5 Awesome Free Open Source Tools for Graphic Design

Graphic design can be both times consuming and costly. Web design needn’t be so complex or cost hundreds of dollars. Many of the top software suites used by professionals have alternative open source projects freely available.

Check out these complete solutions that cover all the graphic design tools for web development you’ll ever need.

Inkscape

Inkscape is an advanced graphic editing suite that uses the SVG format, Scalable Vector Graphics. It has an intuitive interface that’s friendly and easy to use. Inkscape is very similar to CorelDraw and Illustrator, so it can perform practically all the rescaling, node tracing and alpha blending you need. If you dig deeper among the features you’ll find clone brushes and blur effects in addition to the standard crop and resizing image capabilities.

Gimp

This neat little image manipulation suite is quite advanced and available cross platform for Mac OS X, GNU, Sun and Windows. The interface can seem overloaded but is fully customizable to each users’ preference. It performs the much needed cloning and colour retouching for all your photos and even allows you to modify brushes and bind scripted actions to keys.

Phoenix

Phoenix from aviary.com is a free online image editor with advanced image manipulation features such as layer filtering and image blending filters. Phoenix allows you to create an image from scratch or edit an existing one. There are many tutorials and tips on offer to help you get to grips with the tool and improve your design skills. The interface is a little basic and while easy enough to use, it lacks advanced editing features like blending or gauss blur. It does offer brush filters and dithers but this is aimed at the intermediate photo editor and is good enough for some basic photo manipulation in a quick squeeze.

Pixlr

A very modern web 2.0 sleek Interface greets you when you fire up this online editor. There are several modes available including Pixlr-o-matic, grabber, express and Pixl Editor. The Pixlr-o-matic allows you to play around with motion blur, liquid effects and instant image layer effects in real time. The grabber feature allows you to capture direct from external sources such as webcam. The editor itself is very user friendly and amazingly easy to use for even the beginner graphic designer. With pre-set filters to choose from this is one of my favourite editors for quick on the fly editing and even has a night vision layer pre-set.

Blender.org

By far, the most advanced and capable open source 3D graphic design program to date. Blender is simply fantastic and rich in features. This is one tool you absolutely need for 3D animation, shading, reflection, fluid simulation, hair strand processing and skeletal kinematics. The interface is loaded with huge choices of manipulation and effects, its customizable and supports python scripts. For more features visit the website.

Internet Marketing Tools: Part Four Graphics Basics

Graphic design is an intimidating subject for many Internet entrepreneurs. However, most of us must learn some basic design techniques in order to avoid the high costs of hiring a professional designer.

In order to create or edit your graphics, you’ll need to invest in a good graphics-editing program. The most popular program used by Internet marketers is Paint Shop Pro. This powerful program is the only program you’ll need to design professional looking graphics. You can download a free 30-day trial and register the software for only $99. [http://www.jasc.com/]

Image Formats

The most popular image formats used on the Internet are GIF and JPEG.

Graphic Interchange Format, better known as GIF, uses a maximum of 256 colors and is best suited for images such as logos, buttons and bullets.

GIF images can be saved in two different formats:

– 87

– 89a

The 89a format is the preferred GIF format, as it has the following benefits:

Transparency

Images saved in the 89a GIF format can have a transparent background. This will enable the canvas of an image to be transparent and enable the background to show through.

Interlacing

Images saved in the 89a GIF format can be saved as interlaced. This will enable your image to display as it is being loaded into a web page. The image will gradually become clearer as the page loads.

Animation

Images saved in the 89a GIF format can be used to create animated images. Animated images are simply several GIF images compiled into one GIF image file that loops. In order to create an animated image, you’ll need a special editing program.

Joint Photographic Expert Group, better known as JPEG, is the best format for photographs. JPEG images can contain millions of colors and allow you to specify the degree of compression.

Although there are many graphics programs available on the Internet, this tutorial will focus on using Paint Shop Pro 7.01. If you are using a different version of Paint Shop Pro or another graphics program, the graphic tools mentioned below will not be located in the same places.

Editing Images

When working with images in Paint Shop Pro, you will have the ability to save your image in PSP format. This format will enable you to begin working on an image, save it in PSP format and finish the image at a later time. It will preserve all of your work without any changes.

If you would like to edit an image that has been previously saved in the GIF format, you must first increase the image’s colors to 16 million. If you don’t, your colors will be limited. Go to “Colors” – “Increase Color Depth”- “16 million colors (24 bit)” to increase your image’s colors.

Resizing Images

If you’d like to resize an image in JPEG format, you can do so in one of two ways — through your graphics program or within your HTML. You can resize your image within your HTML by changing the HEIGHT and WIDTH values. To retain your images original characteristics, make sure you adjust the height and the width equally. In other words, if your original image dimensions are 50×100 (width 50 and height 100), to reduce your image to one half the size, change the width to 25 and the height to 50.

