Sharon Cooke

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Holy Lightscoop, Batman!

In Uncategorized on February 18, 2010 at 6:32 pm

In the department of incredible gizmos for little money, the Lightscoop has got to rank way up there. I first learned about it from David Pogue, a voice I’ve been trusting in one way or another for a long time.  (I guess I’m not paying that much attention to Pogue, though, as he recommended this product at the end of 2007 and I only found out about it two weeks ago.) The Lightscoop is an easy little mirror attachment that makes the onboard flash on your DSLR practically as good as an external flash. Instead of the flash whomping the subject with bright light that destroys all the contours, Lightscoop throws the light up to bounce off the ceiling and fall back down on the subject like soft light on a cloudy day. And here’s possibly the best part: the attachment only costs $25!

Here’s the little darling attached to a DSLR (Something that takes about 3 seconds to do) and a comparison of flatout flash compared to Lightscooped flash:


Tempting Templates

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2010 at 4:52 pm

My relationship with the templates I buy from my favorite template designers (mostly Ali Edwards, Cathy Zielske, Michelle Martin, and Katie Pertiet, all at is generally good but not always straightforward. I have used this template from Cathy Zielske’s Design Your Life course twice in just a couple of weeks, both times because it allowed me to get in many pictures of my subject’s amazing little face. The layout works well for story-telling, too.

My first layout with this template turned out like this:

The second version looks like this:

But look what happened when I started out with the left page of this template from Katie Pertiet:

I ended up with this:

As I was working on this layout problems developed: the postage stamp frame was too white for what I had on the page at that time. Then I felt the edges of the postal stamp frame were too busy for what I was doing on the page. Then something else came up, and so on. Until at one point near the end I noted that the only part of Katie’s original template that I still had on the page was the perforated edge of one of the patterned papers, but eventually that went, too. As it stands now, my  layout has nothing from the template—and yet, I have to say that the template was a help to me. It got me started, and it sort of kept up a dialogue with me. As if the template were saying, “let’s put in some cool postage frames,” or “let’s use a vintage postcard.” These were ideas I tried and found wanting for this layout, but I’m still very glad I tried them.

If you haven’t tried a template, you might want to try one now. Just remember that you want them to be “fully layered” so you have complete freedom to use them (or in at least this one case, not use them) as best suits your topic du jour.

Credits: Quelle Journee: Katie Pertiet Childhood Paper Pack and striped paper Liv Esteban at (part of class materials).

Let Them Eat Mousse: Everything from Katie Pertiet Eat Cake kit.

At the Children’s Museum: Notebook No.4 Paper Pack by Katie Pertiet,  Brad Bonanaza No.1 by Pattie Knox (recolored), Arrow by Kathryn Ballint, Grandma Rose’s Hats kit (a freebie! Get one for yourself here,)

Loving Jessica Sprague

In Uncategorized on January 29, 2010 at 9:20 pm

I see that I’ve taken 11 courses at and am signed up and eagerly awaiting a twelfth starting next month on getting the most out of my beloved Wacom tablet (which essentially lets you substitute a very, very smart pen for your mouse.)

Some of these classes have been free; some have not. All have been excellent. By the time I learned about Jessica, I had already found other ways to learn Photoshop, so I haven’t taken her beginner and intermediate courses in digital scrapbooking, but I did take her advanced course, Digi in Deep, which is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself as a digital scrapbooker.  I learned a HUGE amount there and, even better, enjoyed every minute of it. (The layout above was done in that class.)  I hear that the beginner and intermediate courses in this three course series, Up and Running with Photoshop and Now We’re Rockin’ with Photoshop are just as good as the one I took. In fact, I’m thinking about going back to the earlier courses as I’m sure I’d still learn a lot from them.

Another series of classes taught by Jessica and her colleague, Liv Esteban, is called Type + Writer. The focus of these classes is on the journaling, but as in all of Jessica’s scrapbooking classes, you are making complete layouts throughout your journey with Jessica and Liv. This means you automatically have a lot to show for the time you spent in the class, which I think we can all agree is a good thing. And I hope we can all agree that producing well-designed layouts with lots of journaling is also a good thing!

