Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements 2019)

Watercolor Effects – SO Beautiful!

Where did the week go? It’s Tuesday again and as promised, I have another glimpse into the new tools to be found in Elements 2019. There are some new Guided Edits, and we’re going to play with one today. It’s called Watercolor Effect, and you’ll see where to find it in just a minute. I chose this photo that I found at Pixabay (dragonflies are my spirit animal) and it looks amazing in each of the ways I’ve altered it. Wait until you see!

Click on Guided>Special Edits then scroll a little so you can see the Watercolor Effect down there in the lower left. You might notice that there are two new Edits within this menu, but otherwise the interface looks just like it did in previous versions. We’ll look at the other new one in a later tutorial. Promise.

The Control Panel here makes it easy to follow the process. The hard part is making choices! So I’ll be frank, I tried THEM ALL. But for the sake of keeping it all straight in my head – since I made all the screenshots last night – I’m going to go in order here. First up is Effect 1. [Remember that if you hit Cancel when you want to Undo something, you’re going to end up kicked out of the Edit. If you just want to go back a step or two use CTRL/CMD>Z. You’ll thank me!)

I just clicked on that Effect 1 icon. There isn’t a dramatic change, but the image, especially the background, looks a lot softer.

The next step is to choose a Watercolor Paper. It’s purely a matter of taste. Real watercolor paper is thick, heavy and has a very distinct texture to it. Elements 2019 is going to emulate that look. I tried all of the choices with my image and settled on the one with the blue outline.

And then I clicked on the first Canvas Texture button. You can instantly see the difference.

If you love what you’re seeing, you can stop here and move on to the Expert editor to play with it in other ways. But you know me, I’m never going to stop in the middle, because how will you see what you can do with this amazing software unless I keep going? Onward rode the 600! Time to use the Refine Effect Brush.

The Subtract tool does exactly that, it reduces the watercolor effect on the area you run the brush over. That means both colour and sharpness will be present again.

Elements 2019 has thought of everything. If I was going to use my finished watercolor for a greeting card, for example (which would be a perfect way to make use of this Edit!), I might want to put a sentiment of some sort on it. So they’ve included a Type Tool. One thing I discovered when I installed Elements 2019, which hadn’t happened with previous upgrades, is that it automatically transferred my entire font library for me. Dragonflies are ethereal creatures, so I looked for a script font that wasn’t TOO swirly. Indulge Script Regular was what I decided to use.

Until you Commit Current Operation, you can change your text as much as you want. You can select your text with the Type Tool and scroll through your library, looking at each font until you find the one that lights up your work. And you can adjust the size too.

The last optional tool is the Text Style tool. The first one in the group is a basic font style to which I added a slight Bevel.

This option actually decreased the Opacity of the text to let the background colour show through!

Okay… on to Effect 2! Wow… not what I was expecting at all!

A simple Watercolor Paper choice – a single click – did THIS!

In keeping with what I said I was going to do, I chose the second Canvas Texture so you can see how each changes the image. The Intensity of this effect can be adjusted up or down, as is your choice. The change to the wings is a simple pixelation, but it’s really pretty.

On to the Refine Effect Brush. I went over the wings in the Add mode. Next, I want to pull some of the green back in.

I went back over the head and body with the Add mode and a smaller brush to restore the watercolor effect to them.

Same font… gets lost a little though.

The second Text Style button brought it forward a bit by adding a Drop Shadow and a Bevel.

And now let’s see what Effect 3 does. This background color change appeared with a single click on its button.

I tried ALL the papers more than once until I landed on just adding a bit of colour to opposite corners.

It’s hard to see the texture of #3, but it’s there.

I Subtracted over the background and brought back some green. See how the wings look more iridescent than they did?

I really wanted to make that iridescence more obvious, so I went over the wings with a slightly bigger brush at a very slightly decreased Opacity.

Same font, but such a different look!

That third Text Style went big, adding a Drop Shadow, a Bevel AND a Stroke! I made the stroke a lot narrower so it’s just a hint of an outline, and decreased the Opacity of the Drop Shadow a bit and got a pretty nice-looking label on my image. If I was ready to do something creative with this right now – or to save my work for later –¬† I’d go down to the lower right corner of the workspace, click Next then select either Save As or Expert and carry on in the usual way.

Now that I’ve seen this Edit in action, I know I’m going to use it. A lot! Greeting cards for sure, but imagine what one of these examples would look like clipped to a Layer Mask for an Art Journal layout. I’m sure I’ll come up with many more ways I can use this if I give it some thought. What might YOU do with it?

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements 2019)

FINALLY! Kerning is here!

Yes, I upgraded. I mentioned it last week, and that I’d only given it a cursory look-see. I accidentally created a layout using 2019, even though I’d intended to stick with the familiar for a while longer. There was one thing that caught my eye that I wanted to explore further, and this is the outcome.

