Archive | February 16, 2011

How to Photo Manipulation

(From 2007. I could probably do a better one now. Maybe I’ll try some day.)

I am going to endeavor to do this tutorial for both PSP 11 and PSP 9. When there’s only one picture instead of two it’s because the tools/commands etc are in the same location or look pretty much the same. You will notice small differences, but nothing that will complicate matters. Also, this is written for beginners – aka someone who does not even know where the copy button is, so anyone who does might find it kind of long winded. But hey, better safe than sorry, right?

NOTE: PSP 10 is a cross between 9 and 11, so this tutorial will work for it as well

That said we are going to explore the basics of photo manipulation – in this case we will be combining two pictures. A picture of a monkey:

monkeys5 by you.

not mine

And a picture of a computer:

computer2 by you.

still not mine

If you’re attempting this – right click and save those pictures to your computer first thing. We’re going to make this innocent monkey here a net surfing fool in a few easy steps. Okay, I lied. In several easy steps.

I am going to take a moment to give the lecture I have given a couple of people already – *puts on professor hat* image quality is IMPORTANT! You can NOT make a good manip from bad pictures! Pixelated or garbled pictures rarely are useable – you need clear, sharp images – and the bigger the better! Spend some time finding your image. Use Google Image Search and/or Photobucket to find what you need, and don’t be too set in one ideal. Sometimes that one angle just isn’t out there. In that case be ready to adapt a little bit. For instance I saved eight different monkeys and five computers before finding two to match up. The image selection is the first and most important step – always remember that. Also, don;t use any images for ANYTHING commercial – ie that you make money off of – unless you get permission from the owners of the images! And don’t use random people unless you know them, even if it’s just for personal use. *takes off professor hat*

All right, I’m assuming you have PSP opened, right? Good. Now, open both the monkey picture and the computer picture like so:

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Now minimize the PC pic to get it out of the way and make sure the monkey picture is the active image – the top bar will change colors to let you know which image is active – it varies on your computer settings.

Once you’re on the monkey picture the first thing you may notice is this particular monkey is not at any angle to be net surfing. He is, however at a lovely angle to be swinging on a rope, which is what he’s ding. But don’t worry, we can fix this! In PSP 11 we want the PICK tool, and in 9 it’s called the DEFORM tool. Same tool, same function, different names. Ask Corel. :

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Once you click it you’ll notice a box surround your monkey that has little dots – or nodes – on four corners. Those are used for resizing it, but we don’t need to do that right now. What we need to be concerned with is the little line in the center – it has a node at each end of to. If you hover your mouse over the center one you’ll get a little + symbol. This node is used for dragging the image around or moving it within it’s canvas. (the canvas is the little box your image is in – the piece of paper it’s on so to speak). It’s the second node we want. Hover your mouse over it and you will get a symbol kind of like this ( ). This is the rotate node. Click on it and drag it to rotate the image like this:

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You want the monkey to be upright so that he can be using the keyboard. The angle doesn’t need to be perfect the first time, you can rotate it again and again until you have what you want.

Wait – I know you’re asking “what’s with these checkers? And mine aren’t pink! Why?” First of all, these checkers are what shows that you have a transparency – meaning there is NO data in where the checkers appear. Your checkers will be whatever color you have them set for in the FILE / PREFERENCES / GENERAL PROGRAM PREFERENCES tab.

Once our monkey is rotated we now want rid of that pesky background. There is a school of people who use masks to eliminate this, but I find that slightly complicated to explain in a beginners tutorial so we’re going to go the simple way – cut it out!

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You’ll want the FREE HAND SELECTION tool for this. There is a smart edge but I find it rarely works very well. Check your settings in the TOOL OPTION PALETTE. If you can’t find this palette right click on your top tool bar and go to PALETTES and then TOOL OPTIONS and make it visible. This is THE most important palette! We MUST have it.

Once you’ve found it check your settings – the information in this palette will change with each tool you choose.

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Select JUST the monkey. How do you do this, you’re asking? Well, if you know skip ahead, if not it’s simple. Click on the edge of the monkey – any old place. Now move the mouse a TINY bit and click again. Keep doing this following the outline of the monkey all the way around. When you’ve brought your line all the way back around to meet itself click and voila! Monkey is selected – yes, those little dotty lines flash to let you know it’s a selection – it’s called a marquee.

