Tutorial Tuesday (Windows and Elements)

Following Up for Donna

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

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

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

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

Next, I Copied all 4 of the buttons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

Decluttering Isn’t Just for Homes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Getting in on the Action(s)

When I was thinking about a topic for this week’s tutorial, I wasn’t inspired, so I did a Pinterest search for ideas. Are you ready to have your mind blown?? When I was playing with this subject so I could compose a coherent discussion, my mind certainly was!

I’ve referred to Actions in previous tutorials, but didn’t get into them too deeply. Your software came to you with a set of them already in place, and they form parts of the Guided Edits. If you’re unsure what Actions are, they’re like little scripts that tell Elements to make a series of predetermined changes to an image. The process is largely automatic, but there’re usually some options for personalizing the results. And I’m going to show you a really cool action I downloaded free. The image below is one I found at Pixabay; it turned out to be ideal for this little foray.

This is where I downloaded the Action I’ll show you. Most of the Actions here are completely free and have instructions within the Action menu itself. There are actions that perform one-step edits for portraits, actions that alter the colour of images, actions that make dodging and burning easier, ones that resize and sharpen images for different purposes, actions that watermark your photos… the list is endless! Check out the list here: The Coffee Shop Blog

Accessing the Actions on your workspace isn’t intuitive. Click on Windows>Actions to see which have been loaded (outside of the Guided Edits, since they’re specific to the Edit you’re playing with).

This is the default menu (with a couple of extra Actions I’ve loaded listed at the bottom). Click on the icon shown to open the Actions command centre. This is where you Load new ones.

The software will find any Actions you’ve downloaded and placed in the Actions folder of PSE. If you want to see which ones you already have, using the file explorer on your computer and look for .atn files. I have a LOT of them… I know. The one I’m going to show you is Coffee Shop Urban Grit.

Now that I’ve added it to the Actions menu, there it is! When I click on the triangle icon to the left of my chosen Action, it will open a dropdown that contains the script, or list of processes Elements is going to run.

Some Actions will have a dropdown list of steps that you can turn on or off. This one does too, but to see it I’d have to click on that triangle icon next to the name of the Action.

With the desired Action highlighted, click on the blue triangle icon shown to “play” the Action. The script will start running; with some Actions you can watch the changes being made flash over your image. With others the changes only happen when you decide where you want them. That’s how this one works.

So, it looks like all the software did was add a Layer Mask. The image itself looks exactly the same. But… the Brush tool menu is now open and the Layer Mask is selected. So I chose a large, soft, round brush and used it on the Layer Mask.

Can you see what’s happened? I just used the brush over the car and the girl. The sky, sea and sand weren’t touched. (Look at the Layer Mask to see what area was brushed over.)

But what else can I do with this now that I’ve played the Action? I duplicated the mask layer and it really amped up the effect. Here is where Blend Modes really come into play.

I liked the more obvious effect of the two mask layers but I wanted to try a few more things. I duplicated the mask layer and went down the list of Blend Modes until I found one I really liked. I’ve never found a way to use the Difference mode until now!

But the focal point of the image is too dark and muddy now. So I lowered the Opacity of the layer to 80% which made it better.

I moved that Difference layer down to the bottom and found the funk was still there but the image was much brighter. Can you see this on an art journal page?

I did one. More. Thing. If I decide to use this image on an art journal page, I’ll probably want to blend the sky/sea/sand areas into the paper. To make that possibility more workable, I changed the Background to a layer to make it editable. (I had NO clue what would happen when I started playing with it, I just wanted some more options.) To make the Background into an editable layer, right-click on the layer then choose Layer from Background from the dropdown. Then you can do what you like to that layer! I lowered the Opacity to 75% and was delighted to see that only the actual image background was changed. It became more transparent. So if I clip this finished image (with the layers merged) to a blended mask, it’ll look amazing. That’s next on my agenda!

