Monday, 13 February 2017

Lusus Saule

Second Life Time And Grid Status Widget


If you run a Second Life themed blog it seems reasonable to add a few things that visitors will find useful and to enhance the SL identity of your content. One such element you can now add to the sidebar is our Second Life time and grid status widget. Visitors will instantly be able to see the inworld time as well as any maintenance work etc Linden Labs may be carrying out, giving them another reason to keep returning to your blog.

Also, if visitors click on the status headline the latest grid report will open in a new window, which means they won't be taken away from your content. If you scroll down this page a little you can see how the widget appears.

How To Add The Grid Status Widget

1/ Adding the widget to Blogger is very easy, (if you have a Wordpress blog, simply follow the process for adding an iframe to the homepage). First select all of the code below by dragging your mouse over it, right clicking and selecting Copy.

 <iframe src="http://inspiration-widgets.blogspot.com/2017/02/grid-status.html" style="border:0px #000000 none;" name="grid status" scrolling="no" frameborder="1" marginheight="px" marginwidth="0px" height="268px" width="300px"></iframe>
<div style="text-align: center;">
<span style="font-size: x-small;">Created by <a href="http://www.sl-inspiration.com/" target="_blank">SL-Inspiration.com </a></span></div>

 2/ Now open your blog dashboard and select the Layout option to the right of the page.


3/ The layout page will now open. In the Sidebar section click on Add A Gadget, and a window similar to below will appear. Select the HTML/Javascript option.


4/ A new window will open. Paste the code from above into the space provided and give the widget a title also in the space provided. Now hit Save.


Your new widget will now appear in your sidebar for you and your visitors to enjoy. The code includes a small credit which must be kept in place, but that is the only requirement for using this widget. We hope it helps to give your blog a little extra Second Life feel and helps to make it stand out.
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Thursday, 22 December 2016

Lusus Saule

How To Create A Falling Snow Effect With Gimp


At this time of year there are a lot of winter themed sims in Second Life, many with their own falling snow effects. However, there are still plenty with just snow covered ground. If you're a keen Second Life photographer and want to add your own falling snow to the scenes you capture, then follow this quick and simple Gimp tutorial to find out how.


1/ Start up Gimp and open the image you want to use. The image used here is 1024 X 790px and this influenced some of the numbers used in some of the settings, so bear this in mind and be prepared to be flexible when applying this effect.


2/ Create a transparent layer on top of the image layer and make sure its the active layer. Select the Rectangle Select Tool highlighted in the image above. Hold down the left mouse button and drag out a square in the transparent layer.


 3/ Towards the bottom of the Toolbox there is an option to size the square you just created, highlighted in the image above. Resize the square to 256 X 256px.


 4/ Now using the Bucket fill Tool fill the square with black.


 5/ Now select Filters > Noise > HSV Noise, and a window similar to the above will appear. Use the sliders to get the settings something like the above, then hit OK.


6/ From the Select menu click None, then in the Layers menu click Autocrop Layer. Again under the Layers menu select Scale Layer and a window similar to the above should open. Scale the black square up to the size of the image layer. Here I just used 1024px for both the width and height which works fine. After entering the scale of the layer hit Scale. You will probably now need to use the Move Tool from the Toolbox to align the scaled layer with the image layer.



7/ Now we want to give the snow a sense of falling, so select Filters > Blur > Motion Blur and choose settings similar to the above, although you may need to change them to suit your own image. When you're done hit OK.


8/ From the top of the  Layers Panel select Addition from the Mode drop down menu, which will clear the black from the snow layer, and your snow effect should look something like the above.

9/ We now want to give the falling snow some depth, so create another transparent layer and use the Rectangle Select Tool again to create another square. This time size it to 128 X 128px.  Now repeat steps 3 and 4 using the new layer.


10/ Select Filters > Noise > HSV Noise again, and add settings similar to those in the above image, although adapt them to suit your own image.

11/ Hit Select > None, then Layers > Autocrop Layer and then scale the new snow layer to the size of the image layer. Now add some motion blur to the layer, tweaking the settings so they're not exactly the same as the original ones used earlier.

12/ Align the new layer with the image layer, then select Addition again from the Mode drop down menu at the top of the Layers Panel.


