Jul 12 2016

Tech Tuesday: Personalizing Keyword Tags in Photoshop Elements Organizer


Our students know how much we love to organize our photos with Photoshop Elements Organizer. It’s really handy for visual people like us, but it’s also very powerful. Take, for example, the keyword tags. You can create a keyword tag for anything you think you’ll want to search your images for. We once had a student who created a category called “Cats” and then a keyword tag for each of her (many) cats. Since I have lots of photos of quilts, I want to be able to find them according to type of quilt. (Deb, too, has a category for Quilts!) By default the keyword tags in the Tags panel look just like sub-categories. In this example, the category “Quilts” has a plain green icon, while the sub-categories “Art” and “Traditional” and the keyword tag “Log Cabin” have plain orange icons.


When you look carefully, you can see that “Log Cabin” is below “Traditional” in the hierarchy, but you really can’t tell that it is a keyword tag. This may be fine for some people, but when you are quickly trying to grab keyword tags and drag them to an image, it’s nice to have a more obvious way to differentiate one keyword tag from another. Right-click on a category or sub-category and choose “Create new keyword tag.” In the dialog box that pops up, you can add an icon by clicking on “Edit icon” and selecting any image you want.


But here’s the catch: you will NOT see this photo-based icon unless you go into your preferences and change the way keyword tags are displayed. From the Menu bar, click Edit > Preferences > Keyword Tags and Albums. Under “Keyword Display,” check the second “Keyword Tag Name” (the one with the photo inside the tag), then click OK.


Now the keyword tag shows one of the photos you’ve tagged with that keyword.


We hope you explore using alternative keyword icons. They really are good visual aids. If you don’t like them, you can always change your preferences without losing the icon information. Want to learn how to use Organizer more fully? Please consider taking our online course. The next session starts on July 25. Click here for more information.

Jun 28 2016

Tech Tuesday: Using Facial Recognition in Photoshop Elements Organizer


Someone once told us she didn’t want to organize her digital photos because it “takes too long.” What’s great about Photoshop Elements Organizer is that you can organize your photos in great or very little detail. Organizer’s ability to recognize faces for you makes quick work of labeling your photos with people’s names. If you do nothing else, just putting names to faces will serve you well. When you are in “People” view, just click on “Unnamed” to begin seeing the “people” Organizer has identified. Once you recognize the person, in this case Deb, you can add that person’s name (red arrow in image below).


Sometimes just looking at the head shot doesn’t help you identify the person. You’ll notice in the image above that Organizer had identified four photos it thought had Deb in them. But what if you can’t tell from the head shot? Just click on “Photos” (green arrow in image above) to see that person in the photos in which they appear. Let’s look at our example with the photos showing:


These four photos indeed have Deb in them. (I have circled Deb’s face in red here for those of you who don’t know her.) Let’s take a moment to marvel at what a good job Organizer did in finding these photos of the “same person.” Deb has gone through several changes: long brown hair to a short blonde bob, with and without glasses, and more and more wrinkles. But, here you have it, four photos of Deb. Click on “Faces” (purple arrow in first image) to return to the head shots in “People” view.

It’s really impressive how quickly and accurately Organizer identifies people for you. Sure, sometimes it makes a mistake, like the time it thought my photo of a gargoyle on a German cathedral was a person, but it’s easy to have Organizer dismiss such misses. Click on “Faces” (purple arrow in first image) in the “Unnamed” view, and click on the head shot that does not belong. If you’re a sentimental fool like I am, a tear or two might well up in your eyes if Organizer mistakes you for a dear departed relative. You can see how Organizer could have made this mistake with me and my mom (although it nailed these two photos):

We hope you explore facial recognition with Photoshop Elements Organizer. If you want to learn how to use Organizer more fully, consider taking our online course. The next session starts on July 25. Click here for more information.

Jun 26 2016

Tech Tuesday: Facial Recognition Makes Digital Organizing a Snap


Now that we’ve all been snapping digital photos for several years now, it’s probably time to start organizing them. Deb has been organizing her 20,000 photos for years now, but as a relative newcomer to the game, I wanted to tell you how cool it is to go through and identify people for your records. It used to be I would have to sit around and look at a photo of a group of people and go, gee, who is that? I just love how the facial recognition works. More on this on our next Tech Tuesday blog.

