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Blending w/Photo Art Blends & Click.Masks {how-to}

In Thursday’s newsletter we announced our 6th set of Photo Art Blends. These come with 7 different types of 12×12 blends with Photo Transfer Edges (5 each for 35 total): Grunge, Wood, Folded, Concrete, Bokeh, Glass, Cardboard, plus 4 creative Click.Masks for added creativity. This set, like the other 5, comes with a PDF tutorial with step-by-steps plus many examples/recipes using the set.

Today I wanted to share a before and after of a piece I just made, in memory of my mom and her love of autumn.

Here’s how the photo started after it was cropped square. With the breeze blowing and a slower shutter speed, the original image is almost painting-like. See the camera setting specs below.  FYI…for more information and ideas on creating abstract blur images right within your camera, see our blog here.

Canon 7D, Tamron 70-300 Macro, ISO 200, f/5, 1/60 second (some motion in breeze)

To create an even more realistic painting effect, I blended the image into 24 Grunge PhotoBlend6 for paper-like texture and softening of the image. To do this, I first clipped the photo to 04 Click.Mask {recolored to white} and set the Click.Mask to Hard Light blend mode at about 80% opacity. I added 3 layers of the word art, each set to Overlay blend mode. I wanted to keep it simple as the painterly photo is the focus.

Here are the Layers that make up the piece, showing the order of each layer and their settings (click to enlarge).

And, our big iDSD Sale ends Midnight CT, Monday, November 4. See the shop and Sunday’s newsletter for more details. Thank you for your support for the past 10 years of digital scrapbooking fun!

Happy Creating!

Michelle and Team

Up your Photo Game {contest}

Hi all! If you’re looking for a fantastic way to get out of a creative rut or to push your photography skills, I highly recommend getting involved with Instagram or Flickr groups. This morning, I had the lovely surprise of being nominated for photo of the month with @childrenphoto on Instagram with the above photo. A fellow photographer found my photo and asked me to tag it in their group, so I did, and then the same photographer nominated me. I’ve never been in a voting contest before as I’ve never entered, however, this honor is pretty cool. Tag your Instagram photos #ourchildrenphoto to be added to this group and be considered for daily and monthly contests.

This photo was a blessed, split-second capture and one of my all-time most meaningful.

My Instagram photos can be seen at @cottagearts, and are about 99% iPhone 5 shots going forward, with a focus on nature. The above image was shot with a Canon 7D.

Using IFTTT, my Instagram images are auto posted to Flickr, too. Isn’t technology amazing?!!!

Regarding upping your game, a favorite group I subscribe to on Instagram for daily challenges is @joshjohnson. Really motivating daily inspiration! Such talent in the phoneography community; I am in awe.

If you’re on Instagram, say hi! And letting your creativity soar. I normally post a photo or two a week, but do hope to get more active going into winter.

FYI…my last three Digital Workshop how-to articles for Somerset Memories Magazine have focused on creating art with your cell phone photos. See more information on my latest article on our blog here.

this is life 5 scrap.words, iPhone 5

See more phoneography tips, app faves, and inspiration on our blog here.

Happy shooting!

Michelle and team

Big DSD Sale & Spooky Effect for Halloween Photos {how-to}!

michelle shefveland. return of october papers and elements

Halloween. In Minnesota this is basically equivalent to braving the freezing temperatures in costumes covered up with winter coats, hats, and scarves, so all the kids look like little puff balls running from house to house, collecting as much candy as they can before their toes freeze. It’s truly a sad story…however, it’s fun to watch when you’re not the one out in the cold! Honestly, who doesn’t love Halloween? Dressing up like someone (or something) else for a night and eating only candy for the next week. Perfection.

But seeing all the great photos on Facebook the next day of the jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treaters is the real treat, am I right? So today we’re going to show you a fun little tutorial that will add a little spookiness to your pictures before you share them!

Spooky Photo Effect:

1. Open Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.

2. Open the photo you want to edit. I picked one Mom took last year around Halloween, with the street light hitting the autumn leaves just right. It already looks a bit spookish. Let’s see if we can make it even scarier!

