Tutorial Tuesday (GingerScraps)

Let’s Talk Some More About Siggies

It sounds like there were a lot of people who learned something new from last week’s tutorial about using the GingerScraps Gallery. Music to my ears!! And, as sometimes happens, that tutorial led to a request for some help with another feature at GingerScraps. Corinne said, “Since Jan did a really nice job of explaining how to upload photos to the gallery, I am wondering if she could tackle the unknown world of signatures? How does one go about designing and uploading? Thank you! CorinneGinger and I discussed it and we decided it would be a good idea to do some review. I first discussed signatures in the Sizzling Signatures! post. Then last December we talked about adding links to your signatures in THIS tutorial. So some of today’s tutorial will be review, and who knows, I may have something in here that you didn’t know!

What’s a signature? What’s all the fuss about? Signatures are those beautiful little images seen at the end of posts in the GingerScraps Forum. They’re a big deal! They have their own monthly Challenge, after all. Each month the GingerBread Lady facilitating the challenge will provide a theme or some other required element for the month that form the basis to all the new siggies for that month. For May, ChristieDawn wanted to see flowers. Signatures can be as detailed or as simple as the user likes. You’ve probably seen some really fancy ones, and some really unfussy ones. They’re pretty good at showing the user’s personality and scrapping style. Some users make theirs with alphas from their stashes, like I usually do, while others make theirs with fonts. It’s completely up to the user! Now let’s get into the tutorial…

Let’s talk about the rules for using signatures at GingerScraps first though. Perhaps the most important rule is that your signature cannot link to or advertise any other shop/site. It’s fine if you want to link to your personal blog, newsletter, Facebook or the like. Also make sure your signature is suitable for all ages and audiences. If it would offend your grandmother, don’t do it. Let’s stay classy, y’all! The other important rule is the maximum size for your siggie. The guidelines say 700×150 pixels, but the Gallery has a maximum 600 pixel limit, so it’s easier and a lot less work if you just keep your signature at or under 600 pixels wide. I like to make my siggie a little smaller than the max, coming in at around 500×107. That makes it a little less in-your-face. More about that down the post. As to the shape of your signature, it doesn’t have to be a rectangle. I like to use Custom Shapes as the basis for mine. As long as the shape you choose fits into the max dimensions, you’re golden.

This bit is a little refresher. Did you know you can create and save preset file sizes? I’m going to show you how to do that. I have a 12×12″ preset for my layouts, and a 3500×750 pixel preset for my signature files. Why did I choose those numbers? Simple math. It’s 5 times the maximum size of the signature file; I work on a BIG canvas so I can see what I’m doing and make sure I actually like my results before I Resize and prepare to upload. Now, here’s how to create your own preset: File>New>Blank File

There’s what my New File menu looks like. You can see my siggie preset on there.

Starting from scratch, type in the dimensions as shown when the New File menu opens. You want Resolution at 300 pixels/inch for sharp images, RGB Color set, and the Background Contents Transparent. (Why? So that your signature file can have a clean background when you use it as your Forum siggie!)

Constructing your signature is just like creating a layout, only with different dimensions. If you need help visualizing how to create them take a look at the ones in the Signature Challenge Gallery. So what to do with your finished creation? I always save my layouts and siggies as PSD files initially in case I have to fix something. That doesn’t happen much with the siggies, but I often find typos in my journaling! Make sure you give your file a name.

Then I Resize my file to fit the desired parameters. There are two ways to get there. Image>Resize>Image Size will get you to the menu, or CTRL/CMD>ALT>I works for those who like keyboard shortcuts. When the menu opens up, type in your desired width in pixels and Elements will automatically set the height. In the middle of the menu you can see the actual size of the final product. Scale Styles, Constrain Proportions and Resample Image should be checked to get the very sharpest and best final image. As well, choose Bicubic in that box at the very bottom. Then click OK.

Then I Save the RESIZED image as a PNG. This is where having the transparent background comes in. Let’s say you have a flower or a bow that extends outside the main body of your siggie. If you Save As a JPG, the background will be stark white and when your signature shows up in your Forum posts, it’ll be visible. But by having a transparent background and a PNG file, it’ll look like it’s actually part of the page. For my siggie I used a paint smear with alligatored edges then clipped a paper to it. You’ll see what I mean a few screenshots down the road.

To preserve as much detail as possible in a tiny file like this (see the edge of it peeking out from behind the dialog box?) go with Smallest/Slow Compression and no Interlace.

Now for the fun part!! Let’s upload and add it into your Profile. If you need a review of uploading, see last week’s Tutorial. I work with two GingerScraps tabs open, one to the Gallery and one to the Forum for this part. You can click on the Settings button in either tab, but you’ll need to access your signature image in the Gallery, so I do this step in the Forum tab.

Along the left side of the GS interface you’ll see My Settings and almost at the bottom of that section Edit Signature. Click that.

