Category Archives: Photoshop Tips & Tutorials

Totally Ripped!


Okay … by now, you are GOOD at ripping paper in the digital world … BUT … you aren’t quite sure how to go about tearing the paper on ALL FOUR SIDES … what’s a girl to do???

For this tutorial you’ll need:

  1. a PNG file containing the “torn edge” (see my tutorial called, “A digital paper tearing???” for a link to a freebie torn edge)
  2. a piece of digital paper
  3. both items open and imported into a layout file (paper layer at the bottom of the layer stack, torn edge on the layer above it)

Let’s begin!

Duplicate the TORN EDGE layer. Activate the top-most TORN EDGE layer.

Using your Rectangular Marquee tool set to FIXED SIZE and settings as 12″ width and 6″ height, click once on your canvas and move the selection to the bottom half of the canvas.


Activate the other TORN EDGE layer.

With the Rectangular Marquee tool still active, click inside the selection area and move it to the top half of the canvas.

Press DELETE. Now, just so you can actually SEE that I’ve deleted the top half of the torn edge on this layer, I’ll turn the visability of the other torn edge layer off.

Change to the Move Tool and rotate the top TORN EDGE layer until it is perpendicular to the other TORN EDGE layer. Move them until you have them arranged so they make a right-angle corner.

ZOOM in and see if you need to make any adjustments (using your eraser tool, or the smudge tool, or the clone tool) to make the corner believable.  I won’t be covering the process of adjusting the corners…that is a topic for another day (or better yet … come to one of our weekend retreats! We always have time to cover “special requests”).

Now that I’ve zoomed in, I can see that I have a stray row of black pixels … I’ll be erasing those before I continue. The rest of my corner looks fine to me.

Once you are satisfied with the corner, MERGE the two layers (select both layers and press CTRL+E).

Duplicate the new “corner” layer.

My duplicated torn edge layer is on top and with my Move tool I’m going to rotate it until it creates a square.

IF YOU WANTED a rectangle…adjust the size of the cuts made at the beginning of this tutorial. The rest of the process is the same.

Check those corners (just like we did in an earlier step) and make any necessary changes.

Merge the two layers with torn edges together (remember how? Select them both, CTRL+E). Keep this layer as your active layer.

Activate your Magic Wand and turn ON the Contiguous option then click once outside the recently created “frame”.

Inverse your selection (tip: the quick keys for Inversing Selection is CTRL+SHIFT+I)

Add a new blank layer and move it to the bottom of the Layers Palette (under the paper).

Activate the new layer and FILL the selection (any color will do). This will be your CLIPPING MASK for the paper

Group this layer to the paper layer. (You didn’t seriously think I would do a tutorial that didn’t make use of a Layer Mask, did you?!!!) LOOK! You’ve create a TOTALLY RIPPED piece of paper!

HAVE FUN and thanks for stopping by!

A digital paper tearing???


You know how so MANY things are SO much easier to do in digital scrapbooking than they are in the “real” paper world? Like, resizing a photo, or making duplicates of a photo, or getting the paper and elements to match accent colors in your photo perfectly? Well, I’m actually confessing that there are a few tasks that are much more challenging in the digital world than they would be in the real world.

Such as … tearing a piece of paper! It is NOT a simple matter of grab and rip! But … let me see if I can help!

Here’s a quick little tutorial and a FREEBIE to get you started!

  1. Begin by finding a “real” piece of cardstock…one that has a white filling and colored outside coatings (pick a piece that has deep, rich colors … not pastel). Lay it on the table.
  2. While holding the paper down with one hand, begin tearing along one edge … make the tear interesting … alternate between pulling the paper up and in (toward your other hand … creating a wider margin of white center showing) and pulling the paper straight up from the table (this will minimize the amount of white center showing).
  3. Place your paper face-down on a scanner and cover it with black paper or cloth.
  4. Scan it at 300dpi and Full color (this way it will be an RGB file format.
  5. Once it’s scanned, import it into Photoshop/Photoshop Elements and select all the colored areas (leaving the white torn area) and delete them.
  6. Crop the image to include only the remaining “torn” edge.
  7. Save the file in PNG format.

