Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements 2018+)

Background Check

Well, this didn’t turn out to be the fantabulous tutorial I had planned… let it be a cautionary tale instead! (I seem to be providing a lot of those lately.) What I was hoping would be simple and fun turned out to be more work than I expected, but it’s all good. I learned a few things while I was doing it and can provide tips for you to make it better for you. And that’s the goal with these tuts, right?

Starting with Photoshop Elements 2018, a Guided Edit for replacing an undesirable background was included in the Special Edits menu. I have SO many photos with blown-out skies that I’d love to replace with something more attractive, so I pulled one out of my Ireland 2018 folder. Let me say right now that next time I do this, I’ll be making some changes in how I do it. I’ll describe those changes as I go along.

So here’s my base photo, the one I want to improve on. The sky is pretty blown-out; this can be prevented in-camera through the use of neutral density filters, but I haven’t mastered that technique yet. It’s on my list… Anyway, I thought this would be a fairly simple edit, since the foreground is fairly sharply defined. When you try this, you might want to avoid trees. Just sayin’.

I tried the Auto selection tool but felt like it lacked control so I backed up and went with the Quick selection tool instead. It worked pretty well, for the most part. With a little more patience at this stage, I might have saved some time and effort later but that’s all part of the learning curve. I think the Brush tool might have been a better choice, and I’ll be trying that out in future edits.

Once I’d brought most of the foreground image into the selection, it was time for fine-tuning. See the marching ants along the roofline? The spruce in the foreground extends past the roof and needs to be included in the image. The trees on the far left are inside the selection already but will need some tweaking too.

When I moved to the Refine selection tool, the selected area turned red. The settings for this are customizable; I went with the defaults. With the mask at 80% Opacity, I can see where the mask obscures areas I want to include, and the white area is where I need to extend the selection.

I found this part of the process to be a little frustrating. I couldn’t zoom in to see what I was doing. The Refine tool is supposed to “snap” to the outline where two colours abut, and perhaps if I changed the tool setting for Snap Strength to 100% it might have worked better for me. Having gone through the whole Edit, this is where I would choose to spend my time Refining in future.

At this point, I went ahead and chose the photo with the desired background by clicking on the Import a photo bar. It opened up the folder where I got my original image, and lucky for me, there were a few choices of a nicer background in there. But it would be easy enough to go to a different folder and pick something there.

I had this lovely landscape of blue sky with puffy white clouds that will fill the selected area beautifully. So I selected it and clicked Place. If I didn’t have a photo with something nice that would work, I could have used one of the Presets or a solid colour, or nothing at all.

One click and this is where I found myself! If you don’t look to closely, it looks pretty good. But there are still some obvious white patches at the ends of the spruce branches.

So I zoomed in a bit and clicked on the Refine Edge Brush then Subtract. (Add would just uncover more of the blown-out sky.) Then I started bringing the blue sky up to the edges of the branches. I used a smallish brush and 100% Opacity. And it took FOREVER!

Extreme zoom was helpful at times, and not so much at others. Add in the unreliability of my “left-click” bar on the touchpad and you can see how it was a time suck. And frustrating. But I did get a better handle on how much pressure is needed to engage the “left-click” bar and keep it engaged.

One thing I found disconcerting, and a bit annoying, was that when I used the Hand tool to move the zoomed image around, the Refine Edge Brush looked like it was still active, but it wasn’t. Clicking again on the Hand tool didn’t turn it off, and I never thought to try clicking on the magnifying glass to see if that would work. Next time! At any rate, each time I moved the zoomed image, I had to deselect the Refine Edge Brush, REselect it and resize the tip to make it more controllable. I can see there needs to be some more experimentation with this Edit.

Eventually, I was happy with what I was seeing, both up close and from a distance. There’s still a little bit of a glow around the farthest-left-most tree, but it’s not obvious.

There’s one last option in this Edit, the Auto Match Color Tone tool. I decided to click it to see what it does.

Ick!! It lightened and softened the image too much!! So I Undid that step.

Now that I’m satisfied with my results I had another choice to make, what to do with it now. I chose to Save As it, with a new name so I’d know I’d edited it. But if I was ready to use it for a layout, I could have clicked on a Continue Editing bar and carried on.

I know I’ll use this Guided Edit again, with the suggestions I’ve made firmly in mind. If I discover anything new, I’ll come back and edit this post to keep you all up to speed.

Did you notice anything about this tutorial? The screenshots are so much bigger than usual – I learned something new about WordPress today!! I used the Windows Snipping Tool as Lori (teamkobza) suggested a couple of weeks back and it was less work than my previous method, so that’s a bonus. And then… when I imported them into WordPress, they were tiny; resizing them within WP made them really blurry. Then I noticed an advanced edit option that let me choose the original image size. BOOM! <doing the happy dance all over the living room>

See you next week!!

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

What’s Your Digital Style?

Can we talk about style for a minute? We all have a certain style, a concept of ourselves and our environment; that style is reflected in the way we dress, the way we decorate our homes, the way we interact with others… and how we scrap our memories. If you spend any time wandering through the Gallery you’ll know exactly what I mean. There are scrappers whose style is instantly recognizable – you don’t even need to look for the scrapper’s name. But have you ever thought about the basic underpinnings of style? Let’s discuss!

First let’s look at the very popular Pocket Scrapper style. This layout from the GingerScraps Gallery is by ngocNTTD. Pocket scrapping is organized and photo-oriented. It’s one of the most basic of paper-to-digital styles out there, having emerged from Project Life and the various other daily, weekly and monthly project formats. Pages in this style document day-to-day and special events in a clean, grid-based arrangement. Any embellishment will be limited so as not to obscure the all-important photos. As you can see, ngoc has included 10 photos in her layout.

