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!!

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.


Tutorial Tuesday (Fabulous Fonts)

Ten Fonts for DAD!

It’s almost Father’s Day already, and that means the year is nearly half over. I know staying home and feeling hemmed in has made it seem like time has really been dragging, but it really hasn’t. I know many of you have been scrapping your little hearts out to keep busy, and that Father’s Day this year (like Mother’s Day and so many other special occasions) will be a little different than we’d like. Personally, I haven’t had time for much, but that’s gradually sorting itself out. For this week’s tutorial, I have a question for you… “Do you have some great fonts for your masculine layouts?” I did a little looking around for some manly (and FREE!) fonts that will add the finishing touches to your layouts about Dads. These are the Top Ten on my list.

First I looked at dafont.com, which is my go-to for free fonts.

Chunk Five is a basic poster-type font, but a sturdy one.

Reisenberg comes in a variety of styles. It’s an all-caps font with limited punctuation. It’s clean and bold, so it will make awesome titles.

Galactic Vanguardian has a slightly futuristic look to it.

Black Hawk is a marquee-style font that would be perfect for layouts showcasing vintage photos.

Here’s another spacy font, Galaxy 1. I think it’s ideal for dads (or sons, or brothers) who love the Star Wars franchise, Space Balls, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica… You know who they are!

This grungy font Capture It still has a lot of presence, even though it looks pretty rough.

Then I moved on to fontspace.com, another source for fabulous free fonts. Permanent Marker is a handwritten font you could use for both titles and journalling.

I like this one, Trajanus Roman, for its formal and spare look.

The next site I checked out was 1001fonts.com, where I found a couple of keepers.

Marlboro is reminiscent of the old cigarette ads that used to fill up magazines. But it’s also a strong, rugged font.

I saved the best for last… I LOVE Saucer!! I can think of so many ways I can use this one.

What are YOUR favourite fonts for layouts about the men in your lives?

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Building Strong Borders with Brushes

Woo hoo!! I’m BACK!! Did you miss me?? Our move went pretty well, despite the challenges of COVID-19 and all that entails. We’ve been in the new house a month and are gradually sorting out our lives, finding out how to get to the stores we like and settling in. The dogs have made meeting our new neighbours pretty easy – they don’t have any hesitation or social-distancing skills at all. Everybody has been very welcoming to both them and us. Getting down to work writing a new tut has made me feel more like myself too. So let’s get after it!

Awhile back I asked for some topic suggestions on the GingerScraps Facebook page. This is one of those, from Shana, who asked for some tips on using brushes to create custom borders for her layouts. This might not be what she was expecting, but here goes!

The area around our new house is quite natural and there are so many wildflowers in bloom right now, so the concept for this border will build on the photos I’ve taken in the last month. I went through my stash and found a kit that will work beautifully with them, it’s CathyK Designs‘s Back to Nature. This solid paper is from the kit.

The colour I chose for my brushes is a medium brown. Don’t be too concerned about the colour choice you make, because changing the Blend Mode later might give you something unexpected, or you can always change it to something you like better later.

When I set up my “new” laptop several months ago, I discovered that I’d forgotten how to keep my brush library built in to Elements 2019, so I’ve changed my workflow with brushes, only loading the ones I want to use. Not sure how to load brushes? Click on the little icon that looks like 4 short horizontal lines at the upper left of the Brush control menu. Then select “Load Brushes“. Click on the set you want to add then click on Load. I put all of my brushes into a dedicated folder so I don’t have to hunt for them.

I might sound like a broken record, but this is VERY important. ALWAYS put your brushes on their own layers! If you forget and put the brush directly on the layer you’ve got active, there’s nothing you can do with it other than Undo. On their own layers they become “Smart Objects” and can be manipulated in many ways.

Because I put them on their own layers, I usually make them as big as possible, and then size them to fit my vision. I downloaded this set of free floral corner brushes from Brusheezy.com which is one of my favourite sources for free goodies.