One flaw I’ve always lamented (and did so in a couple of previous text-related tuts) is that Elements doesn’t allow kerning. What’s kerning? (I can see your quizzical looks!) Kerning is a printer’s term meaning the setting of two letters closer together than usual by decreasing the space between them. And with some fancy script fonts, kerning would be a really handy tool. Like Ballerina Script Regular… as I’m showing in my screenshot below. Those gaps!! Having to put each character on its own layer then nudging them together one at a time is such a time suck.

When I was journaling on the layout I accidentally used 2019 for, I noticed the addition of a new tool option in the Text tool called Tracking, and I suspected it had something to do with letter spacing. I was right!

With my text selected (and that’s really important for WSNH), I clicked on 25, as shown, and the tool shifted all the letters farther apart.

Obviously, to bring the letters closer together the negative numbers are the ones to use. Just a single click on -25 and it’s almost where I want it!

In an effort to make that “s” look better, I clicked on -50, but as you can see, the shift has now overshot and the “x” isn’t connected properly anymore. I know that other tools allow me to type in my desired number, so I tried that next.

I tried -35. SO close!

I changed it to -36 and decided I could live with it. What I DIDN’T think about was whether I could select just the “s” and move it by itself. That’s something I’ll try and I’ll let you know how it works out.

Here’s another script font that leaves huge gaps between letters. It’s called Peyton Script Regular. This might not be as quick to adjust.

First I wanted to see what spreading it out more would look like. Because sometimes that might look okay.

Then I went to the -25 setting and could see some improvement.

I figured it might be best to just jump right to -100. And it was better.

I only went up by 1 increment and ended up with sorta better. This is where isolating the “s” and adjusting only it might have been the answer. This font is fairly condensed to start with so I ended up with the crossbars on those two “t“s overlapping and looking wrong.

By adding a space with the spacebar between the words I was able to uncross the T bars, but was left with the “s“.

So now was the time to test my theory about isolating one or two characters only. Would it work?

I started with this “t“, which looked a bit funny, the way the stroke overlapped the “e“. I ended up at -15.

Then on to the “es“. It’s not perfect but it’s a lot better!

While I was at it, I decided I’d try to get rid of this little tail. Going to +25 was about the best I could do.

Then I Simplified the text and did some VERY minimal erasing. Looks pretty darned good now!

For me, this new tool option is a real game-changer. No longer do I have to choose between a font I love and the time it would take to make it look perfect. WINNER!!

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

Summertime Funtime Fonts

So… I finally got around to updating the master link list for all the Tutorial Tuesday posts yesterday. This is TT post #139!! Amazing… that I’ve found that much to yammer on about! While I was going over the list, I realized that I haven’t done a post with summertime fonts and such. Here in the northern hemisphere, we’ve just past the summer solstice and welcomed the formal season. We’re under a huge bank of rain clouds and parts of Alberta and BC got snow on the 21st, so we’re not feeling summer love right now, but I’ve got a baker’s dozen today, a mixture of fonts and ding bats, all found free at dafont.com.

First up is this font, ironically named Summertime. It’s pretty and would be an amazing title font for garden photos, weddings and other celebrations.

Next up is a fun font with some alternate characters from some of the letters, like that cure sun for the “O”.

If you live in the parts of the world where temperatures soar in the summer, (or you have annual forest fires ūüôĀ )this font might catch your eye.

This one made me almost spew my coffee. It looks just like I did at work last Tuesday! But I think it could be super for titles.

Think about doing this one in a dark red, and you’ve got a great picnic layout title. Or a cookout, if you go for gingham tablecloths.

This one I threw in because two big celebrations are coming up fast. Canada Day and Independence Day. So fireworks are a natural.

This one and the next are different takes on a similar theme. I can’t decide which one I like better.

Can you?

Now for some ding bats. Ding bats are little mini line drawings that can be used in the same way as a font, but with very interesting and fun results.

These are all very summery and could be used in so many ways.

This set could be used for more adult layouts. They’re solid, but by duplicating the layers, it would be easy to change colours and add glitter.

Same for these ones. I’m an avid gardener and have scads of garden photos. I’ll have to think about how I can use these.

This set has a mixture of images. The cactus could be incorporated into a desert layout title with that Summer Fire font. Amiright?

This set looks like so much fun! A day at the beach…

I have one last piece of news to add to this week’s post. Tomorrow is my last day of work in my real job. After 24 years of pediatric critical care nursing, I’m retiring. So I’ll have more time for hobbies… <does the happy dance> which is great timing, because I jumped on the Adobe sale for Elements 2019. Time to learn a few new tricks! (More to come on my retirement plans when I have them firmed up.) Have a great week, see you right here again next Tuesday!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Complex Shadows – Jan’s Method

Shadows are what turns a 2-dimensional image into what looks 3-dimensional. They definitely make or break a layout. If you’ve played around with the recap tutorial from a couple of weeks ago, you’re probably ready to spread your wings and get into complex shadows. I’m not going to get into the actual 5 step-process, since that’s already been covered. Here I’ll show you how to use that Smudge tool to make your shadows even more realistic where your elements are sitting on top of other elements. For my layout, I used some of the template’s drop shadows, as you can see below. But for most of the layout I’ve customized my own shadows, starting with the ivy leaves shown here.