 

Heritage scrapping is a very popular style, especially for those of us interested in genealogy. Who doesn’t love vintage photos of our ancestors? There’s something very powerful in documenting our past in this way, as craftytam has done in her layout below. These layouts focus on history through the use of muted colours, with a slightly distressed look. Information relating to the life of the subject is a must for these pages, which may be as simple as vital statistics or as detailed as a complete life story. Journaling in hand-written fonts is characteristic.

 

A combination of these two is the Storyteller style. KatherineWoodin‘s layouts are such perfect examples of this style. Each page tells of a specific event; photos aren’t a requirement but if they’re used, they’re integral to the story being told. There’s a heavy emphasis on journaling, as you can see below. The use of embellishments is dictated by the feeling the scrapper wants to convey.

 

Classic scrappers rely on clean lines, limited embellishment, precise placement and precise use of words. Layouts are conservative, in several senses – paper scrappers might default to this style because it doesn’t use a lot of “stuff”. In this layout by gethane, the classic style is obvious.

 

And that leads us to the Modern style. Glori2 has solidly incorporated this style as her own. Modern layouts are the ultimate in clean and simple, which refers to minimalism and not the use of texture and grunge. Embellishments are few, and very carefully chosen. White space is vital to this style, giving the eye many options to rest.

 

I suppose the opposite of Modern is the Shabby Chic layout. This layout by kabrak1207 is a stellar example of Shabby Chic… muted pastels, vintage elements and ephemera, brushes and worn paper come together to create a visually appealing whole.

 

The Artist scrapper focuses on the overall image, using paints, brushes, blending and a multi-media approach. Kythe uses a deft hand here, blending not only the photo but also the leaves into her background. Those little ghosts look ethereal and are grounded by the vignette in the foreground. Artist-style layouts don’t rely on journaling to tell a story, and may not include a title either.

 

The last style is an art-form all on its own. Art Journaling conveys emotion through imagery. There really are no rules in Art Journaling, other than to use it as a way to express things we might not be comfortable expressing in any other form. Rather than putting a feeling into words, the use of word art, word strips, doodles, brushes, paint and textiles are used to tell the story. Intensely personal, this might be the most difficult of all styles to integrate into one’s repertoire, but cinderella has no problem!

 

Thinking about your own layouts, where does YOUR style fit? It’s quite likely that you aren’t easily pigeon-holed into a single style, but pull different aspects from several into your work. And as time passes, your style will evolve, both as your skills grow and as your world changes. HOW you do it isn’t as important as that you DO it! As for me, I’m still working the kinks out with the new laptop and having some trouble getting comfortable with it. It can only get better, right?

 

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Slaying the Green-Eyed Monster

Well, as you can see, I’m more or less back in business. It has been a week from hell, I won’t lie. My new laptop is a different brand, and there are some things I’m still getting used to with it. The left touchpad button is really stiff, which means it doesn’t react the way the old one did, and requires a lot more effort on my part. Saving screenshots isn’t a one-step action on it and it took me a bit of experimenting to find the method that will work best for me. But… when is screenshots, it only captures what’s inside my Elements workspace, so I don’t have to crop them. So I guess it balances out. But… When I open them in WordPress, they’re very small and I’ve had to manually enlarge them, which made them blurry. So next week I’ll be doing something different! More details on the disaster my life has been later. For now, I’ve done a test-run tutorial to work out some of the kinks. It’s short on steps therefore short on screenshots. But it’s getting us back on the road and that’s a good thing.

Flash photography and retinas. They aren’t compatible! The aperture our irises have set is for the level of light in the room, so when the flash goes off, the irises can’t react quickly enough to shut down, and the flash bounces off our retinas, making us look like demented monsters with red eyes. (Considering this is October, it could be a desirable state, but that’s a personal thing!) Human eyes go red in flash photos, animal eyes go a really ugly green-yellow. (If you’re wondering why, animals don’t see the full spectrum of colour, and have very few cone cells in their retinas; they’re the ones that reflect red.) Of course, neither looks particularly attractive. Until Photoshop Elements 12, adjusting pet eyes was a multi-step process and a bit tedious. With PSE 12, all that changed.

Here’s a photo of my grand-dog Lucy. It’s not horrible, but I don’t think I’d scrap it without fixing her eyes. This is such a simple, Quick Edit!

This is the basic workspace for Quick Edits. If you need to make simple adjustments, tweak for red eyes or not-quite-white teeth, this is where you’ll go. Click on the Eye Tool.

Woohoo! There’s even a single-click Pet Eye button that tells the software it’s looking for something other than red.

I like to zoom in so I can really see what I’m doing. (New laptop = 17.3 inch screen!) But look at Lucy… that’s ugly!

One click inside each eye and Elements has eliminated the green-eyed monster! It really is that simple!

Okay, now to get serious again for a minute. My faithful readers will know that I had over 2,000 fonts on my old laptop. When I was able to access the files on it and make a backup to move to the new one, I copied my font folder, along with my styles, brushes and actions, onto my external hard drive. But I didn’t verify that the fonts were actually copied. I discovered THIS MORNING that the folder on the EHD is empty. So I spent several hours re-downloading and reinstalling a bunch of my paid fonts from the Font Bundles website. I’m far from finished – then I have to track down the free fonts I had too. What I’m trying to impart here is that when you’re finished reading this, you should immediately go to your font folder and copy it onto some form of stable storage and then back it up occasionally from now on so you NEVER find yourself following me down the rabbit hole. After you’ve copied the file, make sure the fonts are actually IN the folder! You know I’ll be doing just that later when I’ve recreated my font collection… and backing up everything else too. Time to make some good habits.

