Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements+)

Fooling Around With Gradients: Graduated Filters in Elements+

As someone with Irish heritage, March and St Patrick’s Day always makes me think of Ireland. And that makes me pull out the photos I took during my two trips to the Ould Sod. And perusing them makes we wish the sky wasn’t completely blown out in every. Single. Outdoor. Photo. You know what I mean… that almost white, totally featureless sky that definitely didn’t look like that to the eye. Why does that happen? Well, as sophisticated as today’s digital cameras are, they’re still not great at filtering the bright light from the sky while keeping the foreground properly exposed. Landscape photographers understand this principle and carry a selection of neutral density filters they can pop over their lens to improve their shots. Neutral density filters have a section of the glass coated with a smoky transparent film that gradually gets lighter as it approaches the centre. This means that the section of the frame behind the smoky part will see less light than the part of the filter that’s completely clear, making the exposure of that part of the frame less bright. They can be positioned so that the dark section is where it makes the most sense; the resulting image will have a balance between the brightness of the sky or water and the remainder of the scene. So what if you’re not a famous landscape photographer and you have a bunch of photos that could be great, if that balance was there? Elements+ to the rescue!!

For those unfamiliar, Elements+ is an add-on application that allows Elements to do a bunch of things found in the more-versatile-more-expensive-and-more-difficult-to-learn Photoshop. It costs $15 or so and is version-specific. I use Elements 2019, so the version of Elements+ I have is the 2019 one. I wrote a tutorial overview of it last year that you can find here. So let’s see how it can take the place of a neutral density filter.

This photo of the bridge over the River Erne in Beleek, Fermanagh is one that I’ve played with before but I was never totally happy with the outcome. (A little trivia: The border between Donegal, Ireland and Fermanagh, Northern Ireland runs right down the centre of the bridge! It’s one reason Brexit has been so contentious for those living in Northern Ireland and why a hard border would be so difficult to re-establish.) The day I was at Beleek, the sky was cloudy, but not as it looks in the photo.

Once you’ve installed your copy of Elements+, all its awesome power can be found under File>Automation Tools. The graduated filter tool is in the RAW Corrections set, so I went ahead and clicked through.

The Graduated Filter tab is the second one from the left as shown. You can click on the tab, or the icon just above it. Then click on New.

The filter creates a mask over the photo on a separate layer. Click on the Mask tab and you’ll see which part of the photo is being filtered. Those boxes with green sections show you the orientation of the filter, with green being the darker part. The default setting is to place the darker part of the filter over the top half(ish) of the photo. You can already see how the default setting has changed the image. The green line with the big green dot at one end and the red dot at the other is how you control where the filter is actually applied.

My first goal is to make the sky as interesting as possible, so I moved the top slider labeled Zero Effect to the left, past midline, and the red dot moved up past the railing on the bridge.

Now to make some adjustments. I played with the sliders in the Adjustments menu, moving them just a little in one direction or the other and watching my preview image to see what changes. Not surprisingly, the Exposure slider has been moved a good bit to the left, or lower, and I also darkened the Highlights a smidge. All of a sudden, there are layers of clouds in the sky! Clarity adds a hint of detail, while Dehaze changes contrast and overall sharpness. Sharpness adjusts focus and Noise Reduction can minimize pixelation. These two adjustments need a very light touch, because they’ll make your image look really phony if you go too far. The changes should be quite subtle to the eye, but make a big impact all together. I wanted the grass on that little knoll to be a tiny bit more vivid so I added some more Saturation.

The neatest thing about these filters is that you can layer them one on top of another and adjust whole areas of photos quickly and easily. So now I’m going to add a filter to the bridge and water. I clicked New then clicked the second left filter with the darker area at the bottom. The default setting for this filter is as shown.

As you can see, I moved the red dot up so it sits directly over where the other red dot was, using the Zero Effect slider. Then I moved the bigger green dot down to the very bottom of the photo with the Full Effect slider.

These are the adjustments I made to the lower half. Can you see how much brighter and sharper the reflection of the bridge looks on the river? I really cranked up the Shadows.

Here’s the final image. The ripples in the water are much more visible and the reflection of the trees is brighter.

Check out this difference! This is the original.

Let’s talk a minute about some of the other icons on the menu. Up at the top right there’s a drop-down that will show you how many filters you’ve added and which one is currently active for further adjustment. The eye icon lets you turn on and off the filter to better assess whether you’re getting the look you want. And the garbage can – self-explanatory. If you don’t like it and aren’t interested in tweaking any more, just toss it! But… if you have a bunch of photos you’d like to apply the exact same settings to, if you click on the icon I’ve pointed to at the bottom, you can save them as a script and have them readily at hand later!

Let’s do another one. You might look at this photo of Ross Castle in Killarney National Park and wonder what I could possible find faulty with it. Well, maybe I can punch up the blue in the sky a bit more, maybe add a bit more detail to the clouds and to the trees.

So let’s get into the RAW Corrections menu again.

We’ll add a New Graduated Filter. The sky already looks bluer!

Now the sky is closer to the blue Lough Erne is reflecting. But I feel like the centre of the photo is too dark now, so I’m going to adjust the area the mask is covering.

Here’s the default. I want to move that red dot up so that it sits right were the grass meets the castle wall.


After I played with the various sliders, there’s more detail in the clouds, the sky is deep blue, the trees in the background are sharper and so are the stones in the castle walls. I wish the bird in the sky was clearer though!

I added a second mask to the lower part of the photo. It looks pretty awful right now, but I’m going to fix it.

I moved the red dot down to my original pivot point. Isn’t it so accommodating of Elements+ to save that for me?

After looking at it a bit longer, I decided the red dot needed to be lower on the grassy area. And look! I’ve swung the green dot over to the left so the dividing line hugs the edge of the grass better. By pulling the lower slider for the Full Effect mask adjustment over to the left, I can section off just part of the lower half of the photo! All that really needs to be adjusted is the grass, so this should work!

Now the grass is brighter and there’s more detail in the foreground trees and shrubs. Apparently, these last adjustments were made on a thrid mask. Somehow that slipped past my notice!

The final version:

And the original:

What do you think? I know I’m going to be doing this a LOT!!

Have you seen the announcement for the Season 11 of  Digiscrapping Survivor? The new destination theme will be announced and sign-ups start March 5 and I’m so excited!! The prizes are insane. Simply INSANE! I haven’t ever been in a place in my life where I could join in the fun, but this year I am, so I’m going to get my feet wet. I’d love to write a tutorial but I’m a babe in the woods here. If you’ve played along in the past and have any advice for me (to share with the rest of the GS community), send me a private message. I’ll compile all the hints and tips into a post and we can all hit the floor running. You can find a teaser for Survivor here. It’s the sign-up thread for Season 10, and gives a good overview of the competition. But I think the tips will be very useful, so bring ’em on!

Link to PDF download of this tutorial: https://bit.ly/2Oi6w80

Designer Spotlight: March 2021

North Meets South Studios!

Well, February sure flew by at our house, and March is upon us. This month’s Designer Spotlight is shining on the creative minds behind North Meets South Studios: Connie Prince and Tracy Anderson, aka Trixie Scraps. Their design styles blend so flawlessly, which only serves to reflect on their very long, strong friendship. Let’s get to know them a bit better. Ladies, get ready!

J: How long have you been designing?

T: I’ll celebrate my 13th year in business this October

C: I began designing digital scrapbooking products in 2004-2005ish, but officially selling in 2006.

J: Ah, so you both came to designing around the same time! Connie, what made you decide to start designing?