This was just a quick-and-dirty guide to loading and using actions. There are so many ways they can be used for elevating our work. I hope you’ll download one or two and give them a whirl.

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements 2018)

Double Indemnity? Nope, Double Exposure!

Here we are, at the very end of 2019!! I hope you all had some wonderful times with family and friends over the holidays. If you’re celebrating tonight, stay safe!!

Are you ready for another Guided Edit? This one was only introduced with the 2018 version, but I LOVE it!! It’s under the Fun Edits tab and it creates a double exposure almost automatically. It caught my interest when I started seeing lots of double-exposure photos popping up on my Pinterest feed after I Googled PSE techniques. All the how-to’s were for Photoshop‘s full version and try as I might, I wasn’t getting the results I hoped for when I tried to find a work-around. Then I tried this. I know you’re going to love it. I’m playing with photos I downloaded from Pixabay and chose a black-and-white close-up portrait as my base photo.

Once I clicked on Guided>Fun Edit>Double Exposure this is the menu that comes up. (Remember, if you click on Cancel, you’re back to the Start Menu so be very sure that’s what you want to do…)

For this tutorial I just took the most basic route possible with my photo choices so as to make it as straight-forward as possible. I’ll be playing with it a lot more in the weeks to come, so you may see another more complex tut later. The Edit tools are lined up top-to-bottom for easy progression through the steps. If your photo needs to be cropped, this is when you’d do it, with the Crop tool. The Guide suggests cropping so your desired focal point is in the centre.

There’s also the option of Selecting only a portion of your photo. I skipped both the Crop and Select steps altogether.

Now, the software has some images already embedded in the Edit that you can use for your double exposures: a forest scene, a cityscape and some clouds. Here I’ve superimposed the forest scene over my photo; if you look in the upper left corner you can see the girl’s eye, but it’s pretty well concealed.

Thankfully the software knows that might not be the look you’re after. The Intensity of the superimposed photo can be easily adjusted by pulling the slider to the left. Here you can see the difference it makes to decrease it to about 47%.

There’s also the opportunity to move the superimposed image around a bit by using the Move tool. It can be activated either by clicking on the tool image in the upper left of your workspace, or by clicking on the tool bar in the menu.

The cityscape almost completely obliterates the original photo. Good thing it’s adjustable!

I decreased the Intensity to about 35% and the resultant image is really moody. It suggests the girl is homesick for this view, at least in my imagination…

What will the clouds do? Well, at first glance, we can see her nose and chin fairly clearly, but not her eye, and I think the eye is the key.

I’m conflicted as to which emotion this evokes. I think she looks wistful, so maybe it’s dream-like.

Okay, before we move on, I want to show you how to use another of your own photos. So instead of using a preset, I clicked on Import a Photo. It opened up Windows Explorer and let me find a suitable photo for the look I’m aiming for. Once I clicked on the thumbnail in the photos folder, I clicked on the Place button.

Wow! That’s a really dramatic image!! I don’t even know if there’s any adjustment needed.

But just to be sure, I decreased the Intensity  by 50%. There are still more ways to manipulate the image so let’s keep going.

Before I moved on, I opted to shift the rocks in the superimposed photo down and almost off her face. It makes the sky more of an element in the image and you can’t see the demarcation where the superimposed photo ends. Further down the menu, there are some more Effects presets. So working with the image with the superimposed photo at 50%, let’s hit it with each of the Effects to see what they do. The very first one, top left of the tool menu is No Effect… just the way it is.

I’ve circled the Effect with each image so you can see what they look like right out of the box. This one adds a lot of colour.

This one makes the original image more vivid and increases the contrast.

Here, it’s basically a black-and-white version. If my original photo had been a colour portrait, it might make a big difference to use this Effect.

This one is a soft, rainbow-hued look.

I think this one would be amazing with underwater photography, or for photos with a beachy, watery theme.

This adds a touch of cool colour to a tonal black-and-white image.

I’m showing my age. All that’s missing is a prism in the middle.

