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Let Music Guide Your He{art}


Music is a source of inspiration for so many people. It can be uplifting, calming, energizing, and thought provoking. All music is an art form, from classical to hard rock and everything in between. So whatever music gets you in the mood is probably also inspirational in some way. For me, it’s a mix of folk and pop music. Artists such as Mumford and Sons, Florence and the Machine, and Ingrid Michaelson could keep me going for days.

To celebrate our love of tunes, we just released That’s My Jam Elements & Papers:

A very fun trend that is happening in the social media world, is sharing lyrics. Whether it’s tweeting them, adding them to Instagram photos, pinning them, or posting them on Facebook, they’re just about everywhere. If you haven’t noticed, just look around and you will start to see them all over the place.

There is a super easy-to-use iPhone app called Over that allows you to choose unique fonts to write on your photos with (for mobile devices). It’s 99 cents, and definitely worth it. But there are plenty of good apps out there that offer similar services for free (such as Phonto for both Android and iPhone), just without as many cute fonts and graphics. Either way, I love to see the creative ways people are using typography in their photos, and my favorite things to write about are music lyrics. There is always a great lyric for basically every situation, so it’s versatile and quite addicting!! Remember to credit artist and use only for personal use.

And of course, lyrics are a great way to express emotion and interest in your scrapbook pages and other digital art. Sometimes a song can bring back memories of a certain time, event, or person, and what better way to hold on to that memory than scrap it?! Other things that lyrics complement well are everyday layouts about the music phase your going through, a concert you attended, or even just to scrap about your absolute favorite band. Here’s a layout I made a while back that features the lyrics to Hey Soul Sister by Train. It was a song I listened to over and over again and felt very connected to. So when I hear that song, it reminds of that time in my life.


And lyrics aren’t always necessary to create a music-themed layout. Rikki Donovan kept a record of the songs played at a concert she went to in Munich. Playlists are a great thing to scrap about because when you look back, you can remember certain songs that were specific to a period of time.


Using these fun cassette tapes from our That’s My Jam element pak, you can feature an album that you love in a creative way, like I did with the following page. (I love the Great Gatsby soundtrack that came out recently. I still haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’m just dying to!!)


Adding a lot of words to a layout can be difficult because it can sometimes look too cluttered. So I’ve compiled this list of free fonts that work well when filling a page with words, such as lyrics. All free for personal use at dafont.

Our creative team came up with more creative ways to use music in art…enjoy!




Our 7 new releases are on sale through Monday, along with a great sale (newsletter goes out Sunday morning; free sign-up here). – Rachel and team

Summer Shooting and Scrapping {ideas}

Summer is a cherished season here in Minnesota. After nine months of winter (I’m not kidding this year!) we soak up every last bit of sunshine we can. And it is the perfect time to make memories, which of course must be scrapbooked!! Simple, yet awesome, moments can be made into lasting works of art to display in your home, or share on social media (hello Facebook). So here are just a few ideas of what you can be photographing and scrapbooking right now!

Take in a sporting event (or participate in one!). Baseball is the definition of summer here in the United States. Take your family to a ball game (local, pro, kids) and don’t forget to get a great shot of the field (as well as some of you and your pals enjoying the event). Soccer, rugby, softball, running, bike racing, and swimming are some other great sports to photograph. Great action; great colors! The latest craze here is The Color Run…runners get splashed with crazy-cool colored powder as they cross the finish line. So much fun!!!! And so healthy. We want to find one this summer to do!

rachel shefveland

michelle shefveland

beth ervin

Visit a park.  Local, regional, state, national – any or all of the above. They are perfect for picnics, family photos, reunions, hikes, everything! So pack the car and get on your way to nearest (or farthest) park you can find! Photograph the natural environment unique to the area.

rachel shefveland

rikki donovan

Take a walk. Such an easy and fun way to fit some activity in your day, as well as smell that sweet summer air. Don’t forget the camera for some really cool nature shots or candids.

