Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

More Fun with Blend Modes

When I started playing with Blend Modes for my Memory Mix It Up challenge layout, I wasn’t sure it would be worthy of a tutorial, but the comments in the Gallery soon changed my mind. Before I start the step-by-step, I want to assure you all that although this layout took me two days to complete, it wasn’t because the technical aspects were time-consuming. I was under the weather – literally AND figuratively – so I took my time. When you see the process, start to finish, you’ll see it’s really a quick but dramatic effect. I must also give credit where credit is due: I modified a technique presented by Nancy Adams, who is a creative team member for Anna Aspnes. Let’s dig in!

First, let’s talk about Blend Modes for a minute. New-to-digiscrapping readers are feeling a little overwhelmed, I can tell. In short, Blend Modes can lighten, darken, or alter the transparency of a layer without changing that layer’s Opacity. To change the Blend Mode, click on the bar at the upper left corner of the Layers panel where it says “Normal” and find the mode you’re seeking. We looked at all the options in this tutorial: Blend Modes? Say What? 

I’m so fortunate to have these professional photos of my great-grandfather Will and his siblings. They were taken shortly after the youngest, Geoff, was inducted into the British Army just after his 18th birthday. I’ve wanted to create a layout with them for awhile, and this challenge template was just perfect for the job. In order to recreate my workflow for this tutorial, I deconstructed my layout, stripping it down to just the layers that create the arty effect. The background paper is a simple “solid” gray from Jumpstart DesignsNo Ordinary Love collection. Other than the alpha I used for my title, all the elements of this layout are from that collection (because I liked the title!). My title alpha is from the GingerBread Ladies collab Spice of Life. The screenshot shows that all the other layers have been turned off, and I’ll turn them back on one layer at a time, working from the paper layer up.

In the Gallery comments, Jill pondered whether I’d done any (labour-intensive) extractions or other witchery to obtain my results, but I didn’t. I used the mask exactly how Juli (Miss Fish) designed it, in the exact spot she’d put it on the template. The Blend Mode was left at Normal, Opacity at 100%.


I positioned my large photo of Will and George over the mask layer, resized it to be sure it completely covered the mask and repositioned it so their faces were clearly visible. Then I clipped it to the mask. [Right-click on the photo layer and select Create Clipping Mask or CTRL/CMD>G for versions prior to PSE 15 or CTRL/CMD>ALT>G for later versions.] The first photo layer is Normal at 100%.

Next, I dropped a gray paint splatter on top of the photo layer, clipped to it. I left this layer’s Blend Mode and Opacity at the default, Normal and 100% as well.

I made a Copy [CTRL/CMD>J] of the photo layer, ensuring it was clipped to the mask as well. This time I changed the Blend Mode to Hard Light and left the Opacity at 100%. It makes the sepia tone even more vivid. Also, see how this layer brings more of the variations in the background paper into view.

I wanted to add some green hints to the layout, but not bash-you-over-the-head-visible. The uniforms in the photos were a khaki colour, not really brown, not really green. I added a green paint blotch on top of the second photo layer, but not clipped. I wanted it to extend onto the background paper too. Then I changed the Blend Mode to Screen (which lightens) and dropped the Opacity to 40%. Now the green looks more khaki, and it’s transparent so the detail in the photo shows through beautifully.

Adding a pink paint blotch layer on top of both the photo layer and the green paint layer without resizing, I changed the Blend Mode to Overlay (which lightens and increases transparency) and decreased the Opacity to 46%. See how the tonal changes make the photo more visually interesting? If the changes I make seem random, it’s because this is a very experimental process. I tried more than one Blend Mode and tweaked layer Opacity until I liked the way it looked. So it IS random! Don’t be afraid to play with your software. It’s how you figure out what you like and how to achieve it!

I made a Copy [CTRL/CMD>J] of the pink paint blotch layer and repositioned it. I made it quite a bit smaller than the first pink blotch, left the Blend Mode at Overlay and really decreased the Opacity to 21%. There’s a hint of colour, and the two other paint layers blend into the whole.

I was satisfied with the way the masked photo was looking so it was time to add in the second photo of Will’s siblings. I left the photo spot in precisely the place Juli put it, made no changes to it at all.

I clipped the photo to the spot and adjusted it to fit. I wish I could’ve gotten a bit more of Lily’s shoulders in there, but it wasn’t a big deal. For this layer, the Blend Mode is Darken and the Opacity is 61%. I played with the order of the layers a little; this one originally was the top photo layer, but it looked better as the bottom one.

This Copy layer of the second photo ended up with the same tonal quality as my large photo totally because of the Blend Mode change to Hard Light. With the Opacity at 100%, it’s tack-sharp and the sepia in the photo’s backdrop pops. From there, I finished my layout, adding in the other elements and applying custom shadows to each layer.

This is my finished layout. I LOVE how it turned out. The title reflects how although the three older brothers enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, Canada’s involvement in WWI was automatic when Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914; George V was the titular head of Canada at the time. They all spent a significant part of their time overseas in Britain, which made their parents – who were still living there – ecstatic. Lily and Geoff served with the British Army; Lily became a nurse and Geoff was part of the Short-Service branch. Geoff enlisted at 17 1/2 and was forced to wait until after he turned 18 to be inducted. He looks like a baby to me… Okay, enough with the history lesson!

