Compositing for Digital Scrapbookers


Lesson Info

Project 2: Fine Tune & Finalize

We're gonna add a third photo. Now this is why I add a third photo, there's nothing over here, there's nothing here, and by this point I am so tired of extracting. (laughs) So what I will, and this is every single layout I will say, OK, if I do one or two extractions on a page I'm not extracting any more. I've gotta go do the dishes, I've gotta go clean the kitchen, I've gotta walk the dog, I at least need to go play with my kids some more, and probably work. So I don't have time to make extractions all day in this kind of layout. Now I start going, OK, here we go, here we go, here we go. So third photo, let's do it. You go to grab your third photo, your third photo does not have to be perfect by any means at all, because this is the one where you're just gonna blend it. Now we're concentrating on interior blending and making ti look really cool in the background. You guys remember back from the 70s and 80s, some of us at least will, when they had those photos and there was always, it ...

was the same kid, but they put the portrait in the background and it kind of had a little blended effect. This is the same thing. Remember that, Robert? Yes, we do. And my parents had one. I used to look at that photo and be like, oh my god, why? But now I still do that same technique. So whoever invented that technique, thank you. It still works. So we're gonna bring that full photo in here and I'm gonna increase the size, so it's pretty prominent. And it's not a perfect photo, but look at this photo. If I had to extract this photo do you know how long I would be sitting here? This is a beast. I love this photo, that doesn't mean I'm not gonna use it. I just wanna make sure that the process that I've chosen, and this goes back to the beginning, the process that I've chosen is comfortable for me. I don't want to work really hard to make my layouts. There are some ways that you can make this extraction easier for yourself, especially if you know how to use channels. That's great, but don't do it this way. So what we're gonna do is add a, we're gonna self-blend a third photo into our background here. So we're on page 26, we're on the second to last page for you guys who were wondering were we're going, and we're on step 15. So go to File, Open, navigate to your third photo and bring it into your layout. And then select the Move Tool and drag it and put it into this proper spot. Now what I'm going to do is I'm gonna hold down the Alt key, so that I can do a reverse layers mask, and then with my soft round brush I'm going to start to reveal portions of that photo with white as my foreground color. So here we go, that's all I really want. That's all I need. I don't need any more than that. So I've very quickly gotten rid of the exterior part of that, that's why it's important to know exterior versus interior, of what are you blending? What are we talking about? If you're talking to me and you go, well, Tiffany, I'm blending. And I'm gonna go, are you blending the outside or the inside? Are you using a blend mode? Did you do it seamlessly? Did you do it with a blend mode on the exterior? Now you have a language, an actual idea of being able to communicate what you're doing, and you can think of it in your head and say, OK, do I need to do an extraction? Is that how I'm gonna control my edges? Or am I going to do some type of reverse layers mask and then self-blend it? Is that how I'm gonna control my edges? Do you guys see where we came full circle with all of this? All right, so number 15, letter B. We've added a layers mask, we've changed the foreground color picker to white to reveal select portions of the photo. What color blend mode, or what blend mode are we going to use? I want to do contrast. OK, I can use any of the contrast modes. I'm gonna start with Soft Light, because that's pretty much in my mind the first one. Overlay's never really been the first blend mode for me in contrast. It's always been the Overlay that's softer, which is Soft Light. Then we can reduce the Fill Opacity. You might not yet know if you need to do that, but that's where we need to go. We will. Then we're gonna duplicate this layer. We're gonna duplicate it and we're gonna create a clipping mask. All right, so we have D, duplicate the photo and change the blend mode to Hard Light. So change it to Hard Light and you see how much more contrast you've added to that photo. Reduce the Fill Opacity if necessary. Now light, remember what I said before that black and white photos blend better than color photos. Well, here's how you can create kind of like a sepia toned black and white based on your color. I call it sepia toned, but it really is color toned. Whatever your color is black and white will blend into it. So we're gonna create a Gradient Map, so we're gonna create, click on the create new fill or adjustment layer icon, select Gradient Map to turn it to black and white. Clip that Gradient Map to that Hard Light self-blend photo layer, and click on the gradient bar to open the Gradient Editor. Next we're gonna choose the Black and White gradient, which is going to be this one right here. OK, Black, White gradient, and click OK. Now one other thing, if you have really strong shadows you wanna start, again, blowing out your highlights, so bring that over and you can kind of see how that looks, it makes it really strong and contrasted. Now bring it over slightly to improve the color of the photo. Then what we're going to do is I'm going to, I don't say it up here, and maybe I did in my layer files for you guys who are watching at home. But I'm gonna reduce the Fill Opacity of this one, so it nicely kind of just blends into the background. You don't have to clip it at this point. You might not need to, it just depends. And then drag it below your second photo. You may even want to drag, yeah, these photos need to be, let's see, if we drag it underneath our