Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Deconstructing the Custom Shadow

I think we all agree that shadows are an essential and integral part of a great digital layout. There are lots of ways to add shadows in Photoshop Elements, and some of them are easier than others. But to create a true, realistic-looking shadow, there are a few things to keep in mind. Drop shadow styles are included with the software and can be useful; a number of digital designers have also created a set of drop shadow styles that make the task simple. However, to have the most realistic shadows, it’s not enough to “drop” them onto your layout. That’s because objects don’t have even lighting and they don’t have uniform and even shadows either. Objects CAST a shadow. So let’s deconstruct this concept a little.

Here are three identical flowers. I’m going to show you the default drop shadow style, a commercial drop shadow style and how I shadow a flower like this. See if you can pick out the differences.

First let’s look at the PSE default Drop Shadow set, found in the Styles menu. It’ll add a drop shadow to the object with one click. Because I’m shadowing a flower, I selected the Soft Edge version. Don’t know which is which? Hover your cursor over the thumbnail and it’ll tell you. These Styles are adjustable; by double-clicking on the fx icon on the layer’s thumbnail in the Layers panel you open up the adjustment menu. Move the sliders for Size (this determines how sharp the edges of your shadow will be – the bigger the size, the softer), Distance (this isn’t accurate, because it adjusts the size of the shadow) and Opacity (darkness) until you like the look.

There’s the default shadow on the far left, unadjusted. For the flower in the middle I’m going to use a commercial drop shadow styles set from Tracie Stroud. (Tracie has retired from designing, so her products are no longer available. Mommyish and Sahin Designs currently have drop shadow style sets in their stores.) This set is the 120° lighting angle set and I hovered until I found one called Flower. Click!

Hmm. Do you see much of a difference between the first one and the middle one? The one on the right side is the one I created a custom shadow for. This method seems to be really hard, with a lot of steps, but with practice it’s become almost automatic for me now and takes about the same amount of time as using a style does. I think you can see the difference here.

Here are the steps. The real thinking-about-it comes later with the adjustments. Start off by creating a NEW LAYER underneath your object. To do this hold down the SHIFT key and click on that little icon that looks like a piece of paper with the corner turned up at the left-top of the Layers panel.

This is what you’ll see in the Layers panel. If you forgot to hold down the SHIFT key, you can move the new layer down using the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD>[.

Next, click on the object’s thumbnail in the Layers panel. The thumbnail is the little picture.

Now the outside edges of the object have been Selected and have a line of marching ants around it.

Before you go on, make sure the BLANK LAYER is the active one. Otherwise you’ll be undoing. Then choose the Paint Bucket tool (K), set your foreground colour to whatever your desired shadow colour will be (I just used black, 000000 but some people like to use a slightly browner colour like 2C1902) then click on your workspace. Elements will fill the selection with the foreground colour.

And there it is!

To Deselect the object’s outline you can go Select>Deselect, or just CTRL/CMD>D.

Next, decide where your light source is. Looking at the object can help with that, because there will be subtle highlights and shadows there already. For this flower, the light is clearly coming from the upper left. Now you need to activate the Move tool. I usually just go V. Then move the dark outline in a direction AWAY from your light source. Use the arrow keys to nudge it, if you like.

This is the interesting, fun part! Think about what parts of your object would actually touch whatever it’s resting on. The centre of this flower will be resting right on the paper, so the shadows around that part will be less noticeable – light can’t get underneath whatever is touching the surface, so no shadow can be cast. Use the Smudge tool (R) to push and pull the edges of the shadow into place.

Can you see how I’ve adjusted this shadow? I pushed the shadow toward the centre between the petals. I pulled the shadow sideways and away from some of the petals and imagined the petal at the very bottom is twisted a bit so the left edge is touching the paper.

When you feel like you’ve got the shadow looking natural and real, it’s time to soften it up. Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur is how that happens.

To see how much of an effect the Gaussian Blur has, click your cursor on a point somewhere over the edge of your shadow and your preview pane will shift to that spot. Move the slider until you’ve got a nice, soft edge. How soft will obviously depend on what it is you’re shadowing. A button would have a sharper edge, string a softer edge.

Almost done! Change the Blend Mode to Linear Burn for more of a shadowy look nearest to the object. It also allows the shadow to take on some of the colour of whatever is under it, in this case the blue of the paper.

Then lighten up up by decreasing the Opacity to somewhere around 40%, plus or minus. Keep an eye on what’s happening and you’ll see when it looks right. If you think the edges are still too sharp, use the Gaussian Blur again.

