This is a culmination of my too many interests. It's is an in-between place. It's more focused than my Myspace blog, but less so than my author blog. Here you can find artwork, photography, writing, poetry, book covers, manga and pointless videos. All of these things mesh together to become a reflection of their creator in an in-between place colored like shadows and flavored like frappuccinos and chocolate. It's one heck of a world.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Basic Photo Editing - a LONG tutorial using Paint Shop Pro

I'm going to share some simple photo editing how to’s instead. This is using Paint Shop Pro 12, which has dropped dramatically in both price and new features since Corel bought it out from Jasc. ( ) I use PSP for this because PSP is what I know how to use, and also what I happen to own. I’m sure that GIMP or photoshop or any other program has the same tools/effects.

There are photography purists out there who say that your photo should be perfect when you take it. I am not one of these people. I am a point, click, fix it later photographer. For the twenty photos you see I’ve taken twenty that never leave my hard drive because they were not so good. This is probably a symptom of the digital age. I never did large amounts of artistic photography with a film camera, and so I’ve never been limited to what I could get using it. Besides, I see no need to limit yourself anyway, not when you don’t have to.

If you would like to use the original photos provided here to practice effects on, etc, by all means go for it – that’s what they’re here for!


The most basic of all photo editing is, or course, cropping. This is when you cut – or crop – your image down to concentrate on a smaller portion of it. Sometimes it’s to get rid of elements you don’t want, like a street sign or your nephew making faces in the corner of the photo, and sometimes it’s just to draw more attention to your subject. Either way, it’s very easy.

First you want to open you photo – either drag and drop it into PSP or else go to file/open. Here’s my original photo


The crop tool is on the toolbar. Click it and you will get a box with “nodes” or dots at the four corners plastered in the middle of your picture. There is also a drop down box that has preset crop sizes in it. You can use it if you want a predetermined size, but if you want to hand crop it you can do so by grabbing the nodes and dragging them.


The “shaded” part on the outside of the box is what is going to be cut off and what is inside is what you’ll be left with. Once you have it the way you want go to your tool pallet (you can turn this on and off by right clicking on the toolbar and going to pallets) and click apply


I admit, I didn't crop mine too much, but oh well, you get the idea. The other, simple photo enhancing tool in PSP is the smart photo fix, which is the second selection under Adjust


NOTE – there is a one click photo fix but I find it pretty much worthless.

Clicking the smart photo fix will open a new box that has a lot of sliders on it – but don’t worry, it’s not as confusing as it looks.


Yes, there are a lot of arrows because I want to call your attention to several things. Let’s start at the top. You can see there is a check box next to the words “Preview on image”. If your computer can handle it (you’ll know if it doesn’t like it because it will lag and possibly turn your screen white for a moment or two) then click the box. If you then scoot the box over so that you can see as much of the image as possible, you will be able to get a better idea of what effects you’re really having, as the thumbnail view can only do so much. (see the image to the left?).

Now, for the sliders. They are actually pretty self explanatory – drag the top three sliders back and forth to make the various components lighter or darker – overall does the whole image, shadows applies the darkening or lightening effect just to the dark areas and highlights to the lightest (for instance if you have a high amount of flash reflection you would want to turn the highlights towards darker to take some of it out). The bottom two sliders make the image more or less colorful (be careful, the more colorful sounds great but it can make your eyes bleed easily!) and can also sharpen the image (which can cause some distortion if you crank it too high). Newbies – myself included – tend to go crazy with these two and make the images far too sharp and too bright, LOL! As for the stuff on the right side – well, that’s all more advanced things that we might cover if I ever do another one of these :p

So, you moved the sliders, it looks bad, you’re at wit’s end… then press the “suggest settings” button as a good starting point.


Sometimes the suggested settings will be so dead on that you won’t even need to tweek the settings ;) Either way, once you’re done hit the ok button and save your image



I don’t know about all cameras, but my Kodak has a habit of giving things taken at not quite the right angle a fisheye look – which is when the center is bigger or closer to the camera than the edges, which creates a curved line instead of a straight one – I’ll show you what I mean.

Here’s our original image – yes, more petals, LOL!


If you imagine a straight line – well a slanted line in this case – across the top, you can see that there is a “bubble” in the middle that distorts it. That’s the fisheye. But, before we get to that we should straighten it because this photo would have more impact if the tombstone was a straight line. To straighten it choose the straighten tool from the toolbar (it’s coupled with the perspective correction tool, which I might cover later if there’s demand for it).


