Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements 15)

More FUN with FOTOS

I hope everybody’s having a good week. I’ve been crazy-busy almost every day of my “vacation”, which around here just means I don’t go to my job. This time of year there’s always so much to do and I’m tired of looking at leaves. All over the yard. In the flowerbeds. On the sidewalks. On the porch floor. Stuck to my dog… But for today, I’m going to pretend I love them. (I do, when they’re in photos!)

This week we’re going to play with another Fun Edit menu in the Guided Edits tab of PSE 15. I originally planned to do something with the Out Of Bounds menu, but really wasn’t happy with the results so I scrapped that and chose to go with Painterly. Don’t be alarmed by the number of screenshots in this tutorial. The technique literally takes minutes to achieve fabulous results. (I know, I’ve redone this one about 6 times.) Here’s the photo I played with, courtesy of Pixabay.

In Guided Edit section, I went to the Fun Edits tab and looked at my options. The neat thing about this version is that if you roll your cursor over the images in the menu you can see each of the effects in action.

The Painterly menu looks like this. We’re going to work through the technique step by step, starting with the Paint Brush. Down at the bottom of the menu there are two buttons, a Next and a Cancel. DON’T use the Cancel button to undo something you don’t like, because it will undo EVERYTHING and close your photo!

Depending on the size of your screen and your personal workflow, you can choose the view you’ll see as you work. Because I work on a 15 inch laptop I like to zoom in and out a lot and I like to see what’s happening as it happens, so the only view that really works for me is the After Only setting. Play with them and see what works best for you. To Zoom you can use the Magnifying Glass or CTRL/CMD>+ or -.

With this technique you can work from either a negative or positive effect. That is, you’re either revealing (Show) or concealing (Hide). I opted to Show the parts of the photo I wanted to have the focus. The software then applied this mask to the photo.

There are only a few tools available to you in these menus. Painterly uses a handful of brushes you can adjust for Size, Opacity and Angle. The first brush on the list is called Bold Strokes. The settings I used are shown below.

Then I just randomly clicked the brush over the areas of the photo that I wanted to reveal. I like to go with a lowish Opacity so I can build the effect as I go along. It’s a lot easier to achieve a soft look if you take your time.

I selected the next brush on the list and uncovered more of my photo. Don’t move on to the next step until you’re sure you’re done.

Make good use of the few controls you have.

I worked my way down the list of brushes, adjusting the size and opacity as I went. If you do something that looks funny, Undo it with CTRL/CMD>Z.

Each brush does something a little different. I had the little girl revealed with a soft, moody look. It was time to bring up some of the leaves. For that I used the Rough Bristles brush with a lower opacity.

The next brush on the list is called Confetti and I love it! This is where you really start getting an artsy look. This brush randomly places squares and rectangles of your chosen effect over your image. I just scattered random clicks over the whole photo.

The Confetti effect isn’t obvious but it really adds something to the overall image. The last brush is called Round Rhythm. It’s not perfectly round, like a Basic Brush is, but neither is it grungy, so use it judiciously. I took it over areas of the photo that I wanted revealed almost completely.

You’re thinking right about now that to get to this point had to take hours. But it took mere minutes!

The second step in the technique is to choose a background colour. The defaults are Black and White. You can also choose a colour from your photo simply by clicking on Select Custom Color then clicking on an area in your photo. You’ll see instantly what it looks like. This is what White looks like.

Black could be really effective for certain images and moods.

For my example I went with White. When I redid it (laptop froze in the middle and I lost the whole shebang) I chose a colour from the photo, as you’ll see in my finished layout.

Step 3 lets you add Texture to the image. If you don’t want to add texture, just go to the bottom of your workspace and click on Next.

The next 6 screenshots show what each of the textures look like at 30% opacity. You can see the Confetti effect a lot better in these ones!

Step 4 is to add some Painterly Effects.

There are again 6 choices for Effects. Hovering your cursor over each one will show you the label for the effect.

The next 6 screenshots show you what they look like.

Each of the effects changes the image noticeably, some very obviously. I chose Rough Pastels for my layout, but I can think of ways to use all of them. When you’re satisfied with the way your image looks, clicking on Next will take you to some options for using your masterpiece. You can Save it, Save As something specific, change to another Edit mode or Share it. Then click Done down at the bottom of the workspace.

Once you’ve selected Expert edit mode to use your creation for a layout, you can see what the software has done with the original photo. There are 5 layers here, and you can manipulate each one further. Feel free to play around with them, because you can always Undo. When you’re happy, you can Merge the layers, or leave them as is so you can make more adjustments within your layout. If you choose to do that, I recommend creating a Group with the layers so they don’t get separated accidentally. To do that, you first have to Unlock the Background layer by clicking on the little padlock icon on the layer. Select all the layers then either click on the Group icon (a stack of papers, second from the left at the top of the Layers panel), right-click and select Group From Layers or CTRL/CMD>G. (You know how I do it…)

If you don’t want to make any more changes to your image, select all the layers as shown below then right-click>Merge Layers or CTRL/CMD>E. Then you treat it just like any other photo.

I used my finished sample for my October Mix It Up Surprise Challenge layout. The theme this one is Change, which this photo captures in several ways. I used a template (with some modifications) from Heartstrings Scrap Art‘s Mix It Up V.5 collection (not found in the store) and Ooh La La Scraps‘ beautiful Falling Slowly kit that I got through the Bake Sale for $1 (!) You can get it for $1 too, if you hurry… the sale runs until midnight MDT on October 20th.

Oh wait. I bet you want to see my layout. Right? Here you go!

Tutorial Tuesday: Digital Scrapbooking

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

Did anybody join in on the Digital Scrapbook Day (week) activities? I was so pleased to see not one but TWO speed scraps included. I LOVE speed scraps! But I know they can be really intimidating, especially for the novice digi-scrapper. Since both Lori from Scraps N Pieces and Aimee Harrison have indicated they’d like to run monthly speed scraps, I thought I would share some tips for making speed scraps a fearless and fun way to document your life.

