10 Holiday Tips & Tricks | Day Three

Welcome to Day Three of the 2017 edition of our always-popular 10 Holiday Tips & Tricks series here on The Digital Press blog!

I’m here today to show you how you can make the cutest (and easiest!) bottle toppers to use for hostess gifts, festive home decor, and more!

In December, my family and I often find ourselves going to all sorts of holiday gatherings for which we bring along a hostess gift. We usually bring a bottle of wine or a lidded jar filled with shiny wrapped candy, but I like to go a step further and dress up the container a bit.  If it’s a seriously last-minute event, this means I end up crocheting a little scarf and maybe a hat for the container while my husband drives us to the event, but if I have a little more time to prepare, I like to make one of these cute festive bottle toppers…

Step 1

Gather your materials, as shown here…

About the felt — for this project, one of those sheets of felt from the craft store works fine, but so do leftover scraps (thus whittling down any accumulated fabric, which is always a bonus in my book!). The most important component here is ensuring that the piece of felt you choose is sufficiently wide to go around the container, and tall enough to get sufficient height on the finished topper (I like mind tall; the end product shown up above is is about 8 1/2″).

Step 2

With the flexible measuring tape, measure the circumference of the container for which you’re making the topper. Add 1/2″.  For a standard 750-ml wine bottle, this measurement should be 4 1/2″; for a regular Mason jar with a canning lid, it’s 9 1/2″.

Step 3

Because I like these toppers to be rather tall, I usually just use the full height (the shorter of the sides of a craft store felt sheet) of whatever piece of felt I’m using. On one of those craft-store felt sheets, that’s about 9 1/4″. Lay out the felt, and along the bottom edge, measure and mark that circumference.  I usually just make a tiny snip with the scissors to make the mark.

Step 4

If you’re satisfied with your straight-line cutting skills, cut a straight line from that tiny snip to the upper corner for a “full height” topper. If you’re not confident that your scissors will obey, then line up a straight edge between those two points and cut with a rotary cutting wheel, or draw a line with a fabric pen and cut with the scissors. If you don’t have a fabric pen, make sure you draw on the back side of the material, and then flip it over before starting the next step so the marker line stays hidden in the final product. Your end result after cutting should look like a tall right triangle.  If you want a shorter hat, just aim for a point further down the long straight edge (remember, though, that you’ll be trimming about an inch off that long edge in Step 5, below).

Step 5

Thread your needle with a piece of thread 2.5 to 3 times as long as the hypotenuse (diagonal line) of that triangle. Fold the hypotenuse over to the long edge, and pin it closed if desired. The bottom edge will not line up correctly. This is okay. Don’t cut anything, as we’ll clean that up in the next step. Starting at the top (this is key!), but about 1/4 to 1/2″ down, whip stitch the two edges together, keeping the stitch depth about 1/8″ and the spacing about 1/8″. Stitch all the way to the short end of the felt, and knot off your stitch so it doesn’t unravel.

Step 6

I usually do a quick fit-check at this point, just to be safe. The topper should be loose enough to fit over the top of the bottle, but not so snug that you really have to shove and tug to get it on (these aren’t skinny jeans!). Once that’s done, I even off that bottom edge by eyeballing a straight line and cutting it off with scissors. Be sure not to inadvertently snip off that nice knot you just made, though.  You can also snip off that top edge too (be sure not to cut off the knot on this end, either, though). Fit-check again; if the topper seems a bit loose, simply fold up the bottom edge (this also reduces the gnome-y look slightly).

Step 7

To embellish or not to embellish… that is the question. 😉

Sometimes I like the rustic elf look, and I just stop here. More often than not, however, I add a bell or a button to the end of the topper, and/or a strip of ribbon or felt as a hat band.

If adding a band, add an extra 1/2″ so you can fold over the outer edge for a cleaner finish. If adding a hat band, make sure that the final result isn’t narrower than the base of the hat.  A too-tight band will warp the hat and it won’t sit nicely on the bottle or jar. Hot glue is probably the easiest way to get ribbon or a hat band on, but it’s more susceptible to breaking with rough handling than a handful of small, independent stitches.  If using fabric glue, don’t forget about the necessary drying time so that you don’t end up getting sticky fingers in the car on the way to the party.