For your benefit, I’m giving you a FREEBIE torn edge that I scanned. DOWNLOAD IT HERE.

Now, to use this in a layout:

Open your digital paper.
Open the torn edge PNG file.
Create a new layout file.
Import items 1 and 2 (above) into your layout file.

Make sure the torn edge layer is above the paper layer and that it is the active layer (notice how mine is light grey? . . . over there . . .  the layers palette?)
Get your magic wand and select the area on the side of the torn edge that you’d like to remove
(the part of the paper below that you would rip off if you could!).

NOTE: If your selection includes all the transparent pixels … make sure the “Contiguous” option is turned on (see your Options Bar at the top of the screen). If that doesn’t help, then you may need to “stretch” (resize) the torn paper layer so it is taller than your canvas … zoom way out so you have grey workspace all the way around your canvas, then stretch the torn paper layer to 104%)

Once you have your selection, you’ll need to inverse the selection. (use the menus, use the pop-ups, or use the short keys to Inverse Selection … whichever you prefer)Now, insert a new layer and move it so it is below your paper layer.
With your new empty layer active, FILL the selection (again…lots of ways to fill the area…use the method you prefer!)
You are ready to RIP!  … CLIP, I mean!  Go ahead … group the paper layer to the layer you just made (by the way, the layer you just made is called a “Clipping Mask”)
Your paper will now appear to be RIPPED/TORN. Pretty cool, ay?

Now, let’s say you want to tear all four sides of a piece of paper. Any idea on how to do that?  I shall post another tutorial … just in case you’d like some guidance for that.  Look for a tutorial called, “Totally Ripped!”  … see you there!

Quick keys for Perspective Transform


CTRL + ALT + SHIFT held down when you are in the Free Transform mode will give you the PERSPECTIVE tool! Just hover your mouse near a center control box and you’ll see an extra double arrow appear next to your cursor arrow. This will allow you to stretch the shadow so it looks like a long shadow cast by a low angle light.

In the LO below, you can see the results of a Perspective Transformation if you look closely at the shadows on the “Tickle Monsters” at the bottom.

(Click the image to see a larger version)

Cycling through open files in Photoshop/PSE


So, do you ever wish you could just use your keyboard to browse through the open files while you are in Photoshop (or Elements)?  Well, I just got a newsletter with a tip on that … unfortunately the tip was incorrect, but I just kept trying different things until I got it to work!

On a MAC:

  • Press the ctrl + TAB key (NOT THE Command key! you mac-ies … you DO have a key on your keyboard that says ctrl … use that one!)

On a PC:

  • Press the CTRL + TAB key!

YAY! I love that you can have your open file in full screen mode and then quickly browse through the other files … no more changing from full screen to tiled view or having to click through the Photo Bin …

Of course, I realize that some of you much prefer to use your mouse, so you won’t find this tip at all interesting … what can I say? I LOVE quick keys on the keyboard so my left hand can be busy doing something too!

Printing at Costco


When you are ready to print one of your digital layouts it’s important to remember that a photo lab or print shop is going to want you to submit a JPG file rather than a photoshop file. At the time I’m writing this, Costco offers a 12″ x 18″ full color photo print for only $2.99 – a price that is impossible to beat for this quality.

This tutorial will walk you through the process of getting your PSD file ready for printing at Costco.

Tutorial-Costco 12x18 Printing Pg 1

Tutorial-Costco 12x18 Printing Pg 2CREDITS:  Page in the tutorial was made with the kitDino-Mite! Page Kit from Garden Girl Designs and Tabby Scraps

Want to add some depth?


Custom shadows can make such a difference in the way an element looks in your layout! I recently posted another layout where I used a custom shadow and have had several people ask me how that was done … so … I will add another tutorial on the subject now. I’m doing this tutorial in Photoshop Elements.

