Picnik – Photo Editing Made Fun!

Category: Tutorials, Working with images

Posted on: April 20th, 2011 by Pablo. No Comments yet, be the first

Nowadays almost all of us own a digital camera; be it an expensive DSLR, a Point-and-Shoot, or the camera built into our mobile phone, and sometimes we want to send the photos we take to our friends and family via email or put them on our website, but how often have you heard people say that the image we sent them was too large and it took ages to download, or that it was too small that it couldn’t be viewed very well? Perhaps you have taken a photograph but the light was too dark, or the colours look washed out or slightly strange. Not all of us have Photoshop or Gimp on our computers or sometimes we are on the move and we just want to quickly ‘process’ an image and show it to the world.

This is where online photo manipulation websites come in. There are a few but the one I am going to tell you about today is Picnik. Their website can be found here: www.picnik.com

Picnik says, “Picnik makes your photos fabulous with easy to use yet powerful editing tools. Tweak to your heart’s content, then get creative with oodles of effects, fonts, shapes, and frames. It’s fast, easy, and fun.” and I couldn’t agree more! It is definitely easy and lots of fun too. It is also free, up to a point. They go on to list more reasons to use Picnik:

Fix your photos in just one click
Use advanced controls to fine-tune your results
Crop, resize, and rotate in real-time
Tons of special effects, from artsy to fun
Astoundingly fast, right in your browser
Awesome fonts and top-quality type tool
Basketfuls of shapes from hand-picked designers
Works on Mac, Windows, and Linux
No download required, nothing to install

Picnik is photo editing online, in your browser. It gives real people photo editing superpowers. It’s fast, easy, and offers tons of powerful tools, artistic effects, stickers, frames, touch-ups, scrapbooking tools and more. And that’s all for free. There’s even more available for Picnik Premium (paying) members: More tools, advanced effects, seasonal content all year long and more!

Picnik was launched in September 2007 and in the past few years has amassed millions of happy fans on the site, through Facebook, embedded in Flickr, Picasa, Yahoo! Mail, and dozens of other partner websites. It was founded and run as a small Seattle startup in 2005 and in March 2010 Picnik joined the Google family of consumer apps, so you can be assured that it is stable, secure and well designed.

Using Picnik

It’s all well and good reading about Picnik and its history but what can we do with it, and how easy is it to use? Let me explain with a real-life example. This afternoon whilst walking my dog I took my camera phone with me and shot off a few quick images. I didn’t pay much attention to how they looked, if the light was good, or the composition and style. Basic snapshots – that’s all! My phone is old now and although it is a Sony Ericsson k800i with a great little lens it only has 3.2 mega pixels. Low quality by today’s standards. I am going to use one of the images that I took to walk you through the basics of using Picnik. Off we go then…

Example one: Lantana

Picnik first page

Getting started with Picnik

When you send your browser to Picnik by going to www.picnik.com the first page you see will look something like the one shown above. It has a green big button inviting us to “Get started now!”, so shall we? After clicking on that green button you will be taken to a page similar to this next image where you are invited to register with Picknik or upload a photo. We won’t register for the moment as we want to try it out to see how we get on with the website first. A test of sorts!

Picnik upload image page

Upload a photo screen

Click the “Upload a photo” button and choose a photograph from your computer. It doesn’t matter what it is of, how big it is, what it looks like or if you actually want the photograph, the image that you upload to Picnik will not be adjusted whilst you are working on it. But you must make sure that when you come to save the image back to your computer, not to overwrite the original image unless you really want to. Off we go then… choose a photo!

After the photo has been uploaded to the website you will see a screen with some large tabs across the top, something like the one below.

Lantana after upload

Lantana after upload with no adjustments made

Ahh, what a pretty picture I’ve chosen. You will be presented with your photo in the main panel and the tab above will be on ‘Edit’. That’s great. We want to edit our photo after all. The first thing to do is click the ‘Auto-fix’ button up there in the top left corner of the screen. After that you will probably see a change in the colours – hopefully for the better. If you do not see any change then that’s fine, your photograph was already excellent. Well done you! (Either that or you didn’t actually press the button – try it again.) If you did see a change in the colours but you don’t like the way it looks you will see in the top right hand corner there is a button marked ‘Undo’. Click that and the alteration will be removed and the photo returned to its previous state.

