Design House Digital

School of Design – Maximizing Templates 1

Welcome to Design House Digital’s School of Design. Today, and every single day in September, we’ll have new blog posts; informative, detailed, and FREE classes that will take your digital scrapbooking to the next level. Each subject will have a new post weekly, and at the end of the month you won’t believe how much you’ve learned! Our schedule is as follows:

  • Thursdays – Journaling From the Heart with Jen Papadimitriou
  • Fridays - Photography Tips and Tricks with Lori Pickens
  • Saturdays – You and Your Camera with Allison Waken & Shannon Dombkowski
  • Sundays– Standout Shadows with Gennifer Bursett
  • Mondays – Design Theory with Tiffany Tillman
  • Tuesdays – Blogging Secrets with Mary Shaw
  • Wednesdays – Maximizing Templates with Renee Fink

When I started digital scrapbooking I loved the creative freedom that this medium provided. Who doesn’t love the “undo” function? But, somewhere along the way I began to get bogged down and found myself frustrated with all the options available to me. Templates to the rescue! When I discovered digital scrapbook templates my whole approach to creating a layout began to change.

Scrapbooking templates provide a basic framework for a layout. Think of them as a blueprint or an outline for your page. You can create a page without making any variations to the blueprint. And, with the marvelous template designer available here at DHD you can create standout pages in a snap. Or you may choose to customize your template to fit your own needs or creative whim. The sky is the limit when it comes to maximizing your templates.

We are going to start with the basics – How to use a layered template.

Step 1:  Select your template. Open it in Photoshop and IMMEDIATELY rename it by using “save as”. Renaming your template at this point will ensure the template is saved in its original form. I am using Tiffany Tillman’s 52 Thursday Templates #9 for this tutorial.

Step 2: Before I actually add my photos to Photoshop I like to “float” my template. You can do this by either grabbing the little tab with the renamed template and dragging it down a bit or you can go to “Window” – “Arrange” – “Float in Window”.

Step 3: Select your photos and drag and drop them into Photoshop. Because you “floated” your window in the step above when you drag and drop your photos into your program they will be added as separate open items rather than adding them as additional layers in your template. You can see that all of the photos are open in individual windows.

One of more difficult adjustments I made when moving to Photoshop from PS Elements was the loss of the project bin at the bottom of the page. Floating your various items is a way to achieve a similar result in Photoshop. Hovering over the blue Photoshop icon on your windows toolbar will bring up thumbnails of your open windows.

Step 4:  Select the layer on your template where you will be adding the photo. Hover over the photo you want to use.  Select it to bring it to a full size window and “drag and drop” it into your template.

By selecting your photo layer in the template first and then adding the photo to the template you add the photo to the layer directly above the active layer in your template. I find this method to be the simplest way to pair my photo with the photo layer in the template. Not all template designers name and label their photos like Tiffany does so it isn’t always easy to find the correct layer. This is especially in template with multiple photos.

Step 5: Move your photo to approximately where you want it. Selecting  “Ctrl – Alt –G” will make the template photo layer into a mask for your photo and only the elements within the mask will be visible.  Once you have created the mask use the transform and resize tools to fit your photo to the template layer.  In my illustration, I rotated the photo and made it slightly smaller. You can play around with the size and rotation of your photo until you are satisfied with the result.

NOTE:  In Photoshop Elements you need to use “Ctrl – G” to create you layer mask. All other steps will remain the same.

Step 6:  Repeat steps 4 and 5 for the other photos on your template. Utilize the elements included on the layout or substitute for with appropriate elements from the kit of your choosing. Either way, the process was quick and relatively painless and the result is a layout created in a snap and ready for your album.

Template from Tiffany Tillman 52 Thursday Templates #9

Paper and Elements from Little Fishies by Audrey Neal


Getting Organized With Picasa

Thinking back to when I was a paper scrapper, I remember spending hours trying to organize my supplies so that I could store them in a small section of my pantry, yet still be able to see and access them easily.  I think I spent more time organizing supplies than I did scrapping pages.  That’s when I looked into digital scrapbooking.  It just made more sense for me.  But…as I started downloading kits, organization again became an issue.  I still wanted to be able to see all my supplies.  Searching folder after folder trying to find just the right embellishment got old quick!

Then I discovered picasa.  I’ve been using it for a couple of years now and I love it!

You can download Picasa FREE here:

1 – Getting set-up

Once you have picasa installed, open it, and go to ToolsFolder Manager.  There you can select all the folders on your computer you want picasa to scan.  I select my Pictures folder and my Digital Scrapbooking folder.