There may not be a tutorial next week; my dad is unwell again and is undergoing a procedure on Monday. I may be tied up for a few days… and I know all of you won’t mind if I’m MIA. Have a good week, stay safe and stay healthy!

PDF Version: https://bit.ly/3x0382c


Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Jan’s Like a Broken Record… or “Everything on its Own Layer”

Those of you who read these tutorials regularly will know what I’m talking about. I really flog the “everything on its own layer” as a Work Smart Not Hard tip. It recently occurred to me that I should explain that mantra a little more clearly. So that’s what I’m going to do.

Let’s start with Brushes. Brushes are fantastic tools and can really take your layouts to the next level. There are so many ways to to customize them and make them work for you. But if you don’t put them on their own layer, whatever you do to them – adding a style, changing colour, resizing them, rotating them or even repositioning them, for example – you will also do to the other thing(s) on that layer. Let’s say you want a paint splatter behind your photo(s). If you splatter that paint right on your background paper layer, then decide you need to move it so it peeks out more from behind your photo(s) your paper is going with it. Then you’ll need to UndoUndoUndo until you’re back at the beginning.

By creating a new blank layer and dropping your paint splatter on it, you can move it around to your heart’s content.

For border Brushes, you may want to flip that brush horizontally to make a top-and-bottom border. If it’s on the same layer as a button, you’re bringing the button along too.

If that border Brush is by itself, it’s easy enough to Copy that layer then flip it.



Another example: this month’s Challenge brush from Alexis Design Studio has two starbursts and they’d look stunning in different colours. But if you add your brush to a layer that has a flower on it, you won’t be able to Copy just the brush to change the colour of one of the starbursts, because the flower will be Copied as well.

And you couldn’t apply a glitter Style to the starbursts either, because the flower would get glittered up too. Do that a few times and you’ll be a convert!

While we’re talking about Styles, the benefit of applying a Style to an element on a separate layer let’s you pile Styles on top of each other. In this instance, you’d be Copying the layer you want to alter, then adding the Style to the Copy layer. Imagine I created a Custom Shape of a flower.

By making a Copy layer, I can add an acrylic gel Style to the petals and a glitter Style to the centre, removing the parts of each layer that conflict with each other.

A slight variation of putting things on their own layer is one I use for titles, whether I use a font or an alpha. I create an new document where only the title will be manipulated. Sometimes it takes a little imagination to decide how to align the letters or the words, but the advantage of the new document method is that when I like how the title looks, I’ll Merge each word. Then I can select all the layers and Duplicate them onto my layout, where each layer is still intact but can be nudged into the most appropriate spot. To Duplicate those layers, click on the first layer in the stack, hold down the Shift key and click on the top layer. That “selects” all the layers. Then right-click and choose Duplicate Layers.

Look for whatever you’ve named (or not named!) your layout and choose it from the menu and click OK.

There, all three of my title layers are there and I can move them around individually, resize them, rotate them or whatever I think they need.

I couldn’t resist. I had to apply some styles to my title so you can see how easy it is to turn a font into an alpha.

Essentially, you want to have as much control over the things that make up your layout as you possibly can. These tricks have streamlined my creative process quite a bit – in addition to using all those keyboard shortcuts I show you each week. When I’m squeezing a little bit of time out of an otherwise busy day because the creative bug just won’t stop biting me, whatever will help me move things along is vital!

I hope this has helped with understanding ObiJan’s Golden Rule!

PDF Version: https://bit.ly/36C3YaN

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Torn Paper: A Review

Last week, Glee asked if I could run another tutorial on digital paper tearing, and I’m only too happy to oblige. Since I wrote my first version of this tutorial I’ve streamlined the workflow a bit, which is always a good thing! Work Smart, Not Hard!! This technique uses only tools already embedded in the software and it’s easily achievable by even the very new learner.

Let’s think about scrapbooking paper – the physical properties of actual paper. The best-quality paper is weighty and has a white (or sometimes black) core. It might have a pattern on one side and a solid on the other. It may be smooth as satin or have a lovely texture. When I work with digital papers, my mind sees them as the very highest quality physical paper there is. So this technique will take that into consideration. The patterned paper I’ve used is from ADB DesignsCoastal Cottage kit. (It’s no secret that I LOVE Diane‘s papers.)

In past tutorials I’ve talked about “destructive” and “non-destructive” methods of altering digital images. With “destructive” methods, pixels are removed from the image and can only be replaced by CTRL/CMD>Z-ing back a bunch of steps. “Non-destructive” methods only hide those pixels by using a mask. They’re out of sight, not gone; they can be easily revealed again if needed. This technique is “destructive” but so is tearing paper! I’ll be using the Eraser tool with a hard, round Brush of a moderate (250 pixel diameter) size at 100% Opacity.

