I have a confession to make.
Believe it or not, I used my Windows file system to organize my digi items for a long time. Until about April of this year, in fact. It worked ok, as long as I could remember what I had. But it was hard to find things, and I found myself scrapping from the same kits over and over, because that’s all I could remember I had. But I had NO idea what I was missing until I installed the ACDSee Photo Manager. It changed the way I scrap, and I don’t say that lightly.
Now, if you use Photoshop Elements exclusively, and you’re running Windows, you can, of course, organize your supplies with the Photoshop Elements Organizer. If you’re running a Mac, you can use iPhoto. Or you could purchase Shoebox, which my good friend Molly uses and recommends. There are lots of choices out there. :)
I use ACDSee (um. I said that, right?), so all the screen shots and so forth will be in that. But the organization ideas will cross over any platform or program.
Let’s talk brushes first off, since that’s what this three-week PSF series is about.
The way I organize brushes is actually to tag the .png files that come with the brush sets I download, rather than tagging the .abr file itself. This way I can see all my brush images within the context of my organization system. I keep both Photoshop and ACDSee Photo Manager open at all times while I’m scrapping (and usually Picasa, which is how I organize photos).
My process when I get new brushes (or almost any kind of file, really):
1. Download the brush set or kit.
2. Extract the set to a folder on my file system, grouped by shoppe and then by designer, making sure to keep the .png files and the .abr file in the same folder.
4. Open ACDSee to locate and tag all my new brushes.
I navigate my file system using the left panel, and open up the individual folders where I’ve downloaded my new goodies. Papers get tagged with my paper tags, embellishments with the Embellishment tags, and the .png brush files get tagged with Brush tags. I’ve gone through my file system on the left panel, chosen my brushes in the center, and then dragged my brushes onto the tags in the left panel to tag them. So this is a view of all my Label & Vintage brushes. The .abr files stay in their original folders in my file system.
Here’s a screen shot of my brush setup in ACDSee after I have tagged my brushes:
There are two cool benefits of tagging .png brush images in ACDSee
Benefit 1: Tagging groups of things by purpose AND by type
I can tag brush images within my Brush section, or within any other section to which they apply. For example, all my journaling brushes are in their own category/sub-category, but they are ALSO part of the Journaling-All category, which includes any kind of digital journaling spot in my collection. This allows me a broad view into embellishments of a specific type, no matter whether they’re a brush file or a .png with a drop shadow. This fits my style of digi scrapping, in which I get to the journaling and say to myself, “I need a journaling spot.” I like to start at broad categories and then work my way down after that.
Benefit 2: Not having to install the .abr file if the .png will do
- Rather than installing a brush set each time I need a file, I can actually just drag a file directly out of ACDSee Photo Manager, and hover over the Photoshop button on my bottom program bar, and when Photoshop switches over, I can drop the .png file directly into Photoshop (either PSE 5 or CS2, whichever I’m working in at the moment). So I don’t HAVE to go through the trouble of installing the brush file at all if I’m just planning a quick use of the .png.
Of course, some uses of brushes require us to install it, which comes to the next benefit I find from this organization method:
Benefit 3: Exact path locations are just a tooltip away
If I hover over ANY of my .png files, I’ll get a tooltip that appears with the exact path to where the file is located in my file system. By following that path within Photoshop when I go to Load Brushes, I go directly to the spot in my file system where my .abr file is waiting for me. :)
Organizing in General
I think organizing is kind of a personalized activity. Very much so, in fact. You have to know what works for you the way you think and the way you like to work. On the other hand, I think it really helps to see what others do, and try to incorporate those ideas if they fit you (hence, I think, the reason why we love looking at scraprooms so much. :D). Here is a brief look at ALL of my ACDSee categories, so I can show you what I mean by personalized:
- Borders & Lines
- Corner & Frame
- Floral & Botanical
- Flourishes & Swirls
- Grunge & Paint
- Label & Vintage
- WordArt & Titles
- Buttons, Brads, & Fasteners
- Flourish & Edge
- Squares & Rectangles
- Journaling (All)
- Overlays & Frames
- Ribbons, Stitches, & Staples
- Stickers & Patches
You can see, for example, I’m not very hardcore about sub-categorization. I really like to see ALL my tags when I’m picking a tag, and then choose from there. It’s easy to scroll down and see among a couple hundred or so, rather than hunt for “Orange circle tag” somewhere subcategorized. This is me, though. As long as I have things in Big Buckets, finding after that is pretty easy.
You can also see that I don’t use traditional digi embellishments that often (as a hybrid scrapper, I’d prefer using a ‘real’ button on my printed page than a digital one), so I have big lumpy categories (such as “Buttons, Brads & Fasteners” where others who are exclusively digi would break these out into several or many sub-categories.
The “shapes” categories actually contain ALL my embellishments of that shape, whether they’re buttons, brushes, paper patches/stickers, or anything. I recently started doing this, because I found myself making design decisions like, “I could really use a circular element right over here.” This way I can see all the circles I have “in stock”, and know if I can use one, or make one, or if I need to go shopping. :D
Organization, for me, is something that I get out of what I put in. It’s important to promptly unzip and tag all your downloads so that you can incorporate new items into your system and you’re not dealing with a huge backlog. Setting up an organization system can be a little time-consuming, but SO worth it. And regularly spending time organizing actually saves time and increases creativity down the line when you’re ready to scrap.
Ask questions in the comments and I’ll post a follow-up Organization Q&A this week! :D