Tuesday, February 23, 2016
How to: use Picmonkey
Picmonkey is one of those invaluable sources, when you're an author who needs to make multiple teaser posters for your book. Pixteller has one feature that I wish Picmonkey had, which I'll cover in a later post : they save your posters, so that you can go back and tweak them later, if necessary. For example, if a month has passed and you suddenly spot a spelling mistake/wrong name/grammar mistake in your teaser, you can go back to Pixteller to change it, without having to remake the entire poster, and effects. Picmonkey can't do that. But it can do so much more...
Unfortunately, most of the options are "Try it and See". Each option looks differently on each image, so please remember that what works on one image might not work on another. This is especially true when taking quality and visibility into account. Some images with detail can become too dark or blurred using certain options.
WARNING: There are two versions of this. The free and the premium. I have access to the premium account and will be showing you what that can do, to cover everything Picmonkey has to offer, but don't worry! If you want to use the free version, the Premium items are marked with their monkey, wearing a crown.
First off, let's start with the menu. It can get a little confusing, if you've never used it before.
Here's a screenshot of their home page:
Now, if you want to add effects and text to a picture, hover over "Edit" and you'll see this -
Then, you simply choose a picture and edit it (as I'll explain how to do later.)
If you choose "Touch Up", you'll see this -
And "Design" will give you this -
"Collage" will show you this -
I know, they all look basically the same. But, they do give you a good idea of what each option will do for you, which is the important part. Also - personally - I've never used Touch Up, because you have all those options within the "Edit" option anyway. "Edit" and "Touch Up" are the only two that are inter-changeable. You can click one and access the options of the other. Also, if you've already chosen a picture you want to adapt and then realise that you really want to use the "Design" blank canvas option, you can do that in "Edit", without leaving and starting from the homepage.
But we'll come back to that later.
Let's choose a picture.
I'm going to choose the "Edit" option, with a picture found on a free-to-use website, Pixabay. Here's the original -
To start, I'm going to show you how to adapt the colour/effects of this picture, to create something unique. Because, let's face it, a free picture of this good quality is going to be snapped up and used by anyone who knows where to look. So whatever you do to it has to make your poster stand out amongst the rest.
This is your basic "Edit" page, but it has a lot of offshoots, so brace yourself for a lot of screenshots. :)
What do these do? Simple and they're mostly self-explanatory, but let's cover them anyway. Click on the box you want (the one with the word and picture) and you'll see the option it offers. NOTE: You can only open one at a time, but feel free to play around with them. The third and fourth buttons from the left, on the grey bar, are the Undo and Redo buttons:
But here's what they do:
Crop - in the drop down menu, they have set sizes. If you know what size you want, try that first. Or you can type in the pixel size you want into the Actual Size boxes. As with all of the options Picmonkey offers, it will only be made if you click "Apply". Don't click it and the picture will go back to how it looked, before you clicked that option box. Or, click "Cancel".
Canvas Color - this is where you can move between editing a picture and starting anew. If your picture isn't going well and you decide it would work better as a layer, then simply click Canvas Color and choose a background colour, then click apply. BUT: This will UNDO anything you've previously done, so be careful with this one.
Sharpen - change the sharpness and clarity of your picture.
Rotate - as it says: you can rotate your image any way you want, but if you want to do in-between options, then you only get that choice on a layer. There's a little circle, when you click on the layer, that allows you to turn it any way you want. This also works for Text, so don't worry about having to use this option for that.
Resize - great, if you know what size you want your picture to be. But be careful - some images can distort and become pixellated if you enlarge or reduce it too much. Always try to keep an eye on the quality of the image.
Exposure - this one is a good option if you have a really dark picture that you want to lighten, but mostly you can do that with effects, so I tend not to use this one too much. As I said before, playing around with the choices will help you become familiar with whether you need to/want to use them or not.
Colors - this is similar to "Exposure". It's not one that you really have to touch, unless you're dealing with a dark/difficult picture, where the colours aren't as clear as you want them. Again, try it and see how you feel about it.
Next, we move on to "Effects", which has a really long list of options that would take way too much space to show here. Feel free to explore to your hearts extent. Here are a few that I love -
You'll have to try most of these for yourself, to see what they do and how the effect changes your image. Some images look great with just one or two effects, some don't need any and some need a lot of work. It's all up to you, at this point.
