Nitwit Digital School Lesson 4: Improving Your Scrapbooking Skills

Posted By on Feb 11, 2013 | 4 comments


Welcome to Lesson 4 where we will take a look at improving your digital scrapbooking pages and layouts as well as your cards in card making.  Last week we finished our layout and learned how to use shadows in order to give your layout that finished look.  We also learned about clipping masks and how to use them by creating your own squares and rectangles and covering them with digital papers.

This week let’s take a look at how to improve your digital scrapbooking pages and layouts with learning how to craft a layout.  What makes a great looking layout??  Well, this certainly is a personal feeling or decision, as I like asparagus but Mary Fran, not so much!  The first and best way to begin to learn this is to scrap lift someone else’s layout.  Now we are not stealing or claiming anything, we are simply looking at a layout that we find appealing and copying it using our own digital scrapbooking kits of our choice.  Also if you are putting your layouts in a gallery somewhere or on your own blog perhaps, please be a good internet citizen and note the scrap lift in your credits.  (i.e. Layout by…..using Eggstra Special Collection from Nitwit Collections.  This layout was created as an adaptation of Mary Fran’s Joyous Noel)  Imagine when, and trust me it will come, when someone scrap lifts one of your layouts!  You would appreciate the credits to you.  Once you have scrap lifted several layouts, you will get the feel for what looks best to your eye and you will be able to create beautiful layouts of your own design from scratch.

In looking at which layout to scrap lift, don’t worry about the genre of the layout (if you want to do a Christmas layout, you don’t have to scrap lift someone else’s Christmas layout) just look purely at form.  Maybe you like the way it was a bunch of elements clustered together on one side of the page to balance out the photo, or maybe it was lots of white space with a minimalist style layout.  Just choose the kit you want to scrap with, the photo(s) you are digi scrapping with and then choose a layout to scrap lift.  In order to highlight this I am going to scrap lift Mary Fran’s Joyous Noel layout and use our Spring themed FQB – Eggstra Special Collection to create a new layout.  Here is the layout that I will be scrap lifting……….


Let’s start by break this down into parts.  We have three digital background papers that were used for the main part of the layout, two circles to add a little highlight for the photos and give a structure to place the elements around, three main elements of highlight (the santa, the stocking and the bells with a bow on it) and then several other elements to enhance it all.  In choosing a kit to use, be sure that you have at least three main elements so as it be able to follow along.  The many other elements used don’t necessarily have to be there as we may or may not use this many, again, what looks good to your eye.

Start by opening the Joyous Noel layout in your internet browser so that you can click on your internet and have a look at all times.  Now open your Photoshop Elements and get a new blank page ready to go.  Make sure you’ve got your drink handy, and maybe a munchy or 2 so you’re set!!!

First, let’s choose the lowest or main background paper.  See how the one in Mary Fran’s layout is a darker colour with a muted pattern.  OK, I went into my Eggstra Special Collection and am choosing bg_dkpink_maryfran from the Eggstra Special Solids. Tip:  If you are trying to see what looks best, put on two or three papers on this layer.  Now go over to your Layers Palette and click on the eyeball next to the top layer paper.  See how it has now turned it off and has hidden this paper and is showing you the next one down.  When you click the eyeball it hides that layer and lets you see others.  Now when you have settled on a paper, create a new layer and use your Rectangle Tool to draw a square that will be the yellow paper layer on our Joyous Noel.  Select a complementing paper, I chose bg_hopyellow_maryfran from the FQB – Eggstra Special Collection.  Now place the paper into your layout and press your CTRL and letter “G” at the same time to clipping mask the paper onto the rectangle.  Once again, create a new layer and draw a square to be your top or main viewable background paper which is the wine coloured paper with the roses on it in our Joyous Noel layout.  Now I chose a paper for this layer, and first chose bg_swirlpink_maryfran.   I looked at it and it looked a little heavy to me, so I tried another paper.  I used the bg_floral_maryfran and found I liked its look, so this is what I settled on.  See how you can make those easy changes when digital scrapbooking so that it looks good to your eye.  We are using the Joyous Noel as our guide, but still making our own choices!  This is what your layout should now look like….


If you look at my Layers Palette, you will see the extra papers that are in there, such as the 2 papers on the very top that are clipping masked.  I could then click the eyeball to see which one I liked the best.

Now we will look at the Joyous Noel layout and see that the next item to add will be the circles.  Create a new layer and change your Rectangle Tool to the Ellipse Tool by clicking and holding your left mouse button down on the Rectangle Tool.  When the flyout menu pops up, keep your left mouse button pressed down and move your mouse over till it highlights your Ellipse Tool and then release your mouse button.   You now have the Ellipse Tool selected, and are ready to use it.  Draw a circle (I think that step was obvious, hey??).  Now before choosing a paper, let’s create the second circle too.  Create another new layer.  Go over to your Tools Bar and where you see the two coloured squares at the bottom of the Bar.  The square on top (the one where you can see the full square) is your active colour.  Simply click on the curved double arrow just above the squares.  There, now it has changed the two square’s positions and brought the previously underneath square to the front and it now is your active colour.  Now click on your Circle Tool and draw another circle inside of your first one.  See how they are different colours so that we can tell them apart?  You are so smart now!!

Go back to your Layers Palette and select your layer which is your first circle, to make it our active layer.  In the Joyous Noel layout this was the same yellow paper as used in the background papers.   I chose this one again, and liked it and clipping masked it to the circle.  Now click on the top layer which is your second circle and try a background paper.  Looking at Joyous Noel it had a minor pattern in it.  I tried a couple of papers and settled on the bg_polkapink_maryfran from the FQB folder and clipping masked it on..  Now my circle layers are out of position on the layout when referring to the Joyous Noel layout so I went to my Layers Palette and held down my Shift key while highlighting each of the circle layers and their corresponding papers.  I now selected my Move Tool (the letter “v”) and moved the two circle layers into position.