3. Set the Foreground color to white and the Background color to black (Shortcut: X).

4. Select the Rectangular Marquee Tool from the Tool Bar (Shortcut: M). Set the Feather to 50px. Click and drag the cursor diagonally from one corner of the photo the the other to create a selection of the entire photo.

5. Create a new layer by selecting Layer>New>Layer, or by clicking the New Layer button in the Layers Panel.

6. With the new layer selected in the Layers Panel, select Filter>Render>Clouds. Then select Select>Deselect (Shortcut PC: Ctrl D, Mac: Cmd D).

7. Set the opacity of this layer to 30-40%.

8. Click the Add Layer Mask button in the Layers Panel (box with circle inside). If you have PSE version 8 or below, forgo this step and use the Eraser Tool instead for the next step.

9. Select the Brush Tool from the Tool Bar (Shortcut: B). Select a medium sized, soft, round brush. Set the foreground color to black and the brush opacity to 30%. Making sure the layer mask is selected, brush around the edges and in the middle of the photo in irregular strokes and different directions to create a more random, realistic fog look.

10. Next, we will add a greenish-blue tint to the photo by clicking on the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer button in the Layers Panel (half gray/half white circle) and then selecting Levels. Click on the RGB Channel Picker (drop-down menu at the top of the Adjustments Panel (PSE) or Properties Panel (PS), and select Blue. Find the output levels near the bottom of the panel, move the white slider (right) to the left, until the photo takes on a greenish tint, and the move the black slider (left) to the right until blue tones start to show.

Here is a screenshot of the complete Layers Panel

11. Save in .psd format to retain layers and allow for future editing.

12. Save as medium quality .jpg to upload to social media site (you may need to resize smaller) or high quality full-size to your preferred print vendor.

Here’s another one I edited to spook-ify a photo of our carved pumpkin.

 rachel shefveland. hallow-eek pak

Speaking of Halloween, below are some of our fave Fall and Spook-ilicious kits in the shop. With our 3-day iDSD Everything Sale of 35%+ off, you’ll have lots of shopping fun over the weekend (FYI…our newsletter went out late Thursday night).

Happy creating!

Rachel and team

Crazy for Circles {inspiration}

SO. I have a confession (this is Rachel by the way:)). I’m a little obsessed with circles. And by a little, I mean A LOT. Just look at my Instagram feed

There’s just something about them. They’re playful, fun, and we see them everywhere. In the moon and stars; in stop lights and car tires; in plates and bowls; in cookies and pies (those are the best circles, right??); and in camera lenses.

rachel shefveland

This week we had a Crazy for Circles Challenge for our creative team. They could use any of the products in our store to make circular themed layouts and show off their photos! One of our newest products allowed for some very creative works of art to be made. This really awesome kit comes with a tutorial PDF on how to use these templates and recreate the effects used in some of the examples shown here. It’s fun and addicting to see what different blending techniques can achieve! Check out our Click.Artistry ShapeBlends and see what I mean!

michelle shefveland

michelle shefveland

rikki donovan

rachel shefveland

Our new Be Bold papers & alphaset helped form these lovely circle layouts…layout details in our gallery here.

tonya regular

 rachel shefveland

beth ervin

tonya regular

beth ervin

Circles are fabulous things to draw inspiration from. All around us there are so many forms of art that contain circles: from quilts, watercolors, and photography, to sculptures, jewelry, and even furniture. Search your world for all things circle and make something beautiful! PS…if you can’t get enough of these circles, you have to see our Crazy for Circles pinboard on Pinterest!!!

Happy creating! Rachel and team

Adding Blue Sky to Cloudy Photos {how-to}

Happy summer all! We are just back from our fabulous photography road trip to Montana and are so excited to share the photos with you over the next few weeks, along with tips and tricks to make the most of your vacation images. Between Philip, Kris, and I we captured 4000 images with our Canon 7D, Canon S95 point and shoot, iPhone 5, iPad 4, Android HTC Sensation, Lumix DMC-FZ8 point and shoot, and Sony Cybershot DSC-F707 (with infrared filters). Wow, did we shoot!

Today, I want to share a trick I use on so many of my edits, especially when shooting on a drab cloudy day. Just adding this pop of blue adds a ‘happy’ feel to your shots. Quickly done in any image editor that has the gradient tool, we’ll be showing steps using Photoshop Elements. The key is to keep it subtle. Enjoy!

