Showing posts with label Graphics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Graphics. Show all posts

Free Desktop Wallpaper Calendar

The new year is almost here and we all like to have calendars to mark special days and events, so here at SL-Inspiration we have an early Christmas gift for you, a free wallpaper calendar to download and keep. The calendar has lots of features, with images from Second Life to brighten up your PC. You can even create your own calendar to print, as well as add important days and events. Below explains some of what your calendar can do, so read on, take in some of the calendar pics then download your free calendar here.  The file is stored on Google Drive so you can be sure it is free of anything nasty!

Installing The Calendar

To install the calendar first follow the download link then unzip the file. If you don't have any unzip software then you can get the open scource 7zip  here. Once the folder is unzipped, simply double click the installer and you're done.

Using Your Calendar

Once the calendar is installed you'll see at the bottom right of the screen a number of buttons. From left to right they are:
  • Copyright information
  • Print
  • Previous image
  • Next image
  • Digital Photo Recovery
  • Toggle desktop icons
  • Notes
  • Toggle Calendar
  • List images
  • Settings
Most of these buttons are self explanatory but here is a run through of some of the most useful features under Settings.

Design Options

This allows you to select how the calendar will appear on your desktop. There are many options to choose from and below are just two examples. To the left of the Design Options window you can edit the font of the calendar and transparency levels.

A compact calendar that appears to the top right of the screen.

This calendar option runs down the right of the screen. If you don't want the calendar to be constantly visible then remember, you can toggle its visibility.

Images Options

The image options allow you to select which images are shown and the size of the thumbnail for the list images function.

Buttons Options

The buttons options lets you select which buttons appear on the screen.

The Journal Feature

As you would expect with any calendar there is a journal feature, which enables you to mark special dates and appointments. To use the journal click on the relevant date in the calendar and the journal window will appear. The above image shows that you can copy and paste events, create new ones, select the font and colour, and add icons to an entry. Once you have finished adding an entry simply click the close button.

 Printing a Calendar

As well as providing a desktop calendar there is also an option to print your own using your favourite image. Simply use the arrows to find the image you want to use then hit the print button. A window similar to the image above will appear where you can select the format for your calandar. There are plenty to choose from. When you are ready hit the Print button to the top right of the window.

Hiding The Calendar

If you find you don't want the images on your screen all of the time, it is easy to revert to your previous screen appearance. Click the Windows icon to the bottom left of your screen then select Settings.

Now click the Personalization option and a window similar to below will appear.

Click on the background you want for your screen. When you are ready you can follow the same procedure for when you want your calendar to appear again.

If you want to uninstall your calendar at any time go to Control Panel, then Uninstall or Change Program, and select ePix Calendar.

We hope you enjoy using this calendar and if so why not have a go at creating your own, for yourself and to share by clicking the 'Powered by ArtPlus' icon. Merry Christmas to all and a happy New Year!
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An Introduction To Paint.Net

When people begin working with images in Second Life they are often new to graphics editing, so the more complicated software options can seem both daunting and expensive. Rather than over enthusiastically jumping into the deep end, a good programme to start with whilst learning the basics of image manipulation is the free to download and use Paint.Net. 

Since Paint.Net is not as complex as other graphics software such as Photoshop or Gimp it can be much easier and more intuitive for the novice to work with. Because of this, editing techniques can first be quickly learned in Paint.Net and later transferred to other applications that have a steeper learning curve.

This tutorial is intended for those completely new to image editing and will explain the basics of working with an image in Paint.Net. It will cover what any Second Life image creator needs to know to improve the quality of their pictures, and will explain how to open an image, edit its brightness and contrast, its colour saturation, and how to crop the image. Finally, we'll cover how to Save the edited image.

If you haven't installed Paint.Net yet you can download it here. You may also need to install the latest version of .NET Framework. Paint.Net needs this to run, and it isn't malware, so there's no need to be wary when asked to download it. Once its installed .Net Framework can be left and forgotten, and it won't harm your PC.

Paint.Net Layout and Tools

When Paint.Net is opened it will look something like the above image. The white area is where your image will appear and the grey area is the canvas. The three windows within the canvas area can be moved around to avoid getting in the way, and they can also be dragged outside of the canvas area. Above the canvas area are two button bars, and the essentials of these will also be explained.

