Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Devil's in the Details - 5 Simple Ways to Take Your Scrapping to New Levels

Having recently perused some of my old layouts (rather than cleaning the basement, LOL), I am reminded that it's a good thing to improve one's skills. Most of the development has been in the finishing details that really make a difference in the quality of my layouts.  And because I am still avoiding putting away the Christmas decorations, I'm going to take a moment to share some of them with you.

1.  Do the Twist.

One of the beauties of digital scrapbooking is that we can use an element sixty-billion times if we want to.

Or five.

Either way, take a second when you add that flower for the second (or fifty-nine billionth) time - turn it a little bit.  If it is exactly the same direction as the others on your page, your mind is going to register that they are identical, and pay more attention to that than your focal point.

Let's face it.  Nowhere in nature will you find two flowers that are exactly the same, with the same shadow pattern and the same bent petal.  So, fool us into thinking you have five similar-but-not-the-same flowers on your page.

Don't get carried away, you still have to pay attention to the direction of the light on the element, but you can generally get away with a fifteen-twenty degree turn in either direction without getting into too much trouble.  And of course it goes without saying not to turn them all the same way, right? 

 (Also applies to buttons.  And bows, which can also be flipped horizontally for some variation)

2. Avoid Black Holes.  This isn't Star Trek.

This makes me sad.  I will see an absolutely lovely layout, but the photos are dark and indistinct and disappointing.  As a result, I'm not drawn into the story of the layout, because I can't see it!

Now I am NOT a photographer.  My pictures range from averagely bad to averagely adequate.  I don't think you have to have a professional quality photo to scrap.  I think you should make the most of what you DO have, though!

Here are a couple of super easy quick fixes that will help make your photos be the star they should be:

Brighten Underexposed Photos

Fix Underexposed Photos

3. One of These Things Is Not Like the Other.

Shadows really do matter.  I know not every one cares as obsessively as I do about shadows looking realistic and natural and touchable, but the truth is, if you don't make some sort of difference between the shadow of a thin piece of metal and a big fluffy flower on your page, then the viewer's mental process will be trying to decode what isn't quite right in the back of their mind, instead of oohing and ahhing over that photo you just dressed up (see #2).

So.  Repeat after me.

Things that are close to the background paper have narrower (and darker) shadows. Items that are further from the background have wider, softer, less distinct shadows.

I don't insist that you separate every shadow onto its own layer and warp and smudge and blur.  Just get a good set of shadow styles (freebies listed below) or settings in PSP.  It's a detail that will catapult your layouts into a new stratosphere :)

The Daily Digi - Shadow Layer Styles 

Megan Turnidge Shadow Styles

Krystal Hartley's Shadow Styles

Flergs Shadow Styles

PSP Shadows

4. Color Clash.

If there's anything I fuss over more than shadows, it's color.  It pains me a little to see a photo in a layout where the overall tone of the photo is completely different than the colors used to scrap it.  There are ways around this.

Probably the easiest is to make the photo black and white.  This works very well for photos of people.  Maybe not so well for that gorgeous blue ocean or dazzling sunset photo.

You can make some subtle shifts with a saturation/hue adjustment layer that will make all the difference (and not just to the photo - subtle shifts in papers and elements might be the answer!).  Here are a couple of guides for working with colors and photos.

Make your photos black and white

Adjust Color

Recoloring an element

A related issue is the visual weight of your photo - I find it hard to scrap with pastels, because to me they aren't a good fit with the deeper colors of most of my photos.  This is an instance where converting the photo to black and white is useful.

Or just skip the pastels.

Oh wait, did I say that out loud?  Nevermind.  I admit that it bugs me to see a photo with Olive Green grass scrapped with mint green cardstock.  I'm obsessive.  I get that this might be abnormal. But do take overall color into consideration when you look at the whole page.

For me.  Mwah.

5. En-TITLE-d.

No doubt this is very subjective, but in looking at my own work, I find that pages that have a title are much more interesting than those that don't.