I’m happy with the changes made to my photograph (you can see it has clearly improved the colour of mine shown below) so off we go to another step – cropping and resizing.

Lantana after Auto-Fix

Lantana after using the Auto-Fix feature

I want to crop my photograph so that it will fit the iPad that I dream of owning one day. With Picnik this is easy. Of course I want to make the image the exact size that will fit the iPad when being viewed landscape and portrait. I know that for an iPad I need an image that is 1024 x 1024 pixels so that’s what size I will choose to crop it to. This size image means the iPad user always see the full photo which ever way they hold it with no ugly bars ruining the illusion. In Picnik at the top of the screen under the ‘Edit’ tab is a button marked ‘Crop’ right of the ‘Auto-fix’ button that we just used. Click on the ‘Crop’ button and you will be shown the Crop screen.

Lantana crop and scale

Lantana screen image whilst adjusting the crop and scale

Now you might want to play around here for a little bit. See what all the options under the ‘No constraints’ drop down menu do, move the box around, change the size of it. As I wanted an iPad size photograph I first chose ‘Square’ from the dropdown menu, I then entered 1024 in the ‘Actual size’ box and then I clicked the Scale photo box. This means that whatever crop I choose it will be the size that I asked for. I picked my crop and clicked the ‘OK’ button. Easy peasy! (Remember, if you don’t like the crop you can click the ‘Undo’ button and go back and try again). I think the thing here is to try and experiment. Be creative, have fun!

Because I took this photo with my camera phone the quality isn’t too good. Also I have increased the size of it to fit my iPad proportions so the image is looking a little soft. I decided to use the sharpen tool to help improve the picture a little. Find the ‘Sharpen’ button above your picture and click it to be taken to the Sharpen screen. Adjust the slider to increase the sharpness of your photo, but beware that you don’t go too far as it can make the image look ugly in the background areas if you are not careful. There is an advanced button which gives you some more options but for my photo an increase of 6 was fine. Click OK and we shall continue to the final step.

Lantana sharpening the image

Lantana at sharpening the image stage

I’m pretty happy with how my image is looking now. The colours are much better, it looks great square and it is the perfect size for the iPad that I desire so I think it is time to save my image now. At the top of the screen is a large tab called ‘Save & Share’. Click on that and you will be taken to the screen shown here. As you see there are many options for sharing your photo on Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, and other websites. You can even email the photo from Picnik or print it on mugs, canvas prints, etc, or send it to your own printer but I simply want to save the altered image to my computer to do with as I wish later on.

You will see that the original name of your file is already entered in the File name box. You can leave this the same if you wish, but be aware that if you save it to the same place you may overwrite your original file (you should be warned by your computer before overwriting though but I thought that I had better warn you!). Simply enter a name in the box, check the dimensions, choose your format and compression and click ‘Save Photo’. It will then ask you where you want to save your image and after clicking save you’re done!

Saving the Lantana image

Saving the Lantana image

I should point out that on this save screen you have the option to change the size of your image if you choose to. This can be done by either adjusting the dimensions or by amending the percentage size. You can also choose to save it in a different format than JPEG. Picnik gives a little explanation about a couple of the choices and here on Enlightenment we will go further into detail about file formats and file sizes another day. For now just choose JPG and a compression quality of 8 as recommended by Picnik.

Finally you will be taken to the final screen where you have the option to close your image or to carry on processing your photo. If you’re done then feel free to close your photo and leave the site, otherwise go back to the image and make some more changes. The choice is yours!

Lantana image after saving

Lantana image after saving

Original photograph from the camera phone

Original photograph from the camera phone

Final image of the Lantana

Final image of the Lantana

There you go… You have ‘Picniked’ your first photograph – Fun, wasn’t it?

Just to remind you to the left are my before and after images of the lantana photograph that I took.

In another article coming soon I will look at some of the other tools available on Picnik, such as adding text and stickers, changing the border, using effects and other fun things. The best thing to do in Picnik is experiment. You can’t damage your images but you can amaze your family and friends with your photos!

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