Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

UNZIP Me Dahling! Updated 

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It’s been a bit of a gong show at our house recently (my parents and 2 of my siblings have been down with COVID) and I’m running about 3 days behind. So rather than give you a nothing-burger tutorial, I’m going to update an older one that might come in handy in the very near future.

I don’t know about you but I will never have too many digikits!! But being a digikit hoarder has its downside… All those kits have to be unzipped and organized. Who has time for that? And then there’s Digital Scrapbooking Day (well, more like DSWeek!) coming up in no time, with all the fantastic new products it brings with it. That you’re going to want to play with right away. What to do, what to do?


I’ll be the first to admit that my downloads folder is a mess.

I’m trying to develop some better work habits, and keeping on top of unzipping is one thing that would really make a difference. So I’m going to show you a terrific app I found that lets me unzip multiple files with only a few keystrokes. It’s called Extract Now (clickable link) and it’s FREE! I work in Windows, but there’s a Mac version too. I’m guessing it’s similar in layout and behaviour, but I can’t say that for sure. I’ve tried a few others, one of which carried a virus… and this is the one I liked best for its ease of use. It’s on my taskbar now for ease of access. The menu looks like the image below. (For newer readers, WSNH is code for Work Smart, Not Hard!)

There are several ways you can customize the performance of the app. I don’t use a lot of them, but the ones I do use include letting it check for its own updates and turning off the sounds. I’m surrounded by noise all day every day (if you’ve ever lived in a housing development under construction, you’ll know what I mean), so I don’t want a bunch of added noise in my environment if I can turn it off.

In the Process tab, you can tell it what to do with the zip folders after they’ve been extracted. At first I had the app delete them as soon as they were extracted, but I had to retrieve some stuff and now I manually delete them.

This is where Extract Now really shines. You can designate exactly where your unzipped files are sent by using the Destination tab. I had it set up to extract everything into a Downloads subfolder, but found I left things in there forever and eventually forgot about them. The Help button is really useful at showing you how to customize the app for your purposes.

I create a new folder for each kit I’ve downloaded. If you’re into keyboard shortcuts, hit CTRL/CMD>Shift>N  and you’ll have a new folder you can call whatever you want.

Over the years I’ve refined how I manage my digikits. They all go into their own folder, which later becomes a subfolder within my store folders. I name them all with the same format, designer’s name and kit name spelled out in full. That makes it so much easier to find what I’m looking for later, and it helps too with credits when I post my layouts to various galleries.

I select all the zipped folders for each kit by clicking on the first one on the list, CTRL/CMD>clicking on the last one and voilà!! Then I can open up Extract Now and drag them onto the menu.

When I click on Extract, a submenu opens asking me where I want the files to go. This is when I find the new folder I’ve created for the kit in my Downloads folder and click on it.

Click on OK to All and the app goes to work.

You can watch the progress as your files are extracted. When all the files are successfully unzipped, you’ll see green check-marks next to each one and there’s a new button activated at the bottom right. Click on Clear and all the files are removed from your app workspace. I can extract several dozen files in a matter of a couple of minutes with this useful tool.

Like I said, I choose to manually delete the zipped folders from my kit folder, which is super-simple because they’re all still selected. After I minimize or close Extract Now, I only have to right-click on the selected files and choose Delete from the menu.

We all have much better things to do with our time than extract one file at a time, right?! Give it a try and see what you think. (You can always remove the app if it doesn’t work out for you.) October 1 will be here before we know it. Now go get your scrap on!

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Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Realistic Folded Paper Shapes

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I got a message from one of my most faithful readers, Karen Hampton, the other day. She had downloaded the Sweetheart template freebie that went out in Neia’s newsletter and was disappointed to find that although there’s a cute folded-paper heart on the layout, clipping a paper to the layer didn’t also recreate the folded-paper effect. She said she thought she could do it herself, but was very unhappy with the results. She was on the right track, but may have missed a couple of nuances. She asked if I’d do a tut, and here we are!

My example will start out showing a newsprint background paper that disappears a few steps in. You’ll probably figure out for yourself why that happened. 😉

Open up a canvas. Mine’s 12×12, as usual. Drag and drop a background if you want. Or don’t. We’ll start out with the Custom Shape Tool, aka the Cookie Cutter Tool. Pick a foreground colour that you can easily see. I’m going with the absolute most simple options here but if you want to, use the Tool Options to get a perfect shape. I’ll use the heart, since the template has a heart, but this’ll work with other shapes too. To more easily see the changes made with each step I’m going to use a plain, solid red paper. The technique works just as well on patterned paper too.

I dragged out a good-sized heart using the Custom Shape Tool. Note the solid line around the edge of the heart. That is one clue that the heart is a Smart Object. Another clue is that there’s a little icon in the lower right corner of the Layer Thumbnail that doesn’t show up on layers containing dumb objects. Before we can manipulate anything about that shape other than to resize it, it must be Simplified. In more recent versions of Elements, there’s actually a Simplify button in the Tool Options.

If your version doesn’t have that, you can accomplish the same thing by right-clicking on the layer to activate it and choosing Simplify Layer from the drop-down menu.

Here’s my red paper. To Clip it to the shape, right-click on the paper layer and choose Create Clipping Mask. If you’d rather use a keyboard shortcut, CTRL/CMD>G works with versions Elements 14 and previous. If you’re using Elements 15 or newer, that shortcut Groups Layers – which could be useful but doesn’t do what’s needed here. For you, the keyboard shortcut is CTRL/CMD>ALT/OPT>G.

Once the paper is Clipped to the shape, the two layers can be Linked by clicking on the little grayed-out symbol on the left edge of the layers, which keeps the layers together if one is moved or resized. I prefer to Merge them into a single layer so I don’t leave part behind or do a bunch or work on the wrong layer. Click>SHIFT>click on the layers to activate them then right-click and choose Merge Layers or CTRL/CMD>E.

