Tips and Tutorials

Hey, lucky you! You’ve found my page for my photoshop tips and tutorials. I hope you find some helpful information here. Take a gander and be sure to let me know if you have any questions. I’m planning on adding more so check back next time you’re around. I’m also open to ideas for other tutorials. Enjoy!

Making a digital scrapbooking page using a PSD template
Cropping a 12×24 template into a 12×12
My favorite photoshop shortcuts
My favorite digital scrapbooking tips
Making the most of a template and making it your own
Editing photos after they are placed in a template

Making a digital scrapbooking page using a PSD template

Step 1- Open template and photos into your photoshop. Using the move tool select the layer you want to “cover” on your template. This will activate the correct layer in the layers bin. Make sure the auto select layer box is checked in the options bar.

image 1

Step 2- Now activate the photo you want to use and using your move tool click and drag the photo onto the template. If you have CS you’ll have to cascade your windows so you can see more than one thing open for dragging purposes. If you are using elements, drag your photo down to the template in your photo bin and drop. Your photo will then show up in the middle of the layout and most likely be way to big for the space. No worries. Move the photo so as least part of it is hanging over the photo block you are wanting to cover. This is when the magic starts.

2 drag photo

Step 3- Go to Layer>Create Clipping Mask or Group with Previous (depending on what program you have.) The shortcut is Ctrl+G in PSE or Shft+Ctrl+G in PS (this shortcut will change your life!). The photo will be “sucked down” and clipped with the layer. With the photo still active, grab one of the little photo corners with the move tool to resize, move and rotate the photo until it looks how you want it. Commit the transformation by double clicking on the photo or clicking on the green check mark.

3 photo done

Step 4- Once you’ve made it this far you’ve got the basic steps down for using a template. The next step would be to continue filling up your photos. Click on the next photo block that you want to add a photo to. Hit Ctrl-G and resize. Continue until all your photos are where you’d like them.

all photos done

I generally leave my photos alone (besides any photo editing I might do) but if you want to make the grouping permanent, right click on the photo layer in the layers palette and select “Merge Down” from the drop down menu to merge your photo into the template layer (Layer>Merge Down or the shortcut is Ctrl+E). This will allow you to stroke your photo or make it easy to move things around.

merge down

Step 5- Now it’s time to fill up your page with scrapbooking paper. It is done the same way as you did the photos. Open up all the paper you might want to use. Click the layer on your template you want to fill. Drag the paper onto it and hit Crtl-G or Shft+Ctrl+G. Continue until all the paper is filled. Remember that you can move or resize paper just like you did with your photos.

Tip- when scrapbooking a layout that is 12×24 you will have to duplicate (Ctrl-J) a paper or drag the paper twice to fill something like a background and move each one to either side. I like to use the shift key along with the move tool to help snap paper into place. I know that PSE has a grid (go view<grid ) option as well that helps.

paper done

Step 6- After your paper is in place you can start to make your layout personal. Add journaling and your own title. My templates come with the drop shadows already in place but there might be other templates that do not. You might want to add, change or delete some shadows at this point. Add your own shadows or double click on the shadow icon in the layers palate to alter. Here are the shadow setting I like and use quite often.


Use elements to really make your template your own. Be creative and think about what looks pleasing to the eye. Remember that simple is sometimes the best.

elements, journaling

Step 7- You’ll probably want to save your layout a few times while you are creating it as a photoshop document (PSD). Give it a new name and make sure you are using the Save As (Shift-Ctrl-S) option to keep your original template safe. When you are done with the decorating part save it one last time. Then you’ll want to save it as a Jpeg to get ready for printing.


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Cropping a 12×24 template into a 12×12

If you are using a 12×24 inch template and are done decorating it and are ready to save it for printing, you’ll have to crop it first before you save it as a Jpeg. To flatten your image go Layer< Flatten Image or right click on any layer in the layers bin except a text layer and select Flatten Image.

flatten image

Next, select the crop tool. In the options bar type in 12 in on the width and height. Then crop the page starting at the outside of a corner and drag it to make a perfect 12×12 box. It will cut your page perfectly. Hit Enter, double click inside the crop or click the check mark.


Save the page as a Jpeg and then undo the cropping in your undo history window.

undo history

Now crop the second half of the layout and save it as a Jpeg with a different name; something like pg 2 at the end of it.

Yea! You did it. Now you are ready to send off your pages to the printers. The best part is a getting a real page in your hands that you created all by yourself.  Feel free to try out some of my free templates.

*note- there is always the option of cropping your 12×24 template into two pages before you ever start scrapbooking. This would be handy if you didn’t want 2 pages or wanted it to be easier for centering the 12×12 papers on the background. To do this just make sure that you leave your layers intact and save the cropped pages with different names so you don’t loose your original template.