May 10 2016

Tech Tuesday: 5 Things To Learn About The Photoshop Grid


Whether you are using Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, knowing that you can turn on a grid and use it to suit your needs can really facilitate your project. Here are 5 things to remember:

1. Turn on/off the grid. From the Menu bar, click on View > Grid to turn on/off the grid. The handy shortcut is Ctrl + ‘ (the apostrophe). Mac users will use Command + ‘.

2. Use the snap-to-grid function. When you are lining up objects, it is often handy to have the objects line up to the grid. To turn on Snap to Grid, from the Menu bar click View > Snap to > Grid. Using the Move tool, move an object near a gridline to see it snap to grid. Sometimes you need to zoom in to clearly see this function in action.

3. Turn off grid when using the Brush tool. If you have the grid on while drawing with the Brush tool, the strokes will try and snap to grid, causing a jiggy-jaggy effect. Turn off the grid to draw a smooth line . . . unless, of course, you like that jiggy-jaggy look!


4. Change grid preferences. By default, the gridlines are dark gray, with 4 subdivisions per gridline. However, you can make all kinds of changes to the appearance of the grid. To access the Grid Dialog Box, from the Menu bar click Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid. Mac users will click Adobe Photoshop Elements Editor > Preferences > Guides & Grid.


  • To change the color of the grid, click on the Color drop-down menu (red arrow). Choose from pre-selected colors or select Custom to choose your own.
  • To change the style of the grid, click on the Style drop-down menu (green arrow). Choose from lines, dashed lines, or dots.
  • To change the unit of measurement of the grid, click on Measurement drop-down menu (blue arrow). Choose between pixels, inches, cm, mm, points, picas, percent.
  • You can also change the frequency of the gridlines by clicking in the Number box to the left of the Measurement menu.
  • To change the subdivisions of the grid, click in the Number box next to Subdivisons (yellow arrow).
  • The current color of the grid is shown in the color swatch (purple arrow). In this example, the grid color is a medium gray.

5. Grid does not print. The grid is designed to help you place your objects and therefore does not print, even when you have the grid turned on. If you want to print a grid, you can draw individual lines on top of the Photoshop grid. If you want to learn how to do this and more, you should sign up for our Photoshop Essentials class. Photoshop Essentials 2 starts on May 23, 2016.

We hope you will use the grid more often now. It’s a big help!

Aug 25 2015

Tech Tuesday: How to Make an Animated .gif in Photoshop


If you read last week’s Tech Tuesday post, you might remember my “Ode to Adobe Color CC” that I posted in the form of an animated .gif. If you missed it, here it is again:


I could stare at these animated .gifs for hours. They are just so much fun, and the possibilities are endless! In case you are wondering what in the world an animated .gif is, let me explain. An animated .gif is a graphic image that moves. It is made by combining several static images into one .gif file. If this sounds complicated to you, do not fret! The wonderful world of Photoshop has made it very simple for anyone to create an animated .gif.

You’ll notice that the .gif I posted this week does not “jiggle” as much as last week’s. This is because I went back and edited the static images so that they were all cropped to exactly the same size. In this post, I will show you how to make a perfectly framed animated .gif.

First, you will need a series of images you want to animate. The original Adobe Color CC .gif I created was made up of thirty-two screen shots. To save time, I reduced the number of images for the revised .gif in this post to sixteen. As you can see, the fewer images you combine, the choppier your .gif will be. Adding more images will give a smoother effect to your .gif.

Once you have all of your images, your next task is to put them into one file. Open your first two images. At the bottom taskbar, click on Layout > All Column, so you can view both images simultaneously. Select the move tool, and drag one image from one window to the other.


