Simple Tricks – Blending Papers

Oftentimes when using a kit, I’m so taken by so many of the
pretty papers that I like to be able to use several of them on my layout. Other
times I like aspects, or parts, of the papers and prefer to ‘mix’ or blend them
together to create the look I want. Sometimes on a background paper I may blend
together 3-4 different papers. Here are some samples of what you can do:

1. Using a large soft edge eraser, erase parts of the paper
to reveal another paper below. In this layout, parts of the leafy paper with
the yellow bird is erased to reveal a floral pattern below. Both papers used
the same creamy background so this was easy to do. (Barefoot by Shabby

2. Using the pull-down menu in your Layers Palette, choose
options such as Overlay, Screen or Hard Light to allow a paper to peak through
another layer. In this layout, the cloud paper is Darkened and the blue ray
paper is given a Hard Light effect. This helps the two layers blend together.
(Reach the Sky featured in The Daily Digi files #29)

3. Using the Magic Eraser, selectively erase parts of the
paper such as the background around polka dots or flowers. Then you can use
that design to overlay on top of another background. In this layout, the top
layer of paper has the greenery. All of it has been erased but the small
section of green, revealing the blue paper behind it, giving it an underwater
feel. (Island Adventurers by Michelle Coleman)

4. Hide the seam, or joining of two papers, behind a series
of photos, a ribbon, a strip of paper. It’ll allow you to simplify or elaborate
according to what you’re trying to achieve in your background. In this layout,
there’s a floral pattern paper over top of a background paper of hills, trees
and monkeys. The seam between the two papers is hidden behind the photos.(Monkey Do by Mindy Terasawa)

5. Extract parts of papers and use them on your paper to add
more visual interest, draw in color, or compliment the photos you are using. In
this layout, blue swirls from other papers were used to draw in the blue skirt
in the photos. The original paper was a pink background with white flowers.
(Beautiful Journey and Cloie’s Closet by Michelle Coleman)

Go ahead and give it a try! Blend, mix, let the papers
combine to create something new. You may surprise yourself!

(Title made from School Daze by Forever Joy and font is
Giggles by Fontologie.)

Extracting a Photo

Extracting a photo is a fun way to highlight it on your page and a great way to get rid of a cluttered, distracting background. In paper scrapping it’s like taking scissors and carefully cutting around the subject of a photo. In digital scrapbooking, we can create the same effect using the eraser to “cut” around the subject.

Here are a few examples:

There are many ways to extract a person from a photo and you can find a number of tutorials on YouTube (e.g. Gavin Hoey’s Photoshop video tutorials). However, if you use a simple photo editing program, there is a simple way. The first step is to crop your photo to include the area you want to work on. Next you can use the Magic Wand to select the background you want to erase. However, if the background blends in a bit with your subject, you’re going to have to resort to simply erasing. Don’t fear – this isn’t that hard. Using a large eraser, erase broadly around the photo. (Be sure to use an eraser with a hard edge, not a soft edge. The hard eraser will give you a more precise line or edge.)

If you’re lucky, you can use the Magic Eraser to erase parts of the photo. Be careful that the Magic Eraser doesn’t inadvertently erase parts of the photo you want to keep. (In this sample I couldn’t use the Magic Eraser because the background colors were too close to the subject’s skin color or clothing.)

Finally, using a small eraser with a hard edge, go around the subject carefully. This is the most time-consuming but most important part of the process. The more carefully and precisely you do it, the better it’ll look in the end. (You might be able to try using the Magic Eraser again as you get down to small areas like between fingers or around the subject’s hair.) Using the Shift key, you can speed up the process. Click and then holding the Shift key, click at the next location and the computer will draw the line for you. This works especially well in areas that are long and straight but it works well with circles and curves as long as you click at each turn. It will cut down on your time and make your edges more precise.

Once you’re happy with the results, save your image as a PNG. This will preserve the transparency of your background. If you save it as a JPEG, the background will turn white (or black, depending on your settings) and you’ll have to erase again.

The final step is to give your subject a shadow. Keep in mind which direction your want the light to come from and how dark and deep you want your shadow to be. Play around with it a bit until you like what you have. (When you give it a shadow, you may find little bits and pieces where you didn’t erase. The shadow will help these areas show up.)