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

Breaking the Digi-scrapping Code

When I was reading through the comments on last week’s tutorial Another Paper-Scrapping Digi-Hack something Pam K said about my use of the word “coffin” (referring to the weirdly shaped open areas of the snowflake brush I was using) made me laugh. She said, “Jan, I thought “coffin” was a scrapbooking term that I hadn’t heard of yet — LOL!! When I first started digi-scrapping, I was lost by the use of a lot of acronyms (GSO, LOTD, etc) & different words that (to me) seemed to describe the same thing (splatter, paint, graffiti). 🙂” But then I got to thinking… I wondered how many newbies to our amazing hobby are in the same boat, wondering just what the heck we’re talking about. So I decided I’d create a little glossary of digi-scrapping terms and acronyms. I think I’ll start with some generalities then move on to more specific stuff.

Let’s start with Software related terms. (Updated September 18 to include corrections from readers with more knowledge of PS CC and Gimp.)

PS : Photoshop – the most versatile and flexible graphics and image-editing software, from Adobe; expensive with a steep learning curve

PS CC : Photoshop Creative Cloud – a software package that is subscription based, on a monthly basis paid annually; identical to Photoshop above also includes access to online storage (at extra cost). If you don’t renew your subscription or miss a payment, you lose the license for using the software.

PSE: Photoshop Elements – a more economical choice of software, with many shared features with PS but a slightly less-steep learning curve; the most common software in use for both photo editing and digital scrapbooking according to several polls I’ve seen

Gimp: Gnu Image Manipulation Program – a free, cross-platform raster-based image editing software, also quite popular in the digi-scrapping world; it doesn’t allow for non-destructive editing. When using commercial templates, the PSD, TIFF and PNG  formats are compatible (see below)

Artisan: Forever’s digital scrapbooking and photo editing software – less versatile than either PS, PSE or Gimp; close in price to PSE. Autopopulates pre-designed layouts; no ability to use layered templates but is compatible with most digi-scrapping kits. Forever has a small selection of digi kits and a line of photo-based products similar to Shutterfly. My Memories Suite is comparable, but less costly

Layout: an arrangement of images – photos, papers, elements and text – for artistic or documentary purposes. Also LO.

Template: a file containing multiple layers; the layers build a layout from the background up, indicating where paper, elements and text will go. Templates speed up your workflow by eliminating much of the decision-making necessary for positioning items on your layouts, but still allowing for a lot of originality.

Clip: visually altering a photo or paper by attaching and “cutting” it to fit inside a specified outline. (Think multiple layers of paper in different sizes and shapes.)

Clipping mask: a defined shape with uniform or variable opacity, to which papers or photos may be clipped.

Brush: the digital equivalent of rubber or acrylic stamps

Stroke: a customizable outline around an object; options are colour, width, transparency and whether it goes inside, right over or outside the edge of the object

Style: a method of altering the appearance of an object that may include bevel (gives the look of thicker or embossed material), drop shadow (darker, semi-transparent outline), inner glow (highlighted area inside the outline) and outer glow (highlighted area outside the outline) and colour (variably transparent, often completely covers the underlying colour)

Filter: adjusts the appearance of objects or surfaces to resemble other media such as watercolour, mosaic or texture; also includes some options for blurring

Action: a series of automated commands that instruct the software to make adjustments to photos or other images; actions “run” on the image to edit them quickly and easily with some options for manual tweaking. There are a number of sources for actions, including a bunch of free ones from the Coffeeshop blog. They take your really nice photo and elevate it to outstanding in less than a minute!

Extraction: digitally removing the background from a photo or scan; the equivalent of using cuticle scissors to cut out a face or other image from a “real” photo

PNG: Portable Network Graphic – an raster-based object with a transparent background, the format which allows resizing without loss of detail; the most common use of this is for digital elements.

Raster: Bit-mapped images – a grid of individual pixels that together form an image

PSD: Photoshop Document – the entire collection of layers which have been created or altered in the creation of an image; the format for PS and PSE friendly templates

TIFF: Tagged Image File Format – another way of saving a compressed multi-layered document like a template without losing detail; creates a file smaller than a PSD but larger than a JPEG

JPEG: Joint Photographic Expert Group – a compressed image file with some loss of detail, but generally not noticeably so; the most common file type for storage and sharing of digital photos and other images

Are you thoroughly confused? Wait… it’s about to get worse! We’re moving on to digi-scrapping community acronyms and terms.

GSO: Gallery Stand Out – a term first coined by the digi-scrapping blog Fingerpointing; the blog began as a way for new digi-scrappers to learn how to grow their skills through example and constructive criticism. Now it’s more of a place for digi-scrappers to reap the rewards and accolades afforded to excellence. A team of respected digi-scrap artists browse through digital galleries for the major online digi-scrapping communities then post a mini-gallery of their picks for the day with a description of what drew them to the layouts. I’ve had the huge honour of having TWO layouts so recognized this summer.

LOTD: Layout of the Day – some online communities include a layout chosen by the staff of their store as layout of the day according to criteria they determine for their particular community

LOTW: Layout of the Week – here at GingerScraps, we have a weekly GSO that is selected by the community itself. And that segués into the GS-specific stuff…

Sugar Cookie: a member of the GS praise team. These ladies have a responsibility to make sure ALL people who post their layouts in the GS Gallery are seen and commented upon, part of our friendly, welcoming attitude. So the Cookies spend time looking at layouts, sometimes dissecting them for special techniques (right glee?), then leaving some love for the scrapper. Another one of their responsibilities is to choose the contenders for LOTW through…

Baker’s Best: a layout that makes a special impact on the viewer. Anyone can make a nomination for Baker’s Best by indicating it in a comment left under the layout then posting in the Baker’s Best forum thread. The Cookies must choose one each week. And as a former Cookie, I’ll tell you… IT’S HARD to pick just one!! lorigaud manages the BB program; she notifies each of the contenders for LOTW so they can check out their competition and ensuring their layout gets at least one vote.

Fresh Baked: GingerScraps’ name for the weekly new releases.

The Buffet: all designer kits created using the colour palette of the month, as chosen by Ginger; they release on the first day of the month. These kits/collections are on sale for the first 5 days of each month then go to regular price.

