Tutorial Tuesday (Windows)

Taming the Wild Template


I know there are many of you out there facing serious challenges with from fire or hurricane, so I want to thank you for popping by to read this Blog post. We’re a long way from the nearest fire in the western part of the continent, but due to an air inversion happening high above the Earth, we’ve been socked in with smoke for three days straight. My throat is sore, I’m coughing, my eyes are burning and I have a headache… and can only imagine how much worse it is for those in much closer proximity. I just saw a news report from Pensacola and am praying hard that those in the path of this storm are safe and dry. As if 202o hasn’t been bad enough…

Onward. After last week’s tutorial went live, DebS posted a comment that I’d like to share with you. “I have a question I’ve been hesitant to share as it isn’t a creative question, but one of organization, that I’d LOVE to see some input on. I’ve always created my own pages from scratch… at the same time, I have collected a rather substantial body of templates over the years (hundreds, in fact!) but not used them… sad, I know!! Some are clearly labeled — such as 2 pagers, some are just a date — Sept 2019 template. Many are completely nondescript — jbrt.08… all stashed in a folder called templates, and many, many others are attached to the bundles they came with, filed by designer or topic. My biggest issue is that if I have a page I want to place say 5 photos on, I can spend more time rifling through templates than I might spend simply creating the page myself from a blank slate, and so I continue to stash templates while creating pages myself. I’m an incredibly organized, detailed person, who is running out of time to create pages myself, and whose lack of a good system for organizing templates for easy access is driving me nuts. I’ve never seen input on this topic, but would love some help!

Before I launch into a step-by-step guide to my system for organizing templates, I’d just like to say a couple of things. First, there is no such thing as a “dumb” question. Asking questions is how we all learn new things. Asking questions is so much better in a lot of situations than guessing and being really wrong (looking at you, nursing!). Digital scrapbooking is more than just pretty layouts, as her comments show. If we never talk about the logistics, the mundane aspects of it, we might miss out on some good tips for making it more fun and less work. DebS’s problem is one I struggled with too, and led to me looking for solutions. The method I’m going to expand on below is what I came up with; it works really well for me but you might have your own, much better methods. So my disclaimer is this: if you have a system for organizing your templates that works for you, don’t reinvent the wheel! Second disclaimer: I work on a PC, and have ZERO Mac knowledge, so if you’re an Apple fan, this tutorial isn’t for you.

Let’s go! As usual, I’m going to show all the steps, in case there are readers who are very new to our wonderful hobby. Feel free to fly by the stuff you already know/do. I’m going to start with the very basic unzip/extract of downloaded content. (Please ignore the huge collection of zipped folders I have on my laptop… I’ve been busy setting up house. I’ll get all this stuff sorted out soon! 😉 ) The highlighted folder below is one containing templates from the lovely Irina, also known as PrelestnayaP Design. They’re part of her What a Wonderful Day template bundle.

The easiest way to unzip a file in Windows is to right-click on the folder and select Extract All from the pop-up menu. We’ve looked at some software apps that unzip multiple files in a previous tutorial; for the sake of brevity we’re just doing a single folder so we’re using the easiest method.

There are so many ways you can make your software do some of the work for you. If you’ve already got a folder ready for the contents of your zipped folder, you can tell Windows to find it for you by clicking on that Browse button. Then you can transfer the contents of that folder right into the target folder. I use this trick all the time when I’ve downloaded brushes, word arts and mini-kits for the GingerScraps challenges. I just make a bunch of folders in my GS Challenges master file and move them into their new homes in one step.

In the Extract menu there’s a box just under the destination folder block that says “Show Extracted File When Complete“. This command opens your newly-extracted folder right after it’s unzipped. I usually leave this box checked all the time, but there are times when you might not want to to that. For example, if you’re manually extracting a bunch of subfolders inside a folder and want it to be done quickly, unclick it. But for this exercise, I WANT the folder to open so I can see what’s in it, since I’m in an organizing mood. This is what was inside my extracted folder. Some template designers create 600×600 pixel preview JPEGs of their templates and some do what Irina‘s done, creating only a folder preview. With time you’ll know which designers have the JPEG previews and which don’t. For my method to work for me, I need to have a thumbnail image, so I’m going to create some.

I opened the template in Photoshop Elements so I could create my preview JPEG.

There are a few criteria for these previews. They should be small enough so they don’t eat up hard drive space, but sharp enough that you can easily assess the template’s suitability for your layout. When I’m creating a preview I just resize the whole template to 600×600 pixels, either by clicking Image>Resize>Image Size or by using the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD>Shift>I. (Trust me, you’ll get really good at using keyboard shortcuts once you start. For me they’re almost automatic now!)

This is the Image Size menu. The boxes at the bottom are always selected for me, as presets. Having presets makes everything so much less work! I can just change the size of the image from 3600×3600 to 600×600 by typing the digits in. This is exactly how I save my finished layouts for Gallery posting. It’s important to Scale Styles so your shadows and other styles retain the appearance they have on your original layout. But I digress!

Because all I’ve done to this template is to shrink it, I’ll need to change the file format from PSD to JPEG as I’m saving it. So I’m using Save As, which prompts me. There are two ways to reach this function, either by clicking on Edit>Save As or by CTRL/CMD>Shift>S.

Here is where I change the file format to JPEG. But I also change the FILE NAME. I leave the name the designer gave the template alone, but I add a descriptor to it. This template has 2 photo spots and it stands alone, so it now becomes “PrelP_WhatAWonderfulDay_Temp-Set1_1 single2“. There are other descriptors I sometimes use: if the photo spots are square, for example, or round, or if they’re masked spots. You are welcome to choose whatever descriptors work with your brain.

Once I click Save, this menu pops up. Remember, I don’t want my previews to gobble up my hard drive space, so I drop the Quality of this image down to 5. (I usually edit a whole bunch of template folders at a time so I just leave all the settings until I’m done.)