sun rays they'll start to interact with our sun rays, but honestly, it's so, it's kind of hard for me to see this small what I wanna do with it, so I think I'm gonna bring it in between the sun rays and this guy right here. And then you can really just start to play with your Fill Opacity until you see exactly what you want to see and that's kind of a look that I would be going for. No, it's a little bit still too light. Where are you? There we go, bring it up. And I still wanna see a little bit of that color. Now I think on my original layout here I left this one color, so you don't have to have the Gradient Map. It just depends on what you wanna do with it. And that's how I kind of got that little, that sepia looked in there, where it kind of looks pretty cool. Anybody have any questions about that? Moving a little quicker here. And I'm going to move it, so he's kind of like over there. And I would come in and kind of get rid of these areas where you can see a lot of the fence. I'm still kind of control my edges. And I have to do that on both layers, both layer masks require it. Reduce your brush down a little bit, just get close enough, then go backwards, go with the X, and then reveal the face. So we're moving rather quickly and you guys have all of my stuff in my notes, so you can go back and see, and you also have the layered file, so that one looks a little bit better. Any questions before we fine-tune and finalize the layout with our embellishments? I actually do have sort of a general question from one of our online students. Curious about whether or not you use artboards to make your layouts visible on all types of devices. Hm, all types of devices. Well, it's a good question. For me, my layouts go into my book and then that's it. They teach, but really no, I don't create artboards. I could see why that would be handy, but for me, since these are really just gonna go in, get printed at a company, and then they're gonna go sit into my books, and then one day my kids are gonna look at them and we all sit at the table and enjoy it. Not necessarily I don't. But if you feel that you should then do that, totally do that. There's a lot of empty space in the layout at this point, there's a lot of things that you need, but at the same time, because it's a reality kind of, a base layout, this is where your other photos really come in handy, the ones that you probably don't get to use very often, because it just might be a car or something. So before I add a title, which is very simple, let's add the storytelling visuals first. So I'm gonna skip number 16, that's page 26. I'm just skipping number 16, to add a title, because really I just typed out text. There was nothing major added and then I added a drop shadow to pop it out. But first let's add the plane. So we're going to go to, first of all I'm gonna go to the top of my layer stack here, and I'm gonna close my last image, and I'm gonna go to File and Open and go to my working files, and the working files are TinyHero, and I'm gonna grab the airplane, which my own airplane, not my own, but it's my photo. We're gonna click and drag it into the layout. I wish I had a plane. And then I'm going to reduce it down a little bit with my control keys here and reduce it down, because really what I want is the nose and the number. I don't wanna lot, I don't need the whole plane in there. You could certainly have the whole plane in there, but okay. So bring it down. Then add a reverse layers mask. So again, that has, you guys see the reverse layers mask. And this is how I'm gonna control those edges, I'm just going to get the nose and the part of the plane that I want. Then I'm going to drag it down, so that it's at least behind everything that it needs to be behind. Maybe right here. And I'm gonna use the Move Tool, whoops. If your lens flares start to bother you just lock them down in your Layers panel, because they're so big and the pixels aren't actually hidden. Once you start adding lens flares they will not let you select anything else. I usually have to lock my lens flares. So I'm gonna bring my piece down here, it adds some extra visual part here into the layout. And then I suggested applying a Hard Light blend mode. So let's see how it looks. And there you go, you see that contrast it immediately creates and it blends right into my layout. And you guys have the cheat sheet as to why that would happen. And then I might reduce my Fill Opacity a little bit, but I wanna control a little bit of those edges. I don't, well, I don't wanna erase everything, but here we go, I might just kind of come in, because really all I want is that nose and I want the number. I really just want that insignia, because of that symbol, to really stand out. It supports my layout conceptually and thematically, so that's why I want it there. So that's very simple. And then the flag. The flag really helps make the piece, because it's so large. So if you don't have everything you need you can find it, you can search for it, and say, that's what I did, I really got to this point literally and went what else would make sense on a layout like this? What else would be here? The flag. And I went, well, I don't have any pictures of a flag, I haven't taken one, so let me go find one. This one will work, it's backlit, that's awesome, that's gonna work. It's already blue, hallelujah. So brought it into my layout, put it into the background, and look how he's just running over there. That's cute, I hadn't seen that before. Add another storytelling visual. So we're on the last step here. Navigate, bring it into your Layers. Well, first I might actually try and reduce it down in size to kind of see where I wanted to put it first. So we're just gonna put it right around here. Figure out that first. And then I'm going to add a reverse layers mask, and then build it behind. But I haven't put it in the right place, so let me put it behind my subject first, then try and bring it in with white as my