The Colour Window

Use this to add colour to a shape, text or fill an entire layer. The lower part of the window has a series of preset colours, whilst the wheel can be used to choose a more specific colour. The Black and white squares to the upper left show the foreground and background colours. Clicking on a colour will make it the active colour.

The Layers Window

Learning to work with layers should become second nature when editing images. Use one layer to complete one task, and another layer for the next task. For example, if you wanted an image to have text, add the text on a separate layer to the original image. It makes correcting mistakes much easier.

Areas of the Layers window have been colour coded here:
  • Red: Click this to add a new layer
  • Blue: Delete a layer
  • Yellow: Duplicate a layer
  • Green: Merge layers
  • Orange: The tick box hides/shows a layer
The active layer will be highlighted in blue. To select a layer to work on click it in the layer window.

The Toolbox Window

Like the Layers Window, the main features of the Toolbox Window have been highlighted in colours. Only the few tools relevant to this tutorial will be mentioned here, but to get an idea of what the others do, hover your cursor over them in Paint.Net and a tooltip will appear.

  • Red: Rectangle Select 
  •  Purple: Move
  • Yellow: Ellipse select
  • Green: Zoom. Enlarge the view of the image.
The shapes at the bottom of the Toolbox window indicate shapes that can be drawn in the image area.  Select and drag your mouse to draw a shape.

The Button Bars

Again, only the buttons relevant to this tutorial have been highlighted here. Most of the other buttons will give an idea of their function by hovering the cursor over them so a tooltip appears.
  • Red: Open a new window to start work on a new project. When clicked a small window will appear so the size of the new image window can be selected.
  • Blue: Opens a window that allows you to navigate to  a picture on your hard drive so it can be opened in Paint.Net.
  • Green: Saves the image. If you do not want the edited image to overwrite the original image select File > Save As (Ctrl+Shift+S) and in the window that opens enter a new name.
  • Dark Blue: These are the standard cut, copy and paste tools most software has.
  • Purple: Crop. Allows you to trim the image.
  • Brown: Deselects any part of the image that may be selected. 

Image Editing 

Now that we have described what some of the basic tools do, we can put them to use to edit and save an image.

1/ Click the Open icon in the buttons menu and navigate to the image you want to work on. Alternatively select File >  Open (Ctrl+O).

A window will appear that will enable you to navigate to the image on your hard drive, (in pretty much the same way any software allows you to navigate to a file you want to open). Once you find the image click on it, then hit the window's Open button.

Cropping The Image

2/ The first thing we're going to do is crop the image. This is a way of removing the part of an image we don't want to improve the framing of the subject matter, which is a fundamental part of good photography and image editing. Click the Rectangle Select tool from the Toolbox (highlighted in red) then drag your cursor over the image, roughly framing the area you want to keep

3/ The selected area of the image will be blue-ish with a marching border. Select the Move Selection icon from the toolbar, (highlighted in purple). Now the edges of the blue selected area can be positioned more accurately. Move the cursor over the border of the selection, hold down the left mouse button then drag the edge into place. Do this with all four border edges.

4/ When you are satisfied with the placement of the edges hit the crop icon on the buttons menu (highlighted in purple). The image has now been cropped. If you don't like the look of the cropped image hit Edit > Undo (Ctrl + Z) and try again.

Adjusting Brightness and Contrast

It seems to be a common problem that snapshots taken in Second Life tend to be too dull, but this can be quickly fixed with the brightness and contrast controls in Paint.Net.

5/ Above the Button Menus hit Adjustments > Brightness/ Contrast (Ctrl + Shift + T). A window similar to the above will open. Simply drag the sliders to the right or left until you get the levels you like. Then hit OK.

6/ Another method which is generally considered better practice than using the Brightness and Contrast tool is to use Curves.  Hit Adjustments > Curves (Ctrl + Shift + M) and a window similar to the above will open.

7/ Grab a point on the diagonal line and drag it subtly to the left to brighten the image. Grab another point on the line and drag it to the right to add contrast. Click OK when you are done.


8/ If the colours in your image look a little dull then their saturation can be tweaked. Hit Adjustments > Hue/Saturation (Ctrl + Shift + U), and a window similar to the above will open.

9/ To adjust the colour of the image move the Saturation slider to the left or the right a little. Moving it to the right will increase colour saturation.