If you’d like to resize an image in JPEG or GIF format, go to “Image” – “Resize” and select “Percentage of original.” Type in your selection in the first box and click on “OK.” There’s no need to fill in the second box, as it will be filled in automatically. For example. If you would like to reduce your image to half the size it is now, type in 50. This number is telling the program that you’d like to reduce the image’s size by 50%.

If you would like to increase your image’s size, type in a number over 100. Your original image is considered to be 100%. If you would like to increase your image’s size by 50%, type 150 in the first box.

Rotating Images

If you’d like to rotate an image, go to “Image” – “Rotate” and select your preferences.

When rotating an image, it may lose some of its clarity (become blurry). You can correct this problem by sharpening your image. Go to “Effects” – “Sharpen” – “Sharpen”. If after sharpening your image it still appears a little blurry, simply sharpen it again.

Working With Text

If you would like to use text within your image, your first step will be to select your text color. The “Styles” boxes are located on the right hand side of your screen. The top box should be set to Null (off) and the bottom box should be set to Solid, which will look like a paintbrush. To change the style of each box, click on the black arrow and make your selection.

To change the text color, click in the center of the bottom box and select your preferred color. Your text will be displayed in the color within the bottom box.

If you would like to outline your text in a different color, click on the black arrow of the top box and select the paintbrush. Your text will be displayed in the color your bottom box contains and outlined in the color your top box contains.

Text Tool

Once you’ve selected your text color, click on the text tool on the left-hand side of your screen. This will launch your text window. Select your font and text size from the drop down menu and type in your text. Make sure you select Antialias and Floating then click “OK.”

Antialias will smooth out all of the rough edges of your text and blend it in with your background color. You will use the Antialias setting with various graphic tools when designing your graphics, so it is important to remember its function.

You will now see your text with, what looks like, marching ants around it. If you’d like to move your text, click and hold your left mouse button directly over your text to drag it to your desired position. Try to center it as well as possible, but don’t deselect it.

If you would like to rotate your text, now is the time to do it. Simply follow the same instructions (above) used to rotate an image.

If you make a change to your image and you’re not satisfied with the outcome, you can undo your last change by going to “Edit” – “Undo.” It will only undo the last thing you did.

Adding a Drop Shadow

Your next step will be to add a drop shadow effect. With your text still selected, go to “Effects” – “3D Effects” – “Drop Shadow.” Your selected text will be displayed in the window. Try different settings until you achieve the effect you’d like. Click on OK. When you’re satisfied with your text, right click on your mouse to set it.

Now that you have a basic understanding of graphics, take some time to learn some additional techniques. There are many free tutorials available on the Internet. Not only will it assist you in creating professional looking images, but it will also save you a great deal of money.

Free Screen Image Captures – Use PrScn to Capture Any Windows Screen Graphic

Do you ever wonder how people go about capturing the image of a currently displaying Windows screen? Perhaps not, maybe you already own a graphic capturing package. That is fine, keep reading; you may still find value in this article. Of a certain, those who run Windows Vista and Windows 7 have such a program. It is called “Snipping Tool” and it resides under Accessories in the Program Manager menu.

A problem exists when using “Snipping Tool”: other than a highlighter and an ink pen, it has no worthwhile editing functions. Images that are captured with this tool must be saved and then reopened within a full graphic editing software. To further complicate matters, older versions of Windows do not include “Snipping Tool”; neither do most graphic editing packages include screen-capturing features.

Here is a little known but long existing Windows screen-image capturing method. It too requires that you open an image-editing tool, but there is no need for double programs, and neither must you have a graphic tool that includes a screen capture utility.

On your keyboard you will see a key labeled “PrtSc/SysRq”. This can be used, when setup under the right program arrangements, to force a printer dump of the current screen. Right now, a printer dump is not our focus. Instead, we will use this special key to capture the current display screen.

It works like this:

  1. Tap the “PrtSc/SysRq” key one time. [Do it now. It will not hurt a thing].
  2. Open the Windows integrated Paint software (Start, All Programs, Accessories, Paint). [Or open whatever graphic program that touches your fancy].
  3. Click on the Paste function.
  4. There it is, the screen shot that you just captured using the Windows “PrtSc/SysRq” screen capture routine.
  5. Limit the capture to just what you want by applying the graphic editor’s Crop function.

This is quick and easy, even more so than a Snipping Tool type software. I use this Windows feature whenever I pull a picture from Wikimedia Commons for use with my ezine articles. It often saves time over going through the download route. What’s more, the captured image can also be pasted directly into a word process or most any other software that receives graphic input. Just for the show of it, I captured this screen as I typed, pasted the capture onto the bottom of the article, captured the copy, and then pasted the copy into Paint for final cropping and saving.

Cool, Huh?