Tag Archives | photoshop elements

Digital Scrapbook Tutorial – Blending photos into the background

One of the many things I love about digital scrapbooking is blending.

You can blend several background papers together using different blending modes to give you a whole different looking paper.

And another very cool blending idea is to blend your photo into the background for a really funky look.


Blending photo into the background

Here’s how you do it I’ve used Photoshop Elements but this will work with any software program that lets you work with layers):

1. Open a new Scrapbook layout file and drag onto it the background paper of your choice.

2. Now drag your photo on and position/resize to suit your layout. Remember you’re going to remove a lot of the area around your focal subject so you may need to make the photo a bit larger than you otherwise would.

3. Select the Eraser tool from your tool bar and choose a grungy style brush from the drop down list in the top menu bar.

4. Now reduce the opacity of the brush in the menu bar. Probably 10-30% is a good range. If you don’t like it you can always back out of what you’ve done with the Undo button or Ctrl+Z keys.

5. Increase the size of the brush using the slider in the top menu bar or by pressing the ] key on your keyboard.

6. Now, with your photo layer selected, start dabbing around your photo with the Eraser brush. Start at the outside and work inwards. Don’t be too fussed on being precise, the effect you’re looking for is not one of precision. You’ll probably want to go over the outside edges several times so that you lose the hard edge of the photo. You can remove however much or little of the background as you like to give you the effect that you want.

7. Finally you can reduce the opacity of the photo a little to let it blend even more with the background. Just play with the opacity slider in your layers palette until you get the result that you like.

If you’re someone who picks things up more easily with visuals rather than text you might like to check out my Step by Step Digital Scrapbook Intermediate Tutorial 3 which shows you step by step how to do this (as well as some other very cool techniques you may find handy)

If you think this tutorial was useful please let me know in the comments below, otherwise I don’t know if I’m just talking to myself or not.

Other related articles:

How to blend your background papers – Scrapbook video tutorial

How to Digital Scrapbook – from Soup to Nuts

Photo Restoration for Old or Damaged Photos

Do you have any old family photos from the days before digital cameras (yeah, remember those days?)?

Maybe they’re really old photos from your granny or great-granny’s time and have suffered through the passage of time to look a bit battered and worn now.

How frustrating it is not to be able to create great scrapbooking memories from them just because the quality is so poor.

So I thought we might look at some ways in with you can use your computer and photo editing software to try and fix up these photos and give them a new lease of life.

Damage around the edge of your photos

Many of our really old photos have had a hard life. And it often shows in the dog-eared edges that they have developed over the years.

If the damage around the edges of your photos doesn’t extend too far into the photo, and if the background in this area is not important to the context of your photo, then the easiest way to deal with this is to crop the daggy edges off.

Now before we go any further I need to stress that you should not physically crop your old photos. It is the digital versions that I’m talking about. The digital image you have created after scanning your photo (using some of the tips in 6 Top Tips to Photo Restoration with Your Scanner).

The instructions in this article are based on Photoshop Elements but all good photo editing software programs will have similar tools and functions

  • Load your scanned photo into your photo editing software
  • Select the Crop Tool from your tool bar and drag the mouse across the part of the image that you want to retain in your restored photo.
  • Release the mouse button and click on the accept check mark to crop your photo.

Dark and Gloomy

Often your old photos will actually grow darker with age as the black ink on your black and white prints starts to ‘take over’.

It’s important to try to fix as much of this as you can at the scanning stage as described in my earlier article on  using your scanner to help with photo restoration.

By adjusting the lighting with your scanner you can capture much more detail and you will be able to further improve on this using your photo editing software. If you don’t make this adjustment at the scanning stage then this detail will be lost and no matter what else you do, you won’t be able to get it back.

Once you’ve scanned in your photo, play around with the lighting, shadows and highlights functions and also with the brightness and contrast as I described in More Tips for Photo Restoration.

Here’s how to lighten up those dark and gloomy looking photos:

Continue Reading →

More Tips for Photo Restoration

If you’re anything like me you’ll remember all the occasions where you found yourself with the definitive photo of that special occasion. But the photo was not really of the best quality.

Perhaps it was under or over exposed, maybe it was a bit too fuzzy.

Well in this article we’ll look at how you can improve that photo so that it can take pride of place in your scrapbook layout.

To apply these tips you will need a good photo editing software program. I use Photoshop Elements but there are many others around that you can use, and they generally have similar functions although they may call the tools by slightly different names.

Once you’ve scanned the photo into your computer, open it up in your photo editing software program.

The first thing I always do is make a duplicate of the photo and work on the duplicate. It just saves having to repeat the scan if your restoration goes pear shaped and you have to start again.

Adjusting the lighting

And my second step is always to adjust the lighting.

In Photoshop Elements this function is found by clicking on the top menu bar Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Levels… This will open a dialog box featuring a black histogram (or black mountain as I like to call it).




All you need to do is to grab the black triangle underneath the mountain and move it to the right so it sits at the beginning of the mountain slope and then do the same for the white triangle, moving it to the left. In this example the white triangle would not need to be moved.