Here is the original photo with the extracted photo:

Extracting photos may take a little time, but it’s a fun option to use especially if you want to highlight action or show off the subject without the distractions in the background.

Here are a couple super-cute samples by TDD member Jennifer Lindsey to help you get inspired:

(Title made with Jacque Larsen’s Summer Safari and Make the Grade. Font is Giggles by Fontologie.)

Keeping it Simple with Photo Masks

Have you ever used a photo mask? It’s a great way to highlight a photo without overwhelming your page. It also allows you to play with blending so that you can overlap photos or place text over top of a photo. Many designers offer pre-made photos masks in their templates. They’re a cinch! And it’s a great way to learn how to use a photo mask without having to create one yourself.

Below is a sample of a template using a photo mask.

Here are some templates by Jennifer Lindsey, Lorilei Murphy of Studio Rosey Posey, and Anna Aspnes.

To use the photo mask on the template, all you have to do is click on the layer with the photo mask and add your photo. (If you use Photoshop Elements you can drag and drop your photo onto the template from the photo bin.)

Resize and line it up so that it looks like it’ll fit nicely. Then all you have to do is “clip” it to the layer (Cntrl/Command G to clip). Before you merge (Cntrl/Command E to merge), make sure you like how it looks and nudge the pictures until the edges look nice.

You can then play with blending a little by using the opacity sliding bar in your Layers Palette.

Look around the edges of the photo mask and using the soft eraser, you can blend the edges with your background paper.

Or you can simply use the photo mask just as the designer created it. It’s super easy and fun to use! It looks like I spent a lot of time creating this layout when it actually took me less than 10 minutes. Love that!

(Layout created using Artscape Aimee template by Lorilei Murphy and Start the Music kit by Julia Makotinsky, both featured at Scrapbookgraphics.)

Simple Photo Editing Tricks

Every now and then it’s not a bad idea to get back to the basics of photo editing, partly because sometimes we simply forget those basic tips and a little reminder doesn’t hurt. A photo may seem ho-hum but with a little editing, it can have a little extra sizzle and pop. No matter which photo editing software you use, there are some basic features in editing your photos. (Photoshop Elements 10 has been used for display purposes below.)

Saturation refers to the vividness of the colors in your photo. Many digital cameras allow you to control the saturation of your photos on your camera through the camera’s settings. You can do the same, and with much more control, in your editing software. When you reduce the saturation, your photo will appear more muted. If you slide the bar all the way to the left, you’ll have a grayscale photo. On the other end of the spectrum, by pushing the bar to the right, you’ll have a photo with much more vivid and bold colors.

To play with the saturation in Photoshop Elements, select Enhance from your upper tool bar. Scroll down to Adjust Color and select Adjust Hue/Saturation. Play around with the sliding scale until you like what you see.

Color Balance:
Color balance refers to the color temperature of your photo. Warm balance brings out reds and yellows while a cooler color balance with bring out the blues and greens. This is especially helpful if you want to alter the overall color balance of your photo or if you want to bring skin colors closer to their true color. Different kinds of lighting affect the color temperature of your photos. A photo taken in an auditorium might look very golden in color while a photo taken in the fluorescent lighting of a classroom might look quite blue or green.

In Photoshop Elements, go to Filter on your top menu bar. Select Adjustments and scroll down to select Photo Filter. You’ll find a wide variety of filter colors and density of those colors. Play around and experiment.

Brightness and Contrast:
Brightness refers to lightness of your photo and is especially helpful if you’ve over or under exposed a photo. Contrast is about the middle color tones of your photo. A high contrast will polarize the blacks and whites in your photo while a low contrast will make the photo turn “flat” and more gray in color. Contrast is helpful when your photo is slightly blurry and doesn’t have much visual appeal. A little help with contrast can make your photo “pop” or give it a more artistic feel.

In Photoshop Elements, go to Enhance on your upper tool bar, select Adjust Lighting and then scroll down to select Brightness/Contrast. Using the sliding scale you can experiment while you view your photo in the background. Both features will have a sliding bar to manipulate but keep in mind that photos usually look better when you adjust the features in the same direction.

It’s amazing what these features do to change the overall feel or mood of a photo. They can be especially helpful if you have a photo that needs a little tweaking to look just right. Go ahead and give them a try!

