Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Photo Editing with Gimp - Brightness and Contrast

One of the fastest and easiest tweaks you can make to improve your photos is brightness and contrast. 

I haven't quite mastered exposure with my digital camera yet, so many of the photos I have taken are either too bright or too dark, resulting in my subject looking washed out or dim.  Again, Gimp to the rescue!

Let's use the original photo I took of the sign at the Loveless Cafe in Nashville as an example. 

See how the color of the sign (which is brilliant blue, in person) doesn't really pop?  And how the trees look muted in the background, despite their gorgeous fall hues?

To begin work on it, I drag the photo into my Gimp workspace.  Then I select the menu options, Colors and Brightness-Contract, like this:

A Brightness-Contrast dialog window opens, like this:

I can do one of three things to adjust Brightness and Contrast here.  I can:
  • click on the slider button in the middle for Brightness and/or Contrast
  • click the up or down arrow to the right of the number box for Brightness and/or Contrast; or
  • type a number (or negative number) in the number box for Brightness and/or Contrast.
I find that dragging the slider is easiest to get in the range I want, and then using the up and down arrows to make slight adjustments works great.  Try it out and see what works best for you.

I'm going to start with decreasing brightness, since my photo is overexposed.

I drag the slider next to Brightness to the left by 50, like this:

Once I'm satisfied with the brightness level (which I can see in my original photo because the Preview box is checked), I click the OK button.

My photo now looks like this:

It's hard to see much difference between the original and this one, but it will make a huge difference when you begin to adjust contrast! 

Contrast is the difference between the lightest parts of the photo and the darkest parts of the photo. I again use the menu options Colors and Brightness-Contrast to open the Brightness-Contrast dialog window.  This time I drag the slider on the Contrast portion and, rather than reducing, I increase, like this:

Once I'm happy with the original photo (which I can see because Preview is checked), I click the OK button, and end up with a photo that looks like this:

Much better, don't you think?  Love that the blue now looks much more like it looked when I was standing there.  And the red of the tree to the right of the sign... yes, that's what I wanted. 

You do have to be careful with Brightness and Contrast, as it can cause your photo to look unnatural and lose detail if you overdo it, like this (confession:  I actually kind of like it, but more as an artsy piece than a photo):

Play with it a little, or a lot, until you like what you have.  And remember that the Undo feature (menu options Edit and Undo) is your friend.  Leave a comment if you're having trouble and I'll do my best to help out.  You can also leave a comment if you're just loving what you're learning to do with Gimp or you just want to say hi.  Hi!

Next time we'll talk about another way to adjust brightness and contrast without using the brightness and contrast tool -- layers!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Photo Editing with Gimp - Red Eye Reduction

I don't have as many issues with red-eye as I once did.

But I have a ton of old pictures that would be so darned cute if not for those blazing red eyes.  My little sweeties end up looking like little devils! 

Here's a perfect example:

My sweet husband LOVES to do face painting, only in the non-traditional way.

So, many moons ago, he did it up right.  Eli, our youngest (who, to be fair, does get picked on sometimes), looked like he'd just weathered a pretty good fight--probably at the hands of Brandon, his slightly older brother, who had a fantastic bandit's mask and the fists to prove it.

This would have been a totally scrapworthy picture... except that Eli looks like Linda Blair has taken him over.  What to do?

Gimp to the rescue!  And it's simple!  Did I already mention that?  Did I also already reiterate that it's FREE?  MOST excellent!

I open Gimp and drag that lovely picture right out of the folder I had it stored in and onto my Gimp workspace, like this:

Then I select the Red Eye Removal tool, by using the Menu options Filters, Enhance, and Red Eye Removal..., like this:

When I select the Red Eye Removal tool, a dialog opens that shows me what my photo will look like after I apply the fix, like this:

A couple of things to note here.

First, the Red Eye Removal tool fixes the color red.  Not just eyes.  In this picture, there's a ton of fake blood going on (because moderation is not a word that my sweet hubster uses very often), out of the poor kid's eyes, and nose, and out from under (and over) his bandages.  I don't want to change the color of that stuff because, you know, blood is supposed to be red.  But you can see in the Red Eye Removal dialog preview that all of the blood would be brown if I clicked the OK button.