You probably noticed in the first image of this post that there’s a special red “Santa” hat topper. To get the Santa hat effect, I use Baby Bee Lambie Pie yard in “angel”. I cut a length about 12 to 16″ long (fingertips to elbow) and wad it up, making sure the ends are tucked in. Then I wrap white thread around the bundle a few times, and stitch that into the pointy end of the topper.

*TIP* If your felt isn’t really stiff or thick, I recommend folding the pointy tip down about 1/2″ and tucking it into the cone, then sewing on the yarn ball. To get the fluffy hat band, I loosely wrap the Lambie Pie yarn four or five (or more if you want it to look fuller) times around the base, 1/4″ to 1/8″ up from the bottom edge.  I secure the ends and all the loops with white thread in four separate places, each about 90 degrees apart on the circle.

 

And that’s all there is to it — easy-peasy festive bottle toppers! Can you image how cute it would be to show up with a six pack of fancy soda bottles all wearing cute hats like these? Actually, I love that idea so much I think I might just make a few more and put them out on my mantel…

If you’re thinking of trying this project… head over to The Digital Press’s challenge forum to get details about how you can earn challenge points for December 2017 at TDP if you try any of our “Holiday Tips & Tricks.”


caliten

About the Author  Carrie is a creative team member here at The Digital Press. She and her family enjoy spending time outdoors, year-round, near their home in Colorado. In addition to scrapbooking and the occasional hybrid home decor project, Carrie also reads voraciously, accumulates fabric, makes soap, brews beer, grows hops, and tries to keep indoor plants alive.

10 Holiday Tips & Tricks | Day Two

Welcome to Day Two of the 2017 edition of our always-popular 10 Holiday Tips & Tricks series here on The Digital Press blog!

Today, we’re reviving a post that originally appeared on The Digital Press blog back in December 2015, written by our favorite photography guru, Farrah Jobling. Farrah was one of the original founding members of The Digital Press’s creative team, but she bid a fond farewell to us here at TDP earlier this year in order to pursue an exciting new career change. Because we still get a bunch of questions about the elusive skill of creating and capturing bokeh when taking photographs this time of year, however, we decided to revive her post as one of this year’s 10 Holiday Tips & Tricks.

As such, here’s a look at her original post in its entirety… 😉


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Most people have their trees up, sparkling with lights… and now they’re wondering about the best way to get some great photos. Getting great photos of holiday lights is easier than you might think! Here is a simple tutorial to get those great shots.

First, I need to tell you a little about bokeh.

Bokeh is defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light.” So what does this mean, exactly? In general, it means that while the in-focus parts of a photo are beautiful, the parts that are out-of-focus are just as beautiful. How do we apply this to our holiday lights? Easy peasy… we do what we never plan to do: we take a purposely out-of-focus shot.

The secret to shooting bokeh lies in its definition: out-of-focus points of light. You need four things to shoot great holiday bokeh: (1) pin-point highlights (twinkly lights on the tree), (2) low ambient light (your only light source should be the tree lights themselves), (3) a lens able to open to a large aperture (f/2.8 or wider), and (4) a short focal distance (or rather — enough distance between the lights and where your lens is actually focused).

TIPS:

  1. If you have a tripod, use it; if not, rest your camera on a steady surface.
  2. Turn off all other lights and use a higher ISO. I recommend ISO 800.
  3. Use your widest aperture. I recommend f/2.8 or wider.
  4. Keep your shutter speed high enough to avoid camera shake if you aren’t using a tripod. This will vary based on the amount ambient light available. I used SS 1/400.
  5. MANUAL focus! The key here is to manually take your lens out of focus to force your lens to a shorter focal distance.

 

Here is my example:

 

Don’t have a DSLR? No worries! You can still get great bokeh photos with a point and shoot camera (or even a cell phone camera). The key here is to trick your P&S (or phone) into taking a photo at a shorter focal distance. The answer? Put your camera on macro mode. Macro mode has a little tulip icon. I have an iPhone 6S and use the Camera+ app, which also has a macro mode.