To create the appearance of a fold, we’ll use the Burn Tool. The icon looks like an “OK” hand signal (or half of Heidi Klum‘s opera glasses, for those of you who watch America’s Got Talent). Select a small hard round brush from the Brush Picker. 20 pixels is a good size. Set the Range to Shadows and the Exposure to 100%. What this Tool does is darken whatever it covers, but keeps the underlying colour.

This is a hot tip: When using the Dodge and Burn Tools, to get the smoothest transitions, start your action OUTSIDE the object you’re altering. The effect will only be applied to the actual object on the active layer – it won’t touch anything underneath it! And to create a straight line, click>HOLD THE SHIFT>click. So I started my shadowy fold line by clicking off the red paper at the centre-top V on the heart (the upper + sign), held the SHIFT key down while I moved the cursor to below and outside the pointed end of the heart and clicked again (the bottom + sign). As long as you keep the SHIFT key pressed, Elements will know it’s drawing a line between clicks.

Still working with the Burn Tool set to Shadows, change the Brush to a BIG soft brush. You can resize your Brush two different ways. One is to use the slider in the Tool Options. The other is to use the keyboard. [ makes the brush smaller, ] makes it larger. Choose a brush size that covers about 2/3 of one side of the heart.

I like to have the utmost control over everything (Type A/OCD/ADHD??) so for this step I’ve turned on the Grid. View>Grid or CTRL/CMD>’ This way I can be sure the shading is oriented properly and that I’m starting and stopping in a straight line.

This screenshot expands on what I was saying about starting the Burn OUTSIDE the heart. I have my big, soft brush overlapping the fold by a bit (I think it looks more realistic, but you can line up the Burn with the fold if you want). I’ve shifted the left edge over 2 spaces past the fold. Click>HOLD THE SHIFT DOWN>click and there’s a nice shadow there.

If 100% isn’t quite as shadowed as you’d like, simply KEEP THE SHIFT KEY DOWN, move the cursor back to the first position and click again. If you click without holding down the SHIFT key you’ll be starting a new path and will be making work for yourself. Does that make sense?

To make the right side of the heart look a bit curved, change to the Dodge Tool – the one that looks like that paddle the optometrist uses to cover one eye. Keep your big soft brush but make it about 25% smaller than your Burn brush was; set the Range to Highlights and the Exposure to about 20%. Repeat the same steps you used to create the shaded part. One pass should be enough. Can you see the curve?

Once you’ve figured out your light source you can position your heart and add a nice cast shadow. And that’s it!

Let me know how this works for you. I’m always open to questions and suggestions through Private Messages. [User name ObiJanKenobi] See you next week!

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Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Yes! You CAN Create Curved Lines in Elements!

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As we’re all well aware, there are lots of things Photoshop does that Photoshop Elements doesn’t. Sometimes there are work-arounds, sometimes there aren’t. I had given up hope on smoothly curved lines after trying a lot of things I felt should work – but failed spectacularly, and then I found George Peirson, the HowToGuru. He’s got some really interesting techniques that I had to try for myself. THEY WORK! Today I’ll show you the easiest one to master, and create a curved paper multi-layer border with it.

I chose to work on a transparent 12×12 canvas, since it’s my preferred layout size. There’s no reason this can’t be accomplished on a smaller or larger scale, so do what suits you best.

This is the shockingly easy way to curve lines, and it uses the TEXT TOOL!!! Any font will work, and choosing a big character size will make it quicker. Center your Text cursor on your canvas and type out a line of “underscores” – SHIFT>- to extend across the page. Using the underscore gives a longer dash than the hyphen does, and the ends join seamlessly.

For once, we’re not going to Simplify a Text layer before we manipulate it. Instead, click the Text Warp button shown and a new menu will open up. Make sure Anti-Aliasing is also checked.

The Text Warp menu has a drop-down option bar labeled Style. Click on the bar and choose Flag. The only parameter we’ll change is the Horizontal Bend. Push the slider all the way to one side or the other. I’m right-handed, so I went to the right. For this example I’ve only gone to 94%, but 100% is also going to be perfect. If you want to see what the other adjustments do, play with them. They’re not permanent until you make them permanent.

So now we have a very gentle sine wave. If you want something more um… dramatic, we’ll need to Simplify the layer.

This Image>Transform Tool is so useful! For my sample, I chose Image>Transform>Distort. This command tells the Bounding Box that each of the “handles” is moveable in any direction.

So just grab a handle and pull it or push it around until you see a shape you like. Then click the green checkmark.

The usual Resize and Reposition functions are still operational, so you have lots of room to make adjustments. I Rotated it so it’s vertical, then stretched it top to bottom and positioned it where I liked it best.

My goal is to create some Clipping Masks for a curvy border, so I used the Paint Bucket Tool to fill the space between the edge of my canvas and the curvy line.

You can see there’s a faint blank area. That happens sometimes with the Paint Bucket. It’s easy to remedy. Just click the Paint Bucket in the space again and that blank area will fill.

Okay. I have one layer. Let’s make another one. I’ll use a different colour so it’s easier to see what’s what. I’m also going for a shorter baseline.

This screenshot shows how the length of the line and the percentage of Bend influence the curves when I used the same Style through the Warp Text Tool.

Here I’ve Rotated the line already, and I’m ready to Simplify it.

This time when I chose the Image>Transform Tool, I chose Skew.

With Skew, the handles can move in two directions, horizontally or vertically. You can see my Bounding Box in the screenshot.

I’d like to make the curved line longer, and have more curves, so I’ll make a Copy layer.

Then I moved them around so the spot where they intersect provides a smooth curve. I did some Zooming while I was lining them up.