The trick to using the Smudge tool effectively without messing up (much) is to make use of the [ (smaller) and ] (larger) keys to grow or shrink your cursor, and to use the crosshairs inside the cursor as your reference point. Where you only want to move a very small area of your shadow, make your cursor small then position the crosshairs at the edge of the area you want to move. Using very slight movements, push or pull, depending on where you want to move the shadow – push close, pull away. Then when you’ve got what looks right to your eye, add your Gaussian Blur filter.

If you choose to change the Blend Mode to Linear Burn (or Multiply, Color Burn or whatever), make sure you do that before you decrease your Opacity. If you do it in reverse, next time you go to nudge an element with the Arrow keys, all that will happen is the software will scroll through the Blend Modes, not move your object!! (How do I know?? Lots of practice at CTRL/CMD>Z!!)

Let’s see what happens to this burlap flower. It’s overlapping the flair, some paper and a leaf.

I decided the burlap was quite stiff, so there wouldn’t be a lot of lift at the ends of the petals. It’s literally laying on top of the edge of the flair, so there isn’t much shadow cast there. But where it overlaps the leaf, I gave the petals just a hint of a curve.

The final shadow isn’t too obvious. I always look at the entire element when I’m adjusting the Opacity so I don’t lose it, but also to ensure it looks natural.

This little flower adds some new opportunities. The shadow should run under the gold flower, which is above it in the stack.

But the shadow should also be a bit closer to the petal itself where it overlays the bigger flower beneath it. Where the petals could be curved away from the paper, the shadow can be farther away.

Did you know that Elements will remember the settings you used for your Gaussian Blur filter? It’s a great step-saver when you’re shadowing a lot of similar things, like flowers and leaves, to use the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD>F – automatically blurring your shadow to the same amount as the previous one.

This is a tricky one. I put two flowers one on top of the other and rotated the top one to make the flower fuller. So there will also be two shadow layers. The shadow on the upper layer will be more visible, and will need a bit more pushing and pulling that the ones we’ve already looked at.

The white arrows show where I’ve used the Smudge tool to PUSH the shadow away from the centre while the red arrows show where I’ve PULLED the shadow toward the centre.

In this screenshot you can see the end result of the blur-blend-fade process for the topmost flower. And the shadow layer for the bottom is there too.

The burlap underneath could make demands, but nothing we can’t handle!

Done!

Again, the shadowing is subtle but effective.

Now for the burlap rosette. It’s a softer-looking element than the multi-petaled burlap flower. See if you can figure out what I’m going to do to customize this one.

Did you figure it out? Are you starting to see how different objects will cast a different shadow?

There will be more depth to the shadow at the lower edge where there’s a gap created by the little aqua flower.

On to the gold flower. It’s overlaying several other objects.

Take a close look at where the shadow touches the leaf on the far left. See how I’ve brought the shadow in really close where it’s touching the leaf, but let it stay farther away where there’s a gap between the flower and the paper underneath?

Ta-da!

This one was an easy one. I pushed in close to the centre of the word strip to make it look glued down there but loose at the ends. Be sure to change the size of your Smudger to BIG when you’re curving paper like this so you get a smooth arc. I created a little mock-up of what the Smudge tool‘s cursor looks like. (Of course, it won’t be red when you’re working, it’ll be black.) Remember, the [ key makes your tool smaller, the ] makes it bigger. That crosshair is SO useful!

Blurred, blended and faded. Take note, the blur isn’t quite as soft here as it is with the flowers because the edges are sharper, so the shadow should be sharper. This one is 2.5 pixels.

Ah yes, stickers! The shadow will be very tight, but there’s still room for some tweaking.

I pushed it a little closer where it’s crossing the edge of the thicker paper.

Now there’s a hint of distance where the sticker comes off the thicker paper. Subtle… When you see my finished layout in the Gallery¬†you’ll see that I’ve also used the Burn tool to give the illusion of the edge of the thicker paper showing through onto the sticker itself.

This one is a single layer of the aqua daisy. It’s got some challenges!

The white arrows show where I’ve PUSHED the shadow away from the centre, the red arrows where I’ve PULLED it toward the centre.

But wait! Where the ripples in the bottlecap touch the petal, the shadow has to be thinner. I [[[[ my cursor down to tiny to make this look more natural. Look too at the leaf.

Blur, blend, fade.