Here is an example using my iPhone:

 

 

BONUS TIP:

Want to get even more creative? Try making shaped bokeh!

To do so, I dug out my paper punches and punched a few shapes into black paper. I also used my DSLR and lens, as I haven’t figured out a way to do this with my phone’s camera.

 

 

First, cut out a circle of paper the same size as your lens…

 

 

Punch a shape in the middle of the circle (fold the paper circle in half if your punch is short and you can’t reach the middle).

Next, tape the circle to your lens as shown below… and then follow the same instructions listed up above for “normal” bokeh photos.

 

Here’s a look at the result… isn’t it fun?

 

 

You can try some other fun shapes too…

 

 

Hopefully, this will help you capture some great bokeh photos this holiday season. Give it a try!

If you’re thinking of trying this… head over to The Digital Press’s challenge forum and get the details about how you can earn challenge points for December 2017 at TDP if you try any of our “Holiday Tips & Tricks” throughout the month as they appear here in this blog series!


Farrah
About the Author Farrah Jobling is a former member of The Digital Press creative team who left in 2017 to pursue a fantastic new career opportunity. She remains one of our favorite photography gurus, however, and therefore on occasion we find ourselves reviving her posts. She lives in Denver with her husband Mike; her son Nicholas; her daughter Claire; and her dog, Hope.

10 Holiday Tips & Tricks | Day One

Hello there! Amie here (of Little Lamm Paper Co.)… wishing you a very Happy December and welcoming you to Day One of the 2017 edition of our always-popular 10 Holiday Tips & Tricks series here on The Digital Press blog!

Today I’m here to share a fun “book-a-day” style Advent Calendar that I am doing this December with my son, Ian. I’m hoping this post is early enough to be helpful for anyone who has kids (or book-loving adults?) in their household and still needs Advent Calendar ideas for the upcoming holiday season!

I’m not going to lie… originally, in the beginning, my plan was to wrap up 24 books individually and tag each one with the numbers 1-24… but then I found a really easy (and actually quite fun!) “lazy” way to get this project up and running — an awesome time-saver, and yet still exciting for the recipient!

I was saved from the work (and waste) of endless wrapping by none other than the Dollar Spot at Target (you red card holders know where that is!). There, I found some cute burlap-ish gift bags and bought one to use as a daily “Santa Bag,” of sorts, to deliver each day’s book. I decided to alter one of my own home decor designs — the Arctic Reindeer print — to make an iron-on transfer for the bag…

After making birthday shirts for 6 years now, I definitely have a few tips to share for successful iron-on transfers…

  1. Don’t forget to reverse your image! If the image is not backwards on the paper, it will be on the shirt/bag. 😉
  2. Don’t use the “iron transfer” setting on your printer. This has always come out with fuzzy images on any printer I’ve ever owned. Instead, I reverse the image myself in Photoshop… and I print it out as a photo on matte paper at the best printing level. This gives me a perfect crisp image every time.
  3. LINT ROLLER YOUR CLOTH BEFORE DOING THE TRANSFER! We have 2 cats and a bulldog in our house, and no surface stays clear for more than 2 seconds. Most of my son’s birthday shirts have a cat hair embedded into the image if I forget this step.
  4. Don’t forget to let the image cool completely before taking off the paper.
  5. Save money by planning ahead. I’ve learned not to buy iron-on transfers from local big-box stores like Office Depot, etc. (where I have, in the past, spent $18 on the same item I could have gotten from Amazon for $8).

With regard to the book-a-day part of this Advent Calendar project… I have heard of some people who wrap library books or buy used books (BetterWorldBooks is a great used book source). Some people also just use any stories — they don’t necessarily have to be Christmas-themed!