The classes are reasonably priced, thorough, clear, and beautifully presented. Plus they’re always there for you. Once you’ve taken a class you can come back to it and rerun a video lesson anytime you’d like. The other day I needed to re-learn a technique I’d learned in Digi in Deep and thought, I remember which layout I learned that on, but how will I ever find the exact steps without having to plow through the whole layout. In the end, though, I found what I was looking for almost immediately, re-learned the technique in a couple of minutes, and went happily on my way.

This Post Brought to You by the Keyboard Shortcut . . .

In Uncategorized on January 25, 2010 at 8:13 pm

These controls may or may not work in Photoshop Elements, but they sure do help in Photoshop CS3 and CS4:

Control-J (command-J on the Mac). Oh what a lovely keyboard shortcut this is. Make a selection on any given layer, hit control-J and your selection is immediately copied onto a layer of its own with a transparent background. Insanely handy in my opinion.

Control-T. Before I found this bad boy I was moving back and forth constantly between the annoying little box next to “show transform controls.” I aimed for that little box, clicked it on; I aimed again and clicked it off. Now it’s just control-T and the transform controls (the bounding box that allows you to enlarge, distort, warp, etc., your layer) instantly appear. I can either make a transformation or I can hit escape and the transform tools are turned off. Very handy.

The Spacebar. When some tools are selected, hitting the spacebar will temporarily turn the current tool into the hand tool so you can scoot around your image as much as you need to. Then you let go of the spacebar and the tool you started with is back in action.

Control Z. Love it, love it, love it. Turns the zoom tool on. Hold down the alt key (the option key on the Mac) and you’re zooming out , release the alt key and you’re zooming in. No more going to get the magnifying tool.

Here’s a site where you can download or print a .pdf file with all the keyboard shortcuts. At four pages long, the list may seem daunting.

If the four-page list is too much for you, start with this one-page list here. Just bear in mind that every time you learn a new shortcut, you’ll be a happier human being. Trust me on this one.

The Importance of Accident

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2010 at 4:55 pm

One reason I love Photoshop as much as I do is because of the accidents I create. Here’s an example of what I mean:

I started out with a paper by Lynn Grieveson and a overlay by Anna Aspnes. It looked like this at first:

Then I “filled” the layer with turquoise. (“Fill” in Photoshop is one way to change the color of an element, in this case a .png file with a transparent background.)

This wasn’t want I wanted at all. BUT–by playing with the blending modes,  I produced what I did want, the perfect border to reflect my dog’s life back in the days when she was a cool dudette in Lower Manhattan before we relocated to the Connecticut countryside.I used the “hard light” blend, but others would have produced a similar effect. And that’s all I did, just changed the blend mode. Very easy but makes a big difference.

Francis Bacon, a painter whose brushwork is heartbreakingly beautiful, once said that he achieved what he did by being there with the paint and brush and encouraging accidents to happen and then knowing when to stick with the accident. It seems to me that this is how we digital scrapbookers often work, too.

Items used here are Just a Hint Paper Pack by Lynn Grieveson, Layered Fotoblendz No. 6 by Anna Aspnes, and Artists Overlays No.1, all at

Help Haiti Collaborative Kit

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2010 at 2:09 am

If it’s Saturday night or Sunday morning, I’m checking out the week’s new releases from Designer Digitals. This week there is something very special indeed. I just donated $8 to Haitian relief and at the same time, with the same $8, got myself a huge, gorgeous kit as described below. This is all thanks to the designers who donated their work so that 100% of the revenue from this kit can go towards much needed Haittian relief. Here’s more about the kit, which I hope you’ll feel you too must have:

The team at DesignerDigitals has been touched by the devastation in haiti and how it has affected our Creative Team Member Christina and her friends and family and we’ve pulled together to help. 100% of the proceeds from our Help Haiti Collaborative will be given to MercyCorp. So please purchase this kit or go directly thru our link and show your support for Haiti.

