Friday, February 3, 2017

Clone Stomping

PowerPoint Hacks  Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   

I am hoping that readers of this blog may forgive the wretched colors and silly titles in my example book covers. You may even suspect that I cheated by using some other software, such as Photoshop or GIMP to prepare the images. 

Not so, dear reader. However, I did manipulate the background photos with PowerPoint. In this post I will show two PowerPoint techniques for image editing that “work around” some of its graphic design shortfalls. I am assuming you are familiar with basic PowerPoint techniques, or have read through Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.


First off, PowerPoint lacks the much beloved “Clone Stamp” tool of Photoshop. I’ll walk through a simple technique that can replace some of the Clone Stamp functionality (some). The tools that I use are “Crop” and “Soft Edges.” I started with a public domain drawing of the ruined Abbey of Jumièges in France.

I could have simply resized it and put the title over the image, but what it really needed was a little more sky to hold my title and highlight the ruins (and demonstrate the animation). For this I used “Crop.” I did a copy/paste to generate a duplicate image (turned off the original to get it out of the way). Then I cropped the upper left hand corner and did a “Cut/Paste-as-picture” to make a new image. For the most control of your picture, you can right-click and pick “Format Object” at the bottom of the menu.

This will give you a formatting pane with multiple options. To do an ersatz “Clone Stamp,” pick the pentagon icon and select “Soft Edges.” I used a 10 point soft edge, but you can move the slider to set the edge size as needed.

Now make several copies, turn your cover image back on and arrange your “patches” to cover or fill whatever you need to change. Note that I inverted the middle image to avoid a repetitive pattern.

Also note that I’ve allowed the soft edges to spill out beyond my drawing limits. We’ll fix that by selecting all (Ctl+A) and “Cut/Paste-as-picture” to merge everything into a single image, then cropping it back to the original page size. Voilà, a “Clone Stamp” clone.


Here's a neat trick that PowerPoint does well and Photoshop doesn’t do at all. Up until now, we’ve been using the bitmapped picture editing tools. Photoshop is king of the bitmap editors. With Photoshop or GIMP you can tweak an image right down to the pixel level. However Photoshop does not have vector graphic capabilities. PowerPoint does.

In this topic we’ll explore the “Freeform” shape and the “Edit Points” tool. Hit your “Home” tab and go to the “Drawing” section. Click the barred triangle next to the shapes to show all of the ready-made drawing shapes. Under “Lines,” you’ll find an irregular outline labeled “Freeform.” Selecting this shape allows you to draw a polygon as a series of points. Clicking around on your page will create vertices with segments between them. Click on the initial point to close the shape, or hit “Esc” to stop drawing and just keep the wiggly line.

PowerPoint assigns a default line color and weight to your shape, as well as a default fill color if you’ve closed the polygon. Right-click the shape, and you’ll get the menu to change the “Style,” “Fill,” and “Outline.” Since we’re going to use “Freeform” to do a precision trim on our picture, set “Outline” to “No Outline.” The default color is fine.

There’s an important distinction here between “Picture” and “Shape.” In PowerPoint, a “Picture” is a bitmap, but a “Shape” is a vector graphic. Right click your Freeform shape and select “Edit Points.” Here’s your real gem in PowerPoint. This tool give you control of not only the point locations (you can drag them around to change the shape), but also the segments themselves. In “Edit Points” right click a segment and you can add points, open the shape, or change segment to a “Curved Segment.” Select a point and two little white “handles” appear. Moving these around will curve the adjacent segment… the beauty of a vector graphic; its form is totally plastic.

Okay, PowerPoint has a few quirks. One of them is that right-clicking a segment will sometimes add a point, and sometimes not. Sometimes a segment will decide to curve; easy to fix, but frustrating at times. It’s all worth it because the combination of bitmap and vector graphics in a single app allows you to easily edit your pictures.

To do a precision cut on your drawing, use a freeform to select the areas you want to remove. For layering it doesn’t have to be perfect. Once you’ve drawn the shape and fitted it to your graphic, be sure to select “No Line,” then “Cut/Paste-as-picture” with both the graphic and the shape. This will merge them into a single bitmapped picture that you can use “Remove Background” to trim.

With your layer trimmed this way, it makes it appear that the bat flies out of the door and then behind the tower. You can use the same hack to either make holes in a graphic, or to cut out specific pieces of a graphic for animations or other compositions.

In this post, we explored a quick-and-dirty “Clone Stamp” clone for making simple modifications to your graphic, and we walked through a neat way to make precision “Remove Background” cuts using vector graphics and the “Edit Points” tool. These two hacks make graphics editing fast and simple in PowerPoint...

What, what about the bat? We’ll tackle the bat animation in the next post; we’ll also do a little housekeeping on some of the details. Stand by.

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