BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 1998

  

 

BOOT CAMP 042

PAINTING BY NUMBERS, PART 2

Last week we showed how the Paint program supplied with Windows can be quite handy for creating and modifying simple pictures and graphics, but if you want to unleash your PC's formidable image processing power you will need something a little more sophisticated.

Until fairly recently most PCs spent their time dealing with text and data but there has been a dramatic shift of emphasis towards visual media, brought about by faster PCs, CD-ROMs and the Internet plus the availability of low-cost peripherals like scanners, digital cameras, video frame grabbers and high quality colour printers. However, getting an image into and out of a PC is only part of the story; in order to produce illustrated documents and web pages some means of manipulating images and photographs is required.

PaintShop Pro fits the bill very neatly; it is the visual equivalent of a word processor or spread sheet, able to do quite extraordinary things to pictures and photographs, that just a few years ago would only have been possible in a well equipped photo studio or processing laboratory. PaintShop Pro -- known as PSP to its many friends and admirers -- is by no means the most powerful or advanced 'paint box' program on the market, but it is very easy to use, and it is cheap (the latest version costs around £80). In fact you can try it for free as shareware versions are regularly featured on computer magazine CD-ROMs and it can be downloaded from the Internet. (www.jasc.com).

One of PSP's key features is the vast number of image file formats it can handle, more than 40 of them in the case of the recently released Version 5. That means it can display and convert images for a wide range of applications, but it is the huge range of tools and effects that will be of interest to most users. We'll begin by using just a couple of them to fix one of the commonest photographic problems, and that is red-eye. Later on we'll show how to use PSP to edit a photograph and remove an unwanted object or person from a picture.

Red eye is caused by a reflection of camera flash; it gives the subject a devilish appearance and can ruin an otherwise perfectly good photograph that you want to use in a document, or send to a friend or relative via e-mail. Step one is to import the picture into PSP, either by scanning, or by reading the image file, if it was shot on an electronic still camera or downloaded from the Internet. Once on the page you can correct any exposure and colour errors. The Adjust option on the Colours menu contains sliders for varying brightness and contrast, plus more subtle adjustments to highlights, gamma correction, mid-tones, shadows, hues, colour saturation and balance.

Next, use the magnification tool (magnifying glass icon) to enlarge the section of the image containing the eyes to a manageable size. The magnification factor can be increased or decreased using the left and right mouse buttons. Now, using the Freehand Selection tool (shaped like a lasso), carefully outline the red pupil. From the Colours menu select Adjust and the Hue, Saturation and Luminance (Lightness on PSP 5) option. Use the saturation control to reduce the depth of the colour in the outlined area (-100 on the dialogue box). This removes the red colour but doesn't affect details, like reflections, so it looks completely natural. Repeat the process on the other eye and save the image file.

You can also use this opportunity to try out another of PSPs clever tools and remove blemishes, spots and pimples or other unwanted details, like straggly hairs. If necessary increase the magnification to centre the blemish on the screen. Select the Clone Brush icon (two paintbrushes) and position it to one side of the area you wish to mask. Click the right mouse button and it picks up the colour and texture of a small area beneath the brush -- shown by a set of cross-hairs -- now use the right button to 'spray' the recorded detail into the blemish. With a little practice it is possible to make completely invisible alterations.

PSP has a variety of tools for removing or hiding larger objects, including people. The cloning brush is fine for smaller details, but it can be difficult to accurately simulate more complex backgrounds and textures. The solution is to copy and paste sections of the background and use them to cover up the object. Select an area to copy using the freehand tool, PSP has a 'feather' facility that blurs the edges of the selected area, so that it blends in more easily with its surroundings (a dialogue box will appear, choose a setting or between 10 to 15). Go to the Selections menu and click on 'Float', this copies the selected area, if you forget to select Float you will leave a hole behind when you move the patch of picture. Use the mouse to position it over the subject. If the background is very uneven -- plants, trees etc., -- then you may find it looks better if you do it in small irregularly sized chunks, to give it a more natural appearance. At this stage don't worry too much about rough or uneven edges, you can tidy it up afterwards with the clone brush or the retouch mode (hand icon) which will blur and soften details.

We've barely scratched surface of what PSP can do, just describing what the special effects can do would fill several pages of Connected but the really good thing about this program is that it is highly intuitive and very easy to get to know, simply by using it. Try it, and if you continue to use the shareware version beyond the 30-day trial period -- and you probably will -- don't forget to register and pay for it.

Next week, sounding out your PC

 

JARGON FILTER

GAMMA CORRECTION

A means of jiggling brightness values in an image to compensate for the non-linear characteristics of PC and video monitors. In other words a way of making sure that a picture or photograph on a video screen looks the same as the paper original     

LUMINANCE

The  brightness component in a picture, photograph or image on a PC monitor

SATURATION

Colour intensity, changing the saturation on a photograph is like altering the colour control on a television, and like a TV it can be varied from zero (black and white) to far too much…

 

TOP TIP

Sometimes, after installing a new piece of hardware or changing your PC's video resolution settings, the desktop icons can be become corrupted, or even disappear altogether. You can restore them to pristine condition by quitting Windows then re-starting in Safe mode.  Press the F8 key, as soon as the first boot up message appears. From the menu that appears select option 3 'Safe' mode and wait for Windows to finish loading. Exit and re-start Windows and the original desktop icons will reappear. If you use small icons on the Start menu this will need to be reset from  'Settings and Taskbar' on the Start menu.  

Search PCTopTips 


Web

PCTopTips

Boot Camp Index

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

1998

 

Top Tips Index

Windows XP

Windows Vista

Internet & Email

Microsoft Word

Folders & Files

Desktop Mouse & Keyboard

Crash Bang Wallop!

Privacy & Security

Imaging Scanning & Printing

Power, Safety & Comfort

Tools & Utilities

Sound Advice

Display & screen

Fun & Games

Windows 95/98/SE/ME

 

 

 

 

 

 Copyright 2006-2009 PCTOPTIPS UK.

All information on this web site is provided as-is without warranty of any kind. Neither PCTOPTIPS nor its employees nor contributors are responsible for any loss, injury, or damage, direct or consequential, resulting from your choosing to use any of the information contained herein.