Last thing to do is to Link the shadow layer to the object layer. To do that, select the two layers then click on that little icon that looks like a couple of chain links. Alternatively, you can Merge the two layers by selecting them then right-click>Merge or CTRL/CMD>E. Why do this? Well, if you move the object and it’s not either linked or merged with the shadow, the shadow is going to be left behind and you’ll have a bunch of hassle positioning it right later.

When your layers are linked to each other, this is what you’ll see in the Layers panel.

This was a very basic custom shadow operation. Practice it a bit, then I’ll show you how to layer objects on top of other objects and get the shadows right in that situation. Even more fun!! Just let me know when you’re ready to take it up another notch.

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

How Do You Know When to Upgrade?

Today’s tutorial is going to be a really wordy one. Lisa R made this comment on last week’s post: “That’s why I adore digital scrapbooking! I still have PSE 11 and since I use it mostly for photos (not scrapping), it would be interesting to hear the best things YOU like about it … I’ve been thinking of upgrading for quite some time but again, because I use it mostly for photos, I’m still on the fence.” I hope to make her decision easier by discussing some of the things that have evolved since V.11. I’ve never been one to upgrade just to stay at the front of the pack. There has to be something in the upgrade that I want… and I’m pondering whether it’s worth the money (about $120 Canadian for an upgrade, $140 for a new purchase) to jump to PSE 2019. But before I talk about that, let’s look at the changes from Lisa’s V.11 to my current V.15.

V.11 brought us some fabulous sketchy filters, and introduced automated actions to ElementsPhotoshop CS/CC has had them for a long time. If you’re not familiar with actions, they’re little scripts that automatically perform a series of adjustments to your work. They’re especially useful for photo editing and professional photographers have their favourites, which then let them develop a personal style. Photographers whose specialty is newborns, for example, will use actions that tone down jaundiced skin, hide newborn “acne”, reduce mottling and so on. There are also actions that take the work out of getting the background right. There are lots of sources for free or low-cost actions online, with demonstrations of how they work. Here’s a demo of a free action from The Coffee Shop blog. It’s called Perfect Portrait 3. It’s pretty amazing!

In V.15 there are two ways you can access actions, both the very basic ones that came with the software and those you’ve installed. The first is to click Window>Actions and the second is to click that More button then choose the Actions tab. If you look closely at this photo of my son, his skin is pretty gnarly-looking so let’s see how Perfect Portrait 3 fixes it.

When you’ve chosen the action you want to run by clicking on the folder to the left of the title, you can either click on the dark blue triangle to the left of the folder’s contents, or the dark blue triangle circled below. That sets the action in motion.

There may be some parts of the action that require your input, like this one. It’s actually the second spot where I told it what to do; the first was a Levels adjustment. In this screen I could change the source of the colour I want to replace.

After I hit the OK button for Replacing Color, the action took off and in 30 seconds I had all these adjustment layers that I can now fine-tune. But even without any further input from me, those blemishes on Adam’s nose are gone, his skin tone is more even and his teeth are whiter. I think his crows’ feet aren’t as obvious too.

Another new feature that came with V.11 is in the Organizer. (I don’t use the Organizer because I didn’t like it with my first couple of versions, and created my own filing/organization system.) This version introduced user-determined tagging, allowing many more options for finding what you’re looking for by using your own tags. Options could be by name, by date, by location or by event, for example.

Last but not least, V.11 had the first Out-of-Bounds Guided Edit that allows cutting away the background from part of a photo but leaving things like heads, arms and legs in there. Think of those cool layouts where the photo looks 3D, like it’s bursting out of a frame.

V.12 brought a few more useful improvements. Content-Awareness allows for quicker, easier editing with the Spot Healing tool and with the Content-Aware Move tool. (I haven’t played with that tool yet, so I won’t try to explain how it works. We’ll save that for another day!) This version gave us a pet-eye correction in the Quick and Expert edit menus for the first time.

It also gave us the Zoom Burst Guided Edit that lets you add motion blur to an action photo that looks natural. That one looks like a lot of fun! Another new option in the Guided Edit menu in V.12 is Rotate and Straighten, making adjusting the horizon in photos super-simple. Here’s where the Puzzle edit and the Photomerge edit also came into play. One big drawback to V.12 was that everything was turned into a Smart Object, resizing things like buttons to the size of whatever the workspace it was moved onto was… 12×12 for example. It was a REAL pain in the butt having to then manually resize every. Single. Element. On my layouts.

V.13 got rid of that. It introduced the Refine Edge function to selections, which was a game-changer for lots of people. It allows for sharper extractions and cleaner edges. Some other benefits V.13 had include Auto-crop options – the software provides a preview of several ways to crop an image. [I turned that off eventually because I don’t want to be told what to do. ;)] They added Black and White (automatic and simple conversion to black and white), Black and White Color Pop (keeping a specific area of a photo in color while making the rest of it black and white) and Recompose (resizing your photos without losing important parts of them) to the Guided Edit menu.