For our family, we unwrap our last book on December 23rd due to the fact that we spend Christmas Eve with family. On that final night, my son gets a new book and a set of pajamas as his final gift. This year, we got him the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them book because it has a Griffin on the cover (a family name!)… and also some Star Wars PJs so he can wear them to the late showing of the upcoming The Last Jedi movie on his birthday, which is December 26. 🙂

To make sure I remember to re-fill the book bag each night… I have set a reminder on my phone for 9:00pm each night starting on November 30th — and that’s when I put a new book into the sack. Then, the sack will go into the basket with any books that we have already opened…

Every morning when Ian wakes up, there will be a new package under the tree.

In case you need some ideas for books… here are some of my of favorite Christmas/winter-themed books from over the years…

  • Christmas for Greta and Gracie by Yasmeen Ismail
  • The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold by Maureen Fergus
  • Maple & Willow’s Christmas Tree by Lori Nichols
  • Bear’s Winter Party by Deborah Hodge
  • Bear Stays Up For Christmas by Karma Wilson
  • The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas by Laura Murray
  • Beyond the Pond by Joseph Kuefler
  • The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi
  • Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis
  • Harold at the North Pole by Crockett Johnson
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  • Olive, the Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh
  • A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe
  • The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert
  • Olivia Helps With Christmas
  • Walking in a Winter Wonderland by Richard B Smith
  • Wendell The Narwhal by Emily Dove
  • The Christmas Eve Tree by Delia Huddy
  • The Lost Gift: A Christmas Story by Kallie George
  • The Great Spruce by John Duvall
  • The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear
  • First Snow by Bomi Park
  • Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant
  • The Little Reindeer by Nicola Killen
  • Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht
  • Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares
  • Walk This World at Christmastime by Debbie Powell

If you’re thinking of trying this… head over to The Digital Press’s challenge forum and get the details about how you can earn challenge points for December 2017 at TDP if you try any of our “Holiday Tips & Tricks” throughout the month as they appear here in this blog series! Additionally, I’d love to see any photos of your December/holiday projects using TDP goodies in the gallery this month, so link me up after you’re finished creating and uploading! 🙂


Amie Lamm

About the Author  Amie Lamm is the designer behind Little Lamm Paper Co. at The Digital Press. She is a work at home mom/graphic artist living in Fargo, North Dakota with her hubby, her almost 6 year old son, 2 lazy cats, and a hyper bulldog. She survives her days with copious amounts of coffee and recorded episodes of Fixer Upper.

Tutorial Tuesday | How to Use Alpha Sheets

Welcome to another edition of Tutorial Tuesday here on The Digital Press blog!

Today, I am going to show you how to use that full-page alpha sheet that comes with some digital products.  If you are not sure what I mean by that, I am referring to the .PNG file that contains ALL of the letters/numbers/punctuation in one place (as opposed to the individual .PNG files you sometimes get for each of those items).

Full alpha sheets are really simple to use, but it just takes a little knowledge of the tricks behind doing so. You’ve probably realized, over time, that if you simply try to click and drag a single letter over to your layout, you will end up getting ALL of the letters. But fear not! I’m here today to help you learn how to easily select and use just the letters/numbers you need.

So, lets get started…

Today, for this tutorial, I am using products by Dawn by Design. She has some lovely alphas to mix and match in your layouts, and many of those alphas include a full-page alpha sheet.

When I open the alpha sheet in Photoshop (PS), it looks like this:

You will notice that this is a .PNG file, which means it has a transparent background and the individual letters arranged across the canvas.

In order to arrange these letters into words on my layout, I will need to first select and copy individual letters. I can either drag the entire alphabet onto my layout and work from there, or I can copy individual letters from the original file and drag them over to my layout one at a time. Either way… in order to grab just ONE letter, first I have to select the letter I want to use. There are many ways to do this, but I will share with you some of the easier ways!

First, you are going to need to know how to use some of your selection tools… so let’s get familiar with the Marquee Tool, the Lasso Tool, and the Magic Wand Tool.

Here is how to use each one.

