Digital Scrapbooking

For those that are looking into doing some designing for digital scrapbooking, here are a few tips I have learned along the way (sometimes the hard way):

1. Look at other designers, their dimensions, what works and what doesn't. Some offer papers that are square and rectangular. Some square sheets can't be stretched or squished into a rectangle without messing up the pattern. I rarely make 8 1/2 x 11 papers. I have a post about dpi on my other blog.

2. Alphas - I offer more than one usually. I like to mix and match them in a layout. I will use patterns to match the papers or the solid colors from the palette. Occasionally I'll make the letters separately and include the alpha back instead of making them all one, this adds to the ability to mix it up.

3. Elements - you want them large enough but not so large your "customers" have a hard time using them on a slow machine. I try not to go smaller than 600 these days (but earlier kits are smaller). I've made ells as large as 1800-2000.

Use palette generators, photos and other kits for inspiration. I sometimes scrap and need a kit so I make it and other times I just make a kit based on a color palette I love. I've also made kits because I saw something I liked but wanted something a little bit different (maybe in pattern or coloring). I've polled my readers asking for suggestions. Some days I'll play with papers and my graphics programs. I will either upload the paper paks or some time down the road pick a paper and make a quick page or mini out of it.

I try to make kits that can be off-theme, in other words, if it's a boys kit I make sure there are parts that can be used for anything. I make sure that those girlie kits can be used for boys layouts too (I am a mom of 4 boys, stepmom of 3 boys, have a stepdau, a goddau. and a godson). This is a good thing to remember if you are going to be into selling your kits.

That's all for now.

Gimp and Housekeeping

You want to clean house from time to time with Gimp. The more things you have installed (fonts, brushes, patterns, scripts, plug-ins), the slower Gimp will be in loading upon start-up.

Here's a few tips on cleaning up your hard drive and speeding up Gimp:

Dump your thumbnails file (C>.thumbnails or C>Users>Name>.thumbnails). Simply delete the contents of the folder "fail" and "normal". Sometimes "normal" may be 100 megs. You can change this with preferences too, this just seems easier for me.

Speaking of thumbnails: If you are using ACDSee, you can clean house by deleting the ddf file, which can get quite large too. All it does is store thumbnails. When you visit that folder with ACDSee again, it may be a little slower to load but you have cleaned up HD space, making other parts of you computer run faster. Also, if you have deleted a series of folders, those thumbs are still stored here and are not needed. You can find this by having ACDSee open, clicking on options then the miscellaneous tab and under image database there will be a path. Open that path in Windows until you locate the ddf file (mine is C>User>Holly>App Data>Roaming>ACDSee Systems>ACDSee). Close ACDSee before deleting.

Empty the Recycle Bin so you computer knows it has that space available. If you don't empty it, then that stuff is still sitting there taking up space. After dumping the RB, the info is still there but the computer knows it can write over it with something else and shows it as available space on your HD.

You also want to remove brushes and patterns that you are not using. You don't have to delete them, just move them to another file. I actually burn mine to a disk and just delete them off my HD if I'm not using them. I know whatever is in my .gimp files I can just delete. Those that are not backed up yet are in a file My Dox>GimpTools>To Burn, so I know these need to be copied. When I make new patterns and brushes I copy them to the "To Burn" file immediately so I can have them for later and I don't forget.

To go one step further, you can now clean out your temporary internet files and if you haven't in a while, defrag your baby too. All of this makes every program you have run faster, not just Gimp. About 2-4 times a year you should clean your computer. If you are not comfortable doing it yourself, spend the money and bring it in. Some shops have discounts for regular maintenance. Sometimes cleanings are under your warranty, read your small print or call the store to find out. A tower full of dust bunnies will run hotter, using more power and running harder, in the end slower. The only thing fast on a dirty computer is the time that comes when the computer quits. I don't recommend cleaning it yourself because static electricity can zap a computer and then all you have is a paperweight. ALWAYS back up your stuff before cleaning the insides of your tower. I will do my own tower but I have my laptop done at a shop. Don't forget to clean your mouse and keyboard. A sticky key on my friend's computer happened to be the F10 key, which upon reboot put her into system restore. She lost everything.

Lastly, to make Gimp start up better, always shut down Gimp by using the File>Quit option instead of hitting the little x's. The little x's is almost equivalent to a hard shut down or a crash.