This looks a little busy. It is. This is where the Edit Signature control panel lives. If this is your very first time adding a signature, you’ll still be following most of these steps, you just won’t be deleting the old one. If you’ve already got one up, you’ll see the existing signature above the Edit box, and again inside the Edit box. Right-click on the one INSIDE the Edit box and either select Cut from the dropdown menu or CTRL/CMD>X (or even just hit Delete) to remove the old one.

Pop over to the Gallery tab and right-click on the image of your signature. Choose Copy image link from the dropdown.

I like my siggie centered under my Forum posts, so I click on the Center format button (circled on the left) and then I click on the icon that looks like a photo being stretched at the corners (circled on the right).

When the Insert Image dialog box opens, right-click on the blank bar in the middle and select Paste (or just CTRL/CMD>V) to tell the site where to find your image.

Now I have my new signature in the right place, but before I click on the Save Signature button, let’s look at what’s actually there.

Click on the button I’ve outlined, which switches the editor to source mode. I wasn’t aware of this until Ginger mentioned it, so I had to check out what it does.

Holy cow!! I had no idea all those previous links were still in there!! That explains some of the gobbledygook I’ve had showing up with my siggies. The only thing that should actually be there is the very bottom one.

I highlighted all the junk and Deleted it.

Yes, that’s more like it… just the May 2021 signature is there. NOW I can click Save Signature. If you’re new to all this, maybe try Preview first to see what it’ll actually look like.

There. All good!

If you’re entering the Signature Challenge, the next images are for you. I don’t bother to put my signature file into my Challenge post in the Forum because it’s going to show up anyway. Whey have two of them in the same place? Of course, you do you. Here you can see that the lace extends past the bottom of the clipped paper and some of the flower petals and beads spill off the base. The messy edge of the clipped paper isn’t really visible unless you really squint.

Here’s a quick tip for adding your layouts to the Cookie Jar thread. I type out the name of my layout as shown. Then I highlight the text as shown by holding down the left mouse button and dragging the cursor over it. Then I click on that globe/chain icon.

I pop back to the Gallery tab, which should still be set to my siggie, and Copy the text found in the destination bar at the top of the screen where the Universal Resource Locator is. (Hold down the left mouse button, drag the cursor over the URL, right-click and choose Copy, of CTRL/CMD>C.) Return to the Forum tab and Paste the URL into the bar as shown. Click OK.

Now the name of my siggie is linked to the file in my Gallery and a simple click on it will take the viewer right to it!

I hope this was easy to follow. If not, please don’t hesitate to ask questions!!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Selectively Colouring Your Brushes

I apologize for the slightly-late breaking tutorial. Technical difficulties with my laptop yesterday had me at the absolute limit of my tolerance for frustration (and the limits of my attention span!). By the time I got it sorted out it was time for bed… and I’m sleeping a lot, still. Anyway, let’s see what I’ve been playing with. I hope you like it!

I have quite a collection of brushes in my stash; the brushes created by the designers at GS are fantastic and there’s always a free one in the Challenge forum each month. I chose one of those monthly challenge brushes from ADB Designs for this technique (and then asked myself why I picked such a complex one…) and recoloured EVERYTHING. I chose a neutral paper from the GingerBread Ladies‘ collab Christmas of Long Ago. It has s bit of glitter, and I love it. I put my brush on its own layer – it’s a really good habit to get into – so I can play with it without messing up anything else. This is the time to adjust the size of your brush image, because it’s not easy once all the colours have been added.

I added an Adjustment layer to the top of my layer stack by clicking on the two-tone circle icon at the top of the layers panel and then choosing Solid Color… from the drop-down menu.

This is where you get to be creative. The fun part. I’ve got flowers so my colour choices are flowery colours. I used the Color Picker, but the Eye Dropper tool and the colours in your photos or paper choices are also possibilities.

My brush is still there, behind the solid colour Adjustment layer. To apply the colour to the brush, I right-clicked on the Adjustment layer and chose Create Clipping Mask from the drop-down menu.

Depending on the brush you’ve chosen, this might be all you need to do to it! But if you want to add more colours, there are a few more steps.

Next I converted my Adjustment layer/clipping mask to a LAYER MASK by Inverting it. CTRL/CMD>I and the mask turns black. It’s supposed to do that.

I made sure my foreground colour was white. When working with Layer Masks, white reveals and black conceals. Then I selected the Brush tool for a Basic round brush. You can use hard or soft for this part, but a hard brush will give you sharper edges and will be easier to control. You’ll need to adjust the size of the brush as needed to get you into the nooks and crannies of your brush, but use the largest size you can wherever possible to make the job go faster.

Then I decided which of my flowers would be that lilac colour and “painted” them pale purple with my brush. If you look at the layer in the layers panel you can see on the mask where I’ve recovered the colour.

Let’s do another colour. I clicked on the brush layer and then the two-tone circle icon and chose Solid Color… from the drop-down. Doing it this way eliminates the Create Clipping Mask step!

Here I chose a hot pink from the Color Picker. See how the parts of the brush I’ve already masked show up as pale purple and everything else is pink? This shows where the colour will go and where it won’t on this Adjustment layer.

