Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Peek-a-Boo, I See You (Solving Underexposed Faces)

Well, it seems photo editing has become the hot topic for Tutorial Tuesday! After last week’s technique for diminishing shiny skin, Steph sent me a message: “I love this week’s blog post about correcting a shiny face. Do you remember if you have a tutorial about improving a photo that has a face in shadows? I tried searching but didn’t see one. Thanks, Steph“. I don’t think I have done one specific to faces, although we’ve talked about fixing underexposed photos in a couple of ways, by editing in Camera Raw or by copying the photo and changing the Blend Mode to Screen, then copying that new layer as many times as necessary to bring out those details. But there will be times when those methods aren’t going to work. Like when your subject is backlit… 

This gentleman is Mike. He works for JuJu Tours in Negril, Jamaica as a glass-bottom boat pilot. We took a New Year’s Eve boat tour with him in 2014 and I have quite a few photos where I know who I’m looking at but nobody else will. It seemed like a good choice for this tutorial.

I like to do most of my experimentation on a copy layer so that my original is still there if I need to refer to it. So my first step is always to make a Copy layer. CTRL/CMD>J is the keyboard shortcut, but if you’re into working more than necessary, right-click on the background layer then choose Duplicate Layer and follow the prompts.

I want to separate Mike from the sky and now that I’ve figured out how amazing the Polygonal Lasso tool is, that’s what I used here. The trick to making this tool work beautifully for you is to make small movements with your mouse and click frequently to mark your spot.

On the screenshot, I’ve used the word “slowly”. But it only took me about 3 minutes of small mouse movements and clicks to get a relatively clean selection. When I got back to my starting point the tool automatically turned on the marching ants showing me where my selection was.

One drawback to the Polygonal Lasso tool is that you can’t Zoom in and out while you’re using it, so it’s hard to get a perfect selection. So once I have my basic shape lassoed, I use the Selection Brush tool – its icon looks just like a paintbrush with a few marching ants curving above the bristles. This tool lets me add or subtract areas of my selection. I usually use the biggest brush I can for the area I’m adjusting, and I toggle back and forth between adding and subtracting until I get all of my marching ants following the edge of my selection. The controls for this tool are at the bottom left of the workspace.

I Zoom in on areas like this one so I can see as clearly as possible where my ants have strayed.

This photo was a great one for this example, because there aren’t a lot of these sticky spots. Don’t be put off by the time it takes to do this – it’s actually not that bad… maybe another 2 minutes.

The spot where the sunglasses’ temple attaches needed some attention.

For general purposes, perfection is impossible and a waste of time. And in the end, it’s not usually necessary because unless the imperfection is a big one, it’s not going to be the centre of attention, so don’t sweat it!

Depending on your background though, a spot like this might deserve some precision. The sky here is really blown out and I’m not going to change that, but if I had some sort of detail – leaves on a tree for example – that would be visible in that gap, I’d definitely want to add it into my selection.

After I ‘d gone all the way around the selection and adjusted as needed, I Zoomed back out a bit to see how clean the edge looked. On to the next step!

I wanted to separate Mike from the sky – or more accurately I wanted to remove the sky from around Mike. To make that happen, I Inverted the selection: Select>Inverse or CTRL/CMD>SHIFT>I.

With the Copy layer still the active one, I Cut away the sky. Edit>Cut or CTRL/CMD>X

This screenshot is just to show you that the sky is now gone from that top layer, but it’s still present in the original layer (it’s just invisible right now).

Now that Mike was all by himself on the top layer, I used Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Shadows/Highlights. The default setting for this adjustment is for the Shadows to be automatically decreased by 50% so don’t be shocked! Highlights are default-set at 0% and Contrast is set right in the centre.

I pushed the Lighten Shadows slider all the way over to 100% to really lighten up his face. I Darkened Highlights by 26% and Midtone Contrast was boosted to +28%. All of a sudden it’s almost possible to identify what’s reflected in his lenses.

I’m happy I can see Mike‘s features now, but I think the image is a bit too soft. My favourite tool for fixing that is the Haze Removal menu.

Haze Removal also darkens the image a wee touch, as you can see in the preview below. But it looks good with the default setting so I went ahead and clicked OK.

For all intents and purposes, I could quit right here and it would be perfectly fine. But I’m always going to take it a bit further so I can show you what else you can do with your photos. I think the background is a lot blown out and that’s fixable.

But before we move on to that, I decided Mike still looked a bit shadowy. So I decided to Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Brightness/Contrast just a smidge.

These sliders start out in the centre. I pushed the Brightness slider to 54 and the Contrast slider to 10. Now it’s good.

Just for fun, I turned off the top layer to remind myself where I started.

Okay, on to the sky. I made another Copy layer (right-click>Duplicate Layer or CTRL/CMD>J) of the background (bottom) layer.

With the Copy layer active, all I did was change the Blend Mode to Color Burn. It looks a bit neonish now though.

Quick fix: Decrease the Opacity of the Color Burn layer to 61%.

Then I brought Mike back and Merged all the layers so I could save my work.

I wasn’t totally happy with the finished image though. Mike still looked a bit fuzzy. So I Copied that image layer again so I could add a High Pass Filter.

Here’s why you do the High Pass filter on its own layer. A rule of thumb for sharpening an image this way is that you should only see a hint of colour through the filter. Otherwise you risk having it look over-processed. (I have plans for a really interesting tutorial where you WANT to have an in-your-face look to your photo, but that’s all I’m telling you.)

To see how the filter works, change the Blend Mode to Overlay.

And now you see the photo I THOUGHT I took! I just had to Merge the layers again and save it for later.

Before I go, I want to remind you that you’re in control of your work. You can stop at any point along the way if you’re happy with what you’re seeing. These tutorials are intended to help you understand your software, make it work harder for you without making you work harder to get what you want, and to up your scrapbooking game… while having a little fun along the way.

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Taking the Shine Off

Glee came to me last Tuesday with a question. “Would you by any chance know any tricks/tips for taking the shine off a person’s face? Like how to digitally apply some powder? I just took some pix, and my subject has very dinner cheeks and forehead. Thanks!” I know I have quite a few photos that needed some powder, and you probably have some too. This is actually one of the simplest edits there is. I’m using a photo from Pixabay taken by Dean Moriarty as my sample photo. Isn’t she gorgeous?

