Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

The EYE-lets Have It!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I cut the corner of the photo off…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There it is! The background paper!

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

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

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Gentle(wo)men, Start Your Ovens!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No comment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you hungry now?

Tutorial Tuesday (Photographing Your Memories)

Let’s All Give Thanks… for AWESOME Photos!

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

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

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

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Cuttin’ It Out – Old-School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The text layer is visible again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

then Edit>Cut or CTRL/CMD>X.

There we go!

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

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

So I erased all those little areas.

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

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

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Shaving Shadows

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

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

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

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

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

See what I mean?

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

and THEN Simplify…

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

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

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

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

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

(with apologies to Alanis Morrisette)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tutorial Tuesday (Digital Scrapbooking)

8 ball, Corner Pocket!

Last week when I was struggling to find a topic to write about, I asked the GingerScraps Ad Team members for some ideas. Teresa suggested I do something about pocket scrapping. I have to tell you, I was floored. Pocket scrapping isn’t my thing and it’s really not my comfort zone either. I know it was a big part of the digi world several years ago, and I flirted with Project 52 (there’s NO WAY I could commit to Project 365 and I admit it!) but I wasn’t all that successful. So I had some learning to do before I could present myself as an expert. Ha! The EXPERT is Becky Higgins, the developer of Project Life. She has an app for that in addition to a whole paper line for pocket scrapping.

What IS pocket scrapping? Basically, it’s a clean-and-simple style of layout based mainly on a grid. It’s ideal for documenting the memorable (and the ordinary) events of our lives. Each section of the grid or block can hold a photo, a pocket/journal card, art work or a cluster of embellishments.

Why is it called pocket scrapping? It has its roots in paper scrapping, and it makes use of vinyl pockets of mainly two standard sizes, 2″x3″ and 4″x6″. Digital pocket scrapping follows the same format, and it lends itself very well to hybrid scrapping. You can create your page, print it and then attach buttons, ribbons, lace and pockets holding ephemera to the page.

Most of the designers on the GingerBread Ladies team here create kits and templates that work beautifully for pocket scrapping. In fact there are pages and pages of kits tagged for this style of memory keeping. And it’s easy to find them, too! I thought about giving you a list of designers whose products are amazing for pocket pages, but it would be a lot faster just to show you how to see them for yourself.

I’d love to show you some examples I found in the Gallery. This one is from trina513. I like that she’s used her Instagram photos.

minicooper452 created this one. The photos tell a story, and the journaling preserves the excitement of the day.

This one by emscraps is obviously a Project 52 layout. Em has managed to maintain her P52 for years now!

Belis2mi has documented a special day for her children with this layout.

I really like the feel this layout from amyjcaz has, with the photos of how she spent her day at the beach.

Because I live in cowboy country, this one by psychozoe caught my eye right away.

And then there’s this one from firstoscartgrouch that’s so whimsical and fun.

After looking at all these examples of pocket scrapping and seeing the individual stamps of each scrapper on her layout, I decided to give it a shot! It’s pretty amateurish, but maybe if I do a few more…

Next week there will not be a tutorial. We’re going to visit my parents and then our daughter in her new home in the mountains for a few days and I just won’t be able to squeeze in a blog post. I’ll be doing all the driving so I’ll be seeking a horizontal surface!

Tutorial Tuesday (Back to Basics)

Don’t Lose Your Cool… or Your Stash!

First off, let me thank all of you who took the time to reach out and offer your support after my husband’s accident. I won’t lie, the last couple of weeks have been very hard for us, but he’s on the mend and eventually we’ll be back to normal life. I’m finally getting into a sort of routine, but I’ve had no time for scrapping, or for playing with Elements, so I asked Ginger to give me a topic for this week. And her suggestion is a really timely one, coming so soon after the feeding frenzy of Digital Scrapbooking Day. Ginger says she gets a lot of service tickets related to lost files from crashes of some sort; we’re VERY lucky that she’s so willing to replace the download codes for our purchases because few of the online stores will do that after a certain period of time. So let’s talk about backing up files.

It’s happened to all of us at one time or another. Our computer has let us down in some way – either with a hard drive failure or a processor failure – or in my case, with a video card failure. All those lovely photos, finished layouts and digi-scrapping supplies are gone! It’s been known to cause many tears to be shed, multiple F-bombs to be dropped and more than one injury. (My photos aren’t actually gone, but they might as well be, because they’re inside a laptop that I can’t see the contents of – although my techie-nerd husband says there’s a way to retrieve them. (If only I’d left them on the SD card…) Trust me when I tell you I’m not really great at backing up my files, but I’m going to work on that!