And then there were these very useful additions! I haven’t actually played with these either, but I think I should!

V.14 is where there were huge changes made to Elements. Many of the techniques I’ve shared were made possible by these additions: Remove Camera Shake; Remove Haze (!); Batch Edit; one-click Whiten Teeth, frames, photo effects and textures; Photo Illustration; Paint-On Effects; select detailed edges (hair?); remixing 2 photos, improvements to the Recompose edit; RAW editing; new options in Photomerge and an opportunity to print at home came with V.14.

Compared to V.14, there weren’t a lot of changes in V.15, but improved function of some of the menus were a bonus. The Filter Gallery has been simplified and there were a few additions to the Guided Edit menu such as Photo Text (there was a tut on this one), Effects Collage (which lets you apply several effects to sections of a single photo), Painterly (there was a tut on this one too) and Speed Pan (giving a moving object a blurred background). There’s also a cool effect that lets you change a frown into a smile.

Changes to the appearance of the workspace, the location of toolboxes and buttons and other sort of housekeeping things have continued from version to version. There will always be a bit of a learning curve when you upgrade; the larger the gap between your old version and the new one, the steeper the curve.

So this is where my dilemma lies. Do I go from V.15 to Elements 2019? How hard will it be for me to learn the new stuff, and then translate it into easy-to-follow tutorials? Are there enough new things (there are 8 new Guided Edits) I can’t live without to make it worthwhile? 2019 has a powerful new function called Adobe Sensei AI, which does a lot of things automatically in both the Organizer and the Editor. It uses artificial intelligence to tag and organize your photos and videos based on image recognition, it allows for video editing, which V.15 does not, and it has several social media features. Oh and did I mention slideshows?? If you’ve ever had to create a slideshow, you’ll know how much work they are and how hard it is to get them just right. 2019 will automatically select the best photos from a selection and turn them into an animated slideshow guaranteed to impress. There’s also a more useful home screen. It looks like I have some thinking to do…

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Restoring those Vintage Snapshots

Halfway between my birthday and Mother’s Day, I had the most amazing visit with some relatives I’d never met before. One of the ladies I spend the day with is my Grandmother’s first cousin, who is actually only four years older than my mother. This delightful woman brought along a huge collection of vintage photos, some of them well over 100 years old. Today I’m going to show you one of them and take you through a Guided Edit to restore it. (Spoiler alert: This is NOT a quick edit. It took me about 2 hours to get it to the final version.)

The Guided Edit I’m going to demonstrate today is simply called Restore Old Photo. It’s in the Special Edit toolbox. What I love about these Guided Edits is that everything you’re going to need (pretty much) is all in the Edit toolbox. It’s especially helpful for those who are still learning how to use their software, because each tool in the box has a little explanation of how to use it. Like a mini-tut, if you will.

Here’s my photo. The little girl is my first cousin twice removed, Lily Annie Delia. She was nicknamed Laddie (for her initials) and she really didn’t like it! This photo was taken in the fall of 1916 and was sent to her grandmother as a Christmas gift.

This Guided Edit has more tools within it than can be shown all at once, so don’t forget to scroll down and take a peek. Be cautious of that Cancel button I’ve circled. It resets EVERYTHING back to the original.

The tools are listed in the order you’re most likely to use them, but I found I was bouncing between them as the condition of the photo demanded. Zoom in really closely so you can see the imperfections better and what changes the tools create when you use them.

But first… This is a personal preference here. I like to crop off the white paper border before I do anything else. But there may be times when you want to leave it. Here I show you how I cropped this one. The image was printed slightly askew so I straightened the Crop window level to the demarcation between the carpet and the wall.

This is my new starting point.

The Spot Healing tool in the Expert edit mode has a number of options for the tool, but within this Guided Edit, it doesn’t. If you’ve never used it before, you’ll be surprised at how one click can make a huge difference. The secret to a great, invisible edit is to take your time and use a SMALL diameter brush.

See how all that discoloured scratchy stuff is gone now? Typo spotters… that should read “down”. You can move your photo around on your workspace by using the Hand tool.

That scratch and the messy corner will need more help than the Spot Healing tool can provide, so I’ll use the Healing Brush. It’s similar to the Clone Stamp but can be stroked across a blemish like a brush. More details on how this tool works best are to follow.

Now you see it, now you don’t!

This is where I started moving back and forth between the Spot Healing tool and the Healing Brush.

This shows how sometimes there are several types of blemishes in a small area.

The Spot Healing tool is active in this screenshot. I’ve removed most of the discoloured stuff.

