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Capture/crop non-rectangular objects in screenshots for use in PowerPoint 2007

Posted on 2009-12-18
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Hello,

I'm looking for a tip or suggestion on the easiest way to crop non-square/rectangular objects in general and for PowerPoint specifically.  Windows Vista came with an accessory called Snipping Tool which is extremely useful for grabbing quick screenshots when only a portion of the the screen or active window is desired. However, it can only capture rectangular images.  Consequently, any snipshot to capture a non-rectangular object, invariably includes portions of the surrounding background.

Is there a poor man's way (i.e. without going to the expense of purchasing Adobe Photoshop) to capture/crop round, oval, and straight edges which are not vertical or horizontal?

Thanks, Steve
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Question by:Steve_Brady
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by:Philip_Spark
ID: 26086258
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by:JSRWilson
ID: 26086879
This method is a little tricky but might interest you.
http://www.pptalchemy.co.uk/PowerPoint_Picture_crop.html

Can Snagit captur shapes and make the background transparent??

(It probably can I find something new it can do every day, but I always get a white background)
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by:Philip_Spark
ID: 26087794
Free image editors for windows

Paint.net

http://www.getpaint.net/download.html

and/or

gimp

http://www.thegimp-uk.net/gb/
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Expert Comment

by:BillDL
ID: 26088043
If you have any computers with Paint Shop Pro installed, that program has a tool named "Magic Wand".  It allows you to set a mode and tolerances so that when you click on part of an image it will automatically select parts of the image that match what you configured.  You can choose the "match mode" from:

RGB Value - selects pixels based on amount of Red, Blue, or Green they contain.
Hue - selects pixels based on position in the colour wheel of the hues.
Brightness - selects pixels based on the amount of white they contain.
All Opaque/All Pixels - selects only areas containing pixels. Excludes transparent areas.
Opacity - selects pixels based on opacity of the current pixel vs.  others in the image.

You can then select "Tolerance" and "Feathering" values to fine-tune the match mode:

Tolerance controls how similar to the selected mode the value of a pixel must be before it is selected. Low values = more exact match, Higher values = less exact.

Feathering controls sharpness of a selections edges and produces a smooth transition between selection and surrounding area.  The feathering value = width of transition area in pixels.  Higher value feathers more pixels and smoother and more natural, but less accurate results.

Success with this type of tool really depends on whether the area you want to crop to contrasts a lot (in terms of colours, hue, etc) from the surrounding areas of the image.

Look for this kind of selection option in The Gimp, as suggested by Philip Spark.  I don't currently have it installed, so I can't check.

Some image editors may have a kind of "cookie cutter" tool that you can either edit or create your own shapes from scratch.  Others may have options to create "masks", whereby you select an area and promote or demote the selection to a different layer.  It gets quite complicated, but essentially you can have an image comprising several layers, and can have "holes" through them where you can slide new content in between layers and have it show through.

Most image editing programs have a freehand selection tool that allows you to "crop to selection" or "cut selection".  That's what is shown in the article linked to by JSRWilson.  It can be pretty hard using a mouse to do a freehand selection, even where the eg. Shift Key allows you to draw smaller lines and connect them, which is why pressure-sensitive drawing tablets with a stylus are favoured for accurate image editing.

However, you will find an "Eraser" tool in most free image editing programs like IrfanView (http://www.irfanview.com - Edit menu > Show Paint Dialog) that allow you to choose the size of the eraser selection.  I find it easier to zoom in on an image and erase areas I don't want as opposed to drawing a freehand selection.  Once you rub out the bits you don't want, you can then (in most programs) choose the Save As options when saving to a GIF (or other encoding that supports transparency) to choose white as your transparent colour.

Tip:
If erasing areas, try to do so in small steps so that if your hand shakes and you erase too much, the undo step won't undo a lot of careful erasing in one go.  Be sure to check whether your image editor supports multiple undo steps rather than just one step.

If you are looking for some standard geometric shapes like a star or elliptical shape, then there may be a few workarounds to get your results.

Microsoft Word has the drawing toolbar with a lot of premade shapes that you could draw on the white page.  If you take a screenshot of the page (Alt + Print Screen) and paste as a new image into any imaging program, a tool such as Paint Shop Pro's "Magic Wand" would then be able to very accurately detect and select the edges, and you could then use methods such as creating layers, choosing colours to make transparent, etc, to create a "cookie cutter" or mask.

