Tutorial Tuesday (General)

I’m a bit under the weather today but didn’t want to leave y’all hanging so I whipped together a little discussion on how to pair those awesome alphas that come in so many of the kits at GingerScraps with the perfect font. The inspiration for this came from my friend Bea, known as beatricemi. I like to use alphas, that’s no secret, and they’re great for those layouts where you want a title and a subtitle.

A lot of the same principles I talked about in the tutorial on pairing fonts also apply to pairing an alpha with a font. They need to compliment each other, as well as the overall theme of your layout, but you don’t want them to be too matchy-matchy. You want one of them to be the boss, the alpha being the most likely choice, since you’ll be adding a drop shadow to it. You want your font to be legible.


By far the best tip I can give you for this task is to try them on for size. In Photoshop Elements, (before you Simplify the text layer) you can preview your text in each of your fonts just by highlighting the text then scrolling through your font library with the arrow keys. The software will change the text right in front of you. You’ll know right away which ones DON’T work, but might have to play around a bit with some of the ones that DO work. Nothing is carved in stone until you say it is!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Another Way to Have the Photo You REALLY Wanted, Not the One You Got

I have another amazingly simple Guided Edit to show you today. When I took the photo of the young lady you’ll see in a moment, I didn’t really have any control over the situation and wanted a shot of her one way or another. Later, when I started looking at my photos critically, I saw an opportunity to create the photo I REALLY wanted and at the same time, I had food for another tutorial, so prepare to be awed!

The cars in the photo of the piper are really distracting, but I knew I wouldn’t get another chance to get a photo of her alone. She was preparing to lead a “parade” of Irish Canadians into a field for a special event and there would be a lot of people in the way later. So I went for it. The lighting in the second photo is similar and the time of day is similar so I chose it for my new background.

This was my very first attempt to use this Guided Edit, so don’t feel intimidated. It’s very user-friendly! It’s called Photomerge Compose and it lets you move things from one photo into another quite quickly and easily.

The first step is to drag and drop the “source” photo onto the workspace. I’m going to move the woman from in front of the cars and stand her in front of the cork tree, so I put the photo of her here.

The second step was to begin defining the part of the photo I wanted to merge with the background photo. I started with the Quick Selection Tool. If you’re not familiar with that tool, it uses a brush to add or subtract parts of your photo. I dragged a fairly small brush over her body and bagpipes to crudely select her from her background.

As I dragged my brush over the photo, marching ants appeared around the areas I’d selected. It really doesn’t have to be precise at this stage because there are several occasions for fine-tuning the selection in later steps.

I like to zoom in on my image so I can be more precise, but when I’ve gotten what I want selected in the area I can see, I need to shift the area I’m working on to another part of the photo. It’s easily accomplished here by using the Hand Tool to click and drag on the photo to another area. Then I clicked on the Quick Selection Tool button on the tool panel again and went back to work.

Once I had a (very) crude outline of the woman I used the same tool with the Subtract setting to remove more areas of the background.

I was THRILLED to see how this next tool works! The Outline Select tool makes refining the edges of a selection so much easier and cleaner! Who knew?

Whoa! It uses a red mask to cover up the parts of the photo I’ve already excluded and lets me see how raggedy the edges of my selection really are. The brush for this tool can be either dragged around the edges to smooth them or to slice away small areas by clicking on them.

I tried to see some redeeming quality to the Subtract mode for this tool, but couldn’t really see one.

If my image still needed a bit more refining, I have the option of using the Refine Select setting and it’s good with a small brush to crisp up the edges where fine detail exists and for areas where colour differences are very subtle. I could push out the edge a little or pull it in a little where needed.

When I was satisfied with my selection, I clicked on the Next button at the bottom right corner of the workspace. Elements automatically moved my woman onto the photo of the cork tree.

Well, look at that! I wasn’t all that careful when I hit the Next and now I see I missed an area of her sleeve with my selection. But have no fear! I can fix it!! I moved her down a bit so she looked like she really was standing under the tree using the Move and Resize button. Then I clicked on the Reveal tool. It let me “paint” her sleeve back into the photo.

Down by her feet, I didn’t bother to select out the grass, and now by using the Hide tool I can “paint” in the leaves and grass as it is under the tree.

It really was easy!

As I said at the beginning, I had two photos that had very similar lighting and saturation, taken as they were at roughly the same time of day, with similar weather conditions. So I didn’t need to make much of an adjustment. But this Guided Edit knows not every pair of photos are going to play so well together. The top button shown is called Auto Match Color Tone. When I clicked it, I didn’t see any difference. So then I went on to look at lighting. Could I tweak it a smidge to make it look mroe natural?

Well, I adjusted both the Luminance and the Contrast just a tiny bit.

Because she was standing under some trees in the original photo and is here too, she wouldn’t be casting much of a shadow, so my work was done.

I’m so happy with how this turned out and I know I’ll be using this again!


Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Vacation Memories Sanitized!