I then positioned and sized my corner brush to be slightly less than 1/4 of the available area.

Then I made a Copy (CTRL/CMD>J) of the brush layer, grabbed one of the side “handles” (the little open square on the bounding box) and flipped the whole brush horizontally. I used to make myself crazy trying to get the exact dimensions with my mouse as I worked, but soon figured out that it’s much easier and more precise to just start the process, then tell Elements what I want! The Transform menu, which activates when you start the flipping process, has boxes for both height and width, so you can type in whatever you want there.

I decided I didn’t want to have upside down bows on my layout, so I went with a different corner brush for the ones on the bottom.

This one I just rotated 180°, resized and slid into place.

Another Copy, Rotate and slide for the opposite corner and it was time to tie the corners together. For this task I used a set of floral divider brushes I also got from Brusheezy.

I liked the look of this butterfly divider, but didn’t like that it messed with the bows at the corners. That’s easy to fix, and because it’s on its own layer, I won’t be mangling anything else.

I wasn’t sure if the butterfly would work at the bottom, but just in case, I made a copy of the layer before I altered it in any way.

I flipped the second butterfly layer vertically, moved it out of the way and then turned the visibility for it off.

Using the Eraser tool on the original butterfly layer, I erased all the areas that impinged on the corner brush layers.

Like that!

On to the bottom of the paper. Mmm. Nope. Upside down butterflies don’t work any better than upside down bows. I turned that layer off for now but it’ll be deleted.

I picked this divider brush from the same set and it works much better. Just had to remove the parts that overlie the corner brushes.

But….. it needs to be tied together at the sides too.

I like this divider brush, also from the same set.

It needed to be rotated 90° to work with the corners.

This time I didn’t need to have the brush where it was going to live to erase the extra stuff.

It fits in the gap so neatly!

I made a copy of it and flipped it horizontally to slip it into the other side.

Once I was happy with where everything sits and how it looks, I went ahead and Merged all the brush layers into one piece.

Now for the really fun part! I actually tried ALL the Blend Modes. Some of them turned my brown border to a beautiful red, but that wasn’t in keeping with my vision. I decided I liked Darker Color.

But instead of playing with the Opacity, I copied the border then applied a paper style I bought at Creative Market to the bottom layer.

After some experimenting I realized I needed to put a thin stroke around my upper brush layer, and the reason for that will become apparent in a minute. I put the stroke on its own layer too. To do that I added a new blank layer above the brown brush layer, then clicked on the thumbnail of the border layer to Select the outline. Applying the Stroke to that selection on the new layer gives me a perfect outline of my border.

I used the same brown and went with just 2 pixels’ width, applied to the outside of the selection.

Just like that.

I turned visibility for the layer I added the paper style to off so I could concentrate on what was happening to the brown layer. I changed the Blend Mode to Soft Light and like it a lot more.

It looks so different, but it’s pretty good!

Once I brought the Opacity down to 85%, I could see a hint of the paper texture and the border looked more like it belongs on the base layer. I like the way it came out, so I saved it both as a .psd (with editable layers) and a .jpg so I can use the paper for my layout.

Hopefully I’ll have time to get my layout together soon so you can see the full effect!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Be A-Frayed, Be Very A-Frayed!

When I asked the GingerScrappers on Facebook for tutorial topics, I got some great suggestions. This tutorial was inspired by Lisa, who asked me to figure out how to fray paper like fabric. I had a couple of ideas, but I wanted to be sure it would work, so I used a FABRIC object to test my theory. This is the outcome. I’m pretty sure I’ve also solved the paper-fraying goal as well. If, at the end of this tutorial you’d like me to do a follow-up with paper, leave me a note in the comments and I’ll do it. It’ll involve filters……

My fabric object is this sweet denim pocket from Laurie’s Scraps (one of our April Featured Designers!) Toy Chest kit. I plan to put a hole in it and then patch it. So let’s get after it! (Yes, I have Cuomo Prime Time on in the background.)

