Quick ‘n’ dirty how-tos with MS Paint

When I need to show somebody via email how to do something on the computer, and I need to do it quick, I use Paint rather than GIMP.

If you have a PC with Windows 7, you should have Paint available under the Accessories menu. (All Programs -> Accessories -> Paint).

For each important step or set of steps on a given window, you will want to do the following:

1) Make a screen capture of the window with any options or drop-downs showing. Use the “Print Screen” button on the upper right side of your keyboard. (If your “Print Screen” button isn’t on your keyboard, you’re on your own). Print Screen copies the current screen into the clipboard as an image.

2) Open Paint and press CTRL-V or right click-paste. The screen capture should appear.

3) On the View Tab, click Zoom Out.

4) Click the Home Tab again. Now you should see enough of the window to crop it effectively.

5) Click the Select button. Drag the box to cover the part of the window you want to show, excluding the things you don’t want (like your Windows toolbar and other extraneous stuff). If you don’t get it right the first time, just click anywhere on the image and try Select again.

6) Click Crop. If you don’t like how the image looks, you can Undo by pressing Ctrl-Z or clicking the left-hand arrow at the upper-left part of the screen.

7) Use Paint’s shapes and colors to circle important steps, show arrows, etc. Simply select a color and then a shape, and experiment. Remember you can Undo your experiments.

7) Click on the arrow under Select and click “All”; or, right click on the image and click on Select All.

8) Press Ctrl-C or right click -> copy

9) Go to your email and press Ctrl-V or right-click -> paste to insert the picture into your email.

10) if your email doesn’t allow pictures in the body of the email, you may save the image in Paint and attach the file.

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Make your own beautiful bullet points for posters and more

I did a poster session with another librarian on team teaching.  To design the poster, I used MS PowerPoint with one slide set to the dimensions of the final poster.

I decided to make the poster colorful and visually appealing.  To create the bullet points, I used GIMP. Once you know the steps, it’s easy to make colorful spheres that can be resized to your particular needs.

Start up GIMP and create a new file of square (equal) proportions.  For high quality prints, choose 300 x 300 pixels.

Go to Filter -> Render -> Pattern -> Qbist.

QbistBullet1

You should see a screen similar to this, with randomly generated thumbnails:

QbistBullet2

Click on one of the thumbnails to see more images that are related to the one you chose.  When you’re happy with the one in the center, click OK and GIMP will render the full pattern to the dimensions of your image window.

To turn the image into a sphere, go to Filter -> Map -> Map Object.

QbistBullet3

From the Map to menu, select Sphere.

QbistBullet4

Play around with the settings and click the Preview button to see what they do. Here’s my finished product, which can be resized as needed.

QbistButton5

Creating flyers

A few years ago I was asked to create a flyer advertising our electronic resources that were added in the past year or so.  Sounds simple.  Actually, deciding on content may be the easiest part. Here are some steps in the process, if you’re new to “desktop publishing.”

1) Investigate your printing options.

Can you use the college/university print shop? A copy shop? An in-house printer? Is cost a consideration? Paper type? Color or B&W? Figure this out first before proceeding any further since the options may have a great impact on the finished product.

2) Determine your audience

Is it “all the patrons”?  In that case you’re going to need to simplify jargon. A student-targeted publication might be a little breezier and more light-hearted than something aimed at just faculty.

3) Decide what software to use

Ask your printing crew for advice on what to use.  In my case, the college print shop advised using MS PowerPoint to create the publication and then convert to PDF so the print shop could print without accidentally changing anything.

4) Determine layout and style

I used the style of our library web page as a guide, incorporating similar fonts and colors.  Then I used text boxes to divvy up spaces for electronic resources.

5)  Add some zazz

Here you can get really creative with images and color.  PowerPoint allows you to fiddle-faddle around with graphics.  You can use screen grabs (PrtScrn button, then paste into a graphics editors) to supply images, or simply copy images from vendor web pages. * Yes I have used many vendor graphics in my flyers. Is it abuse of copyright or trademark? Since I’m not trying to make money off their products, rather I’m promoting them, I’m unlikely to get sued. I’m not a lawyer; Your Mileage May Vary.

6) Print out a draft and have it proof-read

After you’ve been working on something for hours, it’s easy to miss typos or other problems. You don’t want to send it off for 300 copies and have them come back looking wonky.

7) Deliver to the print shop, and check the resulting product before distributing

If this is your first time, you may want to ask for a sample before requesting a big order. It will give you confidence in the final product.  Thoroughly check the finished product “just in case”.  Once I found a word had disappeared from the end of a text box. Since it was a one-sheet deal, I was able to run them through an office printer to replace the word (after a lot of adjustment to get the word looking like it was the same font, in the correct place).

7)  Create a blank template for future use

Supposing you have designed a flyer that people like and want you to do more of, it will be helpful to make a blank or template for future “editions.”  Colleagues may want to borrow your design and you can quickly email the blank to them.

Working with graphics part 2

GIMP is a great free program but how do you learn to use it?  For me, I used trial and error, and played around with it until I got to about the intermediate level. I tried every tool and filter, and looked at other menu options.

If you don’t want to use the “stumble around” approach, try the GIMP tutorials.

One very important concept that I didn’t immediately grasp was the concept of “Layers”. Think of layers as transparencies that you can lay one over another. You can work on one layer and add it to another, moving and adjusting layers until you have assembled the picture you want, flatten the image and there’s your picture.

Here’s a YouTube tutorial on GIMP and layers:

Working with graphics

I sometimes make flyers to advertise new electronic resources, or create blog posts for the library.  My favorite software for heavy-duty editing or rendering is the oddly-named GIMP, a freeware knockoff of PhotoShop.

The happy GIMP icon

The happy GIMP icon

You can do a lot with GIMP, from touch-ups to complex editing and pattern rendering.  And, it’s free. I’ve tried PhotoShop on another person’s computer and from my intermediate-level user perspective, the two seem roughly similar. GIMP has a lot of great plug-ins, so you can extend the capabilities of the original.

If you’re interested in downloading GIMP for Windows, try this link: http://gimp-win.sourceforge.net/stable.html

UPDATE: GIMP version 2.8 is difficult to use. I would advise trying to get GIMP 2.6. You can download it at CNET: http://download.cnet.com/GIMP/3000-2192_4-10073935.html