Jake’s Tech Tools – “Pics or it didn’t happen”


Welcome back, readers!

With spring now in full swing, I feel as though I’m coming out of a figurative hibernation. As I spend more time outside, I find myself taking more pictures. I like to go fishing whenever I can on the weekends and photographic proof is the only way to distinguish between the big catch and the tall tale. So, I thought it would be a great opportunity to highlight some image editing software that is available on the ‘net for free. These programs range from easy to use to challenging-but-rewarding. So, without further pontification, let’s dig in!





Let’s start with one of the easier (albeit basic) image editing programs: Picasa. The name comes from a play on the name Picasso (famous painter); the word ‘pic’, as in picture; and Casa, the Spanish word for ‘home’. Picasa was purchased by Google in 2004 from developer Lifescape Solutions, Inc. and is predominantly touted as a picture organizational program that now ties into Google+. What was lost on me until recently was the easy to use photo editing tool built into Picasa. Now, Picasa is certainly no Photoshop replacement; however, it does offer a way to adjust aspects such as contrast, color saturation, ‘redeye’ removal, cropping, resizing, and a number of “Instagram-like” filters. For someone like me who isn’t an artist/photographer, I feel like Picasa does a significant amount of what I want to do when I’m looking at image editing software. The only thing that I don’t like about Picasa is the fact that everything has to be “imported” into the program in order to edit. If you are a big Google+ user, this seems like a no-brainer for syncing photos to your page. In order to test Picasa out, I decided to try my hand at touching up my signature photo:

Original                                                        New










After about ten minutes of testing filters, playing with the color correction, and adjusting the angle, I’m happy with the new photo, regardless of the orange skin-tone and wider resolution.






PIXLR is an online, cloud-based photo editing suite of tools that was developed in 2008 by a Swedish developer and was bought by the company Autodesk in 2011. There are three facets to the website: PIXLR editor, which is a simplified (in comparison to Photoshop) image creation, drawing, and editing tool; PIXLR express, which has very similar features to Picasa; and “PIXLR-O-MATIC,” which attempts to replicate the feeling of developing a photo from film, but is really a visual way to apply filters to an image. I should mention that PIXLR express and PIXLR-O-MATIC are available as an app on both the Google Play and Apple App store.

In order to demonstrate a fraction of the power of PIXLR, I created an original piece of monochromatic art and used PIXLR-O-MATIC to apply filters and a border to augment the image.

Original                                                                                    New

SinisterSinister altered

I used the ‘smudge’, ‘pencil’, and ‘brush’ tool in PIXLR Editor almost exclusively to create the image. I then added the filter ‘Anne’ and the border ‘Dirt’ in PIXLR-O-MATIC. I’m titling it “Sinister”. Don’t judge me.


GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program)



GIMP, regardless of the other connotations of the name, is one of the most powerful, open-source, free image creation and editing programs you can find. It was originally designed by Spencer Kimball and Peter Mattis in 1995 at the University of California at Berkley. Thankfully, GIMP continues to remain open-source through donations from users, along with support from a large group of volunteer developers. It is fully customizable with a huge community that provides a number of feature-laden plug-ins. The program also supports artistic hardware, such as a drawing tablet (Wacom, etc.) and a number of digital formats (GIF, JPEG, Etc.). Now, my familiarity with GIMP is limited, so I will include a beginning tutorial from the “Gimpedtutorials” channel on Youtube. Needless to say, this is a semi-professional program and, while powerful, has a steep learning curve for the inexperienced.

Do you have a favorite image editor? Do you “Shoop” with the best of them, or instelgrams-it-up?

 Let us know in the comments below.



Jake is the technical services assistant for the Freeman/Lozier Library on the Bellevue University Campus. He is a full-time book nerd, part-time music nerd, and all around geek.

Title image: http://christmasstockimages.com/free/abstract/slides/light_painting.htm

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