What To Do With SCM Files

So you're surfing along and you find a really cool script for your Gimp and you just HAVE to have it. You click the download button and a blank screen full of text and gobbelee gook pops up. "Now what?", you think. I have read and read posts and always got confused on how to save these. We are in the land of Word, Word Pad and Notepad. These may all be fruits but one is a fruit salad, one is a fruit cocktail and the other is just an apple. SCM files love apples.

If you can't click and download the file simply as an SCM and are forced to copy and paste code, then you need to open NOTEPAD. The other programs will not let you save in the format you need and sometimes Word will actually try to act on scripts typed on them, not just Gimp scripts, web scripts too. To avoid these bugs, stick to Notepad.

Ctrl-A to select all, click on blank page in Notepad, go to menu Edit>Paste.
File>Save As>"the name the people called the script including the .scm is so important here"
Before you hit Okay make sure you save as "all files". So if you are copying a glass script, it will be called "glass.scm".

Now go to the folder it was saved in and verify it saved as an SCM file (hovering or right clicking, properties will show you this info). If you are successful, you want to copy and paste this file into your .gimp>scripts folder - this is called "installing". Keep the original file in a folder to back up to disk when you back up your files (and I know you back them up the same day you change the batteries in your smoke detector).

Notes: you can save the whole page the script tut is on, but you will still need to save the script to a file and import it to Gimp. You might want to do this because the tut will walk you through neat tricks on using the script.

IMPORTANT: When installing scripts, it won't show up until you start Gimp. If you install it with Gimp already running, you will need to restart Gimp completely. It's not like brushes and patterns where you can just hit refresh.

Making Avatars

When making avatars I recommend making some brushes that are made up of backgrounds, background effects (like doodles) and faces or parts of faces. I also recommend starting out with a large canvas (with those brushes to match that size) in about 300-400 pixels square. It makes it easier to create the image and be able to use other brushes. You can always reduce an image to the size the forum requires (usually no bigger than 150 or 100 pixels, but some are 50). Plus, create your avatar in layers. This way you can change a layer, like with the seasons, or change the person in the avatar. To save your avatar with layers, simply save as "name.xcf" BEFORE you merge layers and rescale for your online version. To save as a usable one online save as "name.png", jpg or gif. From here you can also save it as a brush if you want to use it as a stamp. When I save my avatars, I start with the original 300 pixels then I scale them down to 200, 150, 100 and 50. This way I always have the size I need. These do not take up a lot of HD space.

Making Brushes

I am passing on links to the Gimp Talk forums on how to convert your brushes. These are for making brushes in sets, converting from Photoshop and other tips I may not include here. See post tags for saving and installing scm files if you don't know how to.

Quick Brush
Brush Batch (scroll down)
Converting Photoshop Brushes to Gimp
(You may want to search the boards and browse the tuts there too.)

Now if you just want to make a single brush, here's how you do it:

You first have to answer a few questions -
How big do I need my brush?
Do I need different sizes of the same brush?
Do I need to rotate these brushes?
Do I need the brush made exactly like the same image of the same colors?
Or do I need the brush to pick up the current color selected in the palette?

To make a brush:
1. Open your selected image you want as a brush
Open a blank canvas with a transparent background in the size needed.
(Avatar brushes I recommend larger like 300px - see avatar tut for more info.)
Remember if you are using them for digital scrapbooking and it's an element brush you will want this large (500-1200 pixels), treat single letters and numbers the same way (for alphas if you are not making an alpha sheet template).

**The larger the brush and the more large brushes, the slower your Gimp will load - be sure to tuck these away in another file if you are not using them and keep a jpg preview of your brush in this same file so you can browse with windows or an image viewer instead of Gimp, since you may want to find these before you start Gimp.

2. With your image open-created/drawn-or added text/dingbat font, do any altering you need, usually you won't need to do anything.

3. If you want it in color as it is then skip this step. If you want it to pick the color of the color palette you need to change your image from RGB to Grayscale. Do this by clicking Image>Mode>Grayscale.

4. Save as brush one of two ways: a) File>Save As>"name.gbr", a pop up window will display, just click okay since these settings can be changed at the brush dialog box, b) Script Fu>Selection>To Brush. A. will save this file to a folder you choose whether it be the gimp brush folder or another, B. will save the brush into the .gimp>brushes folder automatically and refresh your brushes, with this image being your current selected brush.

