Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, May 13, 2005

Digital Image Editing Grassroots Toolkit: Light And Lean

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Digital image preparation, editing and publishing remains one of the key growth areas for indipendent publishers and digital communicators of all creeds.

Photo credit: Melanie K.

Not being able to leverage digital images to their fullest when communicating with new media technologies is like writing on a typewriter rather than on a up-to-date word processor.

But not many people are aware of the fact that you do not need expensive, difficult to learn and highly technical software to do this type of work. Great alternative and very cost-effective software tools have been available since a few years, and now they are only increasing number and quality.

Free digital image editing tools

Unless you are strongly opposed to Microsoft .NET framework-based application, Paint.NET is a very interesting free and fully-featured digital image editor that I recommend to all Windows users.

Paint.NET is image and photo manipulation software designed to be used on computers that run Windows 2000, XP, or Server 2003. It started development at Washington State University as an undergraduate senior design project mentored by Microsoft, and is currently being maintained by some of the alumni that originally worked on it.

Paint.NET is meant to be a free replacement for the MS Paint software that comes with all Windows operating systems and it has many of the powerful features that expensive commercial applications have, including the ability to use layers.

Alternative free or very low-cost digital image editors that I have tested, reviewed and recommended before include:

Resizing images

A typical need when managing and preparing digital images for online publication is the one of resizing images, often to a larger dimension than their original one.

If you have ever tried to do this without a dedicated tool, you will have certainly noticed how the quality of the image rapidly degrades as you increase its new dimensions. The image becomes very grainy, pixelated and blurry, making its use at the new enlargement hard to justify. Even Photoshop, when confronted with this type of request can only do so much.

Two little tools come to rescue you for all image resizing needs:

Photozoom is much improved heir of S-Spline, a pioneering cross-platform (PC and Mac) digital image editing software which allowed for major enlargement of digital images without apparent loss of quality. The product, created by a Dutch software company has been further improved in the last few years while its price has become even more attractive (EU 129).

Free try out here: PC - Mac

STOIK Smart Resizer
Smart Resizer is a dedicated PC utility to resize digital images while maintaining the highest possible visual quality. Smart Resizer uses a new 'smart interpolation' algorithm, as well as traditional standard bilinear and bicubic algorithms. These are computational formulas necessary to "guess" the extra pixels needed when you ask that an image is enlarged. The more sophisticated the formula to "guess" such extra pixels to be added, the higher the quality of the enlarged image. Smart Resizer can also resize great number of images automatically and unattended ($ 49).

Free try-out here.

Image and screen measurement

I personally recommend the great tools from Iconico, and in particular Screen Calipers and Screen Protactor as two great helpers when it comes to precise on-screen measurements.

Screen Calipers is a great on-screen measurement tool that has no equals. The tool has the look of actual real life vernier calipers in both form and function.

The Screen Calipers can be used with any program where fast and accurate measurements are required. The tool, which costs $19.50 in its full version
had been originally created for graphics designers and webmasters to help and support the preparation of web pages. Hundreds of other uses are also possible including engineering and architectural work, specialized medical applications like orthodontistry and ophthalmology use Screen Calipers to precisely measure distances on X-Rays and even on electrocardiograms (EKG, ECG).

Try-out Screen Calipers for free.

Screen Protractor is a useful complement to Screen Calipers as it allows to easily and quickly measure any angle on the screen to the nearest degree or radian.

Both the Screen Calipers and Screen Protactor are trialware: totally free to evaluate for an unlimited time.

Color picking

Ever tried using a color picker on a high resolution monitor? It's impossible.

Colorpic is a free, Windows-only solution that integrates a magnifier and an easy to use eyedropper to pick and identify (colors shown in hex and decimal) any color you see on your computer screen.

Download ColorPic here.

Color matching

Finally, an interesting web-based color calculator and matching tool that allows easy identification of proper RGB, HSB or web style hexadecimal values with color previews in real-time.

Color Coordinator makes quick work of making sure your colors fit together by allowing you to link them together in various ways. The nice thing about Color Coordinator is that unlike many similar other tools, colors change in real time as they are specified by typing numbers or clicking and dragging the mouse.

You can also drag the color swatches around to arrange them in any way you want to do side by side comparisons.

Web-based, it works across all computer types.

Please support the very smart and intelligent individuals behind these micro-companies. They truly deserve it. Make sure they feel it!

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posted by Robin Good on Friday, May 13 2005, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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