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Now What? A Guide to Creating You First Layout in Photoshop

Now What? A Guide to Creating You First Layout in Photoshop

I have been asked many times to write a tutorial on how to get started in digital scrapbooking. If you are anything like me, I wasn’t introduced to digital scrapbooking by someone I love. I wasn’t shown how to begin digital scrapping, and I definitely wasn’t shown ANYTHING about scrapping in Photoshop! Instead, I saw an ad in a paper scrapping magazine that piqued my interest, and I went on a search to find out what it was all about! I then began months of hit and miss tutorials and unbelievable frustration until finally, it all began to click!

Today, I thought I would share a quick and easy way to begin scrapping from scratch. You have been to the store, you bought your first kit, and now you want to scrap like the pros! Well, I can tell you that it will take some practice, but with a little help, you can be well on your way to creating those special pages and having them printed for all you loved ones to see!

Let’s get started!

You will need to begin by creating a blank canvas to work on. Much like a painter, our canvas needs a little preparation, but luckily for us, it is WAY quicker than creating a real canvas!

  1. With your Photoshop open, click on File>New.
  2. At this point, a dialogue box will pop up and ask prompt you to make some choices about your new file. You can name your new canvas or, use the default setting of “Untitled” and rename it later.
  3. Next, you need to choose the size you want your layout to be. The most common sizes are 12×12 or 8×8 or 8 1/2 x11. I always scrap in the 12×12 size. You can always come back later and size it down to 8×8 without any loss of quality.
  4. This step is VERY important: choose your resolution as 300 pixels/in. If you intend on these layouts being printed, they need to be created in a 300 pixel format for the best quality.
  5. I use the default Color Mode :RGB Color: 8 bit
  6. On the Background contents box, I change my preference to Transparent. You can scrap with a white background, but sometimes it is really hard to see some of your white elements. Transparent is the easiest for me to work with.
  7. When you are through making your selections, Click OK.

 Helpful Hint* If you use a particular size canvas all the time and you don’t want to have to always come in and tell the computer what you want, you can save your sizes to a Preset. To do that, go in and fill out all the info that we just ran through and then on the buttons UNDER the OK, look for the SAVE PRESET button. It will ask you to name the file (In this case, I named it 12×12) Click OK and then OK again. It has now saved your file size and all you have to do later on is choose it from the drop down menu when you are creating a new canvas!

Once you click OK, your canvas then opens up onto your workstation.

Helpful Hint* after years of staring at a small screen, I finally wizened up and discovered a way to help me “get closer” to my subject.  There are a couple of ways to do that, but the shortcut is the simplest and quickest way. On the left, in your tools palette, choose the magnifying glass. Once you select it, it will appear on your screen as the magnifying glass icon. Move your cursor (now the glass) over on top of your paper and right click on the blank canvas. Select “Fit on Screen” and your new page will be nice and big for us to begin!

There are many theories on how to begin your layout. Some people pick out their pictures first, and yet others do the layout first and then find pictures to fit it. I tend to do the latter, because I don’t want to be constrained by the pictures. I want to create and then find something that I think fits later on. Either way, you need to find the one that works best for you! For today’s lesson, I will teach the more traditional way and we will pick out a photo first.

To choose a photo, go to File> Open and then locate your pictures on your computer.

Navigate to where you saved your photos and open the file by clicking on it and then hitting Open on the dialogue box.

Once your photo is open, make sure that you have the move tool selected in your tools palette and click on the photo and drag it onto the new, blank canvas. Make sure that you hold down the SHIFT key while dragging, and your photo will automatically center itself on your page.

After adding the photo to the blank canvas

I usually try to make my photos around the 4×6 size.  That is a good viewing size on a 12×12 page. As I am creating my layout, I might end up sizing it several more times, but I start out making it a 4×6.

In order to size a photo that is already on your page, the quickest and easiest way to do it is by creating one of my all-time favorite Photoshop sensations…the clipping mask! Clipping masks are a very basic procedure, but they are a time saver for sure! In fact, I use a clipping mask for almost EVERYTHING I create!

