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Wednesday, 16 May 2018

How To Create Custom Gradients In Gimp

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Creating a custom gradient in Gimp does not need to be a complicated process, and once you have a grasp of the basics each gradient can be used in your own designs. The wings of the butterfly pic here were filled with a custom gradient, and after we show how to create a custom gradient in Gimp, we'll walk you through how the image was put together so you can make your own butterflies if you want to.

Creating A Palette

The first step in creating a custom gradient in Gimp is to create a palette. If you need to, click on each image in this tutorial to enlarge.

1/ With Gimp open go to Windows > Dockable Dialogues > Palettes.

2/ The above window will open. Click on the icon second from the lower left with the green plus arrow to start creating a new palette.

3/ The Palette Editor should now be open, and should look something like the above.

4/ The Palette Editor adds colours from the active foreground colour, so first click on the foreground colour in the Toolbox, and the above Colour Selector window will open.

To select a colour either click within the large window to the left, or the vertical array of colours to the right of it. The sliders to the right can be used to further edit the colour. When you're ready click OK so the selected colour becomes the active foreground colour.

5/ An alternative and quick way of selecting colours is to download a colour chart similar to the above then open it in Gimp. Now simply use the Colour Selector tool (the eye dropper icon) and click on a colour. This will now become the foreground colour.

6/ The above image shows a selected foreground colour.

7/ In the Palette Editor window click the icon with the green plus sign, third from the lower left. The foreground colour is now added to the palette.

8/ Continue to add colours to the palette by following steps 4 to 7. The above image shows seven colours have been added to the palette. Name the palette in the top window then hit the icon to the lower far left to save it.

9/ You should now see your new palette under the palettes tab.

10/ Now you have your palette it can be used to create a custom gradient. Simply right click on the new palette and from the drop down menu select Palette to Gradient. Your new gradient is now ready to use.

11/ Select the Gradient Tool in the Toolbox panel and in the lower section click on the gradient thumbnail. Now from the drop down list select your gradient.

12/ If you now drag the cursor horizontally in the Image Window your gradient will fill the image space.

Using A Gradient To Create Butterfly Wings

If you want to create your own butterfly images using your custom gradients you'll first need a few layers, one to use as an alpha mask and the other as an overlay. You can either create your own layers or download the ones used in the tutorial here. They're stored on Google Drive so you can be sure they don't include anything malicious.

Once downloaded unzip and open both in the same Gimp image window so they form two layers. One way to do this is to drag them from the unzipped folder to the Gimp image window. Also in the unzipped folder you'll see a texture layer that will be used later in this tutorial, or if you prefer you can use your own texture.

This is the first butterfly layer.....

And this is the second butterfly layer. Make this the active layer and hide the other layer by clicking on the eye icon next to it in the layers tab.

1/ In the image above there are more layers than you'll see in your version of Gimp. We'll just be focusing on the first two layers for this tutorial. Right click on the active layer and from the drop down list select Alpha to Selection.

2/ There should now be an outline of marching ants around the butterfly silhouette. This will mask the transparent background so when we add the gradient it will only appear within the outline.

3/ Select the gradient tool, then from the available gradients select the one you created.

4/ In the bottom half of the tools panel select the Radial option from the Shape drop down menu.

5/ Create a transparent layer above the silhouette layer and make sure its the active layer. It should look similar to the above.

6/ From the centre of the butterfly shape drag the cursor outwards, and fill the shape as above. If you don't like the first attempt, just redo it.

7/ We're now going to add some texture to the butterfly wings and break up the flat colours. First add the texture layer (or one of your own) to the image window, so that its above the gradient layer. The marching ants outline of the butterfly should still be visible.

From the image menu choose Select > Invert. Now press Delete on your keyboard. The texture layer should now look like the above image.

Now hit Select > None and the marching ants outline should disappear.

8/ Towards the top of the layers panel is the Mode drop down menu. This will allow you to integrate the texture layer with the gradient layer in different ways. Go through the list until you find an effect you like. You can also play with the opacity of the top layer to see how that effects the image.

When you're ready right click the top layer and from the drop down menu select Merge.