The last one gives the whole image a warm, golden look.

After seeing them all, I decided I like the third version best. I decreased the Intensity to 50% again and have a really eye-catching image. I might add an inspirational quote into the dark area to the right of her neck. What do you think?

Before I shut down for the night, I decided to play with a couple of other photos I had. The one of the stone bridge provided a perfect frame for a superimposed face, but I didn’t take the time to figure out how to use the Guided Edit. Instead… I took a lot more time doing it manually. Duplicated layers, layer masks, erased areas, clipping masks, more layer masks to bring out the blue in her eyes, blend modes, sheesh. There’s gotta be a better way! When I find it I’ll share it with you!

I hope that whatever 2019 brought your way is greatly improved on in 2020! I know there are big things coming up for our family, details to follow. Happy New Year, dear GingerScrappers!

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

Beyond the Ordinary – Holiday Photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

DIY Christmas Card Workshop

Woohoo! I’m on deadline today!! Things are looking up. Today’s tutorial isn’t necessarily scrapbooking-related, but it definitely uses digital scrapbooking supplies. It’s also not really in time for this year, but it can be a thought for next year. I’m going to show you how to make 2 personal Christmas cards from 1 sheet of cardstock. The resulting cards are 4 1/4 inches by 5 1/2 inches. You can get 50 envelopes that will hold these beauties at Michaels for $8 (Canadian, so about $5 in the US).

If I would have been thinking I could have skipped this step by putting the dimensions in reverse in the New Document screen. But I didn’t so I had to Rotate the canvas 90°.

Next I snapped a line across the centre of the page, and another from top to bottom. I used the Ruler and the Pencil Tool. To snap a straight line in a project, select the Pencil Tool and set the size of the line you want. I wanted these lines to be faint, so I went with 1 pixel. Line up the cursor with the halfway point along one side of your canvas. You can see a moving dashed line on the Ruler so you’ll know when you’re in the right place. Click once just barely inside the edge of your canvas. Then hold down the Shift key and move the cursor to the same spot on the opposite side and click again. It’s just that easy. Then do the same with the top-to-bottom centre point. These are guidelines for placement of elements and for cutting and scoring later.

Then I opened up the folder where I’d collected the objects I wanted to use. I have a photo taken several Christmases ago, a 3D snowflake from Lindsay Jane‘s Snowed Under kit and a mask from PrelestnayaP‘s December Wishes.

Working in the lower left corner of the canvas, I opened up the Shape Tool, chose the Rectangle, set a Fixed Size of 5.25 by 4 inches and chose a darkish green colour.

The resulting rectangle will fit inside the guidelines for one card. and by Simplifying the layer, I can make adjustments to it as needed because it’s now a Smart Object.

The next step is to add the mask. I resized it to fit inside the green rectangle completely.

The photo went on top of the mask and was resized to approximately the size I’d need. I want the deer and some of the illuminated snow visible later.

Clipping the photo to the mask is simple. Right click>Create Clipping Mask or CTRL/CMD>ALT>G for more recent versions of PSE or just CTRL/CMD>G for versions pre-15.

Final position tweaks included a little shifting and a little more shrinking.

I chose a gold colour from my photo to use for the sentiment. Here’s where all those amazing fonts you have in your stash will come in handy. You can make this text as personal as you want, even making it family- or person-specific. But it still looked like it needed something. So I CTRL/CMD>clicked on the green rectangle layer’s thumbnail to select the outer edges of the rectangle. Then Select>Modify>Contract.

I pondered for a nanosecond how much I should shrink my selection and settled on 25 pixels.

And then I added a Stroke to the new selection. Edit>Stroke (Outline) Selection

I then used the same gold as for the text and added my Stroke. The position for this isn’t a make-or-break thing, so don’t obsess over it.

Yes, I think that’s what it needed.

The final step for this card is to add a trademark to the back. I went with the green for this.

Knowing that it’s on the BACK of the card and should be readable with the card right-side-up, I Rotated the text 180°.