Helpful Hint* Before we begin drawing the clipping mask, we need to make sure that you have your ruler guide showing. On your workstation, go to View>Rulers OR hit CTRL+R. Your ruler guides will then pop up and you will be able to create your 4×6 clipping mask.

To begin creating the photo clipping mask, select the Move tool in your tools palette on the left of your workstation.

Next, on your new page, where your photo is, draw a rectangle by clicking on the top left corner at the “0” on your rulers guide, dragging your mouse down to the 6” mark on your ruler, then, make sure that you are also at the 4” mark on the ruler located at the top of the page. Once you have made your rectangle, release the mouse button. A rectangle will appear on your page with the marching ants as its borders.

Once you have your rectangle drawn, you will need to fill it in with a color. I usually just choose one of the default colors.(black or white)  In order to fill the rectangle, you need to go to your layers palette on the right of your screen, and click on the icon that looks like paper with a corner turned up. This is your Create New Layer Icon. When you hit this button, a layer will appear of the one you have highlighted, so make sure you have your bottom layer highlighted BEFORE you click the new layer button. If you didn’t, NO FRET, we can just drag the layer to the proper place later on.

Now that you have a new layer created, click on that new layer with your mouse so that it is highlighted. Then, find your paint bucket in your tools palette either by selecting it or using the letter “G” as your shortcut. Your paint bucket will now appear as your cursor and you can click on the INSIDE of the rectangle to fill it in.

Now we need to clip the photo to the rectangle. You will do this by selecting the photo in your layers palette and dragging it ABOVE the new rectangle layer you just created. With your Move Tool selected, you will move it on your workstation to above the rectangle. It does not have to fit perfectly, it can hang over..but it has to ATLEAST fill the rectangle.

Once you have it positioned, click on the photo in your layers palette to the right and on the line directly under it..the one that separates it from the layer below, click ALT plus that line. In Photoshop Elements, you will click on the photo layer and then hit CTRL+ALT+G to clip the photo to the rectangle mask.

The great thing about masks, is that you can create all different kinds of shapes by using the Custom Shapes Tool in your tool palette and drawing the shape on your page. Then, once you create a new layer, you can fill in the shape and add your photo! This technique can also be used with any element that you find in your new kit! But instead of creating a new layer, you just clip it to the element!

Clipped Photo

Once you clip it to your mask, the possibilities are endless! You can resize your photo to crop it in any way you want! To do this, make sure you hold down the shift key while you are sizing it to keep the proportion of the photo intact. Drag one of the corners of the photo until you get just how you want it. Click on the photo and move it as needed, and then hit “enter” or click on the check mark at the top of your workstation to make the changes complete. After you have clipped your photo, the best thing to do is to link the layers so that you only have to select one of the layers to move them. To do this, select both your photo and the clipping mask and then click on the link layer icon at the bottom of your layers palette.

Once we have finished our photo, it is time to add our papers to the page. Click File>Open and locate the digital kit you are going to use. Since this is a beginners tutorial, I am going to suggest choosing just one or two possibilities that you might like to use as your background paper. Once you have narrowed it down, open the paper or papers.

The paper opens on its own page, just like the photo did, so we will need to drag the paper over to our new layout. Remember to hold the shift key down when you add the paper so that it will center the paper onto your page. It is WAY easier to do it that way than to have to fix it later on. The paper layer will come in above the layer that is highlighted in your layers palette. If it comes in above your photo, click on it in the layers palette to the right, and drag it down below your photo layer. You should then be able to see the photo on top of the background papers you just chose.

Once you have added the papers, move your photo to where you would like it to be on your page. Click on your picture and, with the move tool selected, drag your picture to where you want it on your layout. Because you linked your layers, both the picture and mask will move together. Once we relocate the photo to where we want it on the page, we want to begin our layering process by adding a paper mat behind the photo to anchor it to the page.

I want to add a circular mat under the corner of my photo to anchor it to the page, so we need to create a mask just like we did with the photo, however, this time, we will choose the Elliptical Marquee Tool, located in the same place as your rectangle marquee tool. In your layers palette, click on the layer BELOW your photo and then hit your Create a New Layer button at the bottom of the pallet.  Your new bank layer will pop up just below your photo and above the layer that you had highlighted. Now, with your Elliptical Marquee Tool selected, click on a spot on your layout and, holding the shift key, drag a circle that will fit under your photo corner. Mine is about 2.5 inches in diameter.