Applications like Windows Movie Maker or Photo Story 3 allow you to create video slideshows of images, and you can set various "transitions" used when it changes from one image to the next.  If you used one of the ones where the image starts off or finishes framed by one of the standard shapes like a star, then you could capture a screenshot from the playback of your image cropped by the shape by pausing it, and then paste it into your image editor.

Regardless of what methods you try, be aware that if you open, edit, and then resave the same image a number of times, it will degrade successively.  When doing a Save As, set the "quality" to maximum, or "compression" to minimum to mitigate the degradation.

Hope this helps

Bill
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by:Steve_Brady
ID: 26088093
Is Paint Shop Pro freeware?
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by:BillDL
ID: 26088240
No, unfortunately not.  It used to be the most popular Shareware imaging program around, but has been re-acquired by other companies a number of times since then and is now owned and marketed as a retail application by Corel.

Quite often you can get Paint Shop Pro version 7 very cheaply 2nd hand on ebay, and in many cases you may find people who no longer use it and may give you the CD.  The retail version of the CD doesn't ask you to input a CD key.  This is not to say that I am suggesting piracy, but simply that it isn't tied to a particular computer or software that needs to be "activated" and is thereafter not transferrable.  If the original user has finished using and uninstalled it, then the CD can be resold or given to another person to legally install ;-)

Check out any imaging applications that may have been installed from CDs that came with a scanner or printer.  Some of them are terribly basic "Lite" versions cut down from their retail offerings, while others may actually be quite well featured and useful.

The Gimp (as suggested by Philip Spark) is an exceptionally well featured image editor that has a plethora of features normally only found in high end and expensive applications, only it's absolutely free.  It does have a slightly quirky layout and ways of doing things if you've been used to more standard programs like those installed by your printer or scanner software.
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by:Steve_Brady
ID: 26088272
I downloaded and installed Paint.net but the only cropping tool I see is in the Image menu but I cannot see how to use it other than for rectangular cropping.  I've got a (square) screenshot of an oval object so I'm trying to figure out how to remove the unwanted background surrounding the oval.
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by:Philip_Spark
ID: 26088529
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by:Steve_Brady
ID: 26089019
Thank you for that link to paint.net instructions. That has most of the information I need. However, one thing I have still not figured out (which I'm sure is simple) is how to move one layer independent of another layer. Can you tell me how to do that?
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by:BillDL
ID: 26089962
Hi Steve

The Paint.NET is a fantastic program, isn't it?  Remarkable how well featured it is for a program that is completely free.

Layers aren't always an easy concept to grasp.  You have probably already looked at the exellent online help on the Layers page:
http://www.eecs.wsu.edu/paint.net/doc/2.6/Help/en/LayersWindow.html
http://www.eecs.wsu.edu/paint.net/doc/2.6/Help/en/Layers.html

The easiest way to think about it is probably on the page that discusses the Eraser tool:
http://www.eecs.wsu.edu/paint.net/doc/2.6/Help/en/EraserTool.html

That brief tutorial discusses how to rub out everything AROUND the squirrel and then replace the background with a new background layer comprising an opaque colour.  If you were to imagine instead erasing the squirrel, and so making a squirrel shaped hole in the background that is transparent, then sliding in a background layer of something that would sit behind and be visible through the squirrel-shaped hole.

The same effect can be achieved by making a line selection ie. freehand, magic wand, or line-to-line.  By promoting the whole image to a foreground layer, and then making the selected area transparent, it will act like a shaped hole that any new background layer will show through.  Kind of like looking through a keyhole, if you're into that kind of thing ;-)  It takes a bit of practice to get the hang of moving layers upwards or downwards.
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GlennaShaw earned 2000 total points
ID: 26098310
Another option if your shapes are fairly standard is to use PowerPoint shapes and fill them with the clipboard.
For example, do your screen capture, then in powerpoint draw an oval shape, then right click on it, click format, fill, change the radio button to picture and click the button for clipboard.  you can adjust the shape size and or the position of the picture within the shape.
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Author Comment

by:Steve_Brady
ID: 26100566
Glenna, thanks a ton! That is definitely the simplest way to do what I'm after. I guess I never realized how you can fill an object with a picture and then modify the size and shape. Knowing that, along with all of the different shapes available in PowerPoint, I'm confident that I can "crop" any screenshot I have to whatever shape I need.
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