Mind the Gap! Make Digital Stamping Look More Realistic

with 15 Comments

HelenIf there’s one thing I really have fun with in scrapbooking, it’s stamping layers of paint and ink onto my pages. I’ve been a happy stamper for a few years now, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I looked at my digital scrapbook pages and realized something was missing.

As a paper scrapper, I noticed that stamping over layers of card would leave a slight gap along the outside edges of the card. This was where the paint or ink had naturally missed the layer below. But, when I looked at my digital scrapbook pages, that gap was missing—and it didn’t look good!

So, out came the Eraser tool, and from then on, those neat little gaps appeared on all my pages. All was well and good until I wanted to stamp over something that didn’t have straight edges! Oh, the struggles I had trying to erase around a scalloped edged mat. A fancy doily was even worse! So, I’m going to share with you a neat little trick for making digital stamps and paints look more realistic when stamped over an element. It will work on any shape, although it is best suited to elements that are not too thick, and you won’t even have to get out the Eraser tool!


Before we begin: For the purpose of this tutorial, I am working on an existing scrapbook page using a journal card from Alphabet Soup by Digilicious Designs and a paint stamp I created from the My Stamp Pad 2 brush set by Darcy Baldwin. You will most likely be using different elements. So, just to be clear:

  • Journal card = any element over which you will stamp
  • Paint stamp = any element used as a stamp


Step One: Prepare Your Workspace

  • Create a new document (File > New > Blank File) or open an existing scrapbook page (File > Open). (Photoshop: Choose File > New.) If you use an existing page, be sure it is layered.
  • Open a journal card (File > Open) that you want to use.
  • Get the Move tool.
  • Click on the journal card and drag it onto your document.
  • In the same way add a stamp to your page.
  • On your document, position the journal card and paint stamp where you want them to be. Be sure that the paint stamp is on the layer above the journal card. In this example, I have positioned the paint stamp over the journal card so that some of the edges are covered. I have also slightly tilted the journal card and given it a small drop shadow.
    Note: This is a destructive method of erasing, so be sure to position your stamp and journal card exactly where you want them to stay!


Step Two: Duplicate the Paint Stamp

  • In the Layers panel, double click directly on the name of the paint stamp layer and rename it “Layer 1.”
  • Click on Layer 1 to activate it.
  • Press Ctrl J (Mac: Cmd J) to duplicate the layer.
  • In the same way rename the duplicate layer “Layer 2.”


  • In the Layers panel, click and drag Layer 2 below the journal card layer. If you have a custom shadow layer under your journal card, drag Layer 2 below it.
  • Click on the Visibility icon to hide Layer 2 for now.
    Note: It is important to do this or it will be difficult to see when a section of the paint stamp is deleted in the next step.


Step Three: Select and Delete a Section of Layer 1

  • In the Layers panel, click on Layer 1 to activate it.
  • Ctrl click (Mac: Cmd click) on the thumbnail of the journal card layer to get a selection outline.


  • In the Menu Bar, choose Select > Feather. (Photoshop: Choose Select > Modify > Feather.)
  • In the dialog box, enter 5 pixels for Feather Selection and click OK.
    Note: Feathering will give the edge a nice natural stamped look. Depending on the size of your elements, you may want to increase the Feathering a little more. Just be careful not to make it look unrealistic.
  • In the Menu Bar, choose Select > Inverse.
  • Press the Backspace key (Mac: Delete key) to delete the section of Layer 1 that lies outside the journal card.


  • Press Ctrl D (Mac: Cmd D) to Deselect.
  • Get the Move tool.
  • Using the Arrow keys, nudge Layer 1 upwards once. Then nudge it to the left once.
    Note: Depending on the size of your elements, you may want to nudge it more than once each way. Just be careful not to nudge it too far or it could look unrealistic.
  • In the Menu Bar, choose Layer > Create Clipping Mask to clip Layer 1 to the journal card.


Step Four: Select and Delete a Section of Layer 2

  • In the Layers panel, click on Layer 2 to activate it.
  • Click on its Visibility icon to make the layer visible.
  • Ctrl click (Mac: Cmd click) on the thumbnail of the journal card layer to get a selection outline.
  • In the Menu Bar, choose Select > Modify > Expand.
  • In the dialog box, enter 5 pixels for Expand Selection and click OK.
    Note: You may need to play around with this setting a little to suit your chosen element. As a guide, this setting works well for paper and card, but if you were to stamp over something thicker like a chipboard element, then the number of pixels should be increased slightly. Just keep in mind to not let the selection area get unrealistically large.
  • In the Menu Bar, choose Select > Feather. (Photoshop: Choose Select > Modify > Feather.)
  • In the dialog box, enter 5 pixels and click OK.


  • Press the Backspace key (Mac: Delete key) to delete the section of Layer 2 that lies below the journal card.
  • Press Ctrl D (Mac: Cmd D) to Deselect.
  • Get the Move tool.
  • Using the Arrow keys, nudge Layer 2 downwards three times. Then nudge it to the right three times.You should now have a nice realistic-looking gap around the edges of your journal card.


