Introduction: Photo Edit Anywhere With Pixlr

I have just finished playing around with Pixlr for the first time and I have to tell you it was eye opening.

I kept thinking “This is out there for anyone to use for free”

A couple of days ago I opened Pixlr and had a look around. The first thing I noticed was it shared a lot of the same editing conventions as other photo editors so I figured I could go about things in a my usual way. Today I wanted to see what Pixlr Editor was all about. This was my third time at the site and my first attempt at doing something with it.

I set out to do a quick simple exercise of photo manipulation. I was going to cut out part of one picture and put it into another. Then add some kind of colour grading and maybe a boarder.

So I started by navigating to Pixlr the only way I new how, through the Instructables photo editing contest page.

Clicked on "Open Image from Computer" and browsed to an image I shot a couple of years ago, keeping with the theme of Halloween. If you're a parent, you probably have a few of these kicking around on your hard drive.

Step 1:

Step 2: Adding a Layer Mask

This step is easy and is something every one should know,

1) Make selection
2) Add layer mask

The background layer had a lock on it, so I just made a copy of the layer to start working on it. I want to cut out my son out of the picture and place him on the deck of a ship. My first job was to start cutting or masking, my preferred method. As far as I know there are basically two ways to get rid of unwanted pixels in an image. One is to simply use the eraser tool and lose them forever or there is using a layer mask a.k.a. alpha to hide them. The reason I like the second approach is it is non destructive. If you decide later on you want some part back, you edit the layer mask to bring that part back into view.
To create a layer mask you need to select an area you want to mask, There are a number of tools you can use to do this and some are better suited than others, given the situation. In this demo I will use a few techniques to demonstrate what I mean.
For smooth organic shapes I try the Lasso tool (L) in Freehand mode. An important step here is to adjust edge quality of the selection tool. You can feather (soften) the edge by a given number of pixels to reduce the cutout look of your shape. This can be found, top left part of the screen just under the menu bar. Take care to not over do this, often it only takes a value of around 2 to 5 pixels depending on the resolution of your image or how “in focus” the object you are masking is.  By holding down the (Shift) key a small + appears beside the tool, this means you are adding to your selection. This is good to know because it allows you to select pieces at a time which I find easier than trying to snake your way around the whole perimeter. If you stray outside of the area you intend to mask you can deselect  parts by holding the (Ctrl) key. Look for the - to indicate you are subtracting from you selected area. When you feel you have made your selection, there are three ways I know to make a layer mask. First, make sure that the layer you want too apply the mask to is selected in the layers window. Then either:

a) Click "Layer" on the menu bar then on the drop down menu click "Add layer mask"
b) Right mouse Click (RMC) on your selected layer, scroll down and click "Add layer mask"
c)Click on the icon at the bottom of the layers window, second from the left (Grey dot on white rectangle)

There you have it, that little rectangle that appears beside the layer thumbnail indicates your layer has a mask. By clicking on that rectangle, highlighting it with a red frame, you can add to or subtract by using a brush to add and an eraser to subtract.
Which is exactly what I did to touch up any spots that I missed with the lasso tool like the legs of the patriot.

Note to the Pros out there: I am aware I have been a bit messy on the masking I just wanted to get it done and not have it drag on I the video.

Step 3: Reducing Extreme Perspective or Getting the Ship Into Shape

Photograph by Peter Isotalo

This picture of a ship deck was taken with a wide angle lense that has emphasised the perspective and created some lens distortion. Once again starting by  making a copy of my background layer I will try to straighten things out a little. Clicking on “Edit” in the menu bar and scrolling down to Free Distort...I used this tool to widen the top part of the image to reduce the distortion. I’ll admit it is not perfect but in my opinion it helps.

Step 4: Masking Part 2

Now we’re back to masking. Once again our objective is to get rid of unwanted parts of the picture. In this case it is the inside of the museum. Now unlike the smooth organic shapes of our little pirate the rigging on this ship is very strait. To make a selection around the rigging I will once again choose to use the lasso tool only this time have it in “polygonal” mode. With this I can click point to point to make my selections. I will also feather the edge of the selection. Once I have made the layer mask, I will go in and pick out the inside of the rigging using the eraser tool adjusted with the same softness as the lasso tool.
That completes the masking part of this demo

Step 5: Inserting an Image - the Sky’s the Limit

Stormy Sky 3 Image by Pelleron-Stock

The next thing to do is to put in the sky. To insert an image from one document to another, all you need to do is have both documents open side by side:

1) Select the window with the image for copying.
2) Click and hold on the layer you want to insert into your other document.
3) Drag and drop it onto the window of where you want it. (look for a + to appear to confirm this is going to work)
you could while you have the layer you want to copy and move  Click Edit, Select All (Ctrl+A)
Edit, Copy (Ctrl+C)
Select the window of your target (where you want to copy/ move it to) and Edit, Paste (Ctrl+V)

It may be necessary to rearrange the order of your layers. Do this by simply dragging them around in the layers window. The order in which they are visible is as you would expect, Top layer is foreground and bottom layer(s) are behind in the background.