But part of his hand is missing! It’s chapped off the picture! Not to worry! We’ll fix that later 😉

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Once our monkey is selected we want to go to the EDIT menu and click COPY. Now, that computer image? Un-minimize it and move to the LAYER PALETTE. This is the second most important Palette for us. If you can’t find it use the same method I specified for turning on the tool options.

On the layer palette you’ll see we already have one layer named “Background”. That’s the picture of the computer. We want to make a NEW RASTER LAYER to put our monkey on. Why? Well, if we pout him on the same layer as the computer picture we can’t edit him separately. Try it – paste the money on the Background and try erasing some of his edges. See? It erases the computer image as well (Hit UNDO now)– BUT if we have him on a separate layer and erase the edges it does not affect the computer picture below. All tools and filter will only affect the data that is on the ACTIVE layer – aka the layer that is HIGHLIGHTED in the layer palette.

To make a NEW RASTER LAYER just click the little icon:

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You’ll get a pop up box:

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Let’s name this layer MONKEY. No, you don’t have to name your layers, I often don’t, but for beginners OR for multi-layer images it sometimes is helpful to name them. Like in the art media tut I did where I hade twenty plus layers.

It’s not as necessary in PSP 11 to name layers, however, because as you can see the layer palette is very different from 9. In PSP 9 you hover your mouse over the layer name and a box pops down with a preview of that layer’s data. 11, however, has a thumbnail to begin with.

Anyway, hit the OKAY button and now we have a monkey layer! Check your layer palette and make sure MONKEY is the ACTIVE or HIGHLIGHTED layer and then we want to actually put our monkey on it!

Go to EDIT – PASTE AS NEW SELECTION. (In 9 this will be in a second box off of the PASTE arrow).

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You should still have the selection tool selected, so grab the little bugger and move him across the picture to about where you want him. Hmm.. wait a minute! That computer is WAY to big for our little monkey! We better do something about that!

We have two options at this point – make the monkey bigger or make the computer smaller. Making things bigger distorts them and tends to cause pixilation, so whenever possible always make things smaller instead!

To change out computer around we need to be on the computer layer. Select the BACKGROUND layer by clicking on it in the layer palette.

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Remember that PICK or DEFORM tool we used to rotate our monkey? Well now it’s time to use those nodes in the corners! Select the tool and then click on any of the four corner nodes and drag the image smaller until it looks about right.

(IN PSP 11 it will automatically turn our BACKGROUND layer to RASTER 1 layer – but in PSP 9 you should get a pop up box asking if you want to promote it to a full layer – just hit OKAY)

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Once it’s sized correctly it’s now time to work on our monkey and the problems with his missing right hand.

First we We need to rotate his arm to make it holding the mouse, but the PICK or DEFORM tool will rotate the WHOLE layer – no good because we don’t want our little monkey rotated – just his arm. SO… We’re gonna have to move that arm to a new layer, huh?

So, go to your layer palette and click on the MONKEY layer to make it active. Now we need the FREE HAND SELECTION tool again. One you have it draw a kind of boxy shape around his right arm from the elbow up:

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Now – and this is cool – click inside the boxy shape on his arm and it will automatically select just that piece neat and tidy like:

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This has selected the data we want to move t a new layer. Now go to the layer palette and you’ll see there’s a “new” layer named FLOATING SELECTION – as you can see by either the preview or thumbnail this is just the teeny tiny piece of arm we have selected – it is not attached to a layer and it is selected hence FLOATING SELECTION.

But don’t want it floating, so right click on the layer palette where it says FLOATING SELECTION and scroll down to where it says PROMOTE SELECTION TO LAYER. Click this.

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That layer that was FLOATING SELECTION will now say PROMOTED SELECTION – self explanatory, eh?

So, let’s rotate that arm! Use the PICK or DEFORM tool and rotate it just like we originally rotated our happy monkey. Use the pick tool to move the arm into place by clicking on that line in the center until you see the + and then click and drag it, releasing it when it’s where you want it to be.

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At this point I am going to take a moment to explain why it is we’re using the PICK tool instead of the ROTATE option. I firmly believe that people do much better if they understand WHY instead of just “Do this!”. In the ROTATE box you have to type in the exact degrees you want to rotate your image – and if you don’t know this can take unbelievable numbers of tries. Yes, I used to use the rotate method before I discovered the PICK tool – and trust me, this is easier because you can SEE what you’re doing as you do it.

Okay, so our arm is rotated but look at that elbow joint! Yech! That looks bad, doesn’t it? Well let’s fix it! We’ll need the eraser tool for this – it could also be done with a mask, but again, I find this is simpler.