It’s very easy to change the size of the brush you’re using in either the Spot Healing tool or the Healing Brush. Those square brackets that don’t have much use outside of algebra are the volume up and volume down buttons for brushes. The [ one makes your brush smaller, while the ] one makes it bigger. I just made my Healing Brush slightly bigger than the scraped area, selected an unblemished area of my photo and painted over it.

These scratches and creases might be erased with the Spot Healing tool, but I didn’t take any chances. I used the Healing Brush.

Here’s the secret to making the Healing Brush and Clone Stamp tools work to their best advantage. (And I literally discovered the trick LAST NIGHT!) If you don’t move the cursor away from your ALT>Click selection before you start using the tool, your “source” point will be… what you’re trying to cover. So always move it, even just a little bit, before you start trying to fix an area. You’ll be able to see where your source is because there will be a little white “plus” sign at the spot where the colour or texture is being sampled. Below I’ve mocked up what you’ll see, but in black to make it more easily seen.

When using either the Healing Brush or the Clone Stamp, work AWAY from your source so you’re moving from clear to unclear. You’re trying to blend away the blotches, not replicate them.

No matter what tool you’re using, when you’re in a spot where there’s lots of detail, you need to slow down and use the smallest brush possible. If you’re too close to an area where the colour or tone is different, your correction will actually only create another flaw.

Hair. It’s one of those love-it-or-hate-it things!

Use the zoom! The keyboard shortcuts – and + make it easy to do. Get in tight where you need to, pull back to make sure it looks right when you need to.

I used the Spot Healing tool, the Healing Brush and the Clone Stamp freely in this area. The Clone Stamp tool is terrific for repeating shapes and sharp edges. By selecting a spot along the edge, for example, I can replicate that perfect spot all the way down the rung.

And on it goes.

Spot Healing worked well for the cross piece here.

I made my way across the photo from the upper left corner over to the right, dropped my working area down then worked back from right to left, repeating until I’d covered the whole photo.

I could stop here, but I want to show you some more options, so let’s press on.

Even though I think I’ve done a great job, I think I want to use the Dust Removal tool to refine the image even more. It’s one of the hidden ones I had to scroll down to find. Adjusting the pixel size, I can tell Elements to find all the remaining flaws that size or smaller and Elements will fix them.

I wanted the Dust Removed first before I went on to the Blur tool. It does exactly what it says it does. It softens the hard edges of an edited area so it doesn’t stand out. I just brushed it over some of the background.

The next several adjustments aren’t using any of the tools, just adjustment modes, so the Blur tool looks like it’s still active. But this screenshot shows my photo after I used the Auto Levels mode.

Then I let Elements adjust it with Auto Contrast.

And a touch of Sharpening.

When I’ve gone as far as I want to with the Guided Edit, I can click on that Next button and go into the Expert edit mode.

Since I discovered Enhance>Haze Removal, I’ve used it SO OFTEN! It does several things all at once – sharpening details and deepening contrast.

And the effect is fully adjustable. I’ve moved both sliders to the left from the default settings.

Don’t worry that you’ve gone too far… you can ALWAYS Undo it all! CTRL/CMD>Z is a scrapper’s best friend! (CTRL/CMD>Y will Redo, so you’ve got options!)

Don’t foget to save your hard work! I named my new photo Laddie Xmas 16 for ease of finding it later.

What do you think?

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Repeating Patterns, Part Three

In Part One, we built a repeating pattern essentially on a grid. In Part Two, we went a little further and created a repeating, staggered pattern. And now, in Part Three we’re taking all that we’ve learned to create a repeating pattern with multiple options. Ready?

Open up a new canvas 2 inches square with a resolution of 300 pixels per inch.

Then duplicate your blank layer. The reason for this will explain itself.

Now take a look through your brushes or stamps and choose the one you’ll use first. I used a dragonfly from a free set of butterfly brushes (sorry, can’t find a ling to them). Resize it so it fits into a fraction of your square.

You can see that I’ve duplicated the dragonfly and positioned them in opposing corners.

Then I changed my foreground colour and chose a butterfly stamp, adding it to one of the vacant corners.

And duplicated THAT layer then I Merged all the layers.

I think you might remember this part. Edit>Define Pattern will let you save your creation as a pattern for use with the Pattern Fill tool.

You don’t HAVE to give it a name, but it might make it easier to find later.

Now you need a solid paper for your background. It can be textured, or not.

Then select the Paint Bucket tool, but instead of the Color Fill, go with Pattern Fill. Then go find your new creation.

One click on the paper and BINGO!

But wait! There’s more!!

This time I added some glitter to my brush layer.

And then some hearts…

… and some MORE glitter.