I don’t know about you but I can’t tear paper in a straight line without folding, creasing and using a straight-edge to tear it against. Good thing for this technique, perfect isn’t the goal. Since my imagination has told me this paper is thick and stiff, I already know the tear is going to be jagged and will expose some of the white core. With the Eraser tool, I just chewed off some of the paper.

I think I need a higher contrast between my paper and the transparent background layer, so I’m going to add a Fill Layer in black to help me see what I’m doing. You might not need this step. There are a couple of ways to Fill space: by clicking Layer>New Fill Layer>Solid Color or just by using the Paint Bucket tool.

If you choose the Fill Layer method, make sure that box I’ve indicated is NOT ticked. It’s not a big issue when you’re creating your torn paper as a separate project and then adding it to your layout, but if you decide to tear your paper within your layout, it will matter. Here, I want to fill the whole background with black for contrast. The layer is only temporary, but why make it harder for myself?

There. Now I can see that torn edge much better!

Now for the really creative part! Let’s add in the white core. To do that, I’m going to make a Copy layer of my torn paper. Again, there are a couple of ways of accomplishing that: Right-click on the layer and choose Duplicate Layer and then follow the prompts (I rarely use this method) or CTRL/CMD>J. [If you develop a habit of using keyboard shortcuts you’ll be amazed at how much time and how many keystrokes it saves you.]

Yes, we did JUST do this, but we’re going to do it again. Only this time I WILL use the Clipping Mask box. I want to Fill the original torn paper layer with white, but JUST the torn paper, not the entire layer. It’s easiest to just use the Paint Bucket tool, but I want to show you the options.

Yep, tick the box!

Then I want to Merge the Fill Layer with the torn paper layer (a step that’s eliminated when using the Paint Bucket… WSNH!) so I CTRL/CMD>clicked on each layer then right-clicked to open the layers menu so I could select Merge Layers. The keyboard shortcut for this step is CTRL/CMD>E.

The white core has to be visible (otherwise why have it in the first place!) so I nudged it up a bit with the Move tool. It’s a little too perfect, but we’ll fix that.

When a real sheet of heavy scrapbooking paper is torn, the white core will be exposed to varying degrees, with some wider bits and some much narrower bits. To emulate that look, I went back to my Eraser tool and nibbled away some of the white layer and some of the patterned layer too.

Okay, that’s more like it!

This step is entirely optional. Torn paper isn’t perfectly smooth, and I like to go for as much realism (with the fewest hassles) that I can achieve.  So I’ll show you how to add some texture to the white core layer using Filter>Texture>Texturizer.

There isn’t a perfect texture Filter in the toolbox, so I use Canvas. I just want a hint of irregularity on my white core and this’ll do it.

There are some decisions to be made when using Filters. Light Source is a big one. I tend to use Top Left more than anything, so that’s what I’ve chosen here. I Inverted as well, which isn’t as visible as it would be with the Burlap or Brick Textures. Scaling refers to the overall size of the deflections and Relief is how much of a vertical deviation the Filter provides.

On a computer screen this effect isn’t in-your-face-obvious, but trust me, it pops when you print your layout.

AGAIN? Why?? That torn edge of the patterned paper will cast a hint of shadow. The easiest way to add a new Layer is to click on the sheet-of-paper icon. To add a new layer this way UNDER the currently active layer, hold down the CTRL/CMD key when you click it and it’s done. Otherwise, Layer>New Layer or CTRL/CMD>SHIFT>N will add a new layer above the currently active layer, but it’ll then have to be moved under the torn paper layer.

I’m telling you, the Paint Bucket tool is such a nice shortcut! But make sure you’ve Selected the edge of the torn paper by CTRL/CMD>clicking inside the layer’s thumbnail (that little “photo”) before you dump your paint.

Just as I did for the white core layer, I used the Move tool to nudge the shadow layer up and out from under the torn paper layer. It’s pretty obvious in the image below, but I’ll Blur it a tiny bit and it’ll look much more natural.

Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur… is the ticket.

If the shadow layer is Blurred too much, it’ll just make the area where the paper and the core meet look dirty. So don’t go too far!

Now all that’s left before I’m finished is to Delete the black contrast layer and Merge the three paper layers together.

And now my torn paper is ready for use on my layout! It’s literally a 10-minute technique that really adds some interest to the image.

Thankfully the heatdome has moved on and we’re only worried about wildfires out here in the west part of North America. The eastern part is having the opposite problem, with a tropical storm dumping water and creating tornadoes. And still… COVID. I had my first vaccine last Wednesday and knew I was going to react – having had the virus I had antibodies already. I felt pretty awful for about 36 hours, and then magically felt better. The vaccine is proving its worth; 99% of the people who have died from COVID since May have been unvaccinated. Pretty good stats!

See you next time!

PDF Version: https://bit.ly/3xrgE06


Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Exploring Uncharted Territory (Elements Features)

Something about Elements popped up on my Pinterest feed the other night that had me scratching my head. How had I not explored this before? I’m talking about the Graphics menu. It’s a treasure trove! And I think it’ll be really useful for those new-to-digiscrapping who are still building up their stash. I know when I was first finding my way, I downloaded a lot of freebies – because they were free, I had nothing and I was on a budget – that I ended up never using. The things to be found in the Graphics menu will be a bit like that for a lot of us, but without having a look we’d never know. So let’s explore!

