Tutorial Tuesday – Back to Basics

Anatomy of a Well-Composed Layout

Last week’s tutorial about stacking papers brought this comment from Franghurst: “I found this article very useful.  I have never stacked a paper digitally and I now feel comfortable enough to give it a try.  It’s great when you give us a brand new idea about doing something but I must admit, I like the articles when you go back to the basics.  It’s fun to be reminded how to do things that you learned about a while back.” Of course, that got me thinking. And thinking some more. Today we’re going to go right back the most basic aspect of scrapbooking: composition!

When I look at the layouts in the Gallery, there are layouts that snag my attention right away. I think you know what I mean. There are some things these really fabulous layouts have in common: they’re well-composed. It might not be obvious what makes them catch the eye, so let’s talk about the six basic components of composition. These are focal point, leading lines, balance, rule of thirds, white space and movement.

Focal point: Usually the purpose of a layout is to showcase a photo, or photos. So typically they will be the focal point. But not always. Sometimes the scrapper wants the focus on the story it’s telling, and sometimes the focus is on some other aspect of the layout. This piece by shawnbear is definitely focused on the large photo. She has used several tools from the composition list to achieve her goal.

The size of the photo is the first tool; the rays of paper and the column of elements does the rest.

Leading lines: What exactly are leading lines? They are whatever linear aspects of a layout that lead the eye right to the focal point. Like shawnbear‘s papers. This layout by gwalters goes even deeper into leading lines because they’re both in the main photo AND the layout.

The wire of the fence draws the eye to his face. with one eye framed by them. The chevrons lead the eye to her title. And the concentric paper squares emphasize the converging lines of the layout quite neatly.

Balance: There are lots of ways to create balance in our layouts. The goal is to have areas of equal weight. Flissy61 has done just that.

She’s got the large blended photo balanced by the trio of smaller photos at the bottom. Let’s talk about those small photos for a second. Notice how she has a photo of just the sculpture and a photo of just her daughter, flanking a photo of both. Bingo! Balance. Then she’s used repetition to add more balance to the image with the two vines and the pennants.

Rule of Thirds: This is something I discussed in a previous tutorial on taking better photos. The “Rule of Thirds” means imaginarily dividing your image into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, then placing any (or all!) intersection of those imaginary lines over a focal point. lmtroch has done that in her layout below.

Do you see it? (My lines might be a little off… I eyeballed them.)

White space: This isn’t a literal thing… more of an uncrowded area of the layout where the eye can go to rest. Jill is a master at the use of white space – literally in this layout!

I think white space is a vastly underused tool. But see how effective it is to have these two large areas of just paper.

And last is Movement. By this I mean the way the layout guides the eye around to take in all its components. becky_a makes it look easy.

It really doesn’t matter where you start with this layout, your eye is moved around the whole thing perfectly. Here again, the placement of her photos is key; they all are facing the centre of the layout – harmonious and very pleasing. The bubbles act as a vector to move the viewer, as does the piece of string. And the three little flower clusters keep things on track.

Okay. There you have the factors that create strong compositions. I invite you take a good look at each of these layouts and see if you can pick out each of the “rules” in them. You might also take a critical look at the templates you really like and analyze what makes them attractive to you. I bet you’ll find at least a couple of ways to fit them into the “rules”!

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

Anatomy of a Paper Stack

I don’t often give a lot of thought to the process of creating layouts, but a comment I received from becky_a on a layout I prepared for Katie of Just So Scrappy and Ooh La La Scraps with her August Buffet collection Live Life started me thinking about it. The two layouts I created for this collection were a little unusual for me, because I didn’t use templates for either of them. (I just couldn’t find one that I liked enough!) The layout becky_a commented on is this one:

… and this is what she said: “I love stacked papers like this and I have the most difficult time making them look right, lol. You make it look so easy.” I had to go look at the layout because I wasn’t sure what she meant! And then I thought maybe it might be worth talking about.

There are no rules for paper stacking. None. It’s pretty much a free-for-all! You can use whatever papers you like, mixing patterns and colours, shapes and angles to suit your whims. Let’s talk first about choosing papers. I’ve always struggled with boldly-patterned paper. They don’t often work with my style of scrapping, but using them in a paper stack like this is one way I can feel comfortable using them. As you can see, that black and white patterned paper is pretty bold! But it’s black and white, so it can work with pretty much anything. I like the paper closest to the photos and elements and largest by area to be relatively neutral, so it doesn’t draw the eye away from the meat-and-potatoes part of the layout. If I’m not planning on journaling ON that paper, patterns can work. I also like to mix up scale. A bold paper needs to be balanced by some smaller patterns or solids. But that doesn’t mean you CAN’T use another bold pattern, because you can resize to so it works well with  your other papers and what you’re doing with them. This is pretty much how I approach paper stacking all the time, whether or not I’m using a template; I like to contrast bright with neutral, bold with subtle, pattern with solid and to have some visible difference between them. But that’s how JAN stacks papers. I’ve seen lots of fabulous stacked-paper layouts where the scrapper has used a monochrome palette, mixed lots of patterns together or only used solids, so as I said, no rules!

