Friday, October 7, 2011

Painting with Word

Poets paint glorious pictures with words. Here, however, I am talking about painting with Microsoft Office Word 2010. Word, and other Office apps, Excel, PowerPoint, offer over twenty “Artistic Effects” for manipulating pictures. I have had a lot of fun recently transforming a number of my photos in a variety of ways, see my “Café Art collection”, and used these effect on many of the images.
Here I wish to share some of the way these tools work as seen from an engineering or teaching perspective rather than an artist’s view. Specifically in this article I will discuss just three of the effects: “Marker”, “Paint Brush”, and “Watercolor Sponge”. Other effects I will discuss in other posts.
All of the effects permit a range of options such as “brush size”, and the effect also varies with the resolution of the picture.

Paint Brush

As the name implies, “Paint Brush” simulates the effect of a brush painted picture. For some images this can be a very pleasant and effective treatment. Here I am using a photo of a hawk in flight. AE-PaintBrush-4-1145px
This first image, using a brush size of 4 on a medium resolution (1145 pixel wide) photo provides the “painted” feel that I like best. Larger brush sizes cause too much detail to be lost in this image, smaller ones do not provide enough of the painted look. Here are a couple of extremes:
The left image used brush size 2 on the 1145 pixel photo, the right one brush size 10 on a 400 pixel photo.


AE-Marker-97-1100pxMarker is an unusual effect tool. The size of the marker “dab” is not adjustable, but the density is. This is illustrated in the two images here. The first one uses a “size” of 97, the second of 20. You can see that the “20” image has just a few dabs, while the “97” looks more like a marker dabbed painting.
AE-Marker-20-1100pxWith this effect I did not notice much difference in the appearance when using low or high resolution images.
Clearly the lower size does not look like a painting. It looks like a photo with smudges.
Since the brush size is not adjustable this effect will work well with images that have large graphic forms, less so with photos that have a lot of detail.

Watercolor Sponge

For this last effect I will again use a flower picture. Here is a matrix of results. The top row image has a resolution of 600 pixels, middle row is 1200 pixels, and the bottom row 2400 pixels. The left images use a “Watercolor Sponge” of size 1, the middle use size 5, and the right images use a size 10.
The artistic effects provided by Word 2010 may not have as wide a flexibility as one might like, but they allow sufficient manipulation to achieve some interesting results. As you can see from the illustrations here, the resolution of the starting photo determines the how the effect will appear.

Technical Details

If you are not familiar with the Picture Tools in the Office 2010 applications here is a very quick overview of how to get to them.
Insert a photo from the Insert tab (IllustrationPicture). The inserted photo will be selected. Click on an image to select it. The Picture Tools tab is only shown when an image is selected. The Artistic Effects are in the Adjust group as shown in the illustration here. The adjustment options are brought up with the bottom item “Artistic Effects Options …”. As you can see here, the selection is made using thumbnails showing the effects on the selected image.
Some of the other effects are discussed in other posts on this topic:
  • Doodling in Office   – pencil and drawing effects.
  • Excel in Art – effects “Cement”, “Glass”, “Glow Edges”, and “Cutout”.
  • Image Trickery  – effects “Light Screen”, “Mosaic Bubbles”, “Plastic Wrap”, Texturizer”, and effect combinations.
© 2011 Ludwig Keck

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