I Saved the preview to the same folder as the template, and there it is!

I went through the same process to shrink, rename and save a preview of the second template in the folder. Now both preview thumbnails are in the folder. I don’t save the terms of use more than once, and I have no need for the folder preview that was already in there, so I just delete both.

Then I usually tidy up the name on the folder itself before moving it to its permanent home. It isn’t always necessary, but I want to know who the designer is, which store it belongs to and what the kit’s name is. This step is optional – you do you!

Now to show you how my method works to speed up workflow on top of organizing my stash. I’m going to let Windows Explorer find the templates I just previewed. Over on the right side of the screen there’s a search box. (I’m still in my Downloads folder here, but it works globally too.) I type “single2” into the search box and click the blue arrow.

Windows takes a deep breath and goes hunting. Because I’ve only unzipped a handful of zipped files in my Downloads, it didn’t take long to turn up the three previews with that tag on them. With my view setting at Extra Large Icons, I can easily see the basic details of the templates I’ve located.  Then I can choose the one I think will work best for the layout I have in mind.

Getting back to the folder with the template I want to use is easy too. I right-click on the thumbnail and roll down almost to the end of the menu to where it says Open file location. Windows will take me right to it! It’s literally that simple.

Just so you don’t think I’ve led you down the garden path, I’ll show you a search in my Digikits>Templates folder, which has thousands of files in it. (I’ve used this search feature to find files anywhere on my 2TB computer.) I used the same search term, “single2” and turned Windows loose.

Explorer is still going, but it’s already turned up all these files!

Here are just a few of the “single2” templates I have. Guess I should get some layouts done, eh?

Do YOU have a good way of organizing and finding your templates? When I talked about the topic for this tutorial with Resident IT Guy, he asked why I don’t use a spreadsheet. Humph! I’m not great with Excel or any other spreadsheet software either, for that matter. For me it would be way more work than it would be worth. But maybe somebody out there has one they might share with the class. Please tell us how you manage your templates!

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

Scrapping in the Time of COVID

With apologies to Gabriel García Márquez… Let’s talk about why we scrap our memories. I think we all agree that we’re scrapbookers because we want to have tangible proof of events in our lives to take out and hold years from now when the events we’ve memorialized have been all but forgotten. Mostly, we want to hold onto the good times. But I really think we have to also honour the hard times. It’s those hard times that truly shape us and make us stronger, better humans. If we pretend the bad stuff didn’t happen, we’re not letting our future selves have pride in our resilience.

It seems every generation has an “event” – which is often a prolonged period and not just a brief moment in time – that changes everything. From war to natural disaster to pandemic, we’re forced to adapt to world-altering changes, otherwise the human race would die off. When I think of all the trials our ancestors endured, I marvel that we’re even here at all! COVID-19 is our crucible, our chamber of fire. In six short months our world looks completely different. My Facebook feed is filled with back-to-school photos, as it always is this time of year, but with a few major differences. Kids are wearing masks. Kids are learning their lessons through a computer screen. Some might see masks and think “awful”, “sad”, “ridiculous” or “overkill”, but I see humans adapting to a new environment and learning to evolve and survive. With that in mind, I decided to take a stroll through the Gallery to share some very hopeful and life-affirming layouts I found there.

8-24-2020 is a layout from MrsDebReynolds where the virus isn’t even mentioned. It’s there, but it’s not the focus. She mentions all the things the pandemic is bringing out in people: strength, courage, kindness, hope, love. And look at how this young lady totally rocks her mask!

2020 by dricamendes is another example of saying a lot without saying the words. I love the colour palette she chose for this, letting the sunflowers complement the girl’s t-shirt and the purple makes the photo pop. Life is different but it’s still beautiful.

I really love how the boys in knclarke‘s layout Best Buddies are just living life. With a few adjustments.

The kiddos in beatricemi‘s layout Checkers at the Fort haven’t let a pandemic get in the way of having fun. I bet they’re having a lot of giggles making faces at each other behind their masks, knowing that they can really only guess at what’s going on.

roxana has created a layout that I hope was cathartic for her. Dream Job Interrupted says it all, even without a translation for the journaling.

Air travel has probably changed forever, yet again. And this time it’s an invisible threat, rather than a shoe bomber… briannascrapper talks about how an Early Morning Flight that turned out not to be, and has photos of how different the airport looks with virus protocols in place.

Even having babies has changed, but the photos of new families can still be beautiful. AJsRandom has a new granddaughter and is celebrating her arrival in Little Blessing.

I love how Madison ignores the pandemic but embraces it at the same time. bkasko‘s photo makes me laugh.

One thing about humans… there will always be those who see a need and find a way to fill it. People like msbrad, who sewed more than 500 fabric masks and donated them to places where they were desperately needed.

We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t want to know when this will end. I think we’re not really going to see an “end”, we’ll just adapt over time and develop a New Normal, as stacsmiley has described. There’s still so much we don’t know about this virus, but we’re learning all the time.

What I really like about Princess Pi is that EvelynD2 totally ignores the mask on her face. It truly doesn’t make her any less beautiful!

It’s weirdly appropriate that my post will end with emscraps‘ layout Stay Safe. (It wasn’t intentional, just how my computer saved the layouts and then how WordPress ordered them.) Battle fatigue is setting in for everybody, but most especially for our essential services – health care, law enforcement, retail staff, service workers, delivery people. But we can’t give up now! Stay safe, everyone… and don’t let COVID-19 ruin our memories.

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements 2019)

Another Guided Edit – Multi-Photo Text

September first.. ALREADY?!! That got me thinking about other firsts. Like first birthdays and first days of school. My oldest grandson started first grade about 10 days ago and it seems like it was only a few days ago that he was sleeping in his stroller while his parents and I toured the botanical garden. Time flies too quickly but we scrapbookers know we can hold onto those memories. This Guided Edit I want to show you today can be adapted so many ways. Sadly it didn’t appear until Elements 2019, but it’s possible to create the same effect in previous versions, it’s just a lot more work.