Let’s talk about speed scraps in general first. When I first became a digi-scrapper, I knew nothing about anything. Nada. Zip. Zilch. I had a sale-priced Photoshop Elements 5 CD that I bought at a business supply store and nothing to work with but a lot of photos. So I started downloading freebies. Just like a lot of others do when they’re getting started. The first online digi-scrapping shop I actually spent money at had a series of monthly challenges that were intended to stimulate people to become competent digital scrapbooking artists so I began playing along with them. Soon I was pulled into my first speed scrap… and I was terrified! I could barely make PSE do anything at all and now I was going to have a stopwatch running? But I jumped in. Some of my favourite layouts of all time are those I’ve created for speed scraps.

Speed scraps are time-limited events; depending on who’s in charge they can go only 2 hours before the gate comes down while others are a little more generous and allow several hours after the last set of instructions for participants to post their layouts in the gallery. Here’s the basic scoop: The facilitator for the scrap has already put together a layout and written 7 sets of instructions to guide participants in creating their layouts. The first set of instructions is posted at the top of the hour, followed by the rest at 10 minute intervals, the final set being posted at the end of the hour. Participants then (usually) have one more hour to finish the layout and get it posted into the gallery and the speed scrap thread. For those whose creative process takes days, this can be really stressful. But you know what else it can be? Liberating! Think of it as a mental template.

Now for some tips…

  • When you’re planning to participate in a speed scrap, have some specific photos in mind. You won’t know until the instructions are posted how many you’ll need, but if you have a couple or three already chosen you’ll be ahead of the game before it starts.
  • Try to choose photos that will lend themselves to different shapes or formats. I like to have 3 in my speed scrap folder: a portrait format, a landscape format and one that can be either a square or a circle. Then I’m ready for anything!
  • When you’ve selected your photos, think about which kits might work well with them and have them in your memory. I loved the speed scrap Aimee hosted on Saturday, for which she generously provided a free mini-kit for those who chose to work with it. I did. Having that for inspiration I was able to narrow my photo choices down nicely.
  • Have both your software and your digi-supplies open on your desktop so you’re already in working mode. Open a new canvas on your workspace, in whatever size you normally work with. I do 12×12, and in PSE 15 there’s even an option for making a preset for that. The more prepared you are going in, the easier it’ll be to work along with the group.

  • Make use of the keyword search when you’re looking for something in particular. If the instructions call for a bow, but the kit you’re using doesn’t have one, you can run a search for one that will look good with your kit while you do something else.
  • Use the tools that come with your software. The grid is one of the most useful ones of all for speed scrapping. Sometimes the instructions will be very explicit: “Place your photo 1 1/2 inches over from the right edge of your background and 4 inches up from the bottom edge.” Popping a grid over your background (View>Grid or CTRL/CMD>’) makes doing that a cinch. (Kat Hansen wrote the book on detailed instructions for speed scrapping.)
  • If your instructions say to “center a large flower over the left edge of your photo”, you can use the Move tool option for centering objects by selecting both layers then clicking on Align>Center.
  • Don’t freak out at how fast time is passing. Take a second to read the instructions carefully so you can save time actually doing what they say. By the time the last set of instructions – usually to add shadows, a title, a date and some journaling – you’ll be close to finished anyway. The last hour is to pretty everything up and make sure it all looks good.
  • Don’t feel like you have to chat while you’re working. No one expects that. Multitasking is hard enough when you’re not racing against the clock.
  • I use purchased shadow styles a lot, and they’re especially handy for speed scraps. You can select all of your paper layers holding down the Shift key as you click on the layers, then shadow them all with one click. Same for flowers and other items. It really saves a lot of time. If you’re close to finished and still have time left, then you can create some custom shadows if you want, but you won’t necessarily need to.
  • Don’t panic if you’re short on time and don’t think you’ll get your credits down with your layout in the Gallery before you post it and copy it to the thread. You can go back into the Gallery after your layout is posted into the thread and add them in. Just don’t forget to put them in there!
  • Also don’t be upset when your layout looks similar to all the rest of them. They were all working with the same set of instructions you were, so they SHOULD resemble each other.
  • Last but not least, don’t sweat the petty stuff (or pet the sweaty stuff!). It’s not the end of the world if you’re not finished when the clock runs down. You’ve made a great attempt and now that you’ve gotten warmed up, next time will be better. If you’re like me, you’re participating for the challenge and not for the prize, nice as those are. No one can manage absolutely everything all the time. There will be interruptions – the dog needs to go out, the phone rings and it’s your mom, the baby wakes up and wants Mommy NOW… There may be a screen freeze or your software may shut itself down on you without warning… and you didn’t save your work. All of these have happened to me (except the baby part… no babies here!) and I just got back in the game. If you’re so stressed out by speed scrapping that it isn’t fun, DON’T try to get it all done in 2 hours. No judging!

Here’s the layout I speed-scrapped with Aimee on Saturday. I’m really happy with it. And I had it done with 20 minutes to spare… so it CAN be done!

How do you feel about speed scraps? What are your favourite challenges? Personally, I love them all!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements 15)

It’s a PUZZLE!

I’ll be honest, I had an incredibly hectic week and had no time to get creative. I went to bed last night with NO idea what to write about today… and woke up thinking, “Hey, why not play with one of those Fun Edits the software creators included in PSE 15?” I took a look at the October Buffet and saw all these great colours and thought maybe I could tie this tut into a Buffet challenge layout, thus getting more bang for my figurative buck. So let’s do it!

I think this photo will work nicely with the Buffet palette, and with that soft, blurry background, maybe it would lend itself to the Puzzle Effect Guided Edit.

With my photo on the workspace, I clicked on that Puzzle Effect and this menu opened up. I chose the Large option to make it easier for you to follow along.

One click, and my photo looks just like a 63-piece puzzle. How cool is that?! But there’s lots more fun to come. The second step on the list says, “Enhance the effect by selecting a puzzle piece.”

I clicked on the Select Puzzle Piece bar then clicked on a section of my photo in the centre of one puzzle piece in the lower right corner as directed. To select more than one piece, I held down the CTRL/CMD key and clicked on the four pieces outlined in the screenshot.

That set some marching ants going around the edges of those four pieces. No fiddling with the Magic Wand Tool, no Refining Edges needed. If I had wanted to select random pieces all over the photo, I could have done that rather than selecting contiguous ones.