Bake Sale: a selection of kits chosen by the designers that are on sale for just a SINGLE DOLLAR for 5 days, from the 15th to 20th each month.

Monthly Mix: a huge collaboration collection created by the GingerBread Ladies team of designers that is only $5.25 for the entire month it’s released in, after which it goes to the regular price of $7. The September Monthly Mix is called Sunny Delight and contains 5 (lowercase only) alphas, 46 papers and 73 elements. Can’t be beat!!

Cookie Jar: where you keep track of your Challenge layouts so you can win the Challenge Reward kit. You will receive this Reward kit, created by the GingerBread Ladies, in the month where you reach 10 challenges completed. Some people get in 10 challenges almost every month and have a ginormous stash of these awesome kits. <hides in the corner>

Scrapping Survivor: a progressive digi-scrapping game modeled after TV’s Survivor, complete with alliances, weekly challenges, tree mail, immunity challenges and tribal councils. It’s a really popular event with separate tracks for staff and non-staff (who aren’t eligible for the grand prize, to make it more fair) and culminates in the crowning of the Sole Survivor. The prizes are pretty fabulous… now that I’m retired and my real job doesn’t get in the way any more I think I might join in for the 10th contest.

And there you have it, my friends. A short (and hardly complete) glossary for digi-scrapping the GingerScraps way! [Can you believe this is tutorial #150?? I can’t!!]

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Another Paper-Scrapping Digi-Hack!

Are y’all enjoying GingerScraps‘ Eleventh Birthday Bash?

So, I was wasting a rainy Sunday afternoon browsing Pinterest, trying to ignore the chill in the air and looking for distraction. And suddenly, there was some inspiration for a tutorial (as soon as I figured out how to do it!) for another digital version of a paper-scrapping technique. And it builds on the heat-embossing tutorial from last week, so it seemed like it was meant to be. Here’s the photo that caught my eye, from the Stampin’ Up design team. Do you see where I’m going?

If you’ve read any of my other tutorials, you’ll know that I like to do things like this on their own canvas, and I like to work large, then make small. To that end, I opened up a 12×12 canvas on my workspace. Then I browsed through my brush collection until I found a great set of snowflake brushes that came from a former GS designer, Pretty in Green.

I like the look of my inspirational image so I’m going to use black, but of course you do you!

I enlarged the brush to its maximum size. It can always be resized later (as long as it’s on its own layer).

Then I dropped a tonal paper from Connie Prince‘s pretty Snowflake Kisses kit UNDERNEATH the brush layer.

I’m not going to pretend that the next few steps didn’t take a lot of trial and error to get it right. The first step is to click on the Layer Thumbnail of the BRUSH layer to select the edges of the brush.

Then I clicked Select>Modify>Expand to make the selection bigger.

Here’s where the take-a-guess-and-hope-for-the-best comes in. I want all the various parts of the brush area to be contiguous with the others. I finally settled on 75 pixels.

Because the brush was designed by a human and not a machine, the hearts weren’t exactly and precisely spaced away from the solid line outline so the pixel width had to accommodate for that in order to eliminate the gaps. When you try this yourself you’ll soon see what I mean. But the gaps can’t stay, they mess up future steps so getting it right now is vital.

I played with this whole technique for several hours before I got it all settled in my head. I want the paper to be a solid background for the brush, and that meant I had to eliminate those “coffin” areas. I knew I’d have to ensure there are NO tiny little open areas in the paper when I “fussy cut” it, so to make sure I got the job done in the most efficient manner I put a blank layer in between my paper and my brush. (If you look closely you can see the marching ants around the edges of the selection.)

But first I had to fill the selection to be able to see where the little gaps might be. On the blank layer, I chose the Paint Bucket tool and my black foreground. Then I clicked on a random spot inside the snowflake shape.

Of course, the marching ants still outlined the “coffins” so they’ll have to be manually filled.

To turn off the marching ants, you can click Select>Deselect or you can use the keyboard shortcut D.

Then I went back with the Paint Bucket and filled in each “coffin”. After they were all filled in, I clicked in several more random spots inside the outlined area to fill in as many of the invisible gaps as I could.

Then, just because I had tried to make this technique work as simply as possible about a dozen times already, I zoomed in on my black snowflake and using a black round brush, I covered up any remaining gaps.

There are two ways to use this shape as a clipping mask. This is the labour-intensive way. With the PAPER layer active, click on the mask Layer Thumbnail to select the edge and get the marching ants. Then click Select>Inverse (CTRL/CMD>Shift>I) to have the PAPER selected, not the shape.

Now you can Edit>Cut (X) the paper surrounding the mask away.

Now the mask layer can be Deleted. (Obviously, to Work Smart Not Hard, I could have moved the mask layer below the paper layer then Clipped the paper to the mask… which is what I did with the second example below. Live and learn!)

To get the flocked look on my brush, first I applied a Bevel Layer Style. Just as I did last tutorial, I clicked on the Styles button at the bottom of the Layers panel, then chose Bevels>Soft Pillow Emboss.

The default settings are fine, so on to the next step.

It’s a really good idea to Simplify layers when you’re planning to layer Styles, like I’m going to do here. Otherwise that bevel could disappear.

Several GS designers create Style sets to go with their collections but Katie of Just So Scrappy/Ooh La La Scraps is the only one who has a FELT style. I used JSS Lucky Me‘s black felt.

Look at that! And I Simplify

Now to do the digital version of “fussy cutting”, which leaves a thin white edge around the image. Super simple with a Stroke! Edit>Stroke (Outline Selection)

I just pulled 30 pixels out of the air and applied it to the INSIDE of the edge.

For those of you who have paper-scrapped, you know how the Stampin’ Up designers got the elevated look with their ornament cutouts. They used double-faced foam tape. Digitally, it’s a simple shadow! If you need a refresher on creating custom shadows, you can find my quick-and-easy method here. It starts with a blank layer UNDERNEATH the cutout.

