Tutorial Tuesday with a Twist

Is it Thanksgiving, or Giving Thanks?

This year, Thanksgiving has a completely different meaning for most of us. Here in Canada, our celebrations at Thanksgiving are always much less exuberant than those of our neighbours to the south (and six weeks earlier). Even so, we had to make some accommodations to the times we’re living in. When this year began, I imagined our Thanksgiving to include my elderly parents, my sister and brother, our daughter and son-in-law and the three of us, all around the table with a big turkey in the centre. Instead, it was the three of us, our daughter and son-in-law and the world’s smallest turkey. But it was how it had to be. With the whole of the United States heading into their 4-day (or is it a week now?) Thanksgiving extravaganza at the same time that the weather has pushed people indoors AND a rapid increase in COVID spread has begun, it looks like the perfect storm to this observer. So I’d like to take a few moments to encourage everyone to think about the real meaning of “thanksgiving”.

Every one of us, no matter where we are or what’s happening in our lives, has something to be thankful for this year. Some of us have big things – graduations, weddings, promotions, new homes, new family members. Some of us have small things – a new friend, a better job (or any job!), learning a new skill, time for DIY projects, finding something long thought to be lost forever. But all of us have SOMETHING. An attitude of gratitude starts with recognizing that, and what better time to start making that shift than at Thanksgiving?

I know people are tired of restrictions and want life to be the way it was before. There’s a lot of temptation to just say to heck with it… I’m out! But the thing about this situation is that we have lots of examples of how short-term sacrifice bears long-term benefit. The Spanish Flu pandemic is one example. Far more people died in those two years than we could possibly imagine, but the ones who survived have allowed US to exist! They too hated the restrictions placed on them – much harsher than the ones we’re faced with, to be honest. But in the end, they did what needed to be done. World War 11 gives us another strong model of personal privation that ultimately kept the world spinning. Just like this crisis, the effects were stronger and lasted longer in some areas than others. I think they had it far worse than we do… compulsory identification of all citizens and aliens, food and gasoline rationing, blackouts, restricted travel, internment camps and conscription all came into being. And for the most part, people did what needed doing without much resistance. But they didn’t have many of the amenities we take for granted. The internet for example! With it we can not only stay in contact with each other, but we can SEE each other without being in the same place. Imagine how a farm family in 1944 would have loved the opportunity to visit with neighbours without even leaving home! We have unlimited options for amusement right in our own homes, while they had to shelter in place in the dark every night. We have easy access to whatever food choices we might make, and can have it brought right to the door; no thought of “this is all the hamburger we have for the month”. We have an international army of scientists working flat out to understand how COVID works, how to treat it better, how to save lives and to develop vaccines so that NEXT year, we’ll have a real reason to be thankful as we gather with the people we love. We’re really very lucky, but we don’t appreciate it when we focus on what we’re giving up.

So what does this have to do with scrapbooking, you ask. Everything! Scrapbooks record the significant people and events in our lives so we can remember them later. The good parts… and if you’re “real”, the bad too.  My challenge to each of you is to take a few minutes just to think about what – and who – you really need in your life. Why are your choices important to you? What are you prepared to do to keep them? What do you have to celebrate in 2020? What makes it worth celebrating? And to finish up, are you ready to be thankful for what you already have? I am. I hope you are too.

 

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Jazzing Up a Neutral Background

Let’s see how NOT trying to outsmart WordPress works!

Let’s talk about personal style for a minute. We’ve all got our own preferences when it comes to how we construct our layouts. I like neutral backgrounds and am totally lost (terrified is more like it!) when it comes to using papers with bold patterns. But at the same time, I often feel that using a plain paper or cardstock leaves my layouts looking a little unfinished. So you’ll notice that I add some sort of border to most of them. When I looked at this month’s Bake Sale I was delighted to see that Lindsay Jane had a set of her Edge It border masks in there that I didn’t have. She also has a line of simple doodled borders I’ve been collecting. But she’s not the only one who creates gorgeous borders. Most of our talented designers have border sets in their stores. Take a moment to check them out!

Anyway, I thought I’d show you how to take a simple piece of cardstock and make it into an eyecatching background using borders.

This cardstock came from a GingerBread Ladies collection called Certainly Summer. I like it a lot because it’s got a nubby texture to it. But it’s PLAIN otherwise.

Here’s one of those border masks from Lindsay’s Edge it V7 pack. (Yes! The set of 6 is on sale until November 20, 2020 for the incredible sum of $1!) Of course, it’s black in its original state, and that isn’t the look I’m after…

Contrasting borders look great in certain situations, but I really like monochrome looks a lot, so I grabbed the Eye Dropper tool and clicked on the cardstock to activate the Color Picker to keep my border in the same colour family.