I missed a screenshot where I added in the silhouette of a girl jumping for joy, but you can see the result here.

Look at how amazing it looks with the glitter, which is still there.

Let’s try that one in a staggered pattern. I opened a new 2 inch tall, 4 inch wide canvas and applied the pattern to it. Then I deleted the second repeat so I’d have somewhere to put the offset. Filter>Other>Offset.

I used the same settings I had for the first staggered pattern we did back in Part Two. Then I Edit>Defined Pattern with a different name.

Yes, the same steps as before.

And there’s my new staggered-pattern paper! I could learn to love this technique!!

Have you tried any of the parts of this tutorial? I’d love to see yours!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

UnMASKing the MASK

Y’all remember Karyn Concannon‘s comment a few weeks ago where she offered me some topics for discussion? Well, we’ve done some paper-making (with one more version yet in the works) and now we’ll look at making masks. There has been a mask-making tutorial some time ago, but this one will go a little further and in a bit of a different direction.

Let’s get to work! Go big… it can’t possibly hurt. I’m going 12×12 here.

The whole process uses only brushes. If you’re low on awesome and fabulous brushes, there are TONS of free ones online, my favourite source being brusheezy.com where they have a huge assortment and literally something for everyone. Set your foreground colour to black then select your Brush tool.

I love the look of watercolour paint so I have several brush sets of watercolour swashes. This particular set is called 20 Watercolor Masks and they’re truly fabulous. I’ve got my brush size set to 1600 pixels and the Opacity to 100%.

This is the result of a single click with the brush. Looks like a cloud, doesn’t it? And almost as um… ephemeral.

So I made some copies (CTRL/CMD>J) and stopped when I thought it had enough presence. Then I Merged all the copies into one layer.

But unless I use a very long-distance landscape photo, this isn’t going to be enough of a statement. So I added some more substance by choosing another brush from the same set.

(Notice this second brush is on its own layer. If you get in the habit of doing things on their own layer you’ll have infinite control.) Single click. Interesting! But again, light on the weight.

So I made some more copies. And I shifted them around a little to distribute some of the more obvious aspects. Then I Merged (CTRL/CMD>E) them.

Mmmm. Still not quite the look I’m going for. So I made another copy of the FIRST layer. When you think about masks, you’ll remember that the darker (black) the area the more of the photo is revealed. So you can’t get blacker than black. You can always go back and adjust your layers until your mask pleases your eye.

Don’t be afraid to move the brushes around! You’re the only one you have to please, so make it what you want it to be!

If you’re still not happy with the way your mask looks, you can use a big, soft, round Basic brush (from the brush set that comes with Elements) to either darken areas more, or lighten them (if you’re lightening, use the Eraser tool and a low opacity to avoid going overboard).

See how I’ve softened some of the edges? I only used a black brush. No erasing.

Like I’ve said, YOU’RE the boss here, so you can go as far as you want with your mask. I decided to add some paint splatters, again with a free brush.

Oh my!! I LIKE it!! (If I don’t like how the more distant splatters look once I’ve clipped a photo to it, I can erase those parts OF THE MASK and still have the splatter effect in areas of the photo.)

Now I’m happy with the depth and balance of my mask, I can Merge the layers all together. That’s an important step if you plan to do what I’m going to show you next.

Some designers make phenomenally beautiful masks that are out of the ordinary. (Irina from PrelestnayaP is one such.) For this next step I used a brush that was part of a set chosen for the Brush Challenge back in October 2015. You can download these brushes, designed by Lileya Brogu, here. Take note that I’ve got the Eraser tool selected, NOT the Brush tool.

Whatdya think?

And here’s what it all looks like with a photo clipped to it. Pretty fancy!

Just for fun, and to show you haw easy it is to customize your mask, I Undid (CTRL/CMD>Z) that last step and tried a few other brushes.

This one is really creepy. I downloaded the eyeball brushes for a Hallowe’en project.

See? There’s really no limit to the possibilities – other than the limits of your brush collection!

So once I was done playing with it, I decided to Save it for later. I chose Save As (CTRL/CMD>SHIFT>S) because that’s where I can decide what format to save it in. To be a good mask, it needs to be saved as a .png with a transparent background. Then I decided where to save it – into my personal Elements folder, and what to call it.

The last step is to select the .png options. To preserve the most detail, go with the settings shown below.

How much fun is that??

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Repeating Patterns – Part Deux

As promised, here’s the second installment of creating your own patterned papers. (I hope our lovely designers aren’t mad we’re doing an end-run around them… but sometimes the overall design cries out for a paper they didn’t give us.) Today I’ll show you how to create a staggered pattern repeat the quick and easy way. Refresh your memory if you need to… I’ll still be here when you’re done!