Ideas for brushes:
copyright stamps with your screen name, site name, etc
your avatar
freebie stamp
"no piracy" stamp
elements like flowers, tabs, eyelets and slides
frequently typed words on your layouts or package previews
journaling lines

In the brush making process, occasionally some items do not convert over, like subtle lines. It really depends on the image. Also, colored items when switched to grayscale act differently when used as a brush. Black areas are 100% color and as the image goes gray, the opacity changes, with white being 0%, meaning there won't be any color in those areas. So, the areas that are gray will act as vellums, or semi-see through.

Making Templates

(Imageless Tut)

If you make something over and over again you want a template or maybe a brush. This tut is about what I have learned when making templates for Gimp.

Start off with a blank canvas, with a transparent background, 200-300 dpi (your choice).

The size of your canvas should be determined by what you are needing and how big they need to be individually and with enough room to use the guillotine tool. Don't forget that your completed image may contain extra elements like drop shadows and ragged edges (after guillotine is used, the canvas can be enlarged, however).

If you are doing a sheet of goodies (like slides, buttons, eyelets, etc), I use a 3000x3000 canvas, but I may use a second sheet so they are 1. at least 600 pixels in size, and 2. far enough apart for design effects and finally 3. easily cut from the sheet.

If you are doing a sheet of alphas, I use a sheet 2000 to 3600 pixels square. Don't try to put the whole alphabet on a single sheet. It's not worth it. The guillotine tool will make a lot of new images. Do you want 38 open windows? Just keep track of your steps so you can repeat them on the next sheet.** Make and save all of your needed templates before you start making your project. Close unused templates, you can open them later (cuts down on system resources).

When organizing the letters or items on your canvas, try to keep your horizontal and vertical lines clear. Do this by dragging your mouse from the side or top ruler into the position you need it (a dotted blue line will appear). If you want to be exact, then you can add guides with the Image>Add Guides tool from the canvas view and put in a specific coordinate.

About guides: These guides are awesome! First of all, they help you keep your images organized. Then these guides can be used with the Image>Transform>Guillotine filter to cut apart your image. The guides can be used to cut the image apart even if you haven't merged your layers, in case you want to work on the images with layers further, but separately from the other items on the template. Finally, these guides can be saved if you save your template as an xcf file, which will also keep your layers inact (just don't merge before you save).

About guillotine: Let's say you made an alpha and you are done with all editing. Merge all visible layers. Then save the whole sheet as "myalphas.png" in the folder you want your alphas saved in (this saves soooo much time later). Now, use your guillotine tool. Your image will now be a bunch of images that are called something like "myalphas1-1.png" as the tool renames the new images so none are named the same. You shouldn't need to do anything with the images that just popped up. I have a great shortcut for you... don't panic! Click the red x to close your image. A box will pop up asking you if you want to save changes, click Alt-S and it will save. I don't like the number system so I rename my alphas and elements in batches by using the renames series tool in my image viewer ACDSee. I love, love that program.

Notes about patterns and gradients: How you have your templates will determine how your gradients look. If you have a single line of letters, lets say A-E, and you use Script-Fu>Alpha to Logo>Glossy, with a gradient, then you will have that gradient from top to bottom on A-E. If you miss a color, then there's too much room on top or bottom of the letter (empty canvas) so the gradient slips off the letter. Reducing this may interfere with the drop shadow. Don't worry. You can delete that and the background layer later and redo the shadow. I recommend shadow settings of 2/2/3/60. It gives the dimension without being overbearing. I also don't always use a straight black on my d'shads. I may use navy, brown or forest green. If you have a sheet with let's say five letters across and four rows down, and let's say the gradient is a rainbow, your A will be mostly reds and oranges, with the last row being blues and purples.

You have to keep an eye on your patterns too. I have some that are not seamless tiles. If the pattern is 600x600 pixels, I make sure my guillotine lines are on the 600, 1200, 1800 and 2400 (vertical and horizontal) spots so my image doesn't have that seam. Sometimes making an image seamless in Gimp makes it so distorted you won't like it. I am trying out a program now and maybe I'll use that until the Gimp Geeks can find a good filter that doesn't wash out the image like it does now.