C: At the time the offerings were so limited, I was a paper scrapper and want to add unique elements to my layouts which I began to make digitally and print. It didn’t take long to realize I could do the whole thing digitally so much easier!

J: I think that’s fairly common, and it’s definitely part of my motivation to learn digital scrapbooking. What other craft let’s you have your cake (your digi supplies) and eat it too (use the same things over and over!)? Connie, what do you use to create your designs (program, additional tools, etc.)?

C: I use Photoshop CC, Illustrator. I also have a scanner that I use pretty often to scan things to extract.

J: I have 2 scanners and I don’t think I could live without them. Describe your design workplace for us?

C: It’s pretty minimalistic. I have a double monitor setup, that’s the most exciting thing about it lol.

J: I work on a laptop in my living room, about as minimalist as you can get! So, what motivates and inspires you as a designer?

C: I enjoy the process, coming up with an idea and creating it. The most rewarding part is seeing someone else use something that I’ve created to preserve their own memories.

J: That’s how I feel about my tutorials. I love browsing the Gallery and seeing layouts using some technique I’ve written about. Tracy, you’ve been awfully quiet… so it’s your turn! What’s your favourite kit currently in the GS shop, and why?

T: My recent “She Shall Not Be Moved” is my favorite because it speaks to my faith. And I love the colors!

J: What would your perfect vacation look like?

T: Sitting on a beach somewhere next to Connie with our guys. And preferably with some of the “mommy juice” she makes in my tumbler.

J: Hmm, that sounds… interesting! Maybe we need a recipe for that! Tracy, are you more likely to sing, or to dance in the shower?

T: Sing… I love to sing and serve on the praise team at my church monthly.

J: I love music. It’s a big part of my every day. I’m listening to folk music right now in fact! Let’s talk about another favourite of mine… food! If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

C: Chicken wings, hands down I am obsessed! However, if I could only eat at one restaurant the rest of my life it would be Waffle House.

T: Anything Italian, provided I make it.

J: I never used to like wings, and then my friend Patti’s hubby cooked some and I too was hooked. I love Italian food too. While we’re on a favourites roll, Tracy, what are your most and least favourite colours?

T: Least favorite is easy: orange Favorite is harder to choose… I like blue, purple and pink pretty equally.

J: I’m not overly fond of orange either, but yellow… ICK! Connie, what did you want to be when you were small?

C: I can’t really remember wanting to be anything in particular, I played school a lot so maybe a teacher? I did grow up and get a degree in education, but I didn’t really enjoy teaching very much so I retired early 🙂

J: Teachers are so under-appreciated. I think they’re super-heroes! Tracy, if you could have a super power, what would you like it to be?

T: Mind-reading. I am often too trusting and also often unsure of where I stand with people. It would be nice to always know what someone was really thinking!

J: Ooh, I don’t think I’d want that. I tend to think everybody is just tolerating me, and to have that confirmed would be pretty awful. Have you ever met anyone who’s famous?

T: Yes, I’ve met a handful of athletes because my husband owned and operated a sports memorabilia company for over 10 years. Among the list are Joe Frazier, Magic Johnson, Alfonso Soriano, Joe Torre, and Julius Erving. But there were a bunch more, too!

J: Cool! The famous people I’ve met are only famous in narrow circles, but that didn’t stop me from fan-girling all over them. That’s a good segué into this: Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?

C: Cameron Diaz, she’s just quirky enough!

J: And she looks like you a bit, so that would be believable! Tracy, can you play a musical instrument?

T: When the pandemic started, I began taking piano lessons. I’ve come a long way in the last 10 months or so!

J: I took piano lessons when I was a kid, but we didn’t actually have a piano, so practicing was a problem. Same with learning to drive… While we’re talking about celebrities, what celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee Connie?

C: Dolly Parton, she’s a hoot!

J: She definitely is. I feel like she needs a warning label: Liable to make you laugh and cry in the same moment. If you had a warning label what would it say?

C: I would have a bunch, but definitely: If you leave cookies unattended she will eat them!

J: I’m there with you! Tracy, the last question is yours. Aside from necessities, what’s one thing you couldn’t go a day without?

T: Coffee. I mean, I *could* go without it, but I wouldn’t want to!

J: And why should you have to?? Thanks so much ladies for sitting down and chatting with me. Our GingerScrappers have gotten a glimpse into your worlds and I hope those who aren’t already huge fans are converts now.

Before I sign off for today. I want to make sure you all remember that Connie and Tracy are hosting the Daily Download and the Designer Spotlight Challenge for March. To go along with their month in the spotlight, the North Meets South Studios‘ entire store (bundles excluded) is 40% off the whole month of March!

tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Creating a Shadowbox Effect, Part 2

Editor’s Note: This is an intermediate-level technique.

When we left off last week, the paper layers for the shadowbox were all complete. Now let’s look at adding some embellishments in between those layers. The adding part is pretty straight-forward. Shadowing those layers is the tricky bit. To give the layout the most oomph, the shadows will need to be as realistic as possible. So let’s review some shadow basics.

Shadows are created when light is obstructed by an object. When the object is sitting right on top of a surface, very little light can get under or behind it. Generally, paper will cast a very narrow shadow because it’s thin and flat, unless there are objects under it lifting it away a bit. Things with contours will cast shadows that vary depending on the size, shape, opacity and angle of the object. Flower petals or leaves may curve away from their backgrounds, and the shadows they cast will be narrower where they touch something else, wider where there’s more space. How dark a shadow appears also depends on the shape and density of an object. A button will allow almost no light under or behind it, even at an angle, while a bead may be translucent and will allow much more light through it. String and ribbon can be touching the background in some spots and curl away in others, so a truly realistic shadow will do the same. Now let’s apply these principles to the layout. Again, I’m working from the background out.

It’s possible to use commercial shadow Styles for this type of project, but it makes the whole task a bit more complicated. I’ve used a shadow Style on this flower , which offers some opportunity for adjusting it. Since this flower is underneath the whole paper stack, there won’t be a lot of room for light to leak under or behind it. So there aren’t many tweaks needed. To get to the controls for Styles, double-click on the fx icon on the right side of the layer in the Layers Panel.

I made the shadow narrower because it has all the weight of the layout on top of it. I also moved it closer to the flower’s edges for the same reason. Then I increased the Opacity because it’ll be sitting on top of a photo and might be lost there. Now, if this flower was further up the stack of papers and elements, it would be touching some things and well above others. Using a commercial style means there will need to be a lot of extra steps to adjust the distance and sharpness of that shadow where it’s really close to the object below it. For this reason, it’s working smarter, not harder, to create shadows for each layer as we did for the paper layers… many fewer steps.

The process of shadowing these objects is exactly the same as for the paper layers. Drop a blank layer underneath the object by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the new layer (sheet of paper) icon at the top left of the Layers Panel. Select the edges of the object by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the layer thumbnail of the object with the blank layer active. Fill the selection with your shadow colour using the Paint Bucket tool.

Nudge it in the direction the light source dictates.

Apply a filter by clicking Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur.

Change the Blend Mode to Linear Burn.

Decrease the Opacity until it looks right. Those are the basic steps. I’ve done them so many times that it’s almost automatic for me now and it takes no more time than just hitting it with a Style.

The leaves could be shadowed with a style if we assume they’re fairly stiff and will be a uniform distance from the background. Because of how they’re positioned, there’s going to be very little shadowing on the dark pink paper behind them. The next several screenshots show the custom shadow steps again.

