Tutorial for Adobe® Photoshop® Elements

The Personal Touch

Week of February 9, 2009

Sara HortonBy Sara Horton

Using handwriting on a scrapbook page is a great way to add a personal touch. Capturing your own handwriting, your child’s writing, or a handwritten message from a loved one gives your scrapbook page an intensely personal element. Just think of how future generations will treasure this precious glimpse into the personality of the writer. In this tip, learn how Photoshop Elements make it easy to extract handwriting from a document and use as a page element.

Step 1) Digitize handwriting samples

You can digitally capture handwriting in one of three ways. For best results, begin with a crisp, black handwriting sample on a clean, white sheet of paper.

  • Scanning a document:  If you have access to a scanner, you can import your handwriting sample directly into Photoshop Elements. 


    Select File > Import, then choose the name of your scanner to activate the scanner and the scanner driver. Follow the onscreen instructions to perform the scan. When your scan is complete, the scanned document opens in the editing window.

  • Photographing a handwriting sample: If you don’t have access to a scanner, you can still create a handwritten title using a high resolution photograph.


    Position your camera lens parallel to the document in a well-lit room for the cleanest possible results. Attach your camera to the computer or use a card reader to copy the image onto your computer. Import the image into Photoshop Elements by selecting File > Open and browsing your computer for the image file. Select the image and click Open.

  • Using a graphics tablet: The easiest way to obtain a handwriting sample is to use a tablet device. A graphics pad consists of a drawing surface and a stylus that work like a mouse. You may have used something similar to this in a store when using your credit card at check-out.


    The advantage to this tool is the ability to write in an ergonomic and natural way. To capture handwriting with a drawing tablet, create a new document. Click the Create a new layer icon above the Layers Palette. Get the Pencil tool and begin “writing” on the tablet with the stylus. Your writing will be captured on the screen.

Step 2) Extract the handwriting from the background

Once your handwriting sample is digitally captured, bring it into Photoshop Elements to remove the background.

  • Begin by creating a new transparent document that is slightly larger than your handwriting sample. Select File > New > Blank File and choose Transparent for the background contents.

  • Get the Move Tool and drag your handwriting sample onto the new transparent document. Click on the handwriting sample layer to select it.

  • Sometimes it helps to adjust the contrast. Press Ctrl L (Mac: Cmd L) to get the Levels dialog box. Move the right and left sliders under the histogram inward slightly, which will make the black blacker and the white whiter. You generally don’t need to move the middle slider. Click okay.

  • Get the Magic Wand tool.  Check the Options Bar to make sure that Contiguous is not checked.

  • Click once on the background surrounding your text. This creates a selection which looks like marching ants around the text.
  • handwriting

    Press Delete or Backspace on your keyboard to delete the background.


  • Sometimes a bit of the white background will cling to your words. If that happens, press the letter D to reset your Color Chips to black and white. Then press Alt Shift Backspace (Mac: Opt Shift Delete) to fill the words with black.

  • Save your handwriting sample as a .png file to preserve the transparency.

Use your handwriting sample and your creativity to create custom designs with text.  Try creating personalized, handwritten titles or handwritten journaling on tags. Capture sample text from your child at each age. Include a recipe from Grandma in her own handwriting. You can even use the text from love letters, immigration documents, deeds, letters to Santa or passport information to create one-of-a-kind background papers.


Credits:Scrapbook page by Sara Horton
Font:  GE Centurion
Love Word Art + Hand-Drawn Brushes  (png + abr) by Ali Edwards Design at Designer Digitals
Blank Safety Tags By Katie Pertiet at Designer Digitals
Mail Room No. 1 Paper Pack by Katie Pertiet at Designer Digitals
Digital Stitches Red by  Katie Pertiet at Designer Digitals
Sequined Overlays by Pattie Knox at Designer Digitals
Krafty Kuts Botanical No. 2 by Katie Pertiet at Designer Digitals
Hint At It Brushes by Lynn Grieveson at Designer Digitals
Frayed Knots by Lynn Grieveson at Designer Digitals
Framed With Tape by Katie Pertiet at Designer Digitals
Worn Hearts by Lynn Grieveson at Designer Digitals
Clear Buttons by Katie Pertiet at Designer Digitals
Raffia Ribbons by Katie Pertiet at Designer Digitals

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