This is another challenge where the burlap petals touch the twine.

Again, I think the burlap has been stiffened a bit, so not a lot of curving petals.

I hope these examples are giving you some insight into how shadows are cast.

Did you think I’d leave out the bottlecap? Heck no!!

Where the crimps touch the object below, the shadow is thin, where the crimps curve away from the object below, the shadow bellies out a bit.

I love how this looks!

Last but not least, this knot needs attention. It’s a heavyweight, so the shadow won’t be too far away in most places, depending on what it’s touching.

White arrows – PUSHED away, red arrows – PULLED in.

And there you have it!

Do you think you’ll be ready to start creating your own custom shadows now? I hope so!!

(Credits are in the Gallery… too many different kits to list them all here!)

Tutorial Tuesday… postponed

Hi ladies! I’m so sorry to tell you there isn’t a Tutorial Tuesday post for this week. My real job intruded and left me with no free time and totally exhausted. But there will be a new Tutorial next week, with some tips on shadowing stacked elements. So stay tuned!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Deconstructing the Custom Shadow

I think we all agree that shadows are an essential and integral part of a great digital layout. There are lots of ways to add shadows in Photoshop Elements, and some of them are easier than others. But to create a true, realistic-looking shadow, there are a few things to keep in mind. Drop shadow styles are included with the software and can be useful; a number of digital designers have also created a set of drop shadow styles that make the task simple. However, to have the most realistic shadows, it’s not enough to “drop” them onto your layout. That’s because objects don’t have even lighting and they don’t have uniform and even shadows either. Objects CAST a shadow. So let’s deconstruct this concept a little.

Here are three identical flowers. I’m going to show you the default drop shadow style, a commercial drop shadow style and how I shadow a flower like this. See if you can pick out the differences.

First let’s look at the PSE default Drop Shadow set, found in the Styles menu. It’ll add a drop shadow to the object with one click. Because I’m shadowing a flower, I selected the Soft Edge version. Don’t know which is which? Hover your cursor over the thumbnail and it’ll tell you. These Styles are adjustable; by double-clicking on the fx icon on the layer’s thumbnail in the Layers panel you open up the adjustment menu. Move the sliders for Size (this determines how sharp the edges of your shadow will be – the bigger the size, the softer), Distance¬†(this isn’t accurate, because it adjusts the size of the shadow) and Opacity (darkness) until you like the look.

There’s the default shadow on the far left, unadjusted. For the flower in the middle I’m going to use a commercial drop shadow styles set from Tracie Stroud. (Tracie has retired from designing, so her products are no longer available. Mommyish and Sahin Designs currently have drop shadow style sets in their stores.) This set is the 120¬į lighting angle set and I hovered until I found one called Flower. Click!

Hmm. Do you see much of a difference between the first one and the middle one? The one on the right side is the one I created a custom shadow for. This method seems to be really hard, with a lot of steps, but with practice it’s become almost automatic for me now and takes about the same amount of time as using a style does. I think you can see the difference here.

Here are the steps. The real thinking-about-it comes later with the adjustments. Start off by creating a NEW LAYER underneath your object. To do this hold down the SHIFT key and click on that little icon that looks like a piece of paper with the corner turned up at the left-top of the Layers panel.

This is what you’ll see in the Layers panel. If you forgot to hold down the SHIFT key, you can move the new layer down using the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD>[.

Next, click on the object’s thumbnail in the Layers panel. The thumbnail is the little picture.

Now the outside edges of the object have been Selected and have a line of marching ants around it.

Before you go on, make sure the BLANK LAYER is the active one. Otherwise you’ll be undoing. Then choose the Paint Bucket tool (K), set your foreground colour to whatever your desired shadow colour will be (I just used black, 000000 but some people like to use a slightly browner colour like 2C1902) then click on your workspace. Elements will fill the selection with the foreground colour.

And there it is!

To Deselect the object’s outline you can go Select>Deselect, or just CTRL/CMD>D.

Next, decide where your light source is. Looking at the object can help with that, because there will be subtle highlights and shadows there already. For this flower, the light is clearly coming from the upper left. Now you need to activate the Move tool. I usually just go V. Then move the dark outline in a direction AWAY from your light source. Use the arrow keys to nudge it, if you like.

This is the interesting, fun part! Think about what parts of your object would actually touch whatever it’s resting on. The centre of this flower will be resting right on the paper, so the shadows around that part will be less noticeable – light can’t get underneath whatever is touching the surface, so no shadow can be cast. Use the Smudge tool (R) to push and pull the edges of the shadow into place.

Can you see how I’ve adjusted this shadow? I pushed the shadow toward the centre between the petals. I pulled the shadow sideways and away from some of the petals and imagined the petal at the very bottom is twisted a bit so the left edge is touching the paper.

