Saturday, September 27, 2008

Another Great site to share, Blend Modes, Place command, Smart Objects, Rasterize & Layer Masks...Oh my!




Check out the title on this page! I'm sure some of you would LOVE to know how to do this. Guess what? I followed a tutorial over at Actionfx. The site offers all kinds of layer styles, actions, brushes, tutorials and what have you for photoshop junkies. And this weekend Al Ward is offering a huge discount on an annual membership! So today is a good day to go check it out. There are freebies available to non members too!!

So now more about the page. I can't tell you how I made the title, that just wouldn't be fair to Al. But I will say that in the final step I used a different blend mode than the one in the tut. (I used "COLOR") I play with blend modes ALL THE TIME because it is just so easy to scroll through them and SEE which one gives you the best result. I highly recommend this kind of play. It is a great way to learn just what each mode is capable of giving you. To your computer a blend mode is a set of instructions that tells the current layer how to interact or "blend" with the layer beneath it. By default it is set to normal, which means NO interaction. The layer simply sits on top. As if one sheet of paper lay on top of another. By choosing a different blend mode you can really make some photoshop magic happen. Here's how to play...
Go to the box at the top of the layers palette where by default it says "Normal" and click to drop down the menu. Choose the next mode down and then use the scroll wheel on your mouse or tablet to watch what happens as you scroll through all the modes. Cool!

I will share how I added the small photos in the ovals. There are many ways to do this but I think this is by far the easiest and quickest. [Note: It uses layer masks a feature not included in Elements. But don't fret I include an Elements work around]

With your 12x12 layout open go to File>Place...
a dialog box will open allowing you to browse through all the files on your computer. Find the photo you'd like to add and click "Place." The chosen photo will appear as a smart object on a new layer, centered and resized to fit If you've never used the Place command before you are about to fall in love with it. You can move and resize to your content before choosing to commit to the placement by clicking the arrow at the top of your screen [just like committing text.] For this layout I didn't worry about placement at this point. I just made sure the part of the photo I wanted to highlight was the size I wanted it to end up. It is important to get the size right now, while it is a smart object, because the next step is to rasterize.

Warning :-) In this paragraph I will give a brief explanation of vectors, smart objects and rasterization. If that is getting more technical than you care for, go ahead and skip to the next paragraph. Here's the way I picture it. In photoshop there are three ways to create an image. One is a simple map of where the dots go and what color they should be. This is a raster. Another is a vector. These are a set of instructions, or mathematical formulae that tell the computer how to generate the image based on input from the user(where and how large you make it for example.) The last is a smart object, which is like a vector in that it is a set of instructions but in this case the instructions are the original file you start with, as in a photo added using the PLACE command. The plus of the raster is it uses less memory. So your file size is smaller and your system can run faster. The downside is your ability to manipulate it's size and shape is limited. Try to make it too much larger and you'll get those ugly jagged edges. The plus of the vector and the smart object is much greater ability to manipulate the size & other features without loss of quality. All text begins life as a vector. That is why you can change size, font, color and so on so easily. Shapes are also vectors. And any layer that is a smart object "remembers" all the original file's information while being manipulated. So you should not rasterize a smart object or vector until you are sure it is the size you want it to be. If you rasterize a text layer you can no longer change the font. But you will want to rasterize in order to make your files smaller, your system run faster and in the case of this layout to cut the ovals.

Okay so back to cutting those ovals. Once you have the photo the size you'd like it to be, rasterize the layer. You do this by right clicking on the active layer in the layers palette and choosing "Rasterize Layer" from the pop up menu. Next select the oval marquee tool. Drag an oval over the photo to select the area you want to keep. You can move the oval, if you need to by hitting the space bar while dragging & before releasing the mouse button. Hitting CTRL D (command D on a Mac) will make the selection go away if you need to start over. (A keyboard shortcut I use alot!)
Once you have your oval selection just the way you like it, click on the layer mask button at the bottom of the layers palette. [If you've never used this before, it is the one that looks like a rectangle with the circle inside it] This will automatically create a mask with the inside of the oval visible and everything else blacked out. Right click on the mask in the layers palette and choose "apply layer mask" and the mask will go away and the cutting is done!

One of the advantages of using the mask is that it is not a permanent change until you apply the mask. So if you don't like what you see, you can delete the mask and start over. Also you could grab a white brush and paint white around the oval to return some detail. This would be an easy way to make a brush stroked edge for example. Don't like what you see, paint black over the white areas and they will be masked. You can go back and forth with black and white on the mask as much as you need to get it right. Far superior to the Eraser or to selecting & cutting!

***Elements Users...when you get to the step where you have the oval selection, Go to Select>Inverse and then Edit>Cut. You won't have the same flexibility using a layer mask gives you, but you can still make oval insets on your pages without having to make the hefty investment in the full photoshop program!***

Finally I added a stroke and bevel to the ovals and placed them in the top left corner. The journaling is done in a blue color sampled from the water, using the same font that I began with in the title. There is another stroke and bevel added to the background photo layer. It's color varies as you go around the edge because of that COLOR blend layer I mentioned above.

Wow I covered alot of technical stuff today! Email me with questions, I'd be happy to answer:-)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Haven't shared a card in a while....

...So how's this one?




The background for this card features a technique from the June/July 2008 Technique Junkie Newsletter. Pat calls it Al float. When I first saw the name the old science teacher in me immediately thought I was going to do something with aluminum foil floating on water, but it turns out Al is short for Alcohol as in Alcohol ink, not the chemical symbol for Aluminum. Funny how our mind set can change how we perceive things. Any way Alcohol ink was WAY more fun than aluminum foil but I'm sure Pat has a technique in her arsenal somewhere that uses aluminum foil as well. LOL! And this technique was so much fun I didn't want to stop. So now I have a stack of background papers...A ready stash for when I need a quick card.

The featured stamp is from Stamping Up from a set called Heartfelt Thanks. (if you are reading this Pat, yes you did sell it to me. See I AM using them ;-)