Everything I’m going to do to apply some mattifying to her shiny spots will take place on a new layer. You can click Layer>New>Layer or use a keyboard shortcut (CTRL/CMD>Shift>N) to add a layer above your photo.

Next, select the Color Picker (eye dropper) tool to pick up the skin tone from an area near the first area you plan to powder. Look for a spot where the skin tone is fairly uniform.

You actually can’t pick a color from a blank layer (DUH! But I tried!) But I definitely want to make my adjustments on that blank layer. So what can I do? I can “Sample All Layers”!

Now you’ve selected the skin color you want to powder with, and it’s time to choose a nice brush to apply the powder with. I used a soft, round brush from the Basic Brushes included in the software, with a diameter of 35 pixels.

Before you start dabbing on the powder, set the brush’s Opacity to about 20%. It can always be adjusted later.

Then just start powdering! You can brush it on like you’re dusting her with powder, or you can dab it on. Whatever looks best to your eye.

Go back and forth between the Color Picker and the Brush, adjusting the color of your powder to the area of skin closest to the part you’re powdering.

Every so often, Zoom out and have a look at the effect. Make sure it looks natural.

In a matter of minutes, the shine is gone, but the highlights are still there. Who needs Cover Girl? If you think the effect looks too artificial, you can adjust the Opacity of the powder layer to make it a little more sheer. That’s the benefit of doing the adjustment on its own layer. If you powdered right on the background layer, you’d have no way to lighten it up.

When the image looks natural and beautiful, you can Merge the two layers and Save your edited image with a new name.

Here are my two images side by side. Now the eye isn’t being pulled to her forehead any more!

This method is much easier than using the Healing Brush or Spot Healing Brush, which would do a good job of reducing glare from a person’s spectacles. That’s a more complex edit, and not something we’re going to talk about today.

Just an aside… this tutorial marks the beginning of my fourth year as your ObiJan. Time sure flies! I’m keeping all of you and your families in my thoughts as you navigate the stormy seas of preparing for the new school year with so many uncertainties. I don’t have any school-aged kids to worry about but I DO have 3 grandkids, the oldest of whom is entering first grade this year. They’ve gotten quite comfortable masking whenever they’re around other people, something we never dreamed would be necessary. Every one of us has our own priorities and I hope no one makes you question the decisions you make based on yours. Unless they’ve lived in your skin, they have no right to judge. We’re all in this together.

Designer Spotlight: Down This Road


Whoa… it’s August already! Who saw that coming? New month, new Designer Spotlight… Have you met Angie, the creative mind behind Down This Road Designs? Before we get to the Q&A part of this post, you need to know that Angie‘s ENTIRE STORE is on SALE for 40% off for the WHOLE MONTH of August!! (Guess where I’m going when I’m done here…)

Now let’s get to know Angie.

J: How long have you been designing?

A: I started designing in 2009. I have taken some breaks, but love it so much I couldn’t stay away. 11 years

J: What made you decide to design?

A: I just started playing around in Photoshop. When I saw a design contest in 2009, I entered that and ended up being a finalist, that was it….I was hooked.

J: What do you use to create your designs (program, additional tools, etc.)?

A: I use Photoshop, Illustrator and my iPad.

J: Describe your design workplace.

A: I have a desktop (Windows) with a dual screen. We have an office/ craft area in our home and that is where I spend my time designing.

J: What motivates and inspires you as a designer?

A: My life and the things we like to do, my family and my mood are the sources for my kit themes. I like to watch trends of colors too.

J: What is your favorite kit currently in your GS store and why?

A: I like With Brave Wings. I designed it for my sister and her battle with cancer so it means a lot to me.

J: If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A: Pasta

J: What is your favorite game or sport to watch and play?

A: I would have to say football and soccer only because my kids played those sports. I don’t know if I would really consider myself a spectator of sports in general but a child of mine in the field keeps me very interested.

J: What did you want to be when you were small?

A: Teacher

J: Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?

A: My family

J: Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?

A: Reese Witherspoon

J: If you had a warning label, what would yours say?

A: Quiet but always watching.

J: What celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee?

A: Tabitha Brown

And now we know Angie a wee bit better. But before I forget, make sure to check out Angie‘s Daily Download. It’s AMAZING!! I know you’re gong to love it, so just pop back here to the Blog every day and get your kit.

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

It’s All a Matter of Taste – Black and White

Well, July is nearly over and I have STILL not managed to get any scrapping done. I thought about it, but that’s as close as I got. We had a crazy-busy week and I think we’re finally (almost) at the end of the big things we needed to do with the house. We have a fence for the dogs, we’re having synthetic turf put down in the yard on Thursday and once I get the plants I dug up from the backyard transplanted, I might be able to relax! Of course, Thursday is forecast to be the second-hottest day of the summer (36°C/97°F) and I’ll be outside shoveling river rock into our son-in-law’s truck. They better bring the beer!

Anyway… I was looking at some back issues of Photoshop Elements Techniques (only available now as an archive) and came across some tips on converting colour photos to black and white to make them look amazing. So I decided I’d check out the options. I’m using Elements 2019, but the tips I’m going to show you are easily found in most versions.

When I took a photography course many years ago, well before the advent of digital photography, my teacher talked about how black and white was THE true art of photography. I tend to agree with that notion. There are so many nuances to black and white photography that just aren’t there in colour images. Digitally speaking, turning a colour photo into a black and white one is easy, but the ART of it is more in the eye of the beholder. So let’s have a look. I’m using a landscape photo I found at Pixabay for my example.

This method is the first one I tried way back in 2006 when I was learning the basics of Elements. Enhance>Adjust Color>Adjust Hue/Saturation can also be reached by using the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD>U.

This method has been available in all versions, and so many of us have done it this way. Dropping the Saturation down to 0 removes all the colour. But that’s all.

It IS nice. All the detail in the clouds, rocks and reflections is there.

In all but the earliest versions of Elements, there’s an option to Remove Color in the Enhance menu.