  1. Open your image in Photoshop Elements.
  2. Add a new layer (Layer>New>Layer).
  3. Select your sky color for the foreground color chip. Lately I’ve been liking a retro soft aqua, but this is totally your preference. One idea is to find a sky color you like and sample that color using the color picker tool. My color for this image is b2e72f.
  4. Select the gradient tool on the Tool Bar.
  5. In the top Tool Options bar, choose the type of gradient from the drop down. This technique uses the Foreground to Transparent (second from left on top row).
  6. Now for the only tricky part (once you get the hang of it, it will come naturally). With your mouse or pen tool, click down at top top center of the image, drag straight downward just to a bit below where the sky should end and release mouse or pen. If it doesn’t look right simply undo (and try again). If it’s too intense we can fix that in the next step.
  7. Change blend mode of this sky layer to darken to help it blend into anything not sky (like the mountains in my case).
  8. Adjust opacity for realism (mine looked best at about 77%).
  9. Practice and experiment with different sky colors. Magenta tones are awesome for sunsets. Here’s the final again…

And…watch for our next post celebrating the iPhone 5′s super slick panorama feature (click to view large)!

Happy shooting! Michelle and team

Tips for taking self-portraits {ideas}

You know what I’m not a fan of? Selfies. AKA self-portraits taken by 12-year-old girls in the bathroom with their duck-face on. I just have never had the urge to take a picture of myself in a poorly lit room with the possibility of a toilet being in the background. So basically the whole self-portrait concept has been slightly tainted with this distasteful approach that is taking over the social-media world. But, when I got an Instagram account, I needed a profile picture to display, and I wanted to take it with my Ipod touch. This put me in quite the dilemma. I HAD to take a selfie. Bummer.

I thought about it and tried different angles and poses, but nothing came off as artistic or sincere. So I went about it a different way, and I came out with this photograph:

Not exactly the traditional “selfie” but there’s something about it that stuck. Here is a list of the steps I took to get a shot that I actually loved.

1. Make a mental list of your favorite features.

Not to be confused with “best” features. This can be hard, especially for those of us who are a little (or a lot) self-conscious. But it was a really interesting exercise, and it ended up working out for me. So really think about what you like about yourself. Note: it doesn’t necessarily have to be what others say they like about you. For me, it was my lips. Weird, I know. There is just something about them I personally like. I also was a having a good hair day, so I guess that helps :P This step is really important because you have to be positive! None of that “I hate my chin,” or “my nose is too big,” etc. Self-love is the best way to take a winning self-portrait. The next image is an edit I did in the app Snapseed.

2. Lighting is key.

Using flash with self portraits is often a no-no. Please don’t use it, especially not in the mirror of a department store restroom. Seriously. Natural light is almost always best, as I’m sure most of you already know. Turn your face toward the light, it will help keep your eyes from falling into shadow and looking like black holes. However, natural light isn’t always necessary, if you have some nice warm lights in your house or studio, you can make good use of them too. Just don’t let the light be so bright that your features are blown out.

Here’s another photo I took recently at a park near the Mississippi River (edited in the app PicTapGo). I was sitting on a fallen tree that was hanging out over the water (don’t worry, it was totally safe! I think…). Maybe it was because I was walking on the wild side, but I wanted to capture an image of myself at that moment. That leads me to next tip.

3. Get yourself in a good mood!

Try it! Take a photo of yourself on a day when it’s gloomy, you’re overloaded with work, and a headache is creeping up on you. Then take one when the sun is shining, you’re feeling relaxed, and you just won the lottery! WOO! I guarantee you will end up liking the photo of you in a great mood better than the one where you were feeling down.

What I really like about the last photo, is that I was carefree, and my hair was doing this funky thing that I was kind of into. Between getting my face in focus, keeping the hair out of my eyes, and just feeling good about the photo, about a dozen photos were taken before I got this one. (I made the following layout with this photo using this week’s new art in the shop.)

4. Have someone else shoot your portrait or use a tripod with a self-timer.

For Mom, Dad is her walking tripod. She sets the camera settings, works on the pose, composition, and lighting and has Dad shoot away. Here’s my recent favorite of hers, as it also tells a story of their recent sunny trip to Arizona. Good shot, Dad!