By holding the shift key, you are keeping the circle nice and round!

Once you have drawn the circle, make sure your new layer is selected in your layers palette; hit the G on your keyboard and your paint can will appear, then click inside the circle you just drew to fill it with your paint. Hit CTRL+D to deselect your circle and then select your move tool so that you can position the circle where you want it. You may end up having to resize your circle. Follow the same procedure that we used to resize the photo.

Once you have your circle, we are going to clip our paper to it. Locate your paper on the file on your computer, and choose the paper that you want to add to the circle. Drag and drop the paper onto your layout while you hold the shift key, and then clip it to your circle following the same procedures as we did for the photo.

Next, I am going to add a frame behind by photo to lift it from the page and give it some dimension. Locate your Elements folder and find a frame that you want to use. Open the frame and drag and drop it onto your page. Next, position the frame at a slight tile behind your photo. You may have to reposition your frame in the layers palette to underneath your photo. Then, when you move it on your layout, it will be under your photo.

Shadowing your layout is a technique that is more advanced, and is not something I will go into today, but Mye has some great Shadow Styles that are fantastic for the beginner and the more seasoned scrapper. They are available for both Photoshop Elements and Photoshop CS. I will use those drop shadows today to show you how different your layout will look with the perfect shadow.

If you do not have a Shadow style, or do not choose to purchase one, you can create some drop shadows on your own through Photoshop by selecting the layer you want to shadow and the hitting the fx button on the bottom of your layers palette.  Once you hit the fx button, a dialogue box will pop up and you can select ok for a basic drop shadow, or you can customize it yourself by adjusting the size and distance sliders.

Now that you have added a paper mat and a fun frame, we will begin to add some elements to our page. Locate your elements folder once again, and choose some elements that you would like to add to your layout.  When choosing elements to add to your page, I always have a few go to elements that I recommend. I always look for some beautiful branches, flowers, a few ribbons and some string of course! Then, I look for some unusual elements that will complement the picture I am scrapping and help to tell the story of the picture. Whether that is a word label, or some stars or, in my case, a pretty little moon, I choose something that will help to scrap the pictures story.

Once you have chosen your elements, begin to add them to the page just as we did the papers. I always put my elements ABOVE the photos and then as I begin the process of layering, I will move them below the frames and pictures as needed. Once you have them all chosen, I like to be able to see my page without all the clutter of the elements, so I select all of the elements in the layers palette, then, on my workstation, with my move tool selected, I will drag them off into the empty space of your workstation. You will not be able to see them on your layout, but you can locate them as you need them in your layers palette. This is my personal preference, but you may leave them on your page if you choose.

Often times, the elements will come in as the full page, and you will need to size them just as we did the photo and papers. Resize if necessary, holding down the shift key while you drag, so as to keep the proportions the same.   Once you have your workstation ready and your elements resized to fit the page, we can begin to add the elements one by one.

I am beginning with a paper branch and I will add it to the corner where we have the circle. Make sure that you move it in your layers palette to right above the photo.

I want to have two branches, so the easiest way to do that is to duplicate the element. There are two different ways to duplicate an element. You can select the element and hit CTRL+J,  or, and this is the method I use, you can select your element, hold down the ALT key and then drag your element to where you would like it on your page. I would like for my branch to be facing the other way so that it doesn’t cover my photo, so we will need to flip it horizontally. With your element selected, go to Edit>Transform>Flip Horizontal. You element will rotate and you can the position it where you want it on your layout.

second branch added and flipped

Add your drop shadows to the leaves, remembering that leaves will appear farther off of the page, so their shadow needs to be larger and softer. I used the foliage drop shadow in Mye’s Shadow Styles.

Now we will add some flowers. One of my favorite tricks is to double up the same flower and layer them together, slightly rotating the one in the center. This will give your flowers some added dimension. Add your drop shadows to the flowers.

Continue adding and layering the elements that you chose until you are happy with the look of the layout.

