Tutorial Tuesday (Windows and Elements)

Following Up for Donna

Last week’s organization tips drew some great comments. Many of you have good systems for sorting and retrieving your digi goodies. But… there are some things that still prove elusive.

Donna had this to say: Dragging from all different folders from the finder is a pain in the ***, it was so much easier dragging from the searched results in photos.. Because I usually copy the files I plan to use and place them in a subfolder of my digiscrapping master folder, I hadn’t worked out a trick for that process that might streamline it a bit for those of you who prefer to drag-and-drop right from your folders into your scrapping software. Read on!

First I’ve shown my folder method using the search box in Windows. (Sorry, I’m not a Mac girl so I don’t have any tips for that platform.) I ran a simple search for “buttons“. The search box is at the upper right of the window and the progress bar runs from left to right as Windows does the work for you.

Once the search was done, I selected 4 buttons with a similar colour scheme, from 4 different folders. Remember, to make multiple selections, hold down the CTRL/CMD key while you’re clicking on the items you’re choosing.

Next, I Copied all 4 of the buttons.

Finally, I Pasted those buttons into a new Button folder I’d created within my Digiscrapping folder. Now, when I’m ready to use them in Elements, I can open that Button folder with the Open tool on the main screen. But that seems to be a little involved. Is there a way to select the same 4 buttons and open them in Elements without the extra steps? Work Smart, Not Hard, right??

OF COURSE!! I got Elements up and running. Then I activated that big Open button at the left of the main screen. But instead of having a dedicated folder with my buttons in it, I instead opened my Digikits folder and USED THE SEARCH BOX! It was something that had never occurred to me before. I typed “button” into the search box and waited.

Then I went through the results in the same way I would any other time. I Selected the same 4 buttons as before. (The image below shows the search results as a list. I did my selections using medium icons so I could see the actual images then I changed the display to a list so I could show you multiple selections.) When I had all 4 selected, I just hit that Open button at the bottom right of the menu.

And there they are! All from different folders and in fewer steps! I hope this is what Donna was looking for.

Her second organizational challenge reads like this: Having switched to using my cellphone as my primary camera these last few years has actually made it more difficult to group as events, etc because of all the random photos, notes, screenshots etc that I also take photos of. Open to any suggestions there…? This one is actually an easy fix. Both iPhone and Android have the ability to build albums with our photos. My Android phone creates some of its own albums, but I can make more to suit myself. Moving photos into the albums is as easy as clicking on them, going to the gallery menu and moving or copying the selected photos over. The key here is to sort them soon after you take them so it doesn’t become an all-day job. If you’re planning to use a group of photos taken on a specific day, make an album for that day. Sending the photos to the platform upon which you do your scrapping is the same process as whatever you’re doing now. If you’re using the iCloud, Dropbox or Google Drive or some other cyber-sharing device, that will allow you access to all your phone folders. Give it a try and see if it makes life easier!

Next week I’ll be showing you another paper-to-digi technique courtesy of Steph Barry. I think you’re going to love it!

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

Decluttering Isn’t Just for Homes

It’s January. It’s bone-chillingly cold in some parts of the world (like HERE!) and unseasonably warm in others. The holidays are over, and winter stretches out in front of us like a long and bumpy road. There’re no truly exciting events on the horizon, so what’s a girl to do? Well, the flyers are filled with supplies for organizing our stuff… But for digiscrappers, we don’t need to buy anything. It’s all right in front of us! I think now is a good time to talk about organizing our stuff, and maybe actually making some effort to get ‘er done. This is how I do it, but I know y’all have your own way of doing things, The important part is to DO it!

It’s not as important where we start as that we actually DO start. For me, the place to begin will be with all the new kits I’ve amassed but haven’t unzipped. This is actually my New Year’s Resolution, to unzip and relocate my supplies as soon as I download them. I was keeping up just fine until my dogs started fighting in the house and I had to spend a lot of time keeping them away from each other. I have a backlog, and I WILL attend to it ASAP. I use Extract Now, a free rapid unzipping app that makes the unzipping part pretty easy. I make folders within my download folder into which I unzip the new goodies, which eliminates a couple of steps in the process, and it works pretty well. I still go through each of the subfolders, deleting all the duplicate previews and things I know I’m not going to use (like alpha sheets!). If the kit is templates, I delete the PNG files and the TIFF files, and I add to the name of the previews to include single or double and the number of photo spots the template includes. That lets me put a keyword like “single4” in the search bar and Windows will find all the previews with 4 photo spots. Once I’ve arranged my folders the way I like them, I move them en bloc to my digikit folder for the store or designer as appropriate. Then my download folder should be empty. Until I fill it up again!

The way I sort my digikits is primarily by store or by designer’s creative team, with the exception of Heartstrings Scrap Arts… I have so many of Bryony’s kits I need a separate folder just for them. Having said that, my GingerScraps folder is ENORMOUS!  (24.6GB without the kits sitting in my downloads folder. Thank heaven I have a 2TB drive on this laptop!) I rename each kit’s folder: DesignerNameKitName, unless it’s a Buffet kit, then it’s MonthYearBufDesignerNameKitName. That makes it easier when I’m doing a store challenge.

