thinking outside the box
Photo Editing Guide Part 1 - The Basics
PC Pro magazine called Photo & Graphic Designer “Powerful and fast, and a fantastically good-value Photoshop alternative” so if you’re not
already using it why not download the trial
and give it a try. For new and existing owners, here’s a quick summary of what you need to know
to start editing photos using Xara.
Note: This tutorial has been updated to cover Photo & Graphic Designer (May 2016) and Designer Pro X (July 2016) 365 versions.
To open a photo for editing do one of the following:
Select the menu File > Open and select a JPG or any other image file you want to edit
Select the menu File > New > Blank Photo and then drag a file from your file manager onto the blank Xara window.
Simply drag a photo file onto the title bar of Xara Designer.
In each case this will open the photo as a Photo Document. Photo Documents (as opposed to a normal print document or web document)
will show images at their full size, so when viewing at 100% zoom, you’re seeing all the pixels in the image. Also the dimension units are set to
pixels, and there is no white page background - the image is placed on a dark pasteboard area.
You can have multiple documents open at once.
The icon on the tab for photo documents shows a camera like this.
The other major benefit of the Photo Document type is that if you load a JPG photo this way, a Save operation will default to re-saving the file
as a JPG. So this means the normal work-flow - open a photo, edit it, save it - will work as you expect, and will result in an edited JPG file
being saved back.
In Xara you can place a photo on other types of document such as print, web pages or presentations, just by dragging it on the page. And you
can perform all the same image operations. But for these other document types very high-resolution photo will sometimes have their
resolution reduced. Also doing a Save of these other document types results in a .xar file being saved.
The Photo Tools
The main tools for manipulating photos are under the Camera icon. Mouseover this and it shows a fly-out set of tools:
We’ll cover each of these tools in future tutorials (see the bottom of this article for more details) but for now we’ll focus on the basics, and the
left most tool - the camera icon, known as the Photo Enhance Tool.
Note: Initially the Camera icon is shown in the main, left-side, toolbar. But when you select any of the tools on this fly-out menu, the
Camera icon changes to the last selected tool. So if you can’t find the camera any more, remember the third tool down on the main
toolbar is always the photo tool collection, and you can re-select the camera (which represents Photo Enhance options).
The most important area of the user-interface is below the top set of icons, and shows the controls for the selected tool. This is called the
InfoBar. When you select the main Camera tool (the Enhance options), this is the InfoBar:
Perhaps the most used function when editing a photo is simply adjusting the zoom, zooming into detail to edit, zooming out to get an
overview of the whole image. By far the quickest way to zoom and move around your photo is to use the mouse wheel. Your productivity will
be dramatically increased if you learn and practice these three short-cuts:
Ctrl key + mouse wheel to zoom in and out.
Press the mouse wheel to push the page (it’s a button as well as a wheel!) this is a short cut to the Push tool.
Press ‘1’ (not on the numeric keypad) to zoom to 100% - At 100% you’re viewing the image at 1:1 actual size - so each pixel of the image is
one pixel on screen.
Your photo should be selected when you’ve opened it, but if you have multiple photos, it may be necessary to select it before you make
changes to it. Just click on it in the Selector tool (the arrow) to do this.
Short-cut: If you’re in the Selector tool and want to go to the Enhance Tool, which is the most used photo tool, just double-click the photo.
Photo crop / straighten / scale
When using the Enhance Tool
any selected photo will show a number of control handles on and around the image (see below). These
allow you to adjust the width & height of the photo, clip or enlarge the image to fit within the desired size, rotate the rectangle frame or just
the contents within the rectangular frame (e.g. horizon straighten), even to give rounded corner to your photo. It’s an all-in-one way of
performing the most common clip / resize (contents of photo or the whole photo) and horizon straighten operations.
In the Enhance Tool
just click on a photo to show the control handles. Here’s what each of the controls does:
Hold the mouse pointer over any handle to reveal a pop-up tip for that handle.
Crop or Clip
There are several ways you can crop or clip an image:
Using the side handles shown above, just drag inwards to clip the image, or
Drag across the image. This will create a a crop rectangle and also show you the ‘rule of thirds’ lines to help composition, or
Use the dedicate Crop tool
which is the second tool on the photo tools fly-out. The crop tool provides more advanced options
such as restricting the aspect ratio of your crop, or cropping to a specific dimension, and also a way of ‘un-cropping’ an image.
All of these methods perform a non-destructive clipping operation. That means it doesn’t really remove the cropped parts, they are just
hidden and you can un-crop to see the earlier removed parts.
Wider or taller
If you drag the side handles outwards the image is enlarged to fill the rectangle (the height is kept the same). Since it’s really bad practice to
stretch images (the human eye is very sensitive to ‘wrongly stretched’ images with an unnatural aspect ratio), this means the top and bottom
parts of the image will be clipped. Similarly if you make the image taller, by dragging the top or bottom edges, the photo width is not
changed, so this makes the image larger, and some parts will now be clipped on the left and right side. Try it to see how this works.
Pan the image within the frame
If you reduce the edges of the frame inwards, or use the rotate/scale handle in the top right to enlarge the image, then the the image is
clipped or masked - so some of the image is outside the visible frame. In this case the ‘hand’ control can be used to re-position the image
within the frame.
Select the image and use the inner rotate handle, top right, of the photo. You can drag outwards also to enlarge the image within the frame
at the same time. You’ll see a tool-tip showing you the rotation angle as you drag.
Reset size and position.
To reset a photo back to its ‘best fit’ state, double click on the rotate/scale handle. To center the image in its frame, double click on the ‘hand’
icon. To un-clip an image double-click on one of the side handles.
These photo operations also work with photos of any shape, not just rectangular photos and with photos within groups and Soft Groups.
The InfoBar at the top of the window shows
the controls for the selected tool. In this case
it’s showing the main photo enhance controls