I will now add in my photos, as looking at the Joyous Noel layout the photos are underneath the elements.  There are three photos in the Joyous Noel layout but I chose to only use 2.  Just my preference.  I added the photos to the layout, resized them to what I thought looked good, and then rotated them slightly to give them a little more appeal.  We can now start to add our elements in.

The three main elements used in the Joyous Noel are the santa, the stocking and the bells with bow.  I scoured through my FQB – Eggstra Special Collection and Lil Bits Eggstra Special to find what 3 main elements would work with my photos.  I chose the butterfly, the vine, and the wordart Spring from the Lil Bits.  See how even a wordart or vine was made into a main element as it was the Spring Garden themed photos that I am trying to create a layout for.  This is the fun stuff, imagination!  And we all have it!!

In order to see things are little more clearly, I am going to put the shadows on the main elements now to distinguish them from the background papers and see the layout start to take on a little life.  I find it helps me when adding in other elements to be sure that my main elements “shine” or become a focal point.  My layout now looks like this……….


If I now refer to the Joyous Noel layout I see that there is a photo mat in behind the photos to give them some contrast.   I have clicked on the layer just below my photos in my Layers Palette to be sure that I am placing the mat in the right layer position, and added in the frame_3_maryfran.  Now it has a blank centre to this frame, so I created a new layer, dragged it below the frame 3 layer and used my Ellipse Tool to draw a circle which fills in the blank centre of the frame.  I now added the bg_plaidgreen_maryfran paper and clipping masked it to the circle and voila I have the mat I was looking for!  I know I did all of this in one sentence without too much explanation, but as it was techniques that we have already covered and I thought it would all make sense to you.  If not, just refer back in this lesson to where we created the circle layers previously.

Moving right along, if you look at the Joyous Noel layout once again, you will see the ribbons and heart in behind Santa.  I am looking at my layout to see if this would work to add elements in behind my flower vine element.  I added in several elements, ribbons, etc. and found that the only ones that looked proper on my layout were the gellyheart_2_maryfran from the Lil Bits and the ribbon_2_maryfran from the FQB Eggstra Special Collection.  I put the shadows on them and adjusted the shadows to look just right.


Once again turning my attention to the Joyous Noel layout there are some branches and roses placed around the top and right side of the photos to fill out the layout.  So I again go back to my layout and add in elements that I think might work, and see if my choices look right on my layout.  I continued to add and delete elements in the same spots as the Joyous Noel layout, moved them around a bit, rotated and resized until I thought it looked right to my eye.  I also added in the word tag and wrote on the tag to complete the elements and journaling of my layout (one of the most important items).

To write on the tag I selected the Horizontal Type Tool or press letter “t” on your keyboard.  Type in the words you would like to have and then press the checkmark to give it the OK.  Now look at the top part of your screen (just under the Main Resource Bar) where you will see options for Font Family, Font Style, Font size etc.  The first thing to change is the white colour of your font so you can see it.  Just click the little arrow next to the White Colour box near the end of this toolbar.  You will see the colour palette come up, and choose black for now.  Tip: You can always click on this layer later, select the Horizontal Type Tool and it will bring up this toolbar at the top of your screen to edit your choices once again before saving your layout. You will need to highlight your text to bring up the toolbar, so using your mouse press and hold down your left button at the very start of your text and drag your mouse across the letters just like you would use a highlighter on a page.  You now will see the Horizontal Type Toolbar appear in its spot at the top of your page.

Now go to the Font Size and choose a size that you can read.  Lastly go to the Font Family by choosing what you would like your words to look like.  Keep trying until you find one that suits your feel of the layout.  You can try all of the other options on this toolbar as well to see what effects they produce for you!

Now I finished the layout off by adding shadowing to my background papers and all of the elements and that’s it!  Here is the finished layout………


If you look back at the Joyous Noel layout, they don’t even look the same anymore, do they?  This is what I meant earlier about scrap lifting…….it ends up being your creation due to the choices that you made.  You simply used the Joyous Noel layout as a guide to understand layout form for where elements should be placed, how large should they be and other options.  You will find that after doing these scrap lifts for awhile you will get the feel for what looks right and what doesn’t.  Practice makes perfect never fit better into a situation!

I hope that this given you some insight into how to create a great layout as well as practicing your skills in Photoshop Elements.

Please comment on this to let me know if you had some questions or comments!

See you next week, and happy scrapping to you!





  1. avatar

    Thanks for mentioning Debbie! I am glad that you find them helpful, even though you have some skills already!

  2. avatar

    Gorgeous layouts Mary Fran and LG and I have to so, explained so well in your tutorials 😀 I’m gutted these tuts weren’t around when I was learning (or should that be going through my trial and error phase lol) I’m sure new digi scrappers are finding these a godsend and are having so much fun with their new skills. Simply fab!

  3. avatar

    Thanks for letting me know Laurie!! As you can see there have been little in the way of comments thus far, so I wasn`t sure if I was maybe off track!!ha,ha,ha Thanks for your compliments and I am very glad to hear that you are finding them helpful!

  4. avatar

    LG-All I can say is THANK YOU for these wonderful tutorials! I really learned a lot. I also have PSE 10 and these lessons were SO helpful. Now, if only I had a housekeeper so I could “play” all day!

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