Applying Papers To Alphas

[UPDATE: There's an alternative by using Alpha-To-Selection, which is fantastic, but I'm leaving the tut as-is since not all other image manipulation softwares have this function but have those similar items to follow along with the tut below, as tedious as it may be. I use Alpha-To-Selection 99% of the time now.]

If you don't have a pattern sample to use, you can always use a paper for a fill for an alpha or other shape. For this tutorial I'm using my Tabloid Alpha template and a paper from my kit Backpacks Forbidden. If you have the tabloid font you can copy, but any font will do.

You can always take your paper and turn it into a bucket fill, but the pattern file will be large and large file size tools tend to crash Gimp on even the best systems from time to time.

Open a file that's 3600 x 3600 pixels and transparent background at 300 dpi.


Have your text large enough to arrange nine at a time on a sheet like I did above. This allows you to embellish and be able to cut them apart using the guillotine tool without cutting into another alpha. Also, you want the alpha large enough to be high in quality (I have since increased the size of my alphas I create).


You can do one of two things to insert your paper. You can File>Open As Layer or you can open it as a separate image. To import it, in the paper's image menu select Edit>Copy. Then select your alpha image and Edit>Paste. Your layers dialog box will look like the image above. Click on the sheet icon marked with arrow #2. Your pasted layer was just added to a new layer.


Now click on the eye to hide the paper layer and select the alpha layer. Using the magic wand, click in the transparent areas on the image. Select the paper layer (still hidden) and Edit>Cut. You can check your work by clicking the eye to unhide the papers.

[Gimp Alternative: Click on the alpha layer, go to Layer>Alpha To Selection, then click on paper layer Select>Invert, Edit>Cut. You're done and can skip the steps below. Embellish your alphas with any shadows or bevels and save.]


If you were successful, you'll have an image similar to the one above. You may notice, as shown by the arrow, that the centers of some characters have not been cut. Not a problem. Keep repeating the steps above that you used to remove the centers.


On the alpha layer, click your wand in the center of your character, like above in the center of the number six. Then select your paper layer, Edit>Cut. Again, if you wish to check your work, unhide the paper layer.

Once you have deleted all of the unnecessary areas, you can embellish this further by adding a bevel, drop shadow, brush work, adding elements. In my case I chose to save as is and open it up in PSE6 and add a layer style. Since I don't like how PSE cuts apart alphas I'll open it back up in Gimp and use the guillotine tool to separate my alphas, create a preview, file in a folder, zip it up and upload it to 4shared to share with all of you.


The black alpha layer can be deleted or used. You can create a different looking drop shadow by using the blur tools, move tool and changing the opacity of the black layer.

I find the method I have used above, though a bit time consuming, gives a nicer edge on the alphas than had I chose to bucket fill. For some reason I find Gimp alters the edges a bit during a bucket fill. You can experiment with this and see for yourself. Vector shapes seem to avoid this problem. When I want to bucket fill a pattern, I'll just create a paper and use this method or I'll use the Script-Fu called Alpha to Logo>Glossy. Settings are to taste. For a flat effect (not layered alpha) I will uncheck the shadow and set all numbers to 0 or 1. Be sure the check the boxes for using a pattern instead of gradient.

Using Templates In Gimp

NOTE: I'm using 2.2, some functions were relocated in 2.4 but you should be able to follow along easily. To see more details from the image, click on it for a larger pic.

For this tutorial I used Template 101 from my Totally Templates blog.


In this image you'll see the layers dialog box. Notice the eyes. I always deselect layers I am not going to be working with that way they are out of the way. To deselect click on the eye. To unhide click again.


To get started I have chosen to leave the block frame overlay and the bonus paper visible. Select the overlay layer.


Now take the magic wand and select the white portion of the overlay layer. You'll see the marching ants.


Now go back to your layers dialog box and select your paper layer.