It looks pretty good to me. I won’t worry about the tail on the left side of the line.

Then I Merged the two lines into one long one.

Once I had just one long line, I moved it over so it sat on top of the black shape, which is visible again.

And I dumped the Paint Bucket into the space. Clipping mask #2 is done.

I wanted to try one more thing, using a tilde instead of an underscore. The main difference is that the line of tildes won’t connect up the way the underscores do. Elements 2019 finally included kerning: the ability to adjust the space between characters, only they call it Tracking. Earlier versions don’t have that function, so I’ll show you the “non-kerning” method of creating a wavy line with a tilde. It’ll take a few extra steps.

But before we do that, I decided I wanted to stretch the tilde widthwise by 50%.

The Warp Text Tool isn’t going to work for this curvy line so the tilde layer needs Simplifying.

I made a Copy of the tilde layer.

Using the arrow keys I nudged the two tilde layers so they created a smooth wavy line.

I Merged the two layers and made a Copy of the now-double-tilde layer.

Nudge the two layers to create a smooth wavy line, Merge the two layers and make another Copy, this time with double the bumps. Keep repeating these steps until the line stretches across the whole page.

I think it needs something…

This time, after much trial and error, I chose Image>Transform>Perspective.

Woohoo! It looks like rickrack! I could use it just like that and be quite happy.

Instead, I moved it into position and Filled the space.

I liked what I had, but thought maybe one more layer. Rather than make a whole new one, I instead played with the original shape. I made a Copy of it then hit it with Image>Transform>Distort.

It’s just different enough that it’ll add something to the stacked border. Whenever I have something on my canvas that extends outside the edges, I use the Crop Tool to get rid of those parts so they don’t mess with the final product.

I changed the colour of that last layer to a grayish-green then flipped it horizontally and Rotated it 180° so the widest part was at the top. I think it’s good now.

Here’s a view of the four Clipping Mask layers with papers Clipped, and with a small drop shadow. You could position the layers horizontally, which could give you a nice wave effect, too. Now I can tuck the corners of photos in between the layers, add some elements and have a really unique border when I’m done.

In a coming tutorial I’ll show you a couple of other ways of creating curved lines so you can choose the one you like best.

Whew. It’s still Tuesday where I am. I made it!

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Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Turning a Font into a Sticker: Reprise

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Did you know that my very first Tutorial Tuesday Blog post appeared on August 30, 2016? Six years!! So I thought it might be fun to re-run that first post (with maybe some tiny updates) just to see how far we’ve come. Ready?

Aug 30 2016

GingerScrapper Heather requested some help with creating eye-catching titles, so this little lesson will focus on turning a font into an outstanding sticker. Over the next few weeks we’ll go into more detail on how to really jazz up your layouts, so stay tuned!

The very first step is to figure out what to call your layout. You want to choose something that works with the topic, but you don’t want it to be “Joey’s 8th Birthday”… where’s the excitement in that? Instead you could go with “Today He’s 8!” For the layout I created to help with this lesson, I looked up some surfing terms, looking for a hook. I came up with “Rippin’ the Foam”.

I like to build my titles on their own work space – there are fewer distractions and I can see clearly what I’m doing – so I always open a new file <CTRL/CMD+N>. (I use keyboard shortcuts, they really speed things up, but if you’re not comfortable with them, go ahead and do things as you usually do.) The size of the work space can be whatever you want, because you’ll be able to resize your title when you’re ready to use it.

As you can see, I’ve already chosen the colour for my title. I decided to work with the two fonts selected by Jennifer of Leaving a Legacy Designs for the August challenge, since I hadn’t done it yet. Using Sacramento I typed out “Rippin’” but found it to be a little anemic for a title. To beef it up a bit, I simplified the text <right-click on the layer and select Simplify Layer from the drop-down menu> then I selected the text by <CTRL/CMD+click> on the thumbnail (the little image in the Layers Panel). Once I got those little ants marching around my text, I went to the SELECT tab menu and chose Modify>Expand and put the number 3 in the box.

That pushed the line of ants out by 3 pixels, which was just enough. (Sometimes you have to play around to get it right, so don’t forget that CTRL/CMD+Z is your best friend.) Next I used the Fill Tool (the paint bucket) to fill in the space created in the last step. You’ll notice that there’s a very thin line inside the filled space so just keep moving the paint bucket around and clicking until all the space is filled in. Now I had a nice, fat word but it was a little umm… meh. So my next step was to change the foreground colour in my colour picker to a medium-dark gray.

In the EDIT tab menu, I chose Stroke (Outline) Selection

… set the value to 1 and chose Center.

2016-08-29 (9)

That puts a very thin gray line around the edge of the text. To continue on achieving the sticker look, I changed the colour of my foreground to white (ffffff) and I again selected the EDIT tab menu, only this time I put 6 as the value and selected Outside for the location.

And this is the result.

Now we’re cookin’! I changed the font to the other featured font for August, RNS Camelia and added the rest of my title in black. It needed a little nudging to get it where I wanted it – that’s part of the process. deciding what looks good. I chose not to include that part in the sticker because I wanted it to look like I’d written it on the layout.  At this point, I had two layers on my work space. With the Rippin’ layer selected, I added a Drop Shadow Layer Style and tweaked it so it was close to the sticker, sort of sharp and fairly dark. <Double-click on the fx icon on the layer in the layers palette, then use the sliders to adjust the size – sharpness of the edge, distance -width of the shadow and opacity – darkness of the shadow until it looks good to your eye.>

Once that was done, I merged the two layers together so I could move the title in one piece onto my layout. Now, knowing that I didn’t want my title to “float”, I selected the background paper layer of my layout to drop the title onto. It needed to be adjusted for size and placed where it looked best then ta-da! it was done! As you can see in the very first photo above, if I’d just used the font by itself, my title would have been lost against the patterned paper in the background. With a few simple steps, I made it so much better!

