12/8/10 Photoshop - What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger

I've been trying to teach myself Photoshop Elements for awhile and it's just been frustrating.  I'm taking a class now - I've been in it for three weeks and several times each week I just want to stand up and scream "what the &%&$^$ are you talking about?"  But, because I was raised better, I haven't.
So, I brought my computer today and decided to work on the train.  Part of my brain heard about adjusting opacity, refining edges, changes/correcting colors, masks and layers. (the other parts of my brain heard blah, blah, blah)
I decided to focus on layers because even though they make sense on one level - I mean, you start with a piece of paper and when you add something on top, that's another layer.  Not really rocket science, but somehow on the computer I'm never sure what layer I'm on or what I'm trying to do with it.
I have digital collage images from Paper Whimsy  and decided to start.  I'm going to figure this out - even if it kills me.
I know there's a lot that should be done to these two collages- like maybe adding shadows, softening edges, adding some ground or a floor at the bottom, etc.  But I was just trying to take the different elements and layer them and hope that I would understand by doing it.  I can't say that's happened yet, but I might be a half a step closer.
This collage started with a textured background, and the separate elements are the jeweled star, the girl, the bird and the wrought iron railing.  I did something after I typed "the magic of christmas" which angled the type and so I kept it that way.
This collage started with a harlequin background and then I added the elements of the curtains, the girl and the jeweled star.  So, in both I was able to re-size the elements (not hard to do) and in this one I originally had the girl in front of the curtain, but I remembered something about clicking and dragging in the Layers Palette to place layers at a different level - so I was able to put her behind the curtain.
And, I used the zoom and the eraser tool to make the star look better in her hand.  Well, as good as it can look when you're working on a train with just a track pad.  Hey - a new excuse, it's the train's fault......
My grandfather always used to say "No honey, it's not you.  The whole world is wrong".  Hmmmm

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