To remove those pieces, the next step was to click on the Extract Piece bar in the menu.

Then I could move those pieces all as one to another area of my canvas by clicking on the Move Tool bar right there on the menu.

Once I’d moved those pieces up and out of the way, I could still see the puzzle grid where they had been. I could have stopped there, but I’m playing with the software so I know what it does, so I went on to the next step on the menu and clicked on the Erase Tool bar and used it to roll over the grid lines.

Boom! The grid is gone. But… there’s a white background there. If I want to see my background paper in the spot where those pieces are missing, what do I do?

What does this Next button do?

I wanted to see what else was possible, and since working in Expert Edit mode is how we all use PSE for digital scrapbooking, that’s what I clicked.

Whoa!! Look at that! There are a bunch of layers created by the Puzzle Effect edit mode and I can see them all. I moved some of them around, turned the visibility on and off and found these two layers have a transparent background. Now I knew how to make this work for a layout!

I right-clicked on the two selected layers then clicked on Duplicate Layers… in the same way I showed you when we were combining parts of two different templates.

The drop-down menu shows me my options as to where I could send them. I found my paper, which came from Heartstrings Scrap Art‘s Love & Laughter Buffet kit and clicked on that. I could have moved them onto their own canvas by selecting New from the menu, and then carried on playing with them.

Now I have three separate layers: the paper, the large puzzle photo and the four-piece corner. If you look really closely, you can see the bounding box around the two selected layers.

Now I can do whatever I want with this canvas. I’m not going to get my layout finished today, but it should be up in the Gallery soon.

I’ve really only scratched the surface of what this software can do, and I’m looking forward to sharing some more fun stuff with you next week!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements 15)

A Few Quick Template and Shadow Tips

I’ve had a week to play with Elements 15 and found out the hard way that a speed scrap isn’t the best way to learn new software! There was a lot of CTRL/CMD>Z-ing on Saturday night. Along with some colourful language. But what caused my biggest headaches wasn’t the fault of the software… I had missed one tiny, crucial setting that had me questioning my sanity. I had overlooked the pixels/ centimeter setting that caused my layout to be ginormous, both in physical size and in file size. It should have been pixels/inch. Once I figured it out – long after the speed scrap was over and my layout was posted – I corrected my oversight and it was all good.

There are a couple of things I’ve discovered over the last few days that relate to scrapping with templates. I think we all agree that templates are amazing tools that actually stimulate our native creativity, rather than stifle it. So making version 15 template-friendly is high on my list.

First, as I mentioned in last week’s tutorial, PSE 15 doesn’t behave the way previous versions do when you drag-and-drop papers and objects onto the canvas. It has a habit of dropping things in seemingly random spots rather than on top of the last selected layer, meaning scrappers have to move their papers and objects up and down all the time. This is a serious time suck at first, and I’m all about working smart and not hard. So I played around a bit (a lot) to see how I could make it less labour-intensive.

I work the same way I would if I was paper-scrapping, bottom up. I wondered what would happen if I turned the visibility for all layers off but the background and then turned them back on one at a time as I worked my way up the template layers. That way I would know EXACTLY where my flowers, leaves, buttons, ribbons and assorted other bits were supposed to go. It would take away the whole trying-to-line-up-the-object-with-a-layered-place-holder-I-could-only-see-a-bit-of…-and-missing thing. I hoped. And for the most part, it worked perfectly. There were a couple of papers I missed with, but over all it reduced the layer moving by about 90%. If you’re the kind of scrapper who likes to put your photos in place first, this workaround would be easy to modify. Turn off everything but your photos, move them onto the layout and then carry on.

Clipping papers and photos to place-holders is still a work-in-progress while I reeducate my fingers. I know it’ll become a rote movement once muscle memory takes over. Did you know we require about 1,000 repetitions of a movement before it becomes automatic? We had to abandon the notion of teaching our son to use a motorized wheelchair when we realized he was never going to get enough practice in a short enough period of time for his motor planning to be good… he ran over his teaching assistant’s foot, knocked over several garbage cans, plowed straight into a bank of lockers and scraped paint from 3 different doorways all in the same day! Teaching my fingers CTRL/CMD>ALT/OPTION>G automatically is going to take me a while, but no one should get hurt.

While I’m on the subject of that keyboard shortcut, I stumbled on a way to make groups work for me while scrapping with a template. Sometimes the template designer will use paper place holders that would look best if they’re all cut from the same paper, but she’s put them on separate layers. The Tinci Designs template I used for my Buffet challenge layout is like that. As an experiment, I grouped three layers together using the CTRL/CMD>G keyboard shortcut, then put a paper on top of the spot in the layers panel where the group appeared and CTRL/CMD>ALT/Option>G’d it. The paper was clipped to all three layers in one move! I’m going to play around with that some more.

Pam and I have the same problem with seeing the edges of the bounding box. My excuse is that my eyes are old. The only solution – if we’re going to call it that – is that the arrows for resizing and rotating are so much bigger that when the mouse rolls over the box, they pop up and are easy to see. And that huge + sign is another good clue.

Another thing I observed, which may be my imagination (or wishful thinking) is that when I created shadows on their own layers using the second method I showed you, Elements seemed to blur the edges a little for me. I’m pretty sure it didn’t, but it sure looked like it! [The steps for creating a shadow on its own layer are: 1) Create a new layer UNDER the object you’re shadowing. CTRL/CMD click on the single sheet of paper icon. 2) Click on the layer thumbnail of the object you’re shadowing to select the edges. 3) Fill the selected area in your new layer with your shadow colour. 2C1902 is a good one to use. 4) Deselect the object. CTRL/CMD>D 5) Nudge the shadow layer to where it needs to be to match the other shadows on your layout. 6) Use a Gaussian blur filter to soften the edges. 7) Decrease the opacity of your shadow layer until it looks right. 8) Change the Blend mode for your shadow to Linear Burn. Then you can warp it to suit your self.]