rachel shefveland

Make wall art. Here’s a seriously spectacular piece of art made by creative team member Marie. She shares with us below how she brought this collage together showcasing her unique landscape photo. Simple and beautiful What better way to spend a rainy summer day!

marie di raimondo

“For this image I opened the layered ShapeBlends #01 and selected a few random squares with the magic wand tool. I then created a new layer with those squares. I changed the opacity of that to about 60%. Using the rest of the ShapeBlends I made a clipping mask of the photo. Merging them all together gave me a nice range of color blocks to add my title to.” – Marie

Celebrate your vacation memories! Cell phone cameras are becoming high quality tools, are with you at all times, and allow you to focus more on the fun and less on the technical aspect of photography. I shot this pretty landscape of the Missouri River with my cell phone on our road trip last summer to Arizona. See our Let us be Adventurers pinboard for fabulous travel photography inspiration!

michelle shefveland

tonya regular

Enjoy more of the team’s summer scraps in the gallery and the newest products in the shop.


Our newsletter goes out Sunday morning, with our sale on sports, masculine, and summer kits plus 5 new products through Monday, June 24, 2013. Enjoy!

And if you need a little more summer color in your life, peruse our color love pinboard on Pinterest! It’ll brighten your day, promise ;)

Happy creating! 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

spring is in the air…and in our photos, layouts, art {how-to & new art}!

Can you smell that? I think it’s finally spring! Seriously this has been the longest winter of my entire life. Now that we can be sure there will be no more freezing nights, we can get the garden started! Super excited about planting some flowers and veggies this year. We expanded our garden and spent the whole weekend digging. It’s a glorious thing to feel the sun on your back and dirt under your nails when it’s been over 6 months of bitter cold temperatures and unending piles of snow.

My favorite type of plant, and I think I’m not alone here, is the succulent. Any variety. The past few years we have collected a variety of pots (some meant for plants, and others not so much: AKA tea cups & mason jars) from garage sales, thrift stores, and just looking through our cupboards. Mom and I love creating little collections of succulent plants and bringing color to nearly every room in the house. We’ve also been having fun taking photos of our arrangements and posting them on Instagram. They’re adorable, right? So this week’s new products in the shop reflect a flowery, springtime, botanical feel. Now go take some pictures of those gorgeous flowers that I know you have blooming, and scrap ‘em! :)

One of my favorite products lately has been our Stitched Botanicals Papers. We’ve got 3 sets of them, each is a really cool different color palette. But the best part is that you can use them without frames or click.masks, or anything really. I’ll show you a super quick tip on how to use the stitching as borders or “frames” for your photographs.

The following steps are done using Photoshop (Photoshop Elements follows similar steps):

1. Open one of the Stitched Botanical Papers, and some photos you want to use in your layout.

2. Drag one of the photos onto the paper and place it in one of the areas that is surrounded by stitching. It could be in the middle, or on the edge. Either way looks really cool.

3. If your photo doesn’t fit perfectly into the space, that’s OK! Just grab the handy Marquee tool (make sure it’s set to the rectangle shape) and click and drag the mouse to select the area you want to remove from the photo. Then click Edit>Cut (Control-X on PC; Command-X on Mac) to trim it to the size/shape you want.


4. You can either stop here, or use blend modes to make it look like it’s a part of the paper and the stitching will even show through the photo! Just experiment to find one that works best, I find that layering the photo on top of itself and using more that one blend mode makes it even more integrated into the paper. On this image I used Multiply at 35% opacity on the bottom layer photo and Soft Light at 85% on the top layer.


5. Repeat the above steps to add more photos to the same layout if you want! And that’s it! Awesome & easy, right?

Here is the completed layout, and another using the same technique (both include the new products in the shop):

SAVE up to 40%!! Here are this week’s six new products, on sale through Wednesday, May 15, 2014 (plus all Page Paks on sale – newsletter goes out Tuesday morning with details).