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Check your tool options settings – the hardness is going to be very important here. Click on the arrow next to it and you’ll see little dots, these dots show you an example of what happens at each hardness level – a 56 is good for what we want here. You may also ned to adjust the size, again the drop down box shows you little examples.

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Once it’s all set click the eraser over our joint – the center of the eraser should be just to the left of the edge. This is going to feather our elbow joint and blend the two pieces together.

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Of course, there’s one more step to “blending” it in and that’s to actually – well – blend it in using the SOFTEN tool.

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Check your tool palette again.

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Now run the soften brush over the part where the seam is still visible and watch it disappear.
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If you get too overzealous with this you’ll notice that bits of it disappear and the image below – the computer image – is beginning to show through. That’s a symptom of too much blurring. Just hit undo and start again.

“But wait… no matter what I when I blur the edges the computer is showing at the joint!” This is because our arm underneath isn’t quite long enough, but, we can fix that!

First we need to have the MONKEY layer active, so hop back to the layer palette and click on it.

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Now we want to use the CLONE BRUSH. What the CLONE BRUSH does is.. well, clone.

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Check your tool options again – always check your tool options when using a tool for the first time – or in some cases whenever you switch tools.

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Now, let’s clone baby! Start by RIGHT clicking on an area of our Monkey’s shoulder – now move the mouse to the spot on the joint where the computer is showing through. You’ll see there’s two “brush outlines” – one with an x and one without. The one with the x is the area that it is going t copy and the one without the x is the area it is going to paint in.

Use the left mouse button to “Paint” the fur in until it looks good to you:

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Ah he’s starting to come along, huh? But his arm is on a different layer than his body. What if we want to move the monkey around? We;;, let’s make those two layers into one layer!

Go to your layer palette and make the RASTER 1 layer invisible using the VISIBILITY TOGGLE. This is an icon of an eyeball that is next to our layer names. Click on it and a red X appears over it meaning our layer is now invisible. When you want the layer visible again just click the red x’d eyeball and it comes back – no damage done to your data what so ever.

“Eek! Now that we have the checkers I can see all kinds of weird black edges on my monkey!” Well, unless you’re exceedingly meticulous or a pro at the selection tools this quite often happens, but it’s all right. Just choose the FREE HAND SELECTION tool again and select the areas we want to cut off (note the visibility toggles in this image):

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Once they’re selected hit the delete button on your keyboard or else go to EDIT / CUT and they’re now gone.

“Okay so that’s done are we ready to make them one layer now? What about the lack of a hand?” Very good point! Maybe we should do something about that real quick!

On the layer palette make sure the PROMOTED SELECTION layer is active and now we’re gonna use the CLONE BRUSH again. Only this time we’re going to use it to make a round bump on the end of his arm – aka make him a hand:

26_its_a_monkey_arm_you_perverts by you.
(this image may not appear…)

Okay, the monkey has a hand and his edges are clean, so what about these layers? Well, we’re going to MERGE them. Right click on either of the VISIBLE layers (aka PROMOTED SELECTION or MONKEY) and scroll down the menu to MERGE and then to MERGE VISIBLE (“aha! So that’s why we made the computer invisible! You’re not insane!”)

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At this point we have two layers again MERGED and RASTER 1. Hit the SAVE AS button if you haven’t done so already and save this as a PSP image – or PAINT SHOP PRO IMAGE. This is the ONLY format that will preserve our layers. ALL other formats will merge this into a single layer image and we don’t want that – yet.

So, while our background is invisible still let’s take a moment to blend our monkey’s edges. Why? Click over to the original monkey picture (if it’s still opened) or any picture. Look closely at the edges of an object within the picture and you will see that they aren’t sharp edges, they’re soft and kind of blend in to the back ground or objects behind it or next to it.

Now turn the back layer on and look at the edges of our monkey. See how they are sharp edges and how it doesn’t look like its part of the image? This is why we bland them. Yes, you can save this step – kind of – by using Anti Aliasing when you select the object but I always end up having to still blend it anyway so….

All right, if you did that little demonstration turn the background back invisible and grab your SOFTEN TOOL again (it’s the one we used on the elbow joint). Run it along the edges of the monkey.

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Turn the RASTER 1 back “on” and take a moment to look at what you’ve accomplished. Now, at this point our image COULD be done. But, I’m not satisfied yet. The picture is going to end up big in order to fit in the monitor, keyboard and even a piece of the tower because there’s all this space between the components… Hmmm… what if we got rid of the space and moved everything closer together?