The smaller paper flowers at the notch of the heart shape need a bit more TLC to look realistic. They touch each other and the paper layer underneath them so the shadow will be narrower there. Then the petals are farther away from the background and will be bigger, broader and softer. The Smudge tool – looks like a finger pushing something on the page – will accomplish this. Some things to remember when using the Smudge tool: use a bigger brush than you think you need for a more subtle adjustment, use a light touch and watch the image as you work so you know when to stop. If you go too far, Undo (CTRL/CMD>Z) back to the beginning and start over. To move the shadow closer to the flower, push with the brush very gently. To move the shadow farther away, pull with the brush very gently. If you have crosshairs in your brush cursor, you’ll see that the main action takes place right next to the crosshairs.

This screenshot shows how I’ve shadowed the second flower, before the Opacity is lowered.

Use your imagination when it comes to things like flowers, leaves, string, ribbon and even word strips. Think about how you’ve attached the object to your layout. I’ve decided this flower curves away from the background; the lower petal is relatively flat while the upper one curves in the centre so that there’s a bit more shadow along and away from the curve. For the string, look at it from the perspective of what parts are close to the paper layers and which could be curving away. Use the Smudge tool as needed.

This next part is more complicated – if you want to try it and aren’t following how I’ve done it, let me know and I’ll do an in-depth tutorial on it. (The technique is somewhat covered in this tutorial.) I wanted a petal from the flower to overlap the tag. To make it look like the petal actually extends up and over the tag, I added a layer mask to the TAG by clicking on the blue square with the white circle icon at the top of the Layers panel. Then working on the layer mask,, not the layer, I erased away whatever was overlying the petal. When using a layer mask, the foreground colour in your Color Picker will be either white or black. Remember, black conceals, white reveals. Set the foreground colour to black to conceal then switch to white and clean up the edges. When you have a nice sharp edge where the mask and the object underneath it intersect. Simplify the layer by right-clicking on the layer and selecting Simplify Layer.

As you can see from the screenshot. the shadow for the tag looks really wonky. It needs to be Erased from the area over the flower petal. I used the Eraser tool to carefully remove the areas of the shadow that would be underneath the petal.

But that leaves me with a new problem. The petal needs to cast a bit  of shadow on the tag. What can I do to make that work? Well, I chose to find the shadow layer for the flower and Copy a sliver of that shadow. I used the Elliptical Marquee tool and Selected the section of the shadow that should be on top of the tag. Then I made a Copy of that section by clicking CTRL/CMD>C and Pasted it onto the canvas by clicking CTRL/CMD>V. Elements will drop the copied section close to but not on top of the original. So I nudged it over to the spot where it needed to be, extending just a little past the edge of the petal, and then moved it up the layer stack until it was above the tag layer as shown in the screenshot. It needed a little shaving down and the easiest way to do that was to Select the edges of the flower by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the flower’s layer thumbnail in the Layers panel, keeping the sliver-shadow layer the active one, then Cutting out the extra shadow by clicking CTRL/CMD>X. Bingo! The petal now has a shadow! It just needed a tiny bit of a Blur and it was done.

Please don’t hesitate to ask questions. I want you to be confident and comfortable when you create, even when you’re being challenged!

Here is a link to a PDF version: https://bit.ly/3dLGZyN

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Creating a Shadow Box Layout

Editor’s note: This is an intermediate level technique, with as much detail as I can get in here so it’s achievable by most.

Let’s see if I can get this finished and posted before our dog barfs again… She apparently ate two cotton bandannas (and I’m not positive that’s all!) and luckily for her, she was able to bring them back up before they created a surgical emergency. She’s not impressed with the forced crate rest or the fasting, but there’s been no vomiting now for about 4 hours. Cross your fingers!

Steph has once again brought me an idea for a tutorial that will blow you away. She found it in the challenges at another store and she (quite correctly) thought it would make a great topic. In fact, I had to it split up into two parts to avoid overwhelming the new-to-digi gals. But you’re gonna love it! And it dovetails with the custom shapes tut from last week, in a way. So let’s get after it!

I started by choosing a photo I wanted to showcase but this technique can absolutely be photoless, with a quote or word art as the focal point, or any combo of elements. Then I decided I’d use a heart shape. But not a boring, typical PSE heart. I used the Custom Shape heart as my starting point, then I changed it. A lot. Remember, to be able to do anything other than resizing, Custom Shapes have to be Simplified. I used the Transform tools, a Basic Brush and the Eraser tool to arrive at my final shape. You could use any shape that tickles your fancy, one of the preset ones in your software or a freehand geometric shape… whatever you like! Before we move on, let’s talk about the Transform tools (Image>Transform) a bit. If you haven’t played with them, DO IT!! It’s fun! There are several options in the dropdown menu: Free Transform, Skew, Distort and Perspective. You can use one or all of them on a single image, but not as a single step. I started with the Skew tool. The bounding box comes up with “handles” at the corners and at the midpoint of each side. Skew only moves in one direction at a time; if you grab a corner handle and drag it up, the side of the image the corner is attached to will stretch, while the rest stays the same. You can move the handle in any direction and for any distance you like. Distort is similar to Skew, but allows the image to look like you’ve turned it on its axis while maintaining the basic shape. Perspective moves the whole side of the Bounding Box. If you grab the top corner and drag it up, the bottom corner will move in the opposite direction in the same amount. We’re going to revisit the Perspective tool in a tutorial coming in a couple of weeks. But back to my heart – as I mentioned, I put a photo on my canvas and adjusted the shape of my heart so that all the parts of the photo I wanted to be visible would be visible. It was a bit of a process, moving back and forth between tools until I got it right.

Here I’m showing you how I got the photo part right. I wanted all the hands and feet in there, but not so much of the background. I switched between Selecting the edge of the shape by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the shape so the edge was visible on my photo, hiding the shape layer, deciding what I needed to do to the shape and then making those changes. Lather, rinse, repeat. I finally got it just right, with a relatively smooth edge and could move to the next step.

The first paper layer will be this hot pink. It matches my grandsons’ capes and my granddaughter’s mask and pants. (Their other grandmother is a breast cancer survivor and they’ve been doing the Walk for the Cure every year of their lives.) For this layout I used Jumpstart Designs Jumpstart Your February kit, which is free in the Challenge forum for the rest of the month. As you can see, the marching ants are still there from the last time I checked my fit.

I had to be sure my paper layer was active because I want to cut that shape out of the paper.

Edit>Cut or CTRL/CMD>X will cut the shape out and the photo will be visible again. We’re going to do this step 5 times, one for each of my papers.

See what I mean? Perfect colour match!!

For the next step I resized the shape by clicking one of the corner handles and then typing the amount of increase I wanted into one of the size boxes. I chose 20% because it would be enough to be easily visible and it was easy to remember, because I’ll be doing this step 3 more times. But you do you. Make sure the Constrain Proportions is checked, unless you only want your change to go in one direction. That would also work with this technique, and give a really cool result.

For the next paper layer I went with this polka dot paper for contrast. CTRL/CMD>click on the shape layer, with the paper layer active and CTRL/CMD>X and there’s another cut done!

Here’s how it looks with 2 paper layers.

Then again, I increased the size of the shape by 20%.

Now, the shape layer doesn’t have to be directly under the paper you’re cutting. It can be anywhere in the layer stack. It’s the selection that Elements cares about, not where it is. I added another grungy pink paper to the pile.

On to the cutting part.

If you want to see how it all looks without the black shape in the way, just turn that layer’s visibility off.

I went ahead and added two more paper layers, increasing the size of the shape layer by 20% each time. Now to add the shadows so it looks like I’ve stacked all these papers on top of my photo, and used those foam strips in between to give me a big offset. I’m going to create my own shadows for each layer and will take you through that process. But you can absolutely use an inside shadow style like these ones from Karen Schulz if you’d rather. That’ll reduce the number of steps for you quite significantly.