I’m back!! My vacation to Ireland surpassed all my expectations and I’ve got about 400 new photos to turn into lasting memories. I’m still looking through them to see which ones are amazing and which are only so-so. If you remember the tutorial from this time last year where I talked about taking better photos you might already know that I’m a fan of cropping in the viewfinder. That means looking at a scene through the lens and moving around so that I can eliminate a lot of things I can’t (or don’t want to) fix later… like posts growing out of the top of people’s heads. One aspect we have no real control over is that people will unknowingly walk into our carefully-composed shot and get in the way of that perfect image. There are times when it’s possible to just wait for them to wander on, and others when it’s not. So I’ve started taking two or three shots from the same spot a few second apart, allowing the people in my way to move along a bit. Why? Because I know I can Clean the Scene with a Guided Elements Edit!

Elements has had a Scene Cleaner Photomerge edit since Version 7. It works in basically the same way, but it’s accessed a little differently. For versions 7-13, you need to go to the Edit tab then select Photomerge Scene Cleaner from the dropdown. For versions 14 and later, click on Guided>Photomerge>Scene Cleaner.

My example will only use two photos but you can merge as many as you need to in order to eliminate strangers from your memories. I’ve found that with my particular laptop (which gives me enormous grief sometimes) and my particular installation of PSE 15, it’s best not to have the target photo – the one with all the best angles and aspects – in the first position in the Photo Bin. You can reorder your photos and elements in the Bin simply by dragging them into the spot where you want them then dropping them there.

When you click on the Guided>Photomerge>Scene Cleaner button, that first photo in the Bin will populate the left side of your screen. Then drag and drop the TARGET photo into the right hand side. If you look closely you’ll see that the “Source” image is outlined in the Bin with blue, while the “Target” or “Final” image is in yellow.

You’re going to be shocked when you see how easy this is to accomplish. I clicked on the Pencil Tool in the Edit menu, then looking at the Final image, I scribbled on the Source image over the general areas where the two women (Gail on the left, Eleanor on the right) are using a moderate-sized brush tip. Usually that’s enough to totally solve the intrusion. If necessary, you could enlarge the area you’ve covered, or b some of it on that Source image. PSE will show you what your final image will look like so you’ll see where tweaking is needed.

As with all the other Guided Edits, once you’ve done what you set out to do, you click on the Next button at the lower right corner of your workspace and then either save your work or open it in Expert to continue working on it. As you can see, this Edit has made all the changes on a new layer. The easiest way to make the changes permanent is to Merge the two layers together.

I’m sure you knew I wasn’t finished with this photo. I want the clouds and sky to look better, and the stones to be a bit sharper. So first I chose Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Levels (CTRL/CMD>L) to make some exposure adjustments.

Don’t overdo this adjustment.

Then I moved on to Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Brightness/Contrast. Again, this photo didn’t need a lot of adjusting. But this slight tweak has added more detail to the clouds.

But I feel like the shadows are still too dark, so I went to Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Shadows/Highlights.

The shadows just needed a bit of illumination and there’s great detail visible there now.

And of course, once the rest of the image looked good, I hit it with my new favourite enhancement, Haze Removal.

I love that this tool adds drama to the sky, sharpens and deepens the stones and just brings the Oomph with it.

This tutorial marks the end of my second year as your faithful tutor. I can’t believe I’ve found enough new things to show you to build about 100 tutorials around them, but here we are!

This is the final image of St. Finian’s Roman Catholic Church, Aghowle, Shillelagh, Wicklow. It dates from the 12th century and is in ruins. It will be the star of a double spread at a later date.

One scene cleaned, a dozen or more to go…

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Creating ‘Mazing Monograms

Lately I’ve been really interested in designing labels for decorative items I’m planning for my home. It’s a challenge, but it’s also a lot of fun and lets me use my creative eye, PSE skills and a little ingenuity. When my grand-daughter was born late last month, I thought I should design a monogram to use as the title of a layout introducing her to the world. I think we all know what a monogram is. But did you know there are some conventions around them?

Monograms have been used for about 2 millenia. Yep, they’ve been around since about 350BC when they began to appear on coins issued by Greek cities, identifying the coins as having come from there. They’ve also been used as signatures by artists and craftsmen, especially when trade guilds began enforcing their rules about membership and took measures against those engaging in those activities without authorization. They later were used as signatures of monarchs and noblemen to identify their holdings, their armies and their money.

Individual monograms came into use as a natural continuation of their use by Important People. They can be part of the letterhead on personal stationery, to identify one’s luggage, to fancify their handkerchiefs, shirts and ties and oh, yeah… wedding invitations! If the monogram is that of a woman, her surname initial is the central, larger one, with her first initial on the left and her middle initial on the right. For men, that convention is often ignored, and their initial are put in order of appearance in their name. Engaged couples may choose to have their two first initials entwined and newlyweds might have one member’s first initial on the left, their joint surname initial in the middle and the other member’s first initial on the left.

The example below has my grand-daughter’s initials following the first individual convention. I used MainType 7.0 (as described in the tutorial on organizing your fonts) to find the perfect font for the job. The font I ended up using is one I picked up at the FontBundles July $1 event. It’s called Quiska Regular and it’s gorgeous!