1. Marquee Tool — this is perhaps the easiest method, as you simply click and drag to draw out a box surrounding the letter you wish to select…

2. Lasso Tool — sometimes the letters are too close together to use the marquee tool easily.  In these instances, the lasso tool works wonders. I prefer to use the polygonal lasso, as I can control where the lines go.  You simply left-click to anchor a line into a point, and then click and drag to draw out a shape around the letter you want to use…

3. Magic Wand Tool — this one is a little trickier because there are more variables to consider, but some people prefer to use it. It is a good tool to use in really ornate (or messy) alphas, as well. To use the magic wand, you want to zoom in a bit on the letter you want to select. Then, using your little wand, click on the letter…

You should see the marching ants form around the letter. If you see marching ants on ALL of the letters, you will need to go up and check the box next to the word contiguous. This constrains the selection to pixels that touch each other…

Whichever method you chose, you should now have your letter selected. At this point, you can simply hit Control-J (or Command-J for Mac users) and it will automatically copy your letter onto a new layer. Now, simply drag that layer over to where you want to place your letter…

Repeat this for each letter you need to use on your layout.

And there you have it! Now you know exactly how to handle those full alpha sheets like a pro!

The beautiful thing with using these full sheets is that instead of having to go back into to your folders and open a new letter file for each letter  you need, you can simply open this one file and select the letters you need as you form your words. This will save you time, and it will save your computer from having to switch back and forth all the time.

And just for fun, here is the layout I made using Dawn’s Sophisticate Kit and San Serif Stamp Alphas, I also used Legacy Templates from Calista’s Stuff…

Now go give it a try, yourself, and show us in the gallery all of your beautiful pages!


Erin is an artsy crafty kind of girl who is currently dabbling in far too many things, but is working hard to enjoy every moment of it, while avoiding the rain, which is difficult due to living in the land of many rains. She is slowly learning to use her smart phone to capture all the fun little bits of life that would otherwise go unremembered in the busy craziness that is raising a family!

Tutorial Tuesday | Creating Photoshop Actions

Welcome to another edition of Tutorial Tuesday here on The Digital Press blog! Today, I am going to talk to you about quickly creating actions in Photoshop — cutting down the time it takes to perform repetitive tasks, and leaving you more time to scrap! If having more time to scrap interests you, creating actions is a really simple answer. They are easy to create — and can be used for simple as well as complex tasks.

First off, you’ll want to create your own Action Set to house all of the bright and shiny new actions you are going to create once you fall in love with actions (and you will!). Creating your own Action Set will allow you to find your actions quickly.

How to Create Your Own Action Set

1.  Start with a blank Photoshop canvas or open up a scrapbook page or photo.

It doesn’t matter what you start out with when you’re creating an Action Set. You just need something open.

2. Open the Action panel

Open the Action panel by clicking Window > Actions.

3.  Click on the icon on the top right of the Actions panel. It looks like 4 lines atop each other.

A pop-up window will appear. Choose “New Set.”

4.  Name your Action Set

A dialog box will appear. Here you will type in the a name for your Action Set (your name perhaps?). Then click OK.

5. That’s it!

And now that you’ve got your action set created… let’s move on to actually creating an action or two…


How to Create an Action

1. Begin with a blank Photoshop window, a photo or a scrapbook page

What you start with is completely up to you and depends what you want your action to do.

TIP | Out of an abundance of caution, I make sure that whatever layout or photo I have open is a copy, or that I’ve saved it before I write my action so that I don’t inadvertently write over my original file.

2. Open the Actions panel

Open the Actions panel by clicking Window > Actions.

3. Now you are going to begin writing your Action

Click the Create New Action button on the bottom of the Actions panel (it looks like a piece of paper with a folded corner). An alternative is to choose New Action from the Actions panel menu.

3. You will now name your Action, choose where it’s going to be saved, and begin recording

  • The name I chose for my sample action was “Save for Web 900px” (the name you choose will obviously depend on the action you are going to create). Examples of actions you may want to write may be to “Save to JPG,” “Save to Web,” “Add guides to a layout,” “Change a photo to black and white,” “Warp a shadow,” “Frame a photo,” etc. You get it… the sky’s the limit!
  • I placed my action in the Action Set I created above — “Barbara’s Actions.”
  • NOTE: there are other options you can choose in this dialog box, but it’s ok to leave them at their defaults, which is what I do.
  • Then, click Record to begin recording your action.