This technique is so versatile and can be used to create that little gap around the edge of any shape. But, keep in mind that it is best suited to elements that are not too thick. It creates a subtle (but pleasing!) effect and it is so much quicker and easier than trying to erase the edges by hand! Try it with paint stamps, brushes, word art, and even clipping masks, and see how rewarding it feels to add that realistic gap to your digital stamping. I’d love to see how you get on, so please post your creations in the Digi Scrap Tutorial of the Week Gallery. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of interesting pages!

Happy creating!

🙂 Hx

Here are some examples of the same paint stamp used over irregular-shaped elements:


And, here is my completed layout using the lesson example:


Digi Scrap Tutorial: “Mind The Gap!” Make Digital Stamping Look More Realistic by Helen Ash (aka SimplyHx)
Fonts used in screenshots: Myriad Pro and Bradley Hand ITC
Elements used in examples: Scallop Mat from Recess by Heather Roselli, Painted Cardboard Star from We Celebrate by Julie Mead (originally included in the July 2012 Premier issue), Paper Heart from Carefree by Amanda Heimann (originally included in the August 2012 Premier issue), Doily from Home Sweet Home by Leora Sanford (originally included in the February 2011 Premier issue), Journal Circle from All I Have To Do Is Dream by Lauren Grier (included with the original Learn Digital Scrapbooking class materials), Journal Mat from Travel Adventure by Linda Sattgast
Scrapbook Layout: Robin’s Painting by SimplyHx
Photo by Beth Ash
Elements: Card and Tape from Alphabet Soup by Digilicious Designs (originally included in the September 2011 Premier issue), Overlay from Textured Overlays Vol3 by Susie Roberts, Scribbles from ArtPlay Palette Family by Anna Aspnes (originally included in the March 2012 Premier issue), Edge Grunge Overlay by jomi, Puffin from Clipart, My Stamp Pad 2 by Darcy Baldwin
Font: Segoe Print
Software: PS CS6, PSE 11

Download this Digi Scrap Tutorial

15 Responses

  1. Suzie Limber
    | Reply

    Thanks for the tutorial. I’ve been struggling with just this thing on one of my layouts. I keep going back to it, and it just doesn’t look right. I’ll give this a try. Thanks.

    • Helen Ash
      | Reply

      You’re very welcome, Suzie, and I can totally relate! It’s amazing how a little thing like this can become a major niggle, isn’t it? I hope this little tip helps you out! 🙂 Hx

  2. Andrea Graves
    | Reply

    Helen, this is amazing! I was a stamper for years and years. This is awesome how you’ve done it digitally! LOVE it! <3 Great tutorial! 🙂

    • Helen Ash
      | Reply

      Aww, thanks so much, sweet Andrea! 🙂 Hx

  3. Shirl
    | Reply

    I noticed all the personal touches you included in your layout pages and am really grateful that you will be sharing them with us. Thank you for this wonderful tip. Love your beautiful photo. Hugs. 😉

    • Helen Ash
      | Reply

      Thank you, Shirl, you are such a sweetheart! I have learnt so much from Digital Scrapper, and I am more than happy to give back and share 🙂

      So glad you like the photo – he’s a cutie isn’t he? 🙂 Hx

  4. char
    | Reply

    This was a LOT of fun to try! I just did a little experimental one but HAVE to start using it for real from now on. What I’d like to know is how do you come up with such clever ideas?! Do you just start playing to see what happens, or do you know Photoshop/PSE from the innards out? 🙂

    • Helen Ash
      | Reply

      Yay, I’m so glad you’re having fun with it, Char, and thank you for your sweet comments! Actually, like most of us, I’m continually learning my programs. Both PS and PSE are highly complex tools and I don’t think there’ll ever be a time when I know it all! (But I can wish, hehe! :D) I get lots of inspiration from various places, like magazines, blogs, pinterest and scrapbooking galleries… but many of my ideas just come from experimenting, and sometimes something happens when I’m trying to achieve a different end result! Also, if something is niggling me I just HAVE to find a way to make it stop niggling me, haha! 😀 Hx

  5. Tora
    | Reply

    Thanks for this Helen. I finely got my Mac fixed and can now use my Photoshop agaiin, so H O P F U L Y I´ll start scrapping and designing again.
    love and hugs

    • Helen Ash
      | Reply

      Hi Tora! Yay, I’m so glad you got it fixed… can’t wait to see some more of your fabulous layouts! 🙂 Hx

  6. Rikki Donovan
    | Reply

    Wow, what an elaborate technique. I never stamp on items over the edges, no idea why! But I will givt this a try now and will post later. However, I was wondering whether you couldn’t make this non-destructive by simply masking instead of deleting. Must try this out.

    • Helen Ash
      | Reply

      Hi Rikki! Yes, you certainly can use a layer mask to erase non-destructively, if your program has that facility. However, PSE8 and earlier don’t have layer masks, so I just tried to keep this simple and accessible to all! 🙂 Have fun with the tut… can’t wait to see your layout, I know it will be fabulous as always! 🙂 Hx

  7. Nannette Dalton
    | Reply

    No wonder your pages look so wonderful… it’s all in the details. Thanks for figuring it out and sharing it with us!

    • Helen Ash
      | Reply

      Aww, Nann, you always say such lovely things, thank you! 🙂 Hx

  8. […] diesem Layout habe ich das Digital Scrapper Tutorial of the week von Helen Mind the Gap ausprobiert, bei dem es um die winzige Lücke geht, die beim Stempeln entsteht, wenn man über eine […]

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