5. Be patient.

Taking a self-portrait is a journey. You will see new things in yourself and hopefully learn to appreciate your own unique beauty all the more. Experiment with different lighting, facial expressions, outfits, hairstyles, moods, everything! Don’t be too critical of yourself and have fun, because you most likely won’t like the photos if you are constantly finding all of the flaws. Now go out there and take that selfie! But please, no toilets! ;)

Happy shooting! Rachel

P.S. Want to see some stunning portraits? Look through our Soft and Beautiful pinboard on Pinterest for breathtaking beauty (many are professional shots or self portraits using a tripod/self-timer). Love!

Travel Journals {ideas & inspiration}

Last weekend I went to spend a few days with my sister, Alyssa in Arizona. She’s been there since August for a one-year internship, and I’ve been meaning to pay her a visit…time was almost running out! The month of May might not have been the wisest time to go to Phoenix (temps in the upper 90s!), but it still was such a fun time!

rachel shefveland

We went shopping in SanTan Village, hiking at Superstition Mountain, hot tubbing late at night, walking in the community gardens of Argitopia, and out to eat at a really cool local diner. It was wonderful sister bonding time :) And since I might never make it back to AZ, I made sure to have a camera on hand at all times!

rachel shefveland

I captured some sweet moments of our little adventure, and now I want to make something special out of them. All over the place I see people making super adorable travel journals and albums and I want to join in the fun! I’m still trying to decide how I want it to turn out, but I’ll share some of my internet inspiration with you. Maybe you have some great travel pics that are just dying to be placed in a an album made from vintage postcards, I know I do!!! -Rachel

#1 – instagram desktop flip album via heidi swapp // #2 – instagram album via studio calico // #3- alaska travel album via saturday morning vintage // #4 – vintage postcard travel journal via a beautiful mess // #5 – diy pocket travel journal via simple as that blog

Don’t forget to check out the new art in the shop & gallery this week!

And see all of the team’s ideas using these new products in our travel gallery here.

Mom made the layout below remembering her and Dad’s photography trip last summer to Bayfield, Wisconsin with the new products. Check out that rainbow!

michelle shefveland

Oh, and if you’re like us and dream of traveling to far off places (like we do!) check out our Let us be Adventurers pinboard on Pinterest!

Happy creating! Rachel and Team

Showcasing Travel Photos {ideas}

Nature’s Sketchbook – Photo Art Blends 4 (#49), This is Life 6 Scrap.Words

Three weeks ago today I set out on my first international adventure. I was traveling to Guatemala for a week-long mission trip, with a group of women that I had never met (save my great aunt JoAnn, AKA my travel buddy). Nervous? Check. Excited? Definitely. After two very early flights, a race through a very big airport, a wait in a very long customs line, and a forty-five minute drive in a very bouncy van, I had 5 new friends and found myself in a very different world. During the next seven days, we were exposed to the realities of poverty; but within the cornstalk walls and dirt floors, we found an unbelievably strong and hopeful people. I walked away from this experience with a completely different outlook on life: no matter what pain, inequality, despair, or fear that might face you, there is always hope for a better and brighter future.

And with that, I will share with you some snapshots I turned into Photo Art Blends using sets 1 and 4. When traveling somewhere you know you may never have the opportunity to go again, it is so important to capture images of important places, people, and moments. Even though we were constantly on the move and busy soaking in the entire experience, I made sure that I always had my camera with me (Canon SD790 point and shoot). Always. Simply because I knew that when I returned home, having these photographs to look back on would be a wonderful reminder of my time spent in Guatemala. AND so I could make pretty things, of course. :)

Nature’s Sketchbook – Photo Art Blends 4 (#8)

Nature’s Sketchbook – Photo Art Blends 4 (#18)Whispers of Time (word art)

Nature’s Sketchbook – Photo Art Blends 1 (#13)

Nature’s Sketchbook – Photo Art Blends 4 (#40), Simply Faith 7 Scrap.Words

Nature’s Sketchbook – Photo Art Blends 4 (#45)Nature’s Sketchbook – Photo Art Blends 2 (#8)

Nature’s Sketchbook – Photo Art Blends 4 (#15)

Nature’s Sketchbook – Photo Art Blends 4 (#10), This is Life 4 Scrap.Words

Hope you’re feeling inspired to do the same with your travel photos! Now go on, enjoy this beautiful Sunday.


