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Using Photoshop to Prepare Images for Hubpages
Level: Novice ◊
All right, so you've chosen your topic, you've written your article, so now you need some images. If you want your pictures to look the best they can, it's always a good idea to clean them up and give them some little tweaks before you add them in. This tutorial will give you some easy tips for image preparation.
To begin, you can get a free and safe copy of Photoshop CS2 from the Adobe site. My copy works on Windows 7 without any problems, so don't worry if you've got a newer computer.
If you're completely new to the program, take a quick look at my workspace tutorial. It covers some basic vocabulary and the program layout.
Got it? Good! On to the first step.
How Small is too Small? How Big is Too Big?
Hubpage's full-width size for images is 520 pixels wide, and half-sized is 260 pixels wide. I'd suggest making sure your images are between 600-1000 pixels for full, and 300-400 pixels for half. Why? Because if Hubpages has to resize your image and make it larger (known as sizing up an image), it's going to start showing pixels. And in this case, pixels are bad.
What do we mean by pixels? Well, every digital image is made up of little colored squares known as pixels. When you've got a really big image, you can barely see them. They all blend together nicely. However, when you force a small image to stretch out, then the little squares stretch out, too...and you start seeing them.
You can use Photoshop to make your images larger with a little less pixelation because it has better re-sampling software. But even then, it can't work miracles, so you just can't make a thumbnail into a decent image. So it's always better to start out bigger.
What about this “Too Big” part? Well, even if your image is sized down, if it starts out too big, it'll start affecting your loading time.
- Warning: Before doing anything to an image in Photoshop, make a backup. Especially if it's a picture that you took yourself. You don't want to accidentally save over a family photograph!
If you're like me, you love high-resolution pictures. You have your camera set to take some nice, big files so you have tons of room on your canvas to work. But a 3000 pixel wide image is huge. Depending on the quality and file type, you're looking at half a megabyte or more.
To resize an image in Photoshop, go to “Image >>> Image Size.”
When the new window pops up, enter the pixel size that you want in the Width field. Height should adjust automatically. Hit OK, and your picture will now be the new size.
A Little Bit Off the Top: The Crop Tool
If you've taken your own picture, or even if you've found your picture online, it could probably benefit from a good cropping and cleaning.
The crop tool can be found off to the left side of your workspace, in the toolbox. And going by the name, I'm sure you can guess what it does: it crops your image. Gives it a haircut, as it were.
Now, after my three hundred word lecture on how bigger is better, I'm sure you're wondering why you'd want to do that.
Every picture has a focus. A main point that you want attention drawn to. Something that will make people look.
And so, sometimes, there's parts of your picture that detract from that. Someone in the foreground, or a bit too much of the lawn when you really wanted a picture of your dog, or any number of possibly distracting things. So you crop it out.
To demonstrate how to do that, we'll use this picture of my kitten, who's looking terribly depressed about the whole thing. As you can see, she's adorable. So we want to make sure we enhance how adorable she is. She's the focus of this picture, and there's a lot of non-kitten parts that we can take out.
To prepare for using the crop tool, we're going to zoom out a little bit. You can do that any number of ways (rolling the wheel on your mouse towards you, using the zoom function in the Navigator in the upper-right corner, selecting the zoom tool, holding the Alt button and clicking...), but the point is to get that gray border around the picture. That gives us a bit more freedom to work.
Using the crop tool is really easy. You just click and drag. Everything inside of the dashed lines is what we're keeping, everything outside will be deleted. You can move, resize, and rotate the box as well. The crop won't be applied until you hit Enter.
The result is a nice focus on the kitten and at least a 50% increase in adorableness.
Making it Pop: Levels, Contrast, and Color
Our picture is still a little bland. It's a touch too dark and the colors are dull. We're going to spruce it up and make it shine.
There are a lot of ways to tweak color problems in Photoshop, and they can get very complicated. For the purposes of this tutorial, we're only going to touch on the simplest.
Photoshop gives novice users a very easy way to improve their photographs though the Auto adjustments. If you go to “Image >>> Adjustments” you'll find three options. These options are:
- Auto Levels: This adjusts the level of bright and dark areas in your image to create better contrast between the two. The way it does this is it finds the brightest color and darkest color and changes them to pure white and black respectively, then adjusts the other colors to match. If you have a lot of variation in your image, this is extremely useful. However, it can over-adjust and add or subtract colors you don't want it to.
Auto Contrast: This adjusts the contrast of the overall image, boosting the difference between the brights and darks. It's a gentler tool than Auto Levels, and I recommend always giving it a try.
- Auto Color: This tool can recognize and remove color casts – that is, a single overwhelming color tint in your picture. You can use it to remove color casts that the Auto Levels tool added, or ones that are naturally in your photograph.
This part can be very much a matter of trial and error. Some pictures benefit from all three, some only one or two, and some pictures already have a perfect tonal balance and using the automatic tools can ruin them. Don't be afraid to practice, and keep your undo function handy.
In this particular case, I chose to use only the Auto Contrast function. It didn't make my hand too white, or make the poor kitten look a little green.
Compare the final result with the picture above. A lot clearer and more eye-catching, right?
Nice and Neat: Adding Your Own Border
While you have the option to add a border in the Photo Capsule, you can also add one in Photoshop. The extra black line makes your photo look neater. Light-colored images look especially good when you use this.
Our kitten picture is a bit too dark to really show off the benefits, so we'll use a different one from my library.
There's a pretty good chance that your image is going to show up as a locked background layer. See this tutorial on how to change that so we can edit it.
Once it registers as a layer that you can edit, double-click on it to open the Layer Styles window. There's a lot you can do here, but we're going to concentrate on the Stroke option.
Stroke adds a border around everything on a particular layer, and it gives you plenty of options for how your border will look. For now, though, we're only interested in size, color, and position.
First off, since our picture fills the whole canvas, we'll change the position to be “Inside” so we can actually see the border. You should see a thick red line pop up around your image. Don't worry – in the next step, we're going to adjust that.
One pixel is a good default size for your border. Though, if your picture is exceptionally big, you might want to go to three or even five pixels. Once again, trial and error are key. But if your image is 1000 pixels wide or smaller, stay with a one pixel border.
Secondly, we'll want to change the border to black. You can have other colors, but black gives the image a much cleaner look.
Click on the square labeled “Color” and that will bring up the color picker window. (This tutorial will give you more information on the options in the color picker.) Drag the little circle down to the lower right or left corner to choose black and hit OK twice to set your new layer style.
Congratulations! You have a nice, clean image all ready for your article!
Tips, Tricks, and Troubleshooting
- What keyboard shortcuts should I know?