I clicked on the cutout Layer Thumbnail with the blank layer active.

Then I Filled the outline with black.

So there’s the basic shadow layer. Clicking D gets rid of the marching ants and clicking V activates the Move tool.

I decided that I wanted a right-sided 30° angle on my light source so I nudged the shadow layer over as shown. To turn a flat black blob into something that looks like a shadow, it’s necessary to Blur it. Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur it, to be more precise.

To see the effect the Blur filter has, you can click on an edge with the cursor and it’ll pop up in the box as shown. Slide the handle to the right until it looks good to your eye. I went to 11.1 pixels.

I always change the Blend Mode for my shadow layers, which will change the transparency and the overall effect, but it’s an optional step. With this one I used Color Burn. It’s important to do this step BEFORE you adjust the Opacity, because the Blend Mode tool will stay turned on if you do it later, and then when you use your arrows thinking you’re going to nudge something, it isn’t going to move, but it might change colour or disappear altogether…

And then adjust the Opacity to what looks right.

Then I went ahead and made a second snowflake cutout using (most of) the same steps.

When you have two objects overlapping, the shadow will look different where the items actually touch. So I used the Smudge tool (the one that looks like a fingertip) to push the shadow a little closer to the upper layer and to pull it away a little where there would be more space between the paper and the background. It’s subtle but it does make a difference. (Take another look at the inspiration photo if you’re still confused.)

How did I do?

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)


Digital Duplication: Embossing

Lately my head has been turning toward the upcoming holidays, and crafting handmade cards for those special people in my life. I’m also always seeking inspiration for my next tutorial… and suddenly several trains of thought collided in my head. There’s a paper-crafting technique that I LOVE, especially for cards, and it occurred to me that I should figure out how to achieve the same look digitally. That technique is called heat emboss resist, and when you do it on paper it’s a lot of messy steps. Using Versamark ink and a favourite stamp, you first make your stamped image on your paper. Then you sprinkle embossing powder over top of the wet Versamark. Then you heat the powder, which melts, adheres to the ink and gets a nice shine on it. Then you can paint over it with either ink or watercolour. The end result is a raised image that repels the ink or paint, and allows the embossing powder colour or base paper to show through. See the photo below that I borrowed from cardbomb.com. You can see the dimension and the way the paint is repelled. So how can that be done digitally?

from cardbomb.com

I had to play around for quite awhile until I had it all figured out. But first, I wanted to create a suitable canvas for this project. I took three papers from Lindsay Jane‘s Denim and Flowers collection and the mask created by the lovely Jenn of Shepherd Studio for the September Brush Challenge.

I dropped the solid aqua paper on my workspace, then added the purple solid on top of that. Of course, that made the aqua paper disappear. But by changing the Blend Mode on that purple paper, I can create magic! (But magic usually means trial-and error!)

I settled on Color Burn for my Blend Mode and this is what happened.

But just to be REALLY fancy, I also used the patterned aqua paper.

For that I chose Luminosity.

This is what happened with that move. But the rest of my efforts will be wasted if I leave it like this.

So I dropped the Opacity 50% and now I like what I see.

Then I added the mask onto the canvas.

I decided I wanted a purple mask, not black, so I went to my purple paper and chose a spot with the Eyedropper tool, then made it a bit darker. You can see the difference in the color selector box to the upper right of the menu box.

To change the mask’s colour quickly and easily, I clicked Layer>New Fill Layer>Solid Color….

Then when the tool menu opened, I made sure the Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask was checked. The tool will then only fill the selected area with the new colour.

Boom! I like to Merge my Fill Layer with the layer under it so they stay together for later. But you don’t have to do that.

Now I’m going to use a Brush… the digital equivalent of rubber stamps. I ALWAYS put my brushes on their own layer for greater control. If I need to make the brush bigger or smaller, change the orientation of it, copy it or reverse it, I can. Oh, and I can apply Styles to it too…

I didn’t need to play with this brush (created by the talented Karla Noël) to get it to look right, other than to adjust the size so it fits into a solid area of the mask. The colour of the brush doesn’t matter for this technique, so I went with black for maximum visibility.

I want the paper to show through so I moved the brush layer under the mask layer then clicked on the Layer Thumbnail to select the edges of the brush. With the MASK layer selected, I Edit>Cut (CTRL/CMD>X) the brush outline out of the mask.

Remember, I was experimenting and taking screenshots as I worked, so there are some unnecessary steps in here, as you’ll see later. I wanted to give the brush some dimension so it looks like heat embossing, so I clicked on the Styles button at the bottom of the Layers panel then chose Bevels. These styles come embedded in the software. The style I used (after I tried almost all of them!) is the Simple Pillow Emboss style, with the default settings.

This is what it looks like with the default settings. It surely does look like puffy paint!

Here’s where some of the unnecessary steps come in, but bear with me. I duplicated the embossed brush then went back into the Styles menu and chose Wow Plastic, which also is embedded in the software. I chose the White one down there at the lower left.

Black’s gone!

Here’s where you’ll be shaking your head because I’m working hard, not smart! I made a copy of the copy layer with the white plastic style applied. I didn’t need to do it, as I learned in a moment… Then I selected the mask layer. Because I’m going to move it.

By putting the mask layer underneath all three brush layers, I can see all sorts of effects that were invisible before.

So I checked out the fx on the bottom, embossed-only layer. No adjustments to be made there.

But the middle layer, that’s where there’s a ton of potential. I want the brush to look grounded but also dimensional. So I played with the settings here and settled on what you see. Can you see the changes?

Here’s where I found out I wasn’t smart. But I have what looks a lot like a white heat-embossed stamp on my layout, “resisting” the watercolour mask.