Second, there is a threshold slide that you can move.  In some cases, the Red Eye removal tool may not be picking up the eyes and manipulating the threshold can give it a boost.  In this case, the red of the blood and the red in his eyes are pretty close, so that won't really help me.

Finally, there's our little friend, Wilber.  And just to the right is his tip for us.  "Manually selecting the eyes may improve the results."

Ahhhh.... Light Bulb!  (Are you a fan of Despicable Me?  LOVE that flick in this household!)

So I click the Cancel button to close the Red Eye Removal dialog and return to the main Gimp workspace, where I can manually select the eyes, just like Wilber told me to.

To do that, I click on the Ellipse Select tool in the Toolbox, like this:

And then back over in my picture, I click and drag so that the ellipse outlines one of Eli's eyes, like this:

Then I again select the Red Eye Removal tool, by using the Menu options Filters, Enhance, and Red Eye Removal..., like this:

This time, when the Red Eye Removal dialog comes up, I see just the area I selected, like this:

Yay!  No blood involved this time, just his cute little eyeball (I know, I'm so cheesy... but I really DO think even his eyeballs are cute!), and it's a lovely shade of brown (which is good since his eyes are, in fact, brown).

So much better than the whole Linda Blair thing.

I click the OK button and move on to selecting the other eye.  Since I had already clicked on the Ellipse Select tool in the toolbox, it should still be selected (but if it's not, go click on it again in the Toolbox), and I should be able to just click and drag a new ellipse around his other eye, like this:

Again, I select the Red Eye Removal tool, by using the Menu options Filters, Enhance, and Red Eye Removal, and the Red Eye Removal dialog opens.  This time I see his other eye there, like this:

Just lovely!  Note that I tried really hard here to only get his eye and not the blood just to the right.  I could have made a smaller ellipse, selecting just the iris area, if I had been really concerned about it.

I click OK and see my cute kiddo, in all of his gory glory--red where it should be, brown where it should be.

All would be good except that the right eye (his left, but right as I'm looking at the pic) is still selected.  In order to deselect, I use the menu options Select and None, like this:

And the heavens open and the angels sing...

Scrapworthy, indeed.

Now I'm ready to export this back into digital picture file.  To do that, I select the menu options File and Export, like this:

In the Export dialog, in the text box to the right of "Name:" I enter the name of my file.  I call mine Face_Painting_2006.jpg (you can name yours whatever you'd like--Superhero_2007.jpg or Camping_2008.jpg or High_School_Graduation_Blackmail_Photo_2004.jpg or whatever).   

Make sure to add the extension .jpg to the end so it saves as a digital picture file.

Then I select the folder where I want to store it (to the right of "Save in folder:") and click the Export button.

And I'm ready to print that puppy or scrap it or frame it or keep it in my stash for the High School Graduation Blackmail scrapbook I have going...

Is that easy or WHAT?!?!

Did I already mention it's also... FREE?   :)

Let me know how it goes for you.  I'm dying to hear about your adventures with Gimp!  And I am also, of course, totally available if you're stuck or need help or need a good font recommendation or need directions to Wiggins or need a good recipe that can be made with zucchini...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Photo Editing, Anyone?

Wanna know a secret?  All of those photos I showed you in my post about Nashville?


Yep.  Made the colors deeper, increased contrast, reduced or increased brightness, cropped.  Improved significantly over the originals where I didn't get the shot quite square, or the sky was washed out, or the colors were muted. 

Guess what I used to do it?

Yes!  The GIMP!  (for FREE!!! - my favorite word)

As I was posting them, it occurred to me that this would be a perfect time to do a series on photo editing.

Then you could work through a project picture, like this one:

Beautiful trees, right?  But the lighting just did not make the colors pop like I wanted.  And the gray sky didn't offset the brilliant oranges and reds like I had hoped.  I snapped it anyway, because I knew I could fix it later!

Here it is after my "fixing":

The best thing about it?  You can TOTALLY do what I did in just a few simple steps.

