Easy Image Manipulation
If you are a skilled Photoshopper with access to the software, image manipulation is probably a breeze for you. But what about the rest of us? Photoshop isn't exactly the easiest software to master (nor is it the cheapest), so let's look at some free (or readily accessible) and easy alternatives for editing images for your eLearning.
Removing Stock Image Backgrounds
If you have Microsoft Office 2010, you can use the new Background Removal feature found in PowerPoint, Word and Outlook to remove backgrounds easily. All you need to do is insert the image and click the Remove Background tool. With some images it is just that easy. For more complicated background removal, it is still a fairly easy process involving just clicking on areas you want to keep or remove until you are satisfied. Click here for more detailed instructions from The PowerPoint Team Blog.
You don't need to have Microsoft Office 2010 to remove stock image backgrounds. The Mindflash blog put together a useful collection of other easy ways to remove image backgrounds.
Editing Graphics to Draw Attention
Tom Kuhlman wrote about not only ungrouping ClipArt elements in PowerPoint to create custom ClipArt, but also about using silhouettes to draw attention and convey meaning. It's definitely worth checking out if you're in charge of eLearning graphics, whether on a budget or not.
Another way to draw attention to specific areas of graphics is to add a cartoon effect to parts of the image. In a previous article I referenced studies that state more realistic images are distracting to learners. Simplifying the images can make them easier on the eye. This is also useful if you are working with free stock images that perhaps do not all have a uniform look and feel. Leaving the backgrounds photo quality and adding a cartoon effect to the subject of the picture (or vice versa) can give otherwise dissimilar pictures a look of cohesiveness while simultaneously drawing the eye to the important parts of the image.
Check outhow I've altered the images below using the free Cartoon (and Grayscale) effect from fotoflexer.com. The image at the right would also be a good way to downplay less than up-to-date technology in a stock photo, keeping the eLearning lesson feeling more fresh.
Do you have any tips for sprucing up less-than-stellar stock photos or clipart? Let us know in the comments field below.
Click here for Part I of the Graphics Series, Dynamic or Static Images?
Click here for Part II of the Graphic Series, Using Static Images to Improve Learning.
Click here for Part III of the Graphics Series, Recommended Free Image Sites.
Click here for Part V of the Graphics Series, Tips for Making Your Own PowerPoint Graphics.
About the author: AJ George is IconLogic's lead Technical Writer and author of both "PowerPoint 2007: The Essentials" and "PowerPoint 2008 for the Macintosh: The Essentials." You can follow AJ on Twitter at http://twitter.com/andrayajgeorge.