Sneak Peek of my new collab with ….

I had so much fun collaborating with Mariska from MonaLisaSmiles. I tried to sneak one of my usual color palettes past her but she was having none of that. She was determined to get me to do a feminine color palette if it was the last thing she did. So she set the palette and I followed her lead. You’ll be able to pick it up on Friday 3/19 in our stores, but for now here’s a little sneak peek.

I had eight readers who guessed correctly (actually a couple more than that, but two were on her team). I listed them all in in order on a spreadsheet then randomly selected from them:

Congratulations Danielle!  I’ll be sending you an email with your coupon codes from Mariska and me, and thanks to everyone who played along.  I’ve unhidden the comments now so you can go back and see everyone’s guesses.  I had a few Leora Sanford guesses (Leora and I have a collab, actually, it’s in our stores), and then a bunch of Paislee Press guesses, too.  I told Mariska that I wouldn’t mind people guessing that I was either of those two designers at all! Confuse me with Leora and Liz all you want! And believe me, a collaboration with Paislee Press is on my bucket list. You don’t need to tell me twice. There are a lot of designers on my bucket list, actually.


Janice at JW Digi Scraps took my Photoshop drop shadow tutorial and translated it for Photoshop Elements users. She even did it in video form – so she’s way higher tech than me. Check it out on her blog under Tutorials. It knocks my socks off that she did this because I had so many comments from Elements users who were sad that the tutorial wouldn’t work for them. So here’s a possible solution!  I watched it right after she sent it to me and I’m mad jealous of her video tutorial skillz. (Although if I did a video tutorial it would be like “Oh wait .. no .. crap … Okay, don’t click on that like I did.” and then a bunch of IM windows would be popping up.  It would be a hot mess for sure.

In our newsletters Mariska and I will each be giving out HALF of a alphabet that coordinates with our upcoming kit. If you’re a newsletter subscriber you don’t have to do anything, the details will arrive in your inbox.  If you’re not subscribed to both of our newsletters you’ll miss out on half the alpha. And what if that’s the half you need?! So make sure you subscribe, there’s still time. We’ll be sending them out within the next 48 hours!

My Newsletter

Mariska’s Newsletter

Later taters!

one little bird creative team call

I’m building an army of robot pirate ninjas adding a few creative team members! I’m currently looking for a few scrapbookers to join my (already spectacular and totally fun if not a little crazy in the head) creative team for a 3-month term. At the end of each quarter (March, June, Sept & Dec) I check in to see whether everyone is still “feelin’ it” and everyone is more than welcome to stay on for another 3-months – and another and another – but all I ask is that you give me 3-months to fall in love with me.  That’s about how long it takes me to brainwash you win you over with hugs!

My creative team requirements are very straightforward:

  • use what you take – create at least one layout or project with any product you download from my store
  • scrap when you feel inspired, create only pages that you love
  • post your pages in at least 3 online galleries (one of them being CatScrap)

That’s all! There’s no number of pages per month, no percentage of my products on each page.  My vision for my creative team is that they make pages to fill up their albums, not to fill their CT requirements.  Make sense?

If that sounds like something you’re interested, please submit the following to me at peppermint2go (at) gmail (dot) com with the words “CT Call” in your subject line (for the mail filters that save my feeble mind!):

  • a link to your most complete online gallery
  • a list of your current CT commitments
  • a short bio telling me a bit about yourself (and around here, crazy is a PLUS, so don’t be afraid to let your freak flag fly!)
  • a full disclosure of the reality TV shows you watch (I’m not even sort of kidding about this … I like to vent about reality shows) (and medical dramas with annoying female lead characters but really awesome supporting characters – I’m looking at you Gray’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Mercy!)
  • anything else you find relevant or just want to talk about, I’m a good listener. I like gossip. Something bothering you, kitty cat? Let it out.

I’d like to have all applications in my hot little hands by midnight EST on March 21st (about a week from now) Then I’ll send out emails to everyone by March 24th or 25th, whether you’re on the team or not.

I’m going to say right upfront that I have some pretty severe, deep-seated neurotic tendencies when it comes to things like this and the idea of having to tell people “no” makes me feel like I’m about to break into hives any minute.  I’m going to make Tom keep me sane and rational, though.

And if that fails … I have cookies.

[Time's Up!] It’s a Contest!

This coming Friday I will be releasing a collaborative kit with another digital designer – and I thought it would be fun to torture all my blog readers by asking you if you can figure out who she is? Haha. To help you out, I’ve assembled a little mish-mash of random elements from her store … so if you have a keen eye (and/or you’re an avid shopper) you should have a big advantage.

Do you think you know who it is? Post your guess in the comments  between now and Tuesday (3/16) at Midnight EST. I will randomly select a winner from those who guessed correctly and that winner will receive a $5 coupon to my store AND a $5 coupon to my collaborator’s store, too! Time is up!  The winner has been chosen and can be seen in this post: Sneak Peek of my Collab With…

For all of you, though, we will each be giving out HALF of a coordinating freebie in our newsletters this week. So if you’re not subscribed to my newsletter then what are you waiting for? I’ll be posting a link to her newsletter on Wednesday so that you’re sure to receive both halves.