If you are just working with random images you will find it necessary to resize the images with the Transform tool
(Edit, Free transform) this will bring up 8 little squares, adjustment handles,  around your image. You may have to zoom out a little to see the handles on larger images. By clicking and dragging these handles you can adjust the size of the image. To maintain the aspect ratio of your image, press and hold down the Shift key. This is most important when scaling people or images of things that are use to looking a certain way.

With the sky in place I wanted to get rid of the floating effect by placing a shadow under the foot. In the layers window I add a new layer place under the kid and over the ship deck. I selected the eyedropper tool (i) picked a shadow colour down by the foot and started to paint in a shadow. Looking at the existing shadows as a guide for direction and intensity as well as if they are sharp or soft. My painting looked a bit opaque and I was loosing the detail below so I changed the layer mode to Multiply to turn my paint layer in to a transparent colour that is added to the layer below. This let's the detail for below to show This is done by clicking on the bottom left corner of the layers window to bring up a small adjustment box for "Mode" and  "Opacity". Both of these are powerful was to change the look of a layer and deserves it's own Instructable.

Step 6: Applying Adjustments

Have fun Click Adjustment, sepia or old photo. I thought the sepia was a bit strong so I placed it above the "Old Photo" layer and reduced the opacity as mentioned at the end of the last step. I was able to get something I liked by adjusting the opacity of both the top two layers. 

Note: I tried "Pixlr express" and "Pixlr-o-matic"  it after making this tutorial... way more fun to use either of these than to do what I did.
I will breeze through the next few steps because from here you ought to save your image and open "Pixlr-o-matic" for some real fun.

Step 7: Creating a Soft Frame Border and Foxing

So in these steps I want to make a soft frame boarder and add a little aging.

1) Click on the rectangular selection tool sometimes called the marquee tool.
2) Adjust the feather control to around 40 pixels for this fairly low res picture that will seem pretty blurry.
3) Make a selection imagining the line I draw is going to be mid blur on the soft or feathered edge.
4) Click Edit. Invert Selection.
You are ready to make your soft edge matt or boarder.
5) Create new layer on top all the others.
6) Pick a colour and use the Bucket tool to fill in the boarder.

To age this picture I thought I would add a little foxing so create a new layer on top.

1) select the paint brush and open the brush properties by clicking on the downward triangle in the upper left next to the word "Brush"
2) Pick a brush and adjust the spacing to about 100 (in the middle) and start making dots.
you may need to adjust the size and softness of your brush. repeat this step a couple of time to get different size dots around your image.
3) Open the layer's style box (3rd icon on the left in the bottom of the layers window) and add some brown "Outer glow" adjust to taste.
Remember to save.

Pixlr-o-matic! and you won't care how I did this.

Step 8: Some Different Looks

Be creative, try blending the layers with one another be changing the opacity of the layer. (click bottom left of the layers window to open layer opacity and mode controls.

Or take your picture into "Pixlr-o-matic" and play around there.

Step 9: With Pixlr-o-matic

Here are some Pixlr-o-matic samples

Final thoughts,
Over the years I have been out in other people offices and something would come up where it would be handy to have a computer with Photoshop installed, and yet there is nothing on site. There are always computers, and internet connections, but there isn't always drawing or photo editing software. This will definitely be my "go to" move in the future.

Thanks for taking the time to look at this. I will be happy to answer any questions or make any part of this instructale more clear.

Happy editing,



MrCambron (author)2015-02-11

Thanks. The Pixlr web app was just what I was looking for to do a Free Distort.

sircaptaintigerotter (author)2012-09-27

All i can say is the foot could use some shadows to place it down as being on the ship for real but the rest is really good. The mask is nice and clean an the sky replacement along with the color correction is a good pair.


Thank you.

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2012-09-27

That is quite the transformation! Awesome :)


Thank you! :)

About This Instructable




Bio: I love to build stuff and I feel at home with all the folks I see posting things here. I consider myself lucky to design ... More »
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