Once I’d settled on my font, I opened a new 12×12 document in PSE. I like to work large and then resize because detail is so much more visible. Then I found the font in my Type tool menu. (Keyboard shortcut is just the letter T.) I increased the size of the font to 100 pixels. And last, I changed the colour to that luscious fuchsia.

I put each of my 3 letters on their own layers. I know I’m going to want to make adjustments to one or more letters, but not necessarily all of them at once.

I’m not lecturing you, really… but remember to Simplify those letters as you go along. Elements has a bad habit of messing with your existing text should you decide to change fonts or colours if you don’t take that step. Once the layer is simplified you can’t change the font, but you CAN resize, recolour and play with it.

For that middle initial I changed the size of the font (just by typing in the number I want into the box I’ve circled below) to 150 pixels.

Then I went back to 100 pixels for my last letter. You’ll notice they’re randomly placed, and that doesn’t matter, because Elements has tools to fix that.

While I was playing with the letters, I didn’t like the size differential so I decided to increase the size of the smaller letters by 20%, to 120 pixels. Then it looked right!

By selecting all three layers, I could then use the Align tool to line up the horizontal centres of the letters.

I wanted a little bit of an overlap on the letters to tie the monogram together. So I used the Distribute tool too to shift the letters based on their vertical centres.

All that’s left is to Merge the layers together to make a single object. They’re already all selected; right-click on them and select Merge, or just hit CTRL/CMD>E and they’ll unite.

Those of you who read my tripe weekly will know that I wasn’t serious when I said I was done. I decided to add some flourishes to my monogram. I love brushes and have quite a collection of them that I’ve often downloaded free from Brusheezy.com. The one I opted to use here is part of a collection called 20 Dividers V2. Did you know that if you hover the cursor over your workspace you’ll get a preview of the brush just like I’ve shown you below? You’ll know what it looks like and can then adjust your size and angle before you even use your brush.

I know I sound like a broken record. Good habits are important to streamline your workflow and prevent oopses. If you put your brushes on their own layers, you have total control over them. If you put them right on your paper, you can’t do anything with them – can’t change their colour (easily) or opacity, increase or decrease the size, apply a style, copy them or any other tweak you might decide is needed. So just put them on their own layers!

For balance I want a second flourish; duplicating the layer is the easiest way to ensure they’re identical. Either right-click on the layer and select Duplicate, then click OK in the pop-up menu or simply CTRL/CMD>J to copy it.

Then I flipped the second brush vertically so the two brush layers are mirror images. The easiest way to do that is to grab one of the middle handles on the bounding box then drag the handle in the direction you want the flip to go. (Either horizontally or vertically.) Don’t obsess over dragging it to exactly the same size, because you can simply type -100 into the corresponding box in the tool options below. Then the software does all the work. WSNH!!

Again, let the software do the work to Align all the layers again. I opted to then select the two brush layers and shrink them somewhat so they were closer to the same scale as the monogram. Then I Merged the brush layers into one.

I might be done… but then again, I might not be done! Let’s see what we can do to really make this monogram pop. I’m going to use a Bevel Style.

I have the letters layer selected and used the Inner Ridge Bevel. It looks like enamel and I love it!

Then I selected my brush layer and hit it with the Scalloped Edge Bevel just to give it a bit more weight and dimension.

Isn’t that amazing?! And so simple!! I saved it as a png file so I can use it as the title for my layout when the time comes. Keep your eye out for it in the Gallery!

I’m departing tomorrow (July 11/18) for a two-week genealogical expedition to Ireland. So there won’t be a tutorial next Tuesday or the Tuesday after. If I’m not totally whipped when I get home again, there MAY be one ready for the 31st. Think about what I can teach you next. Sláinte!!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Like a Broken Record

I was fooling around with a thought I had to see how it would look and a tutorial was born! I love papers with a small pattern repeat and I adore embossed cardstock. But I can’t always find what I want when I want it, so I decided to give creating my own a try. It’s so simple!! (But let’s not put our awesome designers out of work, ‘k?)

I started out with a plain Kraft-coloured cardstock from Scraps N PiecesOh Canada… Eh! collection. Then I opened a new document (CTRL/CMD>N). I knew I was going to use something that would resemble a tile effect and chose to work on a 300 x 300 pixel square canvas. Our 12 x 12 inch layouts are 3600 x 3600 pixels, so this size will be 1/12th of the length/width of the overall cardstock.

I opened up the Custom Shape Tool menu then chose All Elements to see every shape available.

I played with more than one of these shapes before I settled on this one.

I put my cursor at the upper left corner and pulled the shape diagonally across my square canvas to completely fill it. The colour I used isn’t important because I’m going to change it later. I wanted something I could see easily.

Then I clicked Edit>Define Pattern. This is going to allow me to use this little doodad as a repeating pattern on my paper.

The Pattern Name menu opens up. I gave it a name that meant something to me and would be easy to find later. There’s a clue in there as to where we’re going to end up.

If you’re familiar with my tutorials you’ll know I always tell you to work on a separate layer when using brushes. It goes double for patterns!