Then I again Inverted the layer mask by clicking CTRL/CMD>I. Now I can choose the flowers that should be pink.

As I worked, I discovered that all the areas I’d already masked on the lilac layer stay masked on the other layers. That meant that where my pink flowers butted up to my purple flowers, I didn’t have to be as cautious and precise as I painted in my pinks. If my brush rode over into the purple it didn’t matter. But I DID still have to be careful around the black and gray areas.

Time for a new colour! To recap: Click on the brush layer, then the two-tone circle icon and choose Solid Color… from the drop-down menu.

This time I decided on a golden-brown for some of the foliage.

With the mask layer Inverted (CTRL/CMD>I) I painted back in the frondy-looking foliage.

Then I added some blue… Look at the layer masks and see all the areas I’ve already masked. Each layer is a little less fiddly because more and more of the brush is masked.

I found parts of the brush that I’d overlooked that should have been one or another of the colours I’d already used, so I clicked on the LAYER MASK of the layer with the colour I should have used and added those bits to the existing mask.

The result wasn’t as awesome as I’d hoped it would be, but I learned a bunch about this technique. So I found a different brush I could play with and when it was time to paint in the colours I chose, I used a misty water-colour brush. I adjusted the size and angle of the brush as I randomly painted in the colour areas. Now THIS I love!

Can you see yourself giving this one a try? I’m going to make it part of my automatic activities, I think!

The PDF version of today’s tutorial is HERE.

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

3D Photos – Yes, You CAN!

Thank you all so much for your kind messages of support! I feel a lot better, although I really poop out quickly if I’m doing something strenuous. And brain fog is a real thing. I’m thankful that my husband and son didn’t catch COVID from me and that we’ll all be vaccinated soon.

So, given I’m still having some issues with concentration and attention, I’ve whipped up a little trick I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I’m going to show you how to give a photo a 3D look. It’s not exactly what I was trying for, and I may play with it some more, but it’s still a neat look. The inspiration for this goes back a long way, to a Canadian TV show called Ancestors in the Attic (2001-2006), where the images on the screen had an obvious 3D look to them. I didn’t quite get it right, but I like it anyway.

If you decide to try this, I recommend looking for a photo with sharp contrast between the subject you want to bring forward and its background. I chose this photo I took in Las Vegas quite a few years ago. The flamingo wasn’t too difficult to extract. I’m not going to do a step-by-step review of extracting, but you can try any of the methods I’ve shown you here and here. I went with a Layer Mask so I wouldn’t have to think too much!

To be able to have the control needed to go forward, I Simplified the extraction layer. Right-click on the layer in the Layers panel, then choose Simplify Layer.

Next I added a drop shadow, using a shadow styles set from Karen Schulz. (It’s named for Snickerdoodles Designs, her former moniker.) In this set there are actually two 3D shadow styles, right at the top of the list. I chose the second one. It’s not quite right, but easily fixed.

To adjust Layer Styles, double-click on the fx symbol on the layer you’re adjusting. This menu opens up with the defaults for the style you used. First, I made sure the shadow on my flamingo was falling in the same direction as the shadows already in the photo. Don’t overlook this step! Otherwise it’ll look really faked. I increased the Size (which softens the edge), the Distance (which makes the shadow wider/larger) and the Opacity. I went all the way to 100%. The 3D effect shows now.

Here’s the original for comparison purposes.

And with the extraction and shadow…

Then, just for fun, I Copied the extraction layer and changed its Blend Mode to Luminosity. What do you think?

I might try this with a photo of the mountains we see from our deck, and maybe I’ll be able to fine-tune it. Who knows? It’ll be fun trying it.

Here is the PDF version of this tutorial: https://bit.ly/3h2BEFb

 

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Gradient Border Masks – So Many Options!

The other day, I got a message from Ginger that a customer was looking for information on how to use Lindsay Jane‘s border masks, and wanted to know if I had a tut for that. Well, I didn’t. The customer specified she had Border It 28, so I popped over to the shop and bought them. And then I played with them.

A close-up look at one of the border masks reveals a gradient effect. What this means is that whatever is Clipped to it will also have a gradient. Where the mask is solid black, the paper or photo clipped to it will be 100% visible. As the mask becomes more transparent, more of the paper behind it will show through. This can be a really interesting look, but it’s going to require some experimentation to find a look that appeals to the beholder.

I’m using papers from a retired kit from Lindsay Jane‘s store, called Denim and Flowers. I’ve pulled a couple of solids and a couple of patterns to play with. Let’s give it a shot!

I love the retro look of these patterned papers. This lavender one is so pretty.

There are actually 3 ways to achieve the same result of Clipping papers to masks. Clicking on Layer>Create Clipping Mask is one. Right-clicking on the paper layer then choosing Create Clipping Mask is the second. The keyboard shortcut method was changed in Version 14. Prior to V14, CTRL/CMD>G works. Version 14 and later the keyboard shortcut is CTRL/CMD>ALT>G.