When you feel like you’ve got the shadow looking natural and real, it’s time to soften it up. Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur is how that happens.

To see how much of an effect the Gaussian Blur has, click your cursor on a point somewhere over the edge of your shadow and your preview pane will shift to that spot. Move the slider until you’ve got a nice, soft edge. How soft will obviously depend on what it is you’re shadowing. A button would have a sharper edge, string a softer edge.

Almost done! Change the Blend Mode to Linear Burn for more of a shadowy look nearest to the object. It also allows the shadow to take on some of the colour of whatever is under it, in this case the blue of the paper.

Then lighten up up by decreasing the Opacity to somewhere around 40%, plus or minus. Keep an eye on what’s happening and you’ll see when it looks right. If you think the edges are still too sharp, use the Gaussian Blur again.

Last thing to do is to Link the shadow layer to the object layer. To do that, select the two layers then click on that little icon that looks like a couple of chain links. Alternatively, you can Merge the two layers by selecting them then right-click>Merge or CTRL/CMD>E. Why do this? Well, if you move the object and it’s not either linked or merged with the shadow, the shadow is going to be left behind and you’ll have a bunch of hassle positioning it right later.

When your layers are linked to each other, this is what you’ll see in the Layers panel.

This was a very basic custom shadow operation. Practice it a bit, then I’ll show you how to layer objects on top of other objects and get the shadows right in that situation. Even more fun!! Just let me know when you’re ready to take it up another notch.

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

How Do You Know When to Upgrade?

Today’s tutorial is going to be a really wordy one. Lisa R made this comment on last week’s post: “That’s why I adore digital scrapbooking! I still have PSE 11 and since I use it mostly for photos (not scrapping), it would be interesting to hear the best things YOU like about it … I’ve been thinking of upgrading for quite some time but again, because I use it mostly for photos, I’m still on the fence.” I hope to make her decision easier by discussing some of the things that have evolved since V.11. I’ve never been one to upgrade just to stay at the front of the pack. There has to be something in the upgrade that I want… and I’m pondering whether it’s worth the money (about $120 Canadian for an upgrade, $140 for a new purchase) to jump to PSE 2019. But before I talk about that, let’s look at the changes from Lisa’s V.11 to my current V.15.

V.11 brought us some fabulous sketchy filters, and introduced automated actions to ElementsPhotoshop CS/CC has had them for a long time. If you’re not familiar with actions, they’re little scripts that automatically perform a series of adjustments to your work. They’re especially useful for photo editing and professional photographers have their favourites, which then let them develop a personal style. Photographers whose specialty is newborns, for example, will use actions that tone down jaundiced skin, hide newborn “acne”, reduce mottling and so on. There are also actions that take the work out of getting the background right. There are lots of sources for free or low-cost actions online, with demonstrations of how they work. Here’s a demo of a free action from The Coffee Shop blog. It’s called Perfect Portrait 3. It’s pretty amazing!

In V.15 there are two ways you can access actions, both the very basic ones that came with the software and those you’ve installed. The first is to click Window>Actions and the second is to click that More button then choose the Actions tab. If you look closely at this photo of my son, his skin is pretty gnarly-looking so let’s see how Perfect Portrait 3 fixes it.

When you’ve chosen the action you want to run by clicking on the folder to the left of the title, you can either click on the dark blue triangle to the left of the folder’s contents, or the dark blue triangle circled below. That sets the action in motion.

There may be some parts of the action that require your input, like this one. It’s actually the second spot where I told it what to do; the first was a Levels adjustment. In this screen I could change the source of the colour I want to replace.

After I hit the OK button for Replacing Color, the action took off and in 30 seconds I had all these adjustment layers that I can now fine-tune. But even without any further input from me, those blemishes on Adam’s nose are gone, his skin tone is more even and his teeth are whiter. I think his crows’ feet aren’t as obvious too.

Another new feature that came with V.11 is in the Organizer. (I don’t use the Organizer because I didn’t like it with my first couple of versions, and created my own filing/organization system.) This version introduced user-determined tagging, allowing many more options for finding what you’re looking for by using your own tags. Options could be by name, by date, by location or by event, for example.

Last but not least, V.11 had the first Out-of-Bounds Guided Edit that allows cutting away the background from part of a photo but leaving things like heads, arms and legs in there. Think of those cool layouts where the photo looks 3D, like it’s bursting out of a frame.

V.12 brought a few more useful improvements. Content-Awareness allows for quicker, easier editing with the Spot Healing tool and with the Content-Aware Move tool. (I haven’t played with that tool yet, so I won’t try to explain how it works. We’ll save that for another day!) This version gave us a pet-eye correction in the Quick and Expert edit menus for the first time.

