A Tutorial on the Basics of Using the Free GIMP Photo Editor, or Creating Graphics with Doc Files
If you make and sell products at farmers' markets, craft fairs, and for retail stores, an attractive, professional looking label is a valuable marketing tool.
I think most crafters really struggle with labeling, especially when they first transition into actually selling their products.
When I first began selling soap, I found labeling so problematic that I considered just selling "naked" soaps. The problem with this: You customer will find your product far more appealing if it's labeled "lavender," "rose," "honeysuckle," patchouli," or...whatever the scent. They will especially prefer an attractive label if the soap is for gift-giving, and for people with allergies or other concerns, an ingredients label is essential--and sometimes a legal requirement.
While people may (reluctantly) accept "naked" soap, products sold in jars are bottles will be difficult or impossible to market.
Do You HAVE To Use a Photo Editor To Create Labels?
If you are a beginner, you may want to start out by creating simple labels that you can make simply by typing your desired text into a document file. This is the easiest way to make labels. They can even be pretty fancy: You can use unique fonts and use a variety of font colors, if you don't mind printing in full color. You can create borders using specialized fonts. And you can print on colored card stock or textured papers, to make your labels distinctive.
In other words, there are several ways of making labels, ranging from pretty easy to pretty hard. Here are the different ways of going about it:
MAKE LABELS WITH DOCUMENT FILES
Type your label into a document file. Use some portion of the label to list ingredients. For soaps and many other products, thin "cigar band" labels work well and will allow you to fit around ten labels on an 8 1/2" X 11" page.
MAKE LABELS WITH DOCUMENT FILES AND CONVERT THEM TO JPG FILES
Jpg files are easier to work with in some ways than document files. You can quickly copy and paste them to fill a page, and you can copy and paste one jpg file onto another. Once a jpg file has been copied and pasted into a doc file, you can manipulate it in a variety of ways, such as adding colored borders and inverting colors.
One advantage: If your product is almost always made using the same recipe, varied only by fragrance, you can create a single all-purpose ingredients label that can be used on all your products. Many soap makers use only one or two recipes for their soaps. Only the fragrance varies, and on the ingredients label, you need only list "fragrance."
If you create a separate ingredients label and convert it to a jpg file, it can be copied and pasted onto all the labels you make. The only hitch to this is that you'll have to convert the new soap label to a jpg file before you paste the ingredients label on it. Otherwise, inserting the jpg ingredients file will cause the text in the underlying label to fly all over the place. If both are jpg files, everything stays put.
USE THE GIMP PHOTO EDITOR!
Using GIMP will probably seem very complex at first, but using a photo editor allows almost infinite creativity in making labels and other graphics.
In order to upload a file to GIMP, it must first be converted to a jpg file. Once you have loaded your jpg file into GIMP, the photo editor allows you to manipulate it in myriad ways. While I am by no means an expert, I can show you some of the basics for creating fancy labels and other graphic designs!
I will walk you through all three of these approaches. We'll start with the easiest and then move to the harder approach, and finally to using GIMP.
Borders, Fancy Fonts, Colored Text, and Metallic Paper
MAKING LABELS WITH DOCUMENT FILES
Perfectly acceptable labels can be made using a document file. You can use a variety of fonts and add design elements by using specialized fonts.
Since I make soaps and cosmetic products, I like to use a floral icons in my designs. One of my favorite fonts for this is the WWFloralcorner font. This font can be downloaded for free here: http://www.fontspace.com/windwalker64/wwfloralcorner.
Yes! You can download a nearly endless variety of fonts for free! There are many that are suitable for adding borders on labels.
You could definitely create a label like the one shown below, using only a doc file.
Before you begin designing your label, you will probably want to reduce all the margins on your document page to zero. Click on Format, select Page, and reduce all margins to zero. For my soaps, almost all labels need to be 8 1/2 inches wide. For smaller soaps or containers requiring a smaller label, be sure to measure. That way you can arrange the text so that you can trim the ends of the label, if necessary.
To make a border, type in a letter from a floral font repeatedly. (For example, the lower-case letter "t" in the Floral Corners font will give you an image that looks like a peony--or maybe it's a rose. Who knows?) Then center the text in your selected font (or fonts).
When designing your text, you can choose from many different font colors, too! When you have finished designing your label, copy and paste it until you have filled an entire page, as shown below.