By going just a bit darker, I can turn this border into almost a vignette-like look. I love that I can see the contrast between the current colour and the colour I’m choosing.

To get that new darker teal onto the border mask, I’ll click Layer>New Fill Layer>Solid Color.

The menu takes a lot of the work out of the process by letting me Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask. In one step I can turn just the border a different colour.

This time when the Color Picker opens, Elements shows me what the new border will look like, and it gives me the option of changing it if it doesn’t please my eye.

I want to have control over the border as it is with the new colour filling it so I Merged the two layers. I love how it’s coming along.

But it’s still a little bright. Wanting subtlety, I decreased the Opacity to 40% and like how it looks.

But what would it look like if I clipped a paper (from PrelestnayaP‘s Delicate Moments) to that border? (Or to one of the borders in Irina‘s kit?) Let’s see!

Here it is, clipped to the border and the two layers Merged. I think it looks a bit like snow, with the pattern indistinct. Hmm.

If the pattern isn’t a factor, maybe if I decrease the Opacity to 60%? That’s nice and subtle.

Here I’ve added a doodled border from Lindsay Jane’s Page Borders V34. I’m going to  it with the same darker teal that I used before.

That looks pretty!

After I toned it down a smidge, the outer border looks a lot more interesting.

What happens if I add a Bevel Style to that doodle border? The best Bevel for adding visual interest in this situation is the Simple Emboss. I think it’s a bit heavy-handed though.

Layer Styles are adjustable, so if you don’t like what you see, play with it! I double-clicked on the fx symbol on that layer and opened up the adjustment menu. Then I dropped the size of the Bevel to 3 pixels. (Default is 21 pixels.) I think it still looks a bit sharp though.

So I decreased the Opacity of that layer to 10%. Better. But still not what I want.

I ended up removing the messy border layer to showcase the embossed border better. And now I’m going to clip another cardstock layer to the embossed doodled border layer.

 

That looks pretty good, but still too in-my-face. So now what?

With the Opacity at 10% I have a nice, soft embossed border!

 

But before we go, let’s see what it looks like if I add some glitter to that messy border. This can be either by using a Glitter Style or by clipping a sheet of glitter paper to the mask. Yes! That might work for a fancy layout!!

There are so many ways to find our own style!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Reflections, Perspectives and Shadows

 

Well. Today has been an unmitigated disaster. I should just not try to outsmart WordPress, because I only end up making more work for myself! Let’s see if third time’s the charm.

Have you ever looked at a layout and thought, “Holy cow! That’s so amazing… I have to scraplift it right away!” and then tried to figure out how the original scrapper did it? That’s the challenge that GingerDandelion Dust Designs – threw at me. One of her Facebook fans had seen a totally fabulous layout in Katie Pertiet’s gallery on her blog and wanted to know if Ginger had any tips for recreating it. Ginger came to me… so I scraplifted it myself and now I’m going to show you how I did it. The layout was created by Jane_Bond7, who says in her description that SHE scraplifted it from a layout she saw on Pinterest… and she used a photo strip template from Katie that you can download hereWARNING!! This is an advanced tutorial, with 55 screenshots. You have been warned!

Isn’t that a fabulous layout? The first thing I did was to download the template, choose a photo and some embellies for my layout and got underway.

 

Then I had a look at things. Obviously, if my layout is going to be true to Jane’s I’m going to need to rotate my template by Image>Rotate>Flip Horizontal.

 

Next I opted to Merge the three photo spots together into a single photo strip. That’ll save me some effort later. Select the three layers, right-click>Merge Layers or CTRL/CMD>E.

Looking at Jane‘s layout to guide me, I Resized the photo strip to leave room for the shadow and the reflection. 75% of the original size looks about right.

I looked at Jane‘s layout again for awhile and decided the height of the photo strip wasn’t quite right. So I stretched JUST the height by 10%.

Time to add the photo. I’ll adjust its size and position after I’ve got it clipped to the photo strip to make sure as much of the vineyard is visible as possible.

To clip the photo to the strip, right-click on the layer>Create Clipping Mask OR CTRL/CMD>G for PSE versions before 14, OR CTRL/CMD>ALT>G for PSE versions 14 or later.

For ease of handling later I Merged the photo with the photo strip then Selected the edges of the photo strip by CTRL/CMD>clicking inside the layer thumbnail in the layers panel. Alternatively click Select>All.

I got a bit carried away and picked the foreground colour for my shadow before creating a blank layer UNDER my photo strip. But not to worry… it’s going to happen. I typed in the dark brown colour I wanted for my shadow, “2c1901” and the Color Picker shows you what it looks like.

