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Decorate Punched Tags of Any Shape Using a Scanner

By Liz Ness  ·  June 22nd, 2011

Paper Punches are Versatile

Paper punches are fun tools for making shapes for cards, scrapbook layouts, and other craft projects. You can punch and add the shapes to your designs or use the punched paper as a stencil for mixed media art. There are so many shapes to choose from, too. Journal spot shapes, flowers, elephants, and the list goes on. Add to this the ability to decorate the borders (or insides) of your punched shapes through Photoshop Elements, and the possibilities become endless!

Here are a few examples of decorated tags from Etsy:

However, while it’s easy to decorate and create a border for paper punched shapes that come in standard shapes, like a circle, it takes more effort and time to add borders to a non-standard, custom shape. And, that’s when a scanner becomes a creative ally. If you put your scanner to work for you, decorating non-standard punch-outs is as easy as capturing an image of the punched shape, turning that into a template, and then adding a border. It no longer matters if the shape is standard or not.


For this project, you’ll need a paper punch, some dark colored paper for the punch, and some standard white paper for printing.


Step 1: Punch and Scan the Image

Punch the dark paper with the paper punch tool. Next, line up the punched paper on the scan-bed and scan it. Then, open up your scanned image in Photoshop Elements (if it isn’t opened in Elements already).

TIP: Line it Up
If your shape isn’t aligned well, select the Straighten tool (P). Then, identify an edge of the shape that should be horizontal. Click on that edge, hold the mouse button down, and drag the tool along that edge, releasing about an inch in. This should adjust the alignment of your shape, making the job of decorating it easier.

Step 2: Create a Black & White Template

Select Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Threshold and press OK.

Then, select Layer>Merge Down to merge the two layers together. Finally, if your scanner is dirty (and many are), there will be white dots within the black shape. If there are white dots within the black shape, select default colors D and the Brush tool (B) and paint away all white dots that should be black.

Step 3: Clean Up the Edges

Next, let’s clean up the edges (they’re likely frayed because of the paper). Select the Rectangular Marquee tool (M) and select a few pixels along the edge.

Repeat for any straight edges.

Step 4: Select the Shape

Next, select the Magic Wand tool (W), set the Tolerance to 10, and select the Contiguous option. Click inside the shape (within the black area). Then, create a new layer and choose Select>Modify>Contract to contract the selection by 10 pixels.

TIP: Dive In
For the example, the borders are tight along the edges of the shape. However, if you contract just a bit more (say, by 30 instead of 10 pixels) in Step 4, you can get a different look for your borders.

Step 5: Create a Border

Make invisible the background layer by clicking the eye icon. Then, select Edit>Stroke (Outline) Selection and set the width to 10 px, the location at Center, make sure Preserve Transparency is not selected, and press OK.

TIP: Change it Up
Instead of black for the outline color, choose another color to customize the shape border.

Step 6: Create an Inner Border

Choose Select>Modify>Contract to contract the selection by 20 pixels. Then, select Edit>Stroke (Outline) Selection and set the width to 3 px and press OK. Press Ctrl-D (Mac: Command-D) to deselect the layer. Save this file as a PSD document.

Step 7: Create a Printable Sheet

Open a new blank document that is US Paper, Letter sized, with 300 pixels/inch, and White for the Background Contents. Then, from the Project Bin, click on and drag and drop the outlines onto the new document. Select the Move tool (V) to position the outlines. Do this again and again to fill up the page in a way that is easy to punch the shapes (avoid overlap, leaving plenty of room to punch).

Step 8: Print and Punch

Print out the new Letter-sized document, line up the punch, and punch out the decorated shapes.

TIP: Get Fancy!
Add text inside the shape to personalize the punched shapes even more.

4 Replies to Decorate Punched Tags of Any Shape Using a Scanner:

  1. Barbara

    June 23, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    Love it! Thank you!

  2. cristina

    June 24, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    I was just asking myself how to do this. Thanks, you’ve saved me a few hours of work!

  3. Mary

    July 4, 2011 at 5:13 am

    This is a great tip, Liz. Your tag turned out great!



  4. Liz

    July 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Thanks for your comments Barbara, Cristina, and Mary!

    =) Liz

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