Now, if you want, you can print out your labels on colored card stock or on many types of fancy card stock. I like to use metallic card stock for its lovely sheen. You may prefer parchment or other more rustic looking papers.
Your Document Will Look Kind of Like This One
Printing and Cutting Out Labels
You are now ready to print out the finished page on card stock.
When you are ready to cut out your labels, it is very helpful to use a card cutter. I use a Fiskars card cutter. They are inexpensive and available a Wal-Mart.
This labels shown above don't show ingredients, but you can type them into the label, if you wish.
MAKING LABELS USING JPG FILES
Once you have created a label using a document file, you can convert it to a jpg file. This makes it easier to copy and paste into a doc file, plus it allows for some editing, once it's pasted into a doc file. For example, you can invert the image to create white lettering on a dark background, add colored borders, and do several other things.
One big advantage is that you can copy and paste jpg files into other jpg files. This means you can make your ingredients label one time, and and copy and paste it into all the new labels you create. This works well if you are a soap maker and use only one or two recipes for all your soaps. If the only difference between dozens of different batches of soap is the fragrance (and maybe the colors). Why re-type the ingredients list every time you label a new batch of soap? Just list "fragrance" on a generic, all-purpose label that you keep filed away where it will be handy. Copy and paste it onto all the labels you make for new batches of soap.
You will need to convert both the main label and the ingredients label to jpg files. I've illustrated the reason for this below.
- Type your ingredients into a doc file, so that it looks pretty much the way you want it to look after it's pasted onto a label, that is, as a block of type. Save the doc file as a pdf file. (There should be an icon at the top of the page for that.)
- Now use an online file converter to convert a pdf file to a jpg file. I use the Zamzar online file converter. To find it, do a Google search for "convert pdf to jpg." If you choose Zamzar it will walk you through the file-conversion process--which doesn't take long.
- After you have converted the ingredients label to a jpg file, open the jpg file for editing.
- Use the selection tool to select the text.
- Copy the selected text.
- Open the doc file of your page of labels (like the one illustrated above) and paste in the ingredients label on each of the labels on your page.
Selecting and Copying the JPG Image
Here's Why You Need To Convert the Main Label to a JPG File Before Pasting a JPG File Into It
See the Problem?
If you copy and paste a jpg file into text, the jpg file kind of elbows its way in and rearranges the text. So the text gets moved around every which way.
You can avoid this by first converting the main label to a jpg file and copying and pasting it about ten times, till it fills up a full page of a doc file.
NOW, copy and paste the ingredients jpg onto each of the main labels.
If you do it this way, inserting the jpg file of ingredients won't mess up your text.
It will look like the picture below.
JPG Files Copied and Paste Into Other JPG Files
WHY Am I Doing This? Isn't This Just a Silly Waste of Time?
Right now, you are probably thinking, "This woman is insane! Why on God's green earth would I want to convert all these doc files to pdf files, so I can convert them to jpg files, so I can copy and paste them into doc files?"
It's almost like I can read your mind!
Well, the actual reason is that, once both the main label and the ingredients labels have been converted to jpg files, you can do all kind of cool things with them!
Each item in this doc file is a separate jpg file. You can click on each jpg file to manipulate it in several ways.
- You can put a border around the main label, as well as the ingredients label. You can choose colors for these borders.
- If you select a jpg image (by clicking on it) you can use the magic wand at the top of your screen to do several things: You can invert the image to get white text on a black background, you can convert the image to a charcoal sketch, age the image, or convert it to a relief image, plus some other things.
In the illustration below, you can see what I've done with the doc file shown above.
These JPG Files Have Been Manupulated Using Tools in the Document File
MAKING LABELS WITH THE GIMP PHOTO EDITOR
I would like to stress here that I am not an expert in graphic arts software. But I have learned enough that I can help you get started.
You could view this as a mini-tutorial on how to use the GIMP photo editor. Once you have experimented with it awhile, it will become clear that a full tutorial would be impossible. GIMP editing tools can perform hundreds of functions. I don't even know about most of them
With GIMP, there are at least three ways to begin--and probably several others I don't know about. To work with an image in GIMP, you must first convert it to a jpg file.
Now let's load the image into GIMP.
For some operating systems, if you right click on the file, the drop-down menu will include the option "Edit with GIMP." For other operating systems, you must open GIMP and then drag and drop the file into the GIMP image area. GIMP will ask you to convert the file, which you should do.