You may have noticed that many of the Tools in Photoshop Elements have multiple options. The Paint Bucket has one I’d never used before but now that I know what it does, I’m SOLD! With this versatile tool you can fill an area with colour or……. a pattern!

Make very sure you’re working on the new, blank layer. Click on the Pattern Fill button, the one that looks like a square with a bunch of diagonal lines through it.

When the Pattern Menu opens up look for your new pattern.

Elements will open up your pattern in the active box as shown.

Now just click anywhere within the borders of your canvas. It’s like magic!! I have 144 little repeats of my pattern creating an Argyle effect. I could stop here and have a cute custom patterned paper. I’d love to do something like this with a tone-on-tone, or with either white or black. Then I’d Merge the layers and save it somewhere I’ll be able to find it again.

But you know me… we’re going to keep going. I want to show you how to turn it into embossed cardstock, so turn off the visibility to your cardstock layer and have your pattern layer selected. Then Layer>New Fill Layer>Solid Color.

In this menu, click the Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask then click OK.

Use the same colour as your cardstock by clicking on it with the Eyedropper.

Merge the Color Fill layer with your pattern layer. Then you’re going to hit it with a Bevel Layer Style. Bevels are included with the software and can be found in the Styles menu. Below I’ve used the Simple Inner bevel. It’s a nice, rounded bevel that raises the pattern off the surface beautifully.

If you feel that the bevel is TOO obvious, you can click on the fx icon on the layer and adjust it to suit. (This is the only Bevel I adjusted while putting together this tutorial.)

Turn on the cardstock layer and voilà… Merge the layers and now you’ve got a custom embossed cardstock.

Some of the other Bevel styles work for this technique too. Let’s look at the Simple Pillow Emboss.

Is this the effect you were expecting? It looks a lot like those sheets of die-cut chipboard!

Simple Sharp Inner looks like this on just the pattern layer.

I really like the look of this one.

One last one… Simple Sharp Pillow Emboss.

This effect is really interesting. If I went into the fx controls and reversed the direction of the bevel it would raise it off the paper. Might be worth trying!

I can think of a long list of ways these simple techniques can be used to elevate my scrapping. Can you?

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Still MORE Fun with FONTS!! 

We’ve done a lot of cool things with fonts, but I know there are still so many even cooler things to try. Last week I bought a new font bundle from The Hungry JPEG, a selection of vintage fonts for a smokin’ hot deal. It’s not as if I’ll ever have too many fonts, right?

Anyway, while I was downloading these fonts, several of which were actually font families, I looked at the samples the site uses for advertising and it hit me… Why not try layering two fonts from the same family and see what happens? Font families are a collection of very similar fonts with some subtle differences; there may be a regular, a bold, a light, an outline, a grungy and an italic version, for example. This tutorial was fun for me, because I really didn’t know what it would look like when I was finished, but the idea was firmly in my head and I had to try it. I impressed myself so much I needed to widen the doorways. But… it didn’t turn out the way I expected it to. It’s BETTER!

I went through my fonts, using High Logic’s Main Type, to find a font family that would hopefully give me the look I could see in my head. The one that looked most promising is called Nomos, by Cruzine Design. It has several variations on the basic font, so I went with it. I started with Nomos Regular Regular for my basic title. I selected a medium gray to be my starting colour from one of the papers I used in my layout. And I set the size at 100 pixels, knowing I’d probably resize it to fit my canvas. Remember, I usually create my title on its own canvas, sizing the basic working space to approximate the area I want it to fill. No distractions, nothing to work around. So once I decided on my font and colour, I opened a 5 1/2 x 1 1/2 transparent canvas on my workspace.

I typed out my one-word title, then resized it to almost fit my space. I made a careful mental note of the exact size of the final font so I wouldn’t have any guesswork for the next step.

Then I went back to my fonts and chose an outline version of the same font. It’s called Nomos Inline Inline. (I don’t know why the designer used so much repetition in titling…)

I Simplified the original layer then turned its visibility off. Why Simplify? When working with fonts in PSE, if you DON’T simplify the layer, then select a different font for your next text layer, that first layer will morph to that new font. And you might not notice it until MUCH later and have to go back and fix it. So don’t forget to Simplify once you’re satisfied with spelling, grammar and punctuation. After that, I typed out my title exactly the same as the first layer, only in white this time. And I resized it to the same size as my original layer. Here’s where the people really paying attention can give me the gears. My resized font is 114.31 pixels.

They weren’t in exactly the same place on the workspace, but it looks really cool just like this! If it was what I was after I’d just have gone with it. But I envisioned something more, so I kept going.

PSA: Simplify your text layers!!

I wanted the two layers stacked perfectly, white over gray, so I used the Move Tool Options to Align the layers, first by Center then by Middle.

I turned off the gray layer again and concentrated on the white outline layer. I clicked on the Layer thumbnail to select the edges of the letters as shown below.

I want the white sections to be thinner so more of the gray shows through, so I clicked Select>Modify>Contract. I didn’t want to lose too much, so I went with a single-digit shrink of 7 pixels.

If you look closely you can see where the new lines of marching ants have appeared. I’m now going to DELETE those sections. CTRL/CMD>X

Ah! Not exactly what I was expecting, but really, really neat!