About the easiest way to back things up is to copy your files onto a DVD/CD, flash drive or external hard drive (EHD). It’s time-consuming but it’s easy as pie. As long as the drive isn’t corrupted, or exposed to a magnet, or any other sort of calamity! I have two EHDs and I’m sure I have multiple copies of some of my older kits and photos. One of these days I’m going to go through everything and weed out the duplicates… but it won’t be today.

While I was researching this topic I found a great list of free back-up software, as vetted by Tech Radar. Why use dedicated software? Well, some of them will eliminate the duplicates, simply by only backing up what has been changed since the last run. Some of them can be set to run at regular intervals, with removes the whole OMG-I-haven’t-backed-up-my-files-in-forever panic when it looks like there might be a crash on the horizon. To read the whole article, click on the link above. Their #1 choice is EaseUS Todo Backup Free. They call it the best balance of automation and user control. It doesn’t include some of the functions the pay-to-play premium version has, but they’re more business-oriented so most of us who aren’t techie nerds won’t miss them. One thing I think sets it apart is that it allows for Cloud backup in addition to physical copies. One caveat: when you download the software it will also download a Chromium browser and Bing search engine UNLESS you uncheck the boxes for them BEFORE you say Go. Another possibility that sounds good for the averrage digi-scrapper is Paragon Backup and Recovery. It comes with a wizard that talks you through every step, you tell it what files you want it to copy and has the added advantage of a recovery script right within it.

There are a number of Cloud-based solutions to file back-ups. iPhone users may already be using the Cloud to store their photos; if, like my daughter, they’re also running a Mac, it’s not a big leap to also store copies of other sorts of files there too. Google Drive is another option for online Cloud storage., as is Dropbox. All three have a limit on how much room you can have free, with a reasonable cost for additional space. If you’re looking for something that will look after your backup needs without any reminders, you can subscribe to an online backup service for a monthly or annual fee. PCMagazine has an in-depth evaluation of several of these. Their top picks are IDrive, Acronis True Image 2018, SOS Online Backup, Backblaze, SpiderOak One and Carbonite. Each has its own pros and cons. Backblaze and Carbonite are the only two on their list with unlimited space, although neither of them offer any free space but they both only cover one computer. Before you commit to one of these services it would be a good idea to compare them head-to-head on features and subscription costs.

Make the time soon to back up all your irreplaceable stuff. Choose the method that works best for you but DO IT! And then make a commitment to maintain those backups for the future. Maybe tie it to a specific event, like (i)NSD and DSD, or to the time change to and from Daylight Savings, like you do with the batteries in your smoke detector. (Don’t ever forget to do that… The people in your life are worth so much more than photos and scrapbook layouts!) Better safe than sorry.

Tutorial Tuesday (Tips and Tricks)

Are YOU Ready for Digital Scrapbooking Day?

Greetings from the frigid wilds of Alberta. The last week has been a rough one for me and my family; last Tuesday while I was at work in the ICU, my husband slipped on our front steps (he didn’t realize we’d had freezing rain overnight and he was in a hurry) and ended up with a complete rupture of the tendon that holds his left knee-cap in place. Fortunately for all of us, our disabled adult son was already in the van on his way to his day program; his driver witnessed the whole thing and helped hubby into the house and my manager was totally understanding, letting me leave only 90 minutes into my shift. After a full day in the ER, a surgical consult, hospital admission, surgery and discharge where he needed my help, plus being the sole caregiver for our son, I just haven’t had a moment to try anything new and exciting with Elements. So today, instead, we’re going to review!

You might remember that back at the beginning of May, I gave you some tips and tricks on getting the most out of (inter) National Scrapbooking Day. Well, if you’re still unsure that you maximized your opportunities back then, you might want to have another look at that post, because DIGITAL SCRAPBOOKING DAY (week) is dead ahead!

