Trying To Learn Image Editing By Messing Around

Yay! Showing off! :)

Yay! Showing off! πŸ™‚

Since I can’t think of a good idea for a proper article for today, I thought that I’d talk about some of my recent experiences with image editing.

Even though this article contains something resembling a tutorial for adding transparency to images, it isn’t really a tutorial article. It’s more of a rambling meditation about learning, with some random images at the end of it too.

Although I knew how to do some basic image editing in an old version of MS Paint and an antique version of Paint Shop Pro (from 1999!), I wanted to know how to create images with transparent backgrounds (which can be easily super-imposed onto other images).

I knew the basic theory of how transparency in digital images works, so how hard could it be?

Since I couldn’t be bothered to find tutorials online and I wasn’t sure if there even were any for my 1990s version of Paint Shop Pro, I decided to try to work it out for myself.

I failed miserably.

Refusing to accept defeat, I decided to use a more modern program and – since I can’t really afford Photoshop (and don’t even know the first thing about using it), I decided to go for the best open-source alternative, which is an absolutely brilliant program called GNU Image Manipulation Program– or “GIMP” for short (I’m using version 2.6, which is probably horribly out of date by now).

And, after a lot of messing around, I finally worked out an extremely convoluted way to make images with transparent backgrounds using GIMP 2.6 :

Basically, you save the image as a PNG in MS Paint (this is very important – don’t save it as a JPEG!), then you fill every transparent area with a colour that isn’t included in the parts of your image you want to keep visible. Then you save it again (isn’t this efficient?).

After that, you open the image in GIMP. You click on “Layer” in the menu at the top of the screen, then select “Transparency”. After this, you click on “Add Alpha Channel”.

Once you’ve done this, you click on “Color To Alpha”. When this brings up a window, you click on the coloured bar below the preview image. This should bring up a window with lots of colours and colour sliders on it.

Click on the dropper-shaped icon next to the “HTML Notation” box. This should change the mouse cursor to a dropper, then click on the area you want to make transparent, then click “ok” a couple of times.

Pretty simple, right? I thought not.

But, at the same time, I now know how to make layered images purely from messing around with GIMP. Hmmm… that sounded wrong.

Although it isn’t the best or the most comprehensive way of learning how to use image editing programs, there’s certainly something to be said for just messing around with them and seeing what you can do. For starters, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Not only that, one of the great things about just messing around with image editing programs is that you can learn a whole bunch of other things that you probably wouldn’t have done if you’d just followed a simple tutorial. Seriously, there’s something to be said for good old trial and error.

In the process of working out how to create a simple transparency in GIMP, I also discovered all sorts of interesting filters and tools – which now means that I can do things like this:

Like using the "Old Photo" filter in the 'Decor' sub-folder of the "Filters" menu.

Like using the “Old Photo” filter in the ‘Decor’ sub-folder of the “Filters” menu.

Or using the "Smudge" tool (Seriously, I didn't realise that computers could actually do THIS! It's probably the most useful thing I've found all week!)

Or using the “Smudge” tool (Seriously, I didn’t realise that computers could actually do THIS! It’s probably the most useful thing I’ve found all week!)

Or turning my characters into giants just for the sake of it...

Or turning my characters into giants just for the sake of it…

Here's to messing around :)

Here’s to messing around πŸ™‚


Sorry about the low quality of this article, but I hope it was interesting πŸ™‚

3 comments on “Trying To Learn Image Editing By Messing Around

  1. Stephen Thom says:

    Very potent fragmented thoughts

  2. Stephen Thom says:

    Of scrolling through my reader here and this comment has gone to completely the wrong post, sorry! Your post on experimenting with your pics is cool though, too, just not fragmented thoughts πŸ™‚

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