Sunday, July 15, 2007

Image Editor #1, Picnik was a picnic


I've been wanting to give other image editors a whirl lately. I use an old version of Adobe Photoshop (5.5) for my blog images. Mostly, though, I just need to downsize and crop them, which is a bit overkill with Photoshop. And if I didn't have Photoshop already, at $400-$600, it's an expensive overkill.

On various photo blogs, I've been reading good reviews of Picnik. Picnik is a free online editor that is supposed to work with not only Windows but Macs as well. Here are my results and observations, creating the lightbulb graphic I used in the previous post. (I promise, it is one of the few incandescent bulbs I still own.)

Step by Step
Step 1:

I took a picture of the bulb. I went to picnik and uploaded it straight from my camera's USB cable. It was a 2Mb image and took about 1 minute to upload. Picnik gave me a progress bar so I knew how it was coming along. The image above is not the original size, but a smaller one for illustration purposes only. No need for you to get a close up of those dust bunnies.

Step 2:
I wanted this image only for a blog post, so no need to work with the original 2560 X 1920 pixel size. I selected "Resize." I kept the "Keep Proportions" option checked and selected my width. It re-calculated the height. My image was now 600 X 450.

Step 3:

Still under the "Edit" tab, I selected "Crop" and cropped the image down to the parts I wanted. I love the way they do crop. Very easy to use and to see what your result will be.

Step 4:

Now I moved to the "Create" tab where the fun effects are. I did a "focal soften." Almost all the options have slider bars so you can control the effect and see the effect as you move the slider. When you like it, hit apply, or if not, hit cancel. Even if you apply and change your mind, there is an Undo (and Redo). No matter how many tweaks you make and apply -- unlimited they say -- you can go backward with Undo.

Step 5:

I then selected "Tint" because, let's face it, the brown color was hardly inspiring. Any time you are working with colors in Picnik, they give you a palette. They don't have an eye dropper tool like Photoshop, but remember this one is free.

Step 6:

Then to make it look more graphic-y, and because playing with the effects is fun, I selected "Border." A few fun slider bars here to tweak with -- the outer color, the inner color, and rounding the edges.

Step 7:

And lastly, I did a little "Soften" on it to make the bulb even more glow-y.

I was satisfied with my image and was ready for the "Save & Share" tab. I downloaded the result to my computer. The total time from upload through download in Picnik was 11 minutes. If I had only uploaded, cropped, and resized the image, I suspect I could have been done in three minutes.

This was extremely easy to use, and I am impressed with its speed and large variety of effects. I loved playing with the fun stuff under the "Create" tab. I also like the idea of using software that I don't have to download onto my already burdened hard drive.

Right now everything in Picnik is free; you don't even have to sign up to use it. But they plan to eventually offer two levels -- the free version which will do the basic stuff like resizing, cropping, sharpening, converting to black and white, etc. -- and the premium version (I didn't see how much that would cost) to use the more creative effects.

Picnik is also working with other vendors, like Flickr, Picasa, and Facebook. (Wouldn't it be fantastic if they dovetailed into Blogger, too?) They have a forum where you can post questions, tips, and suggestions. They also do a blog.

If you don't already have an image software that you like, or you have it on one computer but not another, give Picnik a try. Heck, give it a try just to use some of the effects like Gooify, Duotone, and Lomo-ish. Play with a picture of yourself or your spouse, not a boring lightbulb, for the most fun.


Rima said...

Nice tip - i hadn't heard of picnik (peacenik?) but I'll definitely give it a try for the Gooify feature.

I love Picasa too, so easy to use and great for organizing and sending pix.

Debi said...

I'd love to hear what features you like best in Picasa, Rima.

Rima said...

Yay for picnik! I just went for a quick walkabout and I was blown away! What a great site - thanks for pointing it out to us.

Picasa is great because you can create web albums that you invite people to see online instead of emailing individual pictures.
The regular editing features (cropping, red-eye reduction, sepia, etc..) are also very easy to use.

But frankly, Picnik blows all of this out of the water, plus they have a very entertaining style. I'm just hoping they're safe because I granted access to all my photos!