Before doing major experimental changes to any layer I first DUPLICATE it so that if I don’t like what I’ve done all I have to do is delete the duplicated layer and there is the original waiting to be worked on again. So, let’s do that first by RIGHT CLICKING on the RASTER 1 layer and choosing DUPLICATE

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We now have three layers – MERGED, COPY OF RASTER 1 and RASTER 1. Turn the visibility OFF on the RASTER 1 layer and leave it alone for now – it’s going to just sit there and wait patiently for us in case we need it. Make COPY OF RASTER 1 the active layer by clicking on it.

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So, we’re making it smaller, eh? How? Well, first pick the FREE HAND SELECTION tool and then go back to our image and trace around top of the tower and keyboard and around the desk edges like so:

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….Seal it up so it’s all flashing and twinkling and click in the middle – this makes it a – yes, you guessed it – FLOATING SELECTION. Drag this selection up towards the monitor until you have it closer to the monitor – but don’t click off of it yet.

Now, just like we did for the monkey arm go to the layer palette, RIGHT CLICK and choose PROMOTE SELECTION TO LAYER. We now have four layers:

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“But the towers way over there now!” Don’t worry, we’re fixing that now. Select JUST the tower and the desk around it and drag it towards the monitor and keyboard (yes, it might overlap a little, that’s okay) but again, don’t click it yet. Go back to the layer palette and promote this selection to a layer – bringing us up to five layers: RASTER 1, COPY OF RASTER ONE, PROMOTED SELECTION, PROMOTED SELECTION 1 and MERGED.

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“But it’s overlapping! That looks tacky! I thought this was going to look good?” Yes, yes, have some patience young Jedi! We’re going to fix that – and we’re going to do it the easy way too.

Go to your layer palette and turn the OPACITY down on the PROMOTED SELECTION 1 layer. IN PSP 11 you will see it above the list of layers and in PSP 9 it is next to your layer name (scroll down two pics 9 users and you’ll see what I mean – sorry this pic was too wide to add it on!)

Turn the opacity down by grabbing the slider bar – about 52 or so is good. You should now be able to see through the computer tower – which means you can see the tower AND what it is overlapping! The checkered area is where we took the tower out of our COPY OF RASTER 1 layer – ignore it, pay attention to the edges.

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Select the FREE HAND SELECTION tool and get ready to do some selecting. First, though, we have to decide WHAT to select. In this case we want it to overlap the desk, but we don’t want it to overlap the keyboard. So, obviously we don’t want to select any part that is overlapping plain desk, just the little piece that is overlapping the keyboard. While you’re selecting, you might also check the edges of the tower itself and clean them up if necessary, as you can see I needed to do that:

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Hot the delete button again and it’s all gone. Turn the opacity back up to 100 – looks pretty good, eh?

“Hey – the desk is overlapping that black thing – whatever it is…” yeah I dunno what it is either. Some computer bit I don’t have anyway, but we don’t want an overlap, so….. go to the layer palette and select the PROMOTED SELECTION layer and – turn the opacity down again and then use the FREE HAND SELECTION tool hack out the piece overlapping the black thingy:

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“Wow, isn’t that nice?” Yes, it is, but we’re not done yet. There’s something very important missing from this image – something that happens in real life and which can make or break a manip – a SHADOW! Our monkey is not casting a shadow at the moment. You may be tempted to run to the “Drop Shadow command” but don’t. It won’t give you the results you want. The best way to do this is just draw it in by hand.

First we need a new layer – it needs to be between our MERGED layer and our PROMOTED SELECTION 1 layer.
Once you have the new layer – RASTER 2 by default – we want to finally use the PAINT BRUSH TOOL:

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Check your tool options:

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Now we’re going to look at something we’ve ignored previously – the MATERIAL PALETTE. It has all kinds of very nifty functions, but we don’t want anything except a plain old color black. SO, ignore everything right now except the two overlapping boxes. The top box is your foreground color – or the color you get by LEFT clicking and the bottom is your background color – or the color you get by RIGHT clicking.

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Yours probably won’t look exactly like this – but make it. All of the little buttons under the colored foreground color and background color ARE important. They represent textures, gradients or whether that color is even available. Click n the each icon to get a drop down menu or to make it visible invisible until it looks like the picture. (in the screen cap here the black circle means COLOR meaning we are using a flat color – the grayed out dots in the center are texture – which we don’t want right now and the last one is an option to turn the color off which is useful for point to point lines which we’re not doing either.)