Something about the very narrow margins around this pocket bothered me. I like to have a bit more transparent workspace so I’m just going to enlarge the “canvas size”. CTRL/CMD>ALT>C for you keyboard shortcutters, or Image>Resize>Canvas Size for the ones who are new to Work Smart Not Hard.

The margins don’t have to be huge so I just pulled 6×6 out of the air and typed it into the boxes. Now, see that tic-tac-toe board near the bottom of the menu box? Well, it lets you decide where the extra canvas goes! You can add it to one side or the other, top or bottom, depending on why you’re adding workspace. If I was making a cluster, for example, I would have an idea of where things in the cluster would be added and put the extra space where it would do the most good simply by clicking one the associated square to set the new Anchor Point. (I was yesterday old when I noticed that…)

For the sake of clarity I chose to use just an elliptical shape with the Marquee tool to make my hole. But whatever your vision tells you is what you should do. I could have used a custom shape or polygon of any kind, and that might make a really interesting look on a layout. Once I had my ellipse pulled out, I Cut the area inside it out. Edit>Cut or CTRL/CMD>X.

So now I have a hole in my pocket. How am I going to make it look like a REAL hole? With the Eraser tool to start with. I have the Brush selected as my Eraser type, and a very small size with 100% Opacity to completely erase my threads. Zoom is your friend for this technique.

Denim is a twill weave, with diagonal grain, so my “threads” are following that direction. I used the Eraser to remove bits of the fabric past the edge of the cutout. There’s no need for precision for this step – actually for any of it! – so I just randomly Erased sections of random lengths, and some of them are quite squiggly. That’s good! I worked my way around the hole; I went clockwise but it doesn’t matter how you do it.

So this is what I had once I’d created my threads. The bones are there, now to put the flesh on them!

Next I chose the Smudge tool (the one that looks like a finger) to soften and stretch the threads into the hole. Again, I used a small diameter brush, and not-quite-full Strength to make my threads threadier.

I put the Brush down on the denim then click-dragged the Smudger over the thread and out into the hole. To make a longer thread, start a little farther from the edge. Again, randomness and imperfection are the right things here, so make sure they’re not the same length or going in the same direction.

Everything about this technique is what you’re happy with, so don’t be too fussy about any of it. Just keep working it until you’ve got a good collection of stringy things in there.

Yep, you can criss-cross some of your threads! Those holes in your jeans will have some criss-crossed threads so why not?!

It’s starting to look more real by the minute, but there are still some things needed to get it right. The places where I Erased into the denim look too symmetrical and sharp so that has to be fixed. I’ll use the Smudge tool for that too.

But I’m skipping ahead here. Those threads are still too dark to look like a real hole, so I chose the Dodge tool to lighten them up. Remember Dodge lightens, Burn darkens? Well, just make sure you’ve got DODGE selected. Again a small diameter, 50% Exposure and Midtones will be the settings. Now I’m just going to brush that Dodge tool over the threads and into the denim around the hole a bit.

Better already! But not quite there. Close…

I moved back to the Smudge tool to soften up the edges. Same settings as before makes it simple to switch between tools.

I was most definitely NOT precise with the Smudge tool here, running it up into the denim to soften the areas where I’d already Dodged. Now it’s looking like a real hole in real denim!

I just switched back and forth between the Smudge and Dodge tools until I was happy with my holey jeans. It looks pretty good!

Then I put a piece if this pretty pink patterned paper from Connie Prince’s Denim and Pearls extra paper pack behind the hole like a patch. A drop shadow layer in between and I think it’s darned near perfect!

Please let me know in the comments if you’d like me to do this again with paper to show you the tricks for that. Kellie, I haven’t forgotten your scene cleaner request, but it’ll take quite a bit more time to put together than I have just now. I promise, it’s coming!