Have an awesome week and enjoy the weather people! – Rachel

Need any garden inspiration? Then just check out what all those creative folks using Pinterest are up to; plus we’ve got a great collection going on our Green Thumb Dreams board.

10th Birthday Prize Winners

Congratulations to the following five 10th Birthday prize winners:

$50 Cottage Arts’ Shop Gift Certificate: Deb O.

Choice of one of Michelle’s On-line Classes (Soulful Silhouettes or Pop Art Posters & More) with Digital Scrapper: Kathy L.

Corel PaintShop Pro X5: Ann H. and Deb I.

Corel Video Studio Pro: Judy G.

We have sent emails to all of the winners. You have until May 15, 2013 to claim your prizes.

Thanks again for all of the support and thank you to Corel and Digital Scrapper for their contributions.

Have a great day! Michelle and team

Day 4 | 10th Birthday Celebration {freebie & more}!

Rikki Donovan

It’s the last day of our 10th Birthday celebration! Thanks for enjoying the freebies and for all of the kind words. Today, we have another fun how-to and useful set of art journal cards as our last freebie.

First, Rikki here to show you how I created the blending effect on the layout above. It looks more complicated than it actually is!

I started with this image of a magnolia which was taken with my iPhone 3GS and then run through Snapseed, one of our favorite mobile device photo apps.

I then treated it with Photo Art Blend 10 from set 3 (at 79% opacity and Overlay blend mode).

My second image is this one:

I converted the photo to black and white (using PS or PSE’s Convert to Black and White function).

I moved the photo on top of the flower photo, clipped it to the photo (see our clipping tutorial here) and adjusted the size so the people in the photo sort of fit into the flower in the right spots. By lowering the opacity to about  58% I could see the flower underneath and move the photo around and still see what I was doing.

I settled on a position for my photo and created a layer mask for it. With a soft round brush in black I removed all the parts of the photo I didn’t want, so that only the area around the boys and the people in the background remained. Without everything else my photo now looks like this.

And like this with the flower:

Now I started playing around with opacity and blend modes and ended up with an opacity of 75% and the Multiply blend mode. I especially love how the pattern in the pavement reflects the curve of the flower petal.

I added the word art to the photo and all the other little tidbits to round the page off nicely.

This is what my Layers Panel looks like when completed:

Enjoy using this technique in endless ways!

Here’s our Sweet Silhouettes Pinboard for more blended photo ideas!


More Blending Tools!

michelle shefveland. marbled hues papers, by the sea aj cards, by the sea 2 brushes, organics 2

For additional blending fun, we’ve released another beautiful set of By the Sea Brushes in the shop.

And here’s our coordinating free download, perfect for Project Life or other Photo a Day projects.

By the Sea Art Journal Cards FREEBIE (9 jpg files – 3 MB zip file – expired Tuesday, 4/30/13 at 8:00 am CT)

If you missed the freebie, it is now available in our shop here

Monday’s the last day to enter our random drawing for 5 great prizes (details in last Friday’s newsletter). We’ll be choosing the prize winners this coming Friday.

Happy Creating! Rikki and the team

Day 3 | 10th Birthday Celebration {freebie & more}!

rachel shefveland. organics mini, marbled hues papers

Halfway there! Hi ya’ll, it’s me, Rachel, here to share in the fun! It’s day 3 of our 4-day 10th Birthday celebration everybody. Today we’re enjoying the rich colors and textures of nature. New products in the shop include the Organics Mini Pak, a beautiful assortment of wooden and homemade elements & papers. Also, we have some really neat photo transfer frames, and coordinating Marbled Hues Papers which is today’s freebie (download link is at the end of this post). All included in the birthday sale. Check out some of the art below!

Okay so I am really excited to share this tutorial with you. You know how everywhere you look on Pinterest (if you’re not on it, get there!) there’s another DIY this, and “I made this for less than X dollars” that? Well look again, because I just made the coolest frame for free. Wait…what’s that? FREE!!!

