Threading Buttons on a String

with 17 Comments

Nannette Dalton pic

Forget hunting for a needle and thread, sew digitally with Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.

If you are like me, you have quite a stash of buttons and strings in your digital supplies. I thought it would be cute to thread some of those buttons onto a string to use on a layout.

I'll teach you how to create the illusion that the string is going in and out of the button, and I promise you, you won’t have to spend hours threading a needle!


Step One: Prepare Your Workspace

  • You will need to find a piece of string and several buttons to work with. I used string from the Christmas Lights kit by Julie Billingsley and buttons from various kits that matched the colors in my layout.
  • Create a new document (File > New > Blank File) or open (File > Open) an existing scrapbook page. (Photoshop: Choose File > New to create a new document.)
  • Open the string element.
  • Get the Move tool.
  • Click on the string and drag it onto your document.
  • In the same way, add the buttons to your document, making sure that the buttons are all placed above the string layer in the Layers panel.
  • With the Move tool still active, arrange your buttons on top of your string so that the string is going through the middles of your buttons. You may have to rotate your buttons a bit.

Step Two: Duplicate the String Layer

  • In the Layers panel, make sure the string layer is the active layer.
  • Press Ctrl J (Mac: Cmd J) to duplicate the string layer.
  • Drag the duplicated string layer above all the buttons.

Step Three: Add a Layer Mask

Note: If your version of Photoshop Elements doesn't have a layer mask, here’s a link where you can download a layer mask you can install, along with a video and written instructions on how to install it:

  • In the Layers panel, make sure the duplicated string layer is still the active layer.
  • In the Layers panel, Alt click (Mac: Opt click) on the Add a Layer Mask icon.

A black layer mask should have appeared to the right of the duplicated string thumbnail (see image below) and your duplicated string should have disappeared from your document.

Step Four: Reveal the Top Threads

  • In the Layers panel, the Layer Mask of the duplicated string layer should be active. You know it is active when it has a blue outline around it, as in the image above. Just to be sure, click on the Layer Mask. This is very critical to the success of this tutorial. (Photoshop and Previous versions of Elements: The mask outline is white.)
  • You should have a white color chip. If not, Press the letter X to switch the Color Chips to white to reveal. Layer masks work exclusively with white and black. Remember this: White reveals – Black conceals.
  • Get the Brush tool.
  • In the Tool Options (Options Bar), open the Brush Picker and choose the Soft Round brush. Opacity should be 100% and Mode should say Normal. (Photoshop: Flow should be 100%.)

  • Using the Right and Left Bracket keys, adjust your brush Size to a bit larger than your string.
  • Using your brush, stoke over the part of the string that should be on top of the button to reveal it. (See below.)

  • If you make a mistake and reveal more than you like, just switch your Color Chips (Press the letter X) to black over white and paint over anything that you want to hide.

Note: I added a shadow to my bottom original string layer, but there is no shadow on the top copied string layer.

Here is a scrapbook page that features this tutorial. Let me see your sewing work at the Digi Scrap Tutorial gallery.

Digi Scrap Tutorial Threading Buttons on a String by Nannette Dalton
Layout: "Pirate Princess" by Nannette Dalton
Kit: Frame, Brads, and White paper is from Me Personally by Amanda Taylor
Washi tape made from papers from Back 2 School Whimsy by Jen Allyson and Love You Always by Amanda Rockwell
String from Christmas Lights by Julie Billingsley
Skull from Microsoft clip art
Tutorials: Chevron Wave by Jen White, previously available to Premier Members May 2012, Make your Own Washi Tape by Nannette Dalton
Fonts: DJB My Girls Rock, Lemondrop
Software: Photoshop Elements 11 and PS5

Download this Digi Scrap Tutorial

17 Responses

  1. Erika
    | Reply

    Thanks for this clear tutorial and for the mask download. This site helps me to be more creative!

  2. Barb
    | Reply

    Awesome tutorial, Nann!

  3. Donna
    | Reply

    What a cute idea! And thanks for the tutorial. Your instructions were very clear and easy to follow. I am for sure going to try this! Thanks again.

  4. Sue Alg
    | Reply

    Wonderful tutorial and very clear instructions. Is there any reason why the download appears locked so I can’t save to my computer?

    • Nannette Dalton
      | Reply

      It is working for me. I wonder if it has something to do with your browser. This is beyond my expertise… but I will pass your question on to someone who may be able to help.

    • Irene Kaltenbach
      | Reply

      I sometimes have a problem downloading Adobe files using Microsoft’s browser. I work around it by using Ctrl C to copy the site address, opening my Firefox Browser (which can be downloaded free), and pasting the address into the website address line. Hope this helps you.

      • Nann
        | Reply

        Thanks for your help Irene.

  5. Kathy
    | Reply

    What a fun tutorial….I can’t wait to try this!! Thanks, Nann!!

  6. Dorrie
    | Reply

    Nann, I have the Christmas Lights kit you refer to in your tutorial, but I was wondering what String image did you use. There seems to be #1, 2, 3, & 4, and I don’t see any that look exactly like in the tutorial above. Are you just using part of the string?

    • Nannette Dalton
      | Reply

      Dorrie, Sorry I changed the strings appearance a bit. I used Sting 1. It is a vertical straight string that I rotated then I used the Puppet Warp tool in Photoshop to bend it a bit.

  7. Jo
    | Reply

    Wow! Thanks so much. I have always tried to do this with the eraser. Results were never really good.

  8. Delnora
    | Reply


  9. Linda H-T
    | Reply

    Wow, Nannette, this is the first time I really understood how layer masks work!
    It was so simple, and yet perfect!
    I LOVE all of your tutorials because they are so easy to follow and lead straight to success!

    • Nannette
      | Reply

      Linda, This makes me so happy. Thanks for your kind words.

  10. Anne
    | Reply

    Great tutorial! Your instructions are always so clear. Thank you.

  11. Maureen
    | Reply

    Love this tutorial and want to try it. My problem is I get a white layer mask instead of black – I can’t remember how to switch the layer mask between black and white – does anyone know how to do this?


    • Nann
      | Reply

      Maureen, Another way of changing it to black other than holding down Alt Click (Mac: Opt Click) while you select Layer Mask Icon is to make sure that the layer mask is selected( it has a white or blue outline) then fill it with black with your paint bucket tool.
      Good luck hope this works for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.