[LONG Imageless Tut]

I'm going to make an effort to talk about the basic tools.
I'm going to start with colors.

Have you fell in love with a kit but the colors just don't work for you? Don't skip over a download or a purchase simply because the colors won't fit your needs.

There are several ways to recolor something and depending on what needs to be recolored, there are ways that are better than others so knowing what the tools do will allow you to choose correctly.


I use this often. If I'm just wanting to offer a bunch of elements and am not working with a specific palette, this is the best choice. It's also what you want to use if there are many colors in the item to be changed.

Hue - changes the actual color (red to orange to yellow)
Lightness - makes it lighter or darker but doesn't change the color (dark red to pink)
Saturation - adds color or removes color from the image (takes the red and makes it fire engine red or a grayish red, even gray and no red at all)

Used with the magic wand or selection tools, you can isolate parts of your image to recolor.

Saturation can make a bright color more earthy and an earthy color brighter. You can manually change the saturation of an image to give it that watercolor effect you see in many professional photos. You will use selection tools, don't forget about Select>Invert too. Let's say you want a black and white photo but leave some items in color. You can select the area that is to stay in color, and then invert, then use saturation tool, or you can choose what changes to black and white and desaturate. It all depends and what's easiest for you to select.

Get confused about saturate and desaturate? De is a negative prefix and if you can remember saturate in relation to water means get wetter, think of the water as paint and paint as color. To saturate is to get wetter, more paint, more water. To desaturate is to take away the water, the paint, the color.


You have to be careful with color balance. This tool comes with sliders where you can change the amount of each color that is within the image or selection. An area of color can contain shadows, midtones and highlights. If you have a circle of color, changing the color is simple, but if that circle is actually an orb, things get a little complicated. You'll notice that the color balance tool might change those shadows, midtones and highlights to an undesired effect. This tool needs a lot of experimentation and you have to eyeball your image in different zoom levels. It might look fine at 25% but at 100% you might notice the edges between a midtone and highlight has morphed into something more sci-fi than you intended.

Color balance is a great tool for playing with those images from the 70's that have aged. I will save several versions. After a few days, I'll go back and look at the results. Sometimes staring at the image for so long, they all look good or awful. Later you'll find the one that looks right.

I will repair blemishes on the photo after fixing the color balance. Sometimes CB will actually make those repairs pop. You don't want that.

Dirt spots? Color balance can help here. Use your selection tools to pick the dirt spot and play with the blemish. You might need to use the smudge or clone tools to deal with the edges. I'll talk more about those later.


This is a quick recoloring tool and comes with a hue-sat slider. It's a fun tool. I use it if I am not using a dedicated palette.


This is under filters. It's just like the colorize tool, however this one you can add a color code to use a specific color. If you don't know the color code, you can get it from your foreground color picker. Double click on the foreground, pick your color and grab the code from the HTML notation box. You can copy and paste this.


Use this if you have a color you want to remove and you can use the copy and paste method from above. You have to remember that this color you are removing might be hidden throughout your image and will create vellum qualities in areas. Lets say you want to remove a blue color but have reds and purples. You know that it'll take the blue hue from the purple, but did you know that it might also alter the red? Experimentation and selection tools are recommended. I most commonly use this for black and white images, however turning your image to grayscale will allow the program to remove the white anyway when creating a brush.


Under the selection tools menu, this will allow you to select all parts of the image that are of that color, thus being able to use the hue-sat or color bal tools. This is a really fickle tool like color balance. You have to pay a lot of attention to detail to get the correct results you desire. Make sure you Select>None to check boundaries. The marching ants will hide those borders.


This is found under Image>Mode and it'll pull apart an image into layers and results are grayscale. I haven't needed this so I can't comment on it.


This can do a lot for an image for color correction. Those faded photographs sometimes have the correct color and color balance isn't fixing the problem. Also, it's neat to use this to make some things just pop. The photo might be fine, you just want to emphasize or 'trick-out' your image. This can be a very powerful tool in layout creation. It gets neglected, as do many tools, thinking they are just for repairs. B/C is similar to saturation, but remember this deals with the whole image, background, flaws and all. Use with the selection tool to isolate areas.


This can recolor a pic from normal to a photocopy like image. I don't know what it's intended for but I like playing with the pics, using this and layers. I leave one layer in color and then use this layer on top or bottom. I play with the opacity and layer modes for each of the layers. Threshold can be a whole lot of fun.


Take Threshold, Saturation and Color Balance and put them in an all-in-one tool. I've used this a few times to fix photos. It's one best left to playing instead of explaining. I still don't know enough about this tool to be even an 'almost' expert.


Another tool I don't know too much about but have used before. Some tutorials use curves and will walk you thru it. It also alters color, brightness and blackness. I used this once to create a metal frame (remember my square buttons with the semi-opaque glass?).


Changing your layer mode can change the color of that layer or the one beneath it. I use bucket fill and layer modes to color items like ribbons. I have the ribbon as the bottom layer and the color layer is above it. I usually use overlay mode. I might use a combination of overlay and burn using multiple copies of the color layer. Sometimes one layer of color isn't enough, but two is too much. That's when I change the opacity of one of the layers. Keep in mind that your color layer doesn't have to be color. It can be an overlay of texture or a pattern. If the color layer has many colors, this will affect the layer below and the final color. If your bottom layer has blue and the upper layer has red, you will end up with purples.