Now go to Tools→Options and click on the File Types tab.  Select all the types you want Picasa to display.  You should select at minimum:  jpg, png, tiff, and psd.  Click okay.

Next go to View→Folder View.  There you can select how you want your supplies organized.  I prefer Tree View & Sort by Name.

Now you should be able to scroll through and see all your files.  (make sure your folders on the left side are open.)

*NOTE-Picasa does not move or copy your files.  It simply displays them.  If you delete a file in picasa, it will also delete it from your hard drive.  But if you edit a photo in picasa, you can always restore the original copy.

2 – Using Picasa with Photoshop/ Photoshop Elements

I like to minimize my picasa screen just enough that I can see about an inch of my photoshop screen underneath on the left hand side.  (see below)

Select the files you want to use.  (Press Ctrl to select multiple files.) Thumbnails of the selected files will be shown in the project bin on the bottom left of your screen.  Simply drag and drop those thumbnails into photoshop and you’re ready to go!

3 – Tagging Files

Tagging your files can be a time consuming project, but will save so much time in the long run.

Pull up the tagging panel by clicking on the tag icon on the lower right side of your screen.

Select a file(s), type in a keyword/tag, and press enter.  That’s it!

You can also customize quick tags by clicking on that little yellow gear next to the quicktags.

Here is a list of quicktags I use:

  • preview (Most previews will already have the word “preview” in the file name so there’s no need to tag them)
  • paper  (I also tag specifically: solid, pattern)
  • element  (I also tag specifically: flower, stitching, hardware, staple, tape, ribbon, string, tag, button)
  • frame
  • wordart
  • template
  • quickpage
  • alpha

I don’t tag with colors because I think it’s easier to just scroll through and find the right color, and you can always recolor an item.

4 – Searching for Files

To search for files, simply type in the tag/keyword in the search bar at the top of your screen.  If you press enter only once, it will display the tagged items in their current folder.  If you press enter again, they will be displayed all together, making it easier to browse through lots of files.

*NOTE – searching with a keyword will not only pull up tagged files, but also any file with that word in the file name.

Try this:  Type “preview” in the search bar. Press enter twice.  Scroll through until you find a kit you want to use.  Click on that preview, then delete “preview” from the search bar.  That complete kit should then be displayed.

5 – Other stuff

There are many other features worth playing with in Picasa.  You can edit your photos, make collages, upload files to web albums, or even your blog (blogger).  You can even upload your layouts to Persnickety Prints for printing directly from picasa!  How cool is that!?

If you have any questions, just head over to the Q&A Forum and start a new thread.  I will try to answer as quick as possible.

Next Picasa Segment – Collages

You won’t believe all the things you can do with this!


Tutorial: Simple tips for beginning photo editing part: 1

Learning to digital scrapbook can be a daunting task when you first start out AND so can photo editing.  I cannot tell you how happy I was to just learn these simple skills in Photoshop Elements and what a huge difference they made in my digital scrapbooking layouts.

Lightening Photos: When your photo is underexposed, your falsh didn’t go off, or the flash was simple not enough light.

1.  Open a photo in PSE.

2.  Always make a copy of your original layer before modifying it. Then if you don’t like the way it’s turned out you can discard it and easily start again on another copy of the original. To create a new empty layer, click on the New Layer icon at the top left of the layers palette. A new layer will appear immediately above the layer you currently have active.

2. Go to Enhance> Adjust Lighting> Levels.

3. Your levels box will pop up. Click on the third little eyedropper all the way to the right (set white point)

4. Click on any portion of your photo that is white, or the lightest area you can find in your photo.

5. Your photo will now be brighter than the original–simple as that!

6. If you don’t like the changes to your photo you can always undo them and keep playing around with the lighting until you get the perfect look. Just press reset in the levels pop up box.  You can change the lighting by clicking on different white parts of your photo with the eye dropper.

Warming Photos: Used when the flash or other lighting washed out the colors or you just want to add a little warmth to the photo.

1. Open a photo in PSE.  Duplicate photo by going to Layer> Duplicate Layer> OK this will make a background copy.

2. Click on the “Create Adjustment Layer” icon that looks like a black and white circle next to the New Layer icon at the top of your Layers palette.

3. Choose “Photo Filter”

4. Be sure that you have the “Preview” option enabled by clicking the box, this will allow you to view the intensity as you increase/decrease the warmth.  Change the warmth by dragging the Density slide to the left or right inside the Photo filter pop up box.  You can also select the “warmth tone”  by changing the color box by clicking on it.  Nice colors to try when looking for warmth are yellow, orange, pinks, and reds.