The easiest way to add a blank layer under another layer is to CTRL/CMD>click on the sheet of paper icon at the top left of the layers panel. Then I activated the Paint Bucket tool to fill the Selection I made previously, with brown. That’s the basis for the shadow layer.

 

Okay… let’s play with the shadow. But first Deselect the edges either by Select>Deselect or CTRL/CMD>D.

If you need a visual…

Now I’ve turned the Visibility of all but the shadow and background layers off so I can see what I’m doing better.

If you look closely at Jane‘s layout you’ll see the only part of this shadow layer I actually need is the large one at the left end. So I activated the Rectangle Marquee tool and corralled the other two pieces.

And to remove the other two pieces Edit>Cut or CTRL/CMD>X and they go away.

 

How on Earth’s layout has a lot of air behind her photos strip with the shadow quite a distance off. It also looks like the photo has a fold at the bottom. So I’ve moved my shadow over to the left a fair bit.

Now, how on Earth did she get that folded look? I think the Polygon Cookie Cutter will help with that. A triangle should work so I activated the Cookie Cutter tool, chose the Polygon and 3 sides.

I made my triangle bigger than I thought I would need, in a colour different from my background and shadow. Remember when I was talking about Smart Objects in the Preferences tutorial? Shapes created by the Cookie Cutter are Smart Objects. So in order to do much with them they need to be Simplified. Right-click>Simplify Layer.

Now I moved the triangle and rotated it so that it’s over the lower left corner of the shadow. It’s not going to hang around so don’t worry if it hangs off the page.

I like to put the shape underneath whatever I’m using it to alter so when I DO the alteration I can see it. It isn’t necessary though.

Time to Select the outline of the triangle by CTRL/CMD>Clicking inside the layer thumbnail as before.

Then I can cut off the corner of the shadow: Edit>Cut or CTRL/CMD>X. TaDA… a “folded” shadow!

If you look at the layer thumbnail in the layers panel you can see the corner’s gone.

The triangle isn’t needed any more. You can turn it off or delete it now. The photo layer needs to be visible so the shadow can be positioned in the correct spot.

It turned out to be easier to control the corners by using the Image>Transform>Skew tool. This tool lets you move a corner of your bounding box in any direct to skew the shape inside it.

It’s not easy to see but the lower left corner of the bounding box around the shadow is lower than the right corner now.

On Jane‘s layout I think I see a slight curve to the side of her shadow. So I activated the Smudge tool, made it as big as I could but only 57% of its maximum strength then very… very… carefully Smudged it just a tiny bit. The Smudge tool also blurs whatever it touches a bit, which you can see in the screenshot.

What I’ve been showing you in these last few steps is how I manage all of my custom shadows. The next step is to soften it up, using a Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur.

The Preview pane lets you see what’s happening to your image as you adjust the Blur, so you know where to stop. I decided 6.0 pixels was just right.

I change the Blend Mode to Linear Burn for my shadows. It allows a bit more of the layer below to show through as shadowed, not just covered.

Adjusting the depth of shadow is best done with the image Zoomed out. Then I decreased the Opacity of the shadow layer until it looked right to me, at 40%.

Jane‘s layout appears to have a narrow Stroke around the edges of her photos so I added a 7 pixel dark brown stroke to mine. Edit>Stroke (Outline) Selection

That looks good, so on to the really complicated part – the reflection. Getting it right isn’t going to be easy! I changed the Canvas size to give me some more room to work. I just picked a number out of the air. Image>Resize>Canvas or CTRL/CMD>ALT>C Then I Duplicated the photo strip layer. Right-click>Duplicate Layer or CTRL/CMD>J

Reflections are mirror images so this Copy layer needs to be inverted. To do this, grab the “handle” in the centre of the top edge and pull it down toward the bottom of the workspace. Type -100 into the Height box and it will be exactly the same size as the initial photo strip layer.

As I might have mentioned, this is the really fiddly part. The reflection layer will need a lot of manipulation to get it right. There can’t be any space between the photo strip and its reflection so I Rotated and nudged the reflection layer so the two overlap.

Then I moved the reflection layer down so it’s underneath the photo strip layer. For this reflection to work, the left lower corner and the two gaps have to line up. Easier said than done. Image>Transform>Skew or Distort will come into play here.

In Jane‘s image, it seems to me that the reflection of the photo at the left side is a bit longer than this, so Image>Transform>Skew lets me pull that corner down and in a bit to more closely approximate what I see in Jane‘s layout. You can see in the screenshot how the bounding box’s corner isn’t 90° any more.