Here are some ways to begin:
- You have all those jpg labels and jpg ingredients files all made up, right? If you load one of these into GIMP, you will be able to do all kinds of interesting things to it.
- If you have an existing jpg file with some blank space on it, you can load this into GIMP and select the area of empty space, giving you a completely clean slate to work with.
- You can download an open source image and load it into GIMP. The open source image you choose will be the background for your text and any embellishments, such as borders.
First Order of Business: Resizing and Cropping the Image
Is the image too small? Too large?
To increase or decrease the size of the image, go to View>Zoom and select the percentage you want. See the first illustration below.
To crop an image in GIMP, go to Tools>Transform Tools>Crop, as shown below.
Now select the image area you want and click on it. See the second illustration below.
Zoom In Or Out
Select and Crop the Image
Now that you have clicked on Tools>Transform Tools>Crop, you can select the portion of the image you want to work with, as shown in the illustration below.
Now click on the selection.
Select Image Area and Click on It
METHOD I: Loading an Existing JPG File into GIMP
Now we have an image of a single label. You might want to save it.
You can now edit this image (which is already in GIMP).
If you would like to work with a different image, drag and drop an existing jpg file into GIMP.
Resize the Selected Image as Needed
Use the Colorfy Tool To Color the Whole Image
Probably the first thing you will want to do is to change the colors of your image. But you will notice right away that if you go to the Color menu and select Color Balance, nothing happens. Nothing happens if you select Hue-Saturation either. Nor does anything happen if you select Colorize.
But if you look further down the drop-down menu, you will see Colorfy. This will change the background color of your image. You can select a custom color.
While I suppose it is pretty cool to be able to select a background color, this is probably considerably more tame than what you had in mind.
But here's something else we can do: Click on colors and select Map, and then select Alien Map from the drop down menu.
The image below is one of the many possible results.
We can see that, in this case, the result of Alien Map is not very attractive. So we're going to fade Alien Map.
To do this, click on Edit and select Fade Alien Map from the drop-down menu.
Choosing Fade Options
The illustration below shows that we have quite an array of choices as to HOW we are going to Fade Alien Map.
You can see, too, that Alien Map can be faded anywhere from 0-100%. So we have lots of stuff to play with.
I wanted you to see this, because many, if not most, of the editing functions in GIMP allow you to Fade the edit--and you can Fade the edit in all these ways.
Any time you do an edit in GIMP, it is interesting and useful to look at all the ways you can Fade it--sometimes just reducing the percentage, and sometimes using the many options.
The Percentage Option in Fade
Let's go with Value for 80%.
Now lets play with the colors. Click on Colors and select Color Balance in the drop-down menu.
Notice that the Color Balance dialogue box allows you to select from Highlights, Midtones, and Shadows. Changes can be made to the color balance of all three of these elements of the image, each giving different results. This is fun to play with.
In the dialogue box, click on Highlights. Now max out the red and yellow.
Let's adjust the Brightness-Contrast, on the Colors drop-down menu.
Undo History--When We Realize Things Have Gone Sideways
Looking at the last few edits, we see that our image now looks like crap.
We realize that where we went wrong was with the Alien Map--and possibly even with the Colorfy.
So we will have to restore the image to what it looked like before.
To do this we go to Edit and select Undo History.
Notice that you can view every change you have made to the image. You can select and save each image retroactively--and then select subsequent images again.
If you select a previous image, all subsequent revisions will remain in the Undo History Menu for you to access again--as long as you do no make any changes to a previous image you have selected. As soon as you select a prior image and change it, all subsequent images will be lost.
BUT, as long as you make no changes, you can go through the Undo History Menu and save each image, and then return to your final image, or any of the other images, and recommence editing.
In this case, we are going to go all the way back to the original plain-text image.
I selected the original image from the Undo History Menu and clicked the X to close the Undo History Menu.
This time let's do something cool.
Let's add a background to our text.
Click on Filters, select Render>Clouds>Difference Clouds, as shown in the illustration below.
Render Difference Clouds
Annnd.... Here's what we get when we Render Difference Clouds. (Shown below.)
Notice all the different ways you can alter the Difference Clouds.
It's also fun to see what happens if you sharpen Difference Clouds to 99%. (Photos often come out very cool when sharpened to the maximum, if your camera has a lot of megapixels, at least.)