It also gave us the Zoom Burst Guided Edit that lets you add motion blur to an action photo that looks natural. That one looks like a lot of fun! Another new option in the Guided Edit menu in V.12 is Rotate and Straighten, making adjusting the horizon in photos super-simple. Here’s where the Puzzle edit and the Photomerge edit also came into play. One big drawback to V.12 was that everything was turned into a Smart Object, resizing things like buttons to the size of whatever the workspace it was moved onto was… 12×12 for example. It was a REAL pain in the butt having to then manually resize every. Single. Element. On my layouts.

V.13 got rid of that. It introduced the Refine Edge function to selections, which was a game-changer for lots of people. It allows for sharper extractions and cleaner edges. Some other benefits V.13 had include Auto-crop options – the software provides a preview of several ways to crop an image. [I turned that off eventually because I don’t want to be told what to do. ;)] They added Black and White (automatic and simple conversion to black and white),¬†Black and White Color Pop (keeping a specific area of a photo in color while making the rest of it black and white) and Recompose (resizing your photos without losing important parts of them) to the Guided Edit menu.

And then there were these very useful additions! I haven’t actually played with these either, but I think I should!

V.14 is where there were huge changes made to Elements. Many of the techniques I’ve shared were made possible by these additions: Remove Camera Shake; Remove Haze (!); Batch Edit; one-click Whiten Teeth, frames, photo effects and textures; Photo Illustration; Paint-On Effects; select detailed edges (hair?); remixing 2 photos, improvements to the Recompose edit; RAW editing; new options in Photomerge and an opportunity to print at home came with V.14.

Compared to V.14, there weren’t a lot of changes in V.15, but improved function of some of the menus were a bonus. The Filter Gallery has been simplified and there were a few additions to the Guided Edit menu such as Photo Text (there was a tut on this one), Effects Collage (which lets you apply several effects to sections of a single photo), Painterly (there was a tut on this one too) and Speed Pan (giving a moving object a blurred background). There’s also a cool effect that lets you change a frown into a smile.

Changes to the appearance of the workspace, the location of toolboxes and buttons and other sort of housekeeping things have continued from version to version. There will always be a bit of a learning curve when you upgrade; the larger the gap between your old version and the new one, the steeper the curve.

So this is where my dilemma lies. Do I go from V.15 to Elements 2019? How hard will it be for me to learn the new stuff, and then translate it into easy-to-follow tutorials? Are there enough new things (there are 8 new Guided Edits) I can’t live without to make it worthwhile? 2019 has a powerful new function called Adobe Sensei AI, which does a lot of things automatically in both the Organizer and the Editor. It uses artificial intelligence to tag and organize your photos and videos based on image recognition, it allows for video editing, which V.15 does not, and it has several social media features. Oh and did I mention slideshows?? If you’ve ever had to create a slideshow, you’ll know how much work they are and how hard it is to get them just right. 2019 will automatically select the best photos from a selection and turn them into an animated slideshow guaranteed to impress. There’s also a more useful home screen. It looks like I have some thinking to do…

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Restoring those Vintage Snapshots

Halfway between my birthday and Mother’s Day, I had the most amazing visit with some relatives I’d never met before. One of the ladies I spend the day with is my Grandmother’s first cousin, who is actually only four years older than my mother. This delightful woman brought along a huge collection of vintage photos, some of them well over 100 years old. Today I’m going to show you one of them and take you through a Guided Edit to restore it. (Spoiler alert: This is NOT a quick edit. It took me about 2 hours to get it to the final version.)

The Guided Edit I’m going to demonstrate today is simply called Restore Old Photo. It’s in the Special Edit toolbox. What I love about these Guided Edits is that everything you’re going to need (pretty much) is all in the Edit toolbox. It’s especially helpful for those who are still learning how to use their software, because each tool in the box has a little explanation of how to use it. Like a mini-tut, if you will.

Here’s my photo. The little girl is my first cousin twice removed, Lily Annie Delia. She was nicknamed Laddie (for her initials) and she really didn’t like it! This photo was taken in the fall of 1916 and was sent to her grandmother as a Christmas gift.

This Guided Edit has more tools within it than can be shown all at once, so don’t forget to scroll down and take a peek. Be cautious of that Cancel button I’ve circled. It resets EVERYTHING back to the original.

The tools are listed in the order you’re most likely to use them, but I found I was bouncing between them as the condition of the photo demanded. Zoom in really closely so you can see the imperfections better and what changes the tools create when you use them.

But first… This is a personal preference here. I like to crop off the white paper border before I do anything else. But there may be times when you want to leave it. Here I show you how I cropped this one. The image was printed slightly askew so I straightened the Crop window level to the demarcation between the carpet and the wall.

This is my new starting point.

The Spot Healing tool in the Expert edit mode has a number of options for the tool, but within this Guided Edit, it doesn’t. If you’ve never used it before, you’ll be surprised at how one click can make a huge difference. The secret to a great, invisible edit is to take your time and use a SMALL diameter brush.

