Color and Grayscale template detail

The Blank Canvas

Using Templates to spur creativity

The other day when I saw a sale, I thought it might be time to buy a couple new templates for scrap pages. It’s not that I don’t already have lots of templates—some bought, some made by me. It’s just that I don’t have all the ideas in the world for designing pages sitting somewhere in my head. Some of those ideas, in fact, have never been anywhere near my head, let alone in it.

And while there are times I love a blank canvas, something to stare at until I get so fidgety I do something, anything, nevertheless there are plenty of times when I’d rather not have to think so hard. With thousands of pictures I might want to do something with, I’m supposed to design each and every page all by myself? I did that before I discovered templates, and it began to feel like a chore.

I have a couple of problems when buying templates, though. The first is the format. I decided in the very beginning not to use the traditional 12”x12” format for scrap. I chose the standard 10”x8”  (basically US letter size), because it not only works with most home printers and  store-bought frames, but also makes better use of the widescreen format of monitors and TVs. Purchased templates for scrap are, of course, a square format, so I have to redistribute and resize all the elements for my landscape paper size. On the positive side, I get very familiar with each template. This format is also one of the reasons I never buy any of those lovely quick pages. They can’t be rearranged, and very few can be nicely transformed.

Square vs Landscape templates
Converting from a square format to a landscape format takes a bit of fiddling and rearranging. Template by Kastagnette.

The other problem I found with templates is that they’re all in color. Sometimes the color is soft and almost monochromatic; more often templates are bright and cheerful, or even, as is the case with Jumpstart Designs, so completely developed you could use the templates as their own quick pages. But the lovely colors, despite enticing me to buy, get in the way when I start replacing template shapes with my elements. After figuring out that I was having trouble looking at colors  that didn’t fit with my palette, I began converting them all to Grayscale.

Soft pinks with bright colored template
Template colors and my color palette are rarely harmonious. It’s even more difficult to judge progress with a layout when I’m using elements from different kits instead of a single coordinated kit. Template by Manue.

Whatever size your page is, you might also like using templates better if they’re in neutral grays. Of course, by definition you can’t create a full color page if the Mode is Grayscale. And if you add a B&W Adjustment layer to the top of the stack of layers, everything you add below it will be gray. Further, if you’re using Photoshop and have Smart Objects in your template, Grayscale won’t work without rasterizing them. Fortunately, it’s very easy to get all this resolved.

After choosing Image> Mode> Grayscale, the first dialog will ask you if you want to Merge layers (PSE says Flatten); you don’t. If you have Smart Object layers, the second dialog in PS will tell you that changing modes can affect the appearance of Smart Objects and do you want to rasterize? Yes, you do. (PSE doesn’t support  Smart Objects , but rasterizes them on open.) When you next convert your Grayscale back to RGB, you again do not merge (flatten) your layers and all should be fine. Save the template with a new name—I append a G for Gray to the name—and you’ll be preserving the color if you want to be inspired by it.

Changing color mode dialogs
Both PS and PSE will ask you to merge when converting to Grayscale. PS also asks if you want to rasterize Smart Objects, which were rasterized in PSE if you open a file that includes them.

With your template now in neutral grays, when you start adding your own colored elements to your design, that hot pink or bright orange from the original template won’t look out of place with your chosen palette, and you won’t be distracted by strong unwanted colors.

Template in color vs in grayscale
When templates only contain shades of gray, you can focus better on the elements you’re adding to your layout. Template by Aurelie.

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