foreground. And I'm painting on my flag. Click on the layers mask and then with white as my foreground start to bring it in. I don't want the pike, the little pipe there, I don't want that extra flag stand, I just want a little bit of the flag there. And let's see how we can get it. Did I paint, I just wanna make sure I didn't paint on the wrong thing. And then I'm gonna add a Hard Light blend mode to it to create some contrast. And just bring it into the background. Now I wanna make sure I didn't paint somewhere I wasn't supposed to, so hold on, let me, there we go. Yeah, I did kind of mask the stars out, because they had a lot of white in there and I didn't wanna add all of that white in there to it. Now this might be something where I'd look at it and I say, OK, it's creating such a cool effect, but I don't want, it's not strong enough, so I might jump the background layer again. Add something with a little bit of Soft Light or maybe even some Overlay to make it more apparent, if that makes sense. And that's how that kind of layout will come together. My lens flares are all over the place. Let me see where everybody is at. And now I'm just fine-tuning it. I might say, hey, this needs more color. I might return to this guy right here. And that's what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna come back to these layers and say, OK, this isn't strong enough, I need it to stand out more. I need to see more of his legs, oops, I need to see more of his legs a little bit. Like right here, I need to get that. I need to see less of this. I need to create a Levels layer. Again, these are just things on the fly of decisions I need to make where his body is a little, it's too dark, I need to lighten it up. You know what I mean? Now you can see where all those adjustment layers and blend layers are gonna really kind of start helping you to create your final piece of your layout. And all I did at the end was just grab a really cool font. The font that I used was Myriad Pro Light. You could use Lato Hairline too if you have that one, it's a commercial use font. But an ultra thin or hairline font is a perfect addition, add a drop shadow to it, and there you will have your page. Any questions from the audience to finish it up? There's two, go ahead guys, what's up? I was just wondering how you preserve your printed materials? Like do you use traditional scrapbook books or how do you display them? I have a library of albums that are from We R Memory Keepers, it's the classic leather albums, 12 by 12 with D inch rings. I like, I put them all in page protectors. If they're not Project Life page protectors then they are usually, I think, the We R Memory Keepers archival page protectors that are plastic. And I print these at Persnickety Prints and they're matte-based, because they're already glossy page protectors, so I don't need it to do that. And my albums are arranged by the kids. So I have three humongous albums for each kid that are color coded. So my son's albums are all blue, my daughter's albums are all red. Our vacation albums are yellow. Our Project Life albums are silver. And I have one green album that's sitting around that I'm going, what did I plan to do with this album? Maybe it's gonna be a grandkid's album later in years. But I have one green album that's just sitting there, so I think I have about a total of 15 albums now. And I'm just kind of going whew, that's a lot of albums. What am I gonna do when we move or something? But that's how I preserve them. And the rest of them I give as gifts. My parents love my scrapbook pages, thankfully, so I don't mind giving it to them. They have a number of them they put in frames around their house, I think that's cool. Yes. I was wondering when you're trying to mask the pictures, do you ever use like a jagged edge kind of a brush or different types of brush? Yes, especially if I have something that's very pixelated that already has squares I'm gonna use a square brush. That becomes easier, circles are not always the best tools, it's a great question. Circles are not always the best tools to work with jagged edges, so if you start working with something that's really jaggedy, really jankity, use a square brush. So to find the square brushes go into your Brush Tool, the preset picker, brush picker I should say, and then look for these Square Brushes down here. I'll pin them to the bottom. And then use these to work with jagged edges, they will trim it off a lot better than your circle brushes will. Good question. Any others from our audience? About about you, Robert? All right, well, Tiffany, I'm wondering if you have any sort of final thoughts at the end of this segment? We've covered so much in compositing today and we've seen the versatility of it. I wonder if you have any closing things you'd like to say you haven't already said? Of course I would. I will say definitely for compositing that I hope what you guys have gathered from it, if you've been watching from the beginning, is don't be afraid of this beast. In the beginning I think we all walked in and felt like it's kind of intimidating. Where in the world are we gonna go with it? But you see that it's a process. If you can master blending you can master all of it. Everything else is just a process. The other part of if is just being imaginative and artistic and having fun, finding the tools that you need to use. We're gonna break this down into a process. And once you master those blend modes everything really does open up, the sky really just floods and you go, aha, and that you can do it. So don't be afraid of the blend modes, learn them, study them as much as you can, and then work yourself into harder and harder and more intricate pages that you're going to love. That's the most important key. I don't care what you build, I don't care if it's painting and compositing or whatever you do, fall in love with your pages, learn the techniques, so you can enjoy the process while you're doing it.