See how all that discoloured scratchy stuff is gone now? Typo spotters… that should read “down”. You can move your photo around on your workspace by using the Hand tool.

That scratch and the messy corner will need more help than the Spot Healing tool can provide, so I’ll use the Healing Brush. It’s similar to the Clone Stamp but can be stroked across a blemish like a brush. More details on how this tool works best are to follow.

Now you see it, now you don’t!

This is where I started moving back and forth between the Spot Healing tool and the Healing Brush.

This shows how sometimes there are several types of blemishes in a small area.

The Spot Healing tool is active in this screenshot. I’ve removed most of the discoloured stuff.

It’s very easy to change the size of the brush you’re using in either the Spot Healing tool or the Healing Brush. Those square brackets that don’t have much use outside of algebra are the volume up and volume down buttons for brushes. The¬†[ one makes your brush smaller, while the¬†] one makes it bigger. I just made my Healing Brush slightly bigger than the scraped area, selected an unblemished area of my photo and painted over it.

These scratches and creases might be erased with the Spot Healing tool, but I didn’t take any chances. I used the Healing Brush.

Here’s the secret to making the Healing Brush and Clone Stamp tools work to their best advantage. (And I literally discovered the trick LAST NIGHT!) If you don’t move the cursor away from your ALT>Click selection before you start using the tool, your “source” point will be… what you’re trying to cover. So always move it, even just a little bit, before you start trying to fix an area. You’ll be able to see where your source is because there will be a little white “plus” sign at the spot where the colour or texture is being sampled. Below I’ve mocked up what you’ll see, but in black to make it more easily seen.

When using either the Healing Brush or the Clone Stamp, work AWAY from your source so you’re moving from clear to unclear. You’re trying to blend away the blotches, not replicate them.

No matter what tool you’re using, when you’re in a spot where there’s lots of detail, you need to slow down and use the smallest brush possible. If you’re too close to an area where the colour or tone is different, your correction will actually only create another flaw.

Hair. It’s one of those love-it-or-hate-it things!

Use the zoom! The keyboard shortcuts – and + make it easy to do. Get in tight where you need to, pull back to make sure it looks right when you need to.

I used the Spot Healing tool, the Healing Brush and the Clone Stamp freely in this area. The Clone Stamp tool is terrific for repeating shapes and sharp edges. By selecting a spot along the edge, for example, I can replicate that perfect spot all the way down the rung.

And on it goes.

Spot Healing worked well for the cross piece here.

I made my way across the photo from the upper left corner over to the right, dropped my working area down then worked back from right to left, repeating until I’d covered the whole photo.

I could stop here, but I want to show you some more options, so let’s press on.

Even though I think I’ve done a great job, I think I want to use the Dust Removal tool to refine the image even more. It’s one of the hidden ones I had to scroll down to find. Adjusting the pixel size, I can tell Elements to find all the remaining flaws that size or smaller and Elements will fix them.

I wanted the Dust Removed first before I went on to the Blur tool. It does exactly what it says it does. It softens the hard edges of an edited area so it doesn’t stand out. I just brushed it over some of the background.

The next several adjustments aren’t using any of the tools, just adjustment modes, so the Blur tool looks like it’s still active. But this screenshot shows my photo after I used the Auto Levels mode.

Then I let Elements adjust it with Auto Contrast.

And a touch of Sharpening.

When I’ve gone as far as I want to with the Guided Edit, I can click on that Next button and go into the Expert edit mode.

Since I discovered Enhance>Haze Removal, I’ve used it SO OFTEN! It does several things all at once – sharpening details and deepening contrast.

And the effect is fully adjustable. I’ve moved both sliders to the left from the default settings.

Don’t worry that you’ve gone too far… you can ALWAYS Undo it all! CTRL/CMD>Z is a scrapper’s best friend! (CTRL/CMD>Y will Redo, so you’ve got options!)

Don’t foget to save your hard work! I named my new photo Laddie Xmas 16 for ease of finding it later.

What do you think?

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Repeating Patterns, Part Three

In Part One, we built a repeating pattern essentially on a grid. In Part Two, we went a little further and created a repeating, staggered pattern. And now, in Part Three we’re taking all that we’ve learned to create a repeating pattern with multiple options. Ready?

Open up a new canvas 2 inches square with a resolution of 300 pixels per inch.

Then duplicate your blank layer. The reason for this will explain itself.

Now take a look through your brushes or stamps and choose the one you’ll use first. I used a dragonfly from a free set of butterfly brushes (sorry, can’t find a ling to them). Resize it so it fits into a fraction of your square.

You can see that I’ve duplicated the dragonfly and positioned them in opposing corners.

Then I changed my foreground colour and chose a butterfly stamp, adding it to one of the vacant corners.

And duplicated THAT layer then I Merged all the layers.