I’ll be taking a month off while we’re moving – the movers are here next Wednesday already! Look for a new tutorial – maybe the paper version of this one – around the end of May. Stay home, wear a mask, wash your hands!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

In the Background – Harnessing the Power of Your Software

I hope you weren’t thinking I jammed on you again this week. I made some serious miscalculations… My son had a liver biopsy today and although I knew we’d be at the hospital for several hours, I underestimated both the amount of time we’d spend sitting and waiting, as well as how draining it would be on both of us. And I overestimated my enthusiasm for going all day without food, fluid or a bathroom!

Susan said she’d like to try her hand at making her own custom backgrounds and I just happened to be fooling around with a few ideas for a layout that would work into a tutorial on using ordinary items in extraordinary ways. So this is the result. I’ve put most of the instructions right on the screenshots (there are 37 of them but don’t let that intimidate you – I’ve shown literally every step) so I’m not going to add a lot of text in between them. I hope you like the final result! I started by choosing a solid paper, a patterned paper that fit into the desired theme, a mask and an edge mask.

My paper is going to be soft and faded, but all the things I’ve done here can be customized to whatever look you want. I think it could easily be bent to a very bold, colourful, evocative layout, or boho’d up for an art journal layout. The limit is your imagination!

I love using Fill Layers to change colours on “flat” items like this edge mask.

I’m planning to use a heritage photo for my layout and opted for a sort of sepia palette.

This is the most important thing to remember when you’re changing colours with Fill Layers. Check that box!

Merging layers is the best way to ensure the changes you make are going to actually be applied where you want them.

I changed the Blend Mode to Pin Light. (I tried them all to see what each did before I settled. That’s the fun part of this process!) Then I thought, “How would this look with a Filter applied to it?” So I opened up the Filter menu.

Again I tried a few, but decided Texture>Patchwork would look good.

Okay, I know this change is really subtle, but you can see that it changed the colour and added a nice depth to it.

On to the mask. I love Irina’s masks. They’re just gorgeous and can be used so many ways.

Rather than clip a photo to the mask, I clipped a patterned paper to it.

Okay, that’s nice, but not exactly what I want.

Tweak, tweak.

Once I had it kinda-sorta where I liked it, I Merged the two layers so all the rest of the changes were sure to go where I wanted them.

Something as simple as changing the Blend Mode to Overlay makes it look completely different.

I decided it needed a little more presence so I copied the pattern/mask layer. That layer I left untouched.

Okay! Now for the really fun part!! Brushes. If you don’t have many, you should check out the sources for free ones online so you can build a collection. Remember, ALWAYS put your brushes on their own layer. You need to be able to make adjustments JUST to the brush.

I have a collection of brushes, some I bought and some I didn’t. This set of handwritten ones was a purchase years ago… store has been long forgotten so I can’t even point you to it.

It was too stark so I changed the Blend Mode to Color Burn.

I want the writing to be there, but not “THERE”. So I also decreased the Opacity to 35%.

In keeping with my theme, I added a swirly brush in one corner.

And Copied it…

For symmetry, I flipped the copy and them moved it up into the top corner.

… then Merged the two layers.

And I Copied the new merged layer so I could put swirls into the other corners too. But after that, I’m done with symmetry!

There they go…

Do you need some hints?

The fact that I moved the swirly layer under the handwriting layer isn’t a crucial point, but I did want my handwriting to sit on top of the swirls. Then I went with Overlay on the Blend Mode.

They were still too obvious so I turned them down to 50%.

I had this goal of creating something that looked aged and a little distressed so naturally, I wanted a coffee ring on it somewhere!

But where? By putting it on its own layer, I can move it around until I like it.

I think this is the spot for it.

This brush set is amazing! It has about 8 different styles of lace and can be used in so many ways.

But it couldn’t be so in-your-face. Overlay at 37% is where I stopped.