Collaborative participants include: Katie Pertiet, Ali Edwards, Andrea Victoria, Anna Aspnes, Cathy Zielske, Jesse Edwards, Lynn Grieveson, Michelle Martin, Mindy Terasawa and Pattie Knox. Kit includes:

  • 21 designer 12×12 papers
  • 1 layered template designed
  • 6 vintage flashcards
  • 4 colored journalers
  • 4 satin bows
  • 3 polkadot ribbons and bows
  • 1 large photo clipping mask
  • 2 word art images
  • 5 little fabric flowers
  • 5 brads
  • 3 buttons
  • 1 complete alphanumeric acrylic set
  • stitching

All 300 dpi print quality. File Size: 63MB

Happy Me . . .

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2010 at 3:51 pm

I’m an Ali Edwards girl. Have been for a long time. I love her work, and  her influence on both paper and digital scrapbooking has been major and all to the good. This week on her popular blog, she’s doing a whole week’s worth of posts about . . . digital scrapbooking. There is no point in my trying to summarize the value of these posts, so I’ll just point you in the right direction for Ali’s magic. And what you should do right now is stop reading this blog and go off and read Ali’s! Plus you can download–for free–everything you need to make this layout:

Two Sites to Check

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2010 at 5:46 pm

This just in . . .

I just discovered another good site for learning digiscrapping: You’ll find tutorials here and forums. The owner of the site is Kayla Lamoreaux, who is a digital coach for Stacy Julian’s potentially life-changing Library of Memories course over at, which is about to start the fourth annual session. If you feel you need or want to organize your photos in such a way that they invite you to make cool new pages, this is the course for you. I’ll be taking it again this year as an alumna (Stacy’s lets alumni take it free every year!), and as always I’m looking forward to it. Each time Stacy teaches the course I get a little further into her system. As for what I’ve accomplished in the course, there is hardly a day goes by that I don’t feel relief, gratitude, and inspiration in the fact that ALL my print photos are organized as much as I need them to be.If you would like to have this feeling everyday, too, hop over to BigPictureScrapbooking and sign up. But hurry, registration ends on January 25.

Stacy Julian

Now, about those clipping masks . . .

In Uncategorized on January 20, 2010 at 10:56 pm

In the layout I showed you here. I took a mask by Anna Aspnes (SnowyFotoBlendz No.1) and combined it with this picture of my husband.

As you can see, “clipping” the two together got me something wonderful except for the distracting white snow spots on hubby’s face.

I simply painted over the mask with black where I didn’t want snow and in a couple of moments I had my final image. The trick is to target the layer the mask is on but paint on the layer the photo is on. That way you can see what you’re doing.

I used a big soft round brush, which seems to be my go-to brush. (No one tells you exactly how big the brush should be because too many variables such as resolution  have to be accounted for. Brush size is something you get a feel for the more you practice (which is a perhaps deceptive way to say the better you get the more you play around and have a ball with Photoshop).

Where to Learn Photoshop Magic

In Uncategorized on January 20, 2010 at 10:19 pm

A friend of ours, a talented graphic designer who designs book covers for a living, was over at our house for dinner last night, and I did a really good job of not making her sit down with me at the computer and teach me things. But at some point, we did end up in a conversation about how much we loved, loved, loved Photoshop. Day after day Photoshop absolutely dazzles me; it’s my superpower. But unfortunately the learning curve is steep. Here are some of the places that I have turned to with gratitude and relief to learn more about Photoshop’s unlimited potential for magic.

The classes at are unique. All of Jessica Sprague’s classes involve creating scrapbook layouts, which is the best way for scrapbookers to learn Photoshop. Most of the classes are now self-paced, which means that you can learn whenever it’s convenient for you. The classes are reasonably priced, full of goodies, available to you for the life of, and come complete with well-attended message boards to turn to with questions. is a great place to learn ALL the Adobe products. For about $20 a month, you can take as many classes as you like. Many, many people think Scott Kelby is THE NUMBER ONE Photoshop teacher, and I’m inclined to agree. is another good site for finding a huge range of Photoshop classes.

And then there’s all the amazing FREE learning out there! Katie Pertiet is adding video tutorials to her blog. Sande Krieger teaches Photoshop Elements at, and there are many other sites ready to show you how to make Photoshop magic  for no charge. I googled “tutorials photoshop clipping masks” and found an array of sites where excellent mini-lessons are available just for the asking. I checked out the first three that came up on my search, and they were all good. And believe me, you want to know all about clipping masks. They are the coolest!