If you remember, my first effort was really odd because I hadn’t made the original stamp image small enough to give it a good repeat. So here’s the Resized stamp. I went with (almost) 2 inches square for a six-time repeat across the page, but you can go with whatever makes you happy. After I Resized my stamp I just pushed the bottom of the canvas up to make it a perfect 2 inch square to calm my OCD.

Then I actually shrank the stamp down a bunch more so the staggered repeat would look better. And I filled the background with a solid colour by adding a new layer BELOW the stamp layer then flooding it with white using my Paint Bucket tool for it’s more usual purpose. And I Merged the layers into one.

This step is something we’ve only rarely done, and that’s to Resize the Canvas. What does that mean? (Yes, I heard that!) The stamp is an IMAGE. The workspace behind it is the CANVAS. The keyboard shortcuts are almost identical. CTRL/CMD>ALT>I for the Image and CTRL/CMD>ALT>C for the Canvas. Easy enough to remember, right?

I doubled the WIDTH but left the HEIGHT unchanged. I also moved the Anchor point over to left-centre by clicking on it in the diagram. This is the most important part of this step. So many new things we’re trying here!

And it’s time for another new thing! We’ve looked at the Blur filter, and the High Pass filter and we’ve played with some of the others but we’ve never talked about the Offset filter.

Isn’t it awesome that all you have to do is choose it from the drop-down menu and Elements runs with it? Now that there are some terrific staggered stamps here, I’m going to Define the Pattern in the same way we did it last week. Edit>Define Pattern… super simple.

I gave it a name that is different from my other defined patterns so Elements wouldn’t mix them up.

Then I went back into the Paint Bucket and chose the Fill Pattern mode. A single click on my gray paper and voilà! A staggered pattern all over my paper. (Of course, the gray paper is completely hidden by the white fill layer from way back in step 2…)

But that doesn’t matter because if I choose the correct Blend Mode, it’ll show back up with just one click. I went with Linear Burn.

And there’s the gray paper! Now to save my paper for future use. I used the Save As (CTRL/CMD>SHIFT>S) method, which lets me decide what kind of file I want it to be. Papers are always .jpg files, so that’s what I’ll do.

I have a folder on my laptop for “my” papers and that’s where I’m putting this one.

And we’re done!! I’m going to experiment before next week to make papers with more than one pattern. Wish me luck!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Repeating Patterns – Basic

Last week’s tutorial attracted some comments, as they usually do, and thanks to Karyn Concannon I have some topics to work with for the next couple of weeks. She’d like to know how to use repeating patterns to create her own paper – let’s take a look at that one now.

I’m pretty sure this has been covered in a previous tutorial but when I went to look for it so I could link it, I couldn’t find it. So to recap… I think. To create repeating patterns you can use brushes, stamps, elements, shapes – whatever your heart desires. For my example I’m using a tribal-looking stamp from Connie Prince‘s Roar.

The first step is to Define the stamp as a Pattern. Click on Edit>Define Pattern. This is the easy part.

The menu opens up this box, where I named my pattern Connie’s Roar Stamp.

Next I chose a background paper (from Aprilisa‘s All American): neutral, gray with a git of texture.

Next, I chose the Paint Bucket tool (Work Smart Not Hard shortcut is the K key); as you can see, I’ve added a blank layer on top of the paper layer. This is an important step, so don’t leave it out.

The Paint Bucket menu has two options. The one on the left is the colour fill setting, the one on the right is the pattern fill one.

When I click on the little triangle inside the frame for the pattern fill setting, the default patterns open up, and so does the one I just defined from the stamp!

I clicked on the stamp pattern and WHOA! That wasn’t what I was ready for…

It turns out I should have resized the original stamp png BEFORE I turned it into a pattern. That can be accomplished one of two ways: Image>Resize>Resize Image or CTRL/CMD>ALT>I. Then decide how small to make it. Keep in mind your canvas size (3600×3600 pixels or 12×12 inches in my example). Once it’d been Resized, I went back and Defined Pattern with it, giving it a different name.

Then I used Pattern Fill and got what I was expecting the first time.

There are so many ways this can be jazzed up – Blend Modes have a lot of options, texture filters can make your paper look flocked or sponged, the colour can be changed in several ways. Give them all a whirl! For my example below, I changed the Blend Mode to Dissolve and made it look like I’d stencilled it on.

One way to change the colour is to add a Fill Layer using the Layer menu. Layer>New Fill Layer>Solid Color

By ticking that box, you’re telling PSE to clip the new colour to the layer below it.

