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How to make a graphic signature, icon or avatar using Photoshop Elements—fix a too narrow screencap.

From squished to fabulous -- Adobe Photoshop Elements tutorial - siggies avatars

From squished to fabulous—fixing up an image in Photoshop Elements, Page TWO.

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Now that we've "unsquished" the image and lightened it up, we need to look into fixing the color a little bit. This step is not necessary if you feel that the colors on your image are fine as-is. However, Photoshop Elements has a very nice feature which allows you to see how the picture would look if it had a different color cast to it. To use this feature, go to "Enhance >> Adjust Color >> Color Variations."

Color variations
I felt that this image needed to be a little less blue, so I used Photoshop's "Color Variations" to tweak the color a bit.

I decided to add a little more reddish and yellow to the image (it seemed too depressing and blue). However, I thought that the colors were still a little too rich and saturated, so after making my color adjustment, I pressed Apple + U (Control + U in Windows) which gives me the "Hue/Saturation" feature. There, I lowered the color saturation a little until the colors were a little less intense.

Now the image is no longer squished, it's been lightened, and the color has been corrected. If you wish, you can leave it as it is and consider it finished. (Go to "File >> Save For Web" to save it as a JPG or GIF file.) However, if you want to give it a little pizzazz, or resize it in order to use as a message board siggie graphic or avatar, I will show you how.

Changing size and dimensions: Many graphic avatars and signature files must be a certain size or dimension for use in blogs or message boards. There are two ways to change the size of an image: "Image Size" and "Canvas Size." First, we'll explore Canvas Size. ("Image >> Resize >> Canvas Size.")

Canvas size, Photoshop Elements

Very often you will need to make a graphic perfectly square—for instance, for the 100 x 100 pixel avatar graphics that are very common these days.

The image I work on here had a width of 300 pixels, while the height was 287. I wanted my graphic to be perfectly square, so the easiest way to do that was to shave off some pixels on the width. I did that by changing the image width to 287 (to match the pixel height) and clicking "OK." Photoshop brings up a little warning message about how it's going to crop part of the image, and asking you if it's okay. (Which it definitely is! That's the whole point!)

Circled in blue in the above illustration you will see the "Anchor" point—this is where you choose which corner (or corners) of the image will be cropped. If you click on the top left arrow in the Anchor point, Photoshop will crop pixels from the lower right of the image. If you choose a bottom left arrow, or a mid-left arrow, Photoshop will crop from the opposite sides. In my case, I didn't need to worry about cropping too much from any side, so I chose the middle arrow (which becomes a gray square when selected) and let Photoshop do its job.

After you are finished working on the image completely, you will resize it to a smaller size (perhaps as a 100 x 100 pixel avatar) using "Image Size." It's usually best to wait until you are completely finished with a graphic to resize it to its smallest size, so we'll wait until the end of this tutorial to explore "Image Size."

Applying "Arty" filters in Photoshop Elements:

crosshatch

Filters are a tricky thing—they can be very fun, or they can completely ruin an otherwise lovely image. The use of filters is often overdone, or done improperly. The best way to learn your way around Photoshop's filters is just to dive in! If you don't like an effect, just click on the "Cancel" button and try another filter (or exit the filter option completely).

For this graphic, I used the "Crosshatch" filter ("Filter >> Brush Strokes >> Crosshatch.") Photoshop allows you to change and tweak individual settings within the filter, to give a more subtle (or more obvious) filter effect.

Tips for using Photoshop Elements filters:

  • Experiment with your filters on a new (identical) layer, which will be an exact duplicate of your image. Go to "Layer >> Duplicate Layer." You can mess around with filters to your heart's content without risking the original image. If you don't like what you've done with the filters, trash the duplicate layer and create a new one!
  • Sometimes you have to do several filters in succession (A Noise filter followed by Paint Daubs, for instance) to see if you are going to get the effect you are looking for. The Layer Palette was created for situations such as this—to create as many duplicate layers as you need, so you can explore your options.
  • When you become more advanced with using filters, you can try making a duplicate identical layer, applying the filter on the top layer, and then, using the eraser tool, erasing parts of the "filtered" layer to show the unaltered layer below. (This might work well for a portrait where you want to add some blur or noise to parts of the face, but leave the eyes in sharper focus. In such a case, applying the blur filter to the top layer and then erasing the area around the eyes—showing the in-focus layer underneath—would get the proper effect.)
  • Lowering the opacity of a layer in which you've used filters (thus making it semi-transparent and showing some of the layer below) will lessen the filter effect but not completely get rid of it, which could be a desirable result.

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