Click on that file, and make sure you have two layers. Once you’ve confirmed this, you can close the other file. With the Move tool selected, move the layer around until you think it fits perfectly over your original image. A true test is to click the little eyeball to the left of your original layer, turning its visibility off. Then, click the little eyeball on your newest layer, turning its visibility on and off a few times. If you can see any movement on the image, then you may need to continue adjusting with the Move tool. Slight to no movement? You are ready to add more layers! Repeat the above with each image, and add each image to that original file so that you will end up with several layers in one individual file. In my case, I had sixteen layers. This is truly the most consuming part of the entire process, so if it starts to feel monotonous, hang in there! A beautiful animated .gif is right around the corner. 🙂

Once you have all of your image layers aligned, named (but Deb never names her layers), and in the right order, take a moment to congratulate yourself. Great job! Now you have to resize your file so that you can animate it later. To do this, go to Image > Resize > Image Size. In the new window, find the Width box and change this number to 800 pixels or less.


Now for the fun part! Go to File > Save as and save your file as a .psd. You never know if you will need to go back and fix some layers. Now save the file again, but this time use File > Save for Web. In the dialog box, select GIF and check the Animate box. At the bottom of the dialog box you will find Looping Options and Frame Delay. Due to the radial nature of my .gif, I chose to loop it Forever, so the colors would continually move and change. Frame Delay refers to the amount of time between each image appearing in the .gif. I chose a very short amount of time (0.2 seconds) because it gives the .gif a smoother motion.


Name your file accordingly and then click Save. To view your .gif, find the file, open it in whichever application you prefer, and celebrate your accomplishment! I took the Pixeladies “PSE Essentials II” class, and that is where I learned how to work with layers, two images at the same time, resizing, and “Save for Web.” I would not have been able to create this animated .gif had I not learned how to do that first. By the way, the Pixeladies are teaching the series again this fall. Click here for more information.

Now I must embark on a brief tangent about the correct pronunciation of the term “.gif.” Since the acronym itself stands for “Graphics Interchange Format,” many people assume that .”gif” is pronounced with a hard G, as in “gift.” After researching the matter for myself, I understand that the correct pronunciation is actually a soft G, as in “jiff” (like the peanut butter). To quote Charlie Reading on The GIF Pronunciation Page, “Choosy programmers choose “GIF.” Ultimately, the creator of the .gif, Steve Wilhite, has the final say in its pronunciation, and he insists on the soft G. If you need definitive proof to put the matter to rest once and for all, watch this video of Steve Wilhite’s acceptance speech at The Webby Awards. That really says it all, doesn’t it? 🙂


Aug 18 2015

Tech Tuesday: Adobe Color CC


One of my absolute favorite things the Pixeladies have shown me is the Adobe Color CC website (they teach this in their Advanced Photoshop class, but they let me work ahead a little). This site allows you to create your own unique digital color swatches online, which you can then apply to your Photoshop workspace. If you have a paid Creative Cloud membership, you can download your swatches directly from the website into Photoshop. If you have a free Creative Cloud membership (like the Pixeladies and I), you can still load swatches into Photoshop, its just not as simple. In this post, I will show you the “work around” for getting your swatches to load in Photoshop, for my fellow “freebie” lovers out there. 😉

The website (link above) opens right up to a color wheel with a menu of options to its left. Here you can choose what kind of “Color Rules” you would like your swatch to follow. Before you go any further, be sure to sign in with your Adobe ID. Anyone who owns an Adobe product has one, and anyone who doesn’t can make one for free. Once you’re signed in, you are ready to create!



Look at all the fun you can have! (I made this .gif using another free website. Next Tech Tuesday, I will show you how to make your own.)

Okay, back to Adobe Color CC! The first step is, of course, to create your swatch. Simply drag your cursor around the wheel to select a base color, then make minor adjustments using the sliding bars below the color you selected. Warning: Time flies when you are playing with the color wheel. Sometimes I start a swatch, and by the next time I look up, an hour has gone by.


Once you are happy with your swatch, click the blue “Save” button. You will be prompted to name your theme.


Kris and I are listening to Cuban music today in honor of the U.S. Embassy re-opening in Havana, and it’s making us want to go drink and dance, so this theme was inspired by “tequila.” You can choose whether or not you’d like your theme published publicly on the “Explore” page. I keep the box checked because I love browsing through other people’s work.