This step is important. You want to delete the cut-outs and have a frame with the paper pattern. In order to do this you must invert your selection, in other words, you want the opposite removed from what you selected. To do this go to Select>Invert in the image menu.


Now you need to Edit>Cut. I added a white background for this tutorial so you could see that the frame was left. You should have the transparency background on yours.


I want to add a drop shadow to my frame. Since my frame is the same size as the entire layout, I don't want the drop shadow to alter my canvas size. To prevent this, uncheck the box marked allow resizing. This is good to have checked if your image is tightly cropped and there's no room on the canvas to add a shadow. Merge your layers so your shadows are hooked to the layers they belong to (in the layers dialog box right click and merge down).


Here's my results of my shadow.


I'm going to go back and deselect the layers I just worked with since I am finished. I usually will delete the white overlay frame too. I unhide the next item I want to use. In this case it's one of the photo boxes to the left. You don't have to use a photo to fill in these boxes. You can use papers instead. The above image shows my color block and an added photo. I selected the block layer then I went to my image menu and File>Open As Layer and chose my photo.


I need to use two things from this menu option shown above. It's very important that when you want to alter the layer that you choose layer instead of image. So first I'm going to Layer>Transform>Rotate Right then I'm going to Layer>Scale Layer because I want more in the photo than there's space for on the block.


Once it's scaled to size, as shown above, I will select the box layer, then using magic wand select the box (image), then I'll use the move tool (the thing that looks like a compass with arrows) and move my photo to the box, selecting the photo layer before moving. You can still resize your layer if you need to. If for some reason you lose your marching ants, repeat the steps selecting your box. Once it's centered, select invert, make sure your photo is selected in the layers box and Edit>Cut.


Here's my results so far. Keep repeating until you filled in all of the parts from the template with your papers and photos. You can embellish it more by using the File>Open As Layer option to add elements and don't forget text, alphas, any filter effects, drop shadows, brush work. It's only limited by your imagination.

Keep in mind when scaling something, you can scale down but if you scale down too far you can't scale up, use the undo tool to get your larger size back or re-open the item you're scaling. Scaling up will distort your image.

Save your work often. Stuff happens. In Gimp you can save as an xcf or a psd file to retain your layers. Xcf files seem to save smaller megabyte wise than psd for some reason although there's no loss of quality. You might want to save your item in layers when you are finished too, just in case down the road you notice an error or you changed your mind about something. I keep these working files around for a month or so, but that's just my preference.

Check your spelling. If you're not sure, use Dictionary.com since Gimp doesn't have spell check. Flatten your image and save as a jpg file. Change the default 85 to a 100 for a higher quality image. I put it at 90 and 600 pixels to display in forums to keep the file size per the rules (usually under 100kb). Some coloring in your photo may effect the file size.

Creating Blog Headers

This is an imageless tutorial.

For those that already do digital scrapbooking, this will be easy to follow. Your going to create a header using some of the same basic steps as you would a normal scrapbook page from scratch.

You can also use brag book and scrap page templates to create the header. You'll have to adjust the size.

A typical blog header is 800 pixels wide and either 200 or 300 pixels high. The header on my Totally Templates blog is 800x300 and the one on the Freebie Vault is 800x200.

Open a new image in the dimensions you wish your header to be.

Now import items you wish to be a part of your header (use the File>Open As Layer option in the image box). Don't worry if the items are too large for your header.

To resize the layers: Right now I recommend clicking on the eye in your layers dialog box and hiding each layer you are not currently working with (click on the eye to unhide). Adjust your background image. For each layer you want to resize, you need to click on it in the layers dialog box (making it your active layer) and then returning to the image box and select !! IMPORTANT !! Layer>Scale Layer. If your whole image scales, you selected the wrong scaling method. Image>Scale Image resizes every layer. Also, remember to scale it down in increments. You cannot scale down then back up because you will lose quality. If this happens you can also undo or open another copy as layer again.

It doesn't hurt to save this file every once in a while. Make sure your extension is xcf so you retain your layers.