I was really pleased to see so many comments on last week’s tutorial, and all the questions. Keep them coming!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

The TutOR Becomes the TutEE

I finally did it. I upgraded from PSE 12 to PSE 15. And discovered there was a significant learning curve to jumping over 2 editions!! But coincidentally it allowed me to figure out a problem brought to me by Lisa (slfam), who uses PSE 14. She had downloaded a free template and was diligently following my instructions for clipping photos and papers to the various shape layers, only it wasn’t behaving for her. I downloaded the same template so I could see exactly what was happening and maybe help her out. Her first question related to this pop-up.

I opened a bunch of photos to play with and started working my way through adding some photos, which was the root of Lisa’s second issue. And almost right away I had a problem. When I dragged my photo onto the template with the layer I wanted to clip to selected in the Layers panel, it didn’t go where I expected, but landed in some random spot nowhere close to its target destination. And it happened over and over and over. Totally random, at least to my eyes. Geez Louise! Off to Google I went. There I learned that in order to have an item go to the layer you want, you have to drag it over the area where that layer shows in the template.  In the screenshot you can see the grayed-out photo sitting over the #6 photo spot. When I did that, it went onto the layer where I expected to find it. The software still dropped it right into the centre of the workspace, but it was on the right layer.

Being a WSNH scrapper, I used the (CTRL/CMD>G) keyboard shortcut  I’ve been telling y’all to use to create a clipping mask, only to have THIS happen. It seems Adobe added some features that have always been available in the full Photoshop to Elements in version 14, and now that shortcut, rather than clipping, creates a “Group” of layers. I wasn’t sure how this was going to make my life better, and for the moment it was really a pain! (I’ll also confess to some confusion – no one had mentioned to me in the comments that there’s been this shortcut overhaul.)

The easiest cure for that was to CTRL/CMD>Z my way back to safety, but I thought, “Why don’t you see what else can happen here?” So I right-clicked on that Group layer.

Faced with the menu shown below, I had to decide how to proceed.

Once I’d gotten rid of the Group, I used the more-steps method to clip my photo to the spot, right-clicking on the photo then selecting Create Clipping Mask. It worked. But I like my keyboard shortcuts, so I went into the Layer menu tab to find it. And there it was, CTRL/CMD>ALT>G … and it worked! So now I need to teach my fingers some new moves.

The next photo I dragged and dropped went to the top of the Layers panel because I forgot to hit the target with it. Heavy sigh.

And look, I’ve got another Group layer in there. So even when I used the CORRECT shortcut, I ended up with something I really didn’t want. Gah!

Time to get serious. Lisa had described using the CTRL/CMD>G shortcut then right-clicked for the Clipping Mask on photos she’d stacked above the Group layer and having bits of other photos overlapping onto several photo spots. To figure out how to correct that, I had to first make it happen.

I did what it sounded like Lisa had done, adding more than one photo to the Layers panel then clipping them. And now I knew what was happening, because it happened for me too.

Once I had it figured out my next task was to figure out a work-around. And that meant a lot of extra steps, moving photos down the stack of layers to the spot I wanted them in and then clipping them. Um. No.

Since I was taking this opportunity to learn some new things, I just kept trying different things. (I play Words with Friends the same way. And make some really weird words just by trying combinations of letters.) I love a good speed scrap and I hate having to start over because something I wasn’t expecting has happened. Neverland Scraps is hosting one on Thursday, so I had to get this sorted out.

Of course, there were bumps in the road that I had to puzzle through. I did some research into Groups and found that they are very useful, especially when you’re working with LOTS of layers. You can select all similar layers – let’s use a paper stack as an example where you’ve clipped papers to shapes – and then CTRL/CMD>G Group them into a folder. They’re all still there but they’re not all individually taking up a spot on your Layers panel. However, in the early stages of working with a template, Groups‘re only in the way.

After I deleted the Group layer, taking what I’d learned about positioning my paper/photo/element over the spot on the template where I wanted it to go, I placed all of my photos successfully onto the template.

I was back in charge!

From that point on things went the way I wanted them to, the way I was used to them going. I felt confident that I could go on to work with a much more complex template and git ‘er done.

All my photos are place and cropped to their best advantage and I’m happy. Now I could Group all those photos and photo spots together so they take up less real estate on my Layers panel.

I know there’s a lot more I’m going to learn as I get comfortable with PSE 15; there are new options in the Preferences menu now so let’s look at those. To get there you’ll click on the Edit tab then choose Preferences from the drop-down. In the first General Preferences menu there’s an option that says Disable the creation of Smart Objects when creating new layers. Smart Objects can be resized without losing any of the pixels in the initial image. That’s important when you’re shrinking an object then want later on to enlarge it again. For me though, I found Smart Objects to be a major PITA. Dragging from the Project Bin onto the Workspace in PSE 12 made every item the same size as the canvas… 12×12 buttons, for example. Then I’d need to shrink to fit. The work around for that was to drag them OFF the Workspace and onto the layout in the Project Bin. Extra steps. Most of the time I’m shrinking things and not making them bigger, so in PSE 15, I disabled Smart Objects.

Skipping down to the Display and Cursors menu, another new option appears. It’s for high-density display users. My new laptop has a high-resolution monitor and the recommended setting is 1920×1080 pixels. But software created before the advent of high-resolution monitors shows up with all the text in an itsy-bitsy-teeny-tiny-hard-to-read size that can be a big problem for people not really familiar with their Workspace. (You might have noticed that in last week’s tutorial. I didn’t know how to fix it… now I do.) Adobe added this option to increase the UI Scale Factor to 200% to make the text easier to read. I find the enlarged images worse, so I don’t use this option. I know where things are on the screen so when I’m scrapping for me, I leave it as is. If I’m working on a tut and want you to be able to see what I’m doing, I change the screen resolution in the Control Panel to 1600×900 while I’m working, then put it back when I’m finished.

For the Transparency setting, I chose the smallest grid size available. It’s less distracting and makes a few tricks easier to perform. I always work with a transparent background – you do what works for you.

I still prefer to work in Standard measures for most things; although I’ve almost always lived in Canada and we went officially metric decades ago, I find myself doing conversions in my head all the time. So I’m glad Elements gives me the option of setting my Units and Rulers to inches. I use Points for text because it’s easier to understand than pixels. And Resolution is important for printing when you want the crispest, clearest images possible so most people work at 300 pixels per inch. For working purposes though, 72 pixels per inch – what you see on your screen – is good enough.