That shape layer isn’t needed any more so I’m just going to delete it. Right-click on the layer and choose Delete Layer, of just hit the Delete key. Either method will work.

If you’re still reading along, we’re going to run through my method of creating customized shadows on a separate layer. There’s a tut for that here. The first step is to add a blank layer UNDERNEATH the layer you want to shadow, in this case my first paper. To do that quickly and easily, hold down the CTRL/CMD key and click on the sheet of paper icon at the top left of the Layers panel.

Then select the layer you’re shadowing by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the layer thumbnail (not the layer, because that’ll mess up your next step!). Using the Paint Bucket tool (click>K), fill the blank layer with your shadow colour. The colour will only go inside the selection, as shown in the Layers panel. I used pure black for simplicity but you can use a brown or gray if you’d rather. (There’s another way of filling this layer with your shadow colour, but this is the quickest with the fewest steps.) Decide where your light source is coming from (upper left corner for this example) and nudge your shadow so that it appears where the light source dictates it would appear in real life.

Now, real shadows can be harsh and sharp-edged, but that’s not pretty. So let’s not do that! The way to make your shadows look more realistic starts with adding a bit of Gaussian Blur Filter to them. Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur

We want the shadow to make the paper look like it’s quite a distance from whatever is under it, so the Blur can be significant. I went with 10.0 pixels.

This step isn’t essential. I change the Blend Mode of my shadow layers to Linear Burn. It makes them a little darker but more transparent, if that makes sense. You don’t have to take this step, but if you do, make sure you do it BEFORE you adjust your Opacity. If you do it AFTER the Opacity change, next time you go to nudge something, Elements is going to change the Blend Mode instead!

This screenshot shows the Blend Mode is Linear Burn and the Opacity has been lowered to 45%. Look at the shadow now, as it’s cast on the photo. The colours in the photo are still easily visible and unaltered by the shadow. I’m going to shadow all the paper layers in exactly this manner.

To review Step One: Blank layer behind that paper layer. Edges of the paper Selected by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the layer thumbnail.

Step Two: Fill the shadow layer with the Paint Bucket (click K) and click inside the canvas.

Step Three: Add a Gaussian Blur Filter. If you’re happy using the same amount of blur from the last step, the keyboard shortcut is CTRL/CMD>F and it’s done!

Step Four: Change the Blend Mode to Linear Burn. then decrease the Opacity.

I found that an Opacity of 45% was too harsh against a solid paper so I went down to 35% and it looks right to my eyes.

Follow the same four steps for each of the paper layers. This image shows 3 shadow layers finished.

And now all of them are done. Don’t you think the shadow-box effect works?!

For the second part of this technique, I’ll add some embellishments and show you how I shadowed each of them to achieve the final, cohesive look. My layout is here so you can check it out. See you in a week!

PDF Download: https://bit.ly/2ZqQ73D

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Text Boxes Don’t Have to be Boxes!

I’m so glad to have a distraction from the train wreck on my TV right now. All that hot air is giving me a headache. Then there’s the odd thing my Photoshop Elements did. It reset all my preferences all by itself. How does that happen?? I think I’ve got everything back to normal now.

When I got a message from Lisa about putting text inside a shape other than a box, I had to look at all the other tutorials I’d written to be sure I hadn’t already plowed that field. I found a tut about putting text around a shape, but not one for filling a shape. I knew I could build a tutorial around it, but I wasn’t as successful as I’d thought I would be. Her enquiry was about creating a geometric shape that she could then quickly and easily fill with her journaling. Alas, I haven’t succeeded in making that work. But… I can still show you how to use the Custom Shapes tool to create unique text boxes for your layouts. I’ll plop a paper down on my canvas so you can see what I’m doing more clearly. I chose this beautiful blue paper from ADB DesignsAntiques Emporium.

Next I had to choose a shape. The software has a huge assortment of shapes to choose from, but there are a few things to keep in mind when you’re choosing. If you want to use a fancy font, you might want to keep the shape simple. If you want to use a large font, again, keep the shape simple. But remember that you have the opportunity to make your finished text larger and more legible later on in the process. So by implication, the more complex the shape, the smaller and tighter the font will need to be. The default shapes are pretty ordinary, so if you want to see all the possibilities, click on that little upside-down pyramid icon to the right of the image box and from the pull-down menu, choose All Elements Shapes. Just for fun I chose this pear shape for my initial example, clicking and dragging out the shape by moving my cursor over the canvas. You can direct the orientation of the shape while you’re creating it simply by moving the cursor in the direction you want to adjust. You can use whatever colour you want for this step, just pick something that will show up against your background.

Now on to the text part. Select the Text tool. I’m just going to use the default font, Myriad Pro Regular for my example, and the Horizontal Text tool, but you do you. Choose your font, but before you go any further, check the Size and Leading (space between lines), make sure you’ve got a contrasting colour in the foreground box so you can see your text, and that your text will be centered. You’ll note that the layer with the shape on it is a Smart Object. Whatever you do now won’t change that layer unless you Simplify it. DON’T!

Move the cursor inside your shape, anywhere inside the shape; it isn’t necessary to put the cursor where you want to start your text. When you move inside the boundaries of your shape, your I-beam icon that tells you you’ve got the Text tool active will look like the image – the I-beam will be inside a circle. That’s how you know Elements knows you’re going to text inside a shape, and it turns on the invisible force field that keeps your text inside the shape.

Then just type! The software will keep all the text inside the shape and shift things as needed. If you want to have a very narrow border around your text and a tight shape, you may need to adjust the size of your font, adjust the Tracking (kerning – space between individual letters and words, only available with versions 2019 and later) or to edit the words you use to fill the space better. (I’m free-associating in the text on these images. It might be better if you don’t try to read it!)

At this point, you know how to do this task! To see what your text will look like on your paper, turn the visibility for the shape layer off and all that you see is your journaling. I was a tiny bit disappointed that no text went into the stem, but if I’d used an almost invisibly small font, I might have gotten that to work.

The rest of the images are all just to help you figure out how to use the shapes. Lisa mentioned geometric shapes specifically so I chose the Polygon Shape tool. You might think you’re limited in what shapes you can create here, but you can change the number of sides on your shape and keep them crisp or Soften them. There’s also the option to add Styles to your shape but we’re looking at text, so we won’t go there. Odd numbers are always more interesting than even numbers so I chose 9 sides.

As I mentioned, the simpler the shape, the larger the font can be. And too, it’s possible to adjust the orientation of your shape as you’re dragging it out.

The purpose of this image is just to show you that turning Visibility off for the Shape layer while the TEXT layer is the active layer will leave an outline on your paper. If you’re okay with that you can later exploit having the outline there. If you’re not okay with it, make the Shape layer active and it goes away.

Maybe I’d want to leave the outline there… this looks like I typed inside a circle!

And then there’s the Smooth cornered nonagon… almost indistinguishable from a circle. If I wanted a circle I could have chosen a circle!

Smooth pentagon…

How about stars? I’m quite partial to stars. Even this Star Shape tool has options. This is a basic 5 pointed star with a 50% Indent. I’ll show you some different Indents coming up.

Stars are more complex shapes, so the font size will need to be on the smaller side so the text fills the points better. Again, if it’s not looking right to you, try editing the words you’ve used, or adjusting the font size. If you’re adventurous and have 2019 or newer you can try tinkering with the Tracking so there’s more or less space between the letters or words.