9/ This is how the two layers look when merged in this example.

10/ Now make the other butterfly layer visible and place it above the two merged layers. Your butterfly is now complete.

The butterfly image is just one example of how gradients can be used with Gimp. With a little imagination there's a whole world of gradient creativity to explore.

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Friday, 30 March 2018

Easter Bunnies Jigsaw Puzzle

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This year's Easter jigsaw puzzle image comes from the Easter Bunny Trail at Aquamarine Island and is being held to support a young boy with autism under the title of 'The Little  Engine Who Can".

About The Little Engine Who Can

This is the information you can find about 'The Little Engine Who Can' on the trail:
 The little engine who can started out of our want to help others and give back in a more personal way, and raises funds to donate to local autism charities important to the larnia family. The decision came from watching a family member in need, our 5 year old nephew Dylan, who is an amazing little guy who has autism, and so has some special needs and circumstances that need to be met.
The concept of the trail itself is of course to have fun and celebrate Easter by helping the Easter Bunny to search for his lost eggs, and there are 22 to find in total, each filled with free prizes. At the end of the trail there's also a special prize!

About the Jigsaw Puzzle

This jigsaw puzzle can either be played and solved on this page below by dragging and placing the pieces in their correct position. Get comfy before you start though because there's 180 pieces which may challenge some players.

If you prefer you can also download a free version of the jigsaw puzzle to own and keep. The file is stored on Google Drive so you can be sure it doesn't contain anything malicious! Simply download here and enjoy!

More About Dylan And Who The Money Is Going To Help

There is quite a lot of information on the trail, which you can also read here:
Dylan is our 5 year old nephew who has autism, he is a wonderful and special little man with a zest for life, who loves trains and playtime and being with others and family. Autism means Dylan has to learn in different ways, and has needs to be met that might be outside what others usually have to deal with. We have always strived to help him in our real lives as much as we can, and when a need arrose to create a charity idea that really spoke to us here at larnia and on second life, the little engine who can was born. The train represents Dylan's love for trains, and the colors and puzzle pieces are symbols of autism and autism awareness.

Donating to the little engine who can means you are helping charities in our local area that directly help families and children dealing with autism, their needs and therapies, and events to help raise money and awareness to help them out in the community.

 How Can I See Where The Money Is Going?

At littleenginewhocan.blogspot.com we will be posting transactions for any donations made through our program, with amounts and where the money is being donated. We've decided on a threshhold of 50$, so each and every time we raise money through second life and other means, it will be donated at the end of the event, or after a product has been sold for the charity, and the donation and linden conversion posted and shown on the blog. When a threshhold has not been met, the amount raised toward that goal will be posted on the blog as well.

Keep in mind, that the little engine who can is a brand new project, and a work in progress. Awareness of the program through our various events and products will take time, and things may have to be tweaked or worked on to make the program the best that it can be, but larnia is very passionate about autism awareness and helping those in need, and we are committed to making a long lasting, helpful and transparent charity program through the little engine who can.

If you have any further questions about the little engine who can, Dylan's story or how larnia deals with donations, please contact Heath Pevensey.

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Tuesday, 20 March 2018

How To Send An Email Newsletter Using Gmail

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This is the second part of two tutorials about creating and using email newsletters. In the first tutorial we showed how to create your own email newsletter for free. In this part we'll first show how to send an email newsletter using Gmail, and then we'll look at how to use the newsletter if you're a Second Life resident but don't have a client base of email addresses.

Before going any further it is important to stress that you should never send an email newsletter without the permission of the recipient, and the newsletter should include an unsubscribe option. In many parts of the world this is stipulated by law, and by not adhering to this you simply become an annoying spammer.

Another point to keep in mind is, if your Gmail account is used to send over 200 of the same emails each day, Google will consider this spamming and will block your account. So, if you're a Second Life resident wanting to contact lets say 500 group members this will need to be staggered over a number of days. Other trusted management level members of a group can also be enlisted to send out the newsletter to cut down the time it takes.

If all this seems a chore, try to remember this is about keeping in touch with, engaging with group members, friends and clients etc, and keeping them informed which in turn creates loyality and respect. Just as importantly, whilst none of your competitors may be doing this, it gives you an edge.

