Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Digi-Scrapping for Free: Four Easy Frames

Hello all, here is another entry in my "How To Digi-Scrap For Free" series.

I don't know about you, but back in the "bad old days" when I was scrapping with paper and scissors, adding mattes to my photos was my least favorite part of the craft. It was tedious, tricky, and consumed large amounts of paper. You'll be happy to know that it can be very simple in Gimp, and doesn't consume any more paper than the rest of the hobby! :)
In this tutorial we will demonstrate four different options for framing or matting your photos.

Quick Review: In Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series we covered the basics of Picasa, photo organization, workflow, and where to score free digi-scrap supplies. In Part 4 we (finally) created a very basic scrapbook page using Gimp. In Part 5 we looked at several options for more interesting titles in Gimp.

For this tutorial you will need (at minimum)
* Gimp, downloaded and installed
* A piece of digital patterned paper / cardstock from a downloaded kit (I used one from the "Naturally Free" kit at LivEDesigns)
* A photograph

Getting Started
Just as when designing page titles, I usually find it easiest to border, matte, or frame my photos before placing them on my layout. This tutorial will assume you're doing the same.

Tip: Always crop, color correct, and (most importantly) Resize your photo to the size you'll be using on your layout before adding frames or mattes. Otherwise you will end up with inconsistently sized frames / borders!

Method 1: Adding a Solid Border
This is the simplest possible strategy for bordering your photos, but it provides a very elegant, clean look and I use it all the time.
1. Open your photo and resize it to 4x6 inches (1200x1800 pixels)

2. Choose Select->All from the menu or type Cntrl-a

3. Choose Select->Border

4. In the pop-up, enter a value of 25
The selection will be replaced with a border 25 pixels *on each side* of the original selection. In this case, 1/2 that amount is outside the "canvas" so our border will be just 25 px. (We'll come back to that little fact later.)

5. Using the Bucket Fill tool, fill the selected pixels with white paint.
Simple as that: you have a photo with a nice white border.
Choose Select->All or Cntrl-A, Copy, and paste it into your layout. All done!

Method 2: Adding an "ink pen" border inside your photo
1. As in Method 1, open your photo and resize to 4x6 inches.
2. Also as before, select all (Cntrl-a).
3. From the Select menu, choose "Shrink." In the pop-up, enter a value between 50 and 100 - I chose 100.
You will now have a selection rectangle 100 pixels on each side smaller than your photo.
4. Now, choose Select->Border. This time, enter a smaller value such as 15.
As mentioned in step 4 above, the Border command creates a border the chosen number of pixels to each side of the selection rectangle. In this instance the selection is well inside of the photo "canvas," and so a 15 pixel border will actually be 30 px - wider than the 25 px one we used on the last example.

5. From the Layers palate, create a new layer. Accept the default values.

6. Making sure that the new layer is active, use the Bucket Fill tool to fill the selection with white paint. You now have a nice white outline inside your photo.
7. If desired, choose a layer blend Mode such as "Grain Merge" to allow a portion of the background photo to show through the outline. You can experiment with these modes ss well as the opacity slider to get an effect you like.

Method 3: Matting a photo on patterned paper
1. As in the previous two methods, first crop, color correct, and resize your photo to 4x6 inches.
2. Now, we want to make a 50 px border around our photo.
Under the "Image" menu, choose "Canvas Size."
3. In the pop-up window, make the following changes;
a. to the right of the height and width boxes is a little icon that looks like three links of chain, joined together. Click it to "break" the links apart.
(When joined, this option maintains the same aspect ratio between the current and new height and the width of the canvas. For example, we have a 1200x1800 pixel photo, which is a 2x3 ratio. If I set the new width to 1300, the new height will be autofilled as 1.5 * 1300, which is 1950. However, we want an exactly 50 px border all the way around our photo, so we need to break the link.)
b. Enter 1300 and 1900 respectively.
c. Click the "center" button. The "X" and "Y" offset fields will be auto-filled with 50.
d. Click "OK."
* Tip: Type "Cntrl-e" to automatically resize your Gimp window to show your new canvas.

4. Now you should see your photo centered with 50 px of transparent space on each edge.
Create a new layer in the Layers palate. Accept all defaults.

5. In the Layers palate, drag and drop the new layer underneath the photo layer.

6. Open a piece of patterned paper to use as a matte. On this paper, use the Rectangle Select tool to select a rectangle (at least) 1300x1900 pixels. It doesn't have to be exact, just not smaller.
Chose "Edit->Copy" or Cntrl-c to copy the rectangle.

7. Back in your photo window, make sure the new layer is active.
Choose Edit->Paste or Cntrl-v to paste the patterned paper under your photo.

8. A temporary layer will appear in the layers palate labeled "Floating Selection (Pasted Layer)." Right-click and choose "Anchor Layer." The temporary layer will disappear and the patterned paper will be "pasted" to the new layer beneath the photo.

9. Now, to finish the illusion, click your photo layer to make it active and chose Filters->Light and Shadow->Drop Shadow. Accept the defaults from the pop-up.

10. If desired, click the Shadow layer to make it active and change the Mode to "Grain Merge." This allows the color behind the shadow to show through for a subtly more realistic appearance.

Method 4: Create a chipboard frame on top of your photo
1. This is a cross between method one (simple outline) and method 3 (photo matte).
To get started, follow steps 1-4 from the Simple Outline example to create a 25 px border around the edge of your photo.
Then follow steps 2-4 from the photo matte example to increase the canvas size by 100 px height and width. However, leave the new layer that you create *on top* of your photo.
So when you're done, you will have your photo centered on a canvas with 50 extra px of space on each side, and a border around (and beyond) its edge.

2. Switch to your patterned paper and copy a piece out of it of approximately the same height and width of your photo. (as in step 6 of the photo matte example).

3. Back on your photo, make sure the new layer you created is active. From the Edit menu, chose "Paste Into." The patterned paper will fill your border selection.
4. As before, right click the temporary "Floating Selection" layer in the layer palate and chose "Anchor Layer."

5. Choose Select->None (Cntrl-Shift-A).

6. From the Filters menu, chose Decor->Add Bevel.
Make sure that "work on copy" is Not checked. Chose a bevel depth of 6 to 10.
(If nothing appears to change, go back and make sure nothing is selected.)

7. Add a drop shadow to the frame layer with Filters->Light and Shadow->Drop Shadow.
This is one time you may want to leave the "allow resizing" checkbox selected. Depending on how much space you have left to the bottom and right of your frame, the shadow may be truncated otherwise.

8. Choose Edit->Copy Visible or Cntrl-Shift-C to copy all layers of your finished image. Then paste as a new layer on your scrapbook page.

That's it in a nutshell: four simple ways to get nice, elegant frames, borders, or mattes for your photos. Hope it was helpful!

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