Saturday, March 29, 2014

Creative Image Creation Roundup, Part 3: The Mules

Creative Image Creation Roundup, Part 3
I made this nifty 3D book cover image using
GIMP and Clipping Magic, one of the tools below.
This is Part 3 and the final installment of my series on creative image creation ideas. Part 1 covered free online photo editing options. Part 2 covered similar tools that were a bit more specialized. In this part, I'm talking about the least glamorous batch in the bunch. They do things like resize your images, remove backgrounds, or add clickable HTML to them. These tools aren't always pretty and they don't have a lot of bells and whistles, but boy, are you glad when they're there to haul the shit you don't have time or strength for. 

Let this fact sink in: there are almost half a million icons available on this site. Let's say you want to make a rating system for your book reviews. Well, you could come here and download icons that represent book elements. I actually found a bloody knife icon that could represent "murder," for example. There's all kinds of stuff you could do with these. If you search "social," you'll find a crap-ton of customized social icons, should you want to embed them on your website. I found all-pink social icons, for example. Don't worry, I won't use them. Or will I...

The other cool thing here is that you can download each one as an "ico," which is what you need in order to use it as your site's favicon. How kick-ass is that?

Login required? No

Creative Image Creation Roundup: IconArchive
Pimp out your site with new social media icons.
Select "Social Network Icons" from the "Categories" menu.

Upload your image and easily resize it for a variety of custom outputs for FB, Twitter, G+, etc. If you're sick as shit of seeing Facebook posts in your feed where the images don't show up in their entirety, that's because the poster didn't size the image correctly before posting. Use this tool in combination with a current social media sizing cheat sheet and you can avoid that social shame. For example, did you know that Facebook fan page post images should be no more than 403 x 403 to display fully in your fans' feeds? This tool lets you select a custom size, or select from handy pre-sets including Facebook cover photo, Twitter header, G+ cover photo, favicon, and more.  

Login required? No

Creative Image Creation Roundup: Image Resizer by Internet Marketing Ninjas
If you're at all interested in SEO or internet marketing, these guys know their shit.

36. Irfanview
This freeware tool does a little bit of everything. It can do screen captures, add text to an image, sharpen, blur, cut, crop, change color depth, or convert an image between filetypes. In fact, it probably belongs in Part 1 of this series. The only reason I didn't include it there is because you have to download the tool and store it on your hard drive. It's not something you can choose to use on the fly, which is the emphasis for this series. The good news? It's entirely free for non-commercial use, which is also a focus of this series. There are also a boatload of plugins that you can download either all together, in 4 packs, or at the individual links provided. 

Login required? No, but you have to download the program in entirety

Creative Image Creation Ideas: Irfanview
Don't let the old-school interface fool you. Irfanview is a powerful program,
powered by a really smart guy named Irfan. No joke.

If you use Windows, this tool is a total time-saver. If you're like me, you download an image, then open it in Paint or GIMP to resize it before attaching it to a social media post. Now you don't have to. This program lets you resize directly from Windows Explorer when you right click. You can choose standard sizes (small, medium, large, or mobile), or enter a custom width and height.

Login required? No, but you have to download the program in entirety

Creative Image Creation Ideas: Windows Image Resizer
If you hate having to open Paint just to size an image
for sharing on Facebook, this is the tool for you.
38. Pic Resize
This is a fast, easy way to upload a picture and resize, rotate, crop, or add filters. There's also a bookmarklet that you can add to Chrome, Firefox, or Safari to make it even faster to use. If you're browsing public domain photo galleries, this bookmarklet makes it a freakin' snap to load the photo straight into PicResize without having to save it first.

Login required? No

Creative Image Creation Ideas: Pic Resize
No muss, no fuss. Pic Resize is designed to be fast and easy to use.

39. Resize.It 
Another fast, easy way to upload a picture and resize, crop, blur, sharpen, or make a few more basic tweaks without having to own or use photo editing software. To resize, just select "portrait photo" or "landscape photo." You can also turn an image into an avatar.

Login required? No

Creative Image Creation: Resize.It
Simple, easy to use...and I love the Swiss Army Knife graphic on the right.

You know how some people have a nifty Facebook profile photo that looks like it's part of their cover? And you see it, and you're like, whoa, how the hell did they do that? They might have used this. Upload one picture and slice it onto parts. One part will be your profile pic, the rest of it will be your cover, and parts can also be your app cover photos. I really want to do something cool with this. Surely all of you guys have some ingenious ideas already. Please share them with me so I can curse my own lack of creativity. 