Maybe it's a phase I'm going through.  I dunno.  However, since titles have been a part of scrapbook layout design forEVER, odds are there's a good reason for that ;)  It's like the title draws me in and gives me a clue that guides me to the rest of the layout.  Sets the expectation.  And if the title is particularly clever it adds a new layer of enjoyment.

Take a look through your favorite gallery, and see if you agree with me.  Or take a good look at that layout you finished but just don't love.  Maybe a title will make a difference. I've actually gone back and added titles to a couple of pages I wasn't happy with, and it made all the difference.  To me.

Title Approaches


There you have it.  Five easy details that will help you elevate your scrapping to new levels with a minimum of fuss and no pain.

Now, who wants to come help me finish cleaning the basement?


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Overwhelming.

When my older daughter was a little girl, I would tell her to go clean up her room.  I'd go in there and find her looking at a book, or playing with a doll, or worse, just sitting.  It used to make me seriously annoyed.

Then I realized (I think God helped me out, here) that she really had no idea HOW to clean up her room.  The task seemed overwhelming and she had no experience at breaking it down and doing bit by bit.

Today I went in the basement of our new (as of October 4) home.  It's still... well, the kindest thing I can say is "awry."  My husband has accomplished great things down there, putting all the right storage elements in place, and generally hanging pictures and whatnot.  But it isn't there yet.  And I feel completely overwhelmed by it, just like Kati sitting on her floor, looking at a book.

I've made three trips up and down the stairs this morning.  I spent twenty minutes looking at my scrapbooks (which was really fun, although I am glad my skills have improved).  I have stood in the middle of every room downstairs.  The guest room is in pretty good shape.  My husband's office is completely finished (he doesn't suffer from stand-in-the-middle-of-the-room-being-overwhelmed-itis).  Guest bath is good to go (one or two pictures need to be hung, but that's not so bad).

Family room.  Eep.  Cue overwhelmage.

So I did what any smart mother with grown children does.  I whined to my daughter on Facebook.

You know what she told me?  Exactly what I told her all those years ago.  Start by the door and just work your way around the room, she said.  Put everything in its spot.

Wow.

But then she redeemed herself by recommending I get new music and play it full blast.  I rather like that idea.  So I'm off to make one more trip DOWN the stairs.  Not coming up til it's at least presentable :)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

On Display in action In An Instant. Oh, and writing on chalkboard in Photoshop...

I know the chalkboard trend has been around for a while in the scrappy crafty world, so you probably have a fair stash of it by now.  There are quite a few styles available for imitating the look of chalk on a chalkboard, but not everyone is addicted to styles as I am.  So I set about playing to see if I could create a fairly realistic effect just using Photoshop (it will work in Photoshop Elements, too).

Here's a layout I did using The Photo Project - In An Instant and photos of my "grand dog" Leonard (Leo for short) :


To be sure, it's a quick layout; I spent more time on shadows than anything (mostly because I love playing with shadows).  I wanted to show a few pictures that Leo's mama had recently shared in our Facebook chat that captured his goofy-but-loveable personality and not-quite-outgrown puppyness. Which we are going to pretend is a real word for the purposes of this blog.

Once my photos and elements were in place, I went to work on the title and journaling.  The first step is to choose a font that isn't perfect for chalk writing, because no matter how carefully you write, there will be spots the chalk doesn't cover the board so it's spotty and irregular.  I found a few good options (all of which are free for personal use).

Then I set about trying to increase the chalky effect:

not bad, right?  Let me show you how I achieved the look.

1. First, choose your color.  Don't go for pure white!  If you look at real chalk on a real chalkboard, you will notice that so much of the black shows through that it's much closer to grey than white.  I picked the above color, but feel free to play around and get the shade you prefer!

2. Choose your font.  I liked this one (Film Cryptic) - it's more regular than I could write myself, but it's very readable and still has enough rough edges to be sort of realistic.  