I couldn’t wait to see what it looked like with the gray layer on. I wanted to add some dimension to the white layer, which I did by using a Simple Sharp Pillow Emboss bevel style, one of the integrated styles the software comes with.

It looked really good, but just a little TOO… too. Easily fixed by adjusting the bevel settings.

I clicked on the fx icon on the white layer and made the bevel much smaller. I think it looks like inlaid enamel and chrome, don’t you? Now I’m itchy to try this with other fonts and see what different effects I can achieve just by layering two fonts. Who knew it would be so much fun?

Here is my finished layout. It’s for the Designer Spotlight Challenge this month and was created with pieces of 3 kits by Connie Prince and a template from Trixie Scraps. The people in the photo are my grandparents; it was taken in the summer of 1961. By the following Easter he was gone; this is one of only 2 photos I have of him where he doesn’t have a cigarette in his hand. I see a little bit of my dad in each of them, and my sister’s eyes crinkle in the same way Grandma’s do. I’d never noticed it before, so this was a labour of love.

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Everything New is Old Again

No, you didn’t read that wrong. Today’s technique is going to turn a sort of ho-hum colour photo into something that looks like a vintage one. It will work with any colour photo at all, but it looks best when there’s lots of detail and texture.

To begin, I opened my photo in Elements then selected Guided Edit. When the menu shown below opened up, I selected Fun Edits>Old Fashioned Photo. These Guided Edits transform photos with only a couple of clicks and a little tweaking.

There are three presets in this menu as shown below.

The first preset is called Newspaper. And it looks a lot like those black-and-white photos found in any newspaper. There’s a good amount of contrast and sharp details.

The second preset is Urban. It’s a little softer but grungier.

The last one is Vivid; it looks like a happy medium between the first two. It’s the one that adds the most oomph to the sky.

I liked the look of Vivid for this photo. The next step is Adjust Tone. The effect it has on the photo is pretty subtle, and you might not really see it.

It’s just a little bit brighter, and perhaps the details are a tad bit sharper. Clicking on this tool multiple times doesn’t add any further effect.

Let’s add some texture. Unlike the previous step, multiple clicks will increase the amount of “texture” which actually is more properly called noise.

It’s looking really interesting, but we still need to add some colour.

Shown below are the default settings for the colour adjustment.

I made some very slight changes to the settings, warming up the colour just a hint, adding a tiny bit more saturation and lightening it up a barely-there amount.

I like how dramatic the sky looks with this Edit. Then I clicked the Next button.

Here’s where you decide what you’re going to do with your photo. If you plan to use it right away for a layout, or if you want to make more adjustments to it, obviously you’ll click In Expert.

When the Expert workspace opens, you’ll see right away that all the changes you’ve made have been done on a copy of your photo.

Let’s play a little more. Remember Blend Modes? I tried them all on this photo. Some looked really interesting, some where downright HORRIBLE. The ones I’ll show you are the ones that didn’t make my eyes hurt.

Multiply made the colour come back and the overall look is very moody.

Darker Color also let the colour come through again, but kept the sky that weirdly unnatural brown.

This one is muted and soft.

Usually Overlay lightens and softens too, but not on this technique.

I think this mode is well-named. It’s HARD!

Linear Light makes me think of movie posters from the 50s and 60s.

This was one of the odder ones.

A Clockwork Orange, anyone?

I think this one is rather odd, too. Misnamed, for sure!

See anything you’d like to incorporate into a layout? At this point, I chose to Merge the two layers together. I could now save it as a new version of the original.

As I was running through this edit, I found the power lines were really jarring. In the original they were virtually unnoticeable, but in some modes they jumped off the screen. The water tower and wagon are so vintage, but the wires looked out-of-place. So I used the Spot Healing brush to remove them.

I played a bit with the Hue/Saturation a bit too. Quick keys for that adjustment are CTRL/CMD>U.

I liked it slightly more sepia than copper. This step will seem really bizarre, since I made a point of adding texture to the photo way back at the start. But when I hit it with Haze Removal, I LOVED how it looked.

See the difference? I think it looks like a real, vintage photo from 100 or more years ago.

This is where I stopped. I have no idea what I plan to do with it, but I know I’ll be using this edit again!

Don’t be afraid to play with the features Elements has to offer. All you’ll give up is a little bit of time, and you might find something that defines your style perfectly!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Alphas Revisited

Are you ready for a really easy tutorial that looks a lot more involved than it is?

When I was looking at the June challenges at GingerScraps, I knew I wanted to do the Scraplift challenge – I already had the same template from Heartstrings Scrap Art in my stash, so it was a no-brainer! My dilemma came in the form of wanting to use a specific kit from Aimee Harrison called Tidepooling, that came with a selection of wickedly awesome alphas. And you know how I love those alphas! Now you get to see how I put that alpha to use.

I wanted my title to follow the same curve as the title that came with the template and to sit in roughly the same place. But creating my title right there on the template would have been very difficult, due to all the distracting layers. I could have just turned them all off, but I prefer to compose my titles on their own workspace then move them onto my layout so I duplicated the two layers of the circular photo spot.