Well, guess what?!! I don’t have the bottom of the mask right at the bottom of the background paper. Easy to fix.

Because this mask has what looks like rows of stitches, I decided to see what it looks like with a shadow style applied to it.

More experimentation. It’s the only way to know what will work and what won’t for this kind of mask.

Yeah… not loving this look! This is why I believe Undo (CTRL/CMD>Z) is a digi-scrapper’s best friend.

This look reminds me of a t-shirt I had when I was 19! I made 2 Copies of the striped mask and spread them out evenly then Merged the mask layers. (Right-click and choose Merge Layers or CTRL/CMD>E) Then I Clipped the flowery paper to the solid. That combo could be a nice background for a spring layout.

Ewwww. Nope!! Don’t like this look at all!

This one is okay. It’s not my favourite, but it looks okay.

Don’t forget that you have lots of other tools at your disposal. Blend Modes and Opacity changes are two of those, Here I’ve taken the blue-floral-on-green-solid and changed the Blend Mode of the floral PAPER layer to Luminosity.

If I change the Blend Mode on the MASK layer to Luminosity, this is what it looks like.

Here I’ve just decreased the Opacity of the MASK layer to 75%. (Decreasing the Opacity of the PAPER would only allow more of the black/gray of mask to show through.)

The solid navy blue paper is actually a denim, so this look is going to be a fun one, I just know it!

YES! Again, I’m thrown back to the 70s!! My very first pair of bell bottoms was navy with tiny flowers. This look though reminds me of the time I opened up the outside seam at the bottom of my straight jeans and sewed in a wedge of floral fabric, turning them into bell bottoms.

This might be fun… I’m going to Merge these mask layers into a single one.

Now that I’ve played with these masks and papers a bit, I’m getting a sense of what will work and what won’t.

That’s pretty close to what I expected. I like it.

But the navy blue is a tad harsh, so I dropped the Opacity of the MASK layer to 50%. I like this look a bit better.

But papers aren’t the only option for Clipping to these masks. What does a photo look like? I chose this stock photo because of the pinecones.

Repeating shapes!

I really do think this stripped mask is my favourite. Again, I lined up 3 Copies of it and Merged them together. Then I Copied the mask layer and Rotated it 90°. Plaid! This is just the masks with their Opacity decreased to 50% at this point and might be what you like.

Here I’ve clipped the floral paper to each of the mask layers. I love this look!

Can you think of other ways to make use of these masks? Please feel free to share in the Comments!!

I hope this tutorial makes sense. I’ve been under the weather and I’m not at the top of my game. Thanks for bearing with me!

Here is the PDF version of this tutorial : https://bit.ly/3cSdBGm

Designer Spotlight: April 2021

The Cherry on Top!

Lisa, the designer also known as The Cherry on Top, didn’t have time to sit for an interview so she instead sent me a little bio. Here she is in her own words:

Lisa-Lisa here, from The Cherry On Top.
I grew up State side, where I worked as a teacher.  What a wonderful job to have.  I often found myself underwhelmed by the typical curriculum and so I created a lot of my own, more visually appealing activity sheets and encouraged the kids to also show more creativity in their work. History can be pretty boring for most. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that even teenagers liked to construct scrapbooks to show off their knowledge of historical events.  I didn’t realize, at the time, that I was actually “designing” digitally.  I had next to no program or computer experience.  I even struggled learning how to do e-mail.  Ha!
I originally started scrapbooking traditionally and took those skills with me, over the pond, to Belgium, where I presently reside.  I wanted to make something that I couldn’t find anywhere in paper format.  So, I scoured the internet looking for images and “pieced” together exactly what I needed.  Funnily enough, I thought I invented digital scrapbooking, until I stumbled across the digital scrapbooking world.
I dove in the deep end!  After a couple of months, I was on a praise team at Scrap Take Out where I met a lot of fantastic designers like Fran B and Amanda from A-Manda Creation.  Slowly, I worked myself on to Creative Teams.  At one point, I was on 28 teams.  Talk about a junky! Ironically, I despised templates.  I still cannot get over the grudge I had against them.  Until I realized what a wonderful starting point or catalyst they can be.  Especially, when your mojo is low or the inspiration just isn’t there.  Now, they are my passion.
I find ideas for templates, everywhere.  In an advertisement, greeting card, sketch, nature…I’m always coming up with new ideas, techniques and I make designing unique, easy to use templates my main objective.  They truly are a wonderful tool and certainly an excellent way to learn how to digital scrapbook.  They save so much time, too.
I started off using PowerPoint to scrapbook.  I know, right?!  Then I moved to My Memories for a few years and then Photoshop Elements.  I still mostly use Elements.  It is incredibly user friendly and perfect for designing templates, for the most part.  Occasionally, I jump over to PS when PSE doesn’t offer a particular function I need and I’m pretty sure, that one of these days I’ll morph over to PS, but I still have so much to learn in PSE.
I do design a lot of other products besides templates, but templates are still my favorite.
Thanks for letting us get a peek into your creative process Lisa! Ladies, don’t forget that Lisa‘s also presenting the Daily Download this month. And she has a $2 coupon for her GingerScraps store (linked above in pink): the code is tcotspotlight.
See you again soon!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

A 3D Title with Punch!