And this is the outcome. I think it looks pretty similar to the desaturated one. Maybe just the slightest bit more contrast.

But then there’s this option… Enhance>Convert to Black and White. This option first appeared in Elements 9. Could this be the WSNH (Work Smart Not Hard) method of choice?

When I clicked on that button this is what came up. Below I’m showing the default settings; it comes up in the Portrait setting with the colour sliders (Red, Green, Blue and Contrast) as you see them. Now, I know you’re thinking, “Colour sliders? But there IS no colour!” Let’s unpack that.

I went through all of the Modes here, looking at where the colour sliders were in their default settings. See if you can see a difference in each of the images as we go along. Newspaper mode looks like this: slightly less Green, a smidge more Blue and marginally less Contrast.

In Scenic Landscape, the Red has been boosted and the Blue reduced. I can see that the image is slightly warmer looking.

Urban/Snapshots mode has somewhat less Red, slightly more Green, a bit more Blue and the same amount of Contrast, even though it seems like the Contrast is a bit less obvious. I think this mode would be great for architectural photos and streetscapes.

Vivid Landscapes brings the mood with it. Lots more Red, a good bit less Green and Blue, same Contrast. And yet…

I wasn’t sure what to expect with Infrared Effect. There’s less Red, a LOT more Green, a middling amount less Blue and the same degree of Contrast. I think I need to take a deeper dive into Infrared… stay tuned!

Okay, so I’ve looked at all the options. I decided to go back to the Scenic Landscape settings and play with the sliders.

I left the Red and Green as is, decreased the Blue a bit and increased the Contrast quite a bit. I like that the rocks look more carved and stark.

So I went with it. The image is a bit harsh, which suits the subject matter. I could just save it like this, but I want to play with it a bit more.

I really like to use the Levels adjustments especially with black and white images. It can be found by clicking Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Levels or with the easy keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD>L.

In the default setting for this tool, the sliders for both Input and Output Levels are at either end of the boxes. With the Input adjustment, moving the slider on the left makes the lighting darker, the slider on the right makes it brighter. The centre slider offers a finer adjustment than either of the ones on the ends. For the Output adjustment, the changes are more contrast-related and inverse – the left slider lightens and the right slider darkens.

These are the settings I liked. When using Levels the best way to make them work for you is to watch what’s happening while you move the sliders. That way you’ll know when to stop!

There’s just one more thing I did to this image that I want to show you. As you can see, I added a Copy layer so that whatever I do, my original image isn’t touched. You may wonder why I keep doing more and more, when I have a perfectly useable image already. Well, how better to encourage you to experiment than to do it myself? There’s always the Undo (CTRL/CMD>Z) function! (And I use it a TON!)

I played with some Filters and liked how this one looked, so I clicked Filters>Stylize>Glowing Edges. What do you think happened?

This. This happened. Remember that when you use Filters, you’ll see this screen, with the Filter adjustment panel on the far right. It’s hard to know what it’s going to look like later, but I wanted to have the “glowing” effect to be prominent at this stage.

Here’s the result. So much drama! But it’s a bit on the gloomy side.

So I changed the Blend Mode (naturally I tried several before settling) to Soft Light and decreased the Opacity to 35%. Now I have what Mrs Hansen would call Photographic Art.

Give these methods a whirl and see which one works best for you!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

How Can I… Pierce my Paper?

Greetings from the sunny Okanagan! It looks like summer has finally arrived, and the rain has gone away. (That reminds me, I need to water my pots!) I hope your weather is treating you well too, and you can get outside in the fresh air.

Today’s tutorial came from a challenge of sorts from Steph, who likes to see digital methods that emulate paper-crafting techniques. She sent me a couple of images showing a paper-piercing technique and asked if I thought it could be done digitally. Well, of course it can! I just had to figure out how! The image below is from Lisa Addesa‘s blog I’m In Haven. See the areas where she’s punched through her cardstock to add some texture and dimension to her card? How cute is that!

I went through my stash and found a cardstock that’s a similar grey. I could have chosen any colour, but thought it would make easier to see how it works if I used grey.

I thought about what would make the most sense to the most people (and didn’t cost anything) and opted to use a Custom Shape to create my path for punching. You could use a swirly brush, an element from a digi-kit or a hand-drawn path if you wanted to. The default shapes are uh… not what I was looking for!

So I clicked on the triangle at the side of the Custom Shape tool bar and opened up the tool’s menu. Right at the top of the list is an option to see ALL of the custom shapes in the library. And there are a lot.

I found a swirl about 3/4 of the way down the list that looks a lot like the one in the example, so I chose that one. But this technique can be adapted to ANY of the shapes you see here without any difficulty.

I used white as my foreground colour but again, it doesn’t matter at all what colour I used. As long as it shows up against the background, it’s all good. I clicked and dragged out a swirl as you can see. The shape is created on a new, “Smart Object” layer, meaning it can’t be altered in any way in its original state.

I plan to make some alterations so I right-clicked on the layer and chose Simplify Layer.

Now I CTRL/CMD>Clicked on the Layer Thumbnail (that little picture of the layer I’ve circled). That “selects” the edges of the image.

This step isn’t essential, but to avoid confusion I’ll show you what I did. You could just use the swirl as it appears, but this makes it easier. I clicked Select>Modify>Contract and that moves the marching ants that delineate the selected area inward. (Expand would do the opposite and make the selected area larger.)

I just picked a number (10 pixels) and tried it to see if it was a good number. It was, so onward ho!

This step too isn’t essential. You could leave the selected area inside the swirl alone and carry on to the next step. In fact, if I was using a more complex shape, I think I would skip this step altogether. Anyway, I clicked Select>Inverse to move the selected area from inside the swirl to outside.

Then I clicked Edit>Cut (CTRL/CMD>X) and that removed a large amount of the swirl without altering the shape.

See how it’s so skinny now? If I hadn’t Inverted my selection, instead Elements would have cut away the centre of the line, which would work well for the next steps too. I chose the Brush tool, a hard round brush 16 pixels in diameter at 100% Opacity and made some adjustments to the Brush Settings, which I’ll show you in the next image.