There you have one very basic method of adding interest to your titles. The tutorials to follow will build on this lesson and add a lot of cool techniques to your skill set. I hope you’ll continue to suggest topics for future lessons so you can grow your skills to match your imagination. (This part made me LOL. 273 tutorials and counting!!)

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Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Quick Trick: Transform a Selection

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August 2022 is one of those rare months with five Tuesdays. That means there’s still one more Tutorial Tuesday before we move into September. (I can hear the shrieking… yes, this year is flying by!) It still feels very much like summer here, with temps in the 80s or 90s and thunderstorms – which aren’t typical here even in high summer. Last night’s storm was intense! Hopefully there weren’t a bunch of new wildfires created. But enough chit-chat. Let’s look at today’s Quick Trick.

One of the most common reasons I have for Selecting something is for recolouring word art. I do it a lot and the method I like most, which gives the best results, is to add a Solid Color Fill Layer.

I can’t be the only one who has this issue – sometimes my mouse/trackpad just stops responding (or let’s be honest, my finger slips) while I’m using the Marquee Tool to Select something, causing the area I’ve Selected to be not what I wanted. And until I learned this trick it meant I’d Select>Deselect (CTRL/CMD>D) or Undo (CTRL/CMD>Z) and start over.

Then one day I learned it’s possible to make the bad Selection box into a good Selection box! (This has streamlined editing my screenshots dramatically.) Rather than abandon the too-small/too-big/just-not-right box, right-click somewhere on the canvas. This magical menu will appear. Click on Transform Selection.

Now the marching ants are a Bounding Box. When you Commit current operation, it morphs back into marching ants. Crazy! Now you can Cut/Paste, apply a Stroke, rotate or whatever you had planned to do when you chose the Marquee Tool.

But will it work with an Elliptical Selection?

Seems like that’s a YES!

Here we see one of the limitations of Elliptical Selections when you’re playing with word art. If I make the ellipse big enough to get everything I want inside it, I also get stuff in there I don’t want. Because I can’t help myself, I tried Image>Transform>Skew. If it wasn’t going to be an option, those choices would have been grayed out. They weren’t! But the question still remained. Would the Skew only apply to the marching ants Selection?

Answer? Affirmative! But… the dots from the two “i”s in the line below are also being bitten.

I was so pleased, but shocked, to see that the Selection was still a Bounding Box and I could still tweak the contours of the ellipse. I tested the result by Cutting DOG out of the image to see if the whole word was inside and the dots on the two “i”s weren’t. It was perfect, but I didn’t think you’d need to see a screenshot of that.

Feeling quite accomplished now, I took it all one step further. Could this trick work with the old CTRL/CMD>click-inside-the-thumbnail-to-Select thing?

So I gave it a whirl.

Well, darn. Right-clicking only brought up options that would apply to the LAYER the tag is on, not the Selection. Is there another way? I clicked the Select tab and there it was! Transform Selection is right there!

The Selection turned into a Bounding Box and I could Resize it without a problem. Pro tip: If you want the original shape to remain centered in the Selection, don’t grab a Bounding Box handle and pull. Instead, change the size in the Tool Options dialog box.

You may never decide to use this trick, but I’ll tell you, I’m using it a LOT now that I know how it works. See you next week!

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Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Going Creative with the Stitch Technique

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Today I’m going to build on the stitch tutorial from a few weeks ago. I have three more ways to add stitching to your layouts that go beyond vanilla. I’ve played around quite a bit to be sure the instructions are accurate, and you’ll be surprised how easy these new options are. Let’s start out by making sure we have room to work. I opened up a new 12×12 workspace and dropped a paper on it so the stitches – I’ll use white – will be easy to see.

Again we’ll use the Text Tool because it has so many options. I’m using Elements 2021; if your version is much older you may not have all of these Tool Options. The option we’re starting with is Text on Shape and we’ll be using the Ellipse to create a circle. My screenshot font is Lumberjack Regular and I’ve used it for two of my samples today. If you have a font with a dash symbol that has a rounded look to it, it’ll work beautifully. Set the font size to at least 40 points.

Drag out a circle on your paper. You can make it as big as you want. It can always be resized later to fit your layout. This outline will tell Elements where to put the dashes and how to position them.

Move your mouse until you see the Text Tool cursor. It’ll become visible when you intersect with the edge of the circle and it looks like a swoosh with an I-beam crossing it. Click to set it in play then using the dash and the space bar, type out a long string of stitches. They will move and bend to the shape you’ve created; the dash sits above the baseline, but that won’t really matter.

Here you can see what I mean. You can stop when you’ve only gone part way around if you like, or keep going to enclose the circle.

Your spaces may or may not uniformly proceed around your circle when you reach the finish line. If this is a concern for you there are a couple of options – start over, adjusting the size of the circle or the font until it’s perfect, or you can accept it and just cover it with a flower or a brad on your layout. If you resize the stitched circle to a smaller version, it’ll be less noticeable.

Now to give the stitches some dimension. By using a Bevel Style, you won’t have to add a shadow later! Click the Styles button at the bottom right of the Layers Panel, choose Bevels from the dropdown menu and then choose Simple Emboss.

These are the default settings for Simple Emboss. You may find them to be too strong. Styles can be adjusted by double-clicking on the fx icon on the layer.

You can see how just shifting the Size slider to the left makes each stitch a bit flatter.

You could stop at this step and have some very nice stitches. But if you’re interested in a bit more realism, that’s pretty easy. First Simplify the text layer by right-clicking on the layer then choosing Simplify Layer.