 

 

Next… To try and better align the corners and gaps. Image>Transform>Distort gives the ability to move any or all of the corners of the bounding box in any direction I want. So that’s what I did!

It’s a lot better, but still needs a tiny tweak at that intersection. In Jane‘s layout it looks like the reflection extends perfectly from the folded edge of the shadow so that needs to be dealt with.

It looks pretty good now! Time to clean up. I’m going to Erase the little bits of corners that show where they shouldn’t and I’m going to use a Layer Mask so if I take away too much, I can paint it back.

Once I was happy with the clean-up, I Simplified the reflection layer to absorb the Layer Mask.

To turn the reflection into more of a reflection I decreased the Opacity down to 55% and it’s starting to look like Jane‘s.

The Blend Mode goes to Multiply.

Then to give the reflection even more realism I’ll add a Filter>Blur>Lens Blur to it.

I set the Preview to More Accurate so I can see the changes more easily, then Radius, Blade Curvature, Rotation, Brightness, and Amount are set to 10, Threshold to 255, Distribution is Gaussian and Monochromatic is checked.

There!! All that’s left is to blend the edges and it’s done!

I used the Eraser tool with a large (500 pixel) soft brush set to 45% Opacity and ran it over the edges.

 

And it’s done! Now to complete the rest of the layout…

You may have seen my layout in the Gallery. If not…

 

 

 

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Customizing Template Banners

First, I want to thank all the GingerScrappers who reached out with kind thoughts and prayers for my Dad. I can’t tell you how much they were appreciated and how much better they made me feel. I wish I could say he’s back to normal but he’s back in the hospital and will be there for the foreseeable future. He’s in the safest place he can be for right now and although he’s not happy about it, he’s accepted it. And life will go on.

I got a request from Bernice (bkasko) about making banners look more realistic. “I would love help with making a banner look more real. I am not talking about the shading on the banner flags even though help with that would be great but on the top of the banner where it meets the string. I have tried the dodge and burn tool and I just cannot get the look I want. I saw an action that unfortunately only works on the banner that the action makes and it looks like a blurred line is made but I could not duplicate it. I would love help with making a banner from a designers kit look more real or even a banner in a template that I add my own papers to. Thanks.” I wasn’t totally sure I understood what she was asking so I asked her some questions.  Her response: “I have an action that will make a banner for me and I really like the shading on it and would like to be able to create the shading that it does either on a banner that comes in the kit I am using or sometimes a template has a banner on it and I like the placement of that banner so I would like to use it.” So I settled on this.

I looked through my stash and found a Connie Prince template in a retired Triple Threat pack that has a banner and would work with some of the photos of my grandkids I’ve been saving up for layout creation. This is the one I chose.

The first thing I did was select the kit I wanted to use and gather up an assortment of papers from it. Then I went through the template and turned off visibility to all but the banner and background paper layers so I could see clearly what I was doing… and so could you! To clip different papers to the pennants on the banner, I’ll need to separate them from each other and set them up on their own layers. So I’m using the Rectangle Marquee tool to select each pennant and will start on the far left.

To detach the pennant from the banner, Edit>Cut (CTRL/CMD>X) works well.

It’s gone, but it’s not gone-gone. Elements is hanging on to it for me, I just can’t see it. To bring it back, Edit>Paste (CTRL/CMD>V) does the trick.

The neat thing is that although Elements drops it right on the centre of the workspace, it’s exactly the same size and positioned at the exact angle of the original, so sliding it into place is simple. See it over there in the Layers Panel? This process is repeated for each of the triangle pennants across the banner.

This image shows what I was looking at on my workspace several pennants down the road. Each of the pennants I’ve Cut and Pasted are back in line and on their own layers.

After all the pennants have been separated onto their own layers I can use them as Clipping Masks for my papers. The kit I’m using is also a Connie Prince creation called Sense of Wonder. (It’s not available at GingerScraps yet, but should be here soon.)

The pennants are small and the patterns on some of these papers aren’t, so I’ll Resize and Rotate them to give a pleasing look. This can be done before or after you’ve clipped the paper to the object under it.

Now to Clip the paper to that pennant. For those who aren’t sure what I’m talking about, Clipping a paper or photo to a shape underneath it “cuts” the paper or photo to conform with the shape. There are two ways to do this: Right-click on the paper layer and select Create Clipping Mask from the dropdown menu, or use the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD>G (for Elements versions up to 14) or CTRL/CMD>ALT>G for versions 15 and up.

Here I’m showing how I Rotated the paper so the arrows line up with the pennant better. I just clicked on one of the little square “handles” on the outside edge of the paper and moved it in the direction I wanted it to go.