My current laptop isn’t as user-friendly with screenshots as my previous one was, and I couldn’t screenshot the Brush Settings menu, so I took the laptop into the laundry room where there’s very little light, and took a photo with my phone. The image shows the Brush Settings defaults. We’re going to adjust only that “Spacing” setting. I ended up choosing 125% as my spacing, but if you want your piercings to be closer together, use a smaller number. Farther apart? Go larger.

But………… before we go any further, Create a New Layer!! Brushes ALWAYS go on their own layer.

The starting point is a matter of preference. I zoomed in a ton and started at the open end. I held down the left mouse key and slowly, slowly followed my swirl path with my brush. The dotted line just appeared as I went along. When I had to stop and reposition my workspace, I just eyeballed the spacing for where the next dot should be and started brushing again from there.

Don’t aim for perfection. If you were actually piercing paper with a needle tool, the holes wouldn’t be perfectly spaced (although these ones are) and they wouldn’t perfectly follow the swirled line. It took me about 10 minutes to work my way around the entire swirl with my “holes” quite close together and my swirl covering most of my 12×12 paper. If I’d just Cut away the centre of the shape, it would have created a grey opening in the white swirl for me to follow. I tried it both ways and it really doesn’t matter with this kind of shape.

This is where you see how important it is to put the brush on its own layer. If I’d brushed directly on the swirl, I wouldn’t be able to turn it off and just have the brush left. At this point the swirl shape layer can be deleted. It isn’t needed any more.

Okay, that’s great. But it doesn’t look like the paper has been pierced. How do I get that? If you read and tried the tutorial on letterpress, you already know! I applied a Bevel Style: click the Style button at the bottom right of the workspace then select Bevels from the drop-down.

The best choice for this technique is the Simple Emboss bevel, the one in the upper right corner. It’s hard to see in the screenshot, but now it looks a bit like Braille.

To get the Bevel to look like a piercing, it’s necessary to change the settings on the Style. Double-click on the fx icon on the brush layer and change the Direction to Down. Leave the size at 21 pixels.

Let me show you what else you can do with that brush on its own layer. You can resize it to whatever size works for you. I like to start with a large image and then size it to suit, which makes it easier to see what I’m doing. (One caveat: if your dots/”holes” are close together when the image is fairly large, they will appear to run together when you shrink the image. So if you think you might want to make it smaller, leave more space between your “holes”.)

And you can copy it, skew it, rotate it and play with it until you have the look you’re after. I know I’ll be doing this on some of my creations!

That’s it for this week. Give it a try!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements+)

The Key to Painless Extractions!

Greetings GingerScrappers! It’s Tuesday again… the weeks are just flying by for me. Hubby and I have started working on the “non-essential” area of the house, what I’m calling #jansworld… the huge room in our downstairs that will be my hobby space. The movers dismantled all of our storage shelves and two of my desks. They also just loaded the room with every box that had “office”, “Jan” or “craft room” on them, piling them up 5 or 6 high with no rhyme or reason. So it’s a monumental job to get that space sorted out. We’ve made a good start but when I told him today I had a tutorial to write and we weren’t going to spend any time in there… he went ahead and did some things without me and then had to interrupt me twice to ask for guidance. Grrrrrrrrrrrr. So I know I’m going to miss my usual post time. Sorry… Thankfully my boss (the amazingly generous Ginger!) isn’t too much of a stickler.

On to the tutorial. I’m feeling like I should be able to get some scrapping done this month so I looked at the July Challenges and decided which ones I might be interested in taking up. The Inspiration Challenge Lina of LDragDesigns has tossed out is to use an extraction on a layout. I like extractions but find them very time consuming. What to do, what to do… How about checking to see if Elements+ has a quick mode?! Why yes, yes it does!

I’m intrinsically lazy, so if I’m going to do something as fiddly as an extraction, you know I’m going to choose carefully. I’m going for a clean cut and as little work as I can get away with. This photo from Pixabay ticks all my boxes. The Elements+ feature I’m going to show you is in the Selections menu, which makes perfect sense because that’s what an extraction is. I think for the sake of Working Smart, Not Hard, I’ll be using the Effects button at the bottom of the Layers panel and choosing Elements+ from the drop-down.

You can see what each of those Elements+ icons is for by holding your cursor over them and letting the name pop up. The Selections icon is at the centre of the top row. The Selections menu appears on the left of the workspace as shown.

But first, before we go down the rabbit hole, I made a Duplicate photo layer… just in case I do something I can’t undo. I’m going to start off with the Polygonal Lasso Tool. It’s the one that looks like a Greek symbol with a tail. I also turned off visibility for the background layer.

You’re not going to believe how long it took me to figure out how to use the Polygonal Lasso tool. Let’s just say it took a LONG time – I hated it because it didn’t do what I wanted it to do – and leave it at that. But now that I know how to use it, I quite like it! The trick with it is to make small nibbles, and to get as close to your subject as you can. It might sound like a slow process but it isn’t. As my mother used to say, less haste and more speed! Click on a spot where it makes sense to start out. Then move your cursor to a natural spot to change course. I started at the left of her hands, just below them. I went over to the area just below where the heel of her hand starts to lift off the rock and clicked there as my next reference point. Then I went to the bottom of her bracelet, clicked and moved to just past the bead on her bracelet. By taking a little bit of extra time with this step, it sped up the subsequent steps. I kept making small (and a few not so small) runs, clicking at the end of each, all the way around her. When I got back to my original starting point I double-clicked and I had a nice, free-form selection!

In this screenshot you can almost see the outline of my Lasso’d area. Now I went back to the Selections menu and clicked on Quick Mask Mode. Red is the default colour, but if I was trying to extract something from a red background, I could easily change the mask colour to blue, green or a chosen colour.

And that was all I had to do to create a mask on my image! Now I can fine-tune the edges.

Next I went to the Brush tool to clean up my extraction. Because I’ve put a layer mask on the active layer, the Brush tool automatically sets up for concealing and revealing – the colours in the picker are black (which CONCEALS) and white (which REVEALS). I flip back and forth between erasing and replacing by clicking on the “X” key. (JUST the X key… I don’t want to go to another keyboard shortcut accidentally!) I was able to get pretty close to the outline of her body with my Lasso so I can go with a fairly small brush size – 9 pixels – and I can adjust the size up or down by using my square brackets keys. The Left bracket makes it smaller, the Right makes it larger in the same way using them with the CTRL/CMD key zooms in and out.