Moving the Lightness slider will of course change the lightness of the colours, and the Hue slider will change the values of the colours, probably not in a very pleasing way.

10/ When you are ready, hit OK.

Resizing The Image 

Once you are happy with how your image looks it may need resizing, especially if it is going to be uploaded to Second Life. Its just as well to keep in mind that Second Life resizes images by a factor of 128px, 256px then 512px and 1024px. An image as large as 2048px can be uploaded to Second Life although it will be resized to 1024px. Anything larger than 2048px can't be uploaded.

The proportions of your picture should also be considered. For instance, if your image is 1024px X 800px, when its uploaded to Second Life it will be automatically resized to 1024px X 512px. An image will always be resized to the nearest 512px, so your original 1024px by 800px image is going to look odd at 1024px X 512px.

To resize your image hit Image > Resize (Ctrl +R), then in the window that opens, add the width and height in pixels in the spaces provided. Then hit OK.

Its worth mentioning here that whilst an image can be reduced in size, trying to increase its size will result in a terrible looking picture.

Saving The Image

11/ Once you have finished editing the image it can be saved to your hard drive. To do this hit File > Save As (Ctrl + Shift + S). In the window that opens you can navigate to the folder you want to save the image to and name it. Below the space where you name the image, there is a drop down menu of file extensions.

12/ Selecting .pdn will save your project as a Paint.Net file, which means it can be reopened in Paint.Net later so you can carry on working on the image from where you left off. In fact it is important to save your work in this way regularly, so that if anything goes wrong, such as your PC crashing, your work will not be lost. It also gives you the opportunity to go back and make other changes to the image at a later time.

Once your image has been saved as a Paint.Net file in this way hitting the Save icon in the buttons menu again will re-save your work along with any changes.

To save the file as a completed image hit Save As and from the drop down menu of file extensions choose an image extension rather than the Paint.Net file extension.

A Note On Image File Extensions

The three most useful file extensions for Second Life are BMP, PNG, and JPEG. Some creators save clothing texures as TGA Files, but I see very little advantage of this over PNG.

BMP is a lossless file format which really should not be used if the image is going to be uploaded to Second Life (except perhaps for artwork), because the file size will be huge and will contribute considerably to sim lag issues. For similar reasons this format is also of limited use for websites.

The BMP file format is still very useful however. For example, when I save snapshots from Second Life to my hard drive this is the format I choose, because it provides high quality images as a starting point for any editing I may want to do.

PNG. This is a good compromise on the BMP file extension as the images in this format will remain good quality, and along with being mindful of image size, it can be useful in helping to moderate lag on a Second Life sim.

JPEG. This is pretty much the old work horse file extension for websites etc. Its a good choice where the highest quality image isn't a priority, even though the average JPEG image will still look pretty good. JPEGs are good for general event posters in SL and for websites. Even so, my file extension of choice remains PNG and its the one I use for most projects.

Returning to the Save procedure, after naming the image and selecting a file extension another window will open, and how this looks will depend on the file format. However, at this point its all very intuitive, so when you're ready hit OK and your image will be saved to your hard drive.

Hopefully, this quick tutorial will help those new to image editing to get started as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Paint.Net may not be as feature rich as for example Photoshop and Gimp but it is nevertheless a good application to have at hand, especially for those quick tasks.
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Creating Animated Gifs For Second Life

animated gif tutorial on SL-Inspiration

Most Second Life residents have seen scripted animated  gif images of dancing mice or frogs and the such like, and whilst they serve their purpose they can be of poor quality and can cause lag. There is another way however of creating animated gifs for Second Life that bypasses the lag issue, and that is to use media on a prim.

In this tutorial I will show how to create an animated gif using Gimp and how to add the animation to a prim.

Creating The Animation

Before creating a gif animation you will need a short video to convert into a series of images that can be loaded into Gimp. The process of turning the video into a series of images will need movie editing software, but if you have made the video yourself you probably already have software you can use.

If you are going to source a video from elsewhere then you need to be sure you are not in breach of copyright regulations. Having said that Youtube videos are often used for this purpose and there are a number of websites that can be used to transform them into animated gifs. These sites include;

Because I wanted to create a series of arty animated gifs I used software called Whorled which is freeware. Whorled was designed to create animated sacred geometry images but it works very well, at least for my purposes. It also contains the options of saving the animations as avi files or to save each frame as a bitmap.