Drop a photo or a paper into your Photo Bin then click Guided Edits>Fun Edits>Multi Photo Text. If you don’t have a photo or paper in your Photo Bin, Elements will prompt you.

For my example, I’m using a series of photos from Pixabay; the photographer is Tim Kraaijvanger. This photo of a birthday cake is a great background photo. For a back-to-school version, you could have a photo of the school bus with the door open or driving away, your kiddo walking into the school or maybe the school itself. Along the right side of the screenshot you can see the menu for the Edit.

When I clicked on the Text Tool bar, the background photo became very translucent. The Text Tool bar takes you to your font library. The default font is Impact, but you can choose any font that will give you a suitable spot to attach photos.

I chose to use KG All of the Stars for this one. It’ll work well. The foreground colour doesn’t matter because Elements will turn your text into clipping masks.

You have total control over the size and placement of your text, but the software developers kindly included two automated options. You can automatically centre it horizontally across your background, as shown, by clicking the optional Fit button.

Or you can click the Fill button and have it fill the entire space.

But I want mine to be in the upper right area of my background where the banner is. So I moved it there and sized it accordingly. Then I clicked on the Create Frames button and the text disappeared, sort of.

I dragged and dropped my photos onto the canvas from my Photo Bin. Those thoughtful software developers included an option to pull a photo from the Photo Bin, or to grab it from a folder on my computer. I clicked on the spaces one at a time to make them active and added my photos.

The photos can be manipulated, resized, repositioned or rotated as needed to obtain the best look. I wanted to be able to see her face and her cake in all of them and I wanted to be sure the photos filled the frames. That middle one needed a bit of rotation.

Moving down the menu, there’s an optional step to change the background. This can be useful. Having a transparent background would let me move just that photo-filled text onto my layout.

Or I could pull a colour from one of the photos and use that as the background by clicking on the Color button and using the Color Picker.

Solid white might work for you.

Or solid black.

Another optional step is to add a bevel and drop shadow to the text. This sample shows the Small setting.

The Medium setting looks like this. I think it takes away from the photos, so I’d not be using this one!

Or this one! Large is just too, too, too!

I went back to the Small setting. Then I clicked on Next.

A new menu opened up that allows me to Save my work, or go on to Edit some more, Share or be Done.

When the Expert Editor opens you can see all the layers Elements created while I was working through the Guided Edit. Some of the layers are Locked, and can’t be altered. Some are invisible and others are completely editable. It gives us a peek into how the Edit works.

I wanted more of the background photo to be visible so I adjusted the Opacity of the adjustment mask (the active layer with the mask outlined) to 75%.

Then I added some more text for context and it’s ready to Save, or to use as part of a layout. If I’d used a transparent background, I could put that text into a layout anywhere. I could crop that background photo to a square and have an image I could turn into my entire 12×12 layout, and then add some embellies to it for fun. So many options!

What would you like me to show you next week?

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

When the Tutor Becomes the Tutored

I’m starting to seriously hate Tuesdays! (Especially the ones where I’m running a little behind.) It seems every single week when I turn my laptop on to write up my tutorial, there’s some sort of automatic update – either an OS, driver or hardware update – and it takes. For. Ever. To. Finish. And then it messes up my software…… But I persevered!

Remember the heritage fonts tutorial from last week? I said I had some ideas about how to make those fonts into fancy illuminated titles. I just didn’t expect to be showing you one of them right away! But it had to have been Fate that on Saturday Karen Schulz, formerly known as Snickerdoodle Designs, had a video tutorial in her newsletter that caught my attention. I’m going to show you some of what I learned from it, giving credit where credit is due.

The font I used for this title is Silvus, one of the fonts I showed you last week. It has a bit of a Game-of-Thrones/Lord-of-the-Rings flavour to it with the dragons of the “M”, the horns of the “Y” and the heraldic symbolism in all the letters. And it’s perfect for showing you this amazing trick!!

Text remains a Smart Object (can’t be altered, just edited – if that makes sense) until the layer is Simplified. I want to make my title fancy and so it needs to be tweakable. Right-click on the layer in the Layers Panel then select Simplify Layer from the drop-down menu.

This little button is MAGIC! It Locks Transparency, meaning it keeps the background of your text, your brushes or your word art PNGs transparent and lets you “paint” JUST THE IMAGE!! The icon is hard to see in my screenshot, so I’ll describe it: a gridded “transparent” square with a lock image in front of it. Now that I know about this, I’m going to use it all the time.

I Zoomed in on my title so I can see exactly what I’m doing as I select colours. I want to start with the curlicues that look like vines, so I chose a green from the Color Picker for the Foreground colour. (I chose a darker green at first, but it wasn’t showing well on the screenshots.)

The next step was to go to my Brush tool. I chose a hard, round brush with a diameter of 36 pixels to start. I left all the other default settings as is. Remember, you can make your brush tip bigger by clicking the ] (right square bracket) and smaller by clicking the [ (left square bracket). If you’re getting “paint” on parts of your image where you don’t want it, Undo (CTRL/CMD>Z) and change your brush size.

See how cool that is?! All I did was brush over the vines with my brush tip and it ONLY painted the vines.

While I had my brush loaded with green, I looked over my title to see where else I could use it. There are other vines and leaves, so they got painted next.

Then I Picked a magenta colour for the flowers. One of them looks like a hibiscus, and magenta ones are my favourites.

All the flowers are going to be magenta.

I kept choosing colours that seemed appropriate for what I was painting, some blue, yellow and gold.

And some red and teal too. The dragons needed to be teal!

It was so much fun I just kept going.

Once I had the whole title coloured, I could have just saved it and called it a day. But y’all know me better than that! I’m always going to show you some more ways to zhuzh up your stuff. So I clicked Styles>Bevels and chose the Simple Emboss Bevel. That gives my title a bit of weight.