Then I sent the Duplicate Layers to a New document.

I could have left it untitled, but chose to give it a name, just in case I was interrupted and had to find my title in the Photo Bin again later.

Now I had a new 12×12 document open, with the two layers of the circular photo spot in the exact same place as they are on the template.

Next I went to my layout folder and opened all the alpha elements I chose for my title.

I spelled out my title in the centre of my canvas. I made sure they were in the correct order so when I started moving them, they’d be where I wanted them. (Notice I’ve turned off the visibility of those photo spot layers. They aren’t needed at this step.)

I knew just from lots of practice, that these letters were much too big for their purpose on this layout. So I selected ALL the alpha layers and resized them together at one time.

I estimate how much I need to shrink letters when I’m doing this, and I randomly chose 65% as my target. I like to use round numbers, especially if I’m going to resize other objects later and want them to be to scale. A round number is easier to remember! I also checked the box that says Constrain Proportions. That makes sure that I only have to adjust in one plane and the other will follow suit.

Because I’m going to work with just one letter at a time, I turned the visibility for all the other letters off. They’ll be turned back on as I go along. And I turned the photo spot layers back on; they’re going to be needed now.

This alpha was super-easy to use. It has strong verticals, so I was easily able to position each letter perpendicular to the edge of the photo spot. Then I shifted the L into its place just sitting on the edge of the gray circle – my baseline – which will become my focal photo later.

I love that this L has a bit of a swoopy flourish to it.

The letter I will be a bit more of a challenge. It needs to sit close enough to the L so that it’s visually connected. It too is perpendicular to the baseline.

By turning off the visibility of the L for a second, I could be sure I had the bottom of the I touching the baseline. Then I turned the L back on and nudged the I into it’s spot.

The F also needs to be perpendicular. It’s got a strong vertical dimension and would look off if it isn’t perpendicular. But notice how the vertical aspects of the letters aren’t parallel. That’s how I want them.

Now, as you already know, I’m a bit… particular (or anal, you chose – most of us ICU nurses are) about some things. And this is one of them. The tops of the tall elements HAVE to be roughly lined up to look right to my eyes. But… some would argue the F could have a longer bottom end, and that would be right too.

If you scroll back up to one of the screenshots showing all the letters in the Layers panel you’ll see that the lower case letters are very slightly slanted. So I want to make sure they’re slightly slanted in my title too. As for spacing, I’ve tried using the Distribute Tool Option and usually I end up really unhappy, so I eyeball the spacing between letters (also known as kerning). I only care about it looking good, not having everything perfectly spaced.

Where I AM a perfectionist is when it comes to apostrophes. (Don’t get me started about the proper USE of apostrophes…) So depending on the look you’re after, the top of the apostrophe can be aligned with the tops of the tallest letters, slightly above for a casual look, or slightly below. It’s all about what you like.

The letter S in this alpha presented a few options. I decided the right-most edge should be my focus and so I made it perpendicular to my baseline.

This lower case A is an article, so it’s a word, not just a letter. It needed to be spaced accordingly.

The upper case B is another letter in this set that is easy to position, with appropriate spacing, of course.

This E, unlike the one in Life, looked funny when I tipped it to the same degree, so I stood it up a little straighter.

Below you can see the A as it looked when I moved it onto the canvas. It’ll need tipping for sure.

Perfect with both lower edges on the baseline.

When I played with positioning the C, my brain wanted the curved edges to be parallel, which actually made it easy to get it just right.

Last letter! This H was not upright when I moved it onto the canvas and so the upright section isn’t perpendicular to the baseline. The final position has the bottom of the upright and the curve of the serif resting on the baseline.

Zooming out, I was pleased with the spacing and the angles on each letter, but I wasn’t totally happy about where it starts and stops. So I selected all the letters so I could move them all together and rotated the title into a more pleasing position. With a little nudging of the entire title, it was successfully lined up with the baseline without having to adjust any letter individually.

Then I could go ahead and merge all those letter layers. For the remaining steps I don’t need to see my baseline so I turned visibility to the photo spot layers off.

The title would be just fine the way it is, but the original layout we’re scraplifting has a border around its title. So mine will too. I Selected my title’s edges by clicking on the title layer thumbnail in the Layers panel.

Next I clicked on the Select tab, then Modify>Expand.

I want my paper border visible but not overpowering. So I chose a single digit number at random. 8 pixels should be right.

I pulled a colour from one of my papers to fill the area I just created. It’s a gray with a faint touch of green as shown.

If I just fill that space on the same layer as the title, there’s a faint void around the letters where it doesn’t fill completely. That might be okay, depending on how big your title is, how detailed your background will be and so on. But I’ll show you another way to eliminate the voids.

I created a new layer and filled the selection on it. Because it’s currently on top of the wooden letter layer, it shows you how the entire area is filled in. Alternatively, I could clip a paper here instead of filling the area.

Then I moved it down under the wooden letters. If I wasn’t doing it for a tutorial I would have just put the new layer under the title from the beginning and skipped that step now.

The title on the original layout also had a narrow white stroke around it, and that’s what I did next.

