Image Editing

The most difficult task I've faced designing web pages is image editing. I've had no prior artistic experience or aptitude, and frankly nothing had ever made me feel more dense than sitting in front of a program like PaintShop Pro and staring at its 7,000,000 features..

I thought anti-aliasing was something the police were in favor of, that a mask was for Halloween, a lasso was Roy Rogers' specialty, Dithering was Dagwood Bumstead getting his boss's goat, a global palette was a love for international food, and resizing was something they did at NutriSystems. Cropping I knew about, having accompanied several women to their hair salon.

That's all changed now! After camping out on Wayne Fulton's website, 'A Few Scanning Tips' for a couple days, I had my 'aha experience'. (Remember that from Psych 101?)  Wayne has a way of applying artistic technique to digital imagery using a maximum of hands-on examples, and a minimum of jargon. I began to understand this stuff and suddenly realized there was hope for me.

I learned that even Sam, could maybe, just maybe, have a chance at cloning pixels, feathering edges, blurring and sharpening features, removing red-eye, and all those other neat features I never related to.  It seemed to me that many of you might now have the same apprehension about the mysteries of image editing, so I wanted to add a small topic to my web site to give others hope.

One important thing I learned, in spades, is that a person can have too many image editing programs! I had seven! New ones kept pouring in every time I purchased a scanner, a PrintShop type program, and even FrontPage 2000 and before that Adobe PageMill. It's pathetic (and time consuming) to flit from one to the other trying to accomplish an effect, not really understanding any one program all that well.

The other important thing I learned is that most web design activity requires understanding a couple dozen editing features and the rest of the 7,000,000 features can wait for another day!

Based on my own experiences, I've compiled for you a checklist of the software capabilities  that I think are among the most important. (They're not listed in any particular order.) If your image editor can do these easily and well, and you're comfortable with it, it should probably be your editor of choice. I've supplied a few examples from this web site, as appropriate.

At the end of this topic, you'll find links to the three products my research led me to.

  • Create  'thumbnails' by resampling larger images.  

  • Scan images for use on your web site and resize and sharpen the image.

  • Be able to create your own transparent GIF files and manipulate and modify others. 

       

  • Create simple animations.  

  • Create attractive text for a logo, banner, or button from True Type fonts, with effects like drop shadows, 3D, animation, and transitions.

  • Apply borders and drop shadows to images.

  • Remove distracting pixels from an image, especially flaws in pictures, and other common touch-up effects.

  • Change selected colors or the entire background of an image.

  • Easy, dependable color adjustment of a photograph which is too light, dark, or has improper contrast.

  • Create a single image from several smaller ones.

  • Create a grayscale or sepia image from color. JennaRose.jpg (25202 bytes)

  • Quick and easy cropping with onscreen indicators of the current image dimensions. This can be very important in producing an animated GIF file where all the images must be the same size, or if some program like Cool 3D gives you the image you want but with redundant background.

  • Convert the format of an image, say from  Windows Metafile (WMF) to JPG or GIF.

  • Optimize the file size of a bulky image in the 'save as' dialogue.

  • Create progressive JPG files and interlaced GIF files, easily, and with file compression options for JPG. These are the formats which appear on your screen in phases, so you have a sense  of what's coming.

I took a hard look at JASC's PaintShop Pro, because their name kept coming up every time I read a review. For years they had received high honors as a premiere shareware program. I have heard nothing but raves about Adobe Photoshop from people who are professional designers (and who can afford the price tag). And the vibes are quite positive about  Ulead's  PhotoImpact. Ulead software has been chosen by some scanner manufacturers to represent their products, and I use their Cool 3D product.

I decided on PaintShop Pro, based on features, support, popularity, and price,  and never looked back. Meanwhile, if you'd like to investigate these programs as I did, here are links to the 3 products I mentioned:

JASC
PaintShop Pro
Adobe
PhotoShop
Ulead
PhotoImpact