Beautiful Light {photography tips}

Recent photo shoots have once again confirmed why I so love autumn…it’s all in the light. At this time of year the sun rests lower on the horizon for more of the day, offering many opportunities to capture gorgeous images. Light is key.

Here are a few of my favorites from my latest, showcasing different angles of filtered light. When I used backlight, an assistant often held a reflector, bouncing that beautiful illumination back into the subject’s eyes.

FYI…all images shot with a Canon 7D and Canon 35mm/1.4 lens. But, with lovely light you can capture great images with any camera.

See a fun golden light photo boost how-to on the blog here.

And, of course I had to scrap some of these! The portrait style frames in Scrap.Frames 12 made for a quick layout.

michelle shefveland. fresco 1 papers, fresco 2 papers, scrap.frames 12 (frame clusters), buttons & blooms pak

Happy shooting!

Michelle and team

Favorite iPhone Apps {phoneography}

michelle shefveland. instagram photo

Hi, this is Donna Gibson again, here to share some of my favorite photo apps. Disclaimer: I’ll only talk about apps in conjunction with iPhones, but there are many apps available for other smartphones.

The most popular, and my go-to sharing photo app, is Instagram (also available for Android users on Google Play as Michelle shares above). It’s a free photo-sharing app (and now the basis of a hugely popular social network) that is quick and easy to use to edit [slightly] and post photos. I stalk it daily, specifically looking for photos of my grandchildren. =)

Here’s a photo I took this morning with my iPhone 5 when I walked the dog:

Here’s the same photo of the tree after running it through Instagram (sharpened, boosted the colors, cropped, and added a border):

donna gibson

There are scores of apps available to edit iPhone photos. Besides Instagram, I often use the following five photo apps:

Snapseed. This is my go-to app for editing photos for Instagram, because it offers so many options (many more than Instagram), and it’s easy to use.

PhotoToaster. This is my second favorite app for editing. At first I didn’t use it as much as Snapseed, because it wasn’t as intuitive for me. The more I play with it, the more I like it. The edits are non-destructive, and you can go back and change any earlier edit at any point before you click Save.

FxPhotoStudio. This app with its 194 filters lets you play with your photos and get creative! You can also layer multiple effects. Here’s an ordinary, unedited photo I took this morning while walking the dog:

Here’s the same photo after I simply cropped it and added a filter, both with Photo Studio (no other editing done):

donna gibson

I chose this filter because it looks like the scene is drenched in the early morning sun, and it will impress my family that I got up so early to take a walk.

Diptic (Android version here). This app allows you to combine two, three, or four photos into a single image. It has 52 different layouts into which you drop your photos. Here’s a Diptic layout with four photos of my gorgeous grandson:

Not a one of these four photos was sharp, because my grandson is so active (even when he’s sitting). Collages are a good way to take the focus off individual photos that are less than stellar.

Fuzel Pro. This is another app for combining more than one photo into a single image. Fuzel Pro has more options than Diptic. It allows you to make collages incorporating different shapes, and it includes various filters, effects, and borders. It’s also good for creatively presenting just one photo, like I did here:

The border, frame, and text were all added with Fuzel Pro.

While you’re editing and posting photos, don’t forget scrapbooking! All of these apps help you enhance your photos so that they’re ready to include in your digital scrapbooking pages. I’m scrapping more and more with photos from my iPhone than with ones from my Nikon 3100, because I take more photos with my iPhone, because my iPhone is with me at all times. I no longer miss those every day moments that make the best pages. Cottage Arts has all sorts of templates and quick pages to make your scrapping easier, as well as our super fun calendars like the cd case version below.

michelle shefveland. instagram photos. 2013 CD Case Calendar

And, here’s the Cottage Arts’ Phoneography Pinboard for even more inspiration!


Wishing you much joy as you take your photography to a new and fun level, just by using your cell phone!

Donna Gibson, Creative Team

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