I try to organize my photos as I take them, so the job isn’t too daunting. I don’t care for the Organizer that comes with Photoshop Elements so I don’t use it. But it can be very useful for both organizing and retrieving your photos. The Help menu can give you some ideas about how to maximize your efficiency. The way I file my photos is in folders… what else? I create a new folder for the current year, and a subfolder for each month. I download a lot of photos from my daughter’s Tiny Beans album where she posts pics of my grandchildren. Those I rename with a suitable tag so I can run a keyword search later. If I’m looking for photos of Aaron, I just type in his name. These photos go into the folder for the month and year they were taken so I have some frame of reference later. I have a folder for the photos my friend Sandy takes and graciously allows me to ‘steal’ and one for the photos I download from Pixabay. My Pixabay folder is broken down into subfolders by topic: Kids, Insects/Flowers, Animals, Portraits, Scenic and such. This method of filing makes it a lot faster to find what I’m looking for.

I also organize my layouts. I have folders for each month’s challenges, with subfolders for the challenges themselves. When the year is over, they all collectively are filed in a folder for the whole year. Then again, I have some folders that have copies of the finished layouts for my daughters’ weddings, my grandkids’ first years, all of my Ireland layouts and for the creative teams I’m on. It’s all about finding things later!

Since I set up this new(ish) laptop back in September, I haven’t taken the time to go through my 1400+ fonts and retag them for MainType. That’s something I really need to get on with! It’s a daunting task, but you know what they say. Focus on the first step. I know the time I spend on it now will decrease the time it takes me to find the one font I’m looking for later. The best part of MainType is that I decide what my tags are, based on MY workflow – how I search for things. And like everything else, if I work at it as I add new fonts, the amount of time I spend on it will go way down. But just writing about it is giving me a rash, so let’s move on!

One caveat. If you’re going to delete duplicate files, make sure you only delete the ones you’re not going to want to search for later. I made the mistake of using a Windows utility and chose the wrong metric so it removed a LOT of my original templates and left me with the PSD files for the last layout I used them for. Retrieving the original template takes a lot of time but is necessary when I use the search feature to find previews for my desired number of photos.

I’m interested to hear how YOU organize your stuff. So please, share your secrets!!

 

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

Beyond the Ordinary – Holiday Photos

Wow, can it really be only 8 days until Christmas? Even fewer until the first night of Chanukah… Families all over are getting ready for the Main Event and of course, no special occasion is ever complete without the photos to prove it happened. I think I can speak for most of us when I say I’ve taken a LOT of really ho-hum photos over the years. If you’re like me and browsing through the Gallery in late December makes you envious of the amazing photos OTHER scrappers have scrapped, I’m going to offer some thoughts on how to make our holiday photos better. I’m not going to completely rehash this tut from last year but some things do bear repeating.

First, make sure you have fresh batteries and a large SD card for all the great shots you’re going to take. If you’re into phonetography, you might want to trim your in-phone collection by saving them to your computer or the Cloud, then deleting them from your internal storage.

Make a list – physical or mental – of the shots you MUST have. We all have our own preferences for what we want to document so don’t feel like you’re being forced to conform. But there are some sort of standard images we all like.

Even if you feel like decorating for the holidays is a dreaded chore, take some photos of the process. Get a shot of the decor while it’s still in the box. If your kids are helping, turn them into models for your portfolio. Remember to get down on their level. Even the cutest kids aren’t great photo subjects if they’re always shot from above. And get in close!!!! I know I’ve mentioned before that the best crop is the one you do in the viewfinder. so fill the frame! Don’t be afraid to zoom in. Same goes for your pets, if you want them in your photos.

When shooting your tree, look for a different approach than the typical 8-feet-away-so-the-whole-tree-and-gifts-are-in-the-shot. Maybe take some close-ups of your favourite ornaments. Use a portrait mode to soften the background and make the ornament totally the focal point. Get down on the floor and shoot up toward the topper, or shoot down through the branches and make the presents the subject. Turn off all the room lights and shoot the tree with just the tree lights. Experiment with shutter speed and aperture to create some lovely bokeh effects. Add a human or a pet to the frame. Or take a photo of the lights reflected in a window. (If you don’t want your reflection in your photo, stand at an angle to the window and look carefully at what’s in the viewfinder.) Or take a photo of the tree THROUGH the window! Turn off your flash though, so you don’t spoil the shot.

If you’re celebrating Chanukah, there are lots of great ways to take photos of your menorrah. A series, with each night’s new candle lighting, would make a lovely layout. Look at the angles. On the last night, when all the candles are burning, an angled shot from one end with each flame visible would be incredible. Some of my favourite photos of my grandsons are of them lighting a candle, with the soft glow of the flame on their cheeks and wonder in their eyes. (Their mom takes amazing photos.)

We’ve all got a folder full of group photos where everybody is stiffly lined up and fake-smiling at the camera. So how can we take better group shots? Having the subjects doing something together is a good start. If you have snow in your area, have the group build a snowman, or have a snowball fight. Or play football in the snow. Beach ball volleyball (in sand or snow) would make some entertaining shots. But if you just have to have a posed group shot, give some thought to who goes where. If you can arrange the people so that their faces form little triangles, you’ll have a nicer image. Have them turn their shoulders toward each other or the centre of the photo so they can get a bit closer together. Make sure you’ve chosen a landscape setting so everybody will be in focus. Think about trying not to cut people’s legs off. If you can, shoot everybody down front from the waist up. Your subjects will thank you.