How To Send An Email Newsletter Using Gmail

Follow the steps below to set up the newsletter template created in part one of the tutorial.

1/ Open Gmail and to the top right click on the cogs icon. From the drop down list select Settings.

2/ At the top of the page there will be a menu of headings. Select Labs.

3/ A list of options will now be displayed. Somewhere near the top will be a Canned Responses choice. Select the Enable radial button. The Settings page in Gmail can now be closed.

4/ Now hit the Compose button to the top left of Gmail as if you're about to create a new email.

5/ To the bottom right there will be a drop down arrow, highlighted in red in the image above. Click then select Canned Responses from the drop down list.

6/ In the small window that opens name the newsletter and click OK.

7/ In part one of the tutorial we used KompoZer to create the newsletter template. Open KompoZer with your newsletter template file loaded. In design mode select Edit > Select All.

8/ Back in Gmail, open the newsletter canned response and paste what was copied from KompoZer.

9/ Under Save (the text is quite faint) you'll see the name of your newsletter. Click it.

 10/ Now you'll be asked to confirm overwriting the template. Hit OK.

11/ Your newsletter template is now ready to use. Each time you want to open the template hit the Compose button in Gmail, then select Canned response and click the name of the newsletter from the Insert option. 

Each time the newsletter is used it can be edited to change any text and to personalise it with the recipient's name. However, do not click Save unless you want any edits to be permanent. Also, do not Cc the newsletter to multiple email addresses at a time because sharing someone's email address with strangers is an invasion of privacy. This would be a good way to lose customers, clients or friends etc.

Using Blogger An Alternative To Gmail To Post A Newsletter

If creating a canned response within Gmail to send out your newsletter doesn't seem the best option for you, another approach would be to use Blogger as an alternative. As I mentioned in the first part of this tutorial, I send a newsletter response after I have added someone's blog to SL-Feeds. However, I have also used the newsletter concept to promote a David Bowie tribute event I organised in Second Life. 

Whilst a newsletter would typically have images and links to items you'd want customers, friends and clients to be aware of, the approach used to promote the Bowie tribute was to make the newsletter entirely about that one event. The top of the page shows a section of the newsletter, but how this works can best be viewed here.

This can be particularly useful for time sensitive events. Although some Second Life clubs have blogs, they're not often visited by patrons because people want information from webpages, (not images of avatars dancing etc). A newsletter page can therefore be a quick and easy way to highlight information about a Second Life venue and what is happening there in the short term. The newsletter can also be seen in world as media on a prim, and even be turned into a hud to be given to interested parties. 

For anyone interested in creating this kind of newsletter I have created a blogger theme for the purpose. It is essentially a stripped down blogger theme, that can easily be tweaked for your own use. You can download the theme here. Since its uploaded to Google Drive you can be sure the file doesn't contain anything malicious.

Using The Blogger Theme To Create A Newsletter

Firstly, create a newsletter template in KompoZer as described in the first part of this tutorial. Then follow the simple steps below.

1/ With KompoZer open and the template file loaded select the Source tab at the bottom of the window.

2/ Now you need to drag your cursor over all of the table code to highlight it. Make sure it is just the code for the table you select. Everything above the first <table> tag is not needed. Similarly, everything below the very last </table> tag is not needed.

3/ Once all the table code is highlighted right click and select Copy.

4/ The next step assumes you've already created a Blogger blog for the newsletter theme, but if you're not sure how to install a Blogger theme, this tutorial will explain. Its a very easy process.

5/ Create a new post in the newsletter theme blog then select the HTML tab towards the top left. Now paste the table code from KompoZer. If you now click the Compose tab you'll see the newsletter has been added as a blog post. Hit the Publish button to the top right and the newsletter is live.