I just started brushing away the mask with the foreground colour set to white. I zoomed in quite a lot to see clearly where my edges are.

There is a bit of very minute detail in her hair that I’ll have to brush back in, so I can switch the foreground colour to black, make my brush smaller and paint it back. Before I forget… If I didn’t manage to include an important area of my image, I can add it in during this step really easily. Brush it in with black!

My brush size ranges from 1 pixel for the really tight spots, to 12 pixels for the straightaways.

Now that I’ve finished with the clean-up, I went back to the Layers panel. This step tells Elements+ that I’m moving on to a new operation.

To get Elements+ to finish the job, I clicked again on the Selections icon then told it to Exit Quick Mask Mode.

The red mask is gone, and now I have marching ants instead. I just need to…

Invert the Selection (Select>Inverse or CTRL/CMD/Shift>I) and then I can eliminate the sky, the water and the rocks.

Two ways as usual, Edit>Cut or CTRL/CMD>X.

Boom! It looks pretty sharp to me.

Here’s what the whole workspace looks like when I Zoom back out.

So before I Save it, I’m going to Crop it down to a more useable size.

I want to keep the background transparent so I’m going to Save As a .png. The keyboard shortcut for Save As is CTRL/CMD>Shift>S.

To keep as much sharpness as possible I’ll save it at the Smallest compression but it doesn’t need to be interlaced.

Now I can put this yoga queen on just about anything! I’ll have to figure that part out later.


Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements+)

Unlocking the Photoshop Elements Easter Eggs

The other day I was scrolling through Google News on my phone looking for celebrity stories and horoscopes… who doesn’t? I’d at one time done a Google search for tutorial ideas and obviously Google stores away all that information to use against me at a later date. Because there in front of me was a video extolling the virtues of Photoshop Elements+. I’d heard of Elements+ in passing before but never actually looked at it. I mean, who wants to spend more money than we have to for hobbies, right? But I watched the video anyway. Then I went over to the Elements+ website and bought it! My first pleasant surprise was the cost – $12 US ($17.87 CDN at today’s exchange rate, but still a steal!). They have a free demo option which is a much-abbreviated set of features, and if you aren’t sure you want to spend the cash, maybe give it a look first before you decide. What do you get for the cost of a couple of gourmet coffees? A TON!!

This first screenshot shows the key to the (very lengthy) list of features and which version they’re part of. The type is quite tiny but if you go to the website you can see the list full-sized. There is an Elements + version for every release of Elements from 1 through 2020, and the patch (that’s what the developer is calling it) unlocks all the hidden potential of the Elements software that turn it into so much more of a powerhouse. There are a lot of features in here that won’t appeal to the average scrapper, but don’t let that hold you back! The first block of features are RAW corrections. You may remember quite some time ago I gave you a tutorial on editing in Camera RAW, which is super for taking a so-so photo into the amazing realm. Elements + adds several functions not present in the basic software.

The second block of features in the screenshot are for Color and Tone. They’re pretty complex edits, and only the real photography snob or the wedding photographer might use them. But handy to have, no? Of note, there are some features that are only in the Windows version, or the Mac version, but not both, and the chart shows you which.

The list continues with Selections, a group of edits that make extracting much more precise and with fewer steps. They’ll take a bit of a learning curve, I think.

Next is a section on Layers. What caught my eye is the one called “Creating layer from style” and it’s making me giddy! I can’t wait to put my styles on their own layers so I can bend them to my will.

Then comes Smart Objects. I’ll confess, after using Elements 17 and being frustrated by Smart Objects, I think I need to learn how to make them work for me, so I’ll be exploring these functions.

Layer Styles options look pretty interesting. “Photoshop-like dialog with undocumented effects and advanced blending options” sounds like something I need to know! “Saving custom styles” is also something that might be fun to learn.

Masks refers to layer masks, not the sort we’d use for clipping photos or papers to, but for making adjustments to individual layers. I’ll need to do some playing to understand how they work.

Smart Filters sounds like Instagram went to college. But I suspect there are some really useful edits to be found in there.

In Elements‘ later versions there’s a text option for putting words on a path. You know, putting test around the outside of a box, a heart, a star or some other shape. These options under Paths expand and extend that to so many applications, from creating paths to creating shapes from a path to using a path as a selection, there’s a lot to unpack there.

Text options to allow scaling of individual characters, the ability to edit only a fragment of text (not for Mac), text inside a shape and paragraph justification will make journaling much more interesting.

Pen Tools are only available in Versions 10-14. Bézier curves are a bit beyond my limited geometry, algebra and trigonometry education so I can’t explain that one. Anyone smarter than me care to dumb it down?

Macros are little bits of code that define a specific process. The two entries in this category relate to recording and replaying macros you create yourself. Let’s say you have several edits you do to every one of your photos or layouts and you wish you had a way to automate that. This is it! But. It needs something called Scripting Listener to be installed and functional within PSE. Let me look into that further…

Droplets could be a game-changer! The website says this: ““Droplets” provide a quick and intuitive way to apply scripts to pictures. You just drag one or more image files onto the droplet icon and… it’s done! ” The example they show is resizing a whole batch of photos to a defined size. (I might be interested in this for my tutorial screenshots…) I think this particular feature will be really handy for scrapbookers, because you can create a Droplet of your favourite script (I’m going to talk about Scripts next) and apply it to multiple objects. Once I’ve played with this, if there’s interest from my faithful readers, I’ll put it all into a tut.

