Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Interactive U.S. Census Map

As you know, I love maps. The Washington Post created an interactive map of the United States made with Census data from the last thirty years. You pick which theme you want mapped (population, density, family type, etc.), which year, and which geographic level (state or county) and voila! It is a fun toy ...er, I mean, it is a great tool! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


Click on the picture to go to the map's site.
Found via @GeographicalMag on Twitter.




Saturday, July 23, 2011

Image Editing Like Crazy

     I am so thrilled! I love being able to do exactly what I want and be successful!

     When I create things like binder covers and newsletters, I like to include images and I usually know exactly what I want the image to look like. A website that has enabled me to do this is Microsoft Office's image website: http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/images/. It has good images for free (most free clip art is mediocre at best).

     Even with the good images from Microsoft* they often aren't quite right for what I have in mind. For example, I usually need images to be black and white, but most of the images I like best have a little bit of color. This is where Irfanview comes in. It is a free image editing software that lets me "fix" the images I find. Here is an example:


     I loved this flag for a July newsletter I did, but everything in the newsletter needed to be black and white. You can probably do this in Paint, but I think it is easier in Irfanview. Here is a different example:


     The original image has several butterflies, but I only wanted one. Irfanview let me cut out the butterfly I wanted, edit the background, and rotate the image just perfectly.

     Tangent: I think that if I had the money to buy Adobe Illustrator or something I could get the functionality I want all in one program. Right now I sometimes have to open an image in up to three different free programs to make it look like I want it too. That's okay with me for now, but someday it would be nice to have a program that did everything (provided such a program exists).

     So the thing that I'm thrilled about today is that I recently learned how to create a transparent background. I have been trying to figure this out for, um, possibly years. I was looking at a tutorial on Kevin and Amanda's blog about how to create a cute blog signature and BAM! It was right there! How to create a transparent background! THANK YOU, AMANDA!! The secret? You have to save the image as .PNG (Portable Network Graphics). But you also have to have a program that lets you select a transparent background. I don't think Photoscape can do it (at least I haven't figured it out if Photoscape does). But Irfanview lets you covert a white background to a transparent background, and Pixlr Editor (a free online image editing site) lets you create an image with a transparent background. Hallelujah!

     Okay, so this is what I did today that I'm so excited about:

     I started with two images, removed the color and made the backgrounds transparent, inserted them into a word document, and overlapped them! Yay! (Figuring out how to save them as a combined image was a chore! I think you can do it in Microsoft Word using group, but I have Open Office and there must be a bug or something because I had to "Select All" to select them, then cut and paste them into paint to make them into a .jpg. Whew!)

     Here is my new blog signature made in Pixlr Editor. The font and star (which is actually a font character) are from Kevin & Amanda's free font blog Fonts for Peas (which I love).

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