I stopped playing with it and just looked at it for awhile. What was missing? What didn’t need to be there? Well that bald spot to the right of the masked paper needed some attention. So I added a grid brush that sort of follows the contours of the mask’s edge.

Some fine-tuning …

and a little resizing and I’m so happy with how it turned out. Now to do the layout………

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

It All Comes out in the Wash-i

This week’s tutorial is brought to you by Shana Read, whose suggestion for a topic in response to my Facebook plea last night was the one I could get together the quickest. I’m finding I have even less motivation “in these uncertain times” – so tired of that cliché!! – than I usually do and was in need of a good kick in the butt. There were some great suggestions offered up and I’ll be working on them in coming weeks. But first, we’re going to make digital Washi tape look real!

I started out with a cardboard tag, a pretty piece of Washi tape and some heavily-creased cardstock from the GingerBread Ladies‘ collab Entertain Me. I didn’t deliberately choose that kit, although it seems weirdly appropriate. I did, however, deliberately choose the creased cardstock, because it’ll make the tutorial more meaningful.

I added a drop shadow to the tag, setting it at the same angle as the shadows cast by the creases on the cardstock. I like consistency and when I’m shooting for realism, that’s one of the key aspects.

Those of you who are using my custom shadowing method can skip down about 6 steps… For those who need a refresher or who haven’t tried it yet, this is how my custom shadows start. I create a new, blank layer underneath the object I’m going to shadow. The keyboard shortcut for this process is to hold down the CTRL/CMD key and click on the new layer icon, the one that looks like a sheet of paper with the lower left corner curling up.

Still on that blank layer, I CTRL/CMD>click on the layer thumbnail – that tiny picture of the object you can see on the layers panel – to select the edges of the object, tape in this case.

Next, click on the Paint Bucket tool so you can fill the outline of the tape.

The colour I like for shadows is 313131, which I just type into the box I’ve circled below. It’s a medium grey and works pretty well for most purposes.

With that grey as the foreground colour, click anywhere on the blank layer. The outline will fill with grey like magic. To get rid of the marching ants, either click Select>Deselect or just use the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD>D. We can’t leave it like this though, because it shows through the tape and looks like junk!

I like to move the shadow to where I’d like it to be before I start tweaking it. So I nudged it over a bit to the left and down, again keeping the same angle of light as seen in the shadows cast by the creases. The only drawback to that is that the tape is semi-transparent and now there’s a white strip at the top. I’ll show you how to take care of that in a minute.

But first I’m going to change the Blend Mode (that button at the top left of the layers panel just under all the icons) to Difference. You’re going to love it!

Can you see the shadow peeking out at the bottom edge of the tape? I know you can see the tag showing through it. I could leave it like that, but that’s not how I’m made. So let’s keep going.

To adjust the shadow layer, I use the Smudge tool. It looks like a hand in a white glove with the index finger stuck out. I tend to use a fairly big brush and a very light touch. I start a bit of a distance from the edge of the shadow and just slightly move the brush toward or away from the object being shadowed, depending on where the light source is, and how much of the object would actually be touching the paper if it was real. In this case, I brought the shadow away from the tape a little where it comes off the tag and onto the cardstock to suggest it’s not stuck down quite as tightly there. Then I pushed it back toward the tape a little where the tape crosses the crease, because it would be adhering more closely here. For this kind of detail, I use a very small brush, still with a light touch. It’s better to go a tiny bit at a time so you know when to stop than to try and do it all in one step and have to start all over.

To eliminate that white strip at the top, I used the same small brush to very carefully nudge out the shadow right to the edge of the tape. There’s a hint of the shadow coming out from under the tape at the top, and that only adds to the realistic look.

So how do we make the tape look even more realistic? Easy! We’ll use the Dodge and Burn tools. Dodging and burning are old tricks used in print photography to spot-improve exposure. Dodging lightens an area while burning darkens. If you have trouble remembering which is which, just think of a burnt stick… it’s black! The edges of my tag are nice and straight so this technique will be simple. I started with the Burn tool and changed the Range to Shadows from the default Midtones.