Do you go all out with a gorgeous table-scape for your guests? I’ve never done it, but I love seeing how others do it. If you’re hosting and have your table all set well in advance (like the experts recommend for sanity’s sake 😉 ) take a few minutes to look at it with your photographer’s eye. Take a shot of a single place setting. Try and get the whole table in a shot, easiest if you shoot from one end. Take a closeup of your crystal.

Don’t forget to get some shots of the dinner prep. Be stealthy and get some candids of the main cook, or if that’s you, get some of your helpers. Look for interesting camera angles of your turkey, ham or standing rib roast. Ask someone to be the carver and get some action shots. And look for smiling faces as the meal commences.

What about gifts? Well, there’re lots of opportunities around gift opening. Get down on the floor with the kids. Try to capture the moment when they identify what’s in the package. If it’s your thing, you can take some of them channeling Vanna White, holding up a favourite gift. If there’s a very special gift being given, arrange for it to be delivered when you have a moment to frame your image. I really wish I had a photo of myself when I opened a gift from my sister quite a few years ago. It was a resin frame with dragonflies on it, but what made it truly special was that it held a photo of me with my grandfather, who died when I wasn’t yet 4 years old. If you know in advance, you can be ready to catch the emotion.

After the dust settles, you can relax, but don’t forget there might still be some great photos yet to happen. Like when a child falls asleep in the middle of a game, or the dog takes off with a long piece of ribbon… they could be the best shots you get all day. But don’t concentrate so hard on getting good photos that you don’t have fun! At a family reunion, my niece made a point of taking a selfie with every single one of us, and they were all fantastic. If you have mad selfie skills, give it a whirl. You might surprise yourself!

I’ll be taking next Tuesday off, as I expect most of you will too… bigger fish to fry! Merry Christmas! Mazel tov! Kwanzaa blessings to all!

 

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

To Theme or Not to Theme

I apologize for missing my deadline. I got caught up in a Christmas sewing project and by the time I came up for air it was almost bedtime. But I didn’t totally forget about you!

When I was looking in the Forum at the December Challenges I was drawn to the Mini Kit provided by Neia Scraps. Although it’s called Christmas Spirit and has a Christmas-y theme I knew I would be using it instead to scrap one (or more) of my DD’s wedding photos (from July) because the palette is PERFECT for them. So I downloaded the kit and created a layout that has nothing to do with the kit’s theme. And that started me thinking about how often others might use a themed kit for a layout about something completely unrelated. I do it fairly often, and figured we could talk about that a bit today. (Note to Glee… the light source is almost directly centred over the layout, but slightly left and up. The frame is holding the paper star down but the points are free.)

 

For this layout I used a Valentine’s Day kit, the GingerBread Ladies‘ collab Smitten,  to scrap a dog photo. (I know, I do a lot of layouts with my dogs front and centre. What can I say?)

Then I took a (very quick) tour through the Gallery.

Gingerscrapper dshepard created a layout with a kit from Magical Scraps Galore with a candy theme; it’s called Sweet as Candy. The subject of her layout is a visit to a theme park.

This pretty example from honeybee was created with Harvest Sunrise from Mag’sGraphics. No harvest anywhere in sight… but lots of love!

Then I found this cute layout from snojewel about pirates. She used a motivational kit from the GingerBread Ladies called Love Yourself.

And then I found this one from teamkobza about a fun day she had with some little people, although I doubt they were in Iowa. The kit she used is Travelogue Iowa from Connie Prince.

So here’s a challenge for all y’all. I’d like you to create a layout using a kit with an obvious theme but about something unrelated. It’ll broaden your horizons!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Paper-to-Digi 3D Emboss

I’m back!! I’ve recovered about 85% from my unfortunate tumble and should be all there again soon. Thank you all so much for your kind wishes for my speedy healing, I’m positive it helped. (I think that’s my post with the most comments ever!)

Before we get started, I want to apologize for the lack of consistency with the images I’m sharing with you. I’m still not happy with the way this laptop does screenshots and wish I could go back to how my dead one did it, where I could hover over a control so you could actually see what I was selecting. But alas. Add that to the changes WordPress has made to their blogging software, and now I’m also having to resize every image before I write the text. It’s a real drag!

Okay, so. Another suggestion I got from calgirl (Steph) via YouTube video was to show you all how to create a deep 3D embossed look with digital tools. I had to play around a bit to make this work the way it looked in my head, and I think I succeeded. I’m working against a solid cardstock background using a nice blue one from Ooh La La ScrapsPocket Full of Sunshine. I’ll also be using a brush – on a separate layer, of course!

The brush I used is from Brusheezy, one of a free set called Frosted Flakes. (linked) I’ll use it at full size. The Opacity isn’t totally important, as you can see it’s set at 65%. I’m going to stack the brush until it looks dark and sharp enough for the technique.

Here’s what the first click created. I think it has a lot of 3D potential, don’t you?

I kept clicking until I had an almost solid image, a total of 5 clicks. I used white to make the steps easy to see as we go along.

This is another non-essential step. I enlarged my brush image to make everything more easily visible. You do you!

Then I made 3 copies of the brush layer. At this point, I thought I’d use them all, but I ended up only using 3 total. It’s always better to have something and not need it rather than need it and not have it. Onward.

I turned the visibility of the copy layers off, because this is a bottom-up technique.

My next step was to click on Styles and choose the Bevel set.

For the bottom brush layer I used the Simple Pillow Emboss option.