Again, it would be absolutely fine to save this version. But I want to show you one more little tweak. So I Copied (CTRL/CMD>J) the title layer.

The top layer really doesn’t need the Bevel, so I right-clicked on that layer and selected Clear Layer Style to remove the bevel from that layer.

I went back into the Styles menu and chose Glass Buttons>Transparent Glass (it looks like it’s gray, but it shows clear).

This is the default for the Style. It’s certainly shiny! This might be the look you like, and you could save it just like this. But it’s not the look I want. I could go into the Layer’s style menu and make adjustments, but for this it’s easy enough to make it less in-your-face.

Just by decreasing the top layer’s Opacity until there’s a sheen but it’s not blinding. I think it looks like cloisonée, don’t you?

All that was left to do was Merge (CTRL/CMD>E) the layers together and Save (CTRL/CMD>S).

Thanks Karen!! If you’d like to see the other two techniques she shared in her video and get some inspiration, you can find it here.

Tutorial Tuesday (Fontography)

Recorded History

When I woke up this morning I was shocked to realize that it’s Tuesday already! There has been some momentous happenings in our house since I last blogged here. We found out on Thursday that my husband has a half-sister! He was raised as an only – his father left them when he was a toddler. So when this very sweet lady contacted our daughter via 23andMe to find out how they were related, it was the LAST thing that occurred to any of us. He’s very excited, which surprised me a little. We’re still trying to track down confirmation, but the odds are very high that she IS his half-sister. And that’s what has consumed me for the last few days. So today’s tutorial is a bit of a lazy one – I’m going to show you some great (FREE) fonts for heritage layouts, since genealogy is at the forefront of my mind right now. I found all of these at my favourite source for free fonts, dafont.com.

I looked for title fonts, monogram fonts and journaling fonts. We’ll start with titles, but they’re not really in any kind of order.

Black Chancery is a Gothic font that is easy to read and not overly fancy.

Blacklet is another Gothic font, a bit more like those old stencils we used in school.

I like Darks Skyrim Font for its drama! It has a vintage look to it, but also suggests intrigue and strength.

Beyond Wonderland has a whimsical but old-tyme-y look.

Then there’s Valdemar. This one is a bit Teutonic, so if you have Germanic ancestry it would fit very well.

1742 Frenchcivilite makes me think of pirates and swashbuckling. It looks like it was written with a quill pen.

Linthicum reminds me of early America. I don’t have any ancestors who arrived in North America before about 1830, but my husband has them dating back to 1608!

Hentimps Circlet is another crisp Gothic font with just the right amount of curlicue.

Arquitec is another very antique-looking one. I can’t remember if I downloaded it, but I want it in my collection! [There! Fixed it!]

Any J. R. R.Tolkien or George R. R. Martin descendants out there? EG Dragon Caps was made for you!

I saw Silvus and swooned! The fairytale quality is so attractive! I think it could be great for either titles or monograms and I’m already planning to dissect it so I can turn it into illuminated initials.

Christensen Caps is another one that could be amazingly illuminated. It looks like something you’d find on a medieval manuscript.

I like American Dreamer for its simplicity.

Riesling is one of my favourites. It’s got a real Art-Deco vibe to it and makes me think of the Great Gatsby.

I like Royal Queen, a curvy Gothic font. It could be a title font, or used for journaling because it’s readily legible.

Royal Initialen is one I’ve had in my collection for years. It’s purely a monogram font and it has so many possibilities for someone who likes to experiment. <raises hand>


What a great serif style title font! Cash Currency is bold, solid and elegant.

When I first saw Victorian Parlor, the first thing that popped into my head was the Addams Family! I like the curly-swirly caps paired with the more simple lower case letters.

The Parthenon isn’t just a Greek monument! I feel like this could work for both titles and monograms.

Here’s another versatile one, Queensby. I’d probably use it for subtitles and journaling.

Journaling fonts should be ones that don’t eat space and are easy to read. I like to use typewriter-style fonts for documenting family history, and the more rustic the font, the better I like it. Old Newspaper Types is one I’ve used a few times, and when I finally get around to scrapping the story of my Luddite ancestor, who I learned about via a newspaper story, this is what I’m going to use.

Rough Typewriter is another of my go-to typewritten fonts. It’s just messy enough to look old, but not too messy to read.

Lucky Typewriter is just a bit more detailed.

CF Remington Typewriter has that antique look to it that I like so much.

Tippa reminds me of mimeographed tests I had back in elementary school. It has that distressed look.

Kimberly Geswein has a ton of fabulous handwritten fonts that are perfect for journaling and I think KG Makes You Stronger is about perfect.

Handwriting CR is clean, clear and great for those back-to-school layouts too.

I like Lie to Me a lot. It’s legible but a little more adult than some of the handwritten fonts.

If you want a little more oomph in your handwritten font, A Casual Handwritten Pen brings it. It’s a bit bolder, but still clean and clear.

And last, Better Together Condensed is a clean, clear and slightly different handwritten font. It’ll allow you to cram a lot of text into a small space.

I know that as scrapbookers our main goal is to preserve our stories. Sure, creating a beautiful layout is a wonderful pursuit, but it’s the story behind the creation that really matters. I hope you’ve seen some new fonts that might work for your historical records!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Peek-a-Boo, I See You (Solving Underexposed Faces)

Well, it seems photo editing has become the hot topic for Tutorial Tuesday! After last week’s technique for diminishing shiny skin, Steph sent me a message: “I love this week’s blog post about correcting a shiny face. Do you remember if you have a tutorial about improving a photo that has a face in shadows? I tried searching but didn’t see one. Thanks, Steph“. I don’t think I have done one specific to faces, although we’ve talked about fixing underexposed photos in a couple of ways, by editing in Camera Raw or by copying the photo and changing the Blend Mode to Screen, then copying that new layer as many times as necessary to bring out those details. But there will be times when those methods aren’t going to work. Like when your subject is backlit… 

This gentleman is Mike. He works for JuJu Tours in Negril, Jamaica as a glass-bottom boat pilot. We took a New Year’s Eve boat tour with him in 2014 and I have quite a few photos where I know who I’m looking at but nobody else will. It seemed like a good choice for this tutorial.