Here's an example of Orton, then Rapture and Bokeh Shapes (in that order) being used on the sample image:
Next up, we have the "Touch Up" options and "Text", both of which are fairly simple options.
The touch up options are only possible on a picture, not a layer. But we'll come back to that in a minute. That little butterfly logo is where you'll find the layouts, so we'll talk about layers there. But, to make an effect work on a layer, you have to make it part of the overall picture. I'd suggest you do this last, because you can't undo it and then keep moving your layer. So, if you're not entirely sure where you want your layer, wait until you've figured that out, before applying your effect to it.
Also, the text on offer are pretty awesome. Just click the font you want, then click "Add Text" and you'll get a window appearing on your picture, where you can add your text. If you have a font you want to use, already installed on your computer, that Picmonkey don't have, then you have the option to use it, by clicking "Yours". If it doesn't work, you can click "Ours" to go back to the fonts Picmonkey offer.
The Overlays on option are great! You can get stars, hearts, shapes, ribbon, tape and so much more. Explore the options and try them out. You can change the colour, size and effect of each, with the drop down menu provided on each layer.
Each option: Add, Darken etc: will change how the layer appears. If it's not a vector (with a blank background, like this layer) then choose 'darken' and it's likely to make the layer blend into the background image a little better. But it's not a guarantee, so always try the other options and see how it turns out.
To "bind" a layer to the background image, check out the grey bar again.
That little icon, second from the right, is your "combine all image elements" option. This will merge ALL layers, overlays, text and more into the background. That means that, once you merge them, you CANNOT move your text, effects, layers, overlays or anything! So many sure you're certain about what you're doing. It can be undone, but it will undo anything you did after the merge, as well.
If you want, you can merge at different stages, save and then undo the merge.
The "Frames" option is simple, too, so I won't bore you with the details. It goes around the edges of the picture, not in the middle, so if you want a frame in the middle of the picture, perhaps to frame an object or your text, then use the layers/overlays option instead.
Example of a frame:
The last two menus are Textures and Themes, two of my favourites. Not only do they provide unique and brilliant options, to make your images special, but they bundle similar options together, so that they're really easy to find. If you're doing a vampire teaser, then choose the Vampire tab, the same for Witches, Demons etc.
Textures will add the texture to the background of your image, like so. I used the metal option, to make it more obvious as an example. I used the "lighten" choice on the drop down menu, to keep it simple and still show the effect.
There are others that you can use, but now I'm going to show you the Themes options. For this picture, I get a vampire vibe, so I'll use the Vampire tab and use the blood options.
So, now that I've shown you the options for "Edit" and "Touch Up", we'll go ahead and venture into the other two menu items:
"Design" is exactly the same as above, only that you start with a blank canvas and add layers. You can then merge them, when you're ready. There's nothing different about the "Design" option, in terms of the tabs and side menu's. It's all exactly the same.
"Collage" is a different matter altogether. Here's how you start. On this page:
Choose which option you want to use, to get your pictures from. I'll use Computer. In this option, you can choose multiple images to add to your collage. Even if you're not sure about them, you can add them and you don't have to use them all.
I'm going to add a bunch of free-to-use images to an option, to show you. Here's what you'll see:
Now, on the left are your options for changing the layout of the white boxes on the right.
In order, they are:
In Images, you'll see what pictures you've uploaded. When you add one to the collage, it will show a tick in the bottom corner. You also have the option to "Remove Unused" images, if you change your mind, or want to remove images you didn't need.
Layouts, helps you change the number of boxes and the layout of where they sit.
Swatches offer background images that can be placed into the boxes. But, if you add a swatch into a box, you can't add a picture into that same box. And, the swatch will not become a background to your entire collage. Only for the individual box.
Background is where you can expand or limit the spaces between boxes, add a colour to the background, round the edges to the boxes or even make the background transparent (transparent backgrounds are great, if you need a vector)
So, here's your final collage, with the images I uploaded and two of the swatches on offer, as well as a colour background. Once you've done this and saved your design, you can then go back to the main menu, using the white X on the top right corner, and choose the "Edit" option to add text and layers, if needed.
You're done. You have a great image, with text, layers and whatever else you wanted to add. I hope you had fun.
Don't be scared to share your image with us. We'd love to see what you made.