Sunday, October 4, 2009


To make my blog a little more understandable, I wanted to explain the terms I use when I explain my photo edits. I also wanted to indulge you a little on my editing process.

I use the GIMP Image Manipulation Program, which I highly recommend for anyone looking for excellent, reliable, and free image software.

First of all, let me go ahead and say that a very important function to my work is the layer system most image editing programs have. I won't mention layers a lot in my posts, so you can safely assume that most of my edited photos were made using layers. The only time I don't use layers is when I'm simply changing the color of the picture. Anyway, on to the terms!

Layers - for those of you who don't know much about image software, let me briefly sum up layers. Think of layers like glass squares. Each glass square has a different image on it, and when stacked together they create one image out of each individual one. By rearranging the squares you can change the way the image looks. In photo editing software, you start out with one 'glass slide' or base image. Then you can add layers for simple tasks, such as adding a text layer on top of an image, or difficult ones, like graphic design projects.

Gradient - this is a feature used in most every image editing software out there. Basically, a gradient is a series of colors put together to be used with different tools. You can use a gradient for anything from filling in a blank shape to re-coloring a photo. Here's a picture, screen-capped straight from my GIMP software. You can see some of the gradients I custom made in there, too. It's fun creating them to see how they'll look over an image.

Gradient Mapping - basically, using a gradient map, you can change the color scheme of an image. When you use a gradient map, you fist must select a gradient to use. In GIMP, there is a large selection of gradients to choose from, as well as the option to make your own. I usually end up custom designing them, since a lot of the built-in gradients aren't suited for how I prefer to color images.
Basically, with one click, I can change the colors in an image to match the gradient I select. But how do I know which colors will appear where on the photo? I'll explain soon, just keep on reading. :) Here's an example in the meantime.

I start out with this image:

Then I select this gradient to use for gradient mapping:

And here is the result:

You can achieve countless results using gradient mapping. Let me explain how to make gradients and how to know how the image will look once you use a gradient map on it.

Gradients can be very simple, like the example on the left, or very complex.

Basically, you start with one segment (the blue bar with two black arrows and one white arrow). Each segment can hold two colors. For the gradient here, I chose black on the left and basic red on the right. Handily, this gradient editor automatically smooths the two colors together to create a nice transition rather than a choppy one.

Making it further customizable, you can drag the white arrow in the segment to designate how much one color dominates the other. As you can see, I dragged the arrow left to reduce the amount of black and increase the red. 

(This gradient is part of a series I have titled 'blacklife'. Each gradient is made up of one segment, black on the left and one rich color on the right.)

If I were to use this gradient on an image, you would see all the dark tones in the picture become black and the lighter ones red. The color on the left always replaces the image's darker tones, while the right effects lighter tones. The effect is very smooth looking, and, depending on how far left or right you drag the white arrow, you can increase or decrease one color or the other on the image.

Let me give you an example of this.

Using the Blacklife - Cherry gradient, let me show you how an image will turn out depending on how you edit the gradient.

Image Used:

Gradient Used:

(There is more red in the gradient, so there's more red in the image.)

Gradient Variation:

(Notice how the black takes over more of the image.)

See the difference? So, now you can understand how a gradient affects an image depending on how you first edit the gradient.

Now for a last example. This will be a gradient map with a very complex gradient.

Image Used:

Gradient (notice the many, many segments used):


That's all for this tutorial! Hopefully, you can now better understand how I edit my images. Thank you for taking the time to read. I hope it helps! :D


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