To keep it fair, I’ve made the comments private.  HAH! No copycats! I know you better than you know yourself! You should be able to see your own post (it filters them by your IP address) but you won’t be able to see other peoples’ guesses.  In an ideal world, that is. I haven’t actually tested it out yet, I just added this functionality about ten minutes ago.

Good Luck everyone!

Shadow Files: The Basics


As of May 2011 I finalized a self-paced project in cooperation with Big Picture Classes and The Daily Digi called “Me and My Shadow”  which takes the basic techniques that I outline here to the next level – the next stratosphere, really! It’s this tutorial on steroids.This partnership gave me the opportunity to provide video demonstrations using a wide variety of elements as I build a page from the ground up, and it also includes printable reference guides.  My blog tutorial here will continue to be offered free of charge, in perpetuity (that means forever!) – so don’t worry! The online course is the next step for those of you who really want to go “down the rabbit hole” with me and become a total geek for Drop Shadows.

This is a post I’ve been working on for a while. My most asked question in digital scrapbooking is how I shadow and/or whether or not I could do layer styles or actions of my shadows to sell in my store. If I had one (or a dozen) tried-and-true consistent ways of shadowing I would give it a shot. The fact of the matter is, though, I have no magic formula for shadowing an element. It always depends on the colors, where it’s located on the page, what’s near it, what the element is made of, etc.

I do have some jumping off points, though, and I’ll gladly share them (for free!) for Photoshop users here on my blog. You may be able to easily adapt these to other programs, but the screenshots and instructions herein are from Photoshop CS4. There’s nothing I do that isn’t also available in earlier versions of Photoshop, it’s pretty basic.

I’m no rocket scientist. For the sake of brevity, though, I’m going to assume you already know where all the buttons are for adding drop shadows and how to bring up the right-click menu and such. If you’re to the point in scrapbooking where you’re working on your shadow realism, chances are you know those things already.

I’m going to start with this sad little unshadowed flower on a piece of light kraft paper. Frown with me, everyone. Poor little sad flower laying there with no depth. I chose a flower because it has enough variables to learn from, and the kraft paper because shadows show up really well against it.

Ok, now get ready for an intense, mind-blowing shadow revelation here, folks. You may want to sit down with a towel underneath you for this one. For my drop shadow settings the most important part as far as I’m concerned is to change the blend mode from “Multiply” (default) to “Linear Burn”. This makes all the difference for me.

I’ll give you a bit of technical mumbo jumbo to explain why I prefer this mode, then you go ahead and decide whether you want to use it or not. Multiply “multiplies” the average color intensity of the top layer with the average intensity of the bottom layer. This produces darker colors within the composite image and creates contrast. Linear Burn also produces darker colors within the composite image, however the main difference is that Linear Burn breaks the bottom layer down into its individual color channels (for scrapbooking those are your R(ed), G(reen), and B(lue) channels) to determine the degree of darkness for each pixel in the top layer. Channel information for each color is used and the darkest color’s intensity is increased by a certain degree. So your shadows have more variation throughout, depending on all the colors beneath them.

If you decide to stick with “Multiply” then there’s no shame in it. However, if you switch to “Linear Burn” don’t come crying to me when your shadows take on a new level of AWESOME.

On my pages my light source is usually set to the upper right corner – at or around 42 to 45 degrees on the little spinny box. I shadow things like stitches and staples at 90 degrees with my light source coming straight down from the top of the page. My shadow color (totally subjective, whatever floats your boat) is #2c1901 which is a really deep orange. It’s almost black, to the naked eye it’ll look black.

The Linear Burn blend mode tends to produce darker shadows in general, so if you’ve been using Multiply at about 70% opacity, you should expect that your opacity levels will drop a bit with the change in blend mode.  Tinker around with them until it looks about right to the naked eye.  What I tend to do is find the point where it looks okay to me, THEN I move the opacity up by another 5% or more.  (So if I fall on 35%, I’ll actually move it up to about 40%) because I err on the side of them being too dark and I recognize my “inner wuss”.  You know, the wuss that tells me “No no! That’s too dark! Everyone is going to laugh at you!”  Move it up another 5% and tell that inner wuss to stuff it.

Make sure your “Global Light” box is unchecked. Mine is always unchecked. Then if you monkey with a shadow later on down the road it won’t affect all of your other shadows.

The sliders are going to vary by element. Here’s a quick (and very general!) idea of approximate values:

So at this point you’ll have a fairly static, uniform shadow for your element. If it’s an item that’s fairly solid (acrylic pieces, sequins, etc) I’ll usually leave it as a uniform shadow. Those things don’t have a lot of “flex” on your page so the shadow would naturally be very precise.

For items like flowers, leaves, ribbons, bows, etc. you’re going to want to mess these shadows up a bit. In real life they wouldn’t necessarily lay perfectly on the same plane on your page. So this is where you’ll right click on the shadow in your Layers Palette and choose “Create Layer”.