This menu is for the more… er… particular scrapper who likes symmetry, geometry and order. It also is handy for speed scrapping where the instructions might say, “Place your large photo 1/2 inch from the left edge of your layout and 2 1/4 inches down from the top.” I’ve shown you how to use the Guide before.

Last but not least, if you’re interested in trying some text modifications, make sure you’ve checked the Show Asian Text Options box. That will let you warp text and also to use the alternate characters included with some fonts.

And then there are the Guided Edits! Even the Basic ones can be quite handy.

These ones offer some quick ways of improving the colour of our photos with only a few steps.

Can’t forget about Black and White! Sometimes a black and white photo has much more visual interest than a colour one. It’s also a good choice when your photo’s colours don’t work with your layout.

More quick-and-easy edit options! Fewer steps, great outcomes… the essence of WSNH!

Stunning visual effects! Awesome for those artsy layouts.

This set of tools will really let your photos shine. They’re especially good for those sightseeing photos where you just can’t keep people from getting into your shot. You can take several shots a second or two apart then merge the unobstructed portions into one clean image. Or you can take those group shots where everybody but Uncle Joe looks good and merge them with that shot where Uncle Joe looks great but cousin Mary has her eyes closed. The possibilities!!

I can see lots of ideas for future tutorials here while I teach myself to use these powerful tools! If there’s something you want me to try, let me know and I’ll take it on.

*Note* The template used in this tutorial was created by ForeverJoy Designs http://www.foreverjoydesigns.com/2017/08/15-minute-memory-challenge-august.html

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Revisionist History

Do we have any family historians in the house? I’m pretty sure we do. And I bet you’ve scanned a ton of old photos, only to find the resulting images dust-specked, foxed (stained with brown ick), scratched, folded or otherwise flawed. Sometimes that’s a good thing, if you’re going for that vintage, grungy, tattered look. But if you’re not, you might want to clean them up a little. That was my thought when I saw this scan of my mom and her sister, taken in the spring of 1957. I love the subject (yes, my mom was in the air force and was home on leave), but I don’t love that it’s crooked, speckled, stained and scratched. And the exposure is pretty wonky. So I set out to make it better without changing it too much.

First order of business was to straighten my image. Initially, I didn’t plan to crop it, which would have solved my problem in one step. And I do have lots of photos that were scanned crooked (thanks, honey…) that I won’t be cropping so I’ll show you a quick trick to straighten a photo. I right-clicked on the image layer and selected Layer From Background. By doing this, I could then create a blank layer underneath the photo, then Image>Resize>Canvas (CTRL/CMD>ALT>C) let me make that blank canvas a bit bigger than the photo so I could tip the photo without it hanging over the edges.

When you straighten any object in PSE, there are a couple of tools you can use to ensure its actually straight when you’re done. You can eyeball it if you’re not overly perfectionistic, you can drop a grid over it by hitting View>Grid (CTRL/CMD>’) or you can pull a guideline out from either the top edge or the far left edge of your workspace. Then you’d use the bounding box to adjust your photo.

After all that, I decided to crop the photo, so I definitely was working hard, not smart! The crop shield is turnable so I could have saved myself a lot of time.

And then I deleted the totally unnecessary bottom layer!

Once I zoomed in on the image, I could see the scratches and dust motes better.

I started with the scratches. Using a small brush size and the Spot Healing tool set on Content Aware, I carefully clicked-and-dragged my cursor over the big scratch. I could have done it a bit faster with a bigger brush, but then it would have been really obvious.

Make sure you watch what’s happening with your image while you’re tidying it up. Zoom in and out often so you have a clear view of the whole image. This scan is really pixelated when I zoom in close, but that’s okay. It’s not going to be big enough on my layout to be a problem.

When using the Spot Healing tool, it sometimes picks up the wrong content so you could turn a white scratch to a dark blotch. So make the brush size as small as possible to address those areas.

A lot of the time, dust specks are easily seen and Healed just by putting the tool’s cursor over top of them and clicking once. They show up as fairly regularly-shaped bright white spots where the light from the scanner bed couldn’t penetrate. Foxing is the reverse, showing up as brown areas, and can be irregularly shaped because it’s usually caused by moisture. Having said that, when there’s areas of your photo where there are already high-contrast shapes like the grassy part of my photo, seeing the dust specks is a bit harder. So look for those EXTRA-bright white spots and blend them in.

You might not be able to see the flaw I’ve outlined below, but on my screen, it was very distracting – greenish and filled with odd little straight lines. And the area around it is highly textured. So that nice little Spot Healing tool isn’t going to give me the results I want. It would make it more noticeable by blurring the edges.

That’s where the Clone Stamp tool comes into play. Unlike the Spot Healing tool, which blends whatever it touches, the Clone Stamp actually duplicates its target area. Depending on the size of the sample, it could actually replicate entire objects. It’s really great for covering up things you want removed from your image (like the overly large woman in the black swimsuit that was growing out of my daughter’s underarm in one of her beach photos). For this image, I chose to use a soft square drop shadow brush from the default set PSE comes with. To choose the sample for covering up this weird area, I put the brush cursor on an area close to where I’d be stamping, then ALT>clicked. That cloned the small area inside the cursor; the duplicated area is visible inside the cursor and there’s a little crosshiar icon that shows what area of the image is being cloned. Then I just moved the cursor over to the weird spot and click-covered the whole area. You want to make sure your clone sample has the same tonal quality and the same light exposure to minimize the hey-look-at-me effect.

For this area that’s all I had to do… paying attention to the content inside the cursor and where the crosshairs were let me control what sections of the wall I was randomly cloning onto the weird spot.

I also used the Clone Stamp to overcome this blown-out area of the upper wall. When cloning along an edge like this, centering the cursor over a clear, clean spot when selecting the sample area will keep the line true.

The major positive of the Clone Stamp is also its major downfall. See how there’s a really obvious pattern inside the box in the image below? If you’re seeing that, you can go back over the area with the Spot Healing tool and randomly break up that pattern.

At super-zoom, it’s not perfect, but when I zoom back out, it looks pretty good. I randomly hit it a few more times with a small Spot Healing brush and blended it in a bit more.