I think you might remember this part. Edit>Define Pattern will let you save your creation as a pattern for use with the Pattern Fill tool.

You don’t HAVE to give it a name, but it might make it easier to find later.

Now you need a solid paper for your background. It can be textured, or not.

Then select the Paint Bucket tool, but instead of the Color Fill, go with Pattern Fill. Then go find your new creation.

One click on the paper and BINGO!

But wait! There’s more!!

This time I added some glitter to my brush layer.

And then some hearts…

… and some MORE glitter.

I missed a screenshot where I added in the silhouette of a girl jumping for joy, but you can see the result here.

Look at how amazing it looks with the glitter, which is still there.

Let’s try that one in a staggered pattern. I opened a new 2 inch tall, 4 inch wide canvas and applied the pattern to it. Then I deleted the second repeat so I’d have somewhere to put the offset. Filter>Other>Offset.

I used the same settings I had for the first staggered pattern we did back in Part Two. Then I Edit>Defined Pattern with a different name.

Yes, the same steps as before.

And there’s my new staggered-pattern paper! I could learn to love this technique!!

Have you tried any of the parts of this tutorial? I’d love to see yours!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

UnMASKing the MASK

Y’all remember Karyn Concannon‘s comment a few weeks ago where she offered me some topics for discussion? Well, we’ve done some paper-making (with one more version yet in the works) and now we’ll look at making masks. There has been a mask-making tutorial some time ago, but this one will go a little further and in a bit of a different direction.

Let’s get to work! Go big… it can’t possibly hurt. I’m going 12×12 here.

The whole process uses only brushes. If you’re low on awesome and fabulous brushes, there are TONS of free ones online, my favourite source being brusheezy.com where they have a huge assortment and literally something for everyone. Set your foreground colour to black then select your Brush tool.

I love the look of watercolour paint so I have several brush sets of watercolour swashes. This particular set is called 20 Watercolor Masks and they’re truly fabulous. I’ve got my brush size set to 1600 pixels and the Opacity to 100%.

This is the result of a single click with the brush. Looks like a cloud, doesn’t it? And almost as um… ephemeral.

So I made some copies (CTRL/CMD>J) and stopped when I thought it had enough presence. Then I Merged all the copies into one layer.

But unless I use a very long-distance landscape photo, this isn’t going to be enough of a statement. So I added some more substance by choosing another brush from the same set.

(Notice this second brush is on its own layer. If you get in the habit of doing things on their own layer you’ll have infinite control.) Single click. Interesting! But again, light on the weight.

So I made some more copies. And I shifted them around a little to distribute some of the more obvious aspects. Then I Merged (CTRL/CMD>E) them.

Mmmm. Still not quite the look I’m going for. So I made another copy of the FIRST layer. When you think about masks, you’ll remember that the darker (black) the area the more of the photo is revealed. So you can’t get blacker than black. You can always go back and adjust your layers until your mask pleases your eye.

Don’t be afraid to move the brushes around! You’re the only one you have to please, so make it what you want it to be!

If you’re still not happy with the way your mask looks, you can use a big, soft, round Basic brush (from the brush set that comes with Elements) to either darken areas more, or lighten them (if you’re lightening, use the Eraser tool and a low opacity to avoid going overboard).

See how I’ve softened some of the edges? I only used a black brush. No erasing.

Like I’ve said, YOU’RE the boss here, so you can go as far as you want with your mask. I decided to add some paint splatters, again with a free brush.

Oh my!! I LIKE it!! (If I don’t like how the more distant splatters look once I’ve clipped a photo to it, I can erase those parts OF THE MASK and still have the splatter effect in areas of the photo.)

Now I’m happy with the depth and balance of my mask, I can Merge the layers all together. That’s an important step if you plan to do what I’m going to show you next.

Some designers make phenomenally beautiful masks that are out of the ordinary. (Irina from PrelestnayaP is one such.) For this next step I used a brush that was part of a set chosen for the Brush Challenge back in October 2015. You can download these brushes, designed by Lileya Brogu, here. Take note that I’ve got the Eraser tool selected, NOT the Brush tool.

Whatdya think?

And here’s what it all looks like with a photo clipped to it. Pretty fancy!

Just for fun, and to show you haw easy it is to customize your mask, I Undid (CTRL/CMD>Z) that last step and tried a few other brushes.

This one is really creepy. I downloaded the eyeball brushes for a Hallowe’en project.

See? There’s really no limit to the possibilities – other than the limits of your brush collection!

So once I was done playing with it, I decided to Save it for later. I chose Save As (CTRL/CMD>SHIFT>S) because that’s where I can decide what format to save it in. To be a good mask, it needs to be saved as a .png with a transparent background. Then I decided where to save it – into my personal Elements folder, and what to call it.

The last step is to select the .png options. To preserve the most detail, go with the settings shown below.

How much fun is that??