With the TAPE layer active, and a small brush size selected, I set the centre of the brush tip over the spot where the tape and the paper meet, with the width of the brush on the area on top of the paper. Holding the Shift key down, I clicked at that spot then moved the brush tip down to the spot at the bottom of the tape and clicked again. There’s a very faint darkening of the tape along the edge. As long as I hold down the Shift key, I can go back and forth between the top and the bottom of the tape as many times as necessary to build up a nice sharp edge.

The last pass over the edge is with a wider brush to make the tape look like it has been pressed down firmly with a finger.

Then I switched to the Dodge tool and a large-ish brush.  There will be more light hitting the tape where it sits on top of the tag, so we need to lighten that area just a bit. Using exactly the same steps but with the brush’s width sitting on top of the tag, I Dodged that edge.

Can you see the difference where I’ve already done the D&B? Let’s move over to the crease that runs under the tape. The shadowy area is a bit more pronounced here so with a small brush and the Exposure set to 70%, I Burned the tape where it overlies the shadowed edge of the crease. If I remember correctly, I made 4 passes top to bottom and back up, so a total of 8 clicks.

The section of tape that runs along the domed part of the crease needs to be lightened quite a bit to give the crease back its dimension. I Dodged with a brush sized to just cover the crease edge-to-edge. It took several passes to get it right, but like I said before, building up a little at a time gives you control and you’ll know when to stop.

Once I was happy with the creased area, I moved over to the top edge of the tag. The Dodge tool was active so I did that phase first. There’s a lot more tag covered with tape at this edge so I used a big brush with its width sitting on top of the tag to “elevate” the edge.

Don’t worry about being too precise with positioning the brush tip. If you’re past the end of the spot where the tape and tag touch, it doesn’t matter; the tool won’t do anything to the inactive layers – the paper and tag layers. It’s actually better to go a bit past than it is to stop too short. After I Burned the stuck-down area it looks like real Washi tape and real cardstock. It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t once you get the hang of it.

So there you have it, Jan’s technique for adding a shadow to Washi tape. I suggest that if you’re going to do this, turn the visibility of all the other layers off so you can see exactly what you’re doing. Dodge and Burn even the parts that will be hidden by other layers, for the best results. You never know when you might resize an element, or move things around… right?

See you all next week!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements 2019+)

Jan has a Challenge for All Y’ALL!

We’re living in interesting times. I know we’re all afraid and worried about what’s happening and what’s yet to come. And we have no control over any of it. I also know that humans are remarkably resilient, we’ve lived thorough hard times before and come out of it stronger, and that this is temporary. While we stay in our homes (or, because we provide an essential service, we’re going to work anyway) we all have lots of time for our thoughts to add to our stress. Rather than throw the Serenity Prayer your way, instead I want to extend a challenge to you. I’d like you to find a photo that speaks to the part of you that isn’t afraid, the part that still has hope. It can be a photo you’ve taken, or someone you love has taken or one you found on an open-source photo website like Pixabay. (Just looking through those sites is a terrific distraction!) Then I want you to find an inspirational quote to match the optimism or spiritualism of your photo. And then I want you to create a meme with it! (No, you don’t have to share it with anyone unless you want to, but it might be a comfort to somebody you know who seems to be doing okay but really isn’t.)

Photoshop Elements 2019 and 2020 have a Guided Edit that makes memes easy to create. It’s found in the Fun Edits menu as shown below. But don’t worry if you’re working with an older version. The same steps can all be done manually.

This is the photo I chose to work with. I had quite a few from Pixabay that would have worked but I like the thumbs-up gesture and the sunbeams that to me represent God’s love. The Edit menu looks like the screenshot below. One warning: don’t hit the Cancel button at the bottom unless you really like starting over from scratch!