If your workspace doesn’t look like mine, you might not have that Graphics button down in the lower right corner. Not to worry. You can find the goodies by clicking Window>Graphics (or by clicking F7). The menu includes two dropdowns chock full of options.


I think top-to-bottom-left-to-right makes the most sense, so we’ll start with By Type: Backgrounds. You can think of Backgrounds as papers. There are a TON of them in this menu. They’re rectangular and in landscape orientation so if you prefer to scrap in a square configuration, you may need to move the Background to give you the section you want visible. They aren’t necessarily as elegant as designer papers, but they’ll do in a pinch!


Okay, so when you see this, don’t panic! Most of these Graphics don’t live inside your computer. You’ll need an internet connection so they can be downloaded into your software for the session at hand. Elements is a real resource hog already, so this is a bonus.


I’m not going to show you a lot of these. I liked the name of this one when I hovered my cursor over it, so I opened it.


Next up are the Frames. I WILL show you a few of these, because they’re pretty awesome! I don’t often use frames of any kind for my layouts, but I may start now that I’ve found these! It took me a minute (or ten) to figure out how to make them work but once I got it, I ran with it! For them to work properly, your photo CANNOT be a “Background“, it has to be a “layer“. Right-click on your photo layer in the Layers panel and select Layer from Background and you’re on your way.


This is the composite photo I created awhile back in the tutorial on compositing. I’m going to use it as my example.


Once you’ve selected a Frame from the menu and clicked on it to apply, you’ll see this. See the transparent background around it? No need for cropping or cutting it out with the Marquee tool! The slider lets you make your photo bigger or smaller so that the area of it you want in the frame can be fine-tuned. And the circular arrows are for rotating the photo 90° left or right.


After you’ve tweaked, hit the green checkmark and carry on!


I tried a few of these Frames. I like the look of this black glossy one for panoramic photos… like the millions of sunset photos I have.


This one didn’t excite me much!

But the collage Frame? I LOVE it!!

This rustic one would be great for an Old-West layout, or a heritage layout of pioneering ancestors.

The late 1950s and early 1960s were the heyday for deckle edges. There’s another one right next to it on the menu that also has a postmark, to give the photo a postage stamp appearance.

Then there are the two stitched borders. Quicker than sorting through my stash to find some stitches…

I do actually have a bin full of vintage photos. These four vintage Frames could be lovely additions to the ones I’ve scanned and cropped.

The Graphics group is also huge. There are all sorts of goodies in here!

Like this fabulous gold filigree photo corner (or is it a corbel? I’m watching DIY shows on HGTV as I work).

If I cropped out those brilliantly-lit houses in the lower left corner of my photo these filigrees would be even more amazing.

Looking for something more traditional? My mom had a box of black paper photo corners. Bet yours did too!

The white ones are a bit more modern-looking, but still traditional.

The Shapes menu is exactly the same as the Custom Shapes/Cookie Cutter one.

The Shape layer is under the photo, with the edge Selected by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the Shape thumbnail. The photo layer is the active layer and I’m going to add a white stroke to the outline.

Cheesy? Yeah, a bit. But it was fun to turn the moon into a flower! If I put this Stroke on its own layer I might Erase the parts of the petals that overlap the trees. What do you think?

The Text options are many! Several variations of effect in every colour. Only drawback is there’s no choice of font.

I think this might look equally “right” if I’d gone with one of the soft yellow gradients like the one two spaces down to the left. But the grey pulls its look from the moon.

Here are a few more samples.

So let’s recap a bit by going over the categories one by one, starting with By Type. Each of the categories will include all the Graphics from each of the groups that correspond to the tag.

Then By Activity.

And By Color.

By Event offers some great choices!

Which of us isn’t moody at times? All the appropriate Graphics here are sorted By Mood.

It might be quicker to find exactly what you’re looking for by choosing By Object.

So many people scrap by the season so this By Season sort takes the guesswork out of finding all the right stuff.

Here, By Style means something different than the usual Elements Styles. There are literally more than two dozen Graphics styles here.

You may never use any of these but isn’t it nice to know they’re there?

The saga of the crumbling laptop continues. The replacement I ordered arrived but it doesn’t work! Turns out it isn’t new (as I thought it was) and hadn’t been factory reset. I’m a bit tech-savvy so I did a factory reset but wasn’t able to go any further. I’ll be shipping it back and waiting on a different machine I ordered that might not be here until some time in August – it’s coming right from the plant. Meanwhile, I’ll limp along with this one, hoping it doesn’t completely die before I have a functioning replacement. Sigh.

PDF Version: https://bit.ly/2SXRK99

Tutorial Tuesday (Fabulous Fonts)

A Baker’s Dozen of Father’s Day Fonts

It’s been a while since I showed you some new fonts, and with Father’s Day coming up I thought I’d look at the selection at dafont.com to see if I could find some more great masculine fonts to share. I have so many frilly, scripty, swashy fonts, but not so many that are more suited to the men in my life. I found a dozen that fit the bill very well and have a bonus set of dingbats at the end. (I also downloaded <coughcough> fourteen others…) Each font name is linked to the dafont.com website so you can quickly and easily grab the ones you want. Let’s have a look at what I’m liking.