I like to do most of my experimentation on a copy layer so that my original is still there if I need to refer to it. So my first step is always to make a Copy layer. CTRL/CMD>J is the keyboard shortcut, but if you’re into working more than necessary, right-click on the background layer then choose Duplicate Layer and follow the prompts.

I want to separate Mike from the sky and now that I’ve figured out how amazing the Polygonal Lasso tool is, that’s what I used here. The trick to making this tool work beautifully for you is to make small movements with your mouse and click frequently to mark your spot.

On the screenshot, I’ve used the word “slowly”. But it only took me about 3 minutes of small mouse movements and clicks to get a relatively clean selection. When I got back to my starting point the tool automatically turned on the marching ants showing me where my selection was.

One drawback to the Polygonal Lasso tool is that you can’t Zoom in and out while you’re using it, so it’s hard to get a perfect selection. So once I have my basic shape lassoed, I use the Selection Brush tool – its icon looks just like a paintbrush with a few marching ants curving above the bristles. This tool lets me add or subtract areas of my selection. I usually use the biggest brush I can for the area I’m adjusting, and I toggle back and forth between adding and subtracting until I get all of my marching ants following the edge of my selection. The controls for this tool are at the bottom left of the workspace.

I Zoom in on areas like this one so I can see as clearly as possible where my ants have strayed.

This photo was a great one for this example, because there aren’t a lot of these sticky spots. Don’t be put off by the time it takes to do this – it’s actually not that bad… maybe another 2 minutes.

The spot where the sunglasses’ temple attaches needed some attention.

For general purposes, perfection is impossible and a waste of time. And in the end, it’s not usually necessary because unless the imperfection is a big one, it’s not going to be the centre of attention, so don’t sweat it!

Depending on your background though, a spot like this might deserve some precision. The sky here is really blown out and I’m not going to change that, but if I had some sort of detail – leaves on a tree for example – that would be visible in that gap, I’d definitely want to add it into my selection.

After I ‘d gone all the way around the selection and adjusted as needed, I Zoomed back out a bit to see how clean the edge looked. On to the next step!

I wanted to separate Mike from the sky – or more accurately I wanted to remove the sky from around Mike. To make that happen, I Inverted the selection: Select>Inverse or CTRL/CMD>SHIFT>I.

With the Copy layer still the active one, I Cut away the sky. Edit>Cut or CTRL/CMD>X

This screenshot is just to show you that the sky is now gone from that top layer, but it’s still present in the original layer (it’s just invisible right now).

Now that Mike was all by himself on the top layer, I used Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Shadows/Highlights. The default setting for this adjustment is for the Shadows to be automatically decreased by 50% so don’t be shocked! Highlights are default-set at 0% and Contrast is set right in the centre.

I pushed the Lighten Shadows slider all the way over to 100% to really lighten up his face. I Darkened Highlights by 26% and Midtone Contrast was boosted to +28%. All of a sudden it’s almost possible to identify what’s reflected in his lenses.

I’m happy I can see Mike‘s features now, but I think the image is a bit too soft. My favourite tool for fixing that is the Haze Removal menu.

Haze Removal also darkens the image a wee touch, as you can see in the preview below. But it looks good with the default setting so I went ahead and clicked OK.

For all intents and purposes, I could quit right here and it would be perfectly fine. But I’m always going to take it a bit further so I can show you what else you can do with your photos. I think the background is a lot blown out and that’s fixable.

But before we move on to that, I decided Mike still looked a bit shadowy. So I decided to Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Brightness/Contrast just a smidge.

These sliders start out in the centre. I pushed the Brightness slider to 54 and the Contrast slider to 10. Now it’s good.

Just for fun, I turned off the top layer to remind myself where I started.

Okay, on to the sky. I made another Copy layer (right-click>Duplicate Layer or CTRL/CMD>J) of the background (bottom) layer.

With the Copy layer active, all I did was change the Blend Mode to Color Burn. It looks a bit neonish now though.

Quick fix: Decrease the Opacity of the Color Burn layer to 61%.

Then I brought Mike back and Merged all the layers so I could save my work.

I wasn’t totally happy with the finished image though. Mike still looked a bit fuzzy. So I Copied that image layer again so I could add a High Pass Filter.

Here’s why you do the High Pass filter on its own layer. A rule of thumb for sharpening an image this way is that you should only see a hint of colour through the filter. Otherwise you risk having it look over-processed. (I have plans for a really interesting tutorial where you WANT to have an in-your-face look to your photo, but that’s all I’m telling you.)

To see how the filter works, change the Blend Mode to Overlay.

And now you see the photo I THOUGHT I took! I just had to Merge the layers again and save it for later.

Before I go, I want to remind you that you’re in control of your work. You can stop at any point along the way if you’re happy with what you’re seeing. These tutorials are intended to help you understand your software, make it work harder for you without making you work harder to get what you want, and to up your scrapbooking game… while having a little fun along the way.

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Taking the Shine Off

Glee came to me last Tuesday with a question. “Would you by any chance know any tricks/tips for taking the shine off a person’s face? Like how to digitally apply some powder? I just took some pix, and my subject has very dinner cheeks and forehead. Thanks!” I know I have quite a few photos that needed some powder, and you probably have some too. This is actually one of the simplest edits there is. I’m using a photo from Pixabay taken by Dean Moriarty as my sample photo. Isn’t she gorgeous?

Everything I’m going to do to apply some mattifying to her shiny spots will take place on a new layer. You can click Layer>New>Layer or use a keyboard shortcut (CTRL/CMD>Shift>N) to add a layer above your photo.

Next, select the Color Picker (eye dropper) tool to pick up the skin tone from an area near the first area you plan to powder. Look for a spot where the skin tone is fairly uniform.