**I would have your main preferences to max out the limits for the undo tool. You will not believe how many little things you do and then want to go back, only to find out every little brush click chucked your previous steps in the "trash" because you had it to keep only "20" undo levels. Plus you may want to go back to a certain spot and then change up. For instance, I will take a shape brush, make a white background layer, add a drop shadow, make a top colored layer and a drop shadow, then bucket fill. I may add canvas, bevel or other effects. After I merge and save, I go back to a certain spot and start over again with another color or pattern in my scrapkit's palette for the same frame but in a different "flavor".

Easy Plaid

You first need to start with a color palette. If you don't have one but have a photo you want to pick a palette to match then click here to have a generator pick one for you.

This is my palette. It doesn't have to be neat and pretty.

On your palette's image click Filters>Colors>Smooth Palette. Your settings can be anything. I usually pick 300 pixles and 50. I try to work in numbers that go well with 3600 since that's the size of my papers for digital scrapbooking.

Take your new image, you can close the palette one if you wish, and stretch it to the size you need your plaid fill to be. In my case, I use 600x600, for this example I used 300x300.

Go to your layers tool box and copy your first layer.

Select New Layer, go to your image and click Layer>Transform>Rotate 90, as in the photo. Do not use Image>Transform or you will just rotate all layers at once.

Click on layers dialog and new layer, and play with the Opacity until you find what you like. Sometimes you might like 50, other times 60. Above I used 52.6. This part is about your taste.

When you are happy with the image, click Image>Merge Visible Layers.

You can do one of two things now. The first is to just save it as a jpg or png image then copy and paste into your patterns folder, go back to your layers tool box, click the patterns tab and refresh. Or you can click on the image Script Fu>Selection>To Pattern.

This is a sample of my finished product after bucket filling the pattern into a new image. The pattern remember was 300, this image is 600. If you are creating a webpage or scrapbooking background, you may want to stretch your stripes more to make them less busy. But remember stretching too much will blur your edges. It's actually a nice touch if you also add a texture like canvas, crackle, crumpled, etc.

You do not have to use smooth palette to get your striped look. You can use Filters>Distort>Blinds with layers of color, but you won't get the randomness shown above. You can create any kind of striped image by using selection tools, brushes and bucket fills as well.

Metallic Glitter Tutorial

1. Create a base image in what you want the final metallic color to be, background being transparent. For this tutorial I used a random shade of gray. This tut works on full sheets of alphas as well as a simple shape like a star, which is what I am doing here.

2. In the layers dialog box, right click and edit layer attributes, naming this layer "base".

3. Duplicate this layer (by selecting the double paper icon at the bottom) and name this layer "temp".

4. Layer Box > Base > Right Click, Alpha to Selection

5. Layer Box > Temp > Image Box > Select > Grow > 5

6. Now take a large brush in your selected base color and just wipe over all edges of your new image in the temp layer to fill in the empty spaces between the old image and the "marching ants". DO NOT deselect anything! [White used in tut just to show you where the new color was going.]

7. Layer Box > Base > Right Click, Alpha to Selection

8. Layer Box > Temp > Image Box > Edit > Clear

9. Image Box > Select > All

10. Temp Layer > Image Box > Filters > Blur> Gaussian >
Leave defaults, change number to 8

11. Layer Box > Base > Image Box > Filters > Map > Bump Map
Settings: Bump Map "temp" image, Compensate checked, numbers 135/45/8/0/0/0/0

12. Layer Box > Temp Layer > Trash Can

13. Base Image remains > Image Box > Layer > Colors > Curves
Settings for X,Y: 0,0 - 35,190 - 100,0 - 160,255 - 225,65 - 255,255
These settings are only approximate. If planning on reusing this tut then you can save these settings by clicking on the save icon and name.

14. Image Box > Filters > Noise > Scatter RGB > Settings all at defaults of .20 but you can change these to your liking. Deselect check boxes so noise is all the same color.

This part of your image is complete. If you wish to add a drop shadow I would stick to something subtle like settings of 2/2/4/60 although the curve and bump mapping does add enough dimension IMHO.

To Save Tutorials Offline

If you want to save these instructions/tutorials for later use, and offline use, take these easy steps:

Click on the title of the post/tutorial you wish to copy. This will make the page that tutorial only.

On your browser (IE, don't know about the others), click on File>Save As>Web Archive, single file (or something similar) and Save. No need to change the name, unless you really want to.

That's it. Now when you want to work with it, just click on it. If for some reason it says something about connect, click work offline. Sometimes google ads or other active content that gets saved wants to search for it's missing pieces. This rarely will happen with my site, although using this technique on other pages might.