12/ So that all of the snow isn't falling in exactly the same way you can rotate the second snow layer a little. From the Toolbox panel, select the Rotate Tool and a window similar to the above will open. This shows the settings used for the image here, but you may want to tweak them to suit your own image. When you're ready hit Rotate and you're done.


You've now completed this quick and easy way of adding a snow effect to your Second Life image, and no doubt you have quickly realised its easy to adapt the settings to get the effect you want for a particular image. Have fun with this and enjoy creating your wintery scenes.

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Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Lusus Saule

Christmas Jigaw Puzzle


Its only a few days until Christmas so to help you get into the mood, here is a festive themed jigsaw puzzle for you to enjoy. The image was taken at BuenaVista which is presently festooned with a wintery festive look and offers a number of photo opportunities for the keen eyed Second Life photographer.

The jigsaw puzzle can either be played on this page, or it can be downloaded to keep and solve offline. If you would like your own copy, you can download the puzzle here. The downloadable version is stored on Google Drive, which checks for nasty content so you can be sure its safe.

 If you prefer to solve the jigsaw puzzle here, just drag each piece in place and connecting pieces will snap together. To the bottom left of the puzzle there's an opton for a background ghost image, and another to view the image in a small window. Towards the bottom right there is an option to play full screen.

Enjoy solving your jigsaw puzzle. We wish you all a Merry Christmas!


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Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Lusus Saule

Free Desktop Wallpaper Calendar


The new year is almost here and we all like to have calendars to mark special days and events, so here at SL-Inspiration we have an early Christmas gift for you, a free wallpaper calendar to download and keep. The calendar has lots of features, with images from Second Life to brighten up your PC. You can even create your own calendar to print, as well as add important days and events. Below explains some of what your calendar can do, so read on, take in some of the calendar pics then download your free calendar here.  The file is stored on Google Drive so you can be sure it is free of anything nasty!

Installing The Calendar


To install the calendar first follow the download link then unzip the file. If you don't have any unzip software then you can get the open scource 7zip  here. Once the folder is unzipped, simply double click the installer and you're done.

Using Your Calendar


Once the calendar is installed you'll see at the bottom right of the screen a number of buttons. From left to right they are:
  • Copyright information
  • Print
  • Previous image
  • Next image
  • Digital Photo Recovery
  • Toggle desktop icons
  • Notes
  • Toggle Calendar
  • List images
  • Settings
Most of these buttons are self explanatory but here is a run through of some of the most useful features under Settings.

Design Options


This allows you to select how the calendar will appear on your desktop. There are many options to choose from and below are just two examples. To the left of the Design Options window you can edit the font of the calendar and transparency levels.


A compact calendar that appears to the top right of the screen.


This calendar option runs down the right of the screen. If you don't want the calendar to be constantly visible then remember, you can toggle its visibility.

Images Options


The image options allow you to select which images are shown and the size of the thumbnail for the list images function.

Buttons Options


The buttons options lets you select which buttons appear on the screen.

The Journal Feature


As you would expect with any calendar there is a journal feature, which enables you to mark special dates and appointments. To use the journal click on the relevant date in the calendar and the journal window will appear. The above image shows that you can copy and paste events, create new ones, select the font and colour, and add icons to an entry. Once you have finished adding an entry simply click the close button.

 Printing a Calendar


As well as providing a desktop calendar there is also an option to print your own using your favourite image. Simply use the arrows to find the image you want to use then hit the print button. A window similar to the image above will appear where you can select the format for your calandar. There are plenty to choose from. When you are ready hit the Print button to the top right of the window.

Hiding The Calendar


If you find you don't want the images on your screen all of the time, it is easy to revert to your previous screen appearance. Click the Windows icon to the bottom left of your screen then select Settings.


Now click the Personalization option and a window similar to below will appear.


Click on the background you want for your screen. When you are ready you can follow the same procedure for when you want your calendar to appear again.

If you want to uninstall your calendar at any time go to Control Panel, then Uninstall or Change Program, and select ePix Calendar.

