Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Stuffing a Vellum Envelope

PDF Version : https://bit.ly/3QR1LQl

Once again, Karen Hampton has brought me a great idea for a tutorial. She saw this layout by LidiaG in a Gallery and was charmed by the vellum look of the envelope. I was too! So today I’m going to show you how easy it is to stuff a vellum envelope. But first, let’s talk about vellum for a minute. As a paper crafter, I used to HATE vellum because sticking it to anything invisibly was nigh-on impossible. Because it’s semi-transparent, adhesive always shows through. But what, exactly, IS vellum? When I tell you about its origins, you’ll be glad you’re living now, and not a millenium ago… Vellum is an early form of paper, similar to parchment, but of higher quality. Originally it was made from very thinly tanned calfskin by a long a tedious process of scraping, wetting, drying and starting at the beginning again. The highest-quality, most desirable vellum was made from the skins of stillborn calves. <insert puke emoji here…> Its best quality is its translucence. It’s still desired for use in the creation of government documents, religious documents (the Torah being one) and certificates. Its archival qualities and stability are still highly prized. Fast forward to modern day and vellum is now made from plasticized cotton rag, much like ordinary papers, but maintaining the translucent look for which it was so highly prized. It’s perfect for the creation of blueprints, and so is in demand by architects and draftsmen.

So let’s look at LidiaG‘s layout. Take note of the way the items inside the envelope are visible through it. To duplicate this effect, you’ll need a plain paper envelope with an intact flap. For my example, I’m using one from Aimee Harrison’s Sweet Talk  minikit. All the rest of the ephemera I’m using – except for the postcard, it’s a scan of an actual family document – is from Cindy Ritter’s Seafoam.

Let’s get started, shall we?

I’m going to remove all of the envelope but the front panel for the vellum step, but will need to keep the flap too. So I Duplicated the envelope. The two most common methods are as shown on the screenshot. Right-click on the layer then choose Duplicate Layer. OR click CTRL/CMD>J.

If you use the keyboard shortcut, the Copy Layer will be plopped right on top of the original – where we want it. If you chose the first method, you’ll need to tell Elements where you want it. In this case, just click OK and you’ll have the two envelopes stacked in the Layers Panel.

Now let’s Cut off the flap from the top envelope layer. First, turn visibility off for the original layer by “closing the eye” on it. Then, with the Rectangle Marquee Tool, drag out a big rectangle of marching ants over the flap area of the top layer. My envelope is a little off square so the rectangle with either cover too much, or not enough. But that’s fixable.

Some time back I showed you a Quick Trick for Transforming Selections. Let’s review. You’re not stuck with the first version of your rectangle! Right-click inside the marching-ants bounding box and this menu opens. Almost all the way down the list, choose Transform Selection.

Down in the lower left corner of the Tool Options, there are several options: Rotate, Scale and Skew, moving the anchor point, resizing and an angle meter. I just needed to make my rectangle a little bigger then Rotate it a tiny bit to the left so the lower edge of the rectangle sits on the fold of the envelope and still includes the point of the flap.

Next, click Edit>Cut. OR CTRL/CMD>X and the flap with disappear.

It’s hard to see on this screenshot (unless you’re working from the magical PDF!) but I’m using the Eraser Tool to remove that middle part of the envelope too. To start, I set the Eraser Tool to Brush, Size 45 pixels, 100% Opacity. Then I clicked my cursor just past the left top edge of the flapless envelope, held down the SHIFT key, clicked in the first corner, clicked in the second corner then clicked just past the right top edge of the flapless envelope. Only then did I let the SHIFT key back up. That gave me nice, straight lines with the Eraser. Then I could make the Size a lot bigger and dispatch the rest of the envelope that I don’t need to keep.

Nice and tidy!

Next, I want to move the two envelope layers onto my layout. In this situation, the keyboard shortcut won’t do what I need it to do, so I’ll use the first method I showed you above: activate both layers, then right-click and choose Duplicate Layers.

But instead of just clicking OK – which would put the Copy Layers on top of the existing layers – I want to tell Elements to put the two envelope layers on the paper I’ve got open in the Photo Bin. See all the options the drop down menu offers? The paper is right at the top of the list. I clicked on that then OK.

There they are! I turned visibility off for the top envelope layer while I stuffed it with my ephemera. It’s important to ensure that everything you’ve put in there stays inside the edges. I’ve layered a few paper items in there, resizing and repositioning until I’m happy with how it looks.

So, here’s my stuffed envelope before I perform my magic on it. I really want to be able to read the message on the postcard, which is very old.

To get the vellum effect, all I did was decrease the Opacity of the envelope’s top layer until I was happy. Here it’s 47%. I may still tweak that a bit, but for now, that’s where I stopped.

The realism comes from the shadows! I used a set of shadow Styles, but feel free to do what you usually do. Shadow everything inside the envelope. Then use the recipe below for the top layer of the envelope: Size 29 pixels, Distance 0 pixels and Opacity 15%. It preserves the translucency but adds shadows to the edges.

I’m hoping to get the rest of the layout done later today. I had a COVID booster yesterday and feel pretty flu-y today so we’ll see how it goes. Past experience says I’ll be absolutely fine again tomorrow. See you all next week!




  1. thanks for reminding me about vellum. i used to use it quite a bit in my layouts but stopped doing it. i particularly love the vellum envelope and yes, the shadows for vellum (or transparent washi) are a bit tricky to get right. will have to start using it again. thank you so much!

  2. Karen Hampton says

    Thank you as usual you did an outstanding tutorial. I love it.

  3. thank you so much for the PDF!! i’d been waiting for it. i really like vellum and used to use it quite a bit. this will get me back to using it again!

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