Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tutorial: Rotating, Flipping & Layering Digis to Create Scenes

I've been getting a lot of questions lately about how to rotate, flip, and layer digis in order to create composite images (a.k.a. 'scenes'). So this seems like a good time to share a tutorial about this. Hold on to your seats -- this is going to be a long one, but I promise it will be worth it! :-)

Please note that this tutorial assumes some basic understanding of digis. If you are brand new to using digis, please review our Digis 101 tutorial for directions to get you started. Also, for this tutorial, I'll be using Microsoft Word 2010(TM) for the Mac computer. Depending on whether you are using a Mac or PC computer, and which version of Word(TM) you have installed, the steps performed throughout this tutorial may vary from what you should do to accomplish the same. However, this should still give you an idea of how to get started.

A. What is a 'Composite Image'?

First things first, what is a 'composite image'? A composite image is basically a 'scene' that is created by layering multiple digis together in one document before printing. The effect is similar to 'masking' with traditional stamps. Below is an example. This composite image was created by layering some of the pre-colored digis from the "Goody Jars" set together in one Word(TM) document. The jar image was placed, and then each candy image was individually layered on top of the jar. Then some of the images were rotated or flipped ("mirrored") to create a more natural look than if all of the candies were facing the same way in the jar. I'll be covering all of these steps in this tutorial so that you, too, can create fun composite images!

B. Which Kinds of Digis to Use?

As you know, all of our sets include images in both JPG and PNG file formats, as well as 'outline', 'color', and 'layering' versions of each image. With so many options available, which should you use? This is a great question, because for the purpose of creating composite images, some kinds of digis definitely work better than others!

Use PNG Format Digis
When layering digis, you will get better results by using PNG images than by using JPG images. This is because JPG images have solid white backgrounds, and these backgrounds will always show up when layering images. PNG images, on the other hand, have transparent backgrounds. This means that you can layer them over one another, and only the outline and/or the filled/colored parts of the images will display or print, with no white frames around them.

Use 'Layering' or 'Color' Images
When layering digis, it is also better to use either the 'layering' or the 'colored' versions of the images than to use the 'outline' ones. 'Layering' digis are images that have been filled in with solid white so that you can layer one digi on top of another without unwanted lines from the bottom digi showing through the top digi. 'Color' digis work much the same way. On the other hand, 'outline' digis are just that -- the outlines of the image, with no white or colored filling. So if you try to layer 'outline' digis, all of the lines from each digi will show in your composition.

C. Getting Started: Place Some Images in a Word(TM) Document

Now let's move on to the mechanics of manipulating digis in a Word(TM) document. We'll start by placing two digis in a Word(TM) document. To do this:

1. Open a new document in Word(TM).

2. On the Word(TM) toolbar at the top of the screen, click on INSERT.

3. A drop-down menu will appear on the screen. In this menu, click on PHOTO.

4. A pop-out menu will appear to the side of the first. In this menu select PICTURE FROM FILE.

5. The "Choose a Picture" window will open. In this window, navigate through the files saved on your computer to the first digi that you wish to place in the Word(TM) document. Once you have located your digi, click on it to select it, and then click the INSERT button at the lower right corner of the "Choose a Picture" window.

6. The digi will then be inserted into the Word(TM) document. You should see a blue rectangle around the image, indicating that it is currently selected.

7. Click once anywhere in the blank space of the Word(TM) document to deselect the digi. You will know that the digi has been deselected when the blue rectangle is no longer visible around the digi.

Note: It is important that you deselect the digi, or else any subsequent digis you attempt to place in the document will simply replace this first one, and you don't want that. 

8. Repeat steps 2 through 7 above to insert a second digi into the Word(TM) document.

D. Decide on the Layering Order of Your Digis

You should now have two images in the Word(TM) document. The next step is to decide on the layering order of your digis. When getting ready to layer digis, I find it helps to think of them as stickers. What happens when you place one sticker on top of another? The sticker on top covers up parts of the sticker below it. That is exactly what happens when you layer digis. With that in mind, which digi do you want to place on the bottom, with some parts of it covered up by the digi on top? Which do you want to appear on the top, with all parts of the image showing? Let's look at the digis I've used so far today -- a jar and a pumpkin -- and examine the options.

Option 1 would be to place the jar above the pumpkin in the layer stack. Since we want the pumpkin to look like it's inside the jar, one's first instinct might be to do it this way. But look at the photo above to see what happens when we do. Some of the lines from the jar display over the top of the pumpkin. Hmm...that doesn't seem quite right, does it? Option 2 would be to place the pumpkin above the jar in the layer stack. Although our brains might argue that this doesn't quite make sense, since the pumpkin is supposed to be inside the jar, layering it this way actually produces the better look.

E. Adjust the Settings on the Digis to Make Them Layer-able

OK, so you've got two images in a Word(TM) document, and you've figured out the order in which you want to layer them. Now you need to adjust some settings so that the digis can be layered.

