut the letters from her background paper. I’m going to show you how I scraplifted her layout digitally; it’s my Designer Spotlight challenge layout for November, using pieces-parts of several kits from JoCee Designs.

First I had to find a photo and a quote that would work together. Then I collected up my supplies.

Once I had the bare bones in place, I added in the alphas I wanted to use. They form a message all by themselves, don’t they?

Then I went on to choose a serif font with enough presence to work for the die-cut technique. It was a lovely surprise to see I could use a system font, one that’s accessible to everybody. Courier New Bold is perfect for this.

I had an idea how the text should look, so I typed it out as you see it below. I went BIG.

But it was a little too sprawly for me, took up too much space on my layout. So I adjusted it by squishing it a bit – still the same height, but not as wide.

That was much better. Before I went on to the next step, I Simplified the text. Otherwise I ran the risk of messing it up when I used the Type tool again. And I needed to be able to beef the letters up a bit.

The easiest way to make these letters more stocky is to apply a Stroke to them.

Colour isn’t a factor for this part, because the text is only temporary. So use whatever colour you want. The stroke needed to be big enough to give me the effect I was looking for, but not so big it blunted the text. And it had to be centered on the edges of the letters so it would follow the letters’ contours exactly AND be connected to the text.

My text now has good bulk, without obliterating the open areas in each letter.

I went on to add in the rest of the quote. I used the same tweaks on these text layers for conformity. See the difference between the free-standing letter ‘a’ and the ‘a’s in “balancing”?

After I had my text positioned where I wanted it, I Merged the  text layers so I could continue to play with the text as a single object.

Next I moved the text layer underneath the background paper layer. (This step isn’t necessary, I did it to show you how the process will work from this point.) I Selected the text by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the layer thumbnail in the Layers panel. See the marching ants? Then I Edit>Cut (CTRL/CMD>X) the paper away where it overlies the text.

The text layer is visible again.

If I turn off the layer’s visibility, the gingham paper behind it shows through. (Unreadable as it is…)

So I no longer needed the text layer, and could just Delete it.

I had a number of patterned papers in my layout folder so I started adding pieces of them behind my words. Some needed to be resized to work correctly.

But to see the full effect, I opted to add a Drop Shadow to the woodgrain paper layer. No fancy footwork here, just a simple, Hard default shadow. I made some little adjustments to the shadow by double-clicking on the fx icon to the right of the layer in the Layers panel.

Now, when I added in my patterned papers, I could see the shadow and gauge the way it all looked together.

I only want this blue paper behind “Step”, so I used the Rectangular Marquee tool to select an area of the paper that would completely fill the word. Then I Inverted the selection to cut away the excess paper. Select>Inverse or CTRL/CMD>Shift>I

then Edit>Cut or CTRL/CMD>X.

There we go!

I did the same steps for each word, although I worked randomly, until I had all the words backed with patterned paper.

Then I took another look at the original layout and realized I hadn’t removed the little bits from the open letters that would be impossible to work with using paper and a die-cutter.

So I erased all those little areas.

Then all that was left was to adjust the drop shadow again. Pretty cool!

Now, if you were expecting to see my finished layout here, I’m sorry to disappoint you… My laptop froze just as I finished up my screenshots and I had to do a hard reboot. (There seems to be some sort of instability with PSE 15 and Windows 10 because this freeze happens unpredictably, but frequently, when I have PSE open.) I have to start my layout over from scratch, but I have these screenshots to help me out. Then I can get back to purging…………

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Shaving Shadows

As you’ve already figured out if you read my tutorials regularly, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I like things to look a certain way, and will try whatever it takes to get the effect I want. Shadows are something I don’t like to compromise on, and I often create custom shadow layers for my layouts. But I’m also a bit of a procrastinator and leave things until the 11th hour… and then I run with drop shadow styles, either ones I’ve loaded into my Styles menu or the ones the designer has added to the template I’m using. These Styles are limited in what can be tweaked, and when I’m building a cluster, sometimes the shadows just look wrong because the style isn’t more adjustable. In that case, if I’m in a real hurry, I look the other way, but I’m not happy about it. So when I discovered a Work Smart Not Hard method of customizing drop shadow styles,  I was all over it! I was absolutely giddy!! It IS possible to erase JUST THE SHADOWS quickly and easily, to give that realism to my clusters!