If you would prefer to use a different blogging platform to Blogger this should be fine, so long as you can add the table code as a blog post. Thats all there is to creating your very own newsletter to distribute to your target audience. This is a novel way to promote items within Second Life and beyond. Being one of the first to use this approach helps to put you ahead of the game.
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Sunday, 21 January 2018

How To Create Your Own Email Newsletter For Free

By With No comments:

An email newsletter is a great way to visually engage your audience with specific topic areas or products, or to simply provide a way to keep people up to date with what you're doing. The usefulness of the newsletter lies in its ability to present recipients with links to webpages and landmarks you'd like them to visit, and can be an invaluable way of growing interest in your enterprises. Once the newsletter is set up, updating it will take no time at all.

This tutorial will be in two parts. The first will show you how to create your own email newsletter template, and the second will show how you can email the newletter to your customers, patrons, friends and others. The second part of the tutorial can be viewed here.


To create the newsletter we'll use a simple and free program called KompoZer, which you can download by following the link. KompoZer has a WYSIWYG interface which means it can be used to create an html document visually. So, if you're unsure of html tags, don't worry, KompoZer will take care of it, and you can focus on the design and content of the newsletter.

About The Newsletter Example 

The newsletter example used for this tutorial is one we set up to respond to bloggers who submit their blog to our sister site, SL-Feeds, and we'll be showing the few techniques we used. These include:
  • Creating a table.
  • Adding an image map
  • Adding an image
  • Adding text
  • Adding links.
Remember this is nearly entirely done visually, so if you don't understand html tags, don't be daunted. If you haven't submitted your blog to SL-Feeds and so haven't recieved this newsletter, you can still see how it works by viewing it here as a webpage.

Creating The Newsletter

1/ The first time you open KompoZer you'll see this screen with a start up tip window. Close it to see the interface.

2/ This is what you'll see. Drag the right lower corner to resize the UI to make it easier to work with. As you can see, all the main features have their own icon and are clearly labelled.

Creating A Table

Creating tables is the backbone to creating the newsletter and allows us to structure its appearance. To position elements where we want we'll need to create a table and nest tables within it. This is much simpler than it sounds.

1/ Click the Table icon and the window above will appear. The squares in the grid represent the rows and columns in the table. Drag the cursor over the squares to highlight how many rows and columns you want to create and when you're ready click OK.

Here we're creating a simple table of just one row and column, which can be used to nest another table in and can act as a border for the other content if we need to.

2/ Once a table has been created we can determine its size and the spacing of its cells (a cell is one square of a table). Select Table > Table Properties and the above window will open, Select the Cells tab.

As you can see, here we can select both the height and width of the cell as well as how its content is aligned. We do this by clicking the two tabs under Content Alignment to the right. When you've selected the settings you want click OK. The settings you choose can be changed at any time.

3/ We're now going to nest a table within the one we just created. With the cursor placed within the table select  Insert > Table from the UI menu, and the Insert Table window will open again.

If we use the Quickly tab as we did before, we can only create a table with six rows, but we now want to create a table with eight rows. To do this select the Precisely tab then enter the number of rows and columns you want to create. Click OK when ready.

4/ Select  Table > Table Properties again and this time select the Tables tab. Here we can set the height and width of the table, as well as a border and spacing for each cell. As you can see, we've opted for no border for each cell with a spacing and padding of 20 pixels. The table is also aligned centrally within the first table we created. Click OK when ready.

This is what the table will now look like in KompoZer.

Joining Two Cells

The top row is going to contain a heading for the newsletter, so we need to join the two rows.

1/ Click inside the first cell, then hold down Shift and click inside the second cell. The two cells are now selected.

2/ Right click and from the drop down menu select Join Selected Cells.

The top cells will now be joined as one cell, as shown above.

Adding An Image Map

For the header of the newsletter we're going to add an image map. The advantage of this is we can insert links to different parts of one image. If you're not sure how to create an image map then view our YouTube tutorial on Adding Multiple Landmarks To A Second Life Image With Gimp. Just remember to use links instead of Landmarks (although for Second Life you can of course use a mixture of both). Follow the link above to the online newsletter example to see how the image map works in practise.

The process is much easier than you might think, but if it seems too daunting for those new to this, you can of course just add an image for the header, and we'll cover this in a moment.

1/ Once you've created the image map for the heading, copy the text (as explained in the video). Now click on the Source tab at the bottom of the KompoZer UI.