I thought I’d leave it at that, but then I started thinking about transparent embossing powder – which really is a thing – and how it would allow the background paper to show through. Could I digitally duplicate that? Let’s see! Up to this point, I’ve blended the papers and merged them, dropped the mask on the paper and recoloured it then added the brush (just one layer) and used the Soft Pillow Emboss style on it. The mask layer has its visibility turned off for now. In the Wow Plastic styles set there’s a Clear one. What does that do?

That’s what it does! But it still needs some help to look more realistic.

With only a single brush layer there’s only a single fx to play with. I made some tweaks, but I’m not sure they’ll be right until I add the mask.

Oh. No. That’s not quite the look I’m after, so I made a few more fx adjustments.

But it still didn’t look quite right, so I lowered the Opacity to 50% and NOW I’m happy!

There’s just a hint of shine on it, some dimension and it looks just fine!

Is there a paper-crafting technique you’d like me to translate to digital? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

Making the Most of Milestones

Before I get into today’s discussion I want to thank all of you for your get-well wishes last week. I’m not completely back to normal but can see it from here. I had bronchitis and am still coughing, but no longer running a temp, waking up with a vicious headache or feeling like I’d been run over by a train. I’ve eaten a party-pack of Popsicles over the last two weeks and think I’ll need to keep them in the house all the time now. I forgot how much I like them!

Here in the northern hemisphere, kids are going back to school and summer is winding down. Is it just me or has the first-day-of-school photo shoot gotten as complicated as wedding photos? When my kids were still in school, first day photos were taken standing by the front door for a height reference, with various grimacing and bellyaching. These days it seems, there must be props, special backdrops, dozens of poses and expense. But what can the average mom do to commemorate their precious kiddos’ first days without the headaches? Turns out getting memorable shots doesn’t have to be a huge hassle. Let’s talk about how!

Think about it ahead of time! Planning is never wasted and in this case it can be squeezed in wherever you have a free moment. Think about what you want, how much time you want to put into it, how much advance prep you want to involve and don’t forget to think about your child’s personality. If you have a few minutes, take a look on Pinterest for ideas so you can start palling for them.

Don’t be a slave to the calendar! Nobody’s going to change dramatically in a few days so those first-day photos can actually be taken the weekend before, when nobody’s rushing to get out the door. The weather doesn’t have to be a factor if you don’t take those photos on the exact first day. It’ll also give you a chance to be sure the chosen first-day outfit still fits, is clean and doesn’t have buttons missing.

You don’t need to buy a bunch of props! A simple chalkboard or whiteboard can be highly useful. You can write whatever you want on it and change it between kids. Have your child write his name on the board, then write in the date and their new grade. Simple! Felt signboards can be just as useful, if you already have one. The child’s name, date, grade and school name will all fit on the small ones. An apple, a couple of books or handful of pencils will work as visual connectors to the occasion. Backpacks, lunch bags, new shoes, all those things can serve as props. One image I think would be awesome is of their new shoes, on their feet, with their new backpack leaning against their leg.

Simple backdrops are free! Think a brick wall, the sidewalk in front of your house, their school, a school bus 0r even the siding on your house. Brick walls are classic school images and are nicely neutral. Stand slightly to the child’s side so you’re not perpendicular to the wall, have the child lean his shoulders against the wall then turn a little toward you and start shooting! Have your child stand on the sidewalk with her backpack in hand. Use the portrait setting on your camera, crouch down so you’re on the same level as her eyes and snap! The background will be slightly blurry but still be recognizable. It’ll give the sense of the journey about to begin. Another really effective pose has the child/children walking down the sidewalk AWAY from you, maybe glancing back over one shoulder. OR – use sidewalk chalk to write out the important stuff then have the child lay down on the sidewalk looking up at you. Or shoot down looking at their feet with their new grade in chalk on the pavement. Shooting with the portrait setting from the sidewalk in front of the school can give nice depth of field to provide that sense of growing up and away. If there’s a big sign in front of the school, you could pose your little person sitting cross-legged on the concrete anchoring it to the ground. Another option is to have them posing as if they’re entering the school. And even if your child isn’t going to ride the school bus, they’re dandy backdrops. If your house has clapboard, aluminum or vinyl siding, those horizontal lines can provide a handy journaling spot right on the photo. Simply pose the child to one side of your frame so you have some lovely white space there.

Teenagers can still have first day photos! I know mine gave me serious eye rolls every year after they finished middle school. But I still made them stand there for 10 seconds while I snapped off a quick photo. One way to make it less onerous for them is to print out some little signs on plain paper for them to hold up, using hashtags (let them choose for even more cooperation) like #senior, #backtoschool, #lamephotoday or #almostdone. Tater Tots and Jello has a nice collection of printables all ready for you. Oh, and let them decide how they pose.

Telling stories is what it’s about! Especially for the really little ones, that first day of school is going to be exhausting. They’ve gotten up earlier than they have in weeks, they’ve had a lot of overwhelming new experiences and met a ridiculous number of new people. So you might want to get a photo of them as they arrive home, looking tired and out-of-sorts. One idea I particularly like is the t-shirt one: buy an oversized t-shirt in your little one’s favourite colour (at the moment, ’cause we all know that’s going to change!) then have “Class of [graduation year]” printed on the front. Each year, take a photo of them wearing it. It’ll perfectly chronicle their growth and development and eliminate the conundrum of “what to wear”. Another way to capture that changeling changing is to take a first day photo AND a last day photo for each year. Oh, before I forget, I saw a brilliant idea yesterday. Print out LAST year’s first day photo as an 8×10, frame it in a dollar store frame and have your child hold it in front of them. Perfect record of them as they grow!

These tips can be applied to other occasions as well with just a little thought and very little money. Look online for free printables. They’re everywhere and for every possible event. I’m looking forward to seeing all the back-to-school layouts that I know will be filling up the Gallery any day now!

