G.I.M.P. Photo Editing Guide . People keep asking me how I do assorted effects, and goodness knows there's a dearth of this sort of thing on the 'pages. . This guide assumes you can follow fairly basic instructions, and put two and two together. There's a lot of things you can do with GIMP to improve your pictures, but I don't actually know more than a handful of them.
Anyway: gimp.org is where you'll find it. It's like Photoshop, except that it's free and open source.
Semi-important news: there's an addendum to this, which adds a few other techniques: http://mocpages.com/moc.php/270345
First you need pictures to edit.
Here's the ones I used:
Circled here are the Paths tool and the setting you want it on.
The strange looking text reads "this avoids any possibility of getting bits of background in your new pictures".
Once you're done with your just-inside-the-borders outline, you click the circled button.
The image changes to this.
"Ctrl-X" or, if you prefer, holding down the Control button and pressing X, is the standard Windows key combination for a "Cut" action, which is like a cross between Copy and Delete. Really, you should already know that. Some people don't, though.
I neglected to mention in this image: after pasting it in, you'll want to click somewhere outside the dashed box. That'll attach the copied image to the new picture. Just fiddle about with cut and paste for a bit and you'll see how it works.
I was going to have something about preparing the background, but forgot what I was doing. That's why it says "Well, no, we aren't.". Fragments of instruction relating to an image I clipped out because it was counterproductive.
You can also change the size of it with the button at the far left of the row just below the circled button.
What you're doing here is putting the car on the top layer, the mecha and background on the bottom one, and doing the image editing in the middle. This way, if you mess up the editing, you don't need to start from scratch.
G.I.M.P. also saves ALL "undo" things, so if you REALLY REALLY frak up, you can just hold down Ctrl-Z to go back to the start.
".XCF" is the G.I.M.P. image format; when you save an image with it, all the layers and undo history and so forth relating to it are kept intact. It's basically a "quick-save" feature, so if the program crashes (which it does, from time to time) you can just open up an image and continue where you last saved.
Actually, try drawing a pretty nice muzzle flash. This orange bit is the outline, and you'll want to get it pretty much right on the first go.
(Handy note: if you feel up to it, you can try doing fire with a similar method to this flash/explosion method. Just leave out most of the white and have a more fiery outline, and it should come out fairly well. No promises though, since I haven't actually tried this yet.)
If you want, you can do green explosions, or blue ones, or whatever you want.
The only thing that matters is that the image in the middle be a bit brighter than the underlayer.
And the outline may need to be more "exotic" looking.
Let this be a lesson: draw something on the bottom layer to make certain you're actually working in the middle layer. If it goes UNDER what you're working on, you're fine. If it goes OVER, you want to undo it all and try again, since that means you can't fix any mistakes without a heap of work.
Not one of my best explosions, but it'll do. The best explosions have bits of copy-pasted lego wreckage in them (at least when dealing with exploding mechae).
This is the method I use for the Clonetard City and MOCIA lazors. Notice I don't say "laser"; this is because a laser doesn't have a visible beam (or shouldn't, anyway), doesn't have a muzzle flash, doesn't make a flash when it hits the target, and definitely doesn't go "fzam".
Just a note; with this method, adjusting the opacity of the white can make the beam more or less intense.
"Merge Down" takes the current layer and overlays it with over the one directly below it. In this case, it's merging the car with the explosion underneath it.
When you're done, you'll want to merge all the layers, top to bottom; this is because the PNG format (which MOCpages uses in concert with the, frankly, execrable JPEG) doesn't support layers.
Aand done. Now you'll probably want to pick up G.I.M.P., download the base images I used (or take some of your own; all three of them are my own, by the way), and have a go for yourself just to get the hang of it. Once you get used to it, it's pretty easy to do.
Oh, and important thing: PRACTICE, and EXPERIMENT. Just because I do it doesn't mean it's the only way, or even the best way. I know better than to think that just because I came up with some nice looking effects by myself, they're the absolute best.
Off you go, and see if you can't come up with some methods of your own once you've got in the swing of things.
(Man, this took all day to do. Probably only because I'm lazy and kept going off to read gun blogs, though.)