Hey and look, someone magically named my layers for me!  Haha.  You’ll notice that on your new separated shadow layer, the blend mode is still “Linear Burn” and the Fill is set to the percentage you specified within the drop shadow dialogue. So you can continue to tinker with that Fill setting as your page develops if you find that you need to change the strength of the shadow down the line.

People ask me whether I use the Warp tool to alter my shadows, and there are some instances (very few) where I do. Usually just with skinny frames or small pieces of paper. My tool of choice is the Smudge Tool (R). You’ll find it over in your toolbar just beneath the Paint Bucket.  Click and hold it down to see all the options (or press Shift + R a few times to cycle through them without using your mouse).

Up on the top select a large, soft brush. Something substantial. You’re going to want to move more than a couple of pixels here.  My image above is pretty poor, but I selected a 300px brush with a hardness of 0%, and then set the strength (along the top bar) to 50%.

You can adjust that Strength slider depending on your needs. Basically the stronger the Smudge Tool is set, the more exact your move is. SOMETIMES that means you can end up with “lumpy” shadows if you use it at 100% strength.  If you move the Strength down to about 50% you’ll gently “smudge” your shadow in the direction that you drag the brush. Just like the tool says. Truth in advertising!

Now you’ll just return to your Drop Shadow layer, and gently (no sudden moves!) drag the Smudge brush over the edges of your shadow – pushing and pulling them around until you achieve the desired effect.

The reason I prefer this over the Warp tool is that it’s a little more organic. A little more subtle. The Warp bounding box gives you about 20 points where you can adjust the shadow, and those points never seem to be exactly where I want them to be. With the Smudge Tool if I just want to bump the petal of a flower out a little bit, I can do it easily without affecting the rest of the shadow.

This is a much happier flower. I’ve zoomed in on it because it deserves a close-up with a shadow like that:

You can consider this a job well done at this point. You’ve messed your shadow up a bit, made it a little less refined. You’ve unleashed your shadow’s liberal, tree-hugging, fly-by-the-seat-of-its-pants unpredictability. But if you want to take it to the NEXT level. Read on.  Because after this, your shadow will be so free-spirited you’ll be able to buy it a Prius and teach it how to make its own granola bars.

I want you to select that Drop Shadow layer, Duplicate it (right click then “duplicate layer” or CTRL + J). Now you have two identical drop shadows and they’re going to look a skosh dark just for a few seconds. Select the bottom shadow layer.

And then run a Gaussian Blur Filter on it (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) with a radius of about 30 pixels (variable, mess with this to your liking)

With the blurred shadow layer still selected, gently bump it (using your arrow keys) a few times down and a few times to the left (or in whatever direction you shadow) to move it further away from center.  And adjust the Fill Opacity down to about 20%. You want it to be fairly light, it’s a secondary shadow.  Then move up one layer to your non-blurred shadow layer, and adjust the Fill Opacity down on that one by about 20% (if you were at 45%, move it down to 25-30%).

Below you’ll see the slight difference this makes in the depth of your shadow.  The one on the left is just one shadow layer that we tweaked with the Smudge Tool.  The one on the right side has the two shadow layers, with the Gaussian Blur one bumped out about 10 steps to the left and 10 steps down (I use the arrow keys to do this).

The absolute last step I usually take after shadowing an element is to select the layers for the original element and the two shadows, right clicking in my layer palette and selecting “Link Layers”.  Many times I’ll also “Group Layers” immediately after that to keep everything together when moving it around. These are just general housekeeping steps.

For the sake of this little How To I used the flower, but the same dual-shadow technique can take a lot of elements from “not bad” to “Wow, that looks touchable!”  Buttons almost always benefit from a second shadow layer, I always shadow them using the techniques in this post.  The same goes for curly, swirly ribbons.  On those I go a little more wild with the Smudge Tool and mess the shadows up REAL GOOD by pulling the shadows for the “high” parts of the ribbon pretty far away from the original image. Bows are another one that, at the very least, you need to tweak with the Smudge Tool. Depending on where you have the bow on your page (close to the background or layered up and away) there’s sometimes no point in putting a second shadow layer on them.  Nevertheless, you’re not out anything if you try it.

My hope is that this at least gives you one new tool in your arsenal. Like I said in the beginning, there’s no magic bullet for shadowing every element, it all comes down to tinkering. The more you tinker, the more commonplace these things become and the faster you fly through them.

Shadow Like Me Layer Styles

I’ve gone ahead and created Layer Styles of my most-used shadow settings and they’re for sale in my shop – so if you want to save yourself a few steps and apply some shadows in a jiffy, then please check them out. They’ve been tested in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements and they’ll fast-forward you through the first couple of steps in this tutorial. Happy Scrapping!

Shadow Like Me Layer Styles by One Little Bird

Last Chance to Save 20%! FOREVER!

Haha, just kidding. There will be more sales, but this one ends tomorrow.

If you’re like me you hold on to your coupons figuring you’ll get back to them later, then a month later you find them in your inbox and you’re like “Aww man! I forgot to use that!”

So here’s your friendly little reminder.  My 20% off coupon expires tomorrow, so getcha some! Don’t be like me, man. You’re better than that!

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