In a previous article, Graphic Tricks - Masks and Shadows, I showed you how to use Masks to create fancy photo edges and how to use shadows to create 3D looking images by applying shadows. Okay, so what if you're not a graphics guru and you don't own fancy graphics programs...but you'd still like to create some fancy image effects?
Probably, not a problem! There are many programs on the market that can give you the looks you want with little graphics knowledge. In this article, I'll show you a few tricks with programs you may already have or can purchase for much less than some of the more sophisticated graphics programs.
SnagIt is a screen capture program. Why would you need a program to handle screen captures when you can easily capture your screen's image by hitting the Windows Print Screen button and using Window's Paint to modify the image? True, if you have Windows, you already have the basic components to handle these tasks. But many users do more than just take a quick screen capture. They need to take multiple captures and/or do more than what Print Screen provides. So programs like SnagIt can provide an easy way to handle all your capture needs. Personally, I love the program!...so much so that I am a beta tester for TechSmith (the makers of SnagIt).
SnagIt has many very cool features. And as soon as their new version is available, I'll be sure to tell you about the improvements and new features they've added. In the meantime, be sure to hit the TechTrax Archives and enter SnagIt to read more specifics about this program.
SnagIt has some fun image effects and tools to allow you to create some interesting images versus the ordinary, flat photo. And speaking of the ordinary, flat image...here's one I just snapped from my desktop image.
SnagIt captures the area I've defined and pulls it into it's editing applet. From here, I can apply an interesting shadow and torn edge with just a few clicks.
I also have a few perspective tools I can use to allow me to modify the angles of the image.
Or combine effects, like adding a shadow and then changing the perspective.
You can create 3D borders with most graphics programs, but it takes about 4-5 steps to get the look you need. With more simple programs, like SnagIt, they include a border feature that can be added with a click. Or modify it with a few adjusting clicks through its options dialog.
In fact, one of my favorite SnagIt features is their batch conversion utility. With it, I can grab hundreds of images off my digital camera and have them all, instantly, resized and have a border applied. Within seconds, I'm ready to post smaller, framed photos to a web site to share with friends.
You can also pinpoint spots in the image to highlight by darkening the background.
And for those of us who need to apply our copyrights to images, a watermark can easily be inserted into photos with just a few clicks. This helps to ensure that...when people swipe images from your web site...there's no doubt about where they came from. (Note the MouseTrax watermark applied to the image below.)
Another, unlikely program that you can use to quickly create some nice looks, is Microsoft Word! Yup! On the Drawing toolbar, you'll find AutoShapes. These useful and fun shapes can be added to a doc to allow you to create flowcharts or add sophisticated annotations to documents. But you can also have some fun with them. (Note you can also find these same tools in PowerPoint, if you prefer.)
Turn on your Drawing Toolbar (View > Toolbars > Drawing) and there you'll find AutoShapes. Draw out one.
While the shape is selected, right click and choose to Format the shape. From there, choose Fill Effects from the Fill option.
One of the options is to add a Picture. Click Select Picture and go find the image you'd like inserted into the shape.
Granted, you may have to do some size manipulation to get the image to appear within the shape the way you want. But the fun part is that your image takes on the form of the AutoShape. So rather than trying to cut my image into a heart, I can literally mold my photo into a heart shape.
And various perspective tools allow you to change the look more.
Or a simple shadow can be added. You'll find these 3D and Shadow tools also located on your Drawing toolbar. Have fun and experiment! And be sure to click the TechTrax Archives and enter AutoShape to find many more articles with more tips and tricks for using these fun features.
We also told you about an extremely cool...but better, FREE, photo program that you can download and install from Google. Picasa will catalog all the photos, images and graphics on your hard drive. From there, you can add keywords to allow you to easily filter out just the right image you need...from all over your hard drive. (And you'll be amazed at all the junk photos you'll discover that are taking up space on your computer!)
But Picasa also includes editing tools and some fun Effects.
A quick click will apply a nice blur effect that brings more attention to an individual item in the photo.
There's no excuse for posting boring photos when you have these simple and fun tools at your disposal. Take a little time to play around with the tools you may already have, or can get free or inexpensively. You'll be amazed at some of the nice images you can create.