Last week I blogged my entry for the Truth Model Search. While I was happy with the result, Truth Hawks, the owner of Truth, didn’t “favorite” it on Flickr. While that may not mean it’s out of the running, I’m guessing it probably is.
I tried a totally new technique with that photo, AND I did it all in Photoshop. While I’m trying to learn to use it, it’s still out of my comfort zone. I tried reworking the photo several times, adding body shadows (which didn’t turn out well), moving the main shadow (which created all new problems) and even praying to the editing gods for guidance. To no avail.
So, today I decided to go back to basics – using the graphics program I know best – Picmonkey. For those of you unfamiliar with this program, it is a web-based photo editor found at www.picmonkey.com. It is nowhere near as powerful as Photoshop, but I have learned a lot of different tricks after using it for over a year. There are basic effects you can use, and there are also “Royale” effects which you can access by subscribing to their service. And it’s not too badly priced – $33 per year or $4.99 per month.
While I was working on a new photo for the Truth Model Search, I had an “Ah ha!” moment. I had been studiously avoiding Miss Strawberry Singh’s meme for this week, thinking I had nothing I could share. You see, she wants us to teach her something Second Life-related. After I picked my chin off the desk after reading her challenge, I started snickering, thinking there was not a damned thing I could teach anyone. I’m not a builder or designer and there are a multitude of tutorials available for taking photos in SL and probably more for editing. However, I hadn’t seen anything about using Picmonkey. Since this is accessible to everyone with a computer – at least for the basics – and is an affordable alternative to Photoshop with a MUCH simpler learning curve than PS or GIMP, I thought I would pass along a few of the tips I have picked up. I’m not making a fancy video; I won’t even be using screen shots. But I’ll do my best to highlight some effects and techniques you can achieve using this simple program. I’ll be including both standard and Royale effects, so I’ll make sure I let you know which is which.
I would recommend you go to Picmonkey and open up a photo in the editor. I’ll go through some of the effects found in each category of the control panel, shown here:
Oh, here’s the mean ole teacher’s instructions:
Meme instructions: Blog a tutorial and teach me something that you think I might not know about (even if I do, doesn’t matter, do it anyways). The tutorial can be something within Second Life (how to build, create tattoos or clothes, pick up guys at info hubs, tie your virtual shoelaces, whatever…) or something in Photoshop or on any social network (just focus on something sl-related somehow). Make it informative, make it hilarious, make it whatever you like! I’d just love to learn something from you that you may be good at and are willing to share. Remember to leave your link in this meme’s post so others can come by and learn too!
I’m going to start by uploading my raw shot. At the end of the post, I’ll reveal my new entry for the Truth Model Search.
1. Basic Edits. These are all standard settings.
CROP – I think one thing most people get wrong when they are uploading photos for their profile and picks in Second Life is sizing. When I’m doing photos in Second Life, I always size for profiles and picks, unless specifically asked for something different. While the sizes are a bit different for each one, a 4:3 ratio will work for both. So what the heck does that mean? I’ve found that working with a 1024 X 768 image not only is easy to work with in editing, but it also is a good size to upload into SL. To do this, go to the Crop section, leave the drop down on No Fixed Selection and enter 1024 X 768 in the size boxes. THEN click Scale Photo. The gridded box on your photograph will now maintain this ratio and scale no matter how you crop your photo. Once you are happy with your crop, click apply, and you’re done. If you decide you don’t like it, just click the back arrow at the top of the screen and start again. There are also a lot of predefined crops available, one of which I use quite a bit is the Facebook Timeline crop. You know, that annoyingly long and thin picture at the top of your Facebook page? Select that in the drop down, and it automatically sets the correct dimensions so you can scale and crop your photograph to the perfect proportions.
EXPOSURE – Surprisingly, the Auto adjust feature works pretty well. I always make this my first change to a photo after cropping. Sometimes I tweak the settings if I think it’s a bit too bright or dark, but for the most part, it’s a good starting place.
SHARPEN – I rarely use this, but occasionally I will bump up the Clarity a few notches, but I don’t think I’ve ever gone over 10-12%.
RESIZE – If you like the crop ratio you have, but the file size is too large, you can make it smaller here. I don’t recommend making the size larger; that usually means your photo will turn out blurry. I never do resizing until I’ve completed all of my edits and I’m ready to save to my hard drive.
2. Touch Up. These are both standard and Royale. I’m going out of order here, because I usually go to Touch Up before I add effects.
AIRBRUSH (ROYALE) – I use this to subtly blend shadows and highlights. I also use it after I have used the Clone tool to correct any bits and pieces that stick out where they shouldn’t (hair through skin or clothes, touching up prim clothing, etc). Please note, this IS subtle – you can adjust the brush size and fade, even switch it from natural to strong, and it’s still going to be…subtle. I use this in conjunction with…
WRINKLE REMOVER (ROYALE) – This isn’t just for skin. I also use it for blending backgrounds, shadows and those pesky gridlines. However, when using this tool you will need to experiment, not just with brush size, but with the fade. Used too much, and it can give a smeared rather than a smudged look. There are handy eraser tools on most of the effects, so you can repair any major boo boos. And if you use small strokes, the back arrow is limitless, so you can back up to the last correction you liked. If you go too far, just click the forward button. I often go back and airbrush after I’ve used the wrinkle remover to give it a more subtle look.