Login required? No

Creative Image Creation Ideas: TimelineSlicer
Still wrapping my brain around all the cool ways to use this tool.

41. PicMark
Don't let the haters totally bogart your artwork. Instead,watermark those images before sharing! And by watermark, I mean put them in a nifty, colorful frame that contains your name, website URL, or other text. You have to sign up, which is kind of a drag, but they're giving you analytics in return, so it's a good thing. You can save the picture, or share it directly to Google+, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. There's also room for customization if you're not crazy about the width or colors of their standard frames. You can customize the font and size of your text, too. Of course, the haters can always swipe your image, throw it into Paint, crop to the interior image only, and re-use that, but you're at least forcing them to use a little time. It's the little things.

Login required? Yes

Creative Image Creation Ideas: PicMark
I can see this totally working for creating the Featured Image for each WordPress blog post.
It's branded, so if it gets pinned, you get more attention.

42. Vector Magic 
So you have a photo or a bitmap, but you really want it vectorized so it can be scaled. No problem! You can upload jpegs, gifs, and pngs to this site and get a vectorized eps, svg, or pdf in return. There's one catch: you only get 2 free ones, and then you have to pay. Use them wisely. After you use up your free conversions, it's $7.95/month. I haven't used this yet, because I get all my vectors from royalty-free vector sites, but I figured I'd include it in case you just have to have a design that you drew vectorized.

All you do is upload your image and select it. The program will "trace" it into a vector image. Your original will be on the left, with the vector version on the right. You can make a few tweaks in terms of color and how much detail is included. Then, click "Download result" to have your vector image emailed to you. They'll send you an email with a code. Copy it and paste it into VectorMagic, click "Enable download," and choose your file output type: EPS, PDF, SVG, or PNG.

Login required? Yes

Creative Image Creation Ideas: Vector Magic
This site might come in handy if you have a photo
you want to vectorize and use as a logo.

This site has saved my bacon more than once. Yes, you can clip in Photoshop. I don't have Photoshop. Yes, you can clip in GIMP. I can't figure out how to clip in GIMP. So upload your image here, and make quick work of stupid tasks that waste time and give you floaters. Did I mention I love this site?

Login required? No

Creative Image Creation Ideas: Clipping Magic
Once you upload your image, select the green plus sign and click on what you want to save.
Select the red minus sign and click on what you don't want to save. It's that easy.

So we've mentioned other tools that can make favicons, but if you want a dedicated go-to site, this is it. Import your existing image, and this tool will help you size it, color it, and pick which parts need to be transparent. Download the result, and voila, you have a custom favicon.

Login required? No

Creative Image Creation Ideas: Favicon Maker
Favicons are a great opportunity for branding.
Use your logo or author photo for maximum impact.

Have you ever seen a blog header with embedded, clickable social media icons? I did, and I wondered how the f#*& they did it. Well, this is how. Upload your image, select the areas you want to be clickable, insert the link you want them to point toward, and grab the resulting code. Plop that code in your blog header or post, and you're good to go.

The only caveat? You need the final URL where the finished image will go. If you don't have that, you need to be able to tweak the resulting code once you do know that URL. If you're not good with HTML, it's probably easiest to upload the non-mapped image, grab the URL, and then start making your map. You can paste in the updated code, and everything should work because you started with the image's correct destination URL.

Login required? No

Creative Image Creation Ideas: Image-Maps
Look for a new header for this blog in the next couple of weeks, made using GIMP and this tool.

This tool lets you make a nifty little badge for your site. If you have friends who blog (or if you yourself have more than one blog), you can each make a badge and post them on the other sites you want to help publicize. Just enter your site title, URL, and an image URL. Then you get to tweak the design a little bit, and voila! I'm not suggesting you ask your co-workers to grab your button, but hey, if the shoe fits.

Login required? No.

Creative Image Creation Ideas: Grab My Button Generator
Minimal design required! You do need a hosted image, but that's about it.
47. Design-Seeds 
If you kinda suck at picking colors or designing new colorscapes, this is the tool for you. Me, I get locked into pink. This is going to help me break out of my rut. Oh, who am I kidding. I'm going to use this to see which shades of pink look really good together. Click "palette search" to see what looks great with your favorite colors.

Login required? No

Creative Image Creation Ideas: Design-Seeds
Take the guesswork out of selecting a color theme for your blog or the images that accompany a particular post. Start with a color you love, or search by theme to see what colors blend well together.

