Melissa Renfro’s Farmhouse Style Collection includes some darling wire paper clips. They are the cutest thing ever! I love the little shapes on top and the “perfectly imperfect” bent-wire look. The only problem with these paper clips is that sometimes it’s difficult to make them look like they are actually holding two pieces of paper together. Realistic paper clips are hard! Fortunately, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I’d love to share with you.
1. Complete your layout first.
Before going through all of the work to tweak the paper clip, make sure your layout is pretty much complete. There is nothing worse than changing your mind after going through with all of the steps to make the paper clip work. Notice how everything on this layout is done except the clip is just sort of stuck on there, not doing anything.
2. Add a mask to your paper clip layer.
Do this by making sure the the clip layer is active in the Layers palette, then click on the Mask icon. It looks like a gray rectangle with a white circle, and it may be at the top or the bottom of the Layers palette, depending on which version of Photoshop Elements you’re using. After clicking on the Mask icon, a mask will appear on the paper clip layer.
Click on the mask to activate it. (You will see a very thin outline around the mask when it’s active.) Use a hard-edged brush tool with the color set to black to cover the parts of the clip that you want to be “behind” the paper. The nice thing about a mask is that although it looks like you are erasing bits of the paper clip, you are actually just hiding it. If you cover too much, just switch your brush to white and paint again.
Now comes the fun part. Right now, the clip in my example doesn’t look very realistic because it ends abruptly at the edge of the paper and picture. There are several different methods of creating the illusion that the clip extends under the paper, but let me explain my favorite way.
3. Make a Direct Selection on the clip layer.
To make a Direct Selection, Ctrl+Click on the thumbnail picture of the clip in the Layers palette. Be sure to click on the thumbnail, not on the mask. This puts “marching ants” all around the clip.
Now, click to activate the paper layer that you want the clip to go “under.” In my example, that would be the blue paper. Use the shortcut Ctrl+J to copy the selected portion onto a new layer. Add a bevel to this layer. Reduce the opacity until it looks like the paper is just slightly raised.
Repeat this process with any other papers or pictures that the clip should go under. Remember, that a little beveling goes a long way, so don’t hesitate to reduce the opacity by quite a bit.
4. Create a new layer right below the lowest paper layer that the clip goes under.
In my example, the blue paper is the lowest paper that the clip goes under. Use a soft-edged brush with a medium gray color (or whatever color you are using for the drop shadows on the rest of your layout). Add a little bit of extra shadow where the clip first goes under the paper (or photo, as in my example). This mimics how the paper would stick up just a little bit more, thus casting a larger shadow at these points. Reduce the opacity of this layer until you are happy with how it looks.
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