You can see that there’s some texture there now. I clicked on the fx icon on that bottom layer to bring up the Style Settings menu. Then I added an Outer Glow of 13 pixels at 50 % Opacity. The Bevel is set at 27 pixels. Now, this is a matter of taste, and I found that the Outer Glow added some depth that wasn’t there with just the Bevel.

With the second brush layer now visible, I CTRL/CMD>clicked on the Layer Thumbnail (the little picture on the left side of the column) in the Layers Panel to Select the edges of the brush. Selecting an object brings up the marching ants.

To enhance the 3D effect, I decided to shrink the second brush layer a bit by Select>Modify>Contract.

I opted to Contract by 10 pixels, meaning that the outline of the brush will be moved toward the inside by 10 pixels all the way around.

Then I Inverted the Selection by Select>Inverse (or CTRL/CMD>Shift>I)

And then I Cut away the outer piece of the Brush layer that was now Selected through Inverting. Edit>Cut (or CTRL/CMD>X)

Just like on the first brush layer, I used a Bevel, this time the Simple Emboss as shown.

See the new texture that adds?

I also tweaked this layer, adding an Outer Glow of 29 pixels at 49% and adjusted the amount of Bevel to 15 pixels.

Now on to the third brush layer. I think you know what’s coming. Select the outline again.

This time Select>Modify>Contract to 15 pixels.

And then Invert the Selection (CTRL/CMD>Shift>I)…

and CTRL/CMD>X away the Selected area.

Hit it with the Simple Emboss Bevel.

Adjust the Style Settings to add an Outer Glow of 29 pixels at 50% and the Bevel at 30 pixels.

I realized that I’d gotten the effect I was looking for without that 4th brush layer. I could have left the resulting image as it was, which would look like a very detailed 3D white paper die cut, but I wanted to see how it would look as a true embossing of the blue paper. I opted to add a copy of the paper layer on top of all my brush layers, in case I changed a Blend mode for the paper and lost the original blue. Here I’ve toned down the Opacity of the top cardstock layer to 78% and it looks pretty much like I’d expect an embossed blue cardstock to look.

I don’t know if doing this step made much of a difference to the overall effect, but I added another paper layer and changed the Blend Mode to Color. What do you think?

Have a look through your brush collection to see what you have that might work for this and give it a whirl!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Another Paper- to Digi-Technique – Stenciling

After last week’s tutorial came out, I got a really nice private message from calgirl (aka Steph). It read, in part: “I love the tutorials you have done on the digital version of a paper-scrapping technique.
I have been trying to think of other techniques it would be fun to see – how do you do this. I happened upon this you tube video which has many ideas but I was particularly interested in the stenciling concept.” Well, I checked out the YouTube video she linked in her message – it was a speedy card-making video (more about that later) and I knew just what would work to create the look she was after. Below you’ll find three ways to use digital scrapbooking elements as stencils! The basics are the same for all three, but the looks are all quite different. It’s a lot easier than it looks, and definitely less messy!

The most obvious element I could think of – and find quickly – for this technique is a doily. I chose one from Lindsay Jane‘s kit Dogs and Puppies. It’s pretty, and has some nice open areas that could work nicely for stenciling. I opened a new 12×12 canvas on my workspace and dropped the doily onto it.

Next, I decided on some colours and got them set. Then I opened up my Brush tool. The Basic Brushes set that comes with the software will work for this method so I chose a large, soft, round brush. I’m working on the layer UNDERNEATH the doily, but don’t worry, it’s going to work exactly like I want it to. If you recall, working on a separate layer with your brushes gives you a lot of options such as simple resizing, repositioning and adjusting Opacity. And you can copy the brush layer(s) as many times as you want.

Here you can see that I have the layer at the bottom of the panel active.

I centered the brush over the doily and gave it a single click. if the screenshot was bigger and clearer, you’d see the doily sitting on top of the brush layer.

With the doily layer turned off, this is what I see.

I decided the brush layer just wasn’t… enough. So I Copied it once (CTRL/CMD>J) then I made the copy brush bigger, to 120% of the original. By doing that, I deepened the Opacity of the original layer and pushed the softer edge further out.

Before I moved on, I Merged the two brush layers together.  (CTRL/CMD>E)

Keeping the brush layer active, I CTRL/CMD>clicked inside the layer thumbnail for the doily – the image inside the box on the doily layer. That Selects the edges of the doily, and produces the marching ants.

The next step is to Edit>Cut the doily area away from the brush layer. (CTRL/CMD>X)

It’s a bit hard to see in the screenshot but the area where the doily laid over the brush has been removed and the transparent background shows through. The doily layer is turned off.

Here’s a much closer look at it. As you can see, there’s no doily texture showing, just the outline of where it was.

I looked at the results for awhile and decided I wanted the edges to be just a smidge sharper. So I added another layer on top of the brush layer. (Doily is still turned off.)

This time when I Selected the outline of the doily, I chose to add an outline Stroke. I wish there was a keyboard shortcut for that, I use it a lot. But there isn’t. Edit>Stroke (Outline Selection) has to do.

I used the same colour as for the brush layer. The outline doesn’t have to be too bold, so 2 pixels on the outside of the selection will work. Why put the stroke on a separate layer? It’s all about control!

I’m still thinking about how to remove the overspray area around the outside of the doily outline. I think I have it figured out, but will need to play with it a bit more. Once I’ve got it down pat, I’ll edit this post to include the details of how I did it.

Okay. Let’s go back to the beginning and look at another way of doing it. Because you know there’s always more than one way of doing most things.