(If you have Photoshop CS you have Transform>Warp which makes this EASY work!)

I have posted two other tutorials on custom shadow work:

  • TUTORIAL #1:  Custom shadows for warped photo frames … HERE.
  • TUTORIAL #2: Quick keys for creating custom shadows (which you should be familiar with before you try the tutorial below!). Find this tutorial HERE.

For this example, I will be using a paper-style tree and a paper-style birdie. In my layout I want them to look like they are standing in front of the layout and the light source in up and to my left . . . making a shadow that appears to be “on the floor”.

  1. Insert a tree element and a birdie element into the layout.
  2. Make a copy of the tree layer, convert it to all black, add a slight blur to the edges and move it so it is below your tree layer. (you will find a great tutorial that makes it a very quick and easy process HERE … it’s Tutorial #2, … mentioned above!!!)
  3. Make a copy of the birdie layer and move it so it is below your birdie layer (again, follow steps in THIS tutorial … CTRL+j     …     CTRL+[    ….    CTRL+U     …    CTRL+F  … assuming you read and understand Tutorial #2 above…right?).
    My screen looks like this:My screen at this point
  4. My Layers Palette looks like this:
  5. Now, before we worry about customizing the shadows, let’s reset the opacity for both shadow layers.
    I’m going to change mine to 40%, since the further a shadow is from it’s object the lighter (or more transparent) it is. Anything between 10 and 40 will do nicely.NOTE: For the purposes of this tutorial I “actually” left my opacity at 100% until the final screen shot so you would still be able to see my shadow on the screen!  I do think you’ll prefer to drop your opacity now though.
    BEFORE WE GO ON – let’s review an important bit of terminology so the thought bubbles in my mind AND the thought bubbles in your mind are the SAME thought bubbles!WHEN you are in Transform mode (of any sort) you have the option of “showing the bounding box” … see the second item on your options bar at the top left side of your screen when you have the MOVE tool selected.
    I NEEd YOU to know that every bounding box has eight CONTROL HANDLES. One in each corner and one on every midpoint of the box. I will be referring to these control boxes throughout the tutorial.

    Ready? Let’s begin the process of customizing our shadow shapes!
  6. Press CTRL/CMD + T (for Free Transform mode).
  7. Now, press CTRL/CMD + ALT/OPTION + SHIFT and then click and drag the top right control handle slightly to the right. Notice how the left corner moves outward an equal amount?
    DON’T GET AHEAD OF ME HERE . . . there is more work to do, this is just the first step!
  8. Next, I’m going to bring the top center control handle down about 50% of the way.
    web-cs_004You might be tempted to think you’re done now, but let’s tweak things just a bit more!
  9. Press and hold your CTRL/CMD key and then move the top right control handle to the right and a little bit “downward.’  Notice that this time only the right corner is moving?web-cs_005
  10. You can play with the left upper corner if you like. Try moving it to the right just a bit … play … until the shadow is looking the way YOU think it would if a light was shining down on this little vignette.
  11. When you are done, COMMIT the changes.
  12. Repeat these steps for the TREE SHADOW layer.
  13. Now, let’s add a bit of BLUR to both layers. I used Gaussian Blur and set mine to 20px. The size of your elements may require a different setting . . . just find a setting that adds some blur but not so much that you lose the edge definition.
    My shadows at the end of this tutorial:
  14. web-cs_006I moved my birdie to the left side of the tree so you could see the way I chose to do the tree’s shadow. Isn’t it amazing how much information we infer about a scene based solely on shadows?! WOW! Now, let’s just say that you’d like to take it ONE step further … is that possible? What if the shadow were to be gradually fading near the furthest edge? Which tool do you think would help us do that?No hints!Here’s what I was able to do with just a few short steps . . . what do you think of the results?
    Surely you don’t think I’m telling you NOW, do you? Stop by again and we can discuss it then!

