Luckily, there is technology to save the day! You don't even need an expensive photo manipulation software to create professional looking images. All you need is a digital camera. (Don't have a digital camera? Check out my store at http://www.cafepress.com/darkrubymoon for flip camera)
Below is a video that takes you step by step through the process. You can then follow along step by step through the rest of this instructable.
Step 1: Step 1: Get an Embarrissing Halloween Picture of Favorite Little One
So, here is the picture I finally got of my niece wearing her Halloween costume. Please note the Christmas tree in the background. It took me until Christmas to finally get her to pose for a picture in her Halloween outfit. It took that long for her to come down from the sugar rush from all the candy to finally get her to stand still for a picture. Fortunately, kids like to play dress-up, so if at first you don't succeed in getting your Halloween picture, try try try again. A helpful tip: The threat of Santa not delivering gifts is always useful to get your kid to pose for a holiday photo. Unfortunately the threat of the Great Pumpkin not delivering gifts does not work quite so well.
Step 2: Find a Picture of Something Spooky for Background
Step 3: Open Background Image Using Pixlr
Click to Open Image from Computer. This will open a directory to all the files on your computer (You'd be surprised how many people don't know what that is). Go to the folder in which you downloaded your digital image of the background and click to open that file. If the file isn't on your computer, it is a good idea to copy the picture off your camera onto the hard drive of your computer. Most people save their image files to the My Picture file.
Whenever you plan to alter an existing image, it is always a good idea to make a backup of your original image. This way, if you mess up the picture, you still have the original. It is also a good idea to put all your work in a separate folder on your computer. Save your background image in a new folder and name the background image something like Background. Now you can begin to alter your image without worrying about messing up the original picture file. As you begin work on altering your background image, periodically save your file with different file names so that you can always go back one step. So, after making major alterations on this image, you may want to save the file as Background1, then Background2 and so on. When the project is complete, you can always delete the extra copies.
Step 4: Alter Elements of Background
The first step is to remove or alter elements of the picture that are distracting. As a background image, you want it to be simple. To remove something like a person walking up the street, as long as the person is not in front of a critical element to the picture, it is relatively easy to do. Simply use the eyedropper tool along the left side of the Pixlr, and select the color of the background near where the person is standing. Then use the paintbrush tool to color over the person. If the color is not a perfect match with the background, you can use the blend tool to smear the colors and blend them such that you can't tell the person was ever there.
In the case of the American Flag, the Flag was too prominent an element of the picture to simply make disappear by coloring over it with the background color. In this case, rather than remove the element, I choose instead to alter it. Using the brush tool, I outlined the flag's silhouette in white. Then using the lasso tool, I circled the interior of the flag to select it and under Edit clicked to clear. This deleted the Flag such that the American flag was now a white flag. Using the Magic Wand, I selected the white area. The magic wand is a tool that will select an entire region of approximately the same color. Using the gradient tool, I selected a dark color range to imitate that of the color of a pirate flag. Flags have shadows and their color alters when they curl, so the gradient color of dark grey to black appears more realistic than if I simply painted the flag black. Next, I drew a pirate skull and cross-bones on the flag using the brush tool with the color white. The Pirate Flag seemed to give the house a much more spooky feel than the American Flag.
Sometimes, the best way to remove elements of an image are to blend them rather than color over them. In the case of the telephone wires, using the blend tool to blend the wire color with the house caused the wires to disappear and at the same time made the house look more weather worn and old.
Our spooky background is almost complete.
Step 5: Filters... the Magical Filters
To use a photo filter, make sure the entire image is selected, then select a filter. Try lots of different filters and lots of different combinations to get the effect you want remembering to go to Edit 'Undo' whenever you don't like the look of a particular filter. In my case, for a spooky Halloween look, I choose the Vignette filter which framed the photo by fading the outer edges to black and Night Vision to give my image that spooky green glow. For each filter, I adjusted the individual settings until I was pleased with the result.
Step 6: The Moon
Step 7: Little Witch
Open the picture in your Pixlr program. Use the lasso tool to select your subject. You don't need a perfect outline of your subject at this point, just a rough outline. Copy the selected area. Next, under File select to create a New Image. The size attributes of a new image are automatically set to the size of the image you just copied, so all you have to do is check Transparent so the background of the new image will be transparent. Paste the image you just copied into the new image file. Save this file as a new name, something like Monster.
At this point, you probably still have some elements of the old background image you want to remove. In my case, part of the Christmas tree. Select the Eraser tool, and carefully outline your subject. Work a little bit at a time, and remember if you make a mistake, you can click Undo. After you outline the silhouette ofyour subject, remove the remaining background elements by selecting them with the lasso tool and clicking clear under Edit.
Step 8: Make Green
Step 9: Copy Into Spooky Background
Step 10: Optional Text
Pixlr has its own text tool, and if you desire you can use it to add text to your image. I wanted a particularly spooky font, and so I opted instead to use a free logo creator http://www.flamingtext.com/logo/Design-Blood to create the spooky looking text for the picture. This is an easy text tool to use. Simply enter the text you want, the size and color of the text and set the background to be transparent. Finally, save the text image to your computer. To insert this text, open the text image file in Pixlr, and copy and paste it into your picture.
That's it! Now you finally have that perfect Halloween picture to stick on Happy Halloween cards to send to the relatives for next year.
Step 11: Visit DarkRubyMoon.com
Finally, your last step is to visit my website at DarkRubyMoon.com and check out all my other fantastic artwork and other things I create. Visit DarkRubyMoons website at http://darkrubymoon.com/ for all sorts of great activities, artwork and much more. Be sure to check out DarkRubyMoon Store for my artwork on all sorts of fantastic items from T-shirts and prints to clocks and camcorders at the following web locations.
* DarkRubyMoon Store CafePress: http://www.cafepress.com/darkrubymoon
* DarkRubyMoon Store Zazzle: http://www.zazzle.com/darkrubymoon
* DarkRubyMoon Store Printfection: http://www.printfection.com/DarkRubyMoon