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My favorite photoshop shortcuts

These are the shortcuts that have change my life -well, my scrapbooking life. I can jump around photoshop so much faster and it makes scrapbooking a breeze. Some of these are super easy to remember like E is eraser and M is marquee but don’t ask me why the move tool is V. If you ever forget a shortcut you can hover over the tool and a little pop up tag will tell you the name of it and the shortcut will be in parentheses. The drop down menu items also have their shortcuts listed.

V = move tool (my most used shortcut)
M = marquee
T = text tool
C = crop tool
B = brush tool
K = paint bucket
O = burn and dodge tool
D = default colors
X = switch foreground and background colors (I hit D and then X a lot for quick access to white)
[ ] = make brushes/eraser bigger or smaller
Space bar= hold down for hand tool when zoomed in
Ctrl-G = Group with previous (Shift-Ctrl-G creates clipping mask in photoshop CS)
Ctrl-E = Merge down
Ctrl-J = Duplicate layer
Ctrl-O =Open file
Ctrl-N = New Document
Ctrl-D = Deselect
Ctrl-L = photo levels (use this to quickly editing photos)
Ctrl-0 (zero) = Fit on screen (if you are zoomed in close this will jump you back to your whole layout)
Ctrl + or – = zoom in or out (but I mostly just use my mouse scroll)
Ctrl-Alt-I = Image size
Ctrl-Shift-I = Inverse selection (flip the marching ants)
Ctrl-Shift-S = Save as
Alt-Move tool = Hold down the Alt key and click and drag on any layer to quickly duplicate (works great on elements and creating/changing templates)
Ctrl-Move tool = If it is difficult to grab an item such as a small staple, click and drag while holding down Ctrl key to move current selection
Shift-Move tool = hold down shift key and click multiple times on layout to select multiple layers (good for moving a group of elements around)
Shift key = Hold the shift key and click on two different layers in the layers palette to select everything in between the two layers (works good with alpha elements such as a title)

This list may be overwhelming at first but the more you use shortcuts the faster and better you’ll get at it. Try memorizing the ones you’ll use the most.

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My favorite digital scrapbooking tips

Here are some of my favorite tips that don’t quite fit under shortcuts. This list of tips makes scrapbooking speedy for me. Try them out and see for yourself.

Tip 1– Instead of using Open file (Ctrl-O) every time you need to open a new photo or scrapbooking supply, I open my picture folder as well as my scrapbooking folder directly from my computer. This allows me to look for the perfect kit easily or go back for more supplies quickly. With the folders always open I can select items I need and drag them down to my task bar where I hover over my photoshop until it opens. Then I drop the items in photoshop. Your cursor should show a little box and a plus sign. When you see this, you’ll know it okay to drop. Everything should open up.

Tip 2– There are many ways to duplicate a layer. My favorite is the Alt key. When I’m using the move tool, I can quickly hold down the Alt key and click and drag any layer to duplicate it. When the Alt key is held down, you will see your move tool cursor turn into a double arrow thingy. Aren’t you are ready to duplicate the heck out of that super cute button?

Tip 3– I think this tip applies to PSE users because I think drop shadows are easier to access in Photoshop CS.

When I’m working on a layout I like to keep my Palette bin (the right side of photoshop) looking a certain way. To check mark which bins are open, go to Window in the drop down menu. Here is my personal preference.

palette bin2

If you are opening a new bin, you’ll have to drag it by they tab into the palatte bin where it will snap into place. I then adjust the little bins by sliding the bar between each bin.

palette bin

I keep my Artwork and Effects hidden. This allows me to see more layers at a time and I only need a bit of history showing and just my favorite colors swatches showing. The only problem is if I need to add a drop shadow… If I open up my Artworks and Effects bin then all my other bins snap back to default position. Annoying! I’ve discovered that if I right click on a layer (in the blue area) that already has a shadow I can copy it with out having to apply a new shadow and adjust my bins all over again.


After I copy a shadow I can paste it to multiple layers by holding down the Ctrl or Shift key and selecting multiple layers in the layers bin. Right click and select Paste Layer Style. This makes drop shadowing a breeze.

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Making the most of a template and making it your own

I think it is always a challenge to take a template that someone else has made and put my own spin on it. This tutorial will hopefully help you to take a step towards making a template look like your own work and a style that you love.

Step one- When you are looking through blogs and galleries take note of the layouts that you LOVE. Ones that make you think, “Gosh, I want to scrapbook like that!” Ones that you can’t take your eyes off of or you keep coming back to look at. Notice how it is made. Are there lots of layers? Are photos and elements grouped together or spread out? Simple, clean lines? Traditional looking? Colorful or neutral? Lots of white space or busy and fun? Obviously you’ll like more than one style but perhaps you lean to a certain style.

Step two- Only download or purchase templates and kits that you absolutely LOVE and will use! This will not only help your hard drive from getting to cluttered but also make it easier to get a layout that you are proud of. I know that when I use digital supplies that I’m not in love with that I have a harder time scrapbooking with them. It takes me longer. I rearrange things more and in the end I often times start over. Remember, it may be cute when so and so uses it but if it doesn’t scream YOU then pass it by and you’ll forget all about downloading it.