This will optimise the lighting range or exposure for your photo and will make a big difference. You can further tweak this by moving the grey triangle in the middle until you get a result you are happy with.

If your photo still looks too dark or too light, you can go into Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Shadows and Highlights which will often give your photo a ‘lighting lift’. And you can adjust the brightnes and contrast in Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Brightness And Contrast.

I use all these functions on a regular basis as I am not a good photographer and they help to compensate for my photography skills. So they’re not just for older photos.

But the secret is always Less is More. Make all your adjustments very gradually. And it’s always a good idea to keep going back to your original photo to comare how you’re going. In fact I usually make each change on a duplicate layer so I can easily compare and make sure that I am using this power for good and not evil.

Removing dust and scratches

If your photo has some really significant blemishes, this is not the technique to use. We will look at fixing those sort of problems in the third article on photo restoration (stay tuned folks).

But if your photo just has some light scratches or some small specks of dust, these can easily be removed by using the Dust and Scratches Filter found under Filter>Noise>Dust&Scratches in Photoshop Elements.

Now you should be aware that this filter works by blurring your photo slightly which disguises any light scratches or dust specks by bluring them into their surrounds. So you don’t want to apply this with a heavy hand or you will end up with a dust free blurry photo.

To get the best out of this filter you might like to try this: Continue Reading →

Do you Customize your Drop Shadows?

…or do you just leave them as the default?

Click to see a larger version of this layoutDid you know that you can change the look of your drop shadows in your graphics editing program?

It’s very simple and frankly, I think it makes all the difference to your digital scrapbook layout. Anyone who is part of my Step by Step Digital Scrapbook Mentoring Program will know how much I love to customize my shadows. I think it makes for a more authentic look for the shadows. And sometimes (especially for titles) it can be a funky way of giving the text and extra color boost.

What do I mean?

Well when you click on any drop shadow in your Styles Pallet your graphics editing program will apply a shadow that’s a standard size and distance from your element and is black with a level of opacity reduction to make it look gray.

But in real life, shadows are not all gray. they take on the tone of the item that they are shadowing. And by the way, I’m not talking about the shadows thrown by the sun on the ground. I’m talking about the small shadows that surround an object if you put it on a surface. Look at the shadow of an object sitting on a table and you’ll see what I mean. I’m looking at an envelope sitting on my desk as I write this, and the shadow thrown on the desk is brown, not black or gray.

If you click on the layout above, you’ll see what I mean.

And the good news is that in most good editing programs you can control the parameters of your drop shadow.

So how do I do it?

I use Photoshop Elements 5 but the principles for doing this will remain true for PSP or CS I would think, although the terminology might be different. So here’s how you can customize the drop shadows in your own layouts.

  • First activate your element layer in the Layers Pallet and then select a shadow from your Styles Pallet and click to apply it to your element.
  • Now double click on the little ‘sun’ or circle’ icon at the right of its layer in the Layers Pallet.
  • You are presented with a Style Settings dialog box that allows you to play with the size of the shadow, the distance it sits away from your element and it’s opacity. You can vary these parameters by using the slider bars or by typing pixel sizes directly into the appropriate fields in the dialog box.
  • You can also customize the colors of your shadows to match the color of your element or to create a funky effect. To customize the color of your shadow do this (note: this feature is not available in PSE4.
    • Click on the small color swatch box to the right of the size parameter in your Style Settings box.
    • The color picker box will open and you can move your mouse over your layout (it will turn into an eyedropper) and click on an area of your element which is the colour you want for your shadow.
    • You can click in the Color Picker to choose variations on this if you like and when you’re satisfied, click OK.
    • Note: For the most authentic look, always choose a darker tone of the color for your shadows.
  • By playing with the Opacity slider in the Style Settings box you can make the shadow lighter or darker.
  • When you have the shadow look you want click OK.

It’s as easy as that. And your shadows will look a lot more realistic.

A note to users of PSE versions earlier than 5. You don’t have the ability ot change the color of your drop shadows in these earlier versions. When I used PSE4 I used to make a duplicate of the element and apply the shadow to the lower layer. Then I reduced the opacity of that layer so that shadow would look softer.

Don’t forget, you can also use this technique to go to the other end of the scale and make your shadow totally unrealistic by picking a contrasting color, just to spice up your title a bit. This can be a very cool look for your title and I often use this technique in my Word Art for the Weekly Word Art Newsletter (see the top of this page to subscribe to this free newsletter).

I hope you find this scrapbooking tip useful. And if you did, why not share it with other scrapbookers by telling them about this article (you are very welcome to link to the article), or Stumbling it, bookmarking it in Delicious or giving it a vote on Kirtsy.

So back to the original question: do you customize you drop shadows? Leave a comment and let us know.

Add a Great Effect to your Photos with a Layer Filter

Have you tried using Layer Filters on your photos?