I was thinking that, over the course of the next few weeks, we could chat about some of the following:
  • red-eye reduction
  • brightness and contrast
  • desaturation
  • fixing overexposure
  • brilliant skies
  • more on cropping and resizing
... stuff like that.


Other photo editing topics you'd love to cover?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Nashville - Time to Breathe

The hubster and I bailed out of town for a few days of rest and relaxation in lovely Nashville, Tennessee.

Oh. My. Word, y'all.   The food.  The incredible fall colors.  The Southern hospitality.

I had forgotten just how much there was to see and do there, and I had forgotten how much I missed some of my favorite people who just so happen to live there!  Yay for catching up, and feeling like no time has passed at all, even after thirteen years!

My favorite picture of the whole experience came from The Opryland Hotel, a site you absolutely MUST (do not pass Go, do not collect $200) see if you happen to be in that neck of the woods. 

Doesn't it just look like it's lit up from the inside?   God creates such amazing beauty!

Another of my favorites:

I wanted to stay there all day, sitting just beneath one of those gorgeous trees, listening to the water trickling by, breeze rustling through the leaves.

There was also this incredible spot, inviting me to sit a bit:

I can almost still feel the sun shining on my face.  Even though it's chill-eeeee today and there's snow on the ground.

And?  We had a heavenly breakfast here:

Country ham, like only the folks in the South can do it.  And the biscuits... oh my.  They were unbelievable.  Fresh out of the oven, flaky, hot, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth goodness, slathered with a heaping helping of homemade peach preserves.  Heaven.

Followed that bit of gastronomic happiness with a visit to downtown Franklin.  Main Street USA, dressed up for fall.  Quaint little shops; the smell of coffee and pumpkin spice in the air; leaves in brilliant gold, orange and red littering the walk as if the angels had just begun to decorate for Christmas.  

It was a great trip.  Can't wait to go again one of these days.  Maybe next time I'll spend a couple of weeks.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Your First Scrapbook Layout with GIMP - Part 8

Your digital scrapbooking page is complete!

And it's stuck in a folder on your computer when you really want to put it in that dusty album you bought several years back before you realized that you just aren't that into paper scrapping.  Or maybe you want to frame it and hang it on your wall.

What to do?

Get that sucker printed!

If you're like me, printing might cause you some heartburn. 

First of all, it's the one part of this process that isn't free.  Second, not just everyone (like Wal-Mart and your neighborhood Walgreens) does printing of 12" x 12" pages.  And third? I don't know about you, but I absolutely abhor paying for something when I don't know whether I'm getting my money's worth or not. 

Thankfully, there are 80 tons of digital scrappers out there who have, for the most part, vetted the peeps who print.  Because I like you so much, I have sorted through the gazillions of comments, complaints, praises, prices and fine print, and tried to give you a few printing options that might work for you. 

All of them offer online upload of your digital creations.  All print on archival quality paper (which means that your printed page should last fuh-evah... or at least a really long time).  All offer shipping at pretty reasonable rates. 

Scrapping Simply -  $1.99/page, full bleed (all the way to the edge of the paper, no irritating white border)

Scrapbooks to Share  - $1.50/page, acid/lignin-free paper, glossy or matte, flat $6 shipping (so you can order a bunch at a time for the best bang for your buck)

Scrapbooks Please - $1.99/page, standard matte, full bleed, acid-free archival paper, shipping $3.01 for one page in the continental US, $7.55/10 pages (US), $9.89/20 pages (US)

Persnickety Prints  - $1.99/page, full bleed, $5 shipping 

Costco - $2.99/page, available in glossy or lustre, pick up at the warehouse!

I am somewhat of an instant gratification girl, so I like places like Costco where I can print and pick up right away.  But I have read mixed reviews on Costco's printing service and have not personally used them, so you might print one page that you won't be heartbroken over if the quality isn't what you expected and just see.

Also?  Print quality is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.  Give some of the above a try.  I'd love to hear what you think of your finished product, the customer service you received, how simple it was to order and upload, etc.