First up is this one that made me laugh out loud. Daddy Cartoon is cute, but still would work for those layouts where Dad’s being silly.

Next is this Indiana Jones-inspired font Adventure. Great for titles and easy to read, this could be your go-to for your manly layouts.

Pac-Font took me right back to the early days of my marriage, when we had one little person in our house. My husband has always had a deep and abiding love for video games, and this one would be right up his alley.

I like the grunginess of Campus. It makes me think of workshops, garages, paint shops and that sort of stereotypically male environment.

This serif-style font is pretty grungy too, but in a less formal way. It’s called Sketchzone and I could see it working well for both titles and subtitles.

For some reason, this one made me think of tree houses and forts with “No Gurlz Allowed” signs. Don’t you think Drift Type would fit right in?

Woodcut immediately made me think of chisels and carving tools. A bevel added to this would turn it into a stunning alpha and it’s already shadowed!

I could see Sherlock Press as a stand-out title font for heritage layouts, with photos of men with handlebar moustaches and neatly parted hair.

Sketchup is another font that looks hand-drawn and would look wonderful on any layout about creativity.

I think Rumble Brave has a steampunk look to it. I’d probably use it for layouts filled with gears, nail heads, staples, maybe a pocket watch… Yes?

To me, 1-2-3 Go! suggests car racing, with the checkered-flag bits embedded in the characters. With a little manipulation it could be a smashing alpha.

The last font on the list is one I HAD to include after my tutorial last week. Decaying Felt Pen just made me laugh.

Now for the one dingbat that has the incongruent name Tool Font. It’s not really a font… but the silhouettes are pretty sharp!

I’ll be making a Father’s Day card and some birthday cards soon for my grand-daughter, whose birthday is June 29th, and her big brother, birthday July 1st, Maybe I’ll make one for my son-in-law whose birthday is July 3rd……. we’re THAT family. You may see one of these turn up in a tut in the coming weeks, if inspiration strikes and it’s worth sharing.
Link to PDF version of this tutorial: https://bit.ly/2SCNmfD

Designer Spotlight – June 2021


First, I want to apologise to Marina (the creative mind behind Magical Scraps Galore). We were supposed to do this chat over coffee a couple of days ago but I got knocked off schedule. So without further ado…

J: Thanks for agreeing to share a little bit about yourself and your creative process with our faithful GingerScrappers. Let’s start wit how long you’ve been designing.

M: I’m celebrating my 10th anniversary this year!

J: Wow! That’s a long time. You clearly have a passion for it! How did you get into designing?

M: I started creating my own digital papers and embellishments for scrapping our second trip to Disney World, since the digital offerings were very limited back then. It didn’t take long to realize that scrapbook design was my passion, and I started participating in the design challenges hosted by MouseScrappers. I opened my first shop in 2013 and I’ve been part of the wonderful GingerScraps family since 2014.

J: Well, that explains how you named your shop, doesn’t it? I came to GS in 2013 and quickly found it to be the friendliest digiscrapping site on the Web. What tools do you use to create your designs?

M: I use Photoshop, Illustrator, and Procreate.

J: You must be very proficient, using three different platforms. That must mean you have a dedicated design workshop. Can you tell us about it?

M: I design in my studio at home, with my two cats sleeping by my computer or on my lap. Sometimes they like to sleep ON my computer and they mess with my designs, LOL! I have to be very careful!

J: I’m not a cat person but have two dogs. One of them likes to “help” me too, by flipping my elbow up when she thinks her input is needed. She’s one of my favourite subjects though; my inspiration for scrapping comes from a lot of places. What provides your design inspiration?

M: My main motivation and inspiration are my kids and my trips around the world.

J: Do you have a favourite kit in your store? I know, it’s an unfair question.

M: It’s hard to pick just one, that’s mean, it’s like choosing your favorite child, LOL … I have several kits that I love, especially my travel collection, but one of my favorite kits is Magical Memories, it’s all about my happy place and it’s a reminder of all the magical moments I spent there with my family.

J: I’ve been to Disneyland twice, but a long time ago. The memories we made on both visits are definitely magical. On a somewhat related note, if you could have a superpower, which one would you want?

M: Teleportation, so I can travel anywhere in no time and with no jet lag!

J: YES! That would be amazing!! I used to wish I could teleport home from the hospital after a long day at work. It would be even more valuable for travel. With all the globetrotting you’ve done, have you ever met anyone famous?

M: Yes, I met Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films)

J: Interesting! The famous people I’ve met haven’t been that kind of famous. Did you ever want to be famous when you were growing up? What did you want to be?

M: I wanted to be a flight attendant or a rock star

J: Ah! So fame was in there! You might have met more rock stars as a flight attendant though. I once met a songwriter on a flight from Chicago to Edmonton, Alberta. His SONGS are famous, but not many people know who HE is. So, last question: If you came with a warning label, what would it say?

