A staple of the scrapbooker's toolbox is the cutout. Scrapbook cutout in shape of right foot Now you can add unique flavor to the page layout with custom cutouts created from your own digital photo.

In this article I provide the steps for creating and printing several cutouts on a single photo paper. The steps are given for Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0 and 3.0. If you are familiar with another digital photo editing software, you may be able to follow the steps and apply them to your own software.

To create the photo cutouts, you will need a digital photo, photo editing software, and a photo printer. If you do not have a photo printer, it is possible to prepare the image and have it developed by a lab, but this may get costly for a small number of cutouts.

The steps in this article use "layers" in Photoshop Elements. Step-by-step instructions are provided; however, if you are unfamiliar with layers, you may wish to start by reading Editing Photos with Layers.

Selecting & Sizing Photo

Our first task is to select a photo from which we create the cutouts. It needs to match the theme of the layout, so a relevant photo is ideal.

Photo from which we create cutouts

Photo from which we create cutouts

I selected a rocky beach scene with flowers to use as the example for this article. This photo would fit beach and other rocky terrain themes.

Next, we size the photo to fit our intended medium. Printing the finished image onto a 4x6" photo paper should be adequate for most uses, though other sizes may be available to you, depending on your photo printer.

  1. Make a copy of the digital photo as a new file name. Use the copy for all steps.
  2. Open the copy of the photo in Photoshop Elements.

    Command: File > Open

  3. Rotate image, if necessary.

    Command: Image > Rotate

  4. Crop image into the proportions of the photo paper. In our example we use 4 x 6.

    Commands:
    • Click the Crop Tool Crop Tool
    • On the top toolbar enter "4 in" in the Width box
    • On the top toolbar enter "6 in" in the Height box
    • If the photo is landscape (wide), reverse the two numbers above
    • Drag mouse over portion of image to keep and hit Enter

  5. Configure page settings to match photo paper.

    Commands:
    • File > Page Setup
    • For Size select 4 x 6
    • For Orientation select the appropriate option
    • Click OK

Finished image containing six cutouts, ready to be printed and trimmed

Finished image containing six cutouts, ready to be printed and trimmed

General Steps

Our goal is for the final image to look like the one to the right, containing six unique cutouts. Before we talk about specifics, let's outline the general steps:

  • Open the image in Photoshop Elements as a "Background"
  • For each cutout shape, do the following:
    • Duplicate the background into a new layer so we don't change the original image
    • Use the Cookie Cutter tool to cut out desired shape from layer
    • Arrange the cutout so it does not overlap other cutouts
  • Hide the original image so that only the cutouts are visible
  • Print image containing the cutouts

Creating the Cutouts

If you have been following along, you should have a copy of the photo open in Photoshop Elements as a background. Here are the steps for creating the cutouts:

  1. Duplicate the background into a new layer to leave the background untouched.

    Command: In the Layers palette right-mouse click Background and choose Duplicate Layer, then click OK

  2. Hide the background and all other layers, except the one you just created.

    Command: In the Layers palette click the small eye Layer visibility indicator to the left of the layer to hide it

  3. Select the new layer containing a copy of the photo that you created in step 1.

    Command: In the Layers palette click on layer to be selected

  4. Create the cutout.

    Commands:
    • Click the Cookie Cutter Tool Cookie Cutter Tool
    • On the top toolbar make sure that the Shape box has the desired cookie cutter shape selected. For more shapes, drop down the shape list and click the small arrow on the right edge for the shape menu.
    • On the top toolbar click the Shape Options down arrow and set desired option. Recommendations:

      • To maintain shape proportions, select Defined Proportions
      • To distort shape, select Unconstrained

    • On the top toolbar enter 0 px in the Feather box
    • On the top toolbar uncheck Crop
    • Drag your mouse over the portion of the image you wish to place inside the cutout
    • If you are satisfied with the cutout, hit Enter, otherwise hit Esc and try again

  5. Make all cutout layers visible. (If this is your first cutout, then skip this step.)

    Command: In the Layers palette click the small eye Layer visibility indicator to the left of the layer to make it visible

  6. Position your most recent cutout so it does not overlap others, leaving enough space between them for trimming.

    Commands:
    • Click the Move Tool Move Tool
    • In the Layers palette click on the layer containing your most recent cutout to select it
    • Drag mouse inside the cutout to move it

  7. Repeat above steps for each cutout.
  8. When you are finished creating all cutouts, make all cutout layers visible, except the background.


  9. Command: In the Layers palette click the small eye Layer visibility indicator to the left of the layer to make it visible

  10. Print the image, allow ink to dry, and cut out.

Have fun exploring the many cookie cutter shapes in Photoshop Elements and experiment with creating cutouts of various sizes.