Project Life, Week Twenty-Two + a step-by-step tutorial

Cathy ZielskeProject Life, Tutorials10 Comments

OBSERVATIONS: Last week, I took roughly 20 photos. The only usable ones you will see this week on my Project Life pages. The reason? I got hit with a really ridiculous cold virus and have pretty much spent the past seven days on my back watching any number of good movies (Rabbit-Proof Fence), some that were just okay (Magic Mike) and some that were so downright terrible that I want that 90 minutes of my life back (Quarantine 2: Terminal). Long story short: you can only take so many photos of lozenges and mugs of tea.

To make up for the lack of photos, I decided to create the right-facing page using a template that required fewer photos. Combine that with creating a pieced together journal card (which I’ll show you how to do today in the step-by-step) and you have the finished final spread on a week where my documenting skills were sorely lacking. Let’s take a look at the pages.



See what I mean? Only had to use 3 photos on the second page. This is where I adore the flexibility of the digital process. No worries about page protectors. Just make the page as you need them to be.

Today, I want to show you how to take some digital products and create your own custom cards. On a template like the one above, there are no cards out there to fit into the odd sizes. But if you have digital stamps and papers, you can easily remedy that situation. Plus, you can apply these ideas to any spaces you have to fill.

Here is a close up of what I’m going to show you how to make:


This combines three digital products:


A template.

A digital paper.

And, a digital stamp.

Keep in mind, you can apply this process to any size card. Think of it as a way to really stretch your digital supplies. I’m always looking for new ways to use the ones I create, beyond just slapping them onto a photo and calling it good.

Normally, I would do a video tutorial, but I presently have the voice of a very sad, barely audible Kathleen Turner. So we’ll try it written out in a classic step by step tutorial. Old school.

I’ll be showing you how to modify any layer mask, essentially on any template, but you can apply these steps to any card you’d like to build from scratch as well. Just create a new Photoshop document to the size you want, and proceed from there.

The following steps are for Photoshop Elements (I’m using Version 11), but many also apply to full Photoshop as well.


With your template open, click on the layer you want to turn into a card, what I call your Target Layer. Note: always click on your Target Layer first, using the Move Tool. (Make sure your Auto Select Layer option is turned on, via the check box.) When you highlight your Target Layer first, then whatever you paste into the document will paste above the Target Layer. This will make clipping your elements into the layer masks a snap.



Open a digital paper. Using your Rectangular Marquee Tool, click and drag to make a selection. I always make a selection that is larger than my Target Layer. This allows me to size down the paper once I place it into my template, thereby making the pattern appear slightly smaller. Once you have highlighted your chunk of paper, copy it (Command (Mac) or Control (PC) + C), then close the digital paper file (Command or Control + W).

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Return to your template, click back onto the Move Tool (your Target Layer should still be selected, and Paste your digital paper (Command or Control + V).


Your paper chunk will paste in the center of your template. Notice in the Layers Palette, it pastes directly above the Target Layer.

Next, use the Move Tool to click onto the paper and drag to position it directly over the Target Layer. Once it’s in place and still selected, clip it in (Command or Control + G). Note: there are a few ways to clip. You can also go to Layer > Create Clipping Mask, or hover your mouse on the line between the two layers in question until you see a double overlapping circle and then hit your Option (Mac) or Alt (PC) key and click to clip the paper in.

Once you clip your paper in, you can size it down by clicking on any one of the four corner handles and dragging in. When you reach the desired size, simply double click on the image/paper, or click the green check mark to commit the size change. Note: In full Photoshop, you need to hold down your Shift Key while sizing to preserve proportion.




Next, select the Target Layer again, and drag a guide out from the Vertical Ruler, dropping it right on the center square of the layer. If your Rulers are not showing, go to View > Rulers. Note: In PSE 6 and earlier, draggable guides are not available. A quick short cut to click and select layer is to hold down your Control Key (Mac) or I believe it’s a Right Click (PC) to get a drop down menu of your layers. Here, my Target Layer is called Shape 2. Note: in most of my templates, the layers masks are called PHOTO. I just forgot to change this particular layers name.


See how the guide is dropped in the dead center of the Target Layer, which we just selected.

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We will use the guide to line up our other elements.


Open a digital stamp PNG file. Select all and copy (Command or Control + A to select all, Command or Control + C to copy). Close the digital stamp. Click on the digital paper layer in your template, and hit Paste (Command or Control + V). Your digital stamp should paste into the center of your document, and directly above the paper layer. Use the Move Tool to drag the stamp over and line up the center handle on the guide you dragged out. Next, hold down your Alt (PC) or Option (Mac) key, click on one of the four corner handles and drag in to size down. Holding down the extra keys will size the stamp down from the center in.


Use to Move Tool to position the stamp at the top of the box. (I usually eyeball this most of the time.)