Thanks again to Ellen (gmae) we have another quick technique that has a great deal of appeal. Magical Scraps Galore has a a travel kit with some great title word art in it, called Destinations: Road Trip. The title Ellen particularly liked is the Road Trip one, but she wanted to use a different title in the same style. She messaged me that she tried to get this figured out on her own and eventually succeeded, but she knew there had to be a better way than stumbling around experimenting and undoing for hours. After all, that’s what I’m here for. 🙂 After a little thought and (not very much) experimentation, I can tell you, this does the trick and it’s not a ton of work. So let’s get started!

For this little demo I’m using a pretty striped yellow alpha from the GingerBread LadiesSunny Days collab. You can absolutely use a font if you choose, but each individual letter will need to be on its own layer. I opened up a 12×12 document on my workspace.

The first step is to create a elliptical shape to give the lower curve to the title. I pulled out a Custom Shape ellipse as shown. Whatever colour you have in your foreground is fine; I just had white already there. The ellipse should be slim and long, a sort of cigar-shape.

Remember, Custom Shapes are Smart Objects, meaning the pixels in it are locked and there’s not much you can do with them as is. I’ll be manipulating this shape so I right-clicked on the layer and hit Simplify Layer.

I want a Copy of the ellipse, which can be achieved in two ways: right-click on the layer and hit Duplicate Layer (then click OK on the pop-up menu), or simply by CTRL/CMD>J.

I enlarged the second ellipse quite a lot. My title only has 6 letters, but it’s still going to need some room.

I opened up a new blank layer on top of the larger ellipse by clicking on the sheet-of-paper icon at the top left of the layers panel, then I CTRL/CMD>clicked on the ellipse’s layer thumbnail (that little picture at the left side of the layer in the layers panel) to Select the edge of the ellipse. Boom Marching ants.

With the BLANK layer active and a contrasting colour in the foreground, I hit Edit>Stroke (Outline) Selection.

This Stroke can go wherever. I just had Inside already selected and it’s not important for this step. I want the Stroke to be easily seen so I have black and 10 pixels set.

Now that I have a visible outline of the large ellipse on its own layer, the larger ellipse has served its purpose and can be Deleted. Right-click>Delete Layer or simply CTRL/CMD>D.

These two layers will be the guide for positioning my letters. They will sit on the edge of the smaller ellipse and stretch to touch the edge of the larger ellipse. To get that flare at the end of the title, the smaller solid ellipse needs a tilt.

After I looked at the gap for a minute or so, I decided the flare needed some more adjustment so I tilted the larger ellipse a bit in the opposite direction.

I have my guides in place, so now I can add my letters. For this step I’m just going to put them all on the canvas and position them so the bottoms are touching the solid, smaller ellipse.

As I’m placing them into the gap, I’m Resizing so the top is touching the edge of the larger ellipse.

Once all the letters were inside the gap, I took a long look at them. I could just stop here and have an interesting and eye-catching title.

If you’re still with me, I’m now going to Image>Transform>Distort each letter so that they more closely follow the contours of my guides.

All I’ve done is Move the corners of the Bounding Box so that they’re touching the edges of each ellipse. You can see that the sides of the Bounding Box have remained perpendicular to the bottom of the page.

To review: Image>Transform>Distort

then move the corners of the Bounding Box so they touch the edges of the ellipses. Don’t change the orientation of the letter.

Here you can see what I mean about the length of your title related to the size of your ellipses. After all the letters have been placed, the ellipse layers can be deleted.

Now onward to getting that 3D look! Add a blank layer UNDER the first letter. You can start with it on top by clicking on the sheet-of-paper, and then move it down. Or you can hold down the CTRL/CMD key and click on the sheet-of-paper and it’s just go there by itself. With the BLANK layer active, CTRL/CMD>click on the first letter’s layer thumbnail to Select the edge.

Next I’m going to enlarge the selected area: Select>Modify>Expand… and my BLANK layer is still the active layer.

The pop-up menu is asking how much to Expand my Selection. 10 pixels is about right.

And there it is. See how the marching ants have moved away from the letter’s edge? Verifying… on the BLANK layer, now I’ll Fill that selected area using pure white and the Paint Bucket tool.

The real 3D look comes from adding shadows to each layer. I used some shadow styles from Karen Schulz. You can find them here.

Let’s review again. Open a new blank layer under the next letter. CTRL/CMD>click on the layer thumbnail for the next letter to Select the edge. Select>Modify>Expand the Selection by 10 pixels. Fill the new Selection with white on the BLANK layer.

This 10 pixel setting will be saved until you change it, or exit from the software, although that doesn’t always reset it to the default. You can keep the Paint Bucket tool active as you work through the letters, which really saves time.

When all the letters have been shadowed, my title is essentially done.