I followed the same steps with each of the pennants across the banner, using the same paper twice in some instances.

Once I had all the pennants Clipped to papers I went through the Layers Panel and Merged the papers with their pennants. I did this to make managing the banner and working through the next series of steps easier. But I’m not going to Merge all the pennants together because I’m going to use one of the Warped Shadow techniques from a previous tutorial to customize the way each looks based on what it’s sitting on when the layout is done. Merging layers can be done in two different ways. Select the layers to be Merged (hold down the CTRL/CMD key and click on each of them) then Right-Click, choosing Merge Layers or use the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD>E.

After each paper and pennant have been Merged, it’s on to adding some dimension, to make it look like the pennants are wrapped around some string. I’m going to start at the far left and work to the right, but you do it whatever suits you. For these steps, Zooming in will make it easier.

To simulate the look of paper-wrapped string, we’re going to use the Dodge and Burn tools. These tools are digital versions of good old film photo printing techniques to spot-correct exposure. When printing an old-fashioned paper print, the developer can lighten up areas that are too dark in the original contact sheet image by Dodging – holding a piece of paper or an actual dodging tool over the area that’s too dark, moving it continuously to prevent demarcation lines around the edges, between the enlarger and the photo paper, decreasing the amount of light that hits the paper. Yes, it’s just as much work as it sounds, and I never got good at it. The Dodge tool in Elements has an icon that looks just like a Dodging tool! Burning, conversely, darkens areas that are too light with a similar technique but this time using a larger piece of card with a hole in it, moving the card between the enlarger and the paper over the area that’s too light to allow more light to hit the paper. Here, the Burn tool icon is a hand with the thumb and fingertips touching. They’re are very labour-intensive processes and totally a trial-and-error thing. I wasted so much paper back in my film days! Aren’t you glad digital is so much simpler?? And that your faithful Obijan does the trial-and-error stuff for you! Let’s get to it!

First I want to show you the way I’ve set up my Preferences for Cursors. The next part will make more sense to you if I show you.

Starting with the Burn tool, using a 9 pixel round brush on the Midtones, and a 45% exposure, I put the intersection of the crosshairs right on the upper left corner of the pennant. (You don’t have to be super-precise for these steps – the cursor can start somewhere off the edge of the pennant, because the only layer this step will actually affect is the pennant itself. But this Burn process has to be at the very edge.) Click at that corner then holding down the Shift key, move the cursor to the opposite, upper right corner of the pennant and Click again. You’ll see a faint but noticeable darkening of that edge.

Then I changed to the Dodge tool, set to Midtones, 15 pixels and 45% Exposure. I’ve positioned the cursor with the top edge of the brush tip at the upper edge of the pennant. Again, Click, Shift, move, Click. This step lightens up the area it covers. The effect is pretty subtle but once the last step is done, you’ll see quite a difference.

Just a word about the settings I’ve used. They’re right for the scale of this banner. If I was using bigger pennants and creating a thicker string, I’d go with a bigger brush for both steps, keeping the ratio roughly the same.

Flipping back to the Burn tool, oh look! The settings are still the same as the ones I used for the first Burn step! Isn’t that just perfect?! I don’t have to remember them, Elements does it for me. Knowing this makes the rest of the process look a lot less daunting. I’m again going to put the cursor on the left side of the pennant, with the top edge of the brush tip at the edge of the lightened area. Click, Shift, move, Click.

Now that I’ve done a couple of the pennants, I think it really looks like there’s some string in there.

Using the same three steps, I worked my way all across the pennant and down the Layers Panel until all the pennants have been wrapped around my imaginary string.

The effect is more obvious on solid papers and those with smaller patterns, but when you look at it as a whole, it looks pretty realistic.

The ends of the banner will be hidden behind other embellishments on my layout so I’m not worried about having tails on my “string”. If you’d like to see my finished layout, you can find it here.

Well, that’s a wrap for this week! Thanks for the suggestion Bernice. I had fun doing this for you. I hope it’s what you were looking for. If not, I can try again another time.

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

Method Scrapping – What’s My Motivation?

Actually, I think I should call this tutorial “WHERE is my Motivation??” I’ve really been struggling lately trying to find some inspiration and some enthusiasm for scrapping. Between our move, all the things that moving entails, my dad’s failing health and all the other minutiae of life, it feels like my mojo just got left behind. So I started to think of all the different methods of resurrecting it and thought maybe I should put them all down in a blog post as a way of solidifying them for myself while possibly helping someone else who’s in the doldrums too.