Click on the top box and a dialog box will pop up. It has several colors pre set – including the black we want. Click on the black and then hi the okay button. Our paintbrush is now black. (The color might have already been black, but this was good practice.)

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Make sure RASTER 2 is active and using the paintbrush “draw” the shadow in.

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Now that it’s done it looks kinda funny, huh? All the other shadows aren’t black but instead a reddish color caused by the shiny wood surface. This is where we play with BLEND MODES. A blend mode determines how the layers blend into one another. So go to the layer palette. On 11 the box is next to the opacity slider above the list and in nine it is next to the opacity slider next to the layer name. Go down the list until you see OVERLAY and select it.


I’m sure you’re thinking we HAVE to be done now – and again you could be, but the monkey’s not shaded right, is he? Look at the way the light is shining no the computer – it is coming from the window so that the edges facing you have a bright light source behind them, but the monkey has the light source shining on his back! Don’t worry, again we can fix it!

Go to the layer palette again and select the MERGED layer to make it active. We want to select the monkey, so let’s do this the easy way, eh? Go to the SELECTIONS menu and choose SELECT ALL
This has selected the whole picture – or so it appears. Click in the middle of our happy monkey and once again PSP will automatically select all  around his edges – snifty again huh? You’ll see why we want him selected in a moment.


Now go make a new layer in the layer palette that is ABOVE the monkey – RASTER 3 by default. Make sure it is the default layer (yes, there will be one named FLOATING SELECTION – we do NOT want it to be the active layer. Now using your paintbrush draw in some shadows on our monkey’s back.

Oh, wait I never explained why we selected it! Well, because when something is selected you can only draw INSIDE the selection. What this does is keeps our shadows from slopping all around our monkey without having to zoom in and painstakingly check edges!

Instead of using the blend modes this time we’re just going to turn the OPACITY down on our layer.


Now, I’ve made a RASTER 4 to do another layer of shadows – these are the darker shadows – look at a shadow. It isn’t a solid shade all the way across. Spots in it are darker than others, and that’s what this second shadow layer is for – to duplicate that.


Play with the OPACITY sliders for both shadow layers – RASTER 3 and RASTER 4 – until you like what you see. Looks spiffin, huh? But you know what? That Monkey is just a little bit blurrier than the computer, huh? Say it with me… “We can fix that!”

Go to the ADJUST menu (it’s opposite EFFECTS in 9 – don’t ask me why) and click on SHARPEN. You might want to do it a couple times till you think it looks good.


We’re almost done!! “Um, I don’t wanna be a nuisance, but um.. well.. there’s a lot of checkers going on and that one foot.. well it looks bad.” Yes, it does, doesn’t it. Guess we’d better do some cropping. Only if we crop the image the way it is now we’ll have to either leave that bad right foot or else chop off most of the lovely shadow we just put in. Not cool. But wait – there’s a way around it.. that’s right we can rotate it!

As you recall the PICK or DEFORM tool rotates or resizes everything on ONE layer. Our monkey is currently spread across a bunch of layers so first we need to make the whole picture only one layer!

Go to the layer palette and right click on any layer. Scroll down the list and choose MERGE VISIBLE. Yes, this is what we did with the monkey and the arm earlier – glad to see you’re paying attention!


Select the PICK or DEFORM tool again and rotate that bad boy!


Now we’re ready to crop off all the extra gunk we don’t want. Choose the crop tool from the toolbar:


Now, it is slightly different from 9 to 11 in that 9’s loads faster because it lacks the very annoying little box full of pre-determined sizes that has to load. We don’t want any of those, so if you’re using 11 ignore the box and if you’re using 9 be grateful.

Draw a box around the area we want to keep – you’ll see the gray-ish shadowing over some of it? That shadow is over the parts that are going to disappear forever when we hit crop.


You can make the box bigger and smaller by grabbing the nodes in the corner. When you have it the way you want move to your TOOL OPTIONS PALETTE and hit the green APPLY arrow


And that’s it. We’re finished!


Upload your picture to and leave it for me as a comment. Okay, you don’t have to do that – but you should share it with someone…

So, don’t you feel like you’ve accomplished something? I know I sure do – wow, this is long – even for me.

Fav song of the Moment – “We Are” – Vertical Horizon

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