3. Once you have your journaling the way you like it, duplicate the layer (I use control + j keyboard shortcut)  Set the blending mode of the top layer to "Dissolve."  I have to admit I have never used this blending mode before, because it makes everything all spotty and that has never been the look I've been going for before, LOL.  I lowered the fill to 87%  because it left more bare spots, but feel free to play to see what effect YOU want. 


4.  Then I lowered the fill on the lower layer of journaling to about half - again, up to you to play with yours for the desired result.  To be honest, when I flattened the layout, I lost a lot of the piece-y-ness of the dissolve layer, and so my normal layer was down to about 10%.  Make sure you take a look at what happens before you save it or close the file.  I should embroider a pillow with the phrase "the Undo button is my friend..."   however, embroidery has no undo button and I can only imagine the mess I would make of it.


Hopefully that gives you an idea of some things to try to get the chalky look you want :)  As for the fonts, here's where you can download them:









Hope you have fun - I'd love to see how it works for you, so feel free to link me up!  (or post on my Facebook page so we can all oooh and ahh!)



Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Post in which she explains her absence with a minimum of fuss and fewer excuses than you might expect...

So.  We had Christmas since my last blog post.  A Christmas which I was fortunate enough to spend in Hawaii, since my younger daughter and her Air Force Captain have been posted there for the next three years.  It was exotic and fun and let's face it, I'm not a particular fan of long flights in tiny cramped seating, so there was some suffering coming and going, but worth it.  Then came the New Year and the coughs and colds we managed to collect on the journey.  That chewed up another ten days or so.  Then there was the just - completed trip back to Denver for my husband's LASIK eye surgery (a touch up to the original ten years ago).  Another week of fun mixed with lots of waiting and flanked on either end with a nine hour drive across the prairie...

So.  Back to normal, hopefully.  Which is a good thing, because all that fun was exhausting!

Before we left for Denver, I did release a fabulous set of Photo Project goodies.  It's something that I have been mulling over for ages, and finally pinned down in my head how I wanted to go about making the end result of all that cogitation.  I'm pretty pleased with the results and I know I am going to be entertained by playing with them for quite a while.


This is the first part.  Obviously Digital Scrapbookers have been using polaroid frames for ages, and I have used a few iterations of that myself.  But both of my daughters have Instax cameras and I was pretty fascinated by the smaller dimensioned photos and I wanted to create a realistic frame that I could play with in my own layouts.  And I added the polaroid because I have never made one that actually matched polaroid dimensions before.  Then I threw in an instagram-size frame just for versatility (even though I got too lazy for Instagram quite a while ago, I still liked the size and the effect of the filters).  All that remained was a need for a display mechanism.  Instax photos are relatively small, so even quite a few of them on a whole 12 inch by 12 inch layout looks cluttered and at the same time insignificant.  Not the look I had hoped to achieve, LOL.  And since my desire for interesting display of photos dates back to the very first Photo Project element pack, I chose to create a multi-faceted display board that would provide many options for creating an attractive layout.  Each element is included separately, so the scrapper can assemble whatever configuration she wants.  The chalkboard sections are great for journaling, but if you don't want the stark contrast, you can clip a paper to those layers.

After I reached this point, I realized I was pretty entranced with the display board.  So I created another set of two to offer lots of variety:


They are completely layered, so it's easy to clip a paper or photo to a section.  Or a journal card, for that matter.  You can turn off the wire, if you prefer that look, and I've included an optional corkboard section for each of the chalkboard spots, so you can get your creativity going without having to stop and fuss ;)

Here's the fun part - I turned my creative team loose with them and they completely rocked the project:

  Layout by Poki - I love this!  You could display favorite layouts, or projects, or even items in a collection.

  Layout by Chili - Love the variety of textures Kim used, especially the bird behind the wire!

 Layout by Jenni - such a dainty page, love the banner and the photo taped behind the wire. Really nifty shadows, too!

 Layout by Rae - such a beautiful heritage page; I just love the memorabilia touches

  Layout by Maria - I love the way she tucked the doily in at the top, and layered the bouquet behind the wire, as if preserving a special memento.