To make the stitches look a bit more like they’re made of thread and not paint, we can apply a Filter. It needs to go on its own layer though, so click on the sheet-of-paper icon at the top left of the Layers Panel. Then click Filter>Render>Fibers…

Make sure your foreground colour on the Color Picker is set to a light gray – the filter will be whatever colour you have in the foreground, and red isn’t pleasing! The Filter Options look like this. For the most thready look possible, push those sliders all the way to the right and click Randomize.

This is what is supposed to happen! Don’t worry. It’ll be fine!! Right-click on that Filter Layer and choose Create Clipping Mask from the menu.

Then all that’s left is to adjust the Opacity so that you have the thread effect but not so strongly that it’s distracting.

To be sure the stitches and the thready filter stay together, click>SHIFT>click on the layers then right-click and choose Merge Layers. Or use the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD>E.

If you look closely now that I’ve shrunk my circle, you might be able to see the slightly bigger gap between my first and last stitches. Maybe.

Okay, now let’s try something a bit more out there. This time, I chose Text on Path from the Text Tool Options. See the Draw icon? It turns the cursor into a pen, a fountain pen… and you’re only limited by your wrist’s flexibility and the size of your mousepad!

I clicked on my paper to tell the cursor to get to work, then drew a simple swirl. It looks pretty smooth, so I don’t need to Modify it. But if I did, the Modify icon will give me the necessary tools.

To get the stitches to conform to the swirl and extend from one end of the line to the other, I discovered I needed to click my cursor as close to the center of the line as possible.

This time I went ahead and Simplified before adding the Bevel.

You may not have ever explored the More button down there at the bottom of the Layers Panel. I just happen to know there’s a Simple Emboss under the Favorites tab.

This time I changed the Lighting Angle as well as the Size. Always make sure your Lighting Angle matches your shadows; there might be a visible incongruence that will bother you otherwise.

On to the thready Filter… but only if you want to!

This time I left the Filter a little darker.

The last sample looks like it’s the most complicated, but it’s not. Let’s use the Custom Shape Tool and drag out a nice 5 pointed star. Don’t forget to Simplify, because you won’t be able to manipulate it otherwise.

Next, I chose Text on Selection. I made sure it was set to Add – meaning wherever the cursor was dragged would be part of the Selection. It doesn’t have to be precise, just click inside the shape and drag the cursor to the edges. The marching ants will snap to the edges automatically.

Once you’ve got the edges Selected, Commit the Action.

Choose a logical starting point, like the inner angle of one of the points. Click to activate the Type Tool and start typing. I switched the font to Impact Regular and used the period instead of the dash. As I typed, the stitches moved along both sides of the star until they met at the top.

Don’t forget to Simplify the text layer!

I tried all the Bevel Styles to see which one worked best with the period-style stitches. It turned out to be Simple Scallop.

If you squint, these look almost like cross stitch!

PDF Version : https://bit.ly/3zUIB2y


I hope you’ll give one or more of these a try. If there’s something you’d like me to build a tutorial for, you can leave me a comment here on the Blog, or send me a Private Message through the Forum – user name is ObiJanKenobi. Next Tuesday I’ll be doing a Challenge Spotlight. Stay tuned!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Creased Paper Cut-Out Word Art

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I had a request in my PMs from glee, who thought I could magick up an Elements version of the Photoshop technique shown on this fabulous layout by physioscrapper. (Hey Nancy!!) So with some trepidation, I embarked on turning a 7 1/2 minute YouTube video into a 46-screenshot tutorial. [I know, only I could do that!] There are quite a few steps, but many of them are repeated a few times so it’s really not that horrible. And, as with some other things that I’ve made up as I was going along, I took a couple of missteps that resulted in more work for myself that I only figured out AFTER I’d gotten there. So I’ll let you know when we get to those!

This is where I began. I used a big, bold sans serif font and only upper case letters. Font selection is super-important for this – it just wouldn’t work as well with an embellished font. You can use more than one word if you like. The inspiration layout only has a single word so I emulated that.

Next I made a Copy layer of the word. As you might recall, I like to use keyboard shortcuts, but there’s a learning curve with that. I’ll always show you an alternate method of doing something then give you the keyboard shortcut for that action where one exists. CTRL is a Windows key, CMD is for Mac. To create a Copy layer, right-click on the layer then choose Duplicate Layer… and OK. Shortcut: CTRL/CMD>J.

In order to take the next number of steps, this Copy layer must be Simplified. Right-click and choose Simplify.

To make keeping the two word layers straight in my mind, I changed the colour of the Copy layer to coral. Using the Paint Bucket would work, but I’d have to pour paint into each letter and the edges might not be sharp with that method. So instead I clicked Layer>New Fill Layer>Solid Color.

To put the Fill Layer right over the letters, tick that Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask box.

If you’ve never used the Color Picker you may not know how to choose a colour you like. Start by clicking on the colour family you like over there in the rainbow strip. Then fine-tune your choice by clicking inside the big swatch. The Preview box between the swatch and the OK button will show you how the spot you’ve selected in the swatch compares to the previously selected colour.

To keep things manageable, click>SHIFT>click on the Fill layer and the text layer then right-click, choosing Merge Layers. Shortcut: CTRL/CMD>E.

Now, go back and activate the original text layer, the one we didn’t Simplify. It’ll be the cut-out part of the word art. There are some techniques in Photoshop that don’t have an Elements equivalent. This is one of those. We want a shadow under the cut-out, but using an Inner Shadow layer Style only applies it to two edges, while in Photoshop, it’s possible to have all four edges shadowed and adjustable. So here’s a work-around. It’s not quite perfect, but it’s good in a pinch! Click the Styles button at the bottom of the Layers Panel then choose Glass Buttons. From the Glass Buttons menu, choose Translucent Glass as shown.

It looks like garbage, but don’t worry! We’ll fix it!!

Double-click on that fx icon on the text layer to access the Styles adjustment menu. These are the default settings for the Style we chose.