(Supplies for the title are from “Candid” by One Little Bird from the Digi Files. Font is Century Gothic and Digs My Hart.)

Simple Tricks – Playing with Photos

Have you ever wondered about all the bells and whistles that come with your photo editing software? Oftentimes we’re hesitant to try something new and unknown or we simply have very little time to be experimenting around. I have become very fond of the pull-down menu in the Layers Palette in Photoshop Elements and use these blending modes in my scrapbooking. Below is a sample of some layouts using some of these blending modes:

The blending modes are great when you want to use a big picture without overpowering your layout or even when you want to place text on top of a photo. There are lots of options from personal style to evoking a certain feel to your page.

Below are samples of each of the blending modes using the same photo so that you can easily see the various options. The blending modes show up best when you use a background paper. In this case I used a tan paper from One Little Bird’s kit “Candid” (coming soon to The Daily Digi files!).

In addition to the blending modes, you can play with the opacity by using the sliding bar.

Simple, right? Go ahead and give it a try! Try one of the blending modes in your next layout and see what you think. Go big and have fun!

Simple Tricks to Improve Your Photos

Do you like to convert some of your photos to black and white? Maybe you need a particular photo for a layout and the colors in the photo don’t match nicely with your kit. Maybe you want a black and white photo for a yearbook submission, advertisement, or to place in a picture frame. Whatever your reasons, black and white is a nice option.

There are a couple of easy black and white conversions you can use. In Photoshop Elements you can try one of the following:
1. Go to Image>Mode>Grayscale. It’ll remove the color from your photo. You can play with the lighting levels, brightness and contrast until you like it.
2. Create a new adjustment level in your Layers Palette. This will create a new layer over top of your photo that gives it a crisp black and white look.

First I used the grayscale mode. Go to the top menu bar and select Image, choose Mode and click on Grayscale.

This will remove the color. Here is a before and after sample.

I’m not terribly fond of the gray tones, so I played with the lighting a little until I liked it more.

If you like the result, you’re done. If you’re like me, I like a little crisper black and white and almost always use option #2, the Gradient Map. To do so, go to your Layers Palette. At the bottom you’ll find a little circle that is half dark and half light.

Click on Gradient Map in the pull-down menu. It creates a layer on top of your photo. (It might go to the default setting which is black, so you’ll need to go one more step and select the black and white map.)

This is what the before and after look like.

If you like the results, merge the layers and save your photo with a new name (so that you don’t lose your original). I usually use a suffix of BW.

Finally, one more comparison for you. Here is the difference between grayscale (which was adjusted a little) and the gradient map option.

Play around and see what you like!

Simple Tricks to Improve Your Photos

Oftentimes I take a photo when the lighting conditions are less than ideal. Maybe there’s too much backlight or the kids insist on standing in the shade when the sun is so bright. The result is that the faces are dark, but the background is light.

There are a number of options for lightening dark shadows on your photos. In Photoshop Elements you can try one of the following:
1. Go to Enhance>Auto Levels. Sometimes the computer is just smart enough to fix it so you like it!
2. Go to Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Shadows/Highlights and play with the lighting by moving the arrow on the sliding bar.
3. Duplicate your photo. In the Layers Palette, select Screen from the pull-down menu. This will lighten the entire image but you can play with the opacity or erase portions of the top layer so that only parts of your image are lightened. Merge the two layers when you’re happy with how it looks.
4. Use the Smart Brush tool to lighten the shadows of a select part of your photo.

For the photo I wanted to edit, the background was already quite washed out by the bright light of the setting sun but the girls’ faces were dark as they stood in the shadows.

The auto correction features of the software didn’t do the trick so I opted to just brighten a portion of the photo. The Smart Brush is a great little tool! I’ve just recently discovered it and have had fun playing with it. You’ll find it in the tool bar that runs along the left side of your workspace in Photoshop Elements.

In the menu bar that runs along the top of your workspace, use the pull down bar to select Lighting>Brighter. (From the pull-down menu you can see there are lots of choices to play with!). Just to the left of the menu is the brush size. You can choose the size you want to work with. For this tutorial, I used the default size.

Holding down the Shift key, select the portion of the photo you want to lighten.

You will see “marching ants” around your selection and the program adds this as a new layer in your Layers Palette.