M: Warning: Crazy cat lady!! LOL! I’m a huge cat lover, and if my family would let me, I’d have 10 cats or more!

J: I should have seen that coming! Thank you so much for the visit. I think our readers know you a bit better now. But ladies, don’t forget, Marina has the Daily Download throne this month as well as being in the Designer Spotlight. She’s created a beautiful summer-fun kit and oh wait!! Stop the presses!!! She’s also got an add-on bundle for even more amazingness!! Look at this sneak peak…

Cats and flamingos!! Before I forget, Marina also has a coupon for y’all. Check it out!

Thanks again, Marina! I love bringing good news to the GingerScraps world!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Digitize your Handwriting!

Last week’s digital colouring tutorial had me thinking about how I could make better use of some of my digital stamps. If you recall, I talked about the ones with white backgrounds and how that would make the technique I showed you very difficult. So I did a little snooping and found a terrific tutorial on digitizing handwriting that would work perfectly for those stamps of mine. It’s from the blog of Kelly Leigh (herecomesthesunblog.net) and it’s easy to follow, although I’ve expanded on a few steps for the beginners in our midst. Let’s proceed!

How many of you have really wanted to have journaling in your own handwriting on your digital layouts but not had a clue how to do it? This is for you! But it’s not only good for journaling… if you’ve got some mad calligraphy skills you can create your own inspirational word art, titles and whatever your imagination comes up with. All you need are a piece of white paper and a (new) black marker. And Photoshop Elements, of course. I chose a message that resonated with me for my demo. I wrote it out on my paper; my marker had seen better days and I was writing much larger than I usually do, so it’s a little ragged looking, but as a demo, it’ll work just fine. Then I took a photo of my finished writing with my cellphone. It might have looked better and been a bit less work if I’d scanned it, but that would have meant a trip downstairs and after I’d moved my (not inconsiderable) weight in potting soil yesterday, I just didn’t want to do that.

I Cropped away as much of the paper and my countertop as I could. I wanted the demo image to be large and easy to work with so I filled the entire 8.5×11″ sheet of paper. But that wouldn’t be necessary for most applications.

Here I’ve Zoomed in on my marker so you can see how less-than-awesome it looks up close. I’ll fix it with a black brush later; I could have saved myself a lot of work by using a new marker, but I didn’t have one at hand…

But first, I want to make what black there is as black as I can, and the white as white as I can. The better the contrast, the easier the technique is. I used Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Levels for this step.

I only adjusted the Input Levels. The left-most slider adjusts the black areas; by moving it to the right, the black gets darker. The middle slider controls the midtones, and by moving it to the right as well, it helped blacken the text too. The slider on the far right brightens the white areas so it was shifted to the left.

There are still gappy areas in the text, but that’s okay.

I just used a solid round black Brush at 100% Opacity to eliminate the gaps.

Now to the good part! To eliminate the paper, I’m going to want a transparent layer UNDER my text layer. Elements won’t allow a layer to be placed under a Background. (The italics are actually displayed for all layers Elements has determined are background layers.) So to get past that, right-click on the layer and choose Layer from Background…

The dialog box that opens allows for the layer’s name to be changed, if desired. I’m not going to bother. Make sure the tick box for Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask is NOT ticked and Color is NONE.

Once that’s done, it’s possible to drop a blank layer underneath the text layer. It’s quickest and easiest to hold down the CTRL/CMD key and click on the New Layer icon at the top of the Layers Panel to create a blank layer under any other active layer. Then I don’t have to move the new layer down the stack.

Now I’m going to use the Magic Wand tool, as shown in the Tool Panel and Tool Options menu, to remove the paper. Click in the white area and it Selects a chunk of the paper. If my paper was perfectly clean and my image too was perfectly clean, this step would probably Select ALL of the paper, But my paper and image aren’t so this will take a few clicks.

Edit>Cut or CTRL/CMD>X removes all the paper that the Magic Wand Selected!

I went over the rest of the image and removed the paper. Where there are loops in my letters, the paper was a bit clingy, but after a few minutes I had all the paper removed. The edges of the text looked a little raggedy up close, so I CTRL/CMD>Clicked on the text layer’s thumbnail to Select the edges of the text then clicked Select>Refine Edge…

This menu looks intimidating but it really isn’t. Experiment a bit by pulling the sliders and watch what happens in the Preview pane. Don’t worry, the white you see here isn’t actually there, it’s only part of the Preview so you can see what the adjustments are doing.

However… this method of adjustment DOES produce a new layer with a Layer Mask attached. Also notice that the original text layer’s visibility is turned off. To make things easier, right-click on the new layer and choose Simplify Layer. That adds the layer mask to the layer.

What about the original layer? It’s not visible, and its invisibility doesn’t affect the text at all, so it can just be Deleted, either by right-clicking on the invisible layer then Delete Layer, or just by hitting the Delete key.

Again, that layer we added underneath the text layer isn’t necessary any more (although it was VITAL when we were removing the paper) so it can either be Merged (CTRL/CMD>E) with the text layer or just Deleted.