For this example I used a sharp-edged round brush from the Basic Brushes set that I could size to fit the doily exactly. It’s at full Opacity too.

But here’s where the fun starts! I changed my foreground colour to that fuchsia/magenta colour you might have noticed in the previous screenshots. Then I chose the Gradient tool, which is right below the Eraser tool. This tool has a few options that make it very useful. Because I’m working with a circle, I chose the Radial setting. I clicked on the centre of the doily image and dragged my cursor up to the top left corner of the canvas and let go there. That tells the tool which way to grade the colour. I could have chosen any point on the canvas for either action and the gradient would go “from here to there”. If you look closely, you can see the pink is darkest at the centre and fades away as it moves from the centre out. Notice too how the turquoise has changed to periwinkle.

I used the same steps to remove the area of the gradient layer where the doily covers it. I don’t know how many of you can see it, but the doily layer is turned off, and it doesn’t matter! The software will still select the edges even when YOU can’t see it. And, of course, the gradient layer is separate from the others.

Now, with this method, it’s super-easy to remove the overspray area. I used the Elliptical Marquee tool to pull out a perfect circle. The tool’s settings let me go with a Fixed Ratio of 1:1, which creates a circle shape. The hard part is getting the size right. It took me 5 tries to get it right.

The Selected area needs to be Inverted so that you’re cutting the part of the gradient layer OUTSIDE the circle away, not what’s inside. You can either Select>Inverse or CTRL/CMD>SHIFT>I to make that happen.

Then, just like before we’ll Cut it off. Edit>Cut or CTRL/CMD>X.

There! The only pink area is inside the circle.

I liked how it looked, but thought I could make it even better so I Copied the gradient layer and dropped the Opacity down to 70%. Pretty?

One more! I might have mentioned that I have LOTS of brushes. Many of them were freebies or challenge-related, but the ones I get free from Brusheezy are fabulous. One of these sets is the 20 Spray set. I had to load the brush set to be able to use it, since I haven’t had the opportunity to load them all on my new laptop, but that’s easy enough to do. I wish I could still screenshot the selection bars but haven’t figured that out either! I changed colour to this purple and hit my canvas with it. It’s a different look for sure. I Cut the doily out of the brush layer too.

I changed my brush, made it smaller and changed my foreground colour back to fuchsia. Then I randomly added some pink to the mix. On its own layer. ALWAYS!

After Cutting away the doily this is where I was.

Then I thought, how would it look with some green?

Some random hits with a third brush from the same set gave me this… before I did anything else to it.

I thought the green was too much so I toned it down to 35%.

And then for fun, I plopped a black spider web paper from Just So Scrappy‘s Spookalcious kit behind it. (I erased the big splats from the purple layer too.) I think it looks gloriously boho!

What do you think? Something you might try? Obviously, you can use anything that might work as a stencil with this technique, it doesn’t have to be a doily. I had fun with it, and I know you will too.

Now, about the video… the host showed off a paper-scrapping tool that caught my eye. It’s called a Misti (Most Incredible Stamp Tool Invented)… anybody familiar? It allows for perfect placement of stamps on just about any size and shape of paper, and for restamping the same image multiple times for more hefty outlines both with acrylic and unmounted rubber. Well, I decided I wanted one, since I do make cards and have a big collection of acrylic stamps. So I looked for it on Amazon… and nearly died when I saw the price! $138 seems like a lot to me for something so simple in concept. So I kept looking. I found some YouTube videos that showed a couple of similar products, but they had to be withdrawn from the market over patent infringement claims. Sounds like I was going to have to suck it up and pay the $$… until I found a seller who had a couple of the taboo knockoffs for $37 each. It arrived today and will work beautifully! I’ll have to wait to use it though. It has to go into storage with all the rest of my paper crafting stuff. To be continued!

Tutorial Tuesday (PSE and TypeFace 2)

For all the Mac Users – Unlocking Secrets in Your Fonts

I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d get a tutorial out this week. I made a flying visit to BC to check in on my parents (they’re both fine, thank Heaven) over the weekend and didn’t get home until early this morning. But looking through my mailbox led to this!

I was really pleased that last week’s tutorial on using the hidden extras in our font files was so well-received. I had fun putting it together and hoped it would be a good choice. A comment from Carina got me thinking about what might be a suitable, similar font manager for Mac users that could work for the tut the way MainType does. And darned if I didn’t find one! It’s called TypeFace 2, and like MainType they have a free version and a paid version. (If you click on the software name above, it’s linked to the app store.) Of course, the user interface is different, but it has the same options. You can customize your tags so they make sense for you, you can move similar fonts into folders so you can quicken your search for the right one, and you can preview the fonts using the text you’re planning to put into your layout.

Here’s an example of a customized preview.

To be useful for finding, selecting and using the special characters that come with the fancy fonts, there needs to be a way to access them. I will admit that I didn’t test it, but reading the description of the app and some reviews, I’m pretty sure it’s going to work in a very similar way. One other benefit to this one is that it’s available for both Mac AND PC!

Now, for your viewing pleasure, some awesome (totally free) Hallowe’en fonts and dingbats!

This one I found at FontSpace.

The rest are from my second-favourite site, Dafont. You can grab this one here.

This is a bit of a variation on a theme, perfect for bold titles. Get it here.

This font isn’t quite a Hallowe’en one, but it’s very pretty, and the curlicues are reminiscent of the tendrils on pumpkin vines. It’s here.