7. Now the fun (recording) begins!

Any steps you take from this point on will be recorded in the Actions panel. Perform all of the commands and operations you want your action to record.

FYI, if you look at the bottom of the Actions panel at this point you will see a Red Dot which indicates that you are recording an action.

RecordButton

8. Stop Recording

When you’ve finished recording all the steps you want included in your action, you can either click the Stop Recording button at the bottom of the Actions panel (it looks like a filled in white square) OR you can choose Stop Recording from the Actions panel menu.

That’s it — the basic “how-to” of recording an action!


So as not to ignore the obvious, let’s go over the steps of how to play/use the action you just recorded!

Play the Action You’ve Just Recorded

1. Have a file open in Photoshop

2. Open the Actions panel.

The Action panel is opened by clicking Window > Actions.

3. Navigate to the action you want to play and hit the PLAY SELECTION button.

The Play Selection button is the right pointing triangle button on the bottom of the Actions panel.

So, what do you think? Recording actions is not so difficult, right? It’s basically just the act of coming up with an idea for an action, naming it, clicking record when you’re ready to start recording, and stopping the recording when you’re done — just like you would on a tape recorder. [NOTE, I  know, I said tape recorder. That’s because I’m old. LOL!]

Enjoy. They sky’s the limit … really! As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them here in the comments — or in The Digital Press forums — and I (or one of the many other scrappers in The Digital Press world) will be happy to help you out!

Happy early Thanksgiving everyone!


BarbaraAbout the Author:  Barbara is a member of the creative team here at The Digital Press. She’s a mom to two adult “kids” (an almost 21 year old son and an 18 year old daughter). In her free time (since her kids are adults, like it or not she has plenty of free time) she loves to tell her family’s stories through digital scrapbooking, learn all she can about Photoshop and Lightroom, take photos, travel and hang out with her family. Life is good!

Hybrid How-To | Napkin Rings

Hi, everyone! Kate here, bringing you another edition of our Hybrid How-To series on The Digital Press blog!

Today, I am going to show you how to use your digital scrapbooking stash to make some really cute paper napkin rings. It’s so easy!

Thanksgiving is next week for those of us in the United States, but this would make a fun addition to any table setting. There are so many digital kits to choose from… and you could easily find one that matches the theme of just about any dinner party!

Supplies Needed

–White cardstock paper
–Scissors or a cutting machine (I used a Silhouette)
–Adhesive or fastener of your choice (I used a stapler)
–Photo editing software (such as Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, etc.)
–Digital scrapbooking kit of your choice (I used Gather by Dunia Designs and Little Lamb & Co., shown below)

Instructions

1. Use your photo editing software to design your rings. I made mine 1.5″ wide and the length of the paper I was using (11″). If you don’t plan on using a cutting machine, my tip is to keep the design really simple so it’s easier to cut by hand…

2. Print and cut. I used a Silhouette for mine because the wreath has a lot of intricate details and the whole inside needed to be cut out…

3. Wrap the long edges together and adhere to form a ring. I used a stapler for this, but you could use double-sided tape, or even glue. Then, you’ll use adhesive (glue dots, tape, etc.) to attach your decorative piece to the ring you’ve created…

4. Once you’re finished, fold the napkins however you like, slip the rings over them, and you’re all finished. They’re ready for your table! So easy, right?

I hope that you have enjoyed this edition of Hybrid How-To, and that you will give this a try and come up with some of your own napkin rings! Don’t forget to visit the CROSSWORD SECTION in The Digital Press forum, and jump into this month’s Hybrid Challenge if you are thinking of trying this project. You can earn points toward discounts & FREEBIES!


Kate About the Author  Kate is on the hybrid team here at The Digital Press. She lives on the Utah/Colorado border with her husband, 5 kids, 10 chickens, and a dog named Gracie. She’s a city-born girl who found she’s really a country girl at heart. She can be found outside, barefoot, and probably in her garden.