Let’s talk about Scripts. These are just what they sound like – series of instructions to be followed in order. I’ve used some of the scripts and will show you what I did with them in a bit. These Scripts let you do so many things it’ll make your head spin! The ones I think will be the most useful for scrapbooking are the Edge Effects scripts. Burnt Edges!! There’s one that turns your photo into a piece of Film, and another one that turns a series of photos into a Filmstrip. Another one applies Hand-stitching to the edges of whatever you want. The script varies the length and angle of each stitch so it’s completely random, and won’t be exactly the same twice. The colour of the stitches and the background texture are customizable. Page Curl rolls the corner of your photo or paper, putting the perfect shadow on it. Photo Corners, Rough Bounds, Rounded Corners, Stamp Edges, Torn Edges, Wavy Edges, Yellowed Margins and Zig-Zag complete the list. Then there are the Photo Effects scripts that expand significantly on the basic effects already in Elements. Randomize is something I want to get deeper into to see if I can make my own fabulous scatters. That’s just a sampling of what’s in the Scripts treasure chest.

This screenshot just continues the list of Scripts. More POWER!

This too is a continuation of the Scripts list. At the very bottom they show the functions available in Versions 1-5. Of course they’re much more limited because Elements has evolved so much over the years.

Still with Versions 1-5

Notice how the lists are much shorter…

Okay! On to my experiment from earlier today. I downloaded the software and installed it. Then I opened up Elements and let it absorb all the new goodness. This will take several minutes, so if you decide you want to try it out make sure you have time to let it get set up.

How do you find your Easter eggs? There are two ways to do it. You can click on File>Automation Tools (which would have been greyed out before) and the category menu opens.

Or you can click on the Effects button at the bottom of the layers palette and select Elements+ from the drop-down menu. Then you have all these thumbnails to give you an idea of what they hold.

I had this Instagram photo I downloaded from my phone that was okay, but not really what my eyes were seeing when I shot it. So I thought, why not give it the RAW treatment? And I can get to it with the photo already open in Elements, which is fantastic! I’m going to tell you that, start to finish, this edit took me all of 2 minutes. And I’m impressed! The RAW menu looks a little different and offers a few options that aren’t found in the Open in Camera RAW menu. But the preview screen is still the same and lets you see what you’re doing as you do it.

I did some basic editing to see if I could pull a bit more detail from the foreground, which was pretty underexposed. Of course, that washes out the sky a bit… but okay, onward and upward.

I took a look at the Scripts and was intrigued by the Favorites on the menu, but don’t know enough about it yet to do much with it. Later…

However… further down the list is Landscapes.  So I opened it. And there’s a Cloud Booster. YES! I selected it then hit the green triangle icon that represents the Play button.

I haven’t shown it here but the Script creates a copy of the background layer and works upward. There’s a RAW layer, and then the Cloud Booster layer, which includes a layer mask. The Brush menu also opens so you can use a brush to adjust where and how much the effect changes your image. I didn’t touch the image with a brush though.

Instead, I took a look at the layers palette.

I toned down the Opacity of the layer mask, which softened up the mountains a bit, but didn’t change the Blend Mode.

Then I spied the Neutral Density Filter script. Oh my heart! I have a neutral density filter for my DSLR, but find it cumbersome to use. To say nothing of pricey! ND filters are especially useful for landscape photos, where you know there’s going to be trouble getting the exposure just right. They come in a range of intensities from almost imperceptible to very dark. The glass is gradient-tinted; the filter needs to be positioned so that the darker part is over the lighter, brighter part of the intended photo – usually the sky. It decreases the amount of light getting through the lens in that area of the photo so it’s less exposed than the rest of the image. Using the filter takes practice, experimentation, exposure-bracketing and shooting purely in manual settings. How can Elements+ replace the on-lens filter? Let me show you!

This is my photo after I ran the ND Filter script. Notice how the sky is darker now, maybe just a bit TOO dark? But because this is completely digital, I can make adjustments to the layer and fine-tune it so it’s just right. Let’s say I was shooting a snowscape and it was the FOREGROUND that’s over-exposed. I could rotate the filtered area so it’s at the bottom of the photo. If the filtered area bleeds into the part of the photo that is already correctly exposed, I could either shrink the filter area, or slide it up so that it only touches the area of the photo where it’s needed. And then there’s the on-its-own-layer thing. Bingo, more control!

So let’s look at that. The Blend Mode is Soft Light, which works. The Opacity was about 45% at the default setting, and I just pulled it down to 32%.

The last thing I did was to Merge all the layers and Save As an edited image.

Just for you, I put the original next to the edited version. Now you see what my eyes saw on Sunday evening when I took my photo.

I think there’s a gold mine in this patch! I want to dig into how it can be leveraged for digital scrapbooking for you and then show you how to make it happen for your layouts. So much potential!!

Designer Spotlight: Miss Fish

Whoops… I apologize – had a brain fart and got sidetracked by planting my containers yesterday. So without further ado, let me introduce you to Juli, the most awesome Miss Fish!


Jan: How long have you been designing?

Juli: It will be 4 years in August.

Jan: What made you decide to design?

Juli: I had been a digital scrapbooker for over 14 years. I needed to make a little extra money to do some fun things for myself, like get pedicures and highlights in my hair. Sometimes I’m extra nice and buy my kids and my husband little gifts too.

Jan: What led you to decide to design together?

Juli: Jennifer and I have been real life friends for years. We have similar personalities and tastes. I love working with her because she makes me laugh and pushes me to be a better designer.

Jan: What do you use to create your designs (program, additional tools, etc.)?

Juli: Adobe Photoshop CC

Jan: Describe your design workplace.

Juli: I do most of my designing from laptop which is located in our family room. I have a double wide monitor I use and this set up allows me to work in our main family space so I’m still with everyone while I’m working.

Jan: What motivates and inspires you as a designer?

Juli: I love patterns and colors and sayings. I’ve always been a creative person and creating templates and kits is so much fun and let’s me create things I would like to work with myself.

Jan: What is your favorite kit currently in your GS store and why?

Juli: I make many more templates than kits – I love this one: https://store.gingerscraps.net/Big-and-Little-3-Templates-by-Miss-Fish.html I think it’s an easy pack to theme for any photos and would work with just about any kit. Also, I love that it has so man photo spots!

Jan: If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Juli: Ribeye steak, loaded baked potato, steamed broccoli and carrot cake for dessert. These are all my favorite things that I don’t get to eat often (well, except the broccoli). They are always a treat!

Jan: What is your favorite game or sport to watch and play?