CREDITS: The tree and the birdie are from a collab kit

Monday’s Child – S4H- by Teri Mayo & Stacey Crossley

Blending a photo into your background paper


This is probably one of the most popular techniques right now in the digital scrapbooking world. And why not! It can can add a stunning effect!

One of my recent posts had a layout using this technique (see it HERE). There are lots of online tutorials on this for Photoshop, but not much help available for Elements users, so I decided it’s time I put a tutorial for this technique on my Blog!

  1. Begin by creating a NEW FILE (CTRL + N or for Mac users CMD + N)
    (12″ x 12″ with Resolution of 300 ppi for this tutorial)
  2. Add a piece of background paper. I’m going to use a textured light brown paper.
  3. Add a NEW LAYER above the background paper layer.
  4. Name the new layer, “PHOTO MASK”  ***DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP***
  5. Add your photo … this needs to be on the layer above the PHOTO MASK layer.
    In case it helps to see my screen . . . my layout looks like this:01-layout-before-grouping
  6. Press V to activate your move tool. We are going to change the size of our photo layer.
    I’m going to resize my photo so the little girl fills the layout (height-wise . . . and don’t worry about pixelation . . . we are blending it into the paper so it won’t show) so, I will need to  to zoom out several  until my canvas area is only filling a small portion of my workspace.If you are going to increase the size of your image you are going to want to zoom out now.  Trust me on this! You are going to want to be able to see those corner control handles as you move them beyond your layout boundaries!As you can see by my screen shot I’ve zoomed way out! If you don’t trust me on this … you’ll be back!
  7. Now I’m going to begin resizing my image by grabbing one of my corner control handles .It is important to make SURE you don’t stretch your photo disproportionately … make sure “Constrain Proportions” is locked (checked) on the options bar! Nothing is more distracting or unsightly than a photo that’s stretched out of proportion . . . ugg! (Unless it’s a photo of me … in which case, please stretch me to be taller and thinner NOT shorter and fatter!)01c-resizing-photo
    See what I mean? I needed all that empty workspace area! I repositioned my photo so the little girl would be on the left half of the page … this is just because of my page design (the plan!)  After committing my changes (resizing, repositioning) my layout is now looking like this:02-layout-after-resizing
    Now, I know some of you are going to think … “HEY! I could just grab my eraser and start erasing the parts I don’t want to see! Why bother with all this anyway?” … Am I right? That’s what you are thinking, right? Well, let me just say , “Don’t do it!” Or at the very least … try your way and my way, then compare the results. You’ll be amazed at how much better the results will be doing it this way!
    Again I say, “Trust me!”  Press on, fnish this tutorial!

    Hum…where was I? Oh yes! We are about ready to apply a MASK over this photo so only portions of it show. Here’s the GOOD NEWS! You don’t have to do an extraction! Not in the purest sense of the word anyway!

  8. Your layers palette should be looking something like this:03-layers-before-grouping
    Are we good to go?
  9. We are going to GROUP the photo layer to the mask layer now . . . Activate the photo layer and then press CTRL + G (Mac users use CMD + G).
    Your layers palette should look something like mine (if all went well). Notice how the thumbnail icon of your photo layer has shifted slightly to the right and now has a small arrow in front of it?
    04-layers-after-groupingYou’ll also notice that your photo is no longer visible on your canvas, right? No cause for alarm!
    It’s still there! It’s just that you can’t see it because we’ve just told Elements to only reveal those portions of the photo layer through the filled pixels in the mask layer . . . and . . . well . . . we don’t have any filled pixels yet!
    That comes next!
  10. Activate the PHOTO MASK layer.
  11. Change the settings on the PHOTO MASK layer …  Blending Mode (see “A” in the picture below) and Opacity level (see “B” below).09-layers-after-setting-blendmode
    Right now yours says, “Normal” … and NO that isn’t referring to you or me! We aren’t “normal” … we are extraordinary! We’re digi-scrappers!!!Let’s change Opacity to 70% and Blending Mode to OVERLAY or SOFT LIGHT.
  12. Press G (just the letter … no other keys!) to activate the Gradient tool.
  13. Let’s take care of some of the settings on the Gradient tool, shall we?  First we need to make sure it is set to the Foreground to Transparent setting (see below). Color doesn’t matter, but the “. . . to transparent” part does!05a-foreground-to-transparentIf you can’t find this drop down box, you need to click on the little down-facing triangle right there below the little icon of a floppy disk … see it? It’s on the right side of the little “Gradient Picker” field on the far left side of your options bar.
  14. Next we need to make sure you have the Linear Gradient option set (see below):05b-foreground-to-transparent
  15. Now you are ready to apply some FILL to your PHOTO MASK layer!
    To achieve the results I want I’m going to click&drag the gradient tool from about the 6″ horizontal mark to somewhere around the 9″ horizontal mark (see below).
    (I’ll explain a little bit about the gradient tool below)06-applying-the-gradient
    Some tips on working with the gradient tool:

