It’s Manipulate not Annihilate

Hello everyone.

This post is really an addition or appendix to my recent post ‘The Secret Photo’. In this post, I talked about preparing fabric for photo printing and the actual printing but never actually talked in any depth about digitally preparing the photo before printing it on the fabric.

There are many wonderful  graphics packages out there now, the most popular being Adobe Photoshop. The latest CS versions have a wonderful array of masks and filters and are so powerful that, in the right hands, anything is possible. Unfortunately, in the hands of the less experienced, such as yours truly, they can also be rather destructive. Just a few clicks of the plastic wrap filter and an over-zealous swipe on the saturation and hue sliders can turn your Mother-in-Law into a unrecognizable, jellied mass.

If you are in the throes of a family feud and feel that digital mutilation of your relatives is wholly justified , then perhaps Photoshop is the tool for you, but for the majority, there is another way.

Since I came to the realization that over-manipulation and subsequent annihilation of my digital media was not really a good thing, I have started to use the free download version of Photofiltre. This is much simpler to use than many other graphics packages and it’s free!

I have given a few examples of the most popular tools on Photofiltre and the ones I use the most.

This is the brightness tool and one I use for over-dark photos – but don’t overdo it as too many clicks can quickly wash the whole thing out.

Brightness Tool

The next one, and the one I use most for colour photos is the Saturation tool. This is particularly important when you are printing onto fabric as when the ink seeps into the fabric (rather than sitting on top as it does with paper) a lot of the colour is lost, so you need to compensate for this by increasing the colour saturation.

Image with Increased Saturation

As you can see, the tomatoes are really overdone in this picture, but this is about the level of saturation I would use for a good image.

The next tool, and again one of my favourites, is the Grayscale Tool. This, with one click, will transform your coloured images into black and white. Despite the bright colour images I have shown you so far I much prefer to use black and white photos. I find that colour photos can clash with the fabrics I want to use while the black and white images will often complement a whole range of coloured and patterned fabrics.

Grayscale Tool

Black and white images, whether originals or converted using grayscale, often need a tweak in contrast to give them the definition needed for a good image on fabric.

Black and White Image with Increased contrast

For the sake of demonstration, I have rather overdone the contrast on this image, almost achieving a poster-like effect. But it does make for an unusual, other-worldly atmosphere which I rather like. And remember the effect will not be quite as strong when printed onto fabric.

The last tool I want to show you is the Old Photography tool – one which I don’t personally use that often but which can give a rather pleasant vintage sepia effect to the right sort of photo.

Image using the Old Photography Tool

I hope this short missive has been useful to those of you wanting to manipulate your own photos.

Just remember – when manipulating photos, less is definitely more. Walking through craft fairs and art exhibitions I see so many images that have that ‘over-photoshopped’ look. The sea is too blue, the sand is too golden and the people…are people really that colour?

Try this and see – any questions are welcome…

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