We hope you enjoy using this calendar and if so why not have a go at creating your own, for yourself and to share by clicking the 'Powered by ArtPlus' icon. Merry Christmas to all and a happy New Year!
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Saturday, 10 December 2016

Lusus Saule

Five Calendar Alternatives To Google

If you have events in Second Life and have an associated blog then a calendar is an essential way of letting residents know about them. Although Google calendars function well enough, they don't really engage blog visitors or in fact motivate them to even take a look at what upcoming events you may have.

There are however a number of visually engaging calendars out there that can be embedded into your blog and offer your readers a much more stimulating page, which in turn may well encourage them to attend your events. For those of you looking to enhance your calendar page, here are five of the best choices for online calendars.

Commingly


As with a number of online calendars Comingly offers free and premium versions, although the free version is more than suitable for Second Life residents. This option includes two templates ( grid and upcoming styles), as well as a photo page where those that attend your events can add their own pics and comments. Your events can also be exported to other people's personal calendars, and if you have a Google calendar, then this can be imported to Commingly.

Tockify

Tockify

Tockify is another feature rich online calendar, although most are reserved only for premium users. However, the free version is still visually appealling and an improvement on the old Google calendar. The free option allows an agenda style with images, although you are restricted to the default theme. There is  also a limit of 2000 views per month, although this should be enough for most Second Life blog calendars.

Localendar


Localendar is one of the most flexible blog calendar options. Take a look at their calendar style examples that include everything from a pinboard style, a standard schedule, to a dynamic style that includes multiple calendars and you'll see why Localendar is so good. This is all possible for free - if you don't mind your calendar including display ads.

Web Calendar

Web Calendar

Web Calendar is more basic than the above calendars although there are different themes that can be applied. Its main functions are essentially allowing users an easy way to manage schedules and to import from other calendars. Other than also being free, there doesn't seem to be much more to reccomend it.

Time.ly


Timely offers a number of paid options, ranging from $9.00 - $99.00 per month, which is probably a bit rich for most Second Life bloggers. However, there is a free plugin for Wordpress users, even if it doesn't appear to offer any more features than a Google calendar, although it may be worth taking a look at to see if it is at least more visually engaging.

Create Your Own Calendar


If none of the above options are entirely suitable for what you have in mind then creating your own calendar may be an option. This would work well if  your events do not change too much from week to week, and has the added bonus that you can style the calendar the way you want it.

This would of course be a very hands on approach and would require a little html knowledge, such as how to create tables, but free apps such as Kompozer make this much easier than you might think. Take a look at the calendar page here to view the agenda style calendar I created. Click on the 'more information ' and 'visit location' buttons and see if this inspires you to make your own calendar.

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Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Lusus Saule

Promote Your Blog Post With Sl-Inspiration

Sometimes when a carefully crafted blog post contains information you want to share with as many people as possible it is important to keep it as prominent as possible.  Facebook groups and Google+ are a good way of exposing your content to a wider audience, but with so many people posting to these groups your post can soon be lost in the crowd.

To run alongside our blog and location advertising opportunities, we at SL-Inspiration are excited to roll out a new concept in Second Life advertising. We now offer bloggers a way to promote a blog post of their choice on multiple blogs.

The two blogs your ad will run on are presently SL-inspiration and Metaverse Tutorials but we will be expanding this list as the concept develops.

How Does The Advertising Process Work?

If you look in the sidebar of this blog you will see a series of 'Featured Items from Sponsors', and this is where your ad will appear. When your ad is included here it is automatically added to Metaverse Tutorials at no extra cost. Simply contact me if you are interested in utilising this opportunity or go to the advertising page here for more information.

This is a great way to expand your reach to even more bloggers, customers and Second life residents, so we look forward to helping you bring your message to a wider audience.

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Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Lusus Saule

Firestorm Menu Search

 Go to Firestorm Menu Search

Menus on Second Life viewers can be quite complex, offering residents many options, and it can be very difficult not only knowing all the features, but where to find them. This simple tool is intended to help you quickly find menu items without the time wasting search through all of the menu features.

To go to the Firestorm Menu Search page click here, and don't forget to bookmark for quick and easy access.



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Monday, 31 October 2016

Lusus Saule

The Portal Park 2b


In the run up to Halloween I've created three themed jigsaw puzzles for you to solve and collect, and this haunted house picture, taken at The Portal Park 2b is puzzle number three.