Tutorial Tuesday – Back to Basics

Anatomy of a Well-Composed Layout

Last week’s tutorial about stacking papers brought this comment from Franghurst: “I found this article very useful.  I have never stacked a paper digitally and I now feel comfortable enough to give it a try.  It’s great when you give us a brand new idea about doing something but I must admit, I like the articles when you go back to the basics.  It’s fun to be reminded how to do things that you learned about a while back.” Of course, that got me thinking. And thinking some more. Today we’re going to go right back the most basic aspect of scrapbooking: composition!

When I look at the layouts in the Gallery, there are layouts that snag my attention right away. I think you know what I mean. There are some things these really fabulous layouts have in common: they’re well-composed. It might not be obvious what makes them catch the eye, so let’s talk about the six basic components of composition. These are focal point, leading lines, balance, rule of thirds, white space and movement.

Focal point: Usually the purpose of a layout is to showcase a photo, or photos. So typically they will be the focal point. But not always. Sometimes the scrapper wants the focus on the story it’s telling, and sometimes the focus is on some other aspect of the layout. This piece by shawnbear is definitely focused on the large photo. She has used several tools from the composition list to achieve her goal.

The size of the photo is the first tool; the rays of paper and the column of elements does the rest.

Leading lines: What exactly are leading lines? They are whatever linear aspects of a layout that lead the eye right to the focal point. Like shawnbear‘s papers. This layout by gwalters goes even deeper into leading lines because they’re both in the main photo AND the layout.

The wire of the fence draws the eye to his face. with one eye framed by them. The chevrons lead the eye to her title. And the concentric paper squares emphasize the converging lines of the layout quite neatly.

Balance: There are lots of ways to create balance in our layouts. The goal is to have areas of equal weight. Flissy61 has done just that.

She’s got the large blended photo balanced by the trio of smaller photos at the bottom. Let’s talk about those small photos for a second. Notice how she has a photo of just the sculpture and a photo of just her daughter, flanking a photo of both. Bingo! Balance. Then she’s used repetition to add more balance to the image with the two vines and the pennants.

Rule of Thirds: This is something I discussed in a previous tutorial on taking better photos. The “Rule of Thirds” means imaginarily dividing your image into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, then placing any (or all!) intersection of those imaginary lines over a focal point. lmtroch has done that in her layout below.

Do you see it? (My lines might be a little off… I eyeballed them.)

White space: This isn’t a literal thing… more of an uncrowded area of the layout where the eye can go to rest. Jill is a master at the use of white space – literally in this layout!

I think white space is a vastly underused tool. But see how effective it is to have these two large areas of just paper.

And last is Movement. By this I mean the way the layout guides the eye around to take in all its components. becky_a makes it look easy.

It really doesn’t matter where you start with this layout, your eye is moved around the whole thing perfectly. Here again, the placement of her photos is key; they all are facing the centre of the layout – harmonious and very pleasing. The bubbles act as a vector to move the viewer, as does the piece of string. And the three little flower clusters keep things on track.

Okay. There you have the factors that create strong compositions. I invite you take a good look at each of these layouts and see if you can pick out each of the “rules” in them. You might also take a critical look at the templates you really like and analyze what makes them attractive to you. I bet you’ll find at least a couple of ways to fit them into the “rules”!

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

Anatomy of a Paper Stack

I don’t often give a lot of thought to the process of creating layouts, but a comment I received from becky_a on a layout I prepared for Katie of Just So Scrappy and Ooh La La Scraps with her August Buffet collection Live Life started me thinking about it. The two layouts I created for this collection were a little unusual for me, because I didn’t use templates for either of them. (I just couldn’t find one that I liked enough!) The layout becky_a commented on is this one:

… and this is what she said: “I love stacked papers like this and I have the most difficult time making them look right, lol. You make it look so easy.” I had to go look at the layout because I wasn’t sure what she meant! And then I thought maybe it might be worth talking about.

There are no rules for paper stacking. None. It’s pretty much a free-for-all! You can use whatever papers you like, mixing patterns and colours, shapes and angles to suit your whims. Let’s talk first about choosing papers. I’ve always struggled with boldly-patterned paper. They don’t often work with my style of scrapping, but using them in a paper stack like this is one way I can feel comfortable using them. As you can see, that black and white patterned paper is pretty bold! But it’s black and white, so it can work with pretty much anything. I like the paper closest to the photos and elements and largest by area to be relatively neutral, so it doesn’t draw the eye away from the meat-and-potatoes part of the layout. If I’m not planning on journaling ON that paper, patterns can work. I also like to mix up scale. A bold paper needs to be balanced by some smaller patterns or solids. But that doesn’t mean you CAN’T use another bold pattern, because you can resize to so it works well with  your other papers and what you’re doing with them. This is pretty much how I approach paper stacking all the time, whether or not I’m using a template; I like to contrast bright with neutral, bold with subtle, pattern with solid and to have some visible difference between them. But that’s how JAN stacks papers. I’ve seen lots of fabulous stacked-paper layouts where the scrapper has used a monochrome palette, mixed lots of patterns together or only used solids, so as I said, no rules!

Let’s look at this layout, also with the same collection and sans template. I use the Marquee tool and Inverse (Select>Inverse or CTRL/CMD>Shift>I) to cut my random shapes. To make concentric circles or ovals, I make a copy of the first oval then use the Select>Modify>Decrease path, typing in a pixel count to make the new oval smaller. Clip a paper to it and move on.

(My daughter and sister might not like to know I’ve called them both weird people. Or maybe they’d take it as a compliment. IDK!) When talking about colours, I often pull colour from my photographs. OR… I go for contrast. Here, the photo is pretty neutral, so the red, orange, purple and green from the kit all work together. You can see that I’ve mixed in some ovals and rectangles, some pennants and the square background papers. I’m going to tell you how I do those backgrounds, which might be news to those still learning digi-scrapping but is probably old hat to the more experienced in the group.