Now you can see a little better how the image is improved by what’s already been done to it. A lot of photos only need a little tweaking.

But I wanted to adjust the contrast a bit and see if I could improve detail without sacrificing anything. So I selected Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Shadow/Highlights. Be aware that when you do this, PSE will automatically brighten the shadowed areas by 35%. If the shadows weren’t THAT heavy, you’ll have to scale that back.

These are the settings I ended up with.

But it still wasn’t making me happy, so I went back into Enhance>Adjust Lighting and chose Levels. (CTRL/CMD>L will get you there too.) I LOVE this adjustment mode! You can really adjust the light and dark areas infinitely with this tool.

You can see the changes on your original image as you move the sliders. I didn’t move them much, just a skoosh here and a titch there. The Input levels ended up around 12 at the left side and about 240 on the right. Output was maybe 8 and 242. That improved the contrast and tightened up the details a little. Nothing dramatic, but just right.

Thinking I was done, I zoomed back out to see how great it looked. And then I saw THIS!

So I played with it a little more.

I tried a High Pass filter to sharpen the details a little, but the image is too pixelated for that to look good. So I had to come up with an alternative. And Enhance>Unsharp Mask… was it.

With this tool you can watch what’s happening and fine-tune your results really nicely.

Here are the two images side by side. And I’m really pleased with how my edit looks.

These techniques can be used on colour photos too, in exactly the same way. I have a bunch of new scanned photos my cousin’s son sent me that I’ll need to clean up before I use them for layouts. How about you?

Tutorial Tuesday (Windows)

Mixing it UP!

This week’s tutorial is going to take a slightly different path than most of the others. Many of you may not know this about me but I’m NOT a kit-scrapper. I can do it if I must, but I like to pull goodies from several kits for most of my layouts. My credit lists are usually quite lengthy and the September Color Challenge layout I created as the basis for this tut is no exception. Colour challenges are actually the perfect vehicle for mixing up kits; this month’s was pretty straight-forward since it only required shades of blue. But what do you do when the designer has provided a swatch and you don’t have a kit with all the colours in it? You mix a bunch of kits together!

Caveat: This is my workflow and you might have a method that will work better for you.

I like to use templates, not gonna lie. They make scrapping so much easier. And I like to use folders. For me, they too make scrapping easier. For mixing kits, folders are a HUGE help. I have folders for each store I frequent, each of the kits I’ve added to my stash and I have folders for every layout I’ve created. It helps keep me organized. I’ve read posts from people who go through all of their kits and individually tag EVERYTHING. That’s a ton of work, and for the most part, it’s unnecessary. Designers usually label everything in a kit in some way, so why duplicate their efforts? Work Smart, Not Hard!

So let’s talk about folders. At the beginning of every month, I create a Challenges folder. And in this folder I add subfolders for all my favourite challenges. Into those folders, I copy my photo(s), template, papers and elements. After I’m happy with the layout, have ensured I have no bloopers and the layout is posted, I empty the folder of everything but the PSD of the layout and 2 JPEGs. That keeps the space taken up by the layout to a minimum but lets me find them later. The image below shows some of my folders in the list to the left. My first step is to select a template to use. In the tutorial on organizing your stash, I talked about labeling template previews in some fashion so it’s easier to find what you’re looking for later. My system, borrowed from someone else but modified to suit my workflow, is to label with whether the template is for a single or double spread, the number of photo spots and sometimes the shape/mask/blend the photo spots assume. The screenshot below shows a Windows File Explorer search for a single spread with 1 photo. (The icon for this utility is the file folder… super simple!) I had chosen a cute photo to build my layout around, so I opened my GingerScraps digikit folder then in the search box shown on the upper right, I typed in “single1“. After a few minutes, Windows had found all the template previews so labeled and showed them to me. (The actual search time will depend on the size of the folder you’re searching and the number of like objects to be found. It may only take seconds.) Now I could look at them and pick a template that would work for my layout.

Now, how did I find the actual template, you ask, since all that’s displayed are the preview thumbnails? I right-clicked on the preview and selected Open file location from the menu window. That takes me right to the folder that holds the template. Then I copied the template file into my challenge folder. For other searches this step won’t be necessary, because you can just copy the objects right from the search pane.

Next, I opened the template preview thumbnail in a photo viewer so I could see what supplies I needed to find next. I counted up the different papers the template employs and went on to my next search.

For this search, I put “paper blue” in the search box, as I’ve shown below. And Windows found all the papers labeled with those two words. Results will show both folders and individual images, which makes it easy to see just what you’re looking for.

I copied each of the blue papers I might want to use into my GingerScraps Challenges> September 2017>Colour SHADES OF BLUE folder so I could see them all in one place. That helped me determine if they’d work together or not. They look pretty good!

I worked my way through the different items used for the template one at a time to find things I wanted to include. There was a circular element I decided must be a flair, so I did a “flair” search.

Remembering that templates don’t necessarily have to be duplicated exactly, I chose to add some string to it. The search showed me a blue string right near the top that would work beautifully!

Once I had chosen all the things I thought I might use (substituting flowers for the stars) I could see everything in one place and knew they’d all work well together. I had pieces from FOURTEEN kits!

Once I was ready to build my layout, I opened Photoshop Elements and went to the Colour SHADES OF BLUE folder and opened all the items onto my workspace. From there it was zip, zip, zip!

And this is where I ended up. (Once I post my challenge layout, I add a hyphen to the beginning of the folder name so I know it’s done.)

Another way this method is useful is for speed scraps. You can have Windows searching for things while you work on the previous steps. That’s sort of where I came up with my system. I used to partake of monthly speed scraps at another site that is no longer around and I wanted to be sure I was finished my layout with time to spare in order to win the prize.

This screenshot shows how CathyK has labelled the items in her kit Aviator. This is for GingerScrapper Karen who had some questions about metadata.