There is a whole world of play available to you in the Filters Menu in Photoshop Elements (and of course in other good photo editing software packages too, but the names and menu directions will be different). Try giving your scrapbook layouts a little extra kick by applying one or more filters to a photo to create a different look.

gelati-days.jpgMy Gelati Days Layout is an example. (For those of you with good memories I used this layout in my Blend Your Own Backgrounds tutorial, so it demonstrates two techniques for the price of one. Good value eh?)

As you can see, the photo in this layout is of a cup of yummy gelato sitting on a sidewalk cafe table. I have made this a tradition as the very first thing I do when I arrive to stay with Seona and Phil in Sydney because they live in the middle of a fabulous cafe precinct.

However, for this scrapbook layout I didn’t want the clutter of the surrounding tables to detract from the subject, or for that matter from the gorgeous Renew Collection by Shalea Tippett.

There were several ways I considered going with this:
* turning the background to black and white, or
* desaturating the colour out of the background, or
* cutting the gelato cup out and using it without a background.

But I decided to use an Embossing Filter to recede the background but just leave enough of a hint of it to keep some context around the subject. Also I think it creates a slightly metallic impression to the cafe furniture by defining the edges, which goes with the gelato theme.

So here’s how to apply effects to your photo backgrounds:

  1. Drag your photo onto your layout and size and position it the way you want. It doesn’t really matter if you need to move it later but I find it easier to decide whether I like the look if I can get it roughly into position before I start playing around with it.
  2. As always, create a duplicate layer of your photo by highlighting the layer to be duplicated and dragging it up to the New Layer icon at the top left of the Layers Pallet (or highlight the layer in your Layers Pallet and choose Layer>Duplicate Layer from the top menu bar).
  3. Note Steps 4 to 9 only apply if you want to apply your effect to a background and leave the subject of the photo ‘au natural’ so to speak. Skip them if you’re applying your effect to the whole photo.
  4. Highlight your duplicate layer in the Layers Pallet. Zoom in so your subject fills your screen.
  5. Choose the Selection Brush from your Toolbar and set it to Mask.
  6. Paint over the area that you want to remove from the layer (in my case it was the gelati). When you’ve finished select the Move tool and you’ll get marching ants around the outside of your selection.
  7. If you want to remove the area that you have masked, click on Select>Inverse from the top menu bar. Then press Delete. You will have now cut a hole in this layer the shape of the ares of your photo that you don’t want to apply the filter to. It doesn’t look any different on your layout because you can see through the gap to your original layer.
  8. From the Menu choose Select>Deselect. This will remove the ‘marching ants’ around your subject.
  9. You can play around with many different filters on this layer and your subject will show through the ‘hole’ you have just cut in its original form. Note Filters are cumulative. So if you try out different ones on the same layer, make sure you undo the previous action first as they will just keep applying the next one on top of your previous filter.
  10. Choose Filters from the drop down list at the top left of the Special Effects Pallet and select from the filter categories in the drop down menu on the right of the pallet. Select your category (the default is All) and away you go. I would recommend making a duplicate layer each time you try a new filter so that you can easily discard them if you don’t like them and not have to retrace your steps with the CtrlZ each time. Also I often like to make several layers with different filter effects and then toggle between them using the Eye icon in the Layers Pallet to decide which one I like best.
  • For this photo, from Special Effects Pallet I selected Filters in the drop down menu and chose All from the categories menu. I double clicked on Emboss and then I boosted the height of the embossing to 16 pixels and the amount to 200% in the dialog box that appeared. The entire layer went grey with an embossed metal effect.
  • I then reduced the opacity of this layer in the Layers Pallet to a level where I could see my photo background clearly enough but still kept that slightly embossed finished.
  • Because I didn’t want the grey tinge, I selected Enhance>Adjust Color>Color Variations from the Menu bar and played around with the colour options until I achieved a green that I liked.
  • Then I applied a drop shadow to the photo background layer and I was done.
  • To make sure everything stays in place and you don’t accidentally drag one of the layers out of sync with the rest, select all your photo layers in the Layers Pallet (click on each layer whilst holding down the Shift key to highlight them all, then click on the Chain Link icon at the top of the Layers Pallet. I usually leave it at that because I like to be able to go back and fiddle later sometimes, but if you want to reduce the file size, you can merge all your photo layers together by choosing Layer>Merge Linked from the Menu Bar. Just remember that after you have saved and closed your file you won’t be able to return to the component layers once you do this.

There are many Filters you can choose from in the Special Effects Pallet. Artistic, Blur, Brush Strokes, to name just three. And each category will offer you a range of filter options to try.

So as you can see, using Filters can be a lot of fun and give you some very cool scrapbook layouts.

I know that many of you have played with Filters? What do you think of them? Why not share some of your favourite Filters in the comments section below?

If you haven’t tried using Filters on your scrapbook layouts I recommend you give them a go. They are a whole lot of fun and you can create some very unique looks.

Other Related Posts:

Scrapbook Techniques & Tips – Blend your Own Backgrounds
Black and White Scrapbook Layouts
The Secrets of Styles

What’s the Best Software for Digital Scrapbooking?

Learn digital scrapbooking now!

And take your scrapbooking to the next level.

Learn how at Step by Step Digital Scrapbook