This winter we were remodeling our kitchen and looking for new flooring. Most home improvement stores provide free samples of their wood and laminate flooring (I think some might charge a nominal fee), so we ended up going home with 8 4×4 wood tiles from our little shopping expedition. After we decided on a flooring, we just had all these samples lying around. Honestly I thought they were way cool, and quickly my mind began churning with thoughts of DIYing with them. And this is what I came up with!

The frame was incredibly easy to assemble; it probably only took about 5 minutes tops. Here are the steps if you are interested in making one of your own. Which of course you should!

  1. Go get those tiles! (8 if you are doing a 12×12 frame, 9 if you want to make more of a canvas-type thing) I can’t say for sure which stores will supply them, I can only vouch for Home Depot, but you will probably have luck at a number of large home improvement stores. Mix and match textures, colors, and materials!
  2. Buy or re-use a 12×12 canvas or board or mat or anything that is 12×12 inches. We had an old outdated art print which my father was about to donate, but thank heavens I snatched it back at the last minute. Whew.
  3. Heat up your glue gun! While you’re waiting, arrange 8 tiles around the outside, make sure you like how it looks, because once you glue them down, you’re stuck. Pun intended.
  4. Apply the glue to the back of the tiles and place them down where you’d like, but make sure you leave the middle space blank so you can place a photo there! Press and hold the tiles down so they really stick.
  5. Print a 4×4 photo, or cut a larger photo down to size. Use a paper friendly adhesive, like tape, to secure it place. You don’t want it to be permanent, because you will mostly likely want to change it in the future. We used a vintage photo of my great grandparents (not square).
  6. You are done. Stand back and marvel at your thriftiness.

Wait, I’m not done! You can also save yourself a trip to the store by following my directions on how to make a mock version of the above frame.

  1. Go the Cottage Arts Shop and download the Organics Mini Pak. Included is a digital version of my homemade 12×12 frame.
  2. Print it out with your printer. Or get it printed professionally and have it mailed to you, which will also save you a trip if you’re a home-body like me.
  3. Buy or re-use a 12×12 canvas. Using a paper friendly adhesive (rubber cement or Mod Podge may come in handy here) apply the paper to the canvas.
  4. Print a 4×4 photo, or cut a larger photo down to size. Adhere this to the blank space in the middle.
  5. There you go! Totally awesome and you didn’t even have to leave your home. How cool.

And, if that wasn’t cool enough, I also made this new photo clothesline in my room. I printed one of the new scrap.frames from set 27 to use with the right most Italy image.

See more Get It Printed posts here.

Below is today’s freebie! Have fun and we’ll be seeing you for the final day of our birthday celebration tomorrow! Rachel and team

PS. Click the link to see our Going Organic Pinterest board which is sure to fill your dreams with making things from pallets, sticks, or tree trunks. (Yeah yeah I’m a hippie, I know.)

Marble Hues Paper Pak Freebie Download


  (4 jpg files – 10 MB zip file – expired Monday, 4/29/13 at 8:00 am CT)

If you missed the freebie, it is now available in our shop here

Oh, and don’t forget to read the newsletter for details on how to enter our prize giveaway! Another newsletter is going out Sunday morning, if you missed Friday’s. Enjoy!

Day 2 | 10th Birthday Celebration {freebie & more}!

rachel shefveland. da vinci papers, flair, & scrap.words, tea stained elements

We’re back for day 2 of our 10th Birthday celebration, focusing on natural light photography and the organic color scheme of blue and brown. Together they make beautiful digital art! Today’s new products in the shop are the Da Vinci Collection Papers and Flair and today’s coordinating freebie, Da Vinci Scrap.Words (download link is at end of post). All included in sale.

Here are a few more layouts using the new art:

And for our how-to we’ll share how to make this blended collage using painted and lacy click.masks.

michelle shefveland. whispers of time, graffiti grunge, click.masks 26

The photo is the main focus of this layout and I was looking for one with soft light. When we were in Phoenix in March we did a short photo shoot in a field across from our hotel. The low angle of the sun made for sun pretty rim light as seen in the photo selected. FYI…when we travel via plane, we take lightweight gear and our lesser quality lenses.