There are a number of designers who have collections of drop shadow styles for sale. They make short work of shadowing a variety of elements with a single click. But they have limitations in the adjustments you can make to them. At least that’s what I always thought…

The image below shows the software’s adjustment menu for Styles. You can open this menu by double-clicking on the Style icon (the little fx icon on the right hand side of the layer in the Layers Panel). Whatever settings you choose, Elements applies across the board.

Now, if I try to erase any part of the shadow on this layer, I run the risk of erasing the flower too. But with the shadow style left intact as a style, when I erase part of the shadow, I also erase the part of the flower that casts the shadow. And it looks very odd.

If I Simplify the layer (as I remind you constantly to do with your special effects), Erasing will erase everything equally; who has time for zooming in, using a tiny Erase brush and going pixel by pixel to erase just the shadow? I don’t.

See what I mean?

Here’s where the fun starts. If I Select the flower by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the image thumbnail in the Layers Panel

and THEN Simplify…

I can Invert the selection at any point either before or after Simplifying and it works just the same. To Invert, click on Select>Inverse or CTRL/CMD>Shift>I which moves the marching ants from the edges of the image to the edge of the document and Selects everrything in between – the shadow.

Now I can Erase just the shadow!! At this step I can use the Eraser brush at 100% opacity to completely remove the shadow, or I can decrease the brush Opacity to whatever I want to just to lighten the shadow in that area. Or I can partially erase, partially lighten. It’s a bonanza of options!

You may never have a reason to use this trick, but I’m glad I shared it with you.

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

One Hand in my Pocket… and the other one’s holding a Journal Card!

(with apologies to Alanis Morrisette)

After my last tutorial on pocket scrapping, I thought about what my next topic should be, but I didn’t think about it too hard, since my mind was pretty busy scheming and dreaming on other things, being on ‘vacation’ and all. So it wasn’t until yesterday that this notion popped into my brain. What a segué! Have you ever REALLY wanted to use a template that includes a journal card, but the kit you’re also dying to use doesn’t have them? I have lots of kits I truly love, and quite a few templates with spaces for journal cards, but the two don’t always work together. BUT! I can make my own journal cards… and so can you!

I’ve made this little clipping mask for you to make it super-simple. Click *here” for the download. It’s got nice rounded corners and you can resize it to whatever will work best for your layout.

I selected a few papers and elements from the GingerBread LadiesAll Things Hallowe’en (it has a couple of journal cards, but I wanted to make my own.) Then I started layering on my choices.

I’m not going to show you all the options for borders; I’ve discussed them all in other tutorials, and they’re pretty basic.

The WSNH (Work Smart, Not Hard) shortcut for turning on and off the Grid: CTRL/CMD>’

So now I have 3 papers clipped to my card shape.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different Blending Modes and Filters. It’s your card and you can do whatever you like.

I added in a moon using a brush from Brusheezy. If you’re interested, the set of 20 is found *here*.

The witch is seriously spooky! Because journal cards are only 2-dimensional, shadows aren’t necessary, but feel free to add them if you want. Just take care not to make them too obvious.

Bevels are great tools for adding dimension. I used a small one on the spiderweb just to make it a bit more visible.

My finished card looks pretty neat, don’t you think? Now to save it so I can use it again later.

I saved my card into the folder where the kit lives so it would be easy to find again. I gave it a simple name and saved it as a .png file so the rounded corners would stay rounded when I want to use the card.

Saving it as a .png using the Smallest/Slowest Compression preserves detail the most, but it also results in a larger file. It’s not necessary to Interlace your image.

What do you think? Will you make your own journal cards? It’s a lot of fun…