Now that your theme is saved, it will show up when you click the “My Themes” link. Hover over the theme you want to load into your workspace, and a few options appear.


Click on “Edit Copy,” and you will be taken back into the creative space, where you can scroll down a little to find the HEX code, circled here in white:


This is the magical code that will allow you to find your exact colors in Photoshop. Now go into your Photoshop workspace and double click the Color Picker.


A new window should pop up with a hashtag box somewhere in it. I am using Photoshop Elements 13, and mine is the last row, circled above in red. This is where you will type in your magical HEX code. It may help to adjust your windows so that you can easily navigate back and forth and see the code as you type it. Once you have your exact color selected, click OK, and then go to the “More” icon in the bottom right-hand corner, and a box will pop up. Go to the “Color Swatches” tab, then click the teeny-tiny fly-out menu icon on the upper right of the box. Now select “New Swatch…”


When you click “New Swatch,” you will be prompted to name your colors. I recommend saving numerically (i.e. tequila1, tequila2, etc.) so that they are easier to find later. Repeat this process until all five of your swatches are visible in the Color Swatches tab, always using the “New Swatch” option.


You will notice that the last five color swatches in your Color Swatch tab are the theme you created in Adobe Color CC! You can now work with your swatch in Photoshop. You can also save and share the swatch. To do this, select the first one, then while holding down your Shift key, select the other four. Once you have the five selected, let go of the Shift key and click on the teeny-tiny fly-out menu icon again. This time, go to “Save Swatches…”


… and save your swatch as an ACO file. To load a swatch file into your workspace, go to the “More” icon, “Color Swatches,” fly-out menu, and select “Load Swatches…” A window will pop up where you can select the swatch file you just created.

Swatch responsibly, friends!







May 19 2015

Tech Tuesday: Our Students Are Better Than We Are!


We don’t think there is anything more gratifying as teachers than when our students not only “get it,” but they use what they’ve learned in such creative ways. Our latest example is Kathleen Loomis. Read her blog post about how she helped a friend break through a creative block and go from this:


to this without ever touching a pair of scissors. Kathleen, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Thanks for the testimonial and keep up the great work!


May 5 2015

Tech Tuesday: Register for Online Photoshop Elements Classes Now!


Back by popular demand! Yes, we’re teaching Photoshop Elements Essentials I and II. Essentials I starts on June 1, and Essentials II starts on July 6. The classes are three weeks long each, but we’ve added a fourth week to each class so you can post more homework, ask more questions, spend more time with your fellow students, and play catch up (if life gets in the way). Click here to read the class descriptions and to register.

Here’s one thing you’ll learn how to do: brighten a photo that is too dark.


No, we can’t teach you how to reconstruct a face that has been cut off, but we have done an ear or two. As you can see, we still need to learn how to take good selfies. Deb calls these failed selfies “felfies” – and, boy, do we have bunch!

Mar 10 2015

Tech Tuesday: What Our Students Learn


We just ended our Photoshop Elements Essentials I and II classes. Wow! What amazing students. Their creativity never ceases to amaze us. We’ve rescheduled the series again in June (please see our classes page for more information). We’d normally want to tell you ourselves how great the class is, but we’d rather you heard from one of our students. Kathy Loomis posted a lovely review on her blog, Art with a Needle. Here’s a sample of her work, but have a read for yourself. Many thanks, Kathy!


Jan 27 2015

Tech Tuesday: PSE Essentials II Starts Feb 9


We’ve been engrossed in teaching Photoshop Elements Essentials I, which started a couple of weeks ago. We are having so much fun. The students are great and are learning so much. It’s wonderful to witness the “aha” moments. We’re answering students questions at all hours of the day (okay, so we have yet to answer between the magic hours of 4am – 8am), but since we have students all over the world, some of them may have received their answers at that time, their time. Or was that yesterday? Time may be a jumble for us, but not the great work the students are posting.


As this class winds down, we’re already looking forward to teaching Essentials II February 9 – March 1, 2015 (3 weeks). We will go over all the essential tools and manipulations we know fiber artists and non-sewers alike will use the most. Won’t you join us? Beginners and those needing a refresher course are most welcome. Please go to our class page for more information and to register.