Designing digital paper


Oh I have been having so much fun!

I thought I would share one of my methods for making digital paper.  This is not on par with a proper digital designer’s work, but it works for me in terms of getting something I can use, that I like.  I use Photoshop Elements 6 (for the Mac) and most, if not all, of what I need is right in there.

First, I checked out the tutorial on 2Peas by Erica Hernandez.

Then, I went to Color Combo to find a color palette that I liked. I picked this pretty and fruity colour combo to play with:

I saved that image.  The image comes as a .png so handy for opening in PSE.

I opened PSE and created my blank file with a transparent background.  Since I am looking to make paper specifically for the iPad, I did it at 1024 x 768 and 160 dpi.  I made sure the grid was visible.

I also opened the small colour combo image – this will let me pick the colours for the paint bucket easily, without having to jot down the html colour codes.

I made a brush – I made mine about two of the little grid squares wide and the full height of the page.  I then did Edit > Define Brush from Selection.  PSE asks me to name my brush – I named it SIMPLELINE. Your brush will be the active brush when you select the brush tool.

Clicking the little brush in the Tool Options bar at the top will give you your brush options.  The only thing I changed was the SPACING – I made that 500%.  Why, you ask? Well, my colour combo has 5 colours.  I want to use what I learned in the tutorial, to create a full, evenly spaced line of stripes.  500% gives me 5 slots to fill – the first one with my chosen colour, then 4 empty slots for the 4 additional colours.  I’m sure there is some between way to explain this but my play shows me that you want the % to be the same as the number of colours you will use.

OK, so first I selected my starting colour as my foreground colour – with my brush I stamped that at the left edge. Then, as per the tutorial, I moved my brush to the right edge,  held down the SHIFT key and stamped again.

What you will see immediately is that it did not stamp all the way to the right edge.  Don’t worry about this.

Going back to my colour combo image, I changed the foreground colour to the next one – for me, the pink. Lining up the brush right at the edge of the first colour line, stamp, move to the right edge of the page, hold the shift and stamp again. You now have 2 lines of colour.  Simply repeat this process for all but the last colour. Depending on the size of your canvas/page, you may need to fill in a line  with a single brush stamp.  Just keep an eye on your pattern.

With the final colour, what you may find is that unless you were SUPER precise, the method you have been using won’t work perfectly – you may have a line of blank pixels between.   As you can maybe see I wasn’t precise, but it isn’t going to matter.  Trust me.

So for the last colour, create a NEW LAYER, fill it with the last colour, and put it under your striped layer.  This will fill in the empty spaces with your last colour in one step!

OK, now click LAYER > Merge Visible.

Next we are going to make it look a whole lot less flat. Find a free texture, or use a photo of a texture you took yourself.  I’ve had this one for a long time – so long I forget where I got it.  But any sort of paper texture will work. Open it and resize it if necessary so it is at least as big as your canvas. Drag it onto your stripey paper and then drag it below in your LAYERS window.

Click the BLENDING MODE drop down menu (where you see Normal above) – I changed it to LINEAR BURN but you can play around with the options to find one you like.

Just a word about the old paper – I would tend to use the paper with the sepia tone for papers with a warm colour cast, but change it to B&W for ones with cooler tones.  Just be on the paper layer, then click ENHANCE > CONVERT TO B&W and OK.  Just quickly, here is the difference:

Now that is a little too grungy, so be on your old paper layer and play around with the OPACITY slider, till you like it.  I took it down to about 53%.

MERGE VISIBLE again. That groups your old paper with your striped paper.

Now I ran the TEXTURIZER – click FILTER > Texturizer.  Canvas or Sandstone are my go-to textures.  You can play around with the sliders for scale and relief till you like it.

I watched this tutorial for inking edges.  I know this is MUCH easier in full Photoshop, but it works well enough in PSE this way.

Select the entire page. Now at the top, click SELECT > MODIFY > CONTRACT – I did 8 pixels. Now do the same but SELECT > FEATHER and I set mine to 10 pixels.  Now click SELECT > INVERSE.  This will select JUST the area from the edge of the page to the inner selection line.  For the next step you will be working JUST on this area so you can be reckless with your brush! I selected a colour, a sepia brown, and then picked my distressing brush.  I used DRY MEDIA BRUSHES #36 – Soft Oil Pastel.  As per the tutorial you are now going to pub this along the edge of the paper.  What I found was if I set the FEATHER to greater than the contracted selections (in this case 8 was the selection and 10 was the feather) the brushed on “ink” fades from the selection line to the feather line.  To me it looks better than a feather LESS than the contracted selection. If you REALLY want a great, varied inked edge, either do parts of it then change the contraction and the feather and fill in the uninked areas or change to a different brush.

Can you see the smeary edges?

And another note – look at the corners – see how they are rounded?  I suspect you can simply do these steps and delete the inverted selection to get a nice rounded corner piece of paper.

DESELECT and save your paper!


So there is my paper.  How ever did we manage without the internet and all the helpful people out there who share their knowledge?  A couple of tutorials, a few hours playing with PSE, and I made a paper that may not be perfect, but is miles away better than the usual flat lifeless ones I’ve made in the past.

Sorry to all the paper scrappers who visited me today – this may bore you to tears but I was so excited to learn something new I had to share. And if you are a digi person – please tell me where I have gone badly wrong with this, or if there is a way to do it better or easier.

2 thoughts on “Designing digital paper

  1. Reblogged this on annladenberger and commented:
    great ideas

  2. I love it, Mary Anne and I think it is a great first attempt. Love the grunge and colours.

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