    * It’s all UNDO-able! Remember, you’ve always got the CTRL+Z quick key  right?

    * Don’t worry if your first try doesn’t get the results you want.  Really!
    I often try two or three different times before I’m satisfied!

    * If you press the SHIFT key while you click&drag you’ll get a perfectly horizontal (straight) application of paint … nice!

    * The spot where you “CLICK” and begin dragging … defines the right edge of 100% fill, everything after that will be a lesser percentage of fill … feathering out to 0% fill at the point where you let go. You think it will all make sense when you try it.

  16. My PHOTO MASK layer is looking like this right now:07-layers-after-adding-gradient
    Your fill area is likely to be different than mine … that’s ok.
    We are working with different photos.
  17. My layout is beginning to take shape (see below) but
    I think I want to remove additional areas of the PHOTO MASK …
    especially around the edges so more of the paper shows.08-layout-after-gradient
  18. Activate the Eraser tool (just press E).
    Let’s select a brush tip that will help us remove pixels without leaving hard edges.
    Open the brush picker window:08b1-modifying-the-mask
    I’m going to choose the 300 pixel soft-round brush.
    This brush has a nice, feathered edge and this size will make quick work of the erasing I need to do. If your image requires you to get into tight places I recommend changing the size of the brush frequently.
    NOTE: You can quickly change the size of any brush tip (eraser, paint brush, clone, etc) by pressing either of the bracket keys … [ or ]
    [ decreases the size of your brush tip and
    ] increases the size
  19. There’s another setting on the options bar that I’m going to use. That’s the OPACITY setting. I’d like to use a very light touch as I erase, so I’m going to drop the opacity of my eraser brush to 30%.08b3-modifying-the-mask
  20. Now I’m ready to begin erasing. I only want to erase bits and pieces along the edges on the left half of my PHOTO MASK layer.
    WARNING! Do be sure you are ON the PHOTO MASK layer when you are doing this! There’s NO point to the mask if you are just going to erase information off your photo layer!
  21. My PHOTO MASK is now looking like this:
    08c-modified-maskNotice – I am working on the PHOTO MASK layer! See how there’s a transparency to the areas I modified with the eraser? That’s because I used the soft round brush and a low opacity. There won’t be any of those unsightly, hard edges visible in my layout.
    How’s your blended photo looking?
    Here’s mine … I’m pretty happy with it.
  22. Now all I need to do is embellish my layout and Voila!
    Another masterpiece!11-final-page(… go ahead! … pat yourself on the back … you deserve the accolades … this is a long tutorial, with lots of  tips and tricks along the way. IF you made it this far, you should stand up and do a Happy Dance … celebrate! You ARE amazing!)

If you are interested in design ‘thoughts‘ about effective use of blended images in page design the graphic designers at posted some insights  just below the layout at the link above.

I hope you found this tutorial useful! Do grab a cup of coffe and stop by from time to time … you never know when I’m going to decide to add another tutorial!