This will give you a little line in the middle of your picture that has nodes – or dots – on the ends. Click in the middle of the line once and then lcick again and drag the line up to the object that needs straightened – ie the top of the tombstone


Using the nodes at the end of the lines drag them until they line up with where your crooked object IS NOW – not where you want it to go, but where it already is – hence why our line is going to be slanted. When you’ve got it positioned, hit apply in the tool options pallet


Now that fisheye bubble is still there, so we need to get rid of it by going to adjust and choosing fisheye distortion correction


This gives us a pop up box with a strength dialog box. Use the drop down arrow to grab the slider and make the effect weaker or stronger or manually type the number in


Either myself or my Kodak tends to require about a 36 to correct – but just slide the slider until the image looks straight. As with all boxes the “preview on image” can be very helpful. When you get what you want hit the ok button and then you can apply other filters – like the smart photo fix.


Or you can delve into more possibilities


Original photo


Paint Shop Pro 12 – and maybe 11? I can’t recall when they added this – has some very snifty photo effects that take a lot of time out of having to play with levels and hues and all of that. Of course, before we can use them let’s crop our image down.


Now, go to the effects/photo effects menu and choose film and filters


A new dialog box will pop up that has two drop down menus. Menu one is your “film selections”


And because I know you wanna know, here is what each one looks like:


The second box is your “creative filters” menu


This filter works by applying a very “see through” or low opacity layer of color over your image – like so:


When paired with the “film” it can make for some good filters. In fact, whenever I use vivid or vibrant foliage I tend to select the “cooling” filter and turn the effect strength down to a 2 – which helps cool down to too yellow green that I tend to get in photos. You can adjust the strength of the filter color by using the drop down arrow and dragging the slider as shown, or by typing in a number manually.


You can also put any color you want by clicking the colored box and choosing a color from the pop up menu pallet, so the possibilities are endless. However, I’m just going to use a vivid paired with my cooling set at 2 for this image



Here’s our original photo:


First you want to do any cropping, etc and then go to the effects – photo effects sub menu and choose black and white film:


A new box will pop up that has a color wheel and some sliders – color?!?! Yes, color.


We’ll start with the sliders first because they’re the easiest. The brightness and clarify sliders do just what they say – the higher the brightness number the brighter or lighter your image will be, and the lower the number the darker it will be. The higher the clarify the more the image will be clarified – ie highlights drawn out.

Now for the color wheel – this chooses which color the filter uses to “make” it black and white, so to speak. Different colors can have different effects on the finished image. Generally it’s subtle, but sometimes it can be dramatic. See if you notice the difference:


Not really, huh? In that case just use the suggest color button. Once you have it the way you want it hit the OK button and take a look at your image. If, like this one, it lacks the really good contrast that a black and white photo needs – well, we can fix that! Go to adjust – brightness and contrast and pick – you guessed it – brightness and contrast


This will give you a new box with some controls in it


As pictured above, use the drop down arrows to get the slider bar or manually type the numbers in to adjust both the brightness and contrast – and because I know you want to know what these do here is an example of both at insanely high numbers:


Play with the sliders until you get what you want, then hit ok and save your image



Sepia tone is that brownish color that old photographs or paper gets as time passes. Some people strive – and even pay money – to get rid of it, but then there are just as many people who like it. It can be effective to give age to a photo, or in a more advanced technique to tone down the colors in an image which I am not covering here :p

So, a basic sepia toning it is. Here’s our original photo:


First, we crop it-


- use a smart photo fix -


-and then for maximum effect we want to make it black and white. No, you don’t have to do this, but like the grayscale, sepia creates a monochrome image and so what makes it pop is the contrast between light and dark, which plays up better in the black and white format


Now go back to the photo filters and select sepia toning


Like the others, this opens a new dialog box


The only setting you’ll find under the sepia is how much to “age” the photo. You change the amounts by hitting the little arrow and using the slider or by manually typing a number into the box. Of course, the higher the number the browner your image is


As always, if your computer can take it, be sure and checkmark the “preview on image” box for a better idea of what your end result will be. When you’re happy, press the “ok” button



This is an effect I rarely use – not because it doesn’t have a good effect, but because the photos I take rarely lend themselves to that kind of feel. Yes, I LIKE those kind, but I never think of them, you know what I mean? But, I have found a fairly suitable photograph for this.


Infrared film is a black and white film, but if you just take an image and run it through the filter you will find that it generally has very little contrast. Like the sepia, this works better if we first make our image black and white. Be sure to turn the brightness down low for maximum effect!


Now go to effects/photo effects and infrared film


You’ll get a pop up box that has three controls in it.


The flare control – well, controls how much flare there is from the white objects (see now why you need a high contrast image?) The higher the number the more glow you have, like so:


Leaving the flare at 100, I will show you what the strength does because, oddly, the higher the number the less flare or dreamy/blurry look you get!


