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Free Graphics-Creation and Image-Editing Tools

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  1. Free Graphics-Creation Tools
  2. Free Image-Editing Tools
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As you gain Web design and development skills, you can save a lot of time and money in the long run by doing the kinds of tasks that could once only be outsourced to specialists. The sites summarized in this article enable you to create and edit Web graphics, such as Web banners and icons, using Web-based services -- even if you've never used any kind of graphics software.
Eileen Mullin is Vice President of Web Projects for Human Resources at Merrill Lynch. This article is excerpted from her new book, Free Commerce: The Ultimate Guide to E-business on a Budget (Prentice Hall PTR, 2001, ISBN 0-13-033767-6).

Free Graphics-Creation Tools

CoolText

This free online service will dynamically generate customized logos, buttons, and bullets for you in real time. You're prompted to choose the wording for your logo or button graphic, along with your font, colors, and special effect—ranging from an alien glow to a gradient bevel to a textured display. You can also use the site to create custom bullets and icon graphics from a select number of templates and styles.

Getting Started

After you select the type of graphic you want—a logo, button, or bullet—you see an online form, in which you can alter numerical values to change the colors, lighting angle, textures, and shading (see Figure 1). If the values for these parameters are meaningless to you, you may want to either stick with the defaults or experiment with one value at a time. A color chart with some suggested values to try is provided through the help page.

Figure 1 At CoolText.com, you can create banner text graphics by choosing your font, colors, and effects through an interactive form.

The online graphics generator does have some limitations: You can't create graphics that have transparent backgrounds, and you may find yourself virtually waiting in line for other users' requested graphics to complete before your job can be run.

Once your image is generated, you need to right-click on it (if you use Windows), or just click and hold your mouse over the image (if you use a Mac) to download the image to your hard drive.

You don't need to register to take advantage of CoolText's services, but you can sign up to receive announcements and updates about the site. When you register, you're asked to supply your e-mail address.

Big spender: No premium services.

URL: http://www.cooltext.com/

Contact: http://www.cooltext.com/email.php3

MediaBuilder

As part of the Open Source Development Network (OSDN) site network for Web-building tools, MediaBuilder acts as a portal to a number of nifty online graphics tools:

  • 3D Text Maker. Make your own 3D Web banners with your customized wording. You can choose from dozens of typefaces, colors, and sizes; and add your own special text effects. You can preview the typeface and display before your image is rendered.

  • Animated Banner Maker. Create your own custom animated banners online. Choose from one of the animation effects available; they have descriptive titles such as Blur and Zoom In With Rotate. All can be previewed before your image is rendered. Enter the text you want to appear on the banner, and click the Make Banner button. After the banner is created, you can save the banner to your own computer.

  • GIFWorks. Use this online GIF editor for adding and removing transparency effects, cropping images, inserting text, converting to a "Web-safe" color palette, and adding filter effects (for example, warp, offset, sharpness, brightness, and artistic modifications).

  • ButtonMaker. Turn any GIF image into a nicely beveled button. The tools work on animated GIFs. To create a button using ButtonMaker, you just need to first provide a starting image that's online or located on your hard drive.

MediaBuilder also provides more than 20,000 free graphics files arrayed in libraries according to their function on a Web site. You'll find libraries for background images, borders, icons, line graphics, and fonts.

Getting Started

Each of the tools offers step-by-step instructions for entering your custom text and setting values for the tools' various parameters. If you're unfamiliar with any of the parameters you're asked to modify, you can leave the default values alone or experiment with changing one parameter at a time.

No registration is necessary to use any of the MediaBuilder tools.

Big spender: No premium services.

URL: http://www.mediabuilder.com/

Contact: http://www.osdn.com/contact.shtml/

WebGFX

This site offers several online graphics generators that dynamically generate stunning logos, buttons, and navigation bars. Try-O-Mat is the more flexible of the two generators; you can choose from a broad range of fonts, patterns, gradients, and colors. With Log-O-Mat, you choose from a more limited number of predefined logo styles, but produce richer renderings. Nav-O-Mat lets you choose from a number of predefined navigation bars to create your own navigation graphics for your home page.

A comprehensive frequently asked questions list is provided, with step-by-step instructions for new users on how to download the graphics that are generated onscreen for them. Users will also find helpful the information provided on the differences between graphics file formats, information on creating buttons with transparent backgrounds, and tips on creating gradients.

Getting Started

Site registration was once required for this service, but you can now use any of the graphics-generator tools without registering first.

Big spender: No premium services. Messages on the site indicate that it may charge for services in the future.

URL: http://www.webgfx.ch/

Contact: support@webgfx.ch

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