I’ll make sure when I move the letters that I’ve got both layers active, otherwise I’ll be messing it up. The nice part about using a shadow Style is that any changes I make to the layers now will be followed by the Style. That’s to say, the lighting angle, size and opacity will stay the same. (Did you notice I missed a couple of my layers when I was Shadowing? I went back and Copied the Style onto those layers.)

If there are overlapping letters, I’ll shift them a bit so there’s a space between each. There was an overlap at the R and the I, so I’ve “kerned” them.

When I was happy with the way my title looked, I Activated all the layers so I could Merge them into a single layer to make using the title easier. Merging can be done either by right-clicking on one of the Active layers and hitting Merge Layers, or by CTRL/CMD>E.

And it’s done.

Is that what you were looking for, Ellen?

Here is the PDF version of this tutorial : https://bit.ly/3sVF93i

 

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

I Love a Curvy Border

 

(Bold, coloured text indicates I’ve linked that text to either a designer’s store or a specific kit/collection.)

I’m so glad to know that I’m not the only one with a huge pile of old scrapbooking magazines, and that I’m also not the only one to go through them looking for ways to translate what they hold into a digital version. Ellen (gmae) messaged me about a scrapbooking mag she had that was dated sometime in 2007, a Better Homes and GardensUltimate Guide to Digital Scrapbooking” with step-by-step instructions. The instructions were based on Photoshop Elements 4.0… should be a piece of cake, right? WRONG! I remember trying to follow some of those magazine instructions and being completely lost. Ellen tried to follow the steps for creating a curved clipping mask, like the sort some of our amazing designers sometimes include in their collections, but she couldn’t get past the second step and she asked for help. So I rolled up my sleeves and gave the instructions a spin. And got hung up. At the second step. They totally didn’t make sense. So today, I’m going to show you how to make a curved paper border for your layouts step by step and anybody will be able to follow the instructions!

I think the easiest way to make this work well for you, I recommend opening a canvas on your workspace in the same size as your scrapbook layouts. I always do 12×12, but I know lots of people like the 8 1/2×11 format so you do you. then, using the Rectangle Marquee tool pull out a skinny vertical rectangle as shown.

The next step is to fill the Selection (your skinny rectangle) with a solid colour.

The magazine said to use Edit>Fill Selection and white at 100% opacity so I’ll show you that method. Using the Paint Bucket would work just as well.

And it’ll look like this when you’ve Filled it.

We’ve played around with Filters quite a bit recently and we’re going to do it again today. This time it’ll be Filter>Distort>Shear…

Here is what the default controls for this Filter look like. The two most important parts are the vertical line inside the upper box and the Preview image in the lower box.

To demonstrate what manipulating that vertical line does I simply grabbed the “handle” – that black dot at the very top of the line – and moved it over horizontally to the left. See what happens to the Preview? I love that they’ve put a grid there to make achieving symmetry easier.

To begin with the default setting only has the two “handles” at top and bottom. But you can create a new handle anywhere along that line. Here you can see I put one right in the centre and pulled it one block over to the right, and the stripe follows that curve.

I’ve created a sine wave in this image. The thing to note here is that when you make a deep curve like this, you’re not going to have perfectly parallel outer edges to your stripe, not that it matters much.

You can make your curves as plentiful and deep as you want.

 

Use the grid! It’s a great tool!

For my imaginary layout I’m going to put the curved border over along the left side so I moved my final camel-hump curved stripe over there. Only problem is I don’t want my background paper to show through at the edge so I’ll need to Fill those two voids.

Here’s where the Paint Bucket rushes to the rescue. All I need to do is dump some white paint into those holes and I’ll have a complete clipping mask.

To see the clipping mask in action I Clipped a paper from Ooh La La Scraps‘s I Heart You kit to my mask. (Sorry for the typo on the screenshot. JSS and OLL are the same person and I sometimes mix them up! BTW… the BUNDLE is on sale today for just $5.00!!!) The keyboard shortcut for clipping is CTRL/CMD>G for versions up to 14 and CTRL/CMD>ALT>G for versions 14 and up.

Because I wanted to see if I could make sense of the directions in the magazine, I followed their third step, which was to Duplicate the curved clipping mask layer to create a white border. I think a Stroke would do that with fewer steps, but okay. Let’s do it. Only problem? When I Duplicated the mask layer, the paper was “released” from the clipping mask! Now I have to redo clipping the paper to the mask again. So yeah, Stroke borders are the way to go!

I nudged the bottom curved mask layer over to the right so it moves out from under the paper and now there’s a white border.

For fun, I created another curved clipping mask, this time with four relatively symmetrical bumps on it. I clipped a paper from ADB DesignsThe Storyteller kit to it. I think the two papers look good together.

Here’s a refresher on using Strokes to add a border. Edit>Stroke (Outline Selection) opens this menu. Decide how wide you want your Stroke and choose a colour for it. Make it 100% Opacity and you can put it wherever you like. I just went Outside because that’s what I used last. 😉

It’s a lot simpler to do a Stroke border. It looks pretty similar but uses fewer steps.