Untick the Bevel setting. Then play with the Inner Glow sliders to find a look that you like. These are my choices: Lighting Angle 90° Size 20 Pixels Opacity 60%. It’s possible to change the colour of the Inner Glow here too, but for now we’ll leave it until we see how it all looks later.

Now go back and activate the coloured version of the word. To create the fold, we’ll need to divide the word into two halves. Using the Rectangle Marquee tool, drag out a box around the top half of the letters. Having a capital R there helped. But if your word doesn’t have an obvious halfway part to it, you can turn on the Grid and use it to line things up. View>Grid or CTRL/CMD>’ will turn it on and off.

Edit>Cut or CTRL/CMD>X will Cut the top half off and make it disappear. It’s not really gone, just hiding.

To bring it back into view, Edit>Paste or CTRL/CMD>V. Now you’ll have two separate layers, each with half the word on it.

You may need to use the arrow keys to nudge the two halves back into alignment.

Moving to the layer that has the bottom half of the word on it, activate the Move tool then push the bottom edge upward toward the centre of the word, just a bit.

Still on the bottom, click Image>Transform>Perspective.

Grab that centre “handle” and move it horizontally to the right. A dialogue box will appear telling you how much you’ve shifted it in degrees. Aim for about 11°.

Move back to the top half of the word and activate the Move tool again, only this time stretch it upward about the same amount you shrunk the bottom. You can toggle the layers’ visibility on and off if it helps you keep track of where you are.

Repeat the Image>Transform>Perspective step.

Moving to the right the same amount as for the bottom, about 11° will keep it symmetrical.

Here we go… it looks like the letters are creased away from the background. There are still some things we need to do to get a realistic look though.

A drop shadow Style isn’t gonna cut it for this so we’ll create a custom shadow. First, select the layers for both halves of the word by click>SHIFT>clicking on them, then right-click and choose Duplicate Layers>OK or CTRL/CMD>J.

This is an optional step: Rename the layers to help remember what they’re doing for you. Double-click on the name Elements gives the layer and change it. Here I’ve labeled the new copies as Top SHADOW and Bottom SHADOW.

Now we’ll add Layer>New Fill Layer>Solid Color to each of those shadow layers. Make sure you tick the Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask box. For simplicity’s sake we’ll use black for the shadows.

I sometimes just type in a value in the Color Picker‘s # box. Pure black is 000000. White is ffffff… easy enough to remember. Some designers like to use an umber colour, like 2c1902.

With both halves of the shadow layers filled with black, we’re on the way to a nice custom shadow!

Move the two shadow layers so they’re underneath the folded letters. Click>SHIFT>click on the two layers and drag them down the Layers Panel, or use CTRL/CMD>[ to get them into their proper spots.

Yep, you guessed it… we’re going to pull them off kilter too, one at a time. In the screenshot I’m working with the top half of the shadow. Image>Transform>Perspective.

Don’t go too far! 4 to 4.5° is plenty. You just want it to peek out from under the letter above it.

When you’ve got both top and bottom shadows peeking out a little, it should look like this.

Next, Merge the two shadow layers together. Click>SHIFT>click, right-click>Merge Layers / CTRL/CMD>E.

Now to soften that shadow up a bit so it doesn’t look like it could cut glass… Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur.

The Filter menu opens up. Move the Radius slider until you think the shadow looks realistic. I went to 13.9 Pixels.

But it’s still too harsh, so adjust the Opacity. 70% looks good.

Here’s one of those missteps I referred to at the beginning. **If you’re going to Clip papers to your letters do it now!** That way, the next couple of steps will be visible on your paper rather than the letters you’re using as a template. Merge the papers with the word halves so you don’t get mixed up. Then you can move on to this next step. Activate the layer with the TOP half of the word.

Add a new blank layer above the top half of the word by clicking on the sheet-of-paper icon at the upper left of the Layers Panel and make it your active layer. Then CTRL/CMD>click inside the Layer Thumbnail for the TOP half of the word to Select the edges.

OMG… we’re trying something NEW!! Layer>New Fill Layer>Gradient…

Make sure that Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask box is ticked. We want the effect to apply to just the top half of the word. The marching ants will tell it where to stop.

Choose the black-to-transparent gradient option. Of course it looks horrible. Tick the Reverse box, then we’ll make it pretty.

Now the effect is at the top of the letters and by decreasing the Opacity to 15%, it just adds a hint of shadowing where the light couldn’t quite reach the paper.

This step is another optional one, but I think it’s actually essential. Using the Burn tool let’s add some deeper shadowing where the paper creases. (You want to take this step AFTER you’ve clipped your paper to your letters.) The Burn tool icon looks like an “OK” hand signal. Use a small diameter, 15-20 Pixels, and don’t go too heavy, maybe 10-15% on the Opacity. To create a straight crease, click your cursor where the two halves of the word intersect then hold down the SHIFT key and move over to the other end of the word. Click the cursor at that intersection point and voilà, you have a straight crease.

So you can see how it looks with some papers in place, here you go.

If you think your cut-out shadows aren’t quite dark enough, this is how to fix it. Go back to the original text layer, double-click on the fx icon and use the swatch to change the Inner Glow to black.

Because I wasn’t thinking and waited to Clip my papers until after I’d Burned the crease and added the Gradient, I went back and fixed that.

There… a reasonable facsimile of Nancy‘s word art!

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

I’ll be back in a day or two with the August 2022 Designer Spotlight. See you then!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Quick Trick: Transparent Titles

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If it’s Quick Trick Tuesday, this must be Belgium. I mean, this must be the last Tuesday in July. (Lame joke for the Boomer set… it’s a riff on the title of a 1969 movie with Suzanne Pleshette. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) RESET RESET RESET! Today’s Quick Trick is truly quick, max only 5 simple steps. Check it out! My layout is built on a Seatrout Scraps template with GingerBread LadiesSunny Days collab.