You'll notice that you can click on either image with your mouse to select it, but no matter how many times you try to drag the images around in the document, they won't move. This is because, by default, Word(TM) sets images to appear in line with any typed text. Just as you can't select text and drag it around the screen, you can't select images and drag them around the screen...unless you change the default settings! To do this:

1. Double-click the digi that you want to appear on the bottom of the layer stack to select it. This will cause the "Format Picture" tab to open in the Word(TM) window, and formatting options for the selected digi will appear in the tool bar above the document.

2. In the "Format Picture" tool bar, locate and click on the WRAP TEXT button.

3. A drop-down menu will appear on the screen. In this menu, click on BEHIND TEXT.

You will see that the selected digi automatically moves up behind the second digi, which is still being treated as text by Word(TM).

Most likely this is not the exact placement you want, but don't worry -- once you edit the second digi, you will be able to move both images around to suit your needs.

4. Click on the digi that you want to appear on the top of the layer stack in order to select it.

 5. In the "Format Picture" tab, locate and click on the WRAP TEXT button.

 6. A drop-down menu will appear on the screen. In this menu, click on IN FRONT OF TEXT.

Nothing will immediately change visually in the Word(TM) document after making this last change. However, because of the change that you just made, you can now drag both of the digis around in the Word(TM) document, and the second digi will always layer on top of the other. 

D. Layer the Digis

Now that you have adjusted the digis to be moveable, you can layer them as you like.

1. Click on the digi that you want to appear on the bottom of the layer stack and, holding down the left button on your mouse, drag the image to where you want it in the Word(TM) document.

 2. Click on the digi that you want to appear on the top of the layer stack and, holding down the left button on your mouse, drag the image over the top of the previous image to where you want it.

Your digis should now be layered, with the top digi covering any part of the bottom digi that might otherwise appear there. Congratulations -- you've created a basic composite image!

E. Add More Digis
Now that you understand the basics of layering digis, how about adding more digis to your scene, to really fill it out? To do this, first follow the same steps above to add more digis to the document, and to make them layer-able. You may want to experiment with the 'Wrap Text' settings for each added digi, setting to "Behind Text" or "In Front of Text" depending on where you want each image in the layer stack. Then drag each new digi over the existing images until you have them placed where you want them, as in the example below.

F. Flip and Rotate Images to Add Visual Interest

As you craft your scene, you may find that it just seems to look a little "off." The composite image above is a great example of this. In this image, all of the pumpkins are sitting upright in the jar, and all of the candy corns are facing exactly the same direction. In reality, if you put a bunch of objects into a jar, such an arrangement would never happen. At least some of the pieces would turn to one side or the other, falling into the cracks between other pieces to fill the jar. So to make this arrangement look more natural, some of the images need to be rotated or flipped. Here's how:


1. Double-click on a digi to select it.

2. While the digi is selected, the "Format Picture" tools will appear at the top of the Word(TM) window. At the far right of this group of tools, locate the ROTATE button, and click on it.

3. A drop-down menu will appear on the screen. From this menu, select either FLIP HORIZONTAL or FLIP VERTICAL, depending on the direction in which you wish to flip the digi. "Flip Horizontal" will flip the image left to right, and "Flip Vertical" will flip the image top to bottom.

In the document window, the selected digi will instantly flip so that it is now facing the opposite direction that it was, along whichever axis -- horizontal or vertical -- that you selected.


There are a couple of different ways that you can rotate digis in Word(TM). If you just want to rotate the image a quarter turn in one direction or the other (left or right), simply follow the directions above, but when you reach step 3, select either ROTATE RIGHT 90 DEGREES or ROTATE LEFT 90 DEGREES.

In the document window, the digi will instantly rotate in the direction you selected.

There is also a second method for rotating digis that allows you to make more subtle adjustments:

1. Click on the digi to select it.

2. When the digi is selected, a blue box appears around it. If you look closely at this box, you'll notice that there is a little handle sticking up from it, with a small green "knob" at the top.

3. Click on this knob and, holding down the left mouse button, drag it in the direction that you wish to rotate the digi. You will know that this rotation knob is active because your mouse cursor will change to a circular arrow symbol. When you are happy with the rotation, release the mouse button.

That's all there is to it! Using a combination of the above-described methods, you should now be set to create composite images (scenes) to your heart's content! Don't be afraid to experiment, and don't forget to share with us what you make!


  1. Deedee, you are AWESOME! Thank you! This is a wonderful tutorial! This will be such a big help to me!

  2. Thank you very much for this tutorial.

  3. Thanks for this fantastic, easy-to-understand tutorial! You've opened up a whole new world of working with digital images for me! You are so kind to do this!!! Big {thank-you} HUGS!!

  4. I love your tutorials!! Your write up is perfect and easy to understand.

  5. Fantastic tutorial! Thanks for sharing this!

  6. OMGosh, thank you so much for this tutorial! I was going crazy because I couldn't get my images to move around on the screen and thank you on showing how to make a "scene". I've learned so much. And it was so easy to understand even when I'm using Word 2013. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  7. OMG too and ty for sharing - this is my job for this evening thank you for sharing xxx

  8. Gosh what an amazing tutorial, I have never used Word to do something like this. So well pictured to make it easier too. Thank you.


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