Grain is self evident IMHO and besides, it doesn’t show up very well unless I make a huge image :p The higher the grain number, the grainier your photo is (I prefer to keep mine at 0 for the misty, smeary look). Either way. When you’re done press “OK” and save your image


Since you’re doing so well, let’s add a couple of more advanced techniques here.


If anyone would like to use my example image to try this with, you will need to get the larger sized image from my flickr -

So, you cropped that annoying nephew out of the corner of your photo, but you still have ugly power lines over your clouds – or in this case grass all over the neat little photo emblem:


Either way, it’s ruining the feel of your photo. Now, provided that the background is not too complicated (clouds and grass work really easily – anything that doesn’t need to be uniform does) and you’re willing to put some time in you can just erase those things right out of there! First, you want to choose the clone brush from the toolbar


Now check your tool pallet. You will probably pop back up to this a few times to adjust the size of your brush as well, so take a good look at it.


As with all other pallets, you can use the drop down arrows and sliders to change the settings. The basic settings you will need are size – which is self explanatory – hardness, which you’ll want turned down to a fairly low number to give you good, blending edges – and opacity, or how “see through” it is.


Once your brush is set, zoom in to the part you want to fix and check your brush size – whatever the circle is on is what it will copy. If the brush is too big it could copy some of the pink granite as well, which we don’t want. Brush size good? Then right click on a part of the image you want to copy (in this case the clean white where there is no grass). This will make a little x appear


Now scroll down to the first bit you want to cover up – you’ll notice that one ‘cursor” stays on the spot you right clicked at while the other moves independent of it. The one without the x is the area you are going to cover up and whatever is inside the circle with the x is what it is covering it up with


As you clone brush CLICK – DON’T DRAG! Dragging can create some really f’d up effects that you aren’t going for


How close do you need to keep your cursors together? Well, the smaller and more detailed the image the closer they need to be because you need to clone the colors immediately around each piece of grass. But on clouds or grass you may want them quite a distance apart. It all depends on where the cloned object is versus where you are cloning it. On this one I often had them overlapping at the edges


A good trick for cloning edges it to stagger your brush – use the x in the center of the cursors to line it up so that the edges match, then you can just drag it along


So, it’s all done, but there are still little hints of yellow in places.


We can fix that. First, go to the selections tool


On the tool pallet drop down the box and choose elipse


Then select the portrait – the ellipse selects from the middle outward, so take a guess at the center of the oval. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs the people in it


And use the black and white filter – hee-hee. Then use a smart photo fix and you’re all done. Remember – ALWAYS clone BEFORE you apply your image effects – this helps blend them together better.


Since you did so well with that, we’ll do one more.


If you’ve read all of this you may have noticed I said that the sepia could be used to tone down a photo? Well this is the way it can be used. No, I’m not demonstrating that – sorry – but the principle is the same.

Our original photo


This tombstone is crooked, as in leaning. Does it NEED straightened? I think that’s personal preference. I like to things straight, myself, plus it’s a good way to show you how to straighten an image without an edge to line it up against. Choose the straighten tool from the menu:


Just like last time you’ll get a line in the middle of the photo. We don’t need to move this up or down since we have nothing to line it up with, so just grab one end of the line and drag it until the line looks like it’s sloped with the tombstone – aka eyeball it


Got to the tool pallet and click “apply”


Now, time to start layering. But before we layer we need some layers, right? Find your layer pallet (you can turn this off and on by right clicking on the toolbar and choosing palets). It should look something like this:


Once you have it, right click on the only layer there is. You’ll get a pop up menu, and in it you want to choose duplicate:


The new layer should be automatically selected (double check to be sure though!) and then let’s apply a Vivid Foliage from the Photo Effects menu


This makes the green WAY too green, so we want to go back to our layer pallet and turn down the opacity on our layer – think of it as making the layer more “see through” so that the bottom layer shows through and “dims” it down. To do this go to the pallet and use the opacity slider bar:


Now lets add some depth to this. On the layer pallet select the BOTTOM layer, right click and choose duplicate again


Make sure the new layer (by default called raster 3) is selected and then go to the Black and White photo effect


Now your layer pallet will look like this


You may or may not find the following breakdown helpful. If not, ignore it. If so, then good. This photo is a demonstration of the effects achieved by the layering, so you understand WHY you’re doing this:


Moving left to right we have what it would look like with only the black and white turned on. Next, so you can see what we’re changing, is the original, then all the black and white layer and the vibrant foliage together at their different opacities, and finally the vibrant foliage alone. As you can see the black and white layer darkens the shadows and gives the photo more depth then it would have without that layer. Anyway, play with you opacities and when you have what you want save it.


And those, my friends, are some basic photo editing techniques you can use in Paint Shop Pro to make your photo all it can be. As I said earlier, I’m sure that the same effects can be achieved in other programs with different ‘tools’ so long as you keep the general principle in mind.


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