Customizing Creatures Screenshots

I was recently asked how I crop the images and screenshots for Discover Albia. For anyone who has or might have a blog or site devoted to Creatures, images are often vital. Although screenshots are not always necessary, it usually helps to have a couple every now and then to bring a world to life. The following is a tutorial on how to customize screenshots, which will hopefully be helpful! Remember that cropping images is a choice: Some like sharp corners, some like rounded corners. A blog or site has its own style, and by no means do I believe that one type or another is better than the rest. It’s all about the content and falling in love with writing! I say it way too much, but I would be thrilled to help anyone get into blogging about Creatures at any point. Feel free to ask!

Note that the following screenshots are of Adobe Photoshop CS5.1 in a Mac environment. There are slight differences with the Windows version. Other image editing programs are also available!

Step #1: Setting Up the Screenshot

Getting a quality screenshot is often the most difficult part of the process. Sometimes Norns face the wrong way, or a speech bubble covers up something important. Patience is key! Prepare to capture a screenshot by centering the desired scene near the middle of the screen. Press the Pause button and see if the scene is acceptable. Norn frowning or facing in the wrong direction? Quickly unpause and pause the game until the scene is set. Perfection is not always necessary: We all know how difficult creatures can be when it comes to photography!

Step #2: Capturing the Screenshot

There are multiple ways to take a screenshot and copy the image so it can be moved into an image editing program. Windows users can click the Print Screen button on the keyboard, which might also be called PrtScn. Hold the Alt key when clicking the Print Screen button to copy only the active window. Mac users can click Command+Control+Shift+4 and choose an area to copy to the clipboard. Alternatively, click the spacebar after entering this command and choose a window to take a screenshot of.

Step #3: Moving the Screenshot to an Image Editing Program

There are many different image and graphics editing programs that can be used. For this example, I will be using Adobe Paintshop CS5.1. Other programs may or may not have the same features. Open up the program, and navigate to File -> New… My settings automatically detect if there is an image in the clipboard and chooses the correct dimensions. If this feature is not available, estimate the best dimensions. Ensure that the background is transparent. I generally ignore the other options and keep it simple! Create the new image, which should be blank. Paste the screenshot into this window either by pressing Control+V or navigating to Edit -> Paste.

Step #4: Adding a New Layer

It is important to capture a larger screenshot than what the final image will look like, due to the necessary cropping. Sometimes this can be relatively small, or cropping could remove more than 90% of the original screenshot. Whatever the case, the first step is to add a new layer. Navigate to Layer -> New -> Layer… and the following window should appear. Make sure to set the opacity of this new layer to 0%!

Step #5: Cropping the Screenshot and Making a Selection

There are many different tools to crop an image into different shapes, which can range from simple rectangles and ellipses to elaborate custom shapes. I use the Rounded Rectangle tool, which is often combined with the Rectangle tool. Simple right-click or click and hold this tool to get to the Rounded Rectangle. There are several options to customize how the cropped image will appear: A wider radius will result in more rounded corners, while a narrower radius will result in more subtle corners. Feel free to experiment and find the best radius!

While the Rounded Rectangle tool is selected, click and drag within the screenshot to choose the final image. This will be indicated with a very faint outline that is difficult to see. Right-click in the selected area, and choose Make Selection. Ensure that the Feather Radius is set to 0 pixels, and that the box for Anti-alised is checked. Click the OK button, and now the outline should be an animated dashed line. Navigate to Edit -> Copy Merged and the merged selection will now be in the clipboard. Almost there!

Step #6: Creating a New Image

Create another new image by navigating to File -> New… Make sure that the dimensions will fit the merged selection, and also ensure that the background is set to transparent. Paste the merged selection into this new file either through Control+V or Edit -> Paste. The cropped image should appear!

Step #7: Changing the Canvas Size

I add a little bit of space to every side of an image, which helps in layouts and also creates room for some shading effects. Navigate to Image -> Canvas Size. I increase the width and height by 20 pixels each, so that there are 10 pixels of room on all sides of the image. In this example, the new dimensions would be 220 pixels x 210 pixels. Again, this is another personal choice, so feel free to experiment with different dimensions!

Step #8: Adding Layer Styles and Effects

There are many different ways to customize an image, ranging from a textured appearance to shadows. I use the Bevel and Emboss feature, which highlights and shades at the same time. Navigate to Layer -> Layer Style -> Bevel and Emboss to take a look at the different options. Nearly everything is customizable, so feel free to test out the features. The above settings are what I use for all of the recent images at Discover Albia.

Step #9: Saving the Image

Navigate to File -> Save for Web & Devices. This is the most important part of the image editing process: The wrong format can make an image look absolutely horrible! I use the PNG-24 format with Transparency. Yet another personal choice: I use transparency because I like having the flexibility to change the background color of the blog. The biggest downside to rounded corners and layer effects is that they extend beyond the image. It is possible to use a background color in the image editing and avoid transparency altogether: I simply prefer to keep my options open in terms of the blog design.

Step #10: Finishing Up

All that’s left to do is to upload the image and share! This process looks deceivingly complicated: After mastering the steps involved, the image editing portion should take only a minute or two per image. Everyone has their own style, too, and it can be very fun to customize Creatures images! Good luck! Feel free to post any questions or comments. I’m always glad to help out!

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