With the Shape layer concealed, the star shape seems well-enough defined. If I’d started the text with a single or two-letter word, it would have started closer to the top of the upper point. You might also note that at the very end, there are random loose letters.

Just by Smoothing the Indents on the same star settings I ended up with this shape. It’s different, and could be an interesting addition to a layout.

Here’s what that same basic 5 pointed star looks like with both the Indents and the Points Smoothed. Not my jam.

So what happens if you change the amount of Indent? You get something like this! I went from 50% to 90%. Those points could draw blood! See how the letter “I” is all the way up into that top point? This could take a lot of tinkering.

If I turn off the Shape layer, I’m left with this. It’s just okay.

Then I thought, what will happen with a shape like this sign? Will the text jump over the “cut-out” area or not? Not. So disappointed!

What I learned from playing with this tulip shape is that it too will need some massaging to get it to work well. It ended up not being that bad…

I dropped the font size down to 12 points and was able to completely fill the shape. Now, 12 point type isn’t easy to read on a 600×600 pixel image, but it might be okay if you print out at 12×12 inches. The other option would be to fill the shape and then make the text layer larger.

Can I just leave the Shape layer in there as a journaling blank? Of course! And I can also make it look more intentional too. To make any adjustments to the shape though, other than to resize, it’ll need to be Simplified. (Right-click on the layer then choose Simplify Layer.)

Once the layer is dumbed down, I can add a Stroke to the edge in the same colour to make the shape larger without altering the way the text fits into it. To keep those points as sharp as possible I’ll put the stroke on the centre of the edge rather than outside. The stroke can be as wide as you want, but as you go bigger, the corners will blunt a bit. This tulip doesn’t really have sharp points so it’s all good! Edit>Stroke (Outline) Selection.

If you think you might want to put a coloured border around your text box, rather than just add a Stroke to the layer, Select the edges by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the shape’s layer thumbnail. Once you have the marching ants around your shape you can add the Stroke that makes the shape bigger, then come in again and add a narrower, coloured Stroke to make your border without having to reSelect the edge. For the coloured border, you can go inside the selection and not worry about it biting into your text, as long as it’s skinny.

If you’ve put your coloured Stroke on its own layer (and I always recommend that!) you can get rid of the shape layer and still have a nice border!

Lisa, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to find a way to do this with a hand-drawn geometric shape but I think I’ve shown you some options to get closer to the look you’re after.

Hopefully next week it won’t be so blisteringly cold outside and we can all get some fresh air! See you then.

Here is a link to a PDF version of this tutorial: https://bit.ly/3aWs4yN



Tutorial Tuesday (Fonts)

Hearts and Flowers

Did the groundhog see his shadow in your part of the world? Ours did… of course today would be the first sunny day in weeks! But I’m not a big believer in the legend so I’m not worried. Spring will arrive when it’s ready and not before, as usual. Meanwhile, Valentine’s Day is looming large on the horizon and even the least romantic of us is thinking about love. I honestly thought I’d already put together a hearts-and-flowers Valentine’s Day font collection but I was wrong. We’re going to remedy that right now! I have nine romantic fonts, ten heart-y dingbat sets and a bonus set of cherubs to share with you, all FREE from Dafont. I’ll link each font to the download for you so you can grab the ones that light you up. (I’m making a practice of using coloured text for anything I’m going to link for you, so look for the colours!)

First up we’re looking at Pinky Cupid. It’s a bold, script font with some fancy twists and would be great for both titles and subtitles, dates and even journaling.

Lovely Couple is a condensed script font with a few embellishments. It’s a good choice for any text application you might have.

I can’t get enough of this one! Lovea Hegena has such a gorgeous loopy flow to it.

Look at those tiny sweet hearts on the ends of the strokes in Lovely Valentine! Don’t you love them? ** There are TWO fonts with this name, so make sure you use the link I’ve provided to take you to this one.

The art deco look to Valtin has me squealing! I can think of so many ways to make this really spectacular. I might have to turn it into an alpha to have in my stash.

I can see True Stories as a title font for layouts with children in them. It’s playful but still lovey. ** Again, there are TWO fonts with the same name.

When I look at Lovely Kei, I see bubbles, heart-shaped bubbles. Titles, anyone?!

I almost didn’t include School Girl Crush, but I took another look at it and decided it deserved to be here. Those heart medallions take a very ordinary block font to a whole other level.

Lamor is a mash-up of Valentine’s Day, the 70s and doodles. It’s perfect!

Now on to the dingbats! Bonus Hearts reminds me of confetti. It would make a fabulous scatter, with some layer styles added randomly. (You might see what I mean in the Gallery. Just sayin’!)

There are a lot of “love” images here in Love Romance. Of course, the screenshot is only showing a handful of them, but I’m loving those paired swirly hearts.

Have you looked at the Challenges for February? So many of them are about hearts. Or Heartz, if you will!

How about doodly Loveya Doodle hearts? These could be turned into brushes or popped into thought bubbles.

These are doodly too, but in a different way; I love the scribbled ones. This is called My Valentines Love.

I don’t like the lipstick kiss image in Valentine as much as I do the one in Love Romance, but OMG, there are some kissing giraffes and some teddy bears you can’t see. But don’t take my word for it… check them out yourself!

If you like Victorian romance images, then Valentine C is the set for you! There’s a LOCKET in there!

Sexy Love Hearts has a huge selection of very versatile images. I think I like the one with the random dots in it best, but it’s hard to choose.

The images in Sexy Rexy Smitten make me think of tattoos. There are a few winged hearts in this set, along with some very sweet curlicues and a heart banner I’m totally enamoured with.

Heart Shapes TFB is just that – a passel of heart shapes.

This set is so whimsical, with smiley faces inside solid hearts. It’s called Font Hearts Love.

And now, the bonus set… look at all those naked babies! Rubens would be so proud… and is that a heart-shaped cello? The collection is called Gabriel’s Angels.

What do you think? See something you like? I hope so! Next week we’ll be playing with text again, so stay tuned.
Here is a PDF of this tutorial: https://bit.ly/39HXo59



Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Write Your Troubles in Sand

It looks like manipulating fonts is the theme for January! I love it when readers bring their ideas to me and challenge me to find a way to put them into practice. After the Ninja post, Sherry Pennington dropped this into the comments: “While we are on the topic of fonts, you wouldn’t happen to have one for Snow Writing or Sand Writing ?? I can find tuts and actions for Photoshop but nothing for PSE.” So I set about looking into that and ran with it! I found a video tutorial based on PSE, posted by the brilliant George Peirson of How-To Gurus that looked pretty easy, but I was disappointed that it didn’t look totally real. The following is built on his work, with my own finishing touches. [Spoiler alert: there are a LOT of screenshots, but some of them are for review.] First though, I had to find a suitable photo of sand.

Then I had to choose a font. I want to always offer options here that aren’t going to cost you any money, so with that in mind, I opted to use KG Drops of Jupiter, which is available free at dafont.com. While writing in the sand can be accomplished with a variety of found objects like sticks, shells and so on, I chose a font that looked like it could have been written with a finger, something all of us have.

We’ve made Copy layers in a lot of previous tutorials but I’ve never really shown this method of doing it. It’s great because it creates a layer with JUST THE SAND! And it eliminates a couple of steps, so that’s always going to be a winner for me. I clicked on the layer thumbnail of the text layer, got my ants marching around the edges, and then with a copy of the sand photo active, I clicked Layer>New>Layer Via Copy. (Actually, you know I used the shortcut CTRL/CMD>J. 😉 )

This was accomplished in just 2 steps! (I’ve turned the other layers’ visibility off so you can see just the text Copy layer.) Okay, that don’t impress me much.