 

Please feel free to adapt this however it will work for you!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Abstract Meets Graphic Art

On August 30, 2016 I posted my very first PSE tutorial here on the GingerScraps Blog. It’s hard to believe it has been a year already! Inspiration for many of my posts have come from you, the GingerScrappers who read my posts and for that I thank you. Today I want to give you something really cool to try that once again builds on some of the other things we’ve looked at over the last year. We’ll be creating something really individual and artistic from a photo. If you really can’t wait, go ahead and scroll down to see the final image…

To begin, you’ll need a great photo with a relatively plain background, because the image will be extracted. This photo of a skateboarder from Pixabay was a great choice for my example since my inspiration for the tutorial came from an image of a skateboarder. I dropped it on a white paper for the initial steps to make extraction easier.

I used the Magic Wand tool to extract my image. This tutorial will provide a refresher for you if you’re still getting the hang of extracting images. You can duplicate your photo now, or wait until you’ve got your extraction complete or the line of marching ants in place. But you will need to duplicate your photo. Make your duplicate layer invisible.

Working on the extracted photo, I clicked on the Filter menu, selected Stylize and Find Edges as shown. Remember when I showed you how to do this?

Once the image has been filtered, some of the colour from the image is still visible. Right now, I don’t want that. It looks a bit odd.

So to remove that hint of colour, I chose Enhance>Adjust Color>Hue/Saturation (CTRL/CMD>U) and pulled the Saturation slider all the way to the left. That leaves only the sketch.

We didn’t do this in the Sketchy tutorial, but for this one it’s a vital step. Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Levels will take you to the menu shown. What this step does is dramatically darken the lines in the sketched image.

The histogram shown below is part of the adjustment menu. You can adjust both sections simply by pulling the sliders. Make sure you can see your image so you know when you’ve gone far enough. If you need to move the dialog box, click and hold the gray bar at the top of the box then drag it up, down or to one side so you can see what’s underneath it. I wanted my background area to stay bright white and my sketch to be darker and more detailed. The changes I made are shown in the dialog box.

Now I have what looks like a charcoal drawing of the skateboarder. I want to have some of the colour from the original image in there, so I selected the topmost layer and added an adjustment layer mask by ALT>clicking on the Layer Mask icon (the divided circle icon above the Layers panel). The image disappeared but was really still there. I just had to reveal it.

I used a medium-sized soft round brush from the default brushes PSE comes with to paint back the colour, working on the Layer Mask. By using a low opacity (20%) I was able to build up colour where it naturally would appear darker and keep other areas much lighter. When you hold down your mouse button as you paint, you can overlap your brush strokes and have no visible overlap. Once you release the mouse button, the tool resets and areas of overlap will be darker. You want to brush over the whole area in one step to avoid those overlap spots. Keep that in mind as you go so you don’t end up with streaks.

Once I had the colour the way I wanted it, I Simplified the layer. (Right-click on the layer in the Layers panel and select Simplify Layer.) That step merges the mask with the image and prevents me from messing it up.

Now for the really fun stuff! I added a new blank layer underneath the sketch layer then used a watercolour brush at 100% Opacity from my collection of free brushes. I had an idea what colours I wanted to use so I just played around with both colour and brush selection until I liked what it looked like. By putting each brush on its own layer I can resize it, reposition it, decrease the opacity of it, increase the opacity by duplicating the layer, position it above or below my sketch and photo layers and whatever whim enters my head.

I experimented with lots of different watercolour and grunge brushes, deleting the layers that just didn’t work.

If you look closely you’ll see I’ve made a lot of changes by adding and subtracting, shifting and overlaying layers. You might also notice that the original photo colours are darker in this image. I duplicated the topmost simplified colour layer from the Layer Mask step then adjusted the opacity of that duplicate layer until I liked it.

To add a little more grunge and graphic feel I chose a gray colour and used a free graph paper brush that I duplicated and rotated. One layer is above the sketch and one is below it.

For the finishing touch I added some tiny gray splatters on top of all the layers and some below.  The process is one of playing with your stash and experimenting with things you never thought you could do.

I saved the finished image as a .png file for even more versatility. This is what it looks like with no paper behind it.

I can’t WAIT to see how you use this technique!!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

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

I had a mini-crisis on Friday when the screen on my laptop started to fail. Geek Squad guy I’m married to tried to fix it but was unable to so out he went to find me a new one. I spent the weekend transferring files and installing software so I apologize for all the redirects you’re going to find in this tutorial. I try to show every step and explain it all in detail as I go along, but I ran out of time… And I seem to have lost the font I was using to label my screenshots, so I’ve switched to Lumberjack. At any rate, this tutorial builds on skills I’ve already shared with you in past tutorials, so I’m going to link you up where necessary.

I spent some time recently checking out the forum at another shop that had a big event happening. One of the event-related threads asked members to show a layout with a technique the member really wanted to learn. Guess what I’m teaching you today? You guessed it! We’re going to take this:

to THIS!

I used a stock photo I found on Pixabay, along with a mask created by PHOTOCowgirl (former GingerScraps designer), a paper from Just So Scrappy‘s Chasing Rainbows kit (the bundle is on sale right now for the incredible price of $5!) and a frame from the GingerBread Ladies‘ MEGA collab True Friend. If you don’t have a mask that will work with your photo, you can make your own using brushes, varying the opacity from 100% at the center to about 30% at the edges.

I laid down my mask then dropped my photo on top of it. I made a copy (CTRL/CMD>J) of the photo so I could extract the bee and part of the cone on the focal flower.

I clipped the photo to the mask temporarily while I decided where to put the frame. Looking at it now, I might want to move it up a smidge so the cone on the flower just behind the focal point is inside the frame… or I could extract it too. Let me think about that…

Zoom in (CTRL/CMD>+ to enlarge, CTRL/CMD>- to shrink) and out while you’re working so you can see what you’ve done.

I turned off the visibility of the photo to be clipped to the mask and the frame, using the Rectangular Marquee tool (CTRL/CMD>M) to cut away the areas in the background that I don’t want to show against the frame. Then I added a Layer Mask to my cut-down photo.

Working on the Layer Mask I carefully erased the remainder of the background. The basics of this technique can be found in this tutorial. Later I went to the frame layer and masked off the area where the petals extend over the frame.

You can resize and move the mask, clipped photo, frame and extracted bit of photo to suit yourself by selecting all the layers using the click-shift-click method.