I could have used black for definition but I wanted visibility, so I used white.

This stroke can be pretty narrow. I went with 4 pixels and set it to be centred on the edge of the gray layer. That’s the best way to minimize squared-off corners.

If you strain your eyes you can see it.

The last thing I needed to do was put a drop shadow on the wooden layer. It has dimension and needed a shadow to emphasize that. I used the drop shadow styles included with the software for my example; I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t achieve any of my techniques without spending more money. The Low shadow looks like this, which is TOO much.

So I double-clicked on the fx icon to the right side of the layer in the Layers panel. Then I adjusted the lighting angle to match the rest of the layout, made it smaller, brought the shadow in closer to the letters and lightened it up.

Then I zoomed out to make sure it looked like it should.

Once I was positive, I merged all the title layers together so I could move it onto my layout. It seems like a very time-consuming technique but it really isn’t. Putting together a tutorial detailed enough to make sense to beginners takes me a full day… this title took only about 15 minutes.

Wanna see the finished layout? [whispers to Glee – the focal photo is of my daughter’s hands. She was in Nicaragua for turtle-hatching season.]

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements 13+)

Jailbird No More!

I had a crazy week between tutorials, with another hectic week now, so this week’s lesson will be a simple one. But I think you’ll be happy you’ve read it later! I’m going to show you a super-quick Guided Edit to help with those photos you have that would be GREAT if it weren’t for (fill in the photo flaw here) – you know, the ones where the subject is really off to one side, or there are people you don’t want in it but cropping is going to upset the balance, or there’s too much space between the people in the photo and you want them to look like they like each other. Below is the layout I did for this month’s GingerScraps: Created With Rewards challenge. I used the GingerBread Ladies‘ April challenge reward collab Birdsong and a template from Aimee Harrison for my layout. The photos are from Pixabay; Rochelle liked my layout enough that she nominated it for Baker’s Best! But, as you can see from the caption on my screenshot, the layout wasn’t without challenges.

The template was perfect for the layout I imagined creating, and I was on a roll until it was time to clip the photo of the bullfinch to the large photo spot… The following images show you a detailed view of what I’m talking about.

Sometimes life is easy and everything falls into place. Using a template saves a lot of time without taking away the creative part of digiscrapping. But then there’s a moment when it’s not going to save time at all!

When I’m getting ready to clip a photo to a photo spot on a template, I like to be sure it’s completely covering the spot… no little hint of tattle-tale gray peeking out anywhere. If I’m stuck for how much I can resize a photo and I don’t want to change the size or shape of the photo spot, I’ll click on the photo spot layer’s thumbnail so I can see the exact dimensions and location of the spot. If you look really closely at the image below you can see the selection bounding box that action provides.

So I was positive the entire photo spot was covered by my photo and I could go ahead and clip my photo. But holy guacamole… the poor bird looks really uncomfortable! I couldn’t make the photo smaller, so I had to think about how I’d solve this problem.

There’s a Guided Edit called Recompose. It lets you manipulate your photos without messing them up. It’s going to save the day for me.

Just in case you’re wondering, the photo cannot be already on your layout when you deploy this Edit. When you hit the Recompose button on the Edit menu, it’s going to recompose your whole layout. So open up your photo and THEN open the Guided Edit tab. Guided Edit>Special Edits>Recompose

The menu has an assortment of options you can use after you’ve gotten your basic Recompose completed. I’m not going to go into them today; it’s a much more complex tutorial that we’ll save for another day. So I clicked on the Recompose button and got rolling with my super-quick, easy basic Recomposition.

I opted to make the photo a little narrower, in keeping with the orientation of the photo spot I was using. To do that I pushed the bounding box handles IN toward the centre just a bit, as you can see in the photo.

Then I pulled the top and bottom handles OUT from the centre, stretching the background a bit but not distorting the bird in the middle.

At this point, I wasn’t positive I’d made enough of an adjustment to the photo to make it work. It didn’t need a lot of tweaking so I chose to click on the Next button down at the bottom right of the screen, the clicked on Continue Editing In Expert>Done. That took me back to my layout, with the edited photo in the Photo Bin. I dragged the photo back onto the template, resized it to cover the photo spot and clipped the photo to the spot. It was JUST RIGHT!

In a future tutorial I’ll show you a more advanced Recomposition that uses some of the other options with the tool. As soon as I have the right photo….

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Throwing the BOOK at Glee

[This tutorial is for advanced-intermediate and expert users of Photoshop Elements.]

Awhile back I got a private message from Glee asking if I had any tips for making text look more like it’s really sitting on the page when using a book element, rather than floating above it. I didn’t have any tips but thought it might make a good tutorial. Boy, did I bite off a big chunk of what-the-heck-can-I-do-here! The following images represent hours of experimenting and starting over, and I wasn’t completely successful. But I learned a lot in the process so that’s a good outcome, at least for me.

I scoured through my stash for a book that looked similar to the one Glee used for her layout and this was the only one I have. So I went with it, even though the left hand page presents some serious challenges due to perspective.