I’m going for 100% honesty here… I saw a card like this second one on Pinterest so I’m not taking credit for the idea. (Ignore the typo on the screenshot please!) I added a new blank layer to the stack and Loaded some watercolour Brushes. These are from a set of 20 free brushes from Brusheezy. I chose 3 shades of wintery blue for the brush area.

I layered the brushes, each on its own layer so I can make adjustments to just one – or all – if I need to.

For a bit of contrast I chose an aqua for the topmost brush layer.

I added in the snowflake and sized it appropriately. But it wasn’t quite enough by itself. So I added a Layer Style from Ooh La La ScrapsIn the Frosty Air collection.

It still was missing something so I turned off the snowflake layer for a second and added a white paint splatter. That makes a big difference!

A few words and it’s pretty much what I was looking for.

A trademark on the back in the dark blue and it’s finished!

I saved the file as a .png so the printer wouldn’t need to add a white background to everything. To turn this into cards, I’ll load up my printer with white cardstock and print several copies. Using my guillotine cutter I’ll cut the cards apart on the top-to-bottom guideline and score then fold along the side-to-side guideline. I choose to print my sentiments for the inside of the card on resume paper (it’s a bit fancier than regular printer paper) and trim to fit the inside of the folded card. Word art would be perfect for this! Another option is to use a sentiment stamp and ink in a colour to match the front of the card. All that’s left is to sign them, pop them into their envelopes and mail them!

Whew… two weeks until Christmas Eve! Better get on that!

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

To Theme or Not to Theme

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Hybrid Pillow Box

Have you ever wished you could customize your gift boxes and make them really personal for the intended recipient? Well, have I got a treat for you! And once again, the credit goes to calgirl (Steph). She found a printable template online for a pillow box and thought I could bring you a great seasonal tutorial for doing it digi. I thought it would be a lot more complicated than it ended up being, and I even managed to come up with a layered template for your crafting pleasure. You can grab it here: Dropbox

The template is on a letter-sized canvas so it can be printed on standard (inexpensive) cardstock. You can easily resize it a bit bigger or a lot smaller, and really make it your own. When you’re ready to print it you can either turn off the top (instruction) layer or delete it altogether.

So, go to your stash and decide what you’re going to use for your special pillow box… papers and embellishments for the occasion. I used Aimee Harrison’s A Rustic Christmas kit. Turn off that top instruction layer for now, or go ahead and delete. You’ll know what to do without it.

Drop your paper on top of the bottom layer. You’ll still be able to see the guidelines.

Then Clip (right-click>Create Clipping Mask or CTRL/CMD>ALT>G) your paper to the template.

Using the guidelines, add in your embellishments. If you’ve added a tag or a label, pick a pretty font and type in your sentiment. What could be better than NOT to need a tag or label? Once you’ve got your clusters and what-have-you in place, add in your shadows. All that’s left is to print it, cut it out from the cardstock, score it and fold it up. A little dab of glue along the very top edge to hold it together and you’re DONE! You can use a bone folder, or a stylus or a totally dead ballpoint pen to do your scoring. If you’re worried about the guidelines showing on your finished box, you can decrease the Opacity of that layer down to barely visible. Or… If you want, you can put the guidelines on the back simply by flipping over the paper and running it through the printer again. Just turn the rest of the layers off and everything will line up perfectly.

I make jewelry for gifts, and I think this would be a perfect way to present them. In a custom box with my signature on it! How many ways can you think of to make this work for you??

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Paper-to-Digi 3D Emboss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the new texture that adds?

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

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

This time Select>Modify>Contract to 15 pixels.

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

and CTRL/CMD>X away the Selected area.

Hit it with the Simple Emboss Bevel.

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

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

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

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

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Another Paper- to Digi-Technique – Stenciling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There! The only pink area is inside the circle.

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

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

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

After Cutting away the doily this is where I was.

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

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

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

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

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

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