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The ABC's of Making an Alpha: A Photoshop Tutorial

Good Morning Everyone!  I hope that today is finding you stress free and full of holiday cheer!  We are only days away from Christmas, and Santa is working overtime in his workshop to make sure that you get what you want for Christmas!  Since Santa is so busy right now, he asked me to pop in here and give you a VERY special present..well, not really a present, but still something you all really need!  He said all lot of you had a special request on how to make your own alpha, and asked me to stop by and give you a few pointers on how you can change any font of your choice  into an alpha for your page! Now, this isn't meant to replace all those gorgeous alphas our designers make for us, but sometimes you don't get an alpha with your kit, and you need SOMETHING  to use for your title so that's why I'm here to share a little tutorial on how to turn all those fabulous fonts you use on your layouts into a matching alpha for your page!

I am a BIG title girl..I just LOVE them!  A title introduces your whole layout, and really sets the mood for the page you are scrapping, so when it comes time to do my title I immediately go to the alpha that the designer created for me.  Sometimes, there isn't an alpha in your kit, or sometimes the alpha isn't really the one you need for the layout. When that happens, I turn to my favorite fonts and try to create the title that I need.  There are so many things that you can do with your font: choose a color from your layout and fill it in, clip some matching paper to it or even add a stroke or outline to it and make it look like a sticker.  Today, I am going to show you a few techniques to help you make a matching alpha for your layout.

I am using Mye's kit called My Green Thumb, and I used a free font from Dafont.com called BorisBlackBloxx.  I chose this font because it is big and chunky!

Let's begin by opening the layout you want to work with.

Select the Type Tool (the icon that looks like a T) from the tool box on the left of the screen.  With the  Type Tool selected, choose the font of your choice and type in your title. I always leave a space between the letters so that I can cut them later on. Make sure that you check your spelling because if you don't, and you happen to misspell it, then you will have to fix it separately and the alpha may not match..it will take extra time to fix it, and well, you get the picture! Check and RECHECK!!

Next, find your text layer in the layers palette and right click on the layer itself.  A dialogue box will pop up and you need to choose Rasterize Type or Simplify Layer, depending on the  program you are using.  By rasterizing the type, it kinda makes it like a PNG file..it gives you a transparent background, and you are now be able to make the changes to the font that we need in order to make it into an alpha.

At this point, once it is Rasterized, you can fill it with the color of your choice by selecting the paint bucket tool and, clicking on the title on the workstation;  OR  or you can clip a matching paper to it.  For my layout, I am going to clip a matching paper to it.

When you have completed the above step, you can add an inner and outer  shadow to the alpha to create a puffy  look. To add the inner shadow, select the fx button at the bottom of your layers palette and when the dialogue box pops up, highlight Inner shadow on the menu. Once it is highlighted, you can work on this effect without it changing any other effect  you may have added.  First, click on the color box and select a dark color from your paper to create a nice inner shadow. I selected a dark green from my paper. Set your angle to 90 and then play with the distance, choke and size to achieve the look you want.

Before Inner Shadow:

After Inner Shadow:

See how nice and puffy it looks? I love making my alpha like this!

Now you will add your drop shadow by highlighting your layer and selecting the fx button at the bottom of your layers palette. You need to add your drop shadow this way or you will erase all the other effects (the inner shadow) on this layer. When the dialogue box pops up, make sure that the drop shadow line is highlighted and add your shadow settings.

Once you have added the settings and got it the way you like it, select your paper layers and your text layer and right click on the highlighted layers. When the dialogue  box pops up, select Merge Layers from the drop down menu.

Once merged, select the rectangle marquee tool from your tools palette and begin to separate the alpha by selecting the first letter, drawing a rectangle around it and right clicking in the box are. When you right click, select Layer via Cut from the menu.  It will now make that letter on its own layer.  Select the text layer again, and repeat the process until each letter is on its own layer.  Once you separated each letter, you can select your move tool and arrange the lettr in your tile the way that you want them to be on your layout.

Here is my finished title work using the puffy letter method!

Next, Create a new layer UNDER your newly merged layer by selecting the layer UNDERNEATH the title work and then clicking on the New Layer Icon on your layers palette.

Select your title work layer and, with the CTRL key pushed, click on the thumbnail of the title work in the layers palette.  Marching ants will now appear around the title work.

Click on the empty NEW layer that we created and at the top of your workstation, go to Select>Modify>Expand.

In the pop up box, Select the size that you would like to expand your title by. I generally choose about 15 pixels.

Once you select the size, it will expand the marching ants by that many pixels.  Select your paint can in the color of your choice..I usually just use white, and make sure that your new empty layer is selected, Then, with your paint can, click inside the marching ants. Your new layer will now fill with your paint color. Hit CTRL D to deselect your borders. Add a small shadow to the top layer.

Here again is where you can be creative. You can fill it with any color of your choice, OR you can clip a new paper to it, or apply a fun style and turn it into a glitter background! The possibilities are endless! Here are just a few samples I did to show you what you can do:

Once you have your shadow and bottom layer the way you like it,  select both layers and merge them together to create one layer.  Now you can add a drop shadow.

You may now separate your alpha like you did before.  Select the rectangle marquee tool, draw a rectangle around your first letter, right click and select Layer Via Cut.  Repeat the process until all the layers are cut. You may now arrange the title work to your liking, and you  have a nice stickered alpha for your layout!

There you go! A fun and EASY way to make a matching alpha for your layouts! I hope you enjoyed the tutorial, and I sincerely wish each and every one of you a blessed Christmas! I will see you back here next Monday!

Tamara