Happy Printing!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Your First Scrapbook Layout with GIMP - Part 7

So you're all done!  (At least mostly.)

You've added a picture, several elements and embellishments, you've learned to move, rotate, crop and resize.  Before we move on to converting this Gimp file to a printable image, let's talk a little about text.

Text was my first MAJOR struggle in Gimp.  It drove me nearly crazy at the beginning.  I'm hoping I can help you avoid the crazy and move right on into being an accomplished user of the text tool.

Right now, your image should look something like this:

Let's assume that you wanted to add a little blurb to your finished image, something about Kindergarten, or the year your cutie-patootie started school, or some sweet little thing your angel said to you that year.  Anything you'd like. Let's put it in the bottom, left-hand corner.

From your Toolbox, select the Text tool.  It looks like this:

Then click in the area of your image where you'd like your text to be and drag to make a box about the size you think you'd like your text area to be, like this:

Notice that the bottom half of your Toolbox has now become devoted to text, like this:

Settings to be aware of as you look at the Toolbox, from top to bottom of the text portion.  See that mine is using the Sans font.  It's also at a size of 18 pixels, which in an image that's 3600 x 3600 pixels big is really, really, extra, super, teeny-tiny.  And the font color is black.

If you have similar settings, and you begin to type in your text box (which you do by clicking inside the box and typing away), you will very swiftly notice a couple of things.  One is that you can't see any text at all, even though you've been typing, like this:

See how that box looks empty?  Even though the little yellow-cursor-thing (yes, that's the technical term for it) has moved over to the right?  It probably doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that you can't see a darned thing in there because the whole 18 pixels thing makes it near microscopic.

And?  In case there was a question, I am not a rocket scientist.

But I generally think I'm at least as intelligent as the average bear.  It frustrated me like crazy that I couldn't see my text while I was typing... until I thought of... um... yeah... making it bigger.  I know.  It's so profound.  You should be paying me for this stuff. 

The other thing you should notice, the thing that might make you feel a little bit better while you're typing in microscopic font and wondering if anything is actually happening, is that you have a brand, spanking new text layer in your Layers dialog.  And if your fingers are nimble, you'll see your words there, like this:

But let's not leave our texting fate to chance or depend on checking the Layers dialog repeatedly to see what's happening.  Let's DO actually make it a reasonable size--one we can see and, more importantly, one the peeps who will be looking at this awesome page for many years to come can see.

The best (and quickest) way to increase the size of your font is to click the up arrow, just to the right of the Size box on your Toolbox, here:

When you click the up arrow, you can watch the font grow in your image, like this:

So much better now that we can see it, yes?

But... I am not really a fan of the Sans font, at least not for this kind of thing.  Lucky for me (and you), there are about a gazillion fonts out there on the web.  Even better?  Many of them are free!  I have posted some links on the Resources Page for places that you can go to get your very own free fonts for use in projects just like this one.

I'm going to select a font I have in my library and you can select any of the fun fonts you have installed on your computer right now.  In a not-too-far-in-the-future tutorial, I'll walk you through getting some adorable fonts you don't have yet, installing them, and using them like crazy.

For this project, click the Font button in your Toolbox, here:

Scroll through the list and find one that suits your fancy.  I like several of the fonts I've gotten from Kevin and Amanda.  Most are handwriting fonts and they look really cute with this kind of project, kind of like you wrote the words in your own script.  I'm going to pick one called "Pea Faith Dots".

Once you've selected the font you want, the Toolbox should look sort of like this:

 And your image should look something like this:

Even better.  Now I need it to be a little bit larger, and I want it to be centered.  So let's click the up arrow on the Toolbox next to the Size box again.  I increased mine to about 150.  Go smaller or larger, however you like it best.  There are also justification buttons on the Toolbox, left, right, center and full--just like in Word.  They're located here:

If you hover with your mouse over any of the buttons to the right of the word "Justify", a little text box pops up that tells you which one it is, for clarification. Let's click on the Center button (the one the arrow is pointing to, above) so that our text will be centered inside of the box we created.  Once that's done, your image should look something like this:

Love it!

Now I really am finished with this image, and I'm ready to convert it to a printable file type.