Let’s look at this layout, also with the same collection and sans template. I use the Marquee tool and Inverse (Select>Inverse or CTRL/CMD>Shift>I) to cut my random shapes. To make concentric circles or ovals, I make a copy of the first oval then use the Select>Modify>Decrease path, typing in a pixel count to make the new oval smaller. Clip a paper to it and move on.

(My daughter and sister might not like to know I’ve called them both weird people. Or maybe they’d take it as a compliment. IDK!) When talking about colours, I often pull colour from my photographs. OR… I go for contrast. Here, the photo is pretty neutral, so the red, orange, purple and green from the kit all work together. You can see that I’ve mixed in some ovals and rectangles, some pennants and the square background papers. I’m going to tell you how I do those backgrounds, which might be news to those still learning digi-scrapping but is probably old hat to the more experienced in the group.

First step is to choose your papers. Then open a new 12×12 (or your favourite dimensions) canvas on your workspace. Decide which paper will be your main background, the one you want right under your elements and photo(s). Decide on the order of your other papers, keeping in mind the aesthetics of the layout as a whole. I usually use 3 papers for these stacked backgrounds because, as my dear friend Sandy Scott likes to remind me, 3 is an aesthetically pleasing number. You can drop them all onto your layout, turning visibility off to the topmost ones so you can see what you’re doing as you climb the stack. Or you can add them one at a time. Whatever suits your workflow. I’m showing them all piled on at once and in the screenshot after this one, you’ll see that the topmost paper is invisible.

To make a visually pleasing rotated stack, you’ll want to make the upper papers a bit smaller than the background paper. (Or not. Remember, no rules!) The easiest way to do it is to click on one of the corner “handles” on the bounding box, then either pull that handle in toward the centre, or take the quick-and-lazy route and type a number into that box I’ve shown you here. That keeps the papers centered one on top of the other. Just make sure you’ve got the Constrain Proportions box checked so it shrinks the paper in both horizontal and vertical planes.

Then rotate that second piece of paper. The Pivot point selected is the centre one – the default. The angle will be half of the percentage by which you’ve shrunk your paper, unless you want your corners to extend off the page. There are two spots where you can see the angle you’re rotating to, the black pop-up box and down in the Tool panel. I usually just eye-ball it.

I like to keep the papers in a rotated stack, other than the actual background, all the same size. It’s obviously not required, it’s just my OCD-ness. Shrinking the paper is done in exactly the same manner.

Then I tip the next/top paper in the opposite direction, to about the same angle. And that’s all there is to it! Shadow those babies up and you’re ready to move along.

The second example is even more straightforward.

When you’re doing this kind of stack, if you want a symmetrical border of the background paper visible, make sure your Pivot point is in the centre. It’s important! Typing a number into one of the dimension boxes – either one is fine, as long as you’re Constrained – is quick.

But if your Pivot point is in the lower right corner, for example, when you type in your number, this is what will happen. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, because there are ways it can make your workflow more streamlined if you want to work from a corner out. (You can tell this screenshot was an after-thought. Sorry!)

Here, you can see what decreasing the paper size by 5% for the first one and 5% MORE for the second one will look like. You can use any amount you like; if you want a wider border of your very bottom paper, go with a bigger drop. If you want one border wider than another, choose a smaller or larger decrease. A nice solid paper with a narrow gap looks really good. Oh, and you CAN use a decimal in that box. You don’t have to go with whole numbers.

All of these tips can be applied to any stack of papers you might contemplate, either as part of a template or freehand. Give it a shot becky_a, you’re probably underestimating yourself a LOT!

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

Can We Talk?

Today I’d like to take a baby step outside my comfort zone and talk about journaling. I struggle with it. I don’t love it. I’m VERY uncomfortable with it. But I know it’s an important part of memory-keeping, so I work at it. I know some of you are shaking your heads, because you’ve read my tutorials and you know how wordy I am. 😉 But somehow, I hate to put all those words onto my layouts.

So let’s deconstruct journaling a little. Why is it important? Well, first of all, the viewer isn’t necessarily going to know who is in the photos, what they’re doing, when it occurred, why they’re together or where it happened. Basic journalism 101. Some of these factors aren’t important every time, but for a scrapbooking layout to be meaningful, at least a couple of them should be included. A date and a location might be all that’s needed. For other layouts, like heritage layouts using very old family photos, more detail isn’t only needed, it’s what makes the layout special. Take this one for example.