I think the easiest and most obvious mojo-recharger is to do a GingerScraps Challenge or two. What makes them a good jumpstart? Well, they take a lot of the work out of the process. The challenge gives a framework for the layout, whether it’s a beautiful brush, inspiring word art, a terrific (free) template, a beautiful layout to scraplift or cutting out all the hardest part by providing a recipe. But the best part of this is that you’re not limited to only this month’s Challenges! The Challenge forum has 5 months’ worth of them to look at and find inspiration from.

Another way to stir your creative juices is to look at what other people are doing. Pinterest, Instagram and our GingerScraps Gallery are filled with incredible layouts to draw sparks from. A way to refine that even further is to narrow your browsing to a favourite Designer Gallery. There’s where you can see their designs in action and find innovative ways of using them.

That brings me to a motivator that might seem more like a cattle prod… organizing your supplies. Sometimes I get caught up in the acquisition part of it all, adding more and more beautiful kits to my stash without any clear plan for how I’ll use them. And, of course, I forget what I have and go buy more! I had a HUGE downloads folder filled with still-zipped files sitting on my laptop and every time I opened the folder, I had an anxiety attack. So the other day, I took the first step and ran them all through ExtractNow. I have only a handful of really new files that I picked up over the weekend that need extraction; the next step will be to sort through the files and condense them into kit-specific folders. Then I’ll have refreshed my brain and might find my way back to productivity.

A much more fun way to get back in the saddle is to look at all the recent photos on your phone or computer. We take photos so we can remember a special person, event, place or object. Recapturing the moment by looking at the photos can be very stimulating. Over the weekend (Thanksgiving in Canada) I went on a mini wine-tasting tour with my daughter, her husband and sister-in-law. It was so much fun, and so educational. And naturally it spawned a LOT of photos. I know I can scrap them into more than one layout, and right there, I have some motivating ideas. (I also have quite a number of photos of my grandchildren that are crying out for some spotlighting!)

Trying a new technique is another way to stir up some interest. Working through one of my tutorials or watching a YouTube video by someone whose work you admire can be very invigorating. Our own Karen Schulz (formerly Snickerdoodle) has a YouTube channel filled with great ideas. Why not watch one or two of hers?

Project Life offers a good compromise between free-wheeling and quick ages. Katherine Woodin is a prolific Project Life scrapper. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, Project Life is a method of celebrating the everyday activities that we often overlook as food for creativity. And it’s very flexible. You can choose to do a layout a day, keeping track of what happens and how it affects you each day as a form of daily diary. You can do a weekly layout (P52) with just the highlights of the week, or a monthly one (P12). You can use pocket-style pages, or free-form it.

Focusing on a single event or family member (a wedding, a birthday, a new job, a new house, a pet… you get the idea) can be another way to get going again. This one is a bit more of an exercise in self-discipline; making a decision to scrap a layout about fill-in-the-blank and just doing it may break the drought. I think this is where I’ll start. I haven’t changed my Signature in the Forum since MARCH!! And my Facebook header is one I created in July 2019. (It hasn’t been on display all this time, I swear! But it’s due for a refresh.)

Before I post this, I think I should remind all of us that turning a hobby into a chore isn’t a good thing. If you’re in a scrapping funk, especially one that has endured for awhile, it can be extremely daunting to think about picking up the tools and getting back to work. If you’re really not feeling it, don’t push it! Do something else that feeds your soul. It’ll be okay!

What are your methods of breaking a slump?

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Faking It – Those Incredible Full Moon Photos…

 

Have you ever looked at those totally amazing full moon photos where it looks like the moon is rising out of the ocean, or it’s rising behind a silhouetted city skyline and it’s huge and bright? And have you ever wondered how the photographer was able to capture that image? I know how they do it, and after this tutorial you will too. Because it’s all faked!

I wasn’t planning to take photos of last weekend’s full moon so I didn’t prepare for it. But then I took the dog out for a potty break and saw it hanging so brightly in the sky with Mars at its shoulder. So I grabbed my pretty decent DSLR, my telephoto lens and my very sturdy tripod and set up on the driveway. Rushing never makes for good results though and every one of the 70 photos I took was out-of-focus. The shots I took of the mountain were better, but pretty grainy. Thankfully I have a crystal-clear photo I took of the June 2013 Super Moon and that’s what I’m going to use to show you how I can make it look like the moon was over the mountain when it was quite far away in reality. This photo of the mountain that our subdivision snugs up to has been edited a bit to make the sky a bit brighter and the details a bit sharper.

Here’s my 2013 moon shot. I used a long shutter, a tiny aperture and manual focus to get it this bright and clear.

To hang the moon over the mountain, I’m going to use a Guided Edit that first appeared in Elements 13. Guided>Photomerge>Photomerge Compose.