I like this one for its simplicity, and its slight grunge. Find it here.

What do you think of the Gothic look of this one? Look for it here.

I think this would make the most interesting border on a Hallowe’en layout. You can find it here.

Happy haunting!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements 2018+)

Background Check

Well, this didn’t turn out to be the fantabulous tutorial I had planned… let it be a cautionary tale instead! (I seem to be providing a lot of those lately.) What I was hoping would be simple and fun turned out to be more work than I expected, but it’s all good. I learned a few things while I was doing it and can provide tips for you to make it better for you. And that’s the goal with these tuts, right?

Starting with Photoshop Elements 2018, a Guided Edit for replacing an undesirable background was included in the Special Edits menu. I have SO many photos with blown-out skies that I’d love to replace with something more attractive, so I pulled one out of my Ireland 2018 folder. Let me say right now that next time I do this, I’ll be making some changes in how I do it. I’ll describe those changes as I go along.

So here’s my base photo, the one I want to improve on. The sky is pretty blown-out; this can be prevented in-camera through the use of neutral density filters, but I haven’t mastered that technique yet. It’s on my list… Anyway, I thought this would be a fairly simple edit, since the foreground is fairly sharply defined. When you try this, you might want to avoid trees. Just sayin’.

I tried the Auto selection tool but felt like it lacked control so I backed up and went with the Quick selection tool instead. It worked pretty well, for the most part. With a little more patience at this stage, I might have saved some time and effort later but that’s all part of the learning curve. I think the Brush tool might have been a better choice, and I’ll be trying that out in future edits.

Once I’d brought most of the foreground image into the selection, it was time for fine-tuning. See the marching ants along the roofline? The spruce in the foreground extends past the roof and needs to be included in the image. The trees on the far left are inside the selection already but will need some tweaking too.

When I moved to the Refine selection tool, the selected area turned red. The settings for this are customizable; I went with the defaults. With the mask at 80% Opacity, I can see where the mask obscures areas I want to include, and the white area is where I need to extend the selection.

I found this part of the process to be a little frustrating. I couldn’t zoom in to see what I was doing. The Refine tool is supposed to “snap” to the outline where two colours abut, and perhaps if I changed the tool setting for Snap Strength to 100% it might have worked better for me. Having gone through the whole Edit, this is where I would choose to spend my time Refining in future.

At this point, I went ahead and chose the photo with the desired background by clicking on the Import a photo bar. It opened up the folder where I got my original image, and lucky for me, there were a few choices of a nicer background in there. But it would be easy enough to go to a different folder and pick something there.

I had this lovely landscape of blue sky with puffy white clouds that will fill the selected area beautifully. So I selected it and clicked Place. If I didn’t have a photo with something nice that would work, I could have used one of the Presets or a solid colour, or nothing at all.

One click and this is where I found myself! If you don’t look to closely, it looks pretty good. But there are still some obvious white patches at the ends of the spruce branches.

So I zoomed in a bit and clicked on the Refine Edge Brush then Subtract. (Add would just uncover more of the blown-out sky.) Then I started bringing the blue sky up to the edges of the branches. I used a smallish brush and 100% Opacity. And it took FOREVER!

Extreme zoom was helpful at times, and not so much at others. Add in the unreliability of my “left-click” bar on the touchpad and you can see how it was a time suck. And frustrating. But I did get a better handle on how much pressure is needed to engage the “left-click” bar and keep it engaged.

One thing I found disconcerting, and a bit annoying, was that when I used the Hand tool to move the zoomed image around, the Refine Edge Brush looked like it was still active, but it wasn’t. Clicking again on the Hand tool didn’t turn it off, and I never thought to try clicking on the magnifying glass to see if that would work. Next time! At any rate, each time I moved the zoomed image, I had to deselect the Refine Edge Brush, REselect it and resize the tip to make it more controllable. I can see there needs to be some more experimentation with this Edit.

Eventually, I was happy with what I was seeing, both up close and from a distance. There’s still a little bit of a glow around the farthest-left-most tree, but it’s not obvious.

There’s one last option in this Edit, the Auto Match Color Tone tool. I decided to click it to see what it does.

Ick!! It lightened and softened the image too much!! So I Undid that step.

Now that I’m satisfied with my results I had another choice to make, what to do with it now. I chose to Save As it, with a new name so I’d know I’d edited it. But if I was ready to use it for a layout, I could have clicked on a Continue Editing bar and carried on.

I know I’ll use this Guided Edit again, with the suggestions I’ve made firmly in mind. If I discover anything new, I’ll come back and edit this post to keep you all up to speed.

Did you notice anything about this tutorial? The screenshots are so much bigger than usual – I learned something new about WordPress today!! I used the Windows Snipping Tool as Lori (teamkobza) suggested a couple of weeks back and it was less work than my previous method, so that’s a bonus. And then… when I imported them into WordPress, they were tiny; resizing them within WP made them really blurry. Then I noticed an advanced edit option that let me choose the original image size. BOOM! <doing the happy dance all over the living room>

See you next week!!

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

What’s Your Digital Style?

Can we talk about style for a minute? We all have a certain style, a concept of ourselves and our environment; that style is reflected in the way we dress, the way we decorate our homes, the way we interact with others… and how we scrap our memories. If you spend any time wandering through the Gallery you’ll know exactly what I mean. There are scrappers whose style is instantly recognizable – you don’t even need to look for the scrapper’s name. But have you ever thought about the basic underpinnings of style? Let’s discuss!