A Series of Edits, Illustrated
Now let's play with this image. Here are some of the ways we will edit it:
And more...as illustrated below....
I am just going to run through a series of changes here, without going into detail. But you should be able to see how each was done by looking at the illustration.
Color Balance Again
Final Label--After Some Additional Color Balancing
METHOD II: Loading a Blank Image Area into GIMP
With this method, we are going to start with a plain white space: No text, no background, no graphics. Nothing at all.
If you have a jpg file with some blank space in it, you can load the file and select the blank space. Or you can just load a jpg file of a blank page.
Use GIMP to select the appropriate size image area. (If you are making labels, select an area that is the right size and shape for labels.)
Render Difference Clouds
Now go to Filters>Render>Clouds>Difference Clouds, as illustrated in the previous section.
You image area now has a background of clouds.
Clouds Rendered on Blank Image
Before we do anything else with this image, we are going to create a new layer.
The reason for creating a new layer is that it allows us to make changes in different parts of the image independently of other parts.
Here, by making a new layer after adding Difference Clouds, we will be able to go back later and change the colors of the difference clouds, lighten them, sharpen them, etc., without changing the colors of the next layer--in this case, the text. We will also be able to change the colors of the text without changing the colors of the background Difference Clouds.
Choose Options for New Layer
Adding Text Within GIMP
Adding text within GIMP takes some practice. There are all kinds of little oddball finicky details that will only come to your attention through practice.
I will try to point out some of them as we go along.
To create text to add to your image, click on Tools>Text, as shown in the first illustration below.
You will then have to put in a text box, in the same way that you would use a selection tool, as shown in the second illustration below.
Finicky detail: Look at the numbers at the top of the screen, and the little arrow that shows where your cursor is. Since you will probably want to center your text in your image, center the text box on your image. Also, if you place your text box as shown in the second image below, it will allow you to figure out whether your text is centered within the text box. The center of the text box in the illustration below is at 1250.
Draw (Select) Text Box
Typing in Text and Selecting Fonts for Text
It is really hard to explain how you type in text and select fonts. The process is very strange.
Begin by clicking in the text box and the typing the letter "t" in lower case.
Now, select the letter "t" as shown in the illustration below. (The "t" is very small, in the upper left hand corner of the text box.)
Type in the Letter "t" and Select It
Selecting the Typeface for the Letter "t" You Just Put In and Enlarging It So You Can See It
You will notice that the letter "t" you just typed in is microscopically small and--if you could see it--it would be in a plain vanilla sans-serif font.
We are going to change the font and change the size of the type.
To change the font, select the letter "t", as shown in the first illustration below.
Now select "Sans" in the box above your text box.
Type the letter "w" in that box. A drop-down menu will appear, showing all the fonts in your computer whose names start with a "w".
This operation is illustrated in the second illustration below.
NOTE: You will not have the WWFloralCorner font in your computer, unless you downloaded and installed it. In that case, you could choose another font by typing in a single letter and seeing what turns up in the drop-down list. Wingdings or Webdings will probably give you a cute little icon, but an ordinary letter will do for practice.
One of the sometimes frustrating things about GIMP is that when selecting a font, you must know the name of it--or at least the first letter.
Your tiny little letter "t" will now turn into a tiny little peony.
In the box above your text box, increase the font size to 100.
Select "Sans" (existing typeface), Type in a "W" and Select WWFloralCorner
Letter "t" Turned Into a Peony and Enlarged
Adding a Second Line of Text
Finicky detail: To add another line of text, you will pretty much have to type it in the WWFloralCorner font (or whichever one you chose), select it, and then change the font in the same way you did above--by selecting it and typing in the first letter of your next font choice.
Maybe I'm not wise to all the ways of GIMP, but that's the only way I've ever been able to do it.
So--press Enter and type in the text you want for your second line of type.
I typed in BATH SOAP.
I then selected the string of Floral Corner images I got, as shown below.
Second Line of Text Typed In, Appearing in the Floral Corner Font, and Selected
Select WWFloralCorner, Type in the Letter "E", and Choose Eid-al-Fitr from the Drop-Down Menu
Now, select WWFloralCorner (or whatever font you put in there). Type the letter "e" and select Eid-al-Fitr from the drop-down menu.
Since you probably don't have Eid-al-Fitr in your computer, choose a different font that starts with the letter "e".
