Friday, January 25, 2008

Gimp Photo Magic

I needed a photo for my blog and for the bio section of But I didn't have a recent photo of just myself standing all by my lonesome.

So, I dug through the holiday photos and found a group photo of me with my nephew and nieces. I blurred the others out (above) so you can see where I am and how I plan to isolate myself.

For this project, and since I use Linux, I'll be using Gimp. Gimp is free with every Linux distribution and it's every bit as powerful as Photoshop. And you can't beat the cost! Free!

The first thing I did was select a rough area around the figure I want to cleanly isolate. I have a couple of challenges. I need to lighten up the area of my right shoulder. That's a wet spot from a dish towel which was slung over my shoulder while washing and drying the Thanksgiving dishes. Next, I have to remove a bit of my niece's chin resting on my left shoulder.

Isolating the figure was quite easy. I simply used the Gimp's eraser tool and very carefully erased around the edges removing all the background pixels and keeping the foreground pixels. Gimp has a very nice brush tool selector that allows you to tailor your brushes so the edges are softer and will gently remove pixels by fading them little by little. You can see, I've left a few stray pixels here and there. (My final image is a bit more crisp.) I clean this up later and leave the edges a bit softer for the purposes of adding a drop shadow. Also, I've used the clone tool to remove My niece's chin. The Wet shoulder area was improved simply by using the burn tool. I had to play with the settings and brush on a few layers, but it blended nicely. I also used the smudge tool to get rid of any hard edges.

Next, I simply used the Gimp's filters (plug-ins) and added a drop shadow. I changed the opacity and softened it a bit. The Gimp is loaded with filters and plug-ins! So much so, you can achieve just about any effect in a mouse click or two. And their are many more plug-ins located right at the Gimp site! It's really amazing how open source software opens the doors to creativity and contributions from Linux users around the globe!

Lastly, I needed a background which wold look interesting. My nephew was wearing a blue checked shirt, so I merely used Gimp's clone tool and cloned that material over and over again into a duplicate background layer.

I cropped and resized and below is the final result. And you can see how leaving the edges of the figure a bit softer aids in convincing the viewer that this is a real photo. The figure doesn't look like a "cutout" pasted on top of a background. Both blend nicely. And because I saved these elements as separate layers in Gimp's native file format (.xcf), I can continue to edit things.

For instance, I can change the color of the background by adding a layer, filling it with color and then changing the color's opacity or the way it is applied in that layer. And in doing this post, I failed to correct the red eye. I was able to do this in couple of clicks. I created a new layer, dropped in a soft dab of blue over each eye, and then changed the layer's properties to color overlay and adjusted the opacity.

The total time for this project was approximately 30 minutes (more or less...I was really enjoying the process and trying out a lot of gimp's tools).

So it's easy to see that anything you can do in PhotoShop (or any Windows/Mac graphics program), you can accomplish with great ease in the Gimp.

Gimp is powerful, feature rich, and easy to use!

I recommend to any parent who's thinking of getting a computer for that young budding artist in the family, to simply get Linux. It's low cost (or free), is loaded with powerful software (Gimp, Scribus, Openoffice, etc.), and is constantly being improved. Plus, it's free from Windows viruses and spy ware.

How good is Linux and Gimp? Well, I'm a nationally syndicated cartoonist with DBR Media, Inc. and I use Linux (and Gimp) to create my cartoon features and graphics work.

Get Linux.

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