5. The results: A warm sunny day!  I wanted to take the cool tones and bring some warmth into the photo. It was a really warm day, but my camera did not capture that, a few simple steps and it’s perfect!

Just a few reminders:

1. Work with a copy of your photo and be sure to save the edited photo under a different name in case you want to go back to the orginal .

2. Moderation in all things.  The slight, simple changes you make in photo editing are going to have the greatest overall impact and will keep your photos looking natural and “real”.

3. Have fun, the more you play around in Photoshop Elements the more comfortable you’ll feel.  Your photos and layouts will thank you!


The Art of “Scraplifting”

Scraplifting is a beautiful thing!  For those of you new to this term, it means to borrow or “lift” and idea from another scrapbooker. Whenever I feel like my mojo is running on the low side, I go into the gallery for inspiration.   Sometimes all I have to do is look around for a few minutes and then go create something of my own design, other times I am awe struck by a gorgeous composition or a combination of perfect element that speaks to me.  Scraplifting is perfectly acceptable…after all isn’t it one of the reasons why we view other layouts?

I would like to show you three different ways to use scraplifting as a design tool.

First, is the traditional scraplift, you see a layout you LOVE everything about it and you want one just like it for your own, you even go an purchase the exact same kit so you can have a carbon copy, only it’s yours!

I loved the FREE blog hop kit that the designers gave away right here at DHD.  When the decorators posted their pages created from this kit, I just fell in love with Karen Funk’s “Love” layout.

2010-04_jim-and-becca-smallI scraplifted this layout almost element for element.  I did choose different patterned papers from the same kit and colored a few details slightly different.  Another bonus of scraplifting:  you know you are going to adore the finished layout before you begin.  Here is mine.  Can you pick out the subtle differences?

maya blog

Another way to do a scraplift is simply for composition.  The placement of photos and elements– think of it as using someone’s layout as a sketch for your own.  I loved this classy design by Heather Guenther and chose to scraplift her layout “Passion is contagious”
heather blog

Here is my scraplift of Heather’s layout:

passion blog

What I love about scraplifting is that even though you seek out to “copy” a layout of another scrapper’s design, they always seem to come out a little bit different, sometimes a lot differently.

My last method for scraplifitng includes one of my favorite things….shopping!  I love to see the “1 kit, 4 ways” blog articles.  Usually after viewing the article I feel the need to shop and purchase the same kit the designers were working with and see what I can create.  This uses the term scraplifiting very loosly, you can take any detail that inspires you and…CREATE!

Look at this amazing layout by Jenny Bingham titled “Goat Hugger”.  I clicked on this layout in the gallery and read which products she used in her credits and saw Jen Allyson’s Vanity Fair Cerulean collection and I was sold!

goathugger blogJenny’s layout inspired me to create this layout “Preschool Graduation” using the same kit by Jen Allyson.
blog sean

Next time you find yourself in a scrapping rut…remember to give scraplifiting a try!  There’s always the monthly scraplifting challenge here at DHD.   Oh and one more tidbit, as a common courtesy you should always give credit to a fellow scrapper  when you scraplift their layout, even if you were only inspired by a small portion.  It’s the right thing to do, a compliment to share, and flattering to most scrappers that someone else was inspired by their work.  Happy scraplifiting!

A few of the kits used to create the layouts in this article:
blog kits


5 Ways to Use Type in Your Scrapbook Layouts

Type is an important part of your layouts. It gives the viewer a piece of information that they might not otherwise know. It might be a short quote, the name of the person in the photograph, a sentiment, or a date. it might be the thing that explains the photo best. It may give insight to your daily life. These are all things worth capturing! So don’t be afraid to use type in graphic ways! Here’s some of my ways for keeping it fresh:

1. Forget the Drop Shadow. Sure, it’s showy but does it distract from the photos and what the words actually say? Keep it simple. Choose a fun font instead.


2. Make it Big or make it small. This super dynamic duo will bring a lot of interest to your scrapbook layouts.

3. Go For High Contrast. If your background is white, use a darker color for the type.If your background is dark, use a lighter color on your font. If you want others to read what you have to say, high contrast is key!

4. Break Convention. You’re not in school anymore and capitalizing the “J” in July in an artistic layout is no longer something you will get marked down for. Go ahead…all lowercase or all caps are fun!


5. Let Your Letters Fall off Your Page. It’s a graphic way of letting others follow your words until the very edge. Use it wisely though so it doesn’t get out of control! You still want to be able to read the word!

I hope you continue to use type in dynamic ways! Use these little tips for keeping your scrapbook layouts fresh, fun, and readable!


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