To make it look like this text is actually depressed in the sand, we’ll need to add a Bevel. But this method I’m showing you is a bit different and much more useful for this specific technique. Instead of clicking on the Styles button at the lower right and choosing Bevels from the menu, I did this: Layer>Layer Style>Style Settings. I’d never done it this way before, but had to give it a try!

This menu opened up with nothing selected, but all the options right there.

When I clicked on Bevel, this adjustment panel opened. Notice the default settings are very different from the defaults you’d see if you went to Styles>Bevels route.

I wanted the centres of the letters to be quite round, since I’m “writing” with my finger. So I increased the Bevel to 12 pixels. I also reset the Lighting Angle to 120°, which is MY default setting. You’ll consider the angle of the light in the photos for your layout and the angle of the light for the drop shadows you’ll use when choosing these settings.

To carve the text into the sand the Bevel has to go down.

And after these few steps it looks like this.

I don’t always bother renaming the layers in the layers panel, but for this technique it makes a huge difference in the execution, because we’re going to do a bunch of copying and tweaking so knowing which layer is which will really be helpful. So I renamed this sand text layer SAND 1. Then I made a Copy (CTRL/CMD>J) and renamed it to SAND 2 before moving that SAND 2 layer below the first SAND layer. Refer to the screenshot if this is confusing.

This step seems silly, because it undoes what we just did to the SAND 1 layer, but on SAND 2 we’re going to flip the Bevel back to Up.

This image is purely for reference. It shows SAND 2 with its upward Bevel.

And this image has both SAND 1 and SAND 2 visible, but not obviously so.

With the sand photo layer visible the text looks like this. Ho hum.

As you know, when your write in wet sand, some of the sand gets pushed up into a ridge along the edges of each letter. To achieve this effect, I activated the Move tool and nudged SAND 2 over to the left and upward a little bit. Okay, that’s a little better.

Time for another Copy of the SAND 1 layer. You can Duplicate Layer or just CTRL/CMD>J it.

This new SAND 3 layer will have a Blend Mode change to Lighten.

The changes are subtle. And it’s still not blowing me away.

So we’re going to do something I’ve never shown you before. (Because I’ve never used it… but I’m going to now!) Let’s add a Levels Adjustment Layer! Click Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Levels…

Make sure you’re on SAND 3. Check the Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask. This is going to become the Shadow layer, so you can rename the layer to reflect that if it will help.

In the adjustment menu box with the image in it, drag the dark slider to the right to darken the shadowed areas just a bit. It doesn’t need much.

Now move down to SAND 2 and do the same thing. Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Levels…

Make sure you’re Creating a Clipping Mask.

Only this time we’re working on the highlights, so we’re going to pull the light slider to the left a bit.

This layer looks a little too sharp so we’ll add a Gaussian Blur to it. Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur

And it just need a teeny-weeny bit of blur, a Radius of about 2 pixels.

Were you thinking we were done with the Adjustment Layer masks? Nope… we’re going to add one to the SAND 1 layer now – which should be in the middle of the SAND stack – and tweak the Midtones.

Just to review…

By sliding the centre slider to the right a bit, it deepens the midtones and makes the letters look more realistic. Whenever you’re pulling sliders, always watch what’s happening to your image so you don’t go too far. However… you can definitely still go back and readjust each of these Adjustment Layer masks if needed.

This was where the tutorial from George ended. But to my eye, it still didn’t look real enough. When looking at images of actual writing in actual sand, they all had some crumbly grainy rims of raised sand, and this looked too perfect. What to do? I reactivated the original text layer from way back at the beginning.

Then I added a new blank layer ABOVE the text and set my foreground colour to something sandy-looking.

Every time I tried to show you how I chose my Brush, the selection box kept disappearing. So this is a photo from my phone. Assorted Brushes is a set that comes with the PSE software. I chose a texture brush from the set.

Then I got ahead of myself and missed a screenshot. I went into the Brush Settings and added a small Scatter, about 5%, so the edges would be more natural. Then I started brushing over the text in a random pattern, making it a bit heavier wherever a finger stroke would have started or ended. I think it looks suitably crumbly.

With only my brush layer visible I was able to see where it might need a bit more sand.

That looks more like it!

In this image the brush layer is still on the top. It’ll need to be moved down the stack so it sits underneath the SAND layers, but it looks pretty good.

Zooming out with the crumbly layer at the bottom lets me see the full effect. I think the raised edges are still too perfect.

So I brushed some sandy clumps onto the SAND 2 LAYER (not the Adjustment Layer). I think it looks pretty real now. Now, this is just the basic technique. The text can be skewed for photos where the sand isn’t perpendicular to the lens, but that’s a topic for another time.

This technique can be done with whites and grays too, so it looks like writing in the snow. (If you’re really cheeky, you could add some yellow in there too… ) Sherry, I hope this is what you were looking for. It seems like it’s labour-intensive, but it really isn’t too bad.

Next week we might be manipulating text again. I haven’t decided yet!
Here is a link to the PDF version of this tutorial: https://bit.ly/2KRnSr3


Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Another Take on Titles


I can’t be the only one who’s noticed the trend of templates featuring gigantic, block-letter titles with cardstock borders. And I KNOW I’m not the only one who’d like to use them but the titles offered aren’t working for me. So today I’m going to show you how to make your own jumbo titles that you can customize to your heart’s content. My inspiration was some photos of my granddaughter that were taken in August. She’s absolutely fearless and is already showing great promise as a gymnast, and I’m convinced she could be a worthy American Ninja Warrior even at her young age. I knew I wanted my layout to have a prominent title and that it should be feminine, because she’s wearing a dress in most of the photos… such a contradiction she is. The gigantic-block-letter-cardstock-bordered title appealed to me so I started by looking at my fonts for suitable candidates. There are lots of commercial fonts that are “layered”, meaning they have a a set of characters that provide a border that could work, but they tend to be fussy, and I wanted this to be accessible to everyone, so we’re not going to use one of those!

Actually, many of the system fonts that come standard on most computers will work beautifully for this technique; I’m pretty sure Impact is the basis for the commercially-available template versions. I decided to try two fonts and see which I liked better. I started with a commercial font called Liberation Sans Narrow Bold (yes… the name is that long!). It’s blocky but not harsh. And my second choice was Constantia Bold, a system-based serif font that I wasn’t sure would work, but worth a try. I went with BIG, 200 pixels for my text. And each letter is on its own layer.

Next, I created a New Layer above the first “N” and CTRL/CMD>clicked on the layer thumbnail for the “N” layer to select the outer edges. (Marching ants are not visible in this screenshot.) These steps will be followed for each letter in the title.

I added a white, 15 pixel Stroke to the outside of the selection. Edit>Stroke (Outline Selection) By putting the Stroke outside the selection, it keeps the sharp points and edges although some corners are slightly rounded. That won’t be visible in the end. You can make the Stroke wider, but be careful not to obliterate your areas that should have gaps. I’d suggest no wider than 25 pixels.

Each of the letters can now be used as a clipping mask. (That’s why I used gray as my foreground colour – to remind me to clip something to them.)

I added a white Stroke to every letter in the same manner. The white Stroke layers will become my “cardstock” border.

But first, to get the Stroke to that lofty goal, I need to make some adjustments. The Stroke by itself is a little anemic, so I’m going to give it a Bevel Style. I Selected all the Stroke layers by holding down the CTRL/CMD key and clicking on each of them, as you can see in the screenshot. Why? So I can apply the Bevel Style to all of the borders in a single step. Remember: Work Smart, Not Hard!