When the Color Picker opens up, you get to choose what colour you want to go with. I like this method because it’s much more reliable than using the Paint Bucket to fill the design – that usually ends up being a lot of work for a not-so-great result.

If you want to make further adjustments to the pattern layer, Merge the pattern layer and colour fill layer together. (CTRL/CMD>E)

The merged layers will lose the Blend Mode so I hit it again with Dissolve.

That’s how to make a simple repeating pattern. All the control is in your hands. Next week I’ll show you how to do a staggered repeating pattern. It takes a few more steps and some experimentation…

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Stackin’ ’em Up!

I’m seriously in need of a week where I’m actually not scrambling for a tutorial post! I was wide awake at 1 am wracking my brain for a topic. But what do you know… one magically appeared. I remembered there were still some really useful Guided Edits I haven’t shown you yet, so that’s what we’re doing. Let’s look at the Photo Stack, just for fun.

When I tell you that this technique is literally only about a 10 minute job, I know you’re thinking, “She always says that.” But it really is SO much faster even than using a template with photo stack, because with this edit, the software does ALL the copying and stroking. All of it! The hardest part is deciding which of the three options to choose, and I think that comes down to what you want the focus to be.

All I did to get this image was to click just once on the 4 frame spot I’ve shown below.

The very first image has the narrowest border already in place. A single click on one of the border options is the next step.

The medium border is still pretty skinny.

Even the widest one isn’t especially in-your-face. But that’s completely under your control! Before I show you that part, let’s look at the other two stack options.

The eight frame option looks like this with the baseline border.

Beefing up the borders to medium still lets a lot of the original image through.

Then the wider one, still not much of a distraction.

And then there’s the twelve frame option.

Medium

Wide

With this photo I think 4 frames is the right choice. So now I’m going to move to the Expert Editor.

Whoa! Look at all those layers! And each one is another opportunity to fine-tune the final image. (Notice the multiple copies of the photo layer? It’s a GREAT thing!)

Here I’ve selected one of the border layers. The border is actually simply a stroke on its own layer. The default settings are 10 pixels and 100% Opacity.

Pulling the slider to the right makes the border wider. I could also change the colour of the border in this menu if I wanted to.

I’m going to come back to that in a minute. But first, I’m going to unlock the background (original photo) layer so I can edit it. And so I can put a transparent layer underneath it. I right-clicked on the layer in the Layers panel then chose Layer from Background. That makes it like all the other layers, completely editable.

I then added my transparent layer underneath it by CTRL/CMD>clicking on the new layer icon (the blank sheet of paper) at the top left of the Layers panel.

I turned the visibility of the very first black rectangle off and now the original image is visible to the edges and can be erased away, leaving a transparent area instead.

Don’t panic about having to be precise with the erasing. It’s not a problem! All those extra copies of the original photo that are clipped to the stacked layers aren’t going anywhere. You can just use a big eraser and go for it!

After I did that, I decided I wanted to shift the stacked photos so they were entirely inside the canvas. So I CTRL/CMD>Z as many times as I needed to to get back to the black rectangle. Then I resized them a tiny bit, shifted them a tiny bit and rotated them a tiny bit until I arrived at what you see below.

Then I decided to make the borders just a smidge wider. I double-clicked on the fx icon on the first border layer to get into the Styles menu.

I didn’t go overboard, just doubled the width of the border on each one. And then I went back and erased the areas of the original photo layer to make my stack usable.

An advanced version of this Edit would substitute other photos for some of the frames, but it would be almost as much work as using a template would be… the photos would need to be resized and rotated individually then clipped to the spots.

If I was ready to put my layout together, I could just leave it as is for now and come back to it later. But I’m going to save it for later.

In order to be able to use it for a layout, the transparent background is essential. So I’m saving it as a PNG file.

To keep the images sharp I’m using the Slowest setting and Non-Interlaced. I gave it a name and saved it to the folder I’ve created for my (future) layout.

Before I forget, LilyAnn Fisherman left a comment on last week’s tutorial asking me if I couldn’t have made my clock face by texting-on-a-path. So I went back and did it again, using Text on a Shape. It was maybe a tiny bit less work, but I still had to fiddle with the spacing to line the hours up with where they should be on the clock.

And while I was at it, I did a mock-up of what I hope the clock will look like when it’s finished.

Check back in a few weeks to see if I succeed!

Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

I almost didn’t think there would be a tutorial this week. I spent a huge chunk of time going through the paper clutter in my dining room sorting what needs to be kept and what could go to the shredder and at the end of it I was mentally exhausted. So I figured I’d do something fun; we’re redecorating and I want one of those huge farmhouse style clocks to go in the dining room. Bargain shopper that I am and not thrilled with the retail prices on these clocks, I took my $50 Lowe’s gift card and bought an 18″ chunk of stain-ready pine then started looking at examples on Pinterest. I knew I wanted Roman numerals on my clock so those are the ones I concentrated on. But how to get those numerals onto my slice of pine… PSE to the rescue. I thought.