Camera specs: Canon 7d, Canon 50mm/1.8, ISO 100, f/3.2. 1/320 second shutter speed, +.67 exposure compensation (I normally overexpose when shooting into the sun)

For more beautiful light photography inspiration, see our Soft and Beautiful Pinboard here, Golden Light Loves here, and Photo Tips and Ideas here.

See our quick and easy golden light photo boost how-to on our blog here.

Now for the how-to using Photoshop Elements:

  1. Open two papers, drag and drop top one onto base paper. Resize top paper to be slightly smaller. Add a soft drop shadow. See our custom drop shadow tutorial here.
  2. Open a click.mask of choice. We used a painted one from the new Graffiti Grunge Pak. Drag and drop it onto the papers.  Position as desired with Move Tool.
  3. Drag and drop photo onto layout. Size and position over click.mask as desired.
  4. Clip photo to mask (Ctrl+G; Cmd+G on a Mac). Reposition if needed.
  5. Add elements and word art from Whispers of Time Pak. Rotate and set word art on Color Burn Mode at 60% opacity.
  6. For added texture we applied a lacy click.mask from set 26, set on Multiply Blend Mode. For more color we clipped an apple blossom photo to the lace (think of all you can do with papers and photos with click.masks!).
  7. That’s all there is to it! Here’s the main part of the Layers Panel (click to enlarge):

And, below is today’s freebie. Enjoy and see you again tomorrow! Michelle and team

Da Vinci Scrap.Words Freebie Download (10 png files – 6 MB zip file – expired Sunday, 4/28/13 at 8:00 am CT)

If you missed the freebie, it is available in our shop here

Day 1 | 10th Birthday Celebration {freebie & more}!!!

michelle shefveland. tie dye dreams 2, get it framed 5, this is life 1

They say time speeds up for us as each year passes. Wow, I’d say! When we started Cottage Arts 10 years ago this month, our oldest Alyssa was just a mere 12 years old and last week she was surprised with a wedding proposal!!!!! We are blessed and give thanks for this family business that has allowed us ample time with our three children as they grow.

So time for a party to say thank you for 10 years of support! Prizes and entry details are outlined in Friday’s newsletter (no purchase necessary to enter). To receive future newsletters, free sign-up is here. We’ll likely be sending out another newsletter or two during the celebration, if you missed this one.


  ALL Downloads on SALE 33% OFF
thru Monday, April 29, 2013! (including photo art blends)

Plus additional special offer…save up to 40%!

And for each of the next 4 days we’ll have inspiration and a blog freebie download for the day here, which will expire at 8am CT the next day (like always, they’ll be available in our shop if you miss them).

Today’s theme is Instagram and Chalkboard art. We released a new set of Chalkboard Love today (plus 6 other new downloads). Using the new art and hand drawn chalky AlphaSet, we’ve created a modern 12×12 Quick Page for you. Rachel filled it with recent Instagram shots.

rachel shefveland. freebie below

Last week I got my first iPhone (5) after being an Android user for 4 years. Love both for different reasons. Kris, Rachel, I, and most of our team love playing with mobile apps and Instagram. Follow us on Instagram here to see how we’re using this evolving technology! More to come on our favorite iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch apps!

AND…we’ve curated a really cool information-packed Instagram Pinboard. Below are a few pins. Enjoy being inspired with DIY projects using mobile phone photos!

instagram pinboard

Below are today’s new releases.

And here’s the freebie we promised! Simply add your own images and personal journaling.

InstaLove Quick Page Free Download (Expired 8:00 am 4/27/13) by Michelle Shefveland and Rachel Shefveland

If you missed the freebie, it is now available in our shop here for $1

See our QuickPage/ScrapOver tutorial for Photoshop Elements here and for Corel PaintShop Pro here.

Come back tomorrow for more goodies, info on the prizes, and inspiration!

Enjoy! Michelle Shefveland and team

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