Getting Started with Photo Manipulation for Personal Projects

Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash. Edited with Fotosketcher.

This is an edited version of an email I sent to a lady who asked me some questions about starting out with photo editing for a personal picture book project. I wanted to share some of it here in case anyone else might find it useful.

Disclaimer: I am not being paid or being sponsored by any of the mentioned software or links to tutorials in this article. My opinions are my own.

Software for photo manipulation

The Gimp, Krita, Affinity Photo and Photoshop are great for “Photo-manipulation” techniques. 
Photoshop is more expensive and needs higher system requirements. There is also a cut down version called Photoshop Elements you could try. I would suggest you try the other software to begin with. They all have the basic features you need.
Affinity Photo is powerful and affordable. You can use Krita and The Gimp for free as they are open source. My advice is try them all and see what works for you.

Links to software discussed in this article

The Gimp: https://www.gimp.org/downloads/
Krita: https://krita.org/en/download/krita-desktop/
Affinity Photo: https://affinity.serif.com/en-gb/photo/
Photoshop: https://www.adobe.com/uk/products/photoshop.html
Photoshop Elements: https://www.adobe.com/uk/products/photoshop-elements.html

Things you may want to do with Photo editing software

Change Color in an image
Color can be changed with adjustment layers. Adjustment layers give you non-destructive control (it won’t change the original image). To get a better idea of what they can do I’ve linked to a video about them in Affinity Photo: https://vimeo.com/130972458

There is also a video about this here: https://phlearn.com/tutorial/how-to-select-and-change-colors-in-photoshop/.

It is for Photoshop, but the same principles apply in Affinity Photo. I’m not sure if Krita or The Gimp can do this though as I usually use Photoshop myself.

Using Transformation Tools
Features like the cage transform tool in the Gimp, Warp Cage and liquify tools in Krita and the Photo Liquify Persona in Affinity Photo are useful for warping and changing an images appearance.

Here are links to videos about these features for The Gimp, Krita and Affinity Photo.

Cage Transform Warping in The Gimp
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jL8TepHX0qE
Warp, Cage and Liquify tools in Krita
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQ8iIQU9KHc
Affinity Photo Liquify Persona
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yYOTs20sv8

Adding Extra things to the Image
All these software’s will let you place other images into your image. The transform tools in Krita are useful for this (see the video I linked to earlier). You can cut out the elements you need from images and paste them into your image on separate layers. Then they can be moved and shaped where you need them. I think of it as collage but on the computer. This is called “photo bashing” by concept artists.

A great video on this technique is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gag18ScKQdM.

It is using Photoshop, but the same principles can be used in Krita, The Gimp or Affinity Photo.

Another video that may help explain this is here for Affinity Photo: https://vimeo.com/171918701

Changing the art style of a photograph

If you don’t have Photoshop, FotoSketcher is good for this. Another similar software is Dynamic Auto Painter: http://www.mediachance.com/dap/. There are several other similar softwares that photographers use to make their photos look more like artistic mediums. If you have Photoshop there are “actions” available which will give a watercolor effect to a photograph available on sites like Creative Market and Envato Market.

System Requirements

These software don’t need powerful computers, but you will need something to at least match the system requirements for whatever you decide to use. I’m not familiar with Macs myself, I use Windows. I have a laptop as well as my desktop computer for more powerful needs. My laptop is fine for basic photo manipulation. It’s about 4 years old and only have 4GB of Ram, integrated graphics and 2 cores. I’ve used Krita, The Gimp and Affinity with it in the past. Obviously the faster your computer and more storage space the better though.
Affinity Photo for example needs the following: https://affinity.serif.com/en-gb/photo/full-feature-list/#system-requirements


Thanks for reading this article, I hope you found it useful.

I’m an Illustrator currently working on personal projects and creating designs.

Visit my website to find out more about me.