First things first. You want to choose a font that looks like it would be used on the pages of a book – a typewriter-style font. The colour of your “ink” should be black or dark gray. Adjust the size of the font to be suitable for your pages and your leading should be sufficiently wide to allow all the uppers and lowers to have space. Also, ensure you’ve got your justification set to the left. Justification is the alignment of the first letter on each line. When you choose Center, your text will automatically adjust itself so that each line is centered with the one before. That’s NOT what you want for this purpose. Your text needs to line up with the left edge of the page, or the margin. Please note… I didn’t do that in several of the images to follow and lived to regret it!

Yes… lots of mistakes! But let’s run with it to start off so you can see why it’s important.

The Warp Tool isn’t available until you’ve put your cursor on the page. You can activate it then, or you can type out some text and then deploy it. It’s the right-most little box with the T sitting on top of a curved arrow when you’ve got the Tool Options open. There are several options with little pictograms showing you the basic shape of each Warp.

For the top of this left hand page, the Arch Warp will work. Play with the sliders, moving them to the left and right to see how they work, then decide which ones you need to move to shape your text.

Here’s a tip… when you’re moving across the page toward the spine, perspective demands that the text gradually gets smaller the closer to the spine it gets. To adjust that with the Warp tool you’d move the Vertical Distortion slider to the LEFT. You can also move the text box around using the Move tool, moving it to the angle it needs to sit properly on the page.

Here you can see the way the Vertical Distortion adjustment works. As long as you haven’t Simplified the text layer, you can use the Warp tool as many times as you need to.

The image below shows very clearly why left-justification is important. If you’re using a poem as your text, you can leave it centered and it’ll be fine but for prose, not so much.

My next efforts used a smaller size on my font. It’s still much too big, but it still lets me show you some more tweaking.

I learned that it’s easier to make the Warp adjustments look right if I angled the text box to follow the upper edge of the page first. Please ignore the typo in the red text below…

The Arch Warp worked here, sort of. I used the Vertical Distortion slider too.

It still doesn’t look quite right. There are other tools that can be used to adjust the text’s shape.

I like to zoom in and out while I work so I can see the overall effect of whatever I’m doing. Zooming in tight lets me see it up close for those little tweaks, zooming out shows the whole image and shows where I need to make bigger changes.

So, have I mentioned that I don’t love this left-side page? I played with this area so much and hated everything I did with it.

It looks like the Flag Warp should work. But it’s going to need a lot of massaging.

There are other tools to alter the shape and size of layers. With text layers that aren’t simplified, there are only two ways to Transform the layer, Free Transform (which never seems to do anything I want it to) and Skew. If you’ve never used these awesomely useful tools, I highly recommend them.

I did a little Skewing, but although it looks better, I’m not sure it will make the more… erm… particular scrappers out there happy.

Then I thought, well, it’s not working so great doing big blocks of text all at once, and with two different curves, it would need more than one block of text anyway, so maybe if I did one line at a time…

I was cautiously optimistic when I saw how well the first line worked out. I used Arch and adjusted the Vertical Distortion.

The second line seemed okay too. I selected both layers at the same time so I could skew them at the same time. It was important to keep the space between the lines of text uniform.

Aaaaaaaannnnd then, I abandoned ship. It was taking a lot of time and it wasn’t really working any better. So I typed out some text that filled about 2/3 of the space. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make one single block do all the things I needed it to do.

First I made sure the left-justified text was parallel with the edge of the page.

Then I tried a couple of options in the Warp Text menu. I tried Shell Upper first. Do you see what I see?

Yeah, that didn’t work. So I tried the Wave Warp. Whoa!! That’s BAD!

So I reversed my tactics and SKEWED first and THEN Warped.

That looks okay! Sort of. The bottom is still not making me light up.

As long as I left the text box as a text box and not a Smart Object all I could do with it is Skew it. Already tried that. So I Simplified the layer. Then I went back to the Layers>Transform menu and tried both the Distort and Perspective tools. (See the bounding box?) That made it a lot more right.

Then I added a block of text at the bottom.

By now I was feeling like this just wasn’t going to be good. The Arch Warp looks okay, but still not YEAH!

I tweaked some more. The Skew doesn’t look right either, when I zoomed out.

I did a LOT of things trying to get it right. I even cut and pasted individual words in the last line to see if that would help. Alas, no.

So I surrendered. The other page was always going to be easier, and in retrospect, if I were to do anything with the pages in this particular book, I would put  photo or image on the left-side page (oh wait… a poem could go on this page, couldn’t it?), leaving a big margin around it to disguise the imperfect adjustments, then Skew/Distort it to look okay and leave it alone.

So I filled that right-side page with left-justified text then hit it with the Flag Warp. That was almost enough!!!!

Really, just a wee bit of Distortion almost had it right in just three steps (FlagWarp>Simplify Layer>Distort).

A little bit of a Skew and now it looks great!

The final version isn’t awful, if you don’t look too closely or too long!

I hope I didn’t lose you along the way. That was a complicated one! (I even tossed out about 15 of my screenshots.) I really can’t encourage you enough to experiment with the things Elements can do. You might discover something no one has ever done before, and then you can teach the rest of us!