Thursday, September 27, 2012

Your First Scrapbook Layout with GIMP - Part 1

So you've downloaded the kit, right?  You have it readily accessible, and you have the picture of your good-lookin' kiddo somewhere you can find it, yes?  If you haven't downloaded it yet, do it now, right here.

And GIMP is installed and ready to roll?  If not, get it now, right here.

If you already have them both, then we're ready to go!

On your desktop, double-click on the Wilber icon to launch GIMP.   Wilber looks like this:

When it opens (it takes a little while, it uses a lot of memory), this is what you should see:

GIMP Work Area

You should also have a Toolbox window open to the left of the work area that looks like this:

GIMP Toolbox
and a Layers dialog to the right that looks like this:

Layers Dialog

Is that what you see?

If so, excellent!  If not, leave me a comment and we'll try to work it out.

First things first.  Let's open our background paper in GIMP.

To do that, take the following steps:
  1. Navigate to the folder where you stored the free School Days kit.  Mine is located in C:\Users\Stephanie\Downloads\.  
  2. If you haven't already extracted the files (because the package was a zip file), you can do that now.  
    • Right-click on the zip file and select Extract All.
    • The Extract dialog should, by default, create a folder with the same name as the file (School Days), under your current path (so for me it would be C:\Users\Stephanie\Downloads\School Days).
    • Click the Extract button.
  3. If you have already extracted the files (or once you have extracted the files), find the file named "Notebook_Paper.png".
  4. Click on the file and drag it into the GIMP work area.
This is what you should see now in the work area:

And in the Layers dialog, this:

A couple of quick notes:

Dots Per Inch

You'll notice that the work area has some information across the top.  The name of the file, version number, the fact that it was imported, and some additional numbers--in this case, 3600x3600.  This is the size of your image in pixels, dpi, or dots per inch.

Dots per inch is a big deal in the digital world, because it is the resolution of your image that enables you to have it printed crisply and clearly without pixelation, a fancy word for the way images start to look grainy or like they're filled with little boxes, rather than being a clean representation of the image itself.

A good standard for resolution on digital images is 300 dpi.   Also standard in the scrapbooking community is a page size of 12 inches by 12 inches.  So if we do a little math, a page that is 12 inches wide, at 300 dpi, would be 3600 dots (or pixels) wide.  And since the page is square, it is also then 3600 dots (or pixels) high.  Thus, the 3600x3600 notation at the top of the page.

Layers Dialog

Remember we talked about layers here?  This dialog is where you can really see layering at work.  In the picture above, you only have one layer shown, because so far we've only added the notebook paper.  We'll look at this dialog in more depth when we've added some additional elements.

But let's check out a few things while we have it open.  See the eye to the left of the Notebook_Paper.png?

That tells us that the Notebook_Paper.png layer is visible right now.

If you click on the eye, it will make the layer invisible.  Give it a try.  Notice in the work area how you only see a checkerboard-filled area when the eye is not showing?  That checkerboard-filled area is GIMP's blank slate.  I don't use the visibility function often, but it can definitely come in handy.

Another option that I do use with some regularity is the Opacity slider. 

This option is awesome when you want something to be see-through to some degree.  Go ahead and try it.  Make sure you've clicked the eye again so that the Notebook_Paper.png layer is visible.  Change the opacity of the layer by clicking the down-arrow to the right of the 100.0 on the slider.  Reduce it to 80%.  Do you notice the checkerboard-filled area showing through a little?  Reduce it to 60%, 40% and 20% and note the differences.

Changing opacity is particularly useful for making digital vellum (we'll talk about that in a post down the road) and for making text appear softer on the page.

Use the up-arrow to the right of slider to return opacity on the Notebook_Paper.png to 100%.

Now that we've had a brief look at GIMP and we have one layer added to our image, let's save our work.

To do that, select File and Save from the Menu Bar in the main work area.

Navigate to where you want to store this file.  I have a folder on my hard drive called "Scrappin" and I store my scrapbooking pages there by date.  I also have a naming convention for them, so that I know which page is which.  This file, for example, I would title Brandon_Kindergarten_FirstDay_082004.  That way I know which kiddo is involved, what the occasion is, and what month and year the event was. 

You don't have to do it that way, I just find that it's easier to find things later.

I'm storing my file here:

The .xcf extension is the default for GIMP.   You'll want to keep that extension for now.

Ready to move on?  In Part 2 we'll work with letters, learn more about the Layers dialog, and explore the Move tool!


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