The Portal Park is a Linden Department of Public Works creation, so as you can imagine its an outstanding interpretation of the Halloween theme, with plenty to explore, and so much to photograph. Time will slip by here especially if you bring friends.

LPW run a private group owned by Michael Linden, but his is how it describes it aims:
The LDPW will organise teams of resident builders, artists and scripters to create new content for use by Linden Lab, and for the SL community. Resident builders ("moles") will be provided with specific build projects and will oversee progress before taking ownership of the content once work is completed.
This jigsaw puzzle can either be played here below, or it can be downloaded for you to keep and play offline whenever you choose. The downloadable version is stored on Google Drive, which checks for nasty content so you can be sure its safe. Just click here to get your copy.

If you prefer to solve the jigsaw puzzle here, just drag each piece in place and connecting pieces will snap together. To the bottom left of the puzzle there's an opton for a background ghost image, and another to view the image in a small window. Towards the bottom right there is an option to play full screen.

Enjoy solving all three jigsaw puzzles, and have a fun Halloween!

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Saturday, 29 October 2016

Lusus Saule

Pacifique Halloween Zombie


In the run up to Halloween I've created three themed jigsaw puzzles for you to solve and collect, and this Halloween Zombie picture taken at Pacifique is puzzle number two.

A lot of Second Life residents have done an excellent job in creating Halloween themed locations, and Eclair (eclair.martinek) has certainly produced a photogenic and detailed venue. Pacifique Halloween may take a little while to rez but once it has, there will be plenty to see and explore, including a haunted house and of course zombies.

This jigsaw puzzle can either be played here below, or it can be downloaded for you to keep and play offline whenever you choose. The downloadable version is stored on Google Drive, which checks for nasty content so you can be sure its safe. Just click here to get your copy.

If you prefer to solve the jigsaw puzzle here, just drag each piece in place and connecting pieces will snap together. To the bottom left of the puzzle there's an opton for a background ghost image, and another to view the image in a small window. Towards the bottom right there is an option to play full screen.

Enjoy solving this puzzle, and come back tomorrow for the third and final one.



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Thursday, 27 October 2016

Lusus Saule

Everwinter Abandoned Amusement Park


Its that time of year when Halloween looms just around the corner, so to help you celebrate I've created three themed jigsaw puzzles, which I'll be posting here in the run up to the big day.

This first puzzle shows Everwinter, an abondoned amusement park, which is based on a real location. The creator, Lauren Bentham says of the sim,
Everwinter is fictional but inspired by the abandoned amusement park in the real world city of Pripyat, it is only my vision and not an accurate representation of pripyat or the Chernobyl disaster.
As you enter the sim you'll be offered a flashlight, a landmark and a notecard that explains more about Pripyat and its relation to The Chernobyl disaster, making it a truely chilling experience.

This jigsaw puzzle can either be played here below, or it can be downloaded for you to keep and play offline whenever you choose. The downloadable version is stored on Google Drive, which checks for nasty content so you can be sure its safe. Just click here to get your copy.

If you prefer to solve the jigsaw puzzle here, just drag each piece in place and connecting pieces will snap together. To the bottom left of the puzzle there's an opton for a background ghost image, and another to view the image in a small window. Towards the bottom right there is an option to play full screen.

Don't forget to visit Everwinter in Second Life, have fun solving the puzzle and have a happy Halloween.

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Monday, 5 September 2016

Lusus Saule

An Introduction To Paint.Net


When people begin working with images in Second Life they are often new to graphics editing, so the more complicated software options can seem both daunting and expensive. Rather than over enthusiastically jumping into the deep end, a good programme to start with whilst learning the basics of image manipulation is the free to download and use Paint.Net. 

Since Paint.Net is not as complex as other graphics software such as Photoshop or Gimp it can be much easier and more intuitive for the novice to work with. Because of this, editing techniques can first be quickly learned in Paint.Net and later transferred to other applications that have a steeper learning curve.

This tutorial is intended for those completely new to image editing and will explain the basics of working with an image in Paint.Net. It will cover what any Second Life image creator needs to know to improve the quality of their pictures, and will explain how to open an image, edit its brightness and contrast, its colour saturation, and how to crop the image. Finally, we'll cover how to Save the edited image.