I’ve put all the pertinent details in there. Now when others see it, they know a little about this boy. What it doesn’t say is why this layout is important to me, how Kenneth is connected to me… it’s lacking context. But if I tell you it’s part of a family history scrapbook, where I’ll include an extensive, multi-generation family tree, then it might not matter. (Kenneth is currently part of a genealogical mystery my cousin Lynne and I are trying to solve. He’s my first cousin twice removed while Lynne is one generation closer to him; he may have been “born on the wrong side of the blanket”. Now to prove it!)

Another aspect of journaling that matters is format. My personal dislike of narrative journaling is reflected in many of my layouts by its absence. But to other scrappers, narrative works. They’re able to tell a complete story within their page, filled with detail… and my deepest admiration! When I try to do that, it sounds stilted and boring. Here’s a glimpse into Katherine Woodin‘s life; her pages are always filled with day-to-day events and are like a pictorial diary.

Others use narrative journaling to process difficult events, as Biancka did here. That takes GUTS, ladies!!

So how can I inject some context into my layouts without resorting to my brand of stiff, boring, wordy text? Oh there are SO many ways!

Quotes are a good way of both illuminating the layout and grounding the subject matter. If I can find a quote that says what I want to say much more eloquently than I can, I’ll take it! Here’s an example.

Song lyrics are, in my mind, PERFECT for journaling! When I heard this song for the first time, this girl instantly came to mind. Then the perfect photo (by Erin Wallis Photography) came into my hands. Meant to be?

Word art can help tell a story very effectively. This layout is part of my Ireland collection and will be bookended by other layouts related to the Famine to provide more context.

This layout has more detail to flesh out the story.

Let’s not forget journal cards. They’re a combination of word art and sentiment, which can be very useful. Even if they’re just a spot to put your journaling, they can be just what your layout needs. I know I don’t use them as often as I should. For this layout I used a card that had space for me to put my own words, and I used a quote from my daughter. It says it all!

What about word strips? I LOVE them! They can take on the whole job of telling your story; it’s just a matter of finding ones that work. If you have a sense of humour, you can use word strips that actually relate to something else, but communicate your message effectively. In this example, the word strips I used came from a 2014 July Buffet kit from Ponytails, who no longer is a member of the GingerScraps family. They’re Canadian slang terms: Double Double is a shorthand Tim Horton’s coffee order, Beauty is a synonym of fantastic and Eh! is a pure Canadianism. But they made sense with my photo.

What creative journaling methods do you use? Help a girl out here!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Pick Your Pivot Point

Today’s tutorial is a quickie – short, sweet and very much to the point. The PIVOT POINT that is! I’d seen a tutorial at another site that was compiled by the talented Yobeth Puckett, and I filed it away to examine more closely another time. Yesterday, I dragged it out and tried to make sense of it. Unsuccessfully. At first. Because I was overthinking it. But believe you me, this is going to be a boon to all of us because it’s going to speed up our scrapping and reduce frustration by a lot. I know I’m going to incorporate it into my workflow, starting today.

So you know how sometimes you’re using a template and you decide you really want the stripes on your paper to run diagonally instead of horizontally. So you drag and drop your paper onto your template, then you rotate it to the desired angle. But it looks like my screenshot – the paper isn’t covering the whole paper shape mask you’re planning to clip it to. Then you nudge the paper until it covers the shape. Many steps. But…

Have you paid any attention to the controls the Move tool provides? I know I didn’t. But I’m never going to ignore them again. See that little box made up of dots? It’s a POWERFUL thing. Notice that the central dot is selected.

That gray dot signifies the Pivot Point around which the object rotates. So if I left the centre dot selected, the paper would spin on centre. But if I MOVE the selection to another one of those dots, it changes the Pivot Point!

See? By moving the Pivot Point to the middle of the right side, then rotating my paper on THAT point, the shape is completely covered! To quickly get the exact angle I want on the pattern, I typed in a numeric in the Angle box rather than try to hit a moving target.

Then all I had to do was clip the paper to the shape. As you already know, I use keyboard shortcuts rather than click on a tab, drag the cursor down an options list then click on the one I want. Quick clipping is achieved by CTRL/CMD>G for versions prior to 14 and CTRL/CMD>ALT>G for versions 14 and up.

Sweet! Now I know a shortcut for rotating a paper. But what about something that isn’t symmetrical, like this piece of ribbon. I want the knot to sit on top of the bow’s knot, but I want the ribbon to be at about a 30° angle to the bow. How can it be rotated around a different Pivot Point? Is it even a thing??

Here’s what usually happens. I rotate the ribbon. Then I have to nudge it until the two knots line up. Not the end of the world, but boy, it would be nice to be able to do it even more quickly and easily. Work Smart Not Hard is my mantra after all!