Juli: I love to watch football. If we’re playing games I like Scrabble.

Jan: What did you want to be when you were small?

Juli: A Teacher

Jan: Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?

Juli: My phone. It keeps me connected to my daughters and the rest of my family.

Jan: Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?

Juli: Diane Keaton

Jan: If you had a warning label, what would yours say?

Juli: Danger – will eat your cupcake and talk your ear off. Also watch for foul language.

Jan: What celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee?

Juli: Barack Obama

Ladies, thanks for sharing your talents with all of us!

Tutorial Tuesday (Celebrations!)

Plan Your Holiday Photos NOW!

I took a look at the calendar this morning and got a bit of a shock. (I’m sure I’m not the only one losing track of days and dates…) It’s going to be JULY next week! My granddaughter’s second birthday is on Monday, her cousin’s birthday the next day and her big brother’s birthday is the day after that. And of course it means that Canada Day and Independence Day are also next week. So that got me thinking… maybe I should talk about planning your celebration layouts now, so you get the best photos. Even though many of the big events usually held on these national holidays have been cancelled this year due to the pandemic, I’m sure there will be events worthy of documenting. Don’t forget, you can always come back to this post next year for a reminder too. I try to have a rough idea of which shots I’d like to get so I went to Pixabay and had a look for the basic themes for Canada Day and the Fourth of July: parades, flags, food, family gatherings and fireworks. (The photos I found were all Fourth of July – we Canucks are a little less exuberant on our national holiday, but these tips are easily adapted for a made-in Canada celebration too.)

Let’s start with parades, since they’re often in the late morning or early afternoon, and kick off the day’s events. Try to think of interesting scenes you can photograph. Look for people in costumes and try to find a camera angle that will give you an interesting composition. This photo,  taken by the contributor beccajanef, caught my eye because of the Liberty hats. I’d love to have seen the crowd afterward, with all those hats on heads everywhere.

BigBearVacations gave us this shot. What I like about it is that the sun flare conceals the guy walking into the frame on the right, putting the focus on those hero-worshipping kids with Uncle Sam. At first I thought the photobomber should be cropped out, but a second look told me doing that would take away from the scale of the stilt-walker. I always wanted to learn how to walk on stilts, didn’t you?

The amazing Jill Wellington took this photo, which speaks to how patriotism is learned early. The sun flare adds a softness to the photo without distracting from the subject. I love her blue-and-white dress and red bloomers too.

There are so many ho-hum ways to photograph flags. But filling the viewfinder with the most recognizable area of the flag, along with the draping of the fabric, elevates this photo by TechPhotoGal to a much more interesting level. It also shows that you don’t need to include the entire object in your image to create a photo with impact.

When I look at this image, credited to OohhSnapp (aka Angelique Johnson), I get the impression of a huge flag and Angelique standing directly underneath it. It has a definite God-blessed-America feel. It’s a visually pleasing image for sure.

Ah! Food!! When you’re documenting the feast, look for perspectives that hint at how good the food will taste and how perfectly it’s prepared. It’s very easy to take boring food pix… but TesaPhotography (Tesa Robbins) captured a true delight for the eye.  I can almost taste the corn now!

Here’s another I-can-almost-taste-it shots. Here, utroja0 uses both composition and depth of field to give us a visual feast. The skewer in the foreground is in sharp focus and the grill is only partly in the frame. Between them they give the impression of lots of food and incredible aromas.

Here in Canada those ice pops (or popsicles, which is actually a trademark…) are called Rockets. And they’re my favourite. (I lived on them, literally, when I was sick last year.) No cookout or picnic is complete without the sweet finish. What makes this photo, again from the camera of Jill Wellington, so successful are the red-white-and-blue colour palette, the scatter of candy and the creamy background. The drips of melting ice cream hint at the heat of the day too, offering another clue to the kind of celebration going on.

Candid photos are almost always more appealing than tightly posed ones. This scene looks so natural and it’s easy to see the kids are enjoying their picnic with their dad. The background suggests it wasn’t taken in July, but that’s not the point… capturing those special moments when the subject isn’t aware you’re shooting them takes a bit of thought and some stealth, both of which Victoria_Borodinovea managed here. But… if you really want to have a formal-ish, posed group photo, try to arrange your people so their faces from visual triangles, allowing those triangles to overlap a bit. Use a small aperture so that your depth of field is large enough to keep all the eyes nice and bright. Another option is to line the kids up, shortest in the front, tallest in the back. If necessary, have them tilt their heads to one side, alternating sides so you can see everyone’s eyes, then snap away. Everybody will be recognizable in the shot, and everybody should be in focus.

Families who have cottages at the lake or on the beach may include a bonfire in their holiday plans. Photos of these can be incredibly beautiful, but can also be just okay. I like this photo by Free-Photos because it tells the story of a campfire through imagery.

I like this shot for the texture in the charring wood, the heat suggested by the flames and the containment of the firepan. flyupmike created his appealing image by getting in close (I’m hoping he zoomed the camera and not the photographer!) and intentionally cropping his shot in the viewfinder. This gives context to the image. Your could add context to your fire photos with silhouettes, or framing the flames in some way. Zooming in even more closely to capture the intensity of the burning fuel would work too.

Is there any better reason to have a bonfire than to make smores?? This tight shot of a toasted marshmallow, taken by skeeze, would immediately make me want to have a smore – and I don’t particularly like them!

Everything about this photo says “Fourth of July” to me: the flag in the background, the sparklers and the hint of a smile on the only face visible. The depth of field has the sparklers in sharp focus – where it should be, softening everything else into background. Free-Photos got it right again!

Doesn’t this photo just shriek JOY? Jill Wellington knows how to use her camera to capture the most captivating images. She has the children in silhouette to draw the eye into the scene and the upflung arms reveal the excitement of seeing the light show. The fast shutter speed she used froze both the girls and the fireworks, while her small aperture got the whole scene in focus.