You actually can’t pick a color from a blank layer (DUH! But I tried!) But I definitely want to make my adjustments on that blank layer. So what can I do? I can “Sample All Layers”!

Now you’ve selected the skin color you want to powder with, and it’s time to choose a nice brush to apply the powder with. I used a soft, round brush from the Basic Brushes included in the software, with a diameter of 35 pixels.

Before you start dabbing on the powder, set the brush’s Opacity to about 20%. It can always be adjusted later.

Then just start powdering! You can brush it on like you’re dusting her with powder, or you can dab it on. Whatever looks best to your eye.

Go back and forth between the Color Picker and the Brush, adjusting the color of your powder to the area of skin closest to the part you’re powdering.

Every so often, Zoom out and have a look at the effect. Make sure it looks natural.

In a matter of minutes, the shine is gone, but the highlights are still there. Who needs Cover Girl? If you think the effect looks too artificial, you can adjust the Opacity of the powder layer to make it a little more sheer. That’s the benefit of doing the adjustment on its own layer. If you powdered right on the background layer, you’d have no way to lighten it up.

When the image looks natural and beautiful, you can Merge the two layers and Save your edited image with a new name.

Here are my two images side by side. Now the eye isn’t being pulled to her forehead any more!

This method is much easier than using the Healing Brush or Spot Healing Brush, which would do a good job of reducing glare from a person’s spectacles. That’s a more complex edit, and not something we’re going to talk about today.

Just an aside… this tutorial marks the beginning of my fourth year as your ObiJan. Time sure flies! I’m keeping all of you and your families in my thoughts as you navigate the stormy seas of preparing for the new school year with so many uncertainties. I don’t have any school-aged kids to worry about but I DO have 3 grandkids, the oldest of whom is entering first grade this year. They’ve gotten quite comfortable masking whenever they’re around other people, something we never dreamed would be necessary. Every one of us has our own priorities and I hope no one makes you question the decisions you make based on yours. Unless they’ve lived in your skin, they have no right to judge. We’re all in this together.

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

It’s All a Matter of Taste – Black and White

Well, July is nearly over and I have STILL not managed to get any scrapping done. I thought about it, but that’s as close as I got. We had a crazy-busy week and I think we’re finally (almost) at the end of the big things we needed to do with the house. We have a fence for the dogs, we’re having synthetic turf put down in the yard on Thursday and once I get the plants I dug up from the backyard transplanted, I might be able to relax! Of course, Thursday is forecast to be the second-hottest day of the summer (36°C/97°F) and I’ll be outside shoveling river rock into our son-in-law’s truck. They better bring the beer!

Anyway… I was looking at some back issues of Photoshop Elements Techniques (only available now as an archive) and came across some tips on converting colour photos to black and white to make them look amazing. So I decided I’d check out the options. I’m using Elements 2019, but the tips I’m going to show you are easily found in most versions.

When I took a photography course many years ago, well before the advent of digital photography, my teacher talked about how black and white was THE true art of photography. I tend to agree with that notion. There are so many nuances to black and white photography that just aren’t there in colour images. Digitally speaking, turning a colour photo into a black and white one is easy, but the ART of it is more in the eye of the beholder. So let’s have a look. I’m using a landscape photo I found at Pixabay for my example.

This method is the first one I tried way back in 2006 when I was learning the basics of Elements. Enhance>Adjust Color>Adjust Hue/Saturation can also be reached by using the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD>U.

This method has been available in all versions, and so many of us have done it this way. Dropping the Saturation down to 0 removes all the colour. But that’s all.

It IS nice. All the detail in the clouds, rocks and reflections is there.

In all but the earliest versions of Elements, there’s an option to Remove Color in the Enhance menu.

And this is the outcome. I think it looks pretty similar to the desaturated one. Maybe just the slightest bit more contrast.

But then there’s this option… Enhance>Convert to Black and White. This option first appeared in Elements 9. Could this be the WSNH (Work Smart Not Hard) method of choice?

When I clicked on that button this is what came up. Below I’m showing the default settings; it comes up in the Portrait setting with the colour sliders (Red, Green, Blue and Contrast) as you see them. Now, I know you’re thinking, “Colour sliders? But there IS no colour!” Let’s unpack that.

I went through all of the Modes here, looking at where the colour sliders were in their default settings. See if you can see a difference in each of the images as we go along. Newspaper mode looks like this: slightly less Green, a smidge more Blue and marginally less Contrast.

In Scenic Landscape, the Red has been boosted and the Blue reduced. I can see that the image is slightly warmer looking.

Urban/Snapshots mode has somewhat less Red, slightly more Green, a bit more Blue and the same amount of Contrast, even though it seems like the Contrast is a bit less obvious. I think this mode would be great for architectural photos and streetscapes.

Vivid Landscapes brings the mood with it. Lots more Red, a good bit less Green and Blue, same Contrast. And yet…

I wasn’t sure what to expect with Infrared Effect. There’s less Red, a LOT more Green, a middling amount less Blue and the same degree of Contrast. I think I need to take a deeper dive into Infrared… stay tuned!

Okay, so I’ve looked at all the options. I decided to go back to the Scenic Landscape settings and play with the sliders.

I left the Red and Green as is, decreased the Blue a bit and increased the Contrast quite a bit. I like that the rocks look more carved and stark.

So I went with it. The image is a bit harsh, which suits the subject matter. I could just save it like this, but I want to play with it a bit more.

I really like to use the Levels adjustments especially with black and white images. It can be found by clicking Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Levels or with the easy keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD>L.

In the default setting for this tool, the sliders for both Input and Output Levels are at either end of the boxes. With the Input adjustment, moving the slider on the left makes the lighting darker, the slider on the right makes it brighter. The centre slider offers a finer adjustment than either of the ones on the ends. For the Output adjustment, the changes are more contrast-related and inverse – the left slider lightens and the right slider darkens.