In the illustration below, you can see that the font has now been changed to Eid-al-Fitr.
The Font of the Second Line of Text Has Been Changed
Centering Your New Text
Now let's center this text.
Place the cursor to the left of the text and use the tab key and/or space bar to move it over to the center.
Check for centering by looking at the numbers at the top of the page. If you made the text box with the left edge at 750 and the right edge at 1750, as suggested earlier, then the center of your text box is at 1250.
Move the cursor so that it is at the center of your text (as best you can tell), and center the text under the 1250 number.
To move the text down, hover the cursor over the top line of the text box till you see the arrow and move the top line of the text box down till text is vertically centered.
Selecting Text Color
To select the text color, highlight the text and click on the little black box. Choose a color and click OK.
Selecting Text Color
Adding Color Variation to the Text
Now let's do something interesting with the text.
Click on Filters>Enhance>Unsharp Mask, as shown in the first illustration below.
In the Unsharp Mask dialog box, manipulate the image till you get saturation variations in the text (some portions of text will appear lighter than others), as shown in the second illustration below.
Create Saturation Variation in Text
Change the Color of Text
Now, if you want, you can change the color of the text.
First, select text.
Click on Color>Hue-Saturation.
Slide the Hue selector around until you decide on a color.
Change Lightness and Saturation as desired.
The two illustrations below show the text in two different colors.
Change the Color of the Text
Change the Color of the Text to Purple--or Any Other Color
To work on the background, we need to switch layers.
Click on Layer>Stack>Select Bottom Layer, as illustrated below.
Select Bottom Layer
Change Bottom Layer Colors
To change bottom layer colors, click on Colors>Color Balance.
Now you can manipulate the image using Midtones, Shadows, and Highlights.
Try all three to get the background colors you want.
Change Bottom Layer Colors
Now, just for fun, lets use the Alien Map tool.
Click on Colors>Map>Alien Map.
Mess with the settings till you see something you like--or at least something interesting.
As you can see from the illustration below, I went with "something interesting."
Alien Map--Here's Something Interesting
This, while interesting, is, shall we say, "suboptimal."
But we don't have to leave it like this.
Click on Colors>Brightness-Contrast.
Increase the brightness to the maximum.
Do this twice, if necessary. (I know you are not working with an image that is identical to mine.)
You Can Play with This Some More! Sharpen to the Max!
Maybe you are satisfied with this image.
Or maybe you'd like to play with it some more.
Lets sharpen the background all the way up to 99%.
The first illustration shows how.
The second illustration shows the results.
Sharpen to the Maximum
Now this is a little too busy, so let's Fade Sharpen.
Click on Edit>Fade Sharpen.
Select an option from the drop-down menu in the Fade Sharpen dialogue box.
I chose Screen and faded to 40%.
You Can Stop Here or Continue Manipulating the Image
This looks pretty good, so let's stop here.
If you want, you can continue manipulating the image, changing colors and other attributes of both layers.
But you probably want to know how to get rid of that dotted line showing where the text box is.
Click on Layer>Merge Down.
Merge Down to Remove Text Box Line
METHOD III: Load an Existing JPG Image into GIMP To Use for Your Background
If you have--or can find--a photo or jpg image that would make a nice theme for your label, you can load that image into GIMP. Then you can manipulate that image--changing colors and so forth--and then place your text on top of the image.
There are many open-source jpg images available for free online.
Do a Google image search. Type in what you're searching for, such as "bubbles." (Good for soap labels.)
Now click on Images.
Now click on Settings and choose Advanced Search.
Scroll down to the bottom click on Usage Rights. Select "Free to use, share or modify, even commercially."
Click on Advanced Search.
Lots of bubbles there!
Google will now display only those images, which you can download.
Use one of these for your background.
Here Are Some Nice Bubbles
Load Your JPG Image File Into GIMP and Alter It for Your Requirements
Drag and drop the image you have chosen into GIMP.
If you will be using it as a background for text, you will want to make changes.
Many of the possible changes have been covered above, so I won't go over them again.
Here are some that I don't think I covered. I'll put up a few illustrations of some you may find useful.
Gradient Flare with Color Manipulation
This Is Where We Stop for Now
I hope I've given good examples of a few of the things you can do with GIMP.
There is, of course, much more--far to much to cover here.
But I think this is a good overview to help a beginner get started.
So you're on your own, Bernice (to quote Erma Bombeck).