Let's click on the Move tool in the Toolbox so that the box around the text goes away, and we can see the whole image better, like this:

Then let's convert this .xcf file (Gimp's native file extension) to a .jpg file, one of the file types commonly used for digital photographs.

To do that, click File and Export from the work area menu bar.  Select the folder where you're storing your scrappin' files (mine is C:\Steph's Stuff\Scrappin\2004) and change the extension on your file from .xcf to .jpg, like this:

Then click the Export button and your file will be saved into a .jpg, a flattened version of the file you created in Gimp.  Flattened means that the layering you created with Gimp (where each item is moveable on its own) is gone and everything has been condensed into one image.

Save this one for uploading to your favorite printing establishment (.jpg and .png are the most common file types for having these printed) and save your .xcf in case you decide to make further changes down the line.

With me so far?  Awesome!

Next time we'll talk about great places to get things printed!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Your First Scrapbook Layout with GIMP - Part 6

We left off here:

... with your ribbon and your vellum quote right over the top of your cute kiddo.  Can't leave it like that, can we?  Let's work on the ribbon first. 

Remember we discussed the way that layers are reflected in the Layers Dialog?  Whatever is listed first is on top and everything thereafter is just below the item on top?  Kind of like a pile of elements.  Let's take a look at the Layers dialog, here:

Our Back to School quote is listed first, and then the ribbon.  Then after the ribbon, the frame.  And after the frame, the picture.  Makes sense to have the frame on top of (or above in the Layers dialog) the picture.  But it doesn't make sense to have the ribbon on top of the picture.  It's meant to be an embellishment, not a distraction.  So what should we do with it?

If you guessed that we should drag it down the list in the Layers dialog, until it's just below the picture layer, you are correct!  Let's do that now.  Click on the ribbon layer and drag it down the list.  Let go of it when it's just below the picture.  Your Layers dialog should look like this:

And your image?  Should look like this:

See how the ribbon is now "underneath" the picture?  Perfect!  You may want to move that ribbon around a little.  Maybe right in the middle just isn't working for you.  Select the Move tool from your Toolbox and click on it to drag it where you'd like.  I think I want mine a little nearer the bottom of the picture and frame, like this:

Now that we have gotten the ribbon layer moved to underneath the picture, and we've moved it around until we're satisfied with its location, let's move our vellum quote.

You should still see the Move tool selected in your Toolbox, like this:

Click and hold your vellum quote and you should see a solid line appear around the outer edge of the layer, like this:

While still holding the mouse button down, drag it to where you want it, like this:

You may want to make it larger, and you may want to rotate it.  I find that doing both would make the image a little more interesting.  Let's resize first.

To do that, click on the Scale tool in your Toolbox.  The Scale tool looks like this:

 Then, take a look at your Layers dialog and make sure you've highlighted the correct layer (Back_to_School_Quote.png), like this:

Once you've selected the Scale tool, and clicked on the correct layer in the Layers Dialog, you should see a dotted yellow line around the layer boundary for the vellum quote, like this:

Click on the vellum quote itself, and you'll see the grid across the layer, as well as a Scale dialog, like this:

Change the unit of measure to inches. Note here that the chain next to width and height is unlinked.  That means that if you adjust height, width will not be adjusted automatically and proportionally.  That would be no bueno with a vellum quote.  So go ahead, if your chain is showing unlinked, and click on it so it is linked again.

Then you can resize with any of the following methods:
  • Drag the outer edges of the grid on the vellum quote until you like the size and click the Scale button; or
  • Enter specific numbers in the width and height boxes on the Scale dialog and click the Scale button, repeat until you like the size; or
  • Click the up and down arrows to the right of the width and height boxes on the Scale dialog and click the Scale button, repeat until you like the size.

I like the click and drag method for things that don't require precision, but any of the above will work.

Note:  If, at any time in the future, you start to resize something and realize that you accidentally left the chain unlinked, you can always cancel and start the resize again.  Even if you clicked the Scale button and the deed is done (and your photo looks all crazily askew, or the letters in your quote are WAY fatter than they are tall), you can always Undo.  Undo is your friend.