These are the settings I liked. When using Levels the best way to make them work for you is to watch what’s happening while you move the sliders. That way you’ll know when to stop!

There’s just one more thing I did to this image that I want to show you. As you can see, I added a Copy layer so that whatever I do, my original image isn’t touched. You may wonder why I keep doing more and more, when I have a perfectly useable image already. Well, how better to encourage you to experiment than to do it myself? There’s always the Undo (CTRL/CMD>Z) function! (And I use it a TON!)

I played with some Filters and liked how this one looked, so I clicked Filters>Stylize>Glowing Edges. What do you think happened?

This. This happened. Remember that when you use Filters, you’ll see this screen, with the Filter adjustment panel on the far right. It’s hard to know what it’s going to look like later, but I wanted to have the “glowing” effect to be prominent at this stage.

Here’s the result. So much drama! But it’s a bit on the gloomy side.

So I changed the Blend Mode (naturally I tried several before settling) to Soft Light and decreased the Opacity to 35%. Now I have what Mrs Hansen would call Photographic Art.

Give these methods a whirl and see which one works best for you!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

How Can I… Pierce my Paper?

Greetings from the sunny Okanagan! It looks like summer has finally arrived, and the rain has gone away. (That reminds me, I need to water my pots!) I hope your weather is treating you well too, and you can get outside in the fresh air.

Today’s tutorial came from a challenge of sorts from Steph, who likes to see digital methods that emulate paper-crafting techniques. She sent me a couple of images showing a paper-piercing technique and asked if I thought it could be done digitally. Well, of course it can! I just had to figure out how! The image below is from Lisa Addesa‘s blog I’m In Haven. See the areas where she’s punched through her cardstock to add some texture and dimension to her card? How cute is that!

I went through my stash and found a cardstock that’s a similar grey. I could have chosen any colour, but thought it would make easier to see how it works if I used grey.

I thought about what would make the most sense to the most people (and didn’t cost anything) and opted to use a Custom Shape to create my path for punching. You could use a swirly brush, an element from a digi-kit or a hand-drawn path if you wanted to. The default shapes are uh… not what I was looking for!

So I clicked on the triangle at the side of the Custom Shape tool bar and opened up the tool’s menu. Right at the top of the list is an option to see ALL of the custom shapes in the library. And there are a lot.

I found a swirl about 3/4 of the way down the list that looks a lot like the one in the example, so I chose that one. But this technique can be adapted to ANY of the shapes you see here without any difficulty.

I used white as my foreground colour but again, it doesn’t matter at all what colour I used. As long as it shows up against the background, it’s all good. I clicked and dragged out a swirl as you can see. The shape is created on a new, “Smart Object” layer, meaning it can’t be altered in any way in its original state.

I plan to make some alterations so I right-clicked on the layer and chose Simplify Layer.

Now I CTRL/CMD>Clicked on the Layer Thumbnail (that little picture of the layer I’ve circled). That “selects” the edges of the image.

This step isn’t essential, but to avoid confusion I’ll show you what I did. You could just use the swirl as it appears, but this makes it easier. I clicked Select>Modify>Contract and that moves the marching ants that delineate the selected area inward. (Expand would do the opposite and make the selected area larger.)

I just picked a number (10 pixels) and tried it to see if it was a good number. It was, so onward ho!

This step too isn’t essential. You could leave the selected area inside the swirl alone and carry on to the next step. In fact, if I was using a more complex shape, I think I would skip this step altogether. Anyway, I clicked Select>Inverse to move the selected area from inside the swirl to outside.

Then I clicked Edit>Cut (CTRL/CMD>X) and that removed a large amount of the swirl without altering the shape.

See how it’s so skinny now? If I hadn’t Inverted my selection, instead Elements would have cut away the centre of the line, which would work well for the next steps too. I chose the Brush tool, a hard round brush 16 pixels in diameter at 100% Opacity and made some adjustments to the Brush Settings, which I’ll show you in the next image.

My current laptop isn’t as user-friendly with screenshots as my previous one was, and I couldn’t screenshot the Brush Settings menu, so I took the laptop into the laundry room where there’s very little light, and took a photo with my phone. The image shows the Brush Settings defaults. We’re going to adjust only that “Spacing” setting. I ended up choosing 125% as my spacing, but if you want your piercings to be closer together, use a smaller number. Farther apart? Go larger.

But………… before we go any further, Create a New Layer!! Brushes ALWAYS go on their own layer.

The starting point is a matter of preference. I zoomed in a ton and started at the open end. I held down the left mouse key and slowly, slowly followed my swirl path with my brush. The dotted line just appeared as I went along. When I had to stop and reposition my workspace, I just eyeballed the spacing for where the next dot should be and started brushing again from there.

Don’t aim for perfection. If you were actually piercing paper with a needle tool, the holes wouldn’t be perfectly spaced (although these ones are) and they wouldn’t perfectly follow the swirled line. It took me about 10 minutes to work my way around the entire swirl with my “holes” quite close together and my swirl covering most of my 12×12 paper. If I’d just Cut away the centre of the shape, it would have created a grey opening in the white swirl for me to follow. I tried it both ways and it really doesn’t matter with this kind of shape.

This is where you see how important it is to put the brush on its own layer. If I’d brushed directly on the swirl, I wouldn’t be able to turn it off and just have the brush left. At this point the swirl shape layer can be deleted. It isn’t needed any more.

Okay, that’s great. But it doesn’t look like the paper has been pierced. How do I get that? If you read and tried the tutorial on letterpress, you already know! I applied a Bevel Style: click the Style button at the bottom right of the workspace then select Bevels from the drop-down.

The best choice for this technique is the Simple Emboss bevel, the one in the upper right corner. It’s hard to see in the screenshot, but now it looks a bit like Braille.

To get the Bevel to look like a piercing, it’s necessary to change the settings on the Style. Double-click on the fx icon on the brush layer and change the Direction to Down. Leave the size at 21 pixels.