I made one more randomly bumpy border using the same steps and clipped another of ADB‘s papers to it. To give the appearance of paper layers, they need a drop shadow. Feel free to use a shadow Style if you like. I did mine using my tried-and-true method and now there’s some dimension to the border.

Some things I discovered: 1) Subsequent border masks have to be made on their own canvases. The Filter doesn’t understand what you want if there’s already one Shear filter present. 2) When you use the Distort>Shear… Filter and want to do the same technique on a new object, it will return you to whatever curves you used last, unless you close your Elements and reopen it – and who wants to do that?!! So prepare to be a little more challenged on those new curves. 3) To fill the area along the edge of your subsequent border masks, drag out a rectangle with your Rectangle Marquee tool that touches the free edge on the one side and sits inside the filled part of the stripe on the other. Then dump some paint into the rectangle with the Paint Bucket. Easy peasy.

Maybe you’ll be able to work this technique into a Survivor layout. That would be pretty sweet! See you next week.
Here is the link to this weeks PDF version: https://bit.ly/3vN9S4e

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Making Use of the Circular “Stencil”

There are so many creative ways of using our digital scrapbooking supplies. Some are obvious, others aren’t. Today I’m going to show you some of the ways I used the paw print circular stencil we created in our last tutorial. These are only a few of the ideas and each of them can be improved upon with a little ingenuity.

This first one is a simple stencil effect using a brush. I thought this coloured pencil effect was interesting. There’s a similar demo set of brushes at Brusheezy.com. My background is a subtle gray chevron paper from Aimee Harrison‘s kit Bring Happiness (retired). I covered the stencil with the brush, stamping with it until the prints were completely covered, then cut away the overlap. To give it a bit more substance, I applied a stroke around the outside.

For this look, I reduced the size of the stencil so it filled one quarter of the paper. Then I filled it with a slightly darker shade of gray and changed the Blend Mode to Multiply and decreased the Opacity to 35%. I Copied (CTRL/CMD>J) the layer and redistributed the Copies so they filled each of the corners of the paper. This would be so cute on a newsprint background!

Here, all I’ve done is recolour the red print to the same dark gray as the rest of the prints then apply a Bevel style (Scalloped Edge) to the whole grouping.

This is another Bevel style, the Simple Sharp Outer. It creates a puffy-sticker look.

As you can see, I’ve applied a black Glitter Style from Just So Scrappy‘s Up on the Housetop set to this version.

To achieve this 3D glossy, sparkly look, I used a Glitter Gloss style from the same set as the plain glitter.

And for another look, I applied a Chipboard Style from the expanded set of Up on the Housetop‘s Styles.

Next, I used the stencil to create a cut-out. The papers are from Jumpstart DesignsBetter Together (retired). A narrow shadow gives the illusion of space between the papers.

Reversing the script, I cut the paw prints out of the foreground paper and floated them over the cardstock.

The video this tutorial was inspired by used a shimmery texture paste to add dimension to the card the demonstrator was making. I went through my stash and found some gesso splatters also created by Sheri of Jumpstart Designs. You can find some of her gesso here. Don’t know what gesso is? It’s a mixture of paint (usually white) and a binder like chalk, gypsum, pigment or a combo of them. It’s thick and dried quite hard, with a lot of surface texture. I covered the stencil as much as possible, layering the gesso splatters on top of each other for even more depth. Then I gave each of the gesso layers a faint shadow, adding dimension to each. Once all the layers were shadowed, I cut away the overlap and this is what was left. It looks so organic!

To come even closer to the card in the video, I then applied a superfine white Glitter Style and changed the Blend Mode to Multiply with an Opacity of 60%.

These were the ideas that popped to mind. I’m sure you’ll have some ideas of your own. Steph (CalGirl) used the tutorial to create this beautiful layout. Rather than using a Custom Shape, she used a shamrock element from Karen Schulz‘s This Is Me March kit as her shape and clipped a paper to the stencil.

If you’d like detailed information on any of the techniques I’ve described please drop me a note in the Comments and I’ll show you how I got there.

See you next week!

Here is a link to the PDF version of this tutorial: https://bit.ly/38NSlyV

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Circular Stencils – Another Paper-to-Digi Technique

Once again, Steph (CalGirl) brought me an idea for something fun to convert from paper to digi and I loved it so much I jumped on it. She shared a video from Mindy Eggen Design with me, showing a paper background technique using a circular stencil and texture paste; the finished product was gorgeous and we both knew there would be a way to do it digitally. We also both recognized that there are lots of ways to use the “stencil”, so today we’re going to create the stencil and next week (or maybe two) we’ll look at how to use it in different ways. Even though I’m going to give you specific details about making this technique work, please be aware that you may still have to tinker with the formula. But I know you’ll like the results.

I started with a 12×12 inch canvas (you can use whatever dimensions you like) because I scrap in that size. As you can see, I’m using the Custom Shape Tool. The video’s stencil is a flight of butterflies, and I worked out the basics using the butterfly shape, but for my example I’ll use the paw print. It’s very hard to see the settings I’ve used but not to worry: it’ll be in the text.