Once you’ve activated the Edit, this screen opens. The instructions are fairly clear, even for the uninitiated. It says to drag the photo I want to extract FROM onto the space, so the Moon is going here.

Okay, there it is. All I want from the photo is the Moon, which has a nice, clear, sharp edge, so selecting it from my photo will be easy. I can use the Quick Selection tool for this step. If my desired extraction had more detail, I could choose one of the other options. AND… there are further adjustments that can be made in later steps.

Once I clicked on the Quick button, this tool tip opened to Guide me through the next part. It says, “Create new selection by dragging over the area you need to include.

It’s hard to see the marching ants in the screenshot but they are there. There’s even a little jaggy part that I’m going to adjust by switching from Add to Subtract and scrape it off.

Done! As I mentioned, there are more refinements you can make to extract your desired image using the Advanced Edge Refinement menu. It’s found just below the red circle.

But since I just basically have a circle, I can move on to the next step by clicking the Next arrow at the bottom of the screen. Elements always drops things right in the middle of the canvas, so it’s great that I can move my moon off the mountain and into the sky.

I decided to make it a bit bigger too, for dramatic effect. But I didn’t go too much bigger because I don’t want it to look completely phony.

Then I had second thoughts and decided to anchor it a bit by tucking it behind the mountain a smidge… after seeing that I had some Hide and Reveal options.

I started that process by Hiding the lower part of the Moon just roughly. I used a hard round brush at 100% Opacity to brush over the area that will end up being hidden by the mountain and trees. It takes several passes to completely hide the parts that I want hidden. Once I had an idea where the trees actually are, I could go back and Reveal the Moon where the trees don’t obstruct the sky. You can see in the screenshot that some of the moon looks more blue than gray – that’s where the sky hasn’t been completely Hidden. I also adjusted the size of my brush tip as needed to make the trees appear “normal”.

I switched back and forth between Hide and Reveal, adjusting the size of my brush tip until I had some natural-looking trees on my mountain. then I clicked on the Next arrow.

If your photos were taken at different times and in different lighting conditions, your composite might look pretty weird right now. Mine’s okay because night is night… But if you find your results aren’t making you happy, there’s still more in this Edit to help you get it right. The instructions say, “Click ‘Auto Match Color Tone’ to blend your extracted object with the background. You can fine tune the results with the sliders.” I highly recommend experimenting with this, because as you know, nothing is final in Elements until you say it is. If you click on the button and it does its thing but you hate the outcome, you can Undo it!! CTRL/CMD>Z should be an automatic movement. It sure is for me!

I didn’t like the results of the automatic process, so I made adjustments with the sliders. The image didn’t need a lot of adjusting to make it look more real. Then I clicked Next.

That’s the end of the Guided Edit. Now I can choose to Save, Continue Editing or Share my finished image. I want to clean up some of the noise by running the Haze Removal tool, so I’m going to click on In Expert and go there.

If you’re not familiar with the Haze Removal tool, I think you should give it a try! It sharpens your images and removes a lot of the graininess. You can get to it by Enhance>Haze Removal, or CTRL/CMD>ALT>Z works too.

It’s still an interactive process. This screen opens up and you can make adjustments to the amount of Haze Reduction it does, as well as the Sensitivity of the action. And if you’re not convinced it’s actually making a difference, you can flip between the Before and After images and see how it’s changed.

There! I think it looks pretty good, all things considered.

What do you think? Are you going to try this one? I think it would be good for adding a person who should have been in the photo but somehow wasn’t or to add someone who you only wished was there. Ooh, or maybe go right into fantasy and add a unicorn or a fairy to a photo of a baby. The sky’s the limit!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

The Photoshop Elements No-Diet Weight Loss Plan

 

Take THREE! Today’s really starting to feel more like a Monday than a Tuesday… WordPress isn’t playing nice again this week. But I’ll persevere, because I really want you to have this little weapon in your arsenal. Kim Kern asked in the comments after last week’s post if I knew how she could slim herself down a smidge in a photo she otherwise liked. So I dug out a photo of yours truly that didn’t make me cringe so I can show you how to lose 10 pounds without dieting.

First things first. I made a Copy of my photo so I could do all my experimenting on the Copy layer and lot the original. This is a good habit to get into when you’re photo-editing because if you’re not thrilled with your efforts, you can go back to that background layer and start over. To add a Copy layer, right-click on the photo layer in the Layers Panel and select Duplicate Layer, or use the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD>J.

Now, to that Copy layer, I’m going to apply a Filter. Click Filter>Distort>Liquify.