This technique comes with two rules. For best results, choose a font that’s relatively simple but substantial, with smooth, unfussy lines. I used this month’s Challenge font, Garlic Shrimp, in my sample. Other good choices would be Impact, Comic Sans (if you must), Alef, Arial, Lucida, basically most of the system fonts pre-installed on your computer, or any purchased/free sans serif font. 9A lot of the Kimberly Geswein fonts would be perfect!) But having said that, don’t be afraid to try fonts you like – it won’t be that big a time suck. The second rule it that you must type your title in white.

Next, click on Styles at the bottom of the Layers Panel and choose Bevels from the drop-down menu.

Choose one of the Bevel Styles. You’ll see how it looks instantly so it you don’t love it, CTRL/CMD>Z it and try another. I like Simple Emboss for this. The default size for Bevels is 21 pixels, but don’t stress about that.

Now, change the Blend Mode for the text layer to Multiply. The Blend Mode picker is at the top left of the Layers Panel, as shown.

And it really is THAT easy! but…

Last, completely optionally, if you think you want to adjust the Bevel, double-click on the fx icon on the text layer as shown below. When the control panel opens make sure the lighting angle is the same as for the rest of the layout. It’ll really look weird if it isn’t. And then use the slider to make the Bevel bigger or smaller. I made mine a bit smaller. And that’s it!

Wondering about that “Version #1”?

Just for fun, I rearranged my papers to see how I’d like it.

And again…

Which version did I decide was the one I liked most? (There was a Version #4, but it was so awful I rejected it immediately.) You’ll have to check the Gallery tomorrow!

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Tutorial Tuesday (Individual Style)

Challenge Spotlight: Daily Download

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GingerScraps is, without a doubt, the most generous digital scrapping store on the web. There are SO MANY freebies!!! The monthly Daily Download is just one of them. Each day for the entire month, pieces of a FREE kit are provided to readers on the GingerScraps Blog (right here!) so by the end of the month, you have a whole kit. (Don’t worry, If you missed a few days’ DLs, the kit will be available for purchase in the GS Store later.) But it gets even better… the following month, that same free kit is the basis for a GingerScraps Daily Download Challenge. For the month of July 2022, the kit in question is CarolW Designs‘s Way to Grow (linked to the bundle).

It looks to me like Carol‘s kit was a huge hit with our scrappers. There are 20 layouts in the Daily Download Gallery already and there are still 12 days in the month! Let’s check them out – in random order. (Each layout is linked to the Gallery via the scrapper’s user name so you can drop in a little praise for the ones you like best.)

Our first sample is from willow. I love all the white space here. She’s taken only a small handful of the elements in the kit and created a beautiful, calm layout.

I like how chigirl has melded some grunge via her choice of papers and paint splatters with the flowery prettiness of the elements into this loveliness.

wendeeds has pulled colour from her photos and used coordinating elements and papers to create her fun Date Night layout.

I salute the dedication of people like makeyesup who create a new themed desktop for their computer every month!

202207 Calendar

How sweet is this? PixyGirl has used the Artsy Bits from the bundle to create a secret garden with a delightful little person in it.

This layout by NHSoxGirl is another gorgeous white space layout with a sparing use of elements. When you don’t have photos that work well with a kit, but you’re dying to use it anyway, you can always convert a fave photo into black and white.

Lucky for hiddenartist, she had a perfect photo! Her clusters and shadowing are top-drawer.

This layout from Danissa makes good use of the Artsy Bits and one of the grungy Edges in the bundle combined with a lovely cluster.

Sweetpea2020 lets the papers do the heavy lifting here. The stitching adds an earthy touch.

Look at how Alasandra has clustered these flowers so the kitty seems to be sniffing one. Beautiful!

The paper strips tie all of roxana‘s photos together and the clusters enhance them, leading the eye from photo to photo.

The vintage feel of this layout from kabrak1207 is quite pleasing. I’m such a sucker for old photos…

But then… bagheertje pops up with this brand-new photo of a brand-new human showcased by a lovely, grungy but extremely simple layout.

The kit’s palette seems tailor-made for this chipmunk’s portrait and bumblebeee has framed it exquisitely with papers.

For another delectable white space layout, look no farther! The photo dhariana chose pulls colour from the kit, her choice of background paper makes it pop, and her brush use enhances the overall image. Spectacular!

LidiaG has created another grungy-gorgeous-great-white-space layout here. The large cluster draws the viewer right to the eyes of that sweet child in the photo.

I’m at a loss for words when I look at this layout from Jill. She’s skillfully clustered the elements in a natural arrangement, and divided the photo over two frames in such a way that it’s the focus. There’s a lot going on, but in the BEST way!

Every picture tells a story, but sometimes it needs a little support from the wings. AJsRandom explains and balances her photo in a minimalist layout full of movement.

in her layout, wvsandy has created a beautiful frame for her prayer, and I’m pretty sure she’s used every element in the basic kit but the flair, bead spill and bottle cap.

Last but not least, alta2014 has pulled from various parts of the bundle to create a lovely, soft layout that enhances her photo. The messy stitching adds a nice casual touch.

Are you enjoying the monthly Individual Style/Challenge Spotlight posts? I find myself inspired every time I write one. Seeing how others interpret a challenge and use a defined set of tools so creatively really gets my mojo motor revving. Time to get some scrappin’ done!

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Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Creating Your Own Stitching [Part One]

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

Karen Hampton asked for some guidance on creating her own stitches. Today I’ll talk about stitching in a straight line, which I’ll build on in another tutorial for creating stitched shapes. These are the basics. (Spoiler alert: I learned something while I was playing with this one!)