I wasn’t anticipating the number of times I’d have to undo it all and start over. So I thought, “Maybe someone else could learn from my mistakes!” I had already decided I would use the Warp text tool and had to figure out how to bend it to my will.

I tried a couple of options from the menu before settling on the Arc warp. It gives a beautiful curve but doesn’t distort the text too much.

To give myself something to gauge the curve against, I used the Custom Shape Tool to pull out a nice perfect circle. The sliders do some crazy things to text! I went all the way over to the right with the Bend slider, but felt it didn’t leave quite enough space between the 8 and 9 or the 2 and 3. So I adjusted back to 94%

Then I typed out the rest of the numerals and warped them. But something doesn’t look right. I went back to my example on Pinterest and yep… it’s not right. The numerals on the bottom half are backwards.

So I deleted that text layer but while I was trying to figure out how to turn the numerals on the bottom half around, I pulled in some Guide lines to make positioning the 12, 3, 6 and 9 easier.

And I tried it again.

And failed. Again. So I thought, what if I flip the numerals horizontally?

Think it worked? As you can see, the bottom arc is a LOT bigger than the top one, which I did nothing to other than warp it.

Even after I resized and rotated the two halves to a more correct position, it still was wrong. Even after several more tries to get it right, I still didn’t have it.

So I took a break. I went to work, spent the day recertifying my special competencies and writing two exams. I put it out of my mind altogether. Then after I got home and had a nice glass of pino grigio to forget the stress of my math exam, I had a EUREKA moment! Maybe I needed to put the characters in reverse order then spin them around 180°.

Did it work?

YES!! With some caveats.

I adjusted the space between some of the numerals and rotated everything a smidge.

WooHOO! Now I can print it out in the size I want – even if I have to put it on four sheets – and trace them with carbon paper onto my clock. I’m so excited to see it all finished!

So there’s another way to add some originality to your text!

Photoshop Layer Style Pattern Adjustments

Did you know that, when using the full version of Photoshop, you can easily adjust the position of a pattern within a Photoshop Layer Style? Photoshop Elements does not have the option available, but there is a work-around.  It’s very easy! Here’s how:

Photoshop:

1. In the Layers Panel select the layer that has the style you want to adjust.

Moving a Pattern in a Layer Style Tutorial Snickerdoodle Designs

 

2. Click on “Effects” (or anywhere in the “Effects” area, but not on the name of the Layer itself). This will open the Layer Style Panel.

3. Click on “Pattern Overlay” in the Layer Style options box on the left to make it active.

4. You can see the entire Pattern on the right, in the Pattern Overlay options box. This is handy for re-positioning reference.

5. Move to your document. Place your cursor on the object to which you have applied the style. In the image above, I have placed the cursor on the rounded rectangle.

6. Left click and hold down with your mouse, then move your cursor around within the bounds of the object to reposition the pattern.

7. When you are happy with the result, release the mouse.

So how is this useful?

For the purposes of this tutorial, I used my seamless Watercolor Styles 02. Because the styles are seamless, I moved around the pattern in just one of the style effects and was able to quickly come up with 9 different looks. The ability to reposition patterns exponentially multiplies the options you have when using seamless styles with color variations.

 

There are 15 style effects in this one pack. So if you, by chance, were able to get 9 different looks from just ONE style, it is conceivable that you could get 135 different patterns from this pack (15 styles X 9 looks per style)!  I won’t guarantee you could get 9 different looks from each effect, but just wanted to emphasize how moving a pattern in a style can add to the versatility of many styles.

What about Styles that are not seamless?

If you are working with a style that is not seamless, and the shape to which you want to apply a style is larger than the pattern size, you will see the pattern seams. Here’s what that would look like:

By repositioning the pattern, depending upon the size of the style and of the object, you have a good chance of being able to hide the seams. By dragging the pattern a bit to the left, this is the result I was able to achieve with this style:

What about Photoshop Elements users?

To date, Adobe hasn’t included the ability to move patterns around in Photoshop Elements.  They can, however, Scale a pattern, which can be helpful.

In the top menu bar: Layer > Layer Style > Scale Effects

Another window will open which has a slider, allowing you to make the pattern larger or smaller. When making a pattern much larger than it is intended, you may degrade the quality of the pattern, so that’s just something to be aware of.

 

Thanks for stopping by the blog today. I hope you have found this tutorial helpful. If you would like to download a PDF for reference, you may do so here.

Snickerdoodle Designs