If you haven't installed Paint.Net yet you can download it here. You may also need to install the latest version of .NET Framework. Paint.Net needs this to run, and it isn't malware, so there's no need to be wary when asked to download it. Once its installed .Net Framework can be left and forgotten, and it won't harm your PC.

Paint.Net Layout and Tools


When Paint.Net is opened it will look something like the above image. The white area is where your image will appear and the grey area is the canvas. The three windows within the canvas area can be moved around to avoid getting in the way, and they can also be dragged outside of the canvas area. Above the canvas area are two button bars, and the essentials of these will also be explained.

The Colour Window


Use this to add colour to a shape, text or fill an entire layer. The lower part of the window has a series of preset colours, whilst the wheel can be used to choose a more specific colour. The Black and white squares to the upper left show the foreground and background colours. Clicking on a colour will make it the active colour.

The Layers Window


Learning to work with layers should become second nature when editing images. Use one layer to complete one task, and another layer for the next task. For example, if you wanted an image to have text, add the text on a separate layer to the original image. It makes correcting mistakes much easier.

Areas of the Layers window have been colour coded here:
  • Red: Click this to add a new layer
  • Blue: Delete a layer
  • Yellow: Duplicate a layer
  • Green: Merge layers
  • Orange: The tick box hides/shows a layer
The active layer will be highlighted in blue. To select a layer to work on click it in the layer window.


The Toolbox Window

Like the Layers Window, the main features of the Toolbox Window have been highlighted in colours. Only the few tools relevant to this tutorial will be mentioned here, but to get an idea of what the others do, hover your cursor over them in Paint.Net and a tooltip will appear.

  • Red: Rectangle Select 
  •  Purple: Move
  • Yellow: Ellipse select
  • Green: Zoom. Enlarge the view of the image.
The shapes at the bottom of the Toolbox window indicate shapes that can be drawn in the image area.  Select and drag your mouse to draw a shape.

The Button Bars


Again, only the buttons relevant to this tutorial have been highlighted here. Most of the other buttons will give an idea of their function by hovering the cursor over them so a tooltip appears.
  • Red: Open a new window to start work on a new project. When clicked a small window will appear so the size of the new image window can be selected.
  • Blue: Opens a window that allows you to navigate to  a picture on your hard drive so it can be opened in Paint.Net.
  • Green: Saves the image. If you do not want the edited image to overwrite the original image select File > Save As (Ctrl+Shift+S) and in the window that opens enter a new name.
  • Dark Blue: These are the standard cut, copy and paste tools most software has.
  • Purple: Crop. Allows you to trim the image.
  • Brown: Deselects any part of the image that may be selected. 

Image Editing 



Now that we have described what some of the basic tools do, we can put them to use to edit and save an image.

1/ Click the Open icon in the buttons menu and navigate to the image you want to work on. Alternatively select File >  Open (Ctrl+O).

A window will appear that will enable you to navigate to the image on your hard drive, (in pretty much the same way any software allows you to navigate to a file you want to open). Once you find the image click on it, then hit the window's Open button.


Cropping The Image

2/ The first thing we're going to do is crop the image. This is a way of removing the part of an image we don't want to improve the framing of the subject matter, which is a fundamental part of good photography and image editing. Click the Rectangle Select tool from the Toolbox (highlighted in red) then drag your cursor over the image, roughly framing the area you want to keep

3/ The selected area of the image will be blue-ish with a marching border. Select the Move Selection icon from the toolbar, (highlighted in purple). Now the edges of the blue selected area can be positioned more accurately. Move the cursor over the border of the selection, hold down the left mouse button then drag the edge into place. Do this with all four border edges.

4/ When you are satisfied with the placement of the edges hit the crop icon on the buttons menu (highlighted in purple). The image has now been cropped. If you don't like the look of the cropped image hit Edit > Undo (Ctrl + Z) and try again.

Adjusting Brightness and Contrast


It seems to be a common problem that snapshots taken in Second Life tend to be too dull, but this can be quickly fixed with the brightness and contrast controls in Paint.Net.