Next you’ll break apart the digital stamp. With the digital stamp layer selected, use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to make a selection of only the stamp words. Click and drag around the text portion and release. Once you have made the selection, go to Layer > New > Layer Via Cut (or Command or Control + Shift + J). This will cut your selection out of its original layer and create a new one in the exact location. Repeat the process to cut apart the digital stamp further. Here I also made a new layer by selecting “STORY” and creating another layer. This makes it easier to add colors to the elements. In the image below, Layers 2, 3 and 4 contain all the elements of the digital stamp.



Next, we’ll add a background to the outline of the digital stamp and fill it and the outline with white. Click on the outline portion to select it. Go to Edit > Fill Layer
, and under Contents, choose White from the drop down menu. Make sure Preserve Transparency is also checked. Click OK. The outline will change to white.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 8.20.03 AM

Next, we’ll simply create a white shape to place behind the outline. Note: there are multiple ways to fill this space. You could also use the Magic Wand tool and the Paint Bucket. Click on the Rectangle Shape Tool, then click on White as the color in your Set Foreground Color control. Click and drag to draw the rectangle to extend almost to the size of the outline.


When you release, it will fill with white. If it appears over your text, simply click and drag on its layer in the Layers Palette, drag and release below the type layers. Note: if you select the original layer with the outline first, the new shape will appear below the text layers to begin with.

Next, choose a color you’d like to use, click to select one of the word art layers, go to Edit > Fill Layer and under Contents choose Foreground to use the color you’ve chosen. Click OK to apply the color. Repeat for remaining text layer.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 8.28.44 AM


Next, we’ll add the journaling background box. First, click on the original stamp outline layer to highlight it, and drag two more guides out from the Vertical Ruler. Drop one on either edge of the selection. These will show you how wide to make your new shape which will serve as your journaling background.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 8.38.37 AM

Reset your colors by hitting the D Key. Then hit the X Key to bring the white to the forefront in the Set Foreground Color area. (This is so your new shape will be white.) Click on the Rounded Rectangle Tool (in the same location at the Rectangle Tool or under Tool Options in PSE 11), and change the corner radius to 20 px. Zoom out so you can see the full layer mask area you’re working on. Click and drag a new shape, starting about an 1/8th to a 1/4 of an inch below the upper box, and dragging down to match the same distance on either side of the new shape.

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Your new shape should appear like this. If you don’t see it, check it’s order in the Layers Palette and drag it to where it needs to be. Go ahead and Simplify Layer on this shape. Select the layer and go to Layer > Simplify Layer, or right click on its layer in the Layers Palette to access the command. (Note: This is a key step in PSE 11 when it comes to adding text boxes, though I still haven’t quite figured out why it’s not the case in earlier versions.)


Finally, use the Horizontal Type Tool to create a custom journaling box. Click and drag within the new journal background and choose a font, type size and leading. I use Archer, 9.5 point, with about 18 points of leading. Adjust position and size of journal box as needed.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 8.50.17 AM

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post them in the comments.



Cathy ZielskeProject Life, Week Twenty-Two + a step-by-step tutorial

10 Comments on “Project Life, Week Twenty-Two + a step-by-step tutorial”

  1. #1

    So I’m not the only one who thought Magic Mike was meh? At the end, I was all, was that it??? I watched it on a plane and was excited to see it because all my friends gushed over it.

  2. #2

    Thanks for the tutorial. I need this. I can’t seem to get beyond the page protectors in Project Life. As in, once I’ve turned the page, I need photos that will fit the back of the ones I just used! It has stopped me from moving forward with Project Life. I guess I just don’t have too much extra time these days…and that extra step just stopped me in my tracks. This way I can do it digitally and print to a 12×12 and insert into a full page protector. Right? Thanks!

  3. #4

    That was an awesome tutorial, there are a few new things for me to try. I have been making 8.5×11 digital project life pages since you share yours and I am so stoked with how they look. I hope you continue to share more of these tutorials 🙂

  4. #7

    Great pages again this week. What a field trip for Cole, will pray for safe travels and no rain. My kids are going away for their first camp this summer and I’m a nervous wreck too. Love seeing the pretty flowers growing, thank goodness it’s finally warm out. Hope you are feeling better this week. Sorry the movies weren’t that good, they do have some good old tv shows on during the day if that would help next time your sick.

  5. #8
    Jan Clark

    Thanks for a great tutorial, I’m going to try this on my next PL page. Sometimes it’s easier to have the written instructions rather than a video. Hope you feel better soon.

  6. #9
    Abby P.

    I’m very familiar with Photoshop, and yet everytime you do a tutorial I learn something new!!! Thank you for sharing 😀 TGIF – hope you get plenty of rest this weekend!

  7. #10

    Love your work, Cathy! Question for you about Project Life digital scrapbooking … are you printing the pages out & putting them in a binder? You mentioned in this post that you don’t have to worry about page protectors, so I’m just wondering how you’re managing the process. Also – any thoughts on how to incorporate memorabilia from the week (tickets, etc.) into the digital PL concept? Thanks!

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