Anyhoo, once you've resized, your image should look something like this:

Now let's go ahead and rotate that sucker, shall we?

Click on the Rotate tool in your Toolbox.  It looks like this:

Then click on your vellum quote (you'll see the same kind of grid you saw when you scaled, as well as a Rotate dialog).  You again have three options to do the rotation:
  • Drag the outer edges of the grid on the vellum quote until it's turned the way you want it and click the Rotate button; or
  • Enter the specific angle you want in the Angle box on the Rotate dialog and click the Rotate button, repeat until you like the angle; or
  • Click the up or down arrow to the right of the Angle box on the Rotate dialog and click the Rotate button, repeat until you like the size.
Remember that this dialog is a little bit squirrely, so you'll have to start the rotation with the click and drag method before you can type an angle in the box.  Just like with scaling, I like the click and drag method for things that don't require precision, but any of the above will work.

Once you've finished rotating, your image should look something like this:

All that's left is to move it where we want it.  Select the Move tool from your Toolbox.  It looks like this:

Then click and drag your vellum until it's where you like it.  When you're done moving, your image should look something like this:

It's coming together, yes?  Let's add some staples to make this look really nice and 3D.  Go back to the folder where you extracted the School Days files, grab the Staple.png file, click and drag it onto your work area.  Once you've done that, your image should look like this:

See that lovely staple just hanging out in the middle of the picture like that?  Yeah, that's not going to work at all.  Lucky for us we have some great Gimp skills under our belts already.  We know how to move and how to rotate.  We also know how to duplicate a layer, so if we wanted, say, three staples, we could make that happen.

Let's start with duplicating. 

Remember we do that magic from the Layers dialog.  First, make sure that Staple.png is first on the list (on the very top of the pile).  Then make sure it's highlighted (it should be since you just drug it in from the folder).  Finally, right-click on that layer in the Layers dialog and select "Duplicate Layer".  Do it one more time so that you have three staples.  When you're done duplicating, your Layers dialog should look like this:

It looks like you have a single staple in the actual image, but remember that's because they're just stacked on top of each other.  So let's move each one (click on the Move tool in your Toolbox before you click on the staple to move it) to where we want it, and let's rotate each one (click on the Rotate tool in your Toolbox before you click on the staple to rotate it) until we're happy with where they are.

When you're done moving and rotating, your image should look something like this:

A challenge you might have faced while doing your moving and rotating:

You may have found that selecting the right layer while trying to move the staple was tough.

The staple layer is pretty small, and the part of the layer that is selectable image is even smaller.  Make sure when you click on the staple to move it you a) take your time and get right over the image of the staple itself; b) take a look at the layer boundary (the solid box that shows up around the layer) to evaluate whether or not you have the right layer; and c) look at which layer is highlighted in the Layers dialog while you're clicking and holding on that staple--should be Staple.png or one of the copies you made.

And there is always Undo.  Undo is your friend.  I have moved the picture and the background plenty of times just in the making of this tutorial, and I have been using Gimp a long time.  So don't worry if you do that.  Just Undo.

Spend a little time doing some finish work on your image.  You may want to move things down a little, or to the right a little, or to the left a little.  You'll have the best eye for how you want your layout to look.  Rearrange to your heart's content.

One thing I found as I was working along on mine was that I really wanted the vellum quote edge to be underneath the picture and frame.  So I moved it down in the layers dialog, until it was under the picture layer.  You can do the same.  Or you can leave it alone.  Whatever tickles your fancy.

When I was pretty much done, mine looked something like this:

Does your look similar?  Are you happy with it?  If not, if you're running into problems, leave me a comment and we'll figure it out.

Make sure when you get to a stopping place that you save.  Use the File and Save selections from the work area menu bar.  Don't want to lose all of your efforts!

Can you believe you've completed your first scrapbook page in Gimp?  For free?  F.R.E.E. free!  Woo hoo!

Are you excited?  Feel accomplished?


Next time I'll cover a little bit on text, how to convert your page to a printable image file, and where you can get such lovelies printed.