There! That’s all you need to know to digitize your handwriting, or to remove the background of a digital stamp. I spent some time cleaning up the text using the Brush tool and the Eraser tool but you might not need to do any of that.

If you want to change the text’s colour, that’s easy to do by filling the layer with your new colour. Layer>New Fill Layer>Solid Color 

This time check the tick box for Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask so that your new colour is applied to the text without any extra steps.

When the Color Picker opens up, go nuts! I like purple. The colour is applied to the text via Clipping Mask as you can see in the Layers Panel. 

The digitized text can also be Resized, Rotated, Warped, Skewed … whatever you want!

If you want to Save your new image, it should be Saved As a PNG so the background stays transparent. Save it to a folder where you can find it again, and give it a good name.

Compression should be Smallest/Slow so the details are preserved. And it doesn’t need Interlacing.

That’s all there is to it! I think I should digitize my signature so I can add it to documents. Give it a try!

PDF Link: https://bit.ly/2Ug19cH

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Digital Stamps in Living Colour

Do any of you belong to Font Bundles or Design Bundles? I love their monthly Dollar Days sales, although I already have more than 1600 fonts and I don’t have a Cricut… I’m also a sucker for digital stamps in addition to my enormous collection of rubber and acrylic stamps. But so far I haven’t found the right combo of paper, stamping ink and coloured markers so my stamped images always end up smudged and smeared. I thought, “Is there a way I could colour a digital stamp or a PNG image from Design Bundles using Photoshop Elements?” I had a podcast I wanted to listen to and some free time so I played with an image from Tiddly Inks, drawn by Cristy Croll, and figured out a method that worked really well. It can be adapted for doddles and brushes too. Read on!

First off, the image used for this technique must be a PNG on a 100% transparent background. You can see in the screenshot above that only the outline of the space alien is visible. While it IS possible to use a digital stamp with the outline filled with white, it’s a lot more work, as you’ll see as I work through the colouring process. I made a Copy (CTRL/CMD>J) of the untouched stamp and turned off visibility (for now). It will become the “clean” outline later.

This step won’t work as readily with a white-filled outline. It would involve Magic Wand selection and lots more steps. Doable, but time-consuming. As the screenshot below says, as long as the areas I’m planning to fill are completely closed by the outline, I can use the Paint Bucket tool to fill the area. If the outline has even a microscopic gap in it, when the Paint Bucket is dumped, the paint will escape and fill the entire canvas. (UNDO!!) If that happens, I’ll switch to a small, hard black Brush and close the gaps. I’m going to do all the solid Paint Bucket filling on the bottom outline layer. My little green man has some exposed skin around his ankles.

I found that the Paint Bucket sometimes didn’t fill right to the outline, leaving a faint blank rim around everything. So I switched to a smallish hard round Brush with my green colour in the foreground and painted away the blank spots. I didn’t worry about colouring outside the lines, because I have that lovely, clean outline layer set aside.

As long as my painting didn’t actually go outside the outline, I didn’t worry about it. Where I couldn’t quite get into tiny spaces cleanly, I switched to the Eraser tool and tidied up. I toggled back and forth between Brush and Eraser quite a bit.

I decided I could work with the top layer visible. See how the outline is much cleaner? I used a black Brush on the top layer to make the eyes a little less jaggy.

Once I had all the green areas filled and neat, it was time to add some dimension. Working with alcohol inks on paper, this step can be a real challenge for those just learning how to blend and add depth. Digitally, if I make a mistake, I just have to Undo until I’m back at the point where I messed it up. Up to this point in the process, I’d say not more than 10 minutes had passed. I clicked on my foreground colour to open the Color Picker tool and chose a darker value of the original green to begin shading.

For the technique to work well, all the shading and highlighting will have to be done on its own layer. You’ll see why as we move along.

Before I did anything else, I had to decide where my light source was, the same as when creating custom drop shadows. I chose the upper right corner, so shadows will fall to the lower left. Then I Brushed on my shading, based on what my eye saw as contour.

I felt that there needed to be a bit more depth to the shaded areas, so I chose another, darker value of my green and Brushed a narrower area right at the edges of the contours.

I realized that if I added a new blank layer BEFORE I opened the Color Picker, I wouldn’t forget to put each new colour on its own layer. The beauty of having each colour on its own layer is that I can move the layers up or down the stack to achieve the best look. You can see the added depth from the new darker colour quite well.

Now for some highlights! I added a blank layer then selected a light value from the Color Picker.

This colour will go on the areas of the image that are rounded or raised, and therefore reflecting more light.

When I was happy with the skin areas, I moved back to the bottom image layer to Fill his uniform.

Following the same steps as for the skin, I shaded and highlighted the uniform. Don’t worry about how stark these steps look. They won’t be when I’m done!

I continued Filling and contouring the image, moving between layers as needed. I went with a magenta planet, and then used deeper values to add a drop shadow to my alien.