Finally, we need to add a title to your page. Locate the alpha folder and open the letters you need to make your title. Open the files and add them onto your page by dragging and dropping them just as we did with the elements. The letter may need to be sized, so select them all in your layers palette and size them all together, like we did with your elements. This will keep them nice and uniform.

Once you have all your letters sized, select them all in the layers palette and move the title to where you want it on your page. If you want your letters to be aligned, you can do it easily by selecting all of your letters and going to Layer>Align>Bottom Edges.  I choose to align by the bottom edges, but you can choose any of the options and it will instantly align the alpha for you!

When you are finished, check to make sure all your layers have shadows, make sure that it is all positioned how you want it, and then add any journaling that you desire by selecting the text tool in your tool box, dragging a box and then adding your text. As a general rule of thumb, I always save my layout periodically throughout my creating it. I can’t tell you how often I am working on something and the power will go out! VERY frustrating! So make it a rule of thumb to Save, save, save!!!

finished layout

Once you have your layout saved in its .psd, or tiff form, next you will need to flatten your page in order to save it for print and web. Right click on the very bottom layer in your layers palette and select Flatten Image.  This will move all over your layers into one and will make your page smaller for saving. After you Flatten the layout, go to File>Save As and save your layout for Print. I always name my files as year_title_child’s name_print so I would name this 2002_Dream_Courtney_print. That way, when I am getting my layouts ready for print in my albums, I can find them by date and not have to search through my hard drive hoping to find just the one I wanted.

Once I save them for print, then go and Save for Web so that I can upload them to the galleries at my favorite stores! After all, we want the designers to see what we have created with their gorgeous kits..and you may inspire someone else by your gorgeous layout!

When we Save for Print, we need it to be in the 300 pixels that we originally set our page to be, but, the web can only see up to 72 pixels, so, that is how we need to save our page.

Select Image>Image Size> and then change your resolution from 300 pixels to 72 pixels. Make sure that you select Bicubic Sharper (best for reduction) on the very bottom drop down menu. This will help sharpen your layout for web. Click OK.

Now go to File>Save for Web and Devices. Change your image size to 600×600. Make sure that the number on the left hand side of the window, under the picture, is smaller than the number that your gallery allows for uploads. For instance, if the gallery allows uploads up to 160K, then your file image needs to be less than 160K. You can change the number by locating the Quality box in the right corner of the dialogue box and lowering or raising the number as needed. Once you have made all the changes, click Save. It will then ask you to name your file. Again, I name mine 2002_Dream_Courtney_web. This time I add web instead of print so that I can locate the correct file for upload.

You have now completed your very first layout!

I hope you have enjoyed this lesson and I will see you right here next Monday with a brand new tutorial!

See you next week!


comments +

  1. connie miles says:

    Great tutorial! Just one question – how did you make the photo clipping mask corners rounded?

  2. […] this is your first time on this blog, you might want to visit the tutorial on how to create your first page. It’s full of tips and information that even seasoned scrapbookers will […]

  3. Lizzie says:

    I’d like to try digital scrapbooking, too! 🙂

    • Mye De Leon says:

      You sure can, hun! For starters, you can snag the freebies here, follow the tutorials, get yourself a software and you’re good to go 🙂

  4. […] will create your layout. If this is your first time ever to make a layout, you can catch my earlier tutorial on how to begin digital scrapbooking.  In the essence of time, however, I am going to use a layout […]

  5. Nancy says:

    Hi,First I would like to thank you for the very complete tutorial. That is great.

    I have only made 2 pages for digital scrapbooking and I have been trying to figure all this stuff out. I have never had a page printed yet. I have a question though. Why do you have to put the photo on a clipping mask?

    What if you want to put your 12 x12 paper down first, and put your pictures and elements on top of that? Do you have to start out with the 12 x12 transparency and why? If you flatten your image out at the end will it come out right?

    I hope you understand what I am asking. Thanks for the opportunity to ask the question. It is great to know the “why’s” to learn!

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I'm Mye De Leon

I'm a mom with a desire to give the best for her family and turned a lettering hobby into a multi6-figure business. These days, I eat strategy for breakfast and turn other businesses into successful empires.

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I'm Mye


My business is to help your business generate more revenue so you can be who you want to be.

I'm Mye


My business is to help your business generate more revenue so you can be who you want to be.