Adding a Bevel Style will accomplish a couple of things – it’ll give the border some substance and it’ll add a bit of shadowing to eliminate the need for doing that as a separate step. Click on the Styles button at the lower right of your workspace and select Bevels from the dropdown menu. Of course, I tried ALL the options for Beveling so I could say authoritatively that Simple Emboss is the right choice.

The default settings for this Style are 90° Lighting Angle, 21 pixel Size and Up for the Direction. I wasn’t blown away by the defaults so I started adjusting each of the Bevels with the letter “A”. Double-click on the fx symbol at the far right of the layer in the Layers panel to open up the adjustment menu. Then I made my changes. You may be able to see the difference between the “J” and the “A”. Once I was happy with the look, I right-clicked on the “A” layer and chose Copy Layer Style. Then I reselected the rest of the border layers and right-clicked again, this time selecting Paste Layer Style. WSNH again!

Then I went on to my second title, the one with the serifs. This time when I added the Bevel, I also added both an Inner and Outer Glow – all found in the adjustments for the Layer Style. I made it simple by setting everything to 10. In the image, I’ve adjusted the first “N” but that’s all.

When I was happy I chose some girly papers to clip to my letters from Ooh La La ScrapsBirthday Wishes Girl bundle. Need a refresher on clipping? Put your paper over top of the layer you’re using as your clipping mask. Then right-click on the paper layer and choose Create Clipping Mask or CTRL/CMD>G for PSE versions up to 14, CTRL/CMD>ALT>G for versions 15+. Cute, huh?

But which one will I use for my title?

Yes, I went with the second one with the serifs. If I want to manipulate the letters any further, I need to either Merge or Link the layers so that when I move one letter, all parts of it go with it. I Merged (CTRL/CMD>E), but if you prefer to have the layers separate but linked, go ahead and select all three of the layers for each letter then click on the little chunk of chain next to the eyeball icon.

I moved my letters around to make them a little less starchy. And it’s finished! I’m going to be looking for your layouts with jumbo titles now!

Here is a downloadable PDF: https://bit.ly/2LU4oT5



Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

One BIG Word – Using a Title as a Divider

This week’s tutorial is brought to you by Ellen (gmae) and Ann (ScrappinRosie). As you’ve likely noticed, Ellen is one of my topic-generators, bringing me ideas for tutorials fairly regularly. This one came to me via private message: “I came across this layout by ScrappinRosie and of course I love it. I know I can figure out how to do this but some others may not so I thought it may make a nice tut sometime. You did a tut about joining letters with extra swashes which is a good reference but some may not know how to decide what may make a good font to use in the first place and could a printed font even work.”

The tutorial Ellen referenced about using the extra characters that come with some fonts can be found here. As for choosing a font for this type of application, MainType has a handy way to show which fonts have extra glyphs – swashes, curlicues, whatever you want to call them. It’s discussed in the tutorial but for a little refresher, here’s a screenshot to help you out. (I just upgraded to the most current version of MainType, so I haven’t tagged any of my 1645 fonts yet. Gotta be in the mood, know what I mean?)

I started by opening a 12×12 scrapbook page canvas on my work space then surveyed my collection of fonts to see which ones would give the look I wanted. The title for my page was going to completely transect my layout, and it had to work with the mood of the layout. The things I considered were how I wanted the layout to feel, how the title would work with my chosen photo(s) and how large I wanted it to be. If my subject was something less emotive, I might have chosen a more upright, less fancy font. But “mellow” cries out for swirls!

The font I used is Camellia Regular; there are free versions that don’t include the extra characters so you might want to check first. I purchased my version from Font Bundles as part of a script bundle. Be sure to look at your font stash to see which ones might have the swashes included; you might have some really good ones already! For this step, any colour will do because it’s not forever. I replaced the “m” and the “w” with glyphs from the font extras to extend the beginning and end of the word. In some of the later screenshots you can see that in the layers panel – there are symbols in place of the letters in the name of the layer. If your chosen title will have more than one word like Ann’s does, you’ll need to ensure that the words physically touch, and that can be accomplished by using a long tail glyph to connect them.

It looked good but I thought that as a title it probably needed to be a bit more present. Remember that text layers are “smart” until you Simplify then, meaning you can’t change their appearance in any way other than colour and size. To add a Stroke – a heavier outline – the text couldn’t be “smart”. I Simplified the text layer by right-clicking on the layer and choosing Simplify Layer from the dropdown menu.

There are a couple of ways to make things bigger, and applying a Stroke is the easiest and gives the best results if done correctly. Edit>Stroke (Outline Selection)

Generally speaking, Strokes can be dainty or bulldozer-y, and everything in between, depending on the effect you’re looking for. With text, applying a Stroke needs a light touch. If you make your stroke too big, it’ll obliterate the loops and swirls and completely defeat the font you chose. If you apply your Stroke Inside the selection, it might not make a lot of difference. If you apply it Outside the selection there may be a tiny gap between the object and the Stroke – and that can be a disastrous thing to discover several steps down the road. So when I apply a Stroke to text, I choose Center, which puts the Stroke directly over the edge, half inside, half outside. Going with 4 pixels is usually a good number, adding just a bit more weight but without making your loops into lumps.

As you can see, the difference isn’t really obvious. But now the title has oomph!

The next step is to Resize the title so it extends all the way across the layout. I went horizontal, but yours could be vertical or diagonal. I plan to put a photo at the top of the layout with the title overlying, but you could easily use different papers for your layout. It’s important to have the title touching the edges of the canvas, as you’ll see in the next frame.

Because I want the lower paper to follow the contours of the title, I’m going to create myself a clipping mask. To do that I first need to make a Copy of my title layer. Right-click>Duplicate Layer or CTRL/CMD>J 

Then I went back to the original title layer and using the Paint Bucket tool, I Filled in the space where my paper will go with solid white. If my title didn’t touch the edges of the canvas or with multiple words that weren’t touching, when I dumped my Paint Bucket, it would have filled the whole 12×12 space! Where the title touches the edges, it forms a dam to keep the paint inside.

I want to be able to see the title against my photo and I’ll probably Clip a paper to it. I don’t want the lower paper to cover the title though, so to ensure that, I’m going to Select the title from that clipping mask layer and remove it. I CTRL/CMD>Clicked on the Copy title layer’s thumbnail but kept the clipping mask layer active. That isolates the title from the rest of the mask. You may be able to see the marching ants in the screenshot.

Still on the clipping mask layer, I Cut away the title: Edit>Cut or CTRL/CMD>X 

And with the Copy title invisible, this is what my clipping mask layer looks like.

I decided I needed to put my photo in place to see if I needed to move the title up or down. The clipping mask could be expanded vertically if needed to ensure my purple paper will cover the whole bottom. I put the photo under the other layers and adjusted the size to fit my space (and to crop out a post!). For those who are wondering, this is the view from our deck!

Clipping my purple paper to the clipping mask came next, then clipping paper to my title layer. The keyboard shortcut for clipping something to something else is CTRL/CMD>G for PSE versions lower than 15 and CTRL/CMD>ALT>G for versions 15+.

I thought I might add just a bit more interest to the title so I added a Texture Filter: Filter>Texture>Texturizer.

There are some options for what kind of texture you can use with this Filter tool: Brick, Burlap, Canvas or Sandstone. Each has a different look and I chose Burlap for this. Adjustments are Scaling (size of the texture), Relief (depth of the texture) and direction of the Light source. You can see what your Filter looks like on the Preview. I didn’t want the texture to be the focus, but rather a supporting detail so I went with 50% Scaling, 2 for Relief and the Light is coming from the upper right.

There it is! Definite, but subtle.