BONUS! Word Clouds

48. Wordle
You can make a word cloud out of any text you paste into this site. If a word frequently appears in your text, it'll appear larger within the word cloud. There are different color schemes and fonts to pick from, too. You also have the option to paste in your blog URL and find out what you *really* spend all your time talking about. Don't say I didn't warn you. 

Login required? No

Creative Image Creation: Wordle
This tool can also be used for web research.
Pop some competitor's web copy in and see which words
come up largest in their cloud. Those are probably their target keywords.

49. Tagxedo
On this site, you can choose an overall shape for your word cloud: classic, apple, dove, heart, or star. You can use your blog's URL, your Twitter ID, or a search term. There are a lot of themes to pick from, with names like "Arizona Sunrise" and "Quiet Morning." There are 9 fonts you can use, and I'm not even going to comment on the fact that "Avril Lavigne" is a font. Nope, not gonna do it.

Click the "Learn" tab to see what other people have used Tagxedo for...and find out how to make a cloud using just your own name. 

Login required? No

Creative Image Creation Ideas: Tagxedo
"Tagxedo" is a really hard word to type. The brain
just resists the "x" following the "g." Try it.

BONUS! Infographics & Charts

Make your own infographics! You can specify a share button, as well as add a map, chart, text box, pics, or a video. Let's take a minute to let that sink in. A map. What kind of kick-ass infographic could you make for your book if you could embed a map of where the characters go? Holy crap, I'm about to combust just picturing the possibilities. You do have to create a login, which is a drag, but you can login with Facebook or Twitter if you don't feel like giving them your email.

Login required? Yes

Creative Image Creation:
Infographics = link bait. Do it right, and you could earn your book or blog a lot of free publicity.

This is another make-your-own-infographic site. It's all based on "themes." You start with a theme, which is a basic infographic template (in their demo video, a stylized map of the U.S. is the sample theme). Then, you add graphics and your content. It's all done through a drag-and-drop interface, so you don't have create any of your own artwork.  

Login required? Yes

Creative Image Creation Ideas:
Watch their demo video first and browse samples to get an idea of what you can create.
Then go gather your data and come back to create your infographic.

52. Piktochart 
They make no bones about the fact that you need no design experience to use their site. Cool. 'Cause I don't have any. Choose the "Create for Free" option, and you'll be prompted to create a login. You can sign in with Google or Facebook if you can't bear to remember yet another password. Like, you start your design by picking a "theme." Then, fill in your text and tinker with the design (select an element, and hit the + or - button in the menu on your left to reposition it on the template).

Login required? Yes

Creative Image Creation Ideas: Piktochart
Keep it simple by using a "theme" and filling in the blanks. Boom. Instant infographic.

53. HohliCharts 
Need to beef up your book proposal package with some scientific-looking graphs? You can do that here. Create line graphs, bar graphs, pie charts, Venn diagrams, radar charts, and scatter plots. (And you thought that was just what I did when I wrote a book.)  

Login required? No

Creative Image Creation Ideas: HohliCharts
"HohliCharts" reminds me of "Holy cats," which is what my grandma said when you told her something crazy. Coincidence? I think not.

54. amCharts
Here, you can generate impressive interactive charts for your website. Granted, it's a little scary looking at first, but it's cool because you can input your data and get html code to paste to your website. If you want the chart to resize automatically for mobile or tablet viewers, be sure to check the "resize chart when window resizes" box.

Login required? No

Creative Image Creation Ideas: amCharts
I wish I had information cool enough to showcase in an interactive chart. Alas, I am bereft. 

Phew! Are you guys exhausted? I kind of am. 

If you're like me, you might be thinking, "Okay, great, you've shown me all kinds of places to create cool graphics. But not only am I shitty at art, I'm shitty at photography, too. Where am I supposed to get all the images to upload into these photo editing tools, anyway?"

I've got you covered. I'm stockpiling big-ass lists of image sources, all royalty-free, because I know you're probably a cheapskate just like me. I'm going to do a couple of fiction-focused posts, and then I'll go back and do a few more reference-oriented posts, full of places to get ALL KINDS of images.

If you're like me, and get overwhelmed easily, just try one or two of these sites a week.  

So...for those who have already used some of these sites, which have become your go-to sites? I admit to a pathological dependence on PicMonkey, and a growing dependency on Clipping Magic. 

How about you?