Now I wanted to have the cone and bee cast a shadow on the frame and the photo to add some dimension. CTRL/CMD>click on the sheet of paper at the top of the Layers panel to create a new layer underneath your extraction. Or just click on the icon then move the layer down. In case you need some reminders on how to create shadows on their own layer, you can review this tutorial. Make sure your shadow layer doesn’t shadow the photo underneath the frame where the sharp edge is, along the bottom of your extraction.

One step that isn’t always needed is to remove areas of that shadow layer that wouldn’t be there if the image was a real thing. You can just erase those areas.

For the petals’ shadow I used a drop shadow brush that is one of the prepackaged brushes Elements comes with. This too went on its own layer so I could adjust it as much as I needed to.

Shadow the frame and it’s good to go!

Next week’s tutorial is going to blow your socks off, so get ready!!!!

Tutorial Tuesday (A Little Departure)

The EYEs Have It

This week, I’m going to go a little off-script, but in the end I think you’ll agree it’ll make for better layouts. So let’s talk about taking better photos. There are some really simple tips coming up that will make your photos so much more interesting and by default, your layouts will benefit too. I’m not going to baffle you with a lot of technical jargon, just some hints on things like composition, vision and mindfulness. The main component of great photos is light. If you train your eye to look at light as an extension of the image you’re planning to capture, you’ll be halfway there!

Oh, and taming that photo-destroying camera shake is an absolute must! If you’re going to be moving around and don’t want the encumbrance of a tripod to keep that camera stock still, you’ll need to brace your arms to minimize movement. If you WANT blurry, out-of-focus photos, hold your camera at arms’-length and snap away. If you don’t, hold your camera in both hands, tuck your elbows in against your trunk, take a deep breath, let it out slowly while you compose your shot and hit the shutter button as you get to the end of your exhale. This stays the same whether you’re shooting with a wildly expensive DSLR with a 300mm lens on it (although if you’re doing that, I’m going to bet there’s a tripod in there too) or if you’re snapping away with a cell phone camera.

This past weekend I went to a local festival I try to attend every year. Photo ops are everywhere at events like this, as long as you can be patient. If you can wait even a couple of minutes until the people clear out, you’ll get better shots. I have an abundance of patience and if I’m by myself, I take all the time I need to get what I want; I left the menfolk at home this year! So anyway, this festival is a classic-cars-and-classic-rock event that actually runs over 4 days. The weather is usually stellar for the Saturday show-and-shine and this year was no exception. Taking photos of cars in bright sunshine presents some particular difficulties and you’ll see how I addressed them when I show you my examples. All the photos I’m going to show you are SOOC… straight out of the camera and shot using the same lens. I haven’t made any adjustments.

Let’s start with exposure. Using the light that’s available to your advantage is going to make your photos look a lot better. In this first photo I was shooting toward the light, so the fender and door area are a lot darker than I’d like. There’s also a LOT of glare from the windshield. Sure, I could fix it with PSE, but why not try to minimize how much tweakage will be needed right from the start? (A little WSNH tip. 😉 )

By going around the car and shooting from the other side, the exposure is much more even and the glare is gone.

Think about what’s actually in your viewfinder – or on your LCD screen – and try not to have objects growing out of people’s heads or otherwise messing up your shot. Pay attention to what’s in the background. If you have to move a little, it’s not a bad idea. In this first image, that snow fence is just NASTY! I could crop it out, but…

by just moving a couple of feet and changing the angle of approach, I caught a couple of sweet little sunflares and the hood ornament’s details are much more visible. At this angle the chrome reflects less of the paint colour and the crowds are still reflected but undefined.

Another example of how simply changing your point of view improves your shot… if I wait a minute the guy will move. But the lawn chair and the sun canopy? Doubtful.

So I moved. Lawn chair? Gone. Sun canopy? Gone! Dude in the rust coloured shirt? Also gone!

Reflections and shadows can make or break a photo. I often think details are more interesting than whole objects so I wanted to get a shot of the tail end of this Hudson. Oh dear… who is that old woman reflected in the paint? Oh yeah. Me.

I took a step to my left, reframed and took this one. Much better!

I think this photo can be redeemed a little (dodging and burning perhaps); I do like the way the woman’s face is framed by the parrot’s beak and breast, but the shadows are so overwhelming. Some judicious editing – and cropping – in PSE might make it useable.

Fortunately, I was able to move a couple of steps to my left and got this one! Get a load of that depth of field. What a handsome bird. Fancy name too… hyacinthine macaw.

Another example of both attending to reflections and cropping in the viewfinder follows. The hood ornament is the subject here, but it’s a bit distracted from by the car behind it.

A slightly different angle and moving a bit closer captures nice reflections in the chrome, and plays up the detail a bit.

I’ve seen a lot of photos of ridiculously cute kids and pets that could be made really special just by getting down to their level. See the difference between these two photos? I think we’ll all agree that the second one is the more interesting one… even with the people in the background.

This shot is also taken from a crouch.

The next two examples show how the point of view makes or breaks your shot. This Caddy has been part of the show-and-shine for as long as I can remember. It’s one of my favourite cutesy touches so I usually take at least one snap of it. This is the first one I took. Kinda ho-hum. The exposure isn’t particularly great – the tray is underexposed and the Root Bear is overexposed. If I was telling a story with this photo, it would have put people to sleep in a heartbeat.

So I moved around, Now the Bear is the story. I could have done a better crop in my viewfinder, but that’s a really easy fix.

When I’m shooting points of interest like this view of one of our parks, I try and get the most effective shot I can. Sometimes that means ditching the good old landscape orientation.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and to my eyes, this portrait-oriented shot is better.

Before I forget… when you’re shooting photos of water – rivers, lakes, oceans – remember that water will ALWAYS be level! There are few things more visually jarring than a tilted horizon with water in it, unless there’s something or someone in the foreground that provides the subject and the angle of the horizon is an artistic statement.

I think this pair of photos brings everything I’ve just suggested together in one. Cropping in the viewfinder, shooting up rather than down, taking advantage of the light and paying attention to the background are all aspects of the better shot. And I can’t wait to play with it!

Ooh, I caught a little bit of bokeh in these. Sweet!!

I hope you’ve found something useful in there and that I haven’t come across as bossy. I wanted to keep it simple and achievable for everybody. Let me know what you think!