Last step is to add a shadow to the title! I could use a Shadow Style but I’m so used to creating my own custom shadows that I do it automatically. Once I’m done with that I can add my embellishments and journaling. Et voilà!

Have you seen a layout that wowed you but you’re not sure how to achieve the same results? Maybe I can help!

For a PDF version of this tutorial, go here. (linked)

Tutorial Tuesday – GingerScraps

New Year, New Challenges!

2021 has gotten off to a smashing start at GingerScraps. There have been a lot of “new” ladies joining our Facebook group and that tells me we’re doing something right. I truly believe GingerScraps IS the “friendliest place in the Digi Scrapping world“. Participation in our Forum has grown so much over the last year, especially in the Welcome! subforum. Of course, each of us is looking for something specific when we embark on a new adventure. For me, I came to GS as a creative team member for one of the GingerBread Ladies; this was my “assigned” store. I spent some time looking around, trying to find a way to engage myself and discovered the GingerScraps Challenges. Bonanza!!!

For those of you who have been GingerScrapping for awhile, you probably already have an established Challenge routine and likely won’t feel the need to read on. That’s cool… no pressure! But if you’re still getting comfortable here, you might not have looked into the Challenges and could maybe use some pointers. AND……. there are NEW challenges beginning this month so I want everybody to know about them.

Let’s begin with some general Challenge info. Challenges are one of the best ways of building your skills, and they also provide a framework to build them on by giving specific guidance such as a topic, a technique, a template or a word art. They’re also a good kick-start when you’re not really sure what you’re going to scrap, or when you’ve lost your mojo. But at GS, Challenges also provide a method of growing your stash! Several of the Challenges include access to high-quality freebies, such as brushes, mini-kits, templates and word art – you just have to download them! Even better than that though is the Challenge Reward! These Rewards are mega-kits created in collaboration by several of the GingerBread Ladies and there’s a new one every month. The January Reward looks like this:

Missi (missdamsel) does a really good job of explaining how Challenge Rewards work in the Cookie Jar – the Challenge tracking thread where you link to the layouts you’ve created for the Challenges. More about that later. But I’ll give you a little recap: You must create a different layout for each Challenge. Your Challenge layouts generally must contain at least 50% GingerScraps content – things available in the GS store – although the Designer Spotlight Challenge has a higher required content rule, 90% to be product from the Spotlight Designer(s) only. Another must is that you also post your layout in the Challenge thread. When you upload your layout to the Gallery, please also include the Challenge category in your description so it goes into that Challenge’s Gallery too. There’s a detailed set of instructions for this process in the tutorial A Road Map for Newbies. (**Just had a thought when I was talking to my hubby about this tut… MAKE SURE YOU’RE UPLOADING TO THE CORRECT YEAR’S CHALLENGE GALLERY!) When you’ve completed TEN Challenges and recorded them in your Cookie Jar, you’ll receive the Challenge Reward kit for the month you hit that milestone. Missi keeps track of all the Cookie Jar entries and sends out a Private Message with the coupon code for the Reward to the scrappers who qualify. One thing that can be confusing is that if you go OVER ten layouts in a given month, those “extra” ones aren’t carried over for the next month. If you create ten layouts every month, you get all the Rewards! Okay, that’s the important 411 on general Challenge stuff. Now let’s talk about some of the new ones!! (Each of the Challenges will be linked in the description so you can just click on the red text and go right to the Challenge. All coloured, bold text in this tutorial has a link attached.)

The Challenges are listed in the Forum in alphabetical order, so that’s how I’m going to discuss them. First up is Jumpstart Your Layouts: with Jumpstart Designs. GingerBread Lady Sheri provides each Challenger with a free product – this month it’s a really cute mini-kit – and the “rules” for the Challenge, which will change each month. For January she wants each scrapper to scrap their inner thoughts about the coming year, and include a selfie somewhere on the page. For some of us, the selfie IS the challenge!

Connie Prince has changed the focus of her monthly Challenge so I’m considering it to be a new one. Life Chronicled is a way to scrap about the more ordinary parts of our lives to give our future generations glimpses of our lives as they were every day, to let them into our heads a little so they “know” us. She gives some talking points to help decide where the layout will go. She also includes a mini-kit, that coordinates with one of her larger kits, for inspiration. (It’s not a required component, though.)

Marina brings us our third new challenge, Magical Scraps Galore’s Surprise Challenge. Each month the focus of the Challenge will be a complete surprise. For January she’s requiring a ten-item overlapping cluster on your layout with a list of each of the 10 objects included when you post your layout to the thread. Clusters can be really intimidating to new scrappers, and if you need some support, there’s a tut for that: Creating Clusters… Not Clutter

While it’s technically not new, the Mix It Up Challenge is now being hosted by Mish Fish every month. It’s similar to the Surprise Challenge in the sense that every month the goals will be a surprise. For January, Juli has given us a 1-2-3-4 list of ingredients for our layouts. 1 word title, 2 photos, 3 flower/element clusters (clusters again!) and 4 (or more) lines of journaling. Piece of cake, right?

This next one is bound to be a huge hit. My Favorite Things with CathyK is another opportunity for personal layouts, focusing on YOU and what you take pleasure in. Cathy would like us to think about, then scrap, some positive moment from 2020 for her inaugural Challenge. It wasn’t the most uplifting of years for far too many people, but there’s always at least some good mixed in with the bad. When I read Cathy’s post, I knew immediately where my layout will go.

Scraps N Pieces is bringing us a Pinterest Challenge. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to get into Pinterest, she’s done it for you!) Each month she’ll provide a mood board created from images she’s pinned, each with a related theme, to provide you with some inspiration. Your layout can take its cues from any aspect of the pinned images that pop into your head. January’s images are about food and how we relate to it. Who hasn’t started a new weight loss plan in January?

And the final new Challenge for 2021 is the Quote Challenge with BoomersGirl Designs. Each month Lori will provide us with a quotation she’s found meaningful. The challenge is to use it as a basis for a layout, but it doesn’t have to INCLUDE the quote. January’s quote is about the gift of time, and what we do with it. Layouts will end up related, but unique, because our personal stories will take us each in a different direction.

I have my personal favourites when it comes to Challenges and I have my own process for doing them. Having worked as an ICU nurse for 25 years, process for me is like breathing! It helps me organize myself and keep myself on track. I start off at the beginning of the month by looking at each of the Challenges I enjoy doing to see if they spark anything. If they do, I right away create a folder for them. (I have folders for everything!) The folder’s name will include the Challenge name and some clues about the topic so I can see at a glance what I should be looking for later when I’m ready to work. If the Challenge includes a freebie like a brush or a mini-kit, I extract the zipped folder right into my Challenge folder. Then when I’m ready to create, I Copy all the photos, elements, paper and whatever else I expect to use into the folder too so it’s all in one place. Once the layout is finished and I’ve posted it to the Gallery, I change the name of the folder by adding a simple hyphen at the front of it that tells me it’s complete. You can see in the screenshot (you had to know there’d be a screenshot!) none of the folders have a hyphen… I haven’t done any work yet. But I’m going to start right away, because I WANT the Challenge Reward!! You might also have noticed that half of those folders are for the new Challenges. Because they’re awesome!

On a more tutorial note, my plan for the coming year going forward is to have the tutorials available as PDF files. It’s a work-in-progress as Ginger and I try to work out the logistics, but we wanted you to know the work is happening to make it a reality! Unfortunately, the amount of time required to convert all 200 previous tutorials would be huge, so they won’t be converted. Stay tuned!


Here is a link to this tutorial in PDF version! https://bit.ly/3biN5FP