First let’s look at the very popular Pocket Scrapper style. This layout from the GingerScraps Gallery is by ngocNTTD. Pocket scrapping is organized and photo-oriented. It’s one of the most basic of paper-to-digital styles out there, having emerged from Project Life and the various other daily, weekly and monthly project formats. Pages in this style document day-to-day and special events in a clean, grid-based arrangement. Any embellishment will be limited so as not to obscure the all-important photos. As you can see, ngoc has included 10 photos in her layout.

 

Heritage scrapping is a very popular style, especially for those of us interested in genealogy. Who doesn’t love vintage photos of our ancestors? There’s something very powerful in documenting our past in this way, as craftytam has done in her layout below. These layouts focus on history through the use of muted colours, with a slightly distressed look. Information relating to the life of the subject is a must for these pages, which may be as simple as vital statistics or as detailed as a complete life story. Journaling in hand-written fonts is characteristic.

 

A combination of these two is the Storyteller style. KatherineWoodin‘s layouts are such perfect examples of this style. Each page tells of a specific event; photos aren’t a requirement but if they’re used, they’re integral to the story being told. There’s a heavy emphasis on journaling, as you can see below. The use of embellishments is dictated by the feeling the scrapper wants to convey.

 

Classic scrappers rely on clean lines, limited embellishment, precise placement and precise use of words. Layouts are conservative, in several senses – paper scrappers might default to this style because it doesn’t use a lot of “stuff”. In this layout by gethane, the classic style is obvious.

 

And that leads us to the Modern style. Glori2 has solidly incorporated this style as her own. Modern layouts are the ultimate in clean and simple, which refers to minimalism and not the use of texture and grunge. Embellishments are few, and very carefully chosen. White space is vital to this style, giving the eye many options to rest.

 

I suppose the opposite of Modern is the Shabby Chic layout. This layout by kabrak1207 is a stellar example of Shabby Chic… muted pastels, vintage elements and ephemera, brushes and worn paper come together to create a visually appealing whole.

 

The Artist scrapper focuses on the overall image, using paints, brushes, blending and a multi-media approach. Kythe uses a deft hand here, blending not only the photo but also the leaves into her background. Those little ghosts look ethereal and are grounded by the vignette in the foreground. Artist-style layouts don’t rely on journaling to tell a story, and may not include a title either.

 

The last style is an art-form all on its own. Art Journaling conveys emotion through imagery. There really are no rules in Art Journaling, other than to use it as a way to express things we might not be comfortable expressing in any other form. Rather than putting a feeling into words, the use of word art, word strips, doodles, brushes, paint and textiles are used to tell the story. Intensely personal, this might be the most difficult of all styles to integrate into one’s repertoire, but cinderella has no problem!

 

Thinking about your own layouts, where does YOUR style fit? It’s quite likely that you aren’t easily pigeon-holed into a single style, but pull different aspects from several into your work. And as time passes, your style will evolve, both as your skills grow and as your world changes. HOW you do it isn’t as important as that you DO it! As for me, I’m still working the kinks out with the new laptop and having some trouble getting comfortable with it. It can only get better, right?

 

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

Breaking the Digi-scrapping Code

When I was reading through the comments on last week’s tutorial Another Paper-Scrapping Digi-Hack something Pam K said about my use of the word “coffin” (referring to the weirdly shaped open areas of the snowflake brush I was using) made me laugh. She said, “Jan, I thought “coffin” was a scrapbooking term that I hadn’t heard of yet — LOL!! When I first started digi-scrapping, I was lost by the use of a lot of acronyms (GSO, LOTD, etc) & different words that (to me) seemed to describe the same thing (splatter, paint, graffiti). 🙂” But then I got to thinking… I wondered how many newbies to our amazing hobby are in the same boat, wondering just what the heck we’re talking about. So I decided I’d create a little glossary of digi-scrapping terms and acronyms. I think I’ll start with some generalities then move on to more specific stuff.

Let’s start with Software related terms. (Updated September 18 to include corrections from readers with more knowledge of PS CC and Gimp.)

PS : Photoshop – the most versatile and flexible graphics and image-editing software, from Adobe; expensive with a steep learning curve

PS CC : Photoshop Creative Cloud – a software package that is subscription based, on a monthly basis paid annually; identical to Photoshop above also includes access to online storage (at extra cost). If you don’t renew your subscription or miss a payment, you lose the license for using the software.

PSE: Photoshop Elements – a more economical choice of software, with many shared features with PS but a slightly less-steep learning curve; the most common software in use for both photo editing and digital scrapbooking according to several polls I’ve seen

Gimp: Gnu Image Manipulation Program – a free, cross-platform raster-based image editing software, also quite popular in the digi-scrapping world; it doesn’t allow for non-destructive editing. When using commercial templates, the PSD, TIFF and PNG  formats are compatible (see below)

Artisan: Forever’s digital scrapbooking and photo editing software – less versatile than either PS, PSE or Gimp; close in price to PSE. Autopopulates pre-designed layouts; no ability to use layered templates but is compatible with most digi-scrapping kits. Forever has a small selection of digi kits and a line of photo-based products similar to Shutterfly. My Memories Suite is comparable, but less costly

Layout: an arrangement of images – photos, papers, elements and text – for artistic or documentary purposes. Also LO.