First step is to choose your papers. Then open a new 12×12 (or your favourite dimensions) canvas on your workspace. Decide which paper will be your main background, the one you want right under your elements and photo(s). Decide on the order of your other papers, keeping in mind the aesthetics of the layout as a whole. I usually use 3 papers for these stacked backgrounds because, as my dear friend Sandy Scott likes to remind me, 3 is an aesthetically pleasing number. You can drop them all onto your layout, turning visibility off to the topmost ones so you can see what you’re doing as you climb the stack. Or you can add them one at a time. Whatever suits your workflow. I’m showing them all piled on at once and in the screenshot after this one, you’ll see that the topmost paper is invisible.

To make a visually pleasing rotated stack, you’ll want to make the upper papers a bit smaller than the background paper. (Or not. Remember, no rules!) The easiest way to do it is to click on one of the corner “handles” on the bounding box, then either pull that handle in toward the centre, or take the quick-and-lazy route and type a number into that box I’ve shown you here. That keeps the papers centered one on top of the other. Just make sure you’ve got the Constrain Proportions box checked so it shrinks the paper in both horizontal and vertical planes.

Then rotate that second piece of paper. The Pivot point selected is the centre one – the default. The angle will be half of the percentage by which you’ve shrunk your paper, unless you want your corners to extend off the page. There are two spots where you can see the angle you’re rotating to, the black pop-up box and down in the Tool panel. I usually just eye-ball it.

I like to keep the papers in a rotated stack, other than the actual background, all the same size. It’s obviously not required, it’s just my OCD-ness. Shrinking the paper is done in exactly the same manner.

Then I tip the next/top paper in the opposite direction, to about the same angle. And that’s all there is to it! Shadow those babies up and you’re ready to move along.

The second example is even more straightforward.

When you’re doing this kind of stack, if you want a symmetrical border of the background paper visible, make sure your Pivot point is in the centre. It’s important! Typing a number into one of the dimension boxes – either one is fine, as long as you’re Constrained – is quick.

But if your Pivot point is in the lower right corner, for example, when you type in your number, this is what will happen. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, because there are ways it can make your workflow more streamlined if you want to work from a corner out. (You can tell this screenshot was an after-thought. Sorry!)

Here, you can see what decreasing the paper size by 5% for the first one and 5% MORE for the second one will look like. You can use any amount you like; if you want a wider border of your very bottom paper, go with a bigger drop. If you want one border wider than another, choose a smaller or larger decrease. A nice solid paper with a narrow gap looks really good. Oh, and you CAN use a decimal in that box. You don’t have to go with whole numbers.

All of these tips can be applied to any stack of papers you might contemplate, either as part of a template or freehand. Give it a shot becky_a, you’re probably underestimating yourself a LOT!

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

Can We Talk?

Today I’d like to take a baby step outside my comfort zone and talk about journaling. I struggle with it. I don’t love it. I’m VERY uncomfortable with it. But I know it’s an important part of memory-keeping, so I work at it. I know some of you are shaking your heads, because you’ve read my tutorials and you know how wordy I am. 😉 But somehow, I hate to put all those words onto my layouts.

So let’s deconstruct journaling a little. Why is it important? Well, first of all, the viewer isn’t necessarily going to know who is in the photos, what they’re doing, when it occurred, why they’re together or where it happened. Basic journalism 101. Some of these factors aren’t important every time, but for a scrapbooking layout to be meaningful, at least a couple of them should be included. A date and a location might be all that’s needed. For other layouts, like heritage layouts using very old family photos, more detail isn’t only needed, it’s what makes the layout special. Take this one for example.

I’ve put all the pertinent details in there. Now when others see it, they know a little about this boy. What it doesn’t say is why this layout is important to me, how Kenneth is connected to me… it’s lacking context. But if I tell you it’s part of a family history scrapbook, where I’ll include an extensive, multi-generation family tree, then it might not matter. (Kenneth is currently part of a genealogical mystery my cousin Lynne and I are trying to solve. He’s my first cousin twice removed while Lynne is one generation closer to him; he may have been “born on the wrong side of the blanket”. Now to prove it!)

Another aspect of journaling that matters is format. My personal dislike of narrative journaling is reflected in many of my layouts by its absence. But to other scrappers, narrative works. They’re able to tell a complete story within their page, filled with detail… and my deepest admiration! When I try to do that, it sounds stilted and boring. Here’s a glimpse into Katherine Woodin‘s life; her pages are always filled with day-to-day events and are like a pictorial diary.

Others use narrative journaling to process difficult events, as Biancka did here. That takes GUTS, ladies!!

So how can I inject some context into my layouts without resorting to my brand of stiff, boring, wordy text? Oh there are SO many ways!

Quotes are a good way of both illuminating the layout and grounding the subject matter. If I can find a quote that says what I want to say much more eloquently than I can, I’ll take it! Here’s an example.

Song lyrics are, in my mind, PERFECT for journaling! When I heard this song for the first time, this girl instantly came to mind. Then the perfect photo (by Erin Wallis Photography) came into my hands. Meant to be?

Word art can help tell a story very effectively. This layout is part of my Ireland collection and will be bookended by other layouts related to the Famine to provide more context.

This layout has more detail to flesh out the story.

Let’s not forget journal cards. They’re a combination of word art and sentiment, which can be very useful. Even if they’re just a spot to put your journaling, they can be just what your layout needs. I know I don’t use them as often as I should. For this layout I used a card that had space for me to put my own words, and I used a quote from my daughter. It says it all!

What about word strips? I LOVE them! They can take on the whole job of telling your story; it’s just a matter of finding ones that work. If you have a sense of humour, you can use word strips that actually relate to something else, but communicate your message effectively. In this example, the word strips I used came from a 2014 July Buffet kit from Ponytails, who no longer is a member of the GingerScraps family. They’re Canadian slang terms: Double Double is a shorthand Tim Horton’s coffee order, Beauty is a synonym of fantastic and Eh! is a pure Canadianism. But they made sense with my photo.

What creative journaling methods do you use? Help a girl out here!