This tutorial will use the Text Tool; it’s readily available and easy to use. My stitches have been created using the underscore key [ _ ], the space bar and white. The hyphen and the period will work too. The font I went with is a default font on Windows machines, Impact Regular set to 30 points. _SPACE_SPACE_SPACE_ to the desired length. This gives 3 1/3 stitches per inch.

This step, I’ve discovered, may not be necessary, at least with Elements 2021. But we’ll go ahead and do it anyway. Right-click on the text layer then choose Simplify Layer from the drop-down menu. Some manipulations to text can’t be performed unless this step has been taken.

This is an optional step. If you’d like your stitches to be thicker, the easiest way to do it is to Edit>Stroke (outline) Selection. That will add to both length and width.

Obviously, I’m using the same colour as for my text layer. I decided on 6 pixels centered on the stitches, which will give nice heft but won’t obliterate the spaces between the stitches.

This is another optional step. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so when I go for realism, I’m all in. I want to add some texture to my stitches. Turns out the best way to do that is to use a Filter, placed on its own layer. (I tried to apply the Filter to the stitches layer and it didn’t work.) So pop a blank layer on top of the stitch layer by clicking on the sheet-of-paper icon at the top left of the Layers Panel.

I remember using this Filter for another tutorial but not in quite this way. Filter>Render>Fibers…

Thread and yarn are composed of multiple fine strands of fibers twisted together to make a single strand. There’s some visible variation in the thread, and I wanted to capture that look. The settings that worked best are shown here. Variance 3, Strength 64 and Randomize.

The twists in the thread fibers are usually on the bias, or somewhat diagonal. So I decided to Rotate the Filter layer on a center anchor to -35°.

I’ve been having some glitchy things with my Elements lately. Some keyboard shortcuts have failed to work when I try to use them. (Probably time for some system maintenance.) To get the striations onto the stitches, right-click on the Filter layer and choose Create Clipping Mask or use the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD>G for versions prior to PSE15 or CTRL/CMD>ALT/OPT>G for PSE15 and later.

The effect is quite subtle. If you don’t want to add it, skip ahead! For more optional steps, read on. Do you think you’re particular enough to want holes in your paper where the stitches go through it? This step’s for you. Add another blank layer above the stitch layer. Don’t want holes? Keep on scrolling…

This step gave me some trouble. I played with it for quite some time before all these key points came together. The stitches are in a straight line so the holes should also be in a straight line. I pulled down a Guide line by moving my cursor into the ruler at the top of the canvas and holding down the left mouse button, pulled down to the bottom of the stitches. The needle creating the holes is bigger than the thread, so the hole has to be wider than the stitch. I settled on a 16 pixel hard, round brush for this. Next came figuring out how to position the holes correctly. I found that putting the tip of the horizontal crosshair in my brush cursor right on the edge of the stitch while lining the same horizontal crosshair up with the horizontal middle of the stitch was perfect.

Of course, the holes need to be under the stitches and I tried doing the brush thing with the blank layer under the stitches but it wasn’t as easy lining up placement that way. So because the holes layer the holes layer is above, it needs to be moved down under the stitches. You can drag it down by clicking on the layer, holding down the left mouse key and just dragging it. Or you can use CTRL/CMD>] to go down. (Going up uses CTRL/CMD>[.)

When you see this part, you’ll ask me why I didn’t use a soft brush to start with. I tried it. I didn’t have enough control of it for my liking. So we’ll soften up the edges with a Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur.

I love it that Elements lets me see what’s happening to my creation while I’m making adjustments. That makes fine-tuning so much easier. I like a Radius of 2.0 pixels for these holes.

It’s starting to look pretty realistic.

This part could have been done sooner, like before the whole hole bit began. I Merged the Filter layer with the stitch layer by clicking on the Filter layer, holding down the Shift key and clicking on the stitch layer to Select both, then right-clicked and chose Merge Layers from the drop-down menu. Keyboard shortcut: CTRL/CMD>E

Let’s have a look. The holes aren’t in your face, but visible to the discerning eye. You might see I’ve added a custom shadow layer to the stitches, but I’m not going to take you through that. Turns out it really isn’t needed.

Rather than adding shadows, let’s give the stitches a bit more dimension by adding a Bevel. Click on the Styles button at the bottom of the Layers Panel and choose Bevels. The one I decided works best is the Simple Inner one, as shown here. These Bevels are integrated in the software, so you don’t need to buy and install them.

The default settings are a bit much. And you can see why I realized the holes and shadows aren’t really required.

To adjust a Style, double-click on the fx icon on the layer in question. This menu opens. I adjusted the settings as shown.

Once more, with feeling…

But what else can we do with this besides a straight line of horizontal stitches? Some of the other characters can be turned into fancy stitches. Here I’ve made a row of 10 slashes and 10 backslashes on separate layers.

By moving one of the rows toward the other, I created a zig zag.

If I overlap the rows, I end up with a narrow cross-stitch.

When creating composite stitches this way, keep the layers separate so you can add the Fiber Filter and Bevel to each layer before you Merge them.

Just for fun, I made a row of really fancy stitches using the ASCII symbol for Yen/Yuan. How did I do that? The keystrokes are ALT/OPT>0165. (I use a lot of ASCII characters in my genealogy research since I have Irish, French and Swedish ancestry in the family.) I bet the < and > symbols on the standard keyboard could be used for stitching, as well as *, + turned 45° then duplicated a few times, =, 8 turned 90° and duplicated, and x in some sans serif fonts. There are so many options!

Part Two of this tutorial will look at stitching around a shape, which involves some additional steps. I may even do a Part Three using brushes instead of text.

If you have an idea for a tutorial, don’t be shy! I love the challenge!! You can easily reach my via Private Message (click on it, there’s a link!) in the GingerScraps Forum. My handle is ObiJanKenobi. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

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