5/ Above the Button Menus hit Adjustments > Brightness/ Contrast (Ctrl + Shift + T). A window similar to the above will open. Simply drag the sliders to the right or left until you get the levels you like. Then hit OK.


6/ Another method which is generally considered better practice than using the Brightness and Contrast tool is to use Curves.  Hit Adjustments > Curves (Ctrl + Shift + M) and a window similar to the above will open.


7/ Grab a point on the diagonal line and drag it subtly to the left to brighten the image. Grab another point on the line and drag it to the right to add contrast. Click OK when you are done.

Saturation


8/ If the colours in your image look a little dull then their saturation can be tweaked. Hit Adjustments > Hue/Saturation (Ctrl + Shift + U), and a window similar to the above will open.

9/ To adjust the colour of the image move the Saturation slider to the left or the right a little. Moving it to the right will increase colour saturation.

Moving the Lightness slider will of course change the lightness of the colours, and the Hue slider will change the values of the colours, probably not in a very pleasing way.

10/ When you are ready, hit OK.

Resizing The Image 


Once you are happy with how your image looks it may need resizing, especially if it is going to be uploaded to Second Life. Its just as well to keep in mind that Second Life resizes images by a factor of 128px, 256px then 512px and 1024px. An image as large as 2048px can be uploaded to Second Life although it will be resized to 1024px. Anything larger than 2048px can't be uploaded.

The proportions of your picture should also be considered. For instance, if your image is 1024px X 800px, when its uploaded to Second Life it will be automatically resized to 1024px X 512px. An image will always be resized to the nearest 512px, so your original 1024px by 800px image is going to look odd at 1024px X 512px.

To resize your image hit Image > Resize (Ctrl +R), then in the window that opens, add the width and height in pixels in the spaces provided. Then hit OK.

Its worth mentioning here that whilst an image can be reduced in size, trying to increase its size will result in a terrible looking picture.

Saving The Image


11/ Once you have finished editing the image it can be saved to your hard drive. To do this hit File > Save As (Ctrl + Shift + S). In the window that opens you can navigate to the folder you want to save the image to and name it. Below the space where you name the image, there is a drop down menu of file extensions.

12/ Selecting .pdn will save your project as a Paint.Net file, which means it can be reopened in Paint.Net later so you can carry on working on the image from where you left off. In fact it is important to save your work in this way regularly, so that if anything goes wrong, such as your PC crashing, your work will not be lost. It also gives you the opportunity to go back and make other changes to the image at a later time.

Once your image has been saved as a Paint.Net file in this way hitting the Save icon in the buttons menu again will re-save your work along with any changes.

To save the file as a completed image hit Save As and from the drop down menu of file extensions choose an image extension rather than the Paint.Net file extension.

A Note On Image File Extensions

The three most useful file extensions for Second Life are BMP, PNG, and JPEG. Some creators save clothing texures as TGA Files, but I see very little advantage of this over PNG.

BMP is a lossless file format which really should not be used if the image is going to be uploaded to Second Life (except perhaps for artwork), because the file size will be huge and will contribute considerably to sim lag issues. For similar reasons this format is also of limited use for websites.

The BMP file format is still very useful however. For example, when I save snapshots from Second Life to my hard drive this is the format I choose, because it provides high quality images as a starting point for any editing I may want to do.

PNG. This is a good compromise on the BMP file extension as the images in this format will remain good quality, and along with being mindful of image size, it can be useful in helping to moderate lag on a Second Life sim.

JPEG. This is pretty much the old work horse file extension for websites etc. Its a good choice where the highest quality image isn't a priority, even though the average JPEG image will still look pretty good. JPEGs are good for general event posters in SL and for websites. Even so, my file extension of choice remains PNG and its the one I use for most projects.

Returning to the Save procedure, after naming the image and selecting a file extension another window will open, and how this looks will depend on the file format. However, at this point its all very intuitive, so when you're ready hit OK and your image will be saved to your hard drive.

Hopefully, this quick tutorial will help those new to image editing to get started as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Paint.Net may not be as feature rich as for example Photoshop and Gimp but it is nevertheless a good application to have at hand, especially for those quick tasks.
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