If you are designing, this can be a way to find new kits. If you don't have a color palette, start by playing with grunge layers of different colors and experiment with tucking in some of your old papers and see what happens. Add some brush work on one of the layers or it's own layer.


If I missed something, please share it in the comments for all to see. Have a favorite method? Share that too.

Gimp -vs- PSE and other programs

A QUICK NOTE: When reading this and other tutorial sites, READ THE COMMENTS to the posts. Chances are you'll find other steps, corrections, links to similar tuts and other important info. I don't always have the time to reflect these into my post, as I'm sure is the same for others. It only takes a minute to scan them.


Many of my regular readers over at the Freebie Vault know that I use various programs while designing. I started using Adobe Photoshop Deluxe but I couldn't do png files or drop shadows, a must in the business. So I surfed for some free trial when I found both Jasc Animation Shop (the bestest blinkie maker ever) and Gimp.

I've been using Gimp since July 2006. I bought a small (too small) wacom tablet November 2007 and it came with Photoshop Elements 5. I eventually bought PSE 6 for $100 in March 2008. In May, I was given (sweet) a copy of Adobe CS3 Extended.

Wacom Tablet: for those that don't know, it's a pen mouse and a special tablet. I have the one called Bamboo Fun and it was around $100. Good price but I really should have held out for the larger tablet. I plan on getting one of those during tax return season. If you are on a budget, it's nice to have. It has software but I found that it's plug and play compatible. It comes with a USB plug, extra 'normal' cordless mouse and extra tips for the pen. Once you get really good with this tablet you can handwrite on your layouts (no more fonts for journaling) and you can create custom doodles.

Did you know that most Windows based computers now have a built in program that you can teach it to type as you speak? It's called Windows Speech Recongnition and its under Start>Programs>Accessories>Ease Of Access Tools. There's also a narrator which will read things for you - great for reading blogs while you dust! Yeah, I use it. And it's great for the little ones learning to read. You can download pdf children's books from the internet and have the computer read it. It's not the same as Mom, but if you simply don't have the time, its a fun alternative. I love it when the computer occasionally says something wrong (its rare on my version) and they correct it! I give them treats for finding those errors. Makes them pay attention.

Believe it or not, I'm having fits learning the CS3 program, which is something I absolutely want to learn because that's the program running the actions. I find myself running the actions, saving and opening the results up in Gimp or PSE for finishing touches. I use Gimp 90% of the time, PSE6 the bulk of the balance, with some of that being the occasional CS3, Ultimate Paint or another program.

For those that know Adobe products and are new to Gimp, Script Fu is just Gimp's version of actions. Actions are scripts that tell the program a series of steps to do to create something that has several steps. Many S'Fus have settings you can alter before it begins and most leave the project in layers so you can alter further. Even the drop shadows you can tweek in the end by using the move tool to move the layer or opacity to reset the darkness. Have you thought of using a different color for your shadow instead of black? Sometimes I use a really deep brown, it creates a warmer shadow.

Here's my preferences:

Grow Tool - Gimp (has a menu to change settings)
Cropping Tool - Gimp (Guillotine)
Drop Shadows - Gimp
Bevel - PSE
Styles - PSE (none in Gimp yet)
Creating Brushes - Gimp (I have brush batch script fu)
Text Tool - Gimp (regular)
Text on Path - PSE
Filter Work - PSE (because of Filter Gallery)

Saving - Gimp (because you can type in your extension, no PSD defaults and renaming to .png or copy.png in the title, I wish PSE had a way to check your file extension default in a check box during the save process so the next image will automatically choose that same type unless you use the menu to reselect a different one)

Open In Layers - Gimp (I still haven't found an easy way to open in layers in PSE, any tips for me?)
Extraction - PSE (magic eraser)
Scaling Brushes - PSE
Patterns - Gimp (love the dialog boxes)
Bump Map - Gimp (haven't found one in PSE, though I installed an 8bf file for it)
Start Up - PSE about 1 min 30 seconds (Gimp about 3-4 minutes)
Overall running - PSE (uses less ram, Gimp takes a lot of ram)
PSD - Gimp and PSE both open these files, no preference

Misc. PSE issues: I had to put styles in 2 locations to get styles to work and I can't delete one set. The problem is that I have several megs of styles that are taking up space not once but twice on my hard drive. Then most of these are loaded twice. If I delete a set, they all disappear. Anyone that has a solution, I'd love to know.

Misc. Gimp issues: The main reason why Gimp crashes on someone's computer is because of the ram it takes. It really taxes a machine. I combat that by not multitasking while I have Gimp going. I shut off unused programs that are running, like the Vista Sidebar (widgets). I dedicate the resources to just Gimp and ACDSee. Sometimes I can have PSE running at the same time without failure. I also work with an 'insurance plan', meaning saving often. I used the word Edit in the name of all my files that are not finished so I know simply by looking at the filename that it's not a finished product. And I save it in layers as an xcf file, Gimp's layered format. My version of Gimp (2.2) and higher you can save as psd and open in another program.

As a designer, I find myself favoring Gimp.
As a scrapper, I also favor Gimp.

I'll toss an image or layer back and forth between the programs to handle the tasks that are easily done on that program, but they all end up back at Gimp in the end. I can't see not having either one since each has it's role in everything I do digi.

If you have any questions, tips for me, comments to add, tuts to request - post a comment and I'll take care of it.