Now, adjust all of your items one by one to your taste. You can scale down, adjust color, add brush work, add text, etc.

If you are using a script-fu technique on one of the layers, I highly suggest you click on that layer, Edit>Copy>Edit>Paste As New, then add the script on the new image, then Edit>Copy, go back to header and Edit>Paste (click on single blank page in layers dialog box to add this image to it's own layer), arrow down to place into position. Delete your old layer if needed. If you didn't export this image first, most script-fus dump the other layers permanently, and you would have lost all of your work so far. Standard filters do not do this, but with 2.4 you have to be careful to watch which ones will.

When you are happy with your work, save as an xcf file first, in case you want to alter it down the road such as adding a snowman or fall colors for the seasons. Once you save, merge layers and save as a jpg or png.

WAIT!! Do you want blinkies or tags for siggies? Scale down your header to use for forums. Sizes are based on forum rules or you can use others as an example. You can also rework your header to make a matching tag for your package previews. This is another example of why saving in layers is important.

TIP: Once you create a matching logo from your header, you can turn this into a full color brush. Do not change it to grayscale or it won't be in color! In 2.2, go to Script Fu>Selection>To Brush. In 2.4, Edit>Copy as Brush. You can always save your text portion as a brush as well. It will come in handy. If you want the brush to pick up colors in the active palette, then go to Image>Mode>Grayscale, then save as a brush based on the method for your version. I have another post here that goes into more details on creating brushes.

Quick Page Tutorial

This is a tutorial on how to create single layer png quick pages for digital scrapbooking.

Clicking on any photo will bring a larger view.

First of all, have all of your items you wish to use opened in it's own layer. In my case (image 2 below) I have a paint smudge, a flower, a doodle, a frame, an overlay and a background.

IMPORTANT! Your background layer MUST have an alpha channel or when you cut you will end up with white space. In Gimp 2.2 you can find this under Layer>Transparency>Add Alpha Channel. Make sure you have the correct layer selected when you do this. If it already has a channel you won't be able to select it (grayed out option).


This is the page I am using. It's Template 100 (available at Totally Templates). I chose a simple page for this tutorial. You can use templates and add your papers and elements then convert to a quick page but I am not going to cover that here. Also keep in mind, your items may need drop shadows. Now is the time to do that, except skip the photo frames for now. Merge your drop shadows to their corresponding element and if you need to, rename your layer (in layers dialog box right click on each layer and select edit layer attributes, rename, okay).


Here are my layers. I want to take a last look at the image and make sure it's complete, everything is where it should be, drop shadows are added as needed (minus frames), nothing needs to be rotated, SPELLING IS CHECKED for word art.

You are a gimper, so before you do anything else save this as BlahBlahQP-EDIT.xcf because now if you goof or would like to use these items but rearrange them for a similar QP, you have a working copy, which is why you use the word Edit in the title. It tells you to never ever upload this page to the net. It's a tool or unfinished. And saving as an xcf file helps retain your layers, for those that are familiar with Photoshop, it's like an unmerged/unflattened psd file.


Here we are to the next step. You see now I have only 3 layers. Your project may have more at this point. What I did is take everything that is on top of the frame layer and merged them together. Then everything below that photo frame is merged together in one layer. I have titled my layers so you know what is in each of those layers.


Now select the frame layer, if you have more than one you will repeat this step for each frame. If you have doodles under these frames that are supposed to be there, they must be merged with the background layer or this won't work. Take the magic wand and select the empty space of your frame (note my marching ants in the example above). Now click on the background layer, select Edit>Cut. Your background should now have a nice empty space.

Keep repeating this step for all of your frames.

Drop Shadows: Now is when you add your shadows for your frames. Had you done it earlier, you wouldn't have erased enough of the background.

If you are happy with everything... Merge Visible Layers. DO NOT flatten. Flattening will create a white space in your cut-outs. Save as NameQP.png and you're done!