While I was figuring out how to make the technique work, I discovered that I wasn’t able to see for sure where the circle started so I made the first shape in one colour and all the rest in another. That really helped. So I have red as my foreground colour. I have Fixed Size selected and 1:2.5 ratio width to height or 1.5 inches wide and 3.75 inches high. Yes, the resulting shape is really distorted, but that’s a necessary evil.

The Custom Shape Tool creates Smart Objects. When they remain Smart Objects, the only adjustments that can be made are to size and position. And… I can’t change the foreground colour – it’s locked at red. Because I want to use the same shape and settings again, I’m going to Simplify the shape layer. More about that later.

This screenshot shows you the difference between a Smart Object – the gray print – and a Simplified object – the red. On the layer thumbnail there’s a little box in the lower right corner. That’s your clue that the layer is only minimally adjustable. You can place your shapes anywhere on the canvas, since they’re easy enough to move later.

Yes, let’s Simplify things!

The quickest and easiest way to have multiples of something is to Copy it (right-click>Duplicate Layer>OK or even quicker and easier, CTRL/CMD>J). I made 2 more copies of the gray print and moved them around.

One thing that became quite obvious early on was that if this trick is going to work the object furthest to the right has to be touching the edge of the canvas. The far-left object doesn’t have to touch, but it can’t be too far away either.

Next I added in a smaller paw print, using the same 1:2.5 ratio (1 inch wide, 2.5 inches high). Take note of the button I’ve pointed out with the big red arrow. By clicking it, you can create a shape and Simplify it in only 2 moves! Mind blown!!

I made some small print copies and slid them in between the bigger prints. Almost ready for the Filter

If you want to have the centres of the shapes aligned, Select all the layers by clicking on the top layer, hold down the Shift key and click on the bottom layer then click on Align>Center.

To have them evenly spaced, keep them Selected, then click Distribute>Middle.

This is what the line-up looks like aligned and evenly spaced.

And then after I’ve applied the Filter, this is the look. But I’m jumping ahead….

But first, since I want ALL the prints to be Filtered, I’m going to Merge the layers. Select all the layers by clicking on the top one, hold down the Shift key and click on the bottom one. Right-click>Merge Layers, or CTRL/CMD>E.

The Filter I used is Filter>Distort>Polar Coordinates. The key word there is DISTORT! And that’s exactly why the shapes have to be odd to start with.

The method of Filtering I want is Rectangular to Polar. The Preview pane shows how wonky some of the prints look so rather than click on OK, I clicked on Cancel. Now I need to figure out how to overcome that flattening effect.

Rather than go all the way back to the beginning, I chose to stretch the prints’ height by using the Move Tool. It might work, might not! (I estimate the ratio now to be about 1:5)

I went back to the Filter menu and chose Distort>Polar Coordinates again. Remember, if you haven’t shut down and restarted Elements, you can apply the same Filter last used simply by clicking CTRL/CMD>F.

That looks a bit better. Some of the toe prints are still a little unusual, but I can live with that.

The stencil in the video has two circles of butterflies, so let’s make another, bigger circle. I’m going to use my estimated ratio for this set, 1:5.

For this ring, I added an extra large print. As you can see in the screenshot, I’ve turned visibility for the original circle to off, but it’s still there.

Then I put in a few smaller prints too.

Until I apply the B, I won’t know if this steep wave will be okay or not.

Umm. Cosmetic surgery needed! But do I start all over, or do I take what I have and work with it? I think CopyCut-and-Paste will be the easiest path.

Okay! That’s much better. I Cut (CTRL/CMD>X) out the prints that were too distorted, Copied (CTRL/CMD>C) and Pasted (CTRL/CMD>V) one of the large and one of the small prints in their place. Now to see the two rings of prints together so I know what other tweaks are needed…

I Resized and Rotated the rings a bit, using the Move Tool and I like the result.

But wait, there’s more! In the Custom Shapes menu I found this pair of tiny paw prints. I’m going to pop some of them into the mix. Because they’re not going to be filtered, I used a symmetrical setting of 1.5:1.5 inches.

Okay, so I also added a couple (3) single prints too. But this looks a lot like the stencil in the video so I’m very satisfied with my result. If you want to add a circle in the centre, you can do that quite easily.

I want to Save my stencil As “Paw Print Stencil” in my personal digital elements folder. The format is .png so the background will remain transparent. That way I can use it in a variety of techniques later.

And for Compression, I’ll go with Smallest/Slow non-Interlaced so it retains its crisp edges. Yes, the file will be bigger, but the quality will be better, so it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Start thinking about the different options I have for using this stencil. Will I find a way to make it look like I’ve used texture paste? You won’t know unless you come back next Tuesday!

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

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements+)

Fooling Around With Gradients: Graduated Filters in Elements+

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out this difference! This is the original.

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

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

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

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

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

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

There!

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

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

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

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

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

The final version:

And the original:

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

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

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