The tips I gave you back in May are still useful for this extravaganza. All the digital scrapbooking stores around the worldwide web have special events and sales, beginning later in the week. Here at GingerScraps, there are a bunch of grab bags specifically designed for DSD, special challenges, another scavenger hunt, and a free-with-purchase MEGA collab. (I’ve seen the MEGA collab… you’re going to love it!!!!) Other stores will have designer blog hops and special events on their sites too…

So start with a PLAN! Don’t just jump into the deep end. Check out the forums at your favourite stores to see what they have going on. Then make yourself a calendar of events. Set some reminders so you don’t miss the entry deadlines, speed scraps or chats.

Make sure you have hard drive space for your purchases and freebies. Or invest in some thumb drives or an EHD to transfer some of your older stuff to so you have lots of room for your downloads. Label this extra storage right away so you don’t forget what you’ve put on it.

Set a BUDGET! It’s way too easy to overspend when you’re surrounded by smokin’ hot deals, and PayPal makes it painless… until later. Figure out how much you have to spend, and stick with it. (With the slightly stronger Canadian dollar this week, I might be able to make my money go a bit farther. 😉 )

Don’t feel obligated to participate in anything that isn’t going to make you happy. Freebies take up a lot of space, both on your computer and in your head; if you don’t think you’ll ever use what the designer is giving away, you don’t have to take it.

While you’re waiting for the festivities to begin, go through your photos and choose some for those challenges you just won’t be able to resist. Let your family know when you’re going to need some uninterrupted time and don’t stay up too late! Because there’s still Black Friday next month – we have to pace ourselves!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Driven to Distraction

Depth of field. It’s that fabulous effect of a soft, slightly blurry background (and sometimes foreground too) that brings the subject of our shot into sharp focus and minimizes distractions. It’s easily achievable with manual settings on our DSLRs and with some settings on our phones. We all know how it makes our photos look better, but we don’t always have control over it. I snapped this photo of the CN Tower in Toronto with my cellphone. Because of the distance involved even with “portrait” settings, which should have given me a preferential focal point, the whole shot is in the same focal plane. I’m going to show you haw to fake depth of field quickly and easily using another Guided Edit.

You guessed it! Select the Guided tab, then Special Edits>Depth of Field.

There are two options for this Edit, a Simple one and a Custom one. Today we’re only going to look at the Simple method.

So just click on that Simple bar.

The menu looks like this and your next step is to add a blur to the whole photo.

You can increase the amount of blur by using the slider at the bottom of the panel, both before and at any point during the process.

Then you’re going to select the areas you want to have back in focus. I experimented quite a bit so that I could give you the best information and save you some time and frustration.

The secret to the Simple version, especially if you’re working on a photo with a lot of detail, is to make small changes. Click your mouse inside the area you’re focused on, hold down the left mouse button then drag the mouse a short distance and release. (Please ignore the typo on this screenshot. I’ve tried to fix it and WordPress won’t let me!)

If you make your drags too long, the “spillover” focus will bring areas of the photo you want blurry into focus. You can take the drags in any direction that will work for your image.

If you’re not sure how much of the image has been altered by your last drag, you can zoom in on the image. But you can’t go back in and make more drags on the zoomed in image; the software will revert back to the full image when you click on the Add Focus Area bar again.

So with my photo of the CN Tower, I worked my way down the centre of the tower in short drags until I hit a point where the edges were still being left blurry. Always watch what’s happening as you work. Then if you notice areas you don’t want in focus are suddenly popping, you can quickly and easily Undo (CTRL/CMD>Z) those last couple of changes.

Once I got to the point where the edges were still visibly blurry, I adjusted the angle of my drags, but still keeping the start and end points inside the edges of the tower.

As I got closer to the bottom of the tower, I started seeing the buildings to the sides were starting to pop. Oh no you don’t! I changed my strategy again and used some horizontal drags again.

This is particularly important in images with more detail, both in the focal area and the background. Go slowly.

It was at this point that I started to notice that the software created more focus at the beginning of a drag than at the end. So again, I shifted my strategy from going left-right to going right-left. Problem solved!

But before I shut Elements down, I wanted to try it again to see if I could reduce the number of drags needed to get the focus where I wanted it without messing with the blur too much. So I started again, this time taking longer vertical and slightly angled drags.

Here’s a zoom view of the observation deck.

The angled drags were longer than in my first effort, but not running top to bottom as I had done when I was first figuring out how to make this Edit really work.

I cut the number of clicks down by at least 50% and still had a result I was pleased with. So give it a try, Undo as needed and see how you like it!

I have some more photos I want to play with, and you just might see some of them in the Gallery one of these days!