Template: a file containing multiple layers; the layers build a layout from the background up, indicating where paper, elements and text will go. Templates speed up your workflow by eliminating much of the decision-making necessary for positioning items on your layouts, but still allowing for a lot of originality.

Clip: visually altering a photo or paper by attaching and “cutting” it to fit inside a specified outline. (Think multiple layers of paper in different sizes and shapes.)

Clipping mask: a defined shape with uniform or variable opacity, to which papers or photos may be clipped.

Brush: the digital equivalent of rubber or acrylic stamps

Stroke: a customizable outline around an object; options are colour, width, transparency and whether it goes inside, right over or outside the edge of the object

Style: a method of altering the appearance of an object that may include bevel (gives the look of thicker or embossed material), drop shadow (darker, semi-transparent outline), inner glow (highlighted area inside the outline) and outer glow (highlighted area outside the outline) and colour (variably transparent, often completely covers the underlying colour)

Filter: adjusts the appearance of objects or surfaces to resemble other media such as watercolour, mosaic or texture; also includes some options for blurring

Action: a series of automated commands that instruct the software to make adjustments to photos or other images; actions “run” on the image to edit them quickly and easily with some options for manual tweaking. There are a number of sources for actions, including a bunch of free ones from the Coffeeshop blog. They take your really nice photo and elevate it to outstanding in less than a minute!

Extraction: digitally removing the background from a photo or scan; the equivalent of using cuticle scissors to cut out a face or other image from a “real” photo

PNG: Portable Network Graphic – an raster-based object with a transparent background, the format which allows resizing without loss of detail; the most common use of this is for digital elements.

Raster: Bit-mapped images – a grid of individual pixels that together form an image

PSD: Photoshop Document – the entire collection of layers which have been created or altered in the creation of an image; the format for PS and PSE friendly templates

TIFF: Tagged Image File Format – another way of saving a compressed multi-layered document like a template without losing detail; creates a file smaller than a PSD but larger than a JPEG

JPEG: Joint Photographic Expert Group – a compressed image file with some loss of detail, but generally not noticeably so; the most common file type for storage and sharing of digital photos and other images

Are you thoroughly confused? Wait… it’s about to get worse! We’re moving on to digi-scrapping community acronyms and terms.

GSO: Gallery Stand Out – a term first coined by the digi-scrapping blog Fingerpointing; the blog began as a way for new digi-scrappers to learn how to grow their skills through example and constructive criticism. Now it’s more of a place for digi-scrappers to reap the rewards and accolades afforded to excellence. A team of respected digi-scrap artists browse through digital galleries for the major online digi-scrapping communities then post a mini-gallery of their picks for the day with a description of what drew them to the layouts. I’ve had the huge honour of having TWO layouts so recognized this summer.

LOTD: Layout of the Day – some online communities include a layout chosen by the staff of their store as layout of the day according to criteria they determine for their particular community

LOTW: Layout of the Week – here at GingerScraps, we have a weekly GSO that is selected by the community itself. And that segués into the GS-specific stuff…

Sugar Cookie: a member of the GS praise team. These ladies have a responsibility to make sure ALL people who post their layouts in the GS Gallery are seen and commented upon, part of our friendly, welcoming attitude. So the Cookies spend time looking at layouts, sometimes dissecting them for special techniques (right glee?), then leaving some love for the scrapper. Another one of their responsibilities is to choose the contenders for LOTW through…

Baker’s Best: a layout that makes a special impact on the viewer. Anyone can make a nomination for Baker’s Best by indicating it in a comment left under the layout then posting in the Baker’s Best forum thread. The Cookies must choose one each week. And as a former Cookie, I’ll tell you… IT’S HARD to pick just one!! lorigaud manages the BB program; she notifies each of the contenders for LOTW so they can check out their competition and ensuring their layout gets at least one vote.

Fresh Baked: GingerScraps’ name for the weekly new releases.

The Buffet: all designer kits created using the colour palette of the month, as chosen by Ginger; they release on the first day of the month. These kits/collections are on sale for the first 5 days of each month then go to regular price.

Bake Sale: a selection of kits chosen by the designers that are on sale for just a SINGLE DOLLAR for 5 days, from the 15th to 20th each month.

Monthly Mix: a huge collaboration collection created by the GingerBread Ladies team of designers that is only $5.25 for the entire month it’s released in, after which it goes to the regular price of $7. The September Monthly Mix is called Sunny Delight and contains 5 (lowercase only) alphas, 46 papers and 73 elements. Can’t be beat!!

Cookie Jar: where you keep track of your Challenge layouts so you can win the Challenge Reward kit. You will receive this Reward kit, created by the GingerBread Ladies, in the month where you reach 10 challenges completed. Some people get in 10 challenges almost every month and have a ginormous stash of these awesome kits. <hides in the corner>

Scrapping Survivor: a progressive digi-scrapping game modeled after TV’s Survivor, complete with alliances, weekly challenges, tree mail, immunity challenges and tribal councils. It’s a really popular event with separate tracks for staff and non-staff (who aren’t eligible for the grand prize, to make it more fair) and culminates in the crowning of the Sole Survivor. The prizes are pretty fabulous… now that I’m retired and my real job doesn’t get in the way any more I think I might join in for the 10th contest.

And there you have it, my friends. A short (and hardly complete) glossary for digi-scrapping the GingerScraps way! [Can you believe this is tutorial #150?? I can’t!!]