2/ This is the only part of creating the newsletter that involves tweaking the html markup, and all we need to do is paste the image map text in the correct place.

If you remember, we nested the table with the top joined cells within a first table. So this means we need to find the second Table tag in the html document. The first tag is highlighted in blue above, and the second is highlighted in red.

3/ The first td tag also highlighted in red represents the first cell of the nested table, so we paste the image map text just after the closing bracket > of this td tag.

4/ After pasting the image map text click on the Design tab at the bottom of the KompoZer UI and you should see your image map in place. Don't worry about the yellow squares under the image as they shouldn't show in the final newsletter.

Adding Text To The Newsletter

In the newsletter we're using as our example, a message is included letting recipients know their blog has been added to SL-Feeds, so we're now going to add that text to our newsletter.

1/ First join the two cells of the row below the header to create a place for the text. Now the text can either be pasted or typed directly into the cell.

2/ To change the font, highlight all the text then select Format > Font and then choose a font from the dropdown list.

3/ Also under the Format menu there are options for selecting font size and font colour.

4/ To add a link to some of the text, highlight the text then click the Link icon.

5/ The above window will now open. Paste the link url in the space provided. Lower down the window there is a space to select if the link in the newsletter is to open in another browser window. When you're ready click OK.

6/ To choose the colour of the link text, highlight it again then select Format > Text Color. The above window will open. Click on the colour you want to use, or add the hex of your choice in the space provided. Click OK when ready.

The link text is now the colour we selected.

Adding An Image

1/ To add images to the newsletter they will need to be stored on an image hosting site. For the purposes of this tutorial Tinypic has been used.

First grab the link location of the image, then with the cursor placed in the cell where you want the image to go, click the image icon in KompoZer.

2/ The Image Properties window will open. In the space provided paste the image url, and add alternative text.

3/ To add a link to the image, click on the Link tab in the Image Properties window and paste the url in the space proved. Click OK when you're done.

4/ To align content of cells, including images, select the cells in question then select Format > Align > Center

The images will now look much better placed in their cells.

Now that we know how the images will appear in the newsletter we can adjust the spacing and padding. Select Table > Table Properties and the above window will open again. In the spaces provided adjust the spacing and padding, then click OK.

Changing A Cell's Background Colour

In the cells directly under the images we're goign to add a title for each image and a link to the relevant content. To give the newsletter some style we'll give the cells for the titles a background colour.

1/ Select the cell then select Table > Table Or Cell Background Color and the above window will open.

2/ Making sure the Cell radial button is checked, select a colour or enter the hex of your chosen colour in the space provide. Now click OK.

3/ In the Table Properties window again we add some height to the cell to make it easier to work with.

4/ The image above shows the cell with a background colour. Now we'll add text, a link and change the text colour.

5/ Type the text in the cell.

5/ With the text highlighted, click the Link icon and in the window that opens paste the url. Choose whether or not the link should open in a new window.

6/ Under the Format menu change the text colour and size.

This is all the cells that were to be used for images and their titles completed. Instead of adding an image to the final cell, a list of links was used instead.

Completing the Newsletter

The final parts of completing the newsletter layout involves steps we have already done.

1/ Directly below the last titles we'll add social media icons and a few more links. Firstly we join the two cells and give it a dark background.

2/ We then nest a table within this row. The table consists of two rows and four columns. It is also aligned centrally within the cell of the larger table.

3/ images of social media icons are placed in each cell of the top row of the table. They are then centrally aligned and have the relevant links added.

4/ the cells of the lower row are joined, then a table of one row and three columns is added. Within each cell text and a link is added. The text is sized and given a colour.

5/ Finally, if we are going to offer people a newsletter they must be given an option to unsubscribe. So in the final row, we join the two cells, add the unsubscribe text, align it centrally and resize it. We then add a link to a Google form which gives people the choice to subscribe or unsubscribe to the newsletter.

This is all you need to know to design and create a newsletter of your own. Although knowing something about html markup can be useful, its not entirely essential since KompoZer has a good WYSIWYG interface, and we don't need any complex markup for an email newsletter. The next part of this tutorial will show you how you can send the newsletter to your audience.
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