Scrapbooking is the experience of pulling together disparate elements of your life and creating stories that could never otherwise exist. And yet scrapbooking in the physical medium still limits your creative scope to what exists in the real world. Digital scrapbooking removes that barrier. By mastering the practice of compositing your personal photos, you can build fantastical, entirely impossible scenes around your favorite subject material.

Join Tiffany Tillman-Emanuel for this intermediate-level class, and you’ll learn:

  • How to develop and digitally sketch a theme for the page.
  • How to find and gather complementary photos for the fantasy theme.
  • How to use graphic design principles to improve the overall aesthetic of the final page.

Fantasy composites are difficult digital effects to create, and require the confident use of a photo editor. Tiffany will walk you through implementing the right kinds of blend modes and adjustment layers for different compositing results. You’ll learn her tips and techniques for creating quality selections and extractions, and applying them to your composited photos. Add new dimensions to your scrapbooking practice. Transform the things you love, and send them into worlds that exist only in your imagination.

Purchase to get the in-depth Compositing for Digital Scrapbookers workbook. The workbook includes step-by-step instructions on digitizing media, altering elements in Photoshop, and so much more!



  • I was in Tiffany's Mixed Media class and was also lucky enough to be in this class. Tiffany is an AWESOME instructor and well organized. Her Mixed Media class was a great building block for this class. The class is well worth the money--well organized workbook and other great bonuses. If you want to take your scrapbooking to the next artistic level, I highly recommend Tiffany's two classes at CreativeLivel.
  • Great course with easy to understand ways of blending more than one photo together for a great composite layout. Excellent materials and workbooks.. Thanks Tiffany for a wonderful class! - Christa (cfile)
  • Tiffany is a great communicator and an awesome instructor. She made the complicated easy to understand, Bravo!!!