The Filter menu looks like this. The Tool options are along the left hand side of the workspace and the settings are on the upper right. For this edit I’m going to use the Shift Pixels option, the one with the icon that looks like two parallel brick walls with an arrow in between them. The brush I’m using is a soft, 64 pixel basic brush with a Pressure of 66. A light hand and a soft touch will give you the best results with the least backtracking.

I started my weight loss by gently slimming my left cheek. There’s no obvious clue for which direction to move your brush, or at least I didn’t find one. I started near my chin and very gently brushed upward until I got to the top of my ear. Just a tiny change is all that’s needed.

Then I took on my back fat. For this part, I started at my neck and brushed toward my bum. This is where you can see the distortion that happens in the background. It’s something I’ll fix later.

I moved on to making my arm look less meaty. I went elbow-up on the back of my arm and shoulder down on the inside.

Muffin top was my next zone. It too worked better going bottom up. It took me a few small adjustments to get to where I felt thinner, and I was careful not to flatten my chest. It’s really easy to see the blurring on those stones!

Once I was satisfied that I’d successfully slimmed but didn’t go overboard, I clicked on OK to go back to the Expert Editor.

 

Now to fix the weird spots. I started with the Clone Stamp tool and Zoomed in a lot so I could make my adjustments minutely. For this part, it’s best to use a fairly small soft round brush, at least at the beginning. Never used the Clone Stamp? Decide what part of your image is going to make the least visible correction and hold down ALT then click on that spot. Move your cursor to where you want your change to happen BEFORE you click again to apply that area you just Cloned. If you’re too close to the source, you’ll end up with a muddy mess. I worked on that bit of field behind my neck.

Then I moved on to remove the droop from the thatched roof on the yellow house at my back. For this kind of fix, if you click for your source with your cursor right over the straight edge of the object, Elements will give you a nice continuous straight line when you move the cursor over. To avoid visibly blurring an area that should be sharp, like where my sweater overlaps the wall, I switched my brush tip to a hard-edged one.

One disadvantage to using the Clone Stamp tool is that it reproduces patterns exactly, so as you move along, you’ll end up with some visible pattern repeats and that will look unnatural in most cases. That’s where the Spot Healing Brush comes into the game. For this fix, I used a small, hard-edged brush, selected Content Aware and Sample All Layers in the controls and randomly clicked on the stones to break up that repetition. If I noticed that my Spot Healing looked too sharp, I swapped out my brush tip back to a soft one.

I moved on to the blurry stones to my left and followed the same steps. After I’d cleaned that area up, I Zoomed out and looked closely at the entire image to see if there were any glaring areas that still needed retouching. Then when I was satisfied with the whole image, I selected both layers, right-clicked and Merged them. But it’s just as appropriate to right-click and Flatten Image.

That’s it! That’s how I lost 10 pounds without even giving up jelly beans. My final image got a bit more adjusting: First I smoothed out the wrinkles in my neck and erased the scar from my parathyroid surgery. I Duplicated the image and sharpened it with a High Pass filter. That layer’s Blend Mode was changed to Overlay. I made yet another Copy layer then I changed the Blend Mode on that new layer to Multiply and dropped the Opacity to 25% to add some more contrast to the clouds (both are discussed in a previous tutorial). Overall, I’m really pleased with the way it came out. I look like me, only better!

Mm-kay. Let’s see what else I need to do to this post to get it right. I might even make my deadline! See you next week.

 

 

Tutorial Tuesday (Index)

 

Huh. I was devoid of inspiration for today’s Blog post so I did a quick Pinterest search for Photoshop Elements tutorials I could adapt… it turned up quite a few very familiar tuts! (Mine!) So lacking that bolt from the blue that would give me the juice I needed, I thought, “I should see if there are any requests for help in the GingerScraps Forum that I could use. What I discovered was that none of the “here’s-a-tutorial-about______” threads I’d posted in the Forum had links to the tutorials any more. Ginger thinks the server upgrade back in the spring must have eaten them. What alarmed me is that I hadn’t been spending much time in the Forum while we were moving and getting settled, and there were a number of posts there looking for those missing links. FAIL!! So… I went through all of those threads and updated them. Instead of preparing a new tutorial. Then I updated the Blog post where I indexed all the Tutorial Tuesday posts (there are now 190 of them!) and this is where you can find it: Tutorial Tuesday (Tutorials!)

I also discovered that I’ve neglected my OTHER Blog post, which I’ll be remedying right away.

That brings us back around to my initial question: What topics are GingerScrappers interested in right now? Is there a tip, trick or technique that you’ve tried to figure out and just need a bit of help to get it right? Help me to help you!

Tutorial Tuesday (Windows)

Taming the Wild Template

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tutorial Tuesday (Potpourri)

Scrapping in the Time of COVID

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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