Step three- Try rearranging. The wonderful thing about templates are that the are alterable. Try moving things around. Flipping, rotating, deleting, duplicating. Photos are the easiest to change. Obviously if the template only has 3 spaces for photos just duplicate those layers and move things around a bit. Just save your original template in case you end up hating what you’ve made but don’t get discouraged. It takes a little practice.

altering templates

Step four- Think about your needs. How many photos do you need to scrapbook. Are you completely overwhelmed or do you have time to mess around? Do you want to highlight one special photo or are there a billion just okay photos you want to do. If you can figure this out then you can pick templates that will suit you better. Start with the photos and then take it from there.

Here is an example of a template I altered. I made this simple little template when I saw something like it on line. I thought it turned out rather cute and springy looking.


But when I tried scrapping with it I was very dissatisfied. First thing I had to do was rotate the large photo because my photo was horizontal instead of vertical. Next I wanted more color so I duplicated the blue background and shrunk and stretched the back one so that is showed just a bit. I then added the 3 papers behind the photos and clouds for even more colors. If you don’t know how to make rounded corners you can continue to duplicate the blue background and transform it as long as it doesn’t look to wonky. I also moved the clouds a bit. And that’s about it. I finished the layout off by with elements. Frames tucked behind the main photo for even more color, a journaling tag poking out at the top and a fun alpha.

Easter 2010 copy

I then made a second page. I brought the yellow paper up higher and duplicated the heck out of the photos blocks. Hey, I take a lot of photos. I duplicated and titled both the horizontal photo (which I shrunk before duplicating) and the vertical small one.

Easter 2010 2 copy

Waa laa, a two page layout that is all my own and fits my needs perfectly. Looks a bit different from the original, eh? You can do things like this too. Just try it and make a template your own.

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Editing photos after they are placed in a template

To make your layouts even better make sure that you edit your photos. A picture straight out of the camera is not always the best. In my case my photos are never very good. If you edit your photos before you scrapbook them then you should be good but if you are like me I wait until I’ve put them in the layout. That way I can make sure all the photos look good together.

I’ve discovered with all my scrapbooking that editing all my photos on a layout can be time consuming, especially with one of those templates with lots of photos. With practice I have managed to come up with an easier, quicker way to get the job done. Let me share.

Step 1- Place your photo or photos into your template using Ctrl-G or Shift Ctrl-G depending on your program. Here I have chosen an awful photo taken by an iphone for my example. Can’t get much worse than a dark, blurry, small photo.

1 place photo

Step 2- Duplicate the photo layer by clicking and dragging the photo to the Create New Layer button. This will duplicate a new layer and keep it grouped with the photo block. When I discovered this, I think I might have screamed for joy out loud. Before I was duplicating by hitting Ctrl-J and then I’d have to hit Crt-G again. I know this is only one small step excluded up when you’re editing a ton of photos it makes a difference.

2 drag layer

Step 3- Set the blending mode for the new layer. Click on the blending mode box and select screen. Almost all of my photos need to be screened. This lightens the photo.

3 screen

Step 4- Adjust opacity. Every photo is going to be different. Adjusting the opacity allows you to make it so your photo is not to washed out. In some instances you make need to screen a photo at the full 100% and if it is really terrible, like my photo, I screen it twice. The second screen was reduced in opacity. To adjust, you can click and slide on top of the word Opacity and you’ll see a little sliding mouse, or you can highlight the number and use your mouse scroll, or you can use the drop down arrow and slide the slider.

4 opacity

Step 5- Once you have screened your photo, you’ll want to merge the layers into one photo. With the top photo active hit Ctrl-E. If you have more than one layer to merge, you can highlight all the layers, right click and select Merge Layers.

5 merge

Step 6- Next you will want to duplicate your photo layer again and use blending modes to add contrast and make your colors brighter. A great place to start is with the Soft Light blending mode. You’ll have to play around with the opacity to get it to where you like it. It really is personal preference but try not to make your subjects look like aliens. I occasionally use the color burn if I think the colors need even more but honestly the opacity needs to be slid as low as 10% or else it’s to dramatic. When finished Merge photo layer.

6 soft light

Step 7- Burn. At this point you can be done but sometimes a photo needs a tiny bit more. I will use the burn tool quite often to add darker edges around my photos or darken a washed out face or shirt. For the settings use; range-midtones; exposure- around 20-30%. The dodge tool can be used to lighten a shadow on a face or something like that, but really I don’t use it too much.

7 burn

Step 8- Sharpen. It seems like I read somewhere that photos need to be sharpened. This is something I always forget to do. I know real photographers use it a lot more. In my editor there are several ways to do it. Use the Enhance menu in the drop down bar.

8 sharpen

Ta da. You should be done. Here is my before and after. Much better, I’d say.

1 place photo

9 done

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