Photographing fireworks is a real challenge. For more tips on how to get the best shots, Darlene Hildebrandt offers her tips here. The most important ones are the quality setting, figuring out where in the sky the bursts will appear, shooting into the eastern sky with a medium aperture, starting early in the show to avoid the smoke and using a TRIPOD. You want that camera stock still to get the best images. I just checked out the camera on my Android phone and it has some pro settings I’m going to have to play with. Our new house will give us a ring-side seat for any fireworks in our city, since we’re halfway up a mountain with nothing built behind us!

I’ve been gathering ideas for future tutorials and have some great ones lined up, so stay tuned!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Faking It! Tuck a Corner into a Digital Slit

Sorry this tutorial was derailed. Who knew changing drivers’ licenses from one province to another was going to be an ALL-DAY event? I’m just happy I was able to lay hands on the 8 pieces of identification we were going for the 3 of us to need to get it done and we didn’t have to make another trip. Our house is still a work-in-progress and I haven’t found the right arrangement for my laptop and seating so I can actually work on the fun stuff. Our living room has floor-to-ceiling windows so the light is either in my eyes or being reflected off my screen into my eyes! And my craft space is packed to the ceiling with boxes so it’s not an option right now either. Oh well, all in good time.

The technique I’m going to show you today is one I thought about some time ago but never actually moved on. Don’t be put off by the number of screenshots to follow, because I’ve literally shown EVERY step, and there will be some you might decide to leave out. As well, this technique uses a lot of the same steps I’ve shown you several times before, so for those who are already doing some of the techniques I’ve shown you, this will be a refresher. So let’s get into it! I’m going to show you how to tuck the corner of a photo, or in this example, a journal card, into a slit in your background paper. I’ve used a paper and card from Just So Scrappy’s She Can kit. (Pretty appropriate – I installed a towel bar today, after putting together our new patio furniture yesterday!)

First thing to do is make a Copy: right-click>Duplicate Layer of the journal card. (or CTRL/CMD>J)

Now turn off visibility of one or the other of the cards. It doesn’t matter which.

Now rotate the card you can see to about 45° from the vertical. This will make clipping the corner of the card off much easier.

Select the Rectangle Marquee tool.

Click and drag out a rectangle over the corner you plan to put into the slit.

Click on Edit>Cut (or CTRL/CMD>X) and the corner will disappear.

Like that!

Turn the invisible card back on so you can align the two cards. Rotate the card with the cut-off corner back so that it sits exactly on top/underneath the UNCUT one.

Like this….

Turn the UNCUT card back off again for now. Time to put the slit into the background paper.

You can do this step with black, but I choose to use a brownish gray colour. I’ll use the same colour later for my custom drop shadow.

Zoom in on the cut corner as much as you can and still see both ends of the cut-off area. Click on the Pencil tool and set the Size to quite small – 5 pixels works well.

Recently I reminded you how to draw a straight line with the Pencil tool. Here’s a reminder for you. Click on where you want your line to start. Then hold down the Shift key and click where the line will end. That’s it. It takes longer to explain it that it does to do it. 😉

I forgot to mention that this step is done on a new blank layer.

There’s the slit!

After looking at it, I decided it was jut a bit too dark, so I dropped the Opacity down to 45%.

Then change the Blend Mode to Color Burn.

Go back and turn on the UNCUT card layer, and turn off the CUT layer. You need to be able to see where the card’s corner is to get this step done.

If you were doing this technique with a real card and real paper, when the corner is tucked, there will be a vague suggestion of the contours of the card visible on the paper layer. This contour will have areas that are highlighted and areas that are shadowed. To make this work digitally, use the Dodge tool set to a small diameter (I used 16 pixels at 50% Opacity) to highlight inside the edges of the corner, working with the background paper layer active. This is done just like drawing that straight line, but you’ll be taking the corner too. Click at the start of the first edge, hold down the Shift key, click right at the corner and then click again at the opposite edge of the card. Click-click-click! Make these Dodged lines just inside the edge of the card.

Then go back over the corner with the Dodge tool and a larger diameter (24 pixels) and lower Opacity (21%). Make your highlights a bit more inside the edges than the first round, which will give the appearance of a gradient to your highlight.

To create the shadowed area where the paper dips over the edges, use the Burn tool. But this time you’ll go just a hair outside the edge of the card.  I used 11 pixels and 21% for this step.

See how the background paper seems to hug the edges of the card?

I went back over the shadowed area again to just add a bit more visual gradient, but you might not see the need for it.

The effect is pretty subtle, but realistic.

Now the UNCUT card layer can be deleted. Either right-click>Delete Layer or use the Delete key.

Last step is to add a custom shadow. This is one of my quick-step custom shadow techniques. Click on the layer thumbnail for the card to select the edges.

The shadow needs to go on its own layer. Here I’ve shown it above the card and will move it down below the card in a second. Using the Paint Bucket tool, fill the selected area with your shadow colour.

Then I moved the shadow UNDER the card. Image>Transform>Skew is chosen to allow for some tweaking of the shape. With this tool you can move all four corners of your bounding box in whatever direction you want.

If you look closely you’ll see I moved the upper left corner out and up, the upper right corner down and in and the lower left corner over and in.

Remember when you’re creating shadows that you’re deciding where the light source is and estimating how much light will be able to get UNDER your object. Where is the object touching whatever it’s sitting on? I use the Smudge tool to further adjust my shadows. I like to use a BIG diameter and a very light touch. This is how I obtain a curved look to my shadow where the card or paper touches down in some spots and lifts away in others.

Once you’re happy with the shape of your shadow, it’s time to soften it up a bit. Harsh shadows aren’t attractive! The best way to do this is with the Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur effect.

If the Preview Pane pops up and all you see is solid colour, you can shift the area in that Preview Pane just by clicking on an edge. Then you can see how much blur is enough.

Almost done! The last task is to lighten up the shadow a bit. I dropped the Opacity to 45%.

Changing the Blend Mode to Color Burn lets more of the underlying paper’s colour show through in the shadow, so that’s what I’ve used.

After looking at the end result for a few minutes I decided the slit needed to be a little longer – it looked really tight! All I had to do with it, since it’s on its own layer, was to stretch the line a bit at either end.

And then I was done! I like how it turned out.

I’m still getting the hang of the new time zone here, and I apologize for being so late! I’ll try for better next week.