The actual Pivot Point is at the centre of the bounding box around the ribbon, but I want it on the knot. I tried using the tool’s command box but it was a colossal fail. None of the options was right.

This is what happened when I selected the upper left corner of the box. Better, but not what I want.

This is the part where I struggled with Yobeth’s tutorial. I was really overthinking it, trying to drag the Pivot Point to where I wanted it while holding down the ALT key. But all I had to do was hold the ALT key down and CLICK on the spot where I wanted the Pivot Point to go.

It really IS that simple!!!!

I can think of so many ways to use this trick. One that immediately jumped to mind is for rotating photos to match the angle of photo spots on templates. It’ll save so much nudging, I’m not even kidding!

Now I’m ready to create my layout for the Storytelling Challenge. My examples here were set up using some of the items I’m going to use from LouCee CreationsShampoodle and Setter kit. It should be finished and in the Gallery by the time this tut goes live. See you all next week!

 

 

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements 2019)

Even Sketchier Still!

I know, I know… I’ve already shown you more than one way to turn a photo into a sketch. But I haven’t shown you THIS way, which is the easiest and most interesting method I’ve learned to date. And it’s a GUIDED EDIT in PSE 2019 (Amazon Prime Day – $59!) so you know it’s going to be a cinch. Well, it can be as easy or complicated as you make it. I tried this Edit on several photos before deciding that for the sake of expedience, I’d go with the photo below.

This Partial Sketch Edit is reached via Guided>Fun Edits. Right there in the middle!

The Control Panel looks like this and completely leads you through the process. I’m going to show you the results of each of the four options so you can see how it looks and lets you imagine how you could use it.

I’m going to move top to bottom and left to right with the options, starting with the Pencil Sketch. This photo is divided horizontally so it’s not going to be a lot of work to make my selection. The selection portion is the most difficult and time-consuming part of the process. (Just a reminder… the Cancel button takes you right back to Square One, literally, so don’t click it unless you WANT to start all over.)

One thing I discovered right off the bat is that the effect appears as the selection is made. You can see it as it changes. I’m showing a selection made with a fairly small brush at 100% Opacity but there’s nothing that says you can’t do whatever you like. If you’re adept at selection, you can use a bigger brush; don’t forget that you can toggle back and forth between Adding to your selection and Subtracting from it. That means you can remove areas from your selection that you don’t want to convert to a sketch while you go. The Undo (CTRL/CMD>Z) command will take you back a single step if you find too much of the photo is selected with one click.

So, in the Pencil Sketch mode at 100%, there’s not a lot of detail visible in the lake. The mountains are well-defined but that’s about all. The clouds are so important to the overall composition so let’s find them.

Ah, there they are! To my eyes, this looks like it’s part sketch and part watercolour. After the Opacity is where you want it, if there’s any fine-tuning your selection needs to give you the look you want, you can click on the Detail Brush and fix it up.

The refining I did isn’t really obvious, and there wasn’t a lot needed.

The best sketch effects blend gently into the photo, and PSE makes that as simple as moving a slider over to the right. Watch as you slide so you know when to stop.

The software developers at Adobe are really upping their game. This Edit also includes a Flip Effect option. So you can turn the part of the photo you DIDN’T select into the sketch and the sketch part back to a photo just with one click.

The second option is a Colored Pencil Sketch. I didn’t know if it would look substantially different from the Pencil Sketch version once I adjusted the Opacity, so let’s take a look.

There definitely is a hint of colour in the lake this time.

With a little tweaking I’ve got this.

And with the edge between photo and sketch softened…

Before I use the Flip Effect button, let’s look at the Pencil and Colored Pencil side by side. Remember there’s a 20% difference in Opacity between them. There is a difference, but I’m not convinced the software is why.

Okay, here’s the Flipped Colored Pencil version.

This one has a lot of promise. How will an Old Photo sketch effect look?

Ah! Very cool!! For reasons I haven’t divined, I had trouble making my selection for this one to exclude the little spit of land at the centre-right of the photo. So after a number of failed attempts to duplicate the selection used in the previous versions, I just let PSE have its way.

See how the mood is SO different with this version? I can’t wait to try it on some of my real old photos.

I really like the way this one looks.

Flipped, maybe not so much. But I do love all the texture.

What will Old Paper do that Old Photo didn’t?

There is a noticeable difference; those creases are awesome!

Dropping the Opacity to about 45% (yeah, too quick on the PrtScr finger!) looks like this. Still moody, but not quite as stormy.

Flipped is pretty. I can’t pick just one!

I can see any (or all) of these printed and framed. Or on a greeting card. Or surrounded by beautiful elements on a layout. So many ways to use this!! I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know how you like it.

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 🙁 )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 (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° 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.