BLUSH BOOST (STANDARD) and SPRAY TAN (ROYALE) – I have rarely used these for their intended purposes. I use them to add subtle shadows. I can’t get the full effect I would like, but it’s ok for evening up the shadows that are already there.
NIP TUCK (ROYALE) – If you can’t afford Photoshop, then THIS is the reason to go for the subscription to Picmonkey! Nip Tuck is the same as Liquify in PS. I pretty much use the Melt feature all the time, but you also have the options of Reduce and Fill. Zoom in on those squared-off edges on your avatar (elbows, knees, jawlines and hairlines are particularly naughty bits), adjust your brush size and strength, and gently push and pull these areas into the nice, rounded shapes they SHOULD be. And with an eraser and the back arrow, you are pretty much guaranteed to be able to come up with a pretty finished product. If all else fails, hit Cancel and start again!
HIGHLIGHTS (ROYALE) – This is good for adding a bit of shine to your hair, but it can also be used to darken shadows.
CLONE (ROYALE) – This is also found under Effects. I use this a LOT to get rid of those unsightly gridlines and also to correct bits of hair and skin that poke through where they shouldn’t.
3. EFFECTS. (Both standard and Royale)
To be honest, these will be entirely up to you. I’ll just touch on a few that I use a lot.
ORTON (STANDARD) – This effect gives a darkened, bloomy, romantic look to your photos. It works best with lighter pictures, but by adjusting the Bloom, Brightness and Fade, you give even darker photos this dreamy look. I use it more often than Soften (Standard), which seems to often just make the photo look blurry.
DARK EDGES & FROST (STANDARD) – I personally hate sharp edges on photos, so I use these a lot. You can adjust the size, the colour and the fade to suit your taste.
DAGUERREOTYPE (ROYALE) – There are three options here to give your photos an “old-time” look. I personally use Shiro the most often (instead of the Sepia effect), but I occasionally use Plumbe, as well. Again, it all depends on your taste.
CURVES (ROYALE) – Again, another reason to spring for the subscription. Curves allows you to make adjustments to light in different areas of the photo, instead of across the board as you do using Exposure. There are a lot of presets you can use, or you can customise your adjustments – you can even make separate adjustments to Reds, Greens and Blues (RGB). I use this to fine tune after I’ve added effects.
DODGE & BURN (ROYALE) – These tools are used to add lighter and darker areas to your photo. It’s subtle but incremental – to lighten something more (dodge), you will need to go over an area more than once.
4. Text. Standard and Royale. There are a LOT of free fonts, and you can resize, move, add fade and a variety of advanced blend modes in Picmonkey. And this is a layer that is always movable, so if you go back to add an effect after adding the text and don’t like the placement, you can always resize, recolour or move it at any point.
5. Overlays. Standard and Royale. There are a lot of built-in overlays you can use, but this category really shines when you add your own.
YOUR OWN – You can add a watermark to your photo, add a background, your own stickers or effects…the possibilities are endless. You simply upload your own image onto the existing photo, resize it and place it where you want, then play around with the blending modes, fade and use the eraser to remove parts of it from the original photo. It is also always movable, as long as you haven’t flattened the photo, so you can adjust the placement after any changes to the rest of the photo. It’s not as powerful as adding a layered image in PS, but you can get darned close.
6. FRAMES. (STANDARD & ROYALE) – There are quite a few options here which you can play around with. I’m only going to mention one.
SIMPLE EDGE (STANDARD) – Want to create a meme with a caption at the bottom? Just add the simple edge, adjust the caption area, change the inner and outer frame colours if you want, then add text. Oh, so easy.
7. TEXTURES. (STANDARD & ROYALE) – Similar to Overlays, except the texture is added to the entire photo. You can resize the textures, but not to the extent of overlays. And again, you have the option of using the provided textures or uploading your own.
8. THEMES. (STANDARD & ROYALE) – These are mainly effects themed around holidays. Just jump in and give them a play.
PS – Once you have saved your photo, you can still use the back arrow to remove any steps or effects you have added, as long as you haven’t closed the photo. This is handy if you decide you don’t like the final result after saving or if you just want to try something different from a certain point in your editing process.
And that about wraps up my walk around Picmonkey. It really is amazingly simple and fun to use, and a great springboard into more advanced editors. Even if you use the basics, such as cropping to the correct size, exposure adjustments and framing, you can add a bit of pizzazz to an otherwise ordinary picture.
Oh…and my second entry in the Truth Model Search, done entirely in Picmonkey…
EDIT: I’ve done two more in depth tutorials on Picmonkey with screenshots if you would like to check them out:
I have completed a fourth tutorial using PicMonkey – this time it’s a video! You can click here to check it out.