Let me show you what else you can do with that brush on its own layer. You can resize it to whatever size works for you. I like to start with a large image and then size it to suit, which makes it easier to see what I’m doing. (One caveat: if your dots/”holes” are close together when the image is fairly large, they will appear to run together when you shrink the image. So if you think you might want to make it smaller, leave more space between your “holes”.)

And you can copy it, skew it, rotate it and play with it until you have the look you’re after. I know I’ll be doing this on some of my creations!

That’s it for this week. Give it a try!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements+)

The Key to Painless Extractions!

Greetings GingerScrappers! It’s Tuesday again… the weeks are just flying by for me. Hubby and I have started working on the “non-essential” area of the house, what I’m calling #jansworld… the huge room in our downstairs that will be my hobby space. The movers dismantled all of our storage shelves and two of my desks. They also just loaded the room with every box that had “office”, “Jan” or “craft room” on them, piling them up 5 or 6 high with no rhyme or reason. So it’s a monumental job to get that space sorted out. We’ve made a good start but when I told him today I had a tutorial to write and we weren’t going to spend any time in there… he went ahead and did some things without me and then had to interrupt me twice to ask for guidance. Grrrrrrrrrrrr. So I know I’m going to miss my usual post time. Sorry… Thankfully my boss (the amazingly generous Ginger!) isn’t too much of a stickler.

On to the tutorial. I’m feeling like I should be able to get some scrapping done this month so I looked at the July Challenges and decided which ones I might be interested in taking up. The Inspiration Challenge Lina of LDragDesigns has tossed out is to use an extraction on a layout. I like extractions but find them very time consuming. What to do, what to do… How about checking to see if Elements+ has a quick mode?! Why yes, yes it does!

I’m intrinsically lazy, so if I’m going to do something as fiddly as an extraction, you know I’m going to choose carefully. I’m going for a clean cut and as little work as I can get away with. This photo from Pixabay ticks all my boxes. The Elements+ feature I’m going to show you is in the Selections menu, which makes perfect sense because that’s what an extraction is. I think for the sake of Working Smart, Not Hard, I’ll be using the Effects button at the bottom of the Layers panel and choosing Elements+ from the drop-down.

You can see what each of those Elements+ icons is for by holding your cursor over them and letting the name pop up. The Selections icon is at the centre of the top row. The Selections menu appears on the left of the workspace as shown.

But first, before we go down the rabbit hole, I made a Duplicate photo layer… just in case I do something I can’t undo. I’m going to start off with the Polygonal Lasso Tool. It’s the one that looks like a Greek symbol with a tail. I also turned off visibility for the background layer.

You’re not going to believe how long it took me to figure out how to use the Polygonal Lasso tool. Let’s just say it took a LONG time – I hated it because it didn’t do what I wanted it to do – and leave it at that. But now that I know how to use it, I quite like it! The trick with it is to make small nibbles, and to get as close to your subject as you can. It might sound like a slow process but it isn’t. As my mother used to say, less haste and more speed! Click on a spot where it makes sense to start out. Then move your cursor to a natural spot to change course. I started at the left of her hands, just below them. I went over to the area just below where the heel of her hand starts to lift off the rock and clicked there as my next reference point. Then I went to the bottom of her bracelet, clicked and moved to just past the bead on her bracelet. By taking a little bit of extra time with this step, it sped up the subsequent steps. I kept making small (and a few not so small) runs, clicking at the end of each, all the way around her. When I got back to my original starting point I double-clicked and I had a nice, free-form selection!

In this screenshot you can almost see the outline of my Lasso’d area. Now I went back to the Selections menu and clicked on Quick Mask Mode. Red is the default colour, but if I was trying to extract something from a red background, I could easily change the mask colour to blue, green or a chosen colour.

And that was all I had to do to create a mask on my image! Now I can fine-tune the edges.

Next I went to the Brush tool to clean up my extraction. Because I’ve put a layer mask on the active layer, the Brush tool automatically sets up for concealing and revealing – the colours in the picker are black (which CONCEALS) and white (which REVEALS). I flip back and forth between erasing and replacing by clicking on the “X” key. (JUST the X key… I don’t want to go to another keyboard shortcut accidentally!) I was able to get pretty close to the outline of her body with my Lasso so I can go with a fairly small brush size – 9 pixels – and I can adjust the size up or down by using my square brackets keys. The Left bracket makes it smaller, the Right makes it larger in the same way using them with the CTRL/CMD key zooms in and out.

I just started brushing away the mask with the foreground colour set to white. I zoomed in quite a lot to see clearly where my edges are.

There is a bit of very minute detail in her hair that I’ll have to brush back in, so I can switch the foreground colour to black, make my brush smaller and paint it back. Before I forget… If I didn’t manage to include an important area of my image, I can add it in during this step really easily. Brush it in with black!

My brush size ranges from 1 pixel for the really tight spots, to 12 pixels for the straightaways.

Now that I’ve finished with the clean-up, I went back to the Layers panel. This step tells Elements+ that I’m moving on to a new operation.

To get Elements+ to finish the job, I clicked again on the Selections icon then told it to Exit Quick Mask Mode.

The red mask is gone, and now I have marching ants instead. I just need to…

Invert the Selection (Select>Inverse or CTRL/CMD/Shift>I) and then I can eliminate the sky, the water and the rocks.

Two ways as usual, Edit>Cut or CTRL/CMD>X.

Boom! It looks pretty sharp to me.

Here’s what the whole workspace looks like when I Zoom back out.

So before I Save it, I’m going to Crop it down to a more useable size.

I want to keep the background transparent so I’m going to Save As a .png. The keyboard shortcut for Save As is CTRL/CMD>Shift>S.

To keep as much sharpness as possible I’ll save it at the Smallest compression but it doesn’t need to be interlaced.

Now I can put this yoga queen on just about anything! I’ll have to figure that part out later.