Using Gimp To Create The Gif File

 Once you have converted the video into a series of images they can be loaded into Gimp.

1/ Start up Gimp and then select File > Open as Layers. Browse to the folder containing the converted video images and select the first. Scroll down to the last image and holding down Shift click the last one. All the images should now be selected. Click Open. All the images should now load into Gimp, which may take a while.

2/ Now that the images are all in Gimp, select File > Export As. In the window that opens give the file a name with the extension gif:

3/ A window similar to the above will open, and you will need to make the same selections that are shown here. Click Export. Don't worry if Gimp seems to hang at this point because it might take a while for it to create the gif file. Finally, you will have your animated gif file.

Before showing the animated gif in Second Life you will need to find a reliable web host to upload it to. For my animated gifs I uploaded them to Blogger.

Once the gif file has been uploaded, view the page then right click on the image to copy its url. Now click on Copy Image Location from the drop down menu. You will later need to add this to a prim in Second Life.

Adding The Gif Animation To A Prim In Second Life

1/ Start up your Second Life viewer and go to a place where you can build. Rez a cube prim and resize it to your liking.

2/ Go back into edit, and in the edit pane click on Select Face then click on one side of the prim.

3/ Under the Texture Tab click on the dropdown tab which should either show as Materials or Media. You need to have the Media option selected (highlighted in red above).

4/ Under the Media tab select Choose and another window will open. At the top of this window paste the url of the gif image, then click Apply and OK. Your animated gif should now appear on the face of the prim.

Adjusting The Appearance Of The Gif On The Prim Face

You may find the gif image only takes up part of the prim face, but you can change this by altering the horizontal and vertical scales under the Texture tab in the edit pane. A scale of 0.4 worked well for me. You may also need to adjust the vertical and horizontal offset, again under the Texture tab.

If you want to hide the Control Bar and disable navigation and interactivity (which I think looks more professional) you can do this under the Customize tab in the Media Settings window.

This is all there is to adding an animated gif to a face of a prim in Second Life. You will find this method causes much less lag than the scripted method, although it may take a second or two for the gif to appear. Residents will also need to use a viewer that enables media on a prim, and have the option activated.

Creating animated gifs isn't just about having a dancing mouse in your in-word store window, but it is an art form in its own right. Its an area where you can let your imagination run freely and just to prove it Google animated gifs and you will find plenty of fantastic examples.

You can see more of my animated gifs on my other blog Lusus-art.

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Creating Textures With PatternCooler

Creating Textures With PatternCooler

The free online Patterncooler software created by Harvey Rayner is a remarkable tool for creating seamless patterns to use as backgrounds on blogs, web and graphic design projects, wallpapers, and of course textures for Second Life.

Getting Started

Because Patterncooler offers so many variations, it can be difficult to know where to get started, so after clicking the centre of the screen to open the Patterncooler interface, the best option seems to be to select a texture thumbnail at random and experiment.

Once you see how this works, you can also click on the 'Show color variations as thumbs' tab, which will allow you to edit the colours of the texture in the main window.

The Pattern Spread App

Creating Textures With PatternCooler

Patterncooler allows another way to work with textures other than the method above. Next to the Patterncooler logo is a white inverted arrow. Hover your cursor over this and from the drop down menu select Pattern Spread App. You will then be presented with a number of galleries of textures. Once you have selected a texture to work with, a window similar to the image above will open.

Under the Pattern Spread App, each texture is constructed of a number of layers of patterns. Each layer can be edited and new ones can be added and existing ones removed, by using the '+' or 'X' buttons next to each pattern. It is also possible to edit the size of each pattern on the texture as well as its colour values.

Registering With Patterncooler

Another option offered to users of Patterncooler is to register with the site, which will enable you to save projects and come back to them later as well as adding them to the gallery. You will also be able to view what textures you have downloaded, which all helps to make this app much more user friendly.

One of the remarkable aspects of Patterncooler is that it is free to use and that you can use the patterns you download pretty much as you like. However, depending on what the pattern will be used for, there is an option to pay for each download which allows for a better quality images. Also there is a donate button which I think is worth using considering everything Patterncooler offers its users.

This is a basic run through of what Patterncooler can do, so its worth taking a look and seeing just how useful a tool it is for creating online patterns for blogs and websites, and possibly textures to use in Second Life.

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