First step is to click on the Create Meme Template button. Then a progress bar pops up.

Oh… hmmmm. Let’s keep going. There has to be a way to change that border!

The next step is to add the text. My quote is one from Benjamin Disraeli and it’s pretty spot-on. Once you’ve clicked on the Text Tool button, the same Text interface we’re all comfortable with opens up.

The default text is Impact Regular, but I want a script font so I looked through my vast collection and tried Hysteria Regular on for size. (See the image above for what it looks like.) I thought it was weirdly appropriate.

But it wasn’t quite the look I was after so I went back to my fonts and chose Steady Style Script Regular (another appropriate choice!) instead. In later versions of Photoshop Elements, it’s easy to find a script, or a typewriter or a sans serif font just by typing the style of font you’re looking for in the box. I typed in “scrip” and all the fonts in my collection with “script” in their name were displayed.

After I typed in the first part of my quote at the top of the meme, I clicked on the checkmark to Commit the Current Operation. The software needs that instruction to move to the next step.

Then I typed in the second part of my quote. The Edit allows for moving the text, and knowing I wanted to include the author’s name as credit for the thought, I moved the second line of text up a smidge. Then I Committed the Current Operation again. Without taking that step, I couldn’t move on with the Edit.

Aha! Here’s where I can do something about that border that I don’t think suits my meme. I moved the slider to make the photo bigger, then noticed the Fit Photo to Canvas tick box. So I ticked that box!

If I’d decided I still wanted a border, just not THAT border, this is where I could have changed it. And there’s an option to add an Effect to the photo. I like the photo as is. I apologize, I didn’t actually play with those steps so I can’t show you what the options look like. But you can always experiment if you like!

Now that I was happy (more or less) with my meme and having not been able to add the author’s name onto the meme, I clicked on the Next button and then chose Continue Editing in Expert.

When the Expert work space opens, you can see all the layers Elements has added to the image. Now I can decide where I want to put my author’s name.

But first, to protect my other text from accidental messing up, I Simplified both text layers. Then I moved them closer together, bracketing the sunbeams.

After I changed the font to a typewriter one, I added Disraeli’s name onto the image. To make sure the text layers were properly centred, I selected all three text layers and the (invisible) background layer, then Aligned the layers by the Middle.

And here is my finished meme. To all the folks who are still standing between us and disaster, I salute you.

Edited to add: The typo in my original version was bothering some readers enough that they pointed it out to me. So I’ve cleaned it up and replaced the final image. (I didn’t do ALL the screenshots – there are 9 of them in all – and it would have been a ton of work.) Keep on swimming, friends!

Designer Spotlight: NMSS

Greetings and salutations! I know you’re all wondering why I’m popping up and it’s not Tuesday. Well, I’m stepping in to bring you the March Designer Spotlight. We’re chatting with the lovely Connie Prince, the South half of North Meets South Studios. Let’s get to know her a bit better, shall we?

J: How long have you been designing?

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

J: What made you decide to design?

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

J: What led you to decide to design together?

Tracy & I developed a friendship early on. I think the progression into forming a brand together just happened. At the time she lived in the northeast and I am of course from the south. We named our brand North Meets South Studios. She’s in the midwest now, but you really can’t take the New Jersey out of a girl so we are sticking with our original name lol.

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

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

J: Describe your design workplace.

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

J: What motivates and inspires you as a designer?

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

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

About A Boy is my current favorite (usually my latest is my favorite lol).

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

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

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

None of them? lol I’ll watch some when the Olympics are on.

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

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

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

My phone or computer!

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

Cameron Diaz, she’s just quirky enough!

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

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

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

Dolly Parton, she’s a hoot!

J: These two designers are very talented. I hope you’ll give their store a look and that you’ll take part in the Designer Spotlight challenge. And don’t forget to pick up your Daily Download here on the Blog!