You’ll see that the background remains the same and only the selected area is brightened. In this case it’s the girls and it’s just enough so that I like it. If you’re not happy with the edges between the brightened portion and the background, you can play with refining the layer mask. Click on Refine Edge located between the pull down menu for the Smart Brush and the brush size at the top of your workspace. There are a number of options to play with including Smooth, Feather, Contract/Expand. Use Contract to reduce the size of your selected area and Expand to enlarge it. You can smooth out the lines or blur them slightly. Play around a little until you like the result.

Here is the difference from before and after:

What a difference! And it’s so easy. Give it a try and see what you think!

Simple Photo Tricks Part 5

If you’re like me, you probably take a few shots of a moment you want to capture. Oftentimes I’ll find that no one image is perfect, but the different photos have different aspects that look good. For example, I was trying to shoot a photo of my son with his dog. In one photo, the dog looks good but my son is blurry. In the second photo, my son looks good but the dog is blurry. So I merged the two images into one so that neither of them are blurry. This trick is especially helpful when taking group shots and someone has his or her eyes closed.

Start by choosing the photo that has the majority of what you like. For example, if it’s a group photo, choose the one that is the clearest and best of everyone. This will become the “background” photo. In this case I used the photo where the dog was not blurry. Now go to the other photo and using the marquee tool, select the portion of the image you want to copy over to your background photo. In this case I selected my son’s face. Click copy (alt C or command C) and paste it (alt V or command V) on your background image. It’s going to look obvious that you pasted it on there, so we need to fix that.

In the Layers Palette, use the Opacity bar to lighten your layer enough so that you can see through it.

You can manipulate it to line up perfectly with the background image. I normally use the eyes to line up the two layers. Once you’re happy with how they line up, slide the Opacity bar back to 100%. Now it’s still going to look obvious that you pasted a layer on top of your photo so you’ll need to use the eraser to soften the edges or get rid of extraneous bits.

Choose a soft round eraser and begin erasing around the edge of that top layer so that the layer and background begin to merge together. Sometimes I’ll hide my bottom layer so that I can see if I’m erasing properly and sufficiently. To hide your bottom layer, click on the eyeball immediately to the left of the thumbnail of your layer in the Layers Palette. The eyeball indicates the visibility of that layer.

Once you’ve erased the unwanted bits and the two layers line up nicely and you like what you see, merge the two layers together. (Merging is helpful if you need to Clone any parts from the background onto the top layer.)

Be sure to save your new photo with a different number or name so that you’re not saving over the original photo. Usually I type in the letter R at the end of my photo number to indicate it’s been revised.

Here you can see the difference in the photos by using two original pics to create a new and improved one.

This trick is something I use regularly and it may not even have to do with blurriness or eyes closed; it’s often just about getting the best out of two photos.

Go ahead, give it a try, see what you think!

Simple Photo Tricks Part 4

This week I have very simple trick – brightening eyes. It’s especially helpful when the person is in the shade, wearing eyeglasses, or simply when you want eyes to have a little extra ‘pop.’ There are a number of tutorials out there, but my favorite is one Janet Phillips posted several years ago. I use this often with my son who has difficulty keeping his eyes open in the bright sunlight. When taking his photo, I normally place him just inside a shaded area so he doesn’t have to squint. The problem is, then, his eyes loose their usual luster and the sparkle from the sunlight.

Using the Magnetic Lasso Tool, select the iris area of the eye. (You can select the whole eye, white included, for lots of ‘pop.’) Hold down the Shift key as you work. Click several times are you curve around the eye so that the lasso catches along the area you want selected. The magnetic lasso tool attaches itself along a line of color. Once you complete the loop (the beginning and end of the lasso meet), it will show marching ants and your selection is ready to copy and paste into a new layer.

Now you will work with the new layer (identified as Layer 1 in your Layers Palette). Go to you upper tool bar and choose Filter, scroll down to Other and select High Pass.

The High Pass will turn the eyes gray. Don’t freak out, this is not the last step!

Now go to your Layers Palette and using the pull-down menu select Overlay.

The gray will become translucent and give those eyes some extra sparkle. Here you can see the difference in the before and after photos:

Just that little ‘pop’ brightens up the whole look and improves the quality of the photo. Give it a try!