Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Paint Sample Freebie & Intermediate Tutorial

Here's a free paint swatch template (CU/PU ok, no credit required) for you guys. In the zip you'll find a PSD template with the vector shapes used to create this element. They are plain and ready for you to texture. I've also included a PNG file of the backing whch I've already textured for you, and the swatches in a seperate PNG for easy recoloring.

Download from Mediafire

To get a full "spread" like the one you see above will require a little more work on both our parts! :) Mine for writing the tutorial and yours for following it. This tutorial is geared more toward designers of scrap kits, but may be useful for anyone looking to understand Photoshop a little better.

I think all digiscrappers love "swags" and "clusters" - those little groups of elements all arranged together in a single piece. You find them most often used to embellish frames, but they can be used to spruce up just about any element you like.

Professional, polished kits are always supplied without drop shadows. This makes it easy for the end user to add their own drop shadows as they desire and to keep a consistent light source in the design. Inevitably though, when constructing clusters in Photoshop, the drop shadows that you add through the layer styles menu bleed out past the edges of your element. I'm going to show you how to quickly and easily clip your drop shadows so that your end product will be properly shadowed on the inside, but with no shadow bleed on the outside.

1. To start, open up a new blank canvas. It should be at least 8" x 8" @ 300ppi, but can be larger if you want more room to work.

2. You'll need to recolor the paint swatches and paste them onto the backing to create a couple of complete, merged layers. For this example I'm using three layers, but this same technique can be used with any number of layers.

3. Once you've colored and constructed your layers, arrange them all so that they are all in a stack, one on top of the other. Turning on the snapping and smart guide options will help you do this - I never, ever turn these options off, they're so handy. To turn on snapping, navigate to View -> Snap. If the option has a check mark beside it, it's turned on. This option makes Photoshop move the layer or "snap" it into place when you're using your move tool to reposition the layer and you hover close to certain areas of the document, such as the edges, the center or another layer. To turn on Smart Guides, navigate to View -> Show -> Smart Guides. This will have Photoshop display some pink (by default) guide lines as you move your layer around in relation to the other layers. They're handy for positioning things accurately.

4. To make things easier, I'm going to refer to the layers by number. We'll call the first layer on the top of the stack number one, the second one in the stack two, and so on. I only have three, so it shouldn't get too complicated. :) First we need to create the fan of swatches. We're going to leave the first layer alone in it's upright position. Click layer number 2 in the layers palette to make it active. Select your move tool and make sure you have the "Show Transform Controls" box checked in the option bar at the top of the screen.

5. Notice that when you select a layer with the move tool (and transform option on), a little crosshair icon appears at the center of the layer. This is the rotation axis. You can grab that little icon and move it anywhere you want - inside or outside of the document bounds - and when you rotate your layer, it will rotate around that point. Think of it a little like a tire - wherever you put that point becomes the middle of your "hubcap" and the layer is like the "tire" spinning around that point. I want to have my fan rotate around a point in the middle of the empty circle at the bottom, the one with the silver brad over it. So with Layer 2 selected, click and hold the little crosshair icon. Begin to drag, holding down your shift key to keep it moving in a straight line, and drag it down until you've got it right in the middle of the silver circle.

6. You can rotate the layer freehand or enter a numeric angle value - in this case I'm going to enter values. For this first layer, I'm going to rotate it 10 degrees. Press enter when you're done to commit your changes.

7. Repeat steps five and six for the second layer, but increase the angle for this one. I've rotated the second one by 20 degrees around the same rotation axis. You'll need to reposition it each time. Press enter again to commit.

8. Now we can add our drop shadows. Select layer 1 again and enter the layer styles menu. You can choose your own settings here, but for myself, this is what I decided looks good. I left all settings at the default except: Opacity 50%, Distance 2, Size 15, Noise 3%. To copy that exact same layer style to the other two layers, look to your layers palette. Right click on the Eye icon, the word "Effects" or any of the names of the effects. Choose "Copy Layer Style". Now select your other two layers - you can hold down control and click on the layer names (not the thumbnails) one after the other, or if there's a few in a row, click the first layer name, hold down shift, then click the last one in the list. Right click anywhere (except the thumbnail) on any of your selected layers and choose "Paste Layer Style". Now you've got a consistent shadow style on all three layers.

9. Here's where I get the chance to show you what I mean by shadow bleed. Sometimes you can just not add a drop shadow to the lowest visible layer of your cluster and that solves the problem, but sometimes it doesn't work. You can see here that the shadow of layer 1 is overlapping our white space (which will be transparent when we're done). We don't want that. And we can't just remove the drop shadow entirely because that would remove the interior shading as well. We could create our shadow in a separate layer and use the eraser tools to clean it up, but it's painstaking and time-consuming to do by hand. Fortunately there's an easier way.

10. You can start by clearing the layer style of the lowest layer, number 3. It doesn't overlap anything on the inside so we don't need it. Right click on "Effects" for layers one and two in turn and choose "Create Layer". Now you should have two drop shadows in separate layers.

11. Left click once to select layer 2's drop shadow in the layers palette. Hold down your ALT key and hover your cursor on the black horizontal dividing line between layer 2's drop shadow and layer 3. When your cursor turns into a lock icon with an arrow, left click once. This clips layer 2's drop shadow to layer 3. Now select layer 2, layer 2's drop shadow and layer 3. Right click and choose "Merge Layers". Now repeat the process to clip layer 1's drop shadow to the merged layer (now made up of layers 2 and 3), merging the layers once more and your element is (almost!) complete. Notice how the drop shadow bleed around the edges has disappeared, but the shading on the inside remains intact.

12. Now all that remains is to delete the background layer (if there is one in your document) - double click once on the name to unlock it, then delete it as any other layer. To crop your canvas, hold down CTRL and click the thumbnail of your layer to get a selection around it, then choose Image -> Crop. You now have a completed element you can add to a kit with clean vector lines and absolutely no stray pixels - because we let Photoshop do the hard work for us. :)


  1. Thank you for the great tutorials

  2. Thank you so much for this Freebie. I want to let you know that I posted a link to your blog in CBH Digital Scrapbooking Freebies, under the Page 1 post on Dec. 30, 2009. Thanks again.

  3. Thank you! Your blog post will be advertised on the DigiFree Tutorials search engine today (look for timestamp: 30 Dec [LA 04:00pm, NY 07:00pm] - 31 Dec [UK 12:00am, OZ 11:00am] ).

  4. Thank you Stephanie...this is a great idea.

  5. I found you via deviantart. I just wanted to say thanks for the great resources. Beautiful work. :)