Now for the really fun part! To blend all these edges, I’m going to use a Gaussian Blur Filter. Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. The Preview will show what’s happening to the edges, and I can watch it on my actual image as I go along. If the edges of the layer I’m Blurring aren’t visible in the Preview pane, all I need to do is click my cursor on the actual image somewhere that overlaps the edge and it’ll appear. Using the slider, I adjusted the Radius of my blur so that the edges began to blend nicely. 12.5 pixels looks good.

The highlighted area of the planet would be softer in real life, so for that layer, I pushed the slider hard to the right. 23.5 pixels looks right to me.

Those lumpy spots needed some deeper shading, and Blurring this layer too much will make the effect pretty much vanish. So the Radius here is only 4.3 pixels.

Blurring isn’t the only way to make this technique look good. Don’t forget the power of Blend Modes!

I tried several Modes before settling on Multiply. I haven’t Blurred these layers yet, and it looks pretty ghastly, but not for long.

I did the same with the darker green shading layers. These steps are completely personal preference. If it isn’t making your image look better, don’t do it!

I worked my way up the green layers and Blurred them.

The skin dimensional areas only needed a Radius of 4.5 pixels.

I moved from segment to segment, Blurring as I went.

When I got to the last layer of the planet and the alien, I was pretty satisfied with how it looked. Now to add a starry sky to the background!

To make less work for myself, I added a Blank Layer BEHIND the bottom image layer so I could Fill it with colour and let the image do the hard work.

I found a starry brush in my stash. It’s from Key Lime Digi Designs (it was a Challenge brush) and it’s the perfect touch! The stars are, of course, on their own layer. Then I applied a glittery Style from the GingerBread LadiesDream Big Monthly Mix collab to the stars to make them even more twinkly.

When I was finished, I Saved my creation as a PSD, just in case I look at it later and want to tweak it further. I plan to use it for my grandson’s birthday card, so it may need a little touch-up. I know this isn’t going to be widely popular, but I enjoyed the process and will be doing it again. It took me about the same amount of time it would have taken with alcohol inks or coloured pencils – not taking into account the versions I ruin before I get one  like – so there’s that…

PDF Link: https://bit.ly/3q7sQQU

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Updating the Custom Cluster

Regular readers might recall a tutorial from a long while back on interweaving elements into a more complex and natural looking cluster. They may also recall another tutorial about “shaving” drop shadow styles. Somehow it never occurred to me that the two could work together to make the task of customizing clusters much quicker and easier. But here we are! I know this is going to up my game a lot, especially when I’m weaving ribbon into the alphas I use in my signatures. Let’s see what I’m talking about.

Here’s a cluster I tossed together using Aimee Harrison‘s Secret Garden kit. It’s okay, but it could be better.

After I took a good look at the various components of my cluster I identified a few spots where I could add some interest. First, I’m going to tuck the burlap ribbon in behind the petal I’ve indicated. The blue flower layer is the active layer. I CTRL/CMD>clicked on the layer thumbnail for the burlap ribbon to Select the edges of the ribbon. Then I double-checked that I’m working with the correct layer, the blue flower layer.

Rather than having to be super-careful about what parts of the blue flower I remove with the Eraser tool, as I would with my previous method, I only have to Zoom in and move cautiously on the area where the blue flower’s petals overlap. With the edges of the ribbon Selected, only those parts of the active layer inside the marching ants will be Erased!

Let’s bring the ribbon in front of these petals. The only sticky spot is right at the intersection of all those petals.

One swipe with the Eraser tool completely revealed the ribbon, putting it on top of the petals.

I’m also going to tuck the ribbon behind the edge of this leaf.

Did you notice that I also put the small white flower’s petal behind the leaf? I just had to change the active layer to the white flower and Erase where the leaf is. There are a few other spots where I’ve made some tucks or lifts. Can you see them?

**So what happens when it’s time to add some shadows? Well… parts of the layers may have been removed and the shadow will look funky, like this one. I’ve used a custom shadow on its own layer here, but this also will happen with drop shadow styles so be aware of it when you’re working.**

After I’ve Smudged and Blurred the shadow layer, I CTRL/CMD>Clicked on the large white flower layer to Select the edges. Then I Erased the shadow that shouldn’t be overlaying the petals.

With all the elements in the cluster Shadowed, I felt the (very OCD) urge to add a suggestion of a shadow where the leaf overlays the small white flower at the lower left. But it’s probably something no one will notice so feel free to omit this step! What I did was activate the shadow layer for the leaf then used the Marquee tool to enclose the part of the shadow I wanted to move into place. I made a Copy of that part of the shadow (CTRL/CMD>C) then I Pasted it (CTRL/CMD>V) onto the layout, which created a new layer. I moved that layer up the stack of layers until it was on top of the flower layer. Some additional Erasing was needed so I CTRL/CMD>Clicked on the leaf’s layer thumbnail, activated my little new shadow layer and Erased the part that wasn’t in the right place. Easy peasy!!

There are so many ways this will elevate your layouts! Give it a try and let me know how it works for you. And of course, if you have tips for making it easier or better, our readers will be thrilled!

Here is the PDF version of this tutorial: https://bit.ly/3oyB8QR

Link to PDF: https://bit.ly/3gL52On

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!!

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