 Layout by Jennifer - What an awesome way to memorialize your children's accomplishments and artwork!

  Layout by Edna - I am such a fan of those sharp black and white photos - a perfect capture of special times with Grandpa!

 Layout by Anita - Such a fun layout about the family pets.  Notice the eyes on the paper cat, lower left.  So many clever details wherever you look!

I hope that gives you some great ideas for creating your own display for the photos and mementos that are meaningful to you and your family.  You can check out In An Instant and On Display here in my shop, and note the bundled option if you want to snag them both ;)  And because I was out of town, I've kept the introductory sale price active for just a bit longer!

I'll be back with one of my own layouts, and some ideas on making more realistic chalk writing in Photoshop, so stay tuned :)



Friday, December 19, 2014

Oooh, shiny...

Yes.  I am often easily distracted.  But this is a little different application of Shiny :)  More like glowing, gleaming, glimmering...

I love Christmas decorations, and it has more to do with the light than anything.  I love a flicker here and a glow there and the warm cheerful light of the Christmas tree in a dark room (jury is still out on my new "warm" LED lights... not quite the same thing).

That's what I tried to capture in CandleGlow, new this weekend in my Scrapbookgraphics shop.





There's also an add-on pack with extra papers and goodies for larger projects (or alone, for smaller ones!)


And some beautiful examples for you from my creative ladies:




CandleGlow will be at the introductory sale price for a limited time.  Enjoy, and happy scrapping!



Friday, December 5, 2014

Tis the Season

I don't know how your weather is where you live, but it's right nippy in North Dakota!  A good time for a cup of hot chocolate and some nice scrapping by the fire, LOL.

It's also nice for getting in the swing of Christmas, and I have some new goodies that will also help with that!

Last week... oh, wait.  It was the week before that.  I still haven't quite conquered my blogging schedule, have I?  Anyway, the first Christmas collection is Good Tidings of Great Joy:



I love the slight twist of the color palette, and the gleam-y glitter-y goodness of it all.  There are additional papers and extras, too, available separately or in the bundle:


Also a set of Shadow Box style templates:



This week brings a new collection to my shop.  It's rich and masculine, and less overtly Christmas:


Extra paper sets for versatility, and an alpha, since the included word art is quite specific and you may prefer other phrases.  Again, available separately or in the bundle:


Also available is a second set of Shadow Box Templates:


My team member Poki created this cute layout using the kit and templates:


In case you aren't quite sure whether these templates are a good fit for you and your scrapping style, here's a sampler to play with:


You can download it HERE.  (Need the Artisan/Page version?  Get it HERE)

That's it for me, for now.  Stay warm and I'd love to see what you do with the template!

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Return to Ordinary Life. Just in time for DSD!

I try to stay away from bemoaning the fact that I have neglected my blog, but when the last post is quite obviously more than three months old... there are not a lot of options.  My summer was taken up with my  husband's job hunt and our subsequent move to North Dakota.  Such a short sentence, such a busy time ;)  We are getting settled in our new home (you will probably hear more about this later - why is it the new house is never the same as the old one in regards to furniture and belongings fitting in?) and I have finally had the mental energy to not only get back to design, but to actually informing people in the digi world that I have accomplished something more than just breathing at the computer.

Which is just as well, since OUR holiday is upon us.  Happy Digital Scrapbooking Day, just a few hours early!

With all that has been going on in my life, as well as the advent of my favorite season, FALL, of course my thoughts turned to documenting/celebrating/bemoaning my experiences and enjoying my favorite color palettes and the result was A Season of Change:










It's entirely possible that once I got going on this collection, I had a little trouble stopping - it will certainly give you plenty of options!  If you decide you love it all, of course there is a bundled version available, too.

I wanted another set of photo clusters featuring a large photo, too, because I have found the other set to be very useful:


